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The Best Of Week 13

Matt Waldman scouts our in-season content and shares five must-knows and his takes on each.

You guys have a ton of articles. 

This statement about Footballguys is a blessing but it can feel like a curse. Our staff delivers insights that change seasons for the better yet realistically, no fantasy owner has the time to read everything we publish in a week. 

If this describes you, let me be your scout. Here are five insights from Footballguys articles that I find compelling for the weekend ahead. I'll share what should help you this week, touch on the long-term outlook, and sometimes offer a counterargument.  

This week includes a deeper look into the Eagles-Seahawks matchup, 2018 free agent backs, dynasty risers, a Kareem Hunt debate, and Josh Gordon's conditional reinstatement. 

1. is the Eagles' defense a paper champion?

I posted this question yesterday on the Audible's Week 13 Game Preview Podcast (Part II) with Sigmund Bloom. After all, the Eagles' Defensive Game Logs belie its recent reputation as an up-and-coming defensive force:

  • When an opponent had a quality passer with an intact receiving corps, the Eagles defense was no match: 
  • The Eagles defense has given up at least 50 yards receiving to running backs 3 times this year and at least a combined 50 yards from an RB depth chart from a fourth team.
  • Philadelphia's defense spreads the love among receivers, backs, and tight ends when they face good passing offenses. 

Although the Eagles have a fearsome front four of linemen who can collapse a pocket and a healthier secondary, Philadelphia's recent opponents are an unimpressive group — the past month of offenses includes the Bears, a struggling Cowboys corps, the Broncos with Brock Osweiler under center, and the 49ers.

Seattle's Doug Baldwin, Jimmy Graham, and Paul Richardson Jr are consistent fantasy starters, and Tyler Lockett and J.D. McKissic are big-play options who earn enough targets to factor into the mix. The fact that Russell Wilson is difficult to sack and his play-extending skill makes young defensive backfields vulnerable to big plays compounds the potential for a disappointing weekend for the favored Eagles. 

I'm not alone in my thinking. Ryan Hester's Trendspotting — one of my favorite weekly features that's also a free read this week — also questions the conventional thoughts about this game. 

FUNNEL WATCH

A "funnel" defense is one with a stout run defense but a suspect (or worse) pass defense. These units "funnel" production to the exterior and deep parts of the field (places where passing games focus) and away from the short middle (where the running game occurs).

Team PaYd/Gm RuYd/Gm NYd/Att Yd/Rush %PassYd %RushYd
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 284.6 110.9 7.6 4.1 72.0% 28.0%
Indianapolis Colts 266.3 109.5 7.5 4.0 70.9% 29.1%
Oakland Raiders 244.8 108.8 7.1 4.1 69.2% 30.8%
Green Bay Packers 244.1 107.1 6.9 3.8 69.5% 30.5%
Houston Texans 243.9 96.3 6.9 3.8 71.7% 28.3%
Philadelphia Eagles 226.5 65.1 5.4 3.5 77.7% 22.3%

I've mentioned before that some "funnel" defenses are such because they are very good vs. the run and/or bad vs. the pass. Others make this list because game situations dictate more passing than rushing. This increases the passing stats against and decreases the rushing stats against. Because of this, it can be good to look at situation-neutral stats...

SEATTLE SEAHAWKS (VS. PHILADELPHIA EAGLES)

SEA vs. PHI

Commentary

This game is so intriguing. From a real football perspective, it's two teams with playoff and championship hopes. It's also two capable offenses going against two capable defenses, which brings us to the fantasy angle. We all know Seattle has no running game. Against Philadelphia, should they even bother trying to establish one? Look at how these teams gain and allow yardage and score points.

  • Seattle gains 71.7% of its total yards via the pass, the ninth-highest ratio in the NFL.
  • If you remove Russell Wilson's 401 rushing yards from Seattle's total yards number, their passing yards-to-rushing yards ratio would be 79.7%, which would be the highest ratio in the NFL.
  • Philadelphia allows 77.7% of its total yardage via the pass, the highest ratio in the NFL.
  • Seattle scores 51.9% of its total points via passing touchdowns, the third-highest ratio in the NFL.
  • Philadelphia allows 44.0% of its total points via passing touchdowns, the 11th-highest ratio in the NFL.
  • Philadelphia allows 3.5 yards per rush attempt, fourth-best in the NFL.
  • Seattle gains 3.9 yards per rush attempt, ninth-worst in the NFL. 
  • If you remove Wilson's 65 rushes for 401 yards, Seattle's other players average 3.2 yards per rush, which would be second-worst in the NFL.

We showed in the "Funnel" section that Philadelphia pass-to-run ratios are caused by game script. But the way Seattle plays offense will lead to plenty of passing and little rushing, regardless of how this game goes. The other intriguing part of this game is the point spread. Though Philadelphia is the hottest team in the league and we saw Seattle lose their last primetime game at home, it's still a very difficult place to play. Seattle being a six-point underdog surprised me. Them winning this game outright would surprise me less.

My Take: If RB Mike Davis plays, look for him and McKissic to generate 2-3 big plays from the screen game to counter the aggressive Eagles pass rush. Also, QB rushing yards are a different animal than RB rushing yards. Philadephia may be a top-ranked rush defense, but Cam Newton is the only quarterback this team has faced whose running is a true part of the game plan and he earned 71 yards and a touchdown on 11 carries.

Russell Wilson is a better runner between the 20s than Newton and a more dangerous passer when he's on the move. I would not shy away from the top three options in this passing game. 

2. 2018 Free AGent Running backs

Chad Parson examines 2018's free agent crop of runners and potential landing spots in this week's New Reality. Here are his first three tiers of backs: 

TOP SHELF

All three of these backs should be considered 1A options where they land for 2018. The Steelers are in big cap trouble projecting to next year with negative projected space (even without Le'Veon Bell under contract). With Bell's likely market value, he is the crown jewel of the class. With Pittsburgh such an optimal spot, any change in locale feels like a slight downgrade in upside. Hyde is having his best tape season of his career and is doubling his best per-game receiving season previous to 2017. Crowell is the undervalued talent of the position. The Browns had oodles of cap space next year, plus two top draft picks in Round 1 to address their overt need positions.

 

STARTER UPSIDE

The 'best of the rest' contains a veteran and breathtaking talent in his career (Charles), a reclamation project (Hill) and a rising producer in 2017 (Collins). Charles' tape, while on a No.2/3 role within Denver's backfield has been a pleasant surprise in 2017 and points to a healthy recovery and future opportunity. Charles may land as the No.2, but has the talent to push for 1A status still in his NFL lifeline. Hill has performed well enough during his early NFL years to warrant another chance to be the 1A/B for a team as the interior/power option. Without much lateral explosion, Hill's best moments with Cincinnati were with a strong offensive line creating defined runways. 

 

COMMITTEE OPTIONS OR BACKUPS WITH UPSIDE

 Burkhead is the most interesting name of this group as a strong two-way back optimizing his greatest opportunity to-date in his career with the Patriots in 2017. Darkwa and Barber are more downhill power options who likely land somewhere as the No.2/3 and need to work their way up with an injury much like their sporadic opportunity thus far. Morris and West are in the Jeremy Hill type mold of maybe there is something still present to contribute but the upside is waning for dynasty owners. Damien Williams and Dion Lewis are intriguing but be skeptical of Lewis thriving outside of New England, who has quizzically used the undersized back consistently between the tackles more than as a pass-catcher. 

My Take: In terms of talent, youth, and versatility, I am in total agreement with the players in Parson's top tier. I'm sure Parson's would agree that Bell belongs in a tier of his own. 

However, pair Hyde or Crowell with a strong offensive line and productive passing game, and both backs are capable of fantasy RB1 production. I may have cut down the trees for the Crowell dynasty bandwagon, but I like Hyde a little more unless Crowell earns a great landing spot.

Although Charles has shown that he is still useful, his age and injury history have earned him a contributor label. Regardless of whether we want to believe it, NFL organizations tend to label guys and that label sticks. Charles belongs in the committee tier based on the reality of the league — even if he proves the league wrong next year. Considering the strength of the running back position in the 2018 draft, don't count on Charles earning a feature opportunity anywhere. 

Hill is the type of player who could get paired in a committee where he's slated to earn steady volume and prove that he's ready to return to prominence as a bell-cow. Parson's has put Hill in the correct tier, even if the only way that upside pays off is an injury to the incumbent starter or a slow acclimation of a rookie. 

I'd be surprised if Baltimore lets Collins go. As much as I like Kenneth Dixon, he'll need to return in great shape and look like an undeniable All-Pro to overtake Collins next year. It's more likely he begins the year as the No. 3 behind Buck Allen. I expect Collins to be the Ravens' opening-day starter next September.

As for the Committee Options on Parson's list, Barber, Lewis, and McKinnon are the most intriguing. I think Parson's has it backward about Burkhead and Lewis — Lewis is the superior runner and it's not confusing at all that the Patriots have used him between the tackles.

Lewis may be smaller but the proof of his all-around is on the screen, not the tape measure. Burkhead has yet to prove that he is more than a fast runner to the crease and not fast enough through it. He's the space player who is moved around the formation as a gadget player and in the receiving game.

McKinnon should earn a bona fide scatback role with a shot to grab more playing time with further success. It will come down to how much money he believes he deserves and which team is willing to pay.  With this rookie class and the available free agent talents this winter, McKinnon is the player with the greatest upside who will likely earn the most frustrating situation. 

Morris will be pegged as a good backup with a limited game. Of the rest of the runners not mentioned in this tier, Barber has the most upside and Parson delivered the exact scenario where the former Auburn back will land. The possible exception is Tampa if Dirk Koetter retains his job.

Doug Martin will likely be gone as will the mistake-prone, and somewhat one-dimensional Charles Sims. While the opportunity could be better for Barber on paper if he sticks around, the offensive line and Jameis Winston will have to play better.

Speaking of Martin, I think a lot of the frustration and negative analysis about Martin has more to do with his surrounding talent than those pointing the finger at the running back. I expect we'll see him earn an opportunity on par with Parson's top tier. 

Check out Parson's article for the remaining tiers and potential landing spots. However, keep in mind that the 2018 RB class — much like the 2017 class before it — is stacked with talent, including the likelihood of Nick Chubb, Saquon Barkley, Derrius Guice, Ronald Jones, John Kelly, Sony Michel, Akrum Wadley, Damien Harris, Chris Warren III, and 3-5 others who could have a significant impact in the right situation.  

3. Dynasty Movement

Jeff Tefertiller's Dynasty Movement feature solicits Footballguys staff to share their biggest risers and fallers in dynasty formats. Here are excerpts of the most frequently mentioned players this week among Daniel Simpkins, Jason Wood, and Parsons. 

Daniel Simpkins: Jimmy Garoppolo - The 49ers weren’t planning to start Garoppolo any time soon as he assimilates to a complex West Coast system. Yet when C.J. Beathard went down late in the game, Garoppolo came off the bench and tossed a touchdown. While it didn’t shift the outcome, it was positive and may lead to Garoppolo getting the start against the Bears next week. It will be interesting to see if the signal caller that San Francisco is placing their hopes in can be a quick study and generate momentum heading into next year.

Jason Wood: Jimmy Garoppolo - In spite of the 49ers woes, I believe in Kyle Shanahan and his ability to build a competitive offense. The 49ers weren't expecting immediate dividends and Shanahan and John Lynch have six-year deals to encourage them to build for the long term. Garoppolo will be given every opportunity to be the team's franchise quarterback. It's impossible to trust his success in New England since the system is ironclad, but he's young with a strong opportunity, and that's worth bumping up the rankings.

Chad Parsons: Jamaal Williams - While I view Williams as a solid sell (if trade deadline has not passed) for non-contenders and in the offseason, he is taking full advantage of his clear runs of snaps as the Packers starter. Williams should garner Round 1 rookie pick returns at present and if he can keep the job for much of the rest of the season.

Simpkins: Jamaal Williams - I wrote about Williams in my last update, but I feel Williams is showing enough to be moved up a few more spots. Among the many positive plays Williams made on Sunday night was a great touchdown catch and run against an overaggressive Steelers defense. We can see the light coming on for the young back. He is displaying great patience and choosing the correct cutback lanes more often. It will be interesting to see what he can do when Rogers is back and forcing defenses to take their men out of the box.

Wood: Samaje Perine - I was super high on the rookie entering the season and then let his struggles knock him down. I went overboard. He's Oklahoma's all-time leading rusher and is clearly Washington's best running back. It just took him some time to learn how to block at the NFL level. Perine can leverage a strong finish over the next month into a clear-cut workhorse role in 2018.

Simpkins: Samaje Perine - Some were giving up hope for Perine early in the season after fumble trouble, but the rookie runner just needed our patience. He’s now taking better care of the football and running with more decisiveness. With Thompson sidelined for the year, Perine has the backfield largely to himself. He’ll have the opportunity to cement himself as the primary between-the-tackles option for Washington going forward. That alone is worth pushing him up in our rankings a few spots.

Wood: Ricky Seals-Jones - Don't overreact; he's still ranked at a point where he holds little long-term fantasy relevance. But I had to rank the undrafted rookie after two dominating weeks. He's played very few snaps, and could be a flash in the pan. But the tight end position is boom-or-bust beyond a handful of elite stars, and Seals-Jones has done more in two weeks than most Cardinals tight ends have done in a whole season under Bruce Arians.

Simpkins: Ricky Seals-Jones - Before the injury that knocked him out of the game, we were seeing some flashes from the freaky athlete for the second week straight. He’s very lacking as a blocker, but is showing his chops as a pass catcher. He’s undoubtedly raw, but we’ve seen other tight end prospects with the physical tools translate with enough time. While the Arians system hasn’t been tight-end friendly historically, perhaps we are seeing that begin to change.

My Take: Garappolo will be a highly valued first-time starter. His work from the pocket on that touchdown pass at the end of last week's game was impressive. However, it is one play. Let's hope the 49ers aren't rushing him into the lineup because of that excitement one play generated. It seems stupid for anyone to think that would happen, but the NFL has occasionally and proudly put stupid on display for decades.

The traditional dynasty take will be that Garappolo will pose greater value for dynasty owners than a rookie starter. However, based on what we saw from Dak Prescott, Deshaun Watson, Marcus Mariota, and Russell Wilson in recent seasons, the odds may be better for Garappolo but I wouldn't automatically choose the 49ers' new quarterback ahead of a rookie or second-year option whose future you value. 

Even if the Patriots have sold the equivalent of Florida swamp land to QB-starved organizations in the past, Garappolo was a better prospect than Brian Hoyer and Matt Cassel. That said, there are concerns worth noting.

Chief among them were the cushy New England pockets. Will they lead to a rude awakening for Garappolo in San Francisco in December and next year?  

I like Kyle Shanahan's coaching acumen enough that I'll value Garappolo on equal footing with most of the 2018 rookie class and all but Patrick Mahomes and Deshaun Watson from the 2017 group. He's slightly ahead of Mitchell Trubisky due to his experience and the 49ers staff. 

Williams is a personal favorite of mine. Parsons leans heavily towards metrics guys so it's understandable that he will be telling his audience to sell. The truth is that Williams, Jones, and Montgomery will likely wage a three-way battle next summer.

Jones is the most elusive and has the best burst. He's also the most gifted pure pass catcher of the trio. Montgomery is the most experienced in the Packers system and has the strength of a power runner. Both players are a little quicker than Williams. 

However, Williams has a major edge as a pass protector. Unless Green Bay decides to throw fade routes 30 yards downfield to its running backs 3 times a week, Jones' and Montgomery's receiving edge over Williams is a moot factor.  

While Williams had an underage drinking arrest at BYU, it happened years ago. Jones was pulled over last month for a substance-related issue. 

I expect it to play out this way: It will be a two-headed committee in Green Bay with Williams and Jones as long as both stay healthy and out of trouble. Williams and Jones will maddeningly split red zone touches and there will be some hot-hand decisions from the coaching staff, especially if Jones improves his pass protection. 

2018 is Montgomery's final year of his deal. He'll be insurance for Williams and Jones (and Randall Cobb, or moved back to the slot if Cobb gets hurt or traded before his deal expires at the end of 2018) and split time if he can improve his pass protection. 

Selling Williams this year will be fine if you can sell him high. However, it's more likely the best move on Williams and Jones is holding at least until September 2018. 

Perine is an upper-middle-class bruiser in the styles of Michael Turner and Jamaal Anderson. As long as he stays healthy and maintains ball security, it's unlikely that he gives the job back to Rob Kelley in 2018. I fully expect us to see a quicker and more aggressive Perine next year.

If the Washington offensive line not only gets healthy but shores up its weak links, Perine could be a top-5 fantasy back for a few years. Even so, it's safer to consider Perine's ceiling in the lower half of the top 15 at his position. 

Seals-Jones will have to prove that he can consistently win when he's not the beneficiary of pre-snap shifts and alignments that are designed to disguise him as an afterthought in the formation. This will happen soon. Because tight ends are good long-term "anchors" for dynasty rosters, Seals-Jones is worth acquiring for no more than a late third-round pick in offense-only leagues. In IDP leagues with deep rosters and 9-12 rounds in rookie drafts, the range of a 4th to 6th pick is preferable. 

4. Kareem Hunt Roundtable

Is "Start Your Studs" an absolute? Hunt has been testing that maxim's limits lately. We discussed this idea as it applies to Hunt in this week's Roundtable. 

Matt Waldman: Hunt has been the No. 41 fantasy RB since Week 8 in PPR leagues. This includes a 17-yard rushing output against a Bills defense that allowed 614 yards and 9 touchdowns in the previous four matchups. 

After LeSean McCoy earned 110 yards against the Jets in the season opener, New York hasn't allowed a 100-yard rusher since. Let's this matchup and Hunt's downturn:

  • Under what circumstances should fantasy owners bench Hunt this week?
  • Do you believe Hunt and the Chiefs will overcome this five-week slump?
  • Any recommendations for patient Hunt owners who have by-passed opportunities to sell him high?
Let it rip.

Justin Howe: Hunt still isn’t benched for most of his owners. Odds are, if he’s still your roster’s RB1 or RB2, it’s because he’s been a top-two option for you all season. And it’s rarely shrewd to bench a lead back with the volume on his side – Hunt has taken 12+ touches in every game thus far, and 21+ touches in 5 of his last 8 – in favor of a lesser-used, more volatile option. In other words: if you’re choosing between Hunt and Alex Collins, you can play around a bit. But if it’s Hunt or J.D. McKissic, stand pat with the volume.

I’m not sure whether I expect Kansas City to win outright Sunday; this looks like a team that’s not just fallen to earth but landed with a thud. But I do expect their offense to bring more pace and scoring opportunities to the table.
Kansas City games tend to score noticeably more away from Arrowhead, with often tighter spreads and even less defense than usual. Dating back to last season, Chiefs games have averaged 40.6 points at Arrowhead but 48.6 away.
 
So I  think their skill players deserve a small boost in valuation as we set our lineups. That said, it’s more of a floor thing; I’m not looking for the same upside we saw over the season’s first month. Some of their more dynamic pieces – Hunt and Tyreek Hill, for example – have been studied and understood more, and their slide has been inarguable.

Don’t be in a rush to ditch him. You won’t get much value if you do; at this point in the season, the most attractive assets are the most stable ones. Hunt doesn’t feel stable, but he’s a volume guy on an offense with a moderate ceiling. Relax and enjoy that – and while you’re at it, savor his schedule for the fantasy playoffs (OAK, LAC, and MIA, all at home).

Andy Hicks: It depends on what your options are, but the Chiefs only have losing teams on their schedule until the playoffs, if they make it. The Chiefs haven't looked like the team that started the season red hot and have lost badly to the Giants and Bills since their bye. You are hoping that Andy Reid can fix this offense. You have to run with Hunt unless you have clearly better options on your roster such as Kamara, Gurley, Bell etc.  

Dan Hindery: I currently have Hunt ranked as RB12 this week behind Le'Veon BellTodd GurleyAlvin KamaraLeonard FournetteMelvin Gordon IIICarlos HydeSamaje PerineLeSean McCoyJordan Howard and Christian McCaffrey. If you have 2 or more of the 11 running backs listed, then it is worth putting Hunt on your bench. However, he still ranks as a fringe RB1/RB2 based on his likelihood of seeing 15-20 touches in a decent offense. 

I suspect the Chiefs will bounce back somewhat. They are better than their recent record and performances indicate. However, those monster early-season games were probably a mirage. Going forward, Alex Smith is more likely to be the steady, unspectacular guy who puts up 200-to-250 passing yards per week and rarely throws more than two touchdowns in any game. Don't expect him to bounce back to his high-end fantasy QB1 performances from early in the season. 

The time to sell high on Hunt has passed, so it is best to appreciate him for what he is: a talented but sometimes underutilized player in an average offense. He should be a top-15 running back the rest of the way, which is basically in line with where he was being drafted in the preseason. As long as you aren’t expecting Le’Veon Bell/Todd Gurley type numbers from Hunt, he remains a decent fantasy option.

Danny Tuccitto: I'm a firm believer in the "dance with the one that brung ya" philosophy of late-season lineup decision-making. If you're in the playoffs or the playoff hunt right now, it's likely that Hunt's early season performance is part of the reason why. Of course, there are exceptions to any rule, so if you have a viable replacement with a talent and skill level commensurate with Hunt's, then it's OK to bench him. What I categorically would not do is bench him for a mediocre option that happens to have a great statistical matchup (e.g., Adrian Peterson this week).

Although I do believe in Hunt as an individual player, I don't believe the Chiefs will right their offensive ship over the coming weeks. My take on their downfall is that the rest of the league caught up to their gimmicky early-season offense, and Andy Reid hasn't been able to effectively adjust his strategy/tactics accordingly. Lack of adjustment, be it in-season or in-game, has been the knock on Reid for years of course, so I don't see this particular leopard changing its spots.

Adam Harstad: I think the only real reason to bench Hunt right now is if you have a pair of top-12 options to run within his place. Now, this late in the season there are always a bunch of bench/depth guys who are really starting to get some run — think Alvin KamaraSamaje PerineAlex CollinsJamaal Williams if Ty Montgomery is out — so it's possible some Hunt owners have two better options out there. But I'd wager the vast majority do not.

As frustrating as Hunt's production has been, the volume has been there. Since week 4 he ranks 21st in fantasy points among running backs (standard scoring), but he ranks 5th in touches. In the long run, that latter stat holds more predictive power than the former. The slump will probably end at some point, and I think Hunt owners should just keep starting him until it does.

Waldman: The "Start Your Studs" and "Dance With The One Who Brung Ya" maxims are fitting when we're talking about a productive player who has a bad week or two due to variables that will revert to the levels that made said player productive: weather, returning supporting cast after time away due to injury, or a bad game script. Hunt failed as a fantasy option against the likes of the Cowboys and Bills. 
 
Moreover, Hunt's offensive line is banged up and struggling. Stud ground games usually have stud surrounding talent. Ground games are a 'unit' more often than they are an individual.
 
An example of what I'm talking about is Le'Veon Bell and the Pittsburgh Steelers during his first and second season — the narrative is one of the greatest recent myths perpetuated upon the football public. We all know the story (and most of you believe it): Bell wasn't very good as a rookie and after he dropped weight he was an All-Pro. 
 
What we conveniently ignore is that the Steeler's offensive line was injured during Bell's rookie year. We also ignore that Bell's workout metrics were on par with scatbacks like Ahmad Bradshaw and Jahvid Best. 
 
Did Bell get lighter and quicker? Yes, but he already displayed rare short-area quickness and burst when he was 230-plus-pounds! The greatest difference with Bell was a healthier offensive line. 
 
Would you 'dance with the date that brung ya' if that date fell and broke its leg? I don't think so.
 
I like the Chiefs' schedule, but I need proof that the entire run unit that is "fantasy player Kareem Hunt" is better than it has been against recent opposition that couldn't stop anyone but Hunt. Unless the potential replacement earns no more than 5-7 touches per game, I'd seriously consider benching Hunt this week.

B.J. VanderWoude: It is nearly impossible to bench Hunt unless you have a very deep team at running back, but then again, the injuries to the Chiefs offensive line have made it very hard for Hunt to give you the return you need to play him each week. Add in his large work load to start the season, Hunt most likely hitting the rookie wall, and the fantasy playoffs looming and you have to face reality. Hunt is nothing more than a flex option at this point.
 
I don't see Hunt being the same running back he was, mainly because so much of his production came on big plays. There is so much variance in those long touchdowns, and Hunt is not getting the same volume he was early in the season so his chances at making those big plays have taken a big hit.

 My advice to Hunt owners is to play him unless you have another running back or wide receiver--if you are playing him in the flex--who can consistently get you double-digit points. The Chiefs will continue to feed him the ball, and there are few running backs who are given the opportunity that Hunt has, so it is a situation where you most likely have to play him and hope Andy Reid can be creative enough to fix the problems up front. 

Jeff Haseley: I agree with the majority of the panel in that you should continue to play Kareem Hunt this week, despite his recent shortcomings. It’s not so much him, but the Chiefs offense in general.
 
They cannot get any traction or rhythm established on offense and they are quick to abandon the run game when they are trailing. Hunt is still one of the hardest backs to bring down and his “after contact” success continues to stay high despite the volume struggles.
 
Let’s face it, he over-achieved earlier in the year with some big plays both rushing and receiving, but those plays were a result of his ability to shed tacklers and find the hole through the trenches. For whatever reason, those holes have gotten smaller and the volume of touches has diminished.
 
I still think there’s value to be found with Hunt, but the offense needs to continue to evolve and find ways to get Hunt more involved. Last year, the Chiefs leaned heavily on Spencer Ware’s receiving skills, making him the top back in yards per catch. I would argue that Hunt is a better receiver than Ware, so where is that same production?
 
That’s on Andy Reid. As for this week, Hunt and the Chiefs will be facing a gritty Jets team on the road who have not given up a 100-yard rusher since Week 1 and only two rushing touchdowns to running backs since Week 6. The matchup isn’t the greatest. If you roster both Hunt and a player like Samaje PerineJamaal Williams, I would take a long look at making a switch to either back over Hunt this week. 
 
My Take: Although you have it above, let's take a look at backs I would consider ahead of Hunt this week since I'm the only one who believes there are a lot more backs who are safer players.  
 
My list includes: 
 
  • Alex Collins vs. Detroit: The Lions are young at linebacker and overreact to cutbacks. Collins is a hard-charging runner with strong cutback skill. The risks of Danny Woodhead usurping red zone targets and the Lions foiling a run-oriented game script exist. I'll take my chances because the Ravens defense should hold the Lions offense to a slow start. 
  • Joe Mixon vs. Pittsburgh: Mixon has earned 43 carries the past two weeks. I expect similar this week, including 3-5 targets in the passing game. Mixon has averaged three targets per game since Week 7. The Steelers' linebacker game overreacts to cutbacks, and Mixon is excellent at cutbacks and bounce-outs. 
  • Dion Lewis vs. Buffalo: The Bills defense allowed 614 yards and 9 touchdowns during the 4 weeks prior to its game against Hunt and the Chiefs. Hunt earned 17 yards and the Chiefs earned a net total of 7 yards rushing when factoring Akeem Hunt's loss of 10 yards. During the past four weeks, Kareem Hunt has earned 173 yards rushing and 59 yards receiving and he hasn't scored since Week 3. Look beyond size and production and watch the games, and you'll see that Lewis is the Patriots' version of Mark Ingram II and Burkhead New England's Alvin Kamara. Lewis will excel against the Bills — even if the volume isn't as great as we'd like it. Based on Hunt's troubles, I still prefer Lewis.
  • Marshawn Lynch vs. Giants: If a running back with a modicum of receiving talent and opportunity faces the Giants, his efficiency is strong. Samaje Perine earned 3-30; Todd Gurley went 2-45; Devontae Booker posted 4-78, and Melvin Gordon III delivered 6-58-2 against the Giants defense that as a bottom-dwelling linebacker corps and undisciplined safeties. New York is a weak unit against runners regardless of how the runner earns his production. If I were feeling adventurous I'd lay some side bets that Jalen Richard outscores Hunt.
  • Christian McCaffrey vs. New Orleans: McCaffrey earned over 100 yards receiving before the Panthers figured out how to best use him. Look for a combined 100-yard effort from McCaffrey and possibly a lot more if Newton and throw a few more accurate short passes in the rookie's direction than he did last week. 
  • Devonta Freeman vs. Vikings: Freeman has cleared concussion protocol and I expect him to return to his starting role. He may near earn more than 80 yards from scrimmage this week, but that's 20-30 more than I expect from Hunt.
  • Latavius Murray and Jerick McKinnon vs. Atlanta: The Vikings offensive line is excellent. I'll take either of these two competent backs behind its top offensive line over a good back like Hunt who's dealing with a struggling unit and a lack of offensive balance in the passing game. 
These are eight backs that David Dodds' ranked below Hunt, who he has as the No. 12 fantasy back this week. I would probably consider both of the Browns backs and Bilal Powell, which puts Hunt in the low-end RB2 tier for me, at best. 
  
I realize this probably scares some readers or makes them scoff. I missed on Terrelle Pryor, Martavis Bryant, and Doug Martin as outlier calls. However, I hit on Marvin Jones Jr, Paul Richardson Jr, Adrian Peterson still having it, Dion Lewis, Jared Goff, and several others whose film spoke volumes louder than the stat or a fantasy cliche. 
 
The film says Hunt's line isn't playing well, and his teammates are dropping passes and it's leading to more three-and-outs, and Hunt hasn't gotten it done against juicy matchups. What has happened this week to indicate something's going to change?  
 
Maybe prayer and faith will reward you. Or, maybe prayer and faith will tell you to use your brain and your eyes. For those scared to make the change, I'm hoping for magic.
 

5. The Gut Check on Josh Gordon

In this week's Gut Check, I broke down Gordon's film from his 2013 season and the 2016 preseason. While I make it clear that you shouldn't bother with Gordon and his troubled history if your team management style is firmly rooted in playing the odds, his upside is immediate and exceptional if he remains clean and out of trouble. 

I shared clips from my Instagram account in the article to illustrate Gordon's physical and technical excellence while also highlighting that Gordon was clearly 15-25 pounds heavier in 2016 and still whipping starting corners — including a Pro Bowl defender who used to hold his own against Calvin Johnson. I also explained that current training methods can help wide receivers stay in game shape better than most positions and Gordon has been training for months, running a 4.35-second 40 upon his return to the Browns facility last week.

Here's my assessment for Gordon this year and beyond: 

Gordon's last true season with Cleveland was 2013. That version of the Browns had Norv Turner as the team's offensive coordinator. As we have learned, Turner is a stickler for receivers who can run the full route tree and execute the offense. 

Gordon will likely need to an offseason to grasp all of the intricacies of Hue Jackson's West Coast Offense (if Jackson keeps his job), but teammates will help Gordon lineup in the correct place and run the correct route. Expect penalties and miscommunication that will result in turnovers and incomplete passes, but also expect Gordon's physical and technical dominance to make life easier for DeShone Kizer.

Speaking of Kizer, the Browns quarterback has been the No. 9 fantasy passer between Weeks 10-12. and about 15 percent of his yardage totals courtesy of his legs. Look for similar production with Kizer, Gordon, and Corey Coleman all healthy. 

Coleman was already drawing the opponent's top cornerback. Gordon and Coleman on the same side of the field will often pit one of them against an over-matched safety. When they're on the opposite sides of the field, expect the pair to run crossing routes with some natural rubs built in. 

Gordon will earn targets on slants, digs, crossers, comebacks, deep outs, posts, out-and-ups, and go routes. Kizer has an excellent deep arm, and if he can get it through his rookie head to throw the ball up for grabs in any situation where Gordon has a one-on-one, their fantasy values could escalate quickly. 

I can't tell you whether you should or shouldn't take a chance on Gordon. I can tell a few things around that question: 

  • If your root concern about taking Gordon is the ridicule you'll face from your league mates if he fails again, you're a wuss.
  • If you don't know if you'd start Gordon every week unless he plays to his ability right away, you don't need to me tell you to stick with the hand you have. 
  • If you have to give up depth that earns starter production even if you don't typically use that player, but your wide receiver corps is already a crap shoot that has held your team back, Gordon is worth the risk.
  • If your main rationale for not taking Gordon is 'it's the Browns, they'll always mess it up,' you're a football genius and you're probably too smart to be reading the likes of my work. Why are you here?

There's a lot of hyperbole when football writers broach the subject of talent. I try to avoid it because every NFL prospect — regardless of them being drafted or ever playing in the league — are among the top 95-99 percent of athletes and/or technicians at their position in organized football.  

Every NFL player has a hallmark trait or two that comes easy to them. The upper echelon often has two or three of these traits or they refined skills that weren't massive strengths when they arrived in the league — Jerry Rice, Marshall Faulk, Tom Brady, and Aaron Rodgers are good examples. 

Very few players ever enter the league with dominant traits that, when they are mentally and physically on their game, can make upper echelon players look like my neighbor's kid flailing against his older brother.

Deion Sanders. Barry Sanders. Bo Jackson. Lawrence Taylor. Earl Campbell. Randy Moss. Brett Favre.

Josh Gordon is this kind of talent — the talent that people talk about endlessly but don't understand how rare it truly is. Selfishly, I hope we see Gordon's on display for much longer than we have thus far.

It's why he's been on two of my dynasty league teams for the past two years. Does that answer your question about him long-term?

If your league allows at least four starters at wide receiver, I'd easily slot Gordon into the mix. If you're weak at WR3, I'd even take a chance on him this week. However, Gordon's acclimation with his rookie quarterback taking longer than we'd like and the presence of a top-notch cover corner in Casey Hayward are palpable risks.
 
Good luck this week!