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.
Alex Smith – Kansas City Chiefs
Matchup – Oakland Raiders
The Chiefs have been one of the most criticized teams over the second half of the season. Kansas City looked like a legitimate Super Bowl contender but have since gone on a losing streak and are now sitting at 6-6. The bright side here is at least this offense finally showed some life as Alex Smith threw for 366 yards and four touchdowns last week. This performance came at a great time for fantasy owners as we enter the playoffs. While the sudden lack of a running game is still a mystery, it’s good to see that the Chiefs can still put up some points through the air. Smith is a strong start against Oakland this week.
Josh McCown – New York Jets
Matchup – Denver Broncos
I had Josh McCown on this last week, and the journeyman quarterback didn’t disappoint for a second straight game. The veteran threw for 331 yards and a touchdown in a win against Kansas City last week and also scored two rushing touchdowns. If you’re adding the numbers up, McCown has now thrown for 638 yards and has scored six touchdowns in the last two weeks combined. Not too shabby considering the Jets were supposed to be the worst team in the NFL this season. I would normally tell you to avoid McCown this week against the Broncos, but this simply isn’t the dominate defense we’ve seen in recent years. Denver has given up at least 20 points in every game since week six. There’s certainly worse options out there.
Blake Bortles – Jacksonville Jaguars
Matchup – Seattle Seahawks
Don’t look now, but Blake Bortles has been putting up some points over the last couple of weeks and has led the Jaguars to a respectable record this season. Bortles threw for 309 yards and tossed two touchdowns against the Colts last week and looked very poised in doing so. It’s funny what a strong rushing attack can do for a quarterback. While he only threw for 160 yards and an interception last week against Arizona, Bortles scored two touchdowns on the ground. This is the first time this season that he’s scored more than 20 fantasy points in back to back games. Unfortunately, I don’t see a third straight week happening against Seattle this week. Bortles may be a viable steaming option down the stretch, however, as Jacksonville faces the Texans, 49ers, and Titans to end the season.
Rex Burkhead – New England Patriots
Matchup – Miami Dolphins
I don’t know how this has happened, but Rex Burkhead has become a valuable fantasy asset over the last few weeks of the season. I wrote off his two touchdown performance against Miami two weeks back as a fluke and didn’t give it a second thought. All he did for an encore was put up over 100 total yards and score twice last week, so my apologies for anyone that didn’t play this guy due to my advice. Burkhead has now found the end zone four times in the last two games and faces the same Miami defense he put up 18 points against a few weeks back. I still feel like this is a trap, but I’m not going to tell you to bench Burkhead moving forward if these types of performances continue.
Alex Collins – Baltimore Ravens
Matchup – Pittsburgh Steelers
Despite his recent success, I’ve been hesitant to endorse Alex Collins for fantasy purposes. Maybe I’m just jaded over the whole Terrance West and Buck Allen debacle earlier this season. However, I’m in at this point since Baltimore has seemingly chosen a featured running back. Collins has now scored four touchdowns in three games and has put up at least 13 fantasy points in four out of the last five weeks. Baltimore’s offense is suddenly clicking down the stretch, so Collins could be a viable option to help win you a championship. While the matchup this week against Pittsburgh isn’t the most friendly, the Ravens close out the season with the Browns and Colts on the schedule. Collins is under 75% owned, so grab him if he’s available.
Kenyan Drake – Miami Dolphins
Matchup – New England Patriots
Miami’s backfield has been a conundrum since the departure of Jay Ajayi. The coaching staff wouldn’t commit to Kenyan Drake, and Damien Williams has been a thorn in his side. Hopefully last week’s performance will change that. Drak carried the ball 23 times for 123 yards and a touchdown against the Broncos last week and is obviously the more explosive runner out of these two running backs. Unfortunately, Miami faces the Patriots this week. I assume the Dolphins will deploy Williams, if he’s healthy, as the pass catching back should the Dolphins fall behind. I just wish that wasn’t the case after Drake’s strong showing last week.
Jermaine Kearse – New York Jets
Matchup – Denver Broncos
I’ve talked about Josh McCown already, so I won’t bring him up too much here. However, his strong play over the last two weeks has caused Jermaine Kearse to rise back up to fantasy relevance. The veteran receiver was an early season commodity but has taken a back seat to Robby Anderson over recent weeks. Kearse now has back to back 100 yard games and is worth a speculative add if you need help at the wide receiver position. This week’s matchup against the Broncos isn’t ideal, but Denver isn’t exactly the lock down defense we’re used to seeing.
Josh Gordon – Cleveland Browns
Matchup – Green Bay Packers
He’s back! Josh Gordon’s season debut was the most anticipated come back in recent memory, and he seemingly picked up right where he left off. Josh Gordon hasn’t played football in the National Football League for almost three years. However, he was targeted a whopping ten times and hauled in four catches for 85 yards against the Chargers last week. I realize those aren’t gaudy numbers, but it’s incredibly encouraging to see Cleveland deploy Gordon heavily so quickly. His biggest hurdle is going to be the quarterback play from DeShone Kizer, but the rookie proved last week that he’s more than happy to feed Gordon as often as possible. Go get Josh Gordon if he’s available in your league.
Marquise Goodwin – San Francisco 49ers
Matchup – Houston Texans
If you listen to our podcast, then you already know that I’m in on Marquise Goodwin. I told you to go grab this guy last week, but Goodwin just shredded Chicago for 99 yards on eight receptions. This marks the fifth straight game that he’s had at least 65 receiving yards, and he seems to be the focal point in this air attack without Pierre Garcon. Jimmy Garoppolo is now the starting quarterback for San Francisco, and I don’t see them going back to Beathard after a hard earned win. Marquise Goodwin is only 15% owned in ESPN leagues. You want this guy on your team, especially against the Texans this week.
Evan Engram – New York Giants
Matchup – Dallas Cowboys
I said last week that I thought this would be the game Evan Engram got back on track. It’s not that I necessarily think that Geno Smith is a better quarterback than Eli Manning, but Engram has proven to be a playmaker in this offense and it was only a matter of time before he got more involved. The rookie had the best game of his young career against the Raiders last week and finished the day with seven catches for 99 yards and a touchdown. Look for him to be heavily involved once again against the Cowboys this week.
Cameron Brate – Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Matchup – Detroit Lions
I seriously considered endorsing Cameron Brate last week with Jameis Winston making his return to the field after recovering from a shoulder injury. It’s just hard to vouch for a player when he’s caught four passes for 35 yards in four games combined. While his 39 receiving yards and two catches weren’t spectacular in any way, both of Brate’s receptions were touchdowns. Winston has been known to look for his big tight end in the red zone, and the duo picked up right where they left off against the Packers last week. I’m not sure I really like Tampa Bay’s matchup against Detroit heading into week 14, but there is some upside here.
Hunter Henry – Los Angeles Chargers
Matchup – Washington Redskins
I’m real skeptical about Hunter Henry mostly due to the fact that he’s already burned me once this season. Henry had either scored a touchdown or had at least 70 receiving yards in four consecutive games earlier in the season only to completely vanish in the following weeks. He now has 12 receptions, 157 yards, and a touchdown in the last two weeks, so I’m naturally taking this with a grain of salt. That being said, Henry has a solid matchup against the Redskins this week. I wouldn’t be surprised if he extends this little hot streak he’s on.
Tom Brady – New England Patriots
Matchup – Miami Dolphins
I realize this is a knee jerk reaction, but Tom Brady had his worst performance of the season from a fantasy football standpoint last week against the Bills. It was just the second time the future Hall of Fame inductee did not complete a touchdown pass all year, and he finished the day with 258 yards and an interception. Again, I realize this was just a down week for Brady. However, last week was the last regular season matchup for many leagues before the fantasy playoffs. I’m certain Brady’s performance cost some people a shot at making a championship run. The good news here is that if you are in the playoffs, then you’re sitting pretty this week. The Patriots face the same Miami defense that Brady threw four touchdowns against just two weeks ago. A bounce back game is imminent.
Tyrod Taylor – Buffalo Bills
Matchup – Indianapolis Colts
This may seem like a cheap shot considering Tyrod Taylor was injured last week against New England. However, Taylor didn’t leave the game until the fourth quarter. That means he completed only nine passes for 65 yards and an interception in three full quarters of play. I hate to see guys get injured, but those types are numbers are just flat out bad. This marks the second in four weeks that Taylor has put up single digit points in a game, which has to be frustrating for Bills fans. I don’t have much confidence he makes it back this week against Indianapolis, but I’d proceed with caution regardless.
Matt Ryan – Atlanta Falcons
Matchup – New Orleans Saints
The general consensus was that Matt Ryan wouldn’t play very well against a stingy Vikings defense last week. However, I expected a little more production than only 173 yards and zero touchdowns. While Ryan has struggled this season compared to his MVP campaign last year, this was the first game he’s failed to throw a touchdown in 2017. This offense has all the talent in the world, so it is frustrating to see performances like this. I’d expect a bounce back game against New Orleans at home this week, but I’d temper my expectations considering the struggles we’ve seen throughout the season.
Kareem Hunt – Kansas City Chiefs
Matchup – Oakland Raiders
I’m officially out on Kareem Hunt. This kid was an all star during the first half of the season, but, just like a bad relationship, there has to be a time when enough is enough. That time officially came for me last week when the rookie rushed only nine times for 40 yards against the Jets in a game where both teams were clicking offensively. It really says something when Alex Smith is the team’s leading rusher. Hunt has been mostly a non-factor over the last two weeks, and I don’t know that we’ll see the types of performances he put on earlier in the season again this year. There’s all the upside in the world this week against the Raiders, but I have no faith left.
Jordan Howard – Chicago Bears
Matchup – Cincinnati Bengals
I was incredibly confident in Jordan Howard last week. Unfortunately, that didn’t exactly pan out as he gained only 38 yards on 13 carries. That’s a little less than three yards per carry, which is obviously less than ideal. Howard was coming off an abysmal performance against the Eagles the week before where he gained just six yards on the ground, and I was certain that a friendly matchup against San Francisco would provide a spark. I think this was a Howard’s last chance to put up big numbers this season. Chicago faces some tough defenses down the stretch, and I’m not confident Jordan Howard will be very effective.
Carlos Hyde – San Francisco 49ers
Matchup – Houston Texans
I feel like Carlos Hyde does this every season. He’ll start off with a bang and come out the gate hot. Then the injuries start building up, and before you know it he’s become a blip on the radar. To be fair, Hyde is undoubtedly the best player San Francisco has on offense. Unfortunately, opposing defenses know that as well and game plan to stop him. Hyde carried the ball 17 times for 54 yards against Chicago last week, which is the seventh game this season he’s failed to top the 60 yard mark. You’re best hope from a fantasy standpoint is the 49ers get close enough to the goal line for Hyde to punch it in.
Brandin Cooks – New England Patriots
Matchup – Miami Dolphins
It’s time to accept Brandin Cooks for what he is, a boom or bust type of player. While he’s been consistent at times this season, I’m not surprised at his performance last week. Cooks caught two passes from Tom Brady for 17 yards, which is his lowest yardage total of the season. Considering Tom Brady struggled by his standards last week against Buffalo, it makes sense that his wide receiver would struggle as well. The good news is Cooks will have a chance to bounce back against a Dolphins defense that he caught six passes for 83 yards and a touchdown against two weeks ago.
Mike Evans – Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Matchup – Detroit Lions
As a Mike Evans owner, I was pumped when the news came out that Jameis Winston would be coming back from a shoulder injury last week. Mike Evans hadn’t been particularly bad with Ryan Fitzpatrick under center, but there’s no denying he has a special connection with Winston. Unfortunately, my excitement was all for nothing. Evans caught just two passes for 33 yards against a Green Bay secondary he should’ve been able to dominate. There’s no way you’re benching Mike Evans, but I think it’s time to temper our expectations a little bit considering how poorly this season has gone. Hopefully Evans and Winston can get on the same page against the Lions this week.
Demaryius Thomas – Denver Broncos
Matchup – New York Jets
It’s abundantly clear that the Broncos need help at quarterback. Paxton Lynch was not very impressive in his limited time as the starter, and Trevor Siemian has 15 turnovers this season compared to 11 touchdown passes. Surprisingly enough, Demaryius Thomas has been mostly quarterback proof this season until the last two weeks. The veteran receiver has caught seven passes for 45 yards in the last two games, which isn’t shocking when you look at the quarterback play. Thomas is still a top tier receiver in the NFL. He just doesn’t have anyone that can get the ball to him. I’d expect much the same against the Jets this week.
Jared Cook – Oakland Raiders
Matchup – Kansas City Chiefs
I was cautiously optimistic about Jared Cook’s upside last week. Amari Cooper was injured, and Michael Crabtree was suspended. Surely Derek Carr would utilize Cook more in a game without his top two receivers, right? Nope. Not at all. The big tight end caught a single pass for nine yards against the Giants and now has two receptions and 11 yards the last two weeks combined. There was a time in weeks seven and nine when it looked like Cook would be more heavily involved in the passing attack when he had over 100 yards in two out of three games. At this point there’s just no trusting this guy. I’d continue to look elsewhere for production from your tight end position.
Vernon Davis – Washington Redskins
Matchup – Los Angeles Chargers
It really looked like Vernon Davis was a must start tight end for a stretch earlier this season. The veteran tight end had seven games with at least 55 receiving yards in eight weeks while Jordan Reed was lost due to an injury. Unfortunately, Davis has come crashing back down in the last two contests. After seeing just one target come his way with no catches against the Giants, he followed that performance up with two receptions and 15 yards in a blowout against the Cowboys last week. Considering his involvement in the offense has plummeted, it’s hard to feel comfortable playing Davis this week against the Chargers. Do so at your own risk.
Austin Seferian-Jenkins – New York Jets
Matchup – Denver Broncos
Austin Seferian-Jenkins was on this list last week, and it appears I wasn’t in the wrong by adding him on there. ASJ caught two passes from Josh McCown for a measly seven yards against the Chiefs last week. What’s particularly troubling is McCown threw for over 300 yards in that contest, so that gives us an accurate idea of where Seferian-Jenkins falls in the pecking order for the Jets. If their last name isn’t Anderson or Kearse, then they’re not worth owning as a pass catcher for the New York Jets.
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!