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 Dallas Cowboys and running back Ezekiel Elliott seem to be on the same page as far as discussions on a long-term contract extension go. However, the Cowboys have made it clear that quarterback Dak Prescott and wide receiver Amari Cooper are at the front of the line for extensions this offseason. Elliott is one of the true workhorse backs in the NFL and at 23 years old will get a handsome raise whenever he gets an extension. He barely missed 1,000 yards in 2017 when he was suspended and has gone well over 1,000 yards rushing in his other two seasons. Elliott has 4,048 yards rushing (4.7 average) with 28 rushing touchdowns in his three NFL seasons. He had a career-high 77 receptions for 567 yards and three more touchdowns in 2018 and is a surefire top-three fantasy selection in 2019 drafts.
Tennessee Titans tight end Delanie Walker (ankle) is making progress in his recovery from his ankle injury. I feel like Im in the 85 percent range, the Titans tight end said Tuesday. Today I felt fast getting out of my breaks, and I was catching the ball well. Always a good sign. It was the first time he practiced on the field since Week 1 of last year when he suffered a season-ending ankle injury. The veteran tight end was a full participant in individual drills but watched most of the team drills. Walker doesn't have a timetable for a return and said he's shed "a few pounds" but is officially listed at 248 pounds. Entering his age-35 season, he will be just two years removed from a five-season stretch in which he had at least 60 catches each season. A bounce-back season could be in the cards with better health, but Walker will be drafted as a risk/reward low-end TE1 this year.
Carolina Panthers wide receiver Mose Frazier (arm) broke his left arm during practice on Tuesday, according to a league source. He is scheduled to undergo surgery by team doctor Pat Connor and his recovery is expected to last three to four months. Frazier's status for training camp is to be determined, but he obviously won't be ready for the regular season. The 25-year-old could be a cut candidate before the start of the season if he's not placed on the Physically Unable to Perform list.
San Francisco 49ers tight end Garrett Celek (concussion) remains in the concussion protocol and will not be cleared until at least training camp. The backup to George Kittle had just five catches for 90 yards and two touchdowns in 15 games for the Niners last season. He'll turn 31 next month and won't be fantasy relevant in 2019 unless Kittle goes down with an injury during the season.
San Francisco 49ers running back Raheem Mostert (forearm) needed to have another surgery to fix his broken forearm and will be out for another month. It adds injury to insult, as Mostert is behind Matt Breida, Tevin Coleman, Jerick McKinnon and Jeffery Wilson on the team's crowded backfield depth chart. It'll take several injuries ahead of him for Mostert to gain any real playing time in 2019. He received only 34 carries for 261 yards (7.7 average) and one touchdown in nine games for San Fran in 2018.
San Francisco 49ers running back Matt Breida (pectoral) has a slightly torn pectoral muscle but will not need surgery. He will miss organized team activities but should be ready for the start of training camp this summer. Breida seemingly played injured for most of the 2018 season but managed to run the ball 153 times for 814 yards (5.3 average) and three touchdowns in 14 games. It looks like he'll be ready for the start of the season, but an injury of this nature could hurt him as he attempts to distance himself in a crowded backfield that includes Tevin Coleman, Jerick McKinnon, Jeffery Wilson and Raheem Mostert.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers claimed tight end Jordan Leggett off waivers from the Jets on Tuesday, according to a source. The third-year professional was a fifth-round pick out of Clemson in 2017 and spent his rookie season on Injured Reserve. Leggett made four starts in 15 games last season for Gang Green and had 14 receptions for 114 yards and a touchdown. In Tampa, he'll struggle for consistent playing time behind O.J. Howard and Cameron Brate, so you can avoid Leggett in all fantasy formats.
Seattle Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll said that running back Chris Carson (knee) "had a little work done" on his knee, but he should be back in a couple of weeks. Carson has had injury issues before, so this one is worth watching as we get further into the summer. The 24-year-old, a seventh-round pick in 2017, has yet to play a full season in his two years in the NFL and managed just four games in his rookie season. He had 247 carries for 1,151 yards (4.7 average) and nine touchdowns as he ran away with the job in Seattle in 2018. He'll have to keep it up this season to hold off Rashaad Penny, who is entering his second season and should have a larger role.
Seattle Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll said there's a chance that defensive end Ezekiel Ansah (shoulder) is ready for Week 1, but they won't know for sure until training camp begins. Ansah has always had plenty of pass-rushing potential, but he was never able to capitalize on it in Detroit due to various injuries. The 29-year-old played in only seven games in 2018 and hasn't played in a full season since 2015. Ansah has reached double-digit sack totals twice in his career, but those in IDP leagues will want to see him prove his health first. Seattle is hoping he can fill in for the loss of Frank Clark, who was traded to Kansas City.
Buffalo Bills tight end Jason Croom was seen walking off the practice field with a trainer during organized team activities on Tuesday with an undisclosed injury. Running backs Frank Gore (ankle, foot) and T.J. Yeldon (groin) are also nursing injuries. Gore was limited while Yeldon sat out. With tight end Tyler Kroft (foot) out three to four months with a fractured foot, Buffalo's tight end room is already shrinking. Rookie Dawson Knox could be forced into significant playing time in his first season, although he won't be worth drafting in most fantasy leagues. Lee Smith could also see a big role early on in the year, depending on the severity and type of injury Croom is dealing with.
Denver Broncos wide receiver Daesean Hamilton (knee) said his knee bothered him at the end of last season. He spent much of the offseason training in Florida and focused on putting weight on and getting stronger and faster. Hamilton said his knee is feeling great now as training camp approaches. The 24-year-old fourth-round pick had 30 receptions for 243 yards and two touchdowns in 14 games in his rookie season. He could make some noise in deeper leagues as the No. 3 wideout behind Emmanuel Sanders and Courtland Sutton this season.
Houston Texans head coach Bill O'Brien is seeing "good progress" from running back D'Onta Foreman (Achilles) after his "significant" Achilles injury. Foreman's work away from the team has helped him have a "good spring." The 23-year-old was trying to make a comeback last year but was only able to play in one game and had seven rushing attempts for negative-one yard. A healthy Foreman in 2019 will put pressure on Lamar Miller in the backfield. He'd be a worthy handcuff for any owner who selects Miller and could wind up seeing more touches eventually.
Houston Texans defensive end Jadeveon Clowney is away from the team during organized team activities. "I have no idea when he's going to be here. It's up to him," head coach Bill O'Brien said. Clowney is hoping for a long-term extension, but the two sides aren't close to an agreement and Clowney's extensive injury history complicates matters. The 26-year-old has played in just one full season in his five years in the NFL. He had 47 tackles, nine sacks, a forced fumble and three fumble recoveries in 15 games last season. Clowney is a risk/reward IDP pick because of his penchant for missing time with injuries. He's managed to miss only one game the last two years and has recorded 18.5 sacks in that time.
Tennessee Titans tight end Jonnu Smith (knee) didn't take part in organized team activities on Tuesday but got some work in off the jugs machine after practice. The 23-year-old tore his MCL last year and caught just 20 passes for 258 yards and three touchdowns in 13 games before his injury in 2018. As long as veteran Delanie Walker, who is also returning from an injury, stays healthy, Smith's fantasy upside will be limited in Tennessee's run-first offense.
Kansas City Chiefs defensive tackle Chris Jones didn't report for the start of organized team activities this week, according to a source. Jones is in the final year of his deal and is looking for a big long-term extension after posting an incredible 15.5 sacks in his third season in the NFL. The 24-year-old also had 6.5 sacks in 2017 and has emerged as one of the best interior defensive line pass rushers in the league. He will be paid handsomely eventually.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers tight end Cameron Brate (hip) said he continues to rehab and is on schedule to be ready to practice when training camp starts in two months. Brate is not practicing at organized team activities this week after playing through a hip injury for much of last year. There should be a role for Brate alongside O.J. Howard in Bruce Arians' offense, but Brate's ceiling might be capped as a touchdown-dependent TE2 unless Howard misses time with an injury. The 27-year-old caught 30 passes for 289 yards and six touchdowns last year and has at least six scores in each of the last three seasons.
The New York Jets signed free-agent wide receiver Deonte Thompson to an undisclosed deal on Tuesday, according to agent David Canter. Thompson had 17 catches for 161 yards and no touchdowns in 13 combined games with the Bills and Cowboys in the 2018 season. He'll merely be receiver depth for Gang Green if he even makes the final roster out of training camp.
Miami Dolphins wide receiver Jakeem Grant (Achilles) is taking part in organized team activities this week and looks good. Grant had surgery in the offseason but will be fine for training camp and the regular season. The 26-year-old has 34 receptions for 471 yards and four touchdowns in 42 games over his three seasons with the Dolphins. He'll be a long shot for fantasy relevance behind Devante Parker, Kenny Stills and Albert Wilson in 2019.
Buffalo Bills head coach Sean McDermott said that tight end Tyler Kroft (foot) suffered a broken foot on the first day of organized team activities on Monday and will need surgery. Kroft is expected to miss three to four months, so he won't be ready for the start of the season and can be ignored in fantasy leagues. Behind Kroft, Buffalo has rookie Dawson Knox, Lee Smith and Jason Croom on their depth chart. None of those three will be fantasy relevant with Kroft on the shelf.
Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Mack Hollins (hernia) is "continuing his rehab," according to head coach Doug Pederson. The 25-year-old had sports hernia surgery last September and is behind Alshon Jeffery, DeSean Jackson and Nelson Agholor on the depth chart, so he's a long shot to produce meaningful numbers in 2019. He missed all of 2018 and had only 16 catches for 226 yards and a touchdown over a full season in his rookie year in 2017.