The Primer: Week 10 Edition (2019 Fantasy Football)
I’d mentioned last week that I wanted to do something different for the intro in Week 10, so here we go. I’ve collected a series of questions from random followers on Twitter, Instagram, and email in sort of an AMA fashion to give you a better idea of who I am outside of football. I’ll come back with another personal story next week that I think most of you will appreciate.
What is your favorite show besides football? This one is relatively easy for me. The Office is the one show I can watch no matter what mood I’m in and no matter what year it is. In fact, it only gets funnier the older I get.
What’s your favorite comfort food? I’m from Chicago, so any answer other than pizza would be incorrect, though I do love Italian beef.
What’s the No. 1 piece of advice you’ll give to your son? The same piece of advice I’ve tried to instill in my daughter, who’s about to turn 17 years old. I try to remind them that they can do anything they put their mind to. It’s going to take a lot of hard work, but anything is possible.
What’s the best compliment you’ve ever gotten? I don’t know if my friend Jason knows it, but he gave me the best compliment I could ever get when he said, “Mike, when you say you’re going to do something, you do it.” That meant the world to me.
I’m getting married in a few weeks. Do you have any advice for the wedding day, honeymoon, or married life? First off, congrats! Anyone who tells you that marriage sucks or talks down the “honeymoon phase” clearly hasn’t married the right person. As for the wedding day, don’t sweat the small stuff. Believe me, you won’t remember any of that years later. It may seem stressful, but it’s really not. Honeymoon, well, you know what to do. Married life is wonderful, but don’t forget to keep lines of communication open and no matter what you’re doing, always ask yourself how it affects your other half. Treat them like no one else can.
What’s the biggest roster move/trade error you’ve ever made in a fantasy season? I traded Antonio Brown for Larry Fitzgerald in a keeper league to my brother-in-law when Brown was on his way up. I liked him quite a bit, but really regretted that move a few months later. I’ve also owned Josh Gordon in a few dynasty leagues. I’m not sure which was worse.
Who do you admire most in the fantasy industry? This is always so tough because I respect so many guys and the work they put in, but I have to go with Sigmund Bloom. I heard his life story on how he became a fantasy analyst on a podcast years ago and it really struck a chord in me about just how short life is. I’m incredibly proud to call him a personal friend now, and one who’s helped guide me through this journey we call life.
Top three bands you’ve yet to see, but must if they were in your area? I’m a huge music guy and listen to many genres of music, so this list might sound a bit diverse. I would love to see Phil Collins because he’s one of the best drummers of all-time and I love almost all his music. Nine Inch Nails because I’ve always heard they put on a killer show. Lastly, I would probably go with Lady Gaga, not because I like pop, but because I would enjoy the theatrics. She also happens to have a beautiful voice when she’s not doing the pop stuff.
What activities do you do to unwind when not hyper-focused on fantasy? I play golf a lot in the offseason, but I think I may take this next season off to finish the novel I’ve worked on for the last two years. Writing a novel is a surreal experience that’s completely different than writing about football. It almost forces you to leave your body and think like someone you’re not.
Thoughts on media asking stupid questions to athletes regarding their competitiveness or how they feel after a loss? This is a double-edged sword. The media has a job to do, but I believe there’s a way to ask certain types of questions without coming across as rude or insensitive. Some don’t know how to toe that line.
What author has been most influential to you? It’s tough to say, though I’m sure I’ll know once I finish my book. There are so many talented writers out there, but I will say that Karin Slaughter is someone I enjoy quite a bit.
Favorite metal band? I don’t consider Korn metal (they’re easily my favorite band), so I’ll go with In Flames.
What’s the best piece of advice you ever got? It’s hard for me to say anything other than my dad’s quote of “you can do anything if you put your mind to it.” But if I had to give another, it would probably be “How people treat you is their karma; How you react is yours.”
What was the first record/cassette/CD you purchased? First record was Michael Jackson’s Thriller album. First cassette was the single of “Rock and Roll Part 2.” First CD was Bush’s Sixteen Stone.
Big fan of the fox body Mustangs as well. Do you prefer hard-top or convertibles? My first one was a 1992 convertible. I’ve owned five fox body Mustangs since that time and none of them have been convertibles, so I’m definitely a hard-top guy, preferably notchback.
Who were the sports figures who influenced you growing up? Michael Jordan was the end-all be-all for me growing up. To this day, my signature still looks like his ‘Michael’ because I practiced it so much. I got into football when Barry Sanders was in his prime, so he was my favorite football player despite being a Bears fan. Frank “The Big Hurt” Thomas was my favorite baseball player.
What are your favorite league settings? 12-team league with 18-man rosters. Start 1QB, 3RB, 4WR, 1TE, 2W/R/T. I’m a fan of making starting lineups as deep as possible, as it separates the skill-gap in owners. There isn’t much separation in standard 12-team leagues with all the information available, so make your opponents dig deeper, or lose the advantage.
Do you ever feel bad if you end up giving fantasy advice that doesn’t work out? This is one of the toughest parts of working in the industry. I understand that emotions flow when losing a fantasy game based on a tough decision, but I try to instill the ‘process over results’ theory to my readers. Some may not believe me, but I legitimately feel worse giving a wrong start/sit answer to a follower than I do about my own lineup. I’m an analyst first, player second. It hurts me just as much as it does you.
A massive thanks to all of you who submitted questions, though I’m sorry I didn’t get to all of them. I’m sure we’ll do something like this again down the road. As always, you can ask me on Twitter @MikeTagliereNFL.
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?
Atlanta Falcons at New Orleans Saints
Line: NO by 12.5
Matt Ryan: He’ll be back under center this week after he was forced to take a game off before their bye week. Fresh off their bye, he’ll get the Saints, a defense that has been trending in the right direction after a rough start. They allowed Deshaun Watson, Jared Goff, and Russell Wilson 21-plus points in each of the first three games but haven’t allowed more than 18 fantasy points in any game since, including holding Dak Prescott, Gardner Minshew, and Kyler Murray to 10.1 or less fantasy points. It’s not volume concerns, as no quarterback has averaged more than 7.6 yards per attempt since Week 3, while 4-of-5 quarterbacks averaged less than 6.8 yards per attempt. But here’s the catch… these teams know each other very well and Ryan was able to notch 374 yards and five touchdowns in the first meeting last year, while totaling 377 yards and two touchdowns in the second meeting. He had two of the top six performances the Saints defense allowed last year, and they had similar personnel. The lack of a run-game for the Falcons, combined with the Saints ability to shut down the run, equals plenty of pass attempts for Ryan, who should be plugged in as a mid-level QB1 in this divisional matchup.
Drew Brees: It was good to see him back in the lineup before the bye week, as it gives plenty of confidence starting him coming out of it. The Falcons might be the worst defense in football right now. Well, that might be an overstatement, but part of the reason it seems that way is because their offense is able to score enough points to keep the opponent’s foot on the throttle. Still, the Falcons defense has allowed a 7.63 percent touchdown-rate and 8.46 yards per attempt on the year, both bottom-five marks in the league. Combining Brees’ ultra-high 75.8 percent completion-rate with the 69.5 percent completion-rate the Falcons are allowing, and you don’t even need more than 30 pass attempts for him to do damage. Speaking of efficient, the last time he played the Falcons, he threw the ball just 28 times for 171 yards and four touchdowns. The only quarterbacks who haven’t finished as top-12 options against the Falcons this year were Kirk Cousins who threw the ball 10 times, and Russell Wilson, who threw the ball 20 times. Even going back to last year, the Falcons have allowed 17 of the last 23 quarterbacks they’ve played to finish as the QB13 or better. In the two full games Brees has played this year, he’s thrown the ball 43 times in each game. Start him as a high-end QB1.
Devonta Freeman: It’s been an uneven year for Freeman, who’s ranged from 10 opportunities (carries and targets) to 22 opportunities in the Falcons offense. The good news is that with Mohamed Sanu out of the offense, he saw eight targets in Week 8, though that was with Matt Schaub under center, and they did throw the ball quite a bit in that game. We don’t know if Ito Smith will return for this game, but if he’s held out again, it would be a big boost for Freeman’s fantasy floor. That’s due to the fact that the Saints don’t allow much of anything on the ground. Through eight games, they’ve allowed just 492 yards and three touchdowns on the ground to running backs. You’d have to go back to 2017 to find the last time they allowed a 100-yard rusher. The best opportunity for production against them is through the air, though even that’s been somewhat dire this year, as they’ve allowed just 32.3 receiving yards per game to running backs. But if Brian Hill is the primary backup to Freeman, he’s not that involved in the passing game, which would give Freeman a higher floor. Even then, the ceiling isn’t great, as there’s yet to be a top-10 running back against them. Freeman should be considered a middling RB2 who gets a bump if Smith remains out. This isn’t a great week to target Freeman in DFS, though. *Update* Smith appears to be out for this week, as he’s dealing with a neck issue.
Alvin Kamara and Latavius Murray: Knowing that Kamara was close to playing before their bye week, we must assume he’s close to 100 percent by now. This backfield will essentially turn back to the one that it’s been the last two years with Kamara/Ingram, though Murray obviously takes the Ingram role. The matchup with the Falcons favors Kamara’s role quite a bit, as they’ve been a team who’s struggled to defend pass-catching running backs under Dan Quinn. While they’ve allowed minimal production through the air this year, that likely has to do with all the success teams have had attacking their secondary. Still, on a per-target basis, the 1.80 PPR points per target the Falcons have allowed is well above average. Last year, they allowed a league-high 243.6 PPR points through the air to running backs, and they allowed just 1.67 PPR points per target, which highlights just how bad they are when facing volume this year. Kamara has played 17 games with Brees since the start of last year and has seen at least five targets in 13 of them. Kamara actually set the record for running back targets against the Falcons last year when he saw 20 of them in their Week 3 matchup. He’s always in lineups as a high-end RB1 and this matchup should leave no doubts. Murray has dominated the last two games, though he’ll return to the lesser part of a timeshare. Fortunately, that should still present scoring opportunities against the Falcons who’ve allowed at least 24 points in each of their last six games, including 37 or more in three of the last four games. The Saints are big home favorites and have a 32-point team-implied total, which makes Murray an attractive RB2/3-type option with a good chance to score.
Julio Jones: It turns out that Jones is pretty good, eh? With Matt Schaub under center, he posted season-highs in both receptions (10) and yardage (152), though it helps that he also saw a season-high 12 targets. This could be the aftermath of the team trading away Mohamed Sanu, as it’s freed up some additional targets. The Saints have used Marshon Lattimore to shadow Jones before, but wound-up switching Lattimore to Ridley after he tore up their other cornerbacks. There have been four receivers who’ve seen double-digit targets against the Saints this year, and all of them were able to post 15-plus PPR points. Jones’ last four games against the Saints have netted (most recent first): 11/147/0, 5/96/0, 7/149/0, and 5/98/0. Clearly, he’s able to be started with confidence despite the tough matchup with Lattimore being a possibility. The two matchups between these teams last year netted 128 points, which leave plenty of room for an explosion. Jones is an elite WR1 with a high floor who can be considered in cash lineups.
Calvin Ridley: The exit of Mohamed Sanu was supposed to bring a higher floor to Ridley, and while his seven targets were solid, he was held to just four catches in the Week 8 game against the Seahawks. He’s topped four catches just twice all season with those games coming against the Eagles and Texans, two of the prime matchups for wide receivers. The Saints haven’t been a prime matchup for receivers, as they’ve been more volume-based production than anything. The 57.1 percent completion-rate they’ve allowed to receviers ranks bottom-six in the NFL, while the 1.69 PPR points per target is in the bottom-half of the league. It does help to know that receivers have averaged 21.3 targets per game against them, as the Falcons receiving corps should be very concentrated to Ridley and Jones. The Saints are likely to let Marshon Lattimore shadow Jones while having Eli Apple cover Ridley. When the two teams met last year (with Apple on the roster), Ridley tallied eight catches for 93 yards and a touchdown, though it’s worth noting he did see a career-high 13 targets in that game. Knowing the Falcons will have trouble moving the ball on the ground, Ridley should have a relatively high target-floor as a low-end WR2.
Russell Gage: If you’re wondering who took over Sanu’s role in the offense, it was Gage who played 75-plus percent of his routes in the slot. The Saints get P.J. Williams back from his two-game suspension this week, but in all honesty, he may be a downgrade from rookie Chauncey Gardner-Johnson. It seems likely the Saints will go back to Williams, but there’s no guarantee. He’s allowed a 117.4 QB Rating in coverage this year, while Gardner-Johnson has stepped in with injuries and allowed just an 83.2 QB Rating. Gage is nothing more than a hail-mary WR5, but it could be a decent matchup if Williams is welcomed back.
Michael Thomas: What in the world is going on with Thomas? He’s like a machine. If you project him for nine targets, he’s likely to wind-up with eight receptions. Why? Dating back to the start of last year, he’s caught 198-of-236 targets for an unbelievable 83.4 percent catch-rate. Just how good is that? Wide receivers as a whole averaged a 63.0 percent catch-rate. Keep in mind that Thomas gets the No. 1 cornerback the majority of time, too. Now he gets the Falcons, a team that’s allowed 41.6 PPR points per game to opposing wide receivers, including 10 top-25 performances through eight games. They may get Desmond Trufant back, who’s missed their last two games due to a hamstring injury, but that’s not going to make a big difference, as he’s allowed five touchdowns on just 19 targets in coverage this year. You’re never contemplating whether to play Thomas in season-long leagues, and there’s no reason you should be avoiding him in DFS this week, either. This is the type of matchup that can break the DFS scoreboard, though we do need the Falcons to be able to hang with them for a bit.
Ted Ginn: With Brees back under center, Ginn is back on the fantasy radar and should be owned in most leagues. Did you know that since Ginn joined the Saints, he’s played 22 full games with Brees, and has finished with 12.2 or more PPR points in 11 of them? Those are WR3 or better marks in precisely half his games. Now on to play the Falcons, a team that’s allowed 41.6 PPR points per game to wide receivers. It’s not just volume, as the 2.26 PPR points per target they’ve allowed is the most in the league. The average top-36 performance in 2018 required 11.7 PPR points. The Falcons have allowed 12 receivers to hit that number, which is tied for the second-most in the NFL. With six teams on bye this week, Ginn is certainly on the WR3 radar.
Austin Hooper: If someone told you two months ago that Travis Kelce, George Kittle, and Zach Ertz were all healthy and hadn’t missed a game, but that Hooper was the TE1 at the halfway point of the season, what would you have told them? That’s precisely where we are, as Hooper is on pace for 104 receptions for 1,182 yards and 10 touchdowns. The matchup with the Saints is not a good one, as there’s been just three starting tight ends who’ve finished as top-12 options against them since the start of last year. They’ve allowed just 9.8 PPR points per game to the position this year, which ranks as one of the top-10, but they have allowed 9.37 yards per target, which is the fourth-highest mark in the league. That typically has the most correlation to success for tight ends, so the matchup might just rely a bit on volume, which Hooper has had while seeing at least five targets in every game, including seven or more in 6-of-8 games. He should be in lineups as a TE1 every week, though this matchup may not be one to aggressively attack in DFS.
Jared Cook: We don’t know if Cook will be ready to go this week, but we’ll treat it as if he will. He’d be coming off a multi-week absence to play against the Falcons, a team that’s been struggling with tight ends to this point. We’ve seen Darren Fells, Zach Ertz, Gerald Everett, and Maxx Williams all finish as top-10 options against them, though three of the four had to score in order to get there. Cook has still yet to have a game with more than 41 yards with the Saints, though he’s played just one full game with Brees at this point. It’s difficult to say the Saints will have to throw the ball a ton in a game they’re favored by nearly two touchdowns, but with the team-implied total of 32 points, there will be touchdowns to be had among their skill-position players. The Falcons defense has been above-average when it comes to defending tight ends outside the touchdown department, so it’s likely touchdown-or-bust for Cook. He’s nothing more than a high-end TE2, though it helps he’s tied to Brees.
Kansas City Chiefs at Tennessee Titans
Line: KC by 4.0
Patrick Mahomes: It seems as if it’s a lock Mahomes returns under center this week, which is good for fantasy owners everywhere. The Titans are a team that’s been tough on quarterbacks when at full strength, but it appears they won’t be at full strength this week. We watched Malcolm Butler break his wrist in last week’s game, which will promote LeShaun Sims into the starting lineup, which is great for the Chiefs receivers. The Titans were also without defensive tackle Jurrell Casey last week, which hurts the run-defense more than anything, but it affects the entire defense. Over the last three weeks, the Titans have allowed Philip Rivers, Jameis Winston, and Kyle Allen to combine for 287.3 yards per game while each of them tossed two touchdowns. Even though Allen threw two touchdowns, he was just the third quarterback who’s failed to score at least 17.4 fantasy points against the Titans, though none have topped 21.3 fantasy points. It was a somewhat similar story last year when there was just one quarterback (Deshaun Watson) who was able to reach 24 fantasy points against them, and it took 70 yards and a touchdown on the ground to do it. This may not be a truly smash spot, but Mahomes should post rock-solid QB1 numbers.
Ryan Tannehill: He’s now completed 71.8 percent of his attempts this year, which is quite remarkable considering he’s not checking down very often. His average depth of target is 9.0 yards down the field, which ranks 10th in the NFL. He threw two interceptions last week, though one of them legitimately bounced off A.J. Brown‘s hands and shouldn’t be used as a detriment to Tannehill. The Chiefs haven’t been as an efficient matchup as some believe, as we’ve seen just three quarterbacks average more than 6.7 yards per attempt against them. They’ve allowed just 7.08 yards per attempt on the year, which ranks as the ninth-lowest mark in football, but the volume they’ve faced (36.0 attempts per game) has allowed some big performances. They’ve allowed just one quarterback to throw for 300 yards (Aaron Rodgers), but have allowed three passing touchdowns on three separate occasions. They’ve also allowed a league-high four rushing touchdowns to quarterbacks. It’s seemingly one thing or another against them, which has allowed 6-of-9 quarterbacks to score 17.6 or more fantasy points. Tannehill showed off his legs last week while rushing for 38 yards and a touchdown, and it might be good to use them here, as the Chiefs have allowed the second-most fantasy points on the ground to quarterbacks. With Mahomes back for the Chiefs, this is likely to be another high-attempt game for Tannehill, who can be considered a high-end QB2 streaming option. He’s now scored at least 19.1 fantasy points in each of his three starts. It surely doesn’t help that he’ll be without Corey Davis, though.
LeSean McCoy and Damien Williams: It would appear that Williams is now the lead back for the Chiefs, though I’m hesitant to automatically declare that considering the volatile nature in Kansas City this year. Here’s a chart of the touches by week:
|Player||Wk 1||Wk 2||Wk 3||Wk 4||Wk 5||Wk 6||Wk 7||Wk 8||Wk 9|
As you can see, there’s been one occasion all year where a Chiefs running back has seen more than 14 touches in a game, and that was way back in Week 1. That’s while their team is 6-3, so it’s not gamescript-related. This is a full-blown timeshare. The Titans haven’t been a team to target on the ground, as they’ve allowed just one running back (Christian McCaffrey) to top 74 yards on the ground against them. Going back to the start of last season with Mike Vrabel, they’ve allowed just 12 rushing touchdowns through 23 games, which is fifth lowest mark in the NFL over that time. They’ve also allowed just three receiving touchdowns to running backs in that span, putting the final tally to 15 running back touchdowns over their last 23 games, which ranks as the second-lowest mark behind only the Patriots. The production through the air has been equally as frustrating with the Chiefs, so it’s best not to rely on Williams for more than low-end RB2 numbers and be happy if he emerges as the clear-cut lead back moving forward. Meanwhile, McCoy is clearly paying the price for his fumble in Week 8 and the good game by Williams in Week 9 all but cements him into the backup role, though he has netted 10-plus touches in 7-of-9 games. Because of that, he remains in the low-end RB3 conversation with all the teams on bye this week. *Update* It appears that defensive tackle Jurrell Casey is likely to be out for this game, while Jeffery Simmons was added to the injury report with a hamstring injury, and linebacker Jayon Brown has been missing practice with a groin injury. This is all good news for the Chiefs running backs.
Derrick Henry: He’s now totaled 80.3 percent of the Titans running back touches this year, so the Titans clearly weren’t lying when they said they were going to ride him this year. Even in a negative gamescript last week, he totaled 16 touches, including three receptions, which tied a season-high. The Chiefs are a good matchup for running backs, as we’ve seen 10 different running backs finish as the RB25 or better against them through nine games. This is similar to last year, as there were 23 different running backs who scored at least 11.1 PPR points against them. So, dating back to the start of last year – a span of 25 games – the Chiefs have allowed 33 running backs to score at least 11.1 PPR points, which is typically good enough to finish as an RB3. We’ve seen five different running backs accumulate 99 or more rushing yards against them, including fellow bruisers Carlos Hyde and Mark Ingram, who are also lightly used in the passing game. The Chiefs have allowed just five runs of 20-plus yards this year, so it’s been consistent production on a per-carry basis. Of the fantasy production against the Chiefs this year, 41.9 percent of it has come via running backs, which is the third highest percentage in the league, behind only the Bengals and Bills. Knowing that each of the last seven Chiefs opponents have run the ball at least 20 times, Henry should be locked into a solid workload and be in lineups as a low-end RB1. He’s not someone you must use in cash considering his lack of involvement in the passing game, but he is a tournament-viable option.
Tyreek Hill: It turns out that Hill doesn’t need Mahomes to produce top-tier numbers, as he’s now produced with Alex Smith and Matt Moore under center. The best part about Moore was that he targeted Hill more than Mahomes typically does. The big-play potential goes through the roof with Mahomes back, though. The Titans are going to be without Malcolm Butler who suffered a broken wrist in Week 9, which means LeShaun Sims will be promoted into the starting lineup. We’re going to see Hill matched up with all three of the Titans cornerbacks in this game, as they play sides, and Hill moves all over the place. Logan Ryan lacks elite speed to hang with Hill and will be burned in the slot, as he was by Parris Campbell back in Week 2 on a drag route for a touchdown. Adoree Jackson is the only one with elite speed, but he’s stationary at LCB, where Hill goes just 25 percent of the time. Hill should be locked into lineups as a WR1 every week and this matchup brings very little concern.
Sammy Watkins: It’s clear that Watkins is a big part of what the Chiefs are trying to accomplish on offense this year, as he’s totaled at least eight targets in 5-of-6 games, including 18 over the last two weeks. There have been 13 wide receivers who’ve totaled at least 61 yards and/or a touchdown against the Titans, which highlights a solid floor for receivers, and it’s surely not going to help matters that they just lost Malcolm Butler to a broken wrist. Butler is far from an elite player, but he’s an upgrade over LeShaun Sims. Watkins is playing in the slot 59 percent of the time, more than anyone on the Chiefs, which means he’ll see Logan Ryan much of the game. Ryan has faced a massive 55 targets in slot coverage this year, allowing 35 receptions for 354 yards and one touchdown. The 6.44 yards per target is not ideal, nor is the one touchdown on 55 targets. The only slot-heavy receiver who totaled more than 10.7 PPR points against the Titans was Mohamed Sanu, who did see 12 targets in their matchup, catching nine of them for 91 yards. It’s not a great matchup for Watkins, but it’s also not brutal with the Titans being shorthanded. He remains in the WR3 conversation with Mahomes back under center, as he can go for 150 yards and two touchdowns at any time. You’ll have to live through the downs, which haven’t been that bad, as he’s yet to finish outside the top-46 receivers in any of his six games played (not including the Colts game where he left on the first drive).
Corey Davis: He remains a frustrating guy to own in fantasy, as we’ve seen glimpses of potential, with a whole lot of mediocrity mixed in. He’s finished as a top-10 receiver twice but has finished WR50 or worse in 6-of-9 games. The Chiefs haven’t been a five-star matchup for receivers this year, either. There’s been just one receiver who’s hit 100 yards against them this year, and that was D.J. Chark way back in Week 1. As a whole unit, they’ve allowed the seventh-fewest points per game to receivers. There’s no shutdown cornerback who shadows, either. The duo of Charvarius Ward and Bashaud Breeland have been solid, including limiting Stefon Diggs to just one catch for four yards last week. Davis will see the most of Breeland most of the time, who is the weaker of the two, though he’s still allowed just a 46.2 percent catch-rate in his coverage this year. The lack of overall production against the Chiefs combined with Davis’ frustrations, it amounts to nothing more than a WR4-type play. Knowing he’s maxed-out at just seven targets this year, his ceiling isn’t even that high. *Update* Davis has missed multiple practices this week with a hip injury and should be considered a major question mark for this game. His official designation is DOUBTFUL.
A.J. Brown: While Davis has maxed-out at seven targets, we’ve seen Brown hit at least that many in 2-of-3 starts with Tannehill under center. Will that change after he let a ball bounce right off his hands and wound-up being intercepted? He played a career-high 50 snaps in Week 9, which is massive considering he’d been stuck at 39 snaps before that game. Unfortunately, the Chiefs haven’t been a point-machine for wide receivers, as they’ve allowed just 28.8 PPR points per game to them as a whole, which ranks as the seventh-best in the league. The 131.6 yards per game they’re allowing to receivers is the fifth-lowest mark in the league. The good news is that the top six performances they’ve allowed have gone to perimeter receivers, which is what Brown is. Still, five of those receivers totaled at least seven targets, so the volume needs to be there. It’s tough saying volume is a lock considering the odd range of targets Brown has seen, ranging from 2-8 over the last five games. The jump in snaps is the biggest thing with Brown, so consider him as the 1A and Davis the 1B, though it’s hard to say either of them is a must-start in this matchup. He’s a WR4 who would benefit if Mahomes can throw points up on the board at a rapid pace. *Update* If Davis is forced to miss the game with his hip injury (seems like he will), Brown would move into WR3 territory with a higher target floor.
Adam Humphries: It seems he’s settled into the 4-6 target range, as that’s what he’s totaled over the last five games. He’s averaged 3.7 receptions for 43.0 yards with Tannehill under center, which is nothing to write home about. He’s still yet to score a touchdown this year on 41 targets, so positive regression should kick in at some point. The Chiefs haven’t been a giving team to slot-heavy receivers this year, though. Through nine games, the biggest game they’ve allowed to one was Dede Westbrook who caught five balls for 30 yards and a touchdown, though even that touchdown was in garbage time. The Chiefs may get slot cornerback Kendall Fuller back this week, who’s missed the last few games with a fractured thumb. He would likely have to play with a club on his hand, though that wouldn’t severely impact anything for Humphries. He’s just a low-upside WR5-type option in this game.
Travis Kelce: We’ve seen Kelce targeted at least eight times in all but one game this year, which is ridiculous volume for a wide receiver, let alone a tight end. He’s on pace for 1,184 yards, which would rank as the 10th-best season all-time, yet it feels hollow for fantasy owners because he’s scored just two touchdowns. With Mahomes back and healthy, that should change. The Titans have allowed a tight end touchdown every 16.0 targets this year, which also doesn’t hurt. They’ve only allowed a 60.9 percent completion-rate to tight ends, which is the third-lowest mark in the league, but the 11.6 yards per reception helps make up for that. The Titans were one of the best defenses in the league against tight ends last year under Vrabel, allowing a league-low 1.41 PPR points per target that included just two touchdowns all year. They have the same personnel on the back-end which just goes to show how volatile touchdowns can be. This isn’t a smash-spot matchup for Kelce, but he’s always going to be a recommended high-end TE1 with his massive target share. You shouldn’t feel the need to spend up this week in cash for him, however.
Jonnu Smith: Without practicing at all last week, it’s unlikely that Delanie Walker is close to returning. Because of that, we’ll assume Smith is the starter once again. The Chiefs had been horrendous against tight ends the past few seasons and it has led many to believe it’s a matchup to attack, but it’s really not in their new scheme they installed this offseason. Sure, the strength of schedule may show they’ve allowed the 11th-most points to the position, but volume has been the biggest reason for that. They’ve faced a league-high 87 targets to the tight end position, which has included seven different tight ends accumulating five or more targets. Despite that, they’ve allowed just two top-10 performances with no tight end finishing with more than 12.9 PPR points. Smith has seen 12 targets over the last two weeks, which certainly puts him on the radar as a potential streamer, but don’t let the name fool you; the Chiefs are a tough matchup for tight ends right now. Smith should be considered a high-end TE2 with the target volume he’s getting with Walker out of the lineup. Stay tuned for updates on Walker. *Update* Walker has been ruled out, and Corey Davis is listed as doubtful, so Smith has streaming appeal with what should be a solid floor.
Baltimore Ravens at Cincinnati Bengals
Line: BAL by 10.0
Lamar Jackson: No matter what your take on Jackson as a quarterback is, you must admit he’s a great fantasy quarterback that just overcame what many couldn’t. He’s now totaled at least 21.3 fantasy points in 7-of-8 games and has finished as a top-six quarterback in all but two games. Now he goes back to play the Bengals, a team he racked up 30.6 fantasy points against back in Week 6. They are a mess on defense and are the only team in the NFL who’s allowed at least 16.3 fantasy points in every game this year. The crazy part is that just one quarterback has thrown the ball more than 33 times against them, so they’re allowing fantasy points in a variety of different ways, including on the ground. Jackson racked up 152 yards and a touchdown on the ground against them in Week 6, while Kyler Murray tallied 93 yards and a touchdown in Week 5. Not to mention, both Gardner Minshew and Josh Allen also totaled more than 45 yards on the ground. Some may worry about the lack of volume in what should be a blowout, but in the three games Jackson has thrown the ball 23 times or less, he’s finished as the QB2, QB6, and QB4. Play him as an elite QB1 with a super-high floor.
Ryan Finley: Of all games Zac Taylor could choose to start Finley, he landed on the one against the Ravens? This defense was swarming all over the place on Sunday night against the Patriots, as they’re now healthy, and the addition of Marcus Peters appears to have put them over the top. After starting out the season in rough shape, the Ravens have now gone four straight games where they’ve held the opposing quarterback to less than 6.6 yards per attempt. In that span, they’ve allowed just three passing touchdowns to the combination of Tom Brady, Russell Wilson, Andy Dalton, and Mason Rudolph. During that time, they’ve held their opponents to just 19.0 points per game. A rookie quarterback playing in his first NFL game against the Ravens? No, thank you.
Mark Ingram and Gus Edwards: And the timeshare rolls on… Ingram has now received 16 or less carries in 7-of-8 games, including four games with just 12-13 carries. That’s not must-start material on most teams, but knowing opponents have to account for Jackson’s rushing prowess, we’re seeing Ingram enjoy maximum efficiency while averaging 5.1 yards per carry on the year. The Bengals held him to 52 yards on 13 carries in their first matchup, though Jackson walked all over them, so you have to assume they’ll change up their defensive game-plan a bit. No matter what they plan for, it may not matter, as teams have had their way with them all year long, as they’ve allowed a robust 4.86 yards per carry, 7.91 yards per target, and 11 total touchdowns to running backs through eight games. That all amounts to the second-most fantasy points allowed to the position. Even if the timeshare persists, like it should, the Bengals face an average of 30.9 running back touches per game. Even with Jackson rushing a lot, we’ve seen the Ravens running backs average a combined 27.4 touches per game. Ingram should net somewhere in-between 14-18 touches and finish as a high-end RB2, at worst. He’s caught at least two passes in five of the last seven games, which does give him a bit of appeal in cash games, though there’s always a chance the Ravens give him a light workload in what should be a blowout. With six teams on bye this week, Edwards could have some emergency flex appeal for fantasy owners with his 6-9 touch role in a great matchup, though it’s only for those in dire need.
Joe Mixon: In relation to the actual opportunity that he’s had this year, Mixon should rank as the RB19 in fantasy football. Instead, he’s the RB36 and will now have a rookie quarterback under center. He ranks 27th among running backs in routes run this year, which is where the biggest problem lies. His offensive line is never going to create a lot of room for him on the ground and the team often falls behind, so he’d need an increase in routes to become a bonafide every-week starter in fantasy. Knowing the Bengals have Giovani Bernard out there more than him in that role, it’s a legitimate concern. The Ravens are not a team to attack with running backs anyway, as they’ve allowed just one running back to top 65 yards on the ground against them, and that was Nick Chubb when they were missing their star defensive tackle Brandon Williams. There’s also been just one running back who’s been able to generate more than three receptions against them, which has led to them allowing the fifth-fewest fantasy points through the air to running backs. You have to assume Finley will check-down to running backs more than Dalton did, which should give Mixon a slight uptick in targets, but there’s likely to be even less scoring opportunities. Mixon is nothing more than a low-upside RB3, even in a week with tons of running backs on bye.
Marquise Brown: He played 39-of-67 snaps in his return to the lineup, though the gameplan revolved around them running the ball. He looked healthy, which is all we can ask for. The Bengals secondary should be back near full health out of their bye week, as Dre Kirkpatrick and William Jackson were both dinged up within the last month. From an efficiency standpoint, the Bengals are among the worst in the NFL at covering wide receivers, as they’ve allowed a massive 10.02 yards per target. The issue is that opposing receivers have combined to average just 16.6 targets per game due to the blowout nature of the games. Because of that, there have been games with just 14, 15, 17, and 17 completions against them. That’s extremely limiting for someone like Brown who has seen just nine targets over the last two games. Brown wasn’t on the field the last time they played each other when Jackson completed 21-of-33 passes for 236 yards, so they didn’t shy away from throwing the ball in that game. Brown has not reached 50 yards since way back in Week 2, so it’s not like the expectations are big or anything, but knowing the big-play potential he offers when on the field puts him in the WR4 conversation, especially knowing he’s the No. 1 receiver on the team. The only game the Bengals didn’t allow at least one top-40 receiver was their game against the Ravens back in Week 6 without Brown.
A.J. Green: He’s back. Unfortunately, we don’t have any clue what type of volume this passing attack will have with Ryan Finley under center, but Green had better be his top priority if he wants to succeed. The Bengals have thrown the ball at least 36 times in every game, and knowing how much they’re struggling to run the ball, it’s likely to be that way even in Finley’s first start. In the Week 6 meeting between the teams, we saw the receivers targeted a rather-high 25 times, though they amounted to just 12 receptions for 148 yards and no touchdowns, and that was with Dalton under center while the Ravens didn’t have Jimmy Smith or Marcus Peters in their secondary (they do now). They did allow solid performances to both Mohamed Sanu and Julian Edelman on Sunday night, but they saw massive volume and had Tom Brady throwing to them. The prior week, they held both D.K. Metcalf and Tyler Lockett to 61 yards or less. It’s probably best to give Green a week to get back into the lineup and ensure Finley is at least competent, but with bye weeks, it’s hard to say he shouldn’t be played as a WR3. *Update* Green didn’t practice on Wednesday after experiencing some soreness and is now considered week-to-week. He’s not playing this week, and it seems like he could/should be shut down for the season.
Auden Tate: Say goodbye to the elite volume he’s been getting with Green out of the lineup. He’d totaled 389 air yards from Week 6-8, which ranked as the third most in football behind only Stefon Diggs and Mike Evans, so the opportunity was there. Since entering the starting lineup, he’s totaled in-between 9.0 and 14.1 PPR points in every game, but with Green back and Finley under center, it’s probably time to forget about the sturdy floor he’s provided. Not just that, but he’ll see a mixture of Marcus Peters and Jimmy Smith in coverage, two cornerbacks who are both above average. There are other options who can provide a safer floor during bye week hell. Tate is nothing more than a low-upside WR4/5 this week. *Update* With Green out for this game, Tate will move back into the volume he was receiving, though the Ravens matchup is still tough enough to keep him in WR4 territory.
Tyler Boyd: With Green out of the lineup, Boyd averaged a ridiculous 10.3 targets per game, which ranks fourth in the NFL behind only Michael Thomas, Cooper Kupp, and Mike Evans. It’s led to just WR21 numbers through eight games, though many will point to the fact that Boyd performed better with Green in the lineup last year. While Green will often see the top-tier cornerback, the matchup doesn’t change for Boyd with Green in the lineup this week, as he’ll see Marlon Humphrey, the cornerback who held him to just 3/10/0 on seven targets in Week 6. The Ravens moved him into the slot with Marcus Peters and Jimmy Smith on the perimeter, and that’s bad news for Boyd. Humphrey has been great in coverage this year, allowing just 24-of-42 passing for 343 yards and two touchdowns while intercepting two passes. The reason Boyd should present a semi-decent floor is due to the area of the field he’s in, as Finley should be looking to get the ball out quickly, and Boyd’s 7.2-yard average depth of target is easily the lowest among receivers. He’s in the WR3 conversation but if you have another option who’s locked into seven-plus targets, Boyd can be benched.
Mark Andrews: The last few weeks haven’t been great for Andrews’ owners, as he tallied just 39 scoreless yards in Week 7, was on bye in Week 8, and then finished with just 21 yards in Week 9. The only part that’s worrisome is the three targets he received in Week 9, as he’d totaled at least seven targets in every prior game. It’s just one game, so we don’t want to take too much from it. The last time they played the Bengals, he tallied six catches for 99 yards on eight targets. Similar to receivers against the Bengals, volume has been an issue. The Bengals have allowed the fifth-fewest points to tight ends this season, but the 9.42 yards per target ranks as the second-highest mark in the league behind only the Cardinals. Knowing that Andrews has seen at least seven targets in 7-of-8 games, he should come with a rock-solid floor in this game. Over the last five weeks, there are just five tight ends averaging at least 60 air yards per game, and Andrews is one of them. Continue plugging him in as a middling TE1.
Tyler Eifert: We don’t know if the Bengals were simply trying to show Eifert off before the trade deadline, but he had a season-high nine targets in their loss to the Rams where he totaled six catches for 74 yards. Now on to play the Ravens again, a team that held him to just two catches for 13 yards in the first matchup, and that was without Green in the lineup, who’ll take a nice chunk of the targets. Week 8 was the first time Eifert topped 27 yards in a game this year, so it’s hard to say we should be excited. The Ravens have allowed just one tight end touchdown on the season, which has propelled them to allow just 1.68 PPR points per target, which is below the league average. With all the injuries they’d dealt with, you would’ve expected more production to the tight end position. They’ve faced an average of just 5.5 targets per game this year, and there’s been just two tight ends to top 34 yards. One was Travis Kelce, and the other was Ricky Seals-Jones, who did it on just three receptions in a backup role. This isn’t a streaming matchup to target, leaving Eifert off the streaming radar.