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.
While Houston Texans wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins (ankle) and defensive end J.J. Watt (knee) are starting training camp on the PUP list and will be unable to practice, their stays on those lists are expected to only last a few days. Both players are expected to return to practice soon, and while it would be a surprise if either player takes the field during the preseason, both will be fine for Week 1. Hopkins has a chance to finish as the overall WR1, while Watt is one of the most valuable IDP defensive ends in the NFL.
Los Angeles Chargers running back Melvin Gordon recently suggested he wants to be traded if the Chargers don't offer him a contract extension, and on Monday word came that the Chargers do not currently have interest in discussing Gordon's contract situation. Yahoo's Charles Robinson reports that the Chargers are "dug in" on their current stance, which means Gordon will now have to decide if he follows through on threats to hold out. Gordon's a RB1 who should be picked in the second half of the first round if he's on the field, but this situation creates a ton of uncertainty. Austin Ekeler and Justin Jackson are worth picking slightly sooner than their ADPs at this point because of the Gordon situation.
The Minnesota Vikings have parted ways with running back Roc Thomas, who was set to miss the first three games of the season after being suspended for violating the league's substance-abuse policy. The move isn't a huge surprise, though Minnesota is now fairly shallow at running back beyond Dalvin Cook and rookie Alexander Mattison. Thomas had just 10 touches as a rookie, so it wouldn't be a shock to see him not make it onto a roster this season, especially with that looming suspension.
The New York Jets have signed tight end Ryan Griffin, who spent the past six seasons with the Houston Texans. Griffin had 24 catches for 305 yards last season. While he'll ultimately be a backup to Chris Herndon IV, Griffin could be in line for an increase in usage over the first four games while Herndon serves a suspension. Griffin could have some DFS value over that span, but he'll still be fighting for snaps during those games as well, making him a risky fantasy play with upside that likely isn't high enough to make that a risk worth taking.
New England Patriots wide receiver Julian Edelman (thumb) could miss the first three weeks of camp after being spotted with a brace on his left thumb. The source of the injury is a bit unknown but this is just another offensive weapon for the Patriots that will not be ready for camp. Outside of quarterback Tom Brady, Edelman is perhaps the most important piece of the Patriots offensive scheme. At this point, the injury shouldn't hamper his ability to begin the season but certainly will keep him from participating in preseason games.
New York Giants QB Eli Manning is not competing with rookie first-round QB Daniel Jones for the starting job during training camp, according to Mike Garafolo of NFL Network.
Indianapolis Colts QB Andrew Luck was held out of spring practices with a minor calf injury, but he is 'good to go' for training camp, according to NFL Network's Tom Pelissero.
Atlanta Falcons RB Devonta Freeman is the unquestioned starting running back, but the team may ultimately decide to use Ito Smith, Brian Hill and Qadree Ollison to replace Tevin Coleman, who left for the San Francisco 49ers in free agency this spring. 'It's a position that has good talent for us. And now to be talented as a group, it may be a combination of those roles and featuring what those guys can do best. ... That's deeper than we've been at that position for a while, and I'm looking forward to the unique stuff that the guys do have,' head coach Dan Quinn said.
Free-agent RB Orleans Darkwa (Giants) is working out for the Cleveland Browns on Monday, July 22.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers S Justin Evans, LB Jack Cichy, LB David Kenney and WR Xavier Ubosi were placed on the Active/Physically Unable to Perform list Monday, July 22. The team also placed QB Nick Fitzgerald on the Active/Non-Football Injury List.
Free-agent WR Justin Hunter (Steelers) worked out Monday, July 22, for the New England Patriots, according to a source.
Seattle Seahawks DT Jarran Reed was suspended six games Monday, July 22, due to violating the NFL's personal conduct policy. The suspension stems from an alleged 2017 incident in which Reed was accused of assaulting a woman. He was not arrested by police.
Atlanta Falcons WR Julio Jones (foot) is still rehabbing a foot injury that kept him out of June minicamps, according to head coach Dan Quinn on Monday, July 22. Jones had a bunion removed immediately after the 2018 season and was limited to working with trainers in Monday's opening day of training camp. The absence is not related to his contract situation.
Fantasy Spin: At this stage, it's more of a "keep an eye on it" approach than time to change your draft plans. The star receiver has a history of foot problems, but this one has nothing to do with it, as far as we can tell. Jones remains an elite WR1 in all fantasy settings.
Detroit Lions DE Trey Flowers (shoulder) was placed on the Active/Physically Unable to Perform list Monday, July 22, as he recovers from offseason shoulder surgery. The Lions can activate Flowers at any time, but he will not be ready for the beginning of training camp.
Free-agent SS Johnathan Cyprien (Titans) will visit the New York Giants Monday, July 22.
Free-agent SS Tre Boston (Cardinals) will visit the New York Giants Monday, July 22.
New England Patriots WR Julian Edelman (thumb) is wearing a small brace over his left thumb, which is expected to sideline him for about three weeks.
Fantasy Spin: Edelman isn't likely to lose anything from the time off as he and Tom Brady have such a rapport. Edelman is a low-end WR2 in PPR formats as he catches a lot of passes, but they don't usually result in a ton of yardage or scoring potential.
New England Patriots wide receiver Demaryius Thomas will open training camp on the team's PUP list. This isn't that much of a surprise as the veteran receiver continues to rehab from a torn ACL suffered last season. But the situation could have fantasy consequences in a few weeks when the Patriots must make their first cuts. If Thomas cannot practice by then, the team may be forced to keep him on the PUP list. This would make the 31-year-old ineligible for the first six regular season games and further damage the value of a player on the back-end of a very productive career.
New England Patriots running back Sony Michel will begin training camp on the PUP list as he continues to recover from offseason knee surgery. Michel will not be eligible to practice with the team and his return is up in the air at this time. The Patriots still have plenty of time to activate the second-year back before first cuts and the expectation is that he should be ready to open the season as their lead back. But players must miss six regular season games if they remain on the PUP list after first cutdowns. The hope is this is precautionary since Michel participated in the team's mandatory minicamp. It is too early to become worried about Michel's status but his situation will have to be monitored throughout training camp all the way up to fantasy drafts.
Denver Broncos WR Emmanuel Sanders (Achilles) continues to participate in the early portions of practice with the team before leaving to work with trainers, head coach Vic Fangio said Sunday. July 21. 'It's a slow but sure process,' Fangio said. 'Everything is good so far. He's where we expected him to be and even a little bit more.'
Fantasy Spin: While Sanders continues to make progress, it seems unlikely he is going to be top form by Week 1. If you are willing to be patient, he could become a solid WR3 by the end of the year.