Across NFL Fantasy, we're working hard as ever to help fantasy owners everywhere make that final push. It's #SaveYourSeason time, and whether you need to tie a few wins together for a shot at the playoffs or are just trying to set up your squad for the best chance to win a title, be sure to tweet @NFLFantasy with the #SaveYourSeason hashtag. Maybe you'll see your question answered on "NFL Fantasy LIVE," "Fantasy and Friends," or on one of our social platforms.
For now though, I decided to identify some season-saving trades that you might be able to swing ahead of Week 10 that could give your roster that extra boost. So without further ado, consider this edition of Trade Calls, the #SaveYourSeason extravaganza. Make sure you read the entire thing ... you might even have a problem with one of uber controversial takes. Come @ me!
Doug Martin, RB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Doug Martin owners, take a deep breath. The Muscle Hamster finally returned to practice this week. He's been sidelined with a hamstring injury since all the way back in Week 3. As do fantasy owners, the Bucs need Martin back in the worst way.
Since he's been out, the Bucs running backs group has averaged fewer than 4.0 ypc in just one of six games and have scored a combined three touchdowns. Charles Sims was ineffective as a feature back in Martin's stead before being placed on injured reserve. Jacquizz Rodgers was a fine fill-in for a few weeks but he is hurt too. Antone Smith suffered a season-ending injury in Week 9. Tampa Bay is down to rookie Peyton Barber and third-year back Mike James who has just 80 career carries to his name. Like I said, the team needs Martin back in the worst way.
The main reason he may prove to be a season-saving acquisition is the upcoming schedule for the Bucs. I once believed that things couldn't get more favorable in terms of the matchups for Mike Evans over the next few weeks.
Tampa Bay's remaining schedule is even more favorable for the Bucs ground game. The Saints allow more fantasy points per game to opposing running backs than any other team, and Martin will face New Orleans twice before the fantasy season wraps. In Week 12, the Bucs face Seattle which has allowed the fifth-most rushing yards to backs in the league in the last two weeks, Kansas City which is 10th-most generous in terms of rushing yards allowed to running backs and San Diego which has allowed 11 rushing touchdowns to backs, tied for second-most in the league.
With Martin's return imminent, you can bet that he'll shoulder the majority of the 25-rush attempts per game the Bucs backs have been averaging since Week 3 and is a strong candidate to lead fantasy squads into a successful playoff run.
Mike Evans, WR, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
... Eventually, something will be, and if you can find the right combination of players based on your league-mates' weaknesses in order to get the deal for Evans done, consider yourself poised for the playoffs. Here's why:
Trade for the No. 2 wideout in fantasy? I know, I know, groundbreaking advice ... You could do my job ... and yes I do get paid for this. But Evans is shaping up as a season-winner right now. He's coming off a Thursday night game where he reached his season-ceiling of 27 standard points. In that game against Atlanta, Evans was peppered with 17 targets which he converted into 11 catches for 150 yards and two touchdowns. By the end of the game, he could barely run his routes because he was completely gassed and had taken a huge hit earlier in the game, which eventually sent him into concussion protocol.
After an effort made by the Bucs coaching staff to reduce Jameis Winston's pass attempts heading into Week 5 in which the quarterback tied his season-low of 30 attempts, his attempts have slowly crept back up each week, with 30 in Week 7, 32 in Week 8 and 37 in Week 9. Some of that likely has to do with the fact that the team is completely depleted at running back and some of it can be attributed to the fact that Tampa Bay's defense has not been playing well lately. The team has allowed 1,087 yards of total offense against in their last two contests against Oakland and Atlanta. But while that might all bode poorly for the Bucs from a real-life football angle, it means nothing but big things for Evans' outlook the rest of the way in fantasy leagues.
Brah, if you can pull this off ... Whew buddy watch out!
Before the fantasy season wraps, Tampa Bay has to play another high-octane offense (but friendly defense) in the New Orleans Saints … twice. This is great news for Evans, as the Saints allow 300 passing yards per game to opponents. Evans also will enjoy two favorable matchups with games against Chicago and Kansas City in the next two weeks. Chicago allows 27.4 fppg to opposing wideouts this year while Kansas City allows 25.8; both bottom eight in the NFL.
If you have to give up everything including the kitchen sink in order to acquire Evans before whatever your trade deadline may be, do it. Bait your league-mate with a top-tier quarterback in the deal -- you can always stream signal-callers the rest of the season.
Matt Forte, RB, New York Jets
Matt Forte currently ranks fifth among running backs in total fantasy points for the season (126.2) and is averaging 14.0 fppg for the season. He's bounced-back in a big way since his early-season slump between Weeks 3 through 6 where he failed to post double-digit standard points in four straight Jets losses. His workload was diminished due to the Jets struggles on offense and unfavorable game scripts.
But Forte is playing extremely well over the last three games despite his continued diminished playing time during that span.
The veteran back has scored 25.4, 21.8 and 15.7 fantasy points in each of last three games in which he has accounted for 77 percent of his team's backfield touches, and 70 percent of backfield scrimmage yards with five total touchdowns. With Ryan Fitzpatrick struggling (worst passer rating in NFL among current starting quarterbacks, 67.6) the Jets will lean on their veteran running back to move the chains.
Forte will enjoy the eighth-most favorable schedule for running backs in Weeks 10 through 16. The best of which include: a Week 13 game against an Indianapolis defense that has allowed 1,259 scrimmage yards and 10 total touchdowns to opposing backs this year, which ranks them as the seventh-most generous to opposing backs; A week 14 contest against a San Francisco "stop unit" that has allowed more rushing yards (1,375) and rushing touchdowns (12) to backs than any other team in the NFL; and an Week 15 tilt against a Miami defense that has allowed the sixth-most rushing yards to opposing backs this year (866).
Doug Baldwin, WR, Seattle Seahawks
To this point in the season, Doug Baldwin has been a disappointment based on his ADP (Round 5) back in August. Russell Wilson has struggled as he deals with injuries, and the entire Seattle offense has suffered in turn. But what we saw the Seahawks do last Monday night against the Bills was a great sign for what may be around the corner for this offense. Seattle scored four red-zone touchdowns against Buffalo, a unit that stood as the league's third-ranked red zone defense heading into Week 9. Russell Wilson looked like a new quarterback. Jimmy Graham officially broke out. And Doug Baldwin caught all six of his targets for a 100 percent catch rate and 89 yards, including a diving 50-yard bomb.
Through eight games last year, Baldwin had 31 receptions (on 40 targets) for 345 yards and two touchdowns. Then, the Seahawks passing game found a groove and exploded in historical fashion. In the team's final eight games last year, Baldwin racked up 47 receptions on 63 targets for a ridiculous 724 yards and 12 touchdowns.
Due to the team's struggles to move the ball on the ground (love you, C-Mike) Seattle is passing the ball 12.7 percent more than they were last year. The team led the league in rushing percentage (51.7%) last season but this year, they are 19th in the league (39.0%).
That bodes well for Baldwin's rest-of-season outlook. Through eight games this year, Baldwin has 44 receptions (on 57 targets) for 570 yards and two touchdowns, so he's already out-pacing himself from the first half of 2015. Wilson has a 120.5 passer rating when targeting Baldwin and Graham this season versus a 85.6 passer rating when targeting all others on the team.
The Seahawks have games coming up against Tampa Bay, Carolina and Green Bay in Weeks 12 through 14, providing the ninth-most favorable schedule in the league in terms of potential wide receiver production.
If things continue to trend up for the Seattle passing game, the way we saw on Monday night, it could mean another huge second-half for Baldwin and company.
Tyrell Williams, WR, San Diego Chargers
We know San Diego has had no trouble scoring points this year, they're the third-ranked scoring offense in the NFL. And while running back Melvin Gordon has really been the catalyst for this offense, Tyrell Williams has stepped up in a huge way to fill the void left by early season injuries to Keenan Allen and Stevie Johnson.
Matt Harmon wrote about Williams as a potential league-winner in his mid-season Next Gen Stats breakdown, citing Williams' impressive separation ability and intended-to-completed air-yards differential, which according to Harmon, is far superior to Benjamin's this season. What that means is that Williams has taken full advantage of the opportunities he's been provided by Philip Rivers to make big plays in the passing game, more so than Benjamin has.
Heading into last week's game, Williams carried concerns due to a knee injury. But he put those to rest by playing on 82 percent of the Chargers' offensive snaps while compiling six receptions for 65 yards and a touchdown against Tennessee.
William's rest-of-season outlook benefits greatly from the most favorable schedule in terms of matchups for wide receivers of any other team in the NFL. The Chargers face Miami in Week 10, followed by a much-needed bye. Then they play Houston, Tampa Bay, Carolina, Oakland, Cleveland and Kansas City. Every team on that list except for Houston ranks lower than 11th in terms of fantasy points against wideouts, allowing at least 25.8 fantasy points per game to the position on the season.
Read that again. Yep. It's almost too good to be true.
Todd Gurley, RB, Los Angeles Rams
Todd Gurley might be the biggest first-round bust of the 2016 fantasy season thus far. Though, you can't say we didn't see it coming. A quarter of his fantasy point total for the season (80.5) was scored in Week 3 when he had 20 points (80 yards and a touchdown) and during Los Angeles' three-game win streak in Weeks 2 through 4, Gurley averaged 21.7 carries, had 2 total touchdowns and played on 82 percent of the team's offensive snaps.
Los Angeles has lost their last four games. In those four-straight losses, Gurley's playing time has dropped by 12 percentage points, down to 70 percent. He's averaged 58.75 rushing yards per game with just 16 carries on average, with 34 receiving yards per game and has scored once. Once.
Thankfully, he is averaging 37 rec yards per game over his last five contests, with no fewer than four targets in any game. This added work as a pass-catcher has kept his floor bearable through the bye-week apocalypse for those who had no other option but to trot Gurley out.
After the Rams' Week 9 loss, coach Jeff Fisher, came out and said that they need to get Gurley the ball more, into the "20s" range. My dog could have probably figured that one out, but whatever.
But the reason you're reading this is why you should trade for Gurley as a season-saver. I know, that's a bit of a stretch. But consider this: Gurley has the fourth-most favorable schedule for running backs through Week 16.
The Rams face: Miami in Week 11 (see Matt Forte section above); New Orleans in Week 12 (see Mike Evans, Doug Martin sections above); an Atlanta defense in Week 14 which has allowed more receiving yards (547) to running backs than any other team this year: Seattle in Week 15 which has allowed the fifth-most rushing yards to backs in the league in the last two weeks; and San Francsico a.k.a. the worst defense in the league in most fantasy championships, Week 16.
And if Gurley does indeed get the increased volume that Fisher spoke of, it could mean a bump in his floor from the 9.86 points per game he has averaged over his last five contests, to more of a 12-15 point range which would potentially be just what fantasy managers need from their flex spot to win a title.