One Big Thing – AFC – Week 12

Updated: December 5th 2020

Every week we learn a little bit more about how a team sees each player as a part of their offense allowing fantasy footballers to react (positively or negatively) to those actions. Each week I will look to capture the “One Big Thing” that should have an impact on each team going forward and how you, the savvy fantasy player, can use that to your advantage.

AFC EAST

 New England

How an NFL team wins a game where they pass for less than 90 yards and have two interceptions in the modern NFL still confuses me days after the fact. Cam Newton has shown small samples of what he was during his time with Carolina but it has not been enough to likely keep him in New England for a second season. The Patriots’ offensive game plan has always been centered on timing routes with precision accuracy and Newton has not shown much improvement in his accuracy, missing open receivers on both short and deep routes. There was a chance that Newton could springboard this opportunity with New England into a long-term contract with a new team but he likely will need to be a backup who competes for a starting job if he wants to stay much longer in the NFL. With the NFL salary cap likely to be squeezed this offseason if Newton is still on a contract from past years, he is a likely starting point for off-season cut candidates in RSO.

 Miami

DeAndre Washington was a trade deadline addition for the Dolphins that flew under the radar due to rookie Salvon Ahmed coming off two strong performances. With Ahmed missing week 12 and Myles Gaskin still out Washington led the Miami backfield in touches and snaps against the Jets. If the Dolphins are trading for players they must have seen a need at the position and therefore Washington could have a role down the stretch. Not enough to put him on the fantasy radar but enough to be worried about Gaskin’s role when he returns. Depending on who the quarterback is could also influence how much the pass-run ratio works in their favor.

 NY Jets

Five (5) more games till Trevor Lawrence is all that Jets’ fans can be thinking at this point. After almost accidentally winning on Monday night three weeks ago, the Jets have turned back into the pumpkin that they were the first eight weeks of the season. Frank Gore dominated the snaps (60 percent) and backfield touches (21 of 25) with La’mical Perine out so if the Jets were more likely to be in scoring situations he would be a great pickup as an RB3. Unfortunately, he does not contribute enough without scoring a touchdown each week to be useful for all but the most desperate of leagues. Five more games Gang Green, five more games.

 Buffalo

The Bills got their win on Sunday but it did not look easy as the offense frequently tried to let the Chargers back in the game during the fourth quarter with two fumbles and an interception. Stefon Diggs also had his worst performance since week 7’s dud against the Jets. The Bills do not have much of a cushion between them and the Dolphins in the standings so if they want a home playoff game they can ill afford to play down to the level of their opponent in games as they have against the Chargers last week and the Jets in week 7. Leaning on the combination of Zach Moss and Devin Singletary down the stretch may not be a bad idea.

AFC NORTH

 Cincinnati

The score can be deceiving as despite having a respectable 17 points the Bengals scored a kick return touchdown on special teams and their field goal came off a fumble that started the drive at their 45 yards line. In total, the offense only had 155 yards and turned the ball over three (3) times. Tee Higgins’ touchdown late saved what would have otherwise been a terrible fantasy performance for all Bengals’ players and it would be risky to start any player over the final four games of the fantasy season. This really shows how one good quarterback can elevate a bad team to at least a mediocre one. This team is back to where it was ending last season without Joe Burrow.

 Cleveland

Jarvis Landry came off the milk carton with over 140 yards receiving and a touchdown after playing three miserable games in bad weather. For what it was worth Baker Mayfield did well enough to be considered at least a game manager with two (2) touchdowns, no turnovers, and 250 passing yards. Most will still point to the wide-open touchdown that he missed Jarvis Landry on in the red zone and there is no excuse for what that was. The Browns do not have to be spectacular to win games because of their defence and running game but they do need to avoid turnovers and long stretches during games with inefficient quarterback play. Giving the ball around the goal line to Nick Chubb seemed to work too so they should continue to do that.

 Baltimore

Hard to pull any conclusions from that game as much of the offensive group was unavailable to play due to COVID protocols and this was more like a week 4 pre-season game than a do or die week 12 divisional game. Marquise Brown finally did something with third-string quarterback Trace McSorley in the game late, breaking past a sleeping defender to score a long 70-yard touchdown. It was a little disappointing that Dez Bryant was not more involved because of the situation the Ravens were in but with how little the passing game was able to accomplish outside of the one big play maybe he can fit in better over the next four games with Lamar Jackson back…. hopefully.

 Pittsburgh

The Steelers had to run 51 pass plays in a game that they won and the opponent did not score their second touchdown until the final minutes of the game. It shows the lack of running game that the Steelers have had this season and poses a real problem for them once they start playing better opponents in the playoffs. The Chiefs used to have the same problem with being unable to put teams away without an efficient rushing game to keep good opponent’s offenses off the field. It is not necessarily a problem for fantasy as more passing equals more points but for overall team success, the Steelers have to spend the next five games figuring out how to run the ball better.

AFC SOUTH

 Houston

Will Fuller likely played his final game in a Texans uniform after being suspended after Thanksgiving’s game for PEDs but it was a great way to go out. As a team already committed to $192 million and expectation that the NFL salary cap could be, at best, flat to this year the Texans likely do not have the space to bring Fuller back even if they wanted to. There were rumors that they have interest but I am not buying it. In his place, Brandin Cooks stands alone atop the depth chart of reliable options for DeShaun Watson. Keke Coutee will step in to play most of his snaps from the slot position and his fantasy value goes from roster fringe to WR3/4. The Texans do not have any other receivers who have played a snap this season so it will be interesting if guys like Steven Mitchell or Isaiah Coulter are used much as third options or Romeo Crennel and the staff just use more two tight end sets.

 Jacksonville

Collin Johnson took advantage of injuries above him on the depth chart in week 12 to post his first career 100-yard game while playing on 80 percent of the snaps. Chris Conley and D.J. Chark’s injuries are not expected to be long-term and one or both could be back after just one game. Still, the 6’6” rookie made an impression and with much of the wide receiver core being free agents in the offseason there could be a large number of snaps and targets opening up heading into 2021. The final month of the season will act as an audition for Johnson and other receivers to see how much capital the current (or potentially new) coaching staff uses during the upcoming draft.

 Tennessee

Scoring 45 points in a game while only having 13 pass completions often lends to the running game having a big day and at halftime, it sure looked like Derrick Henry was on his way to setting records. The King had 140 rushing yards and three (3) touchdowns before the Titans took their foot off the gas with a comfortable 38-14 lead in the third quarter. I could write superlatives each week about how great Henry is but then this would become the Derrick Henry column and I try to give the spotlight to other players once in a while. But if you score three (3) touchdowns in a half I will keep going back to that well.

  Indianapolis

Jonathan Taylor was a late-week scratch as a high-contact COVID concern so Nyheim Hines got a majority of the snaps (65 percent) for the third time this season, finishing with both the most carries (10) and catches (8) for the Colts. With the Colts seemingly comfortable with all three of the running backs they have and spending the draft capital on Taylor this past offseason, it is highly unlikely the team will target adding another running back in 2021 which is good news for Hines’ future value. He is more likely to be a 1B than a true backup in Frank Reich’s offensive game plan at worst so his fantasy value should continue to hold. Hines is a strong zero-RB auction option next season for those who like to keep their running back contracts shorter and cheaper.

AFC WEST

 LA Chargers

Austin Ekeler returned from his week 4 injury and dominated the touches for the Chargers in week 12 with 14 carries and 11 (!) receptions. It is unfortunate that he missed so much of this season as based on what we have seen from his four (4) full games he likely would have finished as an RB1 on the season. Anthony Lynn likely will not be returning as the Head Coach though after how egregious some of the decision-making was, not only at the end of this game but throughout the season. If a new staff does come in it will be worth monitoring how they feel about Ekeler as a Christian McCaffrey do it all-type of running back or if they want to bring in better options to spread the workload around.

 Las Vegas

What was that? The whole Raiders team collapsed against an up and down Falcons team in a 43-6 thumping but the spotlight focused right in on Derek Carr’s play. I gave all the praise to Carr last week for being a consistent but under-the-radar quarterback in fantasy and he returns the compliment by having four (4) turnovers and negative fantasy points in week 12. Josh Jacobs also got nicked up and is likely to sit out week 13 so my suggestion of adding Devontae Booker in the Street FA Report two weeks ago should pay off for some lucky readers. Luckily for the Raiders, they have the Jets upcoming so hopefully, they can try and regain some of the confidence they had.

 Denver

It was a tough weekend for the Broncos who had to try and play a game after the whole position group was put on lockdown late Saturday. We knew that it was not going to be a good choice to start the skill positions because of this but I think even the biggest critics of the situation did not think there would only be one (1) completed pass the whole game. The team did not have a real shot at the playoffs anyway so in the grand scheme it may help them with securing draft position but it was still a tough situation to be in. We can just scratch all records of that game from the players’ weekly averages and move on to week 13.

Kansas City

The early set of games saw the opportunity for Derrick Henry to maybe have a record-setting day on the ground and after the first quarter people started to have a real conversation about Flipper Anderson’s receiving yards record for Tyreek Hill in the late afternoon window. The Bucs kept putting Hill in man-to-man coverage to start the game and he repeatedly burned them for seven (7) receptions, 203 yards and two (2) touchdowns before the first quarter was finished. They eventually put all the coverage Hill’s way in the second half but after he scored his third touchdown of the first half during the second quarter the damage was already done. As long as the Chiefs keep doing what they do and they do not outsmart themselves as they sometimes are prone to do we likely will see our first repeat Super Bowl Champions since the 2003-04 Patriots.

More Analysis by Nick Andrews