For the last few weeks San Diego Chargers running back Ryan Mathews has fought tooth and nail, with a small Jackie Battle roadblock in his way, to get back in to the hearts of fantasy owner starting lineups. After his showing against the Denver Broncos on Monday night it's pretty clear that Mathews is on the steady track. Furthermore, according to The San Diego Union Tribune, Mathews himself believes there was opportunity for more.
"There were three or four runs that I could've broken for big gain or a touchdown," Mathews said. "It's my fault that those runs didn't turn out right. That's on me. A couple of times I got tripped up by a hand, or got knocked off balance just enough to lose my footing. Those runs always eat at you, especially in a game like this where one run can change things."
Mathews is getting a heavier workload each week, and should continue to, especially with the attitude he has taken in response to the challenges that have been thrown his way.
"I'm reading the holes well," Mathews said. "I'm blocking well and receiving well and taking care of the ball well. I just have to do a better job of staying on my feet when I see daylight. I need to be better. I didn't do enough to help us win. After a result like this, that's all that matters."
The Chargers will be up against the 25th-ranked Cleveland Browns run defense this week, so Mathews is a must start for all fantasy owners who own him.
In Dallas, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones has once again been heard drooling over running back Felix Jones heading into another regular season game. Furthermore, according to Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Jones is seeing the Felix Jones the team drafted in 2008.
" Felix Jones is one of the most conscientious, hardest workers that I've been around as a football player," Jones said on his Friday radio show on KRLD-FM. "So he works at it. Now, he did come in not the shape he wanted to be. I don't have an answer for that, because that's not typical of where he is. But since that time, he's gotten quicker. He is quicker. Maybe he had a little extra pound or two that he shouldn't have had or wouldn't have had if he could do it over, but in my mind he's ready to go. He's quick. ... He's quicker at practice. You can see some of the quickness that he needs to have to have his game at its best."
Jones is slated to start this week against the Carolina Panthers with Demarco Murray sidelined with a sprained foot. However, these sentiments regarding Jones have been echoed numerous times (in different stylish fashion) by the owner before, so you can only take them with a grain of salt.
In New York, Giants running back Ahmad Bradshaw is making a strong case for the NFL's toughest player award. According to the New York Post, despite the injuries he has endured to his neck, and more recently his foot this season, Bradshaw keeps on trucking.
"It's toughness. Just toughness. I feel like I can fight through a little bit of everything now with the stuff I've been through," said Bradshaw, who returned to practice on a limited basis Thursday after sitting out Wednesday with a recurring foot problem. "I just feel like it's going to take a lot to bring me down. So a lot of hits here and there, it ain't going to do it."
Bradshaw owners have seen a re-emergence from the runner, as he has rushed for 316 yards in the last two games, and he doesn't want to stop.
"He is physically very tough and mentally very tough. So if it's at all possible, he'll fight through it and continue to play," offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride said. "Sometimes he gets to a point where he becomes incapacitated where he just can't function well enough, and that's when he sits down. But he's going to try to do the right thing ... I've been with him so long, I don't even think about it. I just know he's got some problems that are persistent and will stay with him."
Andre Brown returns this week from a concussion, so it's hard to imagine Bradshaw will get his regular workload. Furthermore, the Washington Redskins defense ranks eighth against the run from a fantasy perspective. Meanwhile, their pass defense is just putrid (32nd in the NFL), so don't be surprised to see some aerial fireworks from Eli Manning and the Giants offense.
Bradshaw certainly isn't a bad play, especially considering all the teams on bye this week. He just isn't a lock to emulate what he has done lately.
O.W.7.T. - Other Week 7 Tidbits
- The New York Jets defense played one great game against the Indianapolis Colts offense last Sunday, but will face a tougher task in stopping the New England up-tempo offense this week. According to the New York Daily News, the Jets know the key in slowing the Patriots will be stopping the run.
"The performance from Sunday has just got to roll over," defensive lineman Mo Wilkerson said. "We just got to play physical up front like we did (against the Colts) and we won't have a problem with New England running the ball."
It's not that easy, though. Over the past three weeks, the top two New England running back fantasy options, Stevan Ridley and Brandon Bolden, have combined to rush for 510 yards (170 per game) and four touchdowns. With a slew of bye teams teed up this week, both runners are must starts.
- Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson is once again trying to show off his iron man skills. The latest injury he's battling is to his left ankle, and, according 1500espn.com, the ankle is sorer than last week, and is keeping him from practicing. However, Peterson maintains that he must overcome it.
"Since I twisted it up and it happened, it's been hurting consistently," Peterson said. "Then we go out and play, it re-aggravates, just the cutting and different things you're doing out there. So, it's sore, but you've just got to push through it."
The Vikings play the 19th-ranked Arizona Cardinals run defense.
- There's nothing like a good old fashion homecoming. In Oakland this week, that will be exactly the case for Jacksonville Jaguars running back Maurice Jones-Drew, who, for the first time in his career since being selected in the 2006 NFL Draft, will come back to his home area to play the team he followed through much of his life. Jones-Drew expects 50 friends and family to attend.
"All my family members told me I need to focus so I'm not going to see them until the game," Jones-Drew said. "That's how they are, they're big football fanatics and they want to see me be successful... a bunch of ‘em are Raiders fans. They're going to be torn but I hope they choose the right way."
Homecomings usually go well for NFL players, which will probably be the case here as well when Jones-Drew runs against a Raiders defense that is ranked 18th against the run.
G.T.E.M. - Going The Extra Mile
It's 3rd-and-1 for the Green Bay Packers offense. Houston needs a stop down 28-17 in the early stages of the fourth quarter. The Texans are in a base 3-4 defense anticipating a running play, thus will bring their safeties up towards the line of scrimmage, just five yards off.
The Packers are in an I-Formation set with run blocking tight ends Tom Crabtree and Ryan Taylor on each side of the formation to create the illusion of a run. Jordy Nelson is the only wide receiver in the game.
Houston will rush seven at the snap of the ball. The two cornerbacks on this play are in man coverage with Nelson and Taylor on the strong side of the offensive formation at the top. Strong safety Danieal Manning has the assignment of covering the weak side flat, run or pass. The key movement comes from free safety Glover Quin, who is going to move towards the line at the snap of ball anticipating run.
The Packers receivers run very simple routes. Nelson (black route) runs a short drag, and will have inside position if the inside linebacker rushes at the snap. He was actually the second read for quarterback Aaron Rodgers. Taylor (green route) runs a stutter square in route behind Nelson, and is the designed deep route (third read) if the free safety immediately drops in to man coverage on the weak side of the field. Fullback John Kuhn has the flat route (orange), which keeps strong safety Manning from dropping.
Crabtree (gold route) is going to be the one ending up with the football in his hands (first read), and it's only because he does a great Heath Miller impression and pretends to block at the snap of the ball, which contributes to the free safety Quin anticipating wrong. Crabtree then breaks his route off towards the sidelines to give Rodgers an easy target down the field. The end result is a 48-yard catch-and-run touchdown.
Most will argue that this was a freak play. I tend to disagree. The Texans are a defense that loves to play around the line of scrimmage, and defensive coordinator Wade Phillips likes to move his safeties in for extra run support on certain downs. After seeing what the Packers were able to do on this play and throughout this Sunday night game, it's clear the Texans have a soft spot at the safety position.
This week, look for the Baltimore Ravens to run heavily with Ray Rice early, especially on third down, to set up play-action passes for tight ends Dennis Pitta and Ed Dickson. It may be a wise idea to insert either Pitta or Dickson in to your starting lineup this week even as flex plays, especially if you have a bye week receiver or flex to cover.
Thanks for reading!
Eric Huber is a Senior Writer for fantasysharks.com and is a member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association (FSWA). Email him your thoughts firstname.lastname@example.org