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 email@example.com. Follow Jeff on Twitter @jeffpaur.
Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald has been impressed with the tempo of new head coach Kliff Kingsbury's offense. The Cardinals ranked 20th in the league in pace (time between plays) in neutral situations last year, but that is expected to change drastically in 2019. Fitzgerald said the new offense contains less verbiage that when Bruce Arians was the head coach, and players are expected to process pre-snap adjustments faster. It means that Arizona's skill players should see more bulk this year, which is good for their fantasy value. The offense will ebb and flow based on how rookie quarterback Kyler Murray fares, but the early returns are very promising.
Denver Broncos quarterback Drew Lock, a second-round pick, remains the only unsigned rookie on the team. Offensive guard Drew Risner, who was selected a pick before Lock at 41 overall, signed a deal worth $7.14 million on Tuesday. According to multiple sources, Lock's representatives are seeking a "quarterback premium." There is hope that he'll sign before the team's first meeting on Wednesday and first practice on Thursday, but there's also the chance that Lock isn't present for the start of training camp. The Broncos made assurances to Risner that Lock won't receive a richer contract. Lock has long-term upside in dynasty/keeper leagues, but he won't have much redraft value as the expected backup to veteran Joe Flacco to begin the season.
Philadelphia Eagles running back Boston Scott "might actually be the front-runner" for the final spot on the Eagles running back depth chart. Jordan Howard, Corey Clement, and rookie Miles Sanders are all locks assuming health, so Scott, Wendell Smallwood, and Josh Adams could all be competing for one final spot. Dave Zangaro of NBC Sports Philadelphia believes that Scott has "a much more complementary collection of skills" including his ability to play on special teams. Scott could be interesting if given a chance to play on offense, but it would likely take two injuries ahead of him for him to earn any significant offensive snaps.
Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers is looking to bounce back to his previous MVP form this season. Last season was the first season since 2008 where the Packers have missed out on the playoffs when he played 16 games. Rodgers played through the season with a significant injury, with a tibial plateau fracture and sprained a medial collateral ligament. Rodgers has been working hard to learn the new offense, the first time in his entire career. Surrounding Rodgers with coaching talent is one thing, but in order to bounce back, he will hope that the surrounding skill players on the roster are able to also be looking to bounce back to being one of the most potent offenses in the league.
Minnesota Vikings running back Roc Thomas has been suspended three games for violating the league's substance-abuse policy. Thomas had just eight carries during his rookie season and is buried behind Dalvin Cook and rookie Alexander Mattison on the team's depth chart, so the suspension doesn't really mean much for his already nonexistent fantasy stock. Thomas remains at best the team's third back and at worse a preseason roster cut, though in that scenario the suspension will make it harder for me to latch onto another team's roster.
Green Bay Packers tight end Marcedes Lewis is looking to expand on his blocking role this season. Lewis is currently one of the team's most senior players on a young roster and was the only one of the 11 unrestricted free agents the Packers re-signed this offseason. New head coach Matt LaFleur said earlier this offseason that the team wants to expand the role he plays in the offense. Lewis will be unlikely to be a player with fantasy value. However, fantasy owners should monitor the situation as it may impact the value of fellow tight end Jimmy Graham.
Green Bay Packers running back Aaron Jones is likely to be the team's bell cow running back this season. The Packers invested in the running back position, selecting Dexter Williams in the sixth round, but that is unlikely to impact the opportunity that Jones is going to be given this season. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers commented in the spring that it was important to have a positive run game, all of which points to Jones being given the opportunity to be the lead back. One concern will be the health of Jones, having three knee injuries in his first two years in the league, finishing both seasons on injured reserve. If he is able to stay healthy there is no reason why Jones shouldn't be able to record his first 1,000 yard season for the Packers.
Green Bay Packers tight end Jimmy Graham has been working hard to learn the new system being brought in by new head coach Matt LaFleur. Graham battled through injury last season (to both his knee and hands) but was able to catch 55 passes for 636 yards and two touchdowns. Graham has only finished with that touchdown total one other time in his career- his first season in Seattle. Graham disappointed for fantasy owners, due in part to the lack of touchdowns that he was able to score. Graham has also been working with new position coach Justin Outten to fully absorb the offensive system, that will look to free Graham as he was in Seattle in 2017 when he recorded double-digit touchdowns.
Green Bay Packers wide receiver Marquez Valdes-Scantling appeared on NFL's Good Morning Football show and commented on what it was like to play with Aaron Rodgers. Valdes-Scantling said that Rodgers looks for players to play well, and be consistent. While that isn't surprising the buzz around Valdes-Scantling is being given the opportunity to vastly improve on his 38 receptions, 581 yards and two touchdown season. Valdes-Scantling is currently being drafted in the later rounds, and as such if Rodgers is able to rebound from his poor season last year the receiver will give fantasy owners tremendous value.
Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Ryan Switzer is working to fill the slot receiver role in his second year with the team. The 24-year-old caught 36-of-44 targets for 253 yards and a score in his first year with the Steelers. While he was a big part of the team's return game, he was at most times fifth in the pecking order for targets. At just 5'8 185 lbs, Switzer fits the proverbial mold of an NFL "slot" receiver, but getting the reps and building chemistry with quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is of utmost importance heading into 2019. The more reps that you get, the more game experience you get, the better the feel and the better you get, Switzer mentioned in an interview with TribLive.com. While Brown is now in Oakland, there are 168 targets to fill in his place, so if Switzer wants a role on offense, he will need to hit the ground running once training camp starts. He doesn't hold any draft value due to a crowded receiving corps in Pittsburgh, but if he can carve out a role early on, he has the chance to hold a solid floor in PPR formats.
Washington Redskins rookie quarterback Dwayne Haskins will have to prove himself in training camp in order to earn the Week 1 start over Case Keenum, but his coaches like what they've seen so far. Per Kyle Melnick of Redskins.com, offensive coordinator Kevin O'Connell has been impressed with Haskins's work ethic. O'Connell is used to the slow learning curve inherent in rookies, but Haskins has somewhat broken that mold. This shouldn't come as too much of a surprise after Haskins led all of college football in passing yards and passing touchdowns in his only season as a starter. It's also worth noting that Melnick mentions Urban Meyer praising Haskins as "the most accurate passer he's coached." While it will take a considerable leap forward for Haskins to earn the starting job in Washington, he's off to a good start this spring and summer.
New England Patriots wide receiver Julian Edelman is in line to, once again, be quarterback Tom Brady's favorite target as the beginning of training camp looms. The 33-year-old caught 74 passes for 850 yards and six touchdowns through 12 games last season, including 26 receptions for 388 yards in three playoff games. Edelman racks up targets thanks to his kismet chemistry with Brady and sneaky route running. Age may one day catch up to Edelman but the only thing that could stifle the veteran's production in 2019 would be injury. He will be a solid, mid-round WR2 come fantasy draft day.
Chicago Bears wide receiver Riley Ridley was a surprise selection when the Bears drafted him in the fourth round. The rookie, and brother of the Falcons Calvin Ridley, is a big receiver who has impressed the coaching staff throughout the offseason workout programs. But fantasy owners need to be patient with a prospect like Ridley and rookie wide receivers can easily struggle to crack the lineup in the first half of a season. Ridley caught 13 touchdowns in 28 career college games at Georgia so he could steal some red zone targets from teammates Allen Robinson and Anthony Miller. But owners should not expect production right out of the gate and will only have dynasty value when fantasy draft rooms open in about one month.
Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton may be using more play fakes this upcoming season. With the arrival of new head coach Zac Taylor, Dalton may utilize play-action more often than he has in previous seasons. Under Taylor, Los Angeles Rams quarterback Jared Goff averaged 10 yards per play-action attempt last season, good for fourth in the league. However, with the retirement of guard Clint Boling and the season-ending injury to tackle Jonah Williams (shoulder), along with the Bengals having only a step of separation on just 53.8 percent of their targets last season, it will be an uphill battle for the 32-year-old. If whats left of the offensive line can hold it together, however, Dalton will have plenty of time to utilize who is available to him on the offensive side of the ball under a new system.
The Atlanta Falcons No. 1 offseason priority is now to lock up wide receiver Julio Jones to a long-term deal, but that could take a while, according to sources. Jones believes that owner Arthur Blank will get something done and hasn't been threatening a holdout with another year still left on his deal. The 30-year-old is getting to be a bit more of an injury risk, but he's still an elite fantasy wideout and will be one of the first guys off the board in the early rounds.
The Atlanta Falcons and defensive tackle Grady Jarrett agreed to a four-year contract extension on Monday. The contract is expected to be worth $68 million with $38 million guaranteed, according to a source. He was initially set to receive the $15.209 million franchise tag if a deal wasn't worked out by Monday. The team can now move on to extensions for receiver Julio Jones and linebacker Deion Jones. The Falcons and Deion Jones' representation will meet face-to-face on Wednesday. Jarrett, a fifth-round pick in 2015, has been a top defender for Atlanta and had 53 total pressures in 2018, according to Pro Football Focus. He also had six sacks, three forced fumbles and a team-high 16 QB hits.
Arizona Cardinals rookie wide receiver Andy Isabella, a second-round pick this year, looks like he'll get an initial chance in the offense behind veteran Larry Fitzgerald and Christian Kirk, who looked good in his rookie season in 2018. Rookies Keesean Johnson and Hakeem Butler could also be in the mix, but they might have a steeper climb for relevant work early on. Isabella is a great long-term pick in dynasty leagues and has late-round sleeper appeal in what could be a high-flying offensive attack under rookie quarterback Kyler Murray and new head coach Kliff Kingsbury.
Washington Redskins quarterback Alex Smith (leg) is no longer wearing an external fixator on his surgically repaired right leg. He credited the fixator with allowing him "to heal and walk again." Although Smith is unlikely to play in 2019 or perhaps ever again in the NFL, this is a step in the right direction and some needed good news for the veteran signal-caller. The 'Skins drafted quarterback Dwayne Haskins in the first round, so Smith's future isn't in D.C. You can ignore him in upcoming fantasy drafts completely.
Denver Broncos running back Phillip Lindsay (wrist) said the training staff will determine the repetitions he gets at training camp, but "in my mind I'm ready. I'm 100 percent," Lindsay said. He should be ready for Week 1, barring a setback this summer. Lindsay was one of the most pleasant surprises in his rookie season after going undrafted. The 24-year-old became Denver's go-to back and finished with 192 attempts for 1.037 yards and nine touchdowns on the ground. He also caught 35 passes for 241 yard and another score. His stock is obviously way up going into his second season, but he'll still have to remain effective to hold off a push from Royce Freeman.
In 2018, Phillip Lindsay had 192 carries to fellow rookie Royce Freeman's 130, but Justin Adams of CBS 4 believes that that may change in 2019. Lindsay is recovering from a wrist injury and has yet to participate in offseason activities with the team, which Adams believes has put Freeman in a position to potentially wind up as Denver's lead back. That's the role Freeman was initially drafted to play before Lindsay broke out in the preseason, so it wouldn't be a shock to see Freeman assert himself more in 2019. Keep an eye on the situation, as it could lead to Lindsay losing fantasy value while Freeman gains some.