Wed Jan 26 10:40am ET
By JEFF PAUR
Sr Fantasy Writer
Samuel should get plenty of work
Wow, wow, wow. That is about all you can say about last week’s game. That might have been the greatest playoff weekend ever. Needless to say, this week has a lot to live up to. Hopefully, we can at least near those games. We’ll see. Now for my random thoughts for the week. . . . .
Josh Allen is so special. He had a game for the ages last week and lost. He had nine touchdowns without a turnover in the Bills two playoff games, showing he can come up big in the big game. Allen is a special, special player. At this point, I’m raking him first overall in my quarterback rankings for 2022. One thing that gets overlooked with Allen is his ability to make plays with his legs, rushing for 763 yard this season. This guy is as consistent it gets at the quarterback spot and is going to be a superstar for lots of years to come.
One player that is going to be intriguing next year is Gabriel Davis. He had one of the best games ever for a receiver in the playoffs, catching eight passes for 201 yards and four touchdowns. His stock is rising in a hurry, especially with Emmanuel Sanders and Cole Beasley possibly gone next year. Davis should start opposite Stefon Diggs in the Bills explosive passing game. I’m not sure he is going to be a consistent play but expect plenty of big games. Plus, he is a great red-zone target because of his size and strength.
I think Tom Brady returns for one more season. He had a fantastic year once again and showed few signs of slowing down - if any. The Bucs were depleted at receiver by season’s end, so I think they reload there and give Brady one more shot to win it all. A healthy Chris Godwin and a new No. 3 to replace Antonio Brown would give Brady a big-time boost.
How do the Bucs let Cooper Kupp get behind him in the waning seconds of a tie game? I could not believe that one. I know Kupp is one of the best, so you can’t ignore that. But if I’m the Bucs, I do everything in my power to keep him in front of me to prevent a big play. I could not believe the end to that game. As for Kupp, he has 100-yard games six of his last eight games. He had one of the all-time great seasons for a receiver, so it was kind of a fitting end to this game for him.
And speaking of crazy finishes. You could second guess a lot with the end to that Bills/Chiefs, seeing a ton of points scored in a short time to send that game to overtime. The big one for me is seeing the Bills kick the ball into the end zone after they gook the lead with just 13 seconds left. I make the Chiefs run it back to run some time off the clock. I think they did them a favor by kicking it deep, giving Patrick Mahomes more time to do his thing. That was my big beef with how that played out. But even with that said, it was sure exciting to watch. Wow. That was probably the best football game I ever watched.
I had a hard time picking the games last week and am feeling the same way this week. These aren’t easy decisions. I have a hard time picking against the Chiefs right now, though. I never thought they would make three straight Super Bowls, but just can’t see the Bengals going on the road and winning that one. The Chiefs are playing their best football at the right time. And over in the NFC, I am going with the 49ers. They beat the Rams twice during the regular season and think they will make it a third time. San Francisco just seems a team of destiny. Their defense is playing great and I expect the offense, mainly the running game, to play much better this week. The Rams impressed last week, but I still don’t have total faith in Matthew Stafford. Maybe he showed me last week, but I don’t think the Rams run the ball well this week and Stafford will be forced to carry the offense against a very good 49ers defense.
Travis Kelce, TE, Chiefs. Kelce is red hot right now, having touchdowns five straight games. He also has 100-yard games two of those weeks. Kelce has 23-plus fantasy points two straight and three of five. He is setup to find the end zone again this week against the Bengals. Cincinnati struggles to stop the tight end, allowing the sixth most fantasy points to tight ends during the regular season.
Deebo Samuel, WR, 49ers. Samuel just keeps getting it done on a weekly basis. He has touchdowns three of four games. He has 20-plus fantasy points nine times this season. His rushing numbers make him a force at the receiver spot, producing as a dual threat for all his fantasy owners. Samuel had huge success in two games against the Rams this season. Samuel had 300 total yards and three touchdowns, catching nine passes. He should be heavily involved in the 49ers game plan.
Cam Akers, RB, Rams. Akers is back and looks to be the clear lead back for the Rams. He ran the ball 24 times last week and has 41 carries in the Rams two playoff games. Unfortunately, the Rams running game isn’t opening many holes for him right now. Akers has 41 carries for just 103 yards in those two games. And things won’t get much easier for him this week against the 49ers. The 49ers held the Rams to 116-rushing yards in two games this year. Ie might be more of the same for Akers.
Elijah Mitchell, RB, 49ers. Mitchell had a breakout season, emerging as the lead back for the 49ers and having much success in that role. His lack of work in the passing game holds him back little, though, especially in games against a team that does well in holding down the run. He faces one of those teams this week, the Rams. Los Angeles held Mitchell to fewer than double-digit fantasy points in each of their games this year. Mitchell got 20-plus carries in each game but couldn’t crack double-digit points despite the work. He might be tough sledding for him again this week.
Byron Pringle, WR, Chiefs. Pringle has really emerged as a consistent threat in the Chiefs passing game. He has five receptions three straight games. And he has at least five catches four of five games. He also has three touchdowns in two playoff games this year. Patrick Mahomes has more trust in him and is looking his way a lot more often. He could be a good play again this week in a game that could be very high scoring once again.
Tyler Boyd, WR, Bengals. Boyd can disappear at times in this offense with two top weapons to compete with for targets this year. But he has still produced some big games this year. He is more than capable. He has touchdowns four of five games. He also has three games with 20-plus fantasy points. The Chiefs allowed Cole Beasley to have six receptions for 60 yards last week. Beasley plays a similar position to Boyd, so that bodes well for Boyd to have some success in this matchup.
High/Low Scoring Games
Each week we will take a look at some of the high and low scoring games for the coming week. In high scoring affairs, get your marginal players on those teams in your lineup to take advantage of the possible points barrage. And in the low scoring games, keep those marginal players on the bench and make sure to have your defenses involved in those contests.
High Scoring Games: Bengals/Chiefs, 49ers/Rams.
Low Scoring Games: None.
Jeff Paur is a two-time finalist for FSWA Fantasy Football Writer of the Year and won the FSWA award for Best Fantasy Football Article on the Web in 2011. He also was the most accurate expert in 2012, winning the FSTA Fantasy Football Accuracy Award. If you have any questions for Jeff, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Jeff on Twitter @jeffpaur.
Tennessee Titans quarterback Malik Willis made his professional debut during Thursday's game vs. the Ravens and he caught the eye of more than just those on his sideline -- Baltimore quarterback Lamar Jackson dished out praise as well. "He's going to be good," Jackson said during media availability Saturday. Tennessee selected Willis -- who was discussed as a potential first-round pick -- in the third round of the 2022 NFL Draft. He completed six of his 11 pro passes, compiling 107 yards through the air. Ryan Tannehill remains the team's primary signal caller entering the season, although the backup competition comes down to Willis vs. Logan Woodside, who has backed up Tannehill the past two seasons. Willis may not yet be a fantasy factor in '22, but his dual-threat abilities pave the way for him to soon garner starting reps.
Cleveland Browns quarterback Jacoby Brissett is on track to be under center come Week 1 of the regular season and that transition will officially take place during the practices of the upcoming week. Head coach Kevin Stefanski announced Saturday that Brissett would supplant the suspended Deshaun Watson as the first-team signal caller, with under a month to go until the Browns meet the Panthers. The 29-year-old Brissett has started 37 games over six NFL seasons, doing so for three different teams. While his production has never leaped off the page from a fantasy perspective, his being under center is likely indicative of the heavy reliance that Cleveland will have on its star-studded rushing game. For the time being, Brissett is set for a six-game stint as the team's starting quarterback.
Indianapolis Colts running back Jonathan Taylor is not on track to suit up for the team's preseason-opening contest vs. Buffalo on Saturday. Taylor, arguably the league's premier fantasy asset, has emerged as a star rusher, while head coach Frank Reich has attempted to keep his back in prime condition for the grind of a full season. There is little incentive for the Colts to utilize Taylor during the preseason, especially after he led the league in carries (332), rushing yards (1,811), rushing touchdowns (18) and yards from scrimmage (2,171) last year. Without him in the mix, those monitoring Indy's preseason reps can look to Nyheim Hines, Phillip Lindsay and Ty'Son Williams to see the vast majority of backfield carries. Taylor's next opportunity to suit up comes against Detroit next Saturday.
Cleveland Browns center Nick Harris (knee) is suspected to have endured a season-ending knee injury during Friday's preseason game against Jacksonville, per Adam Schefter of ESPN. Harris, who was carted off the field Friday night, was set to be the team's starting center, with his injury paving the way for Ethan Pocic to take over. A fifth-round selection by Cleveland in the 2020 NFL Draft out of Washington, knee and hamstring injuries had previously saddled Harris in his first two pro seasons. The 23-year-old started one game in both '20 and '21, appearing in 23 contests during that span. How much of the Browns' offense shakes out remains to be seen in the wake of Deshaun Watson's current six-game suspension, but Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt should remain focal points even with the o-line taking a sizable blow.
Cincinnati Bengals defensive end Wyatt Hubert announced his retirement from the NFL on Saturday, citing his "physical health" as the primary reason for him stepping away. Hubert was selected in the seventh round of the 2021 NFL Draft and sustained a torn pectoral muscle during the offseason, which prevented him from appearing in any game action during his rookie year. Hubert, a Kansas native, played collegiately for Kansas State, where he was a two-time First-team All-Big 12 selection. The Bengals defense remains a middle-of-the-pack unit for the upcoming '22 season.
Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson has previously stated that he would like to suit up for preseason games, but during media availability Saturday, he confirmed that he's not sure if the team will have him under center before Week 1 of the regular season. Jackson saw his 2021 year come to an end due to an ankle injury, but the former MVP is preparing for another potentially electric season, despite some new faces around him on offense. Beyond Jackson on the depth chart is Tyler Huntley, who went 16-for-18 through the air in the team's preseason-opening victory. Keeping Jackson on the sidelines is largely a precaution to prevent against injury, but the signal caller has also been engaged in contract negotiations with the franchise, which have not yet resulted in a long-term agreement.
Baltimore Ravens running back J.K. Dobbins (knee) has been held out of practice Saturday as the team continues to exercise caution in reinserting him to the mix. Head coach John Harbaugh recently admitted that Dobbins isn't a surefire option for the team out of the backfield in Week 1 as he makes his way back from a torn ACL that knocked him out for the entire 2021 campaign. The expectation is for Dobbins to rejoin practice Monday. Fellow running back Gus Edwards (knee) is also a question mark for Week 1, but Dobbins would be the bell cow of the Baltimore backfield if cleared. After compiling 805 yards and nine touchdowns on the ground as a rookie in '21, Dobbins would be a strong RB2 option in most fantasy formats, even coming off the injury. For now, Mike Davis, Nate McCrary and Justice Hill figure to all factor prominently into the Ravens' rushing game plans.
The Trey Lance Era has officially arrived in San Francisco ahead of the 2022 season. Lance utilized the first two drives of the team's preseason opener against the Packers on Friday to showcase his dual threat abilities, finishing 4-for-5 through the air for 92 yards and a touchdown, while also adding a seven-yard rush to his total. All in all, it was two drives with Lance under center, two scores (one field goal, one touchdown). While Lance did make two starts last year while Jimmy Garoppolo was injured, the third overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft holds the keys to the offense now. His rushing ability on top of his deft deep ball touch makes him a tantalizing QB1 option in redraft formats, while his age and upside make him a potential cornerstone of keepers formats. His next preseason action comes next Saturday vs. Minnesota.
The Carolina Panthers made waves when they announced Baker Mayfield as the team's starting quarterback for Saturday's preseason opener against Washington, and then did so again when it was announced Christian McCaffrey and D.J. Moore would be inactive for the contest. McCaffrey has been bothered by myriad injuries over the past few seasons, lending to the Panthers attempting to keep him fresh heading into Week 1 of the regular season. Moore's absence is also likely a byproduct of Carolina attempting to keep key playmakers healthy for the season ahead, even though fewer reps alongside Mayfield may make some fantasy managers trepidatious about the wideout's ceiling entering 2022. The duo's next chance to suit up comes Friday vs. the Patriots.
New York Jets quarterback Zach Wilson is set to be sidelined for the next 2-4 weeks by a bone bruise and meniscus tear in his right knee, per Brian Costello of the New York Post. Wilson left Friday's preseason contest against the Eagles due to the injury and was in significant pain prior to his departure. Initially, there were concerns that Wilson may be facing a long-term absence, but the team remains optimistic that their 23-year-old signal caller will be back in the fold soon. Joe Flacco and Mike White remain the team's top two internal candidates to start under center if Wilson isn't cleared by Week 1, with Flacco having sizable intrigue due to the matchup with Baltimore, a franchise he led to a Super Bowl in 2012.
Dynasty | Rookie running back Jerome Ford scored once as a rusher and again as a receiver in his first action of the pre-season. Dynasty Analysis: Ford rushed for 57 yards on 10 carries, though a majority of his yardage came from 41-yard scamper. He also reeled in 4-of-5 as a receiver, scoring another touchdown. Found as DLF's rookie RB13, Ford hasn't gone unnoticed by the dynasty community even as the team's projected third back behind starters Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt. In fact, with Chubb's name starting to percolate as a "sell now" asset and Hunt possibly not in the team's long term plans, Ford could rise quickly under the right circumstances. With an NFL profile, Jerome Ford is a well-valued acquisition target for patient dynasty coaches.
Jets quarterback Zach Wilson exited the team's first preseason game following a non-contact knee injury. Word is he has a bone bruise and meniscus tear and is expected to miss 2-4 weeks. Wilson will undergo arthroscopic surgery to address and correct the injury. The Jets consider this fortunate news.
Dynasty | Packers quarterback Jordan Love had an up-and-down game in the team's first preseason action. Dynasty Analysis: Head coach Matt LeFleur removed Love from blame on two of the three interceptions citing multiple factors but, regardless, Love's performance was inconsistent at best. The third-year quarterback also threw two touchdowns, including one to surging rookie receiver Romeo Doubs, and amassed 176 passing yards in the loss. It's Love's first preseason action on his way to what is expected to be very few snaps in 2022. Unranked on DLF, Jordan Love is no better than a free agent stash in deep-roster formats.
Dynasty | Packers rookie receiver Romeo Doubs secured his first touchdown in the Packers first preseason contest vs. the 49ers. Dynasty Analysis: Doubs totaled 45 yards on 3-of-7 receiving, including the first touchdown of his career. This wouldn't normally be news noteworthy but given that Doubs is a candidate as the fastest rising rookie of 2022, the performance is certain to keep social media buzzing. Doubs, DLF's WR102, continues to see uplift in his dynasty value and will be one to watch as the preseason continues to unfold.
Dynasty | 49ers quarterback Trey Lance was solid in limited snaps in the team's first action of the preseason Dynasty Analysis: Lance totaled 92 yards on 4-of-5 passing, highlighted by a 76 yard touchdown to rookie Danny Gray in the first quarter. Other than that, Lance's performance was nondescript but was generally a positive first game. Lance will continue to be a hot item to watch as the preseason unfolds and is found as DLF's QB8, showing that the dynasty community holds high expectations for the second-year player.
Dynasty | Flacons rookie quarterback Desmond Ridder was solid in his first preseason action Dynasty Analysis: It was a good first performance for the rookie who was often off-target on his way to 103 yards and two touchdowns on 10-of-22 passing. At the same time, he was interception free and also displayed mobility, rushing for 59 yards on six attempts. Marcus Mariota is entrenched as the starter but all eyes remain on Ridder and it will be no surprise to see the rookie see time under-center if the team gets off to a slow start to begin the season. Ridder is listed as DLF's QB30, displaying that Mariota is only believed to be a short-term placeholder.
Dynasty | 49ers sophomore running back Elijah Mitchell is nursing a hamstring injury and likely won't see action in the preseason Dynasty Analysis: It's yet another new injury for Mitchell who carries high expectations from the dynasty community. At the same time, Mitchell has shown less durability than desired and his RB22 status won't rise until he shows he can remain off the trainer's table. Following knee surgery earlier this year, the hope was for Mitchell to build momentum into the regular season, but now the hamstring injury fuels further concern about the team's deployment of a true RBBC approach. Mitchell has fine upside should he handle the lion's share of the touches but the team has a deep stable of runners and appears ready to use them all.
San Francisco 49ers running back Elijah Mitchell (hamstring) is expected to miss the entire preseason. Mitchell has been limited during training camp while he recovers from knee surgery. This hamstring issue is a new problem that will probably sideline him until Week 1. Fantasy managers could see Mitchell limited to begin the season, but this shouldn't be a long term problem. Trey Sermon, Tyrion Davis-Price, and Jeff Wilson Jr. will split up the reps until Mitchell is back on the field.
Cincinnati Bengals kicker Evan McPherson doesn't appear to have lost a step heading into the 2022 campaign. The fifth-round kicker had a surprising breakout campaign last season. Now, there is more pressure on McPherson with everyone watching as he has become one of the more reliable kickers in the game. On Friday, McPherson connected on all three of his field goal attempts in the preseason loss to the Arizona Cardinals. His long on the day was a 58-yarder, so he appears to be in mid-season form. It looks like McPherson is going to be one of the better kicking options in fantasy leagues once again.
Carolina Panthers quarterback Baker Mayfield will make the start under center during Saturday's preseason matchup against the Washington Commanders. It sounds like Mayfield will play the first series before Sam Darnold takes over. The two of them have been splitting up the reps during training camp. Right now, it appears Mayfield has the edge over Darnold, but things can quickly change. Fantasy managers shouldn't be too interested in who wins this competition. Whoever it is will likely be a low-end QB2 most weeks anyway. It's tough to imagine either quarterback taking the next step and becoming a star this season.