Let’s face it, there’s an enormous amount of information out there on Sunday mornings. We’re not going to waste your time by repeating the news and notes about who’s in or out this week, since that’s really not what you visit us for. We’re also not going to do another article on starts or sits this week – we already have the personalized lineup advice for you on the premium content. Again, there are 100 places you can go for that, so no reason to repeat ourselves or others.
The Sunday Morning Huddle goes through each game and states what we’re looking to see from a dynasty perspective. One player will be picked from each team who has dynasty value tied to the game – players at a pivot point where their value could increase or decrease based on opportunity and performance.
ATLANTA AT CAROLINA
The Falcons are one of many teams already eliminated from playoff contention. In this game, Atlanta can play spoiler as the Panthers have the slightest hope of a playoff berth. They will have to do it with a limited rushing game and perhaps no superstar receiver Julio Jones. Rookie running back Ito Smith’s season is over after undergoing a knee scope, leaving running back Tevin Coleman with the backfield to himself. While the Falcons tend to use a committee attack regardless of the available personnel, they are left with only Brian Hill and Jeremy Langford behind Coleman. ESPN’s Adam Schefter has reported that Jones will test things out during pre-game warmups, but he is dealing with rib and hip injuries.
The Panthers playoff hopes are still alive, just barely. If they are going to sneak in, they’ll do it without quarterback Cam Newton, who was shut down after last week’s loss. The Panthers will turn to backup Taylor Heinicke for the final two games. The Old Dominion product has attempted just five passes in his career and Newton’s loss hurts all other members of the offense.
CINCINNATI AT CLEVELAND
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Add breakout receiver Tyler Boyd to the long list of injured Bengals stars after he suffered a knee injury a week ago. Although he’s yet to be placed on the injured reserve list, there is little motivation to play him in a lost season. That leaves receivers John Ross and Auden Tate and tight end C.J. Uzomah as the primary targets in the passing game for the final two weeks of the season. Although they are essentially meaningless games for Cincinnati, they could be huge for Ross, who has been a total bust through his first two years, despite a fluky six touchdown catches this year.
When the Titans defeated the Redskins on Saturday night, the Browns were officially eliminated from playoff contention. It might be disappointing for Cleveland fans but there have been many reasons to be excited about the Browns’ future and those should be on display against former head coach Hue Jackson and the Bengals in this game. Rookies Baker Mayfield and Nick Chubb, both of whom Jackson was resistant to use in key roles early in the season, led the way in a Week Twelve win over Cincy and should be up for a repeat performance.
TAMPA BAY AT DALLAS
Shockingly blanked on the road in Indianapolis last week, the Cowboys should fare much better against the Buccaneers defense at home in Dallas. The Cowboys offense obviously revolves around their trio of Dak Prescott, Ezekiel Elliott and Amari Cooper, tight end Blake Jarwin has been a pleasant surprise, especially over the past two weeks. Jarwin has seen seven targets in each of the past two games, catching 11 passes for 101 yards and finishing as the TE10 in each game. Tampa Bay has allowed a league-worst ten TE1 games this season.
The Buccaneers offense has stalled in recent weeks with veteran receiver DeSean Jackson and his deep ball skills. Jackson is set to return to the lineup after overcoming his thumb injury. This is bad news for second-year wideout Chris Godwin, who was expected to take on a significant role during Jackson’s absence. Instead, Godwin has managed just 13 yards on 13 targets over the past two games.
MINNESOTA AT DETROIT
The Lions are limping to the end of the season, having already lost receiver Marvin Jones and running back Kerryon Johnson. They enter this NFC North game with Matthew Stafford, LeGarrette Blount and Kenny Golladay all questionable with injuries. Although each player is expected to suit up against the Vikings, none can be trusted against the stout Minnesota defense.
The Vikings blasted the Dolphins a week ago on the back of Dalvin Cook to get back to their winning ways. They have to be worried about quarterback Kirk Cousins though, who had QB28 and QB25 finishes before bouncing back with a QB10 game last week. While his fantasy numbers were respectable, Cousins threw a season-low 21 pass attempts as Cook was the bulk of the offense. Even against the Lions lame duck defense, Cousins is tough to use this week.
NEW YORK GIANTS AT INDIANAPOLIS
In Week Fifteen, Colts running back Marlon Mack enjoyed a career-best performance, rushing for 139 yards and two scores on his way to an RB8 game. This week, Mack gets a juicy matchup against the Giants, who have allowed the third-most fantasy points to opposing backs over the past three weeks. Despite early-season injury woes and some up and down play, Mack is currently the RB26 and should finish the season inside the RB2 range.
For the third straight game, receiver Odell Beckham will miss the Giants game due to a quad injury thought to be minor. While Sterling Shepard (WR44, WR64) and Saquon Barkley (season-worst RB31 and 56 total yards) have had their troubles without their star teammate, tight end Evan Engram has flourished. Engram was the TE12 two weeks ago before catching a season-best eight passes last week, finishing as the TE1. The Colts have struggled to defend tight ends, which strengthens Engram’s case as a strong play in fantasy championships.
JACKSONVILLE AT MIAMI
Last week, the Dolphins lost veteran running back Frank Gore to a foot injury that cost him the majority of the game and ultimately ended his season. The immediate expectation was that this injury would open more playing time for Kenyan Drake but it was rookie running back Kalen Ballage who saw workhorse touches in the second half last week. The Arizona State product rushed for 123 yards on 12 carries, including a 75-yard touchdown sprint to open the second half. Although Gore has already announced he plans to return for another season in 2019, that doesn’t mean Miami will commit to Gore as their starter.
Shockingly, the Jaguars basically benched starting running back Leonard Fournette for the second half of last week’s game, giving carries to David Williams, who finished with five carries for 32 yards. This week, Fournette missed some practice time with a foot injury. Fournette has a primo matchup against the Dolphins but still can’t be trusted as the Jags play out the season.
BUFFALO AT NEW ENGLAND
By this point, we are all aware of the success Bills rookie quarterback Josh Allen is having as a fantasy asset. Since returning from his mid-season elbow injury, Allen has posted fantasy finishes of QB4, QB2, QB15 and QB4, leading all signal callers in fantasy scoring over the past month. Allen has rushed for 351 yards during those four games, easily more than any other quarterback during that span. This rushing production has obviously led to fantasy points, but it has masked just how bad he’s been as a passer. Entering the league, the main knock on Allen was his pass efficiency and it those questions have not been entered during his rookie season. Entering Week Sixteen, 40 NFL quarterbacks have attempted at least 100 passes for the season. Allen is dead last, completing just over 52% of his passes. Potentially this could improve with an upgraded pass-catching in the coming years but this is not something fantasy players should overlook despite Allen’s fantasy output.
The top story of the week for the Patriots and the entire league was the suspension handed down to wide receiver Josh Gordon, who once again violated the league’s substance abuse policy. That earned him an indefinite suspension and in the opinion of many, will end his career. In the short-term, that should give a boost to veteran receivers Chris Hogan and Cordarrelle Patterson. Long-term, the Patriots have no young, core offensive pieces other than rookie runner Sony Michel. The dynasty has come to an end.
GREEN BAY AT NEW YORK JETS
Last week, rookie quarterback Sam Darnold played his best game of the season, passing for 253 yards and two scores. That’s just his second game of the year with 200+ yards and multiple touchdown passes. Darnold has a chance to continue his success against a fading Packers defense that has struggled to defend the pass for much of the season. Green Bay has allowed six QB1 games this season, including four in the past five games.
The Packers will be without veteran receiver Randall Cobb in this game, which should allow for more playing time for rookie receivers Equanimeous St. Brown and Marquez Valdes-Scantling. When Cobb missed time earlier in the year, MVS totaled 11 receptions for 209 yards and a touchdowns. In recent weeks, it has been St. Brown who has seen his playing time increase. Neither rookie can be used in fantasy title games this week but this could be another look at what to expect in 2019, when Cobb will likely be with a new team.
HOUSTON AT PHILADELPHIA
Despite currently being in line for a top-two seed and a first-round bye, the Texans have yet to actually clinch a playoff spot, making this an important game. Houston will have to go on the road and get the win without starting running back Lamar Miller, who is dealing with an ankle injury. Running back Alfred Blue will get the start and he averaged over 22 touches per game earlier in the season when Miller sat. Also, second-year back D’Onta Foreman is expected to make his season debut after last season’s Achilles injury.
The Eagles enter Week Sixteen just a half game back from a wildcard spot and an improbable playoff run led by backup quarterback Nick Foles is once again a possibility. Foles has been a fantasy afterthought, posting QB30, QB18 and QB23 games in his three starts this season but he still led his team to an upset over the Rams a week ago. Not surprisingly, injured starter Carson Wentz has reportedly been pushing the coaching staff to let him back on the field. Foles continues to play for a 2019 free agent contract.
LOS ANGELES RAMS AT ARIZONA
Recent reports have suggested that Cardinals head coach Steve Wilkes will be fired at the conclusion of the season, his first with the team. Arizona has just three wins and has managed to waste a year of David Johnson’s career, as well as the potential final year of Larry Fitzgerald’s career. Dynasty owners have to be hoping quarterback Josh Rosen can make a Jared Goff-like, or at least a Mitchell Trubisky-like step up in his second season.
The Rams come into Arizona on a two-game losing streak, yet still must be confident in their chances of claiming a playoff bye with a win over the Cardinals. In fact, they might be so confident that they choose to rest running back Todd Gurley, who is dealing with a sore knee. If Gurley sits, recently-signed veteran C.J. Anderson and rookie John Kelly are expected to share the backfield carries.
CHICAGO AT SAN FRANCISCO
The Bears passing offense possesses many options in the passing game, which is one part of their success this season. That balance and depth has also led to frustration for fantasy players and it has become quite difficult to project from week to week. Recently, the main victim of this has been rookie receiver Anthony Miller, who was not even targeted in last week’s game. Over the past month, Miller has totaled four receptions for 42 yards. The 49ers have allowed 15 top-24 fantasy receiver games this season, second-most in the league.
Locked in as the 49ers top wide receiver, rookie Dante Pettis faces a difficult matchup against the Bears defense but will look to continue his hot streak. Pettis has scored as a top-24 fantasy receiver in four straight games, totaling four touchdowns and averaging four catches for 85 yards per games.
PITTSBURGH AT NEW ORLEANS
For the Steelers, it will be another game without starting running back James Conner, who will miss his third straight game with a high ankle sprain. That means rookie Jaylen Samuels will face off against the Saints sturdy run defense. Pittsburgh has other injury concerns though after second-year wideout Juju Smith-Schuster suffered a groin injury in a late-week practice. The star receiver declared himself ready to go despite missing Friday’s practice but will be less than 100%. Smith-Schuster has thrived away from home this year, scoring eight more fantasy points in road games as compared to home contests, thanks to a 53-yard increase in away games.
The Saints come back home after struggling to a pair of wins in a three-game road trip and will welcome back veteran receiver Ted Ginn. The expectation was that rookie Tre’Quan Smith would slide in to take over Ginn’s role when he suffered a knee injury in Week Four. Smith looked like a star in a trio of sporadic games but was mostly a non-factor. That will likely be the case again with Ginn back on the field.
KANSAS CITY AT SEATTLE
The Chiefs are limping to the regular season’s finish line, losing two of the past four games and escaping with close wins over Baltimore and Oakland. This week, they are expected to play without running back Spencer Ware and, for the third straight week, wide receiver Sammy Watkins. This means another week for veteran Damien Williams as the lead back. Williams starred for the Chiefs a week ago, totaling 123 yards and two scores. His matchup is not as kind this week, facing the Seahawks in Seattle. This is a danger spot for the Chiefs.
Rookie running back Rashaad Penny is questionable for Sunday night’s game due to a knee injury. If he’s out, it could be another huge opportunity for second-year back Chris Carson, who has put together five straight games as the RB21 or better. The prevailing thought all season is that Penny would eventually take over the starting gig from Carson, though the between-the-tackles grinder has managed to hold off the first-round rookie so far. The Chiefs have allowed a league-high 18 top-24 fantasy games to opposing backs.
DENVER AT OAKLAND
Nearly a month ago, the Broncos lost veteran receiver Emmanuel Sanders for the season with an Achilles injury. Combined with the previous trade of wideout Demaryius Thomas, this paved the way for rookie receiver Courtland Sutton to serve as the Broncos top option in the passing game for the remainder of the season. For the Broncos and dynasty players, this stretch of five games would be a preview of 2019. The only problem is Sutton has been a major disappointment. Over the past three weeks, the SMU product is third on the team in receptions, second in yards and has scored once. Rookie DaeSean Hamilton and Tim Patrick have been better receivers over this three-game stretch.
With three wins on the season and no young offensive building blocks, the Raiders have fittingly become a black hole for dynasty players. On a weekly basis, Oakland rolls out a 29-year-old running back, a 33-year-old WR1 and a 31-year-old tight end. Only nine more years of head coach Jon Gruden.
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