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Thursday, September 29, 2011

FANTASY FOOTBALL TREND OR MIRAGE: PHILLIP RIVERS' SLOW START

One of the first QB's taken this past summer in almost all fantasy football drafts was San Diego Chargers gunslinger Phillip Rivers.  Gunslinger was the perfect description for the guy as he was coming off back-to-back season of 4,254 yards and than 4,710 yards.  Rivers now completely owns the San Diego offense as the team moved away from the LaDainian Tomlinson era and so the pass has become the preferred mode of attack for the club.  With big time weapons like Vincent Jackson, Malcolm Floyd, and Antonio Gates entering the season, it was looking like Rivers would once again hit the 30-TD/4,000-yard mark.  Fast forward through three weeks of the season and no doubt those who wound up picking Rivers in their draft are feeling a bit letdown.  Through those three games, Rivers has a grand total of 4 TD's and an even more ugly 6 INT's.  The e-mails have come pouring in asking what is wrong with Rivers and whether or not his struggles will continue.  So in our latest Fantasy Football Trend or Mirage feature, lets dig into the slow Rivers start and determine what is likely to take place from this point forward.

Looking a bit into whats going on with Rivers, there are a few things that need to be discussed.  The chief among them is the fact that super tight end Antonio Gates has missed the last two games with a foot problem and it appears he could miss a whole lot more as the issue appears to be chronic in nature.  So many are theorizing that Rivers' struggles are due to his absence but I am not buying it.  Remember that Gates was limited and missed a batch of games last season as well with the foot and Rivers turned in his best season by far.  Also when you consider that Ryan Mathews was a complete bust in the running game last season, Rivers had even more pressure and less help to perform last season but he out up sick numbers regardless.  That tells you what a great passer he really is in that he can continue to put up big numbers despite losing some of his best weapons.  I didn't even mention the holdout that cost Rivers Vincent Jackson almost all of last season as well.  Yet the numbers were tremendous.  So don't think for a second that Rivers is going to see a drop in production with Gates out.  He has Jackson back and playing well and Malcolm Floyd is one of the better number 2 wideouts in the game.  So he has more than enough weapons to continue putting up the numbers.

Another aspect that needs to be looked at is the fact that Mathews has been a revelation so far this season as he is running with a burst and decisiveness that we didn't see all of last season.  The fact Mathews along with the solid Mike Tolbert has vastly improved the running game means that Rivers will have less pressure on him to make plays through the air and less congestion in defensive backfields.  Thus more passing lanes will open for Rivers to exploit as we continue on through the season.

Finally, the Chargers offensive line has not been great but they haven't been Pittsburgh bad either.  Rivers has had more than enough time to throw and so the protection is not the issue as well.  So what gives?  Its simple really.  Rivers just went through a mini-slump which EVERY player in fantasy football will go through at some point.  The Chargers have also been famous for getting off to slow starts, both offensively and defensively and than exploding down the stretch.  I fully expect that to be the case again this season as Rivers gets on a big time roll and the points, touchdowns, and yards pile up in a hurry.  In fact I would suggest you try to steal Rivers away from a nervous owner if you need QB help.  Buying low on a proven big time star like Rivers is the way to win in fantasy football and so do what you can to make it happen.  Ultimately Rivers will put up the star numbers by the end of the season like we all expected him to do.

PHILLIP RIVERS' SLOW START A TREND OR A MIRAGE:  MIRAGE

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