The Primer: Week 7 Edition (2019 Fantasy Football)
Thank you to everyone who reached out to me about last week’s intro. It really meant a lot and it turned what is usually a sad day into one full of positive vibes. Going back to a lighter note, I wanted to share an experience that I touched on while recording the FantasyPros Football Podcast last week.
Both of my parents owned their own businesses while I was growing up. One of the downfalls of owning a business is keeping the relationships between your partners/employees strong. My mom owned a cleaning service and had 15-plus employees she managed.
One of the women who worked for her had a daughter who was supposed to go to her school’s homecoming dance, but her boyfriend had broken up with her just a few days before it was taking place. So, what did my mom do? She offered to have me – who was nowhere near this conversation – to go to the dance with her.
Naturally, my mom had my dad tell me that I was going to do this. Upon hearing my fate, my initial response was, “Is she at least pretty?” Don’t judge; that’s a real question for a 15-year-old boy. I’m fairly certain that my dad’s response was a roll of his eyes. I was then told that they’d never met her, but that I’d be doing it no matter what.
Knowing that I was unable to drive, the girl – who was able to drive – and her parents came to our house for pictures. I thought I’d mentally prepared for the worst but believe me when I say that it was worse than I could’ve imagined. You see, my dad was 6-foot-1, so it’s possible the girl’s mother didn’t put much thought into letting my parents know that her daughter was tall.
Let me be clear… I was a late bloomer. I may be 6-foot-2 now, but during my sophomore year, I stood just 5-foot-3 while most of the guys in my class had already hit their growth spurt. So, when this girl walked into our house and I had to look up to greet her, my concerns about her looks had faded into oblivion. My now two-year-old son could’ve probably identified that she was a bit let down as well.
Naturally, the parents want to take pictures before the homecoming dance, right? Knowing that I was at least six inches shorter than her, they all decided it would be best if I stood on the fireplace behind her and put my hands on her shoulders. Once they saw that pose, they felt it looked too much like a family portrait, so they suggested that I place my hands over her, almost as if I’m giving her a hug from behind. As I went to do just that, I started to lose my balance on the fireplace, and my hands went down to her chest. The parents got a lot of laughs out of it, though it made the night even more awkward for me and my “date.”
It was an embarrassing moment for me, but one that was fortunately not captured on video. In fact, I’m fairly certain I’ve destroyed all photo evidence of that night ever taking place at all. This is the equivalent of you losing a fantasy player to injury in your starting lineup, then having your parents pick your replacement off the waiver wire without consulting you. It’s not cool.
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?
Los Angeles Rams at Atlanta Falcons
Line: LAR by 3.0
Jared Goff: What in the world were we watching in Week 6? Sure, the 49ers defense is legit, but we’ve seen Mason Rudolph throw for two touchdowns against them. I’ve highlighted this for a while now, but Goff has not been the same quarterback since Todd Gurley struggled/missed time. Going back to Week 13 of last year, Goff has not been what would be described as a good real-life quarterback or fantasy quarterback. Here are the game logs over that time:
You don’t need me to tell you that he’s been bad after looking at that. Volume has carried him through in two of the last three games. Is there a silver lining? Well, yeah… the Falcons are horrendous and have been even worse than Goff over that span. Over the last 19 games without Keanu Neal, they have allowed 15 quarterbacks post at least 18.5 fantasy points and finish as the QB13 or better. So, essentially, quarterbacks have had a 79 percent chance to finish as a top-12 option against them, which does include each of their last four opponents this year (Kyler Murray, Deshaun Watson, Marcus Mariota, and Jacoby Brissett). The crazy part is that none of them have had to throw more than 37 pass attempts to get there, as they all averaged 8.4 or more yards per attempt. Going to play in the dome at Atlanta has been a high-scoring stadium and it could allow for the Goff-led Rams offense to bounce back. It also doesn’t hurt that Falcons defensive end Takkarist McKinley had to leave last week’s game with a groin injury and may not be available. Goff’s in the top-12 quarterback options this week, though his lack of performance over the last 14 games is worrisome enough to keep him out of the elite options. He is, however, someone who’s a solid tournament play.
Matt Ryan: Another week has passed, and another week Ryan has thrown for 300-plus yards and three touchdowns. He’s now accomplished that feat in four of his last five games. He’s actually thrown for 300-plus yards in all six games this year and is currently on pace for 5,363 yards this season. Sure, he’s also on pace for 688 pass attempts, but we don’t mind that as fantasy players. He now heads into a matchup with the Rams defense who’s allowed four passing touchdowns in two of their last three games. Had Jared Goff been able to put points on the board, we don’t know what Jimmy Garoppolo would’ve done, but the point stands that the Rams defense hasn’t been very good as of late. However, there’s been quite a few changes since the last time you saw them. Top cornerback Aqib Talib went to injured reserve, No. 2 cornerback Marcus Peters was traded, and… they then traded for shutdown cornerback Jalen Ramsey. It’s tough to say what this defense will look like while having an entirely new cornerback unit, but you can’t expect things to simply click immediately, right? Outside of allowing Jameis Winston and Russell Wilson four touchdowns apiece, the Rams defense had allowed just one passing touchdown on the year. Ryan’s performance likely comes down to one thing. Can the Rams offense get it together and put up points on the Falcons lackluster defense? If you answered “yes,” then Ryan is going to finish as a top-five option this week. If the answer is “no,” then he may not live up to expectations. This makes for a great tournament play, though maybe not the best one in cash. He should be in lineups as a QB1 this week and one who can become an elite play with a few variables.
Todd Gurley, Malcolm Brown, and Darrell Henderson: Many expected Brown to walk in and simply dominate like C.J. Anderson did, but this is not the same offense it was last year. The biggest thing affecting the run-game right now is the offensive line, which hasn’t been very good. The Rams running backs have created 344-of-463 yards after contact this year, as the offensive line is giving them an average of just 1.10 yards before contact. That number last year was 1.73 yards, which is obviously a massive change. We don’t know if Gurley will be back for this game, though if it’s just a thigh bruise like they said, he should be. The Falcons run defense has not been the problem of their defense, though volume has added up, as three running backs have reached the 20-carry mark against them. They’ve faced 176 running back touches, which ranks as the ninth-most in football. On a per-play basis, they’ve been solid, allowing 3.97 yards per carry (9th-lowest) and 5.49 yards per target (9th-lowest), but the pass defense continues to put them in a bad spot and because of that, they’ve allowed seven touchdowns to running backs (5 rush, 2 receiving), which ranks as the fourth most in the league. The Falcons looked the like same team of the past four years under Dan Quinn, allowing eight catches for 101 yards and two touchdowns to the Cardinals running backs last week. In case you didn’t know, they’ve allowed more receptions to running backs than any other team in the league during that time.With Gurley out of the lineup, Brown played 35 snaps while Henderson totaled 17 snaps, a ratio that also bled into the touch-count between the two. If Gurley returns, it seems likely they start sharing the snaps again, which takes away some of his upside in a matchup that’s required volume to hit RB1 numbers (all three running backs who finished top-15 against the Falcons touched the ball 18-plus times). If Gurley returns, he should be plugged in as an RB2 who has RB1 upside. If Gurley is out, Brown would return to low-end RB2 status in a matchup he should score. There’s a catch, though. Brown didn’t practice Wednesday with an ankle injury. Henderson would walk into a massive role if both these backs were out, though it seems likely Gurley will play. Even if just one of Gurley/Brown sits, we could see Henderson offer flex appeal in a plus-matchup that suits his skillset. *Update* Brown is listed as doubtful, so he won’t play. Meanwhile, Gurley has been completely removed from the injury report.
Devonta Freeman and Ito Smith: It was good to see Freeman in more of a workhorse role last week, and he made the most of it, finishing with 118 total yards and two touchdowns against the Cardinals. Opportunity is everything, especially when you’re playing on a high-scoring Falcons offense that’s required to participate in shootouts every week. His 22 touches to Smith’s three was easily the biggest gap this season. The Rams couldn’t put up points on the 49ers last week, but they should against the Falcons unimpressive unit. There should be plenty of volume available for the Falcons backs, as the Rams have faced a league-high 158 rushing attempts through six weeks. They’ve allowed just 3.77 yards per carry, so they haven’t been particularly efficient touches, though the six rushing touchdowns they’ve allowed is the fourth most in the league. In what’s projected to be one of the highest-scoring games on the slate, you’ll want to have Freeman plugged into your lineup as a solid RB2. The one concern with Freeman is the fact that Smith has received four of the five carries inside the five-yard line, which would seemingly make him their goal-line back. It’s possible that Week 6 was a changing of the guard with how well Freeman played/how many touches he received, but it’s still noteworthy. Given the projected high-scoring nature, Smith can be looked at as an emergency RB4 this week.
Brandin Cooks: We need to erase the Week 6 game from our minds, as the Rams box score looked like a Luke Falk-led team. The good news is that Cooks made it through the concussion protocol and was able to play. He’s now set to play in a dome against a Falcons squad that’s now allowed 1,182 yards and 10 touchdowns to wide receivers through six weeks. They were also without their top cornerback Desmond Trufant last week, who is dealing with a toe injury that could be a multi-week thing (he’s been ruled out). He hadn’t been very good in coverage this year, so maybe that has something to do with it? Either way, this secondary has holes all over it. Cooks should see a lot of second-year cornerback Isaiah Oliver in coverage, a bigger cornerback at 6-foot-1 and 195 pounds, though one who ran a 4.50 40-yard-dash, not a time that would be described as fast. Over the last three weeks, he’s allowed 17-of-17 passing in his coverage for 296 yards and a touchdown. So, yeah, the Rams should probably exploit this matchup. Despite the lackluster performances as of late, Cooks needs to be in lineups as a high-end WR2 this week and makes for a great tournament play. Don’t forget that this was the defense Will Fuller torched for 14/217/3 two weeks ago.
Robert Woods: It was going to be a tough matchup for Woods last week regardless, though Goff not showing up made it even worse. Fortunately, he was able to rush for a touchdown to salvage something out of his fantasy day. Things get much better this week, as Woods will see one of either Desmond Trufant or Kendall Sheffield in coverage. Trufant is dealing with a toe injury that had him inactive last week (he’s been ruled out). Sheffield is a fourth-round rookie who’s only playing because of injury. The duo has combined to allow 17-of-27 passing for 279 yards and five touchdowns in their coverage, though all five touchdowns were allowed by Trufant, so it’s hard to say that it’s even much of a downgrade for Woods if he plays, though Sheffield would be the preferred option. Woods has still seen at least eight targets in 4-of-6 games, so you don’t want to lose hope, especially in a game that has a 53-point total. Toss him into lineups as a low-end WR2/high-end WR3 and he just might turn into the top-18 option many thought they drafted.
Cooper Kupp: We must wipe our hard drives clean of Week 6 when it comes to the Rams offense. Sure, Goff has been bad, that’s been well documented here, but even that hadn’t stopped Kupp from being the No. 1 receiver through five weeks. Get back on the Kupp bandwagon in Week 7, as he’ll match-up with converted safety Damontae Kazee, who’s been lightly-targeted through six weeks, as the perimeter cornerbacks have just been so bad. When targeted, Kazee has allowed 9.8 yards per target, so knowing that Kupp has seen at least nine targets in 5-of-6 games, he should see a lot more action in the slot this week. The only concern for Kupp’s production is that the perimeter receivers have phenomenal matchups as well, but if there’s one thing we know Goff has leaned on to look better this year, it’s been targeting Kupp over the middle of the field (he leads the NFL in targets). He should be in lineups as a low-end WR1 and one who comes with a stable floor.
Julio Jones: Are we going to be having the conversation that Julio doesn’t score touchdowns again? After scoring 12 touchdowns in 12 games, he’s now been held scoreless in each of the last three games. With Matt Ryan throwing touchdowns at an alarming rate, he’ll be fine. Jones has seen at least seven targets in each game, though his 20 percent target share is flat-out dumb. Here are a few players who’ve seen a higher percentage of their team’s targets: Curtis Samuel, Dede Westbrook, Preston Williams, and Cole Beasley. The offense hasn’t been the problem with the Falcons team, so it’s hard to see much change, though it does cap his safety in DFS. The Rams were without Aqib Talib last week, which changed the entire landscape of their coverage. Well, now it looks entirely different. Talib went to IR, Marcus Peters was traded to the Ravens, and then the Rams traded for Jalen Ramsey. Will he shadow Jones in his first game with the team? We don’t know, but that may cause a lot of confusion between a cornerback unit that’s playing together for the first time. If they don’t use Ramsey to shadow, we’d see Troy Hill take over in Peters’ spot at RCB, a formerly undrafted free agent who allowed 439 yards and five touchdowns in his coverage last year on just 43 targets. If Ramsey doesn’t shadow, Jones might just explode. You’re playing him as a WR1 in season-long every week, but the Ramsey situation will mean a lot to Jones’ DFS prospects, making him a tournament play only.
Calvin Ridley: Outside of the one game in Week 3 where he saw just one target, Ridley has seen a minimum of six targets in all other games. He’s also scored a touchdown in four of those five games. He’ll benefit when Jones is shadowed by a top-tier cornerback, but Ridley may not get that benefit in this game. The Rams may not ask newly acquired Jalen Ramsey to shadow Julio Jones, which would mean Ridley would see more of the shutdown cornerback. It is possible that Ramsey does shadow, leaving Ridley with former undrafted free agent Troy Hill to cover him. There’s no way to tell how the Rams will handle the Falcons duo at wide receiver, making Ridley a no-go in cash lineups, though he should be played in some tournaments. Whoever gets Hill should eat. Ridley should be considered a middling WR3 this week with many different outcomes, though the ceiling would be hard to pass up.
Mohamed Sanu: It was a disappointing game for Sanu considering the matchup, but that’ll happen when you’re the No. 3 receiver on a team, as there are only so many targets to go around. The four targets he saw was a season-low and it served as a reminder to keep expectations in check. The Rams have Nickell Robey-Coleman covering the slot, which is a much worse matchup than the one Sanu had last week. He’s allowed just 4.23 yards per target in his coverage this year, and the 26 targets he’s seen in coverage does rank as the most on the team, so it’s not a small sample size, either. This isn’t a matchup you should be expecting a big game out of Sanu, who is just a middling WR5-type option in this game.
Gerald Everett: Just when we started to trust Everett, we have a game like that. We’re able to erase the game for the Rams wide receivers, as we’ve seen them perform for a long time in this offense, but with Everett, it brings back the bad memories. The good news is that he’s now seen at least five targets in each of the last three games and his 16 percent target share in those games ranks as the 10th-highest mark among tight ends. The Falcons have been a middling defense when it comes to defending tight ends but have slipped a bit the last two weeks. They allowed Darren Fells to score two touchdowns out of nowhere in Week 5 and then allowed Maxx Williams to post 34 yards and a touchdown against them last week, though almost all of his production came on one play, which was kind of a trick-play that involved misdirection, and it’s not as if teams prepare for the Cardinals tight ends to be involved. The wide receiver matchups are too good to pass up and that’s likely why the Falcons were the 10th best team against tight ends last year despite allowing the most fantasy points to quarterbacks. Everett is still on the high-end TE2 radar due to this game being of the high-scoring variety as well as the uncertainty at the tight end position as a whole, though he’s far from a lock for production.
Austin Hooper: If someone had told you before the season that Travis Kelce, Zach Ertz, and George Kittle are all healthy heading into Week 7, but that Hooper is the leading tight end by a massive 19.0 PPR points, what would you have said? This is the world we live in. His 50 targets rank second to only Ertz, but he’s been much better on a per-target basis, catching a ridiculously-high 84.0 percent of his passes. Now on to play a Rams defense that has allowed at least 8.27 yards per target in each of the last two seasons. The 8.49 yards per target they’re allowing this year ranks as the ninth-most in football and we saw Kittle exploit that last week when he caught all eight of his targets for 103 yards. Hooper has seen at least six targets in every game, including 28 targets over the last three weeks, making him a must-start every week. This matchup does nothing to scare you off him, either. We did see four different top-three tight end performances against the Rams last year in the same scheme. Hooper has become very pricey for cash lineups with so many pass-catchers in the Falcons pass attack, though it’s hard to argue with those who want to play him in that format.
San Francisco 49ers at Washington Redskins
Line: SF by 9.5
Jimmy Garoppolo: With the way the defense is playing, Garoppolo hasn’t had to do much. Seriously, he hasn’t thrown the ball more than 33 times in a game all season, which is part of the reason he’s also scored less than 15 fantasy points in 4-of-5 games. It shouldn’t shock anyone to see the 49ers trade for a wide receiver before the trade deadline. Knowing the Redskins implied team total in this game is just 16.5 points, it’s tough to see Garoppolo’s pass attempts increasing this week. Prior to watching Josh Rosen and the Dolphins flat-out stink up their home field, the Redskins had allowed at least every quarterback to finish as a top-20 fantasy option while averaging at least 7.3 yards per attempt. In fact, 4-of-5 quarterbacks threw for three touchdowns against them, including Mitch Trubisky. The 72.4 percent completion-rate ranks as the second-highest mark in the league, though we haven’t seen many teams push the ball down the field, as evidenced by their 7.39 yards per attempt, which is right around the league average. We’ve seen every opponent complete at least 23 passes, though, which does give us a solid floor. Knowing the 49ers don’t need Garoppolo to take many risks here, it’s unlikely he lives up to top-12 numbers, but he should be a safe option in 2QB leagues for at least 15 fantasy points this week.
Case Keenum: He didn’t need to throw much against the Dolphins last week, but when he did, he made it count, throwing for two touchdowns on just 25 pass attempts. Unfortunately, he goes from the easiest matchup in football to what might be the toughest matchup in football. The 49ers 10.0 percent sack-rate ranks third-best in football while Keenum is still without his starting left tackle Trent Williams. The new offense under Bill Callahan may have looked competent against the Dolphins, but this 49ers unit is allowing a league-low 53.3 percent completion-rate and just 5.64 yards per attempt, which ranks as the third best mark in the league. They are also one of just six teams in the NFL who have more interceptions (7) than they’ve allowed passing touchdowns (5). Playing for a team who is projected for just 16.5 points, there’s nothing sneaky about playing Keenum this week.
Matt Breida and Tevin Coleman: And the beat goes on… Through five games, Breida’s touch counts are 15-13-16-14-17. It’s clear that Kyle Shanahan wants him to live in that 13-17 touch role in order to maximize his efficiency while keeping him healthy. Coleman’s touch counts are 8-16-20, so he’s clearly someone who’ll be trusted with a bigger workload when the game calls for it. The Redskins opponents are averaging 67.5 plays per game (5th in NFL), while the 49ers offense is averaging 69.6 plays per game (3rd in NFL). This game should produce tons of plays for the 49ers offense, and in turn, their run game. Due to the increased plays per game, running backs have averaged 31.5 touches per game against the Redskins, which is the second-highest number in football. Knowing that the 49ers pass to run ratio is 44:56 in favor of the run, which easily ranks as the most in the NFL (closest is 47:53), we could see a 40-touch game for the 49ers backfield. Coleman and Breida should split the load here, though I’m still convinced Breida is a better running back, he doesn’t get much of an edge when you factor in his limited touches. Breida and Coleman should both be played as a back-end RB2s this week. It’s also likely that we see some Raheem Mostert in this game, which would be just fitting for how the 49ers backfield has gone this year.
Adrian Peterson and
Chris Thompson: You were warned that it would be a Peterson-heavy game against the Dolphins. That time is now over. The timing of Bill Callahan taking over for Jay Gruden just happened to take place before a game they could win, though oddsmakers don’t see this one going that way. Running backs are averaging just 21.0 touches per game against the 49ers, which is the lowest in the NFL. The 49ers opponents are averaging just 55.4 plays per game (2nd fewest in NFL) while the Redskins offense has netted just 56.7 plays per game (3rd fewest in NFL), making this the worst possible scenario for a two-down running back who doesn’t participate much in the passing game. The status of Thompson will affect his output, though it’s likely we see Wendell Smallwood walk into that passing-down role rather than Peterson taking on a big role. Even when teams try to run the ball against the 49ers, it hasn’t panned out well, as they’ve allowed just 3.98 yards per carry and have yet to allow a touchdown, either rushing or receiving. The Patriots are the only other team who can say that. Even if Thompson can’t play in this game, Peterson should be considered a low-ceiling RB3/4-type option this week. If Thompson plays, he should be the higher floor RB4 option, though in this new offense, there’s no guarantee he’s utilized like he was before. I don’t think he plays as it’s been reported he’s dealing with turf toe, making Smallwood an emergency RB4-type option in deep leagues. *Update* Thompson has been ruled out and Smallwood will play in his place.
Marquise Goodwin: You know what’s going to happen, right? Everyone is going to forget about Goodwin and he’s going to go off for 100 yards and a touchdown. I’m okay missing out on that when you factor in his limited opportunity. He’s now seen four or less targets in all five games, which is volume you can find with plenty of waiver wire receivers. The Redskins have been one of the most attractive matchups for wide receivers, as they’ve caught 74.3 percent of their passes. Goodwin will see a good mix of all Redskins cornerbacks, though it’ll be Josh Norman most of the time (he missed practice Wednesday). He allowed another touchdown in Week 6, his 13th one in his last 20 games. The passer rating when targeting him in coverage has been at least 114.1 in each of the last three years. It’s safe to say he’s no longer the player he once was while in Carolina. Still, it’s impossible to trust Goodwin as anything more than a hail-mary WR5 in a plus matchup that’ll likely have limited pass attempts.
Dante Pettis: He’s now played the most snaps among 49ers receivers in back-to-back weeks, so Pettis is apparently here to stay. He’s run 53 percent of his routes from the slot, which is a great thing against the Redskins, who’ve allowed 43-of-53 passing in the slot for 451 yards and four touchdowns. The Redskins haven’t activated Aaron Colvin just yet, which is odd considering they signed him when the Texans cut him, and they need help at the position he plays. Until then, it’s Fabian Moreau, who has allowed 16-of-18 balls to be caught in his coverage. Pettis is trending in the right direction, has a good matchup, and could be used in a pinch this week, though it’s tough to start him over guys with an established role. Because of that, he’ll be ranked as a WR4/5-type, but this could be a breakout game of some sorts.
Terry McLaurin: With Keenum back under center, McLaurin was once again highly productive. Sure, the Dolphins were missing their best cornerback Xavien Howard, but it was going to be a plus-matchup regardless. Now onto the 49ers, who run a zone-heavy scheme, which means McLaurin will line up across from Emmanuel Moseley, the second-year cornerback who’s stepped in for Ahkello Witherspoon the last two weeks and done a solid job. Despite playing against the Browns and Rams receivers, he’s allowed just 4-of-7 passing for 28 yards in coverage the last two weeks. Again, he’s zone-heavy, so they’ll be relying on pressure up front, or McLaurin should find soft spots in the coverage. McLaurin needs to be started given his role in the offense as someone who’s weighted opportunity ranks third-best in the NFL, just behind Michael Thomas and Keenan Allen. Based on the weeks he’s played, he’s seeing 51 percent of the Redskins air yards, which is the biggest share in the NFL (closest player is Michael Thomas at 44 percent). Consider McLaurin a low-end WR2 in a tough matchup but one who should remain in your lineup.
Trey Quinn: He hasn’t been viable in fantasy football most of the season, which kind of stinks considering he saw 20 targets over the first three weeks, which typically means production will follow. Over the last three weeks, however, he has seen just four targets in each game and hasn’t topped 18 yards. It seems the 49ers may be without their slot cornerback K’Waun Williams, who suffered a hamstring injury in their Week 6 win over the Rams, meaning they’ll likely be forced to move safety D.J. Reed down into that role. He’s a second-year player who’s faced just 22 targets in his career to this point, allowing 200 yards and three touchdowns on them, so it hasn’t been very good. Does it make enough of a difference against a team that’s allowed just one receiver to tally more than four receptions? Probably not, though it is worth noting that of the top seven wide receiver performances they’ve allowed, five have gone to slot-heavy receivers. Quinn should be considered a middling WR5 who has a lower floor than he rightfully should.
George Kittle: It was worrisome when Kittle popped up on the injury report late in the week, but he came through tallying 8/103/0 against the Rams. Despite the low volume in the 49ers passing game, Kittle has managed to tally at least eight targets in 4-of-5 games, accumulating a massive 25 percent target share, which is more than guys like Julian Edelman, Adam Thielen, T.Y. Hilton, and Julio Jones. He’ll now play a Redskins team that’s allowed at least 51 yards or a touchdown to 5-of-6 tight ends they’ve played. Not many teams have had to pass a whole lot against the Redskins, which is why we haven’t seen any massive performances. That does include Zach Ertz and Evan Engram who both finished with exactly 54 yards on seven targets. Knowing that Kittle has caught at least six balls in 4-of-5 games and totaled at least 54 yards in every game, you’re always going to start him in season-long leagues and you’re always going to consider him for cash lineups. Knowing the lack of receiving options in the 49ers offense, we could see some of the wide receiver success against the Redskins tilt towards Kittle. He’s an elite TE1.
Vernon Davis: It seemed like Davis was going to play last week but he was ultimately ruled out with his concussion. We’ll assume he’s back against the 49ers, though the 49ers haven’t been an enticing matchup for tight ends. They’ve yet to allow one record more than four catches or 32 yards. On the entire year, which has consisted of five games, they’ve allowed a grand total of 121 yards and one touchdown on 30 targets. That amounts to just 1.24 PPR points per target to the position, the lowest in the NFL, as is the 4.03 yards per target they’ve allowed to the position. Even if Davis returns, he’s not a great streaming option.
Houston Texans at Indianapolis Colts
Line: IND by 1.5
Deshaun Watson: The final stat line for Watson wasn’t very impressive last week (280 yards, one touchdown, two interceptions), but if you weren’t able to watch that game, Watson should’ve had close to 400 yards and five touchdowns. Okay, maybe it wouldn’t have worked out exactly like that, but Fuller dropped three should-be touchdowns while Hopkins dropped another. There were 114 air yards in drops last week, easily the most in football. In fact, there was just one other quarterback (Jameis Winston) who suffered more than 45 air yards dropped in Week 6. Bottom line, Watson played a great game. Now on to Indianapolis to play a Colts team that will still be without their superstar free safety Malik Hooker. We’ve watched three quarterbacks finish as top-12 options against them through five games this year, with the only exceptions being Marcus Mariota and Derek Carr (two quarterbacks who’ve been wildly inconsistent in their careers). Watson played this defense twice last year, throwing for 375 yards and two touchdowns in the first meeting, and then 267 yards and one touchdown in the second one. He also rushed for 76 yards and a touchdown in the two games combined, which was an accomplishment considering the Colts were one of the better teams in the NFL at limiting quarterbacks on the ground. The defense will give you the high percentage throws underneath – hence the 69.9 percent completion-rate against them – but have tried to limit the big plays. Without Hooker, that’ll be much tougher. Watson has been efficient as of late, completing at least 71.4 percent of his passes in 3-of-4 games, so he should continue along that path this week. Knowing the two games between these teams last year produced 71 and 45 points, Watson should be played as a high-end QB1. He’s safe enough for cash games, though his price is going to be tough to reach.
Jacoby Brissett: Many were let down by Brissett’s performance in Kansas City, though they’ll have to get over it quickly, as he has a great matchup on the books in Week 7. Of the six games the Texans have played, just one quarterback has scored less than 18.1 fantasy points, and it was backup quarterback Kyle Allen when he still completed 24-of-34 passes for 232 yards, just failed to throw a touchdown. It is worth noting they’ve had a tough slate of quarterbacks this year that’s included Drew Brees, Gardner Minshew, Philip Rivers, Matt Ryan, and Patrick Mahomes. Having the bye week to gameplan should help and we watched Andrew Luck in this same offense post 464 yards and four touchdowns at home against the Texans last year. Even on the road, Luck posted 399 yards and two touchdowns. While Brissett clearly isn’t Luck, he was the No. 12 fantasy quarterback when he went into his bye week, so he’s been usable. The fact that the Texans still defend the run extremely well bodes well for the pass attempts to rack up, as is the reason we’ve seen every quarterback throw the ball at least 33 times against the Texans, including three games of at least 43 pass attempts. There were two times Brissett threw the ball more than 29 times this year, and in both of those games he posted at least 20 fantasy points. He’s in the low-end QB1 streaming conversation this week. He’s not a bad option in cash games when you factor in his price, too.
Carlos Hyde and Duke Johnson: After fumbling the ball in the first quarter for the second straight game, the Texans showed a lot of confidence in Hyde by sticking with him for a season-high 26 carries against the Chiefs. Totaling 116 yards and a touchdown was worth it, too. Now on to play a Colts team that’s still yet to allow a 100-yard rusher under Matt Eberflus’ defense. It’s now a 21-game streak, which is quite impressive, especially when you consider the fact that they were without their star inside linebacker Darius Leonard the last three games. He’s finally been cleared and will return this week. Running the ball will be somewhat of a task, so you shouldn’t be expecting a massive Hyde game here, who has seen one or zero targets in 5-of-6 games. If he doesn’t find the end zone, he’s likely to be a bust, making him a mediocre RB3-type option this week. The area the Colts have struggled in Eberflus’ scheme is allowing a ton of production through the air to running backs. The 110 receptions they allowed to running backs ranked as the second most in football last year, while the 1.76 PPR points per target they’ve allowed to running backs in 2019 ranks as the ninth-most. That doesn’t mean Johnson is a must play, especially when you consider he’s been maxed out at 10 touches since Week 2, though he’s not a bad bye week RB3/flex option with this matchup that could turn into a shootout.
Marlon Mack and Nyheim Hines: The bye week came at a great time for Mack, who’d been trying to play through an ankle injury. Coming back fresh is great, though the matchup on deck isn’t a good one. The Texans have allowed nearly as many yards (402) through the air to running backs that they’ve allowed on the ground (440), which doesn’t play well into Mack’s game. The Texans aren’t the brick wall they were with Jadeveon Clowney against the run, but it’s worth noting that Mack did struggle against them last year when he totaled just 33 yards on 14 carries, though he did find the end zone. Mack has run more pass routes than Hines (84-65), but the targets tell a different story, as Hines has the clear edge with 21 targets to just nine for Mack. Outside of the game Mack left with an injury versus the Raiders, he’s seen three targets in three straight games, so it’s at least something to carry him if the matchup goes south. Mack shouldn’t be considered gamescript-proof, but he’s teetering on that conversation. Because of that, he needs to remain in lineups as an RB2. Knowing the Texans have allowed just 10 rushing touchdowns over their last 22 games, you can probably find better tournament options. Hines has totaled just 2-4 carries per game and 4-6 targets per game, which is not nearly enough to get excited about, let alone trust in fantasy lineups. It does help that we’ve seen him crush in this matchup before, though. He caught 11 balls for 63 yards and two touchdowns against the Texans last year, though they did hold him to five catches for 16 yards the following meeting. He’s an RB4 option in PPR formats who comes with a little upside if this game goes south for the Colts.
Deandre Hopkins: He was used like Adam Humphries last week. Seriously. His average depth of target was 6.2 yards, which actually paled to Humphries’ 6.8 average air yards last week. If that’s the way they’re using him, he should rack up tons of receptions against the Colts, who have allowed a massive 73.8 percent catch-rate to wide receivers. Oddly enough, receivers have been targeted just 80 times against them, which is the lowest mark in the league. Knowing that, it’s a good thing for Hopkins when you find out they’ve still allowed the 17th-most fantasy points per game. On a per-target basis, the 1.99 PPR points per target they’re allowing ranks as the seventh-highest mark in the league. We’ve watched Hopkins see at least seven targets in every game, so even if he were average against the Colts, we’re talking about 14-plus PPR points? That’s a very high floor from a player who’s failed to top 88 yards in five straight games. In two games against the Colts zone-heavy scheme last year, Hopkins finished with 10/169/1 in the first meeting and then 4/36/1 in the second meeting. Continue plugging him in as a WR1 and there’s going to be a blow-up performance soon, making him one of the best tournament plays. His price hasn’t come down enough to fully trust him in cash, though it’s tempting.
Will Fuller: There’s two ways of looking at Fuller’s performance from last week. On one hand, he “came back down to earth” with a 5/44/0 performance, providing those opposed to Fuller justification in their hate. On the other hand, he dropped three should-be touchdowns against the Chiefs and finished the game with 158 air yards, which was the sixth-most in football in Week 6. He’s a big part of this offense and though he didn’t have a big game last week, you need to live with that. The Colts have allowed just one 40-yard passing play all season and allowed just four the entire 2018 season, so they’re not typically beat deep. The loss of free safety Malik Hooker could definitely affect that, so we raise the odds. Pierre Desir is the cornerback he’ll see most of the time, who happens to be the cornerback that’s allowing the most yards per catch (16.0) in his coverage among the Colts cornerbacks. Fuller should remain in lineups as a WR3 who continually gets opportunity. You just must understand that by playing him, you may get a WR4/5 floor (which isn’t horrible), but he also offers a WR1 ceiling.
Keke Coutee/Kenny Stills: We’re expecting Stills to return to the lineup this week, though we don’t really know what it means to each of their roles, though it seems they’re vying for the same role as the slot-heavy receiver in the offense. We’ve watched Keenan Allen post 8/123/1, Mohamed Sanu post 6/75/0, and Mecole Hardman post 4/79/0 in their matchups with the Colts, so there’s likely performance to be had, though it’s unclear who’ll be featured in the role, or even worse, if they’ll split it. Because of that, it’s best to take the wait-and-see approach with these two. If forced to pick one, I suppose it’d be Coutee, as he is 100 percent healthy and had his best career game against these Colts last year when he tallied 11 catches for 109 yards.
T.Y. Hilton: Similar to Marlon Mack, Hilton had the bye week come at the perfect time, as he was trying to play through a quad injury. He’ll return to a matchup with the Texans, a team he regularly beats into oblivion. Over his last five games against them, he’s totaled at least 115 yards in four of the games. No, they haven’t gotten better over that time. The Texans secondary has already allowed seven different wide receivers to finish as top-24 options against them, including the speedy Tyreek Hill last week who got behind them for 80 yards and two touchdowns. There have been five receivers who’ve topped seven targets against the Texans and knowing that all of them scored at least 18.5 PPR points, you should be starting Hilton as a low-end WR1/high-end WR2 this week.
Parris Campbell/Deon Cain: This wide receiver group has been somewhat impossible to predict behind Hilton, as they’ve rotated into the lineup. Over the last three games, the snap counts look like this: Cain 135, Pascal 127, Chester Rogers 121, and Campbell 78 (missed a game). As you can see, they’re all used. The highest target games among the Colts receivers behind Hilton aren’t much clearer, as Campbell saw eight targets in Week 4, Pascal saw seven targets in Week 4, and Rogers saw six targets in Week 4. Do you see the trend? All of them were in Week 4 when Hilton was out. There are just two teams who’ve allowed more receptions than the Texans to wide receivers this year, so it’d be nice to find the code here, though unless you have a key to Frank Reich’s office, you’re unlikely to know with any degree of certainty. Campbell would likely be the top choice of the bunch, as he’s the one they spent a second-round draft pick on, but he didn’t practice on Wednesday after a week off. *Update* Campbell has been ruled out for this game.
Darren Fells and Jordan Akins: What in the world is happening with the Texans tight ends? After their entire tight end room scored just four touchdowns all of last season and no touchdowns through the first two games of this season, the combination of Akins and Fells have scored five touchdowns over the last four games. Now both are top-15 tight ends on the season. This is the world we live in. The Colts have been a matchup to attack with tight ends, too. Through six weeks, they’ve allowed the third-most PPR points per game (16.7) to the position. No starting tight end has finished worse than the TE17 against them, and they’ve even allowed two backup tight ends to finish as the TE12 and TE17 against them. The issue with starting one of these tight ends is due to the fact that they’re running the same number of routes. I wish I could tell you one had a slight edge over the other, but over the last three weeks Akins has run 78 routes while Fells has run 76 routes. They’re using both of them, though I’ll side with Fells as the better option, as he’s playing slightly more snaps and has slightly more targets. Fells can be considered a high-end TE2 for this matchup, and Akins isn’t the worst of options, either. Any way we can morph these guys into one tight end? He’d be a must-start TE1 if that were the case.
Jack Doyle and Eric Ebron: Things are changing with the Colts tight ends, as the snap counts in Week 5 (before their bye week) were Doyle 59, Mo Alie-Cox 37, and Ebron 27. Don’t freak out too much, as Ebron still led them in routes run, but it’s definitely noteworthy that Ebron is losing snaps to Alie-Cox now. This is unfortunately making fantasy a mess, as Doyle’s targets have gone 2-3-4-8-3, while Ebron’s have gone 3-4-4-5-4. There isn’t much consistency in their performances, either, so it’s tough to trust either on a weekly basis. It does help that the Colts are projected for quite a few pass attempts in this game, but it’s hard to count on more than four or five targets out of each of them. The Texans have been a much-improved defense against tight ends this year, which is odd because it’s the same scheme that allowed the sixth-most fantasy points to them last year. In fact, Ebron finished as the TE6 against them on two separate occasions. But looking back to the big games (double-digit PPR games) they allowed to tight ends last year, 6-of-8 tight ends totaled at least eight targets. Knowing Ebron had success, he’s the top option against them, though he’s nothing more than a low-end TE1/high-end TE2 who’s losing his big role.