I love writing these storyline pieces. I will go through some of the games and discuss one dynasty-relevant storyline per team that I’m excited to see. I won’t cover every game, as I don’t feel like there’s necessarily an exciting storyline to discuss for every team. However, I’ll bring you my best insights from the games I select each week.
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. I won’t waste any more time, so let’s jump straight in!
Falcons vs. Saints
I chose this game because I’m always intrigued by a matchup of division rivals. The Falcons and Saints also played in Week 11, where the Saints won 24-9. I’m not necessarily expecting a different result, but this game should be exciting to watch.
The Falcons are a pretty set roster when it comes to my dynasty opinion about their players. Matt Ryan and Julio Jones are still useful, but they’re older players. They don’t currently have their 2021 starting running back on the roster, as both Todd Gurley and his backups have played poorly this season. We know that Calvin Ridley is a stud, and Russell Gage is purely a depth receiver option.
However, Hayden Hurst continues to present mystery each week. The Falcons traded a second-round pick for Hurst, and they expected him to fill in the Austin Hooper role as their starting tight end. Hurst has done precisely that, but he’s only totaled 41 receptions on 64 targets for 459 yards and three touchdowns in 2020.
Stunningly, Hurst is the TE10 and 11th in fantasy points per game with 9.5. I guess that speaks to the state of the tight end position, but I thought Hurst could offer more upside in this offense. Hurst currently has an ankle injury, which may hamper him, although I’m watching him every week to make a dynasty decision on Hurst.
The Saints have a Taysom Hill problem. With Hill as the starting quarterback, all receiving options outside of Michael Thomas belong in the dynasty dumpster bin. Hill prefers to target Thomas, and I believe he’ll be okay, although maybe with a limited upside compared to 2019.
However, we need to talk about Hill’s effect on Alvin Kamara. Through the first 10 weeks, Kamara had 67 receptions on 80 targets for 648 yards and seven touchdowns. In two games with Hill, Kamara has one reception on three targets for -2 yards. If Hill cannot deliver the ball to Kamara in this game, I will begin full-panic mode about Kamara’s dynasty value.
Titans vs. Browns
Both the Titans and Browns are 8-3, fighting for playoff position. I don’t honestly think of the Browns or the Titans as an 8-3-quality team, but one of them will go to 9-3 after this game. I expect a competitive game here.
I want to see if the Titans decide to target Derrick Henry in the passing game more this week, as they won’t have Jonnu Smith in the lineup. A Titans beat reporter claimed that head coach Mike Vrabel wanted to throw to Henry more often, but we’ve heard statements like this one on previous occasions. If Henry began to see a few more consistent targets per game, he could be the RB1 overall, and I would feel better about his long-term dynasty value.
The Browns have had a bizarre series of games on offense since Week 7. In Week 7, they lost star receiver Odell Beckham Jr., forcing them to change their offense. However, in their next three games, the Browns struggled through horrific weather conditions, which led to a running attack through Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt.
In Week 12, Jarvis Landry suddenly emerged as the Browns’ top target with eight receptions on 11 targets for 143 yards and a touchdown. Landry hadn’t caught a touchdown all season, and last week was his first genuinely relevant week. I want to see how Landry performs this week because I think the Browns might need to choose this offseason between keeping Landry and Beckham Jr. Landry’s play over the final five games will help them make that choice.
Cardinals vs. Rams
This game is another exciting divisional contest with the Rams at 7-4 and the Cardinals at 6-5. Both the Rams and Cardinals have an outside shot at winning the NFC West behind the Seahawks, but both teams currently have a wild-card spot. This game is vital for both teams, so I expect a competitive contest.
Unusually, I want to focus on the Cardinals’ top dynasty asset, at least in 1 QB leagues, DeAndre Hopkins. Over the last two weeks, Hopkins has 10 receptions on 15 targets for 106 yards. While those numbers are acceptable for most receivers, most fantasy owners expect more from Hopkins weekly.
I hope that Hopkins’ slight struggles are related to Kyler Murray’s AC joint injury, but it’s vital to watch Hopkins. Hopkins will turn 29 years old in June, putting him in the dynasty danger zone from an age perspective. While receivers remain in their prime at that age, they begin to lose dynasty value rapidly at the first sign of trouble once they hit 29. Whether that approach is correct or not, it’s how the community plays, so dynasty owners must pay attention closely.
I have some relatively harsh words for the Rams’ offense, specifically concerning their misuse of second-round rookie Van Jefferson. However, I feel like I’ve bashed them enough for that. We know that Robert Woods and Cooper Kupp are the star receivers on this team, and both have contract extensions, along with quarterback Jared Goff. There’s not much else to discuss in the passing game.
But, I will join most dynasty players in pulling my hair out with the Rams’ rushing attack. The Rams have created a vile committee of Darrell Henderson, Malcolm Brown, and Cam Akers, killing all three backs’ fantasy value. I won’t bore you with a statistical breakdown because nothing about what the Rams have done makes any sense. I’ll just describe what I want to see instead.
I hope that the Rams finally send Malcolm Brown to the bench, leaving Akers and Henderson in a two-man committee. I want to see Akers as the lead back, taking about 60% of the touches, with Henderson as a change-of-pace and passing-downs back. For some reason, the Rams don’t use Henderson in the passing game, even though that was his strong suit coming into the NFL.
While that arrangement still might make both backs hard to trust, Akers would be a low-end RB2 with Henderson as a flex play under my ideal scenario. However, I’m not holding my breath. I’m fully prepared to watch Henderson and Brown combine for 19 carries with one for Akers in this game. If that happens again, I’ll be back next week with another column criticizing McVay’s handling of his running backs.
49ers vs. Bills
I like the idea of a Monday night doubleheader, and this game will occur in primetime. The Bills come into it at 8-3, just one game ahead of the Dolphins for first place in the AFC East. Even though the 49ers are only 5-6, they remain in the wild-card race, especially as the NFL expanded the playoffs to seven teams in each conference. The 49ers essentially have to win this game, so I hope they come out and compete well.
A lot of the 49ers’ pieces either aren’t healthy or aren’t dynasty-relevant. Nick Mullens isn’t their long-term answer at quarterback, so I don’t care too much how well he plays. George Kittle is the lifeblood of their offense, and he won’t play this week either. While Raheem Mostert is their best running back, he turns 29 years old in April. The 49ers have a bunch of garbage behind him, and I expect them to bring in a real starter for 2021 to supplant Mostert and fix this running back room.
Therefore, the only relevant dynasty storyline is how Deebo Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk will coexist on the offense. Samuel starred last week, but Aiyuk was on the COVID-19 list and didn’t play. Even though Mullens won’t be the future quarterback, Kyle Shanahan sticks to his offensive planning no matter the quarterback. The split between Samuel and Aiyuk should represent how the two receivers will play in the offense moving forward. I’ll watch their roles closely, both this week and for the rest of 2020.
The Bills have significant decisions to make during the 2021 offseason. They have Josh Allen as their long-term starting quarterback and Stefon Diggs as their star receiver. However, they have uncertainty at every other offensive position. I’m most interested in how some of the ancillary pieces can defend or lose their jobs for 2021.
At tight end and running back, they have young players in Dawson Knox, Devin Singletary, and Zack Moss. All of those players will be on the 2021 Bills, but they all need to prove more to keep their roles. Knox has struggled with injuries throughout 2020, although I doubt that excuse will help him moving forward. He needs to begin to integrate himself into the offense to hold off a higher draft pick or free-agent acquisition.
As for Singletary and Moss, both players have played okay, but neither has impressed. The Bills seem to prefer Moss, as his snap share has increased while Singletary’s has declined. Both players have third-round draft capital and multiple years remaining on their rookie deals. Right now, I believe the Bills won’t make an addition at running back, but they might if neither Singletary nor Moss stands out.
Interestingly, the receiver position is the opposite scenario. Both John Brown and Cole Beasley can be released after 2020, saving $8.1 and $4.4 million in cap space, respectively. I expect the Bills to keep Beasley, but their decision on Brown will depend on how Gabriel Davis develops. Davis should be the long-term replacement for Brown, and he’s impressed as a fourth-round rookie. Brown is on injured reserve, and Davis played 97% of snaps in Brown’s place in Week 12. I want to watch Davis to see how he takes advantage of this opportunity to shine.
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