NFL

NFL Fantasy Picks: Diontae to dominate again for Pittsburgh

By Sports Desk December 08, 2021

Depending on how your fantasy league is structured, it's either the final week of the regular season or the first week of the playoffs.

Regardless of which category you fall in, if you're still in contention for the title, it is crunch time.

There's no room for error, and those line-up selections must be right.

Stats Perform is here with a helping hand once again, identifying four offensive players and a defense worthy of starter consideration in Week 14.

 

Quarterback: Russell Wilson, Seattle Seahawks @ Houston Texans

After a shaky start, Wilson looked more like himself in the Seahawks' surprise win over the San Francisco 49ers last week.

There was a big-play connection with D.K. Metcalf and he also found Tyler Lockett for what proved the game-winning touchdown to keep Seattle's faint playoff hopes alive.

Having prevailed despite three turnovers from the Seahawks' offense, Wilson gets to try to continue his upward momentum against a Texans defense ranked 24th in the NFL by yards per play allowed.

Running Back: Javonte Williams, Denver Broncos vs. Detroit Lions

Williams was a workhorse for the Broncos against the Kansas City Chiefs in the absence of backfield mate Melvin Gordon.

He carried the ball 23 times for 102 yards while also catching six passes for 76 yards and a touchdown in Denver's loss at Arrowhead Stadium.

With Gordon back in practice ahead of Week 14, the same share of the touches appears unlikely for Williams.

But for a rookie running back averaging 4.8 yards per attempt, that may not matter against a Lions defense that has given up 42 rushes of 10 yards or more, tied for seventh-most in the league.

Wide Receiver: Diontae Johnson, Pittsburgh Steelers @ Minnesota Vikings

Trusting the Steelers' offense has been a difficult thing to do in what is expected to be the final year with an evidently declining Ben Roethlisberger at quarterback.

Yet one Steelers player fantasy managers, especially those in points per reception leagues, have had no problem believing in is wide receiver Johnson.

Johnson has double-digit targets and at least seven catches and 80 yards in each of his last four games. His 51 targets over that span are the most in the NFL.

He has topped 100 yards in two of those games and caught a pair of touchdowns in last week's win over the Baltimore Ravens.

Only six teams have given up more passing touchdowns in 2021 than the Vikings (21). If their pass coverage is as soft as it was on the final drive of their shock loss to Detroit, Johnson should thrive.

Tight End: T.J. Hockenson, Detroit Lions @ Denver Broncos

Back to those aforementioned Lions, for whom the pressure is off after they finally claimed that elusive first win in Week 13.

That extra freedom might see them look to open up the passing game against Denver, and Hockenson would likely be a beneficiary of such an approach.

He has a touchdown in each of his last two games and at least eight targets in five of his last seven. That could be enough for a productive fantasy outing even against a stingy Denver defense.

Defense: New Orleans Saints @ New York Jets

Injuries look like being too much to overcome for Sean Payton and the 5-7 Saints, but the Jets are an ideal opponent to face for teams looking to stay in the mix.

Even if quarterback Taysom Hill continues to struggle throwing the ball, the Saints can win this one on the defensive side. 

Their defense has forced a turnover in three successive games while no offense has committed more giveaways than the 25 racked up by the Jets.

This one is simple. If you own the Saints defense or are in a position to pick it up on the waiver wire, slot this group into your starting line-up.

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  • South Korea 2-1 Portugal: Dramatic Hwang winner incredibly puts Taeguk Warriors through South Korea 2-1 Portugal: Dramatic Hwang winner incredibly puts Taeguk Warriors through

    Hwang Hee-chan scored a stoppage-time winner to beat Portugal 2-1 and put South Korea through to the last 16 of the World Cup at the expense of Uruguay in a dramatic conclusion to Group H.

    The Taeguk Warriors appeared to be heading out as they looked set to draw while Uruguay led Ghana elsewhere, but Hwang netted at the end to complete an incredible turnaround.

    Ricardo Horta had put Portugal in front early on, but they failed to heed the warning posed by Kim Jin-su's disallowed goal soon after, with Kim Young-gwon deservedly getting South Korea back on level terms.

    Portugal – who won the group anyway – coasted through the second half and South Korea took full advantage, with Hwang landing the decisive blow to spark bedlam and send Uruguay packing.

    South Korea's feeble start suggested they were there for the taking, with Horta applying an easy finish to take a fifth-minute lead after Diogo Dalot breezed past Kim Jin-su and cut the ball back.

    Kim Jin-su scored what he thought was the equaliser 12 minutes later, tapping in on the rebound after Diogo Costa saved Cho Gue-sung's header, but it was ruled out for offside.

    Portugal's lead was wiped out before the half-hour, though.

    Ronaldo shied away from a corner delivery, which struck him, and Kim Young-gwon was on hand to steer home.

    Portugal's captain then missed completely missed his kick from close range early in the second half, the subsequent offside flag doing little to spare his blushes.

    A second half generally lacking quality appeared to be petering out.

    But then captain Son Heung-min darted towards the Portugal goal, awaited support, and calmly fed Hwang through a defender's legs, Hwang slamming past Costa to secure progress in astonishing fashion.

     

  • Flick must go after Germany's 'pathetic' World Cup exit, says Hamann Flick must go after Germany's 'pathetic' World Cup exit, says Hamann

    Former Germany international Dietmar Hamann has called for Hansi Flick to be replaced as the team's head coach after overseeing a "pathetic" group-stage exit from the World Cup.

    A late double from substitute Kai Havertz helped Germany beat Costa Rica 4-2 in their final Group E game on Thursday, but Japan stunned Spain with a 2-1 win at the Khalifa International Stadium to send the four-time winners home.

    Germany have now suffered group-stage eliminations from consecutive World Cups, having avoided falling at the first hurdle on each of their last 16 appearances at the tournament before 2018.

    The coaches of some eliminated sides – such as Mexico's Tata Martino and Belgium's Roberto Martinez – have already announced their departures, and Hamann thinks Flick should do the same.

    Speaking to Sky Sports in Germany, a furious Hamann said: "I think it's impossible that we can continue with the coach. 

    "After this debacle, we only have 18 months until the European Championships at home, that was pathetic.

    "Costa Rica had one shot on target in the first two games and we made them look like Brazil. In the team, everyone does what they want. I see no reason why Flick should remain as coach.

    "When I hear some comments from those responsible [with other teams], I have to say that responsibility looks different. Excuses, excuses, excuses. It's time for a cut."

    Germany have failed to keep a single clean sheet in their last 12 games at World Cups or European Championships, their longest ever such sequence. 

    The last side to fail to score against Germany in a major tournament match was Slovakia, who were beaten 3-0 by Joachim Low's side in the round of 16 at Euro 2016.

  • Netherlands v USA: Oranje happy to keep winning while not playing well Netherlands v USA: Oranje happy to keep winning while not playing well

    The Netherlands would love to start playing well, but beating the United States and reaching a World Cup quarter-final is their primary focus.

    This has so far been an underwhelming tournament from the Oranje, although they still advanced top of Group A with two wins and a draw from their three matches.

    Coach Louis van Gaal told the media to fly home if the football was "so terribly boring", but there is no doubt it is effective.

    Discounting penalty shoot-outs, Van Gaal is unbeaten in his 10 World Cup matches as a coach. Only Felipe Scolari (12) and Mario Zagallo (11) have enjoyed longer undefeated streaks to start their finals careers.

    The coach appears to have his players on board, as Marten de Roon said: "We are searching, that is clear. We hope it gets better, we all hope so.

    "But the first goal is to get through to the next round. We are not deliberately playing badly here. Maybe one of you has the solution?

    "Of course, we would prefer to play everyone off the carpet and win 5-0 every time and become world champions, but it is not that simple. Winning counts on Saturday, but how we do it matters less. Even if necessary through penalty kicks.

     

    "I don't mind becoming a world champion without having played a good match. The positive is that we haven't lost. That may also give us the confidence that it can only get better."

    The Dutch have reached at least the quarter-final in four of their last five appearances at the World Cup, exiting in the last 16 in 2006.

    Meanwhile, the United States have lost three of their four last-16 matches, winning only in 2002 against Mexico.

    They have only won one of five meetings with the Netherlands – all in friendlies – although that victory was in their last such clash in 2015.

    PLAYERS TO WATCH

    Netherlands – Cody Gakpo

    All the talk going into the tournament was around one forward in Memphis Depay, but the Netherlands have a new star. Gakpo put Oranje 1-0 up in all three group games, with David Villa in 2010 the last player to open the scoring in four matches at a single World Cup.

    United States – Christian Pulisic

    Pulisic expects to be fit for this match despite his injury against Iran, and his return will be welcomed. The winger has scored twice as many goals (22) for the USMNT as any other player in Gregg Berhalter's squad.

    PREDICTION

    The Netherlands may not be playing well, but the supercomputer expects their winning habit to continue. They are 51.9 per cent favourites for this one.

    The United States have a 22.0 per cent chance, while a draw that would spell penalties has a 26.1 per cent likelihood.

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