Earlier this week I posed one fantasy relevant question for each AFC team now that we've reached the midpoint of the NFL season. Now it's time for their counterparts in the NFC. As I've said, I tried to choose one question per team that pertains to a situation or issue that many fantasy players could be facing as we move forward into the second half of the season.
Chicago Bears: How good will Alshon Jeffery be in the second half of the season?
The short answer here is that he'll be a Top-5 option at WR going forward. Since coming back from both a calf and hamstring injuries early in the season, Jeffery has been a monster in the past two games, getting 11 targets for 8 catches, 147 yards and 1 TD in Week 6 and 15 targets for 10 catches, 116 yards and 1 TD. Barring another injury, Jeffery will get at least in the neighborhood of 10 targets per game in Chicago's offense and he's shown in the past several years to be a WR1 when he's on the field. His upside is immense and he's got a very solid floor. Like I said, Top-5 WR.
Detroit Lions: Can you trust Calvin Johnson?
QB Matthew Stafford has had one huge game and has been very average (to be kind) the rest of the season. It hasn't helped that the Lions' offensive line has been horrific at both run and pass blocking. This has definitely affected Calvin Johnson, who has been able to piece together a few decent performances, but has had under 10 fantasy points in five of his eight games. Despite the lack of consistent fantasy production, Johnson has been the 7th most targeted WR in the league this season. You have to believe Johnson gets on track somehow if he's still getting high volume targets. I mean, he's still Calvin Johnson. You're starting him every week when he's active, you just have to hope Detroit gets some things straightened out.
Green Bay Packers: What has happened to the Packers' once high-powered offense?
There's an easy answer to this question and his name is Jordy Nelson. Nelson was that deep threat that stretched defenses, allowing Aaron Rodgers to push the ball down-field and preventing too many defenders from staying close to the line of scrimmage to prevent running plays and short passes. Without Nelson, the Packers' offense has involved a lot of short passes and what has looked to be a slow and injured Eddie Lacy hasn't helped matters. Davante Adams, who was expected to step-up in a big way after Nelson went down for the season, has also been injured and is just making his way back to the field after a multiple game absence. Rodgers' other top receiving option, Randall Cobb, has also been hampered by a shoulder injury and hasn't been himself. Hopefully Lacy, Cobb and Adams can all get healthy and start playing well enough give Rodgers some help, but even if they do, this offense will still be missing one of its most valuable pieces in Nelson.
Minnesota Vikings: Is Stefon Diggs a WR1?
Diggs has burst onto the scene over the past four games, totaling 25 catches on 40 targets for 419 yards and 2 TDs...and that's after not even getting a target in the first three weeks! He's had at least 9 targets and 6 catches in every game since Week 4 against Denver and has put up at least 8 fantasy points in each of those games and 12 or more in three of them. We've been waiting for Diggs to come back to Earth, but he's just continued his breakout and it's possible that the guy is just good. I can't quite say that he's a WR1 moving forward, but he's in the 15-18 range and he should be an every-week starter at this point.
Dallas Cowboys: Can Darren McFadden hold up as the Cowboys' #1 RB?
This is a fairly easy question to answer, but it's one that had to be asked. We all know that McFadden is a huge injury risk, but he's been good when he's had opportunities this season. He got his first full workload two weeks ago against the Giants and turned it into 29 carries for 152 yards and 1 TD for 22 fantasy points. Last week Dallas went up against Seattle and while McFadden only averaged 3.2 yards per carry on 20 attempts, he still got the full workload and managed to stay relatively unscathed. Now the Cowboys have released Joseph Randle after numerous legal issues and mostly average play this season. While McFadden is able to stay on the field and continues to see these types of touches he should be considered a very solid RB2, but who knows how long that will last. With McFadden's injury history, the Christine Michael hype-train might finally get to the station and if so, we'll actually see what he can do...unless the Cowboys bring in somebody else that overtakes him on the depth chart.
New York Giants: Will Victor Cruz get back on the field sometime this season?
The first quarter question of whether or not any Giants' RBs were worth owning has a resounding answer at this point: No. It was pretty difficult to come up with an interesting fantasy question for the Giants, as you know that Eli Manning is a low-end QB1 with a penchant for having both some terrible and some huge games (see Week 8) and Odell Beckham Jr. is a Top-5 WR. Other than that, who do you really care about here? Rashad Jennings, Andre Williams and Shane Vereen have really worn out their welcome on fantasy teams -- Vereen is probably the best of them, but when would you actually play him in anything other than PPR? -- and the new flavor of the month, Orleans Darkwa, got injured in the last game. My first thought went to Victor Cruz. He's been unable to get onto the field yet this year due to making his way back from a severe knee injury last season and what has been said to be a calf injury that occurred leading up to the regular season. It currently looks like Cruz will miss his 9th consecutive game to start the season and at this point I'd put my money on him returning after their Week 11 bye. If he's able to return, I think Cruz would immediately become Manning's #2 target in the passing game. The question is, how effective will that really be? He'd be worth a speculative add, but you can't expect big things until you see them.
Philadelphia Eagles: What has happened to Jordan Matthews?
In a word? Drops. It seems like every Eagles game that I've watched has entailed Matthews dropping a few passes from already struggling QB Sam Bradford. This can't help Bradford's confidence in himself, Chip Kelly's offense and particularly in Matthews. While he's 22nd in the league in targets and has at least 7 in every game this season, Matthews hasn't had more than 5 fantasy points in a game since Week 2. To be honest, I don't really know what happened here. Matthews was a budding star player after his strong rookie campaign and a good first two weeks of this season. You should still be holding onto him for now and just hope that he's able to get his mojo back in the second half.
Washington Redskins: Can the Redskins' running game get back on track?
As strong as the running game started the season for Washington in the first several weeks, it has tailed off just as dramatically since then. The Redskins are now 26th in the league in rushing and are only averaging 3.7 ypc as a team. What happened to the fearsome duo of Alfred Morris and Matt Jones? I mean, people were arguing about which guy they should own in fantasy because the Washington rushing attack was so strong! Whatever happened has caused Morris and Jones to basically be drop-worthy and pass catching back Chris Thompson has had the most value for the past several weeks. Unfortunately, I don't see any reason for optimism when it comes to the revitalization of the running game for either Morris or Jones. The team has said multiple times that both backs will split carries and Thompson appears to have carved his role in stone. With no feature back and not-so-great blocking anyway, you should stay away from this backfield.
Atlanta Falcons: Is Matt Ryan even a QB1?
Ryan is currently the 10th ranked QB in standard fantasy leagues, but that's with several guys ahead of him already having their byes while Ryan doesn't have his until Week 10. He hasn't put up any monster games, throwing for no more than 2 TDs in any game for a maximum of 26 fantasy points. Although he's scored at least 20 points in five of his eight games, he's also put up 10, 14 and 16 point outings this season. All this has been done despite having the 1st or 2nd highest scoring WR in fantasy leagues in Julio Jones. It seems like every year leading up to the season people have Ryan ranked in their Top-5 QBs and believe he is poised to have a big fantasy season. Maybe the time has come to just realize that Ryan isn't that guy. Sure, he's got Julio Jones, but his best opportunity for a gigantic fantasy season might have come and gone with the increasing age of Roddy White and retirement of Tony Gonzalez. Ryan is a pretty good real-life NFL quarterback, but I just don't think he's ever going to be a Top-5 fantasy QB.
Carolina Panthers: Can Cam Newton really be your every-week starter despite his lack of weapons?
This guy is just unique in professional football right now. Newton is really fun to watch because he just plays the quarterback position differently than everybody else. He may not always have the most precise or accurate throws, but he gets the job done on both the actual and fantasy football fields. Newton is currently the 7th ranked QB in fantasy and has already had his bye in Week 5. He's managed to put up games of 33 and 31 fantasy points this season and has only had one game with less than 18 points (15 in Week 1). And to think all of this has been done with basically no wide receivers is pretty amazing. Yes, Greg Olsen is a very good TE and is used well by Newton, but when you're putting up wins and points with the likes of Ted Ginn and Corey "Philly" Brown as your starting WRs, you're doing something right. Of course, much of Newton's fantasy and real-life impact come from his rushing attempts, but nobody is arguing with production. I don't see any reason to turn away from Cam now and Carolina's schedule in the second half of the season looks pretty juicy, so keep riding him as a no-brainer start each and every week.
New Orleans Saints: Where will Mark Ingram finish among RBs?
Ingram has been sensational this season and is currently the 2nd highest scoring RB in standard fantasy leagues and it's not like he's been a slouch in PPR formats either, as he's racked up 33 receptions already. He's rewarded those fantasy owners who have started him each and every week by turning in double digit points in every game except one (6 points in Week 5), the biggest of which came against Indianapolis in Week 7, when he ran for 143 yards and 1 TD on just 14 carries. The amazing thing is that Ingram has only has 20 carries in a game once so far this season, but that may be about to change. With the news that backfield mate Khiry Robinson broke his leg in Week 8, Ingram should see even more touches, which can't be a bad thing with the way he's performing. Sure, C.J. Spiller will take a few of those as well, but expect Ingram to be the bell cow for a New Orleans offense that has come to life over the past several week. Ingram owners should be excited about his prospects and at this point, he should finish and be viewed as a Top-5 RB.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Will Mike Evans step up his play in the second half?
Evans has been mostly disappointing to his fantasy owners this year, as he has only put up double digit fantasy points in two games so far. After missing Week 1 with an injury and basically acting as a decoy in Week 2, Evans received 17 targets from Jameis Winston in Week 3 but was only able to turn it into 7 catches for 101 yards and no TDs. Despite the lack of efficiency, it looked like Evans was ready to return to WR1 status. Disappointingly that hasn't happened, as Evans has only put up more than 4 fantasy points in one other game so far, an 8 catch, 164 yard and 1 TD explosion against Washington in Week 7. So what do you do with Evans? Well, if you own him you probably have to start him. He was likely the first WR you drafted and you don't have anyone as talented on your bench, so you kind of have to treat him like you would Vincent Jackson, his older partner in Tampa. Jackson was notorious for having the ability to both disappear and have a huge game and Evans may be no different right now. Like with Jackson, you just have to be willing to set it and forget it. The good news is that Evans should be building a better rapport with Winston and the Bucs' second half schedule isn't scary.
Arizona Cardinals: Who's the better WR going forward: Larry Fitzgerald or John Brown?
Despite John Brown killing fantasy owners last week after being ruled as active before the Cardinals' Week 8 game and still not making an appearance, this question is valid. Both guys have been great and Fitzgerald is the bigger name, but who's going to be better moving forward? Fitz had a couple of huge games in the first three weeks -- 29 fantasy points in Week 2, 25 in Week 3 -- and although he's been solid since then, his game total from Week 4 through Week 9 are as follows: 9, 11, 9, 3, and 14. Brown started decently in Week 1 with a 10 point fantasy outing and then had games of 4, 6 and 8 fantasy points, but you could tell he was a big part of the offense if you watched Arizona play. In Weeks 5-7 Brown tallied 13, 19 and 12 fantasy points respectively and then missed Week 8 going into the Cardinals' Week 9 bye. Overall you have to be happy with how Brown has looked this season and he was a great mid-to-late round pick. But would you play him over Fitzgerald? I don't think he's quite to the point, but like I said, it's a valid question. In my opinion, Fitzgerald is a low-end WR1 going forward and Brown is a solid WR2. Either way, you're happy if you have one of these guys, as the Cardinals offense has been one of the best in the league this season.
San Francisco 49ers: Can you start any 49er right now?
Even counting Carlos Hyde when he's able to come back from injury, the answer to this question is an easy no. Colin Kaepernick is getting benched for Blaine Gabbert this week....BLAINE GABBERT!! What else do you really need to know about this offense? The 49ers have been horrible this year and Kaepernick has led that charge. You have to feel bad for Hyde, who actually looks like a good player if you watch him play, but the team can't support the type of game-flow necessary for him to succeed. I can understand if you have to start him, but prepare to feel disgusting if you do. Longtime TE Vernon Davis was just traded away to the Broncos. With Gabbert in at QB there's no way you're trusting Torrey Smith or Anquan Boldin (even when he's back from injury). I don't think much more needs to be said here.
Seattle Seahawks: Will Marshawn Lynch really get things going in the second half?
Lynch has been a huge disappointment by any measure up to this point, as he's had only three games with double digit fantasy points and 2 rushing TDs while averaging 3.6 ypc. Seattle's entire offense, there entire team actually, just hasn't looked like the Seattle we've been used to seeing for the past several years. Russell Wilson has been running for his life and Lynch is having a hard time finding running room, so what does that tell you? The Seahawks' offensive line is really struggling and you have to hope/think that they really start to gel in the second half of the season. If they don't, Seattle's season could be in some serious trouble. I still believe in Lynch and while I don't think he's a Top-5 RB, he's definitely a RB1.
St. Louis Rams: Is Todd Gurley the #1 RB in fantasy for the rest of the season?
This dude...is just....ridiculous. Since getting the full workload in Week 4 against Arizona, Gurley has averaged 6.6 ypc on 88 total carries to go along with 3 rushing TDs. He's scored 15, 15, 27 and 20 fantasy points in his four starts. It's really only between Gurley and Devonta Freeman at this point and while Freeman started his amazing run earlier and has held it longer, I think I'd take Gurley over him right now. Think about it this way: if someone offered you Todd Gurley for Devonta Freeman, what would you say? I'd take Gurley and I don't think it was that hard of a decision. Don't get me wrong, Freeman has been amazing, but he has come slightly back to Earth in the past two weeks, getting only 12 points in each of those games. He still got 25 and 21 carries in those games, respectively, so you know he's getting the work, but Gurley is just a different animal. I don't know what else the Rams can really do besides give the ball to Gurley and run a few plays for Tavon Austin and they are doing those two things exceptionally well. It might be a little early, but I think Gurley is the #1 RB for the rest of the season