The Primer: Week 1 Edition (2019 Fantasy Football)
Buffalo Bills at New York Jets
Line: NYJ by 3.0
Josh Allen: Stop me if you’ve heard this before: Allen was the No. 1 fantasy quarterback from Week 12 through the end of the season. It was a very Bortles-esque finish, as he threw just eight touchdowns to seven interceptions, but his rushing totals were that of a running back as he accumulated 476 yards and five touchdowns on the ground in a six-game span. One of those teams he played was the Jets, where he totaled 101 yards and a touchdown on the ground, while failing to throw a touchdown. The Jets are under a new scheme now and will be much more blitz-heavy under Gregg Williams. This could put Allen in a bad situation, as most of his runs were not designed last year. The Jets have plenty of talent on the defensive side of the ball, though their weakness is cornerback, so it would make sense for them to bring everything they have to pressure Allen. With the Browns last year, Williams’ defense blitzed nearly 45 percent of the time, the highest in the league. How was Allen under pressure last year? He ranked dead-last with a 47.4 QB Rating while completing just 28.3 percent of his passes. He’s not a suggested streamer in Week 1.
Sam Darnold: There are more coaches who believe the preseason is useless than those who value it, which is why I’m surprised to see many clamoring for the Jets to be a great offense after a strong preseason showing. They looked good, yeah, but now there are real bullets. The Bills defense is no joke, either. Did you know they allowed the fewest fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks last year? Better than the Bears, better than the Vikings… They were one of three teams who didn’t allow a single quarterback score more than 26.0 fantasy points. In fact, they didn’t allow a single one more than 22.7 fantasy points. Just one quarterback broke the 300-yard barrier and that was Tom Brady when he threw the ball 45 times. The Bills also added a major disruptor on the defensive line in Ed Oliver. Knowing there were just three quarterbacks who finished better than QB15 against the Bills all of last year, you shouldn’t need me to tell you to avoid Darnold as a streamer. I’d consider him lucky to finish as a top-18 quarterback in Week 1.
Devin Singletary, Frank Gore, and T.J. Yeldon: We had no clue how this timeshare would shake out for the Bills, though the release of LeSean McCoy definitely helps clear up some things. Singletary is the future for them, while Gore is a guy who will get you just three or four yards, but rarely lose them. The Jets were a middle-of-the-road run defense last year, though if there’s a sliver of light here, it’s that Gregg Williams’ defense allowed a massive 4.75 yards per carry with the Browns last season. Bringing blitzes more than any other team has consequences if you miss that first tackle. McCoy had just two games with more than 12.8 PPR points last year and one of them was against the Jets. In fact, it was his best game of the year, totaling 113 yards and two touchdowns. The personnel has changed quite a bit for the Jets and it’s doubtful the Bills employ a workhorse role to either Singletary or Gore. The Jets did lose inside linebacker Avery Williamson to a torn ACL, which does benefit the Bills as a whole. If they want to stop the constant pressure, they’ll have to run the ball, but the ugly 39.5-point total in this game doesn’t look good, nor does the Bills being underdogs. If you’re playing anyone, it’s Singletary as a middling to low-end RB3. It’s best to take the wait and see approach with this backfield if you can help it. Gore is just a low-upside RB4 who’s likely to wind-up with something like 13 carries for 50-60 yards. I’m going to ignore Yeldon at this point, though he’s a better pass-catcher than both Singletary and Gore, which could remove even more upside from the duo.
Le’Veon Bell: After paying Bell a ton of money to come to the team, are they really going to have Ty Montgomery cut into his snaps? It seems that way right now, but actions speak louder than words. When looking through last year’s numbers, I noticed the Bills didn’t play a single running back who totaled 20 carries against them. Will that streak end in Week 1? Bills opponents averaged just 60.5 plays per game in 2018, the fifth-lowest mark in the league, while Adam Gase’s offense averaged just 54.9 plays per game, the lowest mark in the league. Did the Jets offense look faster in the preseason? Sure, but this is where we’ll start collecting new data. With teams averaging so little attempts, it should come as no surprise that there were just three running backs who rushed for more than 65 yards. One thing should be certain, though, and it’s that Bell should net 18-plus touches, which automatically puts him in the RB2 conversation. If there’s one thing that benefits Bell, it’s that the Bills did struggle around the goal-line, allowing 17 rushing touchdowns, which was the second-most in the NFL. Because of that, he should be considered a high-end RB2, though he’s not a must-play in DFS.
John Brown: The new No. 1 option for Josh Allen who is a clear upgrade, but will Brown have enough time to break free with Allen getting blitzed to death? He’s not a quick-slant type receiver who can be targeted in close one-on-one battles, but rather a receiver who will beat you in and out of breaks in his routes. Because of that, he’s going to need a big play to live up to any fantasy expectations. Against the Jets cornerbacks, it’s possible. Trumaine Johnson is a solid cornerback but he doesn’t shadow, which means Brown will see a lot of Darryl Roberts, who has never really been a full-time cornerback. He was drafted in the seventh-round back in 2015, so he’s not someone Allen needs to avoid. He’s going to be a boom-or-bust WR5-type option most weeks and this one is no different.
Zay Jones: With the addition of Beasley, Jones becomes a lot less appealing in the offense. During each of the last two seasons, he’s fared much better when he went into the slot, averaging 1.50 fantasy points per target. On the perimeter, he’s averaged a horrid 0.93 points per target. Beasley is going to hog the slot snaps, so consider Jones lucky if he goes in there 25 percent of the time, a far cry from his 48.3 percent of snaps there last year. Brown is a much better receiver than Jones, particularly on the outside, so Jones is not a recommended play in a game where we believe Allen will struggle.
Cole Beasley: Brian Poole figures to be the new slot cornerback for the Jets, and while he’s not great, he’s likely going to perform much better than Buster Skrine, who was one to target every week in fantasy last year. Beasley is a relatively safe target over the middle for Allen, who will be blitzed a ton in this game, though we don’t know how often the Bills will run three-wide with their new weapons in the offense. Beasley is likely going to be a decent PPR bye week filler in lineups if the Bills figure to throw a lot, though this isn’t likely to be one of those games, as evidenced by the game total under 40 points.
Robby Anderson: He’s dealing with a calf injury that has him listed as day-to-day, though it appears Anderson will play this game, though if judging by Adam Gase’s past, it’s no guarantee. Anderson will be covered by Tre’Davious White, the best cornerback on the Bills roster, and one who has allowed just a 51.9 percent catch-rate in his coverage over the first two years of his career. After allowing a robust 15.4 yards per reception in his rookie year, he allowed just 11.9 yards per reception last year. Anderson did tag the Bills for a line of 4/76/1 last year, though White wasn’t in coverage on the touchdown. It’s likely Anderson will need a big play in order to justify a WR3 or better stat line, which is the case for most in that range, though given the tough matchup and calf injury, he belongs in the WR4 range. *UPDATE* He is expected to play this week.
Jamison Crowder: We’ve heard Gase talk about how important Crowder will be to the offense and it showed during his limited snaps in the preseason, totaling three catches for 39 yards and a touchdown. Last year’s fourth-round pick Taron Johnson is the nickel cornerback for the Bills, so it’s not a daunting matchup, though Johnson was solid before suffering a season-ending injury late in the year. With the lack of big plays against the Bills, we should see Crowder involved, but as is the case with all players who are playing in brand-new offenses, you can’t assume how big the workload will be. What we do know is that Crowder has a better matchup than Anderson and they’re without tight end Chris Herndon. This should lead to enough targets to be on the WR4/5 radar.
Quincy Enunwa: It’s gotten to the point where we’ve heard everyone on the Jets hyped up at some point this offseason, and Enunwa is no exception. Gase said they don’t want to put Enunwa into a box and that they want to use him in many ways. What does that mean? We’ll find out. If the Bills use Tre’Davious White to shadow, it’d be Robby Anderson, which obviously benefits Enunwa. The issue is that Crowder and Bell should eat up quite a few of the targets and it’s hard seeing Enunwa getting to the five or six target mark. There were just two receivers who finished top-36 against the Bills with less than six targets last year, and both of them scored touchdowns (T.Y. Hilton and Dede Westbrook). You don’t want to be relying on a touchdown in Week 1.
Dawson Knox: Remember Charles Clay last year? Yeah, well now you have a rookie tight end taking the field in a game that has an over/under of less than 40 points. Oh, and the Jets were the best team in the league defending tight ends last year. Nope.
Ryan Griffin: Another backup tight end taking the field as a starting tight end in this game. We know Adam Gase got exactly nothing out of Mike Gesicki and the Bills were the second-best team in the league when it comes to defending tight ends last year. They allowed just 5.89 yards per target to them. This is another nope on streaming potential.
Baltimore Ravens at Miami Dolphins
Line: BAL by 6.5
Lamar Jackson: The hype has reached new heights on Jackson, but oddsmakers don’t feel the same when posting a 37.5-point total. The Ravens are the big favorite but an implied team total of just 22.0 points isn’t very large in today’s NFL. There were just four games in 2018 that had a total at 37.5 or less. Those games netted an average of 118.9 fantasy points. By comparison, a game with a total of 48-49.5 netted an average of 171.1 fantasy points. Fortunately for Jackson, he doesn’t need a whole lot of points on the scoreboard to give value, as his legs will do much of the work, even without touchdowns. He rushed for at least 67 yards in 6-of-7 starts, which is near two passing touchdowns. They added weapons in the passing game, which may take away some of the rushing attempts, but in a game like this where they don’t need to, there should be plenty of rushing attempts to go around. While it’s an entirely different coaching staff, the lack of talent on the field for the Dolphins is the reason they allowed 30.3 rushing attempts per game last year, the second-most in football. While I don’t think Jackson has tournament winning upside in this game, he’s safe as a cash-game quarterback and one who can be streamed as a low-end QB1.
Ryan Fitzpatrick: It’s been announced he’s the starter, but can we expect Fitz Magic to rise again? Considering he doesn’t have Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, O.J. Howard, Brandon Marshall, or Eric Decker, the answer is likely not. The offensive line will crumble before him, though he had a similar problem in Tampa Bay. The Ravens did lose a ton of playmakers this offseason and their defense will look much different without Terrell Suggs, Za’Darius Smith, and Eric Weddle. The issue is that they still have what might be the deepest cornerback talent in the league. Between Brandon Carr, Marlon Humphrey, Jimmy Smith, and Anthony Averett, they have incredible depth. It’s why they allowed just 1.46 PPR points per target to wide receivers last year, which was the lowest mark in the league. They also allowed just a 58.6 percent completion rate, which was by far the lowest in the league, as no other team was below 61.2 percent. There may be matchups to stream Fitzpatrick, but this is not one of them. We haven’t even talked about how he just lost his starting left tackle in a trade with the Texans. Ask Deshaun Watson how Julie’n Davenport worked out for him at left tackle last year (hint: it’s not good).
Mark Ingram and Justice Hill: As mentioned in the Lamar Jackson notes, there’s going to be plenty of rushing attempts to go around this week. The Dolphins’ opponents averaged 30.3 rushing attempts per game last year, while the Ravens averaged 44.6 of them during Jackson’s seven starts. While that may be a bit extreme, it’s not as if the Dolphins offense is going to push the Ravens defense down the field and force them into passing 30-plus times. Because of that, you can absolutely lock Ingram in for 18-plus touches in this game, even though most will be carries. The Dolphins allowed a robust 4.47 yards per carry, along with a touchdown every 27.5 carries to running backs in 2018. Keep in mind that while they added rookie Christian Wilkins, they lost Cameron Wake, Robert Quinn, and Sylvester Williams on their defensive line. This team is in complete rebuild mode and lack talent in their front seven (also just traded one of their starting linebackers last weekend), so trotting Ingram out there as a low-end RB1/high-end RB2 makes plenty of sense. He’s safe enough for cash games, too. Hill is going to be mixed in some way, though he’s more of the leader on passing downs, something that’ll be less of a priority in this game. You’re best served waiting to see how this timeshare plays out with him.
Kenyan Drake and Kalen Ballage: It seems like Drake should be a go for Week 1, though it’s important to check back here on Saturday, as I’ll post an updated report on him based on practice reports. Yes, Ballage is going to get some work. Will it matter? Probably not considering they’re against the Ravens defense that allowed a miniscule 3.52 yards per carry in 2018. Not just do they stop the run, but they also allowed a league-low 3.92 yards per target to running backs last year. Think about that for a minute: if a running back saw 15 carries and five targets against them last year, the average running back would’ve tallied just 72 total yards. The 11 total touchdowns they allowed to running backs was the fourth-fewest in the league. Ballage lacks vision and plays behind a bad offensive line. Do not contemplate him in this matchup. You’ll be able to live with yourself if he breaks one long run; it’s not something you want to predict/rely on. As for Drake, it’s probably best for you to give him a week to ensure he’s utilized and playing his usual snaps, though we don’t know how many that is under Brian Flores. He can likely provide flex value in his role, though his foot injury adds more uncertainty. *UPDATE* Drake practiced this week and is expected to have a normal workload, though we don’t know what that is under new head coach Brian Flores.
Marquise Brown: He’s ready to play in Week 1, though he and Lamar Jackson haven’t had much time to work together during his first offseason with the team, as he was recovering from Lisfranc surgery. The Dolphins strong point on their defense lies in the secondary. With Xavien Howard, Minkah Fitzpatrick, and Eric Rowe in the secondary, the Ravens don’t need to push the ball too far down the field, particularly when the Dolphins run defense is so porous. It’s best to ensure Brown can get through a full game and that he’s in a full-time role before plugging him into any lineups. It’s possible he splits snaps with Chris Moore.
Myles Boykin: He looked solid in the preseason, though it’s likely he sees a lot of Xavien Howard in this game. Howard has shut down some big-name wide receivers over the last few years. Meanwhile, there wasn’t a single game where Lamar Jackson completed more than 14 passes last year. While this year will bring more pass attempts, it doesn’t make much sense in this matchup. He’s another one to avoid considering the lack of volume this game should bring.
Willie Snead: Once Lamar Jackson took over last year, Snead’s value took a major hit, as he finished with 25 yards or less in 4-of-7 games, including three games with less than 10 yards. It is a new offense, but they didn’t go out and snag Marquise Brown and Myles Boykin to have them take a backseat to Snead. When the Ravens go three-wide, it’s Minkah Fitzpatrick who comes down into the slot, and that’s a bad thing for Snead. While covering the slot, Fitzpatrick allowed just a 53.4 QB Rating when targeted. Snead should be on waiver wires.
DeVante Parker: I’d been saying this offseason that Parker would have more value if Fitzpatrick was the starter, though it won’t matter much in this matchup. The Ravens don’t shadow, but rather play sides. Unfortunately, there’s nowhere Parker can go to have a good matchup. The average WR3 performance in 2018 was 11.7 PPR points. There were just 14 wide receivers who hit that mark against the Ravens last year, highlighting just how brutal the matchup is. Fitzpatrick does have a tendency to throw the ball up for grabs in one-on-one situations, which will benefit the wide receivers, but this matchup simply has too much downside. This is not a week to put Parker in your lineup.
Albert Wilson: If there’s someone who may have a semi-decent matchup this week, it’s Wilson. The Ravens nickel cornerback Tavon Young suffered what seems to be a season-ending neck injury, meaning one of the other cornerbacks will be asked to move into the slot. That’ll likely be the 33-year-old Brandon Carr, who played the most snaps in the slot behind Young last year. On 20 targets while covering the slot, he allowed 13 catches for 180 yards, good for a 93.8 QB Rating. It’s possible that with the offensive line struggles, we see Wilson become the leader in targets on this team. He’s still not a recommended play in this matchup and belongs in WR5 territory.
Mark Andrews: Tight ends weren’t targeted much against the Dolphins last year, as they saw an average of just 5.9 targets per game. That’s not one tight end, but the whole team of tight ends. Knowing the Ravens will have Nick Boyle playing the most snaps (though blocking most of the time) and mixing Andrews with Hayden Hurst, this is a recipe for disaster. Andrews is the best pass-catcher of the bunch, but if they’re limited to around 25 pass attempts, what can we really expect? The Dolphins did struggle on the volume they did see, allowing 2.17 PPR points per target, which ranked as the second-most in the league. Knowing how much buzz Andrews has gotten out of camp, he’s on the streaming radar, though I don’t think he’s cash-game viable knowing the split in snaps there.
Mike Gesicki: There are still currently three tight ends listed as co-starters on the Dolphins depth chart, so to put it nicely, this isn’t a great situation to target. The Ravens defense had a weakness against tight ends last year, allowing a 70.9 percent completion rate with 8.3 yards per target. While Gesicki is likely much better than he looked last year, it’s not promising that he has to “beat out” Nick O’Leary and Durham Smythe for snaps. The matchup may not be bad, but it’s best to take the wait-and-see approach with Gesicki and this offense in general.
Washington Redskins at Philadelphia Eagles
Line: PHI by 9.0
Case Keenum: While Keenum was named the starter, it’s not as if this is a prized job that many want. He’ll be without starting left tackle Trent Williams and he’s severely lacking options to throw to. We watched Mark Sanchez walk into the game with the Eagles last year and completed 13-of-21 passes for 100 yards, no touchdowns, and one interception. Then Josh Johnson started the Week 17 game against them, finishing with 91 yards passing on 27 attempts with no touchdowns and one interception. You can’t say the Redskins roster looks better than it did during those games, right? We still don’t even know who is starting at wide receiver, though it does help that Jordan Reed looks likely to play. The Eagles may have allowed eight top-12 performances against them last year, but I’m still not going to recommend Keenum as a starter, even in 2QB formats.
Carson Wentz: While 2018 may not have been a truly great season for Wentz, it was solid. He posted 300-plus yards in 5-of-11 games, including 306 yards and two touchdowns against the Redskins in Week 13. They were the definition of an average pass defense in 2018, allowing 7.7 yards per attempt and a 5.1 percent touchdown rate, both close to the league average. Eight quarterbacks finished as top-12, while seven quarterbacks finished QB20 or worse. Looking at the line (46.5) and implied team total (27.8) in this game, Wentz should be in the first conversation. It’s not ideal that he may be without DeSean Jackson, though he’s a new weapon anyway. The biggest strength for the Redskins has been their front seven, though will the losses of Preston Smith and Zach Brown be a bit too much? Wentz is in the QB1 conversation this week with the only concern being lack of competition on the other side of the ball, limiting his pass attempts.
Adrian Peterson, Chris Thompson, and Derrius Guice: This backfield is more crowded than anyone would like, including the players themselves. Peterson hasn’t been one for sharing carries, while Guice is just now about to take the field for his first regular season NFL game. Then we have Thompson who is clearly the team’s best pass-catcher in a game where they’re nine-point road underdogs. Most will see Peterson’s 98 yards and a touchdown against them last year and think that’s good, though almost all of that came on one play. The other matchup netted zero yards on four carries. The issue isn’t efficiency because the Eagles did allow 4.57 yards per carry last year, but it’s about the fact that they won’t be able to run the ball if they fall behind. It’s why we saw Peterson run the ball as much as 26 times last year, but also have four games where he totaled less than 10 carries. This is not a game to try and play Peterson. In fact, I wouldn’t want to use Guice unless I had to as a high-end RB4. While he has more passing chops, they’re likely to ease him into the lineup, especially with Thompson healthy. Thompson has the look of an RB3/4 here in PPR formats, as he should rack up the receptions. The Eagles allowed 110 receptions to running backs last year, tied for second-most in the league.
Miles Sanders, Jordan Howard, and Darren Sproles: Both backfields look to have heavy timeshares to start the season, though this is the side we want to find value in, as they’re home favorites with a 27.8 implied team total. They spent a sixth-round pick to get Howard while they spent a second-round pick to get Sanders. They want Sanders to be the guy. Yes, he had a fumbling issue at Penn State, but the Eagles wouldn’t have drafted him if they were that concerned with it. Because of that, I’m expecting Sanders to lead the timeshare, though Howard will likely cap his ceiling. The Eagles totaled 29 and 30 carries in their two games against the Redskins last year and there’s little reason to think that number shouldn’t be there, if not higher. Even low-balling that number at 30 carries, we can project Sanders at 12-15 carries with relative ease. The Redskins not only lost Preston Smith and Zach Brown, but they lost both starting safeties. They got Landon Collins, though he didn’t really help the Giants stop the run. Knowing the Eagles are a nine-point favorite, Sanders is an underrated RB2/3 option in this game who should be played in some tournament lineups. Howard presents a problem near the goal-line and it’s possible that he even delivers RB3/flex-type numbers, though you shouldn’t have to rely on him. Sproles is someone they didn’t sign right away, as it seemed like retirement was his most likely scenario. He averaged just under five carries per game last year with lesser talent, so it’s unlikely he sees enough touches to be relevant.
Paul Richardson: We haven’t seen or heard much about Richardson throughout training camp, which may be a good thing considering the talk surrounding Josh Doctson wasn’t ever good. Unfortunately, the quarterback situation hasn’t improved much. Most don’t realize Richardson saw at least five targets in 6-of-7 games in 2018 and was on pace for 80 targets before going down with a season-ending injury. The Eagles have a healthy cornerback unit, something you couldn’t say for much of 2018, though Richardson wasn’t on the field to see his usage for their two games last year. He’s likely going to see Sidney Jones in coverage most of the time if he’s used similarly to the way he was last year. Jones tore his Achilles prior to the NFL Draft and hasn’t returned to the player the Eagles thought they were getting. He was only on the field for nine games last year and allowed 31-for-46 passing in his coverage for 292 yards and two touchdowns. He’s been promoted back into the starting lineup after Jalen Mills was placed on the PUP list. Richardson could be an interesting low-owned tournament option this week in a game where the Redskins throw quite a bit, though he’s just a WR5 in redraft leagues considering the state of the offense.
Trey Quinn: It should be expected that Quinn leads the Redskins wide receivers in receptions this year, as he’ll be taking over the Jamison Crowder role, you know, the one Crowder couldn’t remain on the field for. Quinn only saw 10 targets last year but turned them into 9/75/1. With the way Keenum has supported slot receivers over the last few years (Emmanuel Sanders/Adam Thielen), Quinn’s an interesting option. It seems as if Avonte Maddox will be the starting slot cornerback who did a phenomenal job his rookie year, filling in on short notice. He allowed just 15-of-28 passing for 167 yards and no touchdowns in his coverage. Because of that, Quinn may have his hands full in his first starting role, though I’d be shocked to see him get anything less than five targets in this game. Because of that, he’s on the WR5 radar, though he’s someone to keep an eye on as a sleeper in fantasy.
Terry McLaurin: It seemed like McLaurin was on the fast-track to start, though some of that hype has been derailed after he missed time in training camp. The release of Josh Doctson will surely help him move up the depth chart, though I cannot say he’s a recommended play. His playmaking ability is one thing, but the lack of potential in this offense is another. If they keep Richardson where he played last year, it means McLaurin would see a lot of Ronald Darby, a proven veteran. Take the wait-and-see approach with him.
Alshon Jeffery: He’s coming into the season healthy alongside a healthy Carson Wentz, which could mean big things. He’s played 24 games with Wentz, and in those games he’s averaged 7.8 targets, 4.4 receptions, 57.0 yards, and 0.54 touchdowns. That amounts to 13.4 PPR points per game, which is low-end WR2 territory. He does have the tougher matchup in this game against Josh Norman, though Norman didn’t look like the same cornerback in 2018, allowing a league-high eight touchdowns on 73 targets in his coverage. Prior to last year, he’d never allowed more than three touchdowns in his coverage. Jeffery scored one of those touchdowns last year. It’s worth noting that Jeffery has played four games against the Redskins and Norman (while with the Eagles), finishing with lines of: 3/38/0, 2/37/0, 3/31/0, and 5/59/1. While Norman may not be the same cornerback, it’s possible Jeffery isn’t the same receiver. There’s a lot of red tape in this game, leaving Jeffery best suited as a middling WR3 who’s likely going to be touchdown dependent.
DeSean Jackson: It seems that Jackson will try to play this week, as he suffered a broken finger toward the end of training camp that was rumored to keep him out a couple weeks. If he does play, it’s likely a decoy situation, which is probably what Jackson is going to be for much of the year, though him and Wentz will connect on a few bombs more than a couple times. It’s his ring finger on his non-dominant hand, so the injury may not affect him as much as we think. The Redskins have Josh Norman and Quinton Dunbar starting at cornerback, which means Dunbar will be tasked with covering Jackson most of the time. He’s a 4.4-4.5 second guy who was undrafted back in 2015 and has never played 400 snaps in a season. If Jackson’s finger is really not a problem, he’s going to be a problem for Washington, his former team, who also has a brand-new safety duo. In redraft, he’s simply a boom-or-bust WR4 option, but he does make for an interesting tournament option who’ll be lower owned due to his injury.
Nelson Agholor: It’s good to see Agholor back in his slot role, as he’s been awful on the perimeter. Of the 66 wide receivers who totaled at least 40 targets in each of the last two seasons, Agholor ranked as the No. 63 receiver in points per target on the perimeter, while he ranked No. 12 in points per target in the slot. The Redskins have Fabian Moreau covering the slot, as he moved to that in a full-time capacity when they traded Kendall Fuller. He hasn’t been great. He’s now seen 71 targets, allowing 47 receptions for 710 yards and four touchdowns. That’s a massive 10.0 yards per target and a touchdown every 17.8 targets. Unfortunately for Agholor, he’s been targeted much less from Wentz (5.3 targets per game) than he was with Nick Foles (7.0 targets per game), which does present a bit of risk. He’s not someone you need to play in redraft leagues, but his matchup isn’t a bad one, either.
Jordan Reed (OUT): After suffering another concussion this preseason, it’s somewhat shocking to hear Reed could be ready to play Week 1, but that’s what we’re hearing. Unfortunately, the matchup against the Eagles isn’t a great one. They held him to just 4/21/0 in their matchup last year, though it was Reed who got the best of them back in 2017 when he posted 8/64/2, his best game over the last two years. The lack of receiving options gives reason for hope with Reed, as he’s going to be targeted as long as he’s on the field. The Eagles allowed a league-low two touchdowns all of last season, just five touchdowns in 2017 (two to Reed), and just two touchdowns in 2016. It’s clear they have the tight end position pretty well figured out. Still, in a game the Redskins will have to throw more than they’d typically like, Reed can be considered a low-end TE1 who should be locked into six-plus targets if he plays, a rare occurrence at the tight end position. *UPDATE* Reed has taken part in portions of the last three practices, though has still not been fully cleared in the concussion protocol. He’s now officially been ruled OUT for this week’s game. If you’re in a real pinch, Vernon Davis can be streamed as his replacement.
Zach Ertz: This should be an interesting test for the Redskins new tight end duo of Landon Collins and Montae Nicholson. The Redskins released D.J. Swearinger towards the end of last season, who was phenomenal in coverage against tight ends, while Collins and Nicholson didn’t fare so well. Collins allowing a 127.4 QB Rating in coverage with the Giants, while Nicholson allowed a 132.5 QB Rating in his coverage. Both ranked inside the bottom-eight in football. Their linebacker corps is nothing to write home about, either. If the Eagles want, they should be able to carve up the middle of the field with Ertz. You’re starting him every week, though this is one that can provide a top-tier performance. He’s playable in both cash and tournament lineups.
Los Angeles Rams at Carolina Panthers
Line: LAR by 3.0
Jared Goff: It wasn’t the end of the season that Goff wanted (not even talking about the playoffs), as he was the QB22 from Week 13 through Week 17. It’s not the largest sample size, but let’s look at someone who may have affected his performance.
This is over the course of Goff’s career, so it’s clear he would appreciate Kupp in the lineup. Yes, some of those results were before Sean McVay, but they account for just seven games. Whatever the case, Kupp is back and the Rams will take on the Panthers, who are transitioning into a hybrid defense from the traditional 4-3 that Ron Rivera has run in his time there. That’s likely due to the fact that they allowed multiple touchdown passes in 10-of-16 games last year. They also lost Julius Peppers and Thomas Davis from their front seven. While they added Gerald McCoy, Brian Burns, and Bruce Irvin (dealing with a hamstring injury), there’s likely to be some kinks to work out. With Todd Gurley potentially being eased back into the offense and somewhat limited, it could amount to more pass attempts for Goff, especially when the Panthers were the fifth-best team against fantasy running backs last year. This game has one of the highest over/unders, which suggests it’s a matchup to attack from a fantasy standpoint. Goff should be considered a low-end QB1, though he’s not someone I’d necessarily target in cash-game lineups. *UPDATE* Bruce Irvin has been ruled out for this game, taking some of the pressure off the pass-rush.
Cam Newton: After a scare in the preseason (foot), Newton should be good to go for this game, though it may limit his mobility. We should’ve already expected that given his age (30) anyway. The Rams were a bit up-and-down last year in their defensive performances and a lot of it came back to Aqib Talib being in the lineup. Here’s the breakdown of the games with/without him last year:
He was clearly a difference-maker, though we cannot avoid the fact that they lost Ndamukong Suh this offseason, which will take a bite out of their pass rush. This game has a massive over/under which suggests there’ll be plenty of fantasy points scored, even if the Panthers are underdogs. Because of that, you can’t cross Newton off your tournament sheets, though he’s not an advisable play in cash with his foot injury potentially still lingering and affecting his upside. He should be considered a high-end QB2 in redraft leagues.
Todd Gurley, Malcolm Brown, and Darrell Henderson: It’s time to finally see what the Rams will do with their split at running back, as they’ve said they’ll limit Gurley’s workload a bit more this year. Does that mean he’ll average 18-20 touches instead of his usual 22.7 touches per game under Sean McVay, or does it mean he’ll dip down into the 15-touch range? My best guess would be that Gurley will net around 18 touches per game, which is more than enough to do damage. The Panthers have a new front seven this year, though it’s important to note they’ve been stout under Rivera. They allowed the fifth-fewest fantasy points to running backs last year, though much of it came due to lack of volume, as they allowed a rather-high 4.64 yards per carry. That was nearly as high as the miniscule 4.87 yards per target they allowed to running backs, which was one of the best in the league. There were just two running backs who totaled more than four receptions against them (Alvin Kamara and Giovani Bernard), so Gurley would likely need to do his damage on the ground. Given the high point-total, you should consider him a low-end RB1 who comes with a little risk, which keeps him out of the cash-game conversation. Brown is likely to be his short-yardage backup, while Henderson is going to mix in on passing downs. This game should tell us a lot on how to value those two moving forward.
Christian McCaffrey: The Panthers want to limit McCaffrey’s snaps, but not his touches? That makes zero sense, as he’s one of the better three-down options in the game, and you don’t want your offense to become predictable. The Rams allowed a robust 4.87 yards per carry to running backs last year, which ranked as the fourth-highest mark in the league, though volume was typically a problem for running backs, as they averaged just 21.0 carries per game against the ball-controlling Rams. Losing Ndamukong Suh up the middle surely won’t help them be more efficient against the run considering they didn’t replace him with anyone of significance. It’s worth noting the Rams allowed a rather-high 4.66 yards per carry in 2017 without Suh, too. The Rams did do a wonderful job defending pass-catching running backs, however. They allowed just 477 yards all season, which ranked fourth-fewest. It wasn’t due to volume, either, as the 4.46 yards per target ranked third lowest in the league. There wasn’t a running back who totaled more than 55 yards through the air against them all year, which included Alvin Kamara, Kareem Hunt, David Johnson, and Melvin Gordon. McCaffrey is at home in a game that has an over/under of more than 50 points. You’re playing him as an RB1, though you can likely find better cash game options.
Brandin Cooks: There are many who’ve knocked Cooks down their boards with Cooper Kupp returning to the lineup, though I’m not one of them. Did you know that Cooks averaged 19.5 PPR points per game with Kupp in the lineup and 13.4 PPR points per game without him? The Panthers are likely to stick speedster Donte Jackson on Cooks, which makes sense, though he doesn’t have the talent Cooks does. The most-targeted route in Cooks’ tree last year was the out route, where he produced a 119.0 WR Rating. It just so happens that the out route was Jackson’s worst in coverage, allowing 9-of-9 passing for 101 yards and a touchdown. The lack of big plays allowed by Jackson does sting Cooks’ upside, though he’s still in play as a WR2 this week.
Robert Woods: If there’s someone who suffers a bit due to Cooper Kupp‘s return to the lineup, it’s Woods, who’ll go back to a primarily perimeter wide receiver. He’s going to match-up with James Bradberry most of the time, who didn’t have quite the year the Panthers hoped in 2018, though he’s still a competent young player. He’s typically tasked with covering the opponent’s top wide receiver, which means he sees a lot of Mike Evans, Michael Thomas, and Julio Jones. Knowing that, it should come as no surprise that his stats aren’t elite, though he has allowed just a 58.4 percent catch-rate, which is quite impressive. There were just two games all last year where Woods didn’t score at least 12.0 PPR points, so he’s a WR3 at worst, though this doesn’t appear to be a blow-up game.
Cooper Kupp: It’s reported that Kupp is moving great despite coming off a torn ACL just under 10 months ago. Knowing he’s been taking part in training camp is a great sign, though you shouldn’t be buying the reports that he’s “more explosive” after the ACL surgery. The best news for him is that the Panthers will be starting Ross Cockrell in the slot, a player who also missed the entire 2018 season with a broken tibia and fibula. Before that, Cockrell was on the Giants where he played the Sean McVay Rams in 2017, allowing 5-of-7 passing for 84 yards and a touchdown in his coverage. Even his backup, Kevon Seymour, missed the entire 2018 season with a shoulder injury. If Kupp is healthy, which they say he is, he should be played as a WR2. He comes with some risk, so I’d likely avoid in cash-games, though the matchup is a good one.
D.J. Moore: He didn’t start right away for the Panthers but did finish out the year seeing at least seven targets in 6-of-7 games. He topped 100 yards just once, though, and now has to deal with a full-time player in Curtis Samuel, who’s been receiving tons of hype this offseason. Moore will see a mix of both Aqib Talib and Marcus Peters, as they don’t shadow when both are active. While Peters is not fit for a shadow role, he’s above average when playing sides, while Talib has been very good in his role as well. Moore can get in yardage after the catch, as evidenced by his league-high 7.9 yards after the catch last year. Knowing how good the Rams secondary was with Peters and Talib on the field, you shouldn’t rely on anything more than WR3 numbers out of Moore in this game, though I’d probably start him over someone else in this area of the rankings due to the high total on the game.
Curtis Samuel: All we’ve heard this offseason is that Samuel cannot be defended. After an injury-plagued rookie season, Samuel started to flash at the end of 2018, highlighted by posting at least 72 yards in three of the last five games. He was a lot more volatile when it came to target share than Moore, however, as Samuel totaled four or less targets in 9-of-13 games. That’s unlikely to be the case in 2019, and particularly in this game that projects as a high scoring one. It’s important to not that Samuel was targeted more in zone coverage than when he was in man, and that he did much better against a zone. The Rams played zone coverage about 60 percent of the time last year, which should benefit Samuel. He’s obviously not someone for cash games, but as a tournament play, he’s a good one to target. Consider him a high-end WR4 who comes with more upside than most in his territory.
Gerald Everett: We’ve heard whispers about the Rams running more 12 personnel this year, which means they’d have one running back and two tight ends on the field instead of their usual 11 personnel that employs just one running back and one tight end. If there’s truth to this, Everett would become a beneficiary. He played 40 percent or less snaps in every game before Cooper Kupp‘s injury, but was then bumped into the 44-75 percent territory as the year went on, including 68 percent in the conference championship and 70 percent in the Super Bowl. I’ll believe the 12 personnel thing when I see it, as the three wide receiver sets in McVay’s offense are a staple. The Panthers were pretty horrendous against tight ends last year, allowing 2.03 PPR points per target to them (ranked fifth-most), including a touchdown every 12.3 targets. Everett is far off the cash-game radar, but he could be an interesting tournament play with very low ownership. He’s just a high-variance TE2 who I’d play over some extremely boring options.
Greg Olsen: Just when we thought he’d hang up the cleats, Olsen is back for another season. The wide receiver room looks much different than it did during the days when he was constantly a top-eight tight end, and Christian McCaffrey has derailed Olsen’s upside. However, the matchups in this game should favor Olsen’s role. Moore and Samuel get matched-up with Aqib Talib and Marcus Peters, while McCaffrey is facing a defense that allowed just 4.46 yards per target to running backs, which ranked third lowest in the league. Meanwhile, tight ends averaged an extremely high 13.44 yards per reception against them, though it doesn’t help that they played George Kittle twice and Travis Kelce once. When playing tight ends, you’re looking for a target floor and opposing tight ends averaged 8.1 targets per game against the Rams last year. He should be considered a low-end TE1/high-end TE2 in this game.