There are only two weeks left, unless you’re in a league that oddly includes week 17 as your playoff finals. We are already underway after Damien Williams and Justin Jackson showed what they can do when they are designated as the lead RB for their team. I hope you had either of them in your lineups!
Meanwhile, Travis Kelce’s performance reminds me of the scene in Rocky IV when Rocky finally lands a punch on Ivan Drago that draws blood. Rocky returns to the corner where his trainer shouts, “He’s NOT a machine!”
On the Chargers side, I’ve heard several people talking up Antonio Gates as if he had an incredible night. 4 for 54, folks. It’s okay, but nothing worth bringing up at the water cooler.
Let’s discuss some starts and sits.
Running Back: Start ’em
DALVIN COOK (MINNESOTA VIKINGS)
The Vikings return home, licking their wounds, after being decimated by the Seattle Seahawks. They have fired their “Sean McVay 2.0” OC, John DeFilippo. The lone shining offensive star from that game was Dalvin Cook.
Now, the Vikings are in Minneapolis and they are facing the Miami Dolphins defense who is easily beaten on the ground. It’s quite possible that the Vikings stop trying to make Kirk Cousins a thing and focus on that electrifying piece in their backfield: Dalvin Cook. That dude is absolutely amazing when he’s healthy. Guess what? He’s healthy.
The Dolphins can be exposed on the ground. On the season, they are the 8th worst team against the Running Back position. While they have improved over the past few weeks, it can be explained. The Patriots had to keep up with the Miami offense last week while also suffering an identity crises at Running Back. Are they RBBC? It looks like it.
In week 13, they held LeSean McCoy in check, but allowed Josh Allen to rush for 135 yards. In week 12, Marlon Mack rushed for 85 yards, but it was 5.7 yards per carry.
If Dalvin Cook can touch the ball 15 times on the ground and another 5 times through the air, his big play ability will likely equate to 100 yards and a touchdown, if not more. Those are the kind of numbers that I can get behind.
DOUG MARTIN (OAKLAND RAIDERS)
When do you definitely want to start an Oakland Raiders Running Back in 2018?
- When they play at home OR
- When they play against the Cincinnati Bengals
They only get one of those as the Raiders are travelling to Cincinnati to face the Bengals. Defensively, this matchup is a dumpster fire. On the offense, you can safely start your Running Backs. Joe Mixon is going to light up the universe; he’s an auto-start. That brings us to Doug Martin.
Doug Martin has rushed for almost 100 yards and has scored 2 touchdowns in the last two matchups. He is still capable of giving you fantasy value. The Bengals are a perfect foe for your semi-finals roster. The Cincinnati Bengals are the worst team against the Running Back position. In week 13, Philip Lindsay rushed for 157 yards and scored 2 touchdowns. In week 14 (also known as “the week that Austin Ekeler looked tired”), Austin Ekeler rushed for 66 yards and scored a touchdown. These are numbers that you can believe in. Doug Martin will have a good game. If you’re in a really bad pinch or a deeper league, Jalen Richard should also have a decent game.
Running Back: Sit ’em
MARK INGRAM (NEW ORLEANS SAINTS)
Look at Mark Ingram’s performance since returning from suspension. One thing is clear: he is touchdown dependent in order to give you fantasy value. If you are in need of a “swing for the fences” player, this is your man. Keep in mind that he will not be fantasy relevant if he doesn’t score.
It gets worse. The Saints are travelling to Carolina to face the Panthers in a divisional matchup. It takes a special opponent (like the Bengals) for me to have confidence in a Running Back in an away game. To add fuel to this fire, the Panthers and Saints have always put on a show. Even though the Panthers have lost 5 in a row and appear to be falling apart at the seams, they will very likely show up for this divisional game in front of their home crowd who are hungry for a win.
Alvin Kamara is the lead back, Mark Ingram is picking up the scraps. If he scores a touchdown, your week is saved. This week, that is a huge If.
NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS BACKFIELD
What the heck is going on? Despite a positive rushing matchup against the Dolphins, Tom Brady threw the ball 43 times. The last 3 rushing touchdowns have been scored by James Develin. James Develin? James White had his expected PPR value game against the Vikings in week 13, but almost disappeared in week 14. Sony Michel is getting the touches, but isn’t earning any value with them. It just hasn’t made sense.
But wait! There’s more! The Patriots travel to Pittsburgh to face the Steelers. On the season, the Steelers are the 6th best defense against the Running Back position for fantasy. Yes, they are on a 3 week losing streak and have allowed a rushing touchdown in each of their last 6 games. They are still holding the opposing Running Backs to low Yards Per Carry. So, let’s say the Patriots get to the goalline in a short yardage situation. Recent weeks have shown that they will give the ball to James Develin. Are you putting HIM in your starting lineup in the semi-finals? I didn’t think so.
Between the muddled backfield, the negative matchup, the away game, and the vultured touchdowns by James Develin, I just cannot get behind any Patriots Running Backs.
Tight End: Start ’em
KYLE RUDOLPLH (MINNESOTA VIKINGS)
We know he has the ability. The old OC just wasn’t giving him the opportunity. New OC, home game, and a positive matchup against the Dolphins leads me to believe that we will see a better game out of Kyle Rudolph.
I’ve already written about John DeFilippo above. We don’t need to rehash it here. Let’s just say that we could see a bit of a shake-up in who Kirk Cousins targets.
The Dolphins have been beaten by the Tight End position for the last half of the season! There are some obvious results like Gronk in week 14 or Ebron in week 12. But, there have been some other weeks that aren’t so obvious: Michael Roberts in week 7 or Jordan Thomas in week 8. In case those names are unfamiliar, they are from the Lions and Texans, respectively. My point is: You do not need to be a household name Tight End to have a great week against the Miami Dolphins defense.
Kyle Rudolph might even be on the free agent list in your league. If you aren’t fortunate enough to be a Kelce/Ertz/Ebron/Kittle owner and have been streaming the position, this is a great time to pick up Kyle Rudolph.
CJ UZOMAH (CINCINNATI BENGALS)
They’re playing the Raiders. The Oakland Raiders are the worst team against fantasy Tight Ends. CJ Uzomah has received 22 targets in the last 3 games. He will have the opportunity and Oakland knows how to allow production to the position.
Just like I said above, if you aren’t an owner of the big 4, you could do a lot worse than CJ Uzomah. You won’t feel very confident, but at least you’ll have the opportunity to do well.
Tight End: Sit ’em
TREY BURTON (CHICAGO BEARS)
Two weeks ago, I wrote that I had given up on Trey Burton until he proved otherwise. Well, the return of Mitchell Trubisky and the positive matchup against the Rams blinded me. I called Trey Burton a Start. Shame on me. Shame. On. Me. 2 catches for 22 yards.
The Bears might be playing at home this week, but they’re playing against the Green Bay Packers who, for all their faults, are the 3rd best team against fantasy Tight Ends. If you haven’t already, drop Trey Burton. Get that weight off of your shoulders.
Good luck to each of you in week 15! I usually say, “Unless you’re facing me.” However, I had a dreadful fantasy year in 2018. I am in exactly two playoff matchups this week. I guarantee that you aren’t facing me. I can say without any hesitation, “Good luck to you in Week 15!”