Fantasy football: Chiefs QB Alex Smith a sneaky playoff start
BY JEFF AGREST Staff Reporter December 7, 2013 1:42AM
WEEK 14 OUTLOOK
GAME OF THE WEEK
Lions at Eagles: The Eagles have allowed the most points to wide receivers, and the Lions the third-most.
GAME OF THE MEEK
Raiders at Jets: Few options here, but Raiders receiver Rod Streater could exploit a suspect Jets secondary.
PLAYERS OF THE WEEK
QB Ryan Fitzpatrick, Titans: If Alex Smith isn’t available, consider Fitzpatrick. He’ll have to throw against the Broncos, and he’s capable of posting big numbers.
RB DeMarco Murray, Cowboys: He’s next in line to face the Bears, who continue to be torched by running backs.
WR Torrey Smith, Ravens: You saw what Alshon Jeffery did to the Vikings. Smith can do that, too.
PLAYERS OF THE MEEK
QB Colin Kaepernick, 49ers: Despite their losses in the secondary, the Seahawks held Drew Brees to 147 yards.
RB Zac Stacy, Rams: The Cardinals have held running backs to an average of 48.2 rushing yards in the last five games.
WR Steve Smith, Panthers: His season high is 69 yards, and he hasn’t scored since Week 7. Plus, the Saints’ defense is tougher at home.
WEEK 13 PICKS
PLAYERS OF THE WEEK
QB Cam Newton: 263 yards, 2 TDs, 2 INTs; 68 rushing yards, TD run
RB Matt Forte: 120 rushing yards; 31 receiving yards
WR Kendall Wright: 6 catches, 77 yards
PLAYERS OF THE MEEK
QB Andrew Luck: 200 yards, INT; 42 rushing yards
RB Le’Veon Bell: 73 rushing yards, TD; 63 receiving yards
WR DeSean Jackson: 3 catches, 36 yards
Alex Smith is having his best stretch of the season — albeit three games — and it’s no coincidence. Forces are conspiring to make Smith a sneaky start in the playoffs, which begin this week in many leagues. Those forces are a bad defense and bad opposing defenses.
Smith has scored 20-plus standard-scoring points in three consecutive games. In that span, he has thrown for more than 290 yards and run for more than 40 yards twice. He has totaled seven touchdown passes with two interceptions.
The numbers have been inflated — his 125 passes in those games are his most in any three-game stretch this season — because they’ve had to be. The Chiefs played the Broncos twice and the Chargers, and both teams tormented a once-dominant defense. After allowing 111 points in their first nine games, the Chiefs allowed 103 in the last three. Smith had to keep up.
And if the defense continues to struggle, Smith will continue to air it out. Fortunately for him, he has an accommodating schedule: at Redskins, at Raiders, vs. Colts. All three have pass defenses ranked in the bottom half of the league, and the first two rank in the top 10 in most points allowed to quarterbacks.
Smith is throwing the ball downfield with accuracy after rarely throwing downfield earlier this season. Plus, he has been up to the challenge in back-to-back shootouts. So if you’re losing faith in, say, Philip Rivers, Tony Romo or Andrew Luck, Smith might be your guy in the playoffs. He’s available in about one-third of ESPN and Yahoo! leagues.
Well, my Andre Ellington call hasn’t panned out (he has a knee injury), so consider the Cardinals’ Rashard Mendenhall a No. 2/flex option at running back. He’d get the goal-line carries even if Ellington were playing, but without him, Mendenhall had a season-high 18 carries Sunday. Plus, he has favorable matchups ahead against the Rams and Titans.
◆ Don’t start a Patriots running back. Four of them carried the ball Sunday, including fullback James Develin, who vultured a touchdown on his second carry of the year. The best bet is Shane Vereen because of his receiving, but he’s no more than a flex play. There are too many horses in this stable.
◆ Steelers wide receiver Jerricho Cotchery scored his eighth touchdown Sunday, giving him six in the last five games. But he has only 36 catches, and he’s still third on the depth chart behind Antonio Brown and Emmanuel Sanders. Cotchery remains too touchdown-dependent to trust.