Hopefully the holiday treated everyone well and everyone has recovered from the fury of shopping. Fantasy playoffs are a week away in most setups, making this a do-or-die time for many gamers.
It was a fun week for quirky stats and big-time performances. Robby Anderson balled out once again. Antonio Brown continued to show the world how he is A-dot-Beast. Drew Kaser missed a kicking net on the sidelines and made me laugh. Good times.
WR Mohamed Sanu is 6-for-6 with three career touchdown passes after a 51-yard bomb to Julio Jones. Speaking of beasts and big plays, Jones’ day was full of them. He has dismantled the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in his career, going for 12-253-2 in this contest. No receiver in NFL history has more than one 250-plus-yard receiving day … Jones has THREE of them. Woof.
24 targets: Over the past three games, Buffalo Bills rookie wideout Zay Jones has been targeted eight times per contest. The connection rate has been lower than we’d like to see, especially in Week 12 (33%), as Jones has snared 54 percent of his looks in the trio of outings in question.
Takeaway: This is encouraging, at a minimum, and kind of exciting for the glass-half-full types. Jones caught somewhere around 3.3 billion passes a game last year in college, and his glacially slow start to 2017 was a huge disappointment. Now, instead of creeping closer and closer to a premature bust label, the possession threat has two TDs in his last three contests and is offering a late-season source of fantasy points. Buffalo’s final five games are interesting: NE, IND, MIA, @NE, @MIA.
10 targets: Rookie wide receiver Dede Westbrook paced the Jacksonville Jaguars with 10 looks.
Takeaway: Even though the result wasn’t exactly fantasy-worthy production, we’re going to focus on the involvement. WR Allen Hurns is still on the shelf, and Jacksonville may as well not have a tight end. The rookie wideout is explosive and would have been a high draft pick if not for character concerns. He’s still learning the ropes after missing most of the year, so starting him may not be feasible for stronger teams with a playoff spot locked down.
Also see: Week 12 fantasy recap
223.5 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT: Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith has fallen on hard times in the past four games. He was enjoying what was shaping up to be the finest season of his pro career for the first seven games of 2017, averaging 282.7 yards and 2.2 touchdown tosses a week. He had not thrown a single interception, and the veteran was completing better than 72 percent of his attempts, which is 11 points higher than his four-game skid.
Takeaway: Smith put up 33 passes of 20 or more yards in the first seven games. He has just four attempts of that nature in the last four games. This stretch has gone from giving him the benefit of the doubt to mild concern Smith had reverted to his old ways to bottoming out at the belief Patrick Mahomes is worth starting. Rash? Perhaps. One more loss or unsavory performance and the rookie should be under center. Gamers counting on Smith’s availability (in any capacity) as we enter the final stretch of the season should look elsewhere.
22 offensive touches: Running back Jay Ajayi has handled the ball 20 times on the ground and twice through the air in his three games with the Philadelphia Eagles.
Takeaway: While he has been quite productive — averaging 9.7 yards per carry — the volume isn’t there to consider him more than a fringe fantasy play. The Eagles face tough road tests with Seattle and the Rams each of the next two games, respectively. Then they travel to the Giants. A trio of road games will test this offense, and playing the weekly guessing game with Philly’s trio of backs makes it even messier.
9 touches, 20 yards: Chicago Bears running back Jordan Howard‘s second-worst game of his pro career came in Week 12. He was held to seven yards on nine carries in Week 2 at the Buccaneers.
Takeaway: Howard was basically discarded once the Eagles jumped out to a big lead. Fear not … ahead brings a pretty favorable schedule, starting with the San Francisco 49ers coming to town next week. Trips to Cincy and Motown could be dicey based on game flow, though Week 16 brings an incoming Cleveland Browns team.
The Oakland Raiders finally picked off a pass, a span of 331 attempts faced, and it was a ping-ponging fluke of a pick to top it off.
Takeaway: At least I can stop writing about this now. Truthfully, the fluke to me is that any defense can span 41 quarters and 331 attempts worth of passes without picking off a single ball. Bananas got nothin’ on that….
The New York Jets’ receiving corps scored three times against the Carolina Panthers in Week 12.
Takeaway: While it’s not like the Jets haven’t been able to move the ball through the air this year, and Robby Anderson has been a wonderful fantasy story. The surprise here is Carolina giving up a trio of scores to wideouts. The position had just three aerial TDs in the past six games leading up to this one, facing several teams with standout WRs along the way (DET, ATL, MIA, TB, PHI).
It sure seems like: Saints RB Alvin Kamara will be grossly overhyped in 2018 fantasy drafts. There’s a chance Mark Ingram can play his way into free agency. Regardless of Ingram’s future with the Saints, there is just about zero chance Sean Payton relies on a single back. Ain’t gonna happen. Kamara has averaged the most yards per offensive touch (8.4) of any running back with at least 100 handles in a season over the past 25 years. That’s how explosive he has been, and it’s going to be to the detriment of fantasy owners. What? People love splash and hype over utility and will inevitably burn a first-round pick on him next year. It may not be the wisest of investments, and this shouldn’t be taken as a knock on Kamara. I drafted him in a full-retention keeper league — but fully understanding he will never be more than a piece of the puzzle for my success.
Mea culpa: Arizona Cardinals tight end Ricky Seals-Jones, I apologize. Blaine Gabbert has made you a thing. The athletic rookie tight end has made a name for himself in the past two games, scoring three times and showing chemistry with Gabbert. Roll with it.
Also see: Week 12 Tunnel Vision
Hat tip: My cap is off to the New York Giants defense for making it a whole two straight games without allowing a tight end to score a touchdown after a 10-game streak was snapped in Week 11. Jason Witten and Zach Ertz remain on the schedule.
Here’s a thought: Maybe Amari Cooper‘s disastrous season is a fantasy blessing in disguise. The Raiders’ entire offense has been a slug, and all of this is happening under a first-year offensive coordinator. Another offseason in the same system can’t hurt all of the players, and it’s obvious Cooper needs to figure out how to fix his slippery fingers. The silver lining is Cooper’s 2018 draft price. It’s bound to be depreciated, and gamers could land a deal. He’s still young and maturing. My well-founded 2017 love for him has turned into an optimistic realism for his future: We’ve seen what he can do, and everyone watching also knows how poorly Cooper can play.