If you own him, he is probably the main reason your team is in the fantasy playoffs. And he is probably now the main reason why you lack any confidence you'll advance very far.
After averaging 22.7 fantasy points per game in ESPN leagues during his first seven games, the dynamic rookie runner/receiver has averaged just 8.6 over the past four -- including a season-low 3.6 last week against a shaky Buffalo Bills run defense.
ESPN Chiefs reporter Adam Teicher would love to offer some hope, but he said there is “nothing tangible” that he can point to regarding Hunt, as the Chiefs’ entire offense has deteriorated while losing five of the past six games.
“I just fail to believe they’re this bad, because we’ve seen when things were rolling that they’re pretty good,” Teicher said. “But I can’t tell you if it’s gonna change now or ever.”
Teicher stressed that he thinks Hunt is probably the last person to blame -- “not that that helps for fantasy purposes.”
Defenses have come to realize that Hunt is the one player they need to stop, and he has been getting swallowed up at the line of scrimmage. As Teicher pointed out, Hunt averaged 5.72 yards before first contact in his first three games (by far the best in the NFL). Since Week 5, he is averaging 1.43 yards before first contact (40th among running backs). And the average keeps dropping.
“This isn’t on him. It’s not like he’s hit a rookie wall or anything,” Teicher said. “I mean, the poor guy is getting swamped as soon as he gets the ball. The Chiefs aren’t making teams back off, and they’re not blocking very well. It’s just been a disaster.”
And, of course, quarterback Alex Smith’s play has dropped off substantially. He has looked less comfortable in the pocket, rushing more throws and missing more receivers while going from the subject of early-season MVP talk to questions about whether he could possibly be replaced by rookie backup Patrick Mahomes II at some point.
LET JOSH GORDON RIP?
It sure sounds like Hue Jackson wouldn’t hesitate to throw receiver Josh Gordon into his fantasy lineup this week. The Cleveland Browns head coach said he has “big plans” for Gordon even though the receiver hasn’t played a game in three years.
When asked whether Gordon will start in his first game back from multiple suspensions, Jackson said, “Heck, yeah! … Are you kidding me? … You got to play your best players, right?”
And when asked if there will be any kind of pitch count, Jackson said, “Let her rip. Pitch count? With this guy? Nooo.”
ESPN Browns reporter Pat McManamon preached some caution, saying it “might be wise” to wait at least a week to see how Gordon does before inserting him in a starting fantasy lineup. But McManamon added, “If he’s himself, he’s one of the best in the league.”
Obviously, caution seems like the right approach. Then again, Gordon led the NFL with 1,646 receiving yards in 2013, the last time he played as many as 14 games in a season.
"Josh Gordon is 6-4, 227 pounds," Browns quarterback DeShone Kizer said. "I haven't played with anyone like him."
Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers is on track to practice on Saturday for the first time since he had shoulder surgery in October. He is eligible to play again for the first time in Week 15 if his recovery keeps going smoothly.
That’s still a big “if,” though -- especially since the Packers (5-6) will need to stay in playoff contention to make his return worthwhile. But longtime teammate Clay Matthews raves about Rodgers’ condition and said this week, “I think we probably should have kept him off IR.”
In the meantime, ESPN Packers reporter Rob Demovsky also wrote this week about how the Packers don’t know which version of interim QB Brett Hundley will show up from week to week. And Green Bay’s offense could run (and pass) through rising rookie running back Jamaal Williams.
WORTH A CLICK:
Third-year receiver Seth Roberts should play a bigger role for the Oakland Raiders on Sunday without starters Michael Crabtree and Amari Cooper. It will give Roberts a chance to make up for his struggles in Mexico City two weeks ago. But ESPN Raiders reporter Paul Gutierrez also believes that tight end Jared Cook could be the biggest benefactor of any Oakland pass catcher.
Receiver Jamison Crowder spoiled the best stretch of his career with an ugly series of miscues on Thursday night. But ESPN Washington Redskins reporter John Keim pointed out that there are still reasons to have faith in Crowder’s resurgence, from his improved health to Washington's heavier use of three-receiver sets, which have allowed him to play more in the slot.
ESPN Tennessee Titans reporter Cameron Wolfe writes that there won’t be a changing of the guard in the Titans' backfield as the team continues to insist it has “two starters” at running back. But Wolfe suggested earlier this week that it’s time for Tennessee to lean more on the younger Derrick Henry, who has been outperforming veteran DeMarco Murray in recent weeks.
Rookie running back Joe Mixon had his long-awaited breakout performance with 114 rushing yards and 51 receiving yards last week. And as ESPN Cincinnati Bengals reporter Katherine Terrell wrote, Mixon vowed to buy dinner for his offensive linemen, whom he credited for the performance after they spent time talking together before the game.
Buffalo Bills running back LeSean McCoy is likely to play Sunday despite knee soreness, according to coach Sean McDermott. But as ESPN Bills reporter Mike Rodak wrote, McCoy is searching for consistency in a roller-coaster season.
Another week, another potential leading man in the Seattle Seahawks backfield. Mike Davis is expected to return from a groin injury, challenging Eddie Lacy and J.D. McKissic for playing time, while Thomas Rawls falls even further down the depth chart.
ESPN New England Patriots reporter Mike Reiss said their run game never looked better than it did last Sunday against the Miami Dolphins -- with Dion Lewis leading the way. As Reiss wrote, Lewis’ snaps have jumped from 12.8 per game through the first five games of the season to 26.6 per game over the past six.
ESPN Detroit Lions reporter Michael Rothstein suggests finding another option instead of Lions RB Ameer Abdullah this week. Abdullah is questionable with a neck injury, and his offensive line is also banged up. In other words, it doesn’t look like Detroit will snap its historic drought of four years without a 100-yard rusher.