Trending and NoteWorthy: Illusions, risers and must-start performers
It’s Week 16. Most leagues are having their Fantasy Football Super Bowls now instead of the true last week of the regular season because teams start to limit their best players snaps either to prepare for the playoffs or to not waste them in meaningless games at the end of losing seasons. That provides opportunities for pop-up players and busts for established ones.
Don’t Be Fantasy Fooled
Leonard Fournette, RB Jacksonville Jaguars
The Jaguars are sitting at an extremely disappointing 4-10 after losing to possibly the only team in the NFL with a worse quarterback situation than themselves in Washington. The media has speculated that a re-injury of his foot is what held him to just one carry in the second half. While the Jaguars have stated publicly that that was the plan all along, there is concern he is banged up again.
Injured or game plan, Fournette is a big name with a poor Week 16 outlook. Even if the Jaguars plan to play him, Fantasy owners shouldn’t. Don’t Be Fantasy Fooled into starting a big name in a five to ten carry game that could be less or shortened by injury.
Davante Adams, WR Green Bay Packers
Opponent: at New York Jets
Everything screams that he is a must-own DFS play. He’s had a touchdown in 10 of 14 games and four of his last six plus seven receptions and 81 yards or more in three straight games. He faces a Jets defense that is one of only three teams that allows 42 or more Fantasy Points to wide receivers. The data says PAY IT. Pay whatever the price. The stars are aligned. Adams is a stud and he has one of the best matchups of the week and of his season. He had eight receptions and 119 receiving yards against the Chicago Bears. He could double that against the lowly J-E-T-S Jets Jets Jets who are B-A-D Bad Bad Bad. That’s why I’m concerned.
Can a billion Fantasy owners and every “expert” in the industry be wrong? Frequently. Nobody is going to blame an owner that starts a player with such an obvious opportunity to shine. Even if he busts, you weren’t wrong owning him. Flukes happen. However, when a fluke happens, the DFS site doesn’t refund your entry fee and nobody cries for you while someone else cashes in.
The entire argument is anecdotal and admittedly poor. There isn’t a statistical reason to think Adams won’t a “beast mode” performance, but I am going to make the case anyway.
The Packers travel to New York for a meaningless game against another hapless team playing out the string. The 12th-string announcers do everything they can to make it look like entertainment while cameras focus on cheerleaders and oddly dressed Jets fans in fireman helmets and painted faces. This is going to be two football teams sleepwalking their way through a snoozer on the field before a quick dip in the ice tubs on their way to the NYC stripclubs and poker parlors.
If we learned anything from Week 15, it’s that big names don’t always have big games. Be the contrarian. Fade the big guy. This one is going to be Fantasy irrelevant.
Jaylen Samuels, RB Pittsburgh Steelers
Opponent: at New Orleans Saints
The Saints have allowed a league lowest 742 rushing yards, 1,349 total yards from scrimmage and 10 total touchdowns (six rushing, four receiving) to running backs. Samuels had a big game against a New England defense that begged the Steelers to run, and they obliged. Samuels was a Week 15 hero, putting him in position to be a Week 16 goat (NOT the Greatest Of All Time, but the opposite). Samuels is in position to be on the low-end of the game flow this week in spite of all the hysteria and a potential rush to start him in DFS.
Chase Edmonds, RB Arizona Cardinals
Opponent: vs. Los Angeles Rams
The Cardinals face a Los Angeles Rams defense that looked susceptible to the run Sunday night, allowing 111 rushing yards and three touchdowns to a committee of uninspiring Philadelphia Eagle running backs. If a running back is going to pop up and surprise owners, Edmonds is one of the leading candidates.
Edmonds rushed five times for 53 yards and two touchdowns along with two receptions and 13 receiving yards in Week 13 and In Week 16, he had eight carries and two receptions. He is a rookie who has received some run as a dual-threat runner/pass catcher.
I am highlighting potential pop-up plays, and Edmonds has the potential to be one of the best on the slate. David Johnson has had a tough year, as have the Cardinals, giving plenty of reason to provide Edmonds some run. Being a dual-threat enhances his viability and increases his potential touches and targets. If the Cardinals find a way for Edmonds to receive 15-20 touches he will prove to be relevant as a Flex or DFS bargain.
Marlon Mack, RB Indianapolis Colts
Opponent: vs. New York Giants
Mack was back and in full beast mode against what had been a formidable Dallas Cowboys run defense in Week 15. In Weeks Seven and Eight combined, Mack rushed for 258 yards and three touchdowns, and tossed in a receiving touchdown and 33 receiving yards for good measure. Then he got hurt, and when he returned, the Colts eased him back with limited touches and targets. Until the Cowboys game.
He has a great matchup against a Giants run defense that has allowed 12 rushing touchdowns and 28.9 Fantasy points per game to running backs. In Week 15, Derrick Henry rushed the ball 33 times for 170 yards and two scores against this Giants defense.
The Giants rank seventh in Fantasy Points allowed to wide receivers while they rank 28th against running backs. A heavy dose of Mack is the sensible plan and the Giants’ weak run defense provides a high-percentage rate of success. Mack is a RB1 this week and is unlikely to be priced that way in DFS. Own him everywhere.
Buffalo Bills Wide Receivers
Opponent: at New England Patriots
The Patriots’ defense is situational and often porous. They allow 372.7 total yards from scrimmage per game, but they are selective about who they allow those yards to. If they choose to shut down a player, or players, they often do.
Week 15 against the Pittsburgh Steelers, Antonio Brown and JuJu Smith-Schuster combined for eight receptions and only 89 receiving yards. In Week 13, against the Minnesota Vikings, Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen combined for 10 receptions and 77 receiving yards. Against those Vikings and those Steelers, Dalvin Cook rushed for 84 yards on nine carries and caught eight passes for 22 yards while Jaylen Samuels unloaded for 172 total yards from scrimmage, respectively. In Week 14 against the Miami Dolphins, Kenny Stills had eight catches and 135 receiving yards.
LeSean McCoy is injured and Josh Allen is the most dangerous running quarterback in football. The Patriots are going to force Allen to stay in the pocket and beat them through the air. He won’t do it consistently and he will commit three or four turnovers, but the Bills’ wide receivers are going to get theirs along the way.
Isaiah McKenzie, WR Buffalo Bills
McKenzie is listed as a wide receiver, but he had four carries for 22 yards and a touchdown two weeks ago against the Jets and has 10 rushing attempts for 66 yards and two touchdowns for the year.
He has been targeted 21 times for 16 receptions and 157 receiving yards in the passing game and has seven rushing attempts for 34 yards and two touchdowns in the running game in his last four starts.
He is a playmaker, and the Patriots struggle with versatile, quick athletes that can make plays in space or out of the backfield, like Jaylen Samuels did for the Steelers and what the Bills have done with McKenzie on occasion this season.
McKenzie is a dual-threat that could be lined up as a running back out of the backfield or as a wide receiver both outside or in the slot, creating matchup nightmares. McKenzie has a chance to pop-up and be Fantasy relevant in a “spicy” matchup against a “friendly” Patriots defense, and he could be a red zone gem as well.
Robert Foster, WR Buffalo Bills
Foster has become Josh Allen’s big-play guy and a must-start Flex against a Patriots pass defense that has allowed 1,391 and an average of 271.2 receiving yards per game to wide receivers. Foster has averaged 24.6 yards per reception, but he has been consistently relevant as well, something wide outs like John Brown and John Ross have been unable to be.
Foster has 94 receiving yards or more in four of his last five games, including three 100+ receiving games, but he has only one game of more than five receptions. He has been consistently productive with limited opportunities.
One concern: game plan. The Patriots are an extremely cautious defense that focuses on preventing the big play more than any team in the NFL and that’s Fosters jam. It’s easy to see a scenario where Zay Jones runs free in the middle of the field while Foster runs Stephon Gilmore and a safety off on go routes.
The Patriots aren’t as good a matchup for as it would appear on the stat sheets. It’s a head-to-head matchup that Foster is going to have to win for owners to cash in. I like him and owners must start him, but be warned: it’s a mixed bag.