It’s hardly news that 2020 has been an unusual year.
The COVID-19 pandemic has wreaked havoc on just about every facet of our lives. Sports has been no exception — as the 2020 NFL season has progressed, we have seen more and more players land on the NFL’s COVID-19 list, either due to a positive test or close contact with a player who has tested positive.
As the Denver Broncos will attest after having to start a practice squad receiver at quarterback in Week 12, land enough players at a certain position on the list and it can have a massive impact on a team’s fortunes that week.
But we’ve also seen another impact of the coronavirus — one that could blast a massive hole in a fantasy manager’s playoff chances.
This week marks a first for this column — the Week 13 edition will go live before Week 12 is even all the way into the books. That’s because a COVID outbreak in Baltimore has caused the game between the Baltimore Ravens and Pittsburgh Steelers to be postponed from last Thursday to Sunday to Tuesday to Wednesday.
As of the writing of this column, the Lamar Jackson-less Ravens will face the Steelers Wednesday afternoon. But any more positive tests could put that in jeopardy — and potentially bump the game to the end of the season. In that scenario, the NFL would create a Week 18 to allow postponed games that impact playoff races to be played, while adding an eighth playoff team in each conference.
So far, the league appears highly reluctant to do that. But with COVID cases on the rise around the country, it’s entirely possible their hand will be forced at some point. And every postponement creates a “ripple” effect —Ravens/Steelers getting moved has caused the Week 13 games for both Baltimore and Pittsburgh to be moved to Tuesday, Dec. 8, and Monday, Dec. 7, respectively.
It should go without saying, but I’ll say it anyway — there are more important things in life than fantasy football, and the health and safety of the players matters a lot more than the fantasy postseason.
But fantasy managers need to bear in mind as we wrap the regular season and move into the playoffs that things can change very quickly — whether it’s players being suddenly ruled out or entire games being postponed.
We’ve been fortunate to date that the NFL season has gone off more or less as scheduled.
But this is 2020 — and the year isn’t over yet.
Patrick Mahomes, Kansas City (vs. Denver)
Russell Wilson, Seattle (vs. New York Giants)
Kyler Murray, Arizona (vs. Los Angeles Rams)
Josh Allen, Buffalo (at San Francisco)
Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay (vs. Philadelphia)
Deshaun Watson, Houston (vs. Indianapolis)
Justin Herbert, Los Angeles Chargers (vs. New England)
OFF THE LIST: Lamar Jackson, Baltimore (at Dallas): Jackson missing the Pittsburgh game after landing on the COVID-19 list was just the latest disappointment in a season filled with them for fantasy managers. The silver lining to the game against Dallas being moved back is that Jackson could now (in theory, at least) be eligible to play in Week 13.
ROLL THEM OUT
Derek Carr, Las Vegas (at New York Jets): Fantasy managers who followed my advice to start Carr last week were “rewarded” with a disastrous outing against Atlanta. But this week’s matchup with the winless Jets remains a favorable one.
Kirk Cousins, Minnesota (vs. Jacksonville): Cousins has quietly been a Top 5 fantasy quarterback over the past four weeks, and in Week 13 Minnesota hosts a Jacksonville team allowing the fourth-most fantasy points per game to quarterbacks in 2020.
Taysom Hill, New Orleans (at Atlanta): Hill did very little throwing the ball last week in Denver, but he picked up two scores on the ground for the second straight week and faces an Atlanta team in Week 13 that has allowed the second-most fantasy points per game to quarterbacks in Sharks League Scoring.
Lamar Jackson, Baltimore (at Dallas): This of course assumes that Jackson clears the COVID list ahead of this week’s trip to Dallas. Assuming he does the matchups is a good one, and Baltimore has its collective backs against the wall as we move into December.
SIT THEM DOWN
Josh Allen, Buffalo (at San Francisco): There aren’t many fantasy managers with a good enough secondary option to consider sitting Allen in Week 13, but it’s worth noting with Richard Sherman back the San Francisco defense put the clamps on Jared Goff and the Los Angeles Rams in Week 12.
Kyler Murray, Arizona (vs. Los Angeles Rams): Maybe it’s his injured throwing shoulder. Maybe it’s defenses playing him differently. Whatever the reason, Murray’s rushing numbers have been way down of late — and it’s hurting his fantasy production a significant amount.
Matt Ryan, Atlanta (vs. New Orleans): Back in Week 11 against this same team, Ryan had 232 passing yards, no touchdowns, two interceptions and got sacked eight times. Those are the types of numbers that can wreck a must-win week.
Carson Wentz, Philadelphia (at Green Bay): Wentz’s garbage time touchdown pass against Seattle last week sums up how he has managed to stay fantasy-relevant in 2020. It won’t be easy in a bad matchup for quarterbacks this week against Green Bay.