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  • Writer's pictureGladys Louise Tyler

NFL 2023 Week 18 Like a Nice Cuba Libre


Houston Texans rookie quarterback CJ Stroud NFL 2023 Week 18
Houston Texans rookie quarterback CJ Stroud ready for the playoffs.

It’s playoff time, and each week is like a nice, cool drink. This week, or more specifically, Week 18, Saturday’s games are like sipping on a well-made Cuba Libre.  

The Cuba Libre

The first game of playoff week pits the AFC North Champions against the resurgent Pittsburgh Steelers. The Ravens will play without quarterback and MVP favorite Lamar Jackson. The Steelers will play with their third quarterback, Mason Rudolph, under center.

This game is a watered-down Cuba Libre. You know what a Cuba Libre is right? Don’t just say rum and Coke. The history is that in 1900, a U.S. Army captain was stationed in Havana during the Spanish-American War. The rumor is he ordered a Bacardi, poured some Coke into the glass, and added a squeeze of lime. He then called out, “Por Cuba Libre!” Translation is ”To a free Cuba,” and the drink was born.

Enough of the history. Let’s get to the games.



Two glasses of Cuba Libre on bartop with limes
Your Cuba Libre awaits

NFL 2024 Week 18 Pittsburgh Steelers v Baltimore Ravens, Steelers -4.0, 35.5 o/u

This game is like an okay Cuba Libre. The Coke isn’t flat; they used Bacardi Silver, but they substituted lime juice for fresh lime squeeze, and there is no lime garnish.

Sure, it’s an AFC North divisional rival game. But the Ravens are playing as a professional courtesy. So far, we know there will be no Jackson. Wide receiver Zay Flowers played with a calf strain last week, so he may forego this contest. An additional 14 players are listed on the injury report for Baltimore, who may or may not play Week 18.

Because it is AFC North, because it is a rivalry, and because these people are professionals, I am sure it will look good…but it just doesn’t have the same flavor.

Players to Watch

Odell Beckham Jr.

If Beckham does get out on the field, he is playing for his bonus.

·      $250K bonus if he gets five more receptions.

·      $250K bonus if he gets two more touchdowns.

Tyler Huntley

Huntley will play in place of Jackson. In his four appearances this year, he has gone 6-of-9 with a touchdown.

Last season, he had eight starts with a 3-5 record. But most notably, he played in the Wildcard game against the Cincinnati Bengals last January. In that game, he had two passing touchdowns and 280 yards.

For large GPP tournaments, Huntley is an option. His rushing upside firmly puts him in the conversation.

Jaylen Warren

There is going to be the running back by committee with Najee Harris. That being said, Warren has averaged 10.3 rushing attempts and 5.3 targets per game over the last three games.

Warren also has had an 83%, 59%, and 81% route participation in those three outings.

George Pickens

Pickens has a 24% and 45% target share in his two games with Rudolph under center. That has equaled 20.1 fantasy points (WR9) and 35.5 fantasy points (WR2).

NFL 2024 Week 18 Houston Texans v Indianapolis Colts, Texans -1.5, 47.5 o/u

Now, this is the sweet spot. Your favorite spot at the bar. Your favorite bartender behind the bar. And before you even order, she pulls out the highball, puts in the ice, free pours two ounces of Bacardi Silver, opens up a bottle of Mexican Cola, freshly squeezes about half an ounce of fresh squeezed lime juice, add the Mexican Coke, take out the long bar spoon, gently stirs and garnishes with a fresh cut lime. And what, it’s happy hour, too. Damn, this is the sweet spot!

Both teams are playing for a spot in the playoffs. Both teams can win the AFC South title if Jacksonville loses.

Two rookie coaches, one rookie quarterback, and one backup man-child pseudo legend quarterbacking the opposing team. This game projects to be it! Raise your hand if you saw this coming. (Put your hand down, you did not!)

NFL 2023 Week 2

This game is a rematch from Week 2. The Colts won that game 31-20. Gardner Minshew came in for an injured Anthony Richardson. Minshew went 19 for 23, 171 yards, and one touchdown. There was also no Jonathan Taylor. C.J. Stroud passed for 384 yards with two touchdowns and 30 completions on 47 attempts. With Stroud’s full complement of receiving options, Nico Collins was second in targets (9) but first in receiving yards 148 with a touchdown.

Players to Watch

C.J. Stroud

Last week, Stroud returned from concussion protocol. He went 24-for-32, 213 yards and a touchdown. In 14 games, Stroud averages 274.6 passing yards with a 63.2% completion percentage. He has thrown 21 touchdowns and only five interceptions. That makes his touchdown percentage 4.4%. Admittedly, there is a home versus away split that is slightly concerning.

 

Attempts

Yards

Compl%

TD

INT

Home

278

2486

65.5

17

4

Away

145

1358

60.0

4

1

 

But it's not so concerning that you would consider not playing Stroud in either the DraftKings Showdown Tournament or DFS Saturday game roster.

Devin Singletary

In Week 17, Singletary averaged 5.0 yards per carry on 16 attempts for 80 yards. He also had three targets.

Since Dameon Pierce’s return, Singletary has received a 10% target share and 58% rushing attempts. Last week, that culminated in Pierce getting eight rushing attempts and averaging two yards per carry.

Singletary is also playing for a bonus. He needs 74 more yards for a $125K bonus.

Michael Pittman Jr.

Pittman also returned from concussion protocol last week. He had a team-leading seven targets but only five receptions for 46 yards. Still, he was on the field for 96% route participation, and his seven targets equaled a 35% target share.

Clearly a favorite of Minshew, for the season, Pittman is sixth in receptions 104, ninth in red zone targets (19), and ninth in yards after catch (498). The Texans defense gave Amari Cooper 265 yards and two touchdowns in Week 16. Don’t count Pittman out.

Jonathan Taylor

As stated previously, Taylor did not play in the first matchup. Last week, he rushed for 96 yards on 21 carries. In his last four games, he has had at least one touchdown. And while the Texans' defense appears to be the kryptonite to Derrick Henry, they have allowed Cleveland Browns’ Jerome Ford and Will Levis to score rushing touchdowns against them.

The downside is that Taylor isn’t relevant in the passing game. He is averaging 2.3 targets per game. If this game becomes a shoot-out, it can cap his ceiling.

 

Just “Say Amen (to Saturday Night)”

 

If you have any questions (drink, music, puppies, or NFL), contact me on Twitter @gladysLtyler or at gladyslouise.glt@gmail.com.

Good Luck!

First published on Medium.com 4 Jan 2024

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