Do you believe in miracles? Well, if you've been more of a Scrooge than a Bob Cratchit, you have the chance to turn that frown upside down with the return of Mr. Discount Double-Check himself, Aaron Rodgers!
The Green Bay Packers QB announced he has been medically cleared from his broken collarbone, and the team is preparing for him to be under center to start Week 15. That means no more watching Jordy Nelson rack up yardage in the teens; no more 250-yard passing games while throwing the ball 35-45 times for the Packers; and most importantly, owners who lost Carson Wentz now have another QB they can stick in if they were savvy enough to pick up Rodgers and stash him like I did in all leagues where I could.
The return of Rodgers couldn't come at a better time with a lot of playoff teams trying to figure out what they will do after losing Carson Wentz to a torn ACL last week. If you were unable to get Rodgers and stash him, or have other holes you may need to fill, I offer you these guys as your best options based on their Rest of Season (ROS) schedule:
QB: Blake Bortles and Jimmy Garoppolo
RB: Mike Davis and Kerwynn Williams
TE: Vernon Davis and Ricky Seals-Jones
- Kenny Britt signed with the Patriots, but isn't someone to target in fantasy leagues. There are simply not enough targets to go around to give a guy like Britt fantasy value.
** As of Wednesday, Bengals RB Joe Mixon remained in the league's concussion protocol. While it is possible he is cleared Friday or Saturday, owners need to make other plays again this week just in case.
Blake Bortles– Jaguars: Bortles is that QB the media loves to hate, but over the past two games he's quietly put up elite fantasy numbers. In Week 13 he racked up 309 passing yards, 27 rushing yards, 2 touchdowns, and no interceptions. Then, in Week 14, he followed up with 268 passing yards, 2 more touchdowns, and no INTs once again.
This week he gets a Texans defense giving up 22.2 points per game to fantasy QBs this season. With T.J. Yates at QB, facing an elite defense from the Jaguars, you can be sure the Texans defense will spend enough time on the field to be winded by the 3rd quarter.
I am looking for sneaky QB1 numbers from a QB (Bortles) that nobody is talking about, and a guy you shouldn't overlook!
Jimmy Garoppolo – 49ers: Since taking over as the 49ers starting QB, Garoppolo has thrown for 645 yards, 2 TDs, 2 INTs, and has a 300-yard game under his belt. Those numbers are actually more impressive than they sound due to the fact that his No. 1 WR is Marquise Goodwin.
This week Jimmy G. gets a Titans defense that is giving up 19.7 PPG to QBs this season, 17th-most in the NFL. In Week 13 the Titans allowed Tom Savage to throw for 365 yards and a touchdown. If they give that up to Tom Savage, imagine what a QB with the obvious talent of Jimmy G. can do against them! He still has Goodwin as his No. 1, but I wouldn't mind taking a flier on him if I am streaming QBs.
Kenyon Drake – Dolphins: The only concern I have with Drake this weekend is the high in Buffalo is supposed to be 34 degrees. For a warm-weather team like the Dolphins, that could be a serious problem. The lone bit of good news with the weather is it isn't supposed to snow during the game, so there is a silver lining.
With that said, I still like Drake this week because the Bills are generously giving up 22.6 PPG to RBs this season, the most in the NFL. Through 13 games this season, the Bills have given up 1,458 rushing yards (most in NFL) and 15 rushing TDs (most in NFL) to RBs. If Drake can get that average (112.2 yards & 1.2 TDs), then he is sure to finish as a RB1 for Week 15.
Alfred Morris – Cowboys: Morris is the Cowboys' starting RB for one more week, then he will turn over the reins to Ezekiel Elliot once again. But until then he is the starter and an interesting fantasy RB this week as he takes on a Raiders defense giving up 19.0 PPG to RBs this season, 11th-most in the NFL.
I'll be the first to admit that I'm not a fan of the Cowboys offense minus Zeke. But Morris is averaging 5.0 yards over his 97 carries this season, which is nothing to sneeze at. His knock is he doesn't score (1 TD in 102 touches). While that keeps him out of the RB1 rankings most weeks, he is a solid RB2 play for those looking to fill the hole left by guys like Jay Ajayi and Doug Martin.
Keenan Allen – Chargers: Keenan Allen is on a hot streak, racking up 39 receptions, 547 receiving yards, and 4 touchdowns over his last 4 games. The question that seems to be troubling a lot of fantasy owners is, when will the house of cards come tumbling down for him?
The game is in Kansas City, and the Chiefs are getting Marcus Peters back from his one-game suspension this week. However, my guess is it won't happen this week with the Chiefs giving up the 2nd-most fantasy points to WRs this season at 25.1 PPG. And their 16 receiving TDs allowed is 2nd only to the Cowboys (17).
Marquise Goodwin – 49ers: Speaking of the 49ers No. 1 WR, Goodwin is a sneaky fantasy WR these days since he is averaging 8.7 targets, 6.0 receptions, and 94.3 yards per game over the past 4 weeks. His lone touchdown came in Week 10, just before their bye.
While he doesn't score, Goodwin has emerged as a PPR WR that would immediately replace Robby Anderson or Jermaine Kearse in your lineup. He's not likely to score, but he draws plenty of targets, catches the ball, is a solid yardage guy, and is available in about 40 percent of leagues right now.
Jimmy Graham – Seahawks: Jimmy Graham exemplifies everything about a fantasy TE. One week he could get you 6 catches for 27 yards and 2 touchdowns, and in another week he could fail to record a single catch. But such is the life of a TE not named Travis Kelce or Rob Gronkowski.
This week the Seahawks are at home, taking on the Rams. The Rams give up the 9th-most fantasy points to TEs this season at 7.7 PPG. Their 7 TDs allowed to TEs tie them for 4th in the NFL, and Graham had scored in 7 of his last 8 games, before the Jaguars shut him out in Week 14. I'm going to look for Graham to get back into the end zone this week, and would consider him a top 5-7 TE option in most formats.
New Orleans Saints defense: The defensive pick of the week from the waiver wire should be a no-brainer, with the Saints taking on a Jets offense that is now without Josh McCown thanks to a broken non-throwing hand. With McCown out the Jets will turn to 2nd-year QB Bryce Petty, who is sporting a career QB Rating of 57.9. For reference, a QB rating of 57.9 would put him dead last in the NFL, and 3.3 points behind the current last-place guy in Deshone Kizer. Kizer is 0-12 this season, and has thrown 17 INTs to 9 TDs!
This is much more about the state of the Jets offense than it is about the Saints defense, although you should know that the Saints did have seven straight weeks in which they put up double-digit fantasy points (Weeks 3-10). They got back to those ways last week against the Falcons, and should be able to do it again this week against the Jets.
If you don't own the Jaguars, Ravens, Eagles, or Vikings, I'd seriously consider grabbing the Saints and playing them in the 2nd round of the fantasy playoffs.
Jay Cutler – Dolphins: Going back to the weather in Buffalo, winds are expected to be about 7 miles per hour. With temperatures in the high 20's/low 30's, and winds around 7 MPH, you would expect the Dolphins to lean on the run more than the pass.
Cutler is used to the cold weather since he began his career in Denver, then played 8 years in Chicago. However, Jarvis Landry, DeVante Parker, and Kenny Stills are not cold weather guys, and Julius Thomas isn't the TE he was back in his Denver days.
Cutler can be counted on for about 2 TDs most weeks, but his gunslinging ways sometimes cause him to give up just as many INTs as he gets TDs. That could be what happens this week in Buffalo.
Alex Smith – Chiefs: Alex Smith came alive in Week 13 against the Jets, slinging the old pigskin around the field to the tune of 366 yards, 4 touchdowns, and no INTs. However, since he doesn't get to play the Jets every week, those fantasy-god-like numbers are in the past.
This week Smith is at home to take on the Chargers. Through 13 games this season the Chargers are giving up just 16.0 PPG to fantasy QBs, 3rd-fewest in the NFL. The Chargers' 14 passing TDs allowed are the 5th-fewest in the league, and their 16 INTs rank them 3rd, behind the Ravens (20) and Jaguars (19).
On top of all that, the Chargers give up the 16th-most points to fantasy RBs this season (18.1 PPG), making Kareem Hunt a much more attractive play than Smith. I would consider Smith a QB2 with a low ceiling.
Jamaal Williams – Packers: Williams has officially taken the No. 1 RB role from Aaron Jones, making him a must-own RB for a few weeks now. With that said, he not only has to deal with a Panthers run defense that is holding RBs to just 15.4 PPG (3rd-fewest) in fantasy leagues, but he now has to deal with Aaron Rodgers coming back and throwing much more effectively than Brett Hundley could ever dream of.
The Packers are still in the playoff hunt, and Rodgers is going to want to throw the ball, not run it. Maybe he gets some goal-line touchdown to save his fantasy day, but I really don't see a 100-yard game possible this weekend. I would consider him a TD-dependent RB2, but probably a more realistic safer Flex play for Week 15.
Isaiah Crowell – Browns: Now that Isaiah Crowell has finally had his 100-yard game this season, some would think the monkey is finally off his back, right? Wrong. The Browns are still the Browns, and Hue Jackson is well known for abandoning the run for stretches at a time.
It does help Crowell that Josh Gordon looks like he never missed a snap in the NFL, but that is somewhat negated by the fact that the Browns still have Deshone Kizer playing pitch-n-catch with the defense. If the Ravens are able to bring safety help over the top to cover Gordon, and get some pressure on Kizer, then the passing game becomes a non-factor. If/when that happens, the Ravens can focus on the run and possibly pitch a shutout on the road in Cleveland.
Mike Evans – Buccaneers: Mike Evans was probably the 4th WR taken off the board in your fantasy draft, behind Antonio Brown, Julio Jones, and Odell Beckham Jr. Despite being a top-5 drafted WR, Evans is 19th in receptions (55), 21st in receiving yards (760), and is tied for 30th in TDs (4) for WRs. With numbers like that, the term "bust" is well deserved for his 2017 fantasy season.
This week the Bucs are at home to take on the Falcons. On the surface you might think this is a possible shootout. However, the Falcons are giving up the 7th-fewest fantasy points to WRs this season at 18.1 PPG, and Jameis Winston is putting up only 14.7 fantasy points in PPR formats this year. The Falcons are stingy; Winston is not playing his best game; Evans' value depends on Winston beating a defense that few others have this season.
The odds are not in Evans' favor this week, and I am actually benching him in a lot of my leagues for other guys who have been producing lately.
Josh Gordon – Browns: Gordon has been nothing short of impressive since gaining clearance to resume his NFL career, with a 2-game total of 17 targets, 7 receptions, 154 receiving yards, and 1 touchdown. Even with an organization swapping out pieces like a chess board, Gordon hasn't missed a beat.
With that said, Gordon is a boom-or-bust WR2 this week against a Jimmy Smith-less Ravens secondary. Gordon could explode this week, and put up Antonio Brown numbers (10/200/2), but he could just as easily flame out and be nothing more than the 3-4/77/0-1 guy he's been on average so far. The reason he is on this list is because far too many people are counting him as a WR1, when he is really a WR2/3, with questionable upside given his QB problems. Be aware, and beware.
Greg Olsen – Panthers: Greg Olsen was able to come off the Injured Reserve in Week 12 when he was first eligible, but didn't make it through the game without aggravating his foot injury. He then missed Week 13 with said injury, but made it back for Week 14, playing 59 of 64 snaps (92 percent).
Olsen's playing time is right where fantasy owners want it to be, but his production is not. Of those 59 snaps he played, Olsen saw just 1 target, which he didn't catch. In 4 games this season Olsen has managed to give his owners a whopping 4 receptions, 38 yards, and no TDs. Panthers Coach Ron Rivera said Olsen's role will "expand," but it's hard for his role to decrease from the current 1/9.5/0 role he has now!
Until Olsen breaks out (IF he breaks out) this season, he shouldn't be trusted in must-win games. You'd be better off throwing a dart blindfolded with Vernon Davis or Ricky Seals-Jones than Olsen right now.
New England Patriots defense: The first 5 weeks of the season were nothing short of a disaster for the Patriots defense, giving up 136 points, or 27.2 PPG, to opposing teams. Even with the Patriots defense being the 5th defense taken on average, they were about as useful to fantasy owners as a pedal-powered wheelchair!
Then, in Week 6, they turned the season around and held the helpless Jets to 17 points, while racking up 4 sacks, 2 INTs, and a recovered fumble. The next 6 games were pretty solid for the Pats, averaging 11.7 fantasy PPG on defense. As fantasy owners know, 10-plus points from a fantasy defense is a good week for them!
Last week the Patriots were punched in the mouth by the Dolphins, losing 27-20. On defense the Patriots came away with 2.00 fantasy points, barely breaking even. This week they take on a Steelers offense that just put up 545 total yards of offense up against the Ravens, beating them at home by a score of 39-38.
With the Steelers riding an 8-game winning streak, playing this game at home, I wouldn't expect the Patriots defense to do well enough to trust them in the fantasy playoffs. With every game a must-win game from this point on, you'd be better off going with the Saints or Redskins this week.