FRISCO, Texas — More than 40 offensive linemen were flanked in a horseshoe formation with their eyes plastered to the screen at the front of the room. They were all transfixed.
The oversized group was watching clips of Denver Broncos pass-rusher Von Miller dominate offensive linemen across the league while Kansas City Chiefs right tackle Mitchell Schwartz provided a scouting report of his rival. Schwartz suddenly stopped mid-sentence and nonchalantly blurted, “Don’t watch that one.”
The comment drew chuckles across the room as they watched a clip of Miller getting the best of Schwartz on a rep last season. Schwartz then continued with his assessment of Miller’s game. Others added their input on the seven-time All-Pro.
“He’s got elite quickness and elite timing,” one lineman said. “That is a pretty s—ty combo to go against.”
This is why all these offensive linemen gathered last weekend at the Baylor Scott & White Sports Therapy & Research at The Star, around the corner from the Dallas Cowboys‘ training facility. They were sharing trade secrets and trying to improve their games, figuring out how to stop or minimize the damage some of the league’s best pass-rushers inflict on Sundays.
None of the men in that room, no matter their accomplishments or resumes (some of which are quite impressive), are impervious to getting beat by Miller when they face off for potentially 60 to 70 snaps in a game. So for the second straight year they congregated at the OL Masterminds and devised plans to stop players such as Miller, Khalil Mack and Aaron Donald.
Schwartz, Eagles tackle Lane Johnson, Saints tackle Terron Armstead, Bucs center Ryan Jensen, Raiders tackle Trent Brown, Bears tackle Charles Leno Jr., Broncos guard Ronald Leary and Eagles guard Brandon Brooks were some of the more dominant voices in the room. They talked about how Mack’s get-off is simply to get them to open up, how not to fall for DeMarcus Lawrence‘s head fakes, how to avoid getting bull-rushed by Cameron Jordan, and why it was mandatory to use an attacking and physical pass set against Donald.
More than just seasoned All-Pros digested the knowledge. The group also consisted of some of this year’s top draft picks (the Vikings’ Garrett Bradbury and Saints’ Erik McCoy), free agents who have played in the league such as Hugh Thornton and Jeff Allen, retired veterans such as Geoff Schwartz and even a few college linemen.
Renowned offensive line trainer and scouting consultant Duke Manyweather and Johnson organized the event, the offensive line’s version of what Miller has done the past few years in California with some of the league’s top pass-rushers. Manyweather introduced the conversations, which ranged from how to train, take care of their bodies, handle conflict with coaches and deal with crowd noise and self-confidence. Even the veterans were taking notes.
“There are a ton of things I learned the past few days. There are some techniques that I was like, ‘Damn, I’ve been doing this the hard way the whole time.'”
Eagles guard Brandon Brooks
But a majority of the two-plus-hour classroom sessions from Friday to Sunday centered around the best players they face on Sundays (Miller, Lawrence, Mack, Donald, JJ Watt, Geno Atkins, Jurrell Casey and more). Different linemen who play different positions chime in on each.
“Just finding a way to stop some of those guys and having those blueprints on field,” Armstead said. “They’re like study guides. It’s work done for you in a sense in that you can see how effective it can be, or ineffective. And then make your plan from there.”
It’s a start, but it’s hardly foolproof.
“There is more to it than the plan,” Armstead added. “You still have to execute.”
Trying to get better
Manyweather, along with offensive line consultant Brandon Thorn, have the clips loaded. There is a slide that notes each pass rusher’s top moves, counters, best practices and some notes on their preferences — such as the frequency with which Miller used his spin move in 2018.
Then the floor opens and the conversations flow. Anything goes.
“This stuff is all about offensive linemen trying to bounce ideas off each other,” Leno said. “We’re just trying to get better. Get better and improve offensive line play. We’re saying all this stuff, and to think we’re going to go out there and block every single defender, no. They get paid, too.”
The idea is that the offensive linemen can take some of the ideas and techniques discussed and add them to their arsenal. Armstead explained during one of the sessions how he utilized something from last year’s OL Masterminds during an early matchup with the Buccaneers’ Jason Pierre-Paul.
Pierre-Paul beat Armstead early in that Week 1 matchup with a cross-chop move. This prompted Armstead to make an in-game change. He switched to a striking technique that was discussed by Mitchell Schwartz (among others) at the previous year’s OL Masterminds. After that adjustment, Pierre-Paul went silent. His name did not make the stat sheet.
This doesn’t necessarily mean that what worked for Armstead that week will work for another offensive tackle. Everyone in the room seemed to concede that. Linemen come in all shapes and sizes. Not everyone can take the same approach that Trent Brown did, when his pass sets begged Mack to bull-rush into his chest. Not everyone is 360 pounds and has Brown’s 36-inch arms.
In fact, Schwartz talked about how early in his career in Cleveland he was trying too much to imitate future Hall of Famer Joe Thomas when he was not Joe Thomas. Schwartz believes his game elevated to the next level when he focused on his individual strengths. That played right into the theme of the second annual OL Masterminds, which seemed to be to trust yourself and do what you do well.
The information sharing that occurred at OL Masterminds and at Miller’s pass-rush camp has been met with criticism by those who view it as helping the enemy. But the players don’t seem to have reservations about the sessions.
“Even if we didn’t have this, there are guys in here that know each other,” Brooks said. “They are going to discuss the same things. It’s just a great idea where guys from all over come. There are a ton of things I learned the past few days. There are some techniques that I was like, ‘Damn, I’ve been doing this the hard way the whole time.’ You have some O-line coaches who teach their ways. There are different line coaches and players who teach it a different way that just so happens to work for you.”
Johnson noted that players speak immediately after games, even if it’s only for a few minutes. Some then train together and talk about techniques and opponents in the offseason. So why not get all this offensive line knowledge in one room to better yourself and the overall line play around the league? All the information in the world doesn’t necessarily make a good lineman or mean that the individual digesting it can stop or contain Miller or Mack.
“Mike Tyson said it. Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth,” Johnson said. “Basically, there is no recipe. There are going to be guys that get their ass kicked. Sometimes I’m on the other end of that. But the more you can prepare, you’ll be in a better position to be your best self. That is what I like about [OL Masterminds].”
Patriots’ Bill Belichick denies involvement with videographer caught taping Bengals’ sideline
It has raised suspicions around the league and drawn some comparisons to “Spygate,” the 2007 incident that led to penalties for Belichick and the Patriots. Belichick said the franchise has altered its approach since then.
“We’re competitive and we’ll try to be competitive in every area,” Belichick said during a conference call with Cincinnati media Tuesday morning. “But we don’t knowingly, intentionally want to do anything that’s across the line.
“But since that’s [Spygate] happened, I’d say we’ve tried to keep a good distance behind the line and not maybe take it as far as we would might have in the past. But it’s never really fundamentally changed there.”
In 2007, Belichick was fined $500,000 and the Patriots were docked a first-round pick in the 2008 draft after a team employee was caught recording unauthorized footage of the Green Bay Packers and the New York Jets. A league investigation found eight tapes of game footage and written notes on scouting information accumulated over the seven previous seasons.
During Tuesday’s call, Belichick said he “didn’t have anything at all to do with this” after the Patriots confirmed that a videographer captured shots of the field and Bengals’ sideline on Sunday at FirstEnergy Stadium, one week before Cincinnati hosts New England.
According to the Patriots, the advance scout in the press box for the Bengals’ 27-19 loss to the Browns was being filmed for a series on employees that is featured on the team’s website. A Bengals team employee spotted New England’s videographer filming Cincinnati’s sideline for the entire first quarter, a source told ESPN.
During his news conference the next day, Bengals coach Zac Taylor said he believed the league was investigating the matter. In a statement released Monday evening, the Patriots said the crew immediately turned over all footage to the league and cooperated fully, and takes full responsibility for the incident.
On Tuesday, Belichick declined to say whether he had any contact with Cincinnati regarding the situation.
“I would say I’d keep that between us and the Bengals,” Belichick said on the teleconference.
The Patriots (10-3) have a one-game lead over the Buffalo Bills in the AFC East heading into Sunday’s games. The Bengals (1-12) have the worst record in the NFL.
Adam Vinatieri says he should have had knee surgery in offseason, missed start of season
INDIANAPOLIS — Colts kicker Adam Vinatieri’s 24th year in the NFL was full of disappointment, as he made a career-low 68% of his field-goal attempts before a knee problem caused the team to put him on the season-ending injured reserve list.
If Vinatieri had to do all over again, though, he wouldn’t have waited so long to have left knee surgery.
“Hindsight, if I had a crystal ball I would have gotten it fixed last offseason because we dealt with it last year as well to a little bit lesser degree,” Vinatieri told ESPN on Tuesday. “Unfortunately, in the middle of training camp it came back and that’s why we rested it in and took anti-inflams to try to get it under control.
“In hindsight, I didn’t want to miss any games at the beginning of the year. I probably should have missed a couple games at the start of the season. I was bullheaded. I said I can go, I can kick. It was kind of lousy the whole year.”
The Colts finally shut Vinatieri down for the season Monday after his knee flared up in practice on Dec. 4. The team claimed Chase McClaughlin off waivers that same day and he made 2 of 3 field goals and all three of his PATs against Tampa Bay on Sunday. Vinatieri is scheduled to have surgery Wednesday after going to get a second opinion on his knee.
“If I was going to play the rest of the season we were going to have to inject it every time I kicked, every single game,” Vinatieri said. “Nobody felt real good about that situation. The doctor said we were masking bigger problems. At that point they said if I ever want to kick again, go get this fixed. They said rehab wise it’s going to take a while. We need to do it sooner rather than later. They encouraged me not to wait a month or two to get it done.”
Vinatieri, the league’s all-time leading scorer, went 1-of-3 on field goals and 2-of-5 on extra points in the first two weeks of the season. His three misses cost the Colts the game in their 30-24 overtime loss to the Chargers in Week 1. Rumors swirled about Vinatieri’s future with the Colts in Week 2. He left the locker room without talking to the media, which was rare for him, and then said he had a lot of work to do to “get those demons so I can go clear-headed, step on the field and just do my job” two days later.
The Colts stuck with Vinatieri despite working out more than 10 different kickers during the season. Doing so hurt them because Vinatieri missed a league-high 14 kicks, three of which were blocked, and he also cost the Colts a game at Pittsburgh in early November.
“I’m not making excuses for anything,” Vinatieri said. “Anytime I’m on the field, I need to make every kick that’s in front of me. But I do know technique wise, the discomfort and pain in my knee was changing my technique and form. Unfortunately, I probably could have kicked better if my knee feeling better.”
Vinatieri’s performance this season is one of the reasons why arguably the NFL’s greatest kicker and future Hall of Famer said he isn’t ready to say he’ll definitely retire despite turning 47 years old on Dec. 28.
“I don’t like how this year ended for me and I wish I could have done more to help the team,” he said. “I’m going to rehab and bust my butt to get healthy and strong and we’ll see where we’re at. If May, June comes around and I feel good, I’m kicking a good ball, then we’ll re-evaluate. If it’s not there, it’s not there. I understand everything ends at some point, but I’m not sure it’s there now or not.”
Returning to the Colts for Vinatieri — if he plays a 25th season — is murky because he’ll be a free agent in the offseason and these final three games of the regular season are basically an audition period for McClaughlin.
“I really don’t want to be a journeyman,” said Vinatieri, who has spent has spent his entire career with the Colts and New England Patriots. “I’m not going to spend four weeks here, two weeks there. To be 100 percent honest, the only thing I’m thinking about is having this surgery, getting healthy and getting strong and back to where I need to be. If I’m not, none of that matters. “
Fantasy intel for all 32 NFL teams ahead of Week 15
The Fantasy 32 analyzes the NFL from a fantasy perspective, with at least one mention of each of the league’s 32 teams. Though efficiency will be discussed plenty, the column will lean heavily on usage data, as volume is king (by far) in fantasy football. Use these tidbits to make the best waiver-wire, trade and lineup decisions for the upcoming week and beyond. Be sure to check back each week of the season for a new version of the Fantasy 32.
Throughout the below team-by-team rundowns, I’ll be referencing “OFP” and “OTD.” OFP stands for opportunity-adjusted fantasy points. Imagine a league in which players are created equal. OFP is a statistic that weighs every pass/carry/target and converts the data into one number that indicates a player’s opportunity to score fantasy points, or his “expected” fantasy point total. For example, if a player has an OFP of 14.5, it means that a league average player who saw the same workload in the same location on the field would have scored 14.5 fantasy points. FORP is the difference between a player’s actual fantasy point total and his OFP. OTD works the same way, except instead of fantasy points, it’s touchdowns. Volume is king in fantasy football, so this is not information you want to overlook.
That said, here is the post-Week 14 OFP Leaderboard:
Next, here are the players who exceeded their OFP by the largest margin this past week and are thus candidates to see a dip in fantasy production moving forward, assuming they see a similar workload:
And these are the players who fell short of their OFP by the largest margin last week, and thus you shouldn’t be too quick to overreact to their performance when making lineup, trade or waiver decisions:
David Johnson caught a touchdown on Sunday, which marks the first time he has found the end zone since Week 6. If you’re wondering if this means Johnson is “back” as a viable fantasy starter, the answer is a resounding “no.” Johnson played 36% of the offensive snaps and was held to 43 yards on five touches in the game. He remained well behind starter Kenyan Drake, who soaked up 67 yards on 14 touches while playing 64% of the snaps. Chase Edmonds was also more involved, adding one carry and a pair of targets on 10 snaps. Drake is an RB2 option against Cleveland this week. Johnson remains a handcuff.
Austin Hooper returned from injury and played 64% of the snaps against Carolina on Sunday. Hooper actually played 72% of the snaps during the first three quarters, but only 36% in the fourth quarter with Atlanta way ahead on the scoreboard. Hooper was held to two catches for 32 yards, but was targeted six times. Hooper, who was playing 83% of the snaps and averaging 7.9 targets per game prior to his Week 10 injury, will be a candidate for a larger workload in Week 15 and should remain locked into lineups. Hooper has finished only three of 10 weeks outside the top eight tight ends in fantasy points and Sunday marked his first finish worse than 14th.
Marquise Brown‘s boom/bust rookie campaign continues as the speedy receiver has been limited to minus-1 yard on five targets over the past two weeks. That, after he scored a pair of touchdowns in Week 12. Brown has now scored at least one touchdown in four games, but has fallen short of 50 receiving yards in six of his other seven outings. He has posted three top-15 fantasy weeks, but has also finished 49th or worst six times. Operating in Baltimore’s low-volume, but high-scoring passing attack, Brown is a low-floor, touchdown-dependent flex in deeper leagues.
John Brown was held to 26 receiving yards on eight targets on Sunday and has now fallen short of 40 yards in three consecutive games. We knew a tough schedule was coming for Buffalo and that has proved to be an issue for Brown against Denver, Dallas and Baltimore. Life won’t be any easier on the road the next two weeks against tough Pittsburgh and New England pass defenses. Brown remains an every-down player and handled eight targets on Sunday, which keeps him in the WR3 discussion, but fantasy’s No. 18 wide receiver shouldn’t be considered a must-start down the stretch.
Ian Thomas put up a 5-57-1 receiving line while matching a career high with 10 targets against Atlanta on Sunday. Thomas played 85% of the snaps with Greg Olsen sidelined with a concussion. The strong “handcuff” production is hardly a surprise after Thomas filled in for Olsen with the sixth-most fantasy points among tight ends during Weeks 13-17 last season. Thomas posted a 25-246-2 receiving line on 31 targets during that stretch. Olsen could be back in Week 15, but if not, Thomas can be considered a top-15 play against a Seattle defense that has allowed the second-most fantasy points to tight ends this season.
Mitch Trubisky threw for 244 yards, ran for 63 yards and totaled four touchdowns against Dallas in Week 14. Trubisky has now produced at least 18 fantasy points in six of 12 games this season, including four of his past five. Of course, Trubisky has also finished the other six weeks outside the top 21 in fantasy points at the position. Trubisky’s improved production is enough to put him back in the weekly streaming discussion, but we should remain leery of his league-worst 9.6 yards per completion rate and extremely poor 6.2 yards per attempt. He isn’t a good starting option at Green Bay in Week 15.
Joe Mixon had one of his best games of the season on Sunday, registering 186 yards and one touchdown on 26 touches. Mixon now has 15-plus carries in six consecutive games and nine of his past 11. He also has scored four touchdowns in his past four games. Mixon continues to handle a massive workload — he’s top 10 at running back in both snaps and touches — which keeps him locked into the RB2 mix. He will need to be downgraded against a New England defense allowing the fewest fantasy points to running backs this week, but Mixon is not a must-bench with 20 touches likely on the table.
David Njoku returned from injured reserve on Sunday, but was limited to only 38% of the offensive snaps. Stephen Carlson played 73% and Ricky Seals-Jones 19% with Demetrius Harris sidelined. Njoku was targeted three times and produced one catch for 4 yards. The third-year tight end produced a solid 4-37-1 receiving line in his only full game this season back in Week 1, but he won’t be a reliable TE1 until he returns to an every-down role. Consider him a high-risk/high-reward lottery ticket against the Cardinals’ league-worst defense against tight ends this week.
Michael Gallup put up a strong 6-109-0 receiving line on 10 targets against Chicago in Week 14. The big night brings the second-year receiver to five top-30 fantasy weeks this season. Gallup has shown a solid floor thanks to a generous 22% target share. He’s averaging 8.5 targets per game and has handled at least six in 10 of 11 games. Gallup remains a viable WR3 and should benefit from Jalen Ramsey shadowing Amari Cooper in Week 15.
Drew Lock completed 22 of 27 passes for 309 yards and three touchdowns, adding 15 yards with his legs in a shocking upset at Houston on Sunday. Though he tossed a pair of early touchdowns to Courtland Sutton, Lock posted an ugly 4.8 yards per attempt in his NFL debut in Week 13, so Sunday’s performance was a much-needed step in the right direction. Denver heads to Kansas City on Sunday and, while Lock isn’t yet safe enough to consider starting, the likes of Sutton, Phillip Lindsay and perhaps Noah Fant are viable fantasy options.
With T.J. Hockenson on injured reserve, Logan Thomas played 58% of the snaps, Jesse James 52% and Isaac Nauta 9% in Sunday’s loss at Minnesota. Thomas caught two of four targets for 24 yards, James hauled in one of two targets for 23 yards and Nauta added 3 yards on his only target. Even if Matthew Stafford returns, this underwhelming committee is well off the fantasy radar, even in two-tight end leagues.
Despite a strong matchup at home against a struggling Washington team, Aaron Rodgers was held to 195 yards and one touchdown on Sunday. Rodgers tossed four touchdowns against the Giants in Week 13, but has combined for three touchdowns while averaging 173.3 passing yards during his other four games since Week 9. Rodgers sits eighth at quarterback in fantasy points, but has been extremely boom/bust with four weekly finishes better than fourth, but also eight finishes of 19th or worse. Rodgers is best left on benches this week against a Chicago defense that has allowed the fifth-fewest fantasy points to quarterbacks.
With Will Fuller V sidelined on Sunday, Keke Coutee saw his highest target total (eight) since last season’s wild-card playoff game. The second-year slot receiver converted the usage into five catches for 68 yards. Despite the decent day, Coutee has yet to produce a weekly fantasy finish better than 30th this season, failing to reach 12 fantasy points in a single game. Coutee figures to revert to the bench once Fuller is back in the lineup with DeAndre Hopkins and Kenny Stills. Coutee should be on rosters only in dynasty leagues.
Parris Campbell returned from injury on Sunday, but was limited to 51% of the offensive snaps before going down with a broken foot that will cost him the rest of the season. The rest of the Colts’ wide receiver snap shares were as follows: 100% for Zach Pascal, 88% for Marcus Johnson, 22% for Ashton Dulin and 10% for Chad Williams. Johnson and Pascal each reached seven targets and are the only viable flex options in deeper leagues. Campbell, meanwhile, sees an underwhelming rookie campaign that included only one weekly fantasy finish better than 57th come to an end. He’ll be a 2020 sleeper as a potential second-year breakout player.
DJ Chark caught nine of 10 targets for 75 yards during Sunday’s blowout loss to the Chargers. It was a nice bounce-back day from a player who had failed to reach 48 yards or score a touchdown during his previous two games. Chark has now reached 16 fantasy points in seven of 13 games this season and is fantasy’s No. 8 scoring wide receiver. Armed with a 22% target share (8.1 per game) and with Gardner Minshew back under center, Chark remains a fine WR2 play. Assuming he recovers from his left foot injury, Chark should obviously be fired up against Oakland’s struggling defense this week.
Spencer Ware made his 2019 debut with the Chiefs on Sunday and the veteran back shockingly paced Kansas City backs in snaps (28 of a possible 70). LeSean McCoy played 22 and Darwin Thompson handled 18. Ware was not effective, totaling 2 yards on six touches. McCoy managed 44 yards on 12 touches and Thompson racked up 33 yards on eight touches. This backfield has become a major headache and Damien Williams could be back in the fold as early as Week 15. None of these backs are safe enough to start against Denver in Week 15 and can be dropped in most formats.
The Chargers put up a season-high 45 points on Sunday and the offense was led by yet another elite performance by Austin Ekeler. Despite splitting 56 backfield snaps right down the middle with Melvin Gordon, Ekeler put up 101 yards on eight carries and 112 yards and one touchdown on five targets. Gordon was good in his own right with 84 yards and a score on 17 touches. Ekeler has now produced at least 16.7 fantasy points in three consecutive games despite working behind Gordon. In fact, Ekeler now sits seventh at running back in fantasy points since Gordon’s return in Week 5 (Gordon is 13th during the same span). As has been the case for a while now, both backs belong in weekly lineups.
The Rams crushed the Seahawks on Sunday night and did so despite Cooper Kupp playing a much lesser role. Los Angeles’ slot receiver was on the field for only 19 (or 28%) of the 66 offensive snaps. That’s a career low, which is saying something considering it includes games he left injured. Kupp entered Week 14 having been on the field for 86% of the offensive snaps this season, including 87% of pass plays. Kupp still managed a decent fantasy day, catching all four of his targets for 45 yards and one touchdown, but the massive dip in usage is concerning going forward. Robert Woods has emerged as the Rams’ No. 1 target and now easily the best play among the team’s pass-catchers. The game script figures to dictate more passing at Dallas this week, so Kupp is a candidate for more playing time, but he’s now best viewed as a borderline WR3 or flex.
DeVante Parker made it 17 snaps and Albert Wilson 15 snaps before leaving with injuries during Sunday’s loss at the Jets. The injuries led to expanded roles for Isaiah Ford (75% snap share) and Mack Hollins (14%) behind Allen Hurns (78%), though Miami also leaned more heavily on multiple-tight end sets. Ford had what was easily a career day with a 6-92-0 receiving line on nine targets. The 2017 seventh-round pick entered the game with two receptions for 9 yards on seven career targets. Even if Parker and Wilson miss time, Ford will not be a reliable flex option in Week 15, even against a weak Giants secondary. Hurns would be your best dart throw after he reached six targets for the third time in four games on Sunday.
A shoulder injury cut Dalvin Cook‘s Week 13 short, but the young back was busy in his return to action on Sunday with 75 yards and one touchdown on 20 touches. With Minnesota nursing a double-digit lead throughout the game, Cook was limited to 46% of the snaps, which allowed Alexander Mattison 16 touches himself. Cook has finished only one of his past five outings as a top-12 fantasy back, but he also has finished a week worse than 16th only twice this season. Cook is, of course, a strong RB1 against the Chargers in Week 15.
Sony Michel played nine snaps and was limited to 9 yards on six carries against the Chiefs on Sunday. James White, meanwhile, played 37 snaps, with Rex Burkhead playing 18 and Brandon Bolden one. Michel was a top-20 fantasy running back and had found the end zone six times during Weeks 1-7, but he hasn’t cleared 8.5 fantasy points in a game or found the end zone in six games since. A nonfactor as a receiver (10 receptions in 12 games), Michel requires heavy rushing volume and touchdowns in order to produce RB2 numbers. He’s not getting it right now and shouldn’t be close to lineups.
Alvin Kamara played 76% of the snaps on Sunday in a game that saw the Saints score 46 points. And yet Kamara was still a major disappointment in fantasy. Kamara was held to 25 yards on 13 carries and 18 yards on six targets. Kamara has now gone eight consecutive games without a touchdown, though Sunday’s 8.3 fantasy points were his fewest since he had 7.0 back in Week 2 and his second fewest since Week 5 of the 2018 season. Kamara entered Week 14 averaging 18.0 fantasy points per game and remains the clear feature back in New Orleans’ high-scoring offense. Keep him locked into lineups.
Darius Slayton hauled in five of seven targets for 154 yards and a pair of touchdowns against the Eagles’ embarrassing perimeter corner defense on Monday Night Football. It was Slayton’s second-biggest fantasy performance of his career, which is saying something, considering it was only his 11th professional game. Slayton has now scored exactly two touchdowns in three games, all of which have come since Week 8. The flip side is that he’s posted receiving lines of 3-32-0, 2-28-0, 1-6-0, 4-67-0 and 6-44-0 in the other five games during his past eight outings. Slayton trailed both Sterling Shepard and Golden Tate in snaps on Monday but has now handled seven-plus targets in four-consecutive games and very well could be emerging into New York’s No. 1 wide receiver. Fantasy’s No. 23-scoring wide receiver since his debut in Week 3, Slayton should be in lineups against the Dolphins this week.
Le’Veon Bell missed Sunday’s game with an illness. Bilal Powell was the feature back in his place, posting a 19-74-0 rushing line and adding 14 yards on three targets while playing 80% of the snaps. Ty Montgomery played 32% of the snaps and racked up 61 yards on 12 touches. Bell is a good bet to return in Week 15, but if he remains sidelined, Powell should be considered a flex option in a tough matchup against a Ravens defense allowing the sixth-fewest fantasy points to running backs.
Josh Jacobs was sidelined with a shoulder injury on Sunday, which left Oakland with a DeAndre Washington/Jalen Richard backfield committee. Washington had the bigger day, playing 63% of the snaps, which helped him to 53 yards and one touchdown on 14 carries, as well as six receptions for 43 yards on seven targets. Richard put up 28 yards on seven carries and 18 yards on three targets. It’s very possible Jacobs will miss additional time, so Sunday reinforced that Washington is the primary handcuff here. He’s worth an add on waivers, whereas Richard should be considered only in very deep PPR leagues. Oakland backs will be upgraded big-time this week against a Jacksonville defense that was annihilated by Melvin Gordon and Austin Ekeler this past week and has allowed the fourth-most fantasy points to the position this season.
Boston Scott enjoyed a career night on Monday Night Football, rushing for 59 yards and one touchdown on 10 carries and catching all six of his targets for 69 yards. Scott played 37 offensive snaps, which matched his career total entering the game. The strong performance should lead to more work for the 2018 sixth-round pick, but Miles Sanders and Jordan Howard (who appears close to a return) remain ahead of him on the depth chart. Scott should be rostered in deeper dynasty leagues but is no more than an end-of-bench option in season-long leagues.
Diontae Johnson caught six of eight targets for 60 yards and one touchdown in Arizona on Sunday. He also returned a punt for a touchdown. The rookie was on the field for 68% of the snaps and doubled the next closest Steelers player in targets (James Washington had four). The big day from Johnson wasn’t completely unexpected considering he entered the game with five-plus targets in four straight games and against Arizona’s struggling pass defense, but that doesn’t mean the production is sustainable. Johnson also entered the week with no more than three catches, 29 yards or 5.9 fantasy points during his previous three games. Johnson has posted double-digit fantasy points during one of his past five and two of his past eight games. Pittsburgh is leaning on its defense and a run-heavy offense under Devlin Hodges, which makes its wide receivers extremely risky plays. Johnson and Washington belong on benches this week against a terrific Bills pass defense that has allowed only seven touchdowns to wide receivers this season.
The headache that is the 49ers’ backfield reared its ugly head again in Week 14. Raheem Mostert picked up where he left off in Week 13 with 69 yards on 10 carries, 40 yards on two targets and a pair of touchdowns while playing 60% of the snaps. Matt Breida played 19% of the snaps in his return from injury and ran for 54 yards on six carries, adding 4 yards on his lone target. The biggest surprise was Tevin Coleman being limited to three carries for 6 yards on 16% of the snaps. Kyle Shanahan’s hot hand approach makes anyone in this backfield hard to trust, but Mostert is currently your best flex option of the group.
Rashaad Penny went down with an injury on his first snap of Sunday’s game and is expected to miss the rest of the season. With Penny sidelined, Chris Carson returned to workhorse duties, playing 50 of 62 possible snaps. Carson carried the ball 15 times, ran a route on 26 of the team’s 41 pass plays and was targeted four times. C.J. Prosise (one carry and no targets on nine snaps) and rookie Travis Homer (zero snaps) were relative nonfactors. Carson is set up for 20-plus touches this week against a Panthers defense that has allowed the most touchdowns (24) and fantasy points (390) to running backs this season. He’s a candidate for one of his best games of the season.
O.J. Howard caught four passes for 73 yards on five targets against the Colts on Sunday. After reaching 60 receiving yards once during his first eight games this season, Howard has hit the mark in back-to-back outings. He reached five targets in both games after doing so twice during Weeks 1-12. Howard has found the end zone only once this season and is far from a sure bet to continue his recent surge in production. That said, he’s a much more attractive streaming option with Mike Evans expected to miss at least one week, if not the rest of the season. Howard is still best viewed as a TE2 most weeks and on deck is a matchup against a Lions defense that has been good against tight ends this season.
A.J. Brown caught five of seven targets for 153 yards and two touchdowns against Oakland’s weak pass defense on Sunday. Brown’s boom/bust rookie season continues, as he has reached 24 fantasy points in three different games, but has 12 or fewer during his other nine outings. In fact, Brown’s past five games have produced fantasy point totals of 12, 3, 24, 8 and 32, respectively. Brown looks legit and has emerged as Ryan Tannehill‘s top target, but he also has fallen short of six targets during four of his past six games. Brown obviously has big upside, but the floor is low enough that he’s not a must-start every week. That being said, he does get an upgrade to WR3 territory with a Houston defense on deck that has allowed three-plus passing touchdowns in seven of its past nine games and that was lit up by Drew Lock on Sunday.
Derrius Guice went down with an injury during the second quarter of Sunday’s loss in Green Bay. With Guice sidelined for the second half, Adrian Peterson and Chris Thompson each played 46% of the snaps, and Wendell Smallwood was on the field for 7%. Peterson posted a 20-76-1 rushing line for the game and Thompson managed a 7-43-0 receiving line on eight targets. Peterson wasn’t targeted and Thompson didn’t have a carry. Guice is out at least for Week 15, but neither replacement back will be a strong RB2 option against the Eagles.
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