By JEFF PAUR
Sr Fantasy Writer
Drew Brees setup for success
And then there were four. Yes, we are down to just four teams in the playoffs. And the four teams are the top two seeds in each conference. It normally doesn't play out this way in the NFL, but it has fallen this way this season. This should make for a highly entertaining Sunday of games. Well, it shows that way on paper. We know things haven't been great the first two week of the playoffs, but here is to hoping this week's games are top notch viewing. I know I'm excited. Now for my random thoughts for the week. . . . .
It will be interesting to see what the Chiefs do at running back next season. Damien Williams is sure making it a hard decision for them. He just keeps getting it done as a starter and producing big in that role. He is a dual threat with great moves in the open field. Williams just seems a great fit for the offense. I wouldn't be surprised if they keep Williams as the starter and draft a back in the middle rounds to become the eventual starter. We'll see.
It is amazing to see what good coaches can do with that extra week to prepare for a game. This was on full display last weekend, especially in New England and Kansas City. Those two offenses put on a clinic against their opponents. And both those defenses were much maligned throughout the season, but did a great job last week. It was quite the impressive display of game planning. You can underestimate the value of having a great coach in the NFL.
I like the hiring of Adam Gase for the Jets. I think he'll be good for the development of Sam Darnold and that offense. Gase did do a few peculiar things in Miami while head coach, but he knows offense and has done well developing quarterbacks in the past. Darnold should continue to grow with Gase at the helm.
One hire I'm not so sure about is Kliff Kingsbury going to the Cardinals. This seems a really risky hire for the Cardinals. Kingsbury had a losing record as a head coach in college and has no NFL coaching experience. He had some top offenses at Texas Tech, which is why the Cardinals went this direction. He is going to need to surround himself with some proven coaches on his staff if this is going to work. I really think this hire was a swing and a miss for Arizona, but I have been wrong before. We'll see.
Another hire I wanted to mention, but didn't involve a head coach, was the hiring of Mike Munchak by the Broncos to be their offensive line coach. Munchak is considered the best offensive line coach in the game and done a great job with the Steelers the past few seasons. He gets a chance to coach up the Broncos unit and improve a running game that already was decent last year. This could really help the value of the entire offense of the Broncos going forward. And on the flipside, the Steelers lose a great coach, which could adversely impact that team's offense.
So Kyler Murray declared for the NFL draft. It will be interesting to see where he gets picked. He obviously has a ton of talent, but his size (5-9) is going to hurt his stock. That is really small for an NFL quarterback. Plus, he was a top-10 pick in the MLB draft and could end up playing baseball instead. There is going to be a lot of talk swirling around Murray in the coming months. It should be fun to watch.
News and Notes: The Eagles stated in their season-ending press conference Tuesday that Carson Wentz is the team's starting quarterback going forward. . . . .The status of Panthers quarterback Cam Newton is a bit up in the air. The team stated they aren't sure if he will need surgery on his shoulder or what a possible time recovery might be if he has surgery or doesn't have surgery. There were even reports Newton has a chance to sit out all of next year.
Drew Brees, QB, Saints. Brees did miss on some throws last week but had a solid game overall, throwing for 301 yards and two touchdowns in the Saints playoff opener. He has two straight 300-yard games. Brees is setup for big things this week, playing the Rams. He threw for 346 yards and four touchdowns against this same Rams team in Week 9. The Rams have been middle of the pack against the pass much of the season. Los Angeles allowed 31-passing touchdowns during the regular season.
Sony Michel, RB, Patriots. Michel had a career high 129-rushing yards and three touchdowns last week. He has 100-yard games two of his last three. He also has at least 50-rushing yards seven straight games. The Patriots could have a similar game plan against the Chiefs this week, rushing the ball and using a short-passing attack. This bodes well for Michel, playing a rush defense that allowed the third most fantasy points to running backs during the regular season.
Tyreek Hill, WR, Chiefs. Hill has three touchdowns his last two games and at least four receptions five straight games. He continues to get a workout on a weekly basis as the top receiver in the Chiefs potent passing game. Hill had his only three-touchdown game of the season against the Patriots in Week 6. You can expect him to get plenty of chances to make big plays in this one. He should do well against the Patriots, a team that was just 22nd against the pass during the regular season.
Chris Hogan, WR, Patriots. Hogan was targeted five times last week but caught just three passes for 13 yards. If there is a positive for Hogan, it is he has 16 targets his last two games. He is getting more chances to make plays. The bad news is Hogan isn't making many plays with those chances. At this point, Phillip Dorsett is easier to trust than Hogan despite Hogan having a better track record overall.
Jared Goff, QB, Rams. Goff has not played bad by any means down the stretch, but he hasn't been called on to do as much. He has fewer than 30-pass attempts three straight games. He also has fewer than 200-passing yards three of five. He is always capable of the big game in this offense, but you have to worry about him on the road in such a big game for the first time in his career. We wouldn't be surprised if he has some struggles this week, especially with the Saints defense playing much better than earlier in the year.
Brandin Cooks, WR, Rams. Cooks is getting some decent reception totals lately, but his yardage numbers have been pretty poor down the stretch. He has 65 or fewer yards six straight games. The big game has been nonexistent for Cooks, which is normally his calling card. We aren't sure he suddenly emerges this week despite a favorable matchup. He could draw Marcus Lattimore in coverage, which wouldn't be a good thing for Cooks.
Ted Ginn, WR, Saints. Ginn was on Injured Reserve much of the season because of a knee injury but returned late in the year. He has been a big part of the offense since his return, having eight receptions for 118 yards in two games. Ginn also has been targeted 15 times those two games, which is very encouraging. He might have the best matchup of the Saints receivers this week, getting the Rams No. 2 or 3 cornerback, so don't be surprised if the Saints exploit this favorable matchup.
C.J. Anderson, RB, Rams. Unfortunately, we had Anderson on our cold list last week. He proved us wrong, continuing to get plenty of chances in the Rams suddenly run-heavy offense. It really looks like this is the formula for the Rams offense right now, dominating the line of scrimmage with a powerful running back. Anderson should get his chances even in a backup role. He has three straight 100-yard games and four touchdowns during that stretch. Remember, he led the Rams in rushing last week, producing better than starter Todd Gurley.
Phillip Dorsett, WR, Patriots. Dorsett did little much of the season but is getting more chances this days, especially with Josh Gordon gone. He has touchdowns two straight and nine receptions in those two games. He is a good fit for the slot and can make plays with the ball in his hands. Dorsett is never a sure thing in this offense, but with Rob Gronkowski doing little right now, Dorsett could benefit with more targets. He is worth a flier for fantasy teams.
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: Saints/Rams, Patriots/Chiefs.
Low Scoring Games: None.
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.
The Houston Texans signed free-agent quarterback AJ McCarron to a one-year, $3 million deal on Tuesday, a source told ESPN's Adam Schefter. He'll serve as the backup to Deshaun Watson in 2019. The former Alabama quarterback has played in just 12 NFL games, including seven for the Bengals in 2015 when he took over for the injured Andy Dalton. McCarron has completed 64 percent of his passes for 928 yards, six touchdowns and two interceptions. He won't be on the fantasy radar.
The Dallas Cowboys signed free-agent wide receiver Randall Cobb to a one-year, $5 million deal on Tuesday, a source told NFL Network's Ian Rapoport. He's likely to replace Cole Beasley as the team's slot receiver alongside Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup. Cobb was a second-round pick of the Packers in 2011 and spent his first eight years in Green Bay. He had a career-high 1,287 yards and 12 touchdowns in 2014, but the 28-year-old missed seven games in 2018 with hamstring and concussion issues. Cobb's fantasy stock will be way down, especially going from quarterback Aaron Rodgers to Dallas signal-caller Dak Prescott.
The Oakland Raiders signed free-agent linebacker Vontaze Burfict to a one-year deal worth roughly $5 million (including incentives) on Tuesday, according to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport and Tom Pelissero. Burfict roamed the middle of Cincy's defense for seven years, including a 2013 Pro Bowl season after he led the league with 177 tackles. The aggressive and controversial linebacker sat out due to suspension for three straight seasons and also has been hurt by injuries. It could be a perfect fit, but Burfict's days of being IDP-relevant are likely over.
The Los Angeles Rams signed free-agent linebacker Clay Matthews to a two-year deal worth a maximum of $16.75 million, a source informed of the situation told NFL Network's Ian Rapoport. The former first-rounder will return to his hometown. Matthews had double-digit sacks in four of his first six seasons with the Packers and was an All-Pro in 2010. The 32-year-old's play has declined in recent seasons, but he'll bring veteran leadership to an already stacked Rams unit.
The Miami Dolphins agreed to a two-year, $11 million deal with free-agent quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick on Sunday, a source informed of the situation told NFL Network's Ian Rapoport. The 36-year-old journeyman will be joining his eighth NFL team and his third in the AFC East. Barring a draft-day selection, Fitzpatrick is in line to start over Jake Rudock and Luke Falk, who have a combined five passing attempts in four seasons. Fitzpatrick spent the last two years with the Buccaneers and started 10 games. He threw for over 400 yards per game and 11 touchdowns in the first three games of 2018 with Jameis Winston suspended. Fitzpatrick is capable of putting up big games, but the consistency won't be there and his weapons in Miami are less appealing than they were in Tampa.
The Carolina Panthers are expected to sign free-agent defensive end Bruce Irvin to an undisclosed deal on Tuesday, a source told NFL Network's Tiffany Blackmon. The 31-year-old spent time with the Raiders and Falcons in 2018 and had 6.5 sacks in eight games with each squad. The veteran pass rusher will help fill the void left by Julius Peppers, who announced his retirement in February. Irvin should start across from Mario Addison in Carolina.
The Minnesota Vikings re-signed kicker Dan Bailey to a one-year, $1 million contract on Tuesday, a source informed of the deal told NFL Network's Tom Pelissero. The deal is worth a maximum of $2 million with incentives, and Bailey is guaranteed a base salary of $250,000. The 31-year-old joined Minnesota midseason last year and made 21 of his 28 field-goal tries (long of 52 yards) and 30 of his 31 extra points in 14 games. Bailey has struggled in recent years, but he still owns an 86.6 career conversion rate, which is fifth all time in the NFL. While his stock is a bit down, he's still kicking for a good team in a dome. Bailey should be in play at least as a low-end kicking option.
The Dallas Cowboys are in trade talks for Miami Dolphins defensive end Robert Quinn, and NFL Network's Tom Pelissero reported on Tuesday that Quinn was spotted on his way to visit with the Cowboys. The 28-year-old pass rusher would help with Randy Gregory suspended and David Irving moving on. Quinn had a career-high 19 sacks with the Rams in 2013 and recorded 6.5 quarterback takedowns in 2018 with the Dolphins.
The Los Angeles Rams signed free-agent quarterback Blake Bortles to an undisclosed one-year deal on Monday. The former long-time Jaguars starter, Bortles will now serve as the backup to Jared Goff and won't have any fantasy value. The third overall pick in the 2014 draft impressed in 2017 but regressed big time last season and was benched midseason.
The Minnesota Vikings re-signed running back Ameer Abdullah to an undisclosed deal on Monday. Minnesota picked Abdullah up on waiver last year, and he ended the season the team's primary kick returner after flaming out in four seasons with the Lions. In 10 games with the Lions and Vikes last year, Abdullah had just one carry. He had 165 totes for 552 yards (3.3 yards per carry) and four touchdowns in 2017 in 14 games. Abdullah will provide depth behind Dalvin Cook and Michael Boone in 2019.
The Kansas City Chiefs are signing free-agent cornerback Bashaud Breeland to a one-year, incentive-laden deal with a max value of $5.5 million on Monday, a source told NFL Network's Ian Rapoport. The sixth-year defensive back was inconsistent in 2019 after he had his contract rescinded by the Panthers due to a failed physical. He appeared in only seven games for the Packers and missed time with hamstring and groin ailments. Breeland had 20 tackles, two interceptions and four passes defensed. He could be in line for a starting role with his new team.
Long-time defensive lineman Haloti Ngata announced his retirement on Instagram on Monday. The 35-year-old played for the Eagles in 2018 after three years with the Lions. He'll mostly be remembered for his days on a dominant Baltimore Ravens defense. Ngata was a first-round pick in 2006 and was named to five Pro Bowls, two first-team All-Pro teams and two second-team All-Pro squads in nine seasons with the Ravens.
New York Giants general manager David Gettleman said that quarterback Eli Manning, who will make a base salary of $11.5 million in 2019, isn't going anywhere. The veteran quarterback is due a $5 million roster bonus on Monday. "This narrative Eli is overpaid and can't play is a crock," Gettleman told reporters Monday during a teleconference. The 38-year-old will count $23.2 million against the salary cap this year and is coming off a season where he was sacked a career-high 47 times behind a bad offensive line. Manning and the offensive line looked better down the stretch, as he threw 13 touchdowns and five interceptions in an eight-game span. Still, Manning is showing his age with diminished arm strength and lost his best aerial weapon when the Giants traded Odell Beckham Jr. to the Browns last week. Manning will be a low-upside, mediocre QB2 in 2019.
The Cincinnati Bengals released linebacker Vontaze Burfict on Monday, according to NFL Network's Tom Pelissero. The Bengals tried to trade Burfict before cutting him. The hard-hitting linebacker has plenty of talent but dealt with injuries and suspensions in his tenure with Cincy. He hasn't appeared in more than 11 games in any season since 2013 due to both suspensions and injury. Burfict was suspended to start a season the last three years and also battled hip and concussion issues that limited him to only seven games in 2018. Cutting Burfict saves the Bengals $5.69 million in salary cap space.
The San Francisco 49ers agreed to terms on a three-year, $8.7 million deal with running back Raheem Mostert on Saturday, according to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport. The deal will include $3 million guaranteed. Mostert spent the last two years with San Fran, compiling 40 rushing attempts, 291 yards and a touchdown in 20 games. He'll be buried on the depth chart behind Jerick McKinnon, Matt Breida and newly-signed Tevin Coleman, so Mostert is unlikely to have any fantasy value.
The Tennessee Titans released quarterback Blaine Gabbert after they traded for Ryan Tannehill on Friday. Gabbert's only season in Tennessee in 2018 saw him make three starts while filling in for an injured Marcus Mariota. Gabbert spent 2017 with the Cardinals, three in San Francisco before that and three years in Jacksonville after being drafted 10th overall in 2010. He'll only attract backup work on the open market.
The Jacksonville Jaguars signed free-agent wide receiver Chris Conley to an undisclosed deal on Saturday, according to NFL Network's Mike Garafolo. The team also signed offensive tackle Cedric Ogbuehi and linebacker Jake Ryan. Conley spent the first four years of his career with the Chiefs and started 34 of 53 games while catching 104 passes for 1,238 yards and six touchdowns. The 26-year-old will likely compete for a role with the Jags and won't be fantasy relevant.
The Atlanta Falcons agreed to terms on an undisclosed one-year deal with free-agent tight end Logan Paulsen on Saturday. Paulsen returns to Atlanta, where he had only nine catches for 91 yards and one touchdown in 15 games in his first season with the Falcons last year. He should not be on anyone's fantasy radar as mostly a blocking tight end behind pass-catcher Austin Hooper and Luke Stocker.
The Cincinnati Bengals re-signed tight end Tyler Eifert to an undisclosed one-year deal on Saturday, a source told NFL Network's Ian Rapoport. The 28-year-old former first-rounder has been hurt by injuries over the course of his six-year career in the NFL and has played in more than eight games in just two seasons. He missed the final 12 games in 2018 with a broken ankle, although he's expected to be ready for organized team activities this spring. Eifert played in only 14 games since his Pro Bowl season in 2015, and fantasy owners are now staying away from him altogether most likely. With C.J. Uzomah also re-signing, Eifert will have to prove to both the Bengals and fantasy owners that he can stay on the field.
The Washington Redskins are expected to sign free-agent cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie to an undisclosed deal, a source informed of the situation told NFL Network's Ian Rapoport. DRC announced his retirement just five months ago but has decided to give it another go. He'll be reunited with former Giants teammate Landon Collins, so signed a six-year deal this week. Rodgers-Cromartie will turn 33 on April 7, and it's fair to wonder how much he has left physically. He has plenty of experience and is expected to offer cornerback depth on a team that also has Josh Norman.