Lineup Prep: Championship Games

Wed Jan 20 8:58am ET
By JEFF PAUR
Sr Fantasy Writer

Fournette is trending up for Bucs


The games last weekend weren’t too riveting. Let’s hope that changes this weekend. The matchups are great on paper for this weekend. I think you can make a case for all four teams to advance. It should be a great weekend of football. Here is to hoping it plays out that way.

Now for my random thoughts for the week. . . . .

It is interesting to see Rams head coach Sean McVay noncommittal on Jared Goff going forward. There are new reports out there now that says the two have a fractured relationship. Goff signed a huge deal to be the franchise quarterback just a few years back, but his play this past season was a concern. He really struggled at times, holding back a Rams offense that was setup to post some big numbers. His inconsistent play could give the Rams a reason to bring in some competition for Goff this offseason. This will be a situation to keep an eye on.

You hate to see Drew Brees likely finish his career with a dismal showing, but that shouldn’t take away from his tremendous career. Brees was a fantasy star for several seasons, posting huge numbers in the Saints explosive offense. He was one of the best to ever play the position. The Saints have a lot to address this season with Brees likely to retire and the team way over the salary cap. This could be a really different looking team in 2021.

And speaking of the Saints. What the heck happened to Michael Thomas? I think he might be the toughest fantasy player to rank next season. He has all sorts of question marks after this past season. He had one of the best seasons of all time just two years back, though, so it is hard to write him off at age 27. He doesn’t have a long injury history and been great throughout his career. Personally, I’m not giving up on him after this year, but a lot will depend on who the Saints will have at quarterback next year or if Thomas lands on a new team, which is possible. He’ll be a player to watch this offseason.

Watching Travis Kelce is a real treat. That guy runs the best routes for a tight end. He is so tough to cover. He gets open even with top cover corners shadowing him. Kelce is so, so good. And he plays with such passion, which is fun to watch. Kelce might be having the best season ever for a tight end. Enjoy it.

Cam Akers is really trending up in my view. He carried the load down the stretch and was a huge factor in the Rams offense. He should be the workhorse back for the team going forward. He showed he can handle the load and produce at a high level. It took some time for Akers to get going but once he got it going, he really produced. It was an impressive finish to his rookie year. Akers has a chance to be a high-level fantasy back from day one next year. He is a player to watch.

News and Notes: Quarterback Philip Rivers announced he is retiring from the NFL on Wednesday. He retires after 17 seasons in the NFL . . . .The Ravens released running back Mark Ingram on Tuesday. Ingram was a healthy scratch down the stretch this season, so this move isn’t a surprise. It does pave the way for J.K. Dobbins and Gus Edwards to lead the backfield next season, though. . . . . .Saints receiver Michael Thomas is likely to have multiple surgeries on the torn deltoid and other injured ligaments in his high ankle this offseason. This likely explains his down season, trying to play through major injury this season. . . . .Titans receiver A.J. Brown said he had surgery on both of his knees on Tuesday. He also said he would have been out for the season after Week 2, but instead battled through his injuries and played at a high level.

HOT PLAYS

Leonard Fournette, RB, Bucs. Fournette continues to start for the Bucs even with Ronald Jones healthy last week. Fournette had 107 total yards and a touchdown in the game. He has 17-plus carries two straight games and at least 14 carries three of five. He has 15-plus fantasy points four of five games. He should get a workout again this week against a Packers defense that has struggled against the run this year. Green Bay allowed the fifth most fantasy points to running backs in the regular season.

Tyreek Hill, WR, Chiefs. Hill had another 100-yard game last week, catching eight passes for 110 yards on 10 targets. He scored double-digit fantasy points all but a game this year. His consistency has been off the charts in the Chiefs pass-first offense. Expect more of the same against the Bills this week. Buffalo played well defensively last week but allowed some big games through the air during the regular season. The Bills allowed six 300-yards passers this season.

Josh Allen, QB, Bills. Allen didn’t have his usual huge game last week but still played well, leading his team to a victory against a good Ravens pass defense. He has an easier test this week against the Chiefs. Kansas City allowed the 12th most fantasy points to quarterbacks during the regular season. Allen has 35-plus fantasy points three of five games. Look for him to keep his hot ways this week in what should be a high-scoring game.

COLD PLAYS 

Tom Brady, QB, Bucs. Brady has really been playing his best football of late. He has multiple touchdowns his last six games and just one interception during that stretch. He did fail to throw for 200 yards last week, though, against a good Saints secondary. He has a similar matchup this week against the Packers. Green Bay allowed the fourth fewest fantasy points to quarterbacks during the regular season and ranked seventh overall against the pass. Brady has the toughest road of the four quarterbacks playing this week.

Gabriel Davis, WR, Bills. Davis played on a gimpy leg last week and it showed in his play. He failed to catch a pass on four targets. He should be available to play this week but is going to be less than 100 percent for the game. This is a concern, especially after his poor showing last week. He’ll be a hard player for fantasy teams to trust. Plus, the Chiefs allow the second fewest fantasy points to receivers.

Devin Singletary, RB, Bills. Singletary has 10 carries for 46 yards in two playoff games. He has fewer than double-digit fantasy points five of six games. He has double-digit carries just one of six games. He is a hard player for fantasy teams to have any faith in right now, getting few chances in the Bills pass-heavy offense. Expect more of the same this week against the Chiefs. Singletary might have a hard time cracking 10 touches once again.

SLEEPERS

Cole Beasley, WR, Bills. Beasley didn’t catch a pass last week on just two targets. That was against a really good Ravens secondary, though. Beasley should be a lot more involved in the passing game this week, especially with Gabriel Davis hurting. Remember, Beasley had at least five receptions four of five games before last week. His workload should be a lot higher last week. Don’t be scared to play Beasley despite his catch total last week.

Robert Tonyan, TE, Packers. Tonyan continues to be a big part of the Packers offense. He didn’t score a touchdown last week but had four receptions for 60 yards. He also has touchdowns six of eight games, being a huge part of the red-zone offense for the Packers. His reception and yardage totals are a bonus. He gets a Bucs team this week that allowed the 10th most fantasy points to tight ends during the regular season.

Allen Lazard, WR, Packers. Lazard tied a season high with eight targets last week. He had four catches for 96 years and a score. He has double-digit fantasy points two of four games. The Bucs have a really good secondary but should focus their coverage on slowing Devante Adams. This means Lazard could get more favorable looks, having a chance to make some big plays. It would not surprise to see Lazard have another good showing in this one.

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: Chiefs/Bills, Bucs/Packers.

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 jeff@rtsports.com. Follow Jeff on Twitter @jeffpaur.

Top Headlines
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Welcome to the 2021 Fantasy Football Season!

Player Notes
Jonnu Smith Mar 4 11:43pm ET

Tennessee Titans impending free-agent TE Jonnu Smith ranks fourth among tight ends with an average of 7.1 yards after catch over the last three seasons.

Fantasy Spin: Smith has the athleticism to be a matchup problem for opposing defenses, but he has never been in a high-volume role. He has TE1 upside depending on where he plays in 2021.

From TheHuddle

Justin Ellis Mar 4 9:23pm ET

The Baltimore Ravens have agreed to re-sign DT Justin Ellis to a one-year deal worth $1.2 million with $400,000 guaranteed, according to a source.

From TheHuddle

Davon Godchaux Mar 4 6:13pm ET

Miami Dolphins impending free-agent DT Davon Godchaux would like to re-sign with the Dolphins this offseason, but agent Drew Rosenhaus said he is not sure if the Dolphins will be to offer what Godchaux will be looking for in free agency.

From TheHuddle

Josh Gordon Mar 4 4:43pm ET

Seattle Seahawks WR Josh Gordon was released Thursday, March 4.

From TheHuddle

Phillip Lindsay Mar 4 4:40pm ET

Denver Broncos general manager George Paton said the team plans to tender impending free-agent running back Phillip Lindsay a contract, but they aren't sure at what capacity yet. An original-round tender for Lindsay would allow the Broncos to match any offer he receives, but it wouldn't bring anything in return. A second-round tender, estimated at $3.4 million, could scare interested teams away or give Denver a high pick in return if Lindsay signs elsewhere. The 26-year-old was a surprise Pro Bowler in his rookie season after going undrafted and he managed 1,000 yards rushing in his first two years, but he took a major step back in 2020. Not only was Lindsay playing second fiddle to Melvin Gordon III, but he dealt with nagging injuries all season that limited him to 11 games. If he stays in Denver, he'll be a weak RB3/flex as a Gordon handcuff.

From RotoBaller

Stephen Weatherly Mar 4 4:03pm ET

Updating a previous report, free-agent DE Stephen Weatherly (Panthers) agreed to terms on a one-year contract with the Minnesota Vikings Thursday, March 4, worth $2.5 million. The deal can be worth as much as $3 million with incentives.

From TheHuddle

Shelby Harris Mar 4 3:33pm ET

Denver Broncos impending free-agent DT Shelby Harris will be a priority for the Broncos this offseason, according to general manager George Paton.

From TheHuddle

Justin Simmons Mar 4 3:13pm ET

Denver Broncos impending free-agent S Justin Simmons' agent has had contract talks with the Broncos, and general manager George Paton said the goal is to sign Simmons to a long-term contract this offseason.

From TheHuddle

Ben Roethlisberger Mar 4 2:33pm ET

Updating a previous report, Pittsburgh Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger signed a restructured contract Thursday, March 4. He agreed to reduce his pay to $14 million from $19 million in the final year of his contract and spread the cash payment through 2022, per source. The moves lowered his cap hit to $15 million in 2021, giving the team more flexibility.

From TheHuddle

Ben Roethlisberger Mar 4 2:30pm ET

The Pittsburgh Steelers officially signed quarterback Ben Roethlisberger to a new contract for the 2021 season on Thursday. ESPN's Adam Schefter reports that Roethlisberger willingly reduced his pay to $14 million from $19 million in the final year of his deal, spreading his cash payment through 2022, according to a source. The move lowered Pittsburgh's salary cap hit by over $15 million, allowing them to make other moves to remain as competitive as possible. Big Ben was initially set for an exorbitant cap hit of $41.25 million. The 39-year-old will have one more shot at a championship and will likely retire after the 2021 season. Pittsburgh's offense could lose wideout JuJu Smith-Schuster this offseason and Roethlisberger is pretty injury prone, so he'll mostly be targeted as a fantasy backup as he heads into what will likely be his final NFL season.

From RotoBaller

Larry Fitzgerald Mar 4 2:13pm ET

Arizona Cardinals WR Larry Fitzgerald could return for an 18th season with the team, but head coach Kliff Kingsbury said Thursday, March 4, that the wide receiver's status remains a mystery. 'I don't know anything,' Kingsbury said in a news conference, adding it's been honor to work with Fitzgerald and hopes he plays five more years.

Fantasy Spin: Once an annual locked-in WR2, Fitz hit career season lows across the board last season at age 37 with 54 grabs for 409 yards and one TD and is off the fantasy radar outside of deeper leagues if he does play in 2021.

From TheHuddle

Russell Wilson Mar 4 1:53pm ET

Seattle Seahawks QB Russell Wilson is not being 'shopped,' according to a source Thursday, March 4, but calls from other teams interested in trading for Wilson have been answered.

Fantasy Spin: Translation: The Seahawks have every intention of sticking with Wilson unless they're absolutely blown away by an offer. Then it would be a matter of Wilson approving the deal as well. It remains an ongoing offseason hot topic, but it's most likely Wilson and his QB1 talents remain in the Pacific Northwest.

From TheHuddle

Ben Roethlisberger Mar 4 1:33pm ET

Pittsburgh Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger on Thursday, March 4, signed a restructured contract with the team and will return for an 18th season. Terms of the new deal were not immediately available. 'We are excited we were able to come to an agreement with Ben Roethlisberger on a new contract for him to return to the Steelers in 2021,' general manager Kevin Colbert said in a story posted on the team's website. 'We know that Ben can still play at a high level and do special things for this team. Our goal remains the same - to put together a roster that will compete for another championship. We are happy that Ben will be one of our leaders to help us accomplish that goal.'

Fantasy Spin: Roethlisberger's return boosts the fantasy value of the team's pass-catchers, but Big Ben's own fantasy value at age 39 is now in the mid-QB2 range.

From TheHuddle

Desmond Trufant Mar 4 1:33pm ET

Detroit Lions CB Desmond Trufant on Thursday, March 4, was informed by the team that he will be released at the start of the new league year later this month, per a source.

From TheHuddle

Allen Robinson Mar 4 1:03pm ET

Chicago Bears WR Allen Robinson has totaled 131 receptions resulting in first downs since the start of the 2019 season, third most in the league according to Pro Football Focus data.

Fantasy Spin: Robinson's 12.4 yards-per-catch average in Chicago (three seasons) has dipped from his 14.1 average from his four seasons in Jacksonville, but he's caught 53 more passes in one fewer season with the Bears. The bottom line is that Robinson possesses one of the league's strongest all-around WR skill-sets and is a legit fantasy WR1 if he can finally get better QB play.

From TheHuddle

Travis Kelce Mar 4 12:53pm ET

Kansas City Chiefs TE Travis Kelce leads the league with 145 receptions resulting in first downs since 2019, according to Pro Football Focus data.

Fantasy Spin: Kelce is fantasy gold. He has been a top-two fantasy tight end in each of the last five seasons and shows no signs of slowing down. He's a legit top-25 pick as the first non-RB or WR off the board in drafts.

From TheHuddle

Deshaun Watson Mar 4 11:20am ET

Los Angeles Rams cornerback Jalen Ramsey, who shares the same agent as Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson, said on the Huddle and Flow podcast that, "I highly doubt (Deshaun Watson) will suit up in a Texans uniform again. He's extremely serious." The Texans and Watson are in a standoff, with Houston saying they will not trade the 25-year-old signal-caller. But Watson remains steadfast in his trade demands and wants out of Houston. Eventually, something has to give. If this continues to play out, the Texans may have no choice but to find the best available offer for the star quarterback. Watson was still a top-five fantasy QB without All-Pro wideout DeAndre Hopkins in 2020, so he should be drafted as an elite quarterback again in 2021. A trade out of Houston could make him even more attractive.

From RotoBaller

Wil Lutz Mar 4 11:00am ET

The New Orleans Saints restructured kicker Wil Lutz's contract on Thursday to create $1.74 million in salary cap space, according to a source. New Orleans continues to maneuver around the lowered 2021 salary cap, but they still have plenty of work left to do as the new league year approaches on March 17. The 26-year-old kicker made 23 of his 28 field-goal tries in 2020 and also was successful on 57 of his 58 extra points last season. The Saints offense should be pretty solid under either Taysom Hill or Jameis Winston in 2021, which should at least make Lutz a low-end fantasy kicking option. Lutz finished as the No. 9 fantasy kicker in most leagues in 2020.

From RotoBaller

Stephen Weatherly Mar 4 10:13am ET

Free-agent DE Stephen Weatherly (Panthers) agreed to an undisclosed deal with the Minnesota Vikings Thursday, March 4.

From TheHuddle

Thomas Davis Mar 4 9:53am ET

Free-agent LB Thomas Davis (Football Team) will sign a one-day contract with the Carolina Panthers March 11 to retire with the team.

From TheHuddle