Week 13 settled many fantasy football playoff positions and put an end to even more hopes of grandeur.
Emotions ran high both ways as tough matchups, surprises, and contrary advice left fantasy owners reeling or rejoicing as the dust settled over their playoff brackets.
Devante Parker was a popular waiver add heading into the final week of fantasy’s regular season, but few expected him to be the overall second-highest points scorer.
Even fewer imagined James White would bounce back from fantasy obscurity to rack up the highest point total of the weekend.
Deshaun Watson is no stranger to the quarterback’s leaderboard, but his QB-1 finish helped as many benches as they did game totals as the specter of the New England DST fooled many.
There were outstanding performances and duds from dozens of surprising individuals, but one quarterback performance stood out above the rest.
He didn’t score the most points. His QB-13 rank was a shade outside the top tier. But relative to his “0” percent starting status across all platforms, perhaps his was the most surprising quarterback finish of the week.
Of course, I’m talking about Taysom Hill and his 18.5 PPR fantasy points.
PPR? For a quarterback?
Anyone who watched New Orleans become the first team to clinch a real-life NFL playoff spot Thursday knows Taysom Hill was a key to the Saints’ victory.
What about Drew Brees? Well, all he did was throw the ball, and he didn’t even do much of that. In fact, the “starting” quarterback finished with only 11.26 fantasy points, good for the QB-22 slot.
Hill threw a pass. Well, he threw the ball away once under pressure. But he still arguably played a bigger role than Brees in the victory.
How could he not? He was all over the place. Hill lined up at quarterback, running back, as a receiver, and he even blocked a punt.
The first of his two touchdowns was probably a reward for that blocked punt, which set up the Saints in scoring position. It was the only touchdown pass Brees threw on the day, a 3-yarder to Hill.
Hill caught a second pass later in the game for 9 more yards. He also rushed for 33 yards, including a 30-yard touchdown on a direct snap.
That play was set up by Alvin Kamara going in motion from the backfield. He took two defenders with him, creating the gap Hill exploited on his way to the end zone.
New Orleans was in command at that point. Their fans were happy. The players were happy. The coaches were happy. Everybody was happy.
Well, maybe not everybody…
Do you know who wasn’t happy about that play? Fantasy football managers who started their stud Alvin Kamara in a bid to solidify or achieve a fantasy playoff slot.
Kamara finished the game with an underwhelming 84 total yards and no touchdowns on the way to his RB-22 standing. Something like 30 more rushing yards and a touchdown would have pushed him ahead of Ezekiel Elliott into the RB-6 slot.
Michael Thomas owners weren’t thrilled about Hill’s 3-yard touchdown catch, either. Six catches for 48 scoreless yards left Thomas as the WR-36 on the week.
Let’s not even mention the folks who started Latavius Murray (4 carries, 2 yards), possibly based on conjecture from a certain fantasy writer that New Orleans would split the running back load more. (I am sorry!)
Head coach Sean Payton raved about the attitude and athleticism of Hill after the game. He called his passion for the game “contagious” before uttering the words Kamara and Thomas’s owners fear most.
“I probably need to get him (Hill) the ball even more.”
Is Taysom Hill the Playoff Savior of 2019?
Should fantasy football playoff teams add Hill to their roster based on Payton’s statement? Will Taysom Hill, a third-string quarterback, be the player fantasy champions remember fondly after the 2019 season?
Probably not… although the way this week went, we certainly can’t rule anything out.
Hill touched the ball five times and scored twice. That doesn’t happen too often. Yes, it is true that New Orleans’ versatile weapon boasts a yards-per-carry number over 6 yards.
Yes, it is true he now has 8 career touchdowns in under two seasons as a Swiss Army Knife. Yes, his 4 touchdown receptions this season is an all-time record for quarterbacks.
But even if Payton follows through and increases Hill’s touches to 15 or so per game, teams will start focusing on him. In fact, Hill might be the distraction Kamara needs to sprint off the end for a score.
The other problem is Hill is a quarterback on all fantasy football platforms. The four major sites (ESPN, CBS, Sleeper, and Yahoo) are on record as saying he will not be tabbed as anything else this season.
If he was a tight end, starting Hill might be a consideration. But anyone in the fantasy football playoffs has a quarterback with a much higher ceiling than Hill’s. That makes Hill un-startable.
This is why Kamara, Murray, Thomas, and Jared Cook owners will remain wary of the Saints’ game plan.
Unlucky or Lucky 13th Week
Fantasy football was full of surprises in Week 13. Battles between top defenses led to much discussion about whether or not to pull regular starters in favor of streaming options.
The top three quarterbacks faced three of the top fantasy defenses. A surprising number of owners sat Lamar Jackson against San Francisco and Deshaun Watson against New England.
Fewer sat Dak Prescott against Buffalo. The alternatives were plentiful, at least according to the pre-weekend Twitterverse. Carson Wentz at Miami, Ryan Fitzpatrick vs Philly, and Sam Darnold against Cincinnati were the most popular.
You didn’t go too wrong with any of them, except Darnold. Watson was the QB-1 with 28.86 points against the Patriots’ defense. Prescott (QB-10) and Jackson (QB-11) rewarded their faithful owners with 22 fantasy points each.
If you flipped a streamer in there, Fitzpatrick (26.8) and Wentz (24.4) held up their end of the deal with top-5 performances. Only Darnold missed with a miserable game in Cincinnati.
Aaron Rodgers and Jared Goff filled out the top five, while Tom Brady, Mitchell Trubisky, Josh Allen, and Kyle Allen each scored 23 points or more.
James White’s return to fantasy football relevance was the biggest talk of the week. He was the only highlight in a subpar Patriots’ performance against the Texans. His 177 total yards with 8 catches and 2 touchdowns put him 10 full points ahead of the RB-2 and on top of the overall PPR fantasy scoring list.
But there were plenty of other surprises, too. Derrius Guice (27.70) was the RB-2 behind a pair of touchdowns and over 130 total yards.
Derrick Henry (23.6) was the third-best PPR running back, while Raheem Mostert took the helm of San Francisco’s running back committee and rode it to a 154 yard, RB-4 finish.
Miles Sanders, Ezekiel Elliott, Duke Johnson, Devin Singletary, Todd Gurley, and Peyton Barber rounded out the top ten list because what better time than the playoff-deciding round of games to throw a few surprises into the mix.
Christian McCaffrey was “held” to 17.7 points by Washington, good for the RB-13 slot.
Once you got past Devante Parker’s WR-1 performance (7/159/2- 34.90 PPR), the rest of the top ten receivers were not as surprising, even if they were full of bounce-back efforts.
Robert Woods (30.20) topped 30 points and 9 other wide receivers topped 20.
Tyler Higbee got to play the Cardinals and took the TE-1 title with a 7/107/1 line (23.7 PPR).
Tampa Bay (23) and Kansas City (20), teams not traditionally known for defense, were the best fantasy football DSTs.
Brandon McManus’ second field goal from over 50 yards out not only won a last-second victory for Denver, but it also gave him the best kicker score.
I only mention it because had McManus missed, I’d be writing about how Miami kicker Jason Sander’s touchdown catch from punter Matt Haack gave him the top kicking score of the week.
Punter to kicker… touchdown. That could have been more points for Fitzpatrick and Parker, dammit. (Just kidding!)
Waiver Wire heating up
It’s hard to imagine that teams playing next week have lots of waiver needs, but with tons of mediocre players picked up in the past month, the player destined to lift some marginal playoff participants to the championship could still be out there.
Darwin Thompson is this week’s top hope. Thompson came on in relief after Darrel Williams got hurt. He finished with 44 rushing yards and a touchdown. More importantly, he left the game healthy.
Neither Damien Williams nor Darrel Williams is expected to play in Week 14. LeSean McCoy’s workload has been limited, to say the least recently. He still seems a step slow.
Cue up Darwin Thompson to ride to victory in Week 14. Be careful what you give up though. Thompson could be back on the bench by the end of the playoffs.
Derrius Guice is another popular name on waiver wires after what appears to be a breakout game. But watch out! He did all that on only 10 carries. Adrian Peterson is still the lead back.
With nothing to play for and considering Guice’s injury history, Washington is not likely to give their youngster much more work. Most weeks, 10 touches aren’t going to greatly influence your point totals.
Raheem Mostert also broke out this week. However, I am concerned that San Francisco gave him the ball because the type of running they did against Baltimore suited Mostert better than Coleman.
You should also consider that Matt Breida is expected back this week, potentially turning the 49ers back into a three-headed monster at running back.
Patrick Laird should inherit the lead running back duties in Miami, and still hold onto his third-down role. Myles Gaskin will spell Laird at times, but I think Laird could be a sneaky RB-2 level starter.
Benny Snell is still the starter in Pittsburgh until James Connor is close to 100-percent, but I am more intrigued by James White and Duke Johnson Jr, this week’s RB-5.
Did their respective teams finally figure out how to use them? Or will they find themselves working as the fifth or sixth option again next week? I’d roll with White over DJ if I was desperate for a flex.
Devante Parker and Cole Beasley are still available in too many leagues. Good scripts lie ahead for each of them. Parker is likely to be a top-12 receiver most weeks and Beasley at least top-20.
But first, check for John Ross. Cincinnati plans to activate Ross for this week’s game. Despite being on the injured reserve most of the season with a broken clavicle, Ross still leads the team in touchdown receptions.
With Andy Dalton back under center and the Bengals off the schneid in the win column, Ross could provide a boost to any playoff roster.
James Washington won’t see a lot of volume if Pittsburgh keeps games close, but he makes the most of it. Duck Hodges looks to him first, and that might continue even when JuJu Smith-Schuster returns.
Allen Lazard is becoming a favorite of Aaron Rodgers and Darius Slayton continues to receive the lion’s share of work in New York. As long as Julio Jones is out, Russell Gage is worth a start, too.
Miami’s Mike Gesicki and the Colts’ Jack Doyle are the safest tight ends. Vance McDonald lines up against the Cardinals this week, making him a likely touchdown recipient.
Ryan Fitzpatrick and the Dolphins seem serious about winning some more ball games this season. The Jets, Giants, and Bengals are set to let Fitzmagic show its wonderful face in Weeks 14-16.
Ryan Tannehill is maintaining a solid floor with a tremendous upside. He faces the Raiders and Texans the next two weeks, before running into the Saints.
Normally, I would stream any defense against the Dolphins, but they are feisty lately. After their fiasco in Cincinnati, I can’t recommend the Jets DST even at home.
Instead, I’d go with Green Bay against Washington, Tennessee versus the Raiders, or the angry Eagles at home against the Giants.
December brings the best of the NFL season, and that sometimes means adjustments in fantasy football lineups.
NFL coaches might rest starters a bit after they’ve clinched real-life playoff positions. They are more likely to sit someone with a relatively minor injury to make sure they’re available in January.
In Week 13, we received lots of last-minute weather updates and warnings to fade some passers and receivers.
Weather rarely costs us many fantasy football points. It can be a factor, but a good quarterback will figure it out and adjust.
Green Bay put up 31 points in windy snow and sleet. The score in Baltimore was more about two top defenses than rain.
The only thing I consider with the weather is the turf. Any natural grass field in bad rain and snow benefits a hard-hitting defense. Slips and tips breed turnovers.
So check the weather, but don’t worry too much about adjustments unless it is going to involve a really messy natural turf.
Until next week…