Kickoff: Sunday, January 1st, 2023, 1:00 PM ET
Location: FedEx Field, Washington
Betting Odds: WAS -2, 40.5 total via oddshark.com
Writer: Dustin Ludke (@TheDunit13 on Twitter)
Deshaun Watson (Sit, QB2)
It’s still not clicking for Deshaun Watson, and it’s looking like it might not at all this year, or maybe ever again. He had 31 passing attempts and only completed 15 of them for 135 yards and an interception. He salvaged his fantasy day by rushing for a touchdown, but it came on a season-low three rushes. The Commanders are middle of the road at fifteenth most points to quarterbacks at 16.17. It’s not a great matchup and the pass rush for Washington has gotten better as of late. I’m not starting Watson. It was a gamble that the fantasy manager made that hasn’t paid off and probably won’t this year
Nick Chubb (Start, RB2), Kareem Hunt (Sit)
The offense’s struggles and Nick Chubb‘s struggles since Watson took over continue. Chubb still leads that backfield, and is close to being a true bell cow back. He saw 24 carries this past week and got 92 yards despite only playing on 53% of the team’s snaps. Handcuff Kareem Hunt played on 47% of the team’s snaps and got seven carries, which are one more than the yards he got on those carries at eight. The Commanders are giving up the fourth fewest points to running backs at 19.09. Chubb should still be trusted as an RB2. He is getting plenty of opportunities, and even with the tough matchup, Chubb is a focal point of the offense and should be able to get into the RB2 range. Hunt isn’t worth starting and probably not rostering outside of being a handcuff for Chubb.
Wide Receivers/ Tight Ends
Amari Cooper (Start, WR3), Donovan Peoples-Jones (Sit, FLEX), David Njoku (Sit, TE2)
Amari Cooper, despite not getting into the end zone the past five weeks, continues to see plenty of opportunities. What he does with those opportunities are the questions. While seeing an average of 8 targets over the past seven games, he is only averaging 53 yards per game. His yardage total has increased every week with Watson at the helm and got two 72 yards this past week. The Commanders will probably have Kendall Fuller cover Cooper for most of the game. Fuller rates at 67.9 in coverage, which puts him as the 44th-best cover corner out of the 116 rated by PFF.com. While it’s a tough matchup for the eight-year vet, his usage and opportunities will be enough for him to be a solid WR3.
Donovan Peoples-Jones has been boom or bust with Watson under center. He has games like Week 14, where he sees twelve targets, and catches eight of them for 114 yards, or Week 15, where he catches all four of his targets for 31 yards and a touchdown. Three out of the four weeks Watson has been at the helm, DPJ has been either a WR3 or WR2, but last week, he barely made it onto the score sheet. It’s that complete miss that worries me. He will probably see coverage from Benjamin St-Juste who rates at 60.0 but will also see help over the top to stop the long ball from safeties. The Commanders have two good safeties who both rate over 70.0 in coverage. It could be a tough day for the former Michigan Wolverine to get open and put up fantasy points. This game doesn’t project to be a shootout, so there shouldn’t be a need to be throwing the ball a ton. I’m sitting DPJ this week even if he gets into the flex range. If you are projected to lose and need a boom/bust play, I wouldn’t fault you for sliding DPJ into your lineup and hoping he can boom.
David Njoku has seen 20 targets over the past three weeks and has twelve receptions. Those numbers are padded a little by the nine targets, a seven-catch game back in Week 14. Since then he has caught five out of eleven targets. He has some timely dropped passes that have hurt the team and his fantasy production. He is still playing on nearly all the team’s snaps which are encouraging for a tight end. The fact that he has under 30 yards in each of the past two games is worrisome. The Commanders are giving up the fifth-fewest points to tight ends at 9.3, so not a matchup I want to start Njoku in. Sit him this week.
Carson Wentz (Sit)
Carson Wentz gets his starting job back after replacing Taylor Heinicke last week. Wentz was having a good year before the injury took him out of the lineup. Before his injury, he had ten touchdowns and six interceptions. Even last week, he was able to throw for 123 yards and a score on only 16 passing attempts. He completed twelve of them, which helped bolster his numbers. He faces the Cleveland defense that is giving up the fifth-fewest points to quarterbacks at 13.65 this week. It’s a very hard matchup for Wentz’s first full game back as the starter. His familiarity with the offense and receivers will help, but it’s a big game for the Commanders, who need to win to keep their slim playoff chances alive. I can’t recommend starting Wentz. He will probably struggle to get into the QB2 range, but it’s good to see him back under center.
Antonio Gibson (Sit, Flex), Brian Robinson Jr. (Start, RB2)
Much like the Browns, the Commanders have a running back who isn’t playing a ton of snaps but is seeing some of the highest carry totals of all running backs. Brian Robinson rushed the ball 22 times this past week while only playing on 44% of the team’s total snaps. Robinson played on 32 actual snaps, so he was seeing a carry pretty much every time he was on the field. He now faces the Browns who are giving up the third most points to running backs at 27.03. It’s a great situation for Robinson who can up his yards per carry average from 3.92 back close to 42 which it was before this past week. You can trust him as an RB2 this week. He would be a clear RB1 if he was involved more in the passing game, but that work goes mainly to Antonio Gibson. Gibson has seen at least three targets in all but one game this season. He played on a season-low 29% of the team’s snaps this past week and gave way to Jonathan Williams to see more opportunities. Neither is worth starting as they are nothing more than a change of pace and rest players for Robinson who is the main rusher.
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends
Terry McLaurin (Start, WR2), Curtis Samuel (Start, WR3), Jahan Dotson (Start, Flex), Logan Thomas (Sit, TE2)
You gotta start Terry McLaurin right now. He is coming off three consecutive games of over 70 yards and reaching paydirt in two of those games. He only has three games this season with under 50 yards. He is playing on over 90% of the team’s snaps and has seen at least five targets in all but two games this year. He does probably draw coverage from Denzel Ward who rates at 57.6. It’s a solid matchup in favor of McLaurin who will be able to get open and see enough targets to make him a solid WR2 this week.
Ward is not the top cover corner for the Browns. That designation goes to Greg Newsome II. He has been sliding over and covering the slot wide receiver who is Curtis Samuel. The Commanders are running three wide sets 65% of the time, so Samuel will see a lot of Newsome. Newsome rates at 68.8 in coverage making him 39th out of 116 corners. Samuel has seen at least five targets in each of the past three games and should continue to see that number increase with Wentz under center. Samuel scored in the first two weeks of the season with Wentz throwing the ball and picked up another Wentz touchdown pass this past week. I like what Samuel can be even with the tight coverage and think he will easily be a WR3 this week.
Jahan Dotson has had a great rookie year. He leads the team in receiving touchdowns with seven despite missing five games with injury and only having 50 targets on the season. He is coming into this game on a three-game scoring streak, and while that was with Heinicke he scored four touchdowns earlier this year with Wentz. He will have to get past the coverage of Martin Emerson on three-wide sets and Newsome on two wide. Emerson actually rates high at 72.1 despite limited play. Dotson has big play ability, so I expect the safety to help out over the top. It’s still hard to bench a hot hand. Even with the Browns giving up the eight fewest points to wide receivers at 30.55. I still think you can start Dotson as a solid flex-range player this week.
Logan Thomas continues to impress from a numbers standpoint. He played on 71% of the team’s snaps this past week which is his norm. He saw eight targets which were tied for the team lead and ran 32 routes. Those numbers are wide receiver-like. What is not like a wide receiver is on those eight targets he only had 35 yards despite catching six of them. It’s frustrating to see the yardage so low. The ppr volume is there with six receptions, but you would hope to see him over 50 yards with that many. Cleveland is giving up the sixth-fewest points to tight ends at 9.44 so it’s not the best matchup. He will probably be in the TE2 range but I’m benching him and looking for someone with more upside.