Some will view the somewhat expected announcement of Washington’s starting quarterback change as more indication of how dysfunctional things have become, the start of mass changes. More Sha-hanigans from coach Mike Shanahan, if you will. Franchise quarterback Robert Griffin III is being benched for the rest of the season and backup Kirk Cousins will get the chance to play Sunday. To some this is outrageous, but I certainly see the point. The team is 3-10 and the franchise player is limping around before and after plays, clearly not 100 percent recovered from shredding a knee a year ago. Sitting him down is doing him a favor.
It’s also doing fantasy owners a favor, though. Sure, perhaps many Griffin fantasy owners are no longer filling out lineups -- though RG III was a top-10 QB most of the season! -- but now there is no debating whether you play Griffin or Andrew Luck, Griffin or Josh McCown (if he even plays). Drop him. His season is over. Keep him in dynasty leagues, because he’ll surely be in my top 10 quarterbacks for 2014, but he can’t help you this month when it’s Cousins and backup Rex Grossman. There’s great opportunity here as well for the intriguing Cousins and his weapons. After all, the next two weeks they face the similarly beleaguered Atlanta Falcons and Dallas Cowboys. Did you see the Cowboys pathetically trying to defend the pass Monday night?
I had planned on ranking Griffin outside the top 10 quarterbacks this week (12th, to be exact), and since we’ve seen so little of Cousins, I can’t really exalt him to the same level. In a week I might. After all, Cousins has thrown 73 regular-season passes in his two-year career. The Falcons could make him look like Peyton Manning, but if you’re still around in the fantasy playoffs, that’s a tad risky to rely on. I do think Cousins is a decent larger-league risk, though, considering the talent I think he has and the terrible opponent. He should just be prepared to be sacked a few times, since Griffin wasn’t exactly being protected like, say, Peyton Manning. In a season in which McCown and Nick Foles weren’t owned six weeks ago and now are playoff starters, I simply don't write off backup quarterbacks. Anything is possible.
Focusing on the weapons, I view the change as a positive. Running back Alfred Morris has rushed for a sorry 109 yards the past three games, dropping out of the top 10 for fantasy scoring at his position, and he’s now sixth for the season in rushing yards, but this move makes me like him more. He’s a top-10 guy for me this week. The Falcons have permitted more than 180 rushing yards in three of seven weeks -- and haven’t been great in the other weeks -- and some off-the-radar running backs sputtering against other defenses have really torched them, like the Arizona Cardinals’ Andre Ellington, Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ Bobby Rainey and Buffalo Bills’ C.J. Spiller. Morris should thrive Sunday. Similarly, wide receiver Pierre Garcon leads the NFC in receptions and tops NFC wide receivers in yards after the catch. He’s good. Really good. I planned on ranking him in the low teens with Griffin, and won’t back off because it’s Cousins now.
Quarterback: I didn’t ask my colleagues if they’re concerned about the Detroit Lions’ Matthew Stafford, but he’s been a consensus top-4 fantasy QB in the rankings all year, and this week only I have him there. It was one game in a driving snowstorm, and now he’s indoors the rest of the month. Trust him. Trust Tony Romo, too. Terrific matchup for him. Russell Wilson worries me more than he worries my colleagues. I don’t think a cross-country road game in New Jersey is a great matchup, sorry. But I’ve got him 10th. I wouldn’t say I particularly like Tom Brady against Miami, a team that has permitted a league-low four TDs to wide receivers, but he’s ninth for me. I see him finding a way to 15 fantasy points.
Running back: The obvious risk on the Lions’ Reggie Bush is that it’s a Monday game, and he’s listed as questionable. Unless you’ve got Joique Bell or Ray Rice on the bench, you might want to play a Danny Woodhead or Montee Ball on Thursday. I get that. But Reggie made my top 10. Shane Vereen did not. I’m all aboard the bandwagon, but expecting 12 catches or 21 fantasy points each week seems extreme. Still, No. 12 in non-PPR says something. Turns out I am a bit more concerned about the Giants’ Andre Brown than my colleagues, but we’ve all got him in the top 20. Obviously, not the easiest matchup against Seattle, but Brown is legit. Could I see the Vikings’ Toby Gerhart as a top-10 guy if Adrian Peterson sits? Sure. But I could also see the Eagles running up a big lead and making Matt Cassel throw 45 times. The Eagles' D is not bad anymore, despite season totals. Yep, his recent play and the matchup make the Falcons’ Steven Jackson appealing again. I don’t think Spiller’s matchup in Jacksonville is quite as appealing as others think. If Maurice Jones-Drew sits, backup Jordan Todman would not make my top 30.
Wide receiver: Don’t get so scared of a Bears wide receiver facing Joe Haden that you play a lesser guy. Brandon Marshall will be fine. Alshon Jeffery, too. Roddy White made my top 20. That in itself is a feat, and hardly an indication I’m not on board. Just not as on board as others. Sticking with Atlanta, Harry Douglas should punish Washington through the slot. Yep, Dallas is so awful defensively that Jordy Nelson is still in everyone’s top 20, even assuming Matt Flynn is slingin’ the football. In an easier matchup, perhaps I’d like the Patriots' wide receivers more. Maybe next week. You can see from the rankings how much we all believe in the Giants’ Hakeem Nicks. For the first time I can recall, Victor Cruz missed everyone’s top 20, too. Blame Seattle. Blame Eli. Blame A-Rod. I didn’t even rank the Indianapolis Colts' wide receivers who each scored twice in Week 14. It’s still T.Y. Hilton for me.