There is always some turnover from year to year when it comes to teams that make the NFL playoffs, but, with five weeks to play in the season, the changes of fortune in 2020 may be as pronounced as it has been in recent years.
In the AFC, the only division winner in line to repeat is Kansas City. New England, Baltimore and Houston not only won’t win their divisions, but all three could be on the outside looking in at playoff time.
But, perhaps as surprising as anything pertaining to the AFC are the teams in line to make a run at the wild cards. Miami, Cleveland, Indianapolis and Las Vegas haven’t been regular playoff attendees for a long time, yet, Cleveland is 8-3, Indy and Miami are 7-4 and the Raiders at 6-5 have proved to be one of few teams capable of taking down the defending champion Chiefs – and they almost did it twice.
In the NFC, things are more normalized with Green Bay and New Orleans sporting big leads over their division competition and somebody has to win the NFC East. But, with San Francisco taking a nosedive from NFC champ to sole possession of last place in the NFC West due to injuries, if the playoffs were to start today, it would include the Rams, Cardinals and Buccaneers – all of whom missed the playoffs last year.
A lot is going to happen in the next five weeks and, with the exception of the Steelers and Chiefs in the AFC and the Packers and Saints in the NFC, nobody is guaranteed anything – not a division title, not even a playoff spot for most them.
As strange as the 2020 season has been, it looks like the December stretch run is going to be worth the price of admission. Here is the Week 13 Fantasy Market Report.
Fantasy Football Risers
Aaron Rodgers, QB, Packers
Maybe it has been a couple of pedestrian seasons by Rodgers standards as a fantasy football quarterback, but it seems like every week in expert rankings, A-Rod is always hovering in the 8-10 realm, often around much lesser QBs. It’s getting harder to accept their unwillingness to put him higher up. Granted, he doesn’t give owners much with his legs, but his TD numbers are phenomenal with the same cast he had last year. It was rational. In 2018-19, in the last 27 games he had played, he had thrown more than two touchdowns just three times – once every nine fantasy starts. This season, he has accounted for three or more touchdowns in nine of 11 games (including the last six) and has more than 280 passing yards six times. The analysts need to swallow their pride and make him a top-five fantasy QB every week.
Nick Chubb, RB, Browns
Similar to Rodgers, he is a one-trick fantasy pony, but what a trick it is. He missed the better part of five games in October in their Nov. 8 bye week. But, in the last five full games he has played, Chubb has rushing totals of 124-108-126-114-144 and has scored six touchdowns in those games. At a time when the running back position is becoming more of a shared responsibility, despite having the talented Kareem Hunt taking some of his time, Chubb is averaging 20 carries a game and the numbers are uncanny consistent (22-19-19-20-19). In fantasy terms, he’s an MVP because of what he has brought to a roster when he has been healthy.
Justin Herbert, QB, Chargers
Most fantasy owners who took Herbert, the seemingly forgotten man behind Burrow and Tua, did so in leagues where you can carry over players and the idea is to make him a 2020 stash pick with upside. Thanks to a twitchy doctor with a lung needle, he went from backup to starter in an instant. He took ownership of the job and hasn’t looked back. In 10 starts, he has thrown for more than 3,000 with 23 passing touchdowns and three rushing TDs. He hasn’t gone a week without at least one TD, has six games where has accounted for three or more touchdowns and is AVERAGING 300 yards a game. His current numbers stretched out over 16 games? 4,824 passing yards with 37 touchdowns and 296 rushing yards and five touchdowns. I’d take those numbers every day of the week…and twice on Sundays.
Justin Jefferson, WR, Vikings
The receiver Class of 2020 was hailed from last fall as going to be the deepest and most talented group perhaps in history. Jefferson was the 22nd pick in the draft, but the fifth wide receiver (behind Henry Ruggs, Jerry Jeudy, CeeDee Lamb and Jalen Reagor). In the first two weeks of the season, he was used sparingly as the “replacement” for Stefon Diggs and was drawing unkind comparisons to monumental bust Laquon Treadwell. In his last nine games, Jefferson has caught 47 passes for 848 yards and six touchdowns. Dalvin Cook and Adam Thielen get the headlines, but Jefferson is movin’ on up and has separated himself from the 2020 draft class in a big way.
Deshaun Watson, QB, Texans
He hasn’t been a killer in terms of touchdown production, but has been as consistent as anyone. He has no games where he got blanked for touchdowns and has accounted for two or more touchdowns in nine of 11 games. But, while he still is a threat to run, especially in close, it’s his passing arm that is lethal. Keep in mind, he started the season with the Chiefs, Ravens and Steelers. In the eight games since, he has thrown for 300 or more yards in six of them (and had 281 in another). He seems to be hitting his stride and, as long as he keeps putting up those numbers, you cheer for Houston shootouts. There could be a big issue, though, as WR Will Fuller is expected to miss the rest of the season, leaving Watson’s weapons quite thin.
Fantasy Football Fallers
Cooper Kupp, WR, Rams
On a lot of draft boards, Kupp was ranked higher than guys like Keenan Allen and DK Metcalf – both of whom have thrived on consistency of production. Kupp has been up and down – with many more downs than ups. He hasn’t scored a touchdown since Week 4 and has hit 70 yards just twice in the last seven games. Everyone knows he is capable of the huge week with double-digit catches and 100-yard games, but it’s those pedestrian weeks – and seeing as we’re entering Week 13, there have been far too many to keep him as a weekly top-10 fantasy receiver. He simply hasn’t earned it.
Clyde Edwards-Helaire, RB, Chiefs
This is what you call the Le’Veon Bell problem. To look at the game-to-game rush numbers for CEH pre-Bell and post-Bell are astounding. In the six games before Bell arrived, Edwards-Helaire had 107 carries (18 a game). Since Bell was his teammate, in five games, he has 44 carries (nine a game). Do the math. It’s simple. His value has plummeted, but the investment in him is such he can’t be benched. That’s a bad combo platter.
Calvin Ridley, WR, Falcons
Ridley came out of the gate on fire this season. In his first five games, he had four 100-yard games and four touchdowns – cementing him in starting lineups. Since then, he has posted 70 or more receiving yards just once and, in the last four games (missing one due to injury), he has 14 catches for 182 yards and one TD. Those aren’t the numbers fantasy owners playing Ridley need.
Matthew Stafford, QB, Lions
What has got him drafted every year is a lack of run talent and a bad defense, forcing him to pass 40 times a game to earn his garbage time points. He’s a glacier behind the line, so he brings nothing as a runner, but has more than two touchdown passes in just three games and one or none in six, including five of the last seven. Known for huge yardage days, he has only hit 300 yards twice. A guy taken in many leagues to be a 1B quarterback if not 1A, he hasn’t lived up to expectations and his defense has been bad enough for him to repeat history.
Larry Fitzgerald, WR, Cardinals
The sad reality is that, with him on the COVID-19 list last Sunday, he may have helped those who had him on their rosters because they were forced to play someone else who may have scored points. Of the 10 games he’s played, he has four or fewer receptions in seven of them and has a season high of 62 yards with eight games of 50 or fewer. He’s a first-ballot Hall of Famer, but he’s wasting time on a roster for any team looking to make a fantasy playoff run.