The Primer: Week 5 Edition (Fantasy Football)
Raise your hand if your first vacation planning experience didn’t go as you’d expected. My wife and I would fall into that category. We were practically newlyweds when we planned a vacation to Cancun. All we knew was that we wanted to go to an all-inclusive resort that ideally had no children (stop judging, all parents need some quiet time).
Back when this trip was made, my wife and I didn’t have much money, but we wanted our hard work to lead to one our ‘firsts’ we had with each other, as neither of us had ever traveled out of the country. So, what did we do? We went to one of the few travel websites there were at the time and looked for the most affordable option we could find. The pictures of the one we landed on looked very nice and it was in our budget for an all-inclusive.
Upon arriving, the resort was everything we hoped it’d be. It wasn’t too far from the airport, was right on the main strip of hotels, clean, and backed right up to the ocean. Upon checking in, they told us they had screwed something up with the travel booking and that they were going to upgrade our room to one that had a jacuzzi on the balcony. Umm, yes please.
After checking in, we were given a list of nightly activities they had for guests, which included a pajama party for everyone in their night club that evening. They told us we should go to mingle with other guests. We’d been stuck in suburbia working 50-plus hours a week with a small child (daughter)… of course we were going to go and check that out.
We walked in to see some couple on stage doing karaoke, though they were pretty brutal if I’m being honest. Once they finished, the resort had a few of their employees handling the DJ duties for the night. They announced, “For those just arriving, we’re having a karaoke competition where you can win prizes!” For the next ones to step-up and participate, they said they’d give away a ladies swimsuit cover-up with the resort’s name and logo on it. Tabbie (wife) nudged me towards the stage saying that she wanted it. In only a white t-shirt and boxers, I made my way to the stage.
Fortunately, when I got to the stage, I was told it was a couples event and that Tabbie would have to participate with me. I got a kick out of this, as her plan had backfired, and she now had to come up on the stage. We wanted to choose a song that could be done as a duo (if you’re going to do something, do it right), so we landed on “Summer Nights” from the movie Grease.
Having a great time, we went all out to the song and got all 50-plus guests in attendance into it. Doing theatrics, pelvic thrusts, and all. When the crowd is cheering you on, it’s easy to get into the performance. At the very end, we stood side-by-side and sang, “but those su-hummer nigh-heights” as good as we could’ve. It felt great, only at the very end of that last note, my boxers were pulled to my knees. One of the female employees had apparently been planning to do it all along, though I didn’t know (for obvious reasons). Completely shocked, I turned around, snagged the cover-up out of her hand and covered up. The crowd was still cheering, so I just blushed a bit and waved a timid thank you. Tabbie obviously got her cover-up, but we actually won the whole contest and received t-shirts, big party cups, towels, among other things.
The very next day, we went out to the pool only to see multiple guests lounging topless. We started to wonder about the type of resort we were at. Only about an hour later, we seemingly got our answer. It was adults-only, and for good reason, as they hosted a variety of couples games which included plenty of not-kid-friendly gestures, and then some.
I simply wanted to share a fun story with you today, and well, now that I’ve embarrassed myself, I think we can say mission accomplished. But the moral of the story here is to use a resort’s reviews to your advantage. You’ll likely learn very quickly if the place you’re contemplating is a swingers adult-only resort. It’s not advertised as such, but the reviews know. But hey, I don’t regret our uniformed trip… if we hadn’t gone on it, I wouldn’t have this story to tell. Okay, back to business.
In case you’ve missed it, I’ve been going back into The Primer on Saturday morning trying to update you on the injury reports that impact your decisions. While I cannot write a whole new article, I do talk about a lot of these things on our Sunday morning livestream, which is FREE to everyone. It’s where I discuss all the latest injury news and then take your questions live from 11-12am EST. Click here to be taken to our YouTube page where you can get notifications when we go live.
If you’re new around these parts, here’s what you can expect out of this article each and every week: numbers, facts, stats, opinions, and some shenanigans here and there. It’s my unbiased opinion about everyone on your roster. Whether it be season-long advice, DFS advice, wide receiver/cornerback matchups, or snap counts, it’s all covered. The idea here is to give you as much information as possible and give you as much confidence as possible when you hit that ‘submit lineup’ button each week. Who should be in your lineup this week?
Buffalo Bills at Tennessee Titans
Line: TEN by 2.5
Josh Allen: We aren’t sure if Allen will be cleared from the concussion protocol by this game, but we’ll proceed like he will be, as Matt Barkley would have no startability even if Allen were to miss this game. Allen himself likely won’t have very much appeal, as the Titans defense has been a difficult one to crack under Mike Vrabel, particularly in Tennessee. Of the nine quarterbacks who’ve gone into Tennessee, just three were able to finish as top-12 performers, with five of them finishing as the QB22 or worse. The good news is that they do play a lot of man coverage, which typically allows mobile quarterbacks to rack up some rushing yards. It’s why we saw four quarterbacks rush for at least 22 yards against them last year, and why we’ve seen three quarterbacks run for at least 18 yards this year. That’s where Allen’s floor comes from, as his passing can be hit-or-miss, and it was definitely a miss against the Patriots last week. Knowing his team is projected for a measly 18 points, Allen doesn’t have much of a ceiling in this game, though his floor remains in the middling QB2 range due to his mobility. *Update* Allen has made it through the concussion protocol and is expected to play.
Marcus Mariota: We must give credit where credit’s due and Mariota deserves a pat on the back for his performance against the Falcons last week. They looked like the same Falcons team who allowed 12 top-15 performances to quarterbacks last year, but in the end, Mariota has to deliver in those types of matchups. His streamability is rising when we see games like he had in Week 4, though that’ll come to an abrupt halt in Week 4 when the Bills come to town. Over their last 18 games, they’ve allowed exactly one quarterback (Andrew Luck) to finish as a top-15 quarterback against them. During that time, there have been more quarterbacks who’ve finished with single-digit fantasy days than double-digit ones. One of the most insane stats I noticed was that in those 18 games, no quarterback has averaged more than 7.5 yards per attempt. Like, no hiccups at all. This is not a week to debate Mariota in fantasy. In fact, he should probably be benched in Superflex leagues if you have someone projected for 12.0 or more fantasy points to take his spot.
Devin Singletary and Frank Gore: After getting in some limited practices towards the end of last week, Singletary should be back on the field for Week 5, though against the Titans, it’ll be a rocky road. There’s been just one team who’s totaled 20 carries as a team against the Titans, highlighting how difficult it is, as well as how slow-paced the games have been. Gore looked fantastic against the Patriots, breaking off multiple big runs and gaining 109 yards on 17 carries, though he failed to find the end zone. Now having totaled at least 16 touches in three straight weeks, Gore can be considered for RB3/flex-type numbers most weeks. The Titans 75/339/2 have allowed 1,886 rushing yards on 435 carries (4.34 yards per carry) with nine touchdowns in the 20 games under Mike Vrabel, which amounts to 94.3 yards and 0.45 touchdowns per game. When you start divvying that up between Singletary and Gore, it gets a bit murky, especially when they have one of the lowest implied team totals on the week, and also knowing that Josh Allen will likely steal some goal-line work. Gore should be considered a low-upside low-end RB3 until further notice while Singletary presents more upside and big-play potential, though he might be eased back in coming off the soft tissue injury. He’s nothing more than a big-play hopeful RB4 option this week. *Update* Singletary practiced on a limited basis all three days this week and is officially questionable.
Derrick Henry and Dion Lewis: In a game that was out of hand rather quickly, we didn’t get to see if Henry would lose some snaps to Lewis in the passing game, though it’s worth noting that Lewis did see five targets to Henry’s one. Quite the difference from Henry’s eight targets to Lewis’ six targets over the first three games. We all know who gets the goal-line carries, though, right? That matters against the Bills, because while they have allowed just 4.13 yards per carry over their last 20 games, they’ve now allowed a massive 37 rushing touchdowns in 36 games under Sean McDermott. That doesn’t include the eight receiving touchdowns to running backs, either. Here’s a look at the amount of big rushing plays (20-plus yards) the Bills have allowed: 2019 – 2 (14th), 2018 – 12 (13th), and 2017 – 14 (2nd). So, they have been somewhat prone to the big play, as well as touchdowns, which both play right into Henry’s strengths. This is also a game where he’s a home favorite, which has good correlation with fantasy success. Henry should be played as a high-end RB2 who should score. We haven’t seen enough of Lewis to trust him, though it does appear that Henry’s woes in the passing game will take away from his potential, as Lewis will likely continue to eat away at that production.
John Brown: It’s kind of amazing that Brown sits as the No. 19 wide receiver in PPR formats despite the fact that the Bills have scored more than 21 points once through four games. He’s seen at least eight targets in 3-of-4 games, including double-digit targets in two of them. As long as the targets keep coming, you’ll live with Josh Allen‘s inaccuracy. The Titans secondary just shut down the Falcons receivers, as Julio Jones finished with just 4/52/0 while Calvin Ridley was also held to 3/32/0. There have been just two wide receivers (Odell Beckham and Mohamed Sanu) who’ve seen double-digit targets against the Titans, and both scored 14-plus PPR points. Brown will see a lot of mixture of all Titans cornerbacks, as he’s not at one position on the field more than 40 percent of the time. The 1.67 PPR points per target the Titans are allowing to receivers ranks as the 10th fewest in the league, so Brown is going to need volume to succeed in this game, though he has been getting it. He should remain in lineups as a volume WR3 who can hit higher marks with just one play given his 13.9-yard average depth of target, which is one of the higher marks in the NFL.
Cole Beasley: We’re now a quarter the way through the season and Beasley has hit at least 9.0 PPR points in every game, including 14.6 and 14.8 points over the last two weeks. He’s the No. 36 wide receiver in PPR formats, which feels a bit like Adam Humphries last year. No one wanted to play him when everything first started happening, but then realized he was there to stay. Beasley’s 36 targets are tied for 10th-most among receivers, so it may not be a fluke. He’s also yet to catch a touchdown, which will come in time. The Titans slot cornerback Logan Ryan has actually been the weak point through four games, as Adoree Jackson has played well, and Malcolm Butler… well, he’s struggled a bit, but is asked to cover higher-profile targets. Ryan has now allowed 588 yards and four touchdowns in his coverage under Mike Vrabel, which has come over a span of 82 targets. For those doing the math at home, that amounts to 7.17 yards per target and a touchdown every 20.5 targets, both of which are high marks for a nickel cornerback. He’s been targeted once every 4.7 snaps in coverage while in the slot, which is the 10th-most in the league, so teams are looking his way quite often. If Beasley keeps getting 9.0 targets per game from Allen, he’s going to be a low-upside WR4 more often than not. If you’re looking for a decent WR4 floor, Beasley can fill that role.
Corey Davis: We talked about the fact that it was a good matchup for Davis last week, though it’s incredibly hard to trust a guy who’s been non-existent over the first three weeks. Fortunately, you don’t have to wonder in Week 5, as he’s going to see plenty of Tre’Davious White in coverage, one of the better cornerbacks in the game. Despite facing five different wide receivers who’ve seen nine or more targets, there’s been just one wide receiver who’s been able to post numbers inside the top 30 wide receivers, and that was Jamison Crowder, a slot-only receiver who saw a ridiculous 17 targets. We watched White lock down Josh Gordon last week to just 3/46/0 on seven targets. This is a week to completely fade Davis.
A.J. Brown: He’s been doing some big work with the ball in his hands, as his 111 yards after the catch ranks 15th in the league, which is despite the fact that he ranks 66th in receptions. He’s also dropped two passes this year, so it hasn’t been all roses for Brown. Many will wonder if he’s a must-start but when you see that he had just three targets last week, it should have you pumping the brakes. It’s odd, but Tajae Sharpe is actually playing more snaps than Brown. The Bills have faced 106 targets to wide receivers (fourth-most) and allowed 59 receptions (sixth-most), but a lot of that is off dump-off passes, as they’re allowing a ridiculously-low 9.76 yards per reception, 5.43 yards per target, and 1.16 PPR points per target to wide receivers. That amounts to the fourth-fewest fantasy points to the position through four weeks. It’s not a fluke, either, as they ranked fourth against wide receivers then as well. He’s a clear-cut sit this week.
Adam Humphries: If you’re looking to start one of the Titans receivers this week (who knows why), it should probably be Humphries. Sure, he’s totaled 68.6 percent of his production in one game, but it’s important to know the reason he had that performance against he Jaguars in Week 3. Both Corey Davis and A.J. Brown had brutal matchups in that game, while Humphries’ matchup was the best of the bunch. We run into that exact situation again in Week 5, as Davis/Brown will be tangled up with Tre’Davious White and Levi Wallace in coverage, while Humphries gets either Siran Neal or Kevin Johnson. The Bills opponents have had success attacking the slot, as we watched Jamison Crowder tally 14/99/0 in Week 1, T.J. Jones manage 3/38/1 in Week 2, Tyler Boyd 6/68/0 in Week 3, and then a dud from Julian Edelman in Week 4 who’s clearly playing through some pain. It’s not a can’t miss game from Humphries, but it’s the best matchup among the Titans receivers. He’s still just a mediocre WR5 who should come with a decent floor.
Dawson Knox: He’s looked really good over the last two weeks, including an acrobatic catch along the sideline that Josh Allen threw well behind him. After being involved in a timeshare the first two weeks, we’ve watched Knox take over the lead role for the Bills and has now run 56 routes in that time, while no one else on the team has run more than 13 of them. The Titans were one of the teams to avoid with tight ends last year, but seem to have abandoned whatever they were doing, as they’ve allowed the sixth-most points to the position, including a nine-catch, 130-yard game out of Austin Hooper last week. We can’t overreact to one week, though, as no tight end had totaled more than 37 yards against them over the first three weeks, though they did allow a touchdown in each of those games, propping the numbers up. In the end, I’m still not sure if this is a matchup to attack with tight ends. Knowing Knox has still yet to see more than four targets, we’ll use that as our excuse to wait-and-see, though he is on the TE2 radar.
Delanie Walker: After an impressive start to the year with 5/55/2, Walker has been mediocre over the last three games, though he’s still provided a decent floor in 3-of-4 games, which is all you can ask for at the tight end position. It’s possible that his knee issue that had him miss some practice last week was a factor in his lowly Week 4 performance, as he played just 19 snaps in the blowout win against the Falcons. We’re starting to see Jonnu Smith a bit more, too, as he’s now played at least 40 snaps in each of the last two games. Because of that, we must lower expectations for Walker, especially in a brutal matchup like this one. The Bills are one of seven teams who’ve still yet to allow a touchdown to a tight end, which picks up where they left off last year when they allowed just four touchdowns all year. It’s not just touchdowns, either. They’ve allowed a league-low 5.84 yards per target to tight ends since the start of 2018. Feel free to find a warm spot on your bench for the aging veteran this week.
Chicago Bears at Oakland Raiders (London)
Line: CHI by 5.0
Mitch Trubisky/Chase Daniel: Judging from early reports, Trubisky may be able to play in this game with a harness on should the Bears decide to go that route. It’s tough to imagine playing one week after dislocating your shoulder, so the Bears likely opt to go with Daniel, who filled in admirably in Week 4. Against the Raiders, the Bears pass-attack should be good, though the question will become: How much do they want to throw? There’s been two games the Raiders have seen 31 or less pass attempts and two games they’ve seen more than 31 pass attempts. In the lesser attempt games, they allowed just one passing touchdown to Joe Flacco and Kirk Cousins. In the higher attempt games, they allowed four touchdowns to Patrick Mahomes and three touchdowns to Jacoby Brissett. This is similar to how it was against the Raiders last year, as they allowed a ridiculous 7.31 percent touchdown-rat and 8.10 yards per attempt but faced the fewest pass attempts (479) in the NFL. With the way the Bears defense is playing, it seems unreasonable to expect more than 31 pass attempts no matter who is under center. Some will wonder about what playing in London does to fantasy appeal, and based on my research, there was an average of 145.0 fantasy points per game scored in Wembley Stadium last year, which ranked 27th among the 33 stadiums where games took place, so it definitely doesn’t help. Best case scenario, you get 250 yards and two touchdowns out of a Bears quarterback, though that’s not going to be the reason you win your fantasy matchup, as there are better streaming options available. *Update* Trubisky has been ruled out for this game.
Derek Carr: This is a return trip to London for Carr and the Raiders who were there in Week 6 last year to play the Seahawks. In that game, Carr played what might have been the worst game of his career, completing 23-of-31 passes for 142 yards and no touchdowns. During that game, he had exactly one yard that wasn’t made after the catch. Seriously, I don’t know how that’s possible. While Seattle definitely had a good pass-rush, the Bears’ pass-rush is better. Their 17 sacks through four games rank third-best in the NFL, while their eight turnovers rank second-best. With Khalil Mack going against his former team, you’d better believe there’s blood in the water, and knowing he’ll match-up with left tackle Kolton Miller on most of his snaps, he’s likely going to reach his destination. Of the 114 left tackles that PFF has graded this season, Miller ranks 107th. The Bears have allowed the second-most completions in the NFL, though they’ve gone for a miniscule 6.67 yards per attempt, while the four touchdowns they’ve allowed is tied for the fourth-fewest. This is not a week to stream Carr.
David Montgomery and Tarik Cohen: We’ve seen a dramatic shift over the last few weeks and one that suggests Montgomery is a workhorse running back. After playing just 27 snaps in each of the first two games, he’s compiled 89 snaps over the last two weeks combined while Mike Davis played one snap. With the way the Bears defense is playing, Montgomery should be locked into 18-plus touches per game, which would include this matchup. The Raiders are going to be without linebacker Vontaze Burfict, who was an important acquisition to their run defense this year. We watched them struggle to contain the run in 2018, allowing a massive 4.77 yards per carry and 13 touchdowns, which included six top-12 PPR performances against them. Missing Burfict may open the flood gates, as they’ll have to lean on 2017 undrafted free agent Nicholas Morrow to fill his spot, and the team was already without starting strong safety Johnathan Abram. Despite his inefficient performance in Week 4 against a tough Vikings defense, Montgomery should be in fantasy lineups as a rock-solid RB2 this week with top-12 upside. Cohen is going to participate in the passing-game, though the Raiders have done a great job with pass-catching backs under Jon Gruden/Paul Guenther. Over the 20 games under this coaching regime, just three running backs have totaled more than four receptions against them. They allowed the second-fewest receiving points to running backs last year and are in the top-half of the league again this year, making Cohen a somewhat weak RB3 option who comes with a low floor given he’s maxed-out at five carries per game.
Josh Jacobs: We were told there’d be more involvement for Jacobs in the passing game moving forward, though two targets isn’t exactly what we had in mind. It was somewhat of a blowout win for the Raiders, even if the final score doesn’t appear that way, so it could have shifted the snaps to some of the backups. Jacobs looked good against a Colts defense that was without two of their top defenders, including inside linebacker Darius Leonard, though he may catch a break once again this week. The Bears were without Roquan Smith last week for personal reasons and it appears they may be without him again in Week 5 after Matt Nagy refused to comment on his status. Still, without him, the Bears defense swarmed Dalvin Cook, holding him to just 35 yards on 14 carries, though he did find the end zone late in the game. Since the start of the 2018 season, there have been three running backs who’ve rushed for more than 57 yards against the Bears. The targets are what we’re looking for, as Derek Carr will need an outlet for all the pressure coming his way. Not knowing if Jacobs has that role locked down is worrisome, and the reason he shouldn’t be trusted as anything more than a low-end RB2/high-end RB3 against the Bears ferocious defense.
Allen Robinson: Despite the shortcomings of the Bears’ offense, Robinson has been a star through four weeks. He’s hauled in 71 percent of the balls that have come his way while facing the top-tier cornerbacks on the opposing roster. Fortunately for him, the Raiders don’t have a top-tier cornerback and will rely on the combination of Gareon Conley, Daryl Worley, and Lamarcus Joyner to slow him down. We’ve watched Courtland Sutton tag them for 120 yards and Demarcus Robinson blow-up for 172 yards and two touchdowns this year, while six other receivers have totaled at least 10.9 PPR points against them. The Bears can pick-and-choose their battles with the Raiders, as they play sides and don’t shadow. Knowing they’re allowing 1.98 PPR points per target to wide receivers, you should be safe to pencil Robinson in for at least low-end WR2 production regardless who is under center for the Bears.
Taylor Gabriel: He should be good to go this week, provided he gets through the concussion protocol. The Bears passing offense may not be one that you want to have many parts of considering how little they should be asking of their quarterbacks, but looking at Gabriel on a week-to-week basis makes sense given his big-play upside. The Raiders have allowed a league-leading 21 pass plays that have gone for 20-plus yards, including five plays that have gone for 40-plus yards. Keep in mind that doesn’t even include a 74-yard touchdown to Mecole Hardman that was called back due to penalty. They’ve been beat with speed plenty of times, though the Wembley Stadium grass has been known to be a bit messy, which could limit the big-play upside. Gabriel isn’t someone to start in season-long leagues knowing the volume concerns, but he could be a flier in tournaments who’s not very highly owned. *Update* Gabriel has been ruled out for this game. Javon Wims will start in his place.
Anthony Miller: The matchup against the Raiders is so juicy with Lamarcus Joyner in the slot, but Miller simply isn’t a focal point of the offense. He’s been capped at just three targets this year and that’s despite Taylor Gabriel missing last week, and Trey Burton being out/limited in others. It’s odd to say the least considering they traded up to get him in the second-round last year and he produced seven touchdowns on just 54 targets as a rookie while playing through a separated shoulder. But we are in a new year and until we see him get meaningful targets, we cannot start him, even in what might be the best matchup in the NFL for slot-heavy receivers.
Tyrell Williams: While he has now scored in all four of his games with the Raiders, it’s getting a bit concerning that he’s now totaled 46 yards or less in each of the last three games, including just three catches in each of the last two games. It’s frightening because it’s a very low floor when he doesn’t score, which may end this week against a Bears defense that’s allowed just three wide receiver touchdowns through four games. Keep in mind they’ve played against Davante Adams, Emmanuel Sanders, Terry McLaurin, and Stefon Diggs/Adam Thielen. Against the Bears pass-rush that has pressured opposing quarterbacks at least 35 percent of the time each of the last three weeks, it seems unlikely Carr will have many chances to take shots down the field. You kind of have to start Williams at this point, though he’s a low-end WR3 who’s not guaranteed a whole lot this week. *Update* Williams did not practice all week due to a foot injury and is considered highly questionable for this game.
Hunter Renfrow: There’s not a whole lot of options in the Raiders pass-game outside of Tyrell Williams, as he’s the only one who’s played more than 30 snaps per game. Renfrow isn’t a fantasy option in general, though it’s important to note his snaps have decreased each of the last two games from 46 in Week 2, to 33 in Week 3, to just 25 in Week 4. In fact, Trevor Davis played more than he did against the Colts. There’s no one on the Raiders you should even contemplate starting at wide receiver outside of Williams.
Trey Burton: He’s slowly being ramped-up as the weeks go on and played a season-high 41 snaps against the Vikings. We should start seeing less routes run by Adam Shaheen, which should allow Burton to sneak back onto the borderline TE1/2 radar. If there’s a week to target for a potential TE1 game, this should be it. The Raiders have really struggled to defend tight ends under the Gruden regime, allowing 93 receptions for 1,337 yards and 12 touchdowns over a span of 20 games. That amounts to an average of 4.7 receptions for 66.9 yards and 0.60 touchdowns per game. The only team that’s been worse over that span is the Colts, though they’ve seen much more volume. On a per-target basis, the Raiders are the worst in football at defending tight ends, allowing over 2.20 PPR points per target. If the Bears want to find a week to get Burton going, this could be it. He’s in the streaming TE1/2 conversation as we watch his snaps increase.
Darren Waller: Somehow, he’s still yet to find the end zone despite catching 33-of-37 targets for 320 yards. The touchdowns will come, so know that Waller is locked into top-five production with the volume he’s seeing in the Raiders offense. The Bears defense has not been one to target since the start of last year, as they allowed an NFL-low 5.88 yards per target to tight ends last year and have allowed a low 6.86 yards per target to them this year. They’ve allowed six tight end touchdowns over the last 20 games, which is one of the lower marks in the NFL, but as we’ve talked about, Waller doesn’t rely on touchdowns like many tight ends considering he’s bottomed-out at seven targets in a game. It would definitely help his underneath potential if Roquan Smith is out for the Bears, as he’s one of the more athletic linebackers in the league, though Waller will see plenty of Eddie Jackson in coverage, too, a Pro Bowler from last year. This is likely to be one of Waller’s down weeks, though I’m still not going to recommend you bench him. He’s an every-week plug-and-play TE1 where you’ll have to deal with a bad game here and there, as it happens to the best of tight ends. This is not a week to target him in DFS, however.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers at New Orleans Saints
Line: NO by 4.5
Jameis Winston: What a week by Winston, traveling across the country to play against a Rams team that had allowed just eight passing touchdowns in 11 games with Aqib Talib. His 385 yards and four-touchdown performance was one that was aided by great field position throughout most of the game, but the important part was that he delivered when he needed to. After a brutal start to the season, Winston has now thrown for 973 yards, eight touchdowns, and two interceptions over the last three weeks as the Bruce Arians offense has started to take shape. The Saints defense shut down Dak Prescott and the Cowboys last week, though it’s still just a one-game sample size. This is a similar defense to the one who played against Winston last year when he threw for 213 yards and two touchdowns with one interception. The difference is that Godwin is now a full-time player and he’s created a lot of issues for opposing defenses given the attention Evans requires. Deshaun Watson in his game against the Saints: 8.93 yards per attempt. Non-Saints games: 6.98 yards per attempt. Jared Goff versus the Saints: 10.11 yards per attempt. Non-Saints games: 6.70 yards per attempt. The one-game sample size against the Cowboys is too small to make judgements, though it definitely helped that they got defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins back into the lineup. Going back to last year, the Saints defense allowed six quarterbacks to score 22 or more fantasy points, with five of them coming in New Orleans. In fact, since the start of 2018, Prescott was just the second quarterback who failed to average at least 7.1 yards per attempt in New Orleans. Continue to play Winston as a low-end QB1 who is riding sky-high on confidence right now. He makes sense in tournaments, too, though their 21.5-point implied team total is not promising.
Teddy Bridgewater: He’s completed 73.7 percent of his passes in his two starts… but he’s only averaged 6.5 yards per attempt, which makes sense considering his 5.5-yard average depth of target that remains the lowest in the NFL. The Bucs defense has been markedly improved under Todd Bowles, particularly against the run, as they’re the No. 1 run defense in the league, allowing just 2.75 yards per carry. They’ll need to lean on the short passing game, though the Bucs have been sharp there, too, allowing just a 61.0 percent completion-rate and 2.75 percent touchdown-rate through four weeks, which does include Jared Goff‘s performance last week where he racked-up 68 pass attempts. We’re not going to see that with Bridgewater, though we’re likely to get an increase on the max of 30 pass attempts we’ve seen to this point. The Bucs have been the beneficiary of some accuracy issues from Jimmy Garoppolo, Cam Newton, and Jared Goff, though we have to give them credit at some point for getting pressure on the quarterback. The Bucs are leading the league over the last two weeks when it comes to quarterback pressure, as both Daniel Jones and Goff were pressured on 46-plus percent of their dropbacks. Bridgewater has struggled under pressure with a 55.8 QB Rating, so if they can get to him, it’ll create some turnover opportunities. It’s not a matchup you need to attack in season-long or DFS, though Bridgewater is a find low-end QB2 play in Superflex and 2QB formats.
Peyton Barber, Ronald Jones, and Dare Ogunbowale: Despite Jones’ big performance against the Rams, Bruce Arians has said that Barber will continue to start and that they’ll ride the hot hand after that. This creates too much uncertainty to recommend either of them with confidence. The Saints have gotten better against the run every single week, and it makes sense considering what they were missing. During Week 1, they were without both David Onyemata and Sheldon Rankins on the defensive line. They got Onyemata back for Week 2 and then got Rankins back in Week 4, when they limited Ezekiel Elliott to just 35 yards on 18 carries. That was the third-lowest total of rushing yards that he’s ever had in a game. Most don’t realize the Saints were straight-up dominant against the run last year, allowing just 3.22 yards per carry. They allowed just 895 rushing yards all of last season, the fewest in the NFL. That’s 55.9 rushing yards per game… to the opposing TEAM of running backs. There can be production through the air against the Saints defense, but we don’t have a clear-cut beneficiary to that work, as Ogunbowale is playing just 14-26 snaps per game. This is a week to sit back and watch the Bucs running backs struggle and not start any of them, though I’d like to insert that Jones looked absolutely phenomenal against the Rams last week. He’s someone who should be stashed on rosters and he’s also the one who has the most appeal given that, but it’s not a good matchup to start any of them as anything more than an RB4.
Alvin Kamara and Latavius Murray: This has been a much more Kamara-concentrated backfield with Bridgewater under center and that makes sense considering Kamara’s skillset combined with Bridgewater’s check-down mentality. They’re going to need him to contribute in the passing game this week even more so, as the Bucs have been straight-up relentless against the run a quarter of the way through the season. They’ve held opponents to just 2.75 yards per carry, which is the lowest mark in the league. Keep in mind they’ve played against Matt Breida and the 49ers backfield who’ve played well in other contests, Christian McCaffrey who’s dominated everyone else, Saquon Barkley (who was hurt), and Todd Gurley, so the competition hasn’t been weak. While the 49ers and Panthers didn’t use their running backs much in the passing game, we did see Barkley tally four catches for 27 yards early-on in that game, and then Gurley rack-up a season-high seven receptions for 54 yards last week. Knowing that no running back has totaled more than 40 yards on the ground against the Bucs, it crosses Murray off as someone with any potential. Kamara needs to remain in lineups as an outlier to performance, though he’s not someone you should target in DFS this week.
Mike Evans: It was looking like the week I predicted for Evans when he had just three catches for 22 yards in the fourth quarter, but Marcus Peters sitting on a route that never happened allowed Evans’ go-route to net him 10 yards of separation and an easy 67-yard touchdown, boosting his fantasy performance quite a bit. He’ll be rewarded with a matchup against Marshon Lattimore, who just limited Amari Cooper to just five catches and 48 scoreless yards. Evans has seen Lattimore quite a bit being in the same division. Here are the results of those contests (most recent first): 4/86/0, 7/147/1, 5/55/0, and 1/13/0. So, he’s essentially had one good game against Lattimore, and it was Week 1 of last season. Oddly enough, Lattimore struggled against Deandre Hopkins in Week 1 of this season (8/111/2) and even against the Vikings in Week 1 of the 2017 season when Stefon Diggs went for 7/93/2. Evans should remain in lineups as a middling-to-high-end WR2 this week, but understand that it’s not a spot where he’s a lock for production. Because of that, he’s a tournament-only option in DFS.
Chris Godwin: So much for his hip injury, eh? The season totals for Godwin and Evans may be similar, but Godwin has been the more consistent option in the offense. He’s also a moveable chess piece that slides into the slot, giving the offense plenty of ways to get him the ball in plus matchups. This is one of those weeks. The Saints are likely to have Marshon Lattimore cover Evans, which means Godwin will see Eli Apple when on the perimeter. That’s not a terrifying matchup or anything. In fact, it’s much better than Evans’ matchup, but that’s not the area where Godwin can destroy the Saints. They continue to trot P.J. Williams out there to cover slot receivers, which makes little sense. If we were to go back to the start of last year, Williams has allowed 78-of-109 passing for 991 yards and nine touchdowns in his coverage. Knowing that Godwin plays over half of his snaps in the slot, he should be in line for another big day. He should be started as a low-end WR1/high-end WR2, at worst. Provided he practices through his hip injury, he’s someone to consider for cash lineups, too.
Michael Thomas: Through two games with Bridgewater, Thomas has shown how his talent can carry him through even in a suboptimal situation. He’s caught 14-of-16 targets for 149 yards and a touchdown in those two games and will now try to take that momentum into the Week 5 matchup against the Bucs. He’s absolutely owned these cornerbacks on the Bucs roster, as evidenced by his 16/180/1 performance in Week 1 last year, and then again in his 11/98/0 performance in Week 14. They don’t have the talent on their roster to hang with Thomas, so they can only hope to contain him. With how good the Bucs have been against the run, it’s led to wide receivers getting more targets against them. Through four weeks, they’ve faced 109 targets to receivers, which is the most in the NFL. That’s also led to an NFL-high 65 receptions. This game seems to be right up the wheelhouse for the Bridgewater/Thomas connection and he needs to be played as a rock-solid WR1. They could make for an interesting tournament stack, though it would definitely require a lot from Thomas after the catch given Bridgewater’s inability to throw the ball down the field. Thomas can be considered in cash this week as well knowing they’ll throw the ball more than the 57 times they have over the last two weeks.
Ted Ginn: Unlike Michael Thomas, Ginn has lost a lot of appeal with Bridgewater under center. While he has seen five targets in each game for a solid 17.5 percent target share, he’s turned them into five catches for 34 scoreless yards. The lack of deep ball out of Bridgewater is crushing the one-play potential for Ginn and that’s likely going to be the case against the Bucs this week, as they’ve been pressuring quarterbacks more than anyone else in the league over the last two weeks. Ginn is droppable until Drew Brees comes back.
O.J. Howard and Cameron Brate: As much as we hate to see it, this is another timeshare at tight end. Howard is still the one who’s on the field for a majority of the snaps and running more routes, but Brate is running 20-plus routes per game, which will eat into production. The Saints have not been a team to target with tight ends, though the last two weeks, they’ve allowed Will Dissly and Jason Witten to combine for 10 catches, 112 yards, and a touchdown. Just last year, the Saints allowed just three tight ends to score more than 8.1 PPR points against them, though Brate was one of them. He totaled just two catches for 12 yards, but both catches were for touchdowns. In the game that Howard played, he totaled two catches for 54 yards. So, between the two games, they combined for just four catches and 66 yards, but the two touchdowns make it look a bit better. Knowing they’re sharing snaps combined with what’s been a tough matchup, it’s time to lower expectations. Howard should be considered a low-end TE1 who can break an 80-yard touchdown at any time, while Brate is going to be touchdown-or-bust. Many will wonder about streamers over someone like Howard, and the only way I’d make that move is if my streamer was essentially guaranteed five-plus targets and in a good matchup. Outside of that, I’ll take Howard’s upside.
Jared Cook: Prior to last week, I’d stated that Cook can be dropped in most formats, as his connection with Brees wasn’t as apparent as some beat writers advertised, and Bridgewater isn’t someone who’ll present many scoring opportunities. After another horrid performance, most will be looking for a tight end on waiver wires. This week is one where he’s got a terrific matchup, though, so if there’s any hope left, this is it. After allowing 11 top-12 performances to tight ends last year, we knew we had to pay attention to the Bucs defense this year. While their run defense has gotten much better, their play against tight ends has not. They’ve now allowed a top-10 tight end in each of their four games, including Gerald Everett last week. Heck, even Tyler Higbee chipped-in with 8.1 PPR points. The safety combination of Jordan Whitehead and Mike Edwards has combined to allow 15-of-19 passing for 168 yards and a touchdown in their coverage this year, while linebackers lack the athleticism to hang with Cook. He may have had a bad start to the year, Cooks is on the high-end TE2 radar this week in what looks to be the second-best matchup for tight ends in football (the Cardinals are obviously the best).