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Lineup Prep: Championship Weekend

Thu Jan 17 8:35 am
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.

HOT PLAYS

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.

COLD PLAYS

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.

SLEEPERS

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

Player Notes
Emmanuel Sanders Feb 19 11:30pm ET

Denver Broncos wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders (Achilles) said that he wouldn't restructure his current deal. "It aint happening. No way Jose," Sanders tweeted. The 31-year-old tore his Achilles in practice on Dec. 5 and is schedule to count $12.94 million against the salary cap in 2019. If Denver exercises his 2019 salary before March 12, he'd be guaranteed $1.5 million. The Broncos would save $10.25 million by cutting Sanders, leaving only $2.687 million in dead money. Before the injury, Sanders was the team's best receiver, catching 71 passes for 868 yards and four touchdowns while also throwing a TD and running one in. It remains to be seen if Sanders will even be ready for the start of next season, although his production has been fine when healthy. If the Broncos move on, Courtland Sutton would be the unquestioned No. 1 receiver going into his second year.

From RotoBaller

Kai Forbath Feb 19 4:23pm ET

Jacksonville Jaguars PK Kai Forbath was released Tuesday, Feb. 19.

Hayden Hurst Feb 19 4:13pm ET

Baltimore Ravens TE Hayden Hurst (foot) is fully healthy again after a screw was recently removed from the foot he fractured last August. Hurst was able to play in 12 games in his rookie year.

Terrence Brooks Feb 19 3:43pm ET

New York Jets impending free-agent FS Terrence Brooks will not have his 2019 option picked up, according to a source.

Demarcus Lawrence Feb 19 3:23pm ET

Dallas Cowboys impending free-agent DE DeMarcus Lawrence will not sign the franchise tag if the Cowboys were to use that on him this offseason. Lawrence signed the franchise tag last year and is waiting for a long-term deal. The last day for franchise tags to be used is March 5.

Rob Gronkowski Feb 19 2:40pm ET

New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski's agent, Drew Rosenhaus, said his client will likely make a decision on his playing future "in the next couple of weeks." While Gronk looked somewhat rejuvenated late in the team's Super Bowl run, the 29-year-old has been worn down by injuries throughout his career and has clearly lost a step. He hasn't played a full season since 2011 and had 47 catches for only 682 yards and three touchdowns in 13 games last year. He'd still be in the TE1 conversation if he returns for another season, but Gronkowski is no longer what we'd call an elite TE1.

From RotoBaller

Mike Pennel Feb 19 2:03pm ET

New York Jets DT Mike Pennel's option for the final two years of his contract was declined Tuesday, Feb. 19, by the team, per source, making Pennel a free agent heading into the new league year.

Albert Wilson Feb 19 1:33pm ET

Miami Dolphins WR Albert Wilson is one of the best bets to remain with the team out of a wide receiver contingent that appears headed for upheaval, and new position coach Karl Dorrell has quickly become a fan. 'He was pretty dynamic wasn't he?' Dorrell said recently of Wilson. 'He's a very unique player. I'm really excited about him. .... I hear he's doing a really good job with the recovery process but you could tell when he was on the field, he had a number of ways to affect the defense and to make the defense really pay attention to where he is and things like that.'

Fantasy Spin: A hip injury cost Wilson all but seven games in 2018 but he still led the team with his 15-yard-per-reception average and finished third on the squad with his four receiving TDs. Wilson is a definite fantasy WR sleeper to keep an eye on this summer.

Antonio Brown Feb 19 1:23pm ET

The New York Jets should pursue a trade for disgruntled Pittsburgh Steelers WR Antonio Brown if they're serious about winning, a veteran team reporter wrote Tuesday, Feb. 19.

Fantasy Spin: QB Sam Darnold had Robby Anderson and Quincy Enunwa to work with in his rookie campaign, but Brown would be an obvious upgrade for just about any offense in the league and especially so for a young, up-and-coming QB. And with new head coach Adam Gase taking over, it would be the perfect time to add a new weapon.

Charles Clay Feb 19 12:23pm ET

Free-agent TE Charles Clay (Bills) signed a one-year contract Tuesday, Feb. 19, with the Arizona Cardinals.

Fantasy Spin: Clay's target, reception and fantasy-point totals have been declined in each of the last two seasons, and now he's going one from shaky offense to another. And although the Cards are in dire need of a pass-catching weapon like Clay, don't expect much more than a TE2 season.

Charles Clay Feb 19 12:20pm ET

The Arizona Cardinals are signing free-agent tight end Charles Clay to a one-year deal worth up to $3.25 million on Tuesday, according to a source. The deal includes a $350,000 signing bonus. Clay was an afterthought in Buffalo's offense the last couple years and had only 21 catches for 184 yards and no scores in 13 games last season. He's unlikely to produce much more in Arizona with Ricky Seals-Jones and veteran Jermaine Gresham also in the fold with a young quarterback still learning the speed of the NFL. Clay won't even be worth drafting in most fantasy leagues.

From RotoBaller

Calais Campbell Feb 19 11:50am ET

The Jacksonville Jaguars exercised the 2019 options for defensive end Calais Campbell, defensive end Lerentee McCray and safety Cody Davis. Campbell has been a Pro Bowl selection the last two years with the Jaguars and has accumulated 25 sacks in that time frame. He'll enter his 12th season in 2019 and had a franchise-record 14.5 sacks in 2017. He became the first player in team history to have back-to-back double-digit sacks when he registered 10.5 quarterback takedowns last season. Campbell is a four-time Pro Bowler and is certainly an IDP force.

From RotoBaller

Austin Seferian-Jenkins Feb 19 11:50am ET

The Jacksonville Jaguars declined the 2019 option for tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins on Tuesday, making him a free agent. He started the first five games of the season and caught 11 passes for 90 yards and a touchdown before missing the final 11 games with a core muscle injury. His best year came in 2017 with the Jets when he had 50 catches for 357 yards and three touchdowns. Between injuries and off-field issues, teams are unlikely to be knocking the door down to sign ASF this offseason.

From RotoBaller

Antonio Brown Feb 19 11:33am ET

Pittsburgh Steelers WR Antonio Brown and his agent, Drew Rosenhaus, met with Steelers owner Art Rooney, general manager Kevin Colbert and executive Omar Kahn Tuesday, Feb. 19, and all left with the understanding that a trade will be the best route, according to sources.

Fantasy Spin: Brown will be a stud WR1 anywhere he goes, but he may slide a little in a different offense while learning new personnel.

Antonio Brown Feb 19 11:33am ET

Updating an earlier report, Pittsburgh Steelers WR Antonio Brown has received word that the team will attempt to trade him, but he has not received permission to speak to other teams.

Feb 19 11:23am ET

Former Green Bay Packers defensive coordinator Dom Capers was hired by the Jacksonville Jaguars Tuesday, Feb. 19, as a defensive assistant.

Landon Collins Feb 19 9:33am ET

New York Giants impending free-agent SS Landon Collins isn't in active contract discussions with the Giants, according to sources.

Aaron Rodgers Feb 19 3:03am ET

Green Bay Packers QB Aaron Rodgers will not be asked to run a dramatically different offense than the one he has operated for most of his career, according to offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett. 'When you take a guy like Aaron Rodgers, who is a very good football player, I mean, he's kind of one of those guys where you can kind of pretty much do a lot of everything. I think a lot of it is going to carry over. I think some of the language will be different but it's going to be a lot of the same premises for him,' Hackett told PackersNews.com.

Fantasy Spin: Rodgers is unlikely to be the overall QB1 in drafts this summer following the emergence of Patrick Mahomes, but he'll come off the board shortly thereafter as the QB2 or QB3. It will also be interesting to see how receptive the 35-year-old will be to the schemes of new head coach Matt LaFleur and Hackett, although it's hard to imagine he'll drop off considering how vanilla Mike McCarthy had become with his play-calling in recent years.

Le'Veon Bell Feb 19 12:43am ET

Pittsburgh Steelers RB Le'Veon Bell is unlikely to receive a franchise or transition tag from the team, according to ESPN's Jeremy Fowler.

C.J. Mosley Feb 19 12:33am ET

Impending free-agent LB C.J. Mosley and the Baltimore Ravens are reportedly optimistic they will agree to a long-term contract before the March 5 deadline for franchise tags, according to ESPN's Jamison Hensley.