We bid farewell to the fantasy football regular season in the vast majority of leagues and welcome the beginning of the most important three-game stretch the year has to offer. (If your league plays into Week 17, you are doing it wrong.)
Week 13 offered a few fun statistics despite being one of the worst weeks of the year for fantasy studs to meet expectations, especially at quarterback. Matt Ryan, Drew Brees, Andrew Luck, David Johnson, Kirk Cousins, Aaron Rodgers, Deshaun Watson … it was the upside down with names like Nick Mullens, Josh Allen and Derek Carr in the top-10 performances.
It wasn’t much better at other positions, and injuries also knocked out A.J. Green (foot) and Greg Olsen (foot) once again. Matt Breida’s ankle flared up, and James Conner suffered an ankle contusion. Julio Jones might as well have stayed home.
The following data sets don’t have actionable fantasy implications. Sometimes stats are so out there they just warrant a moment of admiration.
Todd Gurley’s remarkable season rolls on … and don’t forget the touchdown he gave up to seal the game several weeks back.
Sorry, Eli, but this is inexcusable….
Yuck it up, and refocus your attention to Week 14 fantasy lineups. The scoring should rebound with plenty of matchups that favor big performances. Carolina at Cleveland, Atlanta at Green Bay, New England at Miami, New Orleans at Tampa Bay, Cincinnati at LAC, Denver at San Francisco, Pittsburgh at Oakland … there is a lot to like about Week 14’s slate.
Green Bay Packers wide receiver Davante Adams has been a scoring machine on par with the best receivers in the NFL over the past three seasons. Antonio Brown has 452 targets and 33 touchdowns in that time, while Adams has logged just 366 looks and has a matching 33 scores to his credit. He has shown to be quarterback-proof with a strong showing when Aaron Rodgers was hurt in 2017, and even a system change didn’t affect him. The pressure of replacing Jordy Nelson as the top target didn’t faze Adams. As Antonio Brown enters his age-31 season in 2019, Adams, in his prime, is ready to take the torch as fantasy’s top receiver, regardless of what happens in Green Bay’s coaching search.
The next four weeks will be extremely important for Jameis Winston‘s future in Tampa Bay, and the first three games in that stretch could be helpful in fantasy. The former first-rounder has a wonderful matchup in Week 14 against the New Orleans Saints, and then it gets much tougher vs. Baltimore and Dallas — both on the road. His Week 17 trip brings Atlanta to Florida. The stats suggest is should be a mixed bag with quality games sandwiching a pair of unwanted performances. However, those two divisional games on the bookends could lead to a shaky final month for Winston. He became Tampa’s all-time leader in passing touchdowns in the second quarter of Week 13 and has the third-most passing touchdowns before the age of 25, behind Dan Marino and Peyton Manning.
New England Patriots fullback James Develin scored twice in Week 13 after finding the end zone once in 2018 and twice in his career entering the game. He has three touchdowns over his last five carries but shouldn’t be a major concern for fantasy owners of Sony Michel, unless the matchup is especially tough up front. Develin’s last rushing touchdown came in Week 10 against a stout Tennessee run defense. The Week 13 matchup also was prime for a 255-pound battering ram to see the dirty work. Expecting him to continue stealing goal line work is unfounded based on history, but this could be the new normal since LeGarrette Blount and Dion Lewis are no longer present to take those looks. Continue to ride Michel, since those carries easily could have been his in any other matchup, but be aware of the way New England plays situational football. Miami, Pittsburgh and Buffalo are ahead: All three defenses have given up a touchdown every 33 carries or worse. Develin could make an appearance against the Steelers, if the situation arises.
Buffalo Bills rookie quarterback Josh Allen rushed for 99 yards last week and actually improved upon that performance in Week 13, going for 135 yards. Just Denver RB Phillip Lindsay rushed for more, and Lamar Jackson is the only other quarterback to top the 100-yard mark on the ground since 2016. Allen’s yardage is the highest in four seasons by anyone at the position. He is the first QB in the Super Bowl era to rush for 95-plus yards in consecutive games. Allen will continue to run until he settles in as a passer, which will take a few years, so his legs make him a viable QB2 in superflex formats. Banking on big rushing days is a fine way to get into trouble in fantasy, though.
Drew Brees threw for only 127 yards, his second fewest in a game this year. The future Hall of Famer finished the first half with only 39 yards, which was the lowest figure from his arm since he was a San Diego Charger in 2004. Two sub-130-yard performances in the last six weeks may have fantasy owners a bit nervous. His stellar career suggests it will not be of concern, and gamers can only hope this isn’t going to happen again in 2018. The odds would be overwhelmingly in your favor for making such a wager.
My best guess is Mike McCarthy lands on his feet with the Cleveland Browns in 2019. I won’t be terribly surprised if Baltimore moves on from John Harbaugh in McCarthy’s favor, and Tampa Bay isn’t out of the question. The criteria from his perspective will be to find a team with a promising quarterback situation, and having a competent defense — or the building blocks for one — would be a plus. The Browns make the most sense given John Dorsey’s connections to the Packers and McCarthy, as well as the two aforementioned points. The Super Bowl-winning coach gets to mold Baker Mayfield and has an up-and-coming defense to help out. Interim head coach Gregg Williams could even be retained as the defensive coordinator in this situation.
Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank gave a vote of confidence to the head coach and general manager, and Blank is a man of his word. I suspect this means offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian will be the scapegoat, and Matt Ryan will have his third playcaller in four seasons next year. The defense has been a bigger problem in 2018, but coordinator Marquand Manuel will get a pass due to key injuries. Sarkisian hasn’t been a good fit, particularly for the ground game. He has failed to give any back more than 16 carries in a single game this year, and it has been three straight weeks since an Atlanta back had double-digit carrier. The window for this offense is quickly closing as the offensive line is beginning to age, as with Ryan and Julio Jones. Atlanta entered the year as the second-oldest roster in the NFL. Could Todd Haley be Ryan’s next coordinator?