This is either the last week of your fantasy football regular season or the first week of the playoffs, so you need to make the most of it. Here are six moves — three to start and three to sit — you are going to want to make to accomplish your goals.
Kirk Cousins, QB, Minnesota Vikings
Cousins leads the league in completions (350) yet, according to ESPN Total Quarterback Rating, is still ranked as the 14th most-valuable passer in the NFL this season. The game charters at Pro Football Focus are more impressed, listing Cousins as the ninth best player at the position.
No matter how you feel about Cousins in 2018, his next opponent, the Seattle Seahawks, have been kind to fantasy quarterbacks of late, surrendering at least 21 fantasy points in each of the last four contests, with every quarterback tossing at least two touchdowns against Seattle’s secondary over that span.
LeGarrette Blount, RB, Detroit Lions
Due to an injury to rookie running back Kerryon Johnson, Blount got 50 percent of the snaps in Week 12 and 42 percent of the snaps in Week 13, resulting in 35 carries for a total of 149 yards and two touchdowns. With teammate Theo Riddick getting most of the pass-catching duties, Blount will be the one called on to handle the ball-toting duties the Arizona Cardinals, who have allowed 100-plus yards on the ground in 10 out of 12 games this season.
Plus, the Cardinals are one of the worst at stopping rushers on third or fourth down, with two yards or less to go, from converting a first down or touchdown, per Football Outsiders (20 percent success rate, tied for 30th). Blount, by comparison, is most successful on these type of runs (39 percent success rate over average up the middle per Sharp Sports).
Dante Pettis, WR, San Francisco 49ers
Since wide receiver Pierre Garcon has been ruled out because of a knee injury (Week 10) and Marquise Goodwin is tending to a personal matter, Pettis has stepped up big in the team’s passing game.
Quarterback Nick Mullens has targeted Pettis 20 times over the last three games, with Pettis catching 13 of those for 218 yards and three touchdowns, giving Mullens a 120.4 passer rating on those throws. If your league awards bonus points for deep throws, it’s worth noting one of those catches was a 75-yard touchdown.
Cam Newton, QB, Carolina Panthers
Newton threw four interceptions on Sunday against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the worst pass defense per Football Outsiders, which adjusts their metrics to reflect strength of schedule. This week’s opponent, the Cleveland Browns, ranks fourth in Defense-adjusted Value Over Average.
Plus, Panthers Coach Ron Rivera said after the game on Sunday that Newton’s surgically repaired shoulder was “a little bit sore,” and that’s been an issue for a few weeks. Just another layer of risk you want to avoid as your fantasy team hits the most crucial point of the season.
Andrew Luck, QB, Indianapolis Colts
Luck and the Colts are in a similar situation. Indianapolis couldn’t score a single point against the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday (the 16th best defense heading into that game per Football Outsiders) yet will square off against the Texans, the fourth-best defense, in Week 14.
Yes, Luck produced almost 36 fantasy points against the Texans in Week 4, but over the past 10 weeks Houston’s defense has only surrendered 13 or more fantasy points to a quarterback three times over that span.
Spencer Ware, RB, Kansas City Chiefs
Ware carried the ball 14 times for 47 yards and a touchdown against the Oakland Raiders in replacement of Kareem Hunt, who was cut by the team last week, but that’s a very different defense than the one he and the Chiefs will face this Sunday in the Baltimore Ravens.
For example, Baltimore’s overall defense ranks fourth after adjusting for strength of schedule; Oakland ranks next-to-last. Pro Football Focus ranks the Ravens as the ninth-most talented run-stopping unit in the NFL this year; the Raiders rank 28th. And lastly, the Raiders stop 16 percent of runners at or behind the line of scrimmage this season whereas the Ravens stuff 20 percent; league average is 19 percent.
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