We are on the eve of playoffs, where some middling teams can push their way into the Championship Bracket, while others will find themselves in the Sunken Place that is the consolation pool.
One wrong decision this week could haunt you until September 2018. Ten months. Who knows if we’ll even still exist by then! We may all be playing whatever North Korea’s version of fantasy football is next fall. I assume it’s centered around picking computer hackers trying to manipulate the online voting for Richmond’s Hottest Firefighter. The losers play Russian Roulette with rocket launchers.
Philip Rivers, Los Angeles Chargers vs. Cleveland: Speaking of rocket launchers, the range of emotions that Rivers’ face can go through over the course of reviewing a simple handoff play on the sideline should put him on a list of people barred from owning all weapons. Look at this face. You’d think that after about 15 years of mediocre end-results he’d be a little more understanding. Lately, Rivers has been anything but mediocre and has an opportunity to extend his run of success against Cleveland’s 27th-ranked pass defense in the home confines of the city that brought you Thanksgiving 2017’s “Did You See This Video?” Moment with your distant cousin.
Kirk Cousins, Washington @ Dallas (Thursday): After getting roasted on Thanksgiving by the aforementioned Philip Rivers, the Cowboys’ defense is rewarded with yet another primetime game to continue showcasing the Jones family’s inability to build a deep roster. Jerry wants marketable players and never saw a name brand he didn’t like, and that’s why when Ph.D Sean Lee and Tyron Smith go down, there’s nobody on the roster capable of performing at even half of their efficiency. It’s stunning, really, to find that last year’s team could have just been a house of cards. Defensively, the Cowboys have regressed across the board from an adequate start to the season, settling comfortably into the League’s 25th-ranked pass defense.
Duke Johnson, Cleveland @ Los Angeles Chargers: This season, Johnson has converted a steady dose of opportunities (10+ ppg) into less than 9 fantasy points per game. Not very inspirational for such a big fantasy week, but the Chargers present a very positive matchup for the Browns’ running game while fielding a top pass defense that should have Hue Jackson erring away from Kizer (or whomever) slinging it around the soccer stadium LA calls home.
Latavius Murray, Minnesota @ Atlanta: Normally, it would be safe to say the Falcons’ dead-last-ranked run defense is embarrassingly bad for a defensive-minded head coach running a strong franchise. But the meaning of embarrassing changed in Atlanta last February. To those hardened, dead-inside fans, if it’s not blowing a 25-point lead in the Super Bowl it’s not so bad. Murray, meanwhile, has scored four touchdowns in three weeks and continues to receive a healthy 12+ touches a game.
Orleans Darkwa, New York Giants @ Oakland: You’d think given his precarious job situation, McAdoo would’ve laid low for a few weeks and hoped to eek out a few wins with Eli Manning at the helm. Instead, McAdoo presumably tried to reach his younger generation players by bringing the “Hold My Beer” meme to life. The timing is suspect in all facets, with the exception being Week 13’s matchup with Oakland’s horrific defense. At this point McAdoo is a true wildcard, but you have to gamble on him relying on Darkwa in the traditional run game and via short screens and dumpoffs that even Geno Smith can make happen.
Randall Cobb, Green Bay vs. Tampa Bay: Coming off a surprisingly good showing against Pittsburgh’s top pass defense, you can expect Hundley’s confidence to be increasing. Cobb’s yards-after-catch ability has been huge for the young quarterback, and a matchup with Tampa Bay’s 30th-ranked pass defense should keep the good vibes going.
Emmanuel Sanders, Denver @ Miami: Sanders was deemed a “Rack” last week and produced less than two points, so I admit this one feels a little hard-headed. But Siemian is back under center (yay?) and that should provide a little offensive stability in a matchup with a Miami team that has mailed it in from a pass defense prospective (31st).
Josh Doctson, Washington @ Dallas (Thursday): Doctson has come on a bit as of late, a trend fed mostly by Kirk Cousins’ increasing awareness of his pure athleticism. No matter what a quarterback says, watching a guy go up and get a 50/50 ball as Doctson has done a few times this month goes a long way. And have you heard how bad the Dallas defense is?
Zay Jones, Buffalo vs. New England: Is Jones’s backward-playback-standup move the single smoothest, coolest thing a player has ever done after an incompletion of all time? It has to be. It’s so cool, so velvety-smooth, that upon first watching, what actually happened doesn’t even register. You just assume it’s a video trick. That it’s something put together by the latest Star Wars director as guerilla advertising. But no. It’s real. It actually happened that way. You can even see Kansas City safety Daniel Sorenson’s brain melt as he tried to contemplate what Zay did. But to Zay it ain’t no thang. That’s how Zay Jones gets out of bed in the morning. That’s how Zay Jones gets up from looking under his couch for the remote. That’s how Zay Jones lives. He also lives in Tyrod Taylor’s sightlines, no matter how narrow and obscured those sightlines can be. He hasn’t seen less than 5 targets since September and draws New England’s improving, but still maligned secondary in Week 13. Listen; sadly, the Bills are going to be trailing in this one, so expect a healthy target game for the wizard.
Mailbag Questions? Need Rack/Rest advice? Hit me up on Twitter: @DJEN5EN
Jacoby Brissett, Indianapolis @ Jacksonville: The last time Brissett squared off against the Jaguars’ stellar pass defense he threw for 136 yards, and the Colts were held scoreless. At home. While it would take admirable effort to duplicate that level of incompetence, Chuck Pagano and Co. are up to the challenge.
Matthew Stafford, Detroit @ Baltimore: It takes guts to rest a guy of Stafford’s caliber in such a critical playoff week. Do it. The Ravens’ pass defense is second to Jacksonville, but their run defense is miles ahead of the Jaguars. Expect a low-scoring affair with Baltimore remaining wary of the pass and forcing Detroit to run the football if they want to win.
Cam Newton, Carolina @ New Orleans: Newtown dove into the endzone on the Panthers’ first drive last week in New York and largely disappeared after that. In fact, he’s surpassed 200 yards just once in the past month and has seen his pass percentage hover in the mid-50s. Against the Jets he completed less than 40%. Even Nathan Peterman thinks that’s less than ideal. Plus, New Orleans, at home, in a big game with playoff implications doesn’t exactly scream “bounce-back opportunity”.
Damien Williams, Miami vs. Denver: Ah, the iconic Vance Joseph Revenge Game; where both parties amicably split up last year and now must engage in an all-out brawl to determine who has had the more disappointing season. Who says the NFL has a ratings problem? Despite the failures of the rest of Denver’s units, the run defense continues to dominate (1st), and Williams is caught up in a timeshare with Kenyan Drake. This one is an easy Rest.
Eddie Lacy, Seattle vs. Philadelphia: In last week’s juicy matchup with the 49ers’ 22nd-ranked run defense, Lacy was finally given a healthy workload (17 carries) and produced a whopping 46 yards. Now he lines up with Philadelphia’s 3rd-ranked rush defense, so keep him away from the leftovers and your starting lineup.
DeMarco Murray, Tennesee vs. Houston: This guy continues to get touches at the expense of Derrick Henry, which is infuriating, particularly when they come in the red zone. Houston’s rush defense is ranked 10th and, more importantly, 1st against receiving backs. Murray has garnered a ton of looks in the passing game and kept his playing time alive by producing in those situations, but the Texans are capable of curtailing those outlets this week.
T.Y. Hilton, Indianapolis @ Jacksonville: Everything already said about Brissett applies to Hilton.
Golden Tate, Detroit @ Baltimore: Everything already said about Stafford applies to Tate.
Larry Fitzgerald, Arizona vs. Los Angeles Rams: Blaine Gabbert stunned the Jaguars with alarming competency last week, but Fitzgerald wasn’t much of a benefactor. Totaling just 12 yards on 3 catches, the Hall of Famer received a majority of the defensive attention. Against a similarly talented Rams secondary, the odds of that inefficiency continuing are far more likely than the alternative.
Doug Baldwin, Seattle vs. Philadelphia: Baldwin has topped 100 yards only twice this season and has been held to less than 50 on five different occasions. He’s remained relevant by converting a higher-than-average number of his targets into touchdowns, but he’s too much of a lottery play against Philadelphia’s 4th-ranked pass defense.
(Future) Fantasy Ghost Of The Week
Each week I’ll highlight a typical fantasy star that will likely under-produce. This doesn’t mean they’re automatic “Rests” – but be prepared to be disappointed.
Russell Wilson, Seattle vs. Philadelphia: Wilson has thrown a touchdown in ten straight games en route to an MVP-caliber season statistically. He’s fantasy’s No. 1 QB, but the Seahawks are just 7-4 due to their inability to get a run game established and offensive line protection issues. Against the overall great defense Philadelphia is bringing to the Pacific Northwest, the odds of Wilson contributing at his average pace are long.
Tweets Of The Week
As always, a pair of tweets to sum up the week that was in the NFL world and out.
— Pat Leonard (@PLeonardNYDN) November 28, 2017
Prince Harry's kids will be Americans. What if one grows up to be president and is in line for the throne at the same time? Brits are playing long-ball here, but it's a smart move. They want America back and this is how they'll do it.
— Greg Pollowitz (@GPollowitz) November 27, 2017
*Pick In BOLD
Last Week (2-1)
Dallas -1.5 vs. Washington
Seattle +5 vs. Philadelphia
Cincinnati +6 vs. Pittsburgh
Have a good weekend, everybody.
*ALL DEFENSIVE RANKING REFERENCES PER FOOTBALLOUTSIDERS.COM
**PLAYER STATISTICS VIA PROFOOTBALLREFERENCE.COM
Fantasy football is won and lost in WR2/RB2 and FLEX spots and therefore the primary function of this column is to help you secure the bottom half of your starting lineup. I’m not here to tell you to start Julio Jones. You should be able to figure that out on your own.
Racks: Players that are in a good position to outperform their typical projections. If they’re on your squad, Rack them into your lineup and don’t look back.
Rests: Players facing tough weeks, whether due to matchup or other circumstances. Rest them for this week.