Thu Jan 2 1:47pm ET
By JEFF PAUR
Sr Fantasy Writer
Metcalf setup for big showing
The regular season might be over but that doesn't mean your fantasy season has to end. There are a lot of fun playoff contests and leagues out there these days. We run several on our site. I highly suggest getting involved in a league if you can. It is a great way to get your fantasy fix a little longer. Plus, there are a lot of interesting formats for leagues, giving you a different fantasy dynamic than during the regular season. So we'll continue with this column throughout the playoffs, getting you ready for your games each week. With that said, here are my random thoughts for the week. . . . .
I always like to give my playoff predictions before the start of the playoffs. So here ya go. All signs point towards the Ravens being the AFC representative in the Super Bowl. I just think they are the most complete team in the NFL, so they are my pick in the AFC. I also like the way the Chiefs are playing, mainly because their defense has taken a big step forward. I just think the Ravens are a tad better, though, but don’t count out the Chiefs.
The NFC is much tougher. I know they have to play this weekend, but I like the Saints. Again, this is a complete team in my view. The defense has really made strides and the offense is playing the best it has all season. New Orleans is going to be a really tough out and I like them to go all the way. I know they might have to play on the road more than a game, but this team is a veteran team that is playing their best football right now. San Francisco is my next choice in the NFC, but I think the lack of experience of this team right do them in. So I’m looking at a Ravens and Saints matchup in the Super Bowl. And I’ll go with the Ravens to win it all. I just think Lamar Jackson will continue his magical season all the way through the playoffs.
I think the end of the season for Kenyan Drake has really solidified him as the lead back for the Cardinals for next year. He scored touchdowns three straight to end his year and had 100-plus rushing yards two of his last three games. He just seems a great fit for the Cardinals offense and it makes sense for the team to stick with I'm as the starter. And if that happens, I think he can be a top-10 fantasy back. I know he has burned fantasy teams in the past, but he hasn’t played in an offense like this before. Drake can be the real deal for fantasy teams in 2020 if he is starting for the Cardinals.
I could not be more excited about the futures of both A.J. Brown and Deebo Samuel. I think these guys are going to be special players. Both are big, strong receivers that make a ton of plays after the catch. They can be elite fantasy receivers for years to come as the top targets in their respective offenses. I like Brown more a little more when it comes to that superstar fantasy factor, but both are very exciting players to me.
Rookie Drew Lock was 4-1 as the starter for the Broncos this year. He played well and looked the part of a legit NFL quarterback. He has a swagger about him and a short memory, giving him a bit of that “it” factor. But with that said, I’m not sold on him being a prolific fantasy starter just yet. He topped 200-passing yards just two of five games and had multiple touchdowns only two games. He will makes some mistakes and miss on some throws down the field. I think he’ll be up and down for fantasy teams in 2020. He might be worth some spot starts but don’t expect a big leap in fantasy production for Lock.
I’m not discounting Saquon Barkley as an elite fantasy back just because of this past season. I don’t think he was healthy much of the year, which really impacted his fantasy numbers. He was healthy down the stretch and showed his fantasy potential when at full strength. He has 20-plus fantasy points each of his last three games and led all fantasy backs in scoring during that stretch. I don’t think you can take him first overall in PPR leagues over Christian McCaffrey next year, but Barkley can still be a top-three pick in my views. He was 11th overall in fantasy running back scoring in a down season that he missed three games because of injury. Barkley can rebound in a big way next year, especially if the Giants hire the right coach to maximize his abilities.
I’m not sure I ever remember such a dominating season from a fantasy back like the one Christian McCaffrey had this year. He scored more than 150 fantasy points than the second rated back. That is a crazy number, averaging nearly 10 more points a game than the No. 2 fantasy back. He carried nearly all the fantasy teams that draft him to the playoffs this year. He had one of the greatest fantasy seasons ever.
As always, don’t forget to check out my weekly rankings here: Wild Card Weekend Rankings.
Josh Allen, QB, Bills. Allen had a breakout year for the Bills. He was ninth overall in fantasy quarterback scoring. He had 20-plus fantasy points 11 of 16 games. And remember, he played just a handful of snaps the last game of the season. Allen has been rock solid all year. Expect more of the same good production this week against the Texans. This game might be the highest scoring of the bunch this week. The Texans have really struggled defensively much of the year, allowing the second most fantasy points to quarterbacks.
D.K. Metcalf, WR, Seahawks. Metcalf had a season high 12 targets last week, catching six passes for 81 yards and a touchdown. He has touchdowns two of his last three games. He also has 75-plus yards three of five games. He has emerged as a top target in this offense and is getting consistent work in the passing game. Metcalf is going to be a star in this league and could have his breakout performance this weekend against the Eagles. Philadelphia allows the fourth most fantasy points to receivers.
Miles Sanders, RB, Eagles. Sanders was injured last week but seems to be battling a fairly minor ankle injury. He should be ready to play, which is great news for the Eagles offense. Sanders has been great as the lead back for the Eagles. Sanders is fifth overall in fantasy running back scoring his last three games. Sanders has touchdowns three of five and more than 100 total yards there of those games. As long as he is healthy and playing, Sanders is setup for good things this week against the Seahawks. Seattle is 27th overall against the rush and allow the 13th most fantasy points to running backs.
Marshawn Lynch, RB, Seahawks. Lynch might have led the Seahawks in carries last week but didn’t produce great numbers with all those touches. He ran 12 times for just 34 yards but did score a touchdown, helping his fantasy numbers a little. Either way, he did not produce a much with his touches. And he didn’t catch a pass, which is another mark against him. Lynch probably will do more of the same this week against the Eagles. Philadelphia struggles to stop the pass but do well against the run, ranking third overall against the run while allowing the seventh fewest fantasy points to running backs. Lynch probably isn’t worth the risk on playoffs rosters.
Will Fuller, WR, Texans. Fuller seems to have a decent chance to return from his groin injury this week. He has been practicing on a limited basis. But even if he returns, we might just stay away. Fuller has not scored a touchdown since Week 5 and has more than 70 yards just two gams all season. He has been pretty mediocre much of the year. The Bills allow the sixth fewest fantasy points to receivers and rank fourth overall against the pass.
Tom Brady, QB, Patriots. Brady has been pretty mediocre, especially for his standards. His fantasy numbers are down. He has fewer than 20 fantasy points four straight games and six of his last seven games. Look for more mediocre numbers this week against the Titans. Tennessee allows just over 20 points per game. We would not count on Brady to produce big in this matchup.
Ryan Tannehill, QB, Titans. Tannehill has been red hot since taking over as the starter for the Titans. He is fourth overall in fantasy running back scoring his last three games. He has multiple touchdowns everyone on his starts this years. Tannehill also has 270-plus passing yards three of four games. He gets the Patriots, a team that has been very good defensively much of the season, but had some issues down the stretch. This unit is not invincible by any means. The Patriots allowed 326-passing yards to the Dolphins last week and given up 270-plus passing yard two of four games. Look for Tannehill to have success throwing the ball in this one.
Dallas Goedert, TE, Eagles. Zach Ertz has a chance to play this weekend but he will not be 100 percent if he suits up for the game. Ertz is pretty beat-up right now. Either way, Goedert will play a big role in the passing game. The Eagles still lack options at receiver, so Goedert will get his targets. He is seventh overall in fantasy tight end scoring his last three games. Goedert has double-digit targets each of his last two games. The Seahawks allow the most fantasy points to tight ends of all the teams playing this week. This bodes well for Goedert to continue his hot play.
Rex Burkhead, RB, Patriots. Burkhead has picked up his game down the stretch. He has touchdowns two of his last three games and topped 50 total yards in all three teams. He is getting a few more chances and taking advantage. This game seems to be best suited for the Patriots to run the ball, allowing the 14th most fantasy points to running backs. If you want to take a chance on a back this weekend that might not be owned by mean, Burkhead is worth a look in this matchup.
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: Bills/Texans, Vikings/Saints, Seahawks/Eagles.
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 Minnesota Vikings have been actively discussing a possible long-term contract extension with safety Anthony Harris, according to sources. There has been speculation that the Vikings were looking to trade Harris after putting the franchise tag on him, but they may wind up keeping him after all. There is an increasing belief that the 28-year-old, the NFL's top safety in 2019 per Pro Football Focus, will play for the Vikings in 2020, whether it's on the franchise tag of $11.441 million or on a new long-term deal. Harris' preference is to stay in Minnesota. He wants a deal that would put him among the highest paid safeties in the league, which could be an average of around $14 million per year. The combination of Harris and Harrison Smith give Minnesota one of the best safety combinations in the game. That is, if Harris remains with the Vikes. They'll need a strong safety duo after losing four cornerbacks during free agency.
Denver Broncos general manager John Elway was non-committal on whether the Broncos would entertain signing running back Phillip Lindsay to a long-term contract extension. Lindsay has been playing for a bargain rate the last two seasons after going undrafted, but not the Broncos had Melvin Gordon III in the backfield as well after they landed him in free agency. In comparison, Gordon is the sixth-highest paid running back in the league. Lindsay, 26 in July, came out of nowhere in his rookie season and made the Pro Bowl, and he's rushed for over 1,000 yards in both of his two seasons. But with Gordon now in tow, Lindsay won't see as many touches, especially in the passing game. It's clear the Broncos don't see him as a three-down back in this league, but they could still keep him around long-term if they can agree on something that compensates him fairly. Fantasy-wise, Lindsay will likely become a low-ceiling RB3/flex in standard-scoring formats while sharing touches with Gordon and Royce Freeman.
The New York Jets re-signed backup quarterback David Fales to an undisclosed one-year deal on Tuesday, according to a source. Fales was Sam Darnold's backup for most of last season and will continue to fill that role after playing for head coach Adam Gase and offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains in both Chicago and Miami. Since being drafted in the sixth round of the 2014 draft by the Bears, the 29-year-old has played in parts of just five games and has never started a game. He'll continue to hold the clipboard for Darnold in New York and will have zero fantasy appeal.
Washington Redskins three-time Pro Bowl offensive guard Brandon Scherff is signing his $15-plus million franchise tender on Tuesday, according to a source. If there is a training camp, he will be required to be there. Scherff, 28, has missed most of the past two seasons due to injuries -- 19 games played over that span -- but he is one of the better offensive guards in the NFL when he's on the field. Locking him up long-term is next on the agenda for Washington, and his services will be needed on the offensive line with young quarterback Dwayne Haskins under center.
Los Angeles Chargers cornerback Chris Harris Jr. said that general manager Tom Telesco, head coach Anthony Lynn and defensive backs coach Ron Milus told him that he will be playing the slot in 2020. "That was the main thing that they brought to me," Harris said. The 30-year-old was asked to cover the opponent's best receiver in his final year in Denver, and he notably struggled after making the Pro Bowl four times (All-Pro in 2016) since 2014. There's no denying that Harris is the most comfortable in the slot, and he could rebound in an all-around sold Chargers Defense in his first season with the Bolts. How Harris' presence affects Desmond King remains to be seen, but this secondary might be one of the best in the NFL on paper.
The future of kicker Adam Vinatieri remains unknown, according to Indianapolis Colts head coach Frank Reich. Vinatieri has not made a decision on whether he wants to return to kick for a 25th season in the NFL. The 47-year-old future Hall of Famer has been rehabbing his knee following season-ending surgery last year, and the Colts are waiting for his rehab to progress before making a decision on whether they want to re-sign him. The Colts already have Chase McLaughlin on roster, so it will be a tough decision if Vinatieri wants to come back and kick, especially since he wasn't performing up to his standards before he was placed on Injured Reserve. He missed 14 kicks -- eight field goals and six extra points. If Vinatieri returns to the Colts or another team, he won't be worth drafting in most standard fantasy leagues.
Arizona Cardinals owner Michael Bidwell said that general manager Steve Keim has had talks with wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins about his contract. Hopkins was unhappy with his contract in Houston, which is one of the reasons he was dealt to Arizona for pennies on the dollar. The All-Pro wideout will be a bargain at his current salaries for the next three seasons, but the two sides might negotiate something and reach a middle ground eventually. Money aside, the Cardinals got one of the best receivers in the game, and he should make quarterback Kyler Murray even more desirable in fantasy in 2020 and beyond. Hopkins makes a case to be the first receiver off the board in fantasy drafts.
The Seattle Seahawks released tight end Ed Dickson on Tuesday, according to a source. Dickson was due $3 million in 2020, and the Seahawks will save most of that money with his release. The 32-year-old veteran played in just 10 games (one start) in his only season in Seattle, catching 12 passes for 143 yards and three touchdowns. He has had trouble staying healthy in recent seasons and will be, at best, a depth option for another team on the open market. Dickson's release was expected after the team signed Greg Olsen in free agency. They also have Will Dissly and Jacob Hollister returning.
Former Minnesota Vikings defensive end Everson Griffen has interest in joining the Seattle Seahawks, according to a source close to Griffen. The Seahawks could also be interested in Griffen if they don't re-sign Jadeveon Clowney, who is asking for close to $20 million a season. Clowney will likely have to sign with another team before Griffen signs, so it might be a while. The 32-year-old Griffen is on the wrong side of 30, but he has had at least eight sacks in five of the last six seasons with the Vikings and has been to the Pro Bowl four times since 2015. He'd be a great fallback option for Seattle if they don't want to meet Clowney's asking price. Griffen is older, but he's also shown more durability than Clowney.
The Houston Texans are in active contract talks with Pro Bowl left tackle Laremy Tunsil, according to league sources not authorized to speak publicly. Houston has offered Tunsil $18.5 million per season, but Tunsil's counter-offer is "significantly higher." After the Texans traded two first-round picks and a second-rounder for Tunsil and wide receiver Kenny Stills last year, Tunsil is fully expected to become the highest paid offensive lineman in the NFL. He's under contract for $10.35 million in 2020 and is seeking a deal that averages more than $20 million per season. The good news is the Texans have around $35 million in salary cap space, which is the second-most in the league behind the Browns. Having Tunsil around long-term will be great news for quarterback Deshaun Watson.
The Cincinnati Bengals released cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick on Tuesday. The Bengals went all out to improve their defense in free agency, so Kirkpatrick is being shown the door. The 17th overall pick in the 2012 draft, Kirkpatrick should still see significant interest late in free agency now that he's available. The 30-year-old hasn't played in a full season since 2015 and started just six games in 2019 due to injuries. He recorded one sack, 33 tackles (27 solo), four passes defensed and one fumble recovery. In the right situation, Kirkpatrick could be an effective veteran presence for another team's secondary.
The Cleveland Browns are likely to have free-agent defensive end Everson Griffen on their radar given his connection with the Browns coaches from their time together in Minnesota. Griffen is 32 years old but had 13, 5.5 and eight sacks in the last three seasons with the Vikings and can still be effective on the wrong side of 30. If the Browns sign him for one or two years, they could cut defensive end Olivier Vernon and save $5 million against the salary cap. Griffen would be a nice complement to Myles Garrett on the defensive line as the Browns look to boost their pass rush heading into the 2020 season.
The Jacksonville Jaguars have heard from multiple interested teams about a potential trade for defensive end Yannick Ngakoue, who is turning 25 years old on Tuesday. The Jaguars place a lot of value in the pass-rusher and won't just give him away for a little return. But the former third-round pick in 2016 was unhappy with receiving the franchise tag and isn't interested in a long-term extension with the team. He'll be a prime IDP target no matter where he's playing in 2020 after recording 37.5 sacks in his four seasons in the NFL. Last year he had eight sacks, 41 tackles (36 solo), 13 tackles for loss, 15 QB hits, an interception returned for a touchdown, six passes defensed, four forced fumbles and a fumble recovery in 15 games.
Los Angeles Chargers quarterback Tyrod Taylor, who is training this offseason with free-agent quarterback Cam Newton, thinks he can make a lot of noise with the Bolts if he's given the chance to be the team's starter under center. Things could change, but as of now, Taylor is at the top of LA's QB depth chart. The 30-year-old former sixth-round pick of the Ravens in 2011 has one year left on his deal and will make a base salary of $5 million in 2020. The Chargers are moving forward with Taylor, but they haven't given him any assurances of a starting job, and they could very likely take a QB with the sixth overall pick in the draft. Taylor has a strong arm and is mobile, so he could do some damage with the weapons the Chargers have around him, but he'll primarily be a QB2 for fantasy owners with upside for more if he's handed the starting gig.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers general manager Jason Licht said that the team doesn't think quarterback Tom Brady's skills have diminished or that he'll have any trouble playing in head coach Bruce Arians' vertical passing scheme. "Well, the tape to us showed that he had plenty of arm," Licht said. "We felt that he had the ideal arm for Bruce and his system. He can still throw it deep." The GM also said that they think Brady could play for them for over two years. No. 12 had one of the worst statistical seasons of his career in 2019, but in all fairness to him, he didn't have much to work with in the passing game outside of Julian Edelman. With Mike Evans and Chris Godwin as his new top receivers, Brady has a real chance to bounce back, even at his age. However, don't just assume he'll return to his glory days either. He'll be a great fantasy backup with the chance for some nice QB1 games along the way.
The Pittsburgh Steelers are expected to draft a running back this year with James Conner headed into his contract season. The Athletic's Ed Bouchette doesn't think that the Steelers will give Conner a new deal before the start of the 2020 season, so he'll have to prove his worth and stay healthy to remain with the organization beyond the upcoming season. The 24-year-old has RB1 potential when he's on the field, but he just hasn't been able to stay healthy consistently since he took over the lead-back role from Le'Veon Bell. Conner played in just 10 games in 2019, rushing 116 times for 464 yards (career-low 4.0 yards per carry) and four touchdowns. He could bounce back with better health and a full season with quarterback Ben Roethlisberger under center, but fantasy owners will take more caution when drafting Conner as more of an RB2 this year.
Cincinnati Bengals CB Dre Kirkpatrick was released Tuesday, March 31.
Jacksonville Jaguars DE Yannick Ngakoue has had several teams inquire about landing him, but the team values him and won't give him away.
Fantasy Spin: Ngakoue had a "down" season with 41 total tackles and eight sacks. However, his six passes defended, one pick, four forced fumbles and one recovery kept him as a midrange DL1. He should be drafted as such in 2020 regardless of where he plays.
Seattle Seahawks QB Russell Wilson was blitzed 221 times - second-most in the league - and hurried an NFL-high 71 times in 2019.
Updating a previous report, Buffalo Bills WR Isaiah McKenzie officially signed an undisclosed contract with the team Monday, March 30.