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.
Miami Dolphins tight end Mike Gesicki said he now weighs 253 pounds, which is up 13 pounds from his rookie season. Gesicki was a disappointment in his first year in the NFL, catching only 22 passes on 32 targets for 202 yards and no touchdowns in a full season. He's still just 23 years old, though, and he could easily post better numbers in his second season on a Dolphins team that is in need of pass-catching options. The situation under center leaves a lot to be desired, however. Gesicki will be worth taking as a low-end TE2 with plenty of upside left.
Arizona Cardinals QB Josh Rosen has been the subject of trade rumors with the team reportedly eyeing Oklahoma QB Kyler Murray with the No. 1-overall draft pick, broke his media silence recently during an interview with Sports Illustrated TV. 'I think when people talk about, like, you can't listen to criticism or don't ever read articles, you have to be aware of what's going on to a certain extent,' Rosen said in a short video clip of the segment posted on Twitter . 'So I definitely understand the situation. I mean it's annoying, but it is what it is. Football is a business, and I definitely respect the higher-ups and their decisions.'
MIami Dolphins WR DeVante Parker says he's happy the Dolphins retained him, saying he's fully healthy and ready for 'a fresh start.'
Fantasy Spin: Parker is coming off his worst season yet with 24 catches for 309 yards and a TD on 47 targets in 11 games and belongs off the main fantasy radar in the majority of leagues until he shows otherwise.
Cleveland Browns general manager John Dorsey said that running back Duke Johnson is "a member of this organization moving forward," and head coach Freddie Kitchens believes Johnson is a vital part of the offense. Johnson's trade request doesn't change anything, as of now. Cleveland would likely trade Johnson if they got the right offer, but it doesn't appear they're motivated to move him right now, especially with Kareem Hunt suspended for the first half of the season. The 25-year-old fell out of favor when Kitchens took over the offense last year and finished with a career-low 40 carries for 201 yards and no touchdowns on the ground. He also had a career-low 47 receptions for 429 yards and three scores. There could be a pass-catching role for Johnson behind Nick Chubb in the first half of the year if he stays in Cleveland, but fantasy owners probably won't take the bait.
Houston Texans WR Will Fuller (knee) is fully anticipated to be ready for the Texans' regular-season opener, according to general manager Brian Gaine. 'Everything is trending in the right direction,' Gaine said Thursday, April 19. 'Everything is looking good.'
Fantasy Spin: Fuller has produced 13 TDs in 31 games, but the question remains his health as he's missed a combined 17 games over his first three seasons. Value him as a low-end WR3 for the time being.
New York Giants RB Saquon Barkley said Thursday, April 18, he fails to understand the critics who said the Giants should've selected a quarterback over him in the 2018 NFL Draft. 'If a Rookie of the Year (award) doesn't sway that mindset I don't know what will,' Barkley said.
Fantasy Spin: The criticism certainly didn't come from Barkley's fantasy owners as the rookie dazzled to the tune of 2,028 scrimmage yards and 15 touchdowns last season. And even if the Giants somehow bypass on drafting a QB again this spring, Barkley is the leading candidate to be the first pick in fantasy drafts this summer.
The Dallas Cowboys are open to finding a backup behind running back Ezekiel Elliott with Rod Smith still on the free-agent market. Elliott has won the rushing title in two of his first three seasons and hasn't missed a game due to injury, but the Cowboys need better insurance behind him. Dallas wants to find a quality backup, but they aren't sure if that'll come in free agency or through the draft. As of right now, Darius Jackson and Jordan Chunn are the backups listed on the team's depth chart behind Elliott.
Cleveland Browns RB Duke Johnson drew praise Thursday, April 18, from general manager John Dorsey. 'I keep telling you all, Duke's a very talented player,' Dorsey said at a news conference. 'He's a member of this organization moving forward. He understands the role he's going to play within this offense.'
Fantasy Spin: After a career-low 87 touches last season, Johnson has asked to be traded, but there have been no takers for now, and Dorsey has no recourse but to talk him up. Expect a deal to get done, though -- perhaps on draft weekend -- and then we can access Johnson's fantasy outlook from there.
Miami Dolphins wide receiver Devante Parker is happy that the Dolphins trusted him enough to bring him back in 2019 and said "they have confidence in me again, have trust in me, have faith in me to sign me back again." Parker also said he's fully healthy this offseason. The 26-year-old was hurt to start last season and wound up finishing with a career-low 24 catches for just 309 yards and one touchdown in 11 games. While Parker has the talent, he continues to underwhelm for Miami and fantasy owners, and he's caught only two touchdowns in the last two seasons and nine total in his four years in the league. Even if he remains the No. 1 wideout in Miami in 2019, Parker's fantasy value is down in the dumps. And Miami's quarterback situation is also troubling.
Houston Texans wide receiver Keke Coutee is doing everything in his power to stay on the field in 2019. He has changed his offseason routine to focus more on stretching and eating healthier. Coutee was rarely on the field because of recurring hamstring issues in his rookie season, and he caught 28 passes for 287 yards and one touchdown in six regular season games. If he can stay on the field all year in 2019, Coutee has a very high fantasy ceiling as the slot man in Houston.
San Francisco 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo (knee) has resumed throwing and doing dropbacks as he recovers from a torn ACL early last season, and he's hoping to take part in seven-on-seven drills when organized team activities start next month. The ultimate goal is being fully cleared for training camp in late July. It's almost certain that Garoppolo will wear a brace on his knee this year, and he doesn't think it'll impact his mobility. The 27-year-old looks to have the tools to be a solid QB1, but he's also never played in more than six games in a season in his five years in the NFL, so fantasy owners need to be cognizant not to overspend on his talent.
Washington Redskins DE Matt Ioannidis signed a three-year, $21.75 million extension with the Redskins Thursday, April 18. He received $14 million guaranteed and $3 million in incentives.
Carolina Panthers LB Luke Kuechly converted $9.05 million of his salary Thursday, April 18, into a signing bonus to create $7.24 million in salary cap space.
Chicago Bears RB Mike Davis is set to serve as the team's primary ball carrier during the 2019 season, in the opinion of the Chicago Tribune's Brad Biggs.
Fantasy Spin: With Jordan Howard gone and Tarik Cohen better suited as a situational player, Davis could be in line for a lot of touches after parlaying his 728-yard, five-touchdown season last year into a $6 million deal. If Biggs' projection holds up, Davis may offer some nice upside as a depth selection.
San Francisco 49ers tight end George Kittle said he suffered "fractured cartilage" in his ribs early in the game against the Raiders last year but played through it. San Fran played Oakland on Nov. 1, so that means Kittle played around half the season after suffering that injury. The second-year professional had a truly breakout season, catching 88 passes for 1,377 yards and five touchdowns for the Niners. With quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo back healthy in 2019, the sky is the limit for Kittle. He'll likely be the third tight end off the board behind Travis Kelce and Zach Ertz in fantasy.
Dallas Cowboys executive vice president Stephen Jones said that the team will pick up running back Ezekiel Elliott's fifth-year option. The 23-year-old has two 1,000-yard seasons in his three years in the NFL and ran 304 times for 1,434 yards and six touchdowns in his 15 games last year. He also caught a career-high 77 passes for an additional 567 yards and three scores. Elliott is one of the premier running backs in the NFL and should continue to be a high first-round pick in fantasy drafts this fall.
Denver Broncos CB Bryce Callahan (foot) was a limited participant during practice at the team's minicamp, while CB Isaac Yiadom (shoulder) went through team stretching and some individuals drills, but no team work. '(Callahan) could go in this camp, but we're just letting him do individual - I just want to give him a few more weeks to feel healthy,' head coach Vic Fangio said Tuesday, April 16.
Denver Broncos WR Emmanuel Sanders (Achilles) is present for minicamp, but he has either been working on a side field or doing no work as he makes his way back from an Achilles' injury. 'Everything we've been told and what he's said, he's progressing well,' head coach Vic Fangio said Tuesday, April 16.
Fantasy Spin: Sanders will be a decent WR3 or flex fantasy option heading into the 2019 season, and he has the entire offseason to jell with new QB Joe Flacco. He also has plenty of time to put his injury in the rear-view mirror.
Buffalo Bills QB Josh Allen (elbow) said earlier this week that his elbow injury is in the past, and he is having 'no problems at all.' He met with physical therapists for the first couple of weeks of the offseason, but was fine and has been throwing ever since.
Fantasy Spin: The Bills look to be an improved offense heading into 2019, but they still have work to do in the passing game. Allen should be considered as a low-end No. 2 quarterback in fantasy leagues of 12 or more teams until further notice.
Pittsburgh Steelers WR/KR Ryan Switzer (ankle) is participating in the team's voluntary workouts this week, and was one of the first players in. He is taking part as he wants to get prepared for the 2019 season, and he enjoys the team bonding, too. 'I think it's big. I am learning more about them, they are learning more about who I am,' Switzer said.