HOGS AND DOGS: WEEK 16
By: Chris Dugas
Merry Christmas folks. We all have that one family member who consistently shows up late to family gatherings. Well, Hogs and Dogs is that family member. Though we may be a day or two late with some fantasy analysis, we are still here and we’re here before Sunday, which is what matters most. Whether it’s the championship, 3rd place game, consolation, or the “Sacko” we wish you the best of luck this Christmas weekend. So without further ado, this week’s Hogs and Dogs.
Kirk Cousins – Look what happens when you finally put and keep your trust in a quarterback? We all know the position relies heavily on a big dose of confidence, and when you aren’t spilling information to the media, constantly doubting your starter, or switching between guys, you might actually find a decent player. That might just be what the ‘Skins have found in Kirk Cousins, who continues to develop some good chemistry with guys like Jordan Reed and DeSean Jackson. Over the past four weeks, Cousins has scored at least 24 points 3 times, while having a not so hot day against the Cowboys two weeks ago. Going up against a porous Philly pass defense, fire up Cousins in your championships with confidence.
DeAngelo Williams – Williams has scored at least 11 points in 6 of his last 7 games and might have one of the safest floors in fantasy this weekend. He has been running well and looking like his old Panther self in this powerful Pittsburgh offense. Baltimore has a tough run defense, but don’t let that shy you away from playing him this weekend. If your league goes into week 17, then hopefully you can move on this weekend, as the Steelers take on a leaky Cleveland run defense that has given up the 8th most points to running backs on the year.
Chris Ivory – The talent is there for Ivory, but sometimes the results are not. As we always say, get the ball to your best players. And that is exactly what Mr. Ebony and Ivory is. He’s scored roughly 4.5 fantasy points when they give him 15 or fewer carries. When they give him 17 or more, especially in recent weeks, he’s turned that into double digit fantasy points, and usually a win, every time. We know some of you might be scared by the fact that Bilal Powell has been stealing some touches, but I ultimately think he is really just another guy who can catch the ball out of the backfield. Ivory has stayed relatively healthy this year, and I think he is a talented back who’s more powerful, a little faster, and a better cutter than Powell.
Markus Wheaton – Wheaton has emerged as a steady and consistent 3rd option in Pittsburgh, fitting in comfortably behind Mr. Brown and Mr. Bryant. He and Heath Miller continue to see similar targets, but Wheaton is usually able to do more with them, as Miller is more of a security blanket for Large Benjamin. Wheaton also has four straight games with at least 60 yards and/or a touchdown. He’s also seen at least 6 targets in those 4 games. Baltimore has given up the most points to receivers this year in fantasy. Pittsburgh might have the most talented offense in football so keep Wheaton in those starting lineups for your fantasy championships.
Kamar Aiken – Can he get to 1000 yards on the year? A guy who really didn’t do much until Steve Smith went down, Aiken has 469 receiving yards over his past 6 games, averaging about 78 yards a game with a couple of scrubs at quarterback. Aiken has 802 yards on the year with two games to go. He blew up last week for 128 yards and a touchdown against one of the better defenses in the NFL in KC and is poised to keep his hot streak going against the Steelers and Bengals. Pittsburgh has given up the 2nd most points to wide receivers this season and since there isn’t really anyone else in Baltimore to catch passes, I expect Kamar to have another big game this weekend.
Jordan Reed – Thank goodness this guy has stayed relatively healthy this year. A great talent at the tight end position, Reed has had trouble over the past few seasons in terms of staying healthy. He has been one of the best tight ends this year, up there with Gronk, Delanie Walker, Tyler Eifert (though he won’t repeat his touchdown numbers next year), and Greg Olsen. Reed is very good at getting himself open and has emerged as Cousins’s favorite target. He’s scored 20 points the last two games and while that will be difficult to maintain, he has appealing matchups for the next two weeks against Philadelphia and Dallas. Reed also has at least 60 yards or a touchdown in 9 of 12 games this year.
Devonta Freeman – I’ll be brief here as I just talked about him two weeks ago. But, Freeman has scored just one rushing touchdown since week 7 and is going up against a stout Carolina defense that held him to just 40 yards when the teams played in week 14. He’s turning into what a lot of us thought he would turn into, and that’s an above average but not great football player. Last week he filled up the box score with a touchdown but was not efficient at running the ball as he rushed 25 times for 56 yards. I think he’s shaping up as more of a low end RB2, high end RB3 for this week’s matchup versus Carolina.
Eddie Lacy – Another week, another headache in the Green Bay backfield. Lacy has had an incredible roller coaster season and has frustrated fantasy owners every single week. You bench him and he gets you 18.9 points. You start him the next week and he gets you 0.10 points. You bench him the next week and he scores 21.8 points. You start him last week and he gets you 2.3 points. This is mind numbing and I’m not sure it’s really all his fault. Green Bay is trying to utilize both he and James Starks instead of letting Lacy get the bulk of the work while being the much better player. Starks is at best a complimentary player to Lacy, but for some reason they try to feature him. Trying to predict either player’s workload this week is about as easy as trying to figure out who will get the most touches in New England’s backfield. Oh, and Green Bay plays Arizona and their 4th ranked rush defense this week.
Allen Hurns – I’ve never been that bullish on Blake Bortles though I understand he is having a good year statistically speaking. I think he’s escaped many games with some terrible throws that should have been interceptions. But to get to the player in question here, I think Hurns has taken a bit of a step back since revealing the injuries that he’s had to deal with (sports hernia, thigh). I know he has an appealing matchup this week against New Orleans, but I’m just not as high on him as everyone else is. I also think that Bortles and tight end Julius Thomas have gotten on the same page as of late and therefore Thomas has taken some of Hurns’s targets. Week 14 aside (18.5 points), Hurns has scored just 10.5 points combined in weeks 11, 12, and 15. I also believe that Allen Robinson will have the biggest day on Sunday against the Saints. Be cautious with this situation.
Calvin Johnson – This one may seem a bit obvious, but hey, what am I here for? Calvin has been nursing some nagging injuries and that continues to show as he only saw 1 target last week against the putrid New Orleans pass defense. Just a short time ago, Johnson went for 93 yards and 3 touchdowns on 14 targets. Over the last 3 weeks, he has seen only 14 targets. And over the last two games he’s caught only 2 passes. Calvin and the Lions face San Fran this weekend and face off against an underrated pass defense that has not allowed an opposing receiver to score since week 11. This has to be an injury related situation, as the Lions know they need to get the ball to their best player to win (2 losses in the past 3 weeks, with a not 100% Calvin). He was one of the most consistent and reliable receivers this year, at one point going 6 straight games with at least 80 yards receiving and scoring 5 touchdowns over that same time frame. With his ankle injury still looming, Calvin can’t be trusted as more than a WR3 this week.
Demaryius Thomas – Was he a product of Peyton Manning? Maybe, but he certainly isn’t playing anywhere near as well as he did when Peyton was commanding the offense the past few years. Thomas is a very good player, but he’s much harder to trust with the Broncos offense now being run by Brock Osweiler. I don’t think for any reason at all you should bench Demaryius but I would closely monitor the situation in Denver. If Denver lets Peyton walk after the season, I think Demaryius’s production will take a hit and he could be bumped down a tier or two in terms of wide receiver talents. Thomas will shape up as more of a low end WR1, high end WR2 if the changing of the guard at quarterback occurs in Denver. All you keeper league players keep an eye on this situation. You still fire DT up these next two weeks against Cincy and San Diego.
Tampa Bay – A popular play earlier in the year against some dud offenses, Tampa Bay has now scored just 12 points over the past 4 weeks. Yikes. They may seem like a good play this week going up against the Chicago offense sans Alshon Jeffery, but I don’t recommend them this week. The loss of Kwon Alexander really hurt this team and Lavonte David and Gerald McCoy can only pick up so much of the slack. Alexander hasn’t played in two weeks because of his suspension, but is still second on the team in tackles with 93, and tied for 3rd in sacks. The problem with Tampa is they just can’t seem to generate any turnovers. This is a defense that I will be staying away from for the rest of this fantasy year, but think that their outlook is bright next year with Alexander coming back.