5. Should you shut down the reigning NFL Most Valuable Player and Offensive Player of the Year for the rest of the fantasy playoffs?
The Dude: Matt Ryan
The Damage: In his last two home outings, the surprisingly struggling Ryan compiled passing lines of 173-0-0 against the Minnesota Vikings (Week 13) and 221-1-3 versus the New Orleans Saints this past Thursday night. He has battled problems with accuracy and mistakes. Should fantasy owners park Ryan on the bench for the duration of the playoffs?
The Diagnosis: TRAP
Unlike the 2016 version of Ryan, the 2017 version isn’t capable of producing in challenging matchups. The Minnesota Vikings defense has allowed the fifth-fewest fantasy points to quarterbacks, and the New Orleans Saints defense has yielded the 13th-fewest fantasy points to the position. I think Ryan will bounce back in his Week 15 road matchup against a Tampa Bay Buccaneers defense that has been very soft against the pass. Ryan lit up Tampa Bay for 317-1-0 back in Week 12, and the Buccaneers allowed a banged-up Matthew Stafford to pass for 381-1-2 this past Sunday. However, I wouldn’t recommend starting Ryan in a Week 17 road matchup against the New Orleans Saints.
6. It’s getting hard to believe this guy was drawing preseason MVP buzz. Can you trust the Silver and Black triggerman in playoff lineups?
The Dude: Derek Carr
The Damage: Carr’s inability to shred a Kansas City Chiefs defense during a Week 14 matchup that has been gashed by just about every other quarterback not named Tyrod Taylor was very troubling. Thanks to some garbage-time action, Carr managed to rack up a 211-1-2 passing line against Kansas City. Since Week 11, he has thrown for an average of 247 yards per contest and has tossed multiple touchdown passes just once. Is there any chance for a Carr rebound in a Week 15 home matchup against a struggling Dallas Cowboys secondary?
The Diagnosis: TRAP
If you own Carr, you’ve probably already benched him weeks ago. If you’re wondering whether he can be trusted in the fantasy playoffs, my answer is an emphatic no. Carr’s problems go way beyond matchups. He has clearly regressed and seems very tentative to take shots down the field. The Oakland Raiders will never admit it, but the switch from now-former offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave to Todd Downing was a colossal mistake. While the Cowboys secondary is very burnable, Carr’s not playing well enough to exploit it. His Week 16 road matchup against the Philadelphia Eagles also looks very unfavorable.
7. Is the run-first-and-run-as-often-as-we-can Jacksonville Jaguars offense now cranking out enough passing volume to support another wideout besides Marqise Lee?
The Dude: Dede Westbrook
The Damage: Averaging 8.3 targets per contest since the rookie made his 2017 debut in Week 11, Westbrook’s receiving yardage numbers have improved each week. This past Sunday, he racked up five receptions for 81 yards and his first regular-season touchdown. Westbrook also has caught at least five balls in three straight. By the way, since Allen Hurns (high ankle sprain) went on the injury shelf in Week 11, Westbrook has out-targeted fellow rookie Keelan Cole 33 to 19 and out-produced him 20-235-1 to 11-202-1. Will Westbrook maintain fantasy asset status throughout the fantasy playoffs?
The Diagnosis: TOSSUP
Westbrook’s production and upside are crystal clear, so perhaps there’s a better question to ask: “Will he maintain his fantasy value when Hurns returns?” He didn’t practice at all last week, so it doesn’t sound like Hurns is close to returning. Westbrook would be a solid starting option in Week 15 against a Houston Texans defense that has surrendered the eighth-most wideout fantasy points. He also looks like a solid play in a Week 16 road clash versus a San Francisco 49ers that ranks just 19th in wideout fantasy points allowed. If Hurns returns, however, all bets are off for Westbrook because of usage concerns. He’ll continue to remain involved, but it’s very hard to predict his target load.
8. And finally, do the Pittsburgh Steelers finally have a fantasy relevant tight end?
The Dude: Jesse James
The Damage: Featured more heavily than ever before, James racked up 10 catches for 97 yards on 12 targets, which were all career highs, during the Pittsburgh Steelers’ come-from-behind Sunday night victory over the Baltimore Ravens. Has James finally emerged as a starting fantasy option?
The Diagnosis: TRAP
While I think James could offer some low-end streaming value, I wouldn’t overreact to his surprisingly stellar Week 14 outing. James was featured heavily probably because JuJu Smith-Schuster was serving a one-game league suspension. In case you didn’t see the Ravens game, Martavis Bryant also was playing somewhat sluggishly. In addition, Ben Roethlisberger had to attempt 66 passes and throw for 506-2-0 for James to rack up such a huge fantasy outing. In case you’re interested, his Week 15 opponent, the New England Patriots, rank 15th in tight end fantasy points allowed, and the third-year pro’s Week 16 opponent, the Houston Texans, have coughed up the sixth-most fantasy points to the position.