Ian Allan answers your fantasy football questions. In this edition: Previewing the best defenses for Weeks 15-16. What's wrong with Alvin Kamara? Using Eli Manning as a Hail Mary playoff quarterback. Shutdown cornerbacks, bad weather, upside rankings and more.

Question 1

What’s with Kamara? You still rank him pretty highly each week, even in my customized, TD-heavy scoring system, but he hasn’t scored a TD since Week 3. I followed your advice and drafted him in 2017 and 2018. Both years he helped me win championships. Thanks for that. But this year? Meh. I’m hoping he rediscovers his mojo in Week 14, as I need a win to make the playoffs.

Eric Pryne (Vashon, WA)

If you’d told me that the Saints would be 10-2, but that Kamara would have scored in only one of 10 games, I wouldn’t have believed you. It doesn’t make any sense. So what, exactly, is going on here? The offense hasn’t been as good. Last year it scored 59 touchdowns in 16 games – 3.7 per week. This year it’s scored 28 in 12 games (only 2.3 per game). That’s a huge difference – almost a touchdown and a half per week. Per Pro Football Reference, Kamara last year carried the ball 34 times for 89 yards and 11 touchdowns when the team was inside the 10-yard line. That was in 15 games. In his 10 games this year, he’s carried 8 times for 18 yards and a touchdown in that part of the field. It’s not that they’re pulling him down there. They’re just not getting down there. Oddly, when Kamara was injured, that was when they started looking more like the 2018 Saints; Latavius Murray in those games carried 8 times for 27 yards and 3 TDs (inside the 10). In the 10 games that Kamara played, Murray wasn’t much of a factor there – 3 carries, 6 yards, no touchdowns. So where does this put us? Kamara is still a great back. He’s still the same guy, with the potential to score on the ground or as a pass catcher. They’re at home this week against maybe the league’s best pass defense. But the 49ers have been pretty ordinary against the run. Unless I was blessed with unusual depth at the position, I would roll Kamara out there and hope he starts performing like the guy we all know he is. In general in these kind of cases, I think this is the correct way to go. If we wind the clock back to entering Week 7, DeAndre Hopkins had gone five games in a row without catching a touchdown. The correct move at that time was not to release him; Hopkins has now scored 4 TDs in his last six games. I vote to stay the course with Kamara.

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Question 2

I am in the playoffs in two leagues and am writing for a recommendation for good defensive matchups for Weeks 15 and 16. I am seeing good projections for Kansas City. In one league I presently own New England and Baltimore and in the other I own Buffalo and Carolina. I'm strongly considering dropping Carolina (vs. Seahawks, at Colts) for Kansas City (vs. Broncos, at Bears) – what are your thoughts on that possible move or standing pat with what I have at present.


I’m not a huge fan of trying to take advantage of Mitchell Trubisky. He’s terrible, but he’s not a quarterback who dishing up a bunch of sacks, fumbles and interceptions. He knows his limitations, so he’s trying to be more of a game manager. But let’s take a closer look at this, since I image others are pondering the same issue. Let’s take each defense, with it’s current numbers for sacks, interceptions, fumbles and touchdowns. With touchdowns, I’m including kick returns, and I’m also stuffing safeties in there. Then take the same numbers for offenses – the opponents they’re going to face in Weeks 15-16. If we then average those numbers, they suggest the best defenses in those two weeks will be New England, Pittsburgh, San Francisco and Baltimore. That’s using 2 points for takeaways, 6 for touchdowns and 1 for each sack.

New England6.22.461.42.7818.6
San Francisco6.
New Orleans6.41.501.33.4014.5
NY Giants5.
Tampa Bay5.51.501.54.3513.7
Kansas City5.
LA Rams4.81.541.21.4613.1
NY Jets4.01.381.13.5812.5
Green Bay4.61.501.21.0110.1
LA Chargers3.

This is a little different, of course, than what you’re looking for. You don’t want a two-week total. You want the best two one-week totals. You’re carrying two defenses, and looking for the best pair for Weeks 15-16. There are 64 possibilities for those two weeks. According to the raw numbers, Week 15 New England (against Cincinnati) is the best, while Week 15 Denver (against KC) comes in at No. 64. The two Kansas City games come in at 22nd and 34th. These are just starting point numbers, of course. They don’t factor in that Denver is now starting Drew Lock at quarterback, or that Washington was starting Case Keenum earlier in the year. But they might help in your decision making.

DEFENSIVE AVERAGES (Weeks 15-16 games)
Wk, TeamSackIntFumTDPts
15 N.E.-Cin.
16 Pitt.-NYJ3.
15 S.F.-Atl.
16 N.E.-Buff.
16 Was.-NYG3.
15 Car.-Sea.
15 Balt.-NYJ3.
15 Pitt.-Buff.
15 Det.-T.B.
16 S.F.-LAR2.
15 NYG-Mia.
15 Sea.-Car.2.8.921.13.137.7
16 Hou.-T.B.
16 Balt.-Clev.
16 Jac.-Atl.
15 N.O.-Ind.
16 Car.-Ind.
16 Sea.-Ariz.
16 N.O.-Ten.
15 T.B.-Det.
16 LAR-S.F.
15 K.C.-Den.
15 Mia.-NYG2.
15 Phil.-Was.
16 Cin.-Mia.
16 Ind.-Car.
16 Ariz.-Sea.
16 T.B.-Hou.
16 NYG-Was.
15 Was.-Phil.
16 NYJ-Pitt.
15 Min.-LAC2.
15 Ten.-Hou.
16 K.C.-Chi.
15 Clev.-Ariz.
16 Oak.-LAC2.
16 Mia.-Cin.
15 LAR-Dall.
16 Buff.-N.E.
16 Det.-Den.
15 Ariz.-Clev.
15 NYJ-Balt.
15 Buff.-Pitt.
15 Oak.-Jac.
16 Dall.-Phil.
15 Hou.-Ten.
15 Jac.-Oak.
15 Dall.-LAR2.
16 Ten.-N.O.
16 Den.-Det.
15 G.B.-Chi.
16 Phil.-Dall.
16 Chi.-K.C.
16 Atl.-Jac.
16 Clev.-Balt.
15 Atl.-S.F.
16 Min.-G.B.
16 LAC-Oak.
16 G.B.-Min.
15 Cin.-N.E.
15 Chi.-G.B.
15 Ind.-N.O.
15 LAC-Min.
15 Den.-K.C.

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Question 3

When making your weekly rankings I'm assuming you factor in potential weather conditions and shadow coverage by elite CB's. I guess my question is in the playoffs they say to go with who got you there, but I feel like throwing Tyler Lockett out there against Jaylen Ramsey as opposed to someone like Will Fuller against Denver's #2 CB would be ignoring the data. I'm also looking at Houston's kicker over Butker for KC as Houston has a good matchup and plays in a dome. What are your thoughts on this?

Brian Boyd (Maple Grove, MN)

Do we know that Ramsey will cover Tyler Lockett most of the time? Or will he be covering DK Metcalf on more downs? Or will he spend plenty of time on each of them? I don’t know. I’m not currently doing a lot with trying to play the game of avoiding top-level cornerbacks. Unless the guy is really good and also really on top of his game, that strategy can really backfire. Stephon Gilmore is the one guy right now that I’m scared of. He’s had a lot of success locking guys down, and I suppose that probably frees them up to use more double teams on the other side. I don’t want to use wide receivers against the Patriots. (But again, if you’ve got Tyreek Hill this week, what are you going to do?) Rather than looking at the quality of individual corners, I give more weight to quality of the defense as a whole. Which teams are allowing the most touchdown passes? Of those touchdown passes, how many have gone to wide receivers? I’m ranking Lockett about 20th among wide receivers this week – lower than usual, but in general, I would use him. And I would start the Hawaiian kicker rather than Butker. With weather, the policy here is to assume on Wednesday that the weather will be reasonable (for the Sunday games). After checking the forecast on Friday, players are downgraded if it looks like there’s going to be a problem.

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Question 4

Have had a good season, thanks for your help. In one league I backed into the playoffs with a 6-7 record but with a decent roster anchored by Cook, Ekeler and Waller. I have Drew Brees too, and Eli Manning is available. I am seriously considering grabbing Eli and starting him with a what-the-heck attitude, I think the stars are aligned for him to have a good game, and I think Brees will perform closer to his floor than ceiling. Talk me into or out of this idea. Also, I am a big Giants fan and an Eli Hall of Fame believer.

Pat Smith (Mitchell, SD)

If you like Eli, I wouldn’t mess with that. You put him on the field, and he might (probably would) put up a clunker, contributing – maybe even causing – the demise of your season. I’m all for plugging in a replacement for Brees, who has a lousy matchup, but I would be looking at a lot of other quarterbacks before I got down to Eli Manning.

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Question 5

Let's see how good you are (lol) ... these are the calls that really count. Number 1: Ertz v. NYG or Doyle @TB. Ertz has averaged 11.5 pts on exact averages of 5 catches for 59 and 0.5 tds v Giants over a 12-game career, but has Goedert to contend with, to exceed those averages... Doyle is less proven but in this injury regime of no Hilton, Mack , Cain or Campbell AND against TB which has given a median and a mean of 12.5 points to TEs...AND with little competition for looks...Who is the better bet?...Second is perhaps a bit clearer, but still interesting because you thought well of these players in the run-up to the season and that is: Crowder vs Miami or Samuel v ATL?... both are in situations where they can be leaned on and exploited. What do you think?

Vin Kmetz ()

With the tight ends, there are some interesting matchup and injury trends, but one of those guys is Jack Doyle. The other guy is Zach Ertz – definitely one of the top 4 tight ends in the game. Unless your projections led you to believe Doyle would be way better – definitely better – I would start Ertz. I was among the guys who fell into the trap last week of recommending Nick Foles. If you start Doyle over Ertz, is would be on par with starting Foles over Patrick Mahomes or Russell Wilson. Put me down for Ertz. With the wide receivers, I’m going with Crowder. I understand that he’s caught only 2 passes in back-to-back games. Somehow his 9 targets last week at Cincinnati resulted in 2 catches for 8 yards. (How is that even possible?) But Crowder caught 45 passes in the previous seven games Sam Darnold started, with 3 TDs. Unless the weather looks crappy, I would go with Crowder over Samuel.

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Question 6

Last week, you answered a question about starting James White, arguing that his production has been top-28 and that your numbers suggested starting him over other more "sexy" options. That led me to this bigger question for you: Do you incorporate upside into your rankings? In a PPR league, James White is currently averaging 11.7 points per game. He has one game of 0.90 points, and one game of 16.4 points. Every other game is between 9.6 and 13.8 points. Guys like Mixon, Sanders, and R.Jones are all averaging fewer (but they're all in the same ballpark). In short, to what extent (if at all) do you allow for the possibility of explosive games to impact your projected numbers in your final rankings and recommendations?

Moishe Steigmann (Milwaukee, WI)

Moishe sent this question in on Saturday, and as luck would have it, James White went on to have his best game of the season on Sunday night. That’s how these things tend to work. But his question wasn’t about White but rankings in general, so I will focus on that. When we talk about “rankings” there are two different kinds. There are season-long rankings, like what we put together in August or in the “Redrafter” products that go out every Thursday. In those, I very often make an effort to tweak the rankings to elevate players with more upside. That is, the projections might show that a modest player will finish with more cumulative statistics but I would rather see a fantasy team select a handcuff tailback who shouldn’t do play much most weeks but is an injury away from maybe being something viable. I would rather have Reggie Bonnafon or Ryquell Armstead on my roster, for example, rather than Kyle Juszcyzk, even if I technically think Juszyczk will finish the year with more yards. On a week-to-week basis, however, there is far less of that tweaking. We project the stats for each offense, assigning numbers for each player. Then, on Wednesday morning, I spend 20 minutes going down the list, looking at each player relative to the guys around him. If I see a guy who looks too low or too high, I will adjust his numbers. Rarely do I recall seeing a guy like Will Fuller and saying to myself, “Fuller is sitting as the 35th-best receiver, but what if this is the week he goes for 150-plus yards – I will adjust his numbers and make him higher.”

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Question 7

Currently have Brissett and Murray for Week 14. FAs available for QB are Sam Darnold, Philip Rivers, Duck Hodges, Andy Dalton, Mitch Trubisky, and Ryan Fitzpatrick. Worried about T.Y. Hilton playing hurt and Tampa's improving defense. Murray has a tough matchup. Of the above, would you pick up one of the FAs? Who? CBS ranks Rivers and Darnold as the top two.

Jim Furry (Myrtle Beach, SC)

If the question is, “who’s had the best career?,” then I would take Rivers. If we’re looking at who’ll put up the best numbers in Week 14, then I’ve got Rivers in the bottom 10. Sam Darnold is the guy I would be looking at. He’ll be involved in whatever touchdowns the Jets score (they can’t run the ball). They’re at home this week against one of the very worst defenses. Miami has allowed 29 touchdown passes, 2nd-most in the league. I’ve got Darnold as the 7th-best quarterback on the board this week.

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Question 8

Dynasty league question. I originally drafted DeVante Parker as a rookie and traded him and a draft pick for Tyreek Hill preseason the year of Jay Cutler. Obviously that was a big win. I picked up Parker again this year. Now I have an offer of Marquise Brown for Parker from the same owner. Should I make this trade? Could this be another fleecing or should I hold Parker who seems to finally have it all together. I'm out of the playoff picture.

Chris Krumenauer (Oshkosh, WI)

I don’t think Parker is just a guy who’s on a hot streak. I think he’s for real, and that he actually has put his career together. He’s averaged 89 receiving yards in his last seven games, with 4 TDs. I think there’s a legit discussion that can be had here. But Hollywood Brown is 4 years younger, and he’s going to be a good player for a long time. He’s definitely Baltimore’s No. 1 receiver. To me, Brown looks like he’s the rookie version of DeSean Jackson. He’ll score a lot of long touchdowns in the next five years. I would make the trade.

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Question 9

I’m a playoff lock. Beginning to worry about Courtland Sutton. Should I drop him for Metcalf?

Jay Tilton (Exeter, NH)

It’s less than ideal, with the Broncos going with a rookie at quarterback. Drew Lock threw for only 134 yards in his first start. But Sutton right now is simply too good to sit down for anything other than a top-level player. He had over half of his team’s receiving yardage last week, with a couple of touchdowns. He’s playing like he’s one of the top half-dozen receivers in the league. And the Broncos in Week 16 are playing at home against arguably the worst secondary in the league (Mitchell Trubisky, of all people, just threw for 338 yards and 3 TDs against the Lions).

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Question 10

Any WR or RB that jumps out as being used as replacement for a starter in last two games of season that could help win a fantasy Super Bowl?

Bob McKinlay (Casselberry, FL)

I don’t think Adam Thielen or T.Y. Hilton are playing this week, so we’ll have some replacement guys working against two of the leakiest secondaries in the league (Lions, Bucs). That’s where I would start. James Conner says he’s not playing, so perhaps Benny Snell at Arizona. I think Dalvin Cook will play in some capacity. If Cook sits out, Alexander Mattison might put up top-5 numbers while filling in. Let’s come back and look against at Kansas City’s backfield at the end of the week (after they’ve completed their Wed-Thur-Fri practices). Darrel Williams definitely is done for the year. If Damien Williams is also out, I’m thinking LeSean McCoy could catch a bunch of passes at New England. Right now, I’m thinking KC will emply a McCoy-Thompson tandem.

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Question 11

I own two defenses, the Ravens and Eagles. Who do you start week 14?

Jim Furry (Myrtle Beach, SC)

I would go with Philadelphia. If Eli Manning has one final Pick Six left in him, I want to get in on that. I’m not a big fan of Baltimore this week. I understand that it’s been rolling recently, and that Marcus Peters has a pair of interception returns for touchdowns. But I’m thinking the Ravens might struggle up in Orchard Park. While the Ravens blitz a bunch, they actually have a below-average 27 sacks for the year. The Bills have been a little better than average at allowing sacks and interceptions, and they’ve lost only 4 fumbles all year (only two teams have lost fewer).

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Question 12

I’m sure you get letters about rules controversies every year, but this one takes the cake. I’m in a league that has a rule allowing a team, twice a season, to replace a player who starts a game but doesn’t finish it because of injury, ejection, etc. The intent of the rule is to allow teams to, quoting the league rules, “field a complete lineup” when an unusual situation arises. The rules also state, “It is not for the sole purpose of manipulating your lineup in determining which player is to start after a player has completed play.” The guy I was playing last week had left Evan Engram in his lineup; Engram hadn’t played since week 9 and was inactive in week 13. On Sunday night, after every game except Seahawks-Vikings had been played, he decides to use the replacement rule to not only pull Engram but release him, pick up a free agent, Jacob Hollister, and put Hollister in his lineup. Again, all of this done on Sunday night. On Monday night, Hollister scored 7 league points and I lost by 5 points. Instead of a division title, a 2-seed and a first-round bye, I fell to a 7-seed and the consolation round. On Tuesday, the guy released Hollister and picked Engram back up. If that isn’t “manipulating your lineup” (and a total dick move), I don’t know what the hell is. The commish says the moves were legal; I feel like I was I completely cheated and it’s all I can do not to go into the CBS fantasy app, delete my entire roster, quit the league, and not watch another damn game the rest of the year. Thoughts?

Mike Fimea (Scottsdale, AZ)

With a rule like that, you’re moving into a gray. When and how can the rule be utilized. It might be useful to get out the rulebook and look at it like an attorney would – what exactly is allowed. In general, probably best to just stick with traditional fantasy rules. You start your team, and those are the guys you get.

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