Wed Jan 8 8:54am ET
By JEFF PAUR
Sr Fantasy Writer
Mostert has scores six straight
Well, that was a fun start to the playoffs. All the games were close and entertaining. Unfortunately, the fantasy performances were not off the charts. It was a pretty mediocre showing from most. The good news is the games were fun to watch. Let’s hope we can get a mix of both good games and big-time fantasy performances this week.
Now for my random thoughts for the week. . . . .
The big question after last week is will Tom Brady return next season? It is a great question. I really have no idea what he will do. It would be really strange to see Brady play for another team, so I have a hard time believing he would return for a team other than the Patriots. For me, if he returns, it will be as the starter for New England. I also think that a likely return is a little stronger after his finish to this season. I can't see him ending his illustrious career with a pick six. Either way, his fantasy value is way down. Brady was 13th in fantasy quarterback scoring each of his last two seasons.
Derrick Henry is a tough fantasy back to value. He has been amazing the second half of the season and produced the best numbers of any fantasy back on the ground during that stretch. The issue is he doesn’t catch passes. So he really is dependent on rushing yards and touchdowns, which were career highs this year. Can he repeat that in 2020? I think there is a good possibility of that but I have a hard time making him a top-five fantasy back because of his lack of receptions. If he got his receptions up just a little, he would be a surefire top-five fantasy back and pick. Let’s hope the Titans involve him a little more in the passing game next season to take his fantasy numbers to an even higher level.
I was shocked the Saints lost last week. I really thought they had a legit chance to win it all. This team was very talented on both sides of the ball and playing great football late in the year. The offense could not find it’s rhythm against the Vikings, though. You have to give Minnesota a ton of credit for containing the red hot Saints. The Vikings have a very talented team, so don’t discount them to go on the road and win again this week in San Francisco. Minnesota already shocked us one week, so why not do it again.
Josh Allen showed he still has a little ways to go to be an elite quarterback in the NFL. He really looked shaky in the Bills playoff game last week. He made some really poor decisions late in that game, showing he might not be quite ready for the big stage. Allen still has a ton of talent and can learn from last week, though, so don’t count him out to be a big-time star in this league. He made big strides this year.
I was really saddened to see Carson Wentz suffer a concussion early in his playoff game. He really carried that offense late in the year and willed this team to a playoff spot. He was the main reason the Eagles made the playoffs but suffered an injury once again. He has really been snake bitten by injuries throughout his career. It would be great to see him play a full season and get a chance to lead his team in the playoffs. I thought Wentz showed a lot this past year with his play.
I’m really intrigued by several playoff games this weekend. I know the lines are kind of high for several of them, but I think we are in store for a lot of close, well-fought games similar to this past week. Remember, Houston went into Kansas City earlier this year and won. The Vikings just upset the Saints on the road, so don’t overlook them to give San Francisco a real fight. And while Baltimore is rolling, Tennessee has been as hot as any team in the NFL the second half of the season. Lastly, I think the Seahawks and Packers game is the biggest game up for grabs. I could see this one going either way, depending on which offense shows for Green Bay this week.
As always, don’t forget to check out my weekly rankings here: Divisional Round Rankings.
Raheem Mostert, RB, 49ers. Mostert is as hot as any back in the game right now. He has touchdowns six straight games. He has double-digit fantasy points all of those games and three games with 20-plus fantasy points. He keeps getting it done as the lead back for the 49ers. Mostert is the back to use in this offense. Expect more of the same this week against the Vikings, a team middle of the pack against the run. Minnesota has allowed 150-plus rushing yards two of their past three games.
Patrick Mahomes, QB, Chiefs. Mahomes has been a little quiet down the stretch, having fewer than 20 fantasy points three of his last six games. He has been a little more inconsistent than fantasy owners have become accustomed. Expect him to return to his big ways this week against the Texans, though. He threw for 273 yards and three touchdowns against this same Texans team in Week 6. Houston allowed the third most fantasy points to quarterbacks during the regular season.
Davante Adams, WR, Packers. Adams had another big season as the lead receiver for the Packers. He played his best football late in the year. He had at least seven receptions three straight to end his season and scores four of his last six games. Adams had double-digit targets seven of his last eight games. Adams should get his usual workout this week against the Seahawks. Seattle was 27th against the pass during the regular season, allowing 264-passing yards per game.
Marshawn Lynch, RB, Seahawks. Lynch has touchdowns each of his two games this year but you can’t ignore his production on the ground. He has 18 carries for 41 yards, averaging 2.3 yards per carry. He is clearly a touchdown dependent player, making him a hard player to trust for fantasy teams. He isn’t worth the risk because his ceiling is not very high right now.
Ryan Tannehill, QB, Titans. Tannehill led his team to a win last week but wasn’t much of a fantasy factor against a good Patriots defense. He didn’t even throw for 100 yards and failed to reach doubt-digit fantasy points. He had been red hot, having multiple touchdowns all 10 of his starts before last week. He has a similar tough matchup this week on the road against the Ravens. Baltimore allowed the third fewest fantasy points to quarterbacks during the regular season and ranked seventh overall against the pass. It could be another down showing for Tannehill this week.
Kyle Rudolph, TE, Vikings. Rudolph scored a touchdown last week but had just four catches for 31 yards. He has fewer than 50 yards four yards four straight games. He is really a touchdown dependent player because his reception and yardage totals won’t be great. We aren't sure he finds the end zone this week against the 49ers, a team that has limited the tight end this season. The 49ers allowed the sixth fewest fantasy points to tight ends during the regular season.
Sammy Watkins, WR, Chiefs. Watkins has really been a disappointment much of the year. He has 50 or fewer yards seven straight games. He also hasn’t scored a touchdown since the first week of the season. But even with that said, he is capable of the big game in this explosive offense. And with the Texans likely doing all they can to limit Tyreek Hill, Watkins could get a few more targets than usual this week. Houston was just 30th overall against the pass during the regular season. And in last week’s game, secondary option Duke Williams had a solid showing for the Bills. This bodes well for Watkins to have some success in this one.
Darren Fells, TE, Texans. Fells has emerged as the top target at tight end for the Texans. He had four receptions for 37 yards on five targets last week. It wasn’t a great showing but decent enough. He is capable of the big game in this offense. Fells actually had his best reception and yardage game of the season against the Chiefs in Week 6. He had six receptions for 69 yards in that game against the Chiefs. It could be more of the same for Fells this week, making him an option to consider using if you don’t have one of the big tight ends in your lineup.
David Moore, WR, Seahawks. Moore had a solid game in the Seahawks playoff opener last week, catching two passes for 57 yards. He is a big-play threat in this offense, averaging nearly 18 yards per reception. The Seahawks are likely going to need some big plays in this game if they hope to win, so look for Moore to get some chances to stretch the field. He could have a similar showing to last week and might even find the end zone. The Packers were just 18th against the pas during the regular season.
Duke Johnson, RB, Texans. Johnson has not been off the charts this year but pretty consistent as the pass-catching back for the Texans. He had a decent showing last week, finishing with 68 total yards on six touches. He has at least three receptions four of six games. He plays a Chiefs team this week that he had 54 total yards and a touchdown against in Week 6. This could be a high scoring game with a lot of fantasy points to be had, so getting some secondary options in your lineup like Johnson could be a good move 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: Texans/Chiefs, Seahawks/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 email@example.com. Follow Jeff on Twitter @jeffpaur.
Interview with the King
Free-agent wide receiver Rashard Higgins told Cleveland.com that he hopes to remain with the Cleveland Browns but he has yet to receive an offer from the team. Higgins is slated to become a free-agent when the new league year opens but the Browns are waiting to see what the salary cap for 2021 is before making offers to their pending free-agents. Higgins is well-regarded in Cleveland but the team already has over $30 million tied up in the contracts of Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry for 2021, so it is questionable whether they would want to commit more money to the position by bringing Higgins back. Higgins caught 37 passes for 599 yards and four TDs in 2020 and should have little trouble finding a team willing to add him as their No. 3 receiver if the Browns choose not to re-sign him.
The Houston Texans released center Nick Martin on Friday. Martin carried an $8.75 million salary cap hit for the 2021 season. With the release of Martin and running back Duke Johnson, the Texans are around the $20 million mark after the moves, with the salary cap projected near the stated floor of $180 million, per Over The Cap. Martin started 62 games over the last four seasons after he was selected in the second round of the 2016 draft and signed a three-year, $33 million deal in 2019, which included more than $18 million guaranteed. He was owed $7.25 million in 2021 and will have a dead-money charge of $2.5 million. The 27-year-old missed his entire rookie season due to a foot injury.
New England Patriots wide receiver Julian Edelman (knee) wants to play in 2021, but he continues to rehab from a knee injury he suffered last season and it remains to be seen if he'll be able to play from a physical standpoint. The 34-year-old veteran played in just six games in 2020 because of his knee ailment and failed to find the end zone for the first time in his career since 2011. His return would be a big boost for a New England offense that will also have a huge hole to fill at quarterback if they don't bring Cam Newton back. However, even if Edelman returns, it's unknown how effective he'll be after coming off that knee injury. He'll be more of a late-round flier if he's healthy, and the team's QB situation will play heavily into his fantasy value.
The Houston Texans released running back Duke Johnson on Friday, according to a source. Johnson was set to have a salary cap hit of more than $5 million, so the team will move on instead. After playing in all 16 games in his first season with Houston in 2019 while carrying the ball 83 times for 410 yards and two touchdowns -- he also caught 44 passes for 410 yards and three more scores -- Johnson played in only 11 games in 2020 and had 77 carries for 235 yards and a TD while adding 28 catches for 249 yards and another score. The 27-year-old spent four years in Cleveland before a trade sent him to Houston in 2019. The Texans could also decide to cut David Johnson after acquiring him from the Cardinals in the swap that included All-Pro wideout DeAndre Hopkins when former head coach Bill O'Brien was still calling the shots.
Los Angeles Rams head coach Sean McVay said he thinks running back Cam Akers can be an "every-down back." Akers got off to a slow start in his rookie season after being taken with the 52nd overall pick in the draft while being hampered by an injury that reduced his playing time. But Akers stepped up in Week 11 by carrying the ball 29 times for 171 yards against the Patriots and in the playoffs with a 28-carry, 131-yard, one-touchdown performance. The 21-year-old from Florida State averaged 21.5 carries and 2.8 targets per game while playing over 60 percent of the snaps in the last four regular season games. He became the team's go-to back down the stretch and should see the majority of backfield touches in 2021 with Matthew Stafford now at quarterback. Consider Akers a low-end RB1 with upside heading into his sophomore season.
The Pittsburgh Steelers and quarterback Ben Roethlisberger have committed to tweaking his contract to allow him to come back for the 2021 season. The first day of the new league year is Wednesday, March 17, which is the opening of free agency and also when teams must be compliant with the 2021 salary cap. That means that the deadline for the Steelers and Big Ben to get a new deal worked out is March 17. "His arm, I would say, is as strong or almost as strong as ever, so I think he's certainly capable of getting the job done," president Art Rooney II said. The 39-year-old threw for 3,803 yards, 33 touchdowns and 10 interceptions in 2020, but age and injury concerns will make him a shaky QB1 option for fantasy managers in what will likely be his last season.
New England Patriots linebacker Dont'a Hightower, safety Patrick Chung and offensive tackle Marcus Cannon, who all opted out of the 2020 season due to COVID-19, are planning to return in 2021, according to sources. All three are in a good place physically. Without them last year, New England finished 27th in yards per game and points scored per game while also finishing 15th in yards allowed per game in 2020. As a result, the Patriots missed the playoffs in their first season without quarterback Tom Brady for the first time since the 2000 season. They still have plenty of holes to fill in order to make a return to the postseason, including under center, but getting Hightower, Chung and Cannon back is a good first step as we approach the start of the new league year in March.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers impending free-agent wide receiver Chris Godwin would love to return to the Buccaneers and said he'd be willing to play on the franchise tag in 2021. The four-year pro wouldn't be ecstatic about that outcome, but he'd be willing to accept the tag should the team go in that direction. Godwin was a key contributor during Tampa's Super Bowl run last season after being a third-round pick in 2017. Wide receivers are projected to earn $16.43 million on a 2021 franchise tag ($14.26 million on the transition tag), according to Over the Cap. The 25-year-old would prefer a little more long-term security, but he's also willing to sacrifice a few dollars to play for a contender. After catching 81 passes for 1,072 yards and eight touchdowns in 2020, Godwin will remain a highly coveted fantasy wideout if he sticks in Tampa with quarterback Tom Brady.
Green Bay Packers impending free-agent center Corey Linsley said that he feels his departure is coming in free agency. "We're not closing the door for anything," Linsley said. "Obviously we'd never do that for any team, especially the Packers, but yeah it definitely feels weird. Looks like all signs are pointing towards snapping the ball somewhere else next year." Pro Football Focus rated Linsley, who will turn 30 in July, as the best center in football last year. The Packers currently sit around $11 million over the salary cap, and Linsley is likely to command a salary that would put him among the top-10 centers in the NFL. His departure on the offensive line would be bad news for quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who won the MVP in 2020.
New York Jets defensive tackle Quinnen Williams said he'd "be disappointed" if the team traded him this offseason to the Houston Texans in a package to acquire quarterback Deshaun Watson. The third overall pick of the 2019 draft has been the subject of trade rumors for months. "I really want to be a Jet for life. I like New York, and I want to play in New York," Williams said. The 23-year-old improved in 2020 with seven sacks, 10 tackles for loss, 14 QB hits and two forced fumbles after disappointing in his rookie season. Williams is hoping to continue improving under defensive-minded head coach Robert Saleh. As of right now, the Texans front office remains steadfast in not dealing Watson, but that could change in the coming weeks.
The Houston Texans remain unwilling to talk about quarterback Deshaun Watson with other teams, with some clubs resorting to leaving voicemails with their trade offers, according to sources. Watson spoke with head coach David Culley recently, but the two have yet to meet in person. The 25-year-old franchise signal-caller hasn't backed off his demands to be dealt, but the Texans aren't budging. This situation will continue to be the biggest offseason storyline as we head into the new league year next month. Even without All-Pro wideout DeAndre Hopkins as his top receiver in 2020, Watson finished as the No. 4 fantasy QB behind Josh Allen, Kyler Murray and Aaron Rodgers. He could land in a better situation if he's ultimately traded, but even if he stays in Houston, Watson will be a top-tier, dual-threat fantasy quarterback.
The Chicago Bears re-signed running back Ryan Nall to an undisclosed deal on Thursday. In his second season with the Bears in 2020, Nall had 67 yards and a touchdown on just 11 touches (three carries, eight receptions) in 16 games. He was scheduled to become a restricted free agent next month, but he'll remain in Chicago for the 2021 season as depth behind David Montgomery and Tarik Cohen. The 25-year-old went undrafted out of Oregon State before signing with the Bears, and he has just five carries for eight yards and eight catches for 67 yards and one touchdown in his first two NFL seasons. It would take several injuries in Chicago's backfield for Nall to see a significant boost in playing time.
The Tennessee Titans are releasing wide receiver Adam Humphries on Thursday, according to a source. The move saves the Titans around $4.47 million in salary cap space for the upcoming 2021 season. Humphries, who is still only 27 years old, was a big-ticket signing two years ago for Tennessee, but he caught only 60 passes (82 targets) for 602 yards and four touchdowns in 19 games (four starts) for the team in the last two seasons. He played in only seven games due to injury in 2020 and caught 23 passes for 228 yards and two scores. The New England Patriots were interested in Humphries two years ago, and they could be interested again as they look to beef up their receiving corps after failing to make the playoffs for the first time since 2000.
Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson has not demanded a trade, according to his agent, Mark Rodgers. Wilson wants to stay in Seattle and has a no-trade clause, but if a trade were considered, the only teams he would play for would be the Dallas Cowboys, New Orleans Saints, Las Vegas Raiders or Chicago Bears. Another reason a trade is unlikely: Wilson has a pre-June 1 dead salary cap number of $39 million ($7 million in savings). He also carries a post-June 1 dead cap number of $13 million in 2021 ($19 million saved) and $26 million dead cap number in 2022. The 32-year-old has made the Pro Bowl in seven of his nine seasons in the NFL and was on pace to be the MVP in 2020 before Seattle's offense crumbled in the second half. Wilson is ultimately expected to remain with the Seahawks and mend his relationship with them, but it's not out of the realm of possibility that he's traded. He's likely to remain a top-tier QB1 no matter where he's playing in 2021.
Seattle Seahawks QB Russell Wilson reportedly is frustrated with the team, and it has led his camp to broach trade destinations with the Seahawks, according to sources Thursday, Feb. 25. The possible destinations include the Las Vegas Raiders, Miami Dolphins, New Orleans Saints and New York Jets, per sources.
Fantasy Spin: The disgruntled Wilson rumors persist in the Pacific Northwest, and if anything, they seem to be growing louder. And even even though Wilson's fantasy finishes in recent seasons have fallen noticeably short of his strong starts, he's still finished as a top-six fantasy QB in five of his last seven seasons. It's hard to imagine Seattle and Wilson parting ways after nine successful seasons, but the reports and rumors persist, and we have to imagine the possibility that Wilson takes his QB1 talents elsewhere. We'll most definitely stay tuned.
San Francisco 49ers general manager John Lynch said that quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo remains in the team's plans as the starter under center. Lynch said that there wasn't any doubt that Garoppolo would be the team's starter in 2021 if he's healthy. There have been questions as to whether the Niners would go in a different direction at the position since Garoppolo has only had one fully healthy season after the team traded for him. In that one healthy season, he led the 49ers to the Super Bowl in 2019. The team is 22-8 with him and 6-17 without him. The 29-year-old signal-caller was more of a product of a creative offense under head coach Kyle Shanahan than anything in 2019, though, and he'll be an unattractive QB2 coming off another injury-marred season in 2021 fantasy drafts.
Denver Broncos DT Jurrell Casey on Thursday, Fewb. 25, was released by the Denver Broncos.
The Denver Broncos released defensive tackle Jurrell Casey on Thursday, according to a source. Denver acquired Casey in a trade with the Tennessee Titans before the 2020 season, but he played in just three games before he landed on Injured Reserve for the rest of the year due to a serious biceps injury. He's entering his age-31 season, and his release will free up $12 million against the salary cap for the 2021 season. The five-time Pro Bowler will most certainly latch on with another team as he tries to bounce back in 2021. Casey hasn't played a full season since 2017, but he recorded 168 solo tackles and 30 sacks for the Titans from 2015-19 in his run of five straight Pro Bowls in Tennessee. If healthy, Casey still has what it takes to be a difference-maker for his next squad.
Free-agent defensive lineman J.J. Watt has received contract offers from multiple teams, according to league sources. The largest offer on the table is believed to be worth between $15 million and $16 million. The Cleveland Browns are one of the teams interested in the pass-rusher, but it's unclear if they have submitted an offer to the five-time Pro Bowler. The three-time Defensive Player of the Year was released by the Houston Texans earlier this month after a decade-long run with the team. Around a dozen teams, including the Browns, Pittsburgh Steelers, Tennessee Titans and Buffalo Bills, expressed interest in Watt shortly after his release. The soon-to-be 32-year-old ranked 15th out of 119 qualified pass-rushers in pass-rush win rate in 2020. Watt has been slowed by injuries in recent seasons, but he can still make a huge impact with any team that signs him.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers impending free-agent running back LeSean McCoy, who has won two Super Bowl rings in the last two years with the Chiefs and Buccaneers despite playing a single snap in either championship game, wants to continue playing in 2021. McCoy is unlikely to return to Tampa, but he wants to play for a contender if he's to keep lacing up his cleats on Sundays. The veteran back had 101 carries for 465 yards and four touchdowns for the Chiefs in 2019, but he ran the ball only 10 times for the Buccaneers last season in a tertiary role behind Leonard Fournette and Ronald Jones II. It's fair to wonder if the 33-year-old has anything left in the tank, and if he does continue playing next season, it'll likely remain in a backup role. McCoy won't be on the fantasy radar entering 2021.