The NFL season is a slog. Teams play 16 games over a 17 week period and practice almost everyday. For a player, the season is as mentally tasking as it is physically. With injuries mounting and the playoffs looming, teams need to find a way to pull through and perform. As we enter week 12, players should be taking their mid-season form. Although the trade deadline for most standard fantasy football leagues has passed, these are players that you should keep an eye on, no matter the state of your league.
Doug Baldwin: An undersized receiver, what Baldwin lacks in stature, he makes up for in speed, athleticism and toughness. Thus far, 2016 has been rather pedestrian, as Baldwin has logged 5 touchdowns and 733 yards on 54 receptions. Looking back on 2015, Baldwin lead the league in touchdowns with 14 and put up almost 1,100 yards on 78 reception, meaning he scored on almost 20% of all catches. While this touchdown to reception rate was clearly unsustainable, I expect for Baldwin to replicate at least some of what he was able to do last year in the second half of the 2016 season. After all, from weeks 9 through 16 of last year, Baldwin scored an unbelievable 12 touchdowns as he caught fire and lead the Seahawks to another playoff run. Seemingly around this time every year, the Seahawks’ offense clicks. Russel Wilson has been playing with a bad knee all year and as it continues to heal, Baldwin and the rest of the offense should become more and more productive.
Steve Smith Sr.: What negative is there to say about the man. At 37 years of age, he’s still doing it. After logging his 1000th career catch in week 11, Smith is hungry for more as the Ravens try to stagger into the playoffs in a AFC North where it seems that nobody wants to win. Despite comments from Ray Lewis saying other wise, Flacco has been playing decently the whole season. These last 6 games inspires confidence as the Ravens play some pretty mellow defenses, including the Bengals twice and the Steelers once. Although he was hurt early in the season, Smith Sr. is back and healthy as ever. In 6 of his 8 games this year, Smith has seen at least 7 targets and has scored in his last two outings. Although the Ravens offense has struggled to score this year, Smith will see an increased volume and with it, a larger number of catches. Smith has a burning passion for the game of football and brings intensity to the field. Watch out for Smith in the second half, and as he would say “ice up son”.
Lamar Miller: The Texans are still in the playoff picture and their schedule the rest of the way is very favorable. While Miller went into a bit of a mid-season slump, he pulled out of it on Monday night as he scampered for 104 yards on 24 carries with a pair of touchdowns. At the beginning of the season, coach Bill O’Brien relied on Miller too much in his eyes, as he was carrying the ball almost 25 times a game. He decided to give Miller a break for a while and his carries trended down along with his numbers. However, it was quickly realized that Brock Osweiler can not lead a productive offense, resulting in the large volume of work Miller received on Monday night. Miller has speed and agility and is a very capable back. The backs behind him on the depth chart pose no real threat of stealing carries and Miller catches the ball out of the backfield too. There is a lot to like about Miller as the Texans are about to face six defenses that are ranked 18 or below in total defense. On the other hand, what the offense is unable to accomplish, the 5th ranked Houston defense should be able to make up for, keeping the Texans in games.
Phillip Rivers: The Chargers have had an unfortunate 2016 season. Costly mistakes at the end of games has caused their record to slip to 4-6, earning them last place in the AFC West. While it may be mathematically hard for the Chargers to sneak their way into the playoffs, Phillip Rivers will not go down if he has something to say about it. The 34 year old veteran has thrown for nearly 3,000 yards and 20 touchdowns so far this season, and he won’t be slowing down anytime soon. In weeks 13-16, Rivers faces the weak defenses of the Buccaneers, Panthers, Raiders and Browns. Rivers has the weapons and the ability to put up numbers against all of these teams, he just needs to limit the interceptions. The Chargers defense is ranked 20th in the league, meaning they often play from behind and rely on Rivers’ arm. Watch out for the unproven Chargers lead by Rivers as they try to make something of this season.