Philadelphia, PA (SportsNetwork.com) -
Don't be fooled by the 28 on the front of his jersey.
This isn't Adrian Peterson. Or at least not the version we're used to.
Peterson was unstoppable last season. Some called his 2012 campaign the greatest ever by an NFL running back.
And now this?
"Someone make me a deal. Give me a wideout and a running back and I'd happily part ways with AP."
This was posted on the message board in my family's fantasy league earlier this week. Did he just say happily?
This disturbed me so greatly that I had get to the bottom of it. Why would anyone "happily" part ways with the best running back in football?
My cousin's response was only four words. "I don't trust him."
He's not alone. Here is a sampling of some trades that have happened in CBS leagues over the last week.
- Peterson for Philip Rivers
- Peterson for Le'Veon Bell and Darren Sproles
- Peterson for Eddie Lacy
- Peterson for Golden Tate and Trent Richardson
- Peterson for Knowshon Moreno
- Peterson for Patriots D/ST and T.Y. Hilton
The majority of these bogus offers would have been unthinkable a year ago at this time. But Peterson's recent skid has made us suddenly reconsider.
This is one of the rare instances where you'll see the words slump and Adrian Peterson in the same sentence. Peterson's 150 yards on the ground since Week 6 are his fewest in a three-week span since 2011 when he stumbled to 124 yards on just 28 carries over his final three games.
What's especially puzzling about this is that Peterson looked great in his first four games of the season. He averaged 105.3 ypg during that stretch with five touchdowns. In 2012, Peterson didn't score his fifth touchdown until Week 9.
But it's been downhill ever since. Sure, the emotional baggage he's faced with the death of his son has had something to do with it. But mostly, I'd attribute Peterson's struggles to the poor play of his signal callers.
Minnesota's QB play has deteriorated to an almost unbearable level over the last three games. Over that span, the trio of Matt Cassel, Josh Freeman and Christian Ponder has combined for a miserable 61.2 quarterback rating on 118 passing attempts.
There's really no cure for bad quarterback play. When it happens, teams tend to key in on the run, stacking the box with eight or more men at a time. That certainly doesn't make Peterson's life any easier.
And when you're losing, which has often been the case with this year's Vikings team (they come in to Sunday's game at Dallas with a 1-6 record), the running game disappears. That's why Peterson has been limited to just 12 rushing attempts per game in his last three contests after averaging 23 in the first four.
Perhaps the drop-off makes sense. In his first year back from ACL surgery, Peterson received an absurd workload of 348 rushes in 16 games. That number stretches to 370 if you include the postseason.
Peterson averaged a mere 281 carries per season in his first five years in the league. So maybe the fatigue that Peterson probably should have felt last season is finally setting in.
The good news is that even after hitting a brick wall in his last three appearances, the 28-year-old is still projected for 1,305 yards, which would be his second-highest rushing total in the last four seasons. He's also on pace for nearly 300 yards as a receiver, a plateau Peterson hasn't surpassed since 2010.
Fantasy owners can also hang their hat on Peterson's reputation as a dominant second-half performer. Peterson steamrolled his way to an incredible 1,332 yards over his last eight games in 2012, which was almost double what he put up in the first half (775 yards on 151 carries).
In 43 games in November and December, Peterson has averaged 100.2 rushing yards per game, a slight increase from his output in the first two months of the season (98.6 ypg in September/October). His yards per carry average has also been higher in the latter half of the season (5.2 yards per rush in November/December versus 4.9 in September/October).
Of course, Minnesota's remaining schedule isn't exactly ideal. Five of the Vikings' next nine opponents have winning records including the notoriously stingy Seahawks in Week 11. But if Peterson turns back the clock to 2012 and becomes Superman again, it won't matter who he's playing.