by Byron Hamilton
Fire and Ice – Week 15
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.
Matt Ryan – Atlanta Falcons
Matchup – San Francisco 49ers
I’ll admit I had my doubts about Matt Ryan heading into Sunday’s matchup on the road against the Rams without both Julio Jones and Mohamed Sanu. His performances over the second part of the season have been fine, but we’ve not seen him play at the consistently high level like he had in the first four games of the season. It seems my doubts were unfounded as the Falcons demolished the Rams and Ryan finished with 237 passing yards and three touchdowns. He spread the ball around to eight different players, and everyone stepped up with their star receiver sitting out. This has been an elite year for Matt Ryan, and he’ll look to finish the season strong with matchups against the 49ers, Panthers, and Saints to finish the year.
Andy Dalton – Cincinnati Bengals
Matchup – Pittsburgh Steelers
The last time the Red Rifle was included in this column was back in week eight after coming off four straight games of 20 plus fantasy points in four straight contests heading into the team’s bye. He fell flat the following three weeks by failing to break the 20 point mark but has accomplished that feat in the last two games. Let’s hope he continues his run. While he only threw for 180 yards, Dalton was efficient in a snowy climate against Cleveland last week as he completed 20 of his 28 attempts and chipped in two touchdowns to Tyler Eifert. It’s clear this team is missing AJ Green, but Dalton is finding some reliability in his tight end along with Tyler Boyd and Brandon LaFell as well. Word on the street is Green is expected back at some point this season, but when that will happen is unclear. The Bengals will face a Steelers defense this week that has been much stingier against opposing offenses in recent weeks, so the jury is out on Dalton heading into week 15.
Trevor Siemian – Denver Broncos
Matchup – New England Patriots
It seems like every time I write about this guy something bad happens. Broncos fans were relieved when it was announced Siemian would be back under center against the Titans because it’s clear Paxton Lynch has a lot of work to do in order to develop into a starting quarterback in the NFL. Siemian attempted a whopping 51 passes against Tennessee last week and completed 35 of them for 334 yards and a touchdown. That makes two straight games in which Siemian has played that he’s thrown for over 330 yards. I expect him to have to throw a ton next week as well when the Broncos host the Patriots. If Tom Brady happens to get going against Denver, then the Broncos may need to rely on Siemian’s arm to keep them in the game. This should be an interesting game to keep an eye on.
Bilal Powell – New York Jets
Matchup – Miami Dolphins
If there’s no news on Matt Forte before your waivers hit, then you’re going to want to grab Powell immediately. If it’s free agent bidding, spend the house. It’s not often I’m this adamant about a backup running back, but Powell is a solid player and will need to be added in all leagues if Forte ends up missing time. He ended up rushing for 145 yards and two touchdowns on 29 carries last week against the 49ers and will be the featured back should his counterpart end up missing any time. I’ll be adding Powell in every league I can unless there’s some news on Forte before waivers process.
Carlos Hyde – San Francisco 49ers
Matchup – Atlanta Falcons
It’s unfortunate Carlos Hyde plays for the 49ers. I feel like he could be a very special running back with a team that wasn’t absolutely terrible. The only positive piece of this puzzle you can point to is the fact that Hyde is very much utilized and relied on in the game plan of an offense that lacks real playmakers at other positions. He finished the day with 193 yards on only 17 carries and a receiving touchdown in the overtime loss to the Jets last week, but Hyde remains a key cog in this offense. He’ll face an Atlanta defense this week that has been friendly to running backs this season, and I think he will be heavily relied upon once again.
Jeremy Hill – Cleveland Browns
Matchup – Pittsburgh Steelers
I really don’t like Jeremy Hill. He provides fantasy owners with more headaches and sleepless nights than any other running back in the game. If you play him he scores three points. If you dare bench him he blows up for 20 points. Jeremy Hill saw 25 carries that he turned into 111 yards and a touchdown against the Browns last week. He was also involved in the passing game and looks like the every down back for the Bengals down the stretch. He’ll look to continue to dominate Cincinnati’s carries again this week against a Steelers defense that has allowed a lot of points to running backs this season. I still don’t like him, but I’ll concede that he’s a solid fantasy option as the primary back in his offense.
Tyreek Hill – Kansas City Chiefs
Matchup – Tennessee Titans
This kid continues to impress. I thought the presence of Jeremy Maclin back on the field would limit Tyreek Hill’s opportunities as Alex Smith would go back to targeting his veteran receiver. That definitely wasn’t the case. Hill doubled his counterpart’s targets and caught all six of them for 66 yards and a touchdown against the Raiders last week. He also chipped in a 78-yard punt return in what proved to be a very productive fantasy performance. I am still concerned about Hill’s snap count with Maclin back as he was on the field for less than 50% of the team’s plays. Either way, he is still an electric player that is a threat to score whenever the ball is in his hands. He’ll have a tougher test this week against an improved Titans defense.
Dontrelle Inman – San Diego Chargers
Matchup – Oakland Raiders
Inman has been relatively quiet since his big 120 yard game against the Saints back in week four. From weeks five through ten, he was only able to gain more than 60 receiving yards once. However, he now has three touchdowns in three consecutive games and is averaging nearly 80 yards in each contest. Tyrell Williams seems to have taken control of the number one receiver title within the Chargers offense, and opposing defenses will likely focus on him much more moving forward. San Diego may have been dealt a huge blow if Melvin Gordon suffered a significant injury last week, which would likely force Phillip Rivers to turn to the passing game more often against a soft Oakland defense this week. Inman is only 27% owned and is worth a flier if you have the bench space.
Robby Anderson – New York Jets
Matchup – Miami Dolphins
If you listen to our podcast you know our man Derrick has a tendency to make some pretty outlandish statements, which I typically enjoy pointing out and ridiculing. He’s been touting Robby Anderson for a few weeks now, and I’ve mostly shrugged it off. It seems now I may end up eating my words. After two games with Bryce Petty under center, Anderson has scored a touchdown and racked up 160 receiving yards. There seems to be a clear rapport with these two, and Anderson is worth a waiver add if you need help at the wide receiver position. I think I’ll need one more game before I’d feel comfortable rolling him out there, but this week’s matchup against the Dolphins presents a nice opportunity.
Travis Kelce – Kansas City Chiefs
Matchup – Tennessee Titans
Kelce has been on an absolute tear over the second half of the season. He caught five passes for 101 yards in the win over the Raiders, which marks his fourth consecutive game with at least 100 receiving yards and his fifth such performance in the last seven weeks. Kelce clearly has the trust and attention of Alex Smith, and the return of Jeremy Maclin had little impact on the star tight end’s opportunities. The emergence of Tyreek Hill has given the Chiefs a much-needed additional threat to compliment Kelce, which has helped open up the middle of the field. The Chiefs will host a Titans defense this week that has been vulnerable to tight ends at times this season. He’ll continue to build upon his impressive late season surge.
Zach Ertz – Philadelphia Eagles
Matchup – Baltimore Ravens
Ertz is quietly having a solid finish to the season and is becoming the ultimate safety blanket for his rookie quarterback. Carson Wentz has been playing much better over the last several weeks, and Ertz has definitely benefited from the increased production. Over the last six games, Ertz has either a touchdown or at least 55 yards receiving in all but one contest and has over 10 fantasy points to his credit every week except week twelve. This week’s matchup against the Ravens on the road should prove to be a tougher challenge than the Redskins, but Ertz is still a viable option at the tight end position.
Drew Brees – New Orleans Saints
Matchup – Arizona Cardinals
What in the world is going on with Drew Brees? We all shrugged off his abysmal performance against the Lions a couple weeks back as a fluke and assumed he would be back to his old ways against the Buccaneers last Sunday. Unfortunately, that was not the case, and Brees’ new season low fantasy output of only four points likely knocked quite a few teams out of championship contention. He threw for 257 yards against Tampa Bay and has gone two straight weeks with three interceptions without a touchdown scored. If you somehow managed to squeak through and advance another week into the playoffs, then I tip my hat to you. However, I am seriously concerned about Brees heading into another road game against a stout Cardinals defense. I would be making contingency plans immediately if he’s my quarterback.
Jameis Winston – Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Matchup – Dallas Cowboys
It’s hard to not compare Jameis Winston to Marcus Mariota. They were the two big-name rookie quarterbacks to enter the league last season, and both had relatively impressive rookie campaigns. By all accounts, Winston was the more effective quarterback last season, but Mariota has been far superior this year. To be fair the Buccaneers have been ravaged by injuries to both the running back and wide receiver position, so Winston hasn’t had the greatest supporting cast outside of Mike Evans. Even in a game where he had an opportunity to play a soft Saints defense Winston only managed to throw for 184 yards and didn’t have a touchdown pass for the second time this season. While there are a couple of juicy matchups left on the schedule, I think I’m out on the second year quarterback due to his inconsistent play and the lack of weapons at his disposal.
Cam Newton – Carolina Panthers
Matchup – Washington Redskins
There have been some disappointing quarterbacks in fantasy football this season. Russell Wilson, Carson Palmer, and Blake Bortles are all players that have underperformed based on our expectations heading into the season. I’m sure nobody would disagree that Cam Newton has been the more disappointing than all of those guys simply because you likely invested such a high draft pick on him. Last year’s MVP has failed to throw for multiple touchdowns in ten games this season and has only passed for more than 200 yards in one out of the last four weeks. Two of those performances came against the Chargers and Saints, so it’s not like he’s playing elite defenses either. For that reason, it’s hard for me to put much faith in Newton to end the season, even though he faces the Redskins, Falcons, and Buccaneers over the last three weeks.
Devonta Freeman – Atlanta Falcons
Matchup – San Francisco 49ers
Six carries for six yards. That was Freeman’s stat line against the Rams last week, and no he was not injured. This guy was coming off back to back games with two rushing touchdowns, and the Falcons only give him six carries. The coaching staff elected to rest several players after they jumped out to a huge lead over the Rams, and I understand the thought process there. It’s just really unfortunate the game script unfolded the way it did during the first week of the fantasy playoffs. Freeman should get back on track this week against the 49ers.
Spencer Ware – Kansas City Chiefs
Matchup – Tennessee Titans
Spencer Ware was featured in our Four Corner Debate column last week, and I stated that I didn’t feel like he is an automatic starting fantasy running back. I stand by that statement, and last week’s game against Oakland was a perfect example of why. Ware only accumulated 56 yards on 20 carries in the win. The week prior he scored two touchdowns but only gained a total of 52 total yards. Those are simply not the type of numbers you want to see out of a high tier fantasy running back. I fear that we’ll see much of the same this week against a Titans defense that has been stingy to running backs at times this season.
DeAndre Hopkins – Houston Texans
Matchup – Jacksonville Jaguars
I’m so tired of looking at DeAndre Hopkins stats this season. It’s just so depressing knowing this guy has all the talent in the world to be an elite receiver in the NFL. He was only targeted four times against the Colts last week and finished the day with two catches for 33 yards. Brock Osweiler’s performance was once again subpar as he only completed 14 passes for 147 yards and an interception. Last year DeAndre Hopkins had 11 games where he had more than 80 receiving yards. Through fourteen weeks this season he has one. At this point, he’s a WR3 at best, which is mind numbing when looking at his stats from last year. I would say there’s some hope against Jacksonville this week, but that’s just wishful thinking.
Randall Cobb – Green Bay Packers
Matchup – Chicago Bears
There was a span over weeks five through seven where Randall Cobb appeared to be turning things around. He had either a touchdown or over 90 yards receiving in those three games. Unfortunately, Cobb has only one touchdown in the last seven weeks along with one game of over 80 yards. I’d feel differently if Aaron Rodgers was struggling, but he’s thrown for multiple touchdowns in every game since week six and has thrown for less than 240 yards once. The emergence of Davante Adams seems to have reduced Cobb to no more than an afterthought, and I don’t see him turning things around this week against an underrated Bears secondary.
Kelvin Benjamin – Carolina Panthers
Matchup – Washington Redskins
Kelvin Benjamin started the year off with a bang as he had 199 yards and three touchdowns in the first two weeks of the season. We were all wide-eyed with excitement at the prospect of this guy returning to form and picking up where he left off in his impressive rookie campaign. As we all now know, that has not been the case. Benjamin has found the end zone just twice since the second week of the season and has had more than 80 receiving twice in that span as well. Over the last two games, he has a total of 3 receptions for 29 yards. In short, he’s a far cry from the elite receiver we thought we had to start the year. Many of Benjamin’s troubles can be placed at the feet of Cam Newton’s inconsistent play, and I’m hesitant to roll him out in my lineups moving forward despite ending the season with some advantageous matchups.
Eric Ebron – Detroit Lions
Matchup – New York Giants
There have been two instances this season where Eric Ebron has been featured in the Fire portion of this column. Unfortunately, he finds himself on the other end of the spectrum this week. I know he’ll be devastated as he’s an avid fan of mine. Ebron has been a solid tight end with a high floor for the majority of the season. However, the last three games have me concerned. He’s only caught 8 passes for 70 yards since week eleven. You may look at week twelve against Minnesota and think he sat out due to injury. Not the case. He didn’t record a single catch. It’s a complete mystery to me as to why he’s fallen out of favor lately, but I can’t say that I’m surprised. Perhaps Marvin Jones has an explanation since he’s in the same boat. Either way, I don’t think I’m playing Ebron this week against the Giants if I can help it. Detroit is on the road, and New York’s defense has been surprisingly solid.
Jimmy Graham – Seattle Seahawks
Matchup – Las Angeles Rams
Let me preface this by saying I’m not necessarily down on Jimmy Graham. However, I’m entirely jaded with Russell Wilson’s play over the last few weeks. Over the last three games, Wilson has thrown for only two touchdowns compared to eight interceptions, five of which game last week against Green Bay. The difference between those games and last week was that Jimmy Graham was still involved. He only had one catch for 16 yards against the Packers despite Wilson attempting 39 passes and throwing for 240 yards. I’ll write this one up as a fluke for now, but Graham is concerning when you consider how bad the quarterback play has been.
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!