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Houston Texans: Week 1: A conclusive Fantasy Football prelude

Andy Rioux

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Which Houston Texans should you have on your Fantasy Football roster? You’ll be surprised as to who to start or sit. Plus, join the journey in a whip-around of the latest NFL injuries. Top 5 matchups for points? Take a look.

Houston Texans faithful — for many fantasy owners out there, draft day has come and gone.  Hopefully you are happy with your roster and confident you have a championship contender.  If not, be aggressive with making moves on the waiver wire and pursue trades that you think will steady the ship.

If your league has not held your draft event yet, or you want to know more about the ramifications of last weekend’s headlines around the league, we have you covered, along with a look ahead at some of the most interesting games on tap for week one.

None of the headlines generated by the Houston Texans dominated the overall NFL news, but there is considerably more clarity on the roster at key fantasy positions.  Running back D’Onta Foreman was officially placed on the reserve/PUP list and will miss the first six games of the season, locking Lamar Miller into a lead role.  Veteran Alfred Blue would be next in line should something happen to Miller.

At wide receiver, the release of Braxton Miller ensures Bruce Ellington and rookie Keke Coutee of a larger involvement in the Houston offense.  Neither player is roster-worthy in most formats at the moment, but could eventually offer some help on the waiver wire when rosters get tighter.  With Coutee being limited during the preseason, Ellington has more viability right now.  However, Coutee may have more upside once he settles in.

Houston also waived tight end Stephen Anderson, which means Ryan Griffin and rookie Jordan Akins are atop the depth chart.  Akins gained notoriety when he scored two touchdowns against Kansas City in the preseason, but neither Akins nor Griffin needs to be occupying space on your roster.

Additionally, the Houston Texans released kicker Nick Rose.  Rose did not mount much of a challenge to incumbent Ka’imi Fairbairn, who has been going undrafted in most leagues.  He does not show up on ADP data at the Fantasy Football Calculator website.  Nonetheless, with the Houston Texans’ offense expected to show improvement, Fairbairn might be a useful roster addition at some point, especially when bye weeks set in.

Of course Deshaun Watson and DeAndre Hopkins are no-brainer starters for opening day up in New England.  Miller and Will Fuller are also worthy starters.  It is a tough draw for the Houston Texans defense and you need to have an alternative lined up.  Tom Brady will lean heavily on Rob Gronkowski and Chris Hogan with Julian Edelman serving a suspension.  Running backs Rex Burkhead and James White will also be factors in the passing game in what could be a high-scoring affair.

Now it’s time to tour the rest of the league:

Don’t Ring the Bell?

It was assumed that Pittsburgh Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell, holding out for the second year in a row, would report by Labor Day weekend just as he did last year.  Many fantasy owners calmly selected Bell with a top five pick based on that scenario.

But the weekend passed, and Bell never reported.  There was panic at the disco and all throughout the fantasy world.  As of midweek, he still hadn’t shown up.  And now owners are forced to ponder a question that was unfathomable not that long ago – should we bench Le’Veon Bell for week one?  The Steelers seem tired of his act and Bell will have plenty of rust.  Even last year on opening day, he generated a meager 47 total yards against a Cleveland team that finished 0-16.

In the end it would be hard to bench Bell.  However, if you are in good shape at running back beyond Bell, you need to strongly consider it.  The decision would also be easier to make if you handcuffed Bell with James Conner.

Reeling Raiders

Could the Oakland Raiders have picked a worse way to head into the season?  There was the stunning trade of superstar pass rusher Khalil Mack to the Chicago Bears.  There was the release of wide receiver Martavis Bryant, who was acquired from Pittsburgh earlier this year for a third-round pick and will now never play a down for the Silver and Black.

On paper, the departure of Bryant takes a weapon away from Derek Carr, but with the Oakland defense now in a higher state of decay, Carr is going to be facing larger deficits and will be forced to throw more.  Even if Oakland is not trailing by a large margin, they are going to have to score victories by the shootout route.  He should be a solid QB2 for your team.  Jordy Nelson may be the biggest beneficiary, as Nelson and Amari Cooper are locked in as Oakland’s top receivers.  Bryant was always a wild card capable of being a fantasy superstar on any given week, but now, he is just part of a wretched Raiders offseason.

Jerick McKinnon Suffers Torn ACL

San Francisco signed former Minnesota runner Jerick McKinnon with plans to make him their lead back, letting Carlos Hyde get away to Cleveland.  Unfortunately, McKinnon was lost for the season after suffering a torn ACL during a Saturday practice.  As a result, backup running backs Alfred Morris and Matt Breida immediately became hot commodities.

When Morris was originally signed by San Francisco, some cited it as a classic case of Morris landing the job because he “knows the system.”  When 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan was Washington’s offense coordinator in 2012 and 2013, Morris rushed for 2,885 yards and scored 20 touchdowns during that span.  Indeed, it was the highlight of Alfred’s career to this point, but he did average 4.8 yards per carry last year with Dallas and saw a decent amount of playing time during Ezekiel Elliott’s suspension.

The problem with Morris is that he is not much of a receiver.  His single-season high for receptions is 17.  Breida, who spelled Hyde last year, had 21 receptions.  It must be noted that fullback Kyle Juszczyk hauled in 33 passes, but had seven rushing attempts in 14 games.  Given the complete lack of running opportunities, Juszczyk only deserves a home in deeper PPR leagues.  The San Francisco backfield show will larger belong to Morris and Breida now.  On the surface, Morris is better in standard leagues and Breida is better in PPR.  While Morris will indeed likely get more touchdown chances, a case can be made that Breida has more upside, since he will get carries and catch passes.  Both have the potential to be regular options for flex spots.

TAKE FIVE:

With the regular season soon to be underway, we will take a look at five notable NFL games that might offer a lot of fantasy fireworks:

Atlanta at Philadelphia:

Playoff hero Nick Foles is officially getting the start for Philadelphia.  His heroics were not based on his performance against the Falcons, as Atlanta limited him to 246 yards and zero touchdown passes.  Coming off a down preseason, Foles is not a great option this week.  If you picked Carson Wentz in your league, hopefully you drafted someone who can fill in as a starter until Wentz returns.  As far as the rest of the Eagles are concerned, at least Foles will not torpedo the offense, ensuring Zach Ertz remains one of the top tight end plays on the board.  Nelson Agholor is worth starting with Alshon Jeffery and Mack Hollins out and Jay Ajayi will probably be leaned on more to take some pressure off of Foles.

In his last two starts in Philadelphia, Matt Ryan has thrown for just 477 yards and two touchdowns.  While Ryan ought to rebound this year overall, you can do better at quarterback during week one.  Devonta Freeman and Julio Jones are also looking to rebound somewhat in 2018 and need to be in your opening week lineup.  Tevin Coleman is an acceptable flex, but Mohamed Sanu, Austin Hooper, and rookie Calvin Ridley should stay on your bench.  Naturally, the Atlanta defense gets a boost with Foles in the lineup.

Dallas at Carolina:

The main double-header game on FOX will feature a battle between two squads dealing with depleted offensive lines.  It will also feature one elite fantasy running back in Ezekiel Elliott and one hoping to become elite in Christian McCaffrey.

Elliott is the only must-start on the Dallas side of the equation.  Quarterback Dak Prescott and wide receivers such as veteran Allen Hurns and rookie Michael Gallup largely landed on fantasy teams as backups.  This game will give you an opportunity to see how Prescott clicks with his new targets before you might have to use him down the line.  Hurns and Gallup may force their way into lineups sooner than Prescott if either of them can dominate target share.

We are still stunned the Cowboys cut kicker Dan Bailey, who had been outstanding for them up until last year when injuries caused a decline.  Unless there is something we do not know about regarding Bailey, the decision to waive him must have amounted to cost-cutting by owner Jerry JonesBrett Maher is now the kicker for the Cowboys.

Carolina quarterback Cam Newton is happy to have tight end Greg Olsen back after Olsen missed significant time in 2017 due to injury.  The duo could get off to a hot start against a Dallas defense that is typically not daunting.  McCaffrey will get his first chance to prove all of the hype was justified and we suspect he will perform well.  Playing Devin Funchess as your WR3 or flex makes plenty of sense.  This game will also mark the debut of Carolina’s first-round draft pick, wide receiver D.J. Moore out of Maryland.   At the moment, Moore is not someone to rely upon, but he is someone to watch closely.

San Francisco at Minnesota:

We have touched on the situation at running back for San Francisco already, but there is another pressing question for the 49ers.  Will this be the first game quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo loses as San Francisco’s starter?  After coming over from New England last year, Jimmy G was 5-0, including victories over three playoff teams.  When we last saw the Minnesota defense, they were melting down in Philadelphia in the NFC championship game.  Nevertheless, the Vikings still have one of the top defenses in the league and Garoppolo’s undefeated streak could come to an end.  At a minimum, you should consider another choice at quarterback this week.

All of the passing game components are set in place for the Vikings, with quarterback Kirk Cousins, tight end Kyle Rudolph, and wide receivers Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen poised to produce good numbers for fantasy managers.  The main thing to watch for Minnesota is the distribution of carries in the backfield.  Although Dalvin Cook was great last year before suffering a season-ending injury, Latavius Murray has proven to be a capable if not great back throughout his career and there has been talk of Murray still getting a decent amount of carries despite Cook’s return.  While we would have no qualms with starting Cook against San Francisco, Murray is worth a look if he’s out there on your league’s waiver wire in the event he gets enough carries to be used as a flex.

Seattle at Denver:

Five years is an eternity in the NFL.  Five years ago, these teams were on a collision course for a Super Bowl showdown with each other.  Now, they are retooling teams trying to get back in an elite position.  And both teams have no shortage of fantasy story lines.

In Seattle, Russell Wilson remains one of the NFL and fantasy football’s best quarterbacks.  Nonetheless, the Seahawks lost Jimmy Graham and Paul Richardson in free agency.  Top returning target Doug Baldwin missed the entire preseason with a knee issue.  Wilson is probably going to regress some statistically, but how much?  It really depends on Baldwin.  There was a tweet recently from a Seattle Times reporter saying Baldwin was at 80-85% health and the knee was something he was going to be dealing with all season.  As Wilson’s most trusted target, any significant issues with Baldwin would cause headaches for Wilson.  Tyler Lockett and potentially Jaron Brown are capable of stepping up to some degree, but the team does not have much at tight end and probably will not get much out of veteran wide receiver Brandon Marshall.  Wilson is going to remain a QB1, but he may be more steady than sensational, especially this weekend with the imposing Denver defense on the other side of the field.

Also for the Seahawks, the tilt with the Broncos will be Chris Carson’s first chance to further distance himself from rookie Rashaad Penny as Seattle’s lead running back.  Seattle head coach Pete Carroll seems high on Carson.  It is not the greatest matchup of all-time, but you should not be scared to start Carson if you rolled the dice with him on draft day.

Shifting over to the Denver side of the equation, the hope is that new quarterback Case Keenum will prop up the values of wide receivers Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders.  By himself, Keenum may not have a lot of fantasy value, but Thomas and Sanders have struggled in a post-Peyton Manning world.  With Richard Sherman and Kam Chancellor gone, the Legion of Boom has become a memory, with only Earl Thomas still around and he’s just coming back from a holdout.  Do not overvalue the Seattle defense based on their past reputation.  Sanders and Thomas should both be started.

There is also lots of hope in Denver (and for fantasy footballers) that rookie running back Royce Freeman will provide an instant impact.  While Devontae Booker is still around and will probably siphon some carries, Freeman is simply better and capable of producing a proficient week one performance.

 

Kansas City at Los Angeles Chargers:

The defending AFC West champion Chiefs will be squaring off against the team most likely to steal their crown in a battle of high-powered offenses.  It will be the second career start for Kansas City’s second-year signal caller, Patrick Mahomes.  Both the Kansas City brass and fantasy owners have high hopes for Mahomes, who played high school ball at Whitehouse High School outside of Tyler, but the Chargers defense can be formidable, especially with first-round pick Derwin James poised to make an impact in the secondary.  If you think Mahomes can generate some plays that will override his mistakes, he’s worth starting, albeit more as a streamer based on your roster than a must-start.  Kareem Hunt scored three touchdowns against the Chargers defense last year and had 389 total yards.  Hunt was going to be in your lineup anyway, but we thought that was a nice tidbit.  Tyreek Hill also had success against the Chargers last year.  Travis Kelce did not, with just 47 receiving yards, but sitting him would be silly.  We would tread lightly with Sammy Watkins.

The big story for the Chargers is the return of Antonio Gates.  The future Canton inductee was long rumored to be returning for a reunion with Philip Rivers after Hunter Henry was lost for the season, but now it is official.  While his career accomplishments speak for themselves, Gates is essentially a fantasy backup at this point in his career who will catch an occasional touchdown.  Veteran quarterback Philip Rivers has a favorable matchup as the Kansas City defense will be weaker in 2018.  Keenan Allen and Melvin Gordon will be fantasy fixtures all across the landscape, with unrelated Tyrell and Mike Williams probably good for spot starts along with Gates.

HIRED/FIRED

Starting next week, we will begin a feature called Hired/Fired.  “Hired” players are ones you want to acquire off the waiver wire or through trades, while “Fired” players are the ones you need to send packing.

Are you ready for the upcoming season?  Let me know what you think by sounding off 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]

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 at Washington Redskins: Week 11: Three things to watch

Calvin Crawford

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Houston Texans
Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The Houston Texans will take on the Washington Redskins on the road this Sunday. What are the three most important things to watch? Take a look at what you must zero in on when watching this game.

Houston Texans at Washington Redskins
Sunday, Nov. 18 @ Noon CST on CBS
My Bookie Line: Texans -3
Over/under: 43

After riding a six-game win streak into last week’s bye, the Houston Texans are back in action this week and on the road against the Washington Redskins. Washington has been an up-and-down team this season; they started 2-2 and then won three games in a row, only to get blown out at home against Atlanta in Week 9 but rebound last week at Tampa Bay with a 16-3 win.

Both Houston and Washington are 6-3 overall and lead their divisions abut a loss by either team Sunday will have Tennessee or Dallas hot on their heels in the AFC South and NFC East, respectively. Let’s take a look at matchups, fantasy, and gambling in one of the most intriguing battles in Week 11:

Matchups

Washington’s O-Line vs. Houston’s front 7

Houston boasts the 6th best rush defense in the league and Washington will be down three starting

Houston Texans

Nov 11, 2018; Tampa, FL, USA; Washington Redskins running back Adrian Peterson (26) runs with the ball against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during the second half at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

offensive linemen for the foreseeable future; this does not bode well for Adrian Peterson nor Alex Smith. The Skins’ offense doesn’t have a lot of firepower to begin with and now Smith will be forced into a lot of 3rd-and-long throws if Houston can limit Peterson to one to three yards per carry.

Washington only had 16 points against the Buccaneers and that defense is a dumpster fire. In Washington’s three losses Smith had 39+ pass attempts in each game, which is the key for the Houston defense; if Smith has at least 40 pass attempts at the end of the day, then the Texans will walk off winners.

Julie’n Davenport/Kendall Lamm vs. Ryan Kerrigaeston Smith

Although they are not near as disastrous as at the start of the season, this offensive line is still susceptible to talented defenses. They were not able to run the ball against Denver successfully and their offense sputtered in the 2nd half, only scoring a measly three points. This defense does much of the same as the Broncos, especially on the edges with Ryan Kerrigan and Preston Smith.

Von Miller and Bradley Chubb made their presence felt after halftime adjustments and the Texans O-Line didn’t really have an answer. Kerrigan and Smith getting to Watson may attract extra blocking, and that opens up room for players like Daron Payne and Jonathan Allen to win those 1-on-1 matchups and stuff the run or put pressure on Watson themselves. But the Texans are talented enough on the outside to win against the Redskins’ secondary when the run isn’t there, which leads to the third matchup to watch:

DeAndre Hopkins vs. Josh Norman

Hopkins has proven he we will win against every guy that lines up across from him and he has faced extremely talented corners like Stephon Gilmore, Byron Jones as well as Jalen Ramsey. This Sunday is another popcorn ready matchup against Norman and I fully expect Hopkins to win again.

Norman did have an impressive interception last week in Tampa when he came off of his coverage of DeSean Jackson to snag the ball at the goal line when it was overthrown, so Watson needs to avoid those mistakes. Hopkins can get separation and win 50/50 balls week in and week out, and Sunday is just another game for him.

Fantasy

Houston: In all likelihood, a low-scoring affair will be in the cards this weekend and usual players like DeAndre Hopkins or perhaps Keke Coutee coming back from injury will be the beneficiaries of Deshaun Watson‘s touchdown passes.

The only players I would trust is Hopkins and Houston’s defense; Lamar Miller had fewer touches than Alfred Blue against Denver and Washington is tough against the run no matter who is carrying the ball; According to Michael Fabiano of NFL.com, kicker Ka’imi Fairbairn is not even a good option this week, as the Redskins only give a little more than four field goal points per game to kickers.

Washington: I would sit every fantasy-relevant player this weekend unless you feel good about Washington’s defense. The matchups don’t look good on paper, especially Adrian Peterson with three starting offensive linemen out and this offense doesn’t “wow” you in the fantasy football world when they are fully healthy.

Gambling

As of this writing, the MyBookie line is currently Houston -3 with the over/under at 43. This line is curious because both teams are 6-3 and the game is in Landover, Md. You would think that Washington would be favored simply because they’re the home team but Houston’s win streak and Washington’s injuries speak volumes.

Two weeks ago I liked Houston -1 at Denver and they narrowly won 19-17, and I liked the over of 46.5 but obviously, that didn’t hit. I really like the under in this game and the Texans -3, with a prediction of 17-10. I don’t know how Washington moves the ball Sunday; they only had 16 points last week against Tampa Bay, literally the worst defense in the league. Washington’s defense will keep them in this game but Houston’s offense will prevail with their weapons.

The Tennessee Titans are surging at the right time and Houston needs to keep winning ball games due to their 0-3 start. If the Texans drop this game and Tennessee wins at Indianapolis, then the Titans are in 1st place because of the tiebreaker. Washington is reeling from injuries and Houston needs to capitalize like they have been during this win streak.

So what are you watching in this week’s matchup in addition to my recommendations?  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: An early projection of the AFC playoff picture

Brandon Gimpel

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Houston Texans
Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

The Houston Texans continue edge closer to a playoff berth but it’s not a lock just yet. If the playoffs started today, what would be an ideal scenario for this team? Let’s take a look at the best path for the Texans to take.

The Texans currently sit at the top of the AFC South with a 6-3 record with the Tennessee Titans nipping at their heels sitting at 5-4. As it currently stands, the Texans are the No. 4 seed in the AFC playoff picture behind the Kansas City Chiefs, Pittsburgh Steelers and the New England Patriots. If the season were to end today, the Texans would have to play the Los Angeles Chargers, currently the 5th seed, in the Wild Card round. Now if you ask me, the Texans should try to avoid playing the Chargers in the first round of the playoffs.

Here is my ideal scenario for the Texans to make a serious run in the post season:

I believe the teams in the AFC that are absolute locks to make the playoffs this year are the Chiefs, Steelers, Patriots, Texans and Chargers. The sixth seed is where things could get interesting. The Bengals currently hold the sixth spot in the AFC and are notorious for having postseason struggles, especially under head coach Marvin Lewis.

Since Lewis has been at the helm, the Bengals do not have a single playoff win, despite having the talent to do so. Other teams that could sneak into the sixth seed are the Tennessee Titans, Miami Dolphins, or Baltimore Ravens. Ideally, the Texans should really try to set themselves up to play whichever one of the teams I just mentioned.

I believe the Chargers are far better than their current seeding indicates and they also play in the same division as the Kansas City Chiefs who have the AFC’s best record at a sterling 9-1 mark. The Chargers are one of the more dangerous teams in the AFC and if the Texans could avoid playing them in the Wild Card round, the Chargers will have to try their hand at beating the Patriots, likely on their home turf.  Good luck with that notion — they’re going to need it and it’s going to get the Houston Texans ever-closer to their goal of being successful in the postseason.

If the Texans cannot set themselves up to play the sixth-seed team in the Wild Card round, I think the stars will align just right for them to face the Patriots.  Not only that but they will prevail. Yeah, I said it. The Patriots have shown their weaknesses this year and have been extremely volatile, especially on the road. They have had to deal with a lot of injuries, an average-at-best defense along with a weak secondary. If the Texans can play the Patriots in the first round, that game will be a shootout between two of the AFC’s top quarterbacks and that is a game I believe Deshaun Watson can win.

The Texans will definitely be fighting an uphill battle in the postseason but I do believe they belong in the playoffs and are more than capable of making a deep run.

Is this how you think the AFC will shakeout once the dust settles?  Let me know 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]

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Houston Texans: The projected impact that D’Onta Foreman will make

Brandon Gimpel

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Houston Texans
Mandatory Credit: Shanna Lockwood-USA TODAY Sports

The Houston Texans have a chance to bolster their offense with D’Onta Foreman returning to practice. What’s his potential impact to the team? Let’s take a look at what we know so far and what could be in store for the future.

Houston Texans running back D’Onta Foreman was officially active in practice today and taken off the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list. His first official practice with the team this season marks the 21-day window that the team has to decide if he will rejoin the 53-man roster or be placed on injured reserve for the remainder of the 2018 season.

D’Onta is a 2nd-year running back who played in 10 games before injuring his Achilles against the Arizona Cardinals in November of last year. In that time he had totaled 327 yards and two touchdowns to his credit. Those numbers do not necessarily jump out at you but as a rookie who split carries with Lamar Miller last season, you saw flashes of what Foreman can be as an NFL running back.

Foreman never carried the ball more than 13 times in his rookie campaign and that is likely to be the case if he does make the 53-man roster. He brings a different style of running than Miller or Alfred Blue. He has the ability to break runs for big gains to which I feel is something the Houston Texans backfield currently lacks. He had three separate games last year with runs that went for more than 20 yards. He does not catch the ball out of that area very often but maybe that will change going forward.

The most important thing for D’Onta right now is getting back to full speed. Houston’s offense currently has a good amount of weapons so there is no pressure for him to rush back and try to carry the workload for the offense. He may not even be in shape for full speed scrimmage but that is what the 21-day evaluation window is all about. The doctors and coaching staff need to see if Foreman is healthy and physically ready to get back on the field.

He would most certainly be useful for the Houston Texans’ offense if he active on the roster. Opposing defensive coordinators would have to factor him into their game plan which may open some things up for other players on the offense. He is also capable of having one or two big games if he feels ready to do so. He is a promising young piece to the Texans’ offense and it is important that they take his rehabilitation and re-introduction into the offense slowly and with patience. I predict that Foreman will make the 53-man roster and end the season with 150 yards and a touchdown.

You’ve heard it here first — do you agree?  Let me know 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]

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Houston Texans: Fantasy Football Week 11: Finding the perfect mix

Andy Rioux

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Houston Texans
Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

As the Houston Texans start the second half of the season, what’s the perfect mix to assemble your roster? It’s time to take a look at that plus your top matchups for this week and who to hire/fire from your squad. Listen up.

While the Houston Texans took the week off, their opponents on Sunday, the Washington Redskins, improved to 6-3 by again properly utilizing their time machine strategy.  In this era of football, where defense has become secondary to offense and fans have become accustomed to high-scoring shootouts, the Redskins are content to avoid mistakes, run the ball, and let their defense do the talking.  Critics may call it boring and Washington is not likely to be a serious Super Bowl contender, but they own a two-game lead in the NFC East and represent a formidable foe for Houston this weekend.

In Week 7, Alex Smith threw for 178 yards.  In Week 8, Alex Smith threw for 178 yards.  In Week 10, Alex Smith threw for 178 yards.  If that is not consistency, I do not know what is!  Of course, true to his nature, Smith has thrown a mere three interceptions.  The Houston Texans defense should put up some numbers against Smith and company, but the root of those points will come more from sacks and not turnovers.  Washington’s offensive line has been decimated by injuries.

Adrian Peterson, who looked like vintage Peterson in Week 8 when he rushed for 149 yards and scored twice, has not been as productive since then, but remains Washington’s best fantasy player on the offensive side of the ball.  In one of the better developments for the Redskins, Jordan Reed has finally stayed healthy.  Ironically, his improved health has led to a drop in production.  Reed and Maurice Harris, who is averaging 88 yards over the past two games, are the only other Redskins who might merit a starting assignment.  Players such as Vernon Davis and Josh Doctson have not shown enough consistency.

So should you be scared to start your Houston Texans against the rough Redskins defense?  Not really.  In Week 9, Matt Ryan threw for 350 yards and four touchdowns against Washington.  In Week 10, Ryan Fitzpatrick, also known as Fitzmagic, had 406 yards, but Tampa Bay could not stop themselves from turning the ball over at crucial times.  Deshaun Watson and DeAndre Hopkins will be just fine.  It is the rest of the roster where there would be more questions, especially since Lamar Miller struggled before the bye in Denver.  Washington allows fewer than 100 rushing yards per game, making Miller a risky RB2.  Alfred Blue would be even riskier as a flex.

The return of Keke Coutee could complicate things for Demaryius Thomas, but Thomas showed enough in Denver to merit a start as a WR3, especially now that he has had even more time to get acquainted with Watson and the offense in general.  Owners need to take a wait and see approach with Coutee, but if he can somehow find a way to stay healthy, there are worse players to sign for the stretch run.

This is the last week of serious bye week carnage.  Sure, next week will see the Rams and Chiefs take time off and so many players on those rosters are centerpieces for fantasy teams, but it is still only two teams.  This week, six teams are off.  The entire AFC East (New England, New York Jets, Buffalo, and Miami) are gone along with Cleveland and San Francisco.  Be very cognizant of that, especially later on in this column where we will bring you our Hired/Fired segment where we suggest players to sign and also players to cut from your roster.  As always before we get to that, we present out Take Five segment and look at five of this week’s most intriguing matchups.  Once again, we remind you that some players mentioned in Take Five are capable of being hired or fired and will be looked at there as opposed to during that portion of this column.

TAKE FIVE

Kansas City at Los Angeles Rams:

This is not just a game.  This is the game of the 2018 regular season.  Suffice it to say, it is also a potential Super Bowl preview.  Originally slated to take place in Mexico City, it was moved back to Los Angeles over concerns with field conditions at Azteca Stadium.

The Rams will have to go the rest of the way without their outstanding second-year receiver Cooper Kupp, who suffered a torn ACL in Sunday’s victory over Seattle.  When Kupp was out earlier this year, it meant increased targets for Brandin Cooks and Robert Woods and we would expect the same going forward.  Cooks and Woods were already trustworthy and now they will have even more upside.

Josh Reynolds, who played at Texas A&M and Jay High School in San Antonio, will now be the third receiver for the Rams.  Reynolds will have a lower fantasy trajectory than Woods and Cooks, but he did score two touchdowns back in Week 8 when Kupp was out.  While Reynolds is more of a fill-in player than automatic starter, finding a spot for him on your roster could turn out to be a prudent move.

Even though Reynolds has shown some promise, the loss of Kupp could cause a very slight reduction in Jared Goff’s fantasy value at some point.  You can bet the reduction will not happen this week though.  Todd Gurley remains best in class at his position.

Speaking of best in class, there is Patrick Mahomes.  Mahomes has been so good that when he threw for 249 yards and two touchdowns on Sunday in a win over Arizona, it felt like a letdown.  With points galore expected on Monday, it would not be surprising if Mahomes rebounds and throws for over 300 yards and four touchdowns.

Travis Kelce and Kareem Hunt, who each had somewhat pedestrian days against Arizona, will also rebound.  An interesting subplot to this game will be when Marcus Peters is matched up against Tyreek Hill.  Peters, who was dealt to Los Angeles from Kansas City, has struggled in his first season in Southern California.  Hill, who can run hot and cold to some degree, might be apt to cool down after ambushing Arizona for two scores, but with his former comrade slumping, it could end up being a huge night for Hill.

Sammy Watkins missed the win over Arizona because of a foot issue.  If Watkins returns, return him to your lineup.

Minnesota at Chicago:

Going into the season, many pegged Chicago as an improving team, but one that would likely still finish at the bottom of the NFC North.  Instead, the Bears will clash with the Vikings for first place in a game that was flexed to Sunday Night Football.

As is the case with many young quarterbacks learning a new offense, there have been growing pains with Mitchell Trubisky at times in 2018.  But when Trubisky is clicking on all cylinders, look out.  He was on Sunday against Detroit, throwing for 355 yards and three touchdowns.  Trubisky also added a rushing touchdown.  And many will remember earlier this year when he had six touchdown passes against Tampa Bay.

That said, we do not expect Trubisky to hit those heights as Minnesota’s defense allows 233.3 passing yards per game and has surrendered just 12 touchdown passes.  They throttled Detroit in Week 9 before their bye, sacking Matthew Stafford 10 times.  They also held the Lions out of the end zone.  Trubisky has played well enough overall to be classified as a low-end QB1 even in this daunting matchup, but you could start someone else with more upside.

After missing a couple of games, Allen Robinson returned with a vengeance, lashing the Lions for 133 yards and two touchdowns.  Robinson and rookie Anthony Miller have emerged as Trubisky’s top targets of late.  Miller is worth signing to your squad.  He would be a borderline WR3 for this one while Robinson is more of a solid WR3 with WR2 potential.  Taylor Gabriel, who pitched a shutout on Sunday, has been left behind and can be cut if you are still carrying him on your roster.

Some thought going into the season that Trey Burton would be Chicago’s number one overall receiver.  Because of that, now Burton has been viewed as a disappointment in some circles.  Nevertheless, he has five touchdowns, which is not bad at the tight end position.  Keep believing in Burton as TE1.

Since Chicago had their bye in Week 5, Tarik Cohen has scored a touchdown in every game except one.  We give Cohen the edge over Jordan Howard in this one given Minnesota gives up a miserly 88.9 rushing yards per game.  They may be able to bottle up Howard inside while Cohen makes some plays outside.

One of the few defenses better than Minnesota in terms of rushing yards per game is the Bears, who give up 84 yards and have allowed just two touchdowns.  Dalvin Cook is fully healthy again and will present a serious challenge to the Bears.  Cook will not have RB1 upside, but certainly should be in play as an RB2.  Latavius Murray will be benched in many leagues.  We do not like the idea of cutting Murray though, because he has been productive whenever Cook has been sidelined.

Speaking of healthy, Minnesota should get Stefon Diggs back.  Diggs had 65 yards and a touchdown in his last game against the Bears.  While he has taken a backseat to Adam Thielen, both players can be productive in a tough matchup.  We would be more leery of starting Kirk Cousins, who has generally not reached the heights we thought he was capable of reaching when he signed with Minnesota back in March.  He is very much a fringe QB1.  Kyle Rudolph has fallen off the map and we would have pretty much close to zero confidence in starting him.

Green Bay at Seattle:

They have been NFC powers for a large portion of this decade and have had some memorable battles, but neither the 4-4-1 Packers or 4-5 Seahawks can withstand another loss on Thursday night and expect to make a serious playoff run.

In contrast to Seattle, Green Bay heads into this one with momentum after mashing Miami 31-12.  As you might expect, the big star for the Packers was someone with the first name of Aaron.  Only in this case, it was Aaron Jones.  The second-year runner out of UTEP dismantled the Dolphins by rushing for 145 yards and two touchdowns.  Jones has made a rapid ascension into the RB1 zone and ought to stay there against a Seahawks defense giving up 118.6 rushing yards per game.

As for the other notable Aaron on Green Bay’s offense, Rodgers had a quiet day in the win over the Dolphins, throwing for a modest 199 yards and two touchdowns, both of which went to Davante Adams.  The accomplished Adams has nine touchdowns in nine games.  With Seattle possessing a much better offense in Miami (not to mention more common sense on their coaching staff), the ceilings for both Rodgers and Adams are higher in this one.  Jimmy Graham has not made the impact in Green Bay that many thought he would, but he could have some extra motivation in this clash against his former teammates and owners can grant him another chance.  Rookie Marquez Valdes-Scantling is also a quality option for your lineup.  Injury-plagued and ineffective Randall Cobb is probably no longer worthy of a roster spot.

Two losses to the Rams by a grand total of seven points are the main reason why Seattle is fighting for their playoff lives.   The most recent loss on Sunday, by a score of 36-31, saw rookie running back Rashaad Penny rush for 108 yards and a touchdown on 12 carries and emerge as a player fantasy owners would want to sign.  It was surprising to see Penny be so productive, as it was widely expected Mike Davis would be Seattle’s lead runner with Chris Carson sidelined.  Davis still helped fantasy owners by gathering up 80 total yards and scoring on a short pass from Russell Wilson, but overall, the Seattle backfield has been hard to sort out this year and will be potentially even more confusing with Carson scheduled to return on Thursday.  While Carson has generally been the lead back when healthy, it is possible all three could see some playing time on Thursday.  Any of the trio could help you as a flex, but all three could bust as well.

Wilson had his best day of the season as a runner against Los Angeles, compiling 92 yards.  He also tossed three touchdown passes.  The rushing output and touchdown strikes helped offset the fact he threw for just 176 yards.  Wilson has yet to top 300 passing yards in a game this season thanks to Seattle’s ground-heavy approach.  Nevertheless, he has stayed a QB1 and he will have more upside than usual in this one as Green Bay may end up making a track meet.

It is easy to keep thinking Doug Baldwin will eventually play back to form, but Tyler Lockett continues to be Seattle’s most productive receiver, with 483 yards and seven touchdowns.  Lockett is a clear-cut starter and we would have no issues with using Baldwin as a WR3.  David Moore has just 32 yards in his last two games and is not someone you need to count on.  Tight end Nick Vannett has scored touchdowns in consecutive games, but is in a platoon with Ed Dickson and it is hard to get about either player’s prospects.

Philadelphia at New Orleans:

If the world champion Eagles did not have a sense of urgency prior to their loss to Dallas on Sunday night, they better have it now.  They have fallen to the point where it would be considered a pretty big upset if they were able to stun the 8-1 Saints in the Big Easy.

The decline of the champions is certainly not because of Zach Ertz.  Not many tight ends catch 14 passes for 145 yards and two touchdowns like Ertz did against Dallas.  Ertz will jockey with Travis Kelce for overall TE1 honors the rest of the way.

Ertz’s consistency is highly valued by Carson Wentz, who has thrown for at least two touchdown passes in each of the past six games.  Wentz had a season-high 360 yards in the disappointment against Dallas.  Speaking of disappointments, Golden Tate was a bust in his Philadelphia debut, catching two passes for 19 yards.  Nelson Agholor, who was thought to be impacted most negatively by the Tate acquisition, mustered up 83 yards on five receptions.  Agholor even outperformed Alshon Jeffery, who pulled in four passes for 48 yards.

We are definitely not advocating Agholor as an option this week since he has not scored a touchdown since Week 2.  It is just a reminder that he has an edge in knowing the system over Tate.  Neither needs to be started even though this could turn into a high-scoring affair.  We would keep the faith with Jeffery as a WR2.

When Jay Ajayi was lost for the season, there was a mad scramble by owners throughout the fantasy world to sign Corey Clement and Wendell Smallwood.  Of late, both Clement and Smallwood have been outplayed by Josh Adams, a rookie from Notre Dame.  Averaging 5.7 yards per carry, Adams is the Philadelphia back who needs to be on your team.  There has been talk he will start getting more work, which would take Clement and Smallwood off the flex radar and make them droppable.

The Saints generated a lot of headlines last week by signing Dez Bryant.  Unfortunately, a torn Achilles sidelined Bryant for the season, leading New Orleans to sign another veteran receiver in Brandon Marshall.  Marshall, who played briefly for Seattle earlier in the season, probably will not receive a lot of heavy volume behind Michael Thomas.  However, if Marshall can show the red zone prowess he has in the past, he could eventually offer some value as we get into the fantasy playoffs.  We would try to wait until Marshall settles in to sign him to our roster.  His presence hurts rookie Tre’Quan Smith and erratic tight end Ben Watson, who either seems to score a touchdown or is completely ignored.

Mark Ingram produced his best day of the season in Week 10’s 52-14 blowout of the Cincinnati Bengals, accumulating 162 total yards and a touchdown.  Alvin Kamara is still the best back in New Orleans and one of the best players in fantasy, but it was a reminder that Ingram can be a big contributor as well.

However, this game sets up as one where the Saints will probably feature Kamara even more than usual.  Philadelphia is more vulnerable against the pass than the run, especially now that cornerback Ronald Darby is out for the season with a torn ACL.  Kamara is not regularly covered by corners, but the overall impact to Philadelphia’s defense sets up very nicely for the New Orleans aerial attack.  Red-hot Drew Brees and Michael Thomas should be able to feast again at the Superdome.

Tennessee at Indianapolis:

We are including this game partly because it will have a direct impact on the Houston Texans, but also because both of these teams have become a lot more interesting of late.  Tennessee, now 5-4, has won two in a row, including Sunday’s highly impressive 34-10 triumph over New England.  Indianapolis has won three in a row and their 29-26 victory over Jacksonville pretty much completely eliminated the Jaguars from the AFC South race.

Even if the 4-5 Colts are unable to sustain their success and pull of an improbable playoff run, the fact that Andrew Luck is looking like a franchise quarterback again makes this a great season in Indianapolis.  And the fantasy owners who gambled on Luck have been richly rewarded.  Luck has already thrown 26 touchdown passes.  He threw a career-high 40 touchdowns in 2014 and is on pace to exceed that total.

Once a dud in Detroit, Eric Ebron has already scored 10 touchdowns (nine receiving, one rushing).  Ebron’s stat lines were projected to plunge once Jack Doyle returned from injury, but it was Ebron who scored three touchdowns in the win over Jacksonville while Doyle was held to 36 yards on three catches.  However, Doyle is certainly capable of winning weeks over Ebron.  While most NFL teams do not even have one TE1, Indianapolis has two.  Even seldom-used fellow tight end Mo Alie-Cox has found the end zone over the past two games, though he is way more of a potential detriment to Doyle and Ebron than someone you want to sign to your roster.

Although he has not had one of his classic “win a week” games yet this year, T.Y. Hilton remains Luck’s BFF among Indy’s wide receivers.  Despite missing a couple of contests, Hilton’s four touchdowns already match his entire total from last year.  Hilton is a firm WR2.  None of the rest of the wideouts in Indianapolis such as Ryan Grant, Chester Rogers, and Dontrelle Inman have any fantasy value.

Marlon Mack disappeared against Jacksonville with just 38 total yards, but he had rushed for over 100 yards in both of Indianapolis’ previous victories and totaled four touchdowns. You can expect a rebound into RB2 territory.  Nyheim Hines and Jordan Wilkins have faded into waiver wire fodder.

Marcus Mariota has teased fantasy owners before, who often get burned for believing in him.  He has played well of late along with the rest of the Titans, throwing for 228 yards and a couple of touchdowns in the win over New England.  His numbers would have been higher had the game been closer.  With this contest expected to be tight and the Colts capable of compiling some points, Mariota makes a slightly more appealing streamer.  He has at least worked his way back to QB2 status after landing on waivers in many leagues earlier this year.

Corey Davis snagged seven passes for 125 yards and a touchdown against New England.  Davis is easily Tennessee’s top receiver and a must-start in Indianapolis.  There is really no one else to consider outside of possibly tight end Jonnu Smith, who has found the end zone the last couple of weeks but has not been heavily utilized.  Until Smith gets more volume, he should not be a waiver target.

Dion Lewis, who is second on the Titans in receptions, has been getting the majority of work in the Tennessee backfield.  That did not stop Derrick Henry from rushing for a pair of scores during the rout of the Patriots.  It is still far easier to count on Lewis as an RB2 while Henry is more of a flex who needs game flow and goal line carries to go his way.

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 banish to your bench.

HIRED:

QB Eli Manning, New York Giants – The Eli era is definitely on the verge of ending in the Big Apple.  Nonetheless, Manning conjured up some magic on Monday night in a comeback win over San Francisco and now gets a matchup with Tampa Bay’s frequently toasted defense.

As an aside, there has been much debate over New York not taking a quarterback in the first round of April’s draft.  But if the Giants pull the trigger on a signal caller in 2019, think of all the talent that quarterback will get to work with.  There are superstars in Saquon Barkley and Odell Beckham Jr.  Evan Engram is a quality tight end and Sterling Shepard is another solid receiver.  Compare and contrast that with the garbage supporting cast Buffalo forced Josh Allen to work with this year.  The Giants may yet end up playing this just right.

QB Lamar Jackson, Baltimore Ravens – This is contingent on Jackson getting significant playing time down the stretch.    If he does, his dual-threat skills could give your group a major lift.

RB Theo Riddick, Detroit Lions – Riddick last received a carry in Week 5, but has 13 receptions in his last two games.  If Marvin Jones misses Sunday’s tilt with Carolina, someone is going to have to help Kenny Golladay in a game where the Lions will probably be playing from behind.  Ultimately, Riddick has more value in PPR leagues.  This may be a week where he can pitch in some in standard formats as well.

RB Cameron Artis-Payne, Carolina Panthers – If you have Christian McCaffrey and want his handcuff on your roster, it is now Artis-Payne after the Panthers waived C.J. Anderson.

Arizona Cardinals’ defense – The Cardinals are a classic one-hit wonder as they will be playing the Raiders on Sunday.

Baltimore Ravens’ defense – If Baltimore has been dropped in your league, they get a favorable matchup with reeling Cincinnati this week and then they will have the Raiders next week.

FIRED:

QB Josh McCown, New York Jets – If you added McCown with the hopes he could rekindle the same magic he showed at times in 2017, it is time to bail and bail fast.  Sam Darnold’s status after New York’s bye is unknown at the moment, but McCown looked horrible against Buffalo.

RB Le’Veon Bell, future destination unknown – If you are in a dynasty league, you need to hang onto Bell and see what happens in 2019.  If you are in a redraft league, it is officially time to no longer waste a roster spot on Bell.

RB Carlos Hyde, Jacksonville Jaguars – As far as third-string running backs go, Hyde is clearly way better than most.  But he is going to be in that spot as long as Leonard Fournette and T.J. Yeldon are healthy.

RB LeGarrette Blount, Detroit Lions – Kerryon Johnson and Theo Riddick are outplaying Blount, who gave way to Johnson on the goal line last weekend in Chicago.  If Blount is failing at the goal line, he will not help you in any other way.

F Carmelo Anthony, Houston Rockets – Since we know some of you out there also play fantasy basketball, we thought we would offer a non-football recommendation as a courtesy.  You’re welcome.

Where do you stand this week and what do think about my assessments?  Go on and 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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