Philadelphia, PA (SportsNetwork.com) -
You may want to use a different machine. This one's out of order.
Wes Welker is broken. The question is, can he be fixed?
Before we get out the tool chest and start poking around, let's take a look at what we're dealing with here. Since Welker's bye in Week 9, he's caught just 18 passes for 162 yards. That computes to exactly 15 fantasy points. Seven receivers around the league had that many points just last week.
So what happened? Is Father Time finally catching up to Welker or did he and Peyton have a fight?
Something just seems off between Welker and Manning. Last week against Kansas City, Manning targeted Welker five times. The only time in the last four years Welker has seen fewer targets was in 2011 when Tom Brady looked to Welker just three times in a Week 11 victory over Kansas City (The Chiefs seem to have Welker's number, don't they?).
Want to hear something truly mystifying? Welker, a yardage fiend during his six-year tenure in Foxboro, is still looking for his first 100-yard game of the season. Welker had seven of those last season including four in a row between Weeks 3 and 6. The year before that, he had eight.
The last few weeks have been especially cruel to Welker owners. In his last four games, he's been held under 40 yards on three occasions. That happened only once in 18 contests last season. At this rate, he'll finish under 1,000 yards receiving for just the second time since 2007.
Even his PPR value is diminishing. Welker finished no worse than sixth in receptions every year between 2007 and 2012. This season, he?s tenth in that category (68 catches in 12 games).
Welker was practically slump-proof in New England. But in Denver, it seems like he's lost a step. His 10.5 yard per catch average is his lowest since 2010, the year after Welker had ACL surgery. This is also the first year since 2005 that Welker hasn't had a catch of at least 35 yards (long is 33).
You could argue that Welker's replacement in New England, Julian Edelman, is having just as good a year as Welker. Their reception totals (70 for Edelman, 68 for Welker) and yardage (717 yards for Welker, 711 for Edelman) are almost identical. But Edelman's 23 fantasy points in Week 12 are more than Welker has had in any game this season. Ironically, Welker was on the other sideline for that game.
We knew Welker would have more competition for targets in Denver and certainly that has been a contributing factor in his recent struggles. As Tom Brady's safety valve last season, Welker accounted for 27.1 percent of the team's total targets. That figure has slipped to 22.4 percent this year in Denver's star-studded passing attack.
Despite a bumpy November, for the most part, Welker owners are keeping the faith. On ESPN, the 32-year-old remains a starter in 87.4 percent of all leagues. Welker could probably start in 75 percent of leagues on reputation alone but at least some percentage of that loyalty has to be a nod to his early season success. In Weeks 1 through 8, Welker produced at least nine fantasy points every time he took the field, a feat even Calvin Johnson couldn't replicate.
The Welker we saw in those first eight weeks was certainly healthier than the version we saw against KC a week ago. It's an easy excuse to make but it's also accurate. Welker has been on the injury report almost every week because of a nagging hamstring injury and he's just three weeks removed from a concussion. However, this week it sounds like he'll be closer to full strength.
As bad as this dry spell has been for Welker, his point total for the season still puts him in the top-15 among fantasy wide receivers. Obviously, his career-high nine touchdown catches have something to do with that.
And remember who's throwing to him. Manning made fantasy owners pay for benching Eric Decker last week (172 yards and four touchdowns) and he could do the same for owners silly enough to sit Welker in Week 14. Keep in mind Decker had one catch for five yards the previous week.
So stay positive, fantasy owners. The slot machine has been out of order but I think he'll be up and running again shortly. Maybe as soon as Sunday versus Tennessee.
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