SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

November 30, 2013

Fantasy Forecast: Can Ridley overcome fumble-itis?


The Salem News

---- — Fantasy Forecast

Andy Silva

So, recently in one of my fantasy leagues I found myself desperately in need of some running back relief.

My team was on the upswing, climbing the league ladder and I thought I could really make an impact by improving my ground attack. I made what I thought was a reasonable deal for Patriots running back Stevan Ridley. Despite some obvious flaws, Ridley has shown flashes of brilliance and tremendous upside. I was feeling good.

As I was watching the Pats-Broncos game last Sunday night those good feelings turned sour fast. Ridley’s major bug-a-boo — holding onto the football — reared its ugly head once again and has now put Ridley’s role on the team into question.

Ridley has lost four fumbles on the season, a fact surely not lost on head coach Bill Belichick. Ridley was the invisible man following his costly turnover against the Broncos leading some to question whether he is about to find himself shackled to the bench. But, there is some evidence to support the notion that Ridley will get another chance.

Perhaps the biggest thing working in his favor is the fact the LeGarrette Blount came in an immediately put the ball on the ground as well. And with Shane Vereen still working his way back to health, someone is going to get those snaps. If both are going to make you hold your breath every time they touch the ball, at least Ridley provides the potential to break off a big run and make things happen.

Moreover, both offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels and even the man in the hoodie himself have give Ridley a vote of confidence this week. McDaniels said he has “great confidence in Stevan as a runner” and Belichick said on WEEI, “I don’t think any of our backs have an issue that I would say prevents them from being a productive player.” It could just be a case of Belichick not wanting to betray his true feelings, but at the very least things are sounding like they are not too bleak for Ridley.

Ridley is clearly trying to correct the issue, even going so far as to contact former Patriots running back Kevin Faulk, who battled his own fumbling problems early in his career before becoming pretty dependable in that department. And a guy who is being productive will be given more chances — Ridley had scored a touchdown in five straight games before his relegation to the doghouse in the Denver game. At the end of the day, Ridley is talented enough that I think the Patriots will stick with him in an effort to keep him feeling confident and to cash in on the potential he has for the future.

---

The 49ers’ offense should get a boost this week with the return of wide receiver Michael Crabtree. Crabtree was officially activated off the PUP list this week after having torn his Achillies in May.

Colin Kaepernick has not been the same player this season as he was in the team’s run to the Super Bowl last year and Crabtree’s absence could have played a large role in that. San Francisco is averaging a league-worst 173.5 receiving yards per game and is also averaging the fewest passes attempted per game at 25.1. Crabtree had a breakout year in 2012, pulling in a career-high 85 receptions for 1,105 yards to go with nine touchdowns. So, it’s not hard to see a cause and effect scenario at play here.

Moreover, Crabtree’s return should help ease the pressure on Anquan Boldin and tight end Vernon Davis. The 49ers website reported that Thursday was the first time all season that Boldin, Crabtree, Davis and wideout Mario Manningham had all practiced together. Clearly the more options there are, the less opposing defenses can hone in on Boldin and Davis without getting burned somewhere else.

Even if Crabtree’s not 100 percent yet, his presence alone should be significant. I know that as a Kapernick owner I’m feeling better already.

---

The Falcons-Bills contest tomorrow could be interesting.

Why is that you may ask? One word: Toronto. No, I’m not referring to the potential for disgraced mayor Rob Ford to show up and make a fool out of himself (although let’s not rule it out just yet). I’m referring to the fact that the setting may play right into the Falcons favor.

A dome team playing in a dome in what is basically a neutral site. Sounds pretty good to me. Add in the fact that the Bills are just 1-4 in regular season games played north of the border, including a 50-17 shellacking at the hands of the Seattle Seahawks last season, and you have the makings of what could be a good day for the Falcons offense.

---

Rams running back Zac Stacey, who has scored a touchdown in three straight games, has been medically cleared to play this week following a concussion and is listed as probable.

Stacey practiced fully yesterday and looks to be ready to go and should should be in starting lineups after running for 80-plus yards in three of his last four games.

---

Andy Silva writes the Fantasy Forecast column for The Salem News. You can reach him at asilva@salemnews.com and can also follow Fantasy Forecast on Twitter at twitter.com/sn_fantasysport.