These last few games of the fantasy regular season are the most frustrating for owners trying to make the playoffs. Coaches' decisions are crucial to your team's success. The assumption we make when we set our lineups each week, is that coaches will make rational decisions about whom to put on the field and about what plays give them the best chance to score points. When these assumptions are violated, it can wreak havoc on your fantasy day. We all understand that situations arise which require teams to adjust their game strategy, but nothing is more frustrating than a coach who makes seemingly whimsical decisions that negatively impact your players.
Fantasy owners may want to beware of Texans head coach Gary Kubiak. This week, Kubiak benched starting quarterback Case Keenum with the Texans losing to the Raiders 28-17 and replaced him with former starter Matt Schaub for no apparent reason whatsoever. Keenum was 13 of 24 for 170 yards with 1 TD and 1 INT when he was benched in the third quarter. Schaub came in and finished 12 of 25 for 155 yards with 0 TD and 0 INTs and failed to lead Houston to victory despite being in the red zone three times. Kubiak explained the decision was about not putting a young quarterback in a bad situation and then growled that he didn't have time to explain what he meant. This situation just means headaches for fantasy owners going forward. Despite the 10-game losing streak, the Texans have offensive playmakers you'll want to start, but they will be difficult to trust in your lineup with Kubiak coaching.
The situation in the Arizona backfield has been baffling. While Andre Ellington had only 3 yards rushing on 8 carries on Sunday against the Jaguars, he's averaged 6.3 yards per carry on the season. Still, Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians stubbornly insists on giving the ball to Rashard Mendenhall despite his 2.9 yards per carry average. Ellington is averaging only about 7 carries per game while Mendenhall averages over 13. In the one game Mendenhall sat out with an injury, Ellington ran for 154 yards and a TD on 15 carries. Mendenhall has failed to run for more than 66 yards in any game this season. It seems clear to everyone except Bruce Arians that Ellington should be the starter in Arizona.
Carolina head coach Ron Rivera is one of the most conservative coaches in the NFL. He could be relied upon to always kick the field goal on fourth down no matter what the circumstance. As a result, he was 2-14 in one score games over the first 34 games of his coaching career. Then, in week 3 against the Giants, Rivera accidentally went for it on fourth and one when he thought the Panthers had made a first down on the two yard line. The bowling ball Mike Tolbert rolled into the endzone and "Riverboat" Ron the gambler was born. Since then, the Panthers have converted 4 of 5 fourth downs. The problem with trusting Riverboat Ron is his crowded backfield. Carolina recently got Jonathon Stewart back from injury, and they now have 3 running options again. The RBBC has long been the bane of fantasy existence. You never know which back will get the "hot hand" and the majority of carries. On Monday night, Cam Newton led the team in rushing yards and rushing attempts. Carolina is another team who can't be trusted down the stretch.
The assumption of rational coaching is an important factor to consider when setting your lineup in these crucial late season and playoff games. You can't afford to hope that a player will get opportunities to put up points. Shanahanigans is a bad word for a reason.