Written By: Toby Junker and Kamari Purcell
Top Ten Power Rankings
1. New England Patriots (10-2)
Last week: W @ Buffalo Bills
This Week: @ Miami Dolphins
The New England Patriots now find themselves in a familiar position, at the top of the league and the top of these power rankings. This shift in the rankings comes as the Philadelphia Eagles finally lost again and the Patriots continue their 8 game Tour De Force through the league. The game was fairly close at the half with the Pats only up 9-3 thanks to a trio of Stephen Gostkowski field goals. However, they absolutely dismantled the Buffalo Bills in the second half, for all intents and purposes locking up the division crown in the AFC East for the 8th year in a row, barring a total and complete meltdown. QB Tom Brady was sacked three times and struggled for much of the game (258 passing yards and an INT). Running backs Dion Lewis (15 carries for 92 yards) and Rex Burkhead (12 carries for 78 yards and 2 TDs) combined for another solid game on the ground. Their defense continues to smother opponents and held the Bills to a single field goal for the entire game and they recorded 4 sacks and an interception off Bills QB Tyrod Taylor. One area where they struggled was in stopping the run as they allowed the Bills to rush for 183 yards on 26 carries at 7 yards per carry. The biggest blemish on Sunday afternoon was an egregious, dirty hit by Pats TE Rob Gronkowski on Bills CB Tre’Davious White who was otherwise having a solid game with 9 catches for 147 yards. The Patriots are lucky to only be without the All-Pro tight end for just this upcoming week. They now have an opportunity to seal up the division with a win over a divisional opponent in the Miami Dolphins.
2. Philadelphia Eagles (10-2)
Last week: L @ Seattle Seahawks
This Week: @ Los Angeles Rams
Well, we all knew the winning streak would eventually come to an end and it makes sense that it happened on the road in Seattle, where the Seahawks have excelled under HC Pete Carroll and QB Russell Wilson. Eagles QB Carson Wentz put up big passing yardage numbers (348 passing yards), but failed to get the ball into the end zone (1 touchdown). He was unable to get a rhythm in the pocket as he was sacked three times and fumbled twice, losing one. The NFL’s second best rushing unit (143.3 yards per game) was underwhelming as they failed to garner 100 yards on the ground (98) for the first time since opening week against the Washington Redskins (58). One positive on offense was WR Nelson Agholor who exploded for a big game with 7 receptions for 141 yards and a touchdown. The defense didn’t have much success as they failed to get a turnover and let Wilson have a big performance (227 yards and 3 TDs passing plus 6 carries for 31 yards rushing). The road ahead doesn’t get easier as the Philadelphia Eagles will take on the Los Angeles Rams at the Coliseum in Los Angeles. Another loss would put them in jeopardy of losing the top seed in the NFC, but they can clinch the NFC East with a win or Dallas Cowboys’ loss.
3. Pittsburgh Steelers (10-2)
Last week: W @ Cincinnati Bengals
This Week: vs. Baltimore Ravens
This one got ugly. So much for no extracurriculars in this intense “rivalry” between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Cincinnati Bengals. In a game with multiple illegal hits and a couple of star players being carted off the field, Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger chalked it up to just good old fashioned AFC North football, but the league has to draw a line somewhere. This is the type of game that hurts the NFL’s brand as they “attempt” a push to move towards a safer game. The Steelers struggled for much of the first half falling behind 17-0 before rallying in the second half to win on another last second Chris Boswell field goal (3 times in the last 4 weeks). Big Ben started off rough by throwing an interception on the opening drive but was serviceable for the rest of the game (290 yards and 2 TDs) The league’s best running back-wide receiver duo was at it again this week as RB Le’Veon Bell (18 carries for 76 yards and 5 catches for 106 yards and a receiving TD) and WR Antonio Brown (8 catches for 101 yards and a touchdown) had another big showing. The defense which really struggled in the first half, clamped down and held the Bengals to a field goal the rest of the way. Looking ahead, the Steelers will look to clinch the AFC North division with a win over the rival Baltimore Ravens Sunday night.
4. Minnesota Vikings (10-2)
Last week: W @ Atlanta Falcons
This Week: @ Carolina Panthers
The Minnesota Vikings just keep quietly racking up wins and that’s now eight in a row. They marched into the Mercedes-Benz Superdome and came away with a quality win over an Atlanta Falcons team that entered on a three game winning streak. This game was back and forth as Atlanta took the initial lead and were leading at the half but the Vikings kept coming back thanks largely to their defensive efforts as they held the Falcons to 9 points on 3 Matt Bryant field goals. QB Case Keenum had a solid game throwing for 227 yards on 25/30 (80.33%) and a pair of touchdowns. He spread the ball around, hitting 9 different receivers. The team wasn’t effective running the ball (3.4 yards per carry) but still eclipsed the 100 yard mark (100 rushing yards on 31 carries). The defense did a remarkable job on 3rd downs holding the Falcons to 1 of 10 (10%) on the night. They held Falcons QB Matt Ryan to 173 passing yards on 16/29 (55.2%). After his huge week last week (12 catches for 253 yards and 2 TDs), CB Xavier Rhodes and the rest of the Vikings’ secondary shut down Falcons WR Julio Jones, limiting him to 2 catches for 24 yards. Both teams were focused on ball security as neither team had a turnover. The Vikings follow up their win over a tough NFC South opponent with another NFC South opponent in the Carolina Panthers next week.
5. Los Angeles Rams (9-3)
Last Week: W @ Arizona Cardinals
This Week: vs. Philadelphia Eagles
The Los Angeles Rams now have back-to-back wins after losing to the Minnesota Vikings two weeks ago. The Rams really pulled away in the second half. Jared Goff had a solid game notching 220 yards and 2 TDs despite also throwing an INT. Todd Gurley mixed it up on the ground (19 carries for 74 yards) and through the air (6 catches for 84 yards). With a lackluster game for the offense, which was actually outgained (312-303), the special teams unit and the defense came up big. The offense also struggled in the red zone going 2-4 (50%) and on 3rd down going 3-11 (27.3%).The leg of K Greg Zuerlein as he went 4 for 4 including one from 56 yards out. The defense cashed in on a pick-six by LB Alec Ogletree, and S Lamarcus Joyner added a pick as well. The defense also came away with 6 sacks on the day including 2 from superstar DT Aaron Donald. The offense will have to play much better as they have a tough test this week as the Philadelphia Eagles come into town ready to make up for last week’s disappointing loss. This is a necessary win for the Rams as they’ll be travelling to Seattle in 2 weeks to face the Seahawks in a crucial divisional matchup.
6. New Orleans Saints (9-3)
Last week: W vs. Carolina Panthers
This Week: @ Atlanta Falcons
The New Orleans Saints were able to right the ship after last week’s loss to the Los Angeles Rams. The win against the Panthers was vital as it effectively extends their lead to 2 games in the division (due to a tiebreaker with Carolina since they have beaten them twice this year). QB Drew Brees has had better games (369 passing yards and 1 TD), but the running game has done its part to create a balanced attack (28 carries for 148 yards at 5.3 yards per carry). RB Mark Ingram was the leading rusher for the Saints as he gashed the Panthers’ defense for 85 yards on 14 carries (6.1 average) and a touchdown. The biggest thing for the Saints this year has been the emergence of RB Alvin Kamara as he looks to cement himself as a potential superstar and Offensive Rookie of the Year. He had another explosive game and was important in both the running game (9 carries for 60 yards and 2 TDs) and in the passing game (5 catches for 66 yards). On the other side of the ball, it appears that the Saints may have also drafted the Defensive Rookie of the Year in CB Marshon Lattimore, who has been an important piece in turning this defense around. The defensive unit played pretty well as a whole, limiting Panthers QB Cam Newton to less than 200 passing yards and forcing a turnover. The Saints defense also did a good job of getting off the field on 3rd (3-10) and 4th (0-2) downs. With a pair of wins over the Panthers, the Saints will now look to tighten their grip on the NFC South with a win over the Atlanta Falcons (who they will play twice in the next three weeks) on Thursday Night Football.
7. Seattle Seahawks (8-4)
Last Week: W vs. Philadelphia Eagles
This Week: @ Jacksonville Jaguars
This was a big week for the Seattle Seahawks who were able to dethrone last week’s number one in the power rankings, the Philadelphia Eagles. It helped them to maintain pace in the NFC West as they are still just a game behind with a game left to play against the Los Angeles Rams. It also allowed them to take advantage in the wild card as two fellow contenders (Atlanta Falcons and Carolina Panthers) both fell this week. QB Russell Wilson had a good game with 227 passing yards and 3 passing touchdowns combined with 6 carries for 31 yards. The running game paced by RB Mike Davis (16 carries for 64 yards) who earned just his second start of the season, was able to pass the 100 yard mark for the game (25 carries for 101 yards). The defense also played big holding the league’s No.1 offense (30.1 points per game) to just 10 points. The Seahawks defense was anchored by strong performance from LB Bobby Wagner who had a big game with 13 total tackles, 9 solo, and 2.5 tackles for loss and LB K.J. Wright who had 10 total tackles, 8 of which were solo. S Bradley McDougald played well too with 12 total tackles, 7 of which were solo. The Seahawks also won the turnover battle at +2. Seattle’s improving offensive line will face a difficult task in protecting Russell Wilson from a dominating front seven as the Seahawks take on the Jacksonville Jaguars this week.
8. Tennessee Titans (8-4)
Last Week: W vs. Houston Texans
This Week: @ Arizona Cardinals
The Titans keep winning as they roll through this easy part of the schedule and have now rattled off wins in 6 of their last 7. With the win they got some mild revenge after the drubbing they took at the hands of the Deshaun Watson-lead Texans back in Week 4 as they lost that one 57-14. The Titans relied on a big rushing game and solid defense to win this one. RB Derrick Henry was the leading rusher with 109 rushing yards on 11 carries (although the majority of this came on his 75-yard touchdown run) and the team racked up 198 rushing yards on 25 total carries, averaging just under 8 yards per carry. QB Marcus Mariota didn’t have a great game (150 yards and 1 touchdown), but did just enough to give his team the win. With the struggles of the offense, the defense was out on the field a lot having to go for 75 plays. While they let Texans QB Tom Savage have his numbers (365 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT), they held the running game in check, limiting Texan rushers to just 53 yards on 22 carries. They also got to the quarterback four times. With the 5-7 Cardinals next on the schedule, it appears that they may be able to keep this run going for at least another week.
9. Jacksonville Jaguars (8-4)
Last week: W vs. Indianapolis Colts
This Week: vs. Seattle Seahawks
Jacksonville got the chance to play an easy Indianapolis Colts team before they prepare to face Seattle. This one was never really in doubt as the Jaguars just seemed to impose their will, especially in the second half. QB Blake Bortles looked the part of a good quarterback with over 300 yards passing and 2 touchdowns. WR Marqise Lee was the main recipient of Bortles’ good day as he had 7 catches for 86 yards and a touchdown. One surprise was that the NFL’s best rushing team (almost 150 rushing yards per game) was held under 100 yards. Leonard Fournette had a tough day at the office trudging for just 57 yards on 20 carries at a dismal 2.8 yards per carry, but he did manage to find the end zone. On the defensive end, they were absolutely stellar once again as they held the Colts under 300 total yards for the game. LB Paul Posluszny had a monster game, recording 14 total tackles, 10 solo, 1.5 sacks, and 2.5 tackles for loss. They also held Indianapolis to 33% (5-15) on 3rd down conversions, but weren’t quite as successful on 4th down conversions allowing them to go 100% (4-4). They had another positive day in the turnover margin column at +2. Next on the schedule is an intriguing matchup with the Seattle Seahawks which pits Russell Wilson against the league’s best defense (14.8 points per game).
10. Carolina Panthers (8-3)
Last week: L @ New Orleans Saints
This Week: vs. Minnesota Vikings
Carolina suffered a tough blow this week causing them to lose ground in both the divisional and the wild card races. QB Cam newton had to do it all as he was not only forced to play quarterback (183 yards and 2 TDs), but also shoulder the rushing efforts of the team as he lead with 6 carries for 51 yards. This is a bad formula for the Carolina Panthers as Cam Newton can’t carry all the burden of the offense himself. RB Christian McCaffrey has still struggled to find his footing in the league and has been unable to live up to the preseason expectations and hype. It looks particularly bad in this game as you have another rookie who was drafted 2 rounds later in Alvin Kamara who thoroughly outplayed him (49 yards from scrimmage and 1 TD for McCaffrey vs. 126 yards from scrimmage and 3 TDs for Kamara). The Saints just seem to have their number this year and unfortunately, they are now behind in the loss column and have lost the tie breaker to the Saints. They’ll need to play much better if they want to rebound next week as they face stiff competition in a Minnesota Vikings team that has won eight straight games. A loss next week would probably put the division title out of reach for the Panthers.
Best of the Rest:
Buffalo Bills (6-6), San Diego Chargers (6-6), Atlanta Falcons (7-5),
Detroit Lions (6-6), Baltimore Ravens (7-5)
Week 14 Hot Takes
Game of the Week:
Kansas City Chiefs @ New York Jets (38-31) - This was an entertaining affair and saw the Jets continue the Chiefs’ miserable downturn as they went from 5-0 to 6-6. One place where you can’t put the blame is on QB Alex Smith who had 366 passing yards and 4 passing TDs and also added a 70 yard run play. RB Kareem Hunt continues to struggle in the offense, accounting for only 40 rushing yards on just 9 carries. Tyreek Hill had a big game with 6 catches for 185 yards and 2 TDs. The defense really struggled though, as they gave up nearly 500 yards of offense to the Jets and didn’t cause a single turnover or sack. QB Josh McCown had 331 yards and a touchdown through the air, while the Jets racked up 157 yards on the ground. Wide receivers Jermaine Kearse and Robby Anderson combined for 17 catches and 264 receiving yards. This game was pretty wild and the Jets sealed the win with a turnover on downs following a Josh McCown touchdown run with about 2 minutes left in the game. The Jets have 5 wins at this point of the season, which is about 5 more wins than most experts expected for the entire season.
Play(s) of the Week:
Chicago Bears RB/PR Tarik Cohen’s 61-Yard Punt Return TD - I would just like to say that this was awful punt return coverage by the San Francisco 49ers. Cohen ran about 15 yards in the direction of his own end zone before reversing field. The 49ers got out of their lanes and left open a giant crease for him to return through. Once he got past the initial set of defenders, there was no one left to stop him. It was an impressive return, but also very porous special teams coverage.
Green Bay Packers RB Aaron Jones 20-Yard Rushing TD - So I know walk-off is a baseball term, but that’s what this play was. On his first rush of the day, RB Aaron Jones scored the game-winning touchdown in overtime to propel the Packers to a win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. His fresh legs may have paid off as he bounced off the initial penetration before bouncing outside and was able to race untouched from there into the end zone. Due to the NFL’s overtime rules, the game ended with the touchdown and should thus be considered a walk-off.
Player of the Week:
Baltimore Ravens FS Eric Weddle - Alright, Keenan Allen has officially gone on a tear, securing his third straight 10+ catch, 100+ receiving yards, and 1+ TD game. However, he’s ineligible since he already won this award. Besides, this award has been dominated by offensive players lately, so why not give a shout out to somebody on the other side of the ball. This week’s player is Eric Weddle who logged a fantastic all around game on Sunday. He had 3 total tackles, 2 solo, 1 sack, 1 tackle for loss, 1 pass deflection, 1 forced fumble, and 1 interception return for touchdown. He basically recorded a stat in every single major defensive category and was able to directly put up points on the board. This was a special performance from the 11-year vet in a winning effort that solidified the Baltimore Ravens’ position in the AFC wild card race.
(6 ppt, .5 ppr, % owned according to NFL.com)
Start: Dak Prescott, DAL (@NYG) - Dak’s season has been a mixed bag thus far. After being one of the top fantasy QBs prior to the Zeke suspension, he plummeted into the depths in the first three games of the Zeke absence. The Cowboys offense, did however, look to get back on track against the Redskins last week and their momentum should carry over when they play a dysfunctional Giants team this week. The Giants give up the 4th most fantasy points to opposing QBs, making me feel rather confident in trusting Dak with my playoff aspirations.
Sit: Cam Newton, CAR (MIN) - It’s going to be really tough to bench Cam Newton and if he’s gotten you this far: you’ve probably moved on from whatever back up situation you once had. Having that said, Cam has had a very up and down season and draws one of the NFL’s toughest defenses for the first round of the fantasy playoffs. If you’re lucky enough to have paired Cam with someone the likes of Cousins/Goff/Wentz, I’d probably lean towards them.
Stream: Jimmy Garoppolo, SF (@HOU) (7.7% Owned) - Jimmy G looked pretty good in his first action as an NFL starting QB. While he managed just 10 fantasy points he did rack up 298 yards moving the ball pretty well. Playing a Houston defense that gives up the second most points to QBs should help add in that TD column and allow Jimmy G to lead you into the next playoff round.
Buy: Matt Ryan, ATL - The Falcons offense looked dead for much of this year but over the past month it’s looked more like its 2016 self. While last week didn’t have Ryan putting up big numbers, that’s largely due to the Vikings matchup. With a healthy Freeman, a clicking Falcons offense, and a schedule that entails two matchups against the Saints (in recent years games between these two teams are high scoring) and one game against the Bucs, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Ryan as the QB1 over the Week 14-16 stretch.
Sell: Alex Smith, KC - Even with 3 home games during the fantasy playoffs I don’t trust Alex Smith. The Chiefs aren’t playing good football and I don’t want to tie my title hopes to a team like that. With Smith lighting it up last week, see if you can’t get any value for him before the playoffs get under way.
Stash: Case Keenum, MIN (23.2% Owned) - Keenum’s been slinging all year long. If you look at solely the 2017 season it isn’t a stretch to say he’s been a top 8 QB. The matchup against CAR isn’t great this week but if you grab Keenum now you can easily slot him in when your starter draws a tough defense.
Also: If he isn’t owned in your league, go grab Aaron Rodgers. This dude is a complete game changer and if he come back during your playoffs he could easily give you the boost you need to win your league.
Start: Dion Lewis, NE (@MIA) - Lewis has been pretty consistent over the past month averaging a little over 12 ppg and never dropping below 9. He’s found a really nice role in the Pats offense and is making the most of it. The Dolphins will probably fall behind early and Lewis should see plenty of action. (And honestly even if the Dolphins get out to a lead, Lewis is a pass catcher so that works too.)
Sit: Kareem Hunt, KC (OAK) - One of the darlings of the fantasy community, Hunt has very much cooled since his hot start. In fact, in his past 5 games, he has failed to post double digit fantasy points. At this point, I need to see Hunt produce before I can get him back in my lineup. If you have a mid level guy like Duke Johnson, Dion Lewis, or Rex Burkhead, I would seriously consider demoting the rookie to your bench.
Stream: Rex Burkhead, NE (@MIA) (33.2% Owned) - Pretty similar stuff to Lewis. These two guys have found a way to co-exist and co-produce. The Dolphins give up the 9th most points to opposing RBs so there should be room for both these guys to eat.
Buy: Ezekiel Elliot, DAL - So this is mainly for people who are feeling pretty good about their chances of having a meaningful Week 16 game. Zeke will come back and more than likely the Cowboys will be towards the end of a playoff push. He’ll step right back into that offense and although he has a tough matchup (vs SEA), I’d trust him to produce as a top 15 RB.
Sell: Marshawn Lynch, OAK - Lynch’s days of being the predominant beast RB in this league are behind him. He’s largely struggled to produce in Oakland this season only having 3 games in which he’s broken 12 points. However, two of those three have been the past two weeks so his value is probably at the highest it has been since the start of the season. Move him now and see if you can’t get a player that will produce for you consistently in the playoffs.
Stash: Peyton Barber, TB - Barber is clearly the Bucs back of choice. While many were hopeful that Doug Martin would return from suspension to have a pro bowl caliber season, he’s been largely underwhelming and the Bucs have moved on. They’ve been force feeding Barber touches over the past couple week leading to a 15 ppg average in that span. If you really wanted to, you could probably just plug and play Braber this week as he faces a weak DET run defense.
**Note: Still very much on the Josh Gordon hype train, for your own good go out and get him.**
Start: Marvin Jones, DET (@TB) - I haven’t been overly fond of Jones this year but despite that (not really sure why my doubt would impact him but whatever….) Jones has continually been a threat for the Lions passing game. He’s always had that big play capability as part of his game but has produced even when the home run ball doesn’t fall his way. He gets a TB defense giving up the most points to opposing WRs so he could easily have a monsterous day.
Sit: TY Hilton, IND (@BUF) - TY was great last year with Andrew Luck but this season it’s been a different story. That’s nothing really against TY but it’s hard to produce when you lose your starting QB. TY has been a few studs with a lot of duds this year and you can’t afford to take an L at a WR spot in the playoffs.
Stream: Chris Hogan, NE (@MIA) (50.1% Owned) - So technically Hogan breaks my rule of having my stream guy be 50% owned or less but he’s too good to not get the word out. Available in almost half the leagues right now, Hogan was a WR1 prior to his injury. He should step back into the offense this week, he was spotted at practice Wednesday, in what figures to be a pretty easy game. The best part about Hogan is you can use him going forward in the playoffs; he’s not just a one week plug and play.
Buy: Mohamed Sanu, ATL - This is perfect, in most leagues you won’t even have to pay for Sanu as he’s owned in just 32% of leagues. I talked about, in the Ryan segment, how the Falcons have some nice matchups. Normally, I’d argue to go after the big name, go get Julio, but the Falcons never seem to target Julio in the red zone and while the Saints give up a decent amount of points to WRs, rookie cornerback Marshon Lattimore is having a sensational season and could give Julio Jones issues. Go after Sanu and get the points from the WR with the easier matchup.
Sell: Tyreek Hill, KC - Similar to Smith, Hill is coming off a spectacular game. However, Hill (like TY) has been very up and down this year. One bad week can knock you out of the fantasy playoffs so see if you can’t move Hill so someone that gives you more week to week production.
Stash: Robert Woods, LAR (45.3% Owned) - Again, usually I like to have my stash guy a little lower in owned percentage but I have to get the word out on Woods. Woods was coming into his own and producing as a WR1 prior to picking up a bump a few weeks back. With Woods potentially returning this week and likely no later than next week, this is a perfect chance to grab him and reap the rewards once he gets back on the field.
Extra: So I didn’t get to put this into any of my write ups by I saw a stat this week that I just had to share. Tyreek Hill, a guy who is widely regarded as the fastest player in the league, had two long vertical touchdowns this past weekend and reached a top speed of 20.78 mph; that’s really flippin’ fast. Now, Derrick Henry, the 6’3’’ 247 lb RB that’s built like a linebacker, had a breakaway TD run this week. He hit 21.64 mph… That’s almost an entire mph faster than the dude we consider to be electrifying and dangerous based on his speed, and Henry is a mammoth in size compared to Hill… That’s just crazy...
All Stats & Info Courtesy of nfl.com