Fantasy Football Believe It or Not: Cowboys lost without Ezekiel Elliott and time to sit Drew Brees

We're on the downslope of the 2017 NFL season, and it's well past time to make some adjustments to our expectations. It's time to read the writing on the wall. The Saints are not a passing team. The Cowboys don't have Ezekiel Elliott anymore. The Packers don't have Aaron Rodgers anymore. 

I know you know these things, but have you rightly modified your expectations? Should you? Let's take a look.

The Cowboys offense is broken without Ezekiel Elliott

So you spent all your FAAB dollars on a Cowboys running back. Something tells me this is not what you were hoping for. Alfred Morris dominated the carries, but still ran just 11 times for 53 yards. Rod Smith saw a majority of the touches due to game script, but totaled just 28 yards. Darren McFadden played just one snap. Yuck.

The bigger issue is that this offense was dominated by a mediocre Falcons defense, scoring just seven points. Sure, Alfred Morris looks like a flex at best and Darren McFadden looks like a drop. But also, Dak Prescott looks like a borderline No. 1 quarterback at best and Dez Bryant looks more like a flex than a No. 1 receiver.

It's popular in NFL circles to mock any team that spends resources on running backs because of how replaceable they are. Elliott, quite clearly, is not.

Verdict: Don't believe it

First off, Tyron Smith's absence made a much bigger impact on this game than Elliott's. Not only could the Cowboys not protect Dak Prescott, they also didn't even make an attempt to run left.

I don't expect Smith to be out near as long as Elliott, so that should fix a lot of the problems. I was actually encouraged by what I did see from Morris and would view him as an excellent buy-low candidate. The one thing I would agree with from above is that McFadden can be dropped .Rod Smith is pretty clearly the second back here (or the first depending on game script).

I also don't really have any concerns about Prescott. Dez Bryant is a different story. Bryant hasn't topped 100 yards since Week 10... in 2016. He's only topped 63 yards twice this season. He's performing more like an elite tight end than an elite wide receiver. There's probably not much you can do about it now, but I would view Bryant as more of a No. 2 receiver moving forward than a true No. 1.

It's time to consider sitting Drew Brees

I want to be clear, Drew Brees is not playing bad football. He's just not playing the same football we've come to expect. In fact, it doesn't even look like the same game. Brees is averaging 33 pass attempts per game in 2017. He's averaged at least 40 attempts each of the past seven seasons. That 20 percent reduction in attempts explains almost everything you need to know about his Fantasy production.

I say almost, because Brees has also seen a reduction in touchdown production. His 4.3 percent touchdown rate is his lowest since 2007. While that's probably a little fluky, that doesn't really matter to Fantasy owners. Brees' lack of attempts and the Saints game plan in the red zone means Fantasy owners need to find a new starting quarterback.

Verdict: Believe it

But don't go crazy.

I do believe that Brees should have some positive touchdown regression coming, and I don't dislike his schedule down the stretch. This is not a situation where you're picking up Case Keenum or Blake Bortles off the waiver wire with the expectation they're going to outscore Brees. He's still averaging 19.2 Fantasy points per game, which is ninth among quarterbacks not on Injured Reserve.

Brees hasn't been bad, he just hasn't been what we expect from Drew Brees. Benching him for someone with a great schedule like Philip Rivers or Marcus Mariota is fine, but don't stoop much lower.

Sterling Shepard is a must-start wide receiver

I've said plenty of dumb things this season so it was nice to see Sterling Shepard deliver after I told you to hold him during his extended absence. Shepard caught 11 of his 13 targets in Week 9 for 142 yards and looks like one of the few players on the Giants who still wants to play football.

If you think about it, being on a bad team that has quit on its coach isn't the worst place for a wide receiver to be. Shepard should lead the team in targets, but still has Evan Engram to draw coverage away from him. You won't want to take him out of your lineup the rest of the season.

Verdict: Believe it

Have you seen the Giants remaining schedule? In Week 11 they play the Chiefs at home. No team has given up more Fantasy points to opposing wide receivers. After that they get the Redskins, Raiders, Cowboys, Eagles and Cardinals. The Cowboys and Cardinals both rank in the bottom third of the league against receivers. Only Washington has been better than league average and the Skins just got gashed by Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs. 

As long as Shepard stays healthy and Eli Manning doesn't get benched, Shepard will be a Fantasy starter.

Davante Adams is the only Packer worth starting

The Packers got a win on Sunday, but from a Fantasy perspective it was another huge disappointment. Aaron Jones and Ty Montgomery both left with injuries. Jordy Nelson failed to reach four Fantasy points for the fourth consecutive week. They looked lost. Well, except for Davante Adams.

Adams led the team in targets once again and caught five passes for 90 yards and a score. He's been the most-targeted receiver when Brett Hundley has been on the field, and he's caught both of Hundley's touchdown passes this year. 

Verdict: Believe it

Jordy Nelson had a great run with Aaron Rodgers, but it's pretty clear that we once again underrated the connection those two share. We saw Rodgers struggle mightily without Nelson, and now we're seeing more of the same. Hundley can't throw Nelson open the way Rodgers does, and he won't take the chances in the red zone that Rodgers does.

I'm not particularly excited to start Adams on a week-to-week basis but he's the only Packer I'm really considering at this point.

Elijah McGuire is the best Jets running back to own

Bilal Powell was supposed to be awesome without Matt Forte this week. He's always awesome without Forte. But he was not awesome without Forte in Tampa. 

Powell was out-snapped, out-touched, and out-produced by rookie Elijah McGuire in Week 10. What's most troubling is that McGuire was heavily involved in the passing game while Powell caught just one pass. It's pretty clear the Jets don't want to give anyone a feature role in this offense, but McGuire is currently showing the most promise.

Verdict: Don't believe it

I reject the notion entirely because it presumes there is a "best" Jets running back to own. They're heading into a bye week, and then have games against the Panthers, Chiefs, Broncos and Saints. I'm not saying you have to drop them, but none of them are a necessity.

We don't know how Forte's knee will be after the bye, and we have no idea how the distribution of touches will work. I would still bet on Powell over McGuire if Forte is out, but I'm hoping to find someone better to occupy that roster spot.

Senior Fantasy Writer

Heath Cummings is a Senior Fantasy Writer that covers Daily Fantasy Sports of all types. Before coming to CBS Sports he was a staff writer for Footballguys and the host of The Fantasy Football Show on... Full Bio

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