Wed Dec 7 8:55am ET
By JEFF PAUR
Sr Fantasy Writer
Kirk is producing big numbers
It is a little hard to believe, but this is the last week of the regular season in most fantasy football formats. And it is a tough one with six teams on a bye. The NFL schedule makers made it tough on us fantasy owners. Not fun. Hopefully, you aren’t scrambling too much to fill a good lineup.
Now for my random thoughts for the week. . . . .
The NFL didn’t do the fantasy community any favors by having six teams on a bye in Week 14. This is likely the last week of the regular season for many of you, so there is likely a lot on the line for many teams. And some of you could be without some key players, including Jonathan Taylor, Aaron Jones and Justin Fields. Not good. Hopefully, you can all overcome the byes and still make the playoffs. Good luck!
Amon-Ra St. Brown has moved into the elite category of fantasy seasons. He is sixth overall in fantasy receiver scoring despite missing a game and playing hurt in another. He is a target monster, getting double-digit targets six games. He is the real deal and going to be a star in this league for years to come.
The tight end position has been the most frustrating of all the fantasy positions this year. Outside of Travis Kelce, the rest of the position has been all over the map from week to week. I know I am having a hard time in many of my leagues because I have zero shares of Kelce. I would like to think I would have some kind of handle on when some of these guys have there big games, but there seems to be no rhyme or reason for when those games happen. So frustrating.
I’m really looking forward to the Bears surrounding Justin Fields with better talent next season. This guy is a superstar. He runs as well as any quarterback in the history of the game and seems to get better throwing the ball on almost a weekly basis. If the Bears get some help for him at receiver, watch out. Fields could be the top fantasy quarterback in the game before long.
With Samaje Perine playing so well, you have to wonder what the Bengals will do with Joe Mixon once he is healthy enough to play. I still think Mixon starts, but it could be more of a mix than it was before when both backs were healthy. I still think Perine will have some fantasy value, getting double-digit touches even with Mixon back. He could have some flex appeal, but might be a little more erratic for fantasy owners.
I feel like I’m beating a dead horse here, but I continued to be amazed by the season Geno Smith is having. He is sixth in fantasy quarterback scoring, ahead of Justin Herbert, Trevor Lawrence, Kyler Murray and Tom Brady. You all had that predicted, right? Smith just keeps getting it done and isn’t slowing down. He has 21-plus fantasy points five straight games. His consistency has been off the charts this year. I’m anxious to see where he lands next year. He is going to cash in on this breakout season somewhere.
The Chargers are the most disappointing team in my view. I had very high expectations for them on both sides of the ball. I know injuries have been an issue, but I think coaching is a problem as well. It might be time to move on from Brandon Staley, who has failed to take this offense and Justin Herbert to heights that they deserve. It would be nice to get a top offensive mind in there to utilize Herbert better. This unit should be playing much better football in my view.
News and Notes: The 49ers signed quarterback Josh Johnson on Tuesday. The veteran quarterback should take over as the No. 1 for the 49ers and could even get some starts if rookie Brock Purdy shows any struggles. . . . .The Rams claimed quarterback Baker Mayfield off waivers from the Panthers on Tuesday. Mayfield could end up as the Rams starter as soon as he gets up to speed in the offense. . . . .Seattle signed running back Wayne Gallman to their practice squad on Tuesday. Gallman gives the team some depth at the position.
Christian Kirk, WR, Jaguars. Kirk is having quite the first season with the Jaguars, posting big numbers as their No. 1 receiver. He has been very good lately, having 100-yard games two of three. He has 16-plus fantasy points three of four games. He has been very consistent in a suddenly potent Jaguars passing attack. He can keep up his hot ways this week against the Titans, a team that allows the most fantasy points to receivers this season.
Kirk Cousins, QB, Vikings. Cousins has been a little frustrating this year, posting some erratic numbers for fantasy owners. Even with that said, he is 12th overall in fantasy quarterback scoring, posting some big games along the way. He has 20-plus fantasy points seven times. He is capable of the huge game any given week in this offense. And he might have one of those big games this week against the Lions. Detroit allows the most fantasy points to quarterbacks and rank 27th overall against the pass.
Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Cowboys. Elliott might not be the same player as past years, but he is still getting it done on a weekly basis for fantasy teams. He has touchdowns five straight games and scored at least 15 fantasy points those five games. He also has double-digit carries every game and 15 or more eight times. Elliott might not have that monster fantasy game, but it will be above average in this offense. He should play well again this week against the Texans, a team that is dead last against the run. Houston allows 169.1-rushing yards per game.
Jerry Jeudy, WR, Broncos. Jeudy returned from his ankle injury last week and had four receptions for 65 yards. He topped double-digit fantasy points for the third straight game. He is the favorite target of Russell Wilson. And while Wilson hasn’t been good this year, Jeudy has been better down the stretch. He can keep it going this week against the Chiefs. Denver should be playing from behind in this one, giving Jeudy more chances in the passing game. Plus, Kansas City struggles against the pass, allowing the fifth most fantasy points to receivers.
D’Onta Foreman, RB, Panthers. Foreman has really excelled since taking over as the Panthers starter. He had his fourth 100-yard game of the season last week, giving him 100-yard games four of six. He doesn’t catch passes, but that isn’t impacting his fantasy numbers too much. He is scoring for fantasy teams, having 16-plus fantasy points three times. Foreman can rack up the rushing yards again this week against the Seahawks, a team that is 31st against the run. Seattle couldn’t stop a bad Rams rushing attack last week, allowing 171-rushing yards.
Tom Brady, QB, Bucs. The entire Bucs offense remains in a bit of a funk. The team rallied late to win last week but wasn’t very good much of the game, including Brady. He hasn’t been quite himself this year, having seven games with fewer than 20 fantasy points. He isn’t the sure fantasy starter of past year. Brady is bench material in tough matchups and this week against the 49ers is not a good one. San Francisco allows the fifth fewest fantasy points to quarterbacks. The 49ers have allowed fewer than 200-passing yards three of five games.
Dameon Pierce, RB, Texans. Pierce had a good game last week, finishing with 95 total yards on 21 touches. But remember, that came against arguably the worst run defense in football (Cleveland). Pierce was awful his previous two games, rushing 15 times for 16 yards against good run defenses. He gets another good team against the run this week, the Cowboys. Dallas has allowed just six rushing touchdowns this season and give up the fifth fewest fantasy points to running backs. Pierce could have another down showing in this one.
JuJu Smith-Schuster, WR, Chiefs. Smith-Schuster was having a fine first season with the Chiefs until he was sidelined with a concussion. Since returning from that concussion, he has six catches for 73 yards on seven targets. He has done little. We think he will get it going again in this offense, especially after playing a team high 76 percent of the snaps at receiver last week. But it might not be this week against the Broncos. Denver has one of the best defenses in football and allow the second fewest fantasy points to receivers.
James Conner, RB, Cardinals. Conner had one of his best games of the season his last time out, rushing for 120 yards. This was his first game all year hitting the 100-yard mark. Conner has done little on the ground outside of that. He has fewer than 50-rushing yards two of four games and five times this season. He is getting more work but that might not translate this week to more production. Conner plays the Patriots, a team that has allowed fewer than 60-rushing yards three of five games. New England allows the second fewest fantasy points to running backs.
Amari Cooper, WR, Browns. The return of Deshaun Watson didn’t lead to better production for Cooper last week. The two weren’t quite on the same page, connecting on four of nine targets. It was good to see Cooper targeted so much from Watson, but it might take some time for the two to get it going. We would not be surprised to see a similar result this week for Cooper against the Bengals. Cincinnati has a great pass defense and allow fifth fewest fantasy points to receivers. The Bengals kept a great Chiefs passing attack in check last week, holding them to 211-passing yards.
D.J. Chark, WR, Lions. Chark is becoming a factor in the Lions offense after battling injury much of the year. He had his best game of the season last week, catching five passes for 98 yards. He has 9-plus fantasy points each of his last two games, getting 11 targets during that stretch. He is the starter opposite Amon-Ra St. Brown in the Lions fairly explosive offense. Chark can have another good showing this week against the Vikings, a team that allows the second most fantasy points to receivers.
Jerick McKinnon, RB, Chiefs. McKinnon found the end zone last week and has double-digit fantasy points three of five games. Isaiah Pacheco might be starting, but McKinnon finds the field plenty, mainly because of his work in the passing game. He might get some good matchups this week against the Broncos, a team that is strong in the secondary. This might cause the Chiefs to dump the ball off more than usual, giving McKinnon a few more targets. He might be worth a flyer as a flex option in Week 14.
Van Jefferson, WR, Rams. With all the injuries at receiver, Jefferson is suddenly the top option in the Rams passing game. He has touchdowns two of four games and at least three receptions three of those games. And while he caught just two passes last week, he was on the field for all of the Rams snaps offensively. He is playing a lot and getting some weekly looks. He can do some damage this week if that happens against the Raiders. Las Vegas really struggles against the pass, ranking 30th overall. The Raiders allow 258.1-passing yards per game.
Ryan Tannehill, QB, Titans. Tannehill has been playing some pretty good football since returning from injury. He did struggle last week, but that was against a very good Eagles defense on the road. He still has 21-plus fantasy points two of his last four games. He is getting on the same page with his young receivers and producing more consistent numbers. Look for him to rebound this week against the Jaguars, a team that allows the eighth most fantasy points to quarterbacks. Jacksonville is just 29th overall against the pass.
Hunter Henry, TE, Patriots. Henry has been like much of the other fantasy tight ends this year not named Travis Kelce or Mark Andrews. He has been all over the map, producing good one week while disappearing the next. He scored 15.3 fantasy points in Week 12 and followed that with two catches on five targets last week. We like his chances for one of his good games this week. He has a plus matchup against the Cardinals, a team that can’t stop the tight end. Arizona allows the most fantasy points to tight ends.
High/Low Scoring Games
Each week we will take a look at some of the high and low scoring games for the coming week. In high scoring affairs, get your marginal players on those teams in your lineup to take advantage of the possible points barrage. And in the low scoring games, keep those marginal players on the bench and make sure to have your defenses involved in those contests.
High Scoring Games: Vikings/Lions, Dolphins/Chargers.
Low Scoring Games: Jaguars/Titans, Ravens/Steelers, Bucs/49ers.
Byes: Falcons, Bears, Packers, Colts, Saints, Commanders.
Jeff Paur is a two-time finalist for FSWA Fantasy Football Writer of the Year and won the FSWA award for Best Fantasy Football Article on the Web in 2011. He also was the most accurate expert in 2012, winning the FSTA Fantasy Football Accuracy Award. If you have any questions for Jeff, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Jeff on Twitter @jeffpaur.
Interview with TFC Winner
The Denver Broncos are allowing Ejiro Evero out of his contract, according to NFL.com's Ian Rapoport. In simpler terms, the two sides are parting ways. On one hand, this move comes as a surprise considering the Broncos want to form a mega-staff under Sean Payton and Evero, who received several head coaching interviews, is viewed as a defensive mastermind. On the other hand, Evero was a member of Nathaniel Hackett's coaching staff and turned down Denver's interim head coaching job after Hackett was fired. As a result, it became clear that Evero did not see himself remaining with the Broncos long-term. Rapoport notes that the Vikings, who have a vacancy at defensive coordinator, are viewed as a possible landing spot for Evero. The same goes for the Panthers, who interviewed Evero for their head coaching job before hiring Frank Reich.
The Dallas Cowboys have hired Brian Schottenheimer as their offensive coordinator, according to Michael Gehlken of the Dallas Morning News. The team needed to fill the vacancy after firing Kellen Moore. Schottenheimer most recently served as a Cowboys consultant in 2022 but does have experience as an offensive coordinator, filling that same role for the Seahawks from 2018 to 2020. Interestingly, although Schottenheimer will be in charge of the offense, head coach Mike McCarthy intends to call plays next season.
Las Vegas Raiders impending free agent running back Josh Jacobs "wants to be back but won't settle," according to Tashan Reed of The Athletic. There is mutual interest in keeping Jacobs in Las Vegas long-term, but the reigning rushing champion won't come cheap. Jacobs timed everything just right, compiling impressive stats in a contract year. The 24-year-old ultimately finished 2022 with 1,653 rushing yards, 400 receiving yards, and 12 touchdowns, all of which are career-highs. Jacobs' outlook for next season is contingent on where he signs, but if he does return to Vegas, we can consider him a strong RB1 option heading into fantasy football drafts.
Denver Broncos defensive coordinator Ejiro Evero has been a hot commodity in this year's coaching carousel, interviewing for head-coach openings with the Carolina Panthers, Arizona Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts, and Houston Texans. Now that the Panthers have hired Frank Reich, they have requested to interview Evero again, but this time for the team's vacant defensive coordinator position. The Minnesota Vikings would also like to interview Evero for their defensive coordinator job, but Denver has not yet granted either team permission. The 42-year-old Evero remains firmly in the mix as a candidate for Arizona and Indianapolis, but because he is still under contract with the Broncos, it seems that the organization would be reluctant to let him go should he not be hired elsewhere as a head coach.
University of Texas running back Bijan Robinson is widely considered to be the best prospect at his position in the 2023 NFL Draft class. Although a running back has not been selected higher than pick 24 since Saquon Barkley in 2018, ESPN's Mel Kiper stated that he believes Robinson will be drafted in the first round. Kiper went on to describe Robinson as "top-10 caliber" in this year's draft. The 21-year-old possesses an elite three-down skillset, posting 3,410 rushing yards, 60 receptions, 805 receiving yards, and 41 total touchdowns in his three collegiate seasons. Robinson figures to make an immediate impact on any team willing to spend up to get him on April 27th.
Dynasty | Zach Wilson will likely remain with the Jets organization in hopes that he can develop in a backup role Dynasty Analysis: The article plainly points out that the Jets have exactly two choices: 1) Release him or, 2) Keep him; Wilson has no trade value. With a very palatable $3.8M expense for 2023, there's little reason for the team to move on and Wilson, for his part, appears determine to get better. There's a big difference between NFL reality and fantasy reality. A veteran backup would also exceed the cost of Wilson. He's been so bad under-center and without blue skies on the horizon, he's a difficult hold in dynasty. Amazingly, Wilson still possesses a QB25 ranking but is in steep decline and he'll likely fall as the quarterback situation in New York becomes more clear. At this juncture, Zach Wilson is a fading dynasty asset and, arguably, may only be a roster candidate in deeper dynasty leagues.
Seattle Seahawks quarterback Geno Smith is fresh off a career-best season and is now in pursuit of a long-term contract as a pending free agent. It has been reported for a few weeks that the Seahawks are expected to bring the 32-year-old back, and the two sides have begun negotiations since falling to the San Francisco 49ers in the Wild Card round of the playoffs. "It's looking very good," Smith said of his contract discussions with Seattle on Pro Bowl Live on SiriusXM NFL Radio. Smith also stated that he has a great relationship with the organization and loves the city. Assuming talks continue trending in a positive direction, a deal is likely to get done before March 15th, when free agency officially begins.
The Baltimore Ravens interviewed Georgia offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Todd Monken for a second time on Friday for their offensive coordinator opening, according to sources. Monken is one of a handful of candidates that have received a second interview with the Ravens, and he also interviewed for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' open offensive coordinator position. Other candidates that the Ravens have been considering include Eric Bieniemy, Dave Canales, Doug Nussmeier, Zac Robinson, Justin Outten, Chad O'Shea, James Urban and George Godsey. Monkey previously served as an offensive coordinator for the Buccaneers and Cleveland Browns. Baltimore's next OC will get to work with one of the best dual-threat quarterbacks in the league in Lamar Jackson.
The Denver Broncos officially signed new head coach Sean Payton to a five-year deal on Friday, tying him to the team through the 2027 season, according to sources. In order to pry Payton away from the New Orleans Saints, who he was still under contract with, the Broncos had to fork over a 2023 first-rounder and a 2024 second-rounder to the Saints. Denver fired first-year head coach Nathaniel Hackett midway through the 2022 season after a disappointing start that saw quarterback Russell Wilson have the worst season of his career. While the Broncos still have some interesting weapons on offense and a solid unit on defense, Payton will have plenty of work to do to get Wilson back on track in 2023 and beyond.
The Athletic's Matt Barrows writes that he'd be very surprised if the San Francisco 49ers trade wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk this offseason. The Niners are light on receivers, and Danny Gray didn't light up the stat sheet in 2022. If the team picks up Aiyuk's fifth-year option in May, he'll be under contract for two more years. Barrows thinks the 49ers will hold tight in 2023 and start considering a contract extension in 2024. The 24-year-old posted career-highs in catches (78), targets (114), receiving yards (1,015) and touchdowns (eight) in 17 regular season starts in his third NFL season while working with quarterbacks Trey Lance, Jimmy Garoppolo and Brock Purdy. With more stability under center potentially in 2023, Aiyuk could be just as good, if not better, for fantasy managers.
The Las Vegas Raiders have already granted quarterback Derek Carr permission to speak with other teams interested in trading for him that have also agreed to compensation with the Raiders, according to sources. It's the same arrangement the Houston Texans had with quarterback Deshaun Watson last offseason before he was dealt to the Cleveland Browns. Carr said on Thursday at the Pro Bowl that he wouldn't be extending the Feb. 15 deadline for $40.4 million in guarantees, so the Raiders would have to outright release him if they can't find a trade partner by that date. Either way, the 31-year-old veteran will draw plenty of interest from a handful of teams seeking upgrades under center heading into 2023. Carr's fantasy value next season will all depend on where he winds up.
San Francisco 49ers quarterback Trey Lance (ankle, leg) said that he wouldn't be focusing on his throwing mechanics early in the offseason. "I feel like I'm in a really good spot," Lance said. He plans to remain in Santa Clara, Calif., for around the next three weeks to finish up his rehab before working on some other things. "I feel like I've got a much better plan this offseason. I said the same things last year. But even more (this year). As the years go on they get better just in knowing what they want from me and where I feel I'm at my best." Jimmy Garoppolo is a free agent and won't be returning, and Brock Purdy (elbow) may not be full go by training camp after tearing his UCL in the NFC Championship game. Lance, who is the former first-rounder, feels like the early favorite this offseason to open 2023 as San Fran's starting QB, if he's healthy.
Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Mecole Hardman (pelvis) didn't practice all week and is listed as doubtful to play in the Super Bowl on Sunday, Feb. 12, against the Philadelphia Eagles. Hardman really wants to play in the big game and has been seeking second opinions after aggravating a core injury in the AFC Championship win over the Cincinnati Bengals last weekend. The AFC Championship contest was Hardman's first game action since initially suffering a core injury in Week 9. All signs are pointing toward him missing the big game next Sunday, but that could change if he's able to return to practice at some point next week. The Chiefs are banged up at the position with JuJu Smith-Schuster (knee) and Kadarius Toney (ankle, hamstring) also questionable to play against the Eagles.
Philadelphia Eagles cornerback Avonte Maddox (toe) was held out of practice on Friday as a precaution, and the expectation is that he will be ready to play in Super Bowl LVII against the Kansas City Chiefs next Sunday, according to a league source. Maddox was seen with a walking boot on his left foot after missing more than a month late in the year with a toe injury. The 26-year-old played only 19 defensive snaps in the NFC Championship win over the San Francisco 49ers last weekend, but it sounds as though he'll be available to play in the big game. Still, even if Maddox is active for the Eagles secondary, Josiah Scott could see more slot duties if Maddox isn't 100 percent.
Kansas City Chiefs wide receivers JuJu Smith-Schuster (knee) and Kadarius Toney (ankle, hamstring) both missed practice all week and are listed as questionable for the Super Bowl against the Philadelphia Eagles on Feb. 12. Smith-Schuster and Toney were both forced out of the AFC Championship early with injuries, but the Chiefs remain optimistic that they will both be available for the Super Bowl after another week to rest up. Mecole Hardman (pelvis) also missed practice all week and is doubtful to play in the big game, so if Smith-Schuster and/or Toney are limited or out for the Super Bowl, Marquez Valdes-Scantling, rookie Skyy Moore and Justin Watson would be asked to step up in the passing game.
Dynasty | According to The Athletic, the belief is that the Rams would like to "build off" what Cam Akers was able to accomplish late in the 2022 season Dynasty Analysis: It's music to the ears of dynasty coaches rostering Akers. Following a tumultuous year in which the back appeared to be on the way out, he returned to the team, the Rams summarily released Darrell Henderson, and Akers performed as most fantasy players expected he would to start the season. The 23-year-old runner scored six touchdowns over his final six games and finished the season with three 100-yard performances, while also chipping in with six receptions. Listed as DLF's RB31, it's obvious dynasty coaches remain stung by the mid-season drama, but enterprising coaches who took advantage of plummeting risk-on opportunity may be rewarded with a young upside runner who could turn in RB1 production in 2023. The fact remains that Sean McVay remains one of the NFL's most mercurial coaches and when it comes to running backs, any back in the team's room is risk-on.
Dynasty | Aaron Rodgers is still in play for the Raiders Dynasty Analysis: The story reads more as possibility than probability while connecting the dots should Rodgers choose to depart Green Bay. The belief is the Raiders, instead, will select a rookie thrower in the first two rounds of the 2023 NFL Draft to be groomed behind a short-term veteran starter. The cost to acquire Rodgers, now 39, will be sky high and the team may wish to simply do a full reboot at the position. Rodgers, DLF's QB14 has yet to indicate whether he plans on staying, going or retiring.
New York Giants defensive coordinator Don "Wink" Martindale is considered a a front-runner for the Indianapolis Colts' head-coaching job, according to a source. The Colts are considering a rare third round of interviews with a select few finalist following an extensive second round of interviews that includes nine candidates. The Colts fired Frank Reich in the middle of the 2022 season, and interim head coach Jeff Saturday remains in play for the full-time job despite going 1-7 down the stretch. If the Giants lose Martindale, they could take a look at Lou Anarumo, Steve Wilks, Sean Desai or Jerome Henderson for their defensive coordinator position.
Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said earlier this week that the team will be starting over at kicker in 2023, meaning they will move on from kicker Brett Maher. The 33-year-old will become a free agent next month, but the Cowboys won't be re-signing him after he famously missed six of his final seven extra-point attempts in the team's final three games. It was a tough way to close out his season after he made 29 of his 32 field-goal tries during the regular season, which was timed for third in the NFL. Maher should get another shot with another team in 2023, but it won't guarantee that he'll be fantasy relevant like he was with the Cowboys before he got the yips to close out the year.
Baltimore Ravens wide receiver Demarcus Robinson (hernia) underwent sports-hernia surgery earlier this week, he announced on his official Instagram page. Robinson will become an unrestricted free agent next month, but the injury shouldn't limit him much, if at all, for offseason workouts. The 28-year-old was needed to step up for the Ravens in 2022 due to a season-ending injury to No. 1 receiver Rashod Bateman (foot). In 17 regular season games for Baltimore, Robinson recorded a career-high 48 receptions on a career-high 75 targets for 458 yards and two touchdowns. He became fantasy relevant for managers hurting at the receiver position, but Robinson will be more of a long shot for more playing time in 2023, depending on where he lands in free agency.