Kickoff: Saturday, December 24th, 2022, 1:00 PM ET
Location: FirstEnergy Stadium, Cleveland Ohio
Betting Odds: No -3, 31.5 O/U total via oddhsark.com
Writer: Dustin Ludke (@TheDunit13 on Twitter)
Deshaun Watson (Sit, QB2)
Deshaun Watson continues to get better but still isn’t back to his former form. There will be a week where he is going to go off and put up 3 touchdowns and 300 yards. I don’t think this is the week. He is facing the Saints who are giving up 16.23 points to quarterbacks, the 16th most in the league. It’s probably the best matchup that Watson has seen since returning but until we see it you can’t trust him. Even with other QBs out with injuries, it would be a massive gamble banking on him doing something he hasn’t done in two years.
Nick Chubb (Start, RB2), Kareem Hunt (Sit)
It’s been a rough stretch for Nick Chubb. He hasn’t scored since Watson has gone under center. His carries haven’t dropped and his yards per carry are consistent with what he was doing earlier in the season. In fact, his snap share has gone up slightly. It’s been tough matchups two out of the three weeks. This week he gets the Saints who are giving up the 18-most points to running backs at 22.54. It seems that Chubb might be more touchdown dependent than we want to admit. The whole Browns offense seems to be struggling right now, but you are still starting Chubb. He is going to get you over 50 yards and he has the ability to score in bunches. He should be a solid RB2 this week. He is dealing with a foot injury, so that’s something to monitor.
Kareem Hunt isn’t getting enough carries or targets or snaps to make him a fantasy option. For a player who was once a stand-alone RB2, he now is in the discussion as a pure handcuff. He probably shouldn’t be on your team unless you own Chubb and are covering yourself in case of injury. If Chubb were to miss the game I think you can fire up Hunt as a low end Rb2.
Wide Receivers/ Tight Ends
Amari Cooper (Start, WR3), Donovan Peoples-Jones (Sit, FLEX), David Njoku (Sit, TE2)
Amari Cooper has been the biggest loser in the change at quarterback. He has gone from being a surefire WR1 to a Flex range player. His snap share is still the same. His targets have fallen off some but haven’t dipped below five in a game. What has come down is his yardage. He has only one game over 50 yards and his yards per target has dropped to 6.7. He is still playing a ton of snaps and leading the team in routes run. The matchup isn’t great. The Saints are giving up the 13th-fewest points to wide receivers. The Saints don’t have any stand-out cornerbacks but have a great pair of safety. Cooper can still be started, but he is not as great of a value as he used to be. Start him as a WR3.
While Cooper has come down, Donovan Peoples-Jones has not seen a dip in his production at all. He has been a solid WR2 almost every week. He either gets a touchdown like he did this past week, or he is getting plenty of yards as he did in Week 14. He will see coverage from either Alontae Taylor or Paulson Adebo. Neither of them rates over 58 in coverage. The safeties will have to help over the top and that could take away some of what DPJ does. He does seem to get a few deep shots a game, which is something Watson has had in all of his successful years. It’s projected to be a very cold game with real feel temps to be in the negatives. That makes catching the ball very hard and if the winds come with that the deep ball will probably be out of play. I’m not trusting him this week. Sit him.
Tight end David Njoku has been hit or miss. He needs a touchdown to be fantasy relevant in a Watson lead offense. The Saints are giving up the second-fewest point sot tight ends at 8.09. On a cold and windy day, someone like Njoku who is a lower ADOT (average depth of target) type player might see more work. He’s a risky start and I’m not willing to take that kind of risk considering its the fantasy playoffs.
New Orleans Saints
Andy Dalton (Sit)
It looks like the Saints are rolling with Andy Dalton for the rest of the season. Surprisingly, Dalton has thrown a touchdown in all but one game this season. He also only has seven interceptions on the season. The issue with Dalton is that his yardage volume is very low. He only has two games over 250 yards passing. While touchdowns are great, the yardage needs to be higher to push him into that next tier. Playing the Browns who are giving up the 10-fewest points to quarterbacks at 14.51 is not a great matchup for Dalton. You can’t trust him. He has only been a QB2 or better for three weeks this season.
Alvin Kamara (Start, RB2), Taysom Hill (Start, FLEX)
Alvin Kamara finally had a halfway decent game this past week. It was the first time he has been over 20 carries since Week 5 and the first time over 50 yards since Week 8. He still didn’t find the end zone which has limited his upside. The additional carries probably came because Mark Ingram is out with an injury. Kamara can continue his late-season push this week against the Browns who are giving up the third most points to running backs at 27.33. The Browns haven’t been putting up points like you might expect so the Saints can control the time of possessions and work Kamara in all game long. He should be a solid RB2 this week.
Taysom Hill continues to get work in the rushing game. He saw seven carries this past week. He averaged 4.3 yards per attempt which is the same as Kamara. On top of the rushing, he is still getting some passing work, having a touchdown throw against the Falcons. I expect him to continue to be a gadget player getting enough work to keep him in the Flex range. You have to start him given the matchup and the fact that he can hit a big play and that the team designs plays for him.
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends
Chris Olave (OUT), Jarvis Landry (Sit), Rashid Shaheed (Sit, FLEX), Juwan Johnson (Start, TE2)
Chris Olave is out now. It doesn’t change any one else on the team as I was already down on them.
Perhaps the new alpha wide receiver for the Saints is Rashid Shaheed. He led the team in routes run with 20 and had the most yards and was the only wide receiver to catch a touchdown. He also played on 71% of the team’s snaps which continues the trend of his snaps increasing every week for the past five games. It’s a tough matchup as he will probably see coverage from Greg Newsome who rates at 68.3 in coverage. Shaheed’s success has come from hitting long balls which could be a hard thing to come by in a very cold and windy game. It’s hard to bench the hot hand but you have to consider it this week. If you have to you can put him in a flex spot but would monitor weather conditions and possibly look for other options
Fellow rookie Chris Olave saw the lowest amount of targets since Week 1. He also only played on 49% of the team’s snaps which is a drastic cut from his usual over 65% mark. The Browns are giving up the eleventh fewest points to wideouts at 32.16 and Olave will probably be opposite Denzel Ward. While Ward only rates at 56.2 he has played better than his rating suggests. Olave will be looking to get back on track this week. It’s not a great matchup but he has been the focal point of the offense and I’m willing to look past this last week as just an outlier. You can trust Olave as a WR3.
Juwan Johnson might have single-handedly won people their first week of the playoffs if you had him in your lineup. He saw a team-high six targets, catching four of them for 67 yards and two touchdowns. This comes on only playing on 51% of the team’s snaps. It also marks the fifth time in the past seven games that Johnson has scored. The Browns are giving up the sixth-fewest points to tight ends at 9.15 so not a great matchup. Johnson is also a high ADOT route runner so those types of passes might be harder this week. I’m still going to start him but I’m going to temper what I expect down to a TE2 range.