Is Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson a must-start for this week on your Fantasy Football squad? Read on to also find out about the top five matchups for this week as well as what players to hire or fire from your roster.
From Lubbock to Longview and from Wichita Falls to Weslaco, the eyes of the entire state of Texas were fixed on the Sunday night clash between the Cowboys and the Houston Texans. And in the end, it was the men from Houston who won the Battle of Texas with a 19-16 triumph in overtime.
While the Houston Texans improved to 2-3 and gained ground in the AFC south with both Jacksonville and Tennessee losing, it was hardly a perfect night, both in fantasy and reality. The Houston Texans squandered numerous goal line chances. They could have taken control of the game and avoided the wear and tear of overtime.
One player who encountered way too much wear and tear was Deshaun Watson. Watson, who threw for 375 yards and a touchdown, with an interception mixed in, suffered what was being classified as a chest injury and is day-to-day. At this point, it seems like he will be able to play on Sunday against Buffalo. If he is not able to go, the entire Houston Texans offense would take a major plunge with Brandon Weeden at the controls. Weeden has been a model of inefficiency throughout his entire career.
We are going to assume Watson will be in the lineup and that the Houston Texans will not take the Bills as lightly as Minnesota and Tennessee have done. If that is the case, DeAndre Hopkins will be his usual WR1 self.
The questions marks will be Lamar Miller and Will Fuller. Fuller was clearly limited against Dallas, enabling rookie Keke Coutee, who scored his first NFL touchdown, to again operate as one of Watson’s main targets. If Fuller’s health is better, he will leap ahead of Coutee in the pecking order. Nonetheless, both players are worth starting.
Miller was in uniform for the victory over Dallas but did not play. In his absence, Alfred Blue, the Houston Texans “break glass in case of emergency” back, notched 119 total yards. It looks like Miller will play against the Bills, which would in theory put him in flex territory. However, with Blue generally looking decent in the win over Dallas, maybe the Houston Texans will give him more touches than usual, especially if Miller is not 100 percent. Regardless, D’Onta Foreman’s time looks to be creeping closer. If you have a spare roster spot, it can be filled by Foreman.
With two interceptions and two sacks, the Houston Texans defense has continued to show signs of life after a slow start. Now starting a three-game stretch consisting of Buffalo, Jacksonville, and Miami, this is a time to rely on the Houston Texans.
The Bills have to be commended for playing hard despite having an undermanned roster. Their upset over Minnesota in Week 3 will go down as the upset of the season in the NFL and they pulled off another stunner on Sunday by beating Tennessee in a 13-12 tightrope.
But despite their gritty efforts, the raw truth is that Buffalo does not have a single receiver that belongs on fantasy teams. It is a crime that the Buffalo front office did not deem it important to surround their rookie with any weapons. For example, the Bills could have taken Calvin Ridley in the first round. It was expected that Allen would be inconsistent, and he has been, but given the team around him, anyone who has Allen in a dynasty league needs to stay patient. The Texans defense will try to parlay Allen’s inconsistency into a big day.
Speaking of big days, LeSean “Shady” McCoy had 108 total yards in the victory over Tennessee. Not huge by old school Shady standards, but it was his best day in 2018 by far. It could have been even bigger. Backup Chris Ivory received 14 carries and Allen rushed for Buffalo’s only touchdown. While it doubtful old school Shady will be on display in Houston, he is currently the only Bills player who you can launch into your lineup, albeit as more of a flex than a must play.
Now that we have concluded our thoughts on the Texans, we welcome you to Take Five with us and get the scoop on five other games of note that are on the horizon. After we Take Five, you will see our Hired/Fired segment where we discuss players to sign to your roster…and also tell you about the players that may not be worth keeping around for the future. Some players mentioned in Take Five are capable of being hired or fired and will be examined there as opposed to during that portion of this column.
Kansas City at New England:
On opening night in 2017, Kansas City came into New England and pulled off a stunning 42-27 decision. Kareem Hunt, in his first NFL game, amassed an amazing 246 yards and three touchdowns. Speedster Tyreek Hill scored on a 75-yard pass. The only high-ranking member of Kansas City’s offense who did not dazzle was Travis Kelce who caught five passes for 40 yards. That talented trio will return to Massachusetts hoping to conquer the Patriots like they just conquered the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Oh, but there is one big change for the Chiefs from last year to this year. You may be somewhat familiar now with the name Patrick Mahomes. Some fantasy owners sat Mahomes against the Jaguars and while Mahomes did not deliver a monster day, he still rushed for a score and threw for 313 yards on a day where the Chiefs had a comfortable lead for most of the day and did not throw as much as usual. The Patriots will almost assuredly make things more interesting. If you sat Pat, put him back in your lineup right away. We all know to go with Hunt, Hill, and Kelce. Sammy Watkins had left Kansas City’s Week 4 win over Denver due to a hamstring injury, but he was able to play in the win over Jacksonville and owners should have no trepidation about going with Sammy in this one.
For years, fantasy owners who ventured into the New England backfield abyss often got burned. This year, with Rex Burkhead and Jeremy Hill out of action, there is a clear-cut duo and it’s a good one. In his last two games, rookie Sony Michel has gone over 100 total yards and scored a pair of touchdowns. James White is more than just a PPR asset now, with touchdowns in all but one game this year.
Given the quality of their offense and the fact Kansas City’s defense has struggled more often than not, can you start any Patriot? Of course you want to start Brady and Gronk. You definitely want to use White and Michel. Julian Edelman made a nice return in a Week 5 victory over Indianapolis, catching seven passes for 57 yards and not showing much in the way of rust. He should be started. Josh Gordon is basically boom or bust at this point, but he scored a touchdown on a jump ball against the Colts and maybe that will get him more looks from Brady. If you have more secure alternatives than Gordon, by all means, start them, but we would have no major qualms about rolling the dice on Gordon. We have to draw the line on disappointing Chris Hogan (who can be waived) and Phillip Dorsett, who no longer has a significant target share.
Los Angeles Chargers at Cleveland:
In recent years, the Cleveland Browns were the epitome of ugly football. This year, the resurgent Browns have often been ugly, but in a completely different manner. At 2-2-1, Cleveland has found ways to win ugly and become competitive again.
Unquestionably, the focus in Cleveland has been on Baker Mayfield. While Mayfield’s presence has injected life into the usually downtrodden franchise, his fantasy numbers are still firmly in QB2 territory. He would be an okay streamer this week.
Carlos Hyde and Jarvis Landry have brought stability to the Browns. Fantasy owners were racing to add rookie Nick Chubb after the former Georgia Bulldog scored two long touchdowns in Week 4, but it was Hyde who got 17 carries in Sunday’s overtime victory over Baltimore. It was the first game of the season where Hyde failed to score a touchdown. While Chubb is still a worthy stash if you have the space, Hyde can be counted on as an RB2. Duke Johnson has not been featured as much as he has been in the past and is a bench stash at best these days.
Landry is averaging 5.8 receptions and 76.2 yards per game. When the Dolphins played the Chargers last year, Landry caught 13 passes. He should be Cleveland’s leading receiver in this one and can safely be slotted into your lineup. The only other component of Cleveland’s passing game worth using is tight end David Njoku. After a slow start, Njoku’s yardage totals have inched up every week. He still has yet to score a touchdown in 2018. The Chargers have been a mixed bag against tight ends. The Bolts contained Travis Kelce and Jared Cook, but allowed an 82-yard touchdown to San Francisco’s George Kittle.
The Chargers have gotten a reputation as being underachievers, but they are going against the grain in 2018. At 3-2, Los Angeles has defeated Buffalo, San Francisco, and Oakland, teams they should beat. Their losses have been to the Rams and Chiefs, tolerable losses given both of those teams are a combined 10-0. The Browns represent a middle ground test.
The Big 3 for the Chargers remain Philip Rivers, Melvin Gordon, and Keenan Allen. Gordon remains a top-notch RB1 even though backup Austin Ekeler has carved out a strong niche in the Los Angeles attack. Ekeler has essentially become the West Coast version of Atlanta’s Tevin Coleman, someone who can be spot started whenever you need them.
Allen, has not scored a touchdown since Week 1. Still the team leader in targets, you have to figure Keenan will start traveling to the end zone more often after scoring five touchdowns during the final seven games of 2017. Rivers has already thrown 13 touchdown passes, more than rewarding owners who waited to take a quarterback on draft day and ended up stealing Rivers with a late pick. Not an elite option this week against a rugged Cleveland defense, Rivers is at least a back-end QB1.
Mike Williams has been quiet over the last couple of games after catching two touchdown passes in Week 3. He would be a better bet than Tyrell Williams, but more of a WR4. Anyone counting on Antonio Gates last weekend was disappointed, as underwhelming Virgil Green scored instead of Gates. Gates is nothing more than a wing and a prayer play in the twilight of his great career.
Pittsburgh at Cincinnati:
Some of the most brutal battles in recent NFL history have come from these AFC North rivals, battles so intense they make the news team street clash in the movie Anchorman seem like nothing. In these types of games, everything can escalate quickly, especially with 2-2-1 Pittsburgh desperately needing a win to keep pace with the 4-1 Bengals.
In the last game these two enemies played in Cincinnati, A.J. Green’s lucky number was seven, as he snagged seven passes for 77 yards and two touchdowns. With Pittsburgh’s secondary having been victimized frequently and Green already with five touchdowns, a big day could be in store for Cincinnati’s top offensive weapon. Although he did not fare well against Miami last Sunday, Tyler Boyd has developed into a dependable player. Like Green, Boyd could deliver a big day.
If you are looking for a very deep sleeper at the often depressing tight end position, C.J. Uzomah is a name to ponder. Tyler Eifert sadly was lost for the season in Week 4 and Tyler Kroft was injured in the victory over Miami. Since the rest of Cincinnati’s receivers outside of Green and Boyd do not usually play huge roles in the offense, Uzomah has some importance, at least on paper.
Joe Mixon had missed two games due to injury, but he stepped back into the lineup against the Dolphins and proceeded to post 115 total yards and a touchdown. With Gio Bernard expected to miss the showdown with the Steelers, it is all systems go for Joe to generate another good day. Andy Dalton has had some huge games already. Dalton is not always a QB1, but calling him one this week would definitely not be crazy.
In Week 5, the Steelers made it their mission to get James Conner more involved. Conner justified their decision with 185 total yards and two touchdowns as Pittsburgh punished Atlanta 41-17. Third on the team in receptions, Conner can keep fantasy owners satisfied even if he struggles on the ground. You can bank on Conner as a credible RB1.
From the “you already knew that” or “stating the obvious” file, Antonio Brown and Juju Smith-Schuster are WR1s. Road game Ben Roethlisberger and home game Ben Roethlisberger are often viewed differently, but Big Ben threw for 290 yards and pair of scores in Cincinnati last year. We believe Ben can get the job done. The most questionable Steeler who has been in lineups of late is Vance McDonald. He did not join the fun against the Falcons, catching one lousy pass for six lousy yards. Tight end is dire enough that McDonald probably warrants another shot if you are in dire straits, although calling him a reliable TE1 is a reach.
Baltimore at Tennessee:
Last week, we spotlighted the Steelers and Falcons, both with losing records at the time, in the Take Five because of the fantasy scoring potential of the game. This game represents the complete opposite. The Ravens and Titans, both 3-2 heading into what could be a key AFC clash when all is said and done, have been winning games because of their defenses. And both defenses can certainly be started.
Outside of a Week 4 showing against Philadelphia where he threw for 344 yards and two touchdowns, Marcus Mariota has remained the same disappointing fantasy player he was in 2017. Yes, Mariota has missed time with injuries, but the fact he could only generate 129 yards in a prime matchup with Buffalo sums up his recent history perfectly. We would not trust him against the Ravens. In fact, if you picked him prior to the matchup with Buffalo, he can be dropped.
Promising young receivers Corey Davis and Taywan Taylor have flashed at times. However, with Tennessee’s offense often going in reverse, they cannot be counted on as regulars. Since scoring a touchdown and gaining 110 total yards in Week 1, Dion Lewis has not scored since and his yardage totals have been an exercise in lost hope. Derrick Henry has not cleared 60 yards in a single game. Lewis and Henry have become bottom-tier flex plays. The Titans could get things going at some point. We just do not like the odds of that happening against Baltimore.
The fantasy picture in Baltimore has been a little brighter. Kickers do not get much love in fantasy football, but anyone who has Justin Tucker loves having him on their team. The best fantasy/reality story in Charm City has been John Brown, who has been healthy and leads Baltimore in receiving yards and touchdowns. Brown’s performance has been especially welcome as Michael Crabtree has been plagued by drops and has not scored since Week 1. Willie Snead has been steady but lacks upside. At this point, only Brown needs to be in lineups.
Baltimore’s backfield has been a quagmire. Alex Collins might have taken the job and ran with it, until some costly fumbles opened the door for Javorius “Buck” Allen to lead the backfield in touchdowns. Not only does Allen have more touchdowns, he got more playing time in Week 5. Fumbles aside, Collins “looks like” the better back. Until he gains a substantial edge on Allen, which does not look likely anytime soon, neither one is more than a flex.
Joe Flacco has successfully kept his job after the Ravens spent a first-round pick on Lamar Jackson. Flacco has spent pretty much his entire career as a fantasy QB2 and he will be in that territory against the Titans.
Los Angeles Rams at Denver:
Part of the reason to pay attention to this game is because Denver could easily be the first team to make a coaching change this season. Vance Joseph entered the season on a hot seat and after an embarrassing 34-16 loss to the New York Jets on Sunday, that seat has become scalding. And to cool off the seat somewhat, Joseph only has to beat the 5-0 Rams at home. Good luck with that.
For a team that has been a disappointment, Denver has a decent amount of fantasy contributors. Phillip Lindsay was an undrafted free agent who has generally usurped more heralded rookie Royce Freeman. Lindsay did not see as much playing time as usual against New York with the Broncos playing from behind, but he is averaging 78.6 total yards per game and has two touchdowns. While Freeman was also less involved in the loss to New York and has not gotten as much work as fantasy owners would like, he has made three trips to the end zone. The Broncos must establish their ground game to have any chance at making this one interesting, keeping both of these talented rookies in the RB2/RB3 dialogue.
And the Broncos would also be wise to run early and often due to the struggles of Case Keenum. We really wanted Keenum, a former Houston Cougar and Texas, to perform well in Denver, where he was given a chance to run his own team. Unfortunately, Keenum has tossed seven interceptions vs. five touchdown passes. There have been three games where Keenum did not throw a touchdown pass at all. He generated 377 yards against the Jets, largely because of garbage time. If this one turns into a even shootout or the Broncos fall behind again, Keenum will profit. However, he is simply not trustable outside of two-quarterback leagues.
Garbage time was also good to Demaryius Thomas, who scored his second touchdown of the season and amassed 105 yards. Emmanuel Sanders, who leads Denver in receiving, had 72 yards. Although rookies Courtland Sutton and DaeSean Hamilton have shown promise, Thomas and Sanders remain the prime targets in the Mile High City and the potential game script means they should be kept in your lineup.
The big question surrounding the Rams is the health of Cooper Kupp and Brandin Cooks. Both were evaluated for concussions during Sunday’s 33-31 win over Seattle and will need to pass through the protocol to play in Denver. If they are able to go, they need to be in your lineup. Otherwise, Robert Woods becomes an even better play. Former Aggie Josh Reynolds came off the bench and performed well when Kupp and Cooks were sidelined. Reynolds is not an automatic add, but he is a name to watch. Tight ends Tyler Higbee and Gerald Everett could also be more involved, but generally speaking, this is not an offense that features tight ends.
Los Angeles might also get kicker Greg Zuerlein from a groin injury. If you picked up Cairo Santos, Zuerlein’s current replacement, be advised you might have to seek another kicker. Zuerlein can be snagged off waivers if someone in your league dropped him.
Welcome to Hired/Fired, our weekly rundown of who belongs on your roster and who deserves to be sent packing, or at least banished to your bench. The bye week blues are really going to start setting in over the next several weeks. This week, New Orleans and Detroit are off. Next week will see the power brokers in Pittsburgh and Green Bay on the sidelines along with Seattle and Oakland.
QB Jameis Winston, Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Just a friendly reminder Winston is taking over as Tampa Bay’s starter this week and has a highly favorable matchup against Atlanta. In many leagues, he may have already been claimed, but if he’s available, he is capable of starting a lot of games for you down the stretch.
QB Sam Darnold, New York Jets – After slumping following a promising Week 1 debut in Detroit, Darnold threw for three touchdowns against Denver last weekend. By no means is Darnold someone you should be playing on a regular basis. However, he showed he has a higher ceiling than other backups out there and might be worth using once in awhile.
RB Wendell Smallwood/Corey Clement – Philadelphia Eagles – We know you appreciate a good bargain, so here are two recommendations for the price of one. With Jay Ajayi now out due to a torn ACL, Smallwood and Clement are in line to get the lion’s share of the work in the Philadelphia backfield. Sure, there are rumblings the Eagles might trade for a back. And yes, if Darren Sproles can somehow get healthy, he will get some opportunities. But living in the here and now, these are the main backs for Philadelphia. Neither will be challenging Todd Gurley for fantasy supremacy anytime soon, but both will carry regular flex value.
RB Mike Davis, Seattle Seahawks – Contrary to popular belief, Davis did not slip back into obscurity upon Chris Carson’s return. There was plenty of room for both of them in Week 5, with Davis rushing for 68 yards and a score. And there will likely be plenty of room for both of them in a favorable matchup against the Raiders in London.
QB Alex Smith, Washington Redskins – Smith’s huge season last year in Kansas City is already looking like an abnormality. With a weaker supporting cast in Washington, he is back to being a low-ceiling fantasy player.
WR Larry Fitzgerald, Arizona Cardinals – It is very painful to put a legend like Larry on this list. It is also a case where you may just need to bench him instead of cut him, but Fitzgerald has not scored a touchdown this year and is averaging 35.2 yards per game. He has also been battling a variety of ailments that have limited his effectiveness. Rookie Christian Kirk also seems to have plenty of rapport with fellow rookie Josh Rosen.
WR Doug Baldwin, Seattle Seahawks – Seattle’s run dominated offense has destroyed Baldwin’s fantasy stock. Yes, he has also missed time with injuries, but in three games, Baldwin has six receptions for 42 yards. Those are the numbers of some random guy on the waiver wire. If you believe he will turn things around, keep him on your bench. Otherwise, cut him as Tyler Lockett has been Seattle’s best receiver.
TE Ricky Seals-Jones, Arizona Cardinals – Any of the teams still playing in baseball may have their eyes on Seals-Jones after he pitched a shutout against San Francisco on Sunday. It is appalling that he could not generate one point against a 49ers squad that had allowed touchdowns to tight ends in every game prior to that one. Tight end is a troublesome spot, but as guys like Evan Engram, Greg Olsen, and O.J. Howard eventually get healthy, there will be less need for gambles like Seals-Jones.
K Mason Crosby, Green Bay Packers – The Packers are going to give Crosby another chance after he missed five kicks against Detroit. But what happens if he blows his first opportunity against San Francisco on Monday night? Will Green Bay start going for two all the time? Would they just have Aaron Rodgers and company going for it on fourth and short where they might have kicked a field goal in the past? Crosby is also on bye in Week 7, which would be the ideal time for Green Bay to make a change if they need to. And it is also the time where many fantasy owners would cut Crosby, as keeping two kickers is not a popular strategy. If you think Crosby will rebound, roll the dice. Otherwise, get a head start on cutting him loose.
Do you agree? Feel free to let your emotions all out in the comments section below.
Interested in writing for Locked On Texans? Tweet us: @LockedOnTexans, Facebook: Locked On Texans or drop us a line at [email protected]
Houston Texans: A case as to why J.J. Watt will earn the DPOY award
The Houston Texans have a strong candidate for Defensive Player of the Year in J.J. Watt. What makes his case above the others? Take a look as to why Watt will win his 4th DPOY award, an NFL record.
Ever since Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt has entered the league nearly seven seasons ago, he has been one of the most dominant defenders. His three Defensive Player of the Year awards ties him with Lawrence Taylor for the most in NFL history. Watt struggled to stay healthy through the 2016-17 seasons as he only played eight games, not having the opportunity to make an impact during that span.
The 2018 season has been a return to supremacy for Watt as he is tied for third in the NFL in sacks with 12.5 and is third in forced fumbles with five. His ability to wreak havoc in the opponent’s backfield has helped propel the Houston Texans to a 9-4 record this season and a historic nine-game winning streak after an 0-3 start. Watt’s impact on the game does not always show up on the stat sheet as opposing teams double or triple team him so that he cannot get into the backfield, allowing Jadeveon Clowney to get after the quarterback.
Watt’s play this season has been overshadowed by Aaron Donald, the reigning Defensive Player of the Year but that should not be the case. While Donald leads the NFL with 16.5 sacks, he trails Watt in forced fumbles with four and in the Los Angeles Rams’ stunning loss to the Chicago Bears he had two tackles and was not all that impressive. Watt was held in check for most of the game against the Indianapolis Colts last Sunday but he recorded a sack and a pass deflection despite being double-teamed for most of the game.
Watt does not make an impact on every snap but he influences the Houston Texans’ defense every time he’s on the field. Players like Whitney Mercilus and Zach Cunningham are able to roam around all over the middle of the field because of Watt’s ability to take on more than one blocker. Clowney is given more opportunities to get after the quarterback because he does not face the same amount of double-coverage that Watt does.
Watt’s impact on the Texans can be seen on the scoreboard as they were the worst scoring defense in the NFL last season at 27.3 points allowed per game. This year, the Texans are fifth in points allowed at 19.9 and have been one of the league’s better units with the healthy return of Watt. Donald’s impact on the Rams this season cannot be fully measured as they have allowed more points this season but have been ravaged by injuries.
Donald’s accomplishments in 2018 are remarkable but Watt has been just as good this season. Watt is in the discussion for Defensive Player of the Year and he should win the award because of his impact to the Texans’ defense this season.
Do you agree with my case? Feel free to comment in section below.
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Houston Texans: How the New York Jets just got a little easier to beat
Houston Texans faithful — did the New York Jets get a little bit easier to beat Saturday? Rob and Brian will tell you why. What’s the Houston Texans best position group? That answer isn’t as easy it might sound. We’ll debate. Plus, the NFL needs your input to solve a league strategy problem. We’ll see if we have any answers. What else? Take a listen for more.
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Houston Texans: Know the Enemy: New York Jets’ Safety Jamal Adams
The Houston Texans will take on the New York Jets in their Week 15 matchup. What player should they be most concerned about? Take a look as to why it’s New York Jets’ safety Jamal Adams.
After a devastating loss, the Houston Texans look to get right back into the win column against the New York Jets. Though the Jets are not a star-studded team like the Kansas City Chiefs but they do have some key players that are often overlooked. Perhaps the most dangerous to the Houston Texans will be safety Jamal Adams.
Jamal Adams was drafted 6th overall in 2017 and has lived up to the hype. According to Pro Football Focus (subscription required), Adams ranks as the 2nd best safety in the league — with an 89.8 overall grade — among those at the position with at least 474 snaps.
Recently, the Houston Texans’ passing offense has not lived up to its expectations. Figuring out how to work around Adams will be a key factor in the outcome of the game.
What separates Adams from other safeties in the league is how he can play physical while being in control. Adams is the prototype of what a team looks for in a strong safety with his 6-foot-1 frame and weighing 213 pounds. His stout lower body allows him to maintain balance and power in his tackles.
Here is an example of Adams coming downhill to make a tackle:
Jamal Adams does not miss 👀 pic.twitter.com/zKsxTVRmHy
— Nathan Jones (@natn03) December 12, 2018
This is a third and long situation. Adams lines up high and comes down to play as the “buzz” defender. His focus is on not letting any short routes break off for a first down. He sees Josh Gordon coming down the line of scrimmage on a drag route. Before the ball leaves Tom Brady‘s hand, Jamal breaks to make the tackle. Upon contact, Adams lowers his body, gaining leverage, to bring down the big receiver. Adams is a smart and fast player who will lay the wood.
Adams is also great at breaking up passes. According to PFF, this season he has tallied six pass deflections, an interception and a passer rating of 53.7 when he’s targeted. He uses his range and physicality to get receivers off their route so he is in better position to make a play on the ball.
Here is the interception Jamal caught in week one against the Detroit Lions:
Jamal Adams interception in week 1. Great job of using his hands inside 5 yards to stick the receiver in his stem. Adams maintained his balance to make a play on the bad ball. pic.twitter.com/ffVwGb5lk3
— Nathan Jones (@natn03) December 12, 2018
Adams lines up head-to-head on tight end Hakeem Valles. He is playing straight man-to-man. Even though the tight end has the size advantage, Adams is able to use his hands and stuff Valles at the stem of the route. The quarterback is under pressure so he conjures up a poor throw where Adams adjusts to catch-and-run for more yards. Even with a good throw, Adams is likely to be all over it. He is not afraid of jamming receivers in the slot.
Adams prides himself on being a physical safety, especially in this receiver-friendly, “player safety” league. He shines on the screen and is likely to be a tough matchup for the Houston Texans. He comes downhill and can stop the run but also plays excellent in man as well as zone coverage. If the Texans can protect the ball, they have a great shot at running away with this game.
Do you agree with my analysis? Feel free to comment in the section below.
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Houston Texans: Fantasy Football Week 15: Navigating the final stretch
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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