Bears

Fantasy Football Start/Sit: Playoffs Week 2

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Fantasy Football Start/Sit: Playoffs Week 2

Knocked out of the playoffs already? 

It happens. Especially when big time injuries bite you like Andy Dalton and Thomas Rawls. 

But have no fear, football fans.

For there is a savior on the horizon. And he goes by the name of Chaz Whitehurst. 

 

 

 

 

He's so majestic (even though he's unlikely to start this week with Matt Hasselback listed as probable. But, hey, at least he's somewhat relevant again).

With the playoffs still going and likely a decent chunk of money at stake, it's not time to hold back. So we didn't with our picks this week. And neither did Enes Kanter with this shot...

 

So let's jump right into all the action this week with our starts and sits. As always, good luck this week. 

Start

Javorius Allen, RB, BAL (vs. KC) - The matchup isn't great (Chiefs are a Top 5 defense vs. fantasy RBs), but more about volume and situation for Allen. Matt Schaub will hopefully be under center this week and the Jimmy Clausen experiment could come to a close and now Allen doesn't have to face the stout Seahawks defense this week. Plus, his volume has been out of this world since he took over full-time for Justin Forsett in Week 11. In the last four games, Allen has received 59 carries and 32 targets in the passing game (catching 26 of those). The Ravens figure to keep feeding Allen again this week and he is especially valuable in PPR leagues. (Tony Andracki)

John Brown, WR, ARI (@ PHI) - Brown has been an enigma all season, entering the year as a serious sleeper candidate and then promptly scoring in Week 1. But then he turned in pedestrian totals before a big 10-catch, 196-yard performance in Week 6. Then he battled a hamstring injury, put up a couple goose eggs and now has posted four straight good - but not great - games in a row. Expect this week to be a "great" outing, as the Eagles give up the most fantasy points to WRs this season. Brown is a must-play. (Andracki)

Jay Cutler, QB, CHI (@ MIN) - Cutler is coming off one of his best games of the season and finally has a relatively healthy group of weapons available. Tight end Zach Miller has been a revelation this season (even better than Martellus Bennett) and Eddie Royal has also returned and is another week along from a knee injury that cost him more than a month and a half. The Vikings have been torched pretty good by the pass the last couple weeks, so I'm expecting a 20+ point day from Cutler this week. (Andracki)

Tim Hightower, RB, NO (vs. DET) – It’s Tim Hightower’s backfield now in New Orleans, with his 28-carry performance last week as a good indicator that you’ve got a workhorse on your fantasy roster. Now he gets a Lions defense that been had against the run he’s a smart play. I also like Willie Snead (see below) as I think the Saints will be airing it out, but 28 carries last week says a lot. You want a high floor this week, and it’s Hightower’s backfield. Feel comfortable starting him. (Mark Strotman)

David Johnson, RB, ARI (@ PHI) - What's not to like about Johnson? The Cardinals offense is incredible and Johnson has been the biggest beneficiary since CJ2K going down. Andre Ellington isn't reliable at this point and Kerwynn Williams won't pass D. Johnson on the depth chart. Johnson also has major value in the passing game and against the Eagles, Johnson should feast. In a week filled with RBBC and other tough matchups, Johnson is a guy you must start. (John "The Professor" Paschall)

Matt Jones, RB, WAS (vs. BUF) – We’re on to the semifinals in standard leagues, meaning I need to find guys with high floors. I’m not trying to go boom-or-bust with my picks, as the potential rewards don’t outweigh the risk. You’ve gotten this far because you made level-headed decisions, and with Matt Jones receiving 18 and 19 rushes the past two weeks he’s a good bet to at least tough high single-digit points. The Bills are anything but an easy defense to run the ball against, but as long as Jones gets carries (and a few catches out of the backfield) you’ll enjoy his FLEX points this week. (Strotman)

Tyler Lockett, WR, SEA (vs. CLE) - I know Doug Baldwin has stolen the spotlight right now but how about Lockett lately? 13 catches for 194 yards and two touchdowns in his last two games is pretty good. He's also always a threat to take a punt return back for a touchdown. While you should never count on return TDs when you start guys, it's clear Lockett has a big time role in the offense now and against a horrible Browns defense that doesn't even have its best corner, Lockett should be in for another huge game. (Paschall)

Willie Snead, WR, NO (vs. DET) – In line with keeping guys with high floors, the targets Snead has seen (eight or more in four of his last five games) make me feel good about Snead at the very least having a chance. He made good on that chance last week, catching seven passes for 122 yards against Tampa Bay. He hasn’t scored since Week 9 in that wild shootout with the Giants, but that could change in what should be a high-scoring Monday night affair against the Lions. (Strotman)

Matt Stafford, QB, DET (@ NO) - It's the classic "Start the QB against the Saints" move. But it's valid with Stafford who has the weapons to put up big numbers. Monday Night also brings out the best in most players and I'm thinking this one will be a shootout. Megatron will rebound off an awful week last week and Stafford will be in a TD war with Drew Brees. If your QB was Dalton heading into the playoffs, Stafford is the perfect replacement this week. (Paschall)

Sit

Travis Benjamin, WR, CLE (@ SEA) - Top receivers don't do well against the Seahawks. It's not like the Browns have a lot of options to help distract the Seahawks away from Benjamin. It should be a long day for Johnny Football on the road and Benjamin won't provide much help. The speedster has had a nice year but this is a nightmare playoff matchup for fantasy owners. Stay away. (Paschall)

Dez Bryant, WR, DAL (vs. NYJ) - Revis Island. Matt Cassel. Bad foot. It's a recipe for disaster. Bryant has been awful since returning and it's really hurt fantasy owners. Don't let him hurt you again this week in what should be an awful matchup for Bryant. (Paschall)

Martavis Bryant, WR, PIT (vs. DEN) – I don’t feel great about this sit, but I can justify it because he’s going up against a Broncos defense ranked first against the pass. He didn’t show that big-play capability last week against Cincinnati, catching seven passes for just 49 yards. This game will have a grind-it-out feel, which could limit the Steelers’ vertical passing game. If you need to start Bryant, go on and do it. The dude is capable of going for 6 on any play. Just know the Broncos are for real and won’t make anything easy for him. Tough call here, but I may try and find someone with a higher floor. (Strotman)

Amari Cooper, WR, OAK (vs. GB) - Pick a number, any number. Your guess is as good as anyone else’s about how many fantasy points Cooper will put up this week. In his last five weeks he’s gone: 10.4, 0.9, 17, 8.2 and 0. Now he gets a Packers defense that, even with the Matt Cassell factor, limited Dez Bryant to one catch for nine yards. With Michael Crabtree emerging and Cooper dealing with a minor foot injury, it’s probably best to leave the rookie on your bench as you look to advance in the fantasy playoffs. (Strotman)

Frank Gore, RB, IND (vs. HOU) – Father Time is undefeated, and Gore hasn’t topped top carries since Week 9. He also hasn’t scored since Week 9 and has tallied double-digit points once in that span of four games. That doesn’t do enough for me to feel good enough on an offense led by Matt Hasselbeck facing that terrifying Texans defense. Gore had success against Houston in Week 5, but that was with Andrew Luck under center. Things have changed since then, and I’m not feeling good about Gore doing much with his 13+ carries. (Strotman)

Jeremy Hill, RB, CIN (@ SF) - The Niners have allowed the most fantasy points to running backs this season. But...almost all of that has come on the road. As The Professor pointed out to me this week, the Niners are actually pretty solid against the run at home (surrendering only 21.67 pts/gm compared to 35.3 pts/gm on the road). Hill is just so untrustworthy that you have no idea what to expect from him and there's a strong chance you wind up with a one- or zero-point fantasy day from him. Do you want that in the playoffs? I didn't think so. (Andracki)

Ronnie Hillman, RB, DEN (@ PIT) - The Steelers are almost as good as the Jets at limiting fantasy production from running backs (see below). The Broncos are STILL struggling to get their running game going and Hillman can't find any success lately (averaging just 3.0 yards per carry the last three games). With C.J. Anderson returning to health and the poor matchup, it's not worth gambling on Hillman this week. (Andracki)

Ryan Mathews, RB, PHI (vs. ARI) - Saying he's the best running back in Philly is nice and all, but when will he start playing like it? The Eagles backfield is such a mystery between Mathews, DeMarco Murray and Darren Sproles that I don't know if there's one running back I can trust this week. Add on the tough matchup against the Cardinals and Mathews is heading to my bench. (Paschall)

Darren McFadden, RB, DAL (vs. NYJ) - Just don't start running backs against the Jets. Don't do it. Seriously. In three separate games this season, running backs have failed to combine for even 10 rushing yards against New York (Patriots RBs in Week 7, Dolphins RBs in Week 12, Titans RBs in Week 14). Oh yeah, and the Jets have allowed one rushing TD to RBs this season and none since Week 3. If you had Adrian Peterson going up against the Jets, sure, play him. But an inconsistent Darren McFadden playing amidst a pathetic Cowboys offense? Nooooo thanks. (Andracki)

2017 Bears position grades: Inside Linebacker

2017 Bears position grades: Inside Linebacker

2017 grade: B+

Level of need: Low

Decisions to be made on: Christian Jones (free agent), John Timu (free agent), Jonathan Anderson (free agent); Jerrell Freeman has reportedly been cut

Possible free agent targets: Demario Davis, Preston Brown, Anthony Hitchens, Avery Williamson, Navorro Bowman, Derrick Johnson

How the Bears rate Nick Kwiatkoski will be the key to figuring out what this unit will look like in 2018. Defensive coordinator Vic Fangio thought Kwiatkoski finished last season strong, but strong enough to rely on him in 2018 as the starter next to Danny Trevathan?

The thing with the Bears’ inside linebackers, though: Trevathan makes whoever is playing next to him better. The problem is Trevathan hasn’t been able to stay on the field — he missed time in 2017 with a calf injury and a one-game suspension, and missed half of 2016 after rupturing his Achilles’. Trevathan hasn’t played a full 16-game season since 2013, so durability is an issue for the soon-to-be 28-year-old.

So that leads to this question: Do the Bears need to find someone in free agency, regardless of how they value Kwiatkoski, who’s also missed time due to injuries in his first two years in the league?

Free agency could provide a few options. Demario Davis had a career high 97 tackles for the New York Jets last year and has never missed a game as a pro. Preston Brown had some decent production in Buffalo and also hasn’t missed a game since being drafted in 2014. Avery Williamson may not be a world-beater but has only missed one game in his four years in the NFL.

The Bears could also opt for someone who fits more of a rotational mold, like Dallas’ Anthony Hitchens, or try to lure a veteran linebacker like Navorro Bowman (who played for Vic Fangio in San Francisco) or Derrick Johnson (who Matt Nagy knows from his Kansas City days) to play next to Trevathan and/or Kwiatkoski.

The Bears could opt to keep the status quo and re-sign Christian Jones and John Timu for depth, and enter 2018 with Kwiatkoski and Trevathan as the team’s starters (Jerrell Freeman, who suffered a season-ending injury and then was hit with his second PED suspension in as many years, was cut on Tuesday). Signing a starting-caliber free agent isn’t out of the question, either, but there is a third option for the Bears if they appear to stand pat in free agency: Draft an inside linebacker in April. If that’s the route they go, Georgia’s Roquan Smith could be the guy. But again, those more pressing needs at other positions could mean the Bears don’t burn a first-round pick on an inside linebacker.

With Josh Sitton on his way out, what’s next for the Bears’ offensive line?

With Josh Sitton on his way out, what’s next for the Bears’ offensive line?

The first major move of Ryan Pace’s 2018 offseason hit on Tuesday, as NFL Network reported the Bears will not exercise Josh Sitton’s $8 million option for 2018. 

The move accomplishes two things for the Bears: 1) It frees up about $8 million in cap space and 2) Removes a veteran from the offensive line and creates a hole to fill, presumably by a younger free agent or draft pick. 

The 31-year-old Sitton signed a three-year deal with the Bears after Green Bay cut him just before the 2016 season, and was a Pro Bowler his first year in Chicago. Sitton played 26 of 32 games in two years with the Bears, but him being on the wrong side of 30 was likely the biggest factor here. If the Bears saw his skills eroding, releasing him now and netting the cap savings while going younger at the position does make sense. 

“Going younger” doesn’t guarantee the Bears will draft Notre Dame brawler Quenton Nelson, though that did become a greater possibility with Tuesday’s move. Nelson might be one of the two or three best offensive players in this year’s draft, and offensive line coach Harry Hiestand knows him well from the four years they spent together at Notre Dame. 

There’s a natural fit there, of course, but a few reasons to slow the Nelson-to-Chicago hype train: Would he even make it to No. 8? Or if he’s there, is taking a guard that high worth it when the Bears have needs at wide receiver, outside linebacker and cornerback? Still, the thought of Nelson — who absolutely dominated at Notre Dame — pairing with Hiestand again is tantalizing, and Nelson very well could step into any team’s starting lineup and be an immediate Pro Bowler as a rookie. 

If the Bears go younger in free agency, Matt Nagy knows 26-year-old guard Zach Fulton (No. 25 in Bleacher Report’s guard rankings) well from their time in Kansas City. Fulton — a Homewood-Flossmoor alum — has the flexibility to play both guard positions and center, which could open the door for Cody Whitehair to be moved to left guard, the position he was initially drafted to play (though the Bears do value him highly as a center, and keeping him at one position would benefit him as opposed to moving him around the line again). There are some other guys out there — like Tennessee’s Josh Kline or New York’s Justin Pugh — that could wind up costing more than Fulton in free agency. 

Or the Bears could look draft an offensive lineman after the first round, perhaps like Ohio State’s Billy Price, Georgia’s Isaiah Wynn or UTEP’s Will Hernandez. How the Bears evaluate guards at the NFL Combine next week will play an important role in how they go about replacing Sitton. 

The trickle-down effect of releasing Sitton will impact more than the offensive line, too. Freeing up his $8 million in cap space -- which wasn't a guarantee, unlike cutting Jerrell Freeman and, at some point, Mike Glennon -- could go toward paying Kyle Fuller, or another top cornerback, or a top wide receiver, or some combination of players at those positions (as well as outside linebacker). The Bears were already in a healthy place cap-wise; that just got healthier on Tuesday.