The Primer: Week 6 Edition (2019 Fantasy Football)
The day this article gets released; it’ll be October 10th. That’s an important day for me, as it’s the day my dad was born. It’s also a tough day for me, as it’ll be the 11th birthday I’ve been without him. He unfortunately passed away at just 49 years young. I felt it was only right to dedicate this week’s intro to him.
My dad was a man’s man. There’s no better way to describe him. He was big into sports, knew enough about everything to have an intelligent conversation no matter the topic, but was also very street-smart. The most important characteristic about him, though, was that when he talked, people listened. To this day, people tell me that they miss asking my dad for advice because he was a straight shooter they could trust.
While growing up, there was one thing he told me quite often. He told me that I could do or be anything I wanted to be, provided I’d be willing to work for it. When you’re a kid, you don’t ever take things on a literal basis, so instead of hearing that as a statement of fact, my response was something like, “Dad, I couldn’t ever beat Carl Lewis in a race.” I was never blessed with speed, so it was easy for me to make this statement. His response would always be, “If you really wanted to be, you could be. It may take a lot of work, but if you want something bad enough, you’ll make it happen.”
Unfortunately, it took my dad passing away for me to realize the potential of that statement. Not long before he died, I told him I wanted to take over his business (we built and delivered office furniture). I’d worked for my dad, so I knew the business pretty well. He told me no, that I needed to do something that I loved, and he knew I didn’t love that job as much as he did.
Not only did I hurt my back shortly thereafter, but I started going to school for broadcasting. I wanted to work in sports and that was the one thing I knew. I had no work background in sports, didn’t know anyone in sports, and sure as heck wouldn’t have been hired to work in sports without one of those things. While healing up from back surgery (fusion), my wife convinced me to start a website with the fantasy football content that I’d previously kept in my notebook. It was a fun thing to do while rehabbing, though it was strictly a hobby.
Dealing with a bad back, I needed a job to support my family that didn’t take a toll on my body, so I got into finance. I kept doing fantasy football on the side and while the site was growing over three full years, I hadn’t made any money from it, so I talked to my wife about ending it. I was dedicating hours after work to my hobby and asked her, “Where am I going with this?” She, like my dad, knew exactly what my passion was and told me to give it everything I had for one more season and that I couldn’t give it up. To this day, I have no idea why she convinced me to keep doing something that gave us no income and took up 20-plus hours after work each week.
Not long after, I landed my first paid fantasy football job at Pro Football Focus. It was still a hobby, but one that at least provided some compensation for the time I spent away from family. I did well that season and was then offered a full-time, in-season role on the team. It required me to take a massive pay cut, something that took a lot to get over mentally. My concern was that once the season ended, we had nothing guaranteed as far as compensation on my end. Just as I started to wrap my mind around it, my wife and I found out she was pregnant. No way was I leaving now, right? Fortunately, my wife kept pushing, saying this was what I was meant to do.
From that moment, I told myself that if I wanted something bad enough, that I’d make it happen. Even though I may not have fully believed it (I’ve always been a realist), I reminded myself that my dad didn’t tell people things just to tell them. Let’s see what happens. I gave everything I had that year and landed a full-time, year-round position at FantasyPros. The rest as they say, is history.
The bottom line here, is that if you want something in life, go and get it. The only person who can stop you from achieving your goals is you. I didn’t know a single person in the sports or fantasy industry and had no followers, but I’ve made it here to talk with you. Believe me when I say that you owe it to yourself to do what you love. As my dad always said, if you want something bad enough, you’ll make it happen. I miss you, Dad. May your words live on through me (and any of you who choose to share this with your kids).
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?
Carolina Panthers at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (London)
Line: TB by 1.5
Kyle Allen: We’re starting to see the Bucs for the defense they were during the 2018 season. Well, maybe that’s a bit harsh. Their run-defense has been fantastic, but their secondary is what’s continually looked worse. After holding Jimmy Garoppolo and Cam Newton to just one touchdown combined (and outside the top-20 quarterbacks in those weeks), the Bucs have allowed eight passing touchdowns over the last three weeks (2.7 per game) to the combination of Daniel Jones, Jared Goff, and Teddy Bridgewater. Outside of the games against the Bucs, the three of those quarterbacks have combined for just nine touchdowns over a span of nine games (1.0 per game). It surely didn’t help that one of their starting cornerbacks (Carlton Davis) was ejected early in the loss to the Saints last week. But going back to the Week 2 game between these two teams, the Panthers game plan was good, but poorly executed, as Newton routinely missed wide-open targets. Allen has done a respectable job, though he’s become a bit more risk-averse as the weeks go on, checking down to McCaffrey more and more. He’s become a game manager (though he lost another fumble last week – up to six fumbles over his three starts), which won’t help his fantasy numbers, though having some of the best run-after-the-catch pass-catchers at his disposal surely doesn’t hurt. He’s going to have to do more against the Bucs this week, though, as they’ve been the No. 1 run defense in football through five weeks. They already showcased that run defense against McCaffrey and the Panthers in Week 2 when they held him to just 53 yards on 18 touches, so it’ll be interesting to see the Panthers counterpunch. Knowing the Bucs have allowed three straight top-eight quarterback performances, combined with the way they approached the Panthers the last time they played, we should see 35-plus attempts out of Allen. He should be in the middling QB2 conversation as someone who comes with upside in a plus-matchup.
Jameis Winston: After a rocky start in Week 1, Winston has been what he was expected to be over the last four weeks. Over the last four games, he’s averaged 294.3 yards per game while throwing 10 touchdowns with just two interceptions. That includes his Week 2 game against the Panthers where he totaled just 208 yards passing and one touchdown, though you could see him get better as they adjusted to the Panthers approach. The Panthers have now been without starting cornerback Donte Jackson the last two weeks, and though the Texans didn’t take advantage, Gardner Minshew and the Jaguars did, as he threw for a career-high 374 yards and two touchdowns. It really is tough to gauge the Panthers pass defense though, as three of the five quarterbacks they’ve played have averaged less than 4.9 yards per pass attempt, while the other two averaged at least 8.3 yards per attempt. When you combine that with Winston’s volatility, you have a lot of uncertainty. Going over to London carries a lot of variables for teams, though in general, it’s had a negative impact on fantasy performances. As stated last week here in the Bears/Raiders game, 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. This game is not at Wembley, but it is in London. Because of that, it’s tough to feel like Winston is a must-start, especially knowing how familiar these teams are with each other. He’s still on the high-end QB2 radar in a week with four teams on their bye.
Christian McCaffrey: There was a scare towards the end of last week’s game, as McCaffrey was forced to remain on the sidelines with the game on the line. Fortunately, it was described as cramps, so he should be good to go. Of the last 10 full games McCaffrey has played (Week 17 of last year doesn’t count when he was pulled after one series) the Bucs are the only team who’ve been able to hold him to under 26 PPR points. Think about that for a minute. He’s on a tear that’s among the best we’ve ever seen. Before you laugh off the Bucs, they’re the No. 2 run defense in the NFL behind only the Patriots. They’ve held opposing running backs to just 3.04 yards per carry (2nd-best) and 4.81 yards per target (5th-best). It’s not like they’ve had weak competition, either. They’ve played McCaffrey, Todd Gurley, Alvin Kamara, Saquon Barkley, and the combination of 49ers running backs (who’ve compiled some solid stats). The game plan for the Bucs in their Week 2 meeting was clearly to stop McCaffrey and force Newton to beat them. There were just two runs where McCaffrey gained more than five yards against them in that game. Can they do it again? I’m not betting against McCaffrey. You play him everywhere (including DFS, though he’s not on the main slate) and figure out the rest.
Peyton Barber and Ronald Jones: Bruce Arians told us Barber would start and that they’d ride the hot hand, which never really happened against a great Saints run defense. It’s been somewhat of a flip-flop backfield, as evidenced by the weekly touches.
|Barber Touches||Jones touches|
If there’s anything positive to take from this, it’s that Barber’s touches are trending downward, while Jones’ have actually been pretty solid the last three weeks. Any time you have a running back averaging 15-plus touches per game, he must be considered. The Panthers have been a giving defense to running backs this year, allowing a rather-high 4.72 yards per carry. The matchup suits the Bucs running backs well, as the area the Panthers haven’t allowed much production is through the passing game, an area that’s been lacking for both Barber and Jones. The issue is that you kind of have to take a stance on one or the other in the Bucs backfield, as the Panthers haven’t allowed a team of running backs more than 114 yards and one touchdown on the ground in each of the last four games, which isn’t enough production to support two running backs. Knowing that Jones has been trending in the right direction, he’d be the best-bet, though it was Barber who tuned up the Panthers for 82 yards and a touchdown in their first meeting. Jones should be considered a middling RB3 who has a lower floor than most in that area, while Barber is trending into RB4 territory.
D.J. Moore: It was good to see Moore produce against the Jaguars, but more importantly, good to see him targeted with Kyle Allen under center. He’d seen just seven targets in his first two starts combined but saw eight of them in Week 5. This should propel him to be started with confidence against a Bucs secondary that allowed him 9/89/0 on 14 targets in their Week 2 meeting with Cam Newton missing passes left and right. The pace of play between both teams has been extremely solid and it’s led to wide receivers averaging 24.8 targets per game against the Bucs, which ranks third-most in football. Because of that, there’s been plenty of production to go around, as evidenced by the 10 wide receivers who’ve already hit double-digit PPR points against them, including Michael Thomas‘ 11/182/2 performance against them last week. They’ve already allowed five different wide receivers to amass seven or more receptions, which is Moore’s possession role in the offense. Due to the volume, the Bucs have now allowed more fantasy points per game to wide receivers (45.1) than any team in the league. The best part is that the production hasn’t even been reliant on touchdowns, as the six touchdowns they’ve allowed to receivers ranks ninth in the league. Start Moore as a low-end WR2 and expect a solid floor.
Curtis Samuel: He’s now seen at least six targets in each of Kyle Allen‘s three starts but he’s failed to top 53 yards in each of the games and has been held to 32 yards or less in each of the last two games. We knew he’d be more of the boom-or-bust option of the offense, but with Allen’s game-manager approach the last couple weeks, it’s stunted the ‘boom’ potential in Samuel’s projection. The last time these two teams played, Samuel totaled 5/91/0, though the game should have been much bigger than that, as he was missed on multiple routes where he broke wide open. Combing through the Bucs game logs, they’ve struggled more with possession receivers who’ve racked up the receptions, though Samuel and Brandin Cooks were able to score 13-plus PPR points, so it’s clearly not an avoid matchup, either. Samuel should be treated as a high-end WR4 who comes with some upside, though it’ll require Allen to take some more shots down the field.
Mike Evans: I’d talked about Evans as a sell-high after his three-touchdown game in Week 3, and though he salvaged his fantasy day in Week 4 with a late touchdown, the same didn’t happen in Week 5 against Marshon Lattimore. He’ll now have a rematch with James Bradberry, the cornerback who shut him down in Week 2 when he finished with just 4/61/0 on eight targets. If we were to add the two games Evans matched up against him last year, he’s now totaled just 9/119/0 through three games combined. That’s over a span of 24 targets, so it’s not due to a lack of volume. Bradberry has simply had Evans’ number over that time. The question, however, is whether the Panthers change things up based on how bad Godwin crushed them in Week 2. It’s unlikely, as it would just open a can of worms with Evans against the other cornerbacks in their secondary. Because of that, Evans should be knocked down a tier in the rankings this week. He should still be played as a WR2 who can score multiple touchdowns at any time but understand that it hasn’t been a great matchup for him.
Chris Godwin: The talk this offseason was that Godwin and Evans were 1A and 1B. Well, the argument can be made where Godwin should be considered the No. 1. There’s a lot to dissect, and yes, Evans sees a lot of the top-tier cornerbacks, but that’s all relative, as Godwin is more versatile and able to be used all over the field. Whatever the case, Godwin is the constant producer in this offense and he’s about to play a team he dissected for 8/121/1 on nine targets in Week 2. The Panthers have no choice but to trot Javien Elliott out there in the slot with Donte Jackson out of the lineup, and he’s allowed 10-of-11 passing while covering the slot. Even Ross Cockrell, the other cornerback who’s rotated there, has allowed 8-of-11 passing for 67 yards and a touchdown, so it’s not like he’s the solution, either. We saw Dede Westbrook get back on the map last week with a 7/82/0 performance against this secondary, and it seems Arians knows how to attack his opponents’ weakness. It’s not as juicy of a matchup as the Saints were last week, but it’s still one where Godwin should be highly productive. He needs to remain in lineups as a low-end WR1.
Greg Olsen: It was only a matter of time before the 34-year-old Olsen slowed down in production, as anyone who watched the games could see, he’s not moving very well. He’s totaled five yards over the last two weeks combined, which makes him hard to trust, though if there’s one team who should make you consider him, it’s the Bucs. We continually saw Olsen wide open over the middle of the field the last time these two teams played, as he tallied 6/110/0 in what was likely the final 100-yard game of his career. The Bucs have played five games and have allowed five tight ends to finish as top-10 performers. Seriously, every starting tight end has scored at least 13.4 PPR points against them, including Jared Cook last week. This is similar to what we saw last year when they allowed 12 tight ends to finish as top-15 performers. He’s not sexy to play but he should at the very least offer a stable floor in this game as a low-end TE1.
O.J. Howard and Cameron Brate: The disappointing season continued for Howard in Week 5, though it should have been expected against the Saints. He ran 26 pass routes compared to just 11 for Brate, so he’s still the best bet for production. The Panthers have had what most would consider the easiest tight end schedule to date. Outside of a matchup with the Bucs in Week 2, here’s a list of the tight ends they’ve played: Tyler Higbee, Charles Clay, Jordan Akins, and James O’Shaughnessy. Sure, they’ve allowed the third-fewest fantasy points to tight ends, but that’s not hard when your competition has been that. They have allowed an 84.2 percent completion-rate to tight ends, which ranks as the second-highest mark in the league, and if you go back to last year, they allowed 2.03 PPR points per target to tight ends, which ranked as the fifth-highest mark in the league. There are many out there debating cutting Howard, but my advice to those would be to take a look around and see the insane amount of mediocrity at the tight end position. There are eight tight ends I’d rather have on my roster right now; that’s it. He’s far from a sure thing but we’ve seen him produce in the NFL at an elite level. In fact, he caught four passes for 53 yards and two touchdowns against the Panthers last year. Plug him in as a low-end TE1 and hope he gets out of his slump. Brate is not playing enough snaps to warrant consideration.
New Orleans Saints at Jacksonville Jaguars
Line: Pick Em
Teddy Bridgewater: It’s good to see quarterbacks take advantage of a great situation and that’s precisely what Bridgewater did in Week 5 when he smashed the Bucs defense for 314 yards and four touchdowns. The test will be a bit tougher this week as he heads out on the road to play a Jaguars defense that’s held 3-of-5 quarterbacks to one or zero touchdown passes. He may be catching them at the right time, though, as they’ve been without Jalen Ramsey the last two weeks and there doesn’t appear to be an end in sight to his absence. In the two games without him, they’ve allowed Joe Flacco– and Kyle Allen-led offenses to combine for 58 points. Those two combined to complete 39-of-68 passes for 484 yards, four touchdowns, and one interception. Bottom line is that they’re a beatable defense without Ramsey. Bridgewater is still averaging just 5.95 air yards per pass attempt, which is still among the lowest in football, which requires his receivers to do a lot after the catch. The Jaguars have been one of the better defenses in football when it comes to limiting what a wide receiver does after the catch, which could be a problem for Bridgewater. When Flacco threw for 303 yards in Week 4, his average depth of target was 7.87 yards down the field, so the Saints need to find a way to get Bridgewater comfortable throwing further down the field. The Jaguars defense has just one interception through five games, which should help. You shouldn’t be streaming Bridgewater this week, as he’s nothing more than a low-end QB2, though his floor is definitely higher with Ramsey out of the lineup.
Gardner Minshew: He continues to impress and what’s even better is they’ve started to move around his favorite target (Chark) in the offense, allowing him to take advantage of some mismatches. The Saints are a team they’ll need to be creative with, as there are three things that defense does really well. 1) Remove opponent’s run-game. 2) Limit the opposing No. 1 perimeter wide receiver with shadow coverage from Marshon Lattimore. 3) Hold tight ends in check. Because of that, Minshew and the Jaguars are going to have to either move Chark into the slot to evade shadow coverage or get Westbrook the ball on a consistent basis. Yes, the Saints have allowed the third-most fantasy points to quarterbacks, but when you remove the four rushing touchdowns they’ve allowed to them, they’ve suddenly allowed just the 10th-most. Over the last two weeks, they’ve held the red-hot Dak Prescott to just 223 yards and no touchdowns, and then the streaking Jameis Winston to 204 yards and two touchdowns. Knowing the Jaguars are going to have issues running the ball, it’ll be on Minshew to move the ball, which will create a decent QB2 floor, though the ceiling isn’t great in this matchup. Knowing he’s scored at least 16.1 fantasy points in each game, he can be considered for those who stream the position.
Alvin Kamara: Over the last three games with Bridgewater under center, Kamara has totaled 67 of the 84 touches available to Saints running backs. That’s quite the difference from years past. He’s been the No. 6 running back over the stretch, holding strong in what’s been a lower-scoring offense. The Jaguars are coming off a game in which Christian McCaffrey stole their soul while totaling 237 yards and three touchdowns. It was just the second time over their last 21 games they’ve allowed a running back to finish better than the RB10. They have now allowed a rushing touchdown in 4-of-5 games, which is vastly different than the team who allowed a rushing touchdown in just 9-of-16 games last year. While some have gone to quarterbacks during those games, Bridgewater isn’t exactly a mobile quarterback anymore, so if anyone is going to run it in, it’s likely Kamara. The two running backs who’ve been able to post top-24 performances against them this year have been Damien Williams and McCaffrey, who both caught six passes. The Jaguars pass-rush is feared, though they’re living on reputation right now, as they’ve generated pressure more than 35 percent just once this year. This should allow Kamara to slip out into the flats and catch some passes. It’s not a great matchup, but also not one to run from. Kamara should be played as a middling RB1 who comes with a rock-solid fantasy floor. Knowing he’s totaling 80 percent of the Saints running back touches, he can be considered in cash lineups. *Update* Kamara popped up on the injury report on Thursday with an ankle injury, which is never a good sign. He then sat out of practice on Friday and is being listed as questionable. This downgrades his stability for DFS purposes. If he’s active, you have to play him in season-long leagues. If he’s out, that would leave a 20-touch role for Latavius Murray in a solid matchup against the Jaguars who have allowed a league-high 5.65 yards per carry. He’d be someone to plug in as a high-end RB2.
Leonard Fournette: With Minshew and Chark performing like they have, it’s only going to make things easier for Fournette. He’s seen eight-plus defenders in the box 28.4 percent of the time, which is still high, but when you compare it to his career mark of 44.3 percent coming into this year, things are getting easier. He’s totaled 382 total yards and a touchdown over the last two games but will now run into a tough Saints run defense. Through five games, the Saints haven’t allowed a team of running backs more than 22.5 PPR points. After missing interior linemen David Onyemata in Week 1 and Sheldon Rankins in Weeks 1-3, the Saints are fully healthy and look to be the same unit that allowed a ridiculously-low 3.22 yards per carry last year. With Onyemata, they’ve allowed just 255 yards on 77 carries (3.31 yards per carry). Despite playing against Todd Gurley, Chris Carson, Ezekiel Elliott, and Peyton Barber/Ronald Jones over the last four weeks, no running back has been able to record more than 63 yards on the ground. Gurley’s RB13 finish was the best of the bunch. They’re one of the few teams in the league who’ve yet to allow a top-12 performance to the position. The Saints have allowed a league-high seven rushing touchdowns this year, though four of them have been quarterbacks. Over their last 11 regular season games, they’ve allowed just five running back touchdowns. You have to start Fournette as a mid-to-high-end RB2 with all the work he gets, but it’s not a week to attack him in DFS.
Michael Thomas: We talked about how Thomas has flat-out dominated the Bucs defense last week, so it was good to see that trend continue in Week 5 when he had the No. 2 wide receiver performance of the week. He hasn’t lost any appeal without Drew Brees, and to be honest, he’s the only one on the Saints offense who hasn’t (Kamara not getting nearly as many scoring opportunities). Through three games with Bridgewater, Thomas has seen 29 targets and turned them into 25/331/3, which is good enough to be the No. 4 fantasy wide receiver during that time. The Jaguars secondary has struggled a bit without Jalen Ramsey, as they’ve allowed Emmanuel Sanders to post 5/104/0, Courtland Sutton 6/62/2, and D.J. Moore 6/91/0 over the last two weeks. They didn’t have A.J. Bouye shadow D.J. Moore, so you must wonder if they will use him to shadow Thomas, who’s clearly the top option in the offense. The Panthers at least had Curtis Samuel to worry about, but the Saints don’t have much behind Thomas. You’re going to start him as a WR1 regardless, as he’s shown the ability to overcome tough matchups before, though the threat of Bouye shadowing does take away a bit of upside, as he’s yet to allow a touchdown in his coverage this year. *Update* Ramsey is listed as questionable after getting in some limited practices, though NFL Network insider Ian Rapoport is saying it’s considered a long-shot for him to play.
Ted Ginn: He’s seen 12 targets in the three Bridgewater starts and will line up across from Tre Herndon most of the time, a cornerback who’s playing only because Jalen Ramsey isn’t. He’s only allowed a 50 percent catch-rate in his coverage, but those catches have gone for 15.9 yards a clip and a touchdown every 11 targets. The issue is Bridgewater’s 5.95-yard average depth of target, as Ginn isn’t a guy to compile tons of short receptions. Because of that, Ginn falls outside the top 50 plays this week even though his matchup is a good one.
D.J. Chark: After running just 17 percent of his routes from the slot in Weeks 1-4, the Jaguars moved Chark there 26 percent of the time in Week 5 and it paid off as he caught a 37-yard touchdown. Let’s hope this trend continues against the Saints. They’re surely going to have Marshon Lattimore shadow him on the perimeter, a cornerback who’s done a phenomenal job over the last two weeks, holding Amari Cooper to just 5/48/0 on eight targets, and then Mike Evans to a donut (0/0/0) on three targets. The Jaguars need to move Chark into the slot to evade his coverage to create optimal situations, as P.J. Williams (their slot cornerback) is not good. The silver-lining with even the Lattimore matchup is that Chark’s most productive route is the go-route, catching 5-of-6 balls for 198 yards and two touchdowns, while Lattimore has allowed 5-of-5 passing on go-routes for 191 yards, though he has been tight in coverage, as none of them went for touchdowns. It’s a tough matchup for sure, but Chark is someone who needs to be played as a WR3 until he gives you a reason to doubt him. I’m done doing that, as he’s clearly the favorite target of Minshew and has seen at least eight targets in three of the last four games. He’s not someone you should aim to play in cash lineups, but he’s perfectly fine for tournaments.
Dede Westbrook: It was really good to see the Jaguars understand the strengths and weaknesses of the Panthers secondary, as Westbrook popped back onto the fantasy radar with a 7/82/0 performance on a season-high 11 targets. They should be leaning on him once again in Week 6, as the Saints’ weakest link is P.J. Williams, and it’s not all that close. It’s normal for a slot cornerback to allow a high catch-rate, so the 73 percent he’s allowed isn’t surprising, but knowing the receptions have netted an average of 13.1 yards is. Combining this year and last year, he’s allowed over 1,000 yards in his coverage on 115 targets, which has also included nine touchdowns. If the Jaguars are wise, they’ll target Westbrook heavily once again. He should be considered a low-end WR3/high-end WR4 for this contest and should present a rather high floor for someone in this range.
Chris Conley: He’s holding steady as the Jaguars No. 3 receiver over Marqise Lee, which is something that didn’t seem like it would be the case considering their history of production. Conley has been trending down, however. After totaling 170 yards and a touchdown over the first two games, he’s failed to surpass 30 yards in a game since then. His matchup will be with Eli Apple this week, a cornerback who’s been a bit hit-or-miss throughout his career, though he’s played competently for most of this season. He allowed a 26-yard touchdown to Chris Godwin last week, but he’s a receiver who’s been producing against everyone he encounters. It was the only catch he allowed against the Bucs, though. Conley is nothing more than a boom-or-bust WR6 who could catch a long touchdown, though we can say that about a lot of receivers in the WR6 range.
Jared Cook: We talked about Cook being a solid streaming option last week, so it’s good to see him provide his first fantasy-relevant game of the year. That was the best matchup a tight end can ask for outside of the Cardinals, so don’t get your hopes up. The Jaguars haven’t really been a team to target with tight ends. Over their last 21 games, they’ve allowed just five tight ends to record more than 36 yards. Through five games, the 54.5 percent completion-rate they’re allowing to tight ends ranks as the lowest mark in the league. Cook has still yet to top 41 yards in a game this year, so you’re essentially looking for a touchdown in order for him to be streamable. The Jaguars have allowed one tight end touchdown on 33 targets this year, so the odds aren’t in his favor. He’s nothing more than a middling TE2 who doesn’t present a very high floor, something streamers need to covet.
Geoff Swaim: Knowing James O’Shaughnessy left the stadium on crutches with his knee wrapped, it seems he’s unlikely to play this week. That would give Swaim sole possession of the Jaguars tight end role, though it doesn’t come at a great time, as the Saints have been among the best teams in the NFL when it comes to defending tight ends. Over the last two years, they’ve allowed just a 62.3 percent completion-rate to them, while allowing just six touchdowns on 122 targets. He still has some appeal, as it’s rare to find a tight end who will run almost 100 percent of the team’s pass routes, but he’s nothing more than a desperation TE2 in this tough matchup.
Cincinnati Bengals at Baltimore Ravens
Line: BAL by 11.5
Andy Dalton: After a few down performances, it was good to see Dalton bounce back against the Steelers, and truth be told, his game could have been better had Tate and Eifert not dropped touchdowns. He’ll now go on the road to play the division rival Ravens, who will be without another key piece of their secondary, as safety Tony Jefferson suffered a torn ACL during their Week 5 game. The Ravens are already without both cornerbacks Tavon Young and Jimmy Smith, though Jefferson might be the biggest loss, as they’ll be forced to start 2017 sixth-round pick Chuck Clark in his place. The Ravens haven’t been able to get much pressure to opposing quarterbacks the last four games, as they’ve not generated more than a 34 percent pressure-rate in any of the games. Still, despite that and all of the injuries, there’s been just one quarterback (Patrick Mahomes) who’s been able to throw for more than one touchdown against them. Is it just because that’s the way the touchdowns have fallen, or are they really good at stopping quarterbacks? My guess is that it’s just the way the touchdowns have fallen, as running backs have scored seven touchdowns over the first five games. The Ravens have allowed three different quarterbacks to throw for 349-plus yards. The only quarterbacks who didn’t were Ryan Fitzpatrick (who was pulled for Josh Rosen) and Mason Rudolph (who left the game hurt). This is quite different than the Ravens defense who held 13-of-16 quarterbacks to 274 yards or less last year, including 10 of them who were held below 220 yards. Dalton should come with a decent middling QB2 floor in this game, and the loss of Jefferson could propel him into top-12 territory, though he’s far from a sure thing with his current offensive line and receiver corps. His team-implied total of just 18.0 points is what’s most worrisome. *Update* Both of Dalton’s starting offensive tackles have been ruled out for this game, lowering his floor into the low-end QB2 range.
Lamar Jackson: After posting at least 21.3 fantasy points in each of his first four games, the lack of production through the air caught up with Jackson in Week 5 as he finished with just 11.4 points against the Steelers. Even his sole touchdown pass to Brown was not very accurate, as Brown has to leap to snag it while absorbing a massive hit. Jackson’s five interceptions over the last two weeks could be a reason for the Ravens to go run-heavy in this game, and the matchup couldn’t be better. Through five games, they’ve already allowed three teams to rush for at least 175 yards, and have allowed seven rushing touchdowns. Just last week, we watched Kyler Murray run for a career-high 93 yards and a touchdown. Two weeks prior to that, it was Josh Allen rushing for 46 yards. Oddly enough, Murray and Allen were the only two not to throw for multiple touchdowns against them, as Russell Wilson, Jimmy Garoppolo, and Mason Rudolph were all able to accomplish that feat. Those three also averaged at least 8.2 yards per attempt. It’s fair to say Jackson belongs in the Allen/Murray grouping, though. Still, no matter what, the Bengals have allowed all five quarterbacks to score at least 16.3 fantasy points, providing a very high floor. Jackson should be in lineups as a rock-solid QB1 this week and one who can be used in cash games as well.
Joe Mixon: Just how bad is Mixon’s offensive line? They’re creating him just 1.27 yards before contact despite them seeing eight-plus defenders in the box just 3.0 percent of the time. It doesn’t help they may be missing both starting tackles after Andre Smith was removed from the Week 5 game with an ankle injury, as Cordy Glenn was already out with concussion symptoms (Update: Both Smith and Glenn have been ruled out). The Ravens might have the reputation of a bad run defense after they allowed Nick Chubb 165 yards and three touchdowns, but what most don’t know is that they were without defensive tackle Brandon Williams in that game. That was the only game this year they were without him, and in the other four games, no running back has totaled more than 62 yards on the ground against them. It should help, however, that strong safety Tony Jefferson is out for the year with a torn ACL, as he’s one of the better run-stuffing safeties out there. It’s still mindboggling to see Mixon targeted just one time with both A.J. Green and John Ross out of the lineup. Dalton has still yet to throw the ball less than 36 times and the Bengals may be missing another receiver this week (Alex Erickson – concussion), so we have to hold out hope that Mixon will be used more in the passing game. You have to plug him in as a middling RB2 even in a tough matchup, as he’s locked into 15-plus touches, but it’s once again not a week to target him in DFS cash games.
Mark Ingram and Gus Edwards: As mentioned in the Jackson paragraph, the Bengals run defense is one to target in matchups, as they’ve now allowed at least 175 rushing yards to three of the five teams they’ve played. They’ve also allowed at least one rushing touchdown in every game to this point, and it’s not as if they’ve played the stiffest competition. Over the last four weeks they’ve played the 49ers, Bills, Steelers, and Cardinals running backs. They’ve allowed seven running back touchdowns in those four games. Ingram has accounted for all six rushing touchdowns out of the Ravens backfield, but will it remain that way knowing he’s totaled 59.2 percent of the team’s carries? How about the red zone? Ingram has totaled 16 of the 29 carries there, or 55.2 percent. There’s going to be an Edwards touchdown in there somewhere and it could be this week. Fortunately, there could be multiple rushing touchdowns. Ingram needs to be in lineups as a solid high-end RB2, though he’s not as safe as some may think in cash games. He’s only topped 16 carries once this year and he’s caught 0-2 passes in all but one game. Edwards isn’t the worst RB4 this week as someone who should see eight-plus touches with a shot at a touchdown. The average top-24 performance last year took 12.5 PPR points. The Bengals have allowed nine running backs to reach that number. No other team has allowed more than six. On top of all this, the Bengals are going to be without starting defensive tackle Ryan Glasgow, as well as defensive ends Carlos Dunlap and Kerry Wynn.
Tyler Boyd: Through five weeks of the 2019 season, Boyd is a top-12 wide receiver despite scoring just one touchdown. His 52 targets rank fourth-most at the wide receiver position, and knowing the Bengals are without A.J. Green, John Ross, and maybe Alex Erickson, it’s hard to see his 10-plus target per game pace coming to a halt. In fact, there’s been just one game he didn’t see double-digit targets. This sounds odd, but the Ravens are one of three teams who’ve already allowed 1,000 yards to the wide receiver position. They’ve also been obliterated by slot-heavy receivers. Here’s the stat lines of their last four opponents (most recent first): JuJu Smith-Schuster 7/75/1, Jarvis Landry 8/167/0, Mecole Hardman 2/97/1, Larry Fitzgerald 5/104/0, and Christian Kirk 6/114/0. There’s a mix of every type of slot receiver in that bunch, so it’s not just speedy guys and it’s not just big possession-type guys. The Ravens also just lost their starting strong safety for the year, which certainly won’t help. In two games against a much better Ravens defense last year, Boyd combined for 10 receptions, 162 yards, and a touchdown in the two games. Whenever you have a wide receiver locked into 10-plus targets, he’s a must-play. Given the nature of the Ravens defense, it’s hard to say Boyd isn’t in the WR1 conversation and cash-game viable.
Auden Tate: In what was the best matchup of the year, Tate finished with just three catches for 26 yards, though one of them was for a touchdown. He actually should have had another touchdown early in the game, but the ball bounced right off his hands while standing in the end zone. The Ravens matchup is going to be much tougher for him. They’ve struggled mightily over the middle of the field, and not on the perimeter, which is where Tate plays 70 percent of the time. He’ll see a combination of Marlon Humphrey and Maurice Canady in coverage, two cornerbacks who’ve combined to allow 20-of-37 passing for 249 yards and one touchdown. That’s just 6.73 yards per target, which is not very attractive for a receiver who’s seen six targets in each of the last two games. Tate isn’t someone you should be relying on for anything more than WR5/6-type numbers this week.
Marquise Brown: We don’t know how much pain Brown played through last week, as he had to leave the game with what they described as a lower leg injury, though he did return to the game and wound up playing 36-of-79 snaps. It’d be nice to see him get through a full practice this week, as it’d give us some confidence that he’s not just a decoy out there. The Bengals have allowed 20 pass-plays that have gone for 20-plus yards this year, which ranks fifth-most in football. The downside is that they’ve faced just 28.2 pass attempts per game, which ranks as the second-fewest in the league. Still, the 20-plus yard play every 7.3 pass attempts ranks as the third most often, behind only the Dolphins and Giants. Whenever you have a player whose average depth of target is 14.4 yards down the field and has seen an average of 7.8 targets per game, you must ride him out through the good and bad. Consider him a WR3 provided he gets in some practice (ideally a full one) this week. *Update* He missed practice all three days this week and is considered a game-time decision, though beat reporters expect him to be inactive for this game.
Willie Snead: He’s not someone many think about when looking for bye week replacements, but he is a full-time receiver who runs 85 percent of his routes from the slot, which does offer some appeal. The issue is that wide receivers have averaged just 15.0 targets per game against the Bengals, which is the lowest in the NFL and doesn’t allow for much production. On a per-target basis, they’ve allowed 1.90 PPR points, which ranks 11th, but given the lack of volume, they’ve allowed the fifth-fewest points to the position. After Jackson’s thrown five interceptions the last two games, it’s likely going to be a run-heavy game plan against the Bengals. Even though Snead has totaled at least 41 yards in 4-of-5 games, he’s not a recommended streamer at the wide receiver position.
Tyler Eifert: If you can’t play Eifert against the Cardinals, who can you play him against? We can’t use that logic with all the options the Bengals are missing among the receivers, as Eifert should be targeted more than most available streamers. He actually should’ve scored a touchdown last week, as he dropped a ball in the end zone, even though it was thrown a tad behind him. The Ravens did allow 82 yards and a touchdown to Ricky Seals-Jones two weeks ago and seven catches for 89 yards to Travis Kelce the prior week, so they aren’t an elite shutdown defense against the tight end position. They also just lost their starting strong safety Tony Jefferson for the year, which will have a direct impact on how they cover tight ends. His replacement, Chuck Clark, has seen 30 targets over the course of his career, allowing 21 receptions for 219 yards and four touchdowns. Eifert is impossible to trust after a letdown last week, but are there more than 10 tight ends you can trust? He’s in the middling TE2 conversation.
Mark Andrews: Am I the only person who is starting to view Andrews as a Rob Gronkowski-like player. No, I’m not comparing him to the greatest of all-time, but when it comes to his body and the injuries constantly affecting it. He’s been playing through a foot injury this year, missing plenty of practice time, then took a bad fall during their Week 5 game against the Steelers. He returned to the game in overtime, but it’s another injury to monitor. He’s been productive on the field, so you keep plugging him in, but the injuries are worrisome. The Bengals have yet to allow a tight end more than three receptions this year, which includes George Kittle back in Week 2, though that game was a blowout where the 49ers completed just 17 passes all game. Most will look and see they’ve allowed the sixth fewest points to tight ends and be concerned, but you shouldn’t be one of them. The lack of volume is the only reason. They’ve allowed 11.26 yards per target to tight ends, which is the second-most in the league, behind only the Dolphins. They allowed more points to the tight end position than any other team in football last year and that was while allowing 8.41 yards per target. Follow the targets and yards per target with tight ends, meaning Andrews should be a rock-solid TE1 play this week, provided he’s healthy. *Update* He got in a full practice on Friday and should be good to go.