You sent your questions in to Chris.Towers@Paramount.com, and I've got my answers. For those of you who aren't featured here, I tried to respond via email, and if you want to keep sending your questions this weekend, I'll try to answer more of them Sunday morning.
Now, let's get to the questions!
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Ron: In preparation for the playoffs, I dropped two of my bench RBs (Roschon Johnson and Dameon Pierce) in favor of the lower ranked handcuffs (Elijah Mitchell and Chase Brown) for my top two RBs (Christian McCaffrey and Joe Mixon). Was that a smart move or a dumb move?
Texans after last week, but he feels incredibly game-script dependent, and doesn't really have a path to a top-12 RB finish in any given week without a touchdown and/or a big play, given his lack of usage in the passing game. That could change if something happened to Devin Singletary, but I think even in that circumstance, Mike Boone might just take on the passing downs work., and I think this was a reasonable decision. Pierce especially probably doesn't have a ton of upside – he might be "the lead back" for the
And, at this point in the season, you're looking for two things: Insurance, and upside. Balancing those two things is key, and it's why I'm okay with dropping Pierce; I just don't think he has the upside to become a must-start Fantasy option, and he doesn't provide you insurance for the backs you already have. Johnson is a different case, because there is at least a chance that his 74% snap share in the Bears' last game before the bye represented a real shift in how they want to deploy their backfield, and could make Johnson that must-start running back. It's not what I expect – I'm thinking D'Onta Foreman is the lead rusher, while Johnson gets a handful of carries and whatever passing work there is this week – but it's a realistic outcome, at least.
Then there's the question of whether you should be specifically targeting your own handcuffs vs. the best possible options. I ranked the top-12 handcuffs earlier in the week, and Mitchell was No. 2, so he's a great stash either way. Brown was No. 9, because he's a bigger question mark as far as talent and the offense that he's in, but if you had to target your own backs, at least the ones you have, have pretty good backups.
Which is all to say: I'm totally fine with these specific moves, and I support the idea in general anyways. If you're in the playoffs already, these are the types of moves you should be making to maximize your chances of having an unbeatable lineup in the playoffs.
Bill: Chris, I NEED to win this game to make the playoffs. I am second in points scored after leading our league most of the season. My 7-6 record is due to stupid lineup decisions I made the last three weeks. I was 7-3. Trevor Lawrence is my QB, but he (probably) isn't going to play, and even if he does play with that ankle injury, he won't be effective. So, I picked up Jake Browning, and I do have Ja'Marr Chase to stack with him, plus Josh Dobbs, who gets Justin Jefferson back finally. Weather might be a bit of a factor in Cincy, but Dobbs has been so bad lately.
There are some quarterbacks you'd play even on a high-ankle sprain, and Lawrence was supposed to be one of them. However, we saw him play through a knee injury earlier in the season, and it wasn't terribly impressive – he did have 20.1 points in six-point-per-pass TD scoring in the first game after the knee injury, but then didn't have another game with 20 points in his next two games. Lawrence hasn't been ruled out for Sunday against the Browns, but given the matchup, I think it's probably best to avoid Lawrence.
And I'm rolling with Dobbs here. That's a scary proposition, because Dobbs might be one of the most likely QBs to be benched by halftime if he struggles this week, seeing as the Vikings seemingly considered benching him for Nick Mullens during the bye. However, the Vikings stuck with him, and as you said, he gets Justin Jefferson back this week, for a matchup against a beatable Raiders defense. Dobbs could struggle and find himself benched at halftime, something that isn't likely to happen for Browning. However, while Browning was great in Week 13, let's not ignore that he had just 13.1 PPR points in his first game, so there's a pretty low floor here too. Dobbs is the riskier option, but he's also got a lot more upside, and that's what I'm chasing in a must-win game. Losing by five points or 25 points doesn't really matter.
I think White is the clear best option here, which would have been wild to consider at the start of the season. However, he's a top-five RB in PPR scoring this season, with at least 17 PPR points in five of his past six games. So, we're left choosing between Saquon Barkley and Raheem Mostert, and it's really a question of how much volume matters.
Barkley seems like one of the safer bets for 20-plus touches, while Mostert seems extremely unlikely to get to that mark. Barkley has at least 18 touches in three of his past five games, while Mostert has only done it twice in the past six games. Mostert has been one of the best bets to score in any given week, and the Dolphins are massive favorites against the Titans this week, so you have to figure he'll get some opportunities in close this week, too. Barkley, on the other hand, has just five touchdowns this season in nine games, with two of the five coming from outside the 10-yard line.
The Giants just don't create a lot of opportunities the way the Dolphins do, but I do have Barkley ranked just ahead of Mostert this week. Part of that is because I do think there's a chance De'Von Achane is on the verge of supplanting Mostert as Miami's lead back, which could put Barkley in line for 10 more touches than him. But it's hard to sit a guy with Barkley's role, even in a bad offense.
I've got both ranked as top-eight QBs this week, but there's just no way I can sit Prescott right now with the way he's playing. The Eagles have a ton of talent on defense, obviously, but they haven't exactly been lights out defensively, and we saw that the last time these two teams played. The Cowboys fell short, but Prescott passed for 374 yards and three touchdowns on 44 attempts, and enters Week 14 with six straight games of multiple touchdowns. He'll have a stinker at some point, and maybe it'll come this week. But given the way Prescott is playing right now, there's no way I can even consider sitting him.
I hate decisions like this, especially at this point in the season. You want depth, obviously, and it would be weird to say it's possible to have too many good players. However, the truth of the matter is, this game just isn't predictable enough to consistently guess which three of your four top-15 backs are going to be good in any given week.
Williams is, I think, the must-start guy even against a defense like the Ravens – he's been way too good all season, really, with at least 15 touches in all but one game, including 11 targets over the past two games. It wouldn't be shocking if Williams and the Rams offense struggled against the Ravens, but he's at the point where I think you just have to trust him against every matchup. I've gone over the merits of White and Barkley, but I'm still sticking with Moss despite an underwhelming showing in Week 13. He finished that game with just 7.7 PPR points, but he ended up with 19 carries and three targets in the game, so the workload was still strong. Moss is the clear lead back here with Jonathan Taylor recovering from thumb surgery, and he's averaged 18.7 PPR points per game in five games where he's been the lead back for the Colts.
I'm leaning in Cook's direction right now, but obviously, it's tough to pass on a player like Rice right now. He has 19 targets over the past two games, and he really appears to have arrived as the No. 1 non-Travis Kelce option in the Chiefs offense. The only issue with his usage is that he's still being primarily used on shorter routes, with just 9 air yards last week on his nine targets. He put together a 14.4-PPR point effort despite that, but it's just asking an awful lot for him to keep producing like that when it's almost entirely coming after the catch. He's a solid WR2 in PPR, but I'll give the edge to Cook, who is coming into his own of late as well, with 33 carries and 11 targets over the last two games before the bye. I think Rice probably has the better matchup in this head-to-head one, but Cook has the more valuable role.