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Houston Texans: Fantasy Football Week 15: Navigating the final stretch

Andy Rioux

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It’s time to navigate the final stretch of the Fantasy Football season but how does that relate to the Houston Texans? Take a look at that plus the Top 5 matchups and players to hire and/or fire from your squad.

Understandably, if you are a fan of the Houston Texans, you have to be somewhat down in the dumps after Houston’s nine-game winning streak was snapped on Sunday at the hands of Captain Andrew Luck and the Indianapolis Colts.

But there are reasons to not be so glum.  We realize this is not relating to sports, but it is hard not to be happy over the news that Kathie Lee Gifford is leaving the Today show.  And getting back to sports, at least the Houston Texans are in a much better position than the Rockets, who morphed into bad comedy when word broke that they were contemplating the acquisition of J.R. Smith, who single-handedly turned last year’s NBA Finals into a joke.

And of course, a big reason for brightness is that the Houston Texans should have a pretty good chance of beating the New York Jets on Saturday.  The Jets moved to 4-9 with a 27-23 victory over Buffalo on Sunday, but this is still a team playing out the string with a head coach who is likely to be fired.  The jury is out on rookie quarterback Sam Darnold, who has flashed at times but needs a better supporting cast.  Robby Anderson stepped up in the win over the Bills with four catches for 76 yards and a touchdown, but Anderson has overall been a disappointment.  Neither Anderson nor Quincy Enunwa are someone you want to sneak into your lineup.

If there is a Jet you might want to play, it could be running back Elijah McGuire.  With starter Isaiah Crowell ailing, McGuire could get a lot of volume against the Houston Texans and is worth signing to your squad.  He should be available in a decent amount of leagues.  Tight end Chris Herndon has brought some positivity to the New York passing game, but we would not want to start him with the fantasy season on the line.

Despite the disappointment against the Colts, you will want to start the core Houston Texans this week, especially the defense, which could feast on potential Darnold mistakes.  Game flow should be more favorable for Lamar Miller and Miller will not be limited to 33 rushing yards like he was vs. the Colts.  You can also plan for DeAndre Hopkins to get more than 36 yards and for Deshaun Watson to be a quality QB1.

We still would not use any of Houston’s tight ends with volume concerns, but in a decent matchup, starting Demaryius Thomas might pay off, even if Keke Coutee returns.

As always, later in this article you will see our Hired/Fired segment where we analyze players to add to your roster.  We will also inform you about those players who you need to move on from.   Now 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.

TAKE FIVE

Los Angeles Chargers at Kansas City:

When these teams met in Week 1, it marked the beginning of a magical run for Patrick Mahomes that shows no signs of ending.  Mahomes threw for 256 yards and four touchdowns in a 38-28 win.  And if he can beat the Chargers again, Kansas City will clinch the AFC West title and move closer to seizing home field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs.

But Mahomes does not have the same supporting cast this time around.  Kareem Hunt is of course gone and Tyreek Hill, who burned the Chargers for seven receptions for 169 yards and two touchdowns in the previous meeting, is not expected to be at full strength due to a heel injury.  Travis Kelce is at full strength and has four touchdowns in his last three games, but has an incredibly poor track record against the Chargers.  In his last three games against Los Angeles, Kelce has 53 yards and zero touchdowns.  Of course, you are still going to start all three with confidence.  We just think it is important to point out a small dose of downside that usually does not exist with that powerful trio.

Spencer Ware, who has largely taken Hunt’s place, totaled 129 yards in a Week 14 overtime win over Baltimore, but is doubtful for this key clash.  If Ware is unable to go, Damien Williams, who scored a couple of touchdowns against the Ravens, will probably pick up the slack, with Darrel Williams and Charcandrick West also candidates for work.  Damien Williams is who you want to sign off waivers.  As far as the rest of the Chiefs go, Chris Conley can be plugged into your lineup if you are in a pinch, but hopefully you have better choices as your WR3.

Will Los Angeles get running back Melvin Gordon back?  He is headed towards a game-time decision as he tries to come back from a knee injury.  Even if Gordon is not at full strength, you have to start him if he is active.  In his last game at Arrowhead, Gordon had 169 yards and a touchdown.  He finished with 166 total yards back in Week 1.  With Austin Ekeler out of action on Thursday, you want to add Justin Jackson.  You would have a starter if Gordon is out and potentially a flex even if Gordon plays.

Keenan Allen has been on an absolute tear, scoring a touchdown in his past five games.  By far the favorite target of Philip Rivers, Allen is a candidate to be the top wide receiver of the week.  Rivers is a clear QB1 who threw for a season-high 424 yards against Kansas City earlier this year.  If you feel compelled to start a Chargers receiver, Mike Williams is a better bet for production than slumping Tyrell Williams.  There is also the chance someone like Antonio Gates or Travis Benjamin could do something notable, but we would not put our fantasy season in their hands.

Miami at Minnesota:

Drama was the name of the game for both of these teams in Week 14, but the drama could not have been more different.  Miami, now 7-6, won on one of the most shocking finishes in recent memory, with Kenyan Drake racing into the end zone after a lateral to steal a sure victory from the Patriots.  Minnesota, falling to 6-6-1 after an embarrassing 21-7 loss to Seattle on national television, fired offensive coordinator John DeFilippo, with quarterbacks coach Kevin Stefanski being promoted to fill DeFilippo’s spot.

One has to think Stefanski will utilize Dalvin Cook more.  There were too many instances throughout the season where Minnesota drifted away from the run, especially with Cook and backup Latavius Murray being capable performers.  Miami shut down New England on the ground, but the Dolphins are still giving up 139.5 rushing yards per game.  Cook slots in as an RB1 this week.

Even if Minnesota runs more, there will be plenty of opportunities for Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen to get their numbers.  Both are helped by the fact Minnesota lacks a capable third receiver and Kyle Rudolph is not producing as he has in the past.  You can safely start both players as you normally would.

But what about the man who throws them the ball?  Cousins, thought to be a value at draft time, has been no value at all throughout a good portion of the season, with just one touchdown pass in six of thirteen starts.  Against a shaky Miami pass defense that could again be without top cornerback Xavien Howard, Cousins may offer sleeper potential if you are brave enough to pull the trigger.  However, we would relegate him to QB2 territory as his overall body of work is not strong enough to warrant a playoff start.

If we are living in the real world, Adam Gase has done a tremendous job, as few would have predicted Miami would be in the playoff hunt this late in the season.  Since we exist at least somewhat in a fantasy world, we still have issues with Gase for marginalizing Drake.  You know the risks with Drake.  He could do next to nothing or produce a big play that sends you towards the fantasy finals.

With Minnesota just having held Russell Wilson to 72 yards and zero touchdowns, it stands to reason the Dolphins will probably not build their game plan around Ryan Tannehill, who may have trouble generating value in two-quarterback leagues this week.  The Vikings did yield 90 rushing yards and a touchdown to Chris Carson, so expect Frank Gore to see a decent amount of touches.  Gore has failed to score a rushing touchdown in 2018 and has no upside, making him a detrimental fantasy player here in the playoffs.

If Minnesota gets going again on offense and Miami has to throw more than they would like, Kenny Stills will probably be the beneficiary.  Drake’s miracle play rightfully got the headlines, but the Dolphins would not have beaten New England without Stills catching eight passes for 135 yards and a touchdown.  Given the strength of Minnesota’s defense, Stills would be a risky WR3 if you had to use him.  None of Miami’s other pass catchers such as DaVante Parker, Danny Amendola, and Brice Butler have any viability.

Dallas at Indianapolis:

It was not long ago that the only Dallas player possessing any fantasy credibility was running back Ezekiel Elliott.  Elliott remains one of the best of the best at his position, but now Dak Prescott and Amari Cooper have come along to give Elliott help and put the Cowboys on the brink of clinching the NFC East crown.

Cooper destroyed the Eagles on Sunday, amassing 10 receptions for 217 yards and three touchdowns.  Critics who panned the Cowboys for surrendering a first-round pick to Oakland earlier this year for Cooper have been silenced.  Fantasy owners who were patient with Cooper during some early season struggles in Oakland have been rewarded and will be rewarded again on Sunday.  Although Prescott had some shaky moments against Philadelphia, he finished with a career-high 455 yards and the three touchdown passes to Cooper.  Dak’s numbers will probably decline this weekend, but he can be started as a QB1.

The Dallas defense has been playing well, but with this not being a great matchup, you can look at streaming candidates.  Kicker Brett Maher can be started.  Rookie Michael Gallup is continuing to show promise alongside Cooper and at some point might have a huge game, but other players have a higher trust factor at the moment.

Texan fans were once again tormented by T.Y. Hilton, who once again tore Houston’s secondary, this time for 199 yards on nine receptions.  Naturally, Hilton will come back to earth some as he will deal some with Dallas cornerback Byron Jones, but will stay a solid starter.  Andrew Luck will as well, but do not be surprised if Luck is more decent this week than great.  Eric Ebron, who has 13 touchdowns and has been one of the great free agent steals of 2018, also needs to remain a fixture in your lineup.

With Dallas giving up just 86.8 rushing yards per game and seven rushing touchdowns over the course of the entire season, Marlon Mack will be a dicey RB2/flex.  If you have a lot of depth in the backfield, do not be scared to sit Mack.

New England at Pittsburgh:

Two of the NFL’s prouder franchises head into this clash after humiliating losses.  At least New England’s loss can be classified as a fluke, given they were beaten by Miami on the crazy end-of-game lateral play that only works once in a blue moon.  Pittsburgh, on the other hand, suffered a loss to the lowly Oakland Raiders and are now staring down back-to-back games with New England and New Orleans while only holding a half-game lead on Baltimore in the AFC North.

At least on offense, Rob Gronkowski looked reasonably close to the Gronk of old, catching eight passes for 107 yards and a touchdown in the loss to Miami.  Tom Brady, who threw for 358 yards and three touchdowns in his best game in weeks, utilized his top targets well, with Julian Edelman hauling in nine passes for 86 yards and a touchdown.  Josh Gordon accumulated 96 yards on five receptions.

The disappointing fantasy players for New England on were running backs Sony Michel and James White. Michel only generated 57 yards on 20 carries against an underwhelming Miami run defense while White finished with 28 total yards.  Michel was against the victim of vulture James Develin, as the veteran Patriots fullback scored his third touchdown in two games.  Somewhere out there, an owner who does not pay as much attention as other owners has submitted a waiver claim for Develin.  We recommend sticking with Michel and White over Develin in what could be a high-scoring game.  The potential for disappointment is there, especially with Rex Burkhead getting some opportunities, but both have done well for the most part in 2018 and deserve a shot to make things right.  Brady, Gronk, Edelman, and Gordon should be locks for your lineup.

Speaking of locks for your lineup, we present Antonio Brown and Juju Smith-Schuster.  Second-year standout Smith-Schuster actually has more receptions and yards than Brown, which is a testament to just how far Juju has come in a short period of time.  Brown has more touchdowns and will be looking to get back on pace after an off day against Oakland, where he had just five catches for 35 yards.  Ben Roethlisberger, provided he is healthy enough to play, is a no-brainer QB1.

In his first game in relief of injured James Conner, Jaylen Samuels contributed more as a receiver, snagging seven passes for 64 yards.  Samuels added 28 yards on the ground, but had a touchdown stolen away by veteran Stevan Ridley.  Nonetheless, Ridley finished with four yards and remains removed from relevancy.  Provided Conner is not back, Samuels should give owners another steady start, especially in Yahoo leagues where he can start at tight end.  Speaking of tight ends, Vance McDonald has not cleared 50 receiving yards since Week 6.  He remains ahead of Jesse James in the fantasy pecking order but is nothing more than a low-end TE1.

Philadelphia at Los Angeles Rams:

The Eagles were essentially in “last stand” mode heading into their clash with Dallas.  After a gut-wrenching overtime loss to the Cowboys, the Eagles are truly in that mode against the Rams with a wild card spot not entirely out of the question if they can spring the upset.

Nevertheless, it is hard to see a depleted Eagles defense that played almost an extra period against the Cowboys hanging with a Rams offense that will be out to regroup after being completely shut down in Chicago Sunday night.  Todd Gurley finished the night with just 11 carries while Jared Goff had 44 pass attempts and threw four interceptions.  You can count on Gurley getting much more work back home in Los Angeles and again returning to the head of the fantasy running back class.

And Goff should be more efficient even with fewer attempts.  It is a great matchup with Philadelphia giving up 277.4 passing yards per game.  Do not be scared to go back to Goff as your QB1 if you shied away from using him against the modern-day Monsters of the Midway.  Brandin Cooks and Robert Woods are both capable of big games and also need to be in your lineup.  By no means is Josh Reynolds a must-start, but he will offer a higher ceiling than other flex options.

If the Rams are able to pour on the points again, it would have been good news for Carson Wentz, who threw for three touchdowns in the loss to Dallas.  However, it was announced on Wednesday that Wentz is dealing with back issues and may be unavailable against the Rams.  Nick Foles is a downgrade as the Super Bowl heroics he showed last year were not on display during two earlier starts.

A Los Angeles scoring barrage would be bad news for promising rookie running back Josh Adams, who needs games to stay relatively close because he has a limited role in the passing game, especially with Darren Sproles back.  Nevertheless, it would not be surprising to see Philadelphia try to lean on their ground game a bit more to keep their defense off the field and also to potentially hide Foles.  If that strategy applies, Adams will offer flex value with the potential for more.

Outside of Zach Ertz, it is hard to trust any of Philadelphia’s receivers, even if Wentz plays.  Golden Tate had one catch in Dallas for seven yards.  Alshon Jeffery had his best game in weeks with six receptions for 50 yards and a score, but Jeffery had been in a slump prior to that and Aqib Talib has given the Los Angeles secondary a boost.  While Nelson Agholor hits a home run now and then, he has not scored a touchdown since Week 2.  Rookie tight end Dallas Goedert has shown promise, but remains a secondary outlet.

HIRED/FIRED

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 move to your bench.

HIRED:

Kenneth Dixon, RB, Baltimore Ravens – Dixon may continue to play behind Gus Edwards, but displayed enough against Kansas City on Sunday that he can serve as your flex, especially with a prime matchup against Tampa Bay on tap for this week.

Atlanta Falcons Defense – The season is a lost cause for Atlanta.  Nevertheless, they could perform well this week against Arizona as Josh Rosen has thrown one touchdown over his last three games.

Jacksonville Jaguars Defense – It is disappointing that the Jaguars will not get to face Mark Sanchez and there is a chance this version of the Jaguars is permanently scarred by Derrick Henry, but we would still be willing to take a shot on Jacksonville against journeyman Josh Johnson.

FIRED:

Tevin Coleman, RB, Atlanta Falcons – Losing work to Ito Smith, Coleman has 59 rushing yards over his last three games.  A matchup with Arizona is plenty favorable, but it is very hard to have faith in Coleman at this point.

Dion Lewis, RB, Tennessee Titans – While Lewis is not going to go away because of his pass catching prowess, the Titans would be foolish to play him more than Derrick Henry at this point.  With Tennessee’s next two games against the Giants and Redskins, Dion’s receiving abilities will not be needed as much, especially against Washington.

Tre’Quan Smith, WR, New Orleans Saints – That Week 11 game where Smith caught 10 passes for 157 yards and a touchdown seems like a decade ago.  How many receptions has Smith had since then?  Zero, and the Saints may recall Ted Ginn off injured reserve in the near future.

In contrast, what are your picks for this week?  Feel free to comment in the section below.

Interested in writing with Locked on Texans?  Tweet us: @LockedOnTexans, Facebook: Locked on Texans or drop us a line at [email protected]

 

Andy participated in his first fantasy football league before he was even eligible to vote. Andy is a graduate of the prestigious University of Missouri School of Journalism who has contributed to fantasy football sites for many years. Naturally, he is a big Mizzou fan. He's a bit of a food fanatic, who's known to seek out the best burgers, barbecue, and pizza. With almost three decades of fantasy football experience, his knowledge base and ability to strategize will help your team find success.

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Houston Texans

Houston Texans: Rob and Brian’s final sign-off from Locked on Texans

Brian K. Patterson

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Houston Texans
Mandatory Credit: Brian K. Patterson

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.

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Houston Texans: The best free agents to target in the 2019 off season

Joseph Esquivel-Murphy

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Houston Texans
Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

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.

Ronald Darby and Lamarcus Joyner are the best players available in free agency that can cover receivers in the slot and both players should be targeted by Bill O’Brien.

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.

Interested in writing for Locked On Texans?  Tweet us: @LockedOnTexans, Facebook: Locked On Texans or drop us a line at [email protected]

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Houston Texans

Houston Texans: Identifying the team’s most glaring weaknesses

Brian K. Patterson

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Houston Texans
Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

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!

Subscribe to us daily on Spotify, iTunes, Stitcher, Tunein or the Google Podcast app.
Email [email protected] or call (903) 265-9629 for Questions or Comments.
Follow us on Twitter @LockedonTexans, @HSTPodcast @HouseofHouston & @LockedonNFLNet

 

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Houston Texans

Houston Texans: Le’Veon Bell and plethora of free agent running backs

Brian K. Patterson

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Houston Texans
Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

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!

Subscribe to us daily on Spotify, iTunes, Stitcher, Tunein or the Google Podcast app.
Email [email protected] or call (903) 265-9629 for Questions or Comments.
Follow us on Twitter @LockedonTexans, @HSTPodcast @HouseofHouston & @LockedonNFLNet

 

 

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