The Primer: Week 8 Edition (2019 Fantasy Football)
There are some things in life that we take for granted as a parent. Maybe we’re too young to understand and appreciate them. Maybe it’s the whole saying that you never realize what you have until it’s gone. Maybe we don’t realize the impact the little things will have on someone else. I had one of those moments a few weeks ago.
My son Jonathan, who’s just over two-and-a-half years old, is really into monster trucks right now. It’s like me with football. When it’s his bedtime, he has to bring at least three of his little monster truck toys into his bed to “sleep” alongside him. If there’s one missing, the world is collapsing around him, which is probably how Patrick Mahomes‘ owners felt watching Thursday night football.
Anyway, we heard the Monster Jam was coming to town, so naturally, we wanted to take him to see the trucks in person. I’d only been to one of the events in my lifetime, and enjoyed it, but I wasn’t as big into the trucks as he is. Leading up to the event, we used this event to our advantage, big time. Any time he’d be acting up, we’d say something like, “I guess you don’t want to go see the monster trucks in two weeks.” When you find something kids love, you must latch onto that and use it to your advantage at this age. Believe me.
When the big day finally came, we pulled up to the Allstate Arena and he saw the signs hanging up outside of the arena. He was still very giddy and yelling “monster trucks!” at the top of his lungs. When we got in there, things changed. He was mesmerized by the dirt track in front of him. Despite the food vendor walking around like 15 times saying, “Cotton candy! Get your cotton candy here, folks,” Jonathan didn’t budge his eyes from the track. The trucks weren’t even out there yet, but the anticipation was real.
Prior to going, we’d bought him some headphones to put over his ears, as we were told it’d be loud at the event. Let me pause here and say that headphones an absolute must for parents who want to bring their kids. In fact, some light ear plugs wouldn’t be bad for adults, either. Knowing the trucks would be coming out any minute, we put the big headphones on his head. Once the trucks came out, they were larger than life. Seriously, they were much bigger and faster and louder than I’d remembered or expected. With all eight of them out there rounding the track during the intro, it was a constant barrage of screaming engines.
Jonathan was no longer shouting out “monster trucks” or “Gravedigger” from the top of his lungs. He was leaned forward in his chair with his eyes wide open. He was simply mesmerized. The trucks went into the tunnel and he was having trouble seeing where they went, so he asked to sit on my lap to get a better vantage point. Within a few minutes, two trucks came back out to race. I knew once they opened their throttle, it would send a shock through anyone’s body, particularly a two-year-old’s. The last thing I wanted was for him to be scared, so I placed my right hand on top of his thigh and started tapping it somewhat rapidly, almost like a heartbeat. As I saw the light tree working its way down (letting the trucks know when to go), I tapped a little bit harder. It worked wonders. I did it throughout the races and he was never scared.
On the ride home, he passed out in the backseat. Tabbie and I talked about how crazy it was to see him so mesmerized and focused at the arena for three full hours. Believe me when I say that doesn’t happen with two-year-old boys, especially this one.
A few days later, Jonathan asked to watch the monster trucks on YouTube. We pulled it up for him and as it showed the trucks lining up to race, what do you think he did? He started tapping his leg before they took off. Something so small that I did in order to help him not get scared stuck with him. I know this may seem like something very small, but as a dad, it made me so proud. It reminded me how much of an influence you can have on your children, even with something as small as this.
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?
Cincinnati Bengals at Los Angeles Rams (In London at Wembley Stadium)
Line: LAR by 12.5
Andy Dalton: After a promising start under Zac Taylor where he threw for over 310 yards in each of the first two games while throwing four touchdowns and one interception, Dalton has been a ticking time-bomb. He’s now averaged just 238.8 yards over the last five games while throwing four touchdowns and seven interceptions. It doesn’t help that he’s without John Ross, A.J. Green, and three starting offensive linemen, but it’s still tough watching things trend in the wrong direction. The Rams revamped defense with Jalen Ramsey looked mighty good against the Falcons in Week 7, as they held Matt Ryan to just 16-of-27 passing for 159 yards and no touchdowns before exiting with an ankle injury. It’s difficult to take much away from one game, but it was somewhat of a statement going into Atlanta and slowing down an offense that had scored 65 points the previous two weeks. With the offensive line crumbling in front of him, you must wonder how Dalton will make it out alive against Aaron Donald and the Rams pass-rush this week. Oddsmakers seem to agree, as the Bengals are projected for just 17.8 points in this game. Dalton should not be on the streaming radar this week and makes for a questionable QB2 even in 2QB/Superflex formats.
Jared Goff: Those who started Goff as a streaming option should be breathing a sigh of relief that he finished with what he did in Week 7, as his rushing touchdown late in the game is what sent him into QB1 territory, and not his passing. His 7.24 yards per attempt against the Falcons was the lowest mark they’d allowed since Week 2. Now on to London to play the Bengals defense that’s also struggled, and just like the Falcons, they have injuries in their secondary. Both starting cornerbacks William Jackson and Dre Kirkpatrick were out last week, and it’s hard to see them returning for this game. Are there similar concerns for gamescript this week? The Bengals have allowed a massive 8.29 yards per attempt, which ranks right behind the Falcons as the sixth-highest mark in the league, but they’ve allowed just the 13th fewest passing yards because teams typically run the ball a ton against them. They’ve faced an average of just 29.4 pass attempts per game while facing an average of a league-high 36.1 rushing attempts per game. The Rams pass percentage while leading by nine-plus points in games remains 51 percent, which is slightly above league average, ranking 14th. There are plenty of outcomes in this game, though Goff should be able to give you a high floor against a team that’s allowed a league-high 7-of-7 quarterbacks to post 16 or more fantasy points against them. And keep in mind that no quarterback has thrown the ball more than 36 times against them, so it wasn’t volume, either. Goff should be considered a low-end QB1 for this contest.
Joe Mixon: What a horrendous ride it’s been for the third-year running back, as the offensive line crumbling has been worse than anyone could’ve imagined. He was without three starters on the offensive line last week, and that’s not even including the two offensive linemen they lost prior to the season beginning. Over the last two weeks, he’s totaled 18 carries. Even worse, he’s totaled just 12 yards on those carries. The worst news is that they’ve regressed his usage in the passing game. After seeing 15 targets over the first four games, he’s seen just six targets over the last three games. Now onto the Rams in a game they’re double-digit underdogs, it doesn’t appear to be a winning combination. There have been five running backs who’ve totaled at least 18 carries against them, and each of those running backs were top-20 PPR options. The issue’s that Mixon has reached that number just once this year, and it was against the Cardinals in a closely fought game. The Rams have allowed just 3.70 yards per carry on the year, so it’s required volume to get it done against them. The good news is that they’ve allowed six rushing touchdowns, which ranks as the seventh-most in the league. This all comes down to whether you believe the Bengals will keep this game somewhat close because the Bengals drop back to pass 76 percent of the time when they trail big, which is the sixth-highest mark in the league. Knowing Mixon has run just 29 routes over the last two weeks (ranks 23rd among running backs) is the biggest concern. He cannot be considered anything more than a mediocre RB3 with his usage and projected gamescript right now.
Malcolm Brown, and Darrell Henderson: Over the first two years under Sean McVay, the Rams running backs combined to average 28.8 carries/targets per game that netted 155.5 total yards. Efficiency was off the charts, as they averaged 4.77 yards per carry and a touchdown every 20.5 carries/targets. Through the first seven games of this year, they’ve combined to average 24.1 carries/targets and 93.1 total yards per game while averaging just 3.89 yards per carry, though they are scoring a touchdown every 21.1 carries/targets. The blowout win over the Falcons allowed them to get Henderson on the field a bit more, though Gurley netted 19 touches, which is good for his outlook against the lowly Bengals defense that’s allowed a league-high 32.9 PPR points per game to running backs. Opponents are averaging 32.0 touches per game against them, but it’s not just volume getting it done, as they’ve allowed 4.91 yards per carry and 8.14 yards per target, which are both near the bottom of the barrel. Knowing the Bengals opponents also average 67.4 plays per game should help you start Gurley with max confidence in this game, though it would help if Brown was inactive again to ensure a top-heavy running back room. Gurley should be played as an RB1 this week and someone who should score at least once. If Brown is inactive, Henderson should be able to produce flex-worthy numbers against a Bengals defense that’s allowed 11 top-16 running backs this year. Guys, we’ve played seven games thus far. *Update* Brown has been ruled out.
Tyler Boyd: It’s always frustrating to have a receiver see 14 targets but walk away with just 10.5 PPR points, but that’s going to happen at times. You have to follow the volume, as it’ll often lead to production. Boyd has now seen 10-plus targets in 5-of-7 games, which has been necessary. In the two games he didn’t, he’s finished with just 43 yards in those two games combined. Against the Rams, he’s going to see a lot of Nickell Robey-Coleman in the slot, which is not a good thing. On 19 targets in coverage, he’s allowed just 56 yards and one touchdown. Among the 56 cornerbacks/safeties who primarily cover the slot, Robey-Coleman’s 0.36 yards per covered snap rank as the fourth-best. It’s difficult to judge the new (in what looks to be improved) secondary based on one performance, but holding the Falcons receiving trio to just 11/261/0 on 16 targets is rather impressive. Of the six wide receivers who’ve finished as top-30 options against the Rams, two of them were slot-heavy receivers. Tyler Lockett, who’s among the most efficient receivers in the game, and Chris Godwin, who went bananas in Week 4. You can’t bench someone who’s totaled the third-most targets among wide receivers, but you can temper expectations a bit. For now, he should be considered a high-end WR3.
Auden Tate: Since John Ross left the lineup, Tate has seen at least six targets in each game, including double-digit targets in two of them. Did you know Tate is a top-36 targeted wide receiver through seven weeks? He actually has more targets than Adam Thielen and T.Y. Hilton, and that’s despite seeing just two targets in Week 2 and not playing in Week 1. He’s totaled at least 50 yards in 4-of-5 games, so his floor has been stable. This week will likely be a down one, though, as he’s going to see a lot of Jalen Ramsey in coverage. Ramsey just battled with Julio Jones in Week 7 and though Jones was able to get some production in, Ramsey didn’t make it easy. It seems somewhat unlikely that the Rams would have Ramsey shadow Tate, but it’s certainly possible with how much he’s been targeted. The risk of that happening is enough of a reason to keep Tate out of lineups this week. He’s not completely off the table for those strapped at the wide receiver position, but he’s nothing more than a risky WR4 this week.
Alex Erickson: It would appear the Bengals wide receivers are going to be targeted no matter who’s in the starting lineup. First, it was John Ross, then it was Auden Tate, and now it’s Erickson. He’s totaled 20 targets over the last two weeks since being promoted into the starting lineup, including 14 last week against the Jaguars when he totaled a career-high eight receptions for 137 yards. There’s a threat of Jalen Ramsey shadowing Tate in coverage, which could mean Erickson sees a lot of Troy Hill in coverage. He was promoted into the starting lineup when the Rams sent Aqib Talib to injured reserve, so he’s seen just 10 targets in coverage to this point. Going back to last year, he’s allowed 34-of-53 passing for 494 yards and five touchdowns, so he’s hardly someone to avoid in matchups. The issue with automatically assuming this is due to the chance that Ramsey doesn’t shadow and sees a bit of everyone. Erickson is officially on the fantasy radar, though he’s more of a middling WR5 option in a matchup with so much uncertainty and negative gamescript.
Cooper Kupp: After posting four straight 100-yard games from Week 2 through Week 5, Kupp has come back down to earth the last two weeks, totaling 4/17/0 and 6/50/0. He’ll look to get back on track against the injured Bengals secondary. With both William Jackson and Dre Kirkpatrick out, the Bengals were forced to move around their cornerbacks, though they did get Darqueze Dennard back in the lineup (he’s now been ruled out as well). He’s had moments where he’s looked competent throughout his career, but as a whole, matching up against him has been a positive for wide receivers. When targeted in coverage, he’s allowed a 99.2 QB Rating over the course of his career. The Bengals defense as a whole have allowed nine wide receivers finish with 11.3 or more PPR points. Five of them have been slot-heavy receivers, including Dede Westbrook last week when he totaled 6/103/0 after being dubbed questionable to play all week. The Rams shouldn’t have to throw a whole lot in this game, but Kupp’s accounted for 27 percent of the team’s target share, so you shouldn’t be very concerned. He should be in lineups as a high-floor WR1/2-type option.
Brandin Cooks: It was supposed to be a smash spot for Cooks last week, though Goff was a bit off and the Falcons failed to make the game close, which turned off the need to throw the ball down the field. Cooks has now finished as a top-24 in just 3-of-7 games this year, with three games where he’s been outside the top-50. There were just four games all last year where he finished outside the top-40. That’s the definition of a boom-or-bust option and it doesn’t help that the Bengals opponents have averaged just 29.4 pass attempts per game. He’s likely going to see Tony McRae in coverage for much of this game, a former undrafted cornerback who ran a 4.61 40-yard-dash. We know Cooks can burn him in coverage if given the opportunity, just as the Jaguars receivers did last week when he was tagged for 94 yards and a touchdown on just six targets in coverage. You know the risk when starting Cooks and you also know the reward, which makes him a high-end WR3 despite his struggles. There are not many receivers who finish inside the top-36 consistently, so it’s unlikely you have three stable options to start over him.
Robert Woods: It’s been a rockier year than most Woods owners were expecting, as he’s finished with less than 50 yards in 4-of-7 games this year. Over the course of the 16 games last year, Woods finished with less than 61 yards just twice all year, so something is clearly going on, though it’s not with him. His quarterback has been wildly mediocre and it’s bled into the receiver’s production. The Bengals are likely without their top two cornerbacks once again this week, so Woods will see a combination of Tony McRae and B.W. Webb in coverage. That’s not going to scare anyone. The only thing that’s concerning is the potential lack of volume out of the Rams passing game this week. The opposing wide receiver groups have averaged just 15.9 targets per game against the Bengals, which has led to them allowing the ninth-fewest points per game to the position. When targeted, though, the receivers have averaged 9.05 yards per target (10th-most) and 1.83 PPR points per target, so if the volume is there, production will follow. Woods has seen seven-plus targets in 5-of-7 games, so he should be able to capitalize, but he cannot be trusted as anything more than a WR3 right now.
Tyler Eifert: After seeing five targets in three of the first four games, Eifert has seen a combined eight targets over the last three games. He’s still yet to top 27 yards in a game this year and he hasn’t found the end zone since back in Week 2. The Rams haven’t been a matchup to attack nor a matchup to avoid with tight ends, as they’re very middle-of-the-pack. If not for a late garbage-time touchdown from Austin Hooper last week, he would’ve been a bust in their matchup. We did see George Kittle tag them for 8/103/0, but let’s not pretend we view Eifert in that light. This matchup isn’t daunting enough to run from if you have a tight end who’s locked into a decent number of targets, but after seeing just two targets in each of the last two games, it’s safe to say Eifert belongs on waiver wires.
Gerald Everett: He’s now seen at least five targets in four straight games, and has averaged a robust 8.5 targets in that stretch. Is Everett an every-week lock-and-load play? With that volume, it’s hard to say no. He’s finished as a top-eight tight end in three of the last four weeks. The Bengals have not faced many targets this year, as just one tight end has totaled more than four targets against them. That tight end was Mark Andrews, who turned eight targets into 6/99/0. So, while it’s true the Bengals have allowed the fifth-fewest fantasy points to tight ends, they’ve allowed the fourth-most yards per target. It’s pretty easy to look good when you see just 4.9 targets per game to the position. With Everett’s spike in volume, you have to ride him right now, though you have to understand the volatility in this offense, as there are many mouths to feed with not a lot of pass attempts expected. He should be considered a low-end TE1.
Los Angeles Chargers at Chicago Bears
Line: CHI by 4.0
Philip Rivers: After going through what seemed like a slump, Rivers bounced back with 329 yards and two touchdowns while on the road against the Titans last week. He’s also likely to get his starting left tackle Russell Okung back this week, which is someone he’s been without all seven games. He’s also catching the Bears at a time they appear completely beatable. After losing Akiem Hicks to injured reserve, this team has imploded over the last two weeks, allowing Derek Carr and the Raiders to post 24 points against them, and then the Teddy Bridgewater-led Saints to score 36 points. They’ve still yet to allow a quarterback to throw for more than 7.7 yards per attempt against them and no quarterback has thrown for more than two touchdowns, but it’s also not the matchup you absolutely needed to avoid like it was last year. The 69.0 percent completion-rate bodes well for Rivers, who’s struggled with accuracy at points this year. The Bears have limited quarterbacks to just a 2.62 percent touchdown-rate, which is one of the better marks in the league, but when you look at the quarterbacks they’ve played, it kind of makes sense. They played against Aaron Rodgers (first game under Matt LaFleur), Joe Flacco, Case Keenum, Kirk Cousins, Derek Carr, and Teddy Bridgewater. Knowing that Rivers has thrown for at least 293 yards in 6-of-7 games and has at least two touchdown passes in 5-of-7 games, you shouldn’t be too scared about this matchup where he should post respectable high-end QB2 numbers, though the 18.3-point implied team total is far from ideal which should turn you away in cash lineups.
Mitch Trubisky: Sure, his final stat line may look promising, but Trubisky was atrocious in Week 7. He’s averaging just 5.2 yards per attempt on the season right now and the offense has turned extremely vanilla due to his inability to hit receivers down the field. The Chargers are not as scary of a matchup as they were supposed to be, as all but one quarterback has averaged 7.0 yards per attempt, and that was Devlin Hodges, a fourth-string quarterback. The issue for quarterbacks against the Chargers hasn’t been efficiency, but rather their limited play volume. Chargers opponents have averaged just 56.3 plays per game, which is the second-lowest mark in the league. Combine that with the Bears offense averaging just 60.0 plays per game, and we have a problem. The Chargers are allowing a league-high 74.5 percent completion-rate to quarterbacks, which is flat-out ridiculous. By comparison, Drew Brees set the record last year completing 74.4 percent of his passes. The Chargers have also allowed 8.65 yards per attempt and a 6.52 percent touchdown-rate, so they’re bad across the board, but the 26.3 pass attempts per game has saved them. The fact that Trubisky isn’t running the ball is ruining his fantasy floor, and his passing hasn’t been making up for it. The lack of projected plays out of this offense combined with the Chargers inability to stop the run will likely limit the pass attempts out of Trubisky, making him a low-end QB2.
Melvin Gordon and Austin Ekeler: This backfield has been a disaster since Gordon returned. The two have combined for just 109 yards on 49 carries (2.2 yards per carry) and have yet to find the end zone on the ground. Their value has all come through the air, as they’ve combined for a ridiculous 34 receptions for 252 yards and two touchdowns in three games. They are getting their starting left tackle back, which should help, as should the matchup against the Bears, who’ve seemingly hit rock-bottom. Over their last two weeks without defensive tackle Akiem Hicks, they’ve allowed the Raiders and Saints (without Alvin Kamara) to rack up 277 yards and five touchdowns on 63 carries (4.40 yards per carry). To give you how drastic that change has been, the Bears had allowed five rushing touchdowns over their previous 20 games. This is not the same defense that opponents once feared. It also doesn’t hurt that they’ve allowed the sixth-most fantasy points per game (13.3/game) through the air to running backs, and that’s despite not allowing a receiving touchdown to them. You should keep Gordon in your lineup as a solid RB2 with touchdown upside knowing he’s received 73.5 percent of the team’s carries since his return. Ekeler has value as well when you see how much he’s been used in the passing game, combined with the fact that already allowed five different running backs to amass 30-plus yards through the air, though the team implied total of 18.3 points is worrisome, making him a middling RB3.
David Montgomery and Tarik Cohen: Over the last two games, we’ve seen the Bears running backs combine for just 20 rushing attempts and none of them have topped 25 rushing yards in a game. We’ve watched Cohen receive 19 targets in that time, which is obviously worth something in fantasy circles. For instance, if you play in a PPR format, did you know that one target is worth 2.3 times more than one carry? The Chargers opponents have been limited in their plays this year, which limits the amount of damage that can be done, but on a per-play basis, they haven’t been good at all. Despite playing just seven games, we’ve watched five different running backs finish as top-10 options against them, though it’s important to note that each of them received at least 14 touches, something that’s been tough to come by for Bears running backs. The good news is that teams have had a 50.5 percent pass to run ratio against the Chargers, which is the third run-heaviest in the league. The Bears have to stick the ball in the belly of Montgomery and let him go to work in this game. We can’t automatically assume this is what happens, as rational coaching doesn’t always exist, but Montgomery should live up to high-end RB3 status in this game with upside for more. Cohen is essentially James White but on a much worse offense. He still has value, particularly in PPR formats where he’s scored at least 9.8 points in each of the last three games. This should be a Montgomery game, especially with the way oddsmakers are expecting it to go, making Cohen a risky low-end RB3/high-end RB4.
Keenan Allen: The good news is that Allen saw a team-high 11 targets last week. The bad news is that it amounted to just four catches for 61 yards, as Rivers struggled with accuracy, though Allen did drop one. The Bears are not a matchup to aggressively target, but they’re also not one to run away from, as they’ve now allowed five different wide receivers to post 17.8-plus PPR points and finish as top-18 options against them. We haven’t seen slot receivers do much against them to this point, though they also haven’t played a slot receiver who’s even close to the top 50 wide receivers this year. Of the six passing touchdowns they’ve allowed this year, three of them have come in the slot, so the lack of slot receiver production is not due to it being such a tough spot. Buster Skrine will be responsible for covering Allen most of the game, and that’s a good thing for Allen’s owners, as Skrine has allowed two of those touchdowns. Allen should remain in lineups as a low-end WR1 this week. *Update* Allen is dealing with a hamstring injury that prevented him from practicing this week. He’s beginning to look like a game-time decision.
Mike Williams: His targets (6) came back down to realistic territory last week, which is a bit of a downer, but the good news is that he’s seen eight red zone targets this year. He’s only caught one of them, and it wasn’t for a touchdown, so positive regression should catch up at some point. As a gauge, there are 13 other receivers who have as many red zone targets, and 11 have scored at least two touchdowns. The Bears cornerback duo of Kyle Fuller and Prince Amukamara have not been very good this year, though they have been better against big receivers the last few years while struggling with premier route runners. Look at the big performances they’ve allowed this year: Emmanuel Sanders, Paul Richardson, Michael Thomas, Terry McLaurin, and Stefon Diggs. None of them are big-bodied wide receivers who are the box-out with my body types, but pure route runners. Williams is likely to take a backseat to Allen this week and should be considered a middling WR4 who likely needs a touchdown in order to avoid being a bust.
Allen Robinson: He’s clearly the centerpiece of this offense and the one Trubisky goes to when in trouble, which is quite frequently. He not only has a 27 percent target share (fourth among receivers), but he’s seen 42 percent of the team’s air yards, which is tied for second in the NFL. He’s seen at least seven targets in every game, so don’t be too concerned about a matchup with Casey Hayward this week. Don’t forget Marshon Lattimore had shut down some big-name wide receivers prior to Robinson posting 10/87/1 last week. Hayward is actually coming off a game in which he allowed 5-of-6 passing for 71 yards to the wide receiver group of the Titans. It was easily his worst game of the year, though we saw flashes of him slipping a bit last year when he allowed a 108.7 QB Rating in his coverage. Granted, he’s taking on the opposing No. 1 receiver, but that’s part of the projection. The bottom line is that we’ve seen eight wide receivers finish as top-40 options against the Chargers, including five of them finishing as the WR14 or better. There’s nobody on the Bears who has the ability/opportunity to achieve these numbers more than Robinson. Stick him in lineups as a middling WR2 who is going to go through some ups and downs with his bad quarterback play, though he’s been able to overcome that to this point.
Anthony Miller: We’ve seen him become much more involved in the offense over the last few games, and he actually played more snaps than Taylor Gabriel last week. Miller’s 16 targets over his last two games ranks top-25 among receivers, so we must pay attention. The issue with relying on production, however, is that he played against the Raiders and Saints, two teams who cannot defend the slot. If there’s one thing the Chargers have well done this year, it’s defended slot receivers. The best finish against them was Kenny Stills who posted 4/89/0. Outside of him, no slot-heavy receiver has topped 40 yards. With the limited targets to go around (Chargers opponents have averaged just 15.6 wide receiver targets), you cannot trust Miller as anything more than a WR5, though he’s trending in the right direction and should be owned.
Hunter Henry: You think Rivers missed Henry? In two games, he’s totaled 17 targets, 14 receptions, 197 yards, and two touchdowns. He’s one of the eight tight ends you set-and-forget every single week. There are going to be down weeks, but you’re getting top-10 production more often than not. The Bears haven’t been a matchup to target with tight ends over the last two years, as they’ve not allowed a tight end to finish better than TE7 against them. Dating back to the start of last year, the Bears have allowed just one tight end to accumulate more than 49 yards against them, and that was George Kittle who saw 12 targets and finished with 7/74/0. Henry is heavily utilized in the red zone, so he can always sneak in a touchdown, but he comes with enough risk to fade him in DFS this week.
Trey Burton: The Bears spent $32 million on a four-year contract to pay for a tight end who’s seen a max of four targets this year. He’s yet to top 20 yards in a game, which is obviously a problem. The Chargers haven’t been a bad matchup for tight ends this year, as they’re a team who lost both starting safeties early in the year. Because of that, they’ve allowed the third-most fantasy points per target (2.10) to tight ends this year. No tight end has seen more than five targets against them, so the production has been limited overall, but if the Bears wanted to attack them with Burton, they probably could. We watched the Texans throw to their tight ends 10 times and had it amount to 8/122/3 between Darren Fells and Jordan Akins back in Week 3. We can’t rely on the Bears to target Burton a bunch, making him a risk/reward TE2 but one who may be able to make a splash in tournaments.
New York Giants at Detroit Lions
Line: DET by 7.0
Daniel Jones: We talked about how the Cardinals would likely be a tougher matchup with Patrick Peterson, though we couldn’t have expected just 10.4 points. Since his debut where he threw for 336 yards and two touchdowns, Jones hasn’t topped 225 yards or one touchdown in the following four games. He’s also thrown seven interceptions over the last four games, so we’re likely to see the Giants dial back the pass attempts until he starts taking care of the football. The Lions opponents average an NFL-high 70.0 plays per game, and that’s the reason they’ve allowed the ninth-most fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks because the per-play production they’ve allowed is solid, including a minimal 58.5 percent completion-rate. One big note here is that they’re likely to be without their top cornerback Darius Slay, who re-injured his hamstring last week. They haven’t been generating a lot of pressure, as they rank 30th in sack-rate, which should also help Jones limit mistakes. We’ve seen every quarterback throw for at least 259 yards against the Lions, with three of them throwing for at least 308 yards, though a lot of that comes down to massive attempts, as just two quarterbacks have averaged more than 7.5 yards per attempt. One important note is that the Lions have not allowed anything on the ground to mobile quarterbacks under Matt Patricia. Jones should be able to post top-20 numbers in this game considering the volume of plays, but his recent performances limit how much we can trust him.
Matthew Stafford: He’s coming off a game in which he threw for 364 yards and four touchdowns against the Vikings, so naturally, we want to look closely at Stafford. Knowing he has a matchup with the Giants, he’s definitely someone you should be considering. Coming into Week 7 against the Cardinals, the Giants had allowed 5-of-6 quarterbacks to post 20.5 or more fantasy points. Murray was just the second quarterback to not finish inside the top-10 against them. In fact, Kyler Murray and Dwayne Haskins (two rookies) were the only two who’ve finished the game against them averaging less than 8.2 yards per attempt. The biggest concern is the lack of pass attempts from the Lions but knowing that Kerryon Johnson is likely to miss this game, some of those concerns do fade into the background. Coming into his Week 7 game where he attempted 45 passes, Stafford had thrown in between 30-34 attempts in each of his previous four games, which is likely the territory he’ll be in this week. The 8.92 yards per attempt the Giants are allowing is behind only the Dolphins, so it’s still very possible Stafford hits the 300-yard mark despite the lack of attempts. The Giants have allowed a 4.63 percent touchdown-rate, but that’ll catch-up before long. There are just five teams who’ve allowed at least 8.40 yards per attempt, and the Giants are the only ones who have allowed less than a 6.52 percent touchdown-rate. Stafford should be in lineups as a high-floor low-end QB1 this week.
Saquon Barkley: He returned to 21 touches last week, so it’s fair to say Barkley is back. He did limp around for a bit, which was definitely concerning, but he was able to play the remainder of the game, so we must assume everything’s okay. The Lions have not been a good run defense this year and they may have gotten a bit worse after defensive tackle Damon Harrison was forced to leave the field with a groin injury last week. Even with him on the field, the Lions have allowed 31.0 PPR points per game to running backs, which ranks as the third-most in the NFL. They’ve been bad across the board and it’s not just volume. They’ve allowed 4.76 yards per carry (7th-most), a touchdown every 20.9 carries (5th-most often), 7.30 yards per target (6th-most), and 10 total touchdowns to running backs (most in NFL). The Lions opponents have also averaged a massive 70.0 plays per game, so there’s plenty of volume to go around, too. It’s why we’ve already seen five different running backs finish as top-12 options against them. Barkley is a locked-and-loaded elite RB1 who’s able to be safely played in cash and tournament lineups.
Ty Johnson and J.D. McKissic: With Kerryon Johnson now on injured reserve, we look to his backups. In his absence, we saw Ty Johnson get 10 carries and four targets, while McKissic was the change-of-pace back getting five carries and three targets. This will be a timeshare against the Giants, a team that had been decent against the run for the most part, though after watching Chase Edmonds walk through their defense, many will want to attack them. The Lions are at home and big favorites, so it should lean into the run-game, too. Prior to that game, the Giants had allowed just four rushing touchdowns through six games, which included matchups against Ezekiel Elliott and Dalvin Cook. Still, knowing that teams average 25.7 carries against the Giants does present plenty of opportunity for Johnson, who appears to be the leader for carries. Because of the amount of carries, we’ve watched the Giants allow at least 108 yards to five of their last six opponents, with the only exception being the Redskins who ran the ball 15 times for just 32 yards. Johnson can be played as a low-end RB2/high-end RB3 who should have a decent floor, while McKissic should be in the mix for 8-10 touches, which can present RB4 value, especially in PPR formats.
Golden Tate: He’s been a favorite of Jones since entering the lineup, amassing 26 targets over three games, though it has helped that Sterling Shepard has been out of the lineup. Tate has been good, totaling six catches in each of the last two games with yardage totals of 102 and 80 yards. He now gets to play against his former team. He’s going to be matching up with Justin Coleman in the slot, a cornerback who’s done a solid job for the Lions this year. He’s allowed just 4.81 yards per target while covering the slot which is among the better marks in football, though the silver lining for Tate is that he’s allowed three touchdown on 37 targets in coverage. Of the top-six performances the Lions have allowed to wide receivers this year, four of them were to slot-heavy receivers, including Larry Fitzgerald, Nelson Agholor, Keenan Allen, and Olabisi Johnson. Wide receiver groups have averaged 24.3 targets per game against the Lions, so knowing that Tate has 26-of-62 receiver targets (41.9 percent) since entering the lineup is pretty big. Keep him in lineups as a solid WR3 whose floor will dip a bit when Shepard returns, though he has the better role for production in this offense.
Darius Slayton: It was odd to see Slayton rank fourth among Giants wide receivers in targets last week, but he did play 68 snaps, so his role isn’t in jeopardy. The Lions are likely to be without Darius Slay, their top cornerback, which means they’ll be starting Rashaan Melvin and Mike Ford in coverage. Melvin has been phenomenal this year, allowing just a 55.3 percent completion-rate in his coverage and has yet to allow a touchdown on 38 targets in coverage. Ford hasn’t seen much action but going back to last year, we saw him allow 28-of-34 passing for 428 yards and a touchdown in his coverage. Slayton is on the fantasy radar, but barely, as he’s presented no stability to this point and hasn’t topped four receptions in any game. You can find better hail-mary options.
Kenny Golladay: Many ran to Twitter or Google to check for an injury with Golladay last week, as he saw just two targets while Jones went off with four touchdowns. The odd part’s that he wasn’t shadowed by Xavier Rhodes. It’s a blip on the radar for a receiver that had seen at least eight targets in every game up to that point, so we don’t want to overreact. The Giants present the perfect bounce-back spot for him, as the Lions should be able to pick and choose where they throw the ball this week. Janoris Jenkins and DeAndre Baker have been torched in coverage for six touchdowns on 75 targets and have allowed a massive 16.3 yards per reception in their coverage. The 10.18 yards per target the Giants have allowed to receivers ranks as the third highest mark in the league, behind only the Falcons and Raiders. Put Golladay back into lineups as a high-end WR2 and expect him to earn your trust back.
Marvin Jones: That’s going to pad the stats a bit, eh? After his four-touchdown performance, Jones currently sits as the No. 16 wide receiver in PPR formats, ahead of his teammate Golladay. That doesn’t even begin to tell the whole story, as his finishes this year are WR55-WR52-WR11-WR33-WR74-WR1. That’s a rather large variety of outcomes, but he’s been outside the top-50 more than he’s been inside the top-30. He has seen at least five targets in each of the last five games, so he should at least be in the WR3/4 conversation most weeks, especially when it’s a good matchup, like the one he has in Week 8 against the Giants. They’ve allowed 10 wide receivers to finish as top-40 options against them, including five of them to finish as top-16 wide receivers, including the Cowboys No. 2 receiver Michael Gallup who tagged them for 7/158/0. The bottom line is that this is no matchup to run from, especially if the Giants decide to shadow Golladay with Janoris Jenkins, though I don’t think that happens. Jones obviously comes with some volatility, but he should be a startable WR3 in this game.
Danny Amendola: There’s been absolutely no in-between for Amendola, as he’s finished with 104-plus yards in two games, and then 37 yards or less in the other two. You want to look at him in projected shootouts and this game does have one of the higher totals on the slate. The Giants have allowed some big performances to slot receviers, too. We’ve seen Julian Edelman total 9/113/0, Randall Cobb 4/69/1, and Cole Beasley 4/83/0 against them, so it’s not a matchup that you have to avoid. The only issue is that both Golladay and Jones have plus-matchups as well, so we have to wonder if there’s enough targets to go around for Amendola to make an impact. That’s the lone concern because there’s definitely none in the matchup against Grant Haley, who’s been horrendous in coverage, allowing an 83.9 percent completion-rate. If you think the Giants can throw points on the board to keep the Lions throwing the ball, Amendola may not be the worst WR5 play.
Evan Engram: You have to wonder if Engram pushed to come back too early from his sprained MCL, as he finished with just one catch for six yards against the horrendous Cardinals defense. We also watched Rhett Ellison find his way into the end zone. We did see Engram as a full participant all week in practice, so we’ll have to chalk it up as just a bad game. The Lions have had a relatively tough schedule against tight ends, playing against Travis Kelce and Zach Ertz early in the year. They’ve yet to allow an explosion to the position, but we have now watched four tight ends finish with at least 58 yards against them, including both Kyle Rudolph and Irv Smith Jr. last week. That was likely the fallout of losing Darius Slay, as well as the Vikings losing Adam Thielen early in the game. Knowing that teams average 70.0 plays and 40.2 pass attempts per game against the Lions, those targets have to go somewhere. Get Engram back into lineups as a solid TE1 with a high floor.
T.J. Hockenson: It’s now been five straight games where Hockenson has failed to record more than 32 yards. While his finishing line of 3/32/0 was not great against the Vikings, it’s worth a bit more knowing that he broke free in the end zone when freelancing on a broken play where Stafford saw him open, but simply underthrew the ball. It would have been a 20-plus-yard touchdown. Hockenson is getting opportunity in this offense, so you have to take the good with the bad, but production is coming if the volume keeps up, especially when his seven red zone targets rank fifth among tight ends. The Giants are another team that’s defended tight ends extremely tough this year, as they’ve allowed just a 57.1 percent completion-rate (the lowest in the NFL), meaning volume would likely be necessary, right? One caveat is that the Giants haven’t really played tough competition this year. The list of tight ends they’ve played is quite ugly, meaning their No. 4 ranking against tight ends may not be a correct represention of their actual ability to defend the position. Here’s the list: Jason Witten (who did score), Dawson Knox, O.J. Howard, Vernon Davis, Kyle Rudolph, Ryan Izzo, and Charles Clay. If you want to play Hockenson as a low-end TE1/high-end TE2, I don’t think this matchup is a reason not to.