LOOKING FOR GEMS

Fantasy playoffs: Blake me to my fantasy Super Bowl

The Carson Wentz injury affects fantasy playoffs, too. Eagles Team Web site

The first week of the playoffs brought us headaches and heartaches as we saw the 3rd overall running back, and 2nd overall quarterback go down with injuries.

Headache of the Week

Alvin Kamara

Rated top 3 overall for the week in various rankings, the rookie breakout running back went down in the first quarter with a concussion. Just how much has he produced the entire year? In the first 13 weeks of the season (excluding Thursday), Kamara had 86 rushes for 606 yards and seven touchdowns on the ground. As a pass catcher, he is just as lethal where he has 60 catches for 614 yards and four touchdowns, averaging an absurd 10.9 yards per reception. With the extra days off to rest, Kamara owners hope for the ball carrier to return quick, fast and in a hurry.

Heartache of the week

Carson Wentz

Through three quarters, Wentz was on fire lighting up the Rams defense for 291 yards and four scores, good for 27.2 points (ESPN standard).  Melodrama unfolds, and the rest is history, or can we say history is to be made if the Eagles plan to hoist their first Vince Lombardi Trophy. What do owners lose? The second-ranked quarterback in fantasy scoring that had a subpar schedule remaining. Left on Philadelphia's schedule, Giants(20th), Cowboys(28th), Raiders(13th).

You made it this far so there's no need to get cute now. But if you find yourself looking to fill a spot due to injury or have doubts due to matchups, here are a few players who you should keep on your radar.

Quarterbacks

Blake Bortles - Don't look now, but Blake Bortles is quietly working his way up on QB rankings. He sits 13th overall, ahead of the likes of Matt Ryan, Andy Dalton, Derek Carr and Marcus Mariota. He leads all these household names by more than 19 total points. Another reason to look at Bortles is his remaining schedule; he will be against vulnerable defenses vs. quarterbacks the remaining of the year facing the Texans (29th), 49ers (31st) and the Titans (15th).

Joe Flacco

If you're looking for someone who won't win you this week but won't lose it either, look no further. Flacco is averaging 269 yards and two touchdowns in his last two games. This week Baltimore gets a favorable matchup vs. Cleveland who surrenders the 5th most points to quarterbacks.  Historically, Flacco has had success vs. the Browns against whom he holds a 16-2 overall record. Over 18 games, he possesses a 26-12 touchdown to interception ratio and carries a 90.5 passer rating. In the previous meeting this year, he tossed two scores while throwing for 217 yards. Flacco carries a high floor but a low ceiling in week 15.

Honorable Mentions

Nick Foles- competent quarterback vs. the 32nd ranked defense in points allowed to quarterbacks. Giants have allowed five quarterbacks to eclipse 25+ points in 2017.

Tyrod Taylor- Practiced with the first team Wednesday. Taylor has torched the Dolphins in his career where he holds a 121.2 passer rating with eight touchdowns and zero interceptions.

Running Backs

Mike Davis

Last weeks injury seems to be minor, and he looks to be a go this week. When facing the Rams, the way to hurt them is on the ground where they give up the 31st most points to the position. In the first half, Davis had nine carries for 56 yards. He would leave the game in the third quarter but averaged 4.4 yards per rush on the day. In week 13, he had 20 total touches, last week he left the game with 16 touches in the 3rd. Look for him to get into the twenties in touches this week as he is clearly the lead back on early downs in Seattle.

Kerwynn Williams

Adrian Peterson's return is again in question, leaving the majority of the backfield duties all to Williams. In week 13 vs. the Rams, he totaled 97 yards and last week he added another 88. In week 14, he touched the ball 20 times. Look for him to continue the same vs. an opponent who in 18th overall in points surrendered to running backs (24.4) and has given up ten total scores to the position.


Jonathan Stewart

Coming off an unexpected three-touchdown performance, Stewart has now scored in 3 consecutive weeks totaling five touchdowns. The return of Pro Bowl center Ryan Kalil might have something to do with the numbers in week 14 where the running back also tacked on 103 yards. This weeks match up and game script leads us to believe that the Panthers will lean on the ground game to control the clock and the keep the ball out of Aaron Rodgers hands. The Packers, surrender the 8th most points to running backs (25.6) as a unit, look for Stewart to get in the Endzone once again.

Wide Receivers

Dede Westbrook

Opportunity is what we're looking for when trying to fill a spot this late in the season and Westbrook has seen just that with 27 targets in the last three games. He has caught 17 of those targets while scoring double digits in all three weeks. His schedule has two favorable matchups vs. the Texans who are the ninth worse team surrendering 33.7 points a game as a unit allowing 13 scores to the position on the year. Next week he gets the 49ers, a group that concedes 33.1 points a game to wide receivers.

Tyrell Williams

Willaims ended Sunday's game with 23.2 fantasy points, 132 receiving yards, and a touchdown. But the underlier here has to be he did it only on four catches. This has been an issue with Williams all year long as he has failed to surpass 2 receptions since week 6. A true boom or bust play, I think he gets on the scoreboard again. Marcus Peter's will be shadowing teammate Keenan Allen, leaving Williams to see a ton of veteran Darrelle Revis. Kansas City has been terrible vs. wide receivers giving up the 2nd most points to the position at 37.7 a game.

Randall Cobb- The return of Aaron Rodgers should boost his numbers. If the Packers choose to be somewhat safe with Rodgers' arm and limit throwing the deep ball, look for Cobb to be the beneficiary with intermediate routes.

Tight Ends

Vernon Davis

After two dud weeks, Davis saw his most targets in 2017 with seven. He was only able to secure two but still managed to score a touchdown. The Chargers have been good vs. tight ends all year long but the last three weeks have seen them give up 11.4, 22.7 and 13.1. points to the position. With the volume he see's and no other weapons in Washington, use him as a streamer.

Eric Ebron

Hate to chase last week's performance, but he is coming off career highs in both receptions and yards. The Bears have been good limiting tight ends the last two weeks but also gave up a huge performance to the Eagles Zach Ertz 3 weeks ago where he  had ten receptions and 103 yards. Not a must play by any means, but if you need a tight end, Ebron has had at least four receptions since week 11.

Defenses

Saints- Playing Bryce Petty, enough said

Cardinals- Washington has numerous offensive line injuries, and the Cardinals have had 3+ sacks in four game this season. The Arizona defense also has had at least one interception in 11 games this season (lead the NFL), and five interceptions in the last four games.

All scoring ESPN standard

For any questions or comments reach me at @JerryBoKnowz on twitter.

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Houston scored in droves

Astros drub Twins in finale to take series win

Houston's offense showered Minnesota with hits in Sunday's finale. Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

After splitting the first two games, with Houston's offense uncharacteristically ineffective in the loss on Saturday, they tried to turn things around with a win to take the series on Sunday. The Astros would bounce right back at the plate, getting hits and runs all through the afternoon to rout the Twins.

Final Score: Astros 14, Twins 3

Astros' Record: 37-28, second in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Framber Valdez (3-0)

Losing Pitcher: Michael Pineda (3-4)

Valdez keeps rolling

Framber Valdez continued to impress in 2021 after starting his season on the IL, posting another quality start with a win against the Twins. After four scoreless frames, he allowed a solo homer to start the bottom of the fifth, just the third hit of the game for Minnesota to that point. He went on to retire the next three batters to get through the inning.

He faltered a bit in the bottom of the sixth, allowing a leadoff double followed by a single, with a run coming across on an error on that play. He once again rebounded to finish that frame, then put up a 1-2-3 seventh to finish his day off, notching another quality start and a win. His final line: 7.0 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 1 ER, 3 BB, 2 K, 1 HR, 97 P.

Houston keeps their foot on the gas

While Valdez's outing was a highlight of its own, Houston's offense was the story of the day. They put their foot down on the pedal all day and did not let up, starting in the top of the first when Jose Altuve turned the first pitch of the game around for a single, later scoring on a sac fly by Alex Bregman to put the Astros in front 1-0.

After two scoreless innings, they got right back on the scoreboard in the fourth with a two-run homer by Kyle Tucker, then kept pouring it on with two runs in the fifth on a sac fly by Yuli Gurriel and an error, making it 5-0 at the time. The runs kept coming in the top of the sixth, with a two-RBI double by Michael Brantley, who would score later on a two-run bomb by Yordan Alvarez. Then, in the top of the seventh, Brantley struck again to push it to double-digits with a two-RBI single to make it 11-2 and give Brantley 4 RBI on the afternoon.

With Houston swapping out starters with the hefty lead, even their pinch-hitters were getting involved, with Chas McCormick leading the top of the eighth off with a solo shot to make it a ten-run game. They then loaded the bases with no outs, setting up a sac fly for Myles Straw to make it 13-2.

Astros take the series

In the bottom of the eighth, Ralph Garza Jr. came in as the first reliever out of the bullpen for Houston. He recorded two quick outs but then met Nelson Cruz, who lasered a solo homer to put it back at a ten-run game before finishing the frame. Houston put their twentieth hit on the board in the top of the ninth, their highest total this season, en route to another scoring inning with a sac fly by Robel Garcia to make it 14-3. Garza came in for his second inning of work to wrap things up in the bottom of the ninth, giving the Astros a successful end to this series and road trip.

Up Next: Houston will travel home before an off day on Monday to rest before 20 days of consecutive games. They'll kick off a six-game homestand on Tuesday, welcoming in the Rangers for two starting at 7:10 PM Central. Lance McCullers Jr. (3-1, 2.96 ERA) will make his return from the IL for the Astros, though Jake Odorizzi will "piggy-back" him, and Kyle Gibson (4-0, 2.13 ERA) will take the mound for Texas.

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