I love writing these storyline pieces. Now that we’ve hit the playoffs, I want to cover all the games, bringing you at least something to think about when you watch the playoffs. Even though playoffs don’t count for our fantasy teams, playoff performances can have massive effects on future dynasty value.
This piece will give you something specific to look for in each contest, which I hope helps you enjoy the games even more. We all play fantasy football to enhance our enjoyment of football, and I’m trying to add to that sense of happiness here. Fun is the most essential part of this hobby for all of us, including me.
I’ve listed the home team first for each game to keep things organized. For this week, I’ve covered the Saturday games in one article, and now I’ll cover the Sunday games in another. I won’t waste any more time, so let’s jump straight in!
Titans vs. Ravens
For the Titans, I want to focus on their second wide receiver, Corey Davis. In 2020, Davis had a breakout season, catching 65 of 92 targets for 984 yards and five touchdowns in only 14 games. However, the Titans declined Davis’ fifth-year option before the 2020 season, making him a free agent this offseason.
Now, Davis has a massive opportunity to affect his free-agent value. If he helps lead the Titans to a victory versus the Ravens, Davis will be on the radar of every single NFL team. I’m not sure that leaving the Titans will help Davis’s dynasty value, but he’ll become a massive storyline if he has a big game this week.
Alright, Ravens. Unlike my typical storyline segments, I’m dedicating this space as a PSA to your organization. You have two hyper-talented weapons on your offense outside of quarterback Lamar Jackson: Mark Andrews and J.K. Dobbins. These two players must get more involved in the game plan if you want to beat the Titans.
Andrews didn’t have a bad 2020 season, although he failed to live up to his 2019 numbers. He only caught 58 passes for 701 yards and seven touchdowns this year, compared to 64 catches, 852 yards, and 10 touchdowns in 2019. But, the Ravens consistently refuse to employ Andrews as an every-down player. I believe that is a crucial mistake, and they risk losing to the Titans for a second straight year because of it. Andrews will not live up to his top-three dynasty value if the Ravens don’t use him more often.
Dobbins averaged 6.0 YPC as a rookie, taking 134 carries for 805 yards and nine touchdowns. However, despite his fantastic performance, Dobbins never had more than 15 carries or a 66% snap share in any game. I like Gus Edwards as a complementary piece, but the Ravens’ usage of Dobbins is mind-blowing. If they continue to avoid using him as a workhorse back, it will cost them wins and cost Dobbins significant dynasty value.
Saints vs. Bears
Usually, I would use this space to discuss a dynasty-relevant asset on the Saints. But, this game may represent Drew Brees’ final NFL game. Even though I expect the Saints to beat the Bears, anything is possible in the NFL, and I expect Brees to retire after the 2020 season
Therefore, I’m going to watch this game to see Alvin Kamara, Jared Cook, and Michael Thomas play with Brees one last time. Each of them significantly benefits from Brees, and I’m very curious how they all perform with a potential quarterback downgrade to Taysom Hill. I think Cook might be done anyway, but Kamara and Thomas remain in their primes. The Saints are on the edge of significant organizational change, so consider this game the potential end of an era.
Speaking of free-agent auditions, this game likely has the biggest of them all. Mitch Trubisky replaced Nick Foles in the middle of this season, and he eventually led the Bears to the playoffs. However, the Bears only finished 8-8, scraping into the playoffs as the seventh seed.
Trubisky is a free agent after the 2020 season, and I think he’s right on the edge of earning another shot at the Bears’ starting quarterback gig. He’s already taken them out of range to draft a first-round quarterback, so his replacement would likely need to be a veteran. But, if Trubisky leads the Bears to a massive upset win, I can’t see the Bears moving on from a playoff-winning quarterback without a good alternative. Trubisky has his career on the line here, more than any other player this weekend.
Steelers vs. Browns
The Steelers have had a mixed season in 2020. They started the season 11-0 before losing three straight games to drop to 11-3. The Steelers managed a clutch win in Week 16 to clinch the division before resting their starters in Week 17 to drop to 12-4.
When the Steelers had a perfect record, I thought they might try to run it back in 2021, retaining Juju Smith-Schuster on a franchise tag and signing James Conner to a cheap extension. I also thought that Ben Roethlisberger could have multiple successful years left, as he only turns 39 in the offseason. We’ve seen quarterbacks like Tom Brady play well into their 40s, and Roethlisberger seemed fully healthy after his 2019 elbow injury.
However, now, I think we’re watching the end of this Steelers’ roster. Conner and Smith-Schuster will almost certainly walk in free agency. The Steelers’ running back position will be one of the most critical offseason storylines, although their wide receiver trio of Diontae Johnson, Chase Claypool, and James Washington remains strong. I think Roethlisberger is the most significant storyline, though, as the Steelers will likely begin to consider a succession plan. The Steelers feel a bit like the Saints right now, although perhaps one year in advance.
I feel bad for the Browns, as they will have to play their first playoff game since 2002 without head coach Kevin Stefanski, who has COVID-19. The Browns will have most of their key players, although their guard Joel Bitonio will miss the game after testing positive. Those COVID storylines seem to have overshadowed many other events on the Browns, as they also had a COVID outbreak a couple of weeks ago.
However, the Browns have an exciting dynasty team. Baker Mayfield had a bounce-back season, going 11-5. They also have two-star running backs in Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt and a solid receiver in Jarvis Landry. The Browns also signed Austin Hooper to a massive free-agent contract, and they found a late-round gem in fourth-round rookie tight end, Harrison Bryant.
But, I’m most interested in the Browns’ players outside of that future core group. Odell Beckham Jr. suffered an ACL injury early this season, and I expect him to go to another team in the offseason. As Mayfield plays better without needing to force targets to Beckham Jr, the Browns’ offense looked better without him.
Therefore, Rashard Higgins, Donovan Peoples-Jones, and David Njoku are my key players to watch this week. Higgins is a free agent, although I believe he has the most value to the Browns. He recently had a drag racing arrest, though, which could impact his future value. Higgins’ arrest could open the door for Peoples-Jones, a sixth-round rookie. If Peoples-Jones plays well in this game, he could compete for the Browns’ WR2 role in 2021.
As for Njoku, he’s auditioning for another team. The Browns picked up Njoku’s fifth-year option, but they will not pay him $6 million to be their TE3. I believe Njoku can still play, so if he flashes on the playoff stage, another team could swoop in and trade for Njoku this offseason.
Thanks for reading this article. You can find me on Twitter at @DFF_Karp. I love to interact with anyone in the community, so reach out at any time! I take fantasy questions and help with all formats, so keep sending those questions my way.
Previous Storyline Articles: Week 6 Early Games, Week 6 Late Games, Week 7 Thursday Night, Week 7 Early Games, Week 7 Late Games, Week 8 Thursday Night, Week 8 Early Games, Week 8 Late Games, Week 9 Thursday Night, Week 9 Early Games, Week 9 Late Games, Week 10 Thursday Night, Week 10 Early Games, Week 10 Late Games, Week 11 Thursday Night, Week 11 Early Games, Week 11 Late Games, Thanksgiving Day, Week 13, Week 14, Week 15, Week 16, Week 17