5 Burning Questions: Week 13 (2019)
After all three road teams emerged from Thanksgiving victorious, it’s time took look towards the rest of the games in Week 13, the first week since Week 3 with no byes. With marquee matchups between the 49ers and Ravens, the Texans and Patriots, and the Seahawks and Vikings, Sunday and Monday will have all of Thursday’s excitement minus the turkey. Here are my five burning questions for Week 13
Can the 49ers cool down Lamar Jackson and the Ravens offense?
What happens when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object? We may finally have the answer to this question when the Ravens and 49ers face off on Sunday. The Ravens have won their last three games by a total score of 135-26, they rank first in offensive points and yards gained, and Lamar Jackson is currently the front runner in the MVP race. Jackson has thrown 13 touchdowns in his last four games and hasn’t thrown an interception since Week 5, but will the Ravens be able to keep it up against the NFC’s top team?
The 49ers are coming off their most impressive win of the season, holding Aaron Rodgers and the Packers’ offense to just eight points and torching their defense for 37. The 49ers defense has allowed the fewest yards and the second-fewest points scored this season, but if Jackson can run through them like he did the Patriots’ defense two weeks ago, the Ravens will be the clear Super Bowl favorites.
Jackson is displaying an elite running ability that we haven’t seen since Michael Vick was in his prime, and he’s passing the ball better than most initially gave him credit for. I think the 49ers will be able to slow the Ravens down a bit better than the Rams, Texans, or Dolphins could over the past three weeks and they’ll be able to contain Jackson as a passer, but I think he’s going to beat them with his legs and natural ability to create on the fly.
Is Baker Mayfield’s current hot streak the real Baker?
Baker Mayfield’s play over the first half of the season was a huge step backward from the potential he showed as a rookie. Though now he’s strung three competent games in a row together where he’s thrown seven touchdowns and just one interception and has the Browns right at the edge of the AFC playoff race. Are we going to see more of this Baker?
Fantasy football players are not a forgiving type, and Mayfield burned a ton of who wasted a relatively early pick on a quarterback with a pretty brutal first eight games. He didn’t have a single game in his first eight with multiple touchdown passes. He did a lot of damage to his reputation as an ascending young quarterback in this league, especially given all the weapons the Browns set him up within the passing game.
The one thing that’s changed in the last three games though is the return of Kareem Hunt. Hunt is a deadly weapon as a receiver out of the backfield and has compiled 20 targets over his first three games. The Browns offense has a completely different look when they’re able to have Nick Chubb and Hunt on the field at the same time. It sounds like a put down to say that Mayfield needed Odell Beckham Jr, Jarvis Landry, Nick Chubb, and Kareem Hunt to be a successful quarterback, but now that he’s got them all (plus David Njoku coming back), he should continue his recent surge going forward (he’s the fantasy QB4 over his last three games).
Does Andy Dalton give the Bengals’ skill players a bump for the fantasy playoffs?
Apparently, the Bengals only wanted to see what they had in Ryan Finley, and are now turning back to Andy Dalton to be their starter. With that news, should fantasy owners feel any more confident about Joe Mixon and Tyler Boyd going into the playoffs?
Here’s the deal: the Bengals offense is bad no matter who is under center. In Finley’s three starts the Bengals only scored 10, 10, and 13 points, but under Dalton, they’ve only reached 20 points twice on the season, with their highest total being 23.
Joe Mixon had his only rushing touchdown with Finley as a starter, and actually averaged 4.43 yards per carry under Finley compared to 3.17 on the season with Dalton as the starter. Tyler Boyd scored one touchdown with Dalton and one with Finley, though he saw double-digit targets in five games with Dalton and only got as high as nine with Finley. The bottom line is that while Dalton is a better and more experienced quarterback than Finley, don’t pretend like you were getting great value out of Mixon and Boyd before Finley took over. Dalton returning doesn’t offer more than a slight boost.
Saquon Barkley has not been the same guy since coming back from injury, and really, he hasn’t looked like what he was as a rookie since Daniel Jones took over the offense. In the first two games of the season with Eli Manning as the starter, Barkley had 274 total yards and a touchdown. In six games with Daniel Jones, he’s only scored one touchdown (receiving) and only hit 100+ total yards in a single game.
There are a lot of factors that I believe go into Barkley’s diminished play, starting with his injury, even though he insists his slump is completely unrelated. The Giants switched to a rookie quarterback, their top three receiving threats (Sterling Shepard, Golden Tate, and Evan Engram) are rarely all healthy for the same game, the offensive line is underperforming, and they have one of the worst defenses in football. Not even Saquon Barkley can succeed in a situation like that. I think he’s going to continue to struggle for the rest of this season, but the offseason should be able to heal his injuries and improve his overall situation.
Is there a single reliable fantasy player on the Rams offense?
Jared Goff has not thrown a touchdown in November. He’s gone three games in a row with zero touchdowns, and what was once an offense with an embarrassment of fantasy riches, now looks more like a fantasy wasteland. Goff is the QB20, Todd Gurley is the RB15, and while Cooper Kupp is currently the WR9, his last three stat lines (rec/yards/td) have been 0/0/0, 3/53/0, and 6/35/0, and then Brandin Cooks and Robert Woods have combined for one touchdown this season.
Gurley has been a relatively reliable RB2 this season, largely because he’s found the end zone eight times (he’s not had a 100-yard rushing game yet), and I think he’s the only guy you can confidently start. Goff just had the worst three-game stretch of his career, and although it was against relatively good defenses and now he gets a break with the Cardinals, I can’t confidently start Cooks, Woods, or even Kupp until he can show us anything positive. Not many quarterbacks or offenses can support three fantasy-relevant wide receivers, and right now Goff doesn’t look like he can support one. Even if he manages to break his no touchdown pass streak, there’s no way to tell who that ball is going to. All three Rams receivers have been relegated to risky flex plays.