For some of us, and in some of our leagues, "It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year..." We're heading to the playoffs. In some leagues there is money to be won, but in others it's bragging rights and punishment decisions that we're competing for.
It's been a fun season, full of good trades and bad trades, bad starts and some lucky ones as well.
I might be one of only a handful of people who started Dennis Pitta this week and reaped the reward of his 90-yard and two-touchdown performance, but that was in my deepest league with the deepest rosters. I certainly didn't expect that out of a guy who had been averaging around three or four points a game.
With that, here's wishing you a Merry Christmas and Happy Fantasy Playoffs. So how'd the Sauce look last week? Let's check it out.
Week 13 Hot Sauce
Tyrod Taylor - 191 yards passing, 30 rush yards, 1 rush TD 1 INT, 1 Fumble. BURNED
Jordan Howard - 117 rushing yards, 3 TDs. ON FIRE
Theo Riddick - 17 total yards, 1 TD. BURNED
DeAndre Hopkins - 3 catches, 58 yards, 1 TD. ON FIRE
Tyreek Hill - 5 catches, 72 total yards. Mild Sauce
Week 13 Weak Sauce
Cam Newton - 182 yards, 1 TD. ON FIRE
Latavius Murray - 105 total yards and 2 TDs. BURNED
Jonathan Stewart - 53 total yards. ON FIRE
Jordy Nelson - 8 catches 108 yards, 1 TD. BURNED
Allen Robinson - 3 catches, 31 yards. ON FIRE
The Overall Standings
[table id=109 /]
Week 14 Hot Sauce
QB Jameis Winston, Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs New Orleans Saints
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are on the rise and have been playing really good team football of late.
The New Orleans Saints, on the other hand, are a team completely reliant on their offense. The Saints' defense has allowed the second most passing yards in the NFL in 2016 (Atlanta is first).
Jameis Winston has been better this season than he was in 2015 when he averaged 200 yards passing against them and one touchdown without a turnover. Winston and the Bucs are on a role at the moment, and I expect him to take advantage of a flawed Saints secondary.
Flavorful Forecast: 275 yards passing, 3 touchdowns.
RB Thomas Rawls, Seattle Seahawks @ Green Bay Packers
For Thomas Rawls of the Seattle Seahawks, volume isn't the issue at this point. With C.J. Prosise out for the year and Christine Michael now in Green Bay, Rawls is the man leading the charge for the Seahawks.
This was on display in week 13 as Rawls went up against the Carolina Panthers' very tough run defense that had only allowed 3.8 yards per carry on the season, and had generally been pretty tough. In their loss to Seattle, the Panthers allowed over 200 yards rushing.
Facing a Green Bay defense that has been very up and down this season, Rawls will again be given an opportunity to touch the ball 15-20 times. He is an easy RB2 for me at this point in every format. Seattle will want to keep the Packers offense on the sideline as much as possible in this game, so they will look to run the ball.
Flavorful Forecast: 18 touches, 120 total yards, 1 touchdown.
RB Jeremy Hill, Cincinnati Bengals @ Cleveland Browns
This one should be simple for you. The Cleveland Browns have allowed the second most rushing yards, the eighth most rushing touchdowns, and 4.5 yards per carry in 2016.
Jeremy Hill is the last man standing in the Cincinnati Bengals' backfield and he'll get a heavy workload trying to keep their head above water in the AFC North. This offense needs Hill to be a workhorse.
Flavorful Forecast: 20 touches, 150 total yards, 2 touchdowns.
WR Jamison Crowder, Washington Redskins @ Philadelphia Eagles
In the last seven games, Jamison Crowder has had either 70+ yards receiving or a touchdown. That is pretty amazing consistency.
In week 14, Washington will face a very tough Philadelphia Eagles front-seven. Kirk Cousins will likely be under pressure for much of the game which will require him to get the ball out quickly. This will mean more opportunities for Crowder underneath and, as we saw in the Dallas game, he can be a dangerous opponent.
Flavorful Forecast: 7 catches, 90 yards, 1 touchdown.
WR Corey Coleman, Cleveland Browns vs Cincinnati Bengals
In every game in his rookie season, Corey Coleman has seen at least five targets, and in the last two weeks, he's seen 19 total targets. He's hasn't taken full advantage of those targets yet, but at some point Coleman is going to show off the talent that made him the first wide receiver chosen in the 2016 NFL Draft.
Cincinnati sits in the middle of the pack against the pass and it is likely that the Cleveland Browns will need to throw in order to keep up.
Coleman is a solid flex-play this week.
Flavorful Forecast: 5 catches for 70 yards and 1 touchdown.
Week 14 Weak Sauce
QB Matthew Stafford, Detroit Lions vs Chicago Bears
Matthew Stafford is quickly rising in the esteem of a lot of people this season, and for good reason too. Stafford hasn't had much of a running game to lean on and he doesn't have Calvin Johnson out there making plays for him.
A team that is sneakily getting really good on defense right now is the Chicago Bears. Pretty much a sieve the first few weeks of the season, the Bears' defense has started looking like a unit that could win some games if they had any kind of consistency on offense.
The Bears currently rank sixth in the NFL in passing yards allowed, while ranking in the middle of the pack in rushing defense. They've also been able to get more pressure on the quarterback over the last several weeks of the season.
Since week three when the Dallas Cowboys mauled them for 447 yards of total offense, the Bears have been more stingy. Since that loss to the Cowboys, they've only allowed one team to go for more than 400 yards of total offense.
Stafford is going to have a tough time getting going this week.
Flavorless Forecast: 200 yards passing one touchdown, 1 interception.
RB Mark Ingram, New Orleans Saints @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Speaking of another defense that has gotten really good over the last couple of months of the season, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are a team on the rise. After starting the season 3-5, the Bucs have rolled four straight wins and have shown a better defensive effort with each game.
Mark Ingram is hobbled right now and with him splitting touches with Tim Hightower and, at times, Tavaris Cadet, Ingram is a RB3 and at worst a flex option this week. If you have a better option with a better match-up, I'd look another direction.
Flavorless Forecast: 15 touches, 55 yards.
RB Latavius Murray, Oakland Raiders @ Kansas City Chiefs
I'm a week late on Latavius Murray, and I've had a hard time believing in him all season after losing touches early on. This week, he'll face a Kansas City Chiefs team that may give up a lot of yards on the ground, but have only given up six rushing touchdowns.
Murray has heavily relied on the short yardage game in scoring his touchdowns, and while he may put up a decent yardage total this week, don't be surprised if he's kept out of the end zone.
Flavorless Forecast: 18 touches, 75 total yards.
WR Odell Beckham Jr., New York Giants vs Dallas Cowboys
Yes, I must be crazy here. I know. Why would anyone expect a low output game from Odell Beckham Jr. against a team like the Dallas Cowboys, who have shown little resistance in stopping the pass the last few weeks.
Against the Dallas Cowboys, Beckham has had some difficulty putting up monster games. In five games against the Cowboys, Beckham has only gone over the 100 yard mark one time. He does have four touchdowns in those five games, but with the way the offense as a whole is playing right now, I have low expectations for Beckham this week.
You're going to start him, but I don't think he'll have a huge game against the 'Boys.
Flavorless Forecast: 5 catches, 60 yards.
WR Jordy Nelson, Green Bay Packers vs Seattle Seahawks
Jordy had a great game last week against the Houston Texans in the snow at Lambeau. This week, also playing at Lambeau, Jordy is going to be left out in the cold.
As the most consistent wide receiver on the Green Bay squad, I get the feeling that Seattle will use Richard Sherman on Jordy when they line up in man, which I expect them to do a lot. If you sit back in zone and give Aaron Rodgers any kind of time, he is going to find the weak spots and exploit you.
Seattle needs a win to try to take the lead for the second first round bye in the NFC playoffs and to keep pace with Dallas. They won't let Jordy Nelson beat them.
Flavorless Forecast: 4 catches, 45 yards.
Joe Flacco, QB, Baltimore Ravens - Not sure where that game has been all season, but I'm sure that this is what everyone was expecting when the Baltimore Ravens hired Mark Trestman as the offensive coordinator. Flacco's match-up this week with the New England Patriots isn't great, but his week 15 and 16 match-ups will likely require them to throw the ball against Philadelphia's stout run defense and to keep up with Pittsburgh's explosive offense.
Terrance West, RB, Baltimore Ravens - There probably isn't a player like West sitting on your waiver wire, but if he is, snatch him up. He has a favorable match-up in week 15 against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Zach Zenner, RB, Detroit Lions - With Dwayne Washington suffering an injury in the Detroit Lions' win over the New Orleans Saints, Zenner came in to be the milk-the-clock back. If you have to dig deep, Zenner could be the guy you look to as Theo Riddick isn't getting to carry the ball much these days.
Josh Bellamy, WR, Chicago Bears - Someone in Chicago has to catch the ball and Bellamy was that someone last week, taking four passes for 93 yards and adding 12 yards rushing to his stat total. Alshon Jeffrey is going to be out another week, so Bellamy will be required yet again.
Dennis Pitta, TE, Baltimore Ravens - The Baltimore Ravens and Joe Flacco decided to open up the offense in week 13 and they were quite successful. Pitta was a direct beneficiary of the more aggressive play calling as he racked up nine catches for 90 yards and two touchdowns.
Ladarius Green, TE, Pittsburgh Steelers - Coming to their week 13 match-up against the New York Giants, the Steelers hadn't gotten a lot of production out of their tight ends. Green changed all that with his six catches on 11 targets for 110 yards and a touchdown. In a high-volume passing offense, he's worth an add and probably a start if you're weak at tight end.
Is Dak Prescott a Player to Avoid in Fantasy Football in 2018?
For the Dallas Cowboys, the plan is to stick with Dak Prescott to hopefully turn him into a successful long-term franchise quarterback. Going into his third year in the league, this could be a season that defines his future on America's Team.
However, after the entire team struggled in 2017 while trying to overcome several key absences (including Ezekiel Elliott and Tyron Smith), Prescott's level of play has been questioned by plenty around the league. Fans, analysts and writers everywhere aren't as sure as they were in 2016 about the quarterback's future.
And now, according to NFL.com, Fantasy Football players should beware of drafting Dak Prescott once their "friendly" (we all know they're anything but friendly) seasons begin.
Earlier this week, NFL.com Fantasy Editor Marcas Grant published an article telling us ten players to avoid for the 2018 Fantasy Football season. Perhaps it may come as a surprise to some that Dak Prescott is in there among names like Ty Montgomery and Jack Doyle. You can read his full article here.
To be honest, I see his point here.
It's more than fair to say that it's not going to be an easy year for Dak. He's got to prove a lot in a year that could have a juicy extension at the end of it. After going through a sort of an expected sophomore slump, Prescott's third year in the NFL should be his best one yet.
There's a big but, though. Dez Bryant and Jason Witten are long gone, leaving Dak Prescott with a promising yet unproven set of pass catchers.
Will a dominant running game led by five great offensive linemen and Ezekiel Elliott be enough to help Dak and the rest of the offense? Probably. but how much will Prescott be able to accomplish?
Through a painful 9-7 season in which the Cowboys never seemed to be able to find a steady pace, #4's stats took a hit. Here are his numbers from his two years in the pros:
- 2016: 311 completions, 67.8% completion percentage, 3,667 yards, 23 TDs and 4 INTs.
- 2017: 308 completions, 62.9% completion percentage, 3,324 yards, 22 TDs and 13 INTs.
- He also ran for six touchdowns in each of his two seasons.
Per FantasyData.com, his fantasy points dropped from 286.88 in 2016 to 260.66 in 2017.
Despite his numbers dropping, Dak certainly took huge strides as a passer. From taking command of the offense as a captain to making throws he wouldn't make as a rookie, Prescott was able to demonstrate improvements during a rough sophomore slump.
Even with Dez gone, the receivers the front office brought in throughout the offseason are expected to be Dak-friendly. If the receiving corps actually make his strengths shine, the Cowboys' offense will take a huge step in 2018.
Maybe, as Jason Witten mentioned on Adam Schefter's Podcast, Dez is as good as anyone going up for the football. But that's not what will make Dak shine. This revamped WR room might be just what he needs, though.
At the end of the day, even though I truly believe he'll have a good career in the NFL and that he's the future of the Dallas Cowboys, I doubt he should be marked as an early target in the Fantasy Football world.
As of right now, from a Fantasy Football perspective, I would barely rank him as a Top 15 quarterback for many reasons.
First of all, the Cowboys' game will revolve around Ezekiel Elliott. Secondly, it doesn't matter how much faith we put into these pass catchers, they haven't proved anything yet.
Dak is not a bad player at all. But taking Prescott in the middle or even late rounds of a Fantasy Draft might be the safest way to go right now.
Lastly, I leave you with some "Fantasy Nuggets" from fellow Inside The Star writer and Fantasy Football Guru John Williams:
- Dak failed to score 10 standard format fantasy points only four times last season. He scored 15+ points nine times and 20+ six times in 2017.
- In 2017 - even with a down second half - he finished as the 13th best QB in points per game and as the tenth best in total QB scoring.
- In 2016, he was in the top 10 in both categories mentioned in the previous bullet point.
- His ability to run and score touchdowns on the ground easily make him one of the best 12 QB options for fantasy football.
Fantasy Football Implications of Ezekiel Elliott’s Suspension
Ezekiel Elliott has been suspended by the NFL for 6 games for violating the league's Personal Conduct Policy. This will leave a void in the backfield for the Dallas Cowboys and on many fantasy football rosters around the world. As it is with the real league, it's a next man up philosophy in the world of fantasy football as well.
At the moment, that next man up is Darren McFadden.
Just two years ago, with Dallas still clinging to playoff hopes in the wake of Tony Romo's injury, McFadden rushed for more than 1,000 yards. He finished fifth in the NFL that season despite not seeing more than 10 carries a game until week six. From week 6 until the end of the season, McFadden had 7 games with more than 90 yards rushing.
McFadden's touchdown total from that season leaves a lot to be desired, but let's not forget the quarterbacking chaos that went on that season. Between Brandon Weeden, Matt Cassel, and Kellen Moore, defenses weren't worried about being beat in the passing game.
Frankly, it's a miracle that McFadden rushed for 1,000 yards.
Over 11 games from weeks 6-17, McFadden averaged 21.45 touches per game and 108.27 total yards per game. At that pace, stretched over a 16 game season, McFadden would have totaled 1,732 yards, which would have led all running backs in total yards that season.
If you still have to draft, I would take a chance on McFadden around the 7th or 8th round in 10 or 12 team drafts.
As for Alfred Morris, he will get some touches as much as the Dallas Cowboys will look to run the ball. That being said the second half of 2016 showed who the coaches preferred as the backup.
The last time Morris ran for more than 1,000 yards was in 2014. In 2015, if you'll remember, he lost his job to Matt Jones who has since lost his job to UDFA Rob Kelley, who is starting but is being threatened by 2017 draft pick Samaje Perine.
When Morris played last year he was pretty ineffective averaging a career-low 3.5 yards per carry.
With McFadden's injury history, you can take a shot on Alfred Morris late in your fantasy drafts around the second to last or the last round.
How Should You Value Ezekiel Elliott in Upcoming Fantasy Drafts?
That's a difficult question to answer, because a lot will depend on your league settings. My simple answer is, if you can get any discount on Ezekiel Elliott from his average draft position of 3.0, then you're getting a good value for at least the second half of the season.
Just a week ago I wrote to not allow this absence to sway you too much. I stand by that.
Fantasy football is about getting as much value as you can with each draft pick. Elliott is a top 5 value in any setting, even if he has to sit out. I think you can comprise a roster good enough to get into the playoffs, then you'll want Elliott for a playoff run.
Just like the Dallas Cowboys, all you need to do is tread water while he's out. If you can make it through the suspension at or around .500, you will still be in good position to win your fantasy football league.
When Elliott comes back, he will be the starter.
Even if they make him earn it, it won't take long. He's just better than McFadden and Morris. If your league lets Elliott somehow slip outside of the first round, snatch him up and make sure you draft McFadden. You'll thank me for it later.
While many will look at this situation as a detriment to Dak Prescott and may feel deterred from drafting him as the 9th quarterback in your league, I actually see it the opposite. While Dak was very efficient in Dallas' run-first offense, he showed throughout the 2016 season that he could be leaned upon in a shootout or to bring the team back from a large deficit.
In fact, Dak might have played his best game of the season during the playoff loss to Green Bay when the team got down 21-3. Forced to pass, Prescott completed 63% of his passes for 302 yards, three touchdowns and one interception in nearly leading the team back to victory.
With a full offseason in the Dallas offense and a really good compliment of receivers led by Dez Bryant, I fully anticipate Dak to have an excellent sophomore campaign.
Dallas may lean more on the pass during Elliott's absence, which will make Dak more valuable to me. Remember fantasy football is about acquiring stats and with Elliott out, Dak will have a great chance at putting up even bigger numbers. Especially if the run game is ineffective.
Fantasy Football: Draft Ezekiel Elliott Early, Don’t Be Swayed
Plenty of fantasy football drafts have come and gone, but many still remain as training camp is in full swing. The question has come up in the fantasy football Twitter community; what do you do with Ezekiel Elliott amidst rumors of a suspension? And the short answer is nothing.
Investigations into whether or not Ezekiel Elliott has violated any of the NFL's policies have persisted. Supposedly, those investigations have come to a close. The personal conduct policy, the domestic violence policy, and the substance abuse policy seem to all be in play as the league decides on the appropriate punishment for the Dallas Cowboys' star running back.
You could go the safe route and drop Ezekiel Elliott down your draft boards or you could take a chance at having one of the top scorers in fantasy football on your roster.
Say a suspension does come down. At worst, a drug suspension would be four games.
The domestic violence issue seems to be circumstantial evidence that even the Columbus Police and District Attorney declined to pursue. The NFL's personal conduct policy could apply, but that seems to be more of a threat than anything. So the question is, if Elliott is out for four games, does he lose his value somehow. I'd say no.
We don't have to go back very far to see a similar star running back with a similar suspension. In 2016, Le'Veon Bell was suspended for the first three games of the season and many people slid him down their draft boards. In some mocks, I saw him going outside of the first round.
Sure he missed the first three games of the season, but he finished as fantasy football's No. 3 running back and was there when you needed him most. Playoff time.
Bell only had three games where he failed to score less than 15 standard fantasy points during his 12 game season (didn't play in the season finale). The point being, anyone who drafted Le'Veon Bell in the first round or the top of the second was quite happy with the results.
If Ezekiel Elliott misses time, it will be at the beginning of the season, but like Bell, he will be around at the end of the season when you're trying to put away a championship win.
If you're drafting at the top of the first round, don't let Ezekiel Elliott's consistency and scoring ability get by you because of a threat of suspension. He'll be available to you when you need him most.
The first few weeks of the season are tough matchups for Elliott anyway.
Dallas will face the New York Giants, Denver Broncos, Arizona Cardinals, and Los Angeles Rams in the first four weeks--all teams with tough defenses. Though Elliott is a guaranteed starter for those four weeks, it's likely you're lowering expectations for him against some of the top run defenses in the NFL.
For me in 2017, the reward of having Ezekiel Elliott on my roster far outweighs the risk of any potential suspension. Draft Zeke and reap the benefits.
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