With only three weeks of the regular season left the season is taking shape, and Week 14 saw a host of big match-ups with playoff implications for the top teams in the NFL. The Chiefs and the Patriots fought a nailbiter in the AFC, where the Bills and the Ravens also had a conference clash with postseason ramifications.
In the NFC the Seahawks and Rams met on Sunday Night Football to keep their Wild Card and divisional hopes alive, while the best viewing was to be found in New Orleans as the Saints and the 49ers combined for over 90 points in a barnstorming shootout that thrilled until the end. Still, we all know that the most important game is whichever one your fantasy players are scoring in, so without further ado, let’s look at this week’s NFL Fantasy Studs and Duds.
Drew Brees – QB – New Orleans Saints
He’s a future first-ballot Hall of Famer. He’s a Super Bowl MVP. He holds half the career passing records in the NFL. And yet, every now and then a superstar fantasy QB has a game so big it deserves special recognition. On Sunday, in the game of the season against the San Francisco 49ers, Drew Brees delivered that performance.
Against one of the best defences in the NFL, Brees completed 29 passes for 349 yards and a whopping five touchdown throws. Combined with a rushing touchdown of his own, the Saints QB outscored the next-nearest fantasy quarterback by nearly six full points, and the matchup was a feast for both football fans and fantasy owners alike. Especially if you owned Brees.
Emmanuel Sanders– WR– San Francisco 49ers
Or Emmanuel Sanders. The 49ers entered this season with a bunch of nobodies on the perimeter of their offence. Sure they had three or four different running backs to ruin the days of fantasy managers, and George Kittle was clearly a stud at tight end, but they desperately needed a wide receiver to spark Kyle Shanahan’s passing attack. So, in the run-up to Week 8, they traded some mid-round picks with the Broncos to bring in Manny Sanders.
That swap is looking pretty good after Sunday’s shootout against the New Orleans Saints. Coming off an injury that has hampered his production recently, Sanders was back to his dominant best against a previously stout Saints D. The former Pittsburgh Steeler caught 7 passes for 157 yards and a touchdown. As if that wasn’t enough, he also threw a touchdown pass to Raheem Mostert to repay the faith of 49ers GM John Lynch, and of course your faith, savvy fantasy boss.
Jason Sanders – K – Miami Dolphins
It’s a rare day that we give props to a placekicker in fantasy circles, but every now and then one supreme example will rise up to remind us that hey, kickers are people too! Sunday’s meaningless contest between the Jets and Dolphins brought just such an example, as the Miami kicker Jason Sanders scored all of his team’s points in a losing effort in New Jersey.
A week removed from catching a touchdown pass, Sanders notched a franchise single-game record by nailing seven of his eight field-goal attempts, just one shy of tying the NFL all-time record. His fantasy numbers made him a top-25 player at any position in most scoring formats, and while you can’t rely on this production to be repeated, feats like this are the weekly difference-maker that makes fantasy football so great! If you had Sanders in your lineup of course.
Russell Wilson – QB – Seattle Seahawks
Mid-season chatter had Russell Wilson in the mix with Lamar Jackson as an MVP candidate, as the Seahawks passer torched defences with his accuracy and improvisational talent outside the pocket. The former Super Bowl champ had only lost to New Orleans and the Baltimore Ravens, both of whom have Super Bowl aspirations of their own, and he hadn’t posted a fantasy stat line of less than 14 points through the first ten weeks of the season.
Since then however the Seahawks star has been struggling, and Sunday might have been his toughest outing. Facing the division rival LA Rams, Wilson threw for 245 yards without a score in a 28-12 defeat. Most worryingly for both Seahawks fans and fantasy managers alike, he threw an interception for the fourth consecutive game. The Seahawks are built to win with their running game right now, and as long as that trend continues Wilson is going to be a mediocre option at the most important position in fantasy.
Austin Hooper – TE – Atlanta Falcons
The tight end position saw more flux this weekend, as the recent solid options of Jets’ Ryan Griffin and Ravens star Mark Andrews both left their games with injury. Miami Dolphins match-up star Mike Gesicki was shut down, and the Vikings tight end Kyle Rudolph’s string of consecutive touchdown-scoring games came to an end at home to Detroit. With all this change, it should’ve been welcome news to see the season’s breakout star Austin Hooper return from injury to the Atlanta Falcons lineup.
Well, it would have been if he had any useful production for you. Hauling in just two passes, Hooper had his second-lowest yardage total of the season with just 32 yards in a favourable matchup. Despite the Falcons putting up 40 points against the floundering Carolina Panthers, Hooper was unable to add to the six touchdowns he’s already scored this year. While the tight end is probably too good not to improve, he was a swing and a miss for fantasy managers hoping he would immediately recapture his early-season form this week.
Alvin Kamara – RB – New Orleans Saints:
So we talked about the incredible high-scoring affair between the Saints and the San Francisco 49ers already, but not everyone was able to cash in on the scoring bonanza. While Brees, Sanders, Michael Thomas and Jimmy Garoppolo all had big days, Alvin Kamara was somehow left with his worst fantasy performance of the entire season.
Although he missed two games through injury this year, Kamara has now had five games to get back to his best. Instead, he had his second consecutive game under 100 combined yards, managing just 25 yards rushing and 18 receiving yards against a sturdy 49ers defensive front. He also failed to find the end zone for the 8th game on the bounce, and to add insult to injury he added a fumble to his stat line. Kamara cost you a lot to put in your lineup, but right now he’s not giving you any bang for your fantasy buck.