What Houston Texans players continue to be good fantasy picks week-over-week? Take a look at that plus Week 4’s top five matchups as well as who you should hire/fire on your squad.
At this point, it would be hard to blame any Houston sports fan from shifting their focus away from the Houston Texans following Sunday’s letdown against the New York Giants. The Astros are heading to the postseason aiming to repeat as World Champions and the Rockets will be kicking off what should be a successful campaign in the very near future. The 0-3 Houston Texans will not become a complete afterthought in football country, but each loss will bring more apathy and anger.
If your fantasy team is 0-3, maybe you are shifting your thoughts to fantasy basketball and wondering about who might acquire Jimmy Butler. But just as the Houston Texans will preach fighting the good fight, even as they often appear unequipped for battle, you need to keep the fight going in your fantasy league as a hot streak could be right around the corner that propels your squad back into contention.
And we will do our part to make sure you are better prepared than the Houston Texans seem to be.
No matter how outclassed the Houston Texans have been, DeAndre Hopkins and Will Fuller remain top fantasy assets. At times, Deshaun Watson has looked better in H-E-B commercials than he has on the field, but he has produced a pair of nice fantasy games against the Titans and Giants. Lamar Miller is getting enough volume for now to stay relevant, although he would have been a complete disaster against the Giants had he not caught a touchdown pass in garbage time.
Speaking of disasters…outside of J.J. Watt, that is what the Houston defense was on Sunday. We would normally drop the Houston Texans at this point. Then we notice that the following four games are against the Colts, Cowboys, Bills, and Jaguars. There is still potential for good fantasy days if they somehow get their act together.
Admittedly, this is potentially the toughest game in that stretch. But the Colts are more scrappy than scary. Andrew Luck’s arm strength has declined to the point where he was pulled for Jacoby Brissett on a Hail Mary attempt on the final play of their Week 3 loss to Philadelphia. Even if Luck’s arm strength improves as the season progresses, his supporting cast is not the best. T.Y. Hilton is an every week fantasy starter and tight ends Jack Doyle and Eric Ebron are competent both in fantasy and reality, but the Colts currently do not have anyone in the backfield who inspires much confidence.
The Indianapolis defense is taking steps in the right direction. Linebacker Darius Leonard, a rookie out of South Carolina State, totaled 18 tackles in Week 2 when the Colts defeated Washington. They sacked Carson Wentz five times on Sunday. Nonetheless, they are not frightening enough for you to contemplate sitting the likes of Watson, Hopkins, Fuller, and Miller. The Houston Texans will no longer have wide receiver Bruce Ellington, who was sent to injured reserve. Rookie Keke Coutee will have a role if he can ever get healthy. The loss of Ellington ought to lead to more targets for the tight ends. Of course, that position group is too cluttered at the moment to provide a player with any hint of fantasy value.
Our mindset will now move into Take Five mode. If you are reading this for the first time, this is where we look at five of the most compelling games of the week. After that, you will have the opportunity to immerse yourself in our Hired/Fired list that takes a look at players you should bring onto your roster…and players that need to be placed on waivers. As we always do, some players spotlighted in Take Five are capable of being hired or fired and will be dealt with there as opposed to that portion of this column. It is a trick to get you to read everything and we hope you agree that it is totally worth it.
Minnesota at Los Angeles Rams:
Before Minnesota was slated to battle with Buffalo last weekend, pretty much everyone figured it would be the equivalent of one of those old school made-for-television NWA wrestling matches where the Road Warriors annihilated two jobbers. Instead, it was the Vikings who looked like jobbers as the Bills brutalized them 27-7 in a game that wasn’t even that close. It was one of the most shocking upsets in a long time and the nature of the loss casts a pall over what was supposed to be a highly anticipated matchup.
One bit of good news for Minnesota is that they scored a victory over Los Angeles last year. Of course, the Rams have gotten better since then, but both of their high-profile acquisitions at cornerback, Marcus Peters and Aqib Talib, were injured in Week 3. Peters may play, but Talib was sent to injured reserve. That gives Stefon Diggs much better odds of atoning for last weekend’s stinker of a game, where he caught four passes for 17 yards. Adam Thielen had the better game against Los Angles last year, catching six passes for 123 yards and a touchdown. Both should be fixtures in your lineup along with tight end Kyle Rudolph, who has two touchdown receptions so far in 2018.
Naturally, it is not the best matchup for Kirk Cousins coming off the Buffalo debacle. However, with Talib and Peters out, Cousins can rebound if the Vikings offensive line can perform better. We would steer clear of banged-up Dalvin Cook even if he is able to play. Latavius Murray was one of fantasy’s biggest disappointments last weekend and it is hard to get excited about his prospects against the Rams.
Things are going so well for Los Angeles that the only fantasy disappointment in their Week 3 triumph over the Chargers was kicker Sam Ficken. Filling in for the injured Greg “The Leg” Zuerlein, Ficken missed his only field goal try. Opposing kickers have fared well against the Vikings this year and anyone needing kicking help can give Ficken a shot at redemption.
Buffalo never should have let Robert Woods get away. Now in his second season with the Rams, Woods dominated the battle of Los Angeles by catching 10 passes for 104 yards and two touchdowns. Cooper Kupp had 71 yards and a touchdown and Brandon Cooks posted 90 yards. Many owners who passed up Jared Goff on draft day are regretting it. No one is sleeping on Todd Gurley, who remains the best back in the fantasy business. All of the Rams, including their depleted defense, will certainly be tested as the Vikings are not likely to disappear during this Thursday night showdown. Keep rolling with the Rams offense. They may not ace the test with straight A’s, but above average grades can still be expected. You can look at other defenses though, depending on who is available in your league.
Miami at New England:
If you looked at the schedule going into the season, you would figure on this one being a New England victory. And indeed, it could still turn out that way. But the Dolphins are unexpectedly 3-0 and have a chance to make a real statement in Massachusetts.
As we predicted during the preseason, the usage of Kenyan Drake would be a concern. And it was especially concerning during Miami’s Week 3 win over Oakland. The Dolphins were dominated in time of possession, which is a large reason why Drake was so awful and finished with 10 total yards. It does not excuse the fact he received less carries than veteran Frank Gore, who is still a free agent in many fantasy leagues and with good reason. At some point, Drake’s home run hitting ability is still going to pay off for fantasy owners. Maybe playing the Patriots will help, as Drake had two quality games against them last year. Of course, with New England having been gashed on the ground by Detroit on Sunday night, they will undoubtedly have some new defensive tricks up their sleeve. Preaching patience with Drake makes sense, but one point will not cut it.
Wide receivers Jakeem Grant and Albert Wilson were the heroes for Miami against Oakland. Both caught touchdown passes…and Wilson threw a touchdown pass to Grant. Part of a wide receiver rotation, we would not race to the waiver wire to grab either player at this point. Devante Parker returned against the Raiders, further muddying the waters for Miami. The only Dolphins receiver you can truly count on in fantasy leagues is Kenny Stills, who has three touchdown receptions. This group, which also includes veteran Danny Amendola, has done enough to make Ryan Tannehill viable. After missing the 2017 season, Tannehill has tossed seven touchdown passes. With New England desperate, there will be other streamers you should roll the dice on.
While Tom Brady’s fantasy numbers have been hindered by a shaky supporting cast, relief is on the way. Josh Gordon will be hitting the field and Julian Edelman will be back from suspension next week. More weapons will also make life easier for Chris Hogan and Rob Gronkowski, who have also been disappointments by their standards. It’s not like you are going to bench Brady, Gronk, or Hogan without quality alternatives, but this game may be more of a tease for future weeks than an immediate fantasy boom.
New England’s backfield has long been problematic for fantasy owners. Perceptions do not necessarily match reality at the moment. Rookie Sony Michel has started slow, but with Rex Burkhead now on injured reserve, Michel’s upside is high if New England gets back on track as they likely will. James White will continue to have a secure role in the passing game.
Tampa Bay at Chicago:
From Fitzmagic…to Fitztragic…to Fitzmagic again. Tampa fans experienced the wild swings of emotion that Ryan Fitzpatrick brings to the table on Monday night during a loss to Pittsburgh. There was the early touchdown pass. Then came turnovers, and then came more touchdown passes as a comeback bid came up just short.
Those mood swings will probably happen again in the Windy City. With so many weapons, it is hard for even the best defenses to completely stop the Buccaneers. The World Champion Eagles were unable to do it in Week 2. But you know Khalil Mack and the rest of the new-look Monsters of the Midway are bound to cause havoc for Fitzpatrick at least some of the time. In the end, with Fitzpatrick wanting to put one more good performance on film before Tampa Bay goes on bye and potentially contemplates going back to Jameis Winston, we will say there will be enough Fitzmagic to where fantasy owners can reap the benefits. Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, O.J. Howard, and DeSean Jackson all have to contend with each other for targets, but that has not been a problem so far.
The one problem Tampa Bay has had on offense is running the football. Preseason darling Peyton Barber has perfected the art of fantasy heartbreak with only 124 rushing yards. At some point, Tampa Bay is going to take the training wheels off for second-round rookie Ronald Jones. With veteran Jacquizz Rodgers also getting some work, Barber is not someone you have to keep around anymore.
Tampa’s problem is Chicago’s strength. As quarterback Mitchell Trubisky has struggled, Jordan Howard remains the heart and soul of the Bears offense. Howard has been more involved as a receiver, which has bolstered his overall numbers. Most importantly for Howard, Tarik Cohen has not been getting enough touches to threaten his fantasy stock.
Tight end Trey Burton and wide receiver Allen Robinson have been quality additions for the Bears. They have not found a lot of fantasy traction due to the struggles of Trubisky. With Tampa Bay’s pass defense having been torched, maybe this is an opportunity for Trubisky to get untracked. He has looked bad enough that we do not want to contemplate him as a streamer.
And of course the Bears defense is a must-start. Who knew Fitzpatrick vs. Khalil Mack would be must-see TV? It’s quite possible this Bears team is already for real. Having a great defense with a shaky quarterback is a Chicago tradition, right up there with deep dish pizza.
Kansas City at Denver:
In Week 17 of the 2017 season, with Kansas City already having clinched the AFC West crown, they decided to give Patrick Mahomes his first start at quarterback on the road in Denver. With Travis Kelce and Tyreek Hill resting for the postseason, Mahomes still managed to perform well in leading the Chiefs to a 27-24 victory. It did not seem like all that much at the time. Since then, it has gained way more symbolism as Mahomes Mania has spread through Kansas City and all over the NFL.
In his latest superstar performance, Mahomes threw for 314 yards and three touchdowns in a victory over San Francisco. In theory, this game will present the biggest test Mahomes has had so far this season. In reality, the real test may come in Week 5 at Jacksonville. Denver’s once vaunted defense has not been as strong as it has been in recent seasons. While the Broncos have come back to earth, it is not the highest upside matchup for Mahomes. Nevertheless, he will still produce big and all of the big names for Kansas City such as Hill, Kelce, and Kareem Hunt should also find a way to prosper. After a slow start, Sammy Watkins has also become a must-start.
While former Houston Cougar Case Keenum has provided some stability for Denver, he has also thrown five interceptions and has not thrown a touchdown pass since Week 1. Keenum still has some streamer appeal this week as Kansas City’s secondary has been torched all season. His favorite target has been Emmanuel Sanders, with Sanders averaging 90 yards a game. Sanders has one touchdown reception and also scored on a run last Sunday in Baltimore. Another nice game could be in the offing for the veteran out of SMU. Demaryius Thomas remains a nice tag team partner for Sanders and could deliver a WR2 showing against the Chiefs.
Fantasy owners who had been excited about the prospects of Phillip Lindsay were disappointed when he was ejected during Denver’s 27-14 loss to Baltimore. In Lindsay’s absence, Royce Freeman ended up rushing for 53 yards and a touchdown. Both runners have had their moments and belong in the flex dialogue as the Broncos will likely try to establish the run to keep Mahomes off the field.
Baltimore at Pittsburgh:
When these teams play, thoughts often turn to physical, low-scoring brawls. That was not the case late in the 2017 season, when Pittsburgh bested Baltimore in a 39-38 shootout. Based on what we have seen through three games, the odds of another high-scoring clash are pretty good.
The Baltimore receiver who may be most capable of picking apart a bad Pittsburgh pass defense is John Brown. Brown, one of three notable free agent receivers signed by the Ravens in the offseason, is averaging 74 yards a game and has scored two touchdowns. He has outperformed Michael Crabtree, who was a more heralded acquisition, but Crabtree still leads the Ravens in receptions. The other newcomer, Willie Snead, has also pitched in at times. Brown and Crabtree offer more fantasy value than Snead. They are quality starters in this one while Snead should be an afterthought.
The newcomers have brought Joe Flacco back to life. Flacco was relatively quiet in a Week 3 win over Denver, but avoided the turnovers that plagued him in a Week 2 loss to Cincinnati. Given the struggles of the Steelers, Flacco is in play at a Week 4 spot starter.
Baltimore’s running game has been a bit of mystery. Alex Collins was expected to see the largest amount of work and leads the team in carries, but Javorius “Buck” Allen has more touchdowns. For what it’s worth, Collins had 166 total yards and a touchdown in the shootout game last year. Collins should get enough work to be a RB2, but Allen may vulture enough work to be a viable flex.
Ben Roethlisberger is criticized a lot by the fantasy community for his home/road splits, but he silenced skeptics by throwing for 353 yards and three touchdowns in Tampa on Monday night. You can count on another QB1 week from Big Ben. You can also count on the dynamic duo of Antonio Brown and Juju Smith-Schuster. James Conner’s numbers have tailed off from Week 1, but Conner’s workload keeps him firmly in RB1 range.
All of the fantasy owners who raced to claim tight end Jesse James had to be crestfallen when fellow tight end Vance McDonald accumulated 112 yards and a touchdown against Tampa while James caught one pass for seven yards. McDonald is the superior receiver and is more worthy of a roster spot than James. Both will be hit and miss to some degree, especially if James Washington becomes a bigger part of the offense at some point.
Outside of their dreadful defense, the biggest concern in Pittsburgh is kicker Chris Boswell. Boswell has missed three out of four field goal tries and a couple of extra points. Considering Boswell just got an extension, he is probably okay for now, but many fantasy owners have already lost faith. If Boswell remains on your roster, pull the plug if he turns in another dud.
Welcome to Hired/Fired, our weekly rundown of who deserves a place on your roster and who deserves to be terminated. This is the first week where bye weeks are a factor. Carolina and Washington are off this week with Chicago and Tampa Bay off next week. As we get into weeks where there are as many as six teams on bye, some of the hires may be the equivalent of musical “one-hit wonders.” For now, we are generally more focused on long-term helpers.
QB Baker Mayfield, Cleveland Browns – It was just a few weeks ago when many were hailing Sam Darnold as the savior of the New York Jets. Then he struggled and was upstaged last Thursday by Mayfield, who rallied the Browns to their first win since Abraham Lincoln was in the White House. Okay, maybe it has not been that long. Anyways, Mayfield could easily start to disappoint like Darnold over the next month. We just do not see it happening against Oakland this week. He can be streamed against the Raiders and needs to be added in two-quarterback leagues.
QB Josh Rosen, Arizona Cardinals – You do not want to start Rosen this week against Seattle, and maybe not for awhile, but now that he is Arizona’s starter, he can be an option in two-quarterback leagues.
QB C.J. Beathard, San Francisco 49ers – We hated to see Jimmy Garoppolo lost for the season. That said, you can take what we said about Rosen, substitute the Los Angeles Chargers for Seattle, and that’s what you need to know about Beathard.
RB Chris Ivory, Buffalo Bills – We are very unenthusiastic on recommending Ivory for a roster spot. LeSean McCoy is Buffalo’s main back and despite their stunning triumph over Minnesota, this remains a bad offense even though Josh Allen is promising. However, McCoy was not healthy and missed the win over the Vikings, enabling Ivory to get 20 carries. If McCoy’s is unable to get fully healthy or his off-the-field issues catch up with him, Ivory could be okay at times.
WR Calvin Ridley, Atlanta Falcons – There is no need for deep analysis regarding a talented player who just went for 146 yards and three touchdowns who plays with a top quarterback. Naturally, Ridley is not going to do this every week, but there are plenty of good days ahead.
WR Tyler Boyd, Cincinnati Bengals – After a quiet Week 1 where he caught three passes for 27 yards, Boyd has 12 receptions for 223 yards and two touchdowns. Outplaying last year’s first-round pick John Ross, Boyd may gain a very high stature in the Cincinnati offense if A.J. Green’s groin injury continues to linger. Even if Green is just fine and Tyler Eifert continues to play well, Boyd will have his moments.
WR Antonio Calloway, Cleveland Browns – Calloway does not have a reputation as a saint, but he did burn the Saints for a long touchdown reception in Week 2 and has landed in the Cleveland lineup with the departure of Josh Gordon. He will not be as steady as Jarvis Landry but should deliver some big games before the season is over.
TE Dallas Goedert, Philadelphia Eagles – How ironic is it that someone named Dallas plays for Philadelphia? With that out of the way, Goedert pulled in seven passes for 73 yards and a touchdown in Week 3. Goedert is more of a name to watch than a must-add, but if Zach Ertz misses time, he would become intriguing in a hurry. As it is, the Eagles have issues at wide receiver, which gives Goedert an opportunity to carve out playing time despite the presence of Ertz.
(While we are recommended cutting the cord with certain quarterbacks, we are always thinking about the two-quarterback leagues. Therefore, any cuts at the QB position are more for leagues where you are only required to start one QB.)
QB Blake Bortles, Jacksonville Jaguars – Do you really want to keep riding the Bortles roller coaster? He looked like a superstar against New England in Week 2 and a super scrub against Tennessee in Week 3.
QB Dak Prescott, Dallas Cowboys – It is true that Prescott probably is not as good as he was as a rookie in 2016. Yes, he can be blamed for some of the regression. A bigger case can be made for his putrid supporting cast. Either way, with quarterback being such a deep position in fantasy, there is no point wasting a roster spot on someone with no upside.
RB Duke Johnson, Cleveland Browns – Always more of a PPR than standard league asset, Johnson has one fewer reception than starter Carlos Hyde through three games. With Cleveland having more talent at wide receiver, Johnson is paying the price.
RB Theo Riddick, Detroit Lions – Another guy who is more valuable in PPR, Riddick is going to get less work as rookie Kerryon Johnson keeps proving himself. The emergence of Kenny Golladay and the continued solid play of Marvin Jones and Golden Tate ensures Riddick is a secondary option with less to offer than he did in previous seasons.
WR Allen Hurns, Dallas Cowboys – There was some thought that Hurns could give Dallas something after coming over from Jacksonville. That something has amounted to 51 yards on four catches. If for some reason you are hanging onto Hurns, it is long overdue to say good-bye.
WR Pierre Garcon, San Francisco 49ers – With only seven catches and 89 yards through three games, Garcon has not offered much to fantasy owners. He will offer even less with Garoppolo out for the season, making it a perfect time to send Pierre packing.
WR Brandon Marshall, Seattle Seahawks – Earlier in the year, it was thought the absence of Doug Baldwin would lead to decent things for Marshall. Marshall certainly looks better in Seattle than he did last year with the New York Giants, but the numbers just aren’t there.
WR Tyrell Williams, Los Angeles Chargers – With Mike Williams emerging, Tyrell Williams becomes even more hit or miss than he already was. There are more reliable alternatives for your bench out there.
This is my stand — what’s yours? Feel free to comment in the section below.
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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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