The Primer: Week 10 Edition (2019 Fantasy Football)
Buffalo Bills at Cleveland Browns
Line: BUF by 2.5
Josh Allen: We’re now halfway through the season and Allen has just one finish better than QB10. He’s been in-between the QB10 and QB15 in 6-of-8 weeks, which does highlight his safe floor, but he’s yet to rush for more than 46 yards. He rushed for 95-plus yards in four of his final six games in 2018, which is how he helped some win fantasy championships. Coincidentally, the Browns have now allowed 7-of-8 quarterbacks finish as the QB15 or better. While they have had a tough slate of quarterbacks, this team is underachieving everywhere. It also helps to see Russell Wilson rush for 31 yards and a touchdown, as well as Lamar Jackson‘s 66 yards on the ground. The Browns do bring pressure, which is something Allen has struggled with this year, as his 55.8 QB Rating under pressure ranks 26th among 36 qualifying quarterbacks. He did do better than expected against the Eagles, who pressure the quarterback more than anyone else in the league, so we have to start asking if Allen has turned a corner in his development. He’s also thrown multiple touchdowns in three of his last four games despite not topping 34 attempts. For now, Allen should be considered a high-floor low-end QB1 in this matchup who’s playing good football as of late.
Baker Mayfield: It’s been a miserable season for the Browns, and it all starts with Mayfield. While the play-calling has been bad, he’s completing just 58.7 percent of his passes while throwing 12 interceptions to just seven touchdowns. So, why should we think everything gets better this week against the Bills, a team that has allowed just five passing touchdowns all season? We shouldn’t. It’s not only touchdown passes, as the Bills have allowed just 6.08 yards per attempt, which ranks as the third-best mark in football behind only the Patriots and 49ers. Going back to the start of last year (a span of 24 games), they’ve allowed just two quarterbacks to finish better than the QB10, and even those quarterbacks didn’t top 22.7 fantasy points. The ceiling is not there in this matchup and there’s nothing suggesting there’s a floor of any kind for Mayfield. He belongs on waiver wires, as there are plenty of other options you should play this week.
Frank Gore and Devin Singletary: Has there been a changing of the guard in Buffalo? It would appear so, as Gore has played just 38-of-121 snaps the last two weeks, while Singletary has played 81 snaps. They’re still giving Gore plenty of work (20 carries), but Singletary has racked up 30 touches over the last two weeks that have netted 189 yards and two touchdowns. Meanwhile, Gore’s 20 touches in that time have netted 49 scoreless yards. Not only have running backs averaged a respectable 27.9 touches per game against the Browns, but they’ve been highly efficient touches. The 4.93 yards per carry they’ve allowed is the second-most in football, while the 7.83 yards per target ranks as the third-highest mark. We’ve seen four different running backs tally 22-plus PPR points in the matchup and Phillip Lindsay probably would’ve been the fifth one had the Broncos run the ball more, as he totaled 15.2 points on just nine touches last week. There’s still some uncertainty with the backfield and you can’t automatically assume that Singletary is an RB2 for the rest of the season, as it seems somewhat unlikely that Gore just fades into oblivion. But if we’re playing the trends and the matchup, Singletary should be played as a low-end RB2 this week. Gore is nothing more than a low-upside RB4, though he did receive three straight (failed) goal-line carries last week.
Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt: Here we go… Many analysts are going to speculate about what this timeshare will look like, but in reality, nobody outside of Freddie Kitchens knows. What we did hear out of Kitchens was that Hunt “will definitely have a role” in the offense. That doesn’t sound minimal to me, but again, it’s just speculation. The Bills are a legitimate defense overall but have not been one to shy away from with running backs. Through eight games, they’ve allowed nine different running backs to rack up 60 or more yards on the ground, including Adrian Peterson, who hit the century-mark last week on just 18 carries. They’ve allowed 4.56 yards per carry on the year, which is a high mark, but they’ve also allowed a rushing touchdown every 24.3 carries, which ranks as the ninth-most often in football. Last year, that number was once every 21.2 carries, which ranked as the second-most often. Clearly, they have issues stopping the run, so the Browns should be sticking with their strong run-game as much as possible. The 23.4 carries per game they’ve averaged ranks 22nd in the NFL, so they haven’t heavily utilized the best part of the offense, which isn’t surprising considering everything else they’ve done with the play-calling. That also limits the touches able to go around between this backfield, though Chubb should be the leader. My best guess for this timeshare would be 65/35 Chubb, which would be about 15 carries for Chubb with a few targets mixed in. That should be enough for him to produce high-end RB2 numbers in a matchup against a Bills team that’s now allowed 42 rushing touchdowns in 40 games under Sean McDermott. As for Hunt, he’s more of a wildcard who could see anywhere from 6-12 touches in a backup role, though it’s important to note he’s as fresh as they come while most players are playing at less than 100 percent at this point in the season. With six teams on their bye week, Hunt is in the RB3/flex conversation with more upside than most in that area of the rankings.
John Brown: We’re now halfway through the season and Brown has totaled at least 9.5 PPR points in every game, including two games with 19-plus PPR points. He’s done all that while scoring just two touchdowns, so there’s room for more. There’s been just one game he’s finished outside of the top-40 receivers, so we already have the floor. The Browns have a healthy secondary now, which clouds the matchup, as both Denzel Ward and Greedy Williams missed multiple games earlier in the year. They did allow Courtland Sutton to finish with 56 yards and a touchdown last week, but if you saw his touchdown grab, that’s not a catch Brown makes. Ward and Williams have combined to allow just 16-of-31 passing for 239 yards and one touchdown in their coverage this year, which is nothing to get excited about. Despite the injuries to Ward and Williams, the Browns have allowed just nine wide receivers to finish as top-36 (WR3 or better) options, or essentially one per game. Brown does line up on Williams’ side of the field much more often than Ward’s, and if you had to choose, that’s the cornerback you’d rather go against, as he’s a rookie who may get outplayed by the veteran. Keep Brown in lineups as a high-end WR3 who could have an explosion in the coming weeks if he starts scoring touchdowns.
Cole Beasley: It’s really odd with the way he’s gotten there, but Beasley has now totaled at least 9.0 PPR points in 7-of-8 games. With the way the year started out, it seemed like Beasley would be more of a yardage guy, as he averaged 6.0 receptions for 61.5 yards over the first four games, but he’s failed to top three catches or 41 yards over the last four weeks. Fortunately, he’s found the end zone in three straight games, keeping his fantasy numbers afloat. The Browns have Eric Murray defending the slot, a converted safety who’s allowed 12-of-17 passing for 132 yards in his coverage, so he’s done a fine job with what they’ve asked of him. The Browns do play zone coverage about 70 percent of the time, so Beasley could try to find soft spots in their coverage. As a whole, the Browns have allowed the seventh-fewest yards to wide receivers. None of the six teams who’ve allowed fewer yardage have allowed more than six touchdowns to wide receivers, while the Browns have allowed nine touchdowns to them, which is likely inflated and due for a bit of regression. Knowing Beasley is due for some touchdown regression himself, this doesn’t look like a great time to target him as anything more than a middling WR4.
Odell Beckham: Believe it or not, five catches for 87 yards against the Broncos is cause for celebration with Beckham. That was the biggest game Chris Harris Jr. has allowed to a wide receiver this year, and he’s covered some very good ones. Now onto a matchup with the Bills, which is another tough one, especially when you find out that they used Tre’Davious White in near shadow coverage last week. He’s their best cornerback and they hadn’t used him to shadow this year, but after seeing them use him that way against Terry McLaurin, you can bet he’ll shadow Beckham. We’ve seen just two wide receivers post numbers better than the WR28 against the Bills, so it’s far from a good matchup, but here’s the silver lining with stud wide receivers. When a team doesn’t have a true No. 1 cornerback, they may bracket that receiver and limit his production. In situations like this, we could see them simply trust White in single-man coverage. Beckham is a superior talent to White, so if he’s truly in one-on-one man coverage, he can win. Knowing DeVante Parker, Auden Tate, and Preston Williams were all able to post 14-plus PPR points against the Bills, you should plug Beckham in as a WR2 this week and hope for the best. The schedule lightens up after this week, making him one of the better buy-lows in fantasy football.
Jarvis Landry: If you were to look at his and Beckham’s numbers side-by-side, you’d get confused. They have the exact same number of targets (67) and touchdowns (1), while Beckham has three more receptions, and 20 more yards. Beckham continues to see the No. 1 cornerback in coverage, which has allowed Landry to be much more efficient this year when compared to his 2018 campaign with the team. The Bills have yet to allow a touchdown in the slot this year, which doesn’t bode well for Landry’s chances to find the end zone for a second-straight week. Taron Johnson is the primary slot defender, who’s allowed just a 62.5 percent completion-rate in his coverage over the first two years of his career, while allowing just 7.3 yards per reception and two touchdowns on 56 targets. There’ve been just four wide receivers who’ve posted top-36 numbers against the Bills this year, so the odds aren’t great for Beckham and Landry. With six teams on their bye week, Landry is still likely going to be in the low-end WR3 conversation, but he’s not an exciting play this week.
Dawson Knox: It’s fair to say the Bills are working their way through their tight end rotation and have nothing set in stone, as we’ve watched Knox run as few as 12 routes over the last five games, and as many as 40 when Tyler Kroft was out of the lineup. He’s still yet to see more than five targets and has just three targets over the last two weeks combined, so he’s far from the streaming conversation. Speaking of the last two weeks, the ball has traveled just 17 yards through the air on his three targets, so it’s not like they’re extremely valuable targets. The Browns have been a very giving defense to tight ends when targeted, though that’s been a rare occasion. They’ve faced just 42 tight end targets through eight games, or 5.3 per game, which has prevented them from allowing massive production, but the 2.35 PPR points per target they’ve allowed is the second-most in football, behind only the Cardinals’ average of 2.40 points. The difference? The Cardinals have faced nearly double the targets (83). Any starting tight end who’s seen more than three targets against them (there’s been four) has finished as a top-eight tight end. Can we safely say Knox will get that? Nope. He’s not the worst emergency option for those in dire need, but he comes with a low floor.
Demetrius Harris: It seems as if Ricky Seals-Jones‘ knee injury is minor, but it could cause him to miss some time (hasn’t practiced this week). Because of that, Harris is the Browns tight end you’re looking at this week. He ran 24 pass routes last week, which ranked 22nd at the position, so he’s out there. Unfortunately, the Bills have not been a great matchup for tight ends, allowing just 6.8 PPR points per game to the position, which ranks as the second-lowest mark in the league. Teams have clearly not felt the need to throw to their tight ends, as they’ve faced just 34 targets on the season, the lowest mark in the league. They’ve allowed just 23 receptions to them, which is less than three receptions per game. They’ve yet to target Harris more than four times in a game, so there’s little reason to think it starts now, even if Seals-Jones is out. He’s not an ideal streaming option.
Arizona Cardinals at Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Line: TB by 5.0
Kyler Murray: Things haven’t been great for Murray as of late, as he’s thrown just seven touchdowns over the last eight games, including zero passing touchdowns in four of the last six games. The offense’s pace has slowed down considerably, which is cutting into his upside. The play counts for the Cardinals this year have been 88-57-75-63-74-69-64-46-56. As you can see, things have trended down as the year’s gone on, and they’re averaging just 55.3 plays per game over the last three weeks. A matchup with the Bucs should help, as their games have netted an average of 134.6 plays per game, which is the highest mark in the league. Meanwhile, the Cardinals’ games have netted 129.6 plays per game, which ranks as the sixth-most in the league. This amounts to great things in fantasy. The Bucs have also allowed 310.3 passing yards and 2.4 passing touchdowns per game this year, which is why they’ve allowed each of the last six quarterbacks they’ve played at least 17.4 fantasy points and a top-14 quarterback finish. Prior to playing Russell Wilson last week, they hadn’t even played a quarterback who’s top-15 in fantasy points. It was not a shock to see Wilson throw for 378 yards and five touchdowns. With how great the Bucs have been against the run, we should see plenty of Murray this week, and the matchup doesn’t even require great efficiency to get the job done, as there’s just three quarterbacks who’ve averaged more than 7.6 yards per attempt against the Bucs. Murray should be started as a sturdy QB1 this week who comes with top-three upside if the efficiency is there.
Jameis Winston: We’ve now watched Winston finish as a top-16 quarterback in six straight weeks, including four top-10 performances in that time. He now heads into a matchup with the Cardinals, who’ve really struggled to contain quarterbacks this year, and as it turns out, their secondary hasn’t really improved with Patrick Peterson; it was just Daniel Jones who made them look that way. There have now been three different quarterbacks who’ve thrown four touchdowns against them, and there’s been another two quarterbacks who threw three of them. The only quarterbacks who failed to throw at least two touchdowns and finish as the QB10 or better were Jones and Russell Wilson. While many might wonder about Wilson and why that happened, you should know that he completed 22-of-28 passes for 240 yards and a touchdown, so it wasn’t due to lack of efficiency. Knowing the Cardinals aren’t exactly a pushover against the run, we should see plenty of pass attempts out of Winston. It also doesn’t hurt that these two teams both rank in the top-six in terms of total plays per game (Bucs games net 134.6 plays, Cardinals 129.6 plays). Knowing the Cardinals have allowed 24 passing touchdowns to just two interceptions, there’s little reason to expect Winston to finish outside of QB1 territory this week. In fact, he’s cash-game viable.
David Johnson and Kenyan Drake: It appears that Johnson may be on track to play this week, though it’s not a certainty just yet. He returned to a light practice on Monday and Kliff Kingsbury said he looked great. The next question is what this backfield will look like with him back on the field. After Kenyan Drake torched the red-hot 49ers defense for 162 total yards and a touchdown, he’s likely carved out a role in the offense. Some may think this is a high-volume offense and that there are enough touches to go around, you may want to reconsider. The Cardinals running backs have combined to average just 22.2 touches per game through nine games, which is one of the lowest marks in the league. Even going back to the last two full games Johnson played, he totaled 38 touches while Edmonds totaled 18 touches, so the timeshare was starting to get much closer than the 68 to 14 split over the first four weeks. Call me crazy, but why would the Cardinals trade a fifth-round draft pick for a player who would play just one game? While Johnson is certainly going to lead the timeshare, the question is: By how much? The Bucs are not a team that’s been friendly to running backs. In fact, they’re the second-worst matchup in the league, as they’ve allowed a total of 15.9 PPR points per game to opposing teams of running backs. Despite playing what’s been one of the toughest schedules when it comes to running backs (Christian McCaffrey twice, Todd Gurley, Alvin Kamara, Chris Carson, Derrick Henry, and Saquon Barkley), they’ve allowed just 3.34 yards per carry and three touchdowns through eight games. They’ve allowed a league-low 0.66 fantasy points per opportunity (carries and targets), so it’s clear that you need to rack up some touches to perform against them. If Johnson returns, he’s just a middling RB2 in this matchup with a limited ceiling. Drake would fall into the RB4 territory as someone you don’t want to start unless it’s completely necessary. If Johnson can’t make it back or is rumored to be on a snap-count, Drake would have much more appeal, so stay tuned for updates. *Update* Johnson has practiced all week and deemed himself 100 percent, so there’s little doubt he plays. There have been reports suggesting the Cardinals will try to get Johnson and Drake on the field at the same time, which does increase Drake’s appeal, though he’s still in flex territory.
Ronald Jones and Peyton Barber: Something happened in Week 9. Jones started the game. Some will write it off as another unpredictable game from a Bucs running back, but Bruce Arians said that Jones has earned the right to start and has been more explosive than Barber. After his 82-yard, one-touchdown performance against the Seahawks, Jones should remain in the lead role. Over nine games, we’ve watched running backs average 28.3 touches per game against the Cardinals. The Bucs have had a timeshare, but this is a number that should allow Jones to hit 15-plus touches rather easily. While the workload has shifted from week-to-week, we’re talking about playing the percentages here. The Cardinals haven’t been a pushover defense on the ground while allowing 4.41 yards per carry, though that’s not shutdown territory. The crazy part is that they’ve allowed just four touchdowns on 213 carries, or one every 53.3 carries, which is a top-five mark in the NFL. Touchdowns are tough to predict but knowing this timeshare of Jones/Barber has combined for just six rushing touchdowns all year, they’re not easy to come by. There have been just five running backs who’ve finished as top-24 options against the Cardinals, and each of them totaled at least 21 touches, which is something we know better than to expect out of this backfield, leaving Jones in the low-end RB2/high-end RB3 conversation, though there’s hope for more. Barber is no longer a decent floor option after totaling a season-low four touches in Week 9 and can safely be dropped.
Christian Kirk: He’s seen at least five targets in every game, including three games with 11 or more targets. The production has been minimal due to the lack of touchdowns but follow the opportunity and fantasy points will follow. The Bucs have been a matchup to target with wide receivers, as they’ve allowed a massive 45.5 PPR points per game to wide receivers, which is the most in the league, and it’s not even close. The closest team is the Raiders who’ve allowed 42.1 PPR points per game. Because of that, there have been 15 receivers who’ve scored 10.8 or more PPR points against them. There’s no other team who’s allowed more than 14 such performances. With Fitzgerald seemingly deteriorating in front of our eyes, Kirk needs to step up and be ‘the guy’ in this offense. We just watched Tyler Lockett have the best game of his career in the slot against them, racking up 13 receptions for 152 yards and two touchdowns. Part of the reason the Bucs are bleeding production is due to cornerback Carlton Davis missing time. He tried coming back in Week 9 but hurt himself in warmups and couldn’t due to his hip injury, so he’s not likely to play here. Kirk is one of the better buy-lows in fantasy football and he might just slam that door shut in Week 10. Play him as a WR2 with upside this week. He should be safe enough to play in cash lineups, too.
Larry Fitzgerald: It’s tough to say what’s happened to Fitzgerald, but he’s become a non-factor over the last three weeks, totaling just 12, 8, and 38 yards in each of those games while seeing a combined 11 targets in those games. The overall volume of the offense is certainly part of the issue, but Fitzgerald went from being a top-36 receiver in each of the first six weeks, to finishing WR45 or worse in each of the last three games. If there’s a team who can help get him back on track, it’s the Bucs, who’ve allowed 12 receivers to make it into the top-36 receivers for that particular week, which amounts to one-and-a-half per week. Vernon Hargreaves is the slot cornerback at this time, a younger cornerback who’s struggled mightily throughout each of his first four seasons in the league. On 54 targets in coverage this year, he’s allowed 40 receptions for 582 yards and two touchdowns, including eight catches for 105 yards in his coverage last week. Fitzgerald is not the high-floor option he used to be, but knowing how good this matchup is, it wouldn’t be shocking to see him pop back into the top-36 receivers this week.
Mike Evans: Since the start of Week 5, Evans has averaged an NFL-high 171.8 air yards per game. What exactly does that mean and is that really a lot? Considering there’s no other wide receiver who’s played at least three games over 132.8 air yards per game in that span, you can say it’s a lot. And what it means is that not only is Evans getting targeted, but he’s getting high-value targets down the field. He’s the one who’ll see Patrick Peterson in coverage the most, though if you watched Thursday night football last week, you know that he didn’t look very good. It could’ve been simply a bad game for him, but he hasn’t been very good since returning from his suspension. On the year, he’s allowed 14-of-17 passing for 204 yards and two touchdowns. That’s over a span of three games. You would have to go back to 2014 to find the last time he allowed more than four touchdowns in his coverage over a full season. While I’m not willing to say he’s a plus-matchup for receivers, I am willing to say that it’s not a matchup you should be concerned about. As a whole, the Cardinals have allowed over a 70 percent catch-rate to receivers. With Evans’ target floor where it is, he should be played as a WR1.
Chris Godwin: It was a down week for Godwin against the Seahawks, though we can’t pretend that seven catches for 61 yards is a bust-like performance; it’s not. We’ve just had it so good with Godwin that the expectations are sky-high. It’s likely going to be Evans seeing the most of Patrick Peterson in this matchup, which would leave Godwin to feast on the duo of Byron Murphy and Tramaine Brock. That duo has combined to allow eight touchdowns on 94 targets in coverage and have generated zero turnovers. When you see every cornerback on the team allowing a 120-plus quarterback rating in their coverage, there might be something wrong with the scheme, Mr. Vance Joseph. Knowing there have been 13 wide receivers who’ve finished as top-35 options against the Cardinals, there’s plenty of room for both receivers to perform this week. Despite his underwhelming performance last week, Godwin remains in the WR1 conversation.
Charles Clay: We traditionally want to target tight ends against the Bucs, but with Clay, we really don’t. Not only has he not been targeted more than three times in a game (that happened just once) but Maxx Williams has seen just as many targets. It’s a situation to avoid, even in a great matchup with the Bucs.
O.J. Howard and Cameron Brate: Now that it’s been three weeks since he last played a game, we should probably expect Howard to be ready for this game. Considering they didn’t trade him at the trade deadline, we must think they value him more than they’ve used him to this point. Brate might be less likely to play after being pulled from Week 9 in the first quarter with a rib injury, though he did get in a full practice on Wednesday. Through nine games, the Cardinals have allowed seven different tight ends finish as top-10 options, including six of them to finish as top-three options with 18-plus PPR points. The only team who didn’t have a top-10 tight end was the Bengals, and you can make the argument they should’ve, as Tyler Eifert dropped a touchdown pass. They’ve allowed an average of 22.1 PPR points per game to the position, which isn’t just volume, either, as they’re allowing a league-high 2.40 points per target. It’s been frustrating with Howard this year, but he’s someone you should highly consider streaming this week as a low-end TE1.
Detroit Lions at Chicago Bears
Line: CHI by 3.0
Matthew Stafford: I’m not sure many realize it, but Stafford has finished as the QB7 or better in 5-of-8 games this year, including four of the last five games. Will a divisional matchup with the Bears change that? The Bears are surely not the powerhouse they were a year ago on defense, though much of that rests on the run defense. Their secondary has still played well, as they haven’t allowed a top-12 quarterback performance yet this year. Oddly enough, the most yards per attempt they allowed was 7.72, and that was on the Monday night game against the Redskins where Keenum racked up 332 yards and two touchdowns on 43 pass attempts. Stafford has played against this unit at its best in 2018 when he completed 53-of-80 passes for 510 yards two touchdowns and four interceptions over the span of two games. Stafford finished as the QB18 and QB30 in those games, though he wasn’t playing nearly as well as he’s been in 2019. The lack of run-game has really allowed Stafford to flourish, but the area the Bears are most vulnerable without defensive tackle Akiem Hicks is the run. Stafford has been pressured on 37.5 percent of his dropbacks, which ranks as the ninth-most among quarterbacks, while the Bears have lacked a pass-rush as of late. They’ve pressured the opposing quarterback more than 37.5 percent of the time just once all season, and it was back in Week 4. Still, we haven’t seen it result to big fantasy numbers for opposing quarterbacks, and that’s despite five different quarterbacks hitting at least 36 pass attempts. Stafford is red-hot, but this matchup is not. He should be considered just a middling QB2 this week. *Update* Stafford has been ruled OUT for this game.
Mitch Trubisky: So much for Trubisky being useful in a plus-matchup against the Eagles. He’s returning home to play the Lions, a team that he played extremely well against last year while completing 23-of-30 passes for 355 yards and three touchdowns. It was his second-biggest game of the year, as he scored 36.0 fantasy points in that game. Fast-forward a year and you cannot play him confidently even though the Lions have been struggling more than ever. They’ve now allowed 12 passing touchdowns in four games since their bye week, and each quarterback they’ve played has thrown for at least 283 yards while finishing as a top-12 option. They did get Darius Slay back last week from his hamstring injury, which is pretty huge, as he’ll be the one following Robinson around. The biggest problem for the Lions has been a lack of pressure, as they’ve generated a sack on just 4.3 percent of dropbacks, though the Bears offensive line has been pretty giving over the past three games, allowing Trubisky to be sacked nine times. In the end, you need to see Trubisky string together two good games in a row before even thinking about him in fantasy. He’s more of a tournament DFS play at this point who’ll have minimal ownership in a good matchup.
Ty Johnson and J.D. McKissic: This backfield didn’t get any clearer in Week 9, though Johnson and McKissic did combine for 19 touches. It looks to be a two-headed backfield at the moment, which is better than the three-headed one with Tra Carson. Many see the Bears on the schedule and want to run the other way, but since losing defensive tackle Akiem Hicks to injured reserve, they’ve been struggling. Over the last four games, they’ve allowed 442 yards on 105 carries (4.21 yards per carry) with seven rushing touchdowns. They had allowed just five rushing touchdowns over their previous 20 games. Hicks makes a huge difference. But here’s the thing… there have been five running backs who’ve scored 15-plus PPR points against them this year, and each of them totaled at least 16 touches, something we can’t predict out of this backfield, though Johnson should be the one who has a shot. His 12 touches in Week 9 were a step in the right direction, though it was in a tough matchup with the Raiders run defense. With how much the Bears have struggled to sustain drives on offense, opposing running backs have averaged 29.8 touches per game against them, which is one of the higher marks of the season. It might seem crazy that Johnson is in-play for a potential RB2 performance, but he’s the logical choice here. Consider him a high-end RB3 who is a great bye week filler. McKissic is essentially the Duke Johnson of this offense, as he’s been capped at just seven touches this year. He has some burst as a change-of-pace back but shouldn’t be relied upon for more than RB4 production in PPR formats.
David Montgomery and Tarik Cohen: Ever since Matt Nagy said, “I know we need to run the ball more, I’m not an idiot,” the Bears have given Montgomery a massive 48 touches over the last two games. He’s totaled 16 or more touches in five of the last seven games, so we have a clear-cut workhorse in him. The issue has been the offense in general, which can only improve from here, so seeing Montgomery tally 47.3 PPR points over the last two weeks is very promising. The Lions happen to be a great matchup, too. They’ve now allowed nine different running backs to tally 14.6 or more PPR points against them, including seven 20-plus point performances, which is the most in the NFL. In fact, no other team has allowed more than five such performances. Despite not catching any passes Josh Jacobs was able to tally 24.0 PPR points in Week 9 against them. It’s not just volume, either, as they’ve allowed 1.00 PPR points per opportunity (carries and targets), which ranks as the second-highest number in the league, so efficiency is there, too. When you get a workhorse running back tied to 20-plus touches in what’s one of the best matchups in football, you play him no matter what. Montgomery is in the low-end RB1 conversation this week. Cohen has been getting 2-5 carries per game but has struggled on them, which also helps you feel a bit more comfortable about Montgomery. Cohen is also struggling with drops, as he’s had four of them on the year, including two ugly drops versus the Eagles last week. He’s scored just one touchdown all year and has yet to top 12.9 PPR points, so he hasn’t offered a floor or ceiling in fantasy this year. He’s nothing more than an RB4 moving forward, but with six teams on bye, you’re likely stuck playing him in the RB3/flex range. It does help to know that the Lions have allowed a league-high 8.0 yards per target to running backs.
Kenny Golladay: He’s now posted 120-plus yards in three of his last four games while Stafford has caught fire. There’s been just one game all season where he’s totaled less than seven targets, so everything appears to be great for Golladay as he heads into the Week 10 matchup with the Bears. The issue is that Golladay is doing a lot of damage down the field, averaging 18.3 yards per reception, while the Bears have allowed just 10.97 yards per reception to wide receivers this year, which ranks third-best in the league. Seeing Golladay have just two games with more than five receptions can be problematic if he has to dink-and-dunk his way to production. The Bears have also allowed just three touchdowns on the season to wide receivers, which is also the third-lowest mark in the league. Golladay will see the most of Prince Amukamara, who has been tight in coverage close to the line of scrimmage, but he has allowed two 45-plus yard plays in his coverage this year as he lacks elite speed. You’re starting Golladay and hoping for that big play, though he’s more of a middling WR2 this week than the WR1 he’s been over the last month. It should be noted that he posted 6/78/1 and 5/90/0 against the Bears last year, which were two of the bigger performances they allowed to a receiver.
Marvin Jones: It seemed like it was going to be a 200-yard game for Jones last week, though things died down a bit in the second-half. Still, he now has 77-plus yards in four of his last six games. Unfortunately, there’s a low floor in between those games, as he’s finished with just 17 and 22 yards in the other two games. His targets are also a bit more volatile than Golladay’s, seeing five or less targets on four separate occasions. Despite the Bears defense not being what it once was, their secondary has still been very limiting to wide receivers, as they’ve allowed just six top-36 performances on the season. Every one of the receivers who made it into startable territory saw at least seven targets and caught at least six passes. The Bears have allowed just 20 pass-plays that have netted 20-plus yards, which ranks as the fifth-lowest mark in football. Jones totaled just three catches for 55 scoreless yards in the meeting between the two teams last year. He’s too hot to bench right now, so you must live with the weak performances in order to get the big ones. Unfortunately, this doesn’t look like one of the big ones, making him a low-end WR3.
Danny Amendola: Despite Stafford throwing for 406 yards against the Raiders, Amendola was a major disappointment in a plus-matchup, finishing with just three catches for 29 yards. I’ll admit it… I was skeptical of the Buster Skrine signing for the Bears, but he’s been the least of their concerns this year. We’re now at the halfway point in the season and the biggest performance he’s allowed to a slot-heavy receiver has been 7/53/0, and that was to Keenan Allen two weeks back. As a whole, Skrine has allowed just a 61.4 percent catch-rate in his coverage and 8.1 yards per reception. There are clearly going to be times where Amendola makes a surprise performance, but this doesn’t seem like one of them.
Allen Robinson: After totaling at least seven targets in each of the first seven games, Robinson curiously saw just five targets in a plus-matchup against the Eagles. Even then, he was only able to tally one catch for six yards. He’s still someone who’s been able to generate at least 11.2 PPR points and finish as a top-40 receiver in 6-of-8 games, so we shouldn’t consider this a major dock to his fantasy floor. The Lions are likely to have Darius Slay in coverage this week, which is certainly concerning. Many will see that Robinson tallied 6/133/2 against the Lions in Soldier Field last year, but what they may not know is that Slay was out for that game. He returned for the Week 12 matchup where he held Robinson to just 2/37/0, though that game was with Chase Daniel under center (he was a downgrade last year). Slay has allowed just 15 receptions for 216 yards and one touchdown in his coverage this year, which spans over 26 targets. This is not a great matchup, but knowing what Robinson brings to the table and what he means to the offense, he should remain in lineups as a high-end WR3.
Anthony Miller: The warning signs were there with Miller last week, though I don’t think anyone would’ve predicted a zero-catch game. After seeing 16 targets in Weeks 5 and 7, Miller has returned to the abyss where he’s seen just four targets over the last two weeks. He’s not on the fantasy radar right now, and it’s a shame because Justin Coleman has been allowing some touchdowns in his coverage this year. He’s now allowed four touchdowns on 50 slot targets, which is a rather high number, and a league-high in the slot. He’s only allowed 6.02 yards per target in the slot, so it’s been primarily touchdowns doing the damage. Miller would’ve been someone to play in this matchup last year, but you can’t trust him with Trubisky as anything more than a WR5.
Taylor Gabriel: He’s actually totaled 53-plus yards in three of this last four games, but it’s hardly trustworthy, as most of his production comes on big plays. His 53-yard catch last week should’ve been a touchdown, but he turned the wrong way after the catch and went right into a defender. Knowing his targets range from 2-7 is a horrendous range to look at for a streamer, unless you’re betting on a big play. The Lions have allowed 38 passing plays that have gone for 20-plus yards, which is the third-most in the NFL, and Robinson will be covered by Darius Slay, so there’s a chance Gabriel hits on that big play, as he should net a few more targets. He’s a boom-or-bust WR5-type option.
T.J. Hockenson: He was finally able to eclipse 32 yards in Week 9. It was the first time that happened since his NFL debut in Week 1, though three catches for 56 yards isn’t anything to get overly excited about, either. The Bears have been a tough matchup against tight ends, regardless of what Zach Ertz did to them last week. He was just the second tight end to record more than 49 yards against them over their last 24 games. The two tight ends who did hit that mark were Ertz and George Kittle, who both recorded at least 11 targets. Hockenson has received at least five targets in three of his last four games, but he’s not getting into the double-digits. There have been eight different tight ends who’ve totaled at least 30 yards against the Bears this year, including five of them with four or more receptions. It should be a decent floor game for Hockenson, but the ceiling is limited to touchdowns only. Knowing the lack of streaming options available, he’s still in the high-end TE2 conversation.
Trey Burton: You’d think that with Trubisky struggling, Matt Nagy might give him some confidence-building throws to Burton or Miller in the slot, but that hasn’t been the case. Burton hasn’t seen more than four targets in a game all season and finished with a season-low one target in Week 9. He’s far off the streaming radar right now, and even a matchup with the Lions who’ve allowed 9.26 yards per target (5th-most in the league) can’t help. To be fair, the Lions have had one of the hardest schedules against tight ends to this point, as they’ve played Travis Kelce, Evan Engram, Zach Ertz, and Darren Waller, so we should expect their numbers to be somewhat inflated. Burton needs Trubisky to play competently and get targets in order to be considered, though neither of which are happening right now.
New York Giants at New York Jets
Line: NYG by 2.5
Daniel Jones: Since his debut when he threw two touchdowns and no interceptions against the Bucs, Jones has thrown just nine touchdowns and eight interceptions over the last six games. He’s also fumbled an absurd 10 times this year, losing eight of them. He’s also failed to score more than 12.3 fantasy points in five of his last six games, which makes him a scary proposition as a streamer. The Jets have really struggled to defend the pass over the last two weeks, allowing Gardner Minshew and Ryan Fitzpatrick to combine for 46-of-70 passing for 567 yards and three touchdowns without a single interception. On the heels of a loss to the Dolphins, there are two scenarios that can take place. The first one: They come back motivated to bounce-back after being embarrassed against a winless team. The second one: They’ve actually given up on the season. After trading away defensive lineman Leonard Williams, they generated pressure on Ryan Fitzpatrick just 21.4 percent of the time, which is ridiculously low. Meanwhile, Jones has been pressured on 44 percent of his dropbacks, which is the highest mark in the league. He’s posted just a 65.1 QB Rating under pressure, compared to a 93.8 QB Rating when kept clean, so it’d be big if the Giants can protect him against this weakened Jets pass-rush that’s only generated a sack on 4.1 percent of dropbacks (ranks 3rd-worst in the league). Knowing the Jets recent struggles, Jones may seem like a decent streaming option for those in dire need, but his struggles keep him in middling QB2 territory.
Sam Darnold: We may have overestimated the inability of the Jets offensive line last week. The Dolphins hadn’t pressured a quarterback more than 34 percent of the time coming into Week 9, but somehow, the Jets offensive line allowed Darnold to be pressured 44.2 percent of the time. After playing the lowly Dolphins, Darnold gets the next-best thing… the Giants. Against non-rookie quarterbacks, no quarterback has finished with less than 20.5 fantasy points against the Giants. The 8.92 yards per attempt they’ve allowed is the highest mark in football, as Kyler Murray and Dwayne Haskins were the only two quarterbacks who failed to average at least 7.3 yards per attempt. The question is whether the Jets offensive line can hold off the team that’s generated pressure a league-worst 28.5 percent of the time. Darnold is struggling under pressure right now, which is why that’s such a big deal. His 44.7 QB Rating under pressure is the third-worst mark in the league. It feels like a very similar situation to last week with Darnold, who I felt confident in as a high-end QB2, so I should probably shake off last week’s dud, but it’s impossible with the way he’s played. He should be a top-15 quarterback play this week, but understand the risk associated with all Jets players.
Saquon Barkley: He’s still yet to finish as a top-three running back in any game, and we’re now past the halfway point of the season. The offensive line hasn’t been able to generate much room to operate and he’s not breaking long runs every game like he did last year. On 87 carries, he has just three that have gone for 15-plus yards, or one every 29.0 carries. That mark was once every 13.1 carries in 2018. For as dysfunctional as the Jets are, they’ve allowed just one team of running backs to accumulate more than 90 yards on the ground, and that was to the Cowboys, who netted just 118 yards on 31 carries (3.81 yards per carry). All-in-all, they’ve allowed a league-low 3.22 yards per carry. So, unless Barkley breaks a long run, he’s likely to struggle on the ground once again this week. The good news, however, is that there have been five running backs who’ve totaled more than 15 touches against the Jets, and every one of them finished as a top-10 running back, including Rex Burkhead. There have been eight running backs who’ve racked-up four-plus receptions against the Jets, including seven receptions to both Leonard Fournette and James White. Even though Barkley’s played just six games this year, he ranks top-10 in routes run among running backs. Keep him plugged in as a high-floor RB1 who comes with big-play potential similar to Tyreek Hill every week, though we haven’t seen it in a little while, making him a good tournament play.
Le’Veon Bell: He’s someone to pay attention to as the week goes on, as he required an MRI on his knee after the Week 9 loss to the Dolphins. He’s now failed to finish better than the RB10 in six straight games and has actually been the RB18 or worse in five of them. The good news is that he’s seen 14 targets over the last two weeks, but the fact remains that he’s scored just twice all year. The Giants are one of just five teams who’ve already allowed 1,000-plus rushing yards, though volume is a big part of it, as teams are averaging 25.4 carries per game against them. Knowing Bell has averaged just 3.3 yards per carry on the year, carries don’t mean all that much to his owners. Teams haven’t had to target their running backs a whole lot against the Giants, but when they do, they’ve been efficient, averaging 7.49 yards per target, which ranks as the sixth-highest mark in the league. For as bad as the Giants have been, they’ve allowed just three top-12 running back performances this year. Provided Bell is able to play in this game, you have to play him as a high-end RB2 considering the 20-touch lock, but we can no longer get excited about good matchups with him. His handcuff appears to be Bilal Powell right now, as he’s out-snapped Ty Montgomery in each of the last two games. *Update* He’s listed as questionable, but is expected to play.
Golden Tate: It doesn’t seem like Sterling Shepard will be back any time soon, allowing Tate to keep his high target-floor he’s enjoyed over the last month. He’s averaging 9.0 targets per game over the last month, and his 36 targets in that span ranks behind only Julian Edelman, Deandre Hopkins, and Mike Evans. The Jets haven’t been very giving to slot receivers this year, including Edelman who saw 22 targets in two games against them, combining for 14 receptions, 109 yards, and a touchdown. Brian Poole has been a solid offseason acquisition, allowing just 25-of-38 passing for 194 scoreless yards in his coverage. That amounts to just 5.11 yards per target, one of the better marks among slot cornerbacks. Similarly used Cole Beasley saw nine targets against them and finished with five catches for 40 yards, while Jarvis Landry saw seven targets and finished with three catches for 32 yards. This isn’t a great matchup for Tate, but given his target-floor, he’s in WR3 consideration.
Darius Slayton: Even with Sterling Shepard out of the lineup, we can’t get Slayton locked into five targets, as that’s a number he’s fallen short of in two of the last four games. Of the 13 wide receivers who’ve posted double-digit PPR points against the Jets, 12 of them saw at least six targets, a number Slayton has hit just once this year. He also has just one game with more than three receptions, so it’s essentially touchdown-or-bust for him. Knowing Daniel Jones has thrown just one touchdown in five of the last six games, it’s not a good bet. The Jets are not very good on the perimeter with Darryl Roberts and Nate Hairston, but knowing Slayton’s floor, he’s nothing more than a WR4/5. *Update* He should receive more opportunity with Evan Engram out for this game, moving him up the ranks a bit.
Robby Anderson: If we can’t get production out of Anderson against the Dolphins, when can we trust him? He’s finished better than the WR42 just once all season and has actually been outside the top-50 receivers in 6-of-8 games. The Giants are one of the best matchups in football, as were the Dolphins. If you can believe it, the Giants have been even worse than the Dolphins against wide receivers. They’re allowing a ridiculous 10.17 yards per target to receivers this year. Just how bad is that? Here are the top-five receivers in fantasy with their yards per target: Michael Thomas 9.8, Mike Evans 10.1, Tyler Lockett 10.7, Chris Godwin 10.8, and Cooper Kupp 9.1. So, the average production the Giants allow to just any wide receiver is better than three of the top five receivers in fantasy. There have been 14 wide receivers who’ve finished as top-40 options against them. If there’s ever a chance to play Anderson, it’s this game.
Demaryius Thomas: After Thomas had averaged 6.8 targets per game with the Jets through his first four games with the team, he’d naturally see just three targets against the Dolphins. It was a great matchup but to no one’s surprise, the Jets gameplan was not very good. After that performance (or lack thereof), it’s going to be impossible to trust him in what is an even better matchup in Week 10 against the Giants. If Janoris Jenkins were to shadow anyone, it’d be Anderson, which means Thomas would match-up with rookie DeAndre Baker most of the time, who may be the worst starting cornerback in football this year. He’s allowed a ridiculous 13.0 yards per target in his coverage with a touchdown every 6.9 targets. The seven touchdowns he’s allowed are the most in football. Had Thomas at least been competent last week, he would’ve been a fantastic streaming option, though it’s tough to say he’s more than a WR4 here.
Jamison Crowder: He had five catches for 70 yards in the first quarter, so to see him wind-up with just eight catches for 83 yards is a bit of a letdown. Still, he was the one Jets receiver who didn’t completely disappoint. The Giants do run a zone-heavy scheme on defense, which is something Darnold has played better against this year, and Crowder gives him some confidence-building throws with his 7.9-yard average depth of target. The Giants have also been beaten quite regularly in the slot this year, as four different slot-heavy receivers have posted 12.0 or more PPR points against them. The Giants made a change in the slot last week, going with sixth-round rookie Corey Ballentine who allowed 4-of-6 passing for 28 yards in his coverage against the Cowboys. Randall Cobb would’ve had a touchdown if not for it being called back for a holding penalty. Crowder should be a solid WR3 play this week with a decent floor.
Evan Engram (OUT): There hasn’t been a game this year where Engram has seen less than five targets, which is one of the best floors in fantasy football. With Sterling Shepard seemingly out for the foreseeable future, the targets should keep flowing. The Jets are coming off a game where they allowed Mike Gesicki go for a career-high six catches for 95 yards, and it was the third time this year they’ve allowed five-plus catches to a tight end. This was a horrendous matchup for tight ends last year but moving to Gregg Williams as the defensive play-caller has clearly made it better. There are just three tight ends who’ve played against them who are even considered on a weekly basis (Zach Ertz, Mike Gesicki, and Jason Witten), and they’ve combined for 16 receptions, 209 yards, and one touchdown on 20 targets. Jamal Adams is one of the best safeties in the game but he’s only one man in a giant scheme. Engram is a weekly plug-and-play TE1 option and this week should be no different. *Update* Engram is dealing with a mid-foot sprain and in a walking boot. He’s already been ruled out. Rhett Ellison is not worthy of streaming in this matchup.
Chris Herndon: Well, he was active last week, but didn’t play a single snap. He was reportedly dressed for emergency-only, as the Jets were struggling to have enough healthy players for the 46-man roster on game day. With Ryan Griffin playing a fairly big role, the notes here can apply to him if Herndon doesn’t suit up. The Giants have allowed just the eighth-fewest fantasy points to tight ends this year, though much of that is due to a lack of volume. Tight ends have averaged just 5.2 targets per game against them, which is one of the lowest marks in the league. From an efficiency standpoint, they’ve allowed 7.83 yards per target and a touchdown every 15.7 targets, which are both around the league average. After watching 37-year-old Jason Witten tally eight catches for 58 yards on nine targets, we shouldn’t be too afraid of this matchup. The issue is that even if Herndon is active, we don’t know if it’ll be a timeshare as they ease him back in. Knowing he’s coming back from a multi-week injury, it would make sense, especially when you factor in how well Griffin has played. Best case scenario is that Herndon is out so we can consider Griffin as a high-end TE2. *Update* Herndon has practiced on a limited basis all week, leading to more questions. He’s officially questionable.