Which Houston Texans player’s Fantasy Football stock is facing a precipitous fall? Take a look at whom coupled with a review of last week’s action, the Top 5 matchups as well as the guys to hire or fire from your squad.
Monday night was a somber landmark in Texans history as it marked the first game the Texans played without Bob McNair as owner. McNair, who brought pro football back to Houston after the Oilers left for Nashville, passed away last Friday. Lauded for returning Houston to its rightful place in the NFL and for numerous charitable endeavors, McNair would have been proud of his team on Monday night as they won their eighth game in a row by beating the team the Oilers have morphed into, the Tennessee Titans, 34-17.
The Texans remained conservative overall, but were a little more aggressive than they had been in past weeks after Tennessee jumped out to a 10-0 lead. Deshaun Watson had his best fantasy showing since throwing five touchdowns against Miami back in Week 8. He threw for two touchdowns and rushed for another. Watson had his best rushing performance of the season with 70 yards, in addition to 210 yards through the air.
While Watson ran well, it was Lamar Miller who stole the show with a 97-yard touchdown run. It was the second 97-yard touchdown of Miller’s career, with the other coming as a member of the Miami Dolphins. Overall, Miller had 167 total yards, a figure that would have been higher had the game been closer.
Demaryius Thomas was another headliner, hauling in both of Watson’s touchdown passes. DeAndre Hopkins was quiet by his standards, catching five passes for 74 yards, which of course speaks to DeAndre’s ongoing greatness as that performance would be a season-best showing for many players. And the Houston defense was again an asset to fantasy owners, notching six sacks and getting a late turnover.
The only real negative was yet another hamstring injury for rookie wide receiver Keke Coutee. Not very long ago, Coutee was on his way to becoming a fantasy asset. Now, it makes more sense to discuss Coutee’s potential on an “all-injured” Madden concept team.
Standing in the way of Houston recording their ninth win in a row is the Cleveland Browns. The Browns have become presentable if not great in 2018 with a 4-6-1 record. Two in-season changes have helped Cleveland finally move forward after their 0-16 season in 2017. The first came when they dealt Carlos Hyde to Jacksonville. That opened up a starting spot for Nick Chubb and the rookie from Georgia has been sensational. He had a 92-yard touchdown run against Atlanta and totaled 128 yards and two touchdowns in last Sunday’s win over Cincinnati in the Battle of Ohio. This may not be a week where Chubb climbs to the top of the mountain, but he will produce a decent stat line.
The other change was the firing of head coach Hue Jackson. While many were bemused when controversial Gregg Williams was named interim coach, Williams has been a vast improvement, not that Jackson set a very high bar. One person who seems to be much happier with Jackson gone is swaggering quarterback Baker Mayfield, who has thrown seven touchdown passes in his last two games.
Although Mayfield should be commended for being better than many anticipated he would be this season, the high touchdown output is partly due to favorable matchups with Atlanta and Cincinnati. The Texans are going to make things tougher. That makes Mayfield merely a two-quarterback option this week. The only trustable Cleveland pass catcher is tight end David Njoku. Antonio Callaway performed in the victory over the Bengals, but has been a disappointment. Normally Jarvis Landry racks up numbers thanks to volume, but strangely, Landry has not clicked all that well with Mayfield. He is a risky WR3.
There are not very many risks on the Texans, as Watson, Miller, Hopkins, kicker Ka’imi Fairbairn, and the defense are all safe starters. Demaryius Thomas carries more risk, but as Monday proved, he can be productive as a WR3 or flex.
Week 13 marks the first week since Week 3 that zero teams are on bye. That changes the complexion of roster moves, but be sure to check out our Hired/Fired segment later in this column where we will mention players to add to your roster. We will also tell you about some underachievers who need to be dropped from your squad. Before we get to that, we will have our Take Five segment and look at five of this week’s most intriguing matchups. Once again, we remind you that some players mentioned in Take Five are capable of being hired or fired and will be looked at there as opposed to during that portion of this column.
Los Angeles Chargers at Pittsburgh:
If the 2018 season concluded today, these teams would meet in the playoffs. The Chargers have a comfortable cushion as the top AFC wild card seed and the fifth seed while the Steelers slipped to the fourth seed after a barrage of turnovers resulted in a 24-17 loss to the Denver Broncos.
All is not well with Los Angeles, however, as they will be without star runner Melvin Gordon for an unspecified period of time. Gordon’s absence has the potential to sink many fantasy teams, as he has been having a dominating season with 13 touchdowns and 1,255 total yards. The Charger backfield will now be led by Austin Ekeler, who has been productive whenever given a chance. If you handcuffed Gordon with Ekeler, consider yourself fortunate. Otherwise, grab Ekeler if by some fluke he is still out there in your league. Justin Jackson is now Ekeler’s handcuff.
Philip Rivers was beyond amazing in Week 12 when the Chargers clobbered the Cardinals 45-10. Rivers completed 28 out of 29 pass attempts for 259 yards and three touchdowns. With Gordon gone and Rivers potentially needing to put up a lot of points against Pittsburgh’s high-powered offense, he should produce again as a QB1. Keenan Allen has scored a touchdown in three straight games and is back to being a full-fledged WR1. Mike Williams made two end zone trips against Arizona, but inconsistency will rightfully doom him to the bench in many leagues. We will have to see if boom-or-bust Tyrell Williams will give it a go on Sunday. Like Mike Williams, he is more of a bench player who can be played in a pinch. Antonio Gates is no longer a fantasy entity.
Lamar Miller was not the only player in the NFL with a 97-yard touchdown in Week 12. Juju Smith-Schuster also pulled off the feat and it was Smith-Schuster’s second 97-yard touchdown in his career, with the other coming against Detroit last year. Starting in Week 10, Smith-Schuster has scored a touchdown or eclipsed 100 yards in all three games. We all know Antonio Brown is still at the top of his game in fantasy and reality, but Smith-Schuster is not far behind. Even though Los Angeles has a respectable pass defense, you will be starting Brown, Smith-Schuster, and Ben Roethlisberger without hesitation.
And you will also be starting James Conner, who had 95 total yards in the loss to Denver and will be motivated to make up for a costly fumble. Tight end Vance McDonald is dealing with a hip injury. A fringe TE1, McDonald’s absence would open up targets for Jesse James, but that does not mean you need to acquire James out of your league’s free agent pool.
New Orleans at Dallas:
Left for dead after a Week 9 Monday night loss to the Titans, the Cowboys have won three in a row and moved into a tie for first place with Washington in the NFC East. By virtue of tie-breakers, the Cowboys are currently in position to take home the title.
However, the next task in front of America’s team is daunting. They will need to take down the 10-1 Saints to stay in their current position. And New Orleans is capable of slowing the best weapon for Dallas on offense, Ezekiel Elliott. The Saints yield a league-best 73.2 rushing yards per game and absolutely suffocated Atlanta’s ground game last Thursday night.
But while New Orleans yields limited yardage, they have given up 10 touchdowns, so all is certainly not lost for Elliott. He remains the epitome of a must-start. And since Amari Cooper has made his way to the Cowboys, Dallas is no longer as one-dimensional as they used to be. That was evident on Thanksgiving when Cooper burned Washington for 180 yards and two touchdowns. While Cooper and consistency do not have the best relationship, view him as a credible WR2 for this one with the possibility for more. Dak Prescott has progressed back into the streamer zone. The rest of the Dallas players have little to offer.
Dallas has had a pretty good pass defense in 2018, but just gave up two touchdown passes and 268 yards to Colt McCoy. Something tells me Drew Brees is a little better than Colt McCoy. Brees, who had four touchdown passes against Atlanta, will hopefully have rookie Tre’Quan Smith back for this one. Although Brees might not shred the Cowboys, he will again be among the cream of the crop as his position.
Michael Thomas oddly struggled in the win over Atlanta with just 38 yards, but ought to have no problem rebounding in Arlington. Thomas and Alvin Kamara are always capable of superstar showings. While Smith is not an automatic starter, he would offer some intrigue if you needed to use him. Mark Ingram is another solid starter. Veteran tight end Ben Watson has faded to the point where there is no need to have him occupying a roster spot. Fellow tight end Dan Arnold, who had 45 yards and a touchdown against the Falcons, is a player to watch.
Minnesota at New England:
Few expected to see Minnesota behind Chicago at this point in the season, but after a 24-17 victory over Green Bay, the 6-4-1 Vikings currently own the top wild card spot in the NFC. Although Minnesota still has the likes of Miami and Detroit on the schedule, they also have to travel to Seattle, host the same Bears they are chasing, and travel to Massachusetts for this clash. So it stands to reason that the Vikings probably need to steal a game against one of their tougher opponents to qualify for postseason play.
And if Kirk Cousins can produce like he did against the Packers, they will have a shot. Cousins fired three touchdown passes and racked up 342 yards. It was his best game since he threw for four touchdowns and 422 yards in a Week 4 loss to the Los Angeles Rams. With New England giving up 270 passing yards per game and 22 touchdowns, Cousins has QB1 value. The dynamic duo of Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen should continue to thrive. Kyle Rudolph turned in his first good game in quite awhile against Green Bay with seven catches for 63 yards. Rudolph still has work to do in order to regain our trust. Do it again on Sunday, Kyle, and then you will be worthy of being added back to many fantasy squads.
By and large, Dalvin Cook has been a disappointment this year, largely due to health issues. Cook is always capable of a big play, however, as evidenced by his 70-yard run in Week 9 against Detroit and his 26-yard touchdown reception in the victory over Green Bay. You can roll with Cook as your RB2. As long as you have the bench space to keep Latavius Murray around, we recommend hanging onto him since you know he will produce if Cook misses time again.
Minnesota’s defense could make life tough for Tom Brady. After all, they limited Aaron Rodgers to one touchdown pass on Sunday night. But as evidenced in Week 12’s win over the New York Jets, Brady has all of his weapons back and it is possible Minnesota will be without corner Xavier Rhodes. We suspect Brady will find a way to get the job done and we would look for an alternative to the Vikings on defense.
It was a good sign for New England and fantasy general managers that Rob Gronkowski returned and racked up 56 yards and a touchdown against the Jets. With New England generally spreading the fantasy wealth, Gronk is not as central to New England’s success as he once was, but he remains one of the best tight ends on the fantasy board. Julian Edelman remains one of the steadiest players in fantasy and Josh Gordon could blow up at any time. We recommend using all three despite the matchup.
And we certainly recommend using star rookie runner Sony Michel, who just piled up 145 total yards and a touchdown. James White has had a little bit of a downturn in his last two games, but starting White is still generally a smart strategy. The potential return of Rex Burkhead could pose problems for Michel and White to some degree. The Patriots are still the Patriots and love to create chaos for fantasy owners. Nonetheless, Michel and White have both played so well throughout the season that it is hard to see Burkhead just jumping back into a big role. We have no problem recommending Rex as an addition to your roster in case something happens to White or Michel.
Washington at Philadelphia:
The final obituary for the defending champion Eagles looked ready to be written on Sunday against their bitter rivals, the New York Giants. After getting massacred 48-7 by New Orleans, Philadelphia was down 19-3 in the first half. But the Eagles rallied and pulled out a 25-22 victory, staying alive in the NFC East race.
Two of the key figures leading Philadelphia down victory road were Zach Ertz and Josh Adams. After a rare off week at the Superdome, Ertz was back to being his elite TE1 self, catching seven passes for 91 yards and a touchdown. Adams, who has given Philadelphia’s running game a shot in the arm, helped a lot of fantasy teams as well by rushing for 84 yards and a touchdown. With Corey Clement and Wendell Smallwood cemented into secondary roles and Darren Sproles still out of action, there is not much standing between Adams and RB2 value.
Will Carson Wentz get back on track against Washington? The Redskins have had their moments on defense this year, but were just picked apart by Dak Prescott and Amari Cooper. Wentz, meanwhile, has thrown just one touchdown pass the last two weeks. He will probably rebound to some degree and tossed four touchdown passes the last time he played Washington, but may be more of a QB2 in this one.
Alshon Jeffery also needs to regain his stature among fantasy owners after averaging 40 yards over his past three games with no touchdowns. Give Jeffery another start this week, but if he slumps again, he can be benched going forward. Golden Tate has yet to take flight since joining Philadelphia and there is no need to play Tate or Nelson Agholor, who is on the waiver wire in many leagues and with good reason.
In his first start since Alex Smith was lost for the season, Colt McCoy tossed three interceptions, but also had two touchdown passes and showed a willingness to be more aggressive than Smith. McCoy’s presence has been a big boost to Jordan Reed. Reed grabbed six passes for 75 yards on Thanksgiving and will now to get square off against an injury-plagued Eagles defense that just gave up 77 yards to undistinguished New York Giants tight end Rhett Ellison.
If there is a Washington receiver capable of taking advantage of Philadelphia’s porous secondary, it would likely be Josh Doctson. Docton pulled in six passes for 66 yards in Week 12. It would be a huge gamble to give Docton a shot, but there are worse flyers out there. Out since week 5, Jamison Crowder has disappeared to the point where he may be a future option for the AAF or XFL. Veteran tight end Vernon Davis is also capable of big things. Unfortunately, Davis has been too hit or miss for fantasy owners to legitimately contemplate starting him.
It is possible Washington may get Chris Thompson back. An excellent receiver out of the backfield, Thompson has been sidelined since Week 8. We would take a wait and see approach on Thompson before using him. This one would have to evolve into a shootout for him to have any real value. Adrian Peterson tends to struggle when he is not scoring touchdowns. Still, as the workhorse back for a team that lost their starting quarterback, Peterson’s volume can pay off big and you should keep him in your lineup.
Baltimore at Atlanta:
In trying to choose a fifth game, I went with this one since Baltimore would currently play Houston in the playoffs if the season ended today. I thought about spotlighting Indianapolis and Jacksonville since the Colts are now the team the Texans need to fully vanquish to win the AFC South, but the Jaguars are such a disaster right now. Atlanta, while disappointing, has the potential to make this one somewhat compelling against a Baltimore squad that has gotten much more entertaining of late.
And of course, the main reason why the Ravens have become more fascinating is rookie quarterback Lamar Jackson. The Louisville product has won his first two NFL starts, averaging 95 rushing yards in the process. Jackson has not been perfect, throwing three interceptions vs. one touchdown pass, but those rushing numbers will pay the fantasy bills until he blossoms further as a passer. And it will be hard for Jackson not to be productive against a downtrodden Atlanta defense. Because of the depth of the quarterback position, he is not a high-end QB1, but offers a lot of upside on the low-end QB1 scale.
Another reason why Baltimore has been revitalized is running back Gus Edwards. The undrafted rookie out of Rutgers rushed for 118 yards in Sunday’s victory over Oakland after rushing for 115 yards in Week 11’s victory over Cincinnati. While Edwards has not scored his first touchdown yet, he will have a great chance to hit the house as Atlanta has given up 13 rushing touchdowns. The Falcons also give up 123.7 rushing yards per game, giving Gus a clear path to RB1 numbers. Alex Collins is liable to end up on a lot of waiver wires if Edwards keeps it up. Javorius “Buck” Allen is already there. Former Packer Ty Montgomery spelled Collins some against Oakland, but Montgomery is not roster-worthy.
The rushing production from Jackson and Edwards has come at the expense of John Brown, who has just two catches the past two weeks. If you want, you can hang your hopes on the matchup and Jackson eventually expanding his passing prowess, but Brown and Michael Crabtree have morphed into bench players who are merely desperation options. Willie Snead generally offers a floor but no ceiling.
If you are pinning your fantasy hopes on any of the Falcons, your biggest concern is not Baltimore’s defense. It is the fact that Baltimore’s rushing attack could dominate time of possession and give Matt Ryan and company little time to work with. Nevertheless, if Ryan has been your top signal caller throughout the season, you can take heart in that Cam Newton, Ben Roethlisberger, and Andy Dalton each accounted for three or more touchdowns against Baltimore earlier in the season. That does not mean that Ryan lacks risk. He may struggle to hit low-level QB1 territory.
Julio Jones had a three-game touchdown streak snapped on Thanksgiving night in New Orleans, but will again be a no-brainer WR1 even in a tough matchup. Calvin Ridley, who had plenty of ups and downs in the loss to New Orleans, is a WR3 for this one. There is no reason to get excited about Mohamed Sanu. With Baltimore having given up touchdowns to tight end in four of their last five games, you can employ Austin Hooper as a TE1.
When Devonta Freeman was placed on injured reserve earlier in the year, it was thought to be a great opportunity for both Tevin Coleman and Ito Smith. Smith has rushed for 21 yards the past three weeks and if you have not cut him already, he can be given a one-way ticket to the waiver wire. Coleman has not put up lead back numbers, instead producing as he usually does as a flex who has a big game once in a while. If you usually flex Coleman, flex away in the hopes he will find the end zone, much like he did in the final moments of garbage time against the Saints to save his fantasy night.
Welcome to Hired/Fired, our weekly rundown of who you need to bring onto your roster and who you need to release, or at least banish to your bench.
RBs Nyheim Hines/Jordan Wilkins, Indianapolis Colts – Marlon Mack is in the concussion protocol. If he is not cleared by Sunday, Hines would likely step into a lead role with Wilkins spelling him. Hines is the one you want, but if you are beyond desperate, you could try Wilkins as well.
RBs T.J. Yeldon/Carlos Hyde, Jacksonville Jaguars – With Leonard Fournette serving a one-game suspension, Yeldon and Hyde will be leading the Jacksonville backfield. With Cody Kessler now starting at quarterback, you can expect the Jaguars to try and fire up their ground attack. If the Jaguars can keep it close, Hyde might end up being the best play. The odds are better that Yeldon will be more useful.
Seattle Seahawks defense – This week and again in Week 15, the Seahawks play San Francisco.
Tennessee Titans defense – We all saw the Texans do a number on the Titans, but Tennessee hosts the New York Jets and Jacksonville the next two weeks.
RB Isaiah Crowell, New York Jets – Outside of two big games against Detroit and Denver, Crowell has failed to top 50 rushing yards in every other game he has played. Even if you do not want to cut the Crow as it can be hard to find running backs in fantasy, he should stay on your bench for the stretch run.
RB Royce Freeman, Denver Broncos – Freeman is more deserving of being written up than fired, but after getting just six carries against Pittsburgh, he is pretty much just a handcuff to Phillip Lindsay at this point.
RB Alfred Morris, San Francisco 49ers – If for some reason you have been hanging onto Morris thinking he will get a significant carry share in San Francisco at some point in the future, it is time to cut bait. And it is more than Matt Breida playing well and being healthy. Morris was deactivated on Sunday as undrafted rookie Jeffery Wilson spelled Breida.
WR Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Green Bay Packers – After a nice run earlier in the season, Valdes-Scantling has two catches for 11 yards in his last two games. While Green Bay has Arizona and Atlanta in their next two matchups, it would be hard to have much confidence in Marquez right now.
And here are your tidbits for this week — what do you think? Feel free comment in the section below.
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Houston Texans: Rob and Brian’s final sign-off from Locked on Texans
Brian and Robert say goodbye to Locked on Texans. After 540 episodes, we bid a tearful farewell to Houston Texans faithful, reminisce about our tenure and share some final thoughts on the Houston Texans future.
Houston Texans: The best free agents to target in the 2019 off season
The Houston Texans off season is here and there’s a lot of work to do to prep this team for 2019. Who are the top free agents that the team should go after? Let’s take a look at the players who would make an impact.
The Houston Texans were one of the NFL’s better success stories this season after starting the season 0-3. J.J. Watt returned as one of the league’s most dominant defensive players, while free agent signee Tyrann Mathieu was a playmaker at the safety position. Third-round pick Justin Reid was one of the league’s best rookies and a starter in the Texans’ secondary for years to come.
DeAndre Hopkins and Deshaun Watson maintained their solid connection from last year as the former was named to his second consecutive first team All-Pro. Despite being sacked a league high 62 times, Watson passed for 4,165 yards and 26 touchdowns as he led the Texans to a 11-5 record and the AFC South division title. Lamar Miller was only 27 yards from his third 1,000+ yard season, despite missing two games because of injuries.
While the offense did put up strong numbers, the offensive line was a liability throughout the season as Watson was constantly under pressure, while Miller and the rest of the Texan running backs had few running lanes. Right tackle Seantrel Henderson was signed to fix those problems but he broke his ankle in the season opener and did not play for the rest of the season. He is a free agent now and so is Kendall Lamm, the man who replaced Henderson on the offensive line.
Julie’n Davenport struggled at left tackle and Martinas Rankin has not shown enough to yet to be a contributor on the offensive line. While Jadeveon Clowney and Mathieu are both free agents who need to be brought back, improving the offensive line is the team’s biggest priority in the off season. The Texans need to address the offensive line in both free agency and the draft as the unit struggled to protect Watson.
In regard to bringing in help via free agency, Daryl Williams missed most of the 2018 season with a shoulder injury but he was a second team All-Pro in 2017 and is the top tackle available.
His value might not as high because of the shoulder injury but Williams is one of the league’s better tackles and the Texans need to get him in free agency to bolster their offensive line. Williams is a mauler that should help create running lanes for Miller, while keeping Watson upright in the pocket. If the Texans are unable to sign him, Ja’Wuan James and Roger Saffold are the next best offensive linemen available in free agency and both players should be targeted by the Texans.
An upgrade in the secondary is also needed as Shareece Wright struggled in coverage, while Kayvon Webster and Aaron Colvin battled to stay healthy. Kareem Jackson had a great year for the Texans but is another Texans’ free agent that has to be re-signed.
The Texans need to address their own free agents first as Clowney, Mathieu and Jackson were all vital parts to the team’s success in 2018.
What do you think? Feel free to comment in the section below.
Houston Texans: Identifying the team’s most glaring weaknesses
What are the Houston Texans biggest weaknesses going into the 2019 off season? Rob and Brian bring on State of the Texans’ BigRon to discuss what needs to be done to fix a team that has tons of potential to be dominant. What’s the best way to improve the offensive line? Is Julién Davenport still worth developing and what should we expect to see in additional development?
How about the thought of shifting Greg Mancz to center and Nick Martin to guard? The trio also discusses the future of Whitney Mercilus on the roster as well as certain defensive lineman not getting enough playing time. What else? Take a listen to find out more!
Houston Texans: Le’Veon Bell and plethora of free agent running backs
What’s the best way for the Houston Texans to fix the running backs position for the 2019 season? They certainly can do better than bringing back Alfred Blue. Rob and Brian talk about what the team needs to do and gives their top free agent running backs to help this offense flourish. Is bringing in Le’Veon Bell a possibility? Can the Houston Texans get the back they want in this season’s draft?
The duo discusses that plus gives their thoughts of Indianapolis Colts’ firing offensive line coach Dave DeGuglielmo and the interesting back story that likely factored into the move. Plus, Gary Kubiak finds a new job in the NFL. What else? Take a listen to find out more!