Fantasy Football Predictions
With the fantasy football playoffs upon us, the available pool of starting players in redraft leagues gets significantly smaller. In a standard 12-team league set up in which six teams make the playoffs, we lose 84 starters and backups rostered by the teams that are out of the hunt. For the playoff-bound owners, the decisions made regarding who to start or who to pick up become much more significant, and therefore fraught with anxiety.
The nine bold predictions I’ll write about in this piece should be outcomes that aren’t widely expected to occur. While I can’t see the future, I think there’s enough data to suggest that these things are more likely to happen than not. With limited options on the waiver wire, the vast majority of a fantasy team’s best available starters are likely to already be on their roster. While I expect that JuJu Smith-Schuster will outscore Antonio Brown this weekend, that doesn’t mean you should bench him on your playoff team.
For DFS purposes, ideally, this will be a source for upside plays (and fades) on the main slate. The ship that is Nine Bold Fantasy Football Predictions was expertly steered by Jason Willian here at Gridiron Experts for most of this season, and I hope that I can take the wheel and avoid some icebergs along the way.
1. Jared Goff will not finish as a QB1
Jared Goff has been a worthy pick for the teams that drafted him, piling up 258.8 fantasy points that ranks him sixth among all quarterbacks for the season. Goff has been notably better at home than on the road in 2018, with 2,199 yards, 18 touchdowns, and two interceptions in six home games versus 1,555 yards, 9 touchdowns, and 5 interceptions in six away games. This week, the opponent is more of a factor than the game location. The Chicago Bears have been excellent at hampering the fantasy scoring of opposing quarterbacks, as not a single one has eclipsed 17 fantasy points against them over their past six games. While Goff should outperform his Week 13 8.1 fantasy point road performance against the Lions, he’s likely to finish with a point total that will rank outside of the top 12 quarterbacks.
2. Josh Allen is top-five fantasy QB for Week 14
“You’re crazy,” you might say. “No, I don’t mean the ‘wild-and’ variety of crazy, I mean clinically insane.” Okay, that’s harsh and possibly valid, what with Allen ranking as the QB29 for the season, though he does have only eight starts under his belt. Allen grades out as PFF’s 30th ranked quarterback with a 66.5 overall grade, and his 64.4 adjusted completion percentage is dead last among all qualifying quarterbacks. What if I told you that Allen has been a top-5 fantasy quarterback in each of the past two weeks? It’s true, and it’s far more a result of his rushing abilities than his passing accuracy. In the two games since the Bills returned from their bye (and Allen to his starting role), Allen has rushed for 234 yards and a touchdown. The Jets haven’t allowed a quarterback to rush for a touchdown, but they’ve allowed 197 quarterback rushing yards on only 41 quarterback rushing attempts, for a 4.80 yards allowed per quarterback rushing attempt that’s the 12th-highest among 32 teams. Additionally, the Jets have allowed multiple passing touchdowns in nine of their 12 games. The Bills seem to have identified Allen’s rushing abilities as a viable weapon, giving him 13 and 9 rushing attempts from him over the past two games, and there’s little reason to assume that changes in Week 14.
3. Dante Pettis will finish the week as a top-5 fantasy WR
The start to Dante Pettis’ NFL career was hampered by a knee injury that cost him four games in this season’s first half, but since the 49ers Week 11 bye, he’s played in over 90% of the team’s offensive snaps with Pierre Garcon and Marquise Goodwin missing time. Pettis was the fantasy WR3 in Week 13, against a Seahawks defense that’s limited overall wide receiver production fairly well. Pettis now gets to face a Broncos defense that’s missing cornerback Chris Harris, causing a shift at the position for Denver that leaves Pettis likely to face Isaac Yiadom. Per PFF, Yiadom owns an overall grade of 52.3 that ranks 115th out of 128 cornerbacks to log at least 150 snaps. Pettis has received seven targets in each of the 49ers last two games, both a season-high and his impressive production (along with the continued absence of Pierre Garcon) all but ensures that he’ll remain a significant part of San Francisco’s offensive attack.
4. JuJu Smith-Schuster will outscore Antonio Brown
JuJu Smith-Schuster is an extremely talented wide receiver. This is not a hot take. He’s scored the ninth-most fantasy points among wide receivers in PPR formats. His teammate Antonio Brown has scored the fourth-most fantasy points, and is coming off of a Week 13 in which his 31.4 fantasy points made him the week’s WR2. The Steelers face a Raiders defense that appears to be a welcoming matchup, but over the past four games, only five cornerbacks have earned an overall PFF grade higher than Gareon Conley’s 78.2. Conley spends the vast majority of his snaps covering the wide receiver lined up the left side, which for the Steelers is most frequently Brown. The Steelers regularly move their outside receivers to both sides of the field, but Smith-Schuster spends most of his snaps either on the right side or in the slot, which means he’ll see the majority of his coverage from Nick Nelson and Daryl Worley. PFF ranks Nelson and Worley 98th and 109th overall respectively among qualifying cornerbacks over the past four games.
5. Dalvin Cook is a top-ten fantasy running back this week
Dalvin Cook has been a disappointing running back for fantasy purposes this season, but if you hold his injury-riddled first-half performance against him, you’re only hurting yourself. Cook has come on strong over the past couple games, following a brutal post-bye matchup against the Bears in Week 11, who’ve earned PFF’s highest run defense grade at 92.2. Cook now draws the Seahawks run defense, a decidedly softer matchup than either the Packers in Week 12 or the Patriots in Week 13. Seattle has allowed 23-plus fantasy points to opposing running backs in four of their past five games, and in addition to his rushing totals, Cook’s been targeted as a receiver 13 times in his past two games, posting 69 receiving yards and a touchdown. If you’ve got him, start him.
6. LeGarrette Blount is an RB2 for Week 14
LeGarrette Blount is the fantasy RB53 through Week 13, and he owns PFF’s third-lowest overall grade among 57 qualifying running backs at 57.8. This prediction isn’t about Blount’s efficiency, but rather his usage volume and matchup. Given starter’s snaps over the past two games with Kerryon Johnson’s absence, he’s carried the ball 35 times total against two strong run defenses in the Bears and Rams. With Johnson looking unlikely to return this week, Blount should see the majority of the running back snaps against a Cardinals defense that has struggled mightily to stop the run. They’ve allowed the fourth-most fantasy points per game to running backs with an average of 30.8. In the past four games alone, they’ve allowed 446 rushing yards and five rushing touchdowns. Fire up that Blount.
7. James White will lead Patriots RBs in fantasy points
Through 12 games, James White has a healthy lead in fantasy points among the Patriots running backs. His 232.8 point total is over 127 more than second-place Sony Michel. With Sony Michel’s emergence and Rex Burkhead’s return, White could be relatively overlooked this week, which is a mistake. The Dolphins have allowed an average of 54.4 receiving yards per game to running backs, the seventh-most among all teams. They’re also allowing the seventh-most points to running backs overall at 27.9 points per game, and while Michel should see the majority of the Patriots’ rushing attempts, White is averaging 6 rushing attempts and 27 yards per game in addition to his work as a receiver. The Patriots are a game-plan offense, aiming to attack the defensive weaknesses of their opponents, so you can be sure that Miami’s struggles against receiving running backs hasn’t been overlooked.
8. Vance McDonald will finish the week as a TE1
Vance McDonald hasn’t hasn’t finished as a top-12 tight end since Week 11, posting two straight games with single-digit fantasy point totals. For the season, he stands as the TE13 overall, which says as much about the sorry state of the position in 2018 than anything else. All that being said, McDonald gets a matchup with the Raiders defense that is one of the most inviting in the NFL. The Raiders are allowing an average of 16.9 fantasy points per game to tight ends, second-most behind only the Chiefs. Coincidentally, they are coming off of a game against Kansas City in which they allowed 207 yards and three touchdowns to the Chiefs tight ends. The last time the Steelers faced a team in the bottom-five against opposing tight ends was in Week 10 against the Panthers, when McDonald finished as a TE1 with 14.4 fantasy points, his second-highest point total of the season behind his 21.2-point matchup in Week 3 against the Buccanneers, another member of the bottom-5 defenses defending tight ends.
9. The Patriots D/ST is a top-1o option in Week 14
It would be easy to fade the Patriots defense this week if you look at their overall season-long performance. Their D/ST has scored four or fewer fantasy points in six of their 12 games, and double-digit points in just four of those games. Playing in Miami has been an extensively-documented horror show for New England. That being said, they’re the D/ST13 for the season so far, and they’ve relied most heavily on interceptions from their secondary for fantasy points. They’ve gotten 14 picks so far, tied for third-most, and they’ve earned a 92.3 overall coverage grade, PFF’s second-highest behind the Bears. Tannehill has returned from injury to start Miami’s past two games, and while he’s certainly an upgrade over Brock Osweiler, he hasn’t faced a secondary since his return comparable to what the Patriots bring to the table. Cornerback Stephon Gilmore has PFF’s third-best coverage grade at 90.1, while Jason McCourty has the ninth-best mark at 84.3. Undrafted rookie J.C. Jackson saw a season-high 54 snaps in Week 13, earning a 71.3 coverage grade. The Dolphins don’t have the talent or depth at wide receiver to consistently win these matchups, and this should lead to coverage-sack opportunities for New England. The Dolphins have allowed the seventh-most fantasy points to D/STs on a per-game average, and they’ve allowed three or more sacks in four of their last six games.
Good Luck this week!