The National Football League has 10 weeks in the books, and the fantasy regular season is winding down. In many standard head-to-head leagues there are just three games remaining until the playoffs start. If you’re still reading fantasy columns on a regular basis, you’re still alive for your championship. Good luck getting this far. The good news from last week is that we didn’t have a lot of serious injuries, and we are even starting to see some guys coming back from long-term injuries to help down the stretch.
The Philadelphia Eagles apparently liked what they saw from their new acquisition in Week 9 and during the team’s bye, as he appears to be in line for a much bigger role heading into Week 11 on NBC’s Sunday Night Football on the road against the Dallas Cowboys. He was acquired from the Miami Dolphins prior to the Oct. 31 NFL trade deadline. He made his debut in the Week 9 blowout win against the Denver Broncos, rolling to 77 yards and his first touchdown of the season on eight carries. So should his production in a blowout win cause you to get excited about his short-term outlook? He has had two weeks to digest the team’s playbook, get comfortable with his new teammates and surroundings, and that is why he is trending upward for Week 11 and beyond.
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Offensive coordinator Frank Reich told NJ.com that Ajayi has been able to handle anything the team has given him, and last week the package of plays given to him continued to grow.
“He’s able to handle everything that we give him at this point. As the week went on, the package of plays we gave him grew. By the end of the week, he was adapting so well and learning so well, we were adding to his number of plays, because he could handle it,” Reich said Tuesday. “When I look at our game plan for this week, I look at it and there’s probably not a play on there that I wouldn’t feel comfortable putting his number on. As far as Jay learning and knowing what to do. That speaks a lot of him and what he’s able to do as a player.”
It appears Ajayi will top the depth chart in Sunday’s game in Dallas, ahead of LeGarrette Blount and Corey Clement, much to the dismay of their fantasy owners. Ajayi also did a good job picking up pass protection, particularly on a touchdown strike to Alshon Jeffery in Week 9, and that adds to the coaching staff’s trust in him. He also had spent several hours prior to his team debut working with running backs coach Duce Staley cramming as much information as possible before playing.
Ajayi appears to be energized moving out of Adam Gase‘s doghouse in Miami to Philadelphia, a team that is a legitimate contender for the Super Bowl. So what can you expect in Week 11 in Dallas? The Cowboys rank 12th in the NFL against the run, allowing 104.7 yards per game with five touchdowns. While they have allowed just three runs of 20 or more yards, and none over 40 yards on a single play, Ajayi can be trusted as an RB2 in all fantasy leagues across the board since he is expected to get a majority of the touches.
So where does this leave Blount and Clement, the two guys who have done most of the heavy lifting to date? Blount saw his total touches drop from 17 in Week 8 against San Francisco, to just nine against Denver in Week 9. He had at least 12 touches in each of his previous six games prior to Ajayi’s arrival. The veteran cannot be terribly excited about being bumped down the depth chart despite averaging a healthy 4.6 yards per carry, or nearly one full yard better than Ajayi has averaged (3.7) this season. Clement has averaged 4.8 yards per carry over his past three outings while totaling four touchdowns. If Ajayi ascends to the top of the depth chart, Blount is likely to see less than 10 total touches, while Clement is likely to fall back to the five to seven total touch range.
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The Carolina Panthers were able to thump the Miami Dolphins on Monday night, but it came with a cost. Early in the third quarter Curtis Samuel appeared to be wide open for a touchdown in the end zone. The pass appeared to hit him in the hands. While flailing around after missing the ball, defender Reshad Jones inadvertently came in low and rolled up on his left ankle, causing his leg to buckle with Samuel in obvious pain. The rookie out of Ohio State was unable to put any weight on his left ankle and he was helped off the field by the training staff.
An MRI on Tuesday confirmed that Samuel suffered ligament damage on the play and he will be sidelined for the remainder of the season. He was just starting to see a more significant role after a slow start, also due to injury in the preseason. The trade of Kelvin Benjamin meant Samuel bumping up the ranks behind No. 1 WR Devin Funchess. Now, there is a hodgepodge of receivers behind Funchess, with Russell Shepard likely to start opposite ‘Fun’ in Week 11. Unproven receivers Brenton Bersin and Kaelin Clay are likely to be thrust into roles they might not be quite ready for. The good news is that head coach Ron Rivera expects Greg Olsen (foot) to be ready in Week 12 after the bye, so help could be on the way. Christian McCaffrey will also see plenty of receptions out of the backfield. Damiere Byrd (arm) is also eligible to return in Week 13 from the Reserve/Injured list. Cam Newton has proven before with a lack of star receivers that he can be an NFL MVP, as recently as 2015. His fantasy owners shouldn’t be terribly concerned, although it would be nice to see a contending team go out and try and find someone – anyone – off the waiver wire to help. Didn’t they just have a guy in Kelvin Benjamin that could have fit the bill?
Quick Hits: Seattle Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll believes C.J. Prosise (ankle) might be able to return later this season, although for fantasy owners he is done. He is on the Reserve/Injured list and will not be eligible until the postseason. The team promoted former 49ers RB Mike Davis to take his spot. Carroll also said he feels Chris Carson (leg) might be able to return from a broken leg this season, but it’s hard to believe he’d have any kind of fantasy impact at this point. … The Redskins placed Rob Kelley (ankle, knee) on the Reserve/Injured list on Tuesday, which ends his season. Byron Marshall was signed to take his spot on the active roster, as apparently the team didn’t like what they saw in workouts from Kapri Bibbs and Denard Robinson. Samaje Perine and Chris Thompson will handle the tailback duties down the stretch for the ‘Skins, with Perine serving as the hammer and Thompson in the same role he has been, working in pass situations and as a change of pace. … The Jaguars apparently plan to activate rookie Dede Westbrook (core muscle) from the Reserve/Injured list and he might debut in Week 11, especially with Allen Hurns (ankle) nursing an injury. Westbrook isn’t a bad stash option if you have the roster flexibility, but Marqise Lee might be the biggest beneficiary of Hurns being down. … David Johnson (wrist) had his cast removed and he will now begin rehab, trying to get back in time before the season ends. For the fantasy regular season, the ship likely has sailed. However, if he is available off the waiver wire, he’s not a bad stash option for those who have qualified, or are close to qualifying, for the playoffs.
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