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.
Carson Palmer – Arizona Cardinals
Matchup – Miami Dolphins
Carson Palmer was just four yards away from matching his season high mark in passing yards last week against the Redskins. He completed 30 passes for 300 yards and three touchdowns, which tied his highest scoring fantasy point total from way back in week two of the season. While fantasy owners have certainly been disappointed in Palmer’s performance this season, the veteran quarterback has thrown for 589 yards and five touchdowns over the last two weeks. He has some fairly advantageous matchups over the next couple of weeks as he’ll face a Miami team that was just shredded by Joe Flacco of all people and the New Orleans Saints the week after. The hope is he can finish the year strong after a subpar season.
Derek Carr – Oakland Raiders
Matchup – Kansas City Chiefs
I’ve been really impressed with Carr this season. He has certainly taken a step forward and built upon a solid 2015 campaign. Carr was the 7th ranked fantasy quarterback heading into last week and finished the day with 260 yards and two touchdowns against a decent Bills defense. This kid has been one of the most consistent quarterbacks in the league and has only scored less than 20 fantasy points in four games this season. Carr now has 24 touchdowns to only five interceptions and looks primed to help guide teams to a fantasy championship. His remaining schedule against the Chiefs, Chargers, and Colts provides some juicy matchups down the stretch.
Joe Flacco – Baltimore Ravens
Matchup – New England Patriots
I’m not a big fan of Joe Flacco. It’s not that I think he’s a bad guy. I’m simply of the opinion that the guy won a Super Bowl, got a huge check that wasn’t necessarily warranted, and is draining his team financially. Also, he’s just not that good. With that being said, I felt compelled to give him a little love this week after his big day. Flacco three for 381 yards and four touchdowns against the Dolphins on Sunday, which were both season highs. The Ravens face off against the Patriots this week, and I can only assume Joe Flacco is going to have to throw the ball a ton for them to have a chance at winning this game. He’s had his two best games in two of the last four weeks, so it’s possible this offense could finally be clicking.
Jordan Howard – Chicago Bears
Matchup – Detroit Lions
I wanted this kid so bad before the season during my dynasty league drafts. Unfortunately, the stars did not align as I have zero ownership in him. Due to a plague of injuries that have swept through Chicago, Jordan Howard is quite literally the only fantasy starter on the Bears roster. Over the last five weeks, the rookie is averaging 106 yards per game on the ground, and he has four touchdowns to his credit (although three came against the 49ers last week). I think he’s going to be one of the guys that really makes an impact over the last few weeks of the season. His next three matchups consist of the Lions, Packers, and Redskins, and all three have been vulnerable against running backs this season. If you own him, play him.
Thomas Rawls – Seattle Seahawks
Matchup – Green Bay Packers
This was the game you’ve been waiting for if you were one of the patient owners that drafted and stashed Rawls all season. Last year’s breakout star racked up 106 yards and two touchdowns against the Panthers on Sunday night, which is more impressive when you consider he accumulated 103 of those yards and both touchdowns in the first half before being taken out of the game for fear of a concussion. The good news is he was cleared to play. The bad news is the team elected to play it safe with him due to a dominating lead. Either way, kudos to all of you that either had the patience to stash him or the foresight to add him, because I think Rawls will be a solid running back to play over the next couple of weeks against the Packers and Rams.
Devonta Freeman – Atlanta Falcons
Matchup – Las Angeles Rams
I’d have to go back and check, but surprisingly enough I think this might be the first time Freeman has been included in the Fire section of this column all season. Freeman was THE player to own off waivers or deep in drafts last year when he became a household name among the fantasy community. Unfortunately, the emergence of Tevin Coleman early in the season seriously hampered expectations of his counterpart. Coleman was still involved in his second game back from injury, but Freeman again made a case to be the featured running back for the Falcons as he recorded his second straight game with two touchdowns. I think Coleman will still be a factor moving forward, but I like Freeman’s chances at continuing his hot streak over the next two weeks against the Rams and 49ers.
Malcolm Mitchell – New England Patriots
Matchup – Baltimore Ravens
There’s a good chance Malcolm Mitchell is available in your league as he’s under 20% owned in ESPN leagues. I suggest you stop what you’re doing and go grab him immediately. The rookie has put together three strong games and seems to be emerging as one of Tom Brady’s favorite targets. Over the last three weeks, Mitchell is averaging almost six receptions a game for 74 yards and a touchdown. This kid could very well develop into New England’s deep threat with Gronk out for the year, and Tom Brady seems to look his way in the red zone. If the rookie continues to see the additional looks he’s seen over the last few weeks, then I think he could be a very valuable late season addition to your team.
Michael Crabtree – Oakland Raiders
Matchup – Kansas City Chiefs
If I told you an Oakland receiver has caught 15 passes for 184 yards and a touchdown over the last two weeks you’d likely assume I was referring to Amari Cooper. And you’d be wrong. In the last two games, Michael Crabtree has been the one carving up opposing defenses for the Raiders as Cooper has been held mostly in check. In fact, on the season Crabtree has only four fewer fantasy points than his counterpart in standard scoring leagues. Derek Carr is playing the best football of his young career this year, and I believe the good times will continue to roll for Crabtree over the last few weeks of the season. His remaining opponents comprise of the Chiefs, Chargers, and Colts, which make Crab a solid start over the final stretch of the season.
Tyrell Williams – San Diego Chargers
Matchup – Carolina Panthers
I realize Tyrell Williams didn’t have a huge game against the Buccaneers last week. His two catch 47-yard performance was a low point over the last four weeks. However, Williams managed to haul in a touchdown pass for the fourth consecutive week in a game where Melvin Gordon led the team in receiving yards. Williams has been a reliable option as of late, and I view him as a borderline must start over the final stretch of the season. San Diego’s fantasy playoff schedule consists of Carolina, Oakland, and Cleveland. All three of those teams have struggled at containing receivers this season, and I think Williams will finish the year strong.
Ladarius Green – Pittsburgh Steelers
Matchup – Buffalo Bills
It’s not often we can take a head coach at his word when it comes to discussing a player’s involvement before a game. Pittsburgh coach Mike Tomlin said last week that he expected Ladarius Green to take on an increased role within the offense. Yeah right, Mike. Green had five catches and 97 yards over the team’s last three games. It seems that I should have listened to the head coach for a chance. Green exploded against the Giants for six receptions on eleven targets for 110 yards and a touchdown. Jesse James has been a disappointment this season, and Green gives the Steelers another big weapon for Big Ben to get the ball to. It’s rare that you’re able to add a viable tight end this late in the season, but I think that’s the case with Ladarius Green as he’s under 12% owned. He could be a nice addition for all of the Gronk owners out there.
Travis Kelce – Kansas City Chiefs
Matchup – Oakland Raiders
Tyreek Hill has been getting a lot of attention over the last couple of weeks. However, Travis Kelce has definitely been the unsung hero for the Chiefs while Jeremy Maclin has been out. The star tight end had eight catches for 140 yards against the Falcons last week, which marks the third consecutive game he has had at least seven receptions and over 100 yards receiving. The only downside is the lack of touchdowns as he hasn’t scored since week eight against the Colts. If Jeremy Maclin continues to miss time due to injury, the Kelce is a virtual must-start in all fantasy formats against the Raiders this week.
Drew Brees – New Orleans Saints
Matchup – Tampa Bay Buccaneers
What in the name of all that is holy happened?!? Drew Brees the consensus number one projected fantasy quarterback last week. He played the Detroit Lions. At home. One week after throwing four touchdowns against the Rams. This is simply mind numbing. Brees snapped a streak of 61 games with at least touchdown at home and threw for 326 yards with three interceptions in what was by far his worst game of the season. You have to assume that this game was an outlier in what has otherwise been a very productive season. Brees will look to bounce back this week against the Buccaneers.
Colin Kaepernick – San Francisco 49ers
Matchup – New York Jets
If Drew Brees owners need a little help getting over his performance it may ease the pain knowing you could have played Colin Kaepernick. Kaep has enjoyed newfound success over the last several weeks and was a popular streaming option last week against the Bears. It only makes sense he would complete one pass for four yards before being benched in favor of Blaine Gabbert. While the snowy weather may have played a part it didn’t seem to have that much of an impact on Matt Barkley as he threw for 196 yards. Chip Kelly said after the game that the quarterback change didn’t necessarily impact the depth chart, so Kaepernick should remain the starter. I’ll chalk this game up as a fluke considering the performances we’ve seen over the last four weeks prior. Kaepernick should bounce back this week against the Jets at home and is worth a start. That is unless his dud of a game knocked you out of the playoffs.
Blake Bortles – Jacksonville Jaguars
Matchup – Minnesota Vikings
I apologize if you’re tired of reading about Blake Bortles. Trust me, I’m tired of writing about the guy. The Ice section of this column could include a header with just Bortles’ face on it. What’s unfortunate is he’s played decent over the last few weeks, but he only managed to throw for 181 yards last week against Denver and had three touchdowns. Bortles finished with single-digit fantasy points even with a rushing touchdown, and I don’t see him turning things around over the next two weeks when the Jaguars play the Vikings and Texans. Let’s face it, if you’ve stuck with Bortles this long you aren’t likely in the playoffs unless you’re stacked at every other position. If that’s the case I recommend finding a suitable replacement for the final stretch.
Lamar Miller – Houston Texans
Matchup – Indianapolis Colts
Lamar Miller owners rejoiced after he rushed for 104 yards and a touchdown against the Raiders back in week 11. Unfortunately, he’s not come anywhere close to matching those numbers over the last two weeks. Despite having two advantageous matchups, Miller has been held scoreless and averaged 39.5 yards against the Chargers and Packers. While I would normally get excited about any running back playing the Colts, I just don’t think I can endorse Lamar Miller at this point in the season. He’s a solid running back but is a part of a bad offense helmed by Brock Osweiler. If you have other options I’d pursue them.
Todd Gurley – Las Angeles Rams
Matchup – Atlanta Falcons
Gurley had a particularly terrible game last week, which is saying something considering his season has been littered with terrible games. He only managed to rush for 38 yards on 11 carries against the Patriots in what turned out to be his worst game of the season. Looking back, Gurley has to be the biggest bust of the season right? I’m not talking about injured players but rather flat out week in, week out bad games. He has rushed for more than 80 yards in one game and has scored only four touchdowns on the season. It’ll be interesting to see where he falls in drafts next year. Similar to Lamar Miller, Gurley’s matchup against the Falcons this week would normally get me excited if it were any other running back. I just don’t see how you can put any faith in the guy after what has turned out to be an extremely disappointing sophomore campaign.
Jeremy Hill – Cincinnati Bengals
Matchup – Cleveland Browns
If you own Jeremy Hill and thought he was going to lead you down the path to fantasy glory after Giovani Bernard went down for the season you may want to think again. Jeremy Hill ran the ball 23 times against the Eagles on Sunday and only managed to gain 33 yards. That’s 1.4 yards per carry, which is abysm. The only thing that saved him was a goal line touchdown. The week before wasn’t much better as he only managed to gain 21 yards on 12 carries for 1.75 yards per carry. To put it simply, he needs to score a touchdown to be fantasy relevant. His involvement in the passing game was encouraging two weeks ago, but that wasn’t seen much against the Eagles. I will say this week’s matchup against the Browns is inviting, and Hill could very well have a solid game against the worst team in the NFL. He’s just too much of a gamble to rely on a weekly basis.
Stefon Diggs – Minnesota Vikings
Matchup – Jacksonville Jaguars
It would have been interesting to see what Diggs’ numbers would’ve been this season with Teddy Bridgewater at quarterback. Sam Bradford has been decent at times, but the lack of a running game has really hampered the Vikings this season. We all know Bradford isn’t the type of player you want to rest your team’s hopes and dreams on. Diggs wasn’t terrible last week against the Cowboys as he caught 8 passes for 59 yards, but we’re far removed from the games where we saw him hauling in 13 catches a game. Due to Bradford’s shaky play, I view Diggs as a WR3 despite a positive remaining schedule.
Brandin Cooks – New Orleans Saints
Matchup – Tampa Bay Buccaneers
This could have been the week where the squeaky wheel got the grease after Cooks expressed his frustration with his decreasing role within the Saints offense to the media. He ended up catching 7 passes for 73 yards, so his performance was fine. Nothing great, nothing terrible. However, Coby Fleener of all people led the Saints in receiving yards and Brees spread the ball around to nine different players against the Lions. From a fantasy perspective, I feel like there are too many mouths to feed within the New Orleans offense to make Cooks a must start each week, which essentially how you viewed him depending on where you drafted him. The emergence of Michael Thomas has taken valuable targets away from his teammate, and the rookie actually leads all Saints wide receivers in fantasy points this season. Don’t get me wrong, Brandin Cooks is a fine receiver. However, he’s not the type of guy that you can rely on each and every week. That’s something you need to make a fantasy championship run.
Doug Baldwin – Seattle Seahawks
Matchup – Green Bay Packers
Similar to Russell Wilson, I was certain week ten was the start of another late-season surge by Doug Baldwin. He caught three touchdown passes against New England and followed that performance up with 104 yards receiving against the Eagles. Surely the next two contests against the Buccaneers and Panthers were going to be great as well. Well, not so much. Dougie Fresh only managed 34 receiving yards in week twelve and finished last week’s game against the Panthers with 65 yards. Definitely not the performances I’d qualify as a “surge”. I’d like to assume that this week’s matchup against the Packers will yield positive results, but I just can’t feel confident in Baldwin after such an up and down season. I wouldn’t be surprised if he has a huge game, but another outing with 34 yards wouldn’t shock me either.
Eric Ebron – Detroit Lions
Matchup – Chicago Bears
Man, talk about a slump. When Ebron came back from injury in week eight he began a three-game streak where he had at least 70 yards receiving in each contest. In the last two games, he’s caught four passes for 38 yards, all of which came last week against the Saints after putting up a goose egg the week before. What’s most disappointing is Matt Stafford threw for 341 yards and two touchdowns in New Orleans, so it’s not like there wasn’t plenty of production to be a part of. I think Ebron may get back to his old self at some point over the next few games, but I’m not sure he’s going to be the guy you’ll want in your lineups during the playoffs. If you have a better option pull the trigger.
Martellus Bennett – New England Patriots
Matchup – Baltimore Ravens
If you listen to our podcast you can attest that I voiced my concerned opinion regarding Martellus Bennett heading into week 12 when Gronk was injured and Bennett had a single catch for 14 yards against the 49ers the week before. My voice went unheard as my two counterparts classified his performance as an outlier. I think if we asked the same question this week we’d hear a different opinion because Bennett has a total of six catches for 40 yards over the last three weeks. Rob Gronkowski he is not. There’s one thing that limits Bennett’s upside, and it’s certainly not his talent. We saw that earlier in the season. It’s the simple fact that he’s competing for targets with Julian Edelman, Malcolm Mitchell, Dion Lewis, Chris Hogan, and so on. There are simply too many mouths to feed in this offense, and Tom Brady doesn’t play favorites if your last name isn’t Edelman or Gronkowski (and maybe Mitchell). At this point, Martellus Bennett is too much of a risk to start with any sort of confidence. Look elsewhere for tight end production.
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!