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.
Tennessee Titans QB Marcus Mariota has been encouraged to take fewer hits by general manager Jon Robinson. 'The thing I've stressed to him, and I know our coaches have stressed to him is, Let's live to play another play,' Robinson said. 'Don't take that hit. If you feel the pocket coming down on you and you take off running, and the 'backer is coming off of coverage and he's coming screaming at you, throw the ball away. It's OK to punt, we'll get another crack at it. That's the main thing, it's stressing to him - to try as best as possible, like all quarterbacks do, to avoid getting hit.'
Fantasy Spin: Mariota's durability has been a problem with nagging injuries throughout his career. It has suppressed him to a low-end QB1 in fantasy.
Indianapolis Colts WR Devin Funchess produced mixed results during organized team activities (OTAs) and minicamp, according to beat writer Kevin Bowen, although head coach Frank Reich said he was 'very encouraged' by what he saw during spring practices. 'We knew right away, you could tell day one that he was smart. (He was) not going to have a problem grasping the system,' Reich said. 'Then it's just a question of getting used to the way we do things, the way we teach things and then our schemes. I just thought he showed a very high aptitude for that.'
Fantasy Spin: To be fair, Funchess is learning a new system and getting acclimated to a new team, and he didn't have the luxury of working with Andrew Luck, who was held out of the offseason program. Funchess struggled with Jacoby Brissett, but he won't be working with him unless disaster strikes. Based on his struggles in 2018, Funch is only worth a late-round roster spot, but he could very well emerge as the No. 2 in Indy, and a decent WR4 or flex fantasy option sooner rather than later.
San Francisco 49ers RB Matt Breida will be in a crowded backfield heading into 2019 as long as everyone is healthy.
Fantasy Spin: Breida will be in a fierce battle in training camp and the preseason with Tevin Coleman, Jerick McKinnon, Raheem Mostert and Jeffery Wilson. Coleman is considered the frontrunner at this point, so Breida might be battling McKinnon to be up during the regular season if everyone is healthy, as Mostert is considered a lock due to his prowess on special teams.
San Francisco 49ers RB Raheem Mostert is expected to be one of three running backs active during the regular season since he is the team's best special-teams player.
Fantasy Spin: Mostert has shown in the past that he can be effective running the ball, but that's unlikely to be his role in 2019 with the likes of Tevin Coleman, Jerick McKinnon and Matt Breida creating a logjam in the backfield. He has minimal fantasy appeal as long as everyone is healthy and ready to play.
San Francisco 49ers RB Jerick McKinnon (knee) is expected to receive clearance near the start of training camp, as he makes his way back from an anterior cruciate ligament injury.
Fantasy Spin: The Niners have depth at the position with Tevin Coleman, Matt Breida, Raheem Mostert and Jeff Wilson, so McKinnon won't be rushed back until he is 100 percent. It also wouldn't be surprising to see him as a healthy inactive early in the season as a precaution, as long as Coleman and Breida are healthy themselves. As such, McKinnon is a risky fantasy proposition heading into 2019.
San Francisco 49ers RB Tevin Coleman is considered the odds-on favorite to be the closest thing to a lead back, beat writer Matt Maiocco suggests, especially since he has a history in head coach Kyle Shanahan's system.
Fantasy Spin: Coleman was the only player among Jerick McKinnon, Matt Breida and Raheem Mostert to practice during the offseason, so he likely has a leg up, too. He is likely your best bet when diving into the San Francisco running back pool on draft day.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers RB Ronald Jones said he is focused on putting last year behind him and earning his opportunities going forward. Jones also said that he has spent more time watching the veteran backs to learn how to be a pro and has simplified how he catches passes.
Fantasy Spin: Jones has received positive marks from the coaching staff this offseason, and it sounds like he is trying to put his disastrous rookie season behind him. Of course, it remains to be seen if he will ever produce on the field, but if he puts it all together, he could take over the Tampa Bay backfield and emerge as a RB2. He's a great lottery ticket to grab later in drafts.
Arizona Cardinals RB Chase Edmonds will have a 'really nice role in the offense' this season, according to head coach Kliff Kingsbury.
Fantasy Spin: Kingsbury has also said he plans to use David Johnson as the feature back, so Edmonds isn't likely to have a big enough role to be more than a handcuff for fantasy owners in redraft leagues. That being said, he is an intriguing stash candidate in dynasty formats.
Cincinnati Bengals QB Jeff Driskel will likely be cut if QB Ryan Finley plays well enough in the preseason to be used as the backup quarterback, according to Geoff Hobson of Bengals.com.
New Orleans Saints QB Taysom Hill said he feels more comfortable with the responsibilities of being a wide receiver this season. 'I think it will be even easier because there was definitely a learning curve from a fundamental standpoint of getting out of breaks and routes and blocking all that I feel more comfortable doing that.'
Los Angeles Chargers TE Hunter Henry has been making impressive catches during spring practices, according to head coach Anthony Lynn. 'Hunter is just doing what Hunter Henry does,' Lynn said. 'He makes plays.'
Fantasy Spin: Henry's ability has never been questioned, but an injury derailed what was supposed to be a breakout 2018 campaign. A year later, his upside hasn't changed, and Henry should be viewed as a low-end TE1 candidate.
Baltimore Ravens TE Hayden Hurst (hamstring) was able to participate in minicamp after dealing with a hamstring injury during OTAs.
Detroit Lions DT A'Shawn Robinson (knee) was able to participate in minicamp, but he didn't seem as 'well conditioned' as the other defensive linemen, according to Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press.
Seattle Seahawks DT Jarran Reed (hernia) was able to fully participate in minicamp.
San Francisco 49ers SS Jaquiski Tartt (shoulder) was able to participate in minicamp.
Cincinnati Bengals CB Darqueze Dennard (knee) was limited to rehab work during minicamp as he recovers from knee surgery.
Los Angeles Chargers RB Austin Ekeler said he has focused on improving his route running during the offseason.
Fantasy Spin: Ekeler has shown some explosiveness as a change-of-pace back to Melvin Gordon, finishing with 959 total yards ad 39 catches last year. He he is too inconsistent to start as a long as Gordon is healthy, but Gordon owners will want to have Ekeler as a handcuff.
New England Patriots RB Sony Michel (knee) has been working out at QB Tom Brady's TB12 training facility this offseason while recovering from arthroscopic knee surgery in hopes of becoming a more explosive runner.
Fantasy Spin: Michel, a first-round pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, will be competing for work with James White, Rex Burkhead, and 2019 third-rounder Damien Harris in 2019. Michel projects to lead the backfield after racking up 981 yards from scrimmage and six total touchdowns last season, but he'll be a risky pick in New England's constantly shuffling rotation.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers RB Peyton Barber is still held in high regard by the team, according to Greg Auman of The Athletic. Auman adds the 25-year-old was the first rusher in the last five years to rack up 250-plus touches but fail to compile 1,000 yards from scrimmage in 2018.
Fantasy Spin: Barber scored six total touchdowns last year on 963 yards from scrimmage. An undrafted free-agent signing in 2016, he outperformed rookie second-rounder Ronald Jones II in 2018, but Jones' draft pedigree is likely to ensure he gets another look at a full workload as a sophomore. Barber has a decent floor as a mid-round selection, but he doesn't have a very high ceiling.
Houston Texans CB Jermaine Kelly, a seventh-round pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, has been impressing coaches and teammates this offseason after losing his rookie campaign to a torn hamstring. 'Jermaine's basically a rookie,' Texans head coach Bill O'Brien said. 'He didn't play last year at all. He was hurt in training camp, so this is really his rookie year. So, just like any rookie, he's still got a long way to go but he works hard. He's got a good attitude, he shows up every day and he tries to get better every day.'