The beat goes on for the Houston Texans as they’ve earned their ninth win a row. What are the most important picks for this week? Take heed to some Texans options, the Top 5 matchups and who you should hire/fire from your squad.
So much has changed since the last time the Houston Texans squared off with the Indianapolis Colts. When 0-3 Houston traveled to Indianapolis in Week 4, they were so cold that even the spectacular spicy shrimp cocktail at the legendary St. Elmo Steakhouse would not have been able to heat them up. However, they kept battling, and stole a win after a fourth down gamble by Colts head coach Frank Reich backfired. And they have been winning ever since, becoming hotter than a habanero pepper and moving into position to capture the AFC South.
The Houston defense dominated the Cleveland Browns on Sunday, picking off Baker Mayfield three times in a 29-13 victory. Zach Cunningham returned one of Mayfield’s picks for a touchdown, while inspiring Andre Hal and crafty veteran Johnathan Joseph were also part of the turnover festival. Lamar Miller paced the offense by rushing for 103 yards and a touchdown. Ka’imi Fairbairn also had a huge day with five field goals. It was another quiet day for the passing game, with Deshaun Watson throwing for just 224 yards and a touchdown. DeAndre Hopkins hauled in seven passes for 91 yards.
The Houston Texans have activated D’Onta Foreman off the PUP list. We would unquestionably take a wait and see approach before bringing Foreman onto our roster. Miller has been playing very well and there is no need to rush Foreman, especially with Alfred Blue also pitching in. As far as this week goes, all of the normal Houston Texans you usually start need to be started again. We would probably not roll the dice on Demaryius Thomas. Jordan Thomas would get considerably more interesting with more targets since he displayed an aptitude for finding the end zone, but we do not expect him to get enough work to be anything more than a Hail Mary heave at the tight end spot.
While it was a quiet day for Houston’s passing game, it was a horrendous day for all aspects of the Indianapolis offense. The Jacksonville Jaguars pretended it was 2017 again and shut out the Colts. Making the shutout worse for Indianapolis was the fact Jacksonville could only muster six points with Leonard Fournette suspended and new starting quarterback Cody Kessler turning in a game manager performance that should be trademarked.
Before you say the Houston Texans can dismantle the Colts in the same way Jacksonville did, we must recall that Andrew Luck captained his way to 464 yards and four touchdowns in Week 4. And top Indianapolis receiver T.Y. Hilton has made a habit of dominating the Houston Texans. Additionally, Eric Ebron has been a great free agent acquisition with 12 touchdowns. The Colts may very well lose to the Houston Texans, but they will go down fighting as Reich, by all accounts, has had a pretty good first year with a team that won just four games in 2017. We would not hesitate to play any one of that trio this week. Marlon Mack is more of a flex at this point, especially if Nyheim Hines maintains a significant role in the passing game.
Coming up later in this article is out Hired/Fired segment where we will dissect players to add to your roster. We will also inform you about those who you need to release. Before we let our fantasy HR department take center stage, we will have our Take Five segment and look at five of this week’s most interesting 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.
Baltimore at Kansas City:
Since Lamar Jackson entered the lineup following an injury to Joe Flacco, Baltimore has gone 3-0, with Jackson and fellow rookie Gus Edwards heading up a lethal running attack that has revitalized the entire Ravens team. During this undefeated stretch, Edwards is averaging 105 rushing yards per game while Jackson has pitched in 265 yards on the ground with a couple of touchdown runs.
So this is Jackson’s job to keep, right? Surprisingly, the answer is potentially no. Flacco is expected back this week and there has been some talk that both quarterbacks could see playing time in Kansas City. That would be very odd, as Jackson and Flacco have vastly different styles. It would also be an incredible pain for fantasy owners who have bought into Jackson. Any upside the rookie from Louisville has would be completely destroyed if Flacco was seeing extended playing time, which would be a shame since Flacco has no value himself right now.
If Flacco ends up seeing action, it would benefit the likes of John Brown, Michael Crabtree, and Willie Snead. Their numbers have suffered since Jackson took over, but it would be hard to see Flacco being out there regularly unless Baltimore falls behind by a significant amount.
So how do you approach this situation? Unless Flacco is inactive, Jackson becomes a risky start. None of the wide receivers have been terribly productive of late, so they need to stay on your bench unless you have already dumped them. Edwards, who will be spelled by Kenneth Dixon and Ty Montgomery, and Justin Tucker are really the only Ravens owners should be comfortable in starting. Even the Baltimore defense, which has scored touchdowns the past two games, is not worth using in this tough matchup.
In the wake of the release of Kareem Hunt, Kansas City got more of a battle from Oakland than many would have figured in Week 13. Patrick Mahomes took control as he has done so often this season, throwing for 295 yards and four touchdowns. Mahomes also added 52 rushing yards. Travis Kelce had a career day in Oakland, catching 12 passes for 168 yards and two touchdowns. Kelce and Mahomes are cinch starts of course, even if Baltimore’s defense has the potential to be a stiff test.
Shockingly, Tyreek Hill had just one catch in the win over the Raiders. He was open at times, but missed connections with Mahomes. Hill has nowhere to go but up and is always capable of rebounding in a big way. Sammy Watkins has continued to miss time and would be a risky choice if he returns. Chris Conley has scored three touchdowns in Kansas City’s last two games. With a smaller target share than Hill and Kelce, Conley does not have a lot of upside. Still, as emergency choices go, you could do a lot worse.
Spencer Ware took over for Hunt and notched 52 yards and a touchdown. Many hoping for a massive day from Ware were disappointed, as former Miami Dolphin Damien Williams spelled Ware more frequently than anticipated. The Chiefs brought back Charcandrick West on Monday. Ware will continue to be the back to own in Kansas City, but he is more of a low-to-mid level RB2 as opposed to the star RB1 Hunt was.
New England at Miami:
Could the Houston Texans get some help from the Dolphins in their quest to get a bye in the playoffs? On paper, the answer would be no. New England naturally profiles as the superior team and mauled Miami 38-7 earlier this year. But oddly, the Patriots have lost four of their last five games in South Florida, including a 27-20 loss last year.
A case can be made that New England is an even stronger team now than they were in the earlier matchup with Miami. Back then, Josh Gordon was just settling in and Julian Edelman was serving the final game of a four-game suspension. And although Sony Michel and James White have been a great one-two punch in the Patriots backfield, Rex Burkhead returned from injury last Sunday and gives the Patriots another weapon. The variety approach still encompasses Rob Gronkowski, even if Gronk does not appear to be at full strength.
Tom Brady is probably overdue for a big performance. The last time Brady threw three touchdowns in a game was during a Week 7 win over Chicago. He also had three touchdown passes in the Week 4 win over the Dolphins. Nonetheless, Brady is more of a back-end QB1 at this point as New England could choose to emphasize Michel and White against a Miami defense giving up 144.7 rushing yards per game. Michel and White both scored against Miami previously . Despite the South Beach Curse, we recommend using the core Patriots in this one. The fringe Patriots, such as Burkhead, Chris Hogan, and Cordarrelle Patterson, are not fantasy options. And despite two touchdowns last week, do not chase points from fullback James Develin. That was one of the all-time fantasy flukes.
Regular readers of this column are probably tired of the constant criticism we have given the Miami Dolphins and their blatant disregard for their best offensive player, Kenyan Drake. Please do not turn away, but here comes more. In 12 games, Frank Gore has one touchdown, ironically against New England. Drake has eight scores despite the presence of Gore reducing him to a part-time player. In Miami’s victory over New England last year, Drake had 193 total yards. If Miami could somehow find a clue between now and Sunday, they would cast Gore aside and use Drake as a workhorse. Since that is unlikely to happen, Drake is a risky flex choice who would need to a hit a home run on limited opportunities to help your team win. Gore should not need to be started in any formats.
With Danny Amendola ailing and Albert Wilson gone for the season, the Miami target tree has pretty much dwindled down to Devante Parker and Kenny Stills. Both hauled in touchdown passes in Miami’s 21-17 Week 13 victory over Buffalo. About the only way either player will help your team find fantasy glory is if Miami is playing from behind and forced to go extensively to the air. We recommend they stay reserves during this critical time of the fantasy team. While Ryan Tannehill’s return has made the Dolphins better, he is only useable in two-quarterback leagues.
Philadelphia at Dallas:
For all practical purposes, this one is for the NFC East title. The 7-5 Cowboys lead the 6-6 Eagles by a game and have an easier schedule, so if the Eagles are going to stay afloat, they have to take this one, especially since they lost to Dallas earlier at home.
The Eagles finally got a boost from Golden Tate in Monday night’s win over Washington, as the former Detroit Lion caught seven passes for 85 yards and a touchdown. He was the most productive of Philadelphia’s wide receivers, as Alshon Jeffery is in the midst of a major slump. Jeffery has not scored since Week 7 and is averaging 37.2 yards over his last five games. If you want to start him against a Dallas defense that just shut down the Saints, you may be sending your team’s season down the drain. Zach Ertz scored two touchdowns against Dallas earlier and had a season-high 145 yards. And Tate burned the Cowboys for two scores when the Lions played in Arlington in Week 4 before he was dealt to the Eagles. There is definitely reason to be wary of the matchup, but Ertz is a no-brainer TE1 while Tate can be started as a WR3.
Philadelphia has also gotten a boost from rookie Josh Adams. Although Corey Clement and Darren Sproles saw a decent amount of playing time against Washington, Adams still ended up with 20 carries for 85 yards. As long as Adams continues to get that kind of volume, he will help fantasy teams and needs to be started. The concern would be if the Eagles are playing from behind and turn things over to one of their other backs. With the Cowboys being a decent but not dominating team, we think that concern will not come into play on Sunday. Carson Wentz remains one of the NFL’s top young quarterbacks, but if Drew Brees can struggle against Dallas, Wentz can as well and needs to be downgraded into QB2 territory.
With the Eagles dealing with injuries in the secondary, Amari Cooper ought to be productive once again. He snagged eight passes for 78 yards in the win over the Saints. And Michael Gallup complimented Cooper with five receptions and 76 yards. Cooper is a must-start while Gallup is an acceptable flyer if you are in trouble at your WR or flex spots.
Dak Prescott is not exactly challenging Patrick Mahomes for touchdown supremacy, but since Cooper arrived in Big D, Prescott’s numbers have risen to the point where is no worse than a quality QB2. He can be streamed against the Eagles. While the new-look passing game has made Dallas more diverse, the heart and soul of the Cowboys offense remains Ezekiel Elliott, still very much an elite RB1.
Los Angeles Rams at Chicago:
The Rams looked mortal in Motown on Sunday, struggling to put away a pesky pack of Lions before finally winning 30-16. As is often the case, Todd Gurley and Robert Woods were the stars for Los Angeles. Gurley racked up 165 yards and two touchdowns while Woods ended up with five receptions for 67 yards and a score. Their efforts helped bail out Jared Goff, who threw for only 207 yards and was responsible for a couple of turnovers.
Can Goff get going again in a prime-time bout with a bad bunch of Bears? On the surface, it is a daunting matchup, but there have been some quarterbacks who have torched the Bears. We are still beyond puzzled that Brock Osweiler was able to amass 380 yards and three touchdowns in a Week 6 conquest of Chicago. In the final analysis, Goff can still be used as a QB1. Nevertheless, expectations have to be tempered somewhat. Expect useful but not gigantic numbers.
Beyond Goff, Gurley, and Woods, you can also start Brandin Cooks, who is always capable of a big play. Josh Reynolds is not someone we would go out of our way to start. Tight ends Tyler Higbee and Gerald Everett have some big moments on occasion, but are non-entities in fantasy.
The biggest question for Chicago involves quarterback Mitchell Trubisky. Will the second-year signal caller be back after missing the past couple of games? Chase Daniel is a respectable enough backup that the Chicago offense has not suffered with him in the lineup, but the offense operates at a much higher dimension with Trubisky. Assuming he plays, Trubisky can be classified as a QB1 in a game that could turn into a high-scoring affair.
Tarik Cohen did everything for Chicago in their Sunday overtime loss to the New York Giants, catching 12 passes for 156 yards and throwing a touchdown pass on a gadget play to send the game into overtime. While Cohen is a quality fantasy starter regardless of who is under center, Trubisky will take more chances downfield, so Cohen may not have the ceiling he has had with Daniels.
Cohen’s backfield mate, Jordan Howard, has pretty much had no ceiling at all in 2018. Sporadic usage has rendered Howard into a flex who pretty much has to find the end zone to help your team. We expect the same against the Rams.
Allen Robinson, who has not scored since erupting for two touchdowns in Week 10, would benefit the most if Trubisky returns. Robinson would be locked in as a WR3 in that scenario. The rest of Chicago’s receivers, including Taylor Gabriel and Anthony Miller, are bench fodder. Trey Burton pitched a shutout in the loss to the Giants. The “it’s a weak position” justification for using Burton has gotten weaker as the season has progressed. If you have an alternative, strongly consider using them. The same goes for Chicago’s defense given the matchup.
Minnesota at Seattle:
This critical battle in the NFC wild card race pits one of the NFL’s pleasant surprises against one of the league’s bigger disappointments. The downfall of the Seattle empire looked to be upon us heading into the season, with the Seahawks having staggered to a 9-7 record last year and enduring the loss of key personnel this offseason. Instead, the 7-5 Hawks have the inside track to a wild card spot and possess the potential to be a pesky foe to anyone in the playoffs if they can make it there.
Low volume often leads to low fantasy production, no matter how great a player might be. However, Russell Wilson is doing his best to contradict that narrative. Wilson attempted only 17 passes in Sunday’s 43-16 win over San Francisco and four of them went for touchdowns. One of the touchdowns was hauled in by Tyler Lockett, who now has nine touchdowns on 44 receptions. Doug Baldwin also scored his second touchdown in three games. The matchup with Minnesota is not the greatest for all parties. Lockett would be preferable to Baldwin, with Wilson on the verge to sliding into QB2 territory if this is a low-scoring battle.
Provided a finger injury does not keep him out of action, Chris Carson is a must-start. If you have Carson and Rashaad Penny is out there in your league, it makes sense to add him as a handcuff. Penny was next in line behind Carson and ahead of Mike Davis against the 49ers.
After signing Kirk Cousins, Minnesota was pegged as a strong Super Bowl contender. As it stands, they may not make the playoffs at all. Cousins was just held to 201 yards and one touchdown by New England and the Patriots picked him off twice.
If you are trying to make a case for Cousins this week, you can point to the fact that San Francisco’s Nick Mullens threw for 414 yards and two touchdowns in Seattle on Sunday. The case fades considering Seattle beat San Francisco 43-16, meaning Mullens was playing from behind and passing more often.
In light of that, we do not expect Minnesota to get blown out by Seattle, especially if they decide to lean on Dalvin Cook instead of Cousins. Cook performed very well in New England but was not utilized enough. Expect that to change in Seattle. Even if Cook becomes the focal point of the offense, there will be plenty of targets for Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen.
Jaylen Samuels, RB Pittsburgh Steelers – Aside from the fact the Samuels will be Pittsburgh’s lead back while James Conner is sidelined, he has added upside for anyone in a Yahoo league since he is also classified as a TE. Imagine using a starting running back as your tight end! While veteran Stevan Ridley will spell Samuels more than Samuels spelled Conner and Ridley can also be added in deep leagues, Samuels should be plenty productive in a nice matchup with Oakland.
Jeff Wilson, RB, San Francisco 49ers – With Matt Breida out this week, Wilson ought to be San Francisco’s lead back. There remains the possibility that unpredictable head coach Kyle Shanahan could pull some Shanahanigans and bring Alfred Morris back into the fold, but the fact that Breida will not be available should bode well for Wilson.
Justin Jackson, RB, Los Angeles Chargers – When Austin Ekeler was unable to get much going on Sunday night in Pittsburgh, Jackson rode to the rescue, rushing for 65 yards and a touchdown. Although Ekeler and Jackson may split time if Melvin Gordon is out again this week, the fact Jackson gets an easy draw with the Bengals makes him a viable flex.
Courtland Sutton, WR, Denver Broncos – A late add to this list, Sutton is probably available in a small number of leagues, but with Emmanuel Sanders lost for the season, Sutton is now the main man in the Mile High City.
New York Giants Defense – The Giants are out of the hunt, but have won three of their last four and will be the first team to face new Washington starting quarterback Mark Sanchez. May the force and butt fumbles be with you!
Jacksonville Defense – Dropped in many leagues, the Jaguars came back to life and cooled down the Colts. While the Titans have improved on offense of late, they are not a fearful matchup. And next week, the Jaguars get Washington.
Any Washington Redskins player not named Adrian Peterson – Do you really want a player catching passes from Mark Sanchez? Jordan Reed and Josh Doctson had been coming on of late and Jamison Crowder is back, but it is hard to see anyone in the Washington passing game having much value now. Peterson will have to deal with stacked boxes, but he will have even more volume provided Washington’s defense can keep them in games.
Duke Johnson, RB, Cleveland Browns – After a brief flurry following the firing of Hue Jackson, Johnson has done nothing of late.
Sterling Shepard, WR, New York Giants – Despite some prime matchups and Evan Engram missing time, Shepard has been unable to build off a Week 7 outing against Atlanta where he had 167 yards. In the five games since, Shepard has 130 yards.
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.
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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!