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 email@example.com. Follow Jeff on Twitter @jeffpaur.
Interview with TFC Winner
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are scheduled to hold a second interview with Cincinnati Bengals quarterbacks coach Dan Pitcher for their offensive coordinator position this week, according to sources. In Tampa, the Bucs are moving on with life post-Tom Brady in 2023, and they're looking to replace former offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich, who was fired following the 2022 season. Despite signing a contract extension before the AFC Championship game, Pitcher could end up leaving the organization for a better opportunity to try and fix a Buccaneers offense that was absolutely atrocious running the football last season. Tampa finished 15th in total yards, 25th in points scored and last in all major rushing categories.
The Baltimore Ravens have already had two interviews with Minnesota Vikings pass-game coordinator/tight ends coach Brian Angelichio and Wisconsin offensive coordinator Bobby Engram. Engram previously coached receivers and tight ends in Baltimore. The Ravens are expected to interview Seattle Seahawks quarterbacks coach Dave Canales and Denver Broncos offensive coordinator Justin Outten this week. The Ravens are casting a wide net to find their new coordinator, and they could also want to talk with Kansas City Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy, senior offensive assistant and QBs coach Matt Nagy and receivers coach Joe Bleymaier and Philadelphia Eagles QBs coach Brian Johnson and pass-game coordinator Kevin Patullo. Including the Ravens, there are eight teams in the NFL still currently looking for an offensive coordinator.
The New Orleans Saints are expected to name former Cleveland Browns defensive coordinator Joe Woods as their new defensive coordinator, according to sources. Woods served as Cleveland's defensive coordinator from 2020 to 2022 and reunite with head coach Dennis Allen from their days working for the Las Vegas Raiders. In 2022, the Saints used co-defensive coordinators Ryan Nielsen and Kris Richard, with Allen calling the defensive plays. In addition to Woods, the team is expected to hire Todd Grantham, who was a defensive analyst at Alabama last year. At one point last season, the Browns defense ranked 31st in defensive efficiency, and they ranked next to last in the NFL in defensive total rush expected points added. The Saints also struggled mightily to stop the run late in 2022.
Pittsburgh Steelers assistant head coach/linebackers coach Brian Flores accepted the defensive coordinator position with the Minnesota Vikings on Monday, according to a source. Flores has plenty of experience in the NFL coaching defense and was also the Miami Dolphins' head coach for three years from 2019-21. Before his stint in Miami, Flores spent 15 years working under New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick. Last offseason, Flores filed a lawsuit against the Dolphins, Denver Broncos and New York Giants for discriminatory hiring and firing practices. The Vikings defense hasn't ranked better than 24th in points allowed or 27th in yards allowed in any of the last three seasons, so he'll have his work cut out for him.
Arizona Cardinals wide receiver A.J. Green announced his retirement from professional football on his official Instagram page on Monday. Green really tailed off in his second season with the Cardinals in 2022, catching just 24 passes on 47 targets for 236 yards and two touchdowns in 15 games (10 starts), despite both DeAndre Hopkins and Marquise Brown missing time due to a suspension and an injury, respectively. But Green did have a 77-yard touchdown reception in his final game in Week 18 against the San Francisco 49ers. The 34-year-old entered the league as the fourth overall pick in 2011 by the Cincinnati Bengals, and he was one of the best receivers in the NFL in his first seven seasons. Green made the Pro Bowl seven straight times to begin his career and reached the 1,000-yard mark in six of those seven seasons. He finishes with 727 catches (1,269 targets) for 10,514 yards and 70 touchdowns in 158 career games.
The Carolina Panthers hired Ejiro Evero as their new defensive coordinator on Sunday, according to sources. It's a big hire for head coach Frank Reich in his first year with the team, as they lock up one of the league's most talented young coaches after the Denver Broncos let him out of his contract. In addition to the Panthers, the Minnesota Vikings also had talks with Evero for the same position. The 42-year-old also interviewed for all five of the head-coaching openings this offseason. Despite all the injuries the Broncos dealt with in 2022, they finished in the top 10 in the league in total defense and rushing defense under Evero. The Panthers defense is considered their strength and is led by defensive end Brian Burns and safety Jeremy Chinn. They had a 4-3 base defense last year, but they'll be switching to a 3-4 base defense under Evero.
San Francisco 49ers quarterback Brock Purdy (elbow) hasn't made an official decision on whether to have surgery to fix a torn UCL in his right elbow, but signs continue to point toward Purdy having surgery that would involve a six-month build-up to return to action. Purdy injured his right arm in the NFC Championship loss to the Philadelphia Eagles. Instead of having Tommy John surgery, Purdy is expected to require an internal brace, which doesn't require as long of a rehab. If all goes smoothly, the 23-year-old could be cleared to return to practice in early August. Purdy stepped in for the injured Jimmy Garoppolo on Dec. 4 and won eight games for the team in his rookie season. Because of how well Purdy played when forced into action in 2022, he deserves to compete with Trey Lance for the starting job in 2023, but he could be fighting an uphill battle if he isn't ready for the start of training camp.
The Kansas City Chiefs activated running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire (ankle) from Injured Reserve on Monday, so he will be active for the Super Bowl against the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday, Feb. 12. Edwards-Helaire suffered a high-ankle sprain in Week 11 and hasn't played since, so it's probably unlikely that he'll see many offensive snaps, if any, behind Jerick McKinnon and rookie Isiah Pacheco in the big game this weekend. It will be interesting to see how much the 23-year-old practices this week, and that could give us more of a sense on how much he might actually play in the Super Bowl. CEH has been a pretty big disappointment in his first three NFL seasons after being taken in the first round (32nd overall) in 2020.
The Kansas City Chiefs placed wide receiver Mecole Hardman (pelvis) on Injured Reserve on Monday. Hardman initially suffered a core injury back in Week 9 that landed him on Injured Reserve, but he returned to play in the AFC Championship against the Cincinnati Bengals. He didn't last long, playing only 15 offensive snaps before aggravating his injury. The 24-year-old pass-catcher was hoping to play in the Super Bowl this Sunday against the Philadelphia Eagles, but that will not happen now. Depending on whether JuJu Smith-Schuster (knee) and Kadarius Toney (ankle, hamstring) can play in the big game, fellow wideouts Marquez Valdes-Scantling, rookie Skyy Moore and Justin Watson could have bigger roles alongside tight end Travis Kelce.
Dynasty | A.J. Green announced his retirement Dynasty Analysis: The move isn't unexpected for the 2011 fourth-overall selection. Green notched six 1,000-yard campaigns over his first seven seasons, only missing seven in a row due to injury in 2014. He can safely be dropped in all dynasty formats. We wish him well in his next endeavors.
Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Diontae Johnson is a candidate to have his contract restructured this offseason, although it will be a bit tricky with two years left on his current deal. The Steelers will likely shy away from restructuring him into a bigger dead salary cap number in the final year of his contract in 2024. But if the Steelers are in a pinch against the cap this year, they could add $3.5 million in cap space. Johnson was a big disappointment to the Steelers and fantasy managers in 2022 while working with quarterbacks Mitch Trubisky and rookie Kenny Pickett. He had 86 receptions for 882 yards, but he failed to find the end zone in 17 games after scoring a career-high eight times in 2021. A bounce-back season could be in order for Johnson as he gains more chemistry with Pickett.
University of Tennessee quarterback Hendon Hooker (knee) is still recovering from a torn ACL that he suffered on Nov. 19 of last year, and it's unclear if he'll be able to play in his rookie season in 2023 because team medical staffs tend to evaluate a player's timelines on a different basis. NFL teams might get their first chance to evaluate his knee in a month at the scouting combine and again at his medical recheck before April's draft. Even though he wasn't able to work out at the Senior Bowl last week, Hooker reportedly impressed during his interviews. Despite his knee injury, Hooker could be in line to be taking in the second round of this year's NFL draft.
Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Mitch Trubisky is a potential cut candidate this offseason, even though Mason Rudolph is all but gone and Kenny Pickett already has two confirmed concussions. Trubisky will make $10.63 million in 2023, though, and the Steelers could add $8 million in salary cap space if they release him. The veteran signal-caller has gone on the record about not being happy about how things turned out in 2022. If Pittsburgh cuts Trubisky, they'll need to add another QB behind Pickett. "I expect Mitch will be on the roster next year and be an effective backup if we need him," owner Art Rooney said last week. "I think he showed that he can be that. We can win with him."
The Chicago Bears would love to have something in wide receiver Chase Claypool, whom they acquired at midseason in 2022 from the Pittsburgh Steelers. His first season in Chicago was a disappointment and he missed time with injuries, but the Bears aren't giving up on him just yet. "I don't think we have that figured out just yet, but I see him getting a lot of opportunities," offensive coordinator Luke Getsy said about Claypool's role. "He's someone that we need to play at a really high level, and he's capable of that. He's done that in the past. We've got to get the most out of him, and he wants that, too." The 24-year-old had just 14 catches for 140 yards in seven games with the Bears, but with better health and with more time to develop chemistry with quarterback Justin Fields, Claypool could easily bounce back in 2023 with a big role.
Los Angeles Chargers wide receiver Keenan Allen and tight end Gerald Everett are both scheduled to become free agents in March and could be salary cap casualties. Allen would represent $14.8 million in cap savings as a pre-June 1 cut and $17.5 million savings post-June 1. Everett would save $4.25 million before or after June 1. If the Chargers move on from Allen, they'll need to draft a receiver early to replace him. If they don't cut him, the Chargers still need to add more speed at the position. The Bolts need to find a bona fide No. 1 all-around tight end. Donald Parham Jr. only played in six games due to injury last year, and Tre' McKitty took a step back in his second season. Allen, 30, has been a target hog for LA, but he played in just 10 games in 2022 due to injury.
Los Angeles Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert has accrued three NFL seasons and is eligible for a contract extension, which The Athletic's Daniel Popper thinks will get done this offseason. The earlier the Chargers get a deal done, the better. Herbert will likely be looking to top Aaron Rodgers' average annual value at $50.27 million per season. It remains to be seen if he'll reset the QB market, especially after he took a slight step back in his third NFL season from a numbers perspective. The 24-year-old had a career-high 68.2% completion percentage, but he also threw a career-low 25 touchdowns and 10 interceptions while amassing 4,739 passing yards in 17 regular season games. However, Herbert is still one of the best young signal-callers in the game and will be compensated generously.
Dynasty | The Athletic's Mike Sando believes the Giants won't overcommit to either Daniel Jones or Saquon Barkley this offseason. Dynasty Analysis: The Giants do have their work cut out for them in that Jones and Barkley are both free agents and the team was surprisingly successful in 2022. They have already expressed a desire for both players to return for 2023. Under Sando's scenario, he believes the team can retain its flexibility by tagging Barkley while seeking to work out a multi-year deal in the near future while focusing on locking up Jones on a more team-friendly short-term deal, though Jones may not be amenable to that. As pointed out, the team does face a delicate balancing act. Daniel Jones is found as DLF's QB18 while Saquon Barkley is listed as RB4.
Dynasty | Free agent Josh Jacobs wants to remain in Las Vegas Dynasty Analysis: The Raiders missed an opportunity to lock up Jacobs as part of a fifth-year option as a previous first-round selection. Instead, Jacobs, with free agency looming, led the league in rushing with 1,653 yards and 2,053 total scrimmage yards. Only 24, the running back said "I feel like I'm in the driver's seat." He most certainly is. He also expressed a desire to not be franchise-tagged by the team, an option which remains a definite possibility. The team has multiple tag options available and application of one of them seems likely to play out. Jacobs was a bit of a dynasty cast-off ahead of the 2022 season and richly rewarded acquiring dynasty coaches taking a value-based leap of faith. With true three-down potential, healthy, and entering his age-25 season, Jacobs is found as DLF's RB8 and should remain a top option for years to come.
Dynasty | Keenan Allen was listed as a likely cap-casualty Dynasty Analysis: The Chargers have to clear $23.4M to get under the cap and additional money if they wish to compete for free agents. Allen turns 31 in April and struggled with injury in 2022, appearing in only 10 games and producing a 66/752/4 stat-line, his worst performance since 2016. While Allen is an institution for the team, the numbers suggest he'll be released and become a free agent. Found as DLF's WR42, Allen is now a reasonably-priced acquisition target for competitive dynasty teams. He should have no shortage of suitors if released.
Dynasty | Tight end Gerald Everett was listed as a likely cap-casualty Dynasty Analysis: The Chargers have to clear $23.4M to get under the cap and additional money if they wish to compete for free agents. Entering his age-29 season, Everett has been a hold-the-line TE2 over his six years in the NFL, but just turned in a career-best campaign in 2022, producing a 58/555/4 stat-line. A popular selection in dynasty as a breakout candidate, he's never turned the corner toward becoming a consistent TE1 producer but will, once again, possess that potential in 2023. Whether he remains with the Chargers or not, he listed as a value-laden TE22 on DLF's dynasty tight end rankings.