WEEK 14 PREPARATION
7 THOUGHTS WORTH THINKING
Some of you may disagree with these thoughts and opinions, but that's fine. I like to follow stats, trends, and matchups. These thoughts are based on those observations.
1. Highly consider Jameis Winston this week- There are teams out there with Jameis Winston as a backup on the roster with Aaron Rodgers, Cam Newton, or Tom Brady as their penciled in starter every week. The shark play is to start Winston this week at home, vs New Orleans. He has looked sharp recently making timely accurate throws and taking what's given to him. He has 6 touchdowns and only 1 interception in the last three games and he's capable of taking off as a rusher if the situation dictates it. In the first meeting in Week 1, Ryan Fitzpatrick had 4 touchdowns with 400 yards passing giving the Saints their only loss this year. I'm not calling another win and a season-sweep of New Orleans, in fact, the game script is better if New Orleans wins, forcing Winston and the Bucs to pass to stay in the game. A 300-yard game with two touchdowns not only seems possible, but it also seems imminent.
2. Pass attacks vs DEN, LAR, KC, SEA look good this week - Consider quarterbacks from these teams: SF, CHI, BAL, MIN
Nick Mullens vs Denver - This is not a must-start for all teams, but the matchup is intriguing. Denver has allowed 37, 56 and 43 pass attempts in the last three games and now they will be without one of their best corners in Chris Harris Jr (ankle, IR). If this game was in Denver, it would be a different story, but this is a home game for San Francisco where Mullens had 414 yards and 2 touchdown passes last week on the road at Seattle. Teams have passed for nearly 1,100 yards against Denver in the last three games and Mullen has 39, 32 and 48 pass attempts in his last three games. This is shaping up to being a quietly interesting matchup for Mullens and the 49ers passing game.
Mitchell Trubisky vs LA Rams - Trubisky (shoulder) is expected to return this week against the high-flying Rams in what could be a playoff matchup down the road. The Rams have allowed 1,248 yards passing and 14 passing touchdowns in the last four games (DET, KC, SEA, NO). Trubisky may be asked to tone down his rushing, but that's easier said than done. He has 363 yards rushing with three scores, despite missing two games. If this game is an all-out battle, like it's projected, Trubisky may be collecting fantasy points left and right. He's an interesting option this week that could pay dividends.
Lamar Jackson at Kanas City - As of now, Lamar Jackson is considered to be the starter this week at Kansas City. From a rushing standpoint, Jackson has 117, 71 and 75 yards with two touchdowns in his three games as the starter. His passing numbers have yet to eclipse 180 yards, but this is a big game for the Ravens and the Chiefs have been porous in the secondary allowing 1,200 yards and 10 touchdowns over the last four games. Oakland just scored 33 points on them last week. If this turns into a game where Jackson can flex his passing arm, we may be in for a treat.
Kirk Cousins at Seattle - All of the sudden the Seahawks pass defense has allowed 300+ yards passing in four of the last six games with at least two passing touchdowns allowed per game in that span. If anyone has the receiving corps to exploit the Seahawks secondary, it's Minnesota with Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs. Seattle has allowed 1,320 yards passing in their last four games with 8 touchdown passes. Cousins has 50, 55, 48 and 36 pass attempts in his last four games. Both teams are vying for a playoff spot in the NFC and will meet for a primetime battle on Monday night. If trends stay the same, Cousins could be in for another big game with plenty of scoring chances.
3. Should you trust Deshaun Watson at home vs Indianapolis? - Deshaun Watson has been a popular name recently with the Texans winning nine straight games. From a fantasy perspective, Watson adds value with his rushing ability. He has 375 yards rushing and two touchdowns this season. As good as he has been, he has only 6 Top 10 weekly fantasy finishes in 12 games (50%). This week he'll face the Colts who happen to allow the third-fewest fantasy points to quarterbacks in since Week 11. Who have they played though? That's digging deeper - Since Week 5 the Colts have faced an easier batch of quarterbacks that include Sam Darnold, Derek Anderson, Derek Carr, Marcus Mariota & Blaine Gabbert, Ryan Tannehill, and Cody Kessler. That's not exactly a murderers row of quarterback strength. Earlier in Indianapolis, Watson passed for 375 yards and 2 touchdowns and added 41 on the ground with a rushing touchdown. Watson has topped 30 pass attempts in a game only once since Week 5 (He had 42 at IND in Week 4). How will this game shape up? Will Houston be able to run? Surprisingly, Lamar Miller has topped 100 yards rushing in four of the last six games, but the Colts have not allowed a 100-yard rusher all year, and only three backs have over 16 carries in a game against them - only one over 18 carries. There is room for optimism for Watson this week, but there is also some risk involved. The Vegas over/under is 49 points, so the expectation is that points will be scored. Watson and this game feel like a low-end QB1 situation. Start him unless you have a better option, but don't be surprised if he disappoints and finishes outside of the Top 10, which would be his 7th game doing so.
4. Either pick up and start or pick up and block the NYG defense - The Giants will play at Washington this week in what could be a sneaky play with Mark Sanchez throwing for only 36 yards in the second half last week against Philadelphia. Not only is Washington down to their third-string quarterback, but their offensive line has been stung hard with injuries. Washington has allowed at least three sacks in each of their last five games and six interceptions in their last three. The Giants themselves are coming off a 5-sack game vs Chicago and 3 sacks at Philadelphia. Pressure not only leads to sacks, it causes turnovers. If you're looking for a defense to pick up and start, or at least block your opponent from picking up, the Giants are an excellent option.
5. Melvin Gordon III or if he doesn't play - consider Justin Jackson - The thought process is that Melvin Gordon III (knee) may be available to play this week. Gordon is a must-start if he plays. The matchup at home against the Bengals is salivating for a playoff matchup. Cincinnati has allowed 9 rushing touchdowns just to running backs in the last six games. Most recently, Phillip Lindsay gashed them for 157 yards and two scores. If Gordon plays, he should produce well and be a strong start this week. If he doesn't, consider picking up and starting Justin Jackson.
Justin Jackson's game recap summary from last week really captures how effective he was while Austin Ekeler struggled to find success as a rusher. Below is what was written - "With Melvin Gordon III out with a knee injury, most observers felt that Austin Ekeler would be the go-to guy and that Jackson would provide backup depth or perhaps work as a change of pace. While it's true that Ekeler out-touched Jackson by an 18-9 margin, Jackson greatly outpaced Ekeler in terms of production. Running behind the same line and against the same defense that Ekeler struggled to gain 1.6 yards per carry against, Jackson averaged a whopping 7.9 yards per carry. He looked shifty between the tackles, hitting holes with smoothness. Some of that can perhaps be attributed to the Steelers focusing on taking Ekeler away and not giving Jackson as much attention, but he still pushed ahead for yardage and found holes that Ekeler could not. On one swing pass, he looked like he was going to run out of bounds but instead toed the line and turned upfield for close to 15 yards. He capped his afternoon with a phenomenal inside run, side-stepping a defender and taking it up the gut for an 18-yard score. It was very telling that with the Chargers driving for the go-ahead score, it was Jackson in the backfield and not Ekeler. And he was given the all-important carries to get the Chargers into field goal range for the game-winning kick. There are some whispers about Gordon possibly returning as soon as next week, but until he does it would appear that there is still value in both Charger running backs."
Austin Ekeler also has value, but more of a pass-catching niche-skill back. This game against the Bengals doesn't necessarily point to a game script that would feature a lot of running back screen plays. It plays more into the rushing attack of Gordon or Jackson. Make a play to acquire Jackson if available on the waiver wire and stay aware of the Gordon news to see if he plays. If not, consider starting Jackson at home in a favorable matchup against the run.
6. Carolina is struggling in the secondary, consider starting Browns receivers and Njoku - The Panthers started 6-2, but have now lost four in a row to fall to 6-6. They are on the outside, looking into the NFC playoff race. They have struggled to stop teams, particularly receivers. Their pass rush isn't getting home and their bend but not break secondary is giving up plenty of short-intermediate gains. This could result in a high number of targets and receptions for Jarvis Landry, Antonio Calloway, and David Njoku. The Panthers have allowed a 100-yard receiver in each of their last three games. Four if you include a 96 and 90-yard effort by Antonio Brown and JuJu Smith-Schuster. Each of those receivers who gained 90+ yards or more also scored touchdowns. Next up is Cleveland with Landry, Calloway, and Njoku being the ones who would benefit the most.
7. Should you target a Steelers running back at Oakland? Conventional thinking would suggest it's a good idea to target a Steelers running back against the Raiders. In actuality, Oakland has done well against backs lately, allowing the 7th fewest fantasy points to running backs since Week 11. Oakland has allowed one rushing touchdown since Week 9 which includes stopping Melvin Gordon III and David Johnson from scoring. If you consider a Steelers back, who should you target? James Conner is out with an ankle injury, leaving Jaylen Samuels and Stevan Ridley as the best options on the roster. Samuels averaged 2.6 yards per carry on 12 rushes this year. He had two carries last week for 5 yards with 3 receptions for 20 yards on 17 snaps, in the 2nd, 3rd and 4th quarter. Ridley's numbers this year aren't much more impressive (18 carries, 56 yards, 3 receptions, 18 yards, 42 total snaps). When put into a starting role, players tend to increase their metrics, which is probably what we will see this week, but there's also a real threat of a committee approach. This game may feature a lot from Ben Roethlisberger and the passing offense. The running game and rushing outlook is a little suspect and may not be an area to exploit this week.
Good luck this week. Hoping you all Survive and Advance.
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