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Who Is the Father of Puka Nacua? A Look at Rams Rookie Wide Receiver’s Inspiration



Puka Nacua is in a locker room full of inspirations for younger football talents. After all, the Los Angeles Rams have prized veterans Aaron Donald, Cooper Kupp, and Matthew Stafford walking around the facility.

Who Is Puka Nacua’s Father? Did He Play Football?

But his first inspiration?

The one who believed he would be the best among six kids: His father.

Nacua is the son of Lionel Nacua, plus was the fifth of six children from Lionel and Nacua’s mother Penina.

He was also one of Nacua’s first football coaches as a youth.

Per the Deseret News, Lionel Nacua got a young Puka to break down film and choose that over watching SpongeBob SquarePants. He would even watch college football games on television with his father and older brothers.

Lionel Nacua bounced between father figure and coach for the future Rams receiver and his brothers. The family also had a fandom for Brigham Young football, as the father hoped his boys would become a Cougar one day.

Lionel Nacua, unexpectedly, died in May 2012 at the age of 45 due to complications of diabetes. But sure enough, Kai and Isaiah went on to verbally commit to BYU after his death.

Did Nacua Also Follow His Brothers to BYU?

Ultimately, Nacua became a revered BYU Cougar. But it didn’t start out that way.

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Nacua first went on his college football journey to the Seattle area, as he had originally planned to attend USC.

However, he signed his national letter of intent to play for the University of Washington.

He ended up starting in three games in 2019 while seeing action in eight games. He then played in three more games during the truncated 2020 season due to COVID-19.

Nonetheless, he ended up heading back to his dad’s favorite university in 2021 where he went on to establish himself as a future NFL wide receiver. He ended up leading BYU in receiving yards in both seasons.

And at BYU, Nacua had a touchdown celebration that began with his brothers — he would always point to the sky to honor their deceased father.

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Players To Target Include Miles Sanders, Adam Thielen, DeAndre Hopkins, and Others




The Carolina Panthers‘ fantasy preview takes a look at the value of Adam Thielen, while the Tennessee Titansfantasy football outlook opines about the value of DeAndre Hopkins.

Carolina Panthers at Tennessee Titans

  • Spread: Titans -3.5
  • Total: 36.5
  • Panthers implied points: 16.5
  • Titans implied points: 20


Will Levis: There are boom/bust options at every position, and Levis embodies that at QB more than any other option that is even remotely on radars. His average length of touchdown passes this season is 33.7 yards, a stat that can be read two ways.

He’s amazing! Those splash plays are going to win me my matchup.
That’s too unsustainable for me. What happens if he doesn’t hit a home run?

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The Panthers’ defense isn’t intimidating in the least, but they do have a 6.9-yard opponent aDOT (seventh lowest), and that’s not ideal for a big-armed QB like Levis who wants to stretch the field.

Levis hasn’t finished better than QB20 since his historic debut against the Falcons, and while I think he has a chance to break that streak, he’s of no interest to me in any 1QB format.

Running Backs

Chuba Hubbard and Miles Sanders: With Frank Reich back calling plays, Hubbard’s role as the lead man in this backfield evaporated, and we’re back into a full-blown committee situation that needs to be supported by one of the worst units in the league.

In Week 11 vs. Dallas, Hubbard led Sanders in snaps (29-17) and routes (15-13).

This is a classic “if you have two, you don’t have any” spot. A bell-cow role on this offense was interesting, not because of my belief in the player or situation, it was solely a volume play. These two backs have combined for 230 touches this season and have zero gains of over 21 yards.

There’s little yardage upside in this backfield, and with the Titans owning the second-best red-zone defense (TD allowed on just 37.8% of red-zone drives), the lack of scoring equity has both of these backs outside of my top 30 at the position with confidence.

Derrick Henry: Last week was brutal (10 carries for 38 yards against a Jaguars defense that he has killed in the past), but don’t allow that failure to turn into two lost weeks by overreacting and benching Henry this week.

The Panthers miss more tackles than anyone (8.6 per game), a flaw that has 41.9% of opponent yards coming on the ground (second most). Tyjae Spears gets onto the field, but as long as the Titans can keep this game tight, I’m not at all worried about Henry’s quality or quantity of opportunity.

Tyjae Spears: The rookie doesn’t have more than 10 touches in a game this season and has found paydirt just once on 76 touches. The snap share is enough to convince me that he’s the Henry handcuff to the roster, but the low touch-per-snap route has him way off of my Flex radar, especially in a game that figures to be competitive.

Wide Receivers

Adam Thielen: Bryce Young posted a single-digit QBR last week and again looked lost. But his one-target reads were enough to get Thielen the needed numbers for PPR managers (eight catches for 74 yards, all other Panthers totaled eight catches for 49 yards).

We were spoiled by the high-floor stylings of the veteran receiver early this season. Production is certainly possible, given his role in this offense, but the limitations are going to result in just as many down weeks as productive ones.

I settled on Thielen as my WR20 this week in a plus matchup. Game flow is usually going to work in his favor, but this is likely as high as I have him ranked in any week moving forward unless we see some serious growth from Young that I’m not currently projecting.

Jonathan Mingo saw five targets on 34 routes, while DJ Chark got a nice afternoon of cardio in (zero targets on 29 routes). Mingo is the flier in very deep leagues or a DFS punt play if you want a cheap way to get access to this matchup, but not worth your time in standard-sized leagues.

DeAndre Hopkins: That’s three long TD catches in four games with Levis for Hopkins, a level of upside that lands him on the Flex radar. The downside?

Four games with Will Levis for Hopkins:

  • Three long TDs: 32.6 fantasy points
  • All other catches: 24.3 fantasy points

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Much like Thielen, you’re assuming plenty of risk when you walk in the door with a rookie QB. Also like Thielen, this is the right spot to take the calculated risk of him paying off your trust.

Nuk is a top-30 WR for me this week, and the schedule lines up nicely for him to have a productive stretch run.

Tight Ends

Betting on either of these pass games is risky as it is, and that’s not what I’m looking for when I’m throwing darts at the tight end position. I often say that there is no such thing as a bad TE streamer based on how little it takes to prove viable at the position — this game challenges that change of thought.

Should You Start Rachaad White or Derrick Henry?

It’s important to remember that this is a Week 12 discussion, not a rest-of-season one. With that said, Rachaad White projects as a safer option than Henry, but against such a poor run defense, Henry’s upside is lucrative. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have been effective enough to aid our lineups, but Tennessee’s inconsistencies should scare managers.

White is my RB12, while Henry is my RB21 for Week 12.

Should You Start Adam Thielen or DeAndre Hopkins?

Counting on receivers with a rookie QB is risky business, but that is going to be the case either way here. In a vacuum, I prefer Will Levis, but Bryce Young has established more of a connection in terms of consistent volume with Thielen and I lean in that direction.

Also in Thielen’s favor is an offense with less potential in the run game. The target volume should be similar, and I trust the catch rate of Thielen over the upside on a per-catch basis of Hopkins this week.

Looking to make a trade in your fantasy league? Having trouble deciding who to start and who to sit? Setting DFS lineups? Check out PFN’s Free Fantasy Football Trade Analyzer, Start/Sit Optimizer, and DFS Lineup Optimizer to help you make the right decision!

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Players To Target Include Jaylen Warren, Najee Harris, Ja’Marr Chase, and Others




The Pittsburgh Steelers‘ fantasy preview evaluates the value of their committee backfield, while the fantasy football outlook for the Cincinnati Bengals revolves around Ja’Marr Chase’s value after Joe Burrow’s injury.

Pittsburgh Steelers at Cincinnati Bengals

  • Spread: Steelers -1
  • Total: 34
  • Steelers implied points: 17.5
  • Bengals implied points: 16.5


An AFC North game featuring the Steelers facing a backup QB. Sound familiar? It should, we saw it last week. And by “saw,” I mean “we have a box score to prove it happened” because the game hardly popped up on “NFL RedZone” and generated very few noteworthy plays.

In that game, there were 71 passes thrown and 271 passing yards accumulated. You read that right. It feels almost impossible in this era of football, but it’s true, and while this week should be slightly better, I’m going out of my way to not be invested in either passing game.

Running Backs

Najee Harris: For reasons unknown, Harris led Jaylen Warren in snaps (33-26) and routes (12-11) last week against the Browns. He ran for just 35 yards (half of which came on a single run) on 12 carries and averaged 1.5 feet per target.

A suspect Bengals run defense as a part of a unit that allows the second-most red-zone trips per game could lead to Harris returning value this week, but he hasn’t been efficient enough to consistently continue to earn work.

I’m skeptical of his value for the stretch run, though one more usable week out of him is certainly possible.

Jaylen Warren: Can we get this man some volume? If you extend Warren’s November numbers in a clear misuse of mathematical skills … 2,086 scrimmage yards.

I’m not suggesting that he’d be an RB1 if given the lion’s share of the work in Pittsburgh, but I’d love to find out what that looks like. Even with the limited usage, he has a 20+ yard carry in three straight games and multiple receptions in nine of 10 games.

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I have him ranked ahead of Harris this week, but in a near-even split, neither should be viewed as anything more than a Flex option, even against the second-worst per-carry run defense in the league.

Joe Mixon: The Steelers get out-gained every week and rank 30th in time of possession. The Bengals are in damage-control mode with a backup quarterback. This looks, on paper, like a high-usage game for Mixon.

The veteran matched a season-high with five catches last week and has cleared 20 receiving yards in four of his past five games, giving him multiple paths to fantasy goodness this week.

The matchup with Pittsburgh isn’t great, but we did see Green Bay Packers RBs run for 105 yards on 22 carries two weeks ago in this spot. Mixon is the clear featured back in this offense and grades out as a viable RB2 for me this week.

Wide Receivers

Diontae Johnson: The past two weeks have been an abject disaster for Johnson managers (three catches on 12 targets for 33 yards), and while the firing of Matt Canada can only help this stagnant offense, we are in wait-and-see mode when it comes to playing any member of this passing game.

We might see an increase in route variation with the switch at OC, but with no teams on a bye this week, why jump the gun on an unknown? The Bengals held Zay Flowers to a 17.4% target share, even with Mark Andrews leaving early, a nod to their ability to lock down the short passing game.

I remain hopeful that Johnson can regain form in time for the fantasy playoffs, but at WR37, he’s not in my Week 12 lineup.

George Pickens: On our Tuesday podcast, Jacob Gibbs laid out a strong case for Pickens to be the primary beneficiary with the change in play-caller, and I tend to buy what he was selling.

Adding branches to his route tree could serve as a floor elevator, and that’s ultra-appealing in a spot where Pickens could access some of his ceilings, given that the Bengals own the highest opponent aDOT by 13.5% this season.

There’s no denying that investing in a Kenny Pickett-led offense is scary, but if I’m flexing one of their receivers, it’s Pickens as I chase his ceiling (three top-20 finishes, two of which were top 10).

Ja’Marr Chase: If you thought deciding whether or not to Flex a receiver under Pickett required mental gymnastics, just wait until you try to project Chase in this Jake Browning-led unit.

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Now, Chase has scored in three of his past four games and is facing a defense with the fourth-highest opponent aDOT this season, so don’t count him out. The floor is low, and while the ceiling isn’t what it was with Burrow healthy, the talent at play here has the potential to be QB-proof.

Chase is my WR26 this week, a tick behind his average positional finish since the bye (WR23).

Tee Higgins: We’ll see if the mini-bye allows Higgins to return from this nagging hamstring injury. But even if he’s all systems go, I’m going to have a hard time getting Higgins into my top-35 wide receivers.

How much different is he from Diontae Johnson? In theory, Higgins offers more per-catch upside. But with one catch this season over 21 yards and a 12.9% dip in yards per catch, does he?

Playing with a backup QB is less than ideal. Being injured and thus not able to get on the same page is even worse.

Tyler Boyd: I wouldn’t cut Boyd until we have a feel for Browning’s target preferences, but there’s no way you’re plugging him in this week.

If Browning prefers the short passing game and Higgins’ hamstring continues to plague him, there’s a world in which Boyd holds a palatable PPR floor. That’s not a likely outcome, but it’s non-zero, which has me holding onto him through this week unless pressed to make a move for my Week 12 lineup.

Tight Ends

Pat Freiermuth: After missing more than a month, Freiermuth returned last week and turned in his fourth single-digit receiving-yardage game of the season.

He ran a route on just 42.4% of Pickett’s dropbacks, but part of that low rate was due to Pittsburgh fearing Myles Garrett’s ability to wreck the game.

Freiermuth is going to need a touchdown to pay off playing him most weeks, so I’ll fade him in this low-scoring game (TE16). I’m keeping an eye on his usage because I do think there’s a role available for Freiermuth that allows him to push the top 12 at the position for the stretch run, but I’m not plugging him into any lineups this weekend.

Should You Start Ja’Marr Chase or Drake London?

The risk of Chase makes this a conversation, but I’m still betting on this offense scheming him into the game, a benefit of the doubt I can’t give the Atlanta Falcons. Chase has scored in three of his past four games and has six scores on his ledger over his past six games.

Drake London has cleared 55 receiving yards three times this season, and I’m not overly optimistic that changes this week.

Should You Start Rhamondre Stevenson or Jaylen Warren?

For the rest of the season, I prefer Warren, but this is a Week 12 discussion, and in this matchup, Rhamondre Stevenson’s advantage in the starting role is too much to ignore.

In this spot, a repeat of his 23 touches against the Indianapolis Colts is well within reach and would put him in a position to hold a better ceiling/floor combination than even the most optimistic Warren fan can project.

Looking to make a trade in your fantasy league? Having trouble deciding who to start and who to sit? Setting DFS lineups? Check out PFN’s Free Fantasy Football Trade Analyzer, Start/Sit Optimizer, and DFS Lineup Optimizer to help you make the right decision!

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Listen to the PFN Fantasy Podcast! Click the embedded player below to listen, or you can find the PFN Fantasy Podcast on iTunes, Spotify, and all major podcast platforms.  Be sure to subscribe and leave us a five-star review! Rather watch instead? Check out the PFN Fantasy Podcast on our Fantasy YouTube channel.

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Jaelan Phillips Is Out for the Year




Further testing confirmed that Jaelan Phillips did indeed tear his Achilles tendon Friday night, Miami Dolphins coach Mike McDaniel told reporters Saturday, meaning Phillips is out for the season and will have a long recovery after reconstructive surgery.

But Achilles ruptures are no longer a career death sentence for pro athletes, and Phillips will have the best possible support and resources at his attention.

Among those apparently willing to help Phillips in his recovery? Jets quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who suffered the same injury on the same notorious MetLife Stadium playing surface just two months ago.

Will Aaron Rodgers Help Miami Dolphins LB Jaelan Phillips’ Achilles Recovery?

Rodgers has made a speedy recovery from the injury and has left open the possibility of playing again this season — which would be a previously unthinkable fast return to play.

And evidently, he’s willing to share what he’s learned with Phillips.

“I don’t know him personally, but I’ve heard great things about Aaron Rodgers and the type of human being he is,” McDaniel said. “I think he was working some channels to get in touch with Jaelan as of last night through a couple of people that have some relationships with him.

“[Rodgers] is a smart guy that’s not afraid to chase the most exotic science. Jaelan Phillips, he’s not one of those old-school, always-done-it-this-way type of guys. He would be open to whatever.”

Phillips has no chance to return this year, but an accelerated recovery process could up the odds that he’s ready for the start of the 2024 season, which is a little under 10 months off. Achilles recoveries often last a year.

MORE: Miami Dolphins Depth Chart

McDaniel’s more immediate concern? Replacing Phillips’ production.

The third-year linebacker leads the team in sacks (6.5) and hurries (5), is second in tackles for loss (8) and pressures (15), and ranks fourth in quarterback hits (11).

McDaniel confirmed Saturday what most assumed: Phillips’ playing time will go to Andrew Van Ginkel (who already has logged 61.9% of the team’s defensive snaps) and Emmanuel Ogbah (21.3%). Both Van Ginkel and Ogbah have four sacks on the season.

“The players shape what that is exactly to a T, but without a shadow of doubt, it’s gonna be those two individuals that will have to step up,” McDaniel said, adding that off-ball linebacker David Long will also see his role increase. “… You don’t necessarily replace it, but it just gives different people opportunities, and you can spread that out to do your best to compensate for that production loss.”

Want to predict the rest of the 2023 season with our FREE NFL Playoff Predictor? Looking for the most up-to-date NFL standings? What about a breakdown of team depth charts or the NFL schedule? Pro Football Network has you covered with that and more! 

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Listen to the PFN Dolphins Podcast! Click the embedded player below to listen, or you can find the PFN Dolphins Podcast on iTunes, Spotify, and all major podcast platforms.  Be sure to subscribe and leave us a five-star review! Rather watch instead? Check out the PFN Dolphins Podcast on our NFL YouTube channel.

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