Fantasy football suggestions for when you face the player in your league whose stat sheets and player rankings have all gone to hell.
Heading into this football weekend, the biggest questions are who sniped Daniel Jones on his way to the end zone Thursday night and how long will Antonio Brown last in Tampa? It looks like the Fitzmagic era in Miami is coming to an end, so all eyes will be on Tua Tagovailoa as Dolphins fans pray he’ll be the second-coming of Dan Marino while Los Angeles fans are hoping for the same with Justin Herbert and Dan Fouts. We’ve reached the fantasy season’s halfway point. The breakout stars have pretty much all been claimed, so now it’s about finding the right matchups, managing upcoming bye weeks, and keeping your fingers crossed. I thought I’d try something new this week and provide an either/or, so when your opponent’s contemplating who they should play, you can steer them towardthe wrong matchup and add another W.
Can Newton, QB, New England Patriots (vs 49ers) or Jared Goff, QB, Los Angeles Rams (vs Bears)
This comparison presents a number of intriguing variables because on paper both could be starters. Most years, choosing between two former overall number one draft picks would put the pumpkin spice in your latte. Newton, the former MVP, now seeking a career resurgence in New England with arguably the greatest mind in football, has two touchdowns and four interceptions in his Covid-disrupted season. Last week, he threw two picks against a Denver defense that was in the bottom-ten and barely cracked 160 passing yards in three of his four games. But what’s deceiving is that his rushing yards have kept his fantasy numbers respectable. Not top-ten but close enough for your opponent have a bite if they had Lamar Jackson or Fitzy on the bye.
Jared Goff is coming off his worst start of the season, throwing for 198 yards, two touchdowns, one INT, and a 50% completion rate. Whereas Newton has more schemes and role players, Goff has explosive weapons in Cooper Kupp, Robert Woods, and Tyler Higbee to bail him out. But this week, LA plays the Bears, who are allowing the fewest QB fantasy points in the league. And we all know what happens to Goff when he’s playing in front of a national audience. Punter Johnny Hekker will be earning his paycheck.
Your angle: Cam can always gain chunks with his legs, so push that California sunshine on Monday Night.
Harrison Butker, K, Kansas City Chiefs (@ Broncos) or Stephen Gostkowski, K, Tennessee Titans (vs Steelers)
Kickers are head cases. But who can blame them? Imagine being the one position on a team where you make a winning play and everyone says you did your job, but one miss, and your teammates are ready to throw you under the bus and the owner’s on the phone organizing open tryouts. Three out of the top fourkickers have a bye this weekend, which means most fantasy players will casually scroll down the line, drop their worst player, and add the next best kicker before dumping them on Tuesday. And you want to steer them toward the next Ray Finkle, the hero of Collier County and one hell of a model American. As I said in an earlier column, I love my kickers. Mostly, because it’s the only position I’d ever have a shot at playing. Yeah, I’m that guy who takes them way too early in the draft and sometimes carries two just in case one gets a hotstreak. A kicker who’s automatic from deep is about as reliable as any short yardage back or Flex, but when they start with the shanks and the yips, it’s time to keep your distance.
Harrison Butker has the advantage of playing with one of the best offenses in the league, which means he gets plenty of opportunities to split the uprights. He’s 10 for 11 on field goals this season, and his only miss was over 40 yards. ESPN has him ranked as the number one kicker heading into the week. But Butker is 14 for 19 on extra points and has missed 4 in his last 5 games. Yeah, we get it, they moved the kicks back to make them a little more challenging, but a seasoned pro can still make that kick with his eyes closed. And now he’s heading to Denver where they’re fighting wildfires and predicting a major snowstorm. The ball’s supposed to sail in the thinner air, but not through wet snow filled with ash. A kick that goes a tad wide will likely end up in the corner row.
Gostkowski, on the other hand, was my top fantasy kicker five years running before I put my faith in Justin Tucker. With the Patriots, Gostkowski averaged close to a dozen points a game,four or five extra points and at least a couple field goals. Kicking on turf at home with a deflated ball and playing against the worst defenses in the league may have boosted his stats, but talent is talent. This year, however, it saddens me to admit that his 36-year-old leg’s worn down. He’s 14 for 19 on field goals,including 1 for 4 from less than 39 yards, and his 0 for 2 FG performance last week means he’s a couple misses away from becoming Lois Einhorn. Pressure? What do we know about pressure? We know enough that the Titans-Steelers is the Game of the Week, and if a Gostkowski miss costs the Titans the game, they better hide T-Rac.
Your angle: Butker’s misses are problematic, but Gostkowski’s are career-enders.
Greg Oldfield’s stories have appeared in Hobart, Carve, Barrelhouse, and Maudlin House, among others. He also writes about soccer for the Florida Cup and the Brotherly Game and often rambles about soccer on Twitter.