San Diego Chargers running back Ryan Mathews has certainly frustrated fantasy football owners throughout the 2012 NFL season, as the highly-touted running back from Fresno State has done little to live up to the lofty expectations set for him this offseason.
Many experts, including myself, had him ranked among the top 10 at the running back position regardless of scoring format. Even after a preseason injury delayed the start of his 2012 campaign, he still appeared to have the ability of the RB1, posting 25 fantasy points in standard point-per-reception leagues in a Week 5 matchup against the New Orleans Saints with 139 yards and a touchdown.
Since that night in the Big Easy, though, things have been anything but easy for Mathews, as he has eclipsed 100 total yards just once while failing to reach the end zone in eight consecutive games.
During this eight-game stretch, the former first-round draft choice has averaged just over 10 fantasy points per game in point-per-reception formats, with a high of 13 points coming in Week 6 against the Denver Broncos and a low of six points last week against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
It's fair to say that Mathews has been solid, but he's been far from the spectacular fantasy option he was touted as to start the season. Yet despite his disappointing play the Chargers are still feeding him the ball, as he got 25 carries just last week. And, just in time for the fantasy playoffs, he has a juicy matchup against a weak Carolina Panthers run defense, which makes him a must-start in Week 15.
There is no arguing that Mathews has failed to live up to expectations this season but the talent to produce big-time fantasy numbers is there and the Panthers allow the sixth-most fantasy points to opposing running backs according to ESPN.com, so it's an ideal situation.
In 12 of 14 games this season, the Panthers have surrendered either 100 yards rushing or a rushing touchdown to an opposing running back. They also surrender an average of six receptions and 66 receiving yards to runners, which also plays into a strength of Mathews, who has hauled in 36 passes this year for a total of 244 yards.
Despite his struggle to become an elite fantasy running back, Mathews has at least been somewhat dependable this season, scoring double-digit fantasy points in nine of 12 games, and thanks to an outstanding matchup he will remind us all why we were so high on him to start the season.
Mathews may have let you down this season but when it matters most he will come through. I'm currently projecting him for over 120 total yards and a touchdown this week against a vulnerable Panthers defense. So put the past behind you and put your trust in the matchup because it is simply too good to pass up.