NFL

NFL Fantasy Picks: Mitchell set for massive workload in Deebo's absence

By Sports Desk November 30, 2021

It's Week 13 in the NFL and the fantasy playoffs are on the horizon.

If you're near the bottom of your league's standings, it's probably game over, time to focus on Christmas shopping and plan for next year.

Yet if you're in the midst of a battle for a playoff spot or fighting to secure a top seed, it's never been more important to consistently nail your starting lineup selections.

Stats Perform is once again here with a helping hand, looking at four offensive players and a defense who deserve to be fantasy starters this week.

 

Quarterback: Carson Wentz, Indianapolis Colts @ Houston Texans

An otherwise explosive performance from Wentz, in which he threw for 306 yards and three touchdowns, against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers was undermined by a pair of interceptions, though one of those picks came on a last-gasp Hail Mary attempt.

Turnovers could well be a problem again versus the lowly Texans, whose defense is fifth in the NFL with 20 takeaways, but that should not prohibit fantasy managers from slotting Wentz into their lineup against one of the league's worst teams.

The reverse fixture back in Week 6 saw Wentz average over 11 yards per attempt and, with his 20-5 touchdown to interception ratio the fourth-best in the league, the likely outcome is that the former second overall pick manages to avoid turnovers en route to a productive fantasy performance.

Running Back: Elijah Mitchell, San Francisco 49ers @ Seattle Seahawks

Mitchell is one half of a devastating two-headed monster leading the 49ers' running game, and he and ultra-versatile wide receiver Deebo Samuel have gashed teams at will over the course of San Francisco's three-game winning streak.

The Niners are averaging 130.9 rush yards per game, the sixth-most in the NFL, and racked up 208 yards on the ground in their Week 12 win over the Minnesota Vikings, sixth-round rookie Mitchell contributing 133 of them in his fourth 100-yard performance of the season.

This week, that aforementioned monster will be minus Samuel due to a groin injury, meaning potentially greater workloads for Mitchell and fellow tailback Jeff Wilson Jr. against a Seahawks team dead last in average time of possession. All signs point to San Francisco controlling the clock against a slumping Seattle outfit and setting up Mitchell to continue his outstanding first year in the league.

Wide Receiver: Jaylen Waddle, Miami Dolphins vs. New York Giants

The Dolphins are surging, winning four in a row, and so is their first-round pick, whose performances over the last two weeks have made his status as the sixth overall selection look less dubious.

Having caught eight passes for 65 yards against the New York Jets in Week 11, Waddle exploded for nine catches, 137 yards and a touchdown as the Dolphins thrashed the Carolina Panthers last Sunday.

Waddle has been targeted at least eight times in five of his last six games and, even against a Giants defense that has been largely stingy of late, that share of the workload makes the speedster an intriguing play, especially in points per reception leagues.

Tight End: Rob Gronkowski, Tampa Bay Buccaneers @ Atlanta Falcons

Gronkowski appears to have shaken off the injury problems that have plagued his 2021 season and has 13 catches for 194 yards over the last two weeks.

Antonio Brown could finally return from an ankle problem to eat into Gronkowski's targets but, against a Falcons team that has conceded 40 points in each of the last two matchups with the Bucs, he should still thrive when targeted by Tom Brady to an extent that makes him an obvious starter in fantasy football.

Defense: Arizona Cardinals @ Chicago Bears

It still isn't clear whether quarterback Kyler Murray will return for the Cardinals after missing the last three games with an ankle injury, but the NFC's top seed should be able to lean on their defense to secure victory in Chicago even if Murray cannot go.

The Cardinals rank eighth in yards per play allowed with 5.27 and get to go against a Bears offense that has allowed the most sacks (37) in the NFL and could only manage 16 points against the Detroit Lions in a miserable Thanksgiving game.

Regardless of whether it is Andy Dalton or Justin Fields at quarterback for the Bears, the Cardinals' defense will be a strong fantasy play.

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    Cristiano Ronaldo "cannot do things on his own" and Manchester United will therefore not look to build their team around one player, according to interim manager Ralf Rangnick.

    The Portugal international has scored 14 goals and assisted three more in 21 appearances since returning to Old Trafford from Juventus in September.

    That is double the number of goals than any other United player, with compatriot Bruno Fernandes next on the list with seven strikes to his name in 2021-22.

    Ronaldo's incredible longevity was recognised with a special award from FIFA on Monday after becoming the all-time top goalscorer in men's international football history in 2021.

    But while Rangnick is in awe of Ronaldo's scoring record, he has no plans to centre his United side around the five-time Ballon d'Or winner.

    "What he has done with his career so far is amazing: 800 goals in competitive games, which no one has achieved that in the last 80 or 100 years," Rangnick said.

    "That shows what kind of exceptional player he is. But the Premier League is the most competitive league in the world and he cannot do things on his own. 

    "He is one important member of this team and that’s how we have to develop."

    Ronaldo has missed United's last two games – a 1-0 win over Aston Villa in the FA Cup third round and a 2-2 draw against the same side five days later in the Premier League.

    Rangnick is hopeful of having Ronaldo back for Wednesday's trip to Brentford, which has been rescheduled from last month after a COVID-19 outbreak in the United camp.

    A raft of games have been called off in the English top flight in recent weeks, with bottom side Burnley having as many as four games in hand on some sides around them.

    Thomas Tuchel is among those to have asked for more transparency in terms of games being called off, with Chelsea recently having a postponement request declined. 

    Asked if he feels more should be done to prevent postponements, Rangnick said: "I don't know, I can only speak about our club here, we had some problems four weeks ago.

    "Right now we don't have any issues, we have players available, we haven't had any COVID cases. I can't judge other clubs, it's something the Premier League has to deal with."

    United head to Brentford sitting seventh in the Premier League and with just one win from their last five away top-flight matches. 

    The Red Devils have scored in all 10 of their Premier League away games this season, which is the best-such 100 per cent record in the competition this term. 

    However, three of the last four times they have failed to find the net on the road in the league have been in games in London (v Arsenal, Chelsea and Crystal Palace last season).

  • Watt: Cardinals' playoff defeat to Rams a massive failure Watt: Cardinals' playoff defeat to Rams a massive failure

    J.J. Watt reflected on the Arizona Cardinals' 34-11 playoff defeat to the Los Angeles Rams as "a massive failure".

    The Cardinals ended their season with a whimper at SoFi Stadium on Monday as the Rams dominated the Wild Card round clash between the NFC West rivals.

    Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford ended his wait for a first playoff win, throwing touchdown passes for Odell Beckham Jr. and Cooper Kupp while running in another.

    Los Angeles will face defending champions the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Florida next Sunday in the divisional round. 

    The Cardinals, on the other hand, are left to lick their wounds following a fifth defeat in seven games that brought their campaign to a juddering halt.

    Watt returned from a shoulder injury to face the Rams and the defensive end pulled no punches with his verdict on the Cardinals' performance.

    He said: "It was a massive failure from what we were capable of doing and from what we showed we can do [up until the game Monday], there's no other way to describe it than as a failure.

    Quarterback Kyler Murray endured a game to forget, passing for 137 yards and throwing two interceptions in the Cardinals' first playoff game since 2015.

    He said: "I play to win the Super Bowl. That's the goal, that's the mission, is to win the Super Bowl not to make the playoffs or go to the second round. We fell short."

    He added: "It's disappointing that we didn't make it a game and come out and play the football we know we're capable of playing, that's really the most disappointing part.

    "Losing is one thing, but when you don't even make it competitive, it's another thing.

    "I put a lot on my shoulders, put a lot on myself and to dream of this moment and then be in the playoffs, the first game of the playoffs and then to play the way I did, to play the way we did, it's, like I said, disappointing."

    Cardinals head coach Kliff Kingsbury: "When you're dropping back against that that group, it's not a good recipe.

    "And that's what we've found ourselves in. So, we just made it a tough night."

  • Man Utd boss Rangnick considers Martial matter 'resolved' Man Utd boss Rangnick considers Martial matter 'resolved'

    Manchester United interim boss Ralf Rangnick will consider selecting Anthony Martial to face Brentford after holding clear-the-air talks with the forward.

    Martial was absent from United's squad for Saturday's 2-2 Premier League draw with Aston Villa, which Rangnick explained was down to the player not wanting to be included.

    However, the 26-year-old subsequently refuted his manager's claims by stating on social media that he "will never refuse to play a match for Man United".

    Speaking on Tuesday, Rangnick did not explain the contrasting versions of events, but he left the door open for Martial to return to the squad should the forward prove his fitness.

    "I had a conversation with him on Sunday about what happened and how I saw the situation," Rangnick said at a news conference previewing Wednesday's trip to Brentford.

    "The matter is now resolved. He didn't train yesterday or the day before. But he will probably train today and after training I will then take the decision if he is selected or not."

    Martial is reported to have rejected loan offers from other Premier League clubs, while Juventus and LaLiga pair Barcelona and Sevilla have also been credited with an interest.

    The ex-Monaco man has scored 79 goals in 268 appearances since his debut in September 2015 – only Marcus Rashford (91 in 286) has scored more for United in that period.

    Martial's 79 goals have come from an expected goals (xG) return of 64, meaning he has scored 15 goals more than expected from the quality of his chances.

    That is the largest positive xG differential of any player at the club over the same period, followed by Mason Greenwood (11) and Rashford (10).

    However, Martial's playing time has been limited this term – not helped by injury issues – with his 358 minutes on the field only the 21st most of all United players.

    The player's agent, Philippe Lamboley, revealed last month that Martial is looking to join a new club in January due to a lack of playing time.

    While Martial may play a part against Brentford, team-mate Paul Pogba is still not being considered for selection despite returning to training this week.

    Pogba has been used just 13 times this season – and not at all under Rangnick – but could return from a three-month lay-off in the next few weeks.

    "Paul had his first day of training with the whole group yesterday," Rangnick said. "He showed what kind of extraordinary player he can be.

    "He will not be available for the two games this week. Hopefully after the break, with the cup game against Middlesbrough and the away game at Burnley, he can be an option."

    Rangnick also confirmed he will make a late decision on whether Rashford and Cristiano Ronaldo will feature in west London as they recover from knocks.

    Wednesday's meeting will be the first between United and Brentford in the league since 1947 and their first in any competition since 1975, when United won 2-1 in an EFL Cup tie.

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