Monday night’s game in Buffalo provided a preview of what to expect moving into the final five weeks of the season. High-wind warnings with gusts approaching 50 miles per hour made the game plans for both teams had to be forcibly modified the day of the game.
This isn’t unusual, but the addition of one more week of games are pushing back fantasy schedules where most leagues are finishing in Week 17 instead of Week 16. Compounding the problem is the NFL didn’t start its season a week earlier, so there will be two weeks of regular-season games played in January.
With Week 17 games slated Jan. 2-3 to be played at Buffalo, Chicago, Cincinnati, New England, New Jersey, Washington, Green Bay and Pittsburgh, the potential for frigid temperatures, snow and howling winds will almost surely impact fantasy football championship games everywhere, which may prompt some fantasy owners to pay a lot more attention to the schedule prior to drafts or auctions in the heat of summer, because you know Old Man Winter is going to rear his ugly head somewhere as the fantasy playoffs play out.
Here is the Week 14 Fantasy Market Report:
Fantasy Football Risers
RB Sony Michel, Los Angeles Rams
Michel has been mired in the back end of a time share with Darrell Henderson, but has proved to be more than merely a handcuff. In the two games Henderson has missed, Michel has had more than 20 carries in both. Sunday against Jacksonville, he got his opportunity and made the most of it, rushing 24 times for 121 yards and a touchdown. In the 10 games he has played, Henderson has had 20 carries just once and hasn’t had a game with more than 90 rushing yards. Michel may be little more than a handcuff, but clearly the Rams aren’t shy about using him when the opportunity presents itself. As a likely playoff team, riding the hot hand is a thing in the NFL.
WR Tee Higgins, Cincinnati Bengals
One of the problems you run into with teams like the Bengals and Tampa Bay Buccaneers when it comes to fantasy football is that the same players don’t come up big every week like other teams with one or two go-to players. Even teams with productive offenses like Kansas City and Dallas have the same players typically leading the way week after week after week. Higgins has led the team in receiving yards in four of the last five games and, in his last two games, he has been targeted 22 times, catching 15 passes for 252 yards and two touchdowns. Ja’Marr Chase took the No. 1 spot when Higgins missed two weeks in September, but Higgins has reemerged as the go-to guy for Joe Burrow as the Bengals make their stretch run.
RB Devonta Freeman, Baltimore Ravens
The Ravens have seen a revolving door at running back due to injuries that saw them digging up guys like Le’Veon Bell from the NFL graveyard. With high hopes for J.K. Dobbins prior to him going down before the start of the season, it seemed like the Ravens couldn’t make up their minds about who to stick with. Remember Ty’Son Williams? He’s had seven carries in the last nine games. Latavius Murray? In the three games he’s played since coming backs after missing three games, he has rushed 20 times for 47 yards. Freeman has 10 or more carries in each of the last five games and looks to be the featured guy moving forward, which has value in a run-heavy offense like the Ravens down the stretch.
RB Javonte Williams, Denver Broncos
They say a starter doesn’t lose his job due to injury. That’s a lie. It happens all the time. Williams has been the No. 2 guy in Denver all season, despite having a better rushing average than veteran Melvin Gordon. Gordon was a no-go last week and the Broncos came into their huge road game with the Kansas City Chiefs announcing Williams would be the primary back. How did he respond? 23 carries for 102 yards, six receptions for 76 yards, and he scored a touchdown. Whenever Gordon gets back, he may find himself on the short end of the time share, because the Broncos likely have their future riding with Williams, not Gordon.
WR Jaylen Waddle, Miami Dolphins
The talented rookie is only 14 receptions away from hitting the 100-catch milestone and is catching everything in sight. He has eight or more receptions in four of his last five games (all Miami wins, by the way). Over his last three, he has 26 catches for 292 yards and a touchdown. Waddle has only six fewer receptions than the next four Miami wide receivers combined and still seems to be flying a little under the radar. He doesn’t get much mention in the race for Rookie of the Year, but for a guy on pace to catch 112 passes for 1,100 yards, he would put himself in some rarified air in the rookie history books, whether he is acknowledged or not.
Fantasy Football Fallers
TE Kyle Pitts, Atlanta Falcons
Pitts was the talk of the fantasy world in mid-October when he strung together a pair of games against the AFC East, catching 16 passes for 282 yards and a touchdown. He was prematurely anointed as potential the fourth face on the tight end Mount Rushmore. Unfortunately, he has crashed back to earth in the six games since. In that span, he has caught just 18 passes for 238 yards and no touchdowns and has fallen into the huge clump of tight ends looking to make a fantasy impact beyond the Big 3. It looked like he made it briefly, but his numbers are bleak over the last month and a half, which hurts fantasy owners who made a major investment in him, because he didn’t come cheap.
WR Antonio Brown, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (for now)
Brown has been frustrating for fantasy owners, because he still has the talent to be a fantasy star but has a penchant for taking himself out of the mix. When things went south with the Raiders and he landed with Tom Brady in New England, fantasy owners were ecstatic that he could recreate his Pittsburgh Steelers numbers. But, he forced his way out the door by upsetting management and was quickly dismissed. At Brady’s urging, the Buccaneers gave him a chance, and Brown once again showed his talent. However, the NFL suspended him three games for misrepresenting his vaccination status, and Brown opted not to fight it while rehabbing his ankle injury. He maintains his innocence but may have played his last game as a Buc.
WR Michael Pittman, Indianapolis Colts
Pittman was putting together Pro Bowl-style numbers for the Colts in September and October – pushing him into starting lineups and making him a darling with the daily fantasy crowd. However, November hasn’t been kind for a player who was being viewed as an every-week must-start in most leagues. In his last four games, he has caught just 17 passes for 224 yards and no touchdowns – the kind of numbers that get fantasy owners looking elsewhere, especially with wins being more important now as seasons are nearing an end.
RB Adrian Peterson, Seattle Seahawks (for now)
This one bothers me because I spent years covering Peterson when he was with the Vikings and building his Hall of Fame resume. However, since leaving Minnesota five seasons ago, he has played with a whopping six teams – the Saints, Cardinals, Redskins, Lions, Titans and Seahawks. At some point, each team has made no effort to bring him back. In his first nine seasons, it can be argued there was no greater running back in the game and he should remain a first-ballot Hall of Famer. Peterson’s best bet is as a goal-line plunger, because his best days have long since passed, and all he has to hang his hat on now as a fantasy player is name recognition.
TE Evan Engram, New York Giants
It might seem strange that Engram is included on this list immediately following his most productive yardage game of the season, but the fact that his best yardage game is just 61 yards in 10 games is a testament to just how pedestrian he has become. He is averaging just 33 yards a game and has just two touchdowns on the season. Like Pitts, he’s another tight end who possesses insane physical gifts. However, he has teased at being one of the best at his position during his career only to have long stretches of little to no production and hurting a fantasy roster along the way and has fantasy owners scratching their heads as to how so much talent can have so little to show for it.