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.
Oklahoma wide receiver Marquise Brown is in the mix to be the first receiver selected in next week's draft, and his draft stock hasn't been hurt by a Lisfranc foot injury that kept him from performing at the combine. D.K. Metcalf, another player viewed as a first-round talent, is no longer a lock to be taken in the first round.
Baltimore Ravens wide receiver Jordan Lasley spent the offseason training with quarterback Lamar Jackson. Jackson's quarterbacks coach, Josh Harris, had nothing but good things to say about Lasley. The 22-year-old wasn't active for a single game in his rookie season, but with Baltimore's receiver depth chart barren as it stands right now, he'll have plenty of opportunity to carve out a role in 2019. Consider him a deep sleeper heading into the summer.
Atlanta Falcons SS Keanu Neal (knee) has been able to lift weight during voluntary workouts as he recovers from a knee injury.
Denver Broncos TE Jake Butt (knee) still doesn't have a timetable for when he may be able to return, according to head coach Vic Fangio.
Atlanta Falcons FS Ricardo Allen (Achilles) has been been in the weight room during voluntary workouts.
New York Giants QB Kyle Lauletta is barely mentioned when the team discusses potential quarterback options, according to Ryan Dunleavy of NJ Advance Media, and Dunleavy believes Lauletta could be left off the roster all together in 2019.
The New York Giants don't appear to be very interested in trading for Arizona Cardinals quarterback Josh Rosen if the Cardinals select Oklahoma QB Kyler Murray with the No. 1 overall pick. The Giants are currently focused on players in this year's draft class, including a group of quarterbacks they could select with the No. 6 or No. 17 picks in the first round. However, it seems unlikely they'll take a QB at sixth overall. Rosen wasn't even the highest ranked QB on New York's draft board last year, and they are concerned with how his personality would fit in New York, according to a team source. The Giants also have no interest in trading either one of their first-round picks for Rosen, and they also aren't inclined to give up their second-round pick (37th overall). The Giants are looking for Eli Manning's successor under center despite countlessly backing Manning's abilities, but they don't feel pressured to take on Rosen if the price isn't to their liking. No matter what happens, it's unlikely that Rosen will have much redraft fantasy value in 2019.
New York Giants RB Paul Perkins will have to beat out either RB Wayne Gallman or RB Robert Martin in order to make the roster in 2019, in the opinion of Ryan Dunleavy of NJ Advance Media.
Atlanta Falcons TE Austin Hooper said he likes the passing attack for 2019 and is excited to work with tight ends coach Mike Mularkey.
Fantasy Spin: Hooper is never going to be an elite fantasy tight end, but he does have a steady role at a position that lacks much depth. He is a safe, lower-end TE1.
Houston Texans WR Keke Coutee said his main goal for the 2019 season is to be able to play all 16 games.
Fantasy Spin: Coutee battled a hamstring injury last year, but he had some solid outings when healthy, including his 11-catch performance in the playoffs. Even with DeAndre Hopkins headlining the passing attack, Coutee is worth a look as a WR4 in PPR formats.
Washington Redskins WR Paul Richardson (shoulder) said the shoulder injury that ended his 2018 season prematurely involved multiple fractures to his clavicle and required a metal plate to be inserted during surgery.
Free-agent DE Geneo Grissom (Colts) recently worked out for the Detroit Lions.
Miami Dolphins running back Kalen Ballage, second on the depth chart behind Kenyan Drake, has an opportunity for a much bigger role in 2019. He said he "absolutely" is trying to grab the starting job and "it doesn't really matter who had the most playing time in the past. I'm ready to do my thing." Ballage only had 36 rookie carries, but he averaged 5.3 yards per tote. Drake averaged 4.5 yards on 120 carries in 2018 and caught 53 passes for 477 yards. He should remain the top back, but Ballage should have a bigger role, depending on who Miami takes in the draft. While Ballage will likely be the No. 2, he might have standalone fantasy value in deeper leagues depending on how the Dolphins use him.
Denver Broncos cornerback Kareem Jackson has seen most of his time at voluntary workouts this week at safety. "For the reason that theres more to learn at safety than there is at corner," said Broncos head coach Vic Fangio. "Hes played much more corner in his career, so I wanted him to get more work in this camp all of his work at the safety position, to feel comfortable there." The 31-year-old had a career-high 87 tackles, one sack, two forced fumbles, one fumble recovery, two interceptions and 17 passes defensed in his final season in Houston and should help improve Denver's secondary alongside Chris Harris Jr.
Cleveland Browns RB Duke Johnson has not been present for offseason workouts this week, and general manager John Dorsey said he is not sure if Johnson will participate in the minicamp next week.
Fantasy Spin: Johnson has asked for a trade, but it appears like he will remain with the Browns. He likely will serve as the No. 2 running back for the Browns while Kareem Hunt is suspended and can be a solid receiver out of the backfield. He probably can be a No. 4 running back in point-per-reception leagues.
Philadelphia Eagles FS Rodney McLeod (knee) does not expect to participate in any of the offseason workouts but hopes to be ready for the start of training camp.
Oklahoma WR Marquise Brown said he would love to play for the Pittsburgh Steelers even though he is the cousin of Oakland Raiders WR Antonio Brown.
Miami Dolphins RB Kalen Ballage said he hopes to compete with RB Kenyan Drake for the starting job during training camp.
Fantasy Spin: Ballage rushed for 191 yards and one touchdown on 36 carries last season but should have a bigger role in 2019. He should see a decent amount of carries even if he does not win the starting job and could be a No. 4 running back in fantasy leagues.
Miami Dolphins CB Cordrea Tankersley (knee) is still walking with a limp and does not appear to have full extension in his right leg after tearing the anterior cruciate ligament in his knee last November, according to Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald.
Houston Texans RB D'Onta Foreman (Achilles) returned to the team in good shape, according to general manager Brian Gaine.
Fantasy Spin: Although the Texans are expected to add a pass-catching back in the draft, Foreman's recovery from his 2017 Achilles injury may be enough to convince Houston to do so on the third day instead of using a premium pick at the position. Although Lamar Miller had a solid year in 2018, a healthy Foreman would be able to push him and possibly forge a committee. At the very least, Foreman should be able to take over goal-line duties. Assuming no setbacks, he should be a solid late-round flier this summer.