I’ve never really been a gardener. Sure, I’ve cultivated a trio of kids and seen them through school and a pandemic and managed to throw my back out only minimally while doing so. But plants? Those things are hard. Kids grow up to move around and make their own choices and watch Avatar: The Last Airbender like you still want to do at age 40. But plants (part deux)? They just grow where they’re planted. My neighbor has hostas that he just walks the lawnmower over like it’s a horror movie. But sometimes, he gets generous and tears a couple out and leaves them out for some neighbor to transplant. The last time I tried to transplant some grapes from my best friend’s ancestral home in Central Europe, I killed them in a month. Sometimes organisms just aren’t meant to move. But this week, we saw our good friend Gardner Minshew make his Philadelphia Eagles debut in relief of Jalen Hurts. Jalen, who was…hurt… has been an exciting fantasy QB all year due to his proclivity to just air the dang ball into the air like he was being sponsored by Space X’s telemetry tracking systems. Now that former Jags’ QB Gardner Minshew gets to step in for a bit, we saw another exciting performance for fantasy managers lucky enough to risk their teams on The Constant Gardner.
Let’s recap the Sunday games for Week 13 of fantasy football.
Gardner Minshew: Nothing went right in 2020 for literally anybody who wasn’t a billionaire. While most of us were screaming at each other on the internet, those football moguls in their mega-yachts decided that they were a mess with the football world. No, it wasn’t about taking a knee or about head trauma or about deflated balls — it was the Jacksonville Jaguars trashing their team. The Jags dropped Leonard Fournette as if he was leaving his empties all around the mega yacht. Then as fan-favorite Gardner Minshew made strides with fans to do things like supply fantasy football managers with a year supply of beer if they won their league while drafting him in the first round, the Jags decided to roll with the likes of Mike Glennon (also starting this week for the New York Giants) and Jake Luton (who is probably working at one of those Cinnabon/Orange Julius stands right now). Flash-forward to 2021, and Minshew is sent packing to the Eagles. And eagle-minded readers will remember that new Philly coach Nick Sirianni didn’t want to declare Jalen Hurts the starter. Minshew knew he was still auditioning for jobs…perhaps even with the Eagles. While Hurts struggled with accuracy (60% on the 2021 season and 49% over the previous 2 games), Minshew came out with an 80% accuracy rate as if he was trying to win a trinket at a carnival sharpshooter game. Minshew targeted tight end Dallas Goedert — a guy so important to the Eagles that they sent the 2021 pre-season trying to trade away Zach Ertz — 6 times and completed every pass. As Minshew elevated Goedert — a key player who had snared only 11 receptions over the past month — it opened up the running game for Miles Sanders. Last week, we saw Sanders relegated to the forgotten status while Boston Scott took the majority of snaps and rush attempts. This week, Miles Sanders reclaimed his rushing throne with 24 attempts and 120 yards on the ground. Now, I like Jalen Hurts about as much as I like a pile of spicy noodles and a cold beer, but Minshew’s dissection of the New York Jets and elevation of the Eagles offense might merit another look by Sirianni. Keep an eye on who plays in Philly — and take a serious look at Gardner Minshew if you’re the kind of manager who is streaming QBs all fantasy season.
Mike Davis: There are some of those stat lines that you just expect and don’t really need to report: Tom Brady threw 4 TDs, as if insouciantly saying to the next great QB “You’re good but you’ll never be Brady good.” Meanwhile, Cordarelle Patterson continued his reign as RB1 in Atlanta, with popular fantasy third-rounder Mike Davis finally sneaking into the fantasy news with a TD. Unfortunately, he saw only 4 rushing attempts, but his 4 catches this week show an interesting change in usage to close out the year. This is kind of galaxy-brain stuff, but Davis has seen 12 targets and 10 catches over the past 3 games. You might say, “Blair, that’s about as exciting as watching Donkey Teeth clean his hooves.” And I say, “Hey, Donkey has nice hooves. Also, Mike Davis has more catches on a per-game basis than Dallas Goedert or D.K. Metcalf over the past month. Don’t believe me? Read the above blurb or the blurb below.” Davis is available in 50% of leagues, and since you’re probably starting some arcane former XFL’er at RB right about now, it’s tough to do worse in your busted RB2 slot in PPR leagues than a guy who’s getting consistent targets.
Saquon Barkley: Hard to imagine that such a mountain of a man would end up on the “Weird players you should think about recap” that I write every week. The Giants flipped their offensive coordinator two weeks ago and then finally sat Daniel Jones in favor of Mike Glennon. None of that is particularly exciting for fantasy managers, unless Kenny Golladay getting 37 yards through the air is exciting. But what is interesting, is the wunderkind Saquon Barkley, who remains a significant fantasy value in PPR leagues. Maybe I’ll retitle this section “PPR Updates” because I just don’t care about standard scoring fantasy football. Screw you old timers! On the ground, Saquon was uninteresting with 55 yards on 11 carries. However, he received 9 targets and managed to snag 6 of those for a whopping 19 yards. Saquon is the reason some fantasy football purists hate PPR. You, however, love those check-down game strategies, and you’re going to keep starting Saquon down the stretch because he’ll be active in the game even if the Giants are out of contention.
Mike Williams: Everybody lost faith in Williams, as if he was their favorite fast food restaurant that went through a rough patch. When you’re hungry and in need of food, you had no problem hitting the Chipotle feed lot every week. Then they switched the grill master and they stopped sliding you extra guac for free. The food was still OK, but you thought, “the hey-day is over, I’m not going back.” Then Chipotle — I mean, Mike Williams — goes 100 yards on 5 receptions and you’re too busy staring at the menu for Subway to notice. If we called Mike Williams “Will Fuller,” you’d be starting him every game and say, “the big games make up for the bad games!” Even coming into this game — when many people were afraid of starting Williams — he was WR10 in standard leagues and WR18 in PPR leagues. Sometimes, you gotta appreciate and patronize the OK weeks in preparation for the big play weeks.
Jamaal Williams: Speaking of rando running backs you might find on your team like a lost puppy following you around, Williams had 17 carries and 71 yards in a game that largely ended up dependent upon the pass. The Lions almost seemed like they were actively trying to lose the game against the Vikings — from delay of game penalties after a time out to sloppy field management — yet they pulled off a victory behind nearly 300 yards passing from Jared Goff. D’Andre Swift might miss more time, so try Jamaal Williams as a fill-in until then.
Kirk Cousins: He’s the QB2 on the week as I’m writing, which is like saying Home Improvement was one of the best TV shows of the century. Sure, there are yards, and you’re winning in fantasy — just like I told you. But in real life, Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer just lost to a team that hasn’t won an NFL game in a year. A year. The Vikings had a must-win game to keep their fully-funded NFL team in the Wild Card race against the likes of the New Orleans Saints, the Carolina Panthers, and the Washington Football Team (all rebuilding or decimated teams), and they couldn’t beat the winless Lions. This is to say, there is no reason Mike Zimmer should be a head coach in the NFL at this moment, and our happy-go-lucky plexiglass-bound QB might be under new management soon. Keep an eye on the coaching situation in MN if you followed my advice and are riding Cousins into the fantasy playoffs. There’s no reason to think Kirk won’t be getting a ton of garbage time opportunities, but a new coaching staff might be asked to test out Alexander Mattison on the ground more often as they check options for 2022.
Russell Wilson: Well…he’s at least up to sous chef at this point. The Seahawks are basically the Ravens in terms of running backs right now, which is like going to the rental car lot and finding it filled with Honda Fits and Dodge Darts. In this case, it was a really old Dodge Dart — Adrian Peterson carried the ball 11 times for the Seahawks and found the end zone, but ended the day with a whopping 16 yards. Blerg. Meanwhile, Russ completed 30 passes for a yawnstipating 230 yards. I mean, let’s do the math for all of those readers who are still too hungover on Sunday night nachos: that’s about 7.6 yards per completion, which would have put him 1.5 yards per completion less than Jacoby Brissett’s league-losing 9.1 yards per completion. What’s weirder, is that Russ actually leads the league in yards per completion on the season. So, we saw a change in gameplan in the Seahawks’ win over the 49ers. Now remember — Russ broke his finger and has been humiliated over the last month including the first shutout of the Seahawks offense in his tenure as QB. Russ needed a change. For a team that had been throwing deep and failing, we saw a drastic change toward shorter passes to give Russ some more control and keep the ball rolling on offense. This is probably a good thing — whereas I said you might want to bench Russ going forward, you might want to rethink that now. But, rethink in the way that you are rethinking if Stranger Things is really as good a show as people make it out to be. Wilson could become the short pass king for the rest of the season and be a usable fantasy QB again — indeed, many noted QBs are short pass kings (looking at you, Aaron Rodgers). But Russ’ revolution will make players like D.K. Metcalf and Tyler Lockett usable again, much like that pair of socks that you finally sewed up. Last week, Russ didn’t connect with Metcalf until the end of the game; this week, Russ connected with Metcalf 5 times on 8 targets for 60 yards. Sure, not WR1 numbers, but much better than the 8 combined receptions and 40% catch rate that he had in the previous 3 games with post-surgery Russ.
Sony Michel: 124 yards on 24 carries. Darrell Henderson was a real pain for fantasy managers this week — he ended up being a game time decision, and the Rams indicated he would play. 60 minutes of game time and 300 Chipotle commercials later, Henderson did, indeed, not do anything for fantasy football. Instead, we got treated to Sony Michel getting a ton of garbage time action against the inept Jaguars (who might be thinking that they need Gardner Minshew back now). Because the Rams are in a good spot for the playoffs, we might see more Sony Michel to finish out the year as they rest Henderson for the post-season. Remember — regular season for show, post-season for dough. We might see a Henderson/Michel combo, much like Javonte Williams/Melvin Gordon had been sharing snaps in Denver. That sucks for us fantasy managers that were hoping Henderson could be a playoff fantasy asset, but Hendo’s also the smallest RB1 in the league (unless you count Clyde Edwards-Helaire as an RB1…), so it shouldn’t be surprising that Hendo needs a bit of R&R down the stretch in his first season as a starter.
How did your weeks go? Drop a note down in the comments and let me know!