We have arrived. Just about everyone’s fantasy playoffs are now in full swing and it is glorious. Berths have been earned, byes clinched, and tears shed over the last minute losses that eliminated many a playoff hopeful.
For those of you still in contention for a championship, these final weeks will carry some of the most crucial lessons of the entire year. Making the right start or snatching the right breakout waiver gem means more now than ever before. But for those of you who are out of the race, don’t doze off! Some of the things we learn at the end of the fantasy season have huge implications for next year. Keep your ears open, or you could miss out on 2017’s version of rookie David Johnson.
With all that in mind, let’s dive into the fantasy classroom for 10 lessons learned in Week 13.
1. Jermaine Kearse Adding To Jets Aerial Attack
When Robby Anderson became a legitimate fantasy starter (and now star), it seemed like that was likely all we could expect from the ever-underwhelming New York Jets. Not so fast, says Jermaine Kearse. The former Seahawk absolutely smoked the Chiefs for 157 yards on nine receptions (10 targets) on Sunday, one week after pulling down 7-for-105 and a touchdown against the Panthers. Through the two games since the Jets’ Week 11 bye, Kearse has garnered 21 targets, a close second to Anderson’s team-leading 22, and leads the team in yards. With Josh McCown continuing his surprising play, Kearse is worth a FLEX consideration, though upcoming matchups against the Broncos, Saints, Chargers, and Patriots could prove rocky.
2. Jimmy Garropolo Is Good For Goodwin
And for the entire 49ers organization, it would seem. Yes, we are working off an extremely small sample size (barely more than one game), but Garropolo has been impressive so far and Marqise Goodwin looks to be the prime fantasy beneficiary. Jimmy G hit Goodwin on a perfect 8-of-8 throws for 99 yards, and himself has a San Fran stat line of 28-of-29 (71.8%) for 311 yards, one TD, and one not-his-fault interception. With the lack of other weapons in SF and the switch to Garropolo, Goodwin’s good fortune has him in the high-end WR3 conversation, making him a viable starter in upcoming matchups with the Texans and Titans.
3. Alfred Morris Will Dominate Positive Game Scripts
Through the first few weeks of the no-Zeke era, Alfred Morris had looked pretty good but pretty limited, losing snaps to Rod Smith as the Cowboys struggled to stay in games. Fortunately, a “revenge match” against the Redskins on Thursday was more than enough to right the ship for Dallas and for Morris. The veteran RB took advantage of an early lead and a resurgent offensive line to run for 127 yards and a touchdown on a whopping 27 carries. He seemed to get stronger as the game wore on, breaking off regular eight- or nine-yard runs to keep the WAS offense off the field. As such, Morris should be a full-go for the next two weeks in favorable matchups against the hapless Giants and porous Raiders.
4. Peyton Barber Is Good Enough To Supplant Doug Martin
Sadly, that’s not too tall of an order, as Martin’s efficiency has deteriorated massively over the past several weeks. Filling in for Martin (concussion) against the Packers, Barber was absolutely electric in every aspect of the game. He racked up 102 yards on 23 carries and caught all four of his targets for an additional 41 yards. For anyone keeping score at home, that’s more rushes, receptions, and scrimmage yards than Martin has had in any game this season. Considering Martin’s unreliable past, Barber’s youth, and the Bucs’ lost season Tampa Bay should consider sticking with Barber even when Martin returns. Barber is a must-own commodity until we see what the Bucs do, and is nearly a must-start next week if Martin sits.
5. Jamaal Williams Is In Charge In Green Bay
Speaking of backs making impressions in the GB vs. TB game, take a look at Jamaal Williams. With Ty Montgomery now on IR (wrist) and Aaron Jones only just returning from an MCL sprain, Williams stole the show on Sunday. The rookie rumbled for 113 yards and a TD on 21 carries and added 10 yards on two catches in the passing game. The only carry he ceded to Jones came on the game-winning play in overtime, moments after Williams had snagged a 12-yard gain to get Green Bay into the red zone. As long as Brett Hundley is under center, the Packers will lean on Williams heavily. And if Aaron Rodgers hits the field in Week 15, it can only help the entire offense.
6. Dede Westbrook Has Sneaky Snart Potential
If you’re looking for an under-the-radar flier for a playoff glory play or dynasty stash, let me introduce you to Dede Westbrook. A rookie WR from Oklahoma, Westbrook was incredible in the preseason, then missed the majority of the season following a core muscle surgery. Since returning in Week 11, Westbrook’s targets, receptions, and yards have trended upwards, resulting in six catches on nine targets for 78 yards against the Colts this week. He gets a banged up Seahawks secondary next week, followed by juicy fantasy finale meetings with the Texans and 49ers. If Westbrook continues to earn an increased role, he could be a sneaky league-winning start in those games and has a very promising future.
7. Alex Collins Is A Must-Start Fantasy Surprise
We’ve highlighted Alex Collins and his dynamic running style before (Lessons Learned in Week 8), but now he is established as the lead back in Baltimore. Against the playoff-hungry Lions, Collins took 15 carries for 75 yards and two dagger-like touchdown runs, adding two catches for 23 yards to boot. Collins calls back images of a fast, young Marshawn Lynch as he charges through defenses with reckless abandon. Next week against the Steelers could be softer than it seems without LB Ryan Shazier, and Baltimore gets Cleveland and Indianapolis in Weeks 15 and 16, offering plenty of opportunities for positives game script to boost Collins’ numbers. He’s a must-start rest of season, with fringe RB1 potential in any given week.
8. Josh Gordon Is …. Back
It’s tough to make a call on Josh Gordon’s immediate future based off one game. Remember that he had a good debut in 2014 following his first NFL absence, before dissolving into the mess that missed the last two years of football. Still, while he likely didn’t win anyone the week, Gordon was the most targeted Browns receiver (11) and snagged four receptions for 85 yards. The poor catch rate was a product of DeShone Kizer‘s shoddy QB play and a dominant Chargers secondary, but Gordon made the most of what he could grab and finished with more yards than any other WR against LAC this year outside of Odell Beckham Jr. The former phenom has a slew of tough matchups upcoming, but if Gordon is truly resurgent, it may not matter.
9. Marshawn Might Still Be Marshawn
Is it possible the Raiders have been saving Marshawn Lynch all season for a playoff push? Certainly seems like it, as Lynch has now strung together back-to-back games of 17 or more carries after failing to do so in any game since Week 1. Against the failing New York Giants, Lynch beasted his way to 101 yards, including a 51-yard, vintage-Lynch TD, and added 20 yards more through the air. As Oakland fights with Kansas City and the Chargers for control of the AFC West, we may be seeing an unleashing of Lynch in the final quarter of the season. Next week against the Chiefs may be the biggest opportunity left, as Lynch faces tough run defenses in Dallas and Philadelphia over the following two weeks.
10. Mike Davis Is Saving The Seattle Ground Game
Speaking of Marshawn Lynch, the Seattle Seahawks have been searching desperately for a successor since Lynch retired following the 2015 season. They had Chris Carson earlier this year only to see him succumb to injury and have limped along with an amalgamation of underperformers since. No longer. Mike Davis was promoted from the practice squad a couple weeks ago, looked great for part of a game, was injured, and finally played a healthy contest this week on Sunday night. He did not disappoint, totaling 101 yards on 20 touches and playing the vast majority of snaps in every situation. Davis finally offers some balance to Seattle’s offense and could dance with RB2 potential in the fantasy playoffs.