Is Ryan Mathews a safe play in Week 17? 

December, 30, 2010
So, do you like San Diego Chargers running back Ryan Mathews this week? I admit, I do, having ranked the rookie, disappointing as he has been for much of the season, not far outside my top 10 running backs for the week. Then again, I feel like it's a trap. It's almost too obvious. Duck, we're being set up! Touted player, seems healthy, relatively meaningless game, timeshare colleague Mike Tolbert is out and the Denver Broncos are pretty much brutal defensively.

[+] EnlargeRyan Mathews
Christopher Hanewinckel/US PresswireRyan Mathews is projected to score 21 fantasy points in Week 17, according to our projections.
Can we really trust Mathews? I mean, in the previous two weeks, the fantasy bandwagon seemed awfully fond of running backs Tim Hightower and Rashad Jennings. Those were setups, I tell ya! They also had opportunity and the right foes, and look what happened. How many times this season have you been burned by Mathews, I mean other than in August when you made him the first rookie off the board, costing you a mid-third-round pick in ESPN average live drafts? Mathews has been in double digits for standard scoring four times all season, with his Week 16, 13-point "explosion" being the high-water mark. Awesome.

Yes, I did rank Mathews well for this week, but it doesn't mean I need to feel good about it. I can't tell you why I look at certain players and think the worst, or at least take it into account, even when general logic is all rainbows and unicorns. I didn't go overboard on relying on the Jacksonville Jaguars' Jennings, who I actually will like a lot this week if Maurice Jones-Drew can't play, but I certainly got caught by Hightower. Did I ever get caught. On Mathews, I'm prepared for just about anything, and that's what concerns me.