by Byron Hamilton
It’s time to take our weekly look around the NFL to see which players have the potential to set your roster on fire and which ones seem to be cooling down. I’ll try to avoid the obvious candidates for the players that are heating up, in addition to focusing in on higher profile players that could leave your team on ice this week. I will also be taking a look at their performance from the previous week, as well as what the matchup holds for them heading into Sunday.
Kirk Cousins – Washington Redskins
Matchup – Arizona Falcons
You like that?!? Man, Kirk Cousins is on a freaking roll. He completed 41 out of 53 passes for 449 yards and three touchdowns against the Cowboys on Thanksgiving and currently ranks inside the top three in passing yards in the league. Over the last four games, Cousins has two 440 plus yard performances, ten touchdowns, and no turnovers. If that’s not the definition of on fire I don’t know what is. The Redskins have one of the deeper, more talented receiving corps in the league and have recently enjoyed newfound success in the running game from Rob Kelley. Cousins will next face off against the Cardinals on the road, which won’t be an easy task. However, Arizona just gave up 269 yards and two touchdowns to Matt Ryan, and Cousins been solid enough that I’d feel comfortable enough rolling with him if I had to.
Colin Kaepernick – San Francisco 49ers
Matchup – Chicago Bears
If at the beginning of the season you would have told that Colin Kaepernick would be one of the hottest fantasy quarterbacks down the last stretch of the season, then you very likely would’ve gotten a blank stare in return. What Kaepernick has done over the last four games is very reminiscent of what we saw out of him during the 49ers Super Bowl run a few years ago. Since week nine he has at least two total touchdowns and has accumulated over 400 yards of total offense in two games, so it comes has no surprise that he is averaging nearly 28 fantasy points per game over that span. Go pick this guy up immediately. He’s less than 23% owned in ESPN leagues and plays the Bears, Jets, and Falcons over the next three weeks. Kaepernick very well could be the key to a late-season run for your team.
Jared Goff – Los Angeles Rams
Matchup – New England Patriots
I know, it’s only one good game. Yes, it was against a weak Saints defense. Either way, Goff looked much better in his second game than he did in his season debut against Dolphins a couple of weeks back. The first overall draft pick finished the day with 214 yards and three touchdowns and looked much more comfortable than he did in his first start. I’m not ready to recommend adding him off waivers outside of the deepest of leagues, but I think he’s certainly a player to keep an eye on. The matchup against the Patriots this week will offer much more of a challenge than the Saints, but Goff could be asked to throw the ball around more if the Rams fall behind. The rookie has a couple of advantageous matchups in the Falcons and 49ers over the last few games of the season, so he could prove to be a useful addition should he continue to improve.
Mark Ingram – New Orleans Saints
Matchup – Detroit Lions
Ingram has looked much better over the last several weeks after being benched back in week eight against the Seahawks. He rushed for 146 yards on 14 carries against Rams and had two total touchdowns. Over the last four weeks, Ingram has scored four touchdowns and has rushed for 145 yards in two games. The Saints are and will continue to be a pass heavy team for as long as Drew Brees is still an effective quarterback, so you won’t see Ingram getting more than 15-16 carries very often. However, with his reason outburst in production, it’s hard to not start the guy. He’s averaging over eight yards per carry over the last four games and has a chance to put up big numbers again this week against a soft Detroit defense.
LeSean McCoy – Buffalo Bills
Matchup – Oakland Raiders
You have to tip your hat to Shady McCoy. I feel like he’s consistently overlooked despite being one of the most productive running backs in the NFL. His downfall has always been injuries. If this guy could stay on the field for a full season he could put up some very big numbers. Unfortunately this season, much like every season in recent memory, McCoy has been plagued by the injury bug. The good news is he looks to be fully healthy for the first time since week six as he tore the Jaguars apart for 103 rushing yards and two touchdowns. These numbers are more in line with what fantasy owners have come to expect this season, and I think the good times will continue to roll this week against the Raiders. Oakland has been extremely generous to opposing running backs this season, and Shady should find plenty of room to operate against a defense that allowed two touchdowns to Jonathan Stewart last week. If he can stay healthy, McCoy will be a valuable player to own down the stretch.
Carlos Hyde – San Francisco 49ers
Matchup – Chicago Bears
Hyde has looked a lot more like the player we saw at the beginning of the season over the last two weeks. After suffering a shoulder injury earlier in the year, fantasy owners are now a little more relived as the running back is getting back into the swing of things. Hyde had 65 yards on 13 carries and added five catches for 30 yards and a touchdown against the Dolphins last week, which is much more encouraging than the 14-yard performance we saw in his first game back against the Cardinals a few weeks ago. San Francisco’s schedule opens up to close the season, and they face the Bears, Jets, and Falcons over the last few games. Hyde is an integral piece of this offense, so expect to see him heavily involved over the final stretch.
Taylor Gabriel – Atlanta Falcons
Matchup – Kansas City Chiefs
Ok, it’s time to start paying attention to this kid. There’s only so many times I can write off a touchdown as a fluke. Apparently, I cut it off at four consecutive games. Taylor Gabriel has scored five touchdowns over Atlanta’s last four games and seems to be Matt Ryan’s favorite new toy. Gabriel is lightning fast and is Atlanta’s version of Tyreek Hill. He’s not a guy that is going to see a ton of targets as he’s been capped at around five per game over the last few games. If you consider how underutilized he is his production really is mind boggling. Gabriel will look to do it against this week against the Chiefs at home. He’s under 4% owned in ESPN leagues, so grab this kid while you can.
Michael Thomas – New Orleans Saints
Matchup – Detroit Lions
The rookie out of Ohio State broke out of a two-game slump in a big way against the Rams last week as he racked up 108 yards and two touchdowns on nine receptions. Receiving slumps are something that has come to be expected out of Saints receivers in recent years (just ask Brandin Cooks owners). Michael Thomas is still one of the best weapons Drew Brees has to work with, and the veteran QB’s trust and rapport with his rookie are evident. Thomas’ performance on Sunday gives him seven touchdowns on the season and vaulted him past Brandin Cooks as the highest scoring fantasy wide receiver on the Saints’ roster. He’ll look to build upon his impressive rookie campaign this week against a Detroit defense that has a tendency to give up a lot of points.
Tyreek Hill – Kansas City Chiefs
Matchup – Atlanta Falcons
Apparently, I’m all about rookie wide receivers this week, but I really like this kid. He’s lightning fast, and the Chiefs are obviously making a concentrated effort to get the ball into his hands. Hill has taken on an expanded role over the last few games with Jeremy Maclin being injured, and it’s easy to see who the most explosive receiver is. Hill became the first player since Gale Sayers back in 1965 to score a rushing, receiving, and kick return touchdown in the same game against the Broncos on Sunday night, so I’m not sure what else could make owned percentage increase other than that. Hill is owned in less than 27% of ESPN leagues, so it’s not too late to grab this guy. He won’t be available much longer. This week’s matchup against the Falcons presents another opportunity for the rookie to show off his talents, especially if Jeremy Maclin continues to miss time.
Tyler Eifert – Cincinnati Bengals
Matchup – Philadelphia Eagles
Fantasy owners that drafted and stashed Eifert are now being rewarded for their patience. In three out of the four full games he has played, Eifert has either a touchdown or over 95 receiving yards. What’s most impressive to me is that fact that despite missing the first six games of the season he has scored more points than players like Clive Walford and Charles Clay, who have active for most of the season. Heading into Monday night last year’s breakout tight end is currently second only to Jordan Reed in scoring this week, and he should continue to be heavily involved moving forward with AJ Green sidelined. Eifert will have a tougher task against the Eagles this week, but I don’t think you can bench him considering his production since his return.
Lance Kendricks – Las Angeles Rams
Matchup – New England Patriots
Kendricks has been right on the cusp of fantasy relevance over the last several weeks but hasn’t been able to string together decent games with enough consistency to be a viable option. It seems like the switch to Jared Goff may help his tight end show up on the fantasy radar. Kendricks has back to back games with seven targets and caught four passes for 51 yards and a touchdown against the Saints last week. I foresee the Rams being forced into a position to throw the ball a lot against the Patriots this week, so Kendricks could serve as a useful plug and play option if you need help at the tight end position.
Andy Dalton – Cincinnati Bengals
Matchup – Philadelphia Eagles
You would think a quarterback on a roll would benefit from a bye week, but that hasn’t been the case with Andy Dalton. In weeks five through eight the Red Rifle through for no less than 250 yards in each game and had six touchdowns to two turnovers. Since Cincinnati’s week nine bye Dalton has thrown for 250 yards just once and has three touchdowns to five turnovers. Those numbers are definitely concerning, but when you consider the injuries to AJ Green and Giovani Bernard it makes you think it will likely be difficult for Dalton to improve on those numbers without two of his top targets. He’ll face a tough Eagles defense this week, so a bounce back game doesn’t seem likely.
Russell Wilson – Seattle Seahawks
Matchup – Carolina Panthers
Whelp, so much for that late season breakout I thought Wilson was about to have. In a season that’s been peppered with bad performances, Wilson’s passing production was a low point for the year. He threw for only 151 yards and had two interceptions against a Tampa Bay team that has been incredibly generous to opposing quarterbacks this season. The only thing that saved him from turning out a season-low fantasy score was the 80 yards he was able to gain on the ground. Wilson has two great opportunities over the next two weeks to get back on track against the Panthers and Packers. The hope is the disappointing performance against Tampa Bay was just a hiccup.
Brock Osweiler – Houston Texans
Matchup – Green Bay Packers
Honest question, is there anyone out there that truly thinks Brock Osweiler is any better than Brian Hoyer? Hoyer played in 11 games last season for the Texans, which is the same amount of games Osweiler has started this season. Let’s compare the numbers. Hoyer had 19 touchdowns in games he started in 2016, Osweiler has 12 this season. Hoyer had 9 turnovers under center last year, Osweiler has 14 to his credit in his first year as a starting quarterback. Based on those statistics alone it’s clear to me that Osweiler is terrible and Houston made a bad investment. There’s no way you start this guy in any game this season regardless of the situation.
Jay Ajayi – Miami Dolphins
Matchup – Baltimore Ravens
Ajayi has really cooled off in the few weeks following his two huge performances back in week six and seven. He’s averaging 17 carries and 67 yards over the last three weeks and only has one touchdown to his credit. While the numbers were unsustainable, that’s a far cry from the 176 yards per game and four touchdowns we saw in weeks six through nine. Unfortunately for Ajayi owners, the recent production we’ve seen from him may be right about where he’ll stay for the rest of the season. The last five games are not friendly matchups as he’ll square off against the Ravens, Cardinals, Jets, Bills, and Patriots to cap off the year. Unless something remarkable happens I think he’s more in line with RB2 type numbers moving forward.
Devontae Booker – Denver Broncos
Matchup – Jacksonville Jaguars
The unfortunate injury that knocked out CJ Anderson for the season back in week eight was a huge blow to the Broncos. Devontae Booker owners, however, were salivating. The rookie running back had shown flashes of an explosive player, and he was in a prime position to lead fantasy teams to a championship. Unfortunately, that has not been the case from what we’ve seen since Booker took over the starting job. He’s averaging 59 yards and over 19 carries per game since week nine for mediocre 3.1 yards per carry. What’s most surprising is the Broncos have played the Raiders and Saints in two of those games, both of which are notorious for giving up lots of points to running backs. The lack of touchdowns has also been a major area of disappointment as well. Booker is no doubt a player you’ll want to roll out from week to week, but I don’t think we’ll see him develop into a guy that you’ll be able to lean on regardless of the matchup. He’ll look to get back on track this week against the Jaguars.
James White – New England Patriots
Matchup – Las Angels Rams
I think it’s safe to go ahead and drop James White at this point in the season if there are any other serviceable options available in your league. With Dion Lewis back and slowly working himself back into more and more playing time I just don’t see much room for James White to continue to make much of an impact moving forward. The snap count was divided almost exactly evenly among all New England running backs, but I see Lewis becoming more involved down the final stretch of the season. Particularly when the Patriots play the Ravens and Broncos over the last few games.
Amari Cooper – Oakland Raiders
Matchup – Buffalo Bills
Cooper, while productive at times, has been hit or miss for essentially the entire season. However, this recent three-game lull likely has fantasy owners a little worried about one of their top receivers as the playoffs are looming. Over the last three weeks, Cooper hasn’t caught more than six passes and has a high of 57 yards with only one touchdown. The Denver game was understandable. Derek Carr threw for only 187 yards, and the Raiders ran the ball all over Denver. The last two weeks are different since Carr has thrown for 295 and 315 yards for five touchdowns. The matchup last week against the Panthers was particularly inviting for Cooper, but the star second-year receiver only mustered a season-low 22 receiving yards. His quarterback his having an MVP-caliber season, so it’s hard to believe the former Alabama standout will be held in check for much longer. His matchup against the Bills this week doesn’t bode well for a bounce back game, however.
Allen Robinson – Jacksonville Jaguars
Matchup – Denver Broncos
Allen Robinson has to be in the top five disappointments this year in a season where we’ve seen our fair share of busts. If you own this guy you either traded for him early in the season or likely drafted him as your number one receiver. You don’t need me to tell you how bad he’s been. There was a three-game stretch in weeks eight through ten where I really thought the Jaguars may have turned things around, and Robinson at least six receptions for 70 yards in each game and scored two touchdowns. Those respectable performances were then followed by the last two weeks where he’s combined for five receptions for 42 yards and a touchdown. I just don’t see Robinson turning things around at this point in the season, particularly over the next two weeks when the Jaguars face off against the Broncos and Vikings back to back. If I own him I don’t know that I’m playing him over the next two games.
Julio Jones – Atlanta Falcons
Matchup – Kansas City Chiefs
Let’s be real. You’re not sitting Julio Jones. He could have a broken leg, but you’d still start him if he was listed as active. He was the second leading fantasy wide receiver heading into week 12, so I’m not advocating otherwise. I just thought it would be interesting to point out just how inconsistent Julio has been this season. When he has big games, this dude has BIG games. At other times you’re frantically checking your phone to make sure he wasn’t injured, and you hadn’t heard about it. Over the last ten weeks, Jones has 106 yards receiving in six games. The other four? 35 yards or less. With the playoffs looming Julio has owners biting their nails, but I think he’ll be fine. The Falcons face the Rams, 49ers, and Panthers when most leagues determine their fantasy champion, so you should be in good shape down the stretch.
Jason Witten – Dallas Cowboys
Matchup – Minnesota Vikings
There are times where a rookie quarterback can benefit greatly from a solid tight end. They act as a security blanket. A safe place to look when their whole world is crumbling around them. Unfortunately for Witten owners, Dak Prescott isn’t your typical rookie quarterback. Witten found some success with Prescott earlier in the year, but he’s begun to spread the ball around more as the season has progressed. Outside of one big game against Cleveland in week nine Witten has been mostly an afterthought in the offense, which is evident when you consider he only has two touchdowns on the season. I think Witten has a floor of around 6-10 fantasy points per game, so he’s not a terrible option. I do believe there are other viable options available on the waiver wire that could help your team, such as CJ Fiedorowicz or Hunter Henry.
Gary Barnidge – Cleveland Browns
Last year’s surprise tight end is officially droppable. You don’t need to hold on to him and cross your fingers anymore. This week was the last sliver of hope Barnidge owners had since Josh McCown was back at the starting quarterback position. He had one catch for 11 yards. In fact, Barnidge hasn’t had more than three catches for 23 yards in the last four games. He did score a touchdown against Steelers a couple weeks ago, but it was his only touchdown of the season. There’s nothing left to see here, folks. Drop him.
As always, please feel free to give us a shout on Twitter @No_HuddleFFB if you have any questions or concerns regarding your lineup or just want to chat about fantasy football. Best of luck this week!