NFL Week 14 Hot Takes
Howard Bender offers up some hot takes on what went down during the Week 14 NFL games and how you should interpret for fantasy football purposes.
Rubbing salt into the wounds of those who were bounced from their fantasy playoffs is not what we’re here for. Looking at our match-ups with hindsight and talking about our “coulda, shoulda, woulda” lineups isn’t going to help. It is what it is. But that doesn’t mean we stay silent and there are a few things around the NFL, both in fantasy and reality, which need to be addressed. So let’s get going with a few Week 14 hot takes…
Remember the Titans
Ask anyone which teams they think have the best chances of winning the Super Bowl this season and you’ll hear Ravens, Chiefs, 49ers, Saints and even the Patriots (but we’ll get to that later). All are sound choices, for sure, but does the list end there? It shouldn’t. While it’s an odd drum to bang, the Tennessee Titans still aren’t getting the respect they deserve. Since the switch from Marcus Mariota to Ryan Tannehill, the Titans are 6-1 and have averaged 31.4 points per game in that span. Tannehill is averaging 264 passing yards per game with a 15:4 TD:INT, Derrick Henry is averaging 118.1 rushing yards per game with 10 touchdowns and over these last three games, A.J. Brown is averaging 111 receiving yards per game with three touchdowns. On the defensive side of the ball, the Titans are giving up just 101.6 rushing yards per game (98.7 over their last three) with nine rushing touchdowns allowed and just 260 passing yards per game on the season. Are they a flawed team? Yes. But what team isn’t? Every team has its warts. The key right now is momentum and the upcoming schedule. Tied with the Texans at 8-5 atop the AFC South, the two teams face each other twice in the final three weeks of the season. The third game has the Titans hosting the Saints while the Texans travel to Tampa Bay. If the Titans finish strong, this team could do some serious damage to teams overlooking them in the playoffs. Just sayin’.
The 49ers Are Going to the Super Bowl
Anyone who knows me, knows this is a painful take from me. I’ve lived in the Bay Are for nearly 13 years and I find it extremely difficult to talk local sports with anyone out here because of the massive lack of objectivity. Fair-weather fans, for sure. The fanbase comes out in droves when the team is winning, has unrealistic expectations of its players and organizations and immediately looks to point the finger at someone else when things don’t go in their favor. When they’re losing, it’s a ghost town for sports and the entitled fans spend more time cursing Los Angeles-based teams than focusing on fixing their own house. But I can’t let my disgust with the fans take anything away from how Kyle Shanahan has this 49ers team humming. Sure, the vaunted defense allowed 46 points to the Saints on Sunday, but you can do that if you’re capable of putting up 48. Jimmy Garoppolo has found a groove and owns a 16:4 TD:INT over his last six games, Raheem Mostert has ripped the starting running back job away from Tevin Coleman and Matt Breida, George Kittle is a man-beast and this collection of wide receivers has fully adapted to Shanahan’s style of offense. Couple that offensive prowess to a still sturdy defense and the rest of the NFC is going to have a very difficult time beating them. And from everything we’ve seen out of this conference, it doesn’t look like anyone will.
Maybe We Weren’t Wrong on Joe Mixon back in June
Maybe it’s because the pressure is off thanks to a 1-12 season. Maybe it’s because the now-healthy offensive line is finally jelling. Or maybe it’s a combination of that plus a better handle on the offensive scheme of first-time head coach Zach Taylor? Whatever you want to say about why things seem to actually be clicking for the Bengals, the fact remains that Joe Mixon is a talent and maybe we weren’t wrong about drafting him early back in June. Remember, Mixon was a top-rated runner coming out of college and while injuries have derailed him somewhat, it’s the injuries on the offensive line this season that really took a dump on his overall fantasy value. Over the last five games, Mixon has averaged 93.8 rushing yards per game with three touchdowns. He’s also kicked in 120 receiving yards on 10 catches in that span. The numbers aren’t exactly eye-popping, but there is no doubt that Mixon’s game has been strongly elevated since the Bengals came off their bye in Week 9. If there is a chance of improving this offensive line in the offseason, we could be right back to where we were last June, discussing the late-first/early-second round value of the Bengals running back.
Drew Lock is the Answer to the Broncos Prayers
For years, John Elway has been trying to draft himself a franchise quarterback. When he became the Broncos’ President and General Manager, he inherited Tim Tebow, only to quickly learn that the former Gator was not the answer. He then failed with draft picks of Brock Osweiler, Paxton Lynch, Trevor Siemian and a couple of no-names to boot. But after drafting Drew Lock in the second round, there was hope on the horizon. Lock was Elway’s type of guy and he was slated to learn under veteran Joe Flacco. An early thumb injury derailed plans somewhat, but now healthy and under center, Lock looks like he could be exactly the type of guy Elway wants. He’s shown game-to-game growth in his first two starts thus far and while he’s thrown two picks, he hasn’t done anything outlandish to show he’s playing carelessly. He is still very much a work in progress, but the outlook is definitely positive.
It’s Time to Stop Paying Up for Christian McCaffrey in DFS
Are we done yet? The Panthers certainly are. If you watched them get thumped by the Falcons, you saw exactly what you can expect from them for the final three weeks of the season. Kyle Allen tossed another two interceptions, giving him 12 picks thrown in the last seven games, and defenses are more than happy to focus their efforts on McCaffrey again and let Allen do his worst. Yes, McCaffrey has averaged nine catches per game over his last three, but he’s also failed to find the end zone in each of his last two. If this is the look the Panthers are going to give us, then paying up for McCaffrey should be in our rearview mirrors. It’s just not working. But it’s not just about McCaffrey’s recent dip in production. It’s also about not having the proper value available to fit his salary into your DFS lineups. If you are using McCaffrey, you need multiple spots to pay down and while there were some bargains like Raheem Mostert and Raheem Mostert panned out, you had a number of bargains who failed miserably. And if McCaffrey just provides even money, your lineup is already playing from behind. We need to look for a more balanced approach in both our cash and GPP lineups, especially with the panthers upcoming schedule. Relying on McCaffrey to win you millions is over. We just can’t do it anymore.