Mike McCarthy’s loss a big gain for the fantasy football world

Whether you embrace change or fear change or are generous with your spare change, one thing is certain: If things are going poorly, the best way to fix them is to make a change.

That is what the Packers did by firing coach Mike McCarthy following Sunday’s embarrassing home loss to the woebegone Cardinals. McCarthy has been the subject of media critiques and a villain of fantasy owners worldwide. But most of all, he was not winning games.

Make no mistake, quarterback Aaron Rodgers has some accountability for the Packers’ woes as well. But we also know he is capable of carrying a team on his back. McCarthy, well, we know he could coach a winner when Rodgers was carrying that team on his back.

So the question is: What happens now? Well, the playoffs are a pipe dream, but a fantasy barrage to end the season is not.

Remove interim coach Joe Philbins’ first season as the Packers offensive coordinator with Brett Favre, and in his coaching career — as either a coordinator or head man — Philbin’s worst offensive ranking with Aaron Rodgers is ninth in yards (2010) and 16th in points (this season). His best for yards with any other QB is 14th and in points is 11th (both 2014) — and in three other seasons, his unit ranked 26th or 27th in both categories.

So Philbin can work, as long as he is working with Rodgers. But can Rodgers make the necessary improvements in his play? His early-season knee injury doesn’t appear to be a concern any longer. He is just missing receivers at a rate he hasn’t previously shown.

His completion percentage this season (61.8) is his second-lowest since becoming the starter in 2008, with only 2015 (60.7) being worse. His career average is 64.8. Some of that can be attributed to his early knee woes, some to his depleted receiving corps.

What can’t be attributed to Rodgers’ poor performance is the lack of use of running back Aaron Jones. He was suspended the first two games of the season, but didn’t claim the starting job until Week 6. Then last week, in a close game that should have worked in Jones’ favor, he got his fewest touches (15) since Week 8 and Jamaal Williams got his most (11) since Week 4.

It was some terrible coaching combined with a lack of effort (which can be attributed to coaching). We expect a lot of that to correct itself, especially this week.

The Falcons rank in the bottom three defending opposing fantasy QBs and RBs. So load up with Rodgers and Jones. We also wouldn’t be surprised to see Jimmy Graham gaining more of a feature role in the game plan.

We are going to take this risk in the first week of the fantasy playoffs because we know Rodgers’ history, we have seen Jones consistently perform when given opportunity and we’ve seen the Falcons give up the type of games we want out of our fantasy starters. And now McCarthy is out of the way.

The Decision

Each week Post fantasy Madman Drew Loftis and Roto Rage Jarad Wilk debate whom you should start:

Justin Jackson vs. Austin Ekeler

Drew: Jackson — The rookie easily outplayed Ekeler last week — 63 yards on eight carries with a TD to Ekeler’s 21 yards on 13 carries. Ekeler is more involved in the passing game (he had five catches for 22 yards last week; Jackson one catch for 19). But in a home game, against the league’s most generous fantasy run defense in the Bengals, in which the Chargers are favored by two touchdowns, we expect more some clock-killing, run-heavy work, and that fits Jackson better than Ekeler.

Jarad: Ekeler — There’s a lot to like about Ekeler facing off against the Bengals’ defense, like the fact Cincinnati has allowed the most rushing yards (1,840), the eighth-highest yards per carry (4.9) in the league and the second-most rushing touchdowns (16). They have also given up the most receiving touchdowns (six) to running backs on 66 receptions for 637 yards (9.7 per reception, which is the fifth-highest in the league). Ekeler is averaging 3.1 targets per game, has caught 78 percent of the passes thrown his way, is averaging 10.2 yards per reception and has three receiving touchdowns. He is also averaging more than five yards per carry.

Last week: Jarad 18.8 (James White — 6-26 rushing, 7-92 receiving), Drew 13.5 (T.J. Yeldon — 8-16 rushing, 7-49 receiving)
Season: Drew leads series, 8-5

Big Weeks

Josh Allen QB, Bills, vs. Jets
(FanDuel $7,400/DraftKings $5,500)
Don’t look now, but Josh Allen might not be terrible. His passing and running combined have delivered 25-point-plus fantasy outings the past two weeks. Jets have allowed two or more QB touchdowns in eight of the past nine games.

Jeff Wilson Jr. RB, 49ers, vs. Broncos
(FD $5,600/DK $3,800)
Will fill in for injured Matt Breida. Was heavily used in pass game as well last week, making him immune to game flow. Banged-up Broncos might have trouble pulling away anyway.

Chris Godwin WR, Buccaneers, vs. Saints
(FD $5,600/DK $4,900)
With DeSean Jackson out, Godwin should get additional targets, including an extra deep look or two. Also, don’t overlook Adam Humphries.

Antonio Callaway WR, Browns, vs. Panthers
(FD $5,400/DK $3,900)
Carolina’s defense has evaporated, and they have been especially vulnerable to the deep ball — which is exactly what Callaway does best.

Small Weaks

Matt Ryan QB, Falcons, at Packers
(FD $8,200/ DK $5,600)
Call it superstition, call it premonition, call it the history of dome teams in frigid, open-air environments, but no way we’re playing Ryan on the road against what will be a fired up Green Bay team.

Jaylen Samuels RB, Steelers, at Raiders
(FD $4,600/DK $3,700)
We’re a little worried about coach Mike Tomlin’s stated plan to split carries between the unknown rookie Samuels and the veteran beacon of mediocrity Stevan Ridley.

Spencer Ware RB, Chiefs, vs. Ravens
(FD $6,400/DK $5,200)
The Ravens have allowed just two rushing TDs by RBs over the past five games. Be patient. You can use him the rest of the way.

Cameron Brate TE, Buccaneers, vs. Saints
(FD $5,100/DK $3,500)
QB Jameis Winston loves looking for Brate near the goal line. When that doesn’t happen, Brate is a single-digit fantasy demon. The Saints have allowed one tight end TD all season.

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