2020 Season: Week 12 Sunday Storylines

(Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)

Charles Herrmann (@HermsNFL)
The Lateral Chief Editor

Malcolm McMillan (@McLateralFF)
The Lateral Writer

That was easily the worst week of football I think I have ever had to witness. The NFL should be ashamed that it happened and consider themselves lucky that Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes is in the league to remind us what good football looks like. So we are keeping that feeling of doom and despair alive and well in this week's edition of Sunday Storylines. Rather than looking at the three storylines that we were the most intrigued by, we picked a player at each position that we are at least slightly panicked about after this week. Each player will have a rating out of five (5 out of 5 being pure, unadulterated panic) along with a sprinkling of #analysis from myself and Charles.

Week 12 Sunday Storylines: Panic Meter Edition

QB Kyler Murray (ARI)

CH: Both Malcolm and I had made Murray our QB bust pick for Week 12 and while it's always nice to be right, I gain no joy from it whatsoever. As of this moment with two games yet to be played, Murray sits at QB23 on the week. I can live with the 170 passing yards but the lack of rushing is the real concern here. If you take a look at his game logs, you'll find that there are two other instances this year in which Murray threw for under 200 yards and did just fine. The problem is that both of those games came with 60+ yards rushing and multiple scores. In the last two weeks, he's only run the ball 5 times in each game for a combined 46 yards. He seems to be playing a bit skittishly. Check out this video and reference two instances around the 4:30 and 7:20 marks to see what I mean. I fear that his general avoidance of contact and re-injury to the shoulder will hinder the upside that a normal Kyler Murray presents.

Panic Meter: 3.5 out of 5 long-term, 5 out of 5 for next week's game against the tough Los Angeles Rams defense. I assume he'll get healthy at some point but until that happens I think you have to consider Murray in the backend of the QB1 area who could be justifiably benched for a solid streamer.

MM: On the one hand, I am not panicking because I knew this would happened. Granted, I still had to play Murray anyway, but I expected a bad performance this week. Unfortunately, the fact that I was right has me super panicked, because if the shoulder injury is not going away, neither are these performances. Plus the schedule is not favorable for him next week against the Rams or in Week 16 against the 49ers. I am considering starting Saints QB Taysom Hill instead next week, a QB I am famously out on

Panic Meter: Solid 2.5 out of 5. As long as the injury is there, Murray becomes a questionable start in fantasy. If it goes away, he is a QB1.

RB Alvin Kamara (NO)

CH: Take a look at the RB leaders in PPR scoring and scroll alllll the way down to RB46. That's where you'll find Alvin Kamara and teammate Latavius Murray with their nearly identical stat lines:

  • Kamara: 13 att, 45 yards rushing, 0-1 rec, 0 yards receiving, 1 TD
  • Murray: 12 att, 49 yards rushing, 2-2 rec, 36 yards receiving, 0 TD

The fact that Latavius Murray is receiving more work in the passing game than Kamara (and even more sadly that both have combined for 3 targets) is a major red flag considering that's where his value in fantasy football largely comes from. Not to mention the fact that QB Taysom Hill himself is 10-49-2 on the ground over the past two weeks.

Panic Meter: 5 out of 5. This offense is a three-headed rushing attack led by the quarterback, a thing that's super cool for the Navy Midshipmen college team but not for the Saints for our purposes. Until Drew Brees returns I have no desire to start Kamara in full-PPR and would only consider him a flex in half-PPR or standard scoring. Considering how well the Falcons defense did yesterday shutting down the Raiders ground game coupled with the fact next week will be the second matchups between the two is terrifying.

MM: Again with another bust that I was already on top of both this week and last week (do not worry, a big swing and miss from yours truly is getting discussed later). Kamara is what we saw yesterday until proven otherwise, which basically means you probably need to slot him in your FLEX, but he is an RB2/RB3 with QB Taysom Hill under center. Hill running the option just crushes the passing work for the running backs, and Murray has remained the go-to when the Saints need some old-fashioned ground-and-pound.

Panic Meter: 4 out of 5. This would be a full-blown 5 out 5 if there was not the slight chance that QB Drew Brees returns in Week 15.

WR Michael Pittman Jr. (IND)

CH: I'm sure a performance resulting in being the WR67 isn't exactly what fantasy managers were hoping for this week but hey, these things happen for rookies. The good news is that since Week 8, Pittman Jr. is second on the Colts in WR targets and only one behind teammate Zach Pascal. The former USC Trojan has tremendous opportunity in this offense and things should theoretically look up in the future.

Panic Meter: 1 out of 5. If you use this handy-dandy matchup calendar from FantasyPros, you'll find our friend Pittman Jr. at ECR WR45 and discover how great his remaining schedule is. While disappointing this past week, I think you can roll him out again in the future with a decent amount of confidence as a WR3/flex option.

MM: I was hyped on Pittman Jr. last week and rode that optimism into this week's matchup against Tennessee... where I started him over Vikings WR Justin Jefferson. Ouch. Even more painful? I spelled out exactly why Pittman Jr. was always a risk when talking about Patriots WR Jakobi Meyers in Week 10. The Colts do not care about your fantasy team, and QB Philip Rivers will throw it to anyone on that team. Yes, it was nice to see Pittman Jr. get nine targets, but that was one less than RB Nyheim Hines. It also does not help when you are only able to catch two of those targets. 

Panic Meter: 3 out of 5. I am not panicked about Pittman Jr.'s skill, in fact, I think it is the main reason Rivers threw him so many contested targets. Unfortunately, the quality/quantity of the targets is so unpredictable for Pittman Jr., that it is almost impossible to trust him going forward.

TE Jonnu Smith (TEN)

CH: What I said about Jonnu Smith ahead of Week 9 still applies. As long as WRs A.J. Brown and Corey Davis are both healthy, Smith is a TD dependent tight end. The game logs kind of prove that. I'm sure plenty of people have still rolled him out in their lineups given the overall lack of quality options at the position, but this has been a problem for a while now.

Panic Meter: Personally? 0 out of 5. I gave up a while ago. If I were a Smith manager? 12 out of 5. I'd find a different option.

MM: Jonnu Smith has not finished with double-digit PPR points since Week 5, including zero yesterday. Even scarier? Zero is the number of targets he saw Sunday against the Colts. Yikes. Smith presents a real problem now for fantasy managers, with 5.61 PPR PPG since the Week 4 bye. Given how bad TE is this year, the 3.625 targets per game in that span is manageable, but with less than 20 YPG and 0.5 TDs per game on approximately two catches per game, you are better off picking a streamer than Smith.

Panic Meter: 5 out of 5. This is bad, and you need to look elsewhere for a TE.

DST Tampa Bay Buccaneers (TB)

CH: The Buccaneers defense has been pretty bad since they lost DL Vita Vea for the season. Thankfully they've still found a way to shut down the run, but their secondary is getting absolutely torched and allowing the fifth-most passing yards in the entire NFL. The Bucs are on a bye next week, but should the Vikings get WR Adam Thielen back in Week 14 for their matchup against Tampa Bay, I'm a touch nervous about their ability to shut down both he and Justin Jefferson. The following week against Atlanta and their passing attack ain't great either.

Panic Meter: 3.75 out of 5. Oddly specific number, but unless they can force turnovers I don't feel particularly comfortable with the Tampa Bay DST in the fantasy playoffs. They're still in the streaming conversation but I wouldn't be chomping at the bit to roll them out.

MM: Tampa Bay is one of the few teams to play a full season so far, and it has definitely been a tale of two halves through 12 weeks. Week 1 to Week 6, Tampa was a top-3 DST with 10.2 PPG. Week 7 to Week 12? DST20 with only 4.5 PPG. You should not be starting this team next week. The good news? You do not have to with the Bucs on a bye in Week 13. The schedule gets favorable too after four games of the past six against playoff contenders. Week 14 is Minnesota at home, and road matchups against the Falcons and Lions should not scare fantasy managers.

Panic Meter: 1 out 5. Yes, there is cause for panic, but the week off really tempers my concerns. I expect a rested and focused Tampa Bay to go 4-0 over the final four weeks of the season, and the DST will be a big part.

 Follow The Lateral on Twitter (@TheLateralFF)