Stephen Gostkowski

Stephen Gostkowski

FOXBORO — Another AFC weekly award for the Patriots.

Following his 4-for-4 performance on Sunday against the Rams, Stephen Gostkowski was named the AFC’s Special Teams Player of the Week. Of his four field goals, three of which were from 40 yards or longer.

It was his 11th career game with at least four field goals, and it marked the third time in his career that has mas been successful on three field goals of 40 or more yards in a single game.

For the season, Gostkowski is 20-for-24 on field goals this season.

It’s the eighth time this season that a Patriots player has earned an NFL honor.

For more Patriots news, visit weei.com/patriots.

Blog Author: 
Ryan Hannable
Dec 4, 2016; Baltimore, MD, USA;  Baltimore Ravens wide receiver Steve Smith (89) runs after the catch during the second half against the Miami Dolphins at M&T Bank Stadium. Baltimore Ravens defeated Miami Dolphins 38-6. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

Steve Smith, at the age of 37, is still running free from defenders. (Tommy Gilligan/USA Today Sports)

The Patriots will not play a team with stronger mental toughness than the Baltimore Ravens. And leading the way is one of the toughest players in the NFL.

Steve Smith, Sr. is in the 16th season of a career that could very possibly earn him a place in Canton.

Smith has twice come back from career-threatening injuries, including an Achilles injury in 2015, in what was supposed to be his final season of his career. But instead of retiring, Smith decided to come back for a third season with the Ravens.

This year, fully healthy, Smith has 54 catches for 589 yards and three touchdowns for a Ravens team that is tied with the Steelers at 7-5 atop the AFC North.

What is it about Steve Smith, now 37, that makes him such a unique and still-productive receiver?

“What a tremendous competitor. This guy is tough. He plays extremely quick,” Patriots defensive coordinator Matt Patricia said. “You wouldn’t really think that he has been in the league as long as he has but he out-competes his opponents every play. He’s just got a drive about him that is definitely, I would say a little bit of an old school mentality that just he’s not going to be out-worked, he’s not going to be out-hustled, he’s not going to be out-competed by anybody else on the field. He’s a tough guy. He plays with great strength and they do a good job of utilizing him.”

This is the same Steve Smith that, while playing for Carolina, caught four passes for 80 yards and a touchdown and returned a kick 30 yards against the Patriots in Super Bowl XXXVIII. This is also the same Smith who made headlines during training camp in 2008 when he was involved in an altercation with teammate Ken Lucas. Smith broke Lucas’ nose during the fight and was later sent home for the remainder of the day after reportedly apologizing.

He was given a two-game suspension by the team. Smith then suffered a severe concussion during the 2008 preseason opener against the Colts, where Smith was hit in the head when catching a pass. He continued to play that game, but did not travel with the team to their next game against the Eagles. After returning from suspension and scoring his first touchdown of the 2008 season, Smith presented the ball to Lucas on the sideline. His career is so remarkable that it was documented in the NFL Films “A Football Life” this season.

“They’re going to move him around, they’re going to put him in different positions and get him the ball where he can either make some people miss or try to run over some people, just kind of use his natural ability to create some space and get yardage,” Patricia said. “But this is a guy that will compete in the run game. He’s going to go in there and he’s going to block, he’s going to get after the defensive backs and he’s going to try to really impose his will and be a physical presence in the run game also – which you don’t see that out of all the receivers week in and week out. This is a guy that just comes to play every week.”

This is also a guy that is still looking for his first ring. He missed out in 2003 in the loss to the Patriots. He suffered a season-ending broken leg in the ’04 season opener. He came to Baltimore in 2014, two seasons after the Ravens’ second Super Bowl title. Now, in what actually could be his final season, he is still catching passes with the dream of getting back to the Super Bowl for one more shot.

Smith has adapted to the “West Coast” offense under offensive coordinator Marty Mornhigweg. His 54 catches are third-most on the Ravens behind Dennis Pitta (61) and Mike Wallace (57).

“I think the thing is there are different offenses that he’s played in so it has been some different types of schemes and systems,” Patricia said. “I’ll say with Baltimore though, for what they’re asking him to do, I don’t really see a – people want to say a decline, or anything like that – I don’t see it. I mean this is a guy that is really competitive and goes out and just out-works.

“In a lot of cases the hustle, the things like that that show up, really out-produce anything else that maybe people are looking for. I think the routes and the system, the West Coast system, with Marty Mornhinweg and what they do from the passing game fits those quicker-type shorter throws where the ball is going to be on him fast and he’s going to be able to get the ball in his hands and be able to get yardage after the catch.”

Blog Author: 
Mike Petraglia
Dec 4, 2016; Baltimore, MD, USA;  Baltimore Ravens wide receiver Steve Smith (89) runs after the catch during the second half against the Miami Dolphins at M&T Bank Stadium. Baltimore Ravens defeated Miami Dolphins 38-6. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

Steve Smith, at the age of 37, is still running free from defenders. (Tommy Gilligan/USA Today Sports)

The Patriots will not play a team with stronger mental toughness than the Baltimore Ravens. And leading the way is one of the toughest players in the NFL.

Steve Smith, Sr. is in the 16th season of a career that could very possibly earn him a place in Canton.

Smith has twice come back from career-threatening injuries, including an Achilles injury in 2015, in what was supposed to be his final season of his career. But instead of retiring, Smith decided to come back for a third season with the Ravens.

This year, fully healthy, Smith has 54 catches for 589 yards and three touchdowns for a Ravens team that is tied with the Steelers at 7-5 atop the AFC North.

What is it about Steve Smith, now 37, that makes him such a unique and still-productive receiver?

“What a tremendous competitor. This guy is tough. He plays extremely quick,” Patriots defensive coordinator Matt Patricia said. “You wouldn’t really think that he has been in the league as long as he has but he out-competes his opponents every play. He’s just got a drive about him that is definitely, I would say a little bit of an old school mentality that just he’s not going to be out-worked, he’s not going to be out-hustled, he’s not going to be out-competed by anybody else on the field. He’s a tough guy. He plays with great strength and they do a good job of utilizing him.”

This is the same Steve Smith that, while playing for Carolina, caught four passes for 80 yards and a touchdown and returned a kick 30 yards against the Patriots in Super Bowl XXXVIII. This is also the same Smith who made headlines during training camp in 2008 when he was involved in an altercation with teammate Ken Lucas. Smith broke Lucas’ nose during the fight and was later sent home for the remainder of the day after reportedly apologizing.

He was given a two-game suspension by the team. Smith then suffered a severe concussion during the 2008 preseason opener against the Colts, where Smith was hit in the head when catching a pass. He continued to play that game, but did not travel with the team to their next game against the Eagles. After returning from suspension and scoring his first touchdown of the 2008 season, Smith presented the ball to Lucas on the sideline. His career is so remarkable that it was documented in the NFL Films “A Football Life” this season.

“They’re going to move him around, they’re going to put him in different positions and get him the ball where he can either make some people miss or try to run over some people, just kind of use his natural ability to create some space and get yardage,” Patricia said. “But this is a guy that will compete in the run game. He’s going to go in there and he’s going to block, he’s going to get after the defensive backs and he’s going to try to really impose his will and be a physical presence in the run game also – which you don’t see that out of all the receivers week in and week out. This is a guy that just comes to play every week.”

This is also a guy that is still looking for his first ring. He missed out in 2003 in the loss to the Patriots. He suffered a season-ending broken leg in the ’04 season opener. He came to Baltimore in 2014, two seasons after the Ravens’ second Super Bowl title. Now, in what actually could be his final season, he is still catching passes with the dream of getting back to the Super Bowl for one more shot.

Smith has adapted to the “West Coast” offense under offensive coordinator Marty Mornhigweg. His 54 catches are third-most on the Ravens behind Dennis Pitta (61) and Mike Wallace (57).

“I think the thing is there are different offenses that he’s played in so it has been some different types of schemes and systems,” Patricia said. “I’ll say with Baltimore though, for what they’re asking him to do, I don’t really see a – people want to say a decline, or anything like that – I don’t see it. I mean this is a guy that is really competitive and goes out and just out-works.

“In a lot of cases the hustle, the things like that that show up, really out-produce anything else that maybe people are looking for. I think the routes and the system, the West Coast system, with Marty Mornhinweg and what they do from the passing game fits those quicker-type shorter throws where the ball is going to be on him fast and he’s going to be able to get the ball in his hands and be able to get yardage after the catch.”

Blog Author: 
Mike Petraglia
Terrell Suggs leads the Baltimore defense into Foxboro for another date with the Patriots. (Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

Terrell Suggs leads the Baltimore defense into Foxboro for another date with the Patriots. (Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

Five things you have to know about Ravens (7-5), who will travel to meet the Patriots (10-2) in a key AFC clash Monday night in Foxboro.

They’re OK at throwing the ball. Veteran quarterback Joe Flacco (321-for-497, 65 percent, 3,258 yards, 15 TDs, 11 INTs) leads a better-than-average passing attack that is currently 12th in the league (258 yards per game). Flacco does a nice job spreading things around in the passing game — six different offensive skill position players have 20 catches or more on the season, led by tight end Dennis Pitta (61 catches, 87 targets, 529 yards, 2 TDs), wide receiver Mike Wallace (57 catches, 92 targets, 851 yards, 4 TDs) and the ageless Steve Smith (54 catches, 76 targets, 589 yards, 3 TDs). The depth of the Baltimore passing game will be a good test for a New England secondary that has been tweaked a bit over the last few months.

They will occasionally have issues when it comes to pass defense. The Ravens are seventh in the league in passing yards allowed, having yielded an average of 222.3 yards per game. (Kirk Cousins, Eli Manning, Dak Prescott and Andy Dalton all had 250 or more passing yards against Baltimore.) The defense is pretty good when it comes to takeaways, as the Ravens have 14 interceptions and eight fumble recoveries. (The 22 takeaways are tied for fourth in the league.) Safety Eric Weddle and linebacker C.J. Mosley are tied for the team lead with three interceptions each, while Terrell Suggs is tops on the team with eight sacks. One more note: former New England defensive coordinator Dean Pees has been Baltimore’s DC since 2012. In four career games vs. Pees’ Baltimore defenses, quarterback Tom Brady is 2-2, and has gone 104-for-171 (61 percent) for 1,194 yards, with five touchdowns and three interceptions. Not bad, but not great either. With Baltimore’s run defense so stout and Rob Gronkowski on the shelf, Monday will be a sizable challenge for Brady and the Patriots’ passing game.

They’re really good at stopping the run. From a statistical standpoint, this is the best run defense the Patriots will face all season. The Ravens allow a paltry 73.8 rushing yards per game and 3.4 yards per carry, both of which are the best total in the league. In nine of the 12 games they’ve played, they’ve held opponents to 65 yards or less on the ground. Only two backs (Matt Forte and Isaiah Crowell) have hit the 100-yard mark all year against them. Bottom line? Don’t look for the Patriots to run the ball a lot on Monday.

As good as they are at stopping the run, they struggle to run the ball as a team. If there’s a weakness to the Ravens, it’s probably their lack of a ground game. Baltimore averages 89.7 rushing yards per game, 28th in the league, while the 3.7 yards per carry is good for 26th overall. Terrance West (163 carries, 650 yards, 5 TDs) is the closest thing they have to a lead back, while Kenneth Dixon (46 carries, 206 yards, 18 catches, 100 yards) is their answer as a third-down/change-up guy. While the Ravens occasionally been able to get the running game cranked up — they had 130 yards in an October loss to the Raiders — they’re pretty much a one-dimensional offense.

Kicker Justin Tucker is one of the best in the league.
Tucker is the only regular kicker in the league who has been perfect when it comes to field goal attempts this season; the Texas product is 28-for-28 from the field (including 8-for-8 from 50-plus) and 20-for-20 on extra points. Punter Sam Koch is pretty good as well, as his 46 yards per punt average is 12th in the league and his 39.4 net is 21st. The Ravens have used a few different returners, but right now, veteran Devin Hester appears to be getting the majority of reps at both spots. Hester gas 24 punt returns for an average of 7 yards per chance and 17 kick returns for an average of 25.1 yards per opportunity. Good numbers, but nowhere near as impactful as he was earlier in his career. They do not have a return for touchdown, but yielded a punt return for a touchdown earlier in the season.

Blog Author: 
Christopher Price

On Sunday against the Rams, the Patriots were hit with eight penalties for 46 yards, not including the calls that were declined or offset. Through 12 games this year, the Patriots have been whistled for 74 penalties (fifth fewest in the league) and 657 penalty yards (11th fewest in the league). Here’s a breakdown of the flags that have gone against New England after 12 regular-season games:

Most penalized players, listed by total flags and with total yardage lost:
OL Joe Thuney: 7 (4 offensive holding, 3 false starts), 55 yards
TE Rob Gronkowski: 5 (offensive holding, 3 false starts, taunting), 40 yards
CB Justin Coleman: 4 (defensive holding, 2 defensive pass interference, clipping — special teams), 53 yards
OL Nate Solder: 4 (chop block, 2 offensive holding, false start), 40 yards
OL David Andrews: 4 (tripping, 3 offensive holding), 40 yards
OL Marcus Cannon: 4 (2 offensive holding, false start, ineligible downfield pass) 30 yards
CB Eric Rowe: 3 (2 defensive pass interference, illegal contact), 63 yards
CB Malcolm Butler: 3 (defensive pass interference, defensive holding, illegal use of hands), 31 yards
TE Martellus Bennett: 3 (3 offensive holding), 30 yards
CB Logan Ryan: 3 (defensive pass interference, illegal use of hands, defensive holding), 30 yards
Team/ST: 3 (illegal shift, 3 12 men on the field), 16 yards
LB Dont’a Hightower: 2 (unnecessary roughness, defensive pass interference), 22 yards
DE Chris Long: 2 (roughing the passer, defensive offsides), 20 yards
WR Chris Hogan: 2 (offensive pass interference, offensive holding), 14 yards
WR Julian Edelman: 2 (2 false starts), 10 yards
ST Jonathan Jones: 2 (offensive holding, false start), 10 yards
DL Alan Branch: 2 (encroachment, neutral zone infraction), 5 yards
RB LeGarrette Blount: 1 (unnecessary roughness), 15 yards
CB Cyrus Jones: 1 (disqualification), 15 yards
LB Jamie Collins: 1 (leaping), 15 yards
QB Tom Brady: 1 (intentional grounding), 10 yards
ST/S Devin McCourty: 1 (offensive holding — special teams), 10 yards
ST/S Nate Ebner: 1 (illegal block above the waist), 10 yards
WR Danny Amendola: 1 (offensive pass interference), 10 yards
OL Shaq Mason: 1 (offensive holding), 10 yards
OL Ted Karras: 1 (offensive holding), 9 yards
DB/ST Brandon King: 1 (false start), 5 yards
P Ryan Allen: 1 (delay of game), 5 yards
TE AJ Derby: 1 (false start), 5 yards
QB Jimmy Garoppolo: 1 (delay of game), 5 yards
LB Jonathan Freeny: 1 (defensive holding), 5 yards
LB/ST Barkevious Mingo: 1 (false start), 5 yards
DL Malcom Brown: 1 (defensive holding), 5 yards
LB Elandon Roberts: 1 (illegal contact), 5 yards
WR Malcolm Mitchell: 1 (false start), 5 yards

Most penalized by position
Offensive line: 21 penalties, 184 yards
Cornerback: 13 penalties, 183 yards
Tight end: 9 penalties, 75 yards
Special teams: 9 penalties, 59 yards
Wide receiver: 6 penalties, 39 yards
Linebacker: 5 penalties, 47 yards
Defensive line: 5 penalties, 30 yards
Team: 3 penalty, 10 yards
Quarterback: 2 penalty, 15 yards
Running back: 1 penalty, 15 yards

Most frequently called penalties
Offensive holding: 20
False start: 15
Defensive pass interference: 7
Defensive holding: 5
12 men on the field: 3
Delay of game: 2
Unnecessary roughness: 2
Offensive pass interference: 2
Illegal use of hands: 2
Illegal contact: 2
Leaping: 1
Disqualification: 1
Tripping: 1
Clipping: 1
Roughing the passer: 1
Chop block: 1
Ineligible downfield pass: 1
Defensive offsides: 1
Intentional grounding: 1
Illegal block above the waist: 1
Neutral zone infraction: 1
Illegal shift: 1
Encroachment: 1

Blog Author: 
Christopher Price

With the stretch drive looming, the AFC playoff picture is starting to come into sharper focus. Here’s a snapshot of the current conference playoff chase, with a look at the top eight teams in the conference, their record, where they stand currently in the race for the postseason and their remaining schedule.

The Patriots played their first game on Sunday since Rob Gronkowski was placed on injured reserve.</p>
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Tom Brady and the Patriots are trying to find a way around the Raiders. (Scott Galvin/USA Today Sports)

Tom Brady and the Patriots are trying to find a way around the Raiders. (Scott Galvin/USA Today Sports)

With the stretch drive looming, the AFC playoff picture is starting to come into sharper focus. Here’s a snapshot of the current conference playoff chase, with a look at the top eight teams in the conference, their record, where they stand currently in the race for the postseason and their remaining schedule. It’s also worth checking out the playoff odds for each team, which are updated every week at Football Outsiders.

1. Raiders (10-2): Remaining opponents: at Chiefs (9-3), at Chargers (5-7), vs. Colts (6-6), at Broncos (8-4) — Opponents record — 28-20 (.583 winning percentage)
And so, here we all are in early December, looking at Oakland as the No. 1 seed in the AFC. Just like we all thought, right? The Raiders, who moved ahead of the Patriots Sunday because of the fact they have the best record in common games, deserve plenty of credit for their body of work to this point. If they can survive the remaining divisional gauntlet, you can’t say Oakland didn’t earn home field advantage.

2. Patriots (10-2): Remaining opponents: vs. Ravens (7-5), at Broncos (8-4), vs. Jets (3-9), at Dolphins (7-5) — Opponents record — 25-23 (.521)
New England’s next two weeks are huge. If the Patriots can beat Baltimore at home and Denver on the road, they’ll be in fine shape heading into the final two weeks. If both New England and Oakland each hold serve over the next three games, the Patriots could be in the rare situation of rooting for the Broncos to beat the Raiders in the regular season finale if they want to get home field. Strange days, indeed.

3. Ravens (7-5): Remaining opponents: at Patriots (10-2), vs. Eagles (5-7), at Steelers (7-5), at Bengals (4-7-1) — Opponents record —26-21-1 (.541)
Baltimore is still in the driver’s seat in the AFC North, but needs to keep winning to stay ahead of the Steelers, who have such a pillowy-soft schedule the rest of the way the guys at Sleep Number should look into using it as a template.

4. Texans (6-6): Remaining opponents: at Colts (6-6), vs. Jags (2-10), vs. Bengals (4-7-1), vs. Titans (6-6) — Opponents record — 18-29-1 (.375)
One of two things is going to happen in the AFC South: Either the Texans will lose a wild-card game, or the Titans will overcome Houston and give pretty much every football fan outside of the greater Houston area the story we all want.

5. Chiefs (9-3): Remaining opponents: vs. Raiders (10-2), vs. Titans (6-6), vs. Broncos (8-4), at Chargers (5-7) — Opponents record —29-19 (.604)
Let’s end the formalities and throw all three AFC West playoff contenders into the octagon now. The two teams that come out warm the right to advance to the playoffs. Thursday’s game between Kansas City and Oakland should be a lot of fun.

6. Broncos (8-4): Remaining opponents: at Titans (6-6), vs. Patriots (10-2), at Chiefs (9-3), vs. Raiders (10-2) — Opponents record — 35-13 (.729)
Denver has the toughest road the rest of the way, but a pair of divisional games over the last two weeks of the season will go a long way toward determining what happens to them.

7. Dolphins (7-5): Remaining opponents: vs. Cardinals (5-6-1), at Jets (3-9), at Bills (6-6), vs. Patriots (10-2) — Opponents record — 24-23-1 (.502)
A big loss this past weekend to the Ravens snapped Miami’s six-game winning streak. If they can take care of business the next two weeks against lesser opponents, the Dolphins could still be in position for that last wild-card spot heading into the regular-season finale against New England.

8. Steelers (7-5): Remaining opponents: at Bills (6-6), at Bengals (4-7-1), vs. Ravens (7-5), vs. Browns (0-12) — Opponents record — 17-30-1 (.354)
Three winnable games over the last month of the season for Pittsburgh means the AFC North chase isn’t over quite yet.

Blog Author: 
Christopher Price

It could be a hat and t-shirt game Monday for the Patriots.

New England can clinch the AFC East Monday for the eighth straight year and 13th time in the last 15 years if a series of events take place:

—A New England win and Miami loss or tie.
—A New England tie and Miami loss.

In addition, New England can clinch a first-round bye in the AFC with the following:

—A New England win and Miami loss or tie plus a Pittsburgh loss or tie.

Blog Author: 
Christopher Price

rotobahn-logoWelcome to the waiver wire, everybody, and props to all those who just qualified for the postseason. It’s Week 14, and in the vast majority of leagues that means half of the teams now are toast. So, while most waiver wires have been picked pretty clean over the last 13 weeks, there will be fewer GMs to compete with when making bids or claims this week. There are some relative values out there in case you have a need or if you want to bolster your bench a bit. The quarterback market is pretty light, but most of you probably are in good shape there. Based on ownership rates, Joe Flacco is the guy to add this week for depth or if you need a Week 14 option. The pickings at the other positions are a little better, as you will see. The plum of this week’s crop probably is Ladarius Green, who busted out against the Giants in Week 13.

As always, I will be working through game film, and I will add a few new names when I post the expanded waiver wire over at Rotobahn on Tuesday afternoon, along with another waiver wire podcast. The pod is a good quick listen, and I will tweet a link to it on as soon as it’s posted. Go here to follow @Rotobahn on Twitter.

If you have tough lineup decisions this week, look for my starts and sits article, which will be posted on WEEI this Friday as always. My lineup rankings, posted at Rotobahn, will go up on Thursday and will have a final update on Saturday.

Good luck to all this week!

The ownership rates listed for each player were sourced from Yahoo!

QUARTERBACKS

Joe Flacco, Ravens, 23 percent

He’s a stable weekly option who happens to be hot right now. The Ravens play a solid playoff schedule, and Flacco is a decent-to-good play each week going forward. Stable. Solid. Decent. I know it’s not exciting, but he can keep you competitive.

Tyrod Taylor, Bills, 63 percent

Taylor has nice playoff matchups, and he has Sammy Watkins back, too. Watkins gives him an actual weapon defenses must respect. Taylor can start for you over the next three weeks, though his play has been erratic the last few games. The bottom line is that he is a dynamic running threat and that gives him a decent weekly floor. The schedule and Watkins’ return give him some ceiling to go with it.

Ryan Tannehill, Dolphins, 26 percent

He’s not an option I like this week, but you can consider adding him for his matchup in Week 15 when the Dolphins travel to play the Jets. The Jets are barely playing football right now and look ready to fold up like a cheap tent. They made Dwayne Allen look like Kellen Winslow Sr. on Monday night.

RUNNING BACKS

Justin Forsett, Broncos, 6 percent

He could potentially be lightning in a bottle. Then again, players switch teams multiple times per season for a reason and Forsett is near his expiration date. The question is, might he have a few good games in his legs? He is returning to the scheme that he’s had the most success in. With Kapri Bibbs done for the year and with Devontae Booker struggling, Forsett could get a good run at some point over the next few weeks. He’s a very strong speculative add in a pretty well-drained free agent market.

Jerick McKinnon, Vikings, 44 percent

He’s not the goal-line back, but he has been more involved in the red zone and scored last week. His targets have been up the last few weeks and he appears to be past the ankle problems that slowed him throughout the middle of the season. McKinnon is a solid flex play in 12-team leagues this week with the Vikings visiting the Jaguars, and things get even better next week when the Vikings host the Colts.

T.J. Yeldon, Jaguars, 55 percent

With Denard Robinson (ankle) now hurt and with Chris Ivory (hamstring) dinged up, Yeldon could be in for some significant workloads the next few weeks. Of course, Yeldon hasn’t been a picture of health himself, and if his ankle is an issue this week then Corey Grant becomes a name to know. Grant is a seriously fast back who has plenty of potential if he is getting the carries.

Dion Lewis, Patriots, 58 percent

He wasn’t used much in the second half of what was a one-sided game from the get go. This week’s game should be more competitive, and the Patriots need wins to secure home field. To me, Lewis makes a solid flex play or even RB2 in 12-team PPR leagues this week.

Kenneth Dixon, Ravens, 46 percent

He’s now in a clear timeshare with Terrance West, but Dixon’s game has really been rounding into shape. He has some appeal in PPR leagues as an RB2 option, albeit a light one. If West gets dinged up, Dixon’s value would skyrocket. The Ravens’ remaining schedule is neither good nor bad.

Wendell Smallwood, Eagles, 37 percent

In Week 13 he was small for sure, but he was a victim of a blowout in the wrong direction. Things might get better this week with Washington visiting the Eagles, but watch out for Ryan Mathews, who could return from his knee injury. If Mathews sits again, Smallwood retains flex appeal. Week 15 value will be scant as the Eagles travel to Baltimore.

Mike Gillislee, Bills, 23 percent

He’s back healthy and posting solid numbers again as the first back up behind LeSean McCoy. He’s a great handcuff for McCoy owners, but he also has some flex appeal in bigger leagues, so he’s a stand-alone option, too.

Charles Sims, Buccaneers, 13 percent

He’s been out a long while so there’s no way to tell just how good he will be when he first comes back. Still, he’s talented enough to make for a nice stash in deeper PPR leagues. He could be startable as a flex by Week 15.

Rex Burkhead, Bengals, 5 percent

In deeper leagues Burkhead could help in desperate situations because he is in a good matchup against the Browns and looks like a good bet to get around 10 touches.

DeAngelo Williams, Steelers, 21 percent

He is one of the most valuable handcuff options out there, and he is healthy again. If you are a Le’Veon Bell owner, you really ought to roster him to cover your posterior. If Bell is out, then Williams starts and is an RB1. He’s a viable handcuff in all leagues now that it’s playoff time.

WIDE RECEIVERS

Tyler Lockett, Seahawks, 37 percent

I’m a big believer in Lockett, and he finally is looking like himself after suffering from a PCL injury through much of 2016. He gets a sweet matchup with Green Bay’s secondary in Week 14, so he has immediate appeal in 12-team leagues. If you are looking for good matchups in Weeks 15 and 16, then Lockett is less appealing as he faces the Rams and Cardinals, respectively.

Malcolm Mitchell, Patriots, 30 percent

He played 85 percent of the offensive snaps, and that’s huge. Mitchell is a very nice add right now, especially in deeper leagues where he has some WR3 appeal. It’s pretty clear that he’s a playmaker and that Tom Brady has an idea of how to use him. Danny Amendola’s high-ankle sprain should keep him out for a few weeks, so Mitchell is pretty well locked in for now.

Dontrelle Inman, Chargers, 20 percent

He’s been consistently productive over the second half of the season, and he’s put a few nice fantasy games together the last two weeks. With Travis Benjamin struggling to regain his pre-injury form, Inman has filled the void. He’s a viable flex this week and can be a WR3 if you need him.

Brandon LaFell, Bengals, 17 percent

The Bengals aren’t going anywhere in 2016. I think that’s a factor as to when or even if A.J. Green returns this season. The odds of Green returning this week are low, in my estimation, and LaFell is coming off a very good game against the Eagles. He should be able to keep it going this week against the Browns, so if you are looking for a WR3 this week, LaFell fits the bill.

Tyler Boyd, Bengals, 53 percent

He gets a very nice matchup with the Browns this week, and he will not see much of Joe Haden in coverage because Boyd usually is deployed as a slot receiver. He can help you this week if you need a WR3 — particularly in PPR leagues.

Pierre Garcon, Washington, 32 percent

He’s been solid for the last few weeks, and that coincides with Jordan Reed’s absence, which obviously opens up targets for other receivers. If Reed sits this week, and I think he will, then Garcon is a viable flex or WR3 in 12-team leagues when Washington travels to Philadelphia.

Ted Ginn, Panthers, 23 percent

Ginn has caught fire the last three weeks after being relatively quiet for 10 games. You can try to ride the wave this week if you have a need at receiver. The matchup is not great, as the Chargers have been relatively tough on receivers. Ginn has been targeted 16 times over the last two games, so the ball is coming his way.

Adam Thielen, Vikings, 16 percent

He’s led the Vikings receivers in snaps the last four weeks. Granted, part of that is due to Stefon Diggs’ sore knee, but Thielen is getting targeted and giving owners consistent flex value in PPR formats. He’s been targeted 20 times over the last two games and has an average matchup this week when the Vikings travel to Jacksonville.

Breshad Perriman, Ravens, 2 percent

He’s a big-time talent and has scored in three straight games. In deeper leagues, he can really be a factor as a WR3. His targets are steady at about four per week, but they are getting him good matchups and you have to think his role is going to grow with the plays he’s been making. He’s a great stash option who you can absolutely play if you have to.

TIGHT ENDS

Ladarius Green, Steelers, 23 percent

He is no longer a stash option, as I have been saying for the last few weeks. Hopefully you already own Green, but if you do not, you still have a chance. He has a big weekly ceiling and is the best player available in most leagues this week. If you are a dazed Rob Gronkowski owner, Green could potentially save your bacon. Go get him — even if it’s to keep him off of your competition’s roster.

Vernon Davis, Washington, 37 percent

The key to his TE1 appeal obviously is the status of Jordan Reed, and there’s no way to know now whether Reed will suit up for Week 14 or even Week 15, for that matter. Davis has looked very good lately and absolutely will see the ball if he’s the starter. He’s shown good rapport with quarterback Kirk Cousins.

Dennis Pitta, Ravens, 33 percent

He’s baaaack. After weeks of futility and low usage, Pitta busted out in Week 13 and dropped nine receptions, 90 yards and two touchdowns on the unsuspecting Dolphins. That type of performance will earn him looks this week when the Ravens travel to Foxboro.

Lance Kendricks, Rams, 15 percent

He did not have a great day against the Patriots, but he gets a very nice matchup this week against the Falcons. He can help you in a deeper league this week if you are in need.

Blog Author: 
Peter Davidson