With many fantasy football leagues have their championship games this weekend, it’s amazing how many seasons have been devastated by COVID-19. Last year, the balance of power was tipped by the lack of crowds. This year, teams have been forced to play practice squad players and street signees to field rosters due to in-house outbreaks.
In 2020, when significant outbreaks hit teams, games were shifted – sometimes to dates weeks later than the originally scheduled games. This year, the biggest shift has been pushing games to Monday or Tuesday of the same week of games and putting lineups on the field that can be without numerous starters.
It would be unfortunate for a fantasy team to lose its chance to win a championship because of COVID outbreaks. If there is any solace, real NFL teams are finding themselves in the same boat as they try to make the playoffs with a third-string quarterback or without three or four offensive linemen or their entire starting secondary. Hopefully by next season, this two-year nightmare will be over and we can get back to football as we remember it.
Here is the Week 17 Fantasy Market Report:
Fantasy Football Risers
RB Sony Michel, Los Angeles Rams
There’s an old adage (lie) that says a player doesn’t lose his job due to injury. Michel is proof of that. In the first weekend in December, starter Darrell Henderson had missed one game. In that game back in Week 3, Michel ran 20 times. Over the next eight games when Henderson returned, Michel averaged just less than six carries a game. The Rams made the switch four games ago and, in that span, Michel has 89 carries for 423 yards and two touchdowns and looks to be a focus of the offense moving forward.
WR Amon-Ra St. Brown, Detroit Lions
A fourth-round rookie, few receivers have been hotter than St. Brown over the last month. He has quietly caught 74 passes this season and has been doing his most damage over the in December (so much for the rookie wall). In his last four games, he has been targeted 46 times, catching 35 passes for 340 yards and three touchdowns, which should significantly elevate his stock heading into the offseason for a team in search of a No. 1 wide receiver after losing their top guys last year.
RB Damien Harris, New England Patriots
For a team that typically doesn’t have a single dominant back, Harris has become that guy for the Patriots. Despite missing two games due to injury, he has five 100-yard rushing games, including his last two – both against Buffalo, rushing 28 times for 214 yards and four touchdowns. Over his last nine games, he has scored 11 rushing TDs and made himself a must-play fantasy back. The Patriots have a time-honored history of mixing and matching running backs, but Harris would appear to be breaking that mold.
WR Antonio Brown, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
After the shocking fake COVID vaccination card debacle, there were questions as to whether Brown would ever play for the Bucs again. However, injuries have changed the coaching mindset for the Buccaneers offense with the team’s top two receiver in terms of receptions – Chris Godwin and Leonard Fournette – out for the season and Mike Evans sidelined with a hamstring injury. Brown has played in only six games but has caught five or more passes in five of them and has seven or more receptions in each of his last four games. AB has 93 or more receiving yards in four of them and has scored four touchdowns. He has a rapport with Tom Brady, and his numbers are Pro Bowl-worthy if extrapolated over a 17-game season (111 receptions for 1,471 yards and 11 touchdowns). He may not be a long-term answer in Tampa, but he’s putting up strong numbers.
RB Rashaad Penny, Seattle Seahawks
Penny has been a career disappointment after being taken with as a first-round pick in 2018. The team declined his fifth-year option in the spring and, when Chris Carson went down with injury, Seattle didn’t turn to Penny. Instead, they turned to Alex Collins and then to Adrian Peterson (for one game). Over the last month, Penny has got his chance to be the main man, and he has responded. In his last three games, he has 135 or more rushing yards in two of them and has scored three touchdowns. Whether he’s stating his case to return to Seattle or go as a free agent somewhere else, he has finally had his opportunity and is making the most of it.
Fantasy Football Fallers
WR Marquise Brown, Baltimore Ravens
Hollywood is known for his big-play ability, but he has become such a non-factor in the Ravens offense that has become little more than a Check-down Charlie. In his first eight games, he had 80 or more receiving yards in four games and scored six touchdowns, including TDs of 42, 43 and 49 yards. In his last six games, he has caught 39 passes, but they have gone for just 271 yards – a miserable 6.9-yard average. He has just one catch of more than 15 yards in that span, no games with more than 55 receiving yards and no touchdowns. Granted, the Ravens have had issues at quarterback, but it hasn’t hurt guys like Mark Andrews, despite killing Brown’s fantasy value.
RB Miles Sanders, Philadelphia Eagles
Sanders was drafted to be a RB1 in every fantasy format there is, but he has been a lineup liability to every fantasy owner who has him. In the 12 games he has played, he has fewer than 65 yards rushing in eight of them, is averaging just two catches a game for 12 yards, and has yet to score a touchdown. He has a broken bone in his hand, which will sideline him, but that could actually be a bonus for fantasy owners in their championship games, because they can replace him with somebody who may actually score a touchdown.
WR Emmanuel Sanders, Buffalo Bills
Sanders has always been a popular player to have on fantasy rosters because he has been productive wherever he played, including Pittsburgh, Denver, San Francisco and New Orleans. Coming to Buffalo, big things were expected given what Josh Allen had accomplished in 2020. After a strong start, Sanders has all but disappeared. In his last six games, his receiving yardage totals have been 27, 26, 28, 22, 25 and 20 and he hasn’t scored a touchdown in his last nine games. He has become such a non-factor that he has rendered himself useless in most fantasy lineups, if not all of them.
QB Derek Carr, Las Vegas Raiders
Carr’s selling point was massive yardage games and a ton of multi-touchdowns games. But, in 2021, he hasn’t thrown more than two touchdown passes in any game, hasn’t thrown more than one touchdown in his last six games (five total in those six games) and has thrown for fewer than 265 yards in six of his last seven games. Seeing as he gives you nothing as a runner, his only value is as a passer and he isn’t living up to that end of the bargain.
WR Julio Jones, Tennessee Titans
Jones was acquired for huge money ($23 million over two years) with the expectation of being the All-World wide receiver that will make him a Hall of Fame player. But, he has been an unqualified bust with the Titans. In the nine games he has played, he has just 26 receptions (2.9 a game) for 376 yards (41.8 yards per game) and has no touchdowns. Since missing three games due to injury, in the three games since he has come back, he has caught just five passes for 40 yards and is tied for sixth in receiving yards on his own team. He’s been an elite receiver for years, but there is no way Tennessee brings him back for more than $11 million next year.