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 Tampa Bay Buccaneers claimed wide receiver Emanuel Hall off of waivers earlier this week. Hall had been with the Bears earlier but could not make it through camp. The Buccaneers present a solid opportunity given their lack of depth beyond starters Mike Evans and Chris Godwin along with Hall's fit in their new offense. Although Hall is unlikely to make much of an impact in 2019, he could be a solid project for head coach Bruce Arians to groom.
It appears Oakland Raiders wide receiver Antonio Brown has not gotten over his ongoing helmet issue as hes left the teams training camp once again. General manager Mike Mayock showed his frustration Sunday by saying it's time for him to be all-in or all-out." Brown submitted his old helmet in for testing, which it failed, and hes now left the team with no information on when, or if, hell return. The Raiders believe his frostbitten feet issues are behind him and hes healthy enough to practice, but they can only hope the seven-time Pro Bowler suits up for Week 1. Browns red flags make him a player to fade in the second round despite his immense talent.
Oakland Raiders WR Antonio Brown wasn't at practice Sunday, Aug. 18, because he's upset about his ongoing helmet issue with the NFL. General manager Mike Mayock said the team has 'exhausted all avenues' and it's time for Brown to be 'all in or all out.'
Fantasy Spin: And we're right back to square one with AB. While he's indisputably one of the best receivers in fantasy football, there's once again a legitimate chance he sits out the entire season, or more. He's far too risky to draft in the first round.
The Philadelphia Eagles released veteran LB Paul Worrilow Sunday, Aug. 18.
New England Patriots WR Josh Gordon was placed on the Non-Football Injury list Sunday, Aug. 18, upon his conditional reinstatement.
Fantasy Spin: It's largely a procedural move for the Patriots while Gordon is brought up to speed. He remains one of the most tantalizing fantasy prospects at wide receiver, but his off-field issues continue to carry immense risk when drafting him.
The New England Patriots granted WR Dontrelle Inman's request to be released Sunday, Aug. 18.
The Buffalo Bills released CB E.J. Gaines (groin) from injured reserve with an injury settlement Sunday, Aug. 18. Gaines will be free to sign with another team.
New York Giants WR Sterling Shepard (thumb) said Sunday, Aug. 18, his thumb has healed pretty fast and he is 'feeling good.'
Fantasy Spin: Shepard's injury was a near disaster for the Giants' offense with WR Golden Tate suspended to begin the season. Shepard is in line for a huge target share and has top-end WR3 upside with the Giants' poor passing attack holding him back.
Green Bay Packers TE Jimmy Graham (finger) ran off the field Sunday, Aug. 18, after appearing to dislocate his finger, according to Rob Demovsky of ESPN.
Fantasy Spin: The injury shouldn't affect Graham's draft stock, as he's unlikely to miss any regular-season action. He remains a fringe TE1 target, but he has upside based on his past resume.
Indianapolis Colts RB Jonathan Williams (chest) was diagnosed with a broken rib Sunday, Aug 18. The injury isn't believed to be a long-term issue.
Fantasy Spin: Williams is near the bottom of a depth chart led by RB Marlon Mack and also featuring Nyheim Hines, Jordan Wilkins and D'Onta Foreman. The injury further hurts his chances of making the final roster.
Denver Broncos tight end Noah Fant looks to separate himself from his teammate tight ends on the roster for the Broncos, as the team drafted him with high expectations this spring. Offensive coordinator Rich Scangarello has spoken highly of Fant's preseason, as the rookie looks to follow-up a prolific career at the University of Iowa with similar results in the NFL. Fant's main competition is returning tight end Jeff Heuerman, who has been battling injury this preseason after a sub-par 2018 campaign.
Washington Redskins QB Case Keenum is on track to the be the Week 1 starter under center, according to ESPN's Adam Schefter Sunday, Aug. 18. Head coach Jay Gruden said Colt McCoy (leg) may not be ready to return from a broken leg until 'two or three weeks into the season.'
Fantasy Spin: Keenum has much more fantasy appeal than McCoy and boosts the potential of the rest of the Redskins' offense, as well. He'll be a low-end QB2, but he offers more hope for the likes of WRs Josh Doctson, Paul Richardson, Trey Quinn and Terry McLaurin as late-round fliers.
Denver Broncos wide receiver Courtland Sutton sees an opening for the number one receiver spot on the roster entering his sophomore season. The SMU product has a new-look offense, with quarterback Joe Flacco at the helm, and colleague Emmanuel Sanders aging and coming off an injury in 2018. Sutton looks to take the next step in his career, and he has looked the part with an impressive preseason.
Denver Broncos wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders anticipates that he will be able to play week one, as the Broncos take on the Raiders in Oakland. Sanders season ended early last year due to an Achilles injury, but he has eased his way into practice this offseason and seems to be ready to go for 2019. The veteran receiver will have to be on his A-game to keep his role as the primary receiver in Denver, as the young guns alongside him fight for his job.
Buffalo Bills TE Tyler Kroft (foot) is 'moving in the right direction' in his recovery from foot surgery, according to head coach Sean McDermott Sunday, Aug. 18. McDermott didn't provide a timeline for Kroft's return to the field but added he has been working on his own behind the scenes.
Fantasy Spin: Kroft was a candidate to be a late-round fantasy pick for those punting the tight end position, buy fantasy roster managers will now likely be able to wait to see how he starts the season before picking him up off of the waiver wire.
Dallas Cowboys TE Jason Witten said he experienced some jitters Saturday, Aug. 17, as he made his return to live action for the first time since ending his one-year retirement. Witten caught one pass for 10 yards in the Cowboys' preseason game against the Los Angeles Rams. 'A year away from the game, all the work to get back here since March, getting in shape, getting your body ready, having an opportunity, I know I've got a lot to prove,' Witten said. 'It wasn't perfect. I thought we're on schedule with the things I want to work on. Able to get a third-down conversion. Dak showed he had the confidence on that. Some of the other things in the passing game, running game, I felt good with. It's always tricky when you're coming back out here ... so the jitters were real. A lot of work to get back to here, but it felt good.'
Fantasy Spin: Witten's return to the Cowboys will mean a lot more in reality than fantasy, where he isn't a consideration outside of super-deep and tight end-premium leagues.
Oakland Raiders wide receiver Marcell Ateman is fighting for a roster spot in his second season in the NFL. He's currently listed behind Tyrell Williams on the WR2 depth chart, but he's been outplayed throughout most of the preseason by his teammates. With two catches for 33 yards in two preseason contests, Ateman hasn't seen as many looks or gotten as much praise as other receivers so far in camp. He appears to be on the outside looking in as of now, but there is still time for the roster to shake out. Even if Ateman does crack the roster, he won't hold any fantasy relevance in 2019.
Oakland Raiders tight end Foster Moreau is having a strong preseason, but likely won't find much success in the passing game this year. Rookie tight ends are notorious for starting slow offensively, and Moreau will likely follow this trend. With standout Darren Waller thriving as a pass-catcher so far in camp, the Raiders can afford to ease their fourth-round selection into the passing offense. The good news is Moreau has already surpassed veterans Derek Carrier and Luke Willson on the depth chart, but he remains a stash in dynasty formats for now.
Washington Redskins QB Colt McCoy (leg) said Sunday, Aug. 18, that he has visited a foot specialist to have his injured right leg examined as he's had trouble getting a full push off the leg when passing. McCoy said there has been no setback, but there's still no timetable when he'll be 100 percent.
New York Jets RB Le'Veon Bell hasn't played in the team's first two preseason games, and head coach Adam Gase is noncommital about Bell playing in the third. 'We'll kind of see how next week goes,' Gase said Friday, Aug. 16. 'He's played a lot of football. And I like where he's at right now. I love how he's working. If I feel like there's a need to play him next week, we will. If he has a good week of practice and it's not worth it for us to get him out there, then we won't.' If Bell doesn't play in Week 3 of the preseason, then there's little chance of him playing in Week 4 when starters typically rest.
Fantasy Spin: Fantasy GMs and Jets fans are anxious to get a glimpse of Bell in a N.Y. uniform, but it likely will have to wait until the regular-season opener against the Buffalo Bills. In the meantime, he remains steady as a solid RB1 fantasy pick.