Fantasy Doctor: Strike of the touchdown vultures

Isn’t it terrible when someone gets rewarded for doing next to nothing?

It happens all the time in fantasy football. You start your star running back, he rushes for over 100 yards. Everything should be great for your points total. But as soon as your guy sees the red zone, something terrible happens — the fullback takes the reigns.

Next thing you know, you’re throwing the remote and screaming at the coaches who can’t even hear you. The banners are flashing “touchdown” and the players are cheering, but you’re madder than you have been all afternoon. After all the hard work put in by your running back, the fullback steals the six-point payoff.

Last season, this was a regular thing for Matt Forte, who produced the 12th-highest rushing yards on the season. On 248 rushes, he notched 1,094 yards, but only five touchdowns. That’s because many times when the Bears reached the redzone, Michael Bush would take over and be trusted to push in the touchdown.

Bush, who scored five touchdowns last season, is what we in the fantasy football world call a “touchdown vulture”. He’s someone who is put in the game for the sole purpose of scoring touchdowns, which is huge benefit for his team but robs fantasy owners of points their players should have gotten.

It’s a legitimate football strategy. Bush was brought to Chicago for his power running, because he can smash through a defensive line for a few yards when a few yards is all that’s needed. As a Bears fan, I’m glad he’s here, but his presence is also a reason why I avoid Forte and tend to draft standalone backs like Marshawn Lynch and Adrian Peterson.

Watching for touchdown vultures can save your week. Lamar Miller has done a progressively better job in Miami each week, 62 yards on eight carries in Week 3. But on a team that averages just one touchdown a week and forces Miller to split carries with Daniel Thomas, he’s a disaster waiting to happen.

As for the Chargers, when Philip Rivers isn’t busy finding new ways to let me down, the backfield features a three-man rotation that together has only scored one touchdown all year. Forty-four fantasy points have been divided between Ryan Mathews (21), Danny Woodhead (12) and Ronnie Brown (11), which should have owners fuming. Mathews is easily the reliable handoff man for the Chargers, with 45 takes for 164 rushing yards, but he’s barely worth a start in this rotation.

In short, if your running backs just don’t seem to ignite the same spark they used to, if every second with them just feels dull and loveless, consider taking some time apart. If you’re having trouble finding a quality, long-term relationship, maybe your best course is to press on with a variety of risky, one-week stands. But most importantly, if you’re unhappy with your current situation, try something new.

Here are the weekly starts and sits for Week 4: (don’t forget the Packers and Panthers have bye weeks)

STARTS

Tony Romo (quarterback, Cowboys) — Telling people to start Tony Romo involves asking them to do something few Cowboys fans can do. Have faith. The Chargers defense is last in the league for passing yards allowed at 1,022 (341 yards per game), and they have managed just one pick. Meanwhile, Romo has a high 72 percent completion rate after 115 passes, 771 yards and six touchdowns. And with a healthy Dez Bryant at the No. 1 spot, expect a big week for Romo — believe in one.

Torrey Smith (wide receiver, Ravens) — Something’s got to give for Torrey Smith, and what better time than against the Buffalo Bills? This year seems to tell the story of a receiver who can’t seem to get in the end zone, but last year foretells a greater destiny for Smith in the absence of Anquan Boldin. In 2012, Smith’s 49 catches produced 855 yards and eight touchdowns (127 points). This season, he averages 16.8 yards per catch, it’s just a matter of time before snags one between the pylons.

SITS

Ryan Mathews (running back, Chargers) — As I said earlier, Mathews is splitting carries with two other backs. In his fourth season with the Chargers, Rivers has been a passing maniac (just never in my favor). But since going off for 1,091 yards in 2011, he has only scored a single rushing touchdown — and that was last year. He also has a contract until 2015, which doesn’t put any additional pressure on him to be exceptional, whereas newcomer Woodhead is looking to make an impression while veteran Brown is playing on a one-year deal. With only 21 points on the season, if you have someone even a remotely viable option, take out Mathews.

Dwayne Bowe (wide receiver, Chiefs) — In case you missed it, the Giants lost to the Panthers 38-0 in Week 3. Yeah, that’s not a lie. But while Cam Newton had a 233-yard, three-touchdown field day, the Giants secondary managed to lock down the No. 1 receiver, Steve Smith, and hold him to just four points. Despite a poor performance so far in the season, Dwayne Bowe will be the object of the Giants affection Sunday. Against the Eagles, fourth-worst passing defense in the league, Bowe only recorded a single catch for zero points. Remember that Giants score I mentioned? Well, odds are good they won’t let that happen again. And if a triumphant resurgence is imminent, you can bet it be founded on a tough secondary.

J.J. is a sophomore in Media. He can be reached at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @Wilsonable07.