Ian Allan answers your fantasy football questions. In this edition: Will playing on the road for the third straight week undermine the Saints? Is James White being phased out of the New England offense? Will an offensive coordinator change help Kyle Rudolph? And more.

Question 1

I’m worried about starting Drew Brees, and not just because he’s had two poor fantasy games. The Saints are playing their third straight game on the road. Have you ever looked into whether playing in that third straight road game leads to poor play?

Todd Weigel (Milwaukee, WI)

Neat idea. Not something I had ever thought of. I flipped through the pages of the recent editions of the NFL Record & Fact Book. It’s happened 13 times since 2015. I don’t see anything to support the idea that we should try to avoid such players. Teams are 6-7 in those games, which is about what you would expect. They’ve averaged 25 points, which is a little more than what teams in general have averaged since 2015. If Brees underperforms in this game, I won’t be blaming it on road weariness. (In the chart below, the win-loss records show how teams performed in their other games.)

2015Atlanta7-8W 23-17 at Jacksonville
2015Buffalo8-7L 22-30 at Kansas City
2015Jacksonville5-10L 31-38 at Tampa Bay
2015Miami5-10W 20-19 at Philadelphia
2016Green Bay9-6W 27-13 at Philadelphia
2017Denver5-10L 23-51 at Philadelphia
2017Atlanta10-5L 17-20 at Carolina
2017Minnesota13-2L 24-31 at Carolina
2017Philadelphia12-3W 34-29 at N.Y. Giants
2017San Francisco6-9L 24-26 at Washington
2017Tampa Bay5-10L 20-26 at Green Bay (OT)
2018Baltimore6-6W 21-0 at Tennessee
2018L.A. Rams10-2W 39-10 at San Francisco
2018New Orleans10-2Monday at Carolina

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Question 2

When I picked up Jaylen Samuels of Pittsburgh, with his Yahoo tight-end eligibility, I figured I had a "cheat code" at that position that would carry me to glory. But this week, my #2 back, Aaron Jones, is playing the Chicago defense. I saw what they did to Todd Gurley last week. Would I be better off playing Samuel at the #2 slot (Gurley's my #1), and using Ian Thomas at the TE position, in spite of Cam Newton's disintegrating shoulder? Speaking of the latter, would you bench him for Jameis Winston this week?

Jacob Wilson (Crandall, TX)

“Cheat code at the position.” I love it. He’s definitely starting for your. Samuels isn’t much of a running back, but with how they’ll use him in the passing game, I think he’ll be the best of those three. He caught 7 passes for 64 yards last week. James Conner averaged 39 receiving yards when he was starting. That’s just how that offense runs. Even more so this week. They’re not going to bang out 100 rushing yards against the Patriots, so there will be plenty of those little dumpoff balls. So you’re picking between Jones and Thomas. Thomas has caught 14 passes in his last two games. If you had confidence he would catch about 7 balls, he would be fine. But I think Jones is your guy. He’s been playing well recently, and he’s also not only a runner but a pass catcher. He’s caught 3-4 passes three games in a row. Just as a receiver, Jones might be as good as Thomas. And while the Bears rank 2nd against the run, I don’t think they’re quite that good. The Giants ran for 141 yards against them two weeks ago. The Lions went for 111 and 2 TDs in the previous game. They’re probably a top-5 run defense, but they might be more of a top-10 unit. It’s a defense that will be more concerned about Aaron Rodgers, so Jones in the very worst scenario will run for about 40 yards. He might run for 70-plus, and if the ball winds up on the 1- or 2-yard line, he might punch in a touchdown. With Carolina playing so much better at home, I will start one-shouldered Newton over Famous Jameis. Definitely.

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Question 3

I am surprise you have put Kyle Rudolph so high on the board. Do you really think he will out produce Ian Thomas?

Tom Clark (Camas, WA)

The Vikings just fired offensive coordinator John DeFilippo. The No. 1 driver there, I think, was frustration over not running the ball enough. Dalvin Cook wasn’t getting enough carries. But Rudolph has also been underused. He might be one of the top 5 tight ends in the league, and he hasn’t been seeing enough balls. Everything has been running through Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs. They’re re-booting the offense now, so I am thinking we’ll probably see Rudolph playing a bigger role. That’s the hunch, anyway, and this week they’re at home against a bad Miami defense. But if you want to instead go with Thomas, I’m cool with that. He’s been coming on recently, with 5 and 9 catches the last two weeks. Thomas wasn’t effective when he was their tight end the first four games of the season: 10 catches for 72 yards. He hasn’t caught a touchdown all year.

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Question 4

Playoffs are here and although its fun it can also be agonizing to make the right lineup choices. I see Dante Pettis has been pretty good now three weeks in a row and contrastingly Golladay has not. I have to choose between the two in a lot of leagues this week. Can we trust Pettis? Also any chance you sit Hilton?

David Kennedy (Steamburg, NY)

Hilton isn’t part of the discussion; he’s a lot better than those guys. I know that Dallas has a very good defense and has won five in a row, but I think the Colts are going to be just fine in that game. Three times previously they have played against top-5 pass defenses in that building, and they’ve put up big numbers in all of those games. The decision is between Golladay and Pettis. Neither one has a good matchup. The Lions are running on fumes right now, and they’re at Buffalo, which has the No. 1 pass defense. If the weather is really foul on Sunday morning, that might make your decision for you. The 49ers are playing against a good Seattle defense, but at least they’re at home, where they’ve caused some troubles for opponents at times – 4, 2 and 2 TDs in their last three at Levi’s. I put together projections for both of these teams. I think the 49ers will put up better numbers, but Golladay is definitely more of a No. 1 guy. With San Francisco, they’re throwing a bunch to George Kittle, and I would worry about them working Marquise Goodwin into the offense more. After missing two games, Goodwin saw only partial duty last week. He was their third receiver, rotating in off the bench. Previously he was their No. 1 wide receiver. I haven’t seen anything that makes me certain Goodwin is staying in a reserve role. If they show up on Sunday and Goodwin is back in that featured role (with Pettis perhaps coming in as a situational player) than you’ll definitely wish you would have gone with Golladay.

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Question 5

Firkser vs. Herndon. So I’m trying to decide which to start in a half-PPR league. I see the rankings are very close. Are the Jets going to be able to move the ball into scoring range against Houston? If not, then does it make sense to start Firkser where they might be able to score against the Giants? The Titans are still in the hunt for the playoffs. Your thoughts?

Jason Howes (Stewartville, MN)

The Titans have thrown 16 passes to Anthony Firkser, and he’s caught all of them. That’s pretty cool. Move over Cameron Brate; there’s a new Harvard tight end in the NFL. On Herndon’s behalf, it looks like the Jets will play without Quincy Enunwa and Isaiah Crowell. They might have to rely a little more on the passing game (they’re not banging out big rushing numbers without Crowell) and when they do pass, a few more balls might have to be thrown in Herndon’s direction. I’m comfortable with either guy, but expectations should be modest.

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Question 6

Our league has a keeper option that enables us to keep a player but forfeit the pick in which he was drafted. Who do you think has the most upside next year: Dez Bryant (16th round), Will Fuller (8th round), or Cooper Kupp (7th round)?


Both Kupp and Fuller will be selected earlier than those rounds. With Fuller, he’s explosive, but I don’t know that you’ll ever be able to count on him playing 16 games in a season. He’s got the long history of injuries. I think Kupp is your guy. He’s shown he do it, and he’s in a great offense. I expect him to come back healthy next year and put up great numbers. When he was healthy this year, he was getting a lot more looks in the red zone than either Brandin Cooks or Robert Woods.

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Question 7

Curious as to why Carson's projections aren't as high as I anticipated. I'd have thought he would have been ranked much higher playing SF. Lastly, I would have also thought Jordan Howard would have been higher also. I have to choose 2 between Carson, Howard and Evans. You have Evans a bit higher, but his matchup is much tougher.

Bill Petilli (Harrison, NY)

I’m not a big Evans fan, so if you want to start Carson and Howard, I’m fine with that. But you’re in a PPR format, and those guys don’t really fit that format. The Bears were trying to use Howard as a pass catcher early in the season but quickly gave up on that. He’s averaged 54 rushing and 3 receiving yards in his last 10 games, with 4 TDs. That’s what he is – a crappy running back. As a big, plodding grinder, he’s at his best when the weather gets bad, so I would expect him to show up a little bigger in some of these closing games. Green Bay hasn’t been good against the run, and he ran effectively against them back in Week 1. With Seattle, they lead the league in rushing and just ran for 168 and a touchdown against San Francisco two weeks ago. But the 49ers have actually been surprisingly good against the run. They rank 12th in run defense, and I think they are, in fact, slightly above average. They’re playing at home, which might help them some, and they just saw this offense two weeks ago. In their last two homes games, the 49ers have played well against good running backs. Phillip Lindsay went for only 30 yards on 14 carries on Sunday. Saquon Barkley last month carried 20 times for only 67 yards. So I was thinking Seattle wouldn’t run it as effectively this time around. I put them down for 145 rushing yards and a touchdown. That’s still among the league leaders for Week 15, but Seattle works in other backs. Rashaad Penny typically gets about half as many carries at Carson, and Mike Davis usually gets about a half-dozen touches. Penny has been dealing with a knee issue that kept him out of practice Wednesday. If he sits out, you’ll see Carson slightly higher when the revised rankings come out later today.

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Question 8

Half PPR and even though James White is getting "Belichicked" I am still alive in the playoffs. I also have Cohen, David Johnson and Jarvis Landry, and I need to pick three. I don't think the volume is there for White and Landry unless I am missing something. Any advice?

PAUL NICKAS (Jacksonville, FL)

All four have value in my opinion. Landry has been coming on and is facing a short-handed Denver secondary. Johnson is stuck on a lesser offense, but he’s facing a defense that’s been pretty awful, especially against the run. Cohen’s good; he’s more than just a change-of-pace back. And while White has had some lesser games recently, he could be a huge part of New England’s game plan this week. I’ve seen Tom Brady play the Steelers many times over the last 15 years, and all of those games seem to be the same. Pittsburgh never seems to be able to put him under enough pressure. He tends to stand in the pocket and pick them apart. White could be a big part of that; it’s tough for linebackers to cover him.

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Question 9

Adams, JuJu, Antonio, or Amari (pick 3). I’m at a toss up with Amari playing so well lately... thanks in advance!

Zachary Townsend (La Marque, TX)

Pittsburgh is at home, where it tends to play better, and the Patriots don’t have much of a pass rush. Typically they tend to hang back and let Roethlisberger throw for a lot of yards against them. So Brown and Smith-Schuster, I think, should be locked into your lineup. It comes down to either Adams or Cooper, and neither guy has a good matchup. I would roll with Adams. He’s the only really good pass catcher in that offense, and he’s been rocking pretty much all year long. He’s caught 12 of their 23 TD passes. So while it’s a little weird sitting down a guy who’s gone over 180 yards in two of his last three games, that’s what I would do.

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