While there officially isn’t “tanking” in the NFL like other pro sports, there is the habit of resting veterans or putting them on snap counts because the current season has reached the point where making the playoffs will be virtually impossible. The teams that finish at the bottom tend to be the same teams year after year. We know who they are.
What makes this season so bizarre is the teams that are included on the walking dead list. The Green Bay Packers are 4-7 and on life support, and the list of 3-7 teams includes the defending champion Los Angeles Rams, Pittsburgh Steelers, Cleveland Browns, Las Vegas Raiders and Denver Broncos. These aren’t teams known for tanking – much less losing so often.
Will they take the time-honored, semi-ethical approach of giving young players more opportunities to see what they have moving forward while letting the vets ease into the end of the season? It will be interesting because these franchises haven’t been bottom feeders often.
Here is the Week 12 Fantasy Football Market Report.
Fantasy Football Risers
New Orleans Saints TE Juwan Johnson – If you don’t have a tight end who is a must-play, like Travis Kelce, try to find someone who can score you a red-zone touchdown. Johnson has emerged as this year’s Robert Tonyan. He hasn’t hit 50 yards in a game yet this season but has scored five touchdowns in the last five games and three of the five TD passes thrown by Andy Dalton in the last three games. He’s a one-trick pony, but it’s a really good trick.
Green Bay Packers WR Christian Watson – Nine days ago, Watson scored three touchdowns against the Dallas Cowboys. He backed it up with two more against the Tennessee Titans, giving him five in two games. What makes this worthy of note is that the last three of those scores have been in the red zone on plays designed to get him open and make him the No. 1 option. As Green Bay tries to keep its dying playoff hopes alive, Watson and Aaron Rodgers seem to have something special going on.
Miami Dolphins QB Tua Tagovailoa – The knock on Tua heading into this season was that almost every fantasy point he produces has to be done with his arm because he doesn’t run (35 yards in eight games this year). But, after coming back from injury, his arm is all he has needed. In his last three games, he has thrown for 1,069 yards (weekly totals of 382, 302 and 285) and nine touchdowns (three in each game). He has proven to be a QB1 candidate who is making the most of the weapons the Dolphins have assembled around and is making his statement that they can run like the Chiefs (with their most lethal weapon).
Dallas Cowboys RB Tony Pollard – I boarded the Pollard train last season and have seen no reason to stop. Pollard is averaging two full yards a carry more than Ezekiel Elliott (5.9 to 3.9) and has scored six touchdowns in his last three games, including a pair of receiving touchdowns Sunday at Minnesota. In the two games Elliott missed due to injury, Pollard rushed 36 times for 246 yards and four touchdowns – a clear indication that when he is set to hit free agency after the season, Jerry Jones would be smart to invest in him rather than Elliott and his massive contract.
Los Angeles Chargers WR Joshua Palmer – When Mike Williams and Keenan Allen were both down, it opened the door for Palmer to be a primary receiving threat and he has made the most of it. In the last three games, he has a pair of eight-catch games, two 106-yard receiving efforts, and two touchdowns – both against Kansas City Sunday night. With Williams down again and likely to miss more time, plus TE Gerald Everett (groin) dealing with an injury of his own, Palmer is stepping into a sweet fantasy spot that he has already proved he’s ready for.
Fantasy Football Fallers
Tampa Bay Buccaneers WR Mike Evans – Just about every Buccaneers has been a fantasy dud, but Evans was one of the first two Bucs taken in fantasy drafts (Leonard Fournette is equally disappointing). Over his last six games, he hasn’t scored a touchdown and has been held under 55 receiving yards in half of them. Tampa Bay comes off its bye and it is hoped the offense figured something out, because they’re killing fantasy owners on a weekly basis, especially with Evans chosen as a WR1.
Baltimore Ravens QB Lamar Jackson – Three weeks into the season, Jackson was on a collision course with the MVP. He had two 100-yard rushing games, two rushing touchdowns, a 300-yard passing game and 10 TD passes. In the seven games since, he has just six touchdown passes, one touchdown run, a high of 238 yards passing, and no more than 82 yards rushing. He’s still providing points for fantasy owners but not nearly what was anticipated or expected – especially given his mammoth start.
San Francisco 49ers WR Deebo Samuel – Samuel was supposed to be a huge dual threat this season. After rushing 12 times for 105 yards and a touchdown in his first two games, in the six games he played since heading into Monday night, Deebo rushed 16 times for 60 yards and no touchdowns. His lack of rushing attempts hasn’t translated to his receiving game, either. In his first eight games, he has caught just 34 passes for 411 yards and two touchdowns. He signed a big-money deal in the offseason, but we aren’t seeing a repeat of his breakout 2021 dual performance, and Christian McCaffrey’s arrival isn’t good news. Samuel scored a touchdown Monday night after breaking a 39-yard run, but he’s become a check-down guy who isn’t going to get the same number of opportunities, because the 49ers have too many other weapons to cut into his production.
Houston Texans WR Brandin Cooks – Before Dameon Pierce emerged, in most fantasy leagues Cooks was the only Texans player with any equity. Those days have gone away. In Week 1, Cook had 82 receiving yards. Nine games later, it remains his high-water mark. He caught a touchdown in Week 4 – the only score he has all season. Cooks hasn’t been targeted more than seven times in any game since Week 2. In those seven games, he has caught 28 passes for 325 yards – an average of four receptions and 46 yards. Those are bench-worthy numbers by any measure.
Los Angeles Rams TE Tyler Higbee – Big things were expected from Higbee coming off an impressive 2021 season. Early on, it looked as though it may happen. In the first four games, he caught 26 passes for 244 yards. In the six games since, he has caught 22 passes for 186 yards. In 10 games, he has no touchdowns and has 46 or fewer receiving yards in six of them, including five of the last six. If Higbee owners haven’t dumped him already, they should consider it, because he (and the Rams) look like a lost cause.