By COBE JOHNSON
The 2017 Fantasy Football season has proven to be one of the most unpredictable seasons in history for many reasons. This season has allowed us to put our trust in rookie running backs again with the stellar play of Leonard Fournette, Kareem Hunt and Alvin Kamara. We have had more reliable tight ends to choose from with the emergence of players like Evan Engram, OJ Howard, Tyler Kroft, etc. Defenses are scoring more touchdowns than ever before. With the way things have changed this season, tt feels like we are in an alternate fantasy football universe.
As unpredictable as it has been, fantasy owners always have to stay on top of their game. Unless you’re sporting a team with the likes of Ezekiel Elliot, Le’veon Bell, Antonio Brown, and A.J. Green, you should never feel too comfortable with your team. There is always a potential move you can make to improve your team. The playoffs are right around the corner and now is the best time to start looking for guys who can give you a better chance to win your league’s championship.
In terms of quarterbacks, a decent target could be Cam Newton. Newton has looked a bit shaky this season but around playoff time he should be getting his star tight end and number one target, Greg Olsen, back. If you forgot, Olsen caught for over 1,000 yards and three touchdowns last season. With his favorite target back, Newton should improve just enough to be a decent option leading into the playoffs. First, Newton plays at home throughout the entire course of fantasy playoffs. Although he seems like a real road warrior, it is great to have three straight home games to end out the season.
When we get to Week 14, Newton faces off against Minnesota who are the league’s fourth best team against opposing quarterbacks. This game is honestly a toss up and could go either way — this is also his only difficult matchup on the playoff schedule. Week 15, Newton matches up against Brett Hundley and the Green Bay Packers. If the Panthers continue to pick up steam and the Packers continue to play like they have of late, this game could get ugly. The Panthers’ defense is top notch against the run and over the past two weeks the run game has been the primary game plan for the Packers. If they are unable to get anything going, Newton should have an easier chance of slicing up this underperforming defense.
If you make it to the championship round, Newton will be playing the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Tampa Bay has completely failed its lofty expectations for this 2017 season. Coming into the season, some believed they would be one of the young contending teams. Now, they are a team that looks like they have already given up. With no bye week in sight, this team should be flat out exhausted come Week 16. With the Panthers currently at 6-3, they could very well be fighting for a playoff spot come the end of the season. Tampa is already looking horrible defensively against opposing signal callers, ranking twenty-sixth against them. With no rest, they are only going to get worse. Watch out for Cam “Superman” Newton to walk all over the Bucs.
As far as running backs go, Mark Ingram is an intriguing player. In a complete turn of events, the New Orleans Saints have completely flipped their script. Over the past few years, the Saints have been known for their pass-heavy offense. At times it seemed they would even forget that Ingram was even on the team. Once 2017 came around the Saints have one of the deadliest running games in the NFL. Rookie running back Alvin Kamara has been consistent around 14 fantasy points a game in 0.5 points per reception leagues, meanwhile Ingram has taken control of most of the ground game, averaging around 11.
With Drew Brees under center, defenses are unable to focus solely on one aspect of New Orleans’ two-headed offensive monster. Defenses facing them have to respect both aspects of the offense. Kamara provides a great change of pace counterpart to Ingram. On the other hand, Ingram has had some fumbling issues the past few weeks but that has never been a serious problem for him. He is a great runner and the Saints are finally using him correctly. As for his playoff schedule, he gets two juicy matchups against Atlanta (Weeks 14 and 16). Atlanta is ranked twenty-first against running backs this year. Last year, Ingram averaged 88 rushing yards, 30 receiving yards and a touchdown in his two bouts against Atlanta. This year, that rushing attack is more lethal, expect him to get you something equal to or better than what he got last year. In Week 15, Ingram plays the Jets who have been decent against the run but they will struggle against Brees and his receivers. If this game gets out of hand for New York, Ingram could dominate this week as well.
The last sleeper is Nelson Agholor of the Philadelphia Eagles. The Philly offense is looking downright unstoppable. They have a top five offense and they just added running back Jay Ajayi to the mix. Alshon Jeffery has been crushing his opponents as of late and he is starting to really take on the role of the best receiver on their team. Since he is getting pressure from the defense’s best players, Nelson has been able to get better looks and show people why the Eagles drafted him a few years ago.
Nelson has five touchdowns on the year and from Weeks 5 to 8, he had a floor of 45 yards and a touchdown. No matter what league you are in, those are amazing stat lines and reliable numbers. That is great flex value and he is trustworthy against obviously good matchups. I would categorize him as a boom or bust player because that offense has a lot of mouths to feed.
In Week 14, The Eagles play the Los Angeles Rams. The Rams are top five against wide receivers. There is no doubt they are a great defense, lead by Wade Phillips. Although the Rams are great against receivers, this could be an absolute shootout. Philly and L.A. have both shown that they are two powerhouse offenses and they can get it done on the ground and through the air. The Eagles offense is averaging a whopping 36 points per game.
Weeks 15 and 16, the Eagles play the New York Giants and the Oakland Raiders. The Giants are ranked twenty-third against receivers this season. They really do not have much of an offense, so this game could get out of hand quickly. Their first matchup was pretty close but since then the Giants have lost four receivers and Eli Manning lacks any decent targets to throw to at this point. Meanwhile, the Raiders are ranked sixteenth against wideouts this season. This is a middle-of-the-pack matchup for the Eagles. Nelson would be covered by one of their safeties or their nickel cornerback. If Nelson can get one good look, he could definitely take it to the house.