The Primer: Week 10 Edition (2019 Fantasy Football)
Miami Dolphins at Indianapolis Colts
Line: IND by 10.0
Ryan Fitzpatrick: Is Fitz Magic back? He’s now thrown five touchdowns over the last two games and has averaged at least 8.0 yards per attempt in two of his last three games. Knowing the lack of run-game for the Dolphins and their incompetent defense, he should be locked into plenty of pass attempts this week. The Colts also happen to be somewhat of a funnel defense, though it’s not a big funnel. They stop the run extremely well, which has led to opponents passing the ball 60.4 percent of the time, which is top-12 in the league. Knowing the Dolphins are now down to Ballage as their starter, Fitzpatrick will be the means of moving the ball. Unfortunately, he lost one of his most targeted wide receivers last week in Preston Williams, whose season is over. The Colts have allowed a 69.3 percent completion-rate this year (5th-highest), which should be expected with the zone-heavy scheme they play. That number was 70.8 percent in 2018 under the same coordinator. Because of that, we’ve seen a lot of competent quarterback performances, though nothing over the top. There have been 5-of-8 quarterbacks who’ve scored at least 15.5 fantasy points, while Marcus Mariota, Mason Rudolph, and Joe Flacco failed to hit the mark. We can likely consider Fitzpatrick as a streamer, as it seems like they’ve flip-flopped the quarterbacks enough to know that Rosen isn’t a game-changer, so he should have a bit more job stability, though it’s an added risk. The other issue is that Colts opponents have averaged just 59.4 plays per game. There’s a lot working against Fitzpatrick here, including the 16.8-point implied team total, but he should be able to net a middling QB2 performance.
Brian Hoyer: Knowing that Brissett has a sprained MCL, it’s very unlikely he plays this week. Adding in the fact that they’re playing the Dolphins, and he’s even more unlikely to play. Because of that, Hoyer will likely get the start. He’s a veteran who stepped in and played admirably against a tough Steelers defense last week, completing 65.4 percent of passes and throwing three touchdowns on just 26 pass attempts. The Steelers had allowed five passing touchdowns over their previous five games. Now onto the Dolphins, a team you don’t need to throw the ball a whole lot against. Quarterbacks have averaged just 30.4 pass attempts per game against them, which is why they’ve allowed the sixth-most fantasy points per game, and not the most. Sam Darnold was the first quarterback who failed to finish as a top-16 quarterback and more than 15.6 fantasy points against them. They’ve allowed multiple passing touchdowns in 7-of-8 games, including to Mason Rudolph and Case Keenum. The biggest detractor from Hoyer would be that he’s without two of the top three wide receivers, as T.Y. Hilton (calf) and Parris Campbell (hand) are both going to be held out. Hoyer should deliver a solid floor, though his ceiling isn’t great. If you’re looking for someone who won’t lose you the week, Hoyer should be able to provide a stable floor as a top-18 option. *Update* Brissett has gotten is some limited practices this week, so they haven’t quite ruled him out. They listed him as questionable, so this should be considered 50/50, at best.
Kalen Ballage: It’s come to this… Ballage is a starting running back during the week there are six teams on bye week. That means there’ll be plenty of owners wondering if he’s worth a spot in lineups. Let’s start by looking at his 35 carries for 70 yards. Sure, he’s had some carries inside the five-yard-line (six) that might drag that down, but he’s averaging just 2.34 yards per carry on other carries. He’s caught just 4-of-12 targets that have come his way for 40 yards. This is going to be the ultimate test of “does volume really matter when you’re a bad running back?” The matchup isn’t great, as the Colts have still yet to allow a 100-yard rusher under Matt Eberflus, and they’ve allowed just three rushing touchdowns all season. It also doesn’t help that Fitzpatrick doesn’t check-down to running backs as much as Rosen does because the Colts do allow plenty of receptions to running backs in their zone-heavy scheme, as evidenced by the 13 receptions that Jaylen Samuels racked-up last week. It was similar last year when they allowed 110 receptions to the position, which ranked as the second-most in the league. He doesn’t break tackles and has a long run of eight yards this year. But, the truth of the matter is that he’s likely going to get 12-plus touches and offer some value during the worst bye week situation of the season. Still, you shouldn’t expect anything more than high-end RB4-type numbers.
Marlon Mack and Nyheim Hines: It hasn’t been the breakout season that many were expecting with Mack, as he’s currently sitting as the RB21 on the season despite being healthy and getting the sixth-most carries in the league. There are nine running backs who’ve seen at least 150 carries, and six of them have scored at least six rushing touchdowns, while Mack sits at just three of them. This is the matchup where he can build on that number and get with the rest of the pack. The Dolphins have faced an average of 27.9 carries per game and have allowed a massive 134.3 rushing yards per game to running backs, which is the highest mark in the league. They’ve only allowed six rushing touchdowns on the year, though we should see a lot of those funnel to Mack with the wide receiver injuries they’re dealing with. He should have a massive week and be in lineups as a solid RB1 this week. Hines could have some value considering the lack of receiving options for Hoyer, though you have to wonder just how much they’ll drop back to pass. Hines did see three of Hoyer’s 26 targets last week, and that was with Parris Campbell in the game. He’s nothing more than an RB4, but you could do worse than him in a pinch against a team that faces over 30 running back touches per game.
DeVante Parker: If you were to remove Parker’s name from all fantasy consideration, he’d be started as a borderline WR2 right now. He’s a top-36 receiver despite already having his bye week and despite his zero points against the Patriots. In every non-Patriots game, he’s totaled at least 56 yards and/or a touchdown. He hasn’t finished worse than the WR32 over the last five games and will now play a Colts team that’s allowed 10 receivers to make it into the top-36 through eight games. They’ve allowed a massive 72.0 percent catch-rate to receviers, which is big for Parker, as it’s his only downfall this year, catching just 53.8 percent of his targets. Volume has been an issue for many receivers against the Colts, as they’ve seen a league-low 125 targets against the Colts this year. Fortunately for Parker, he’s the main show in town with Preston Williams on injured reserve. There have been just five receivers who’ve seen more than six targets against the Colts, and every single one of them finished WR26 or better. Fantasy owners have issues with Parker, but he should’ve earned some sort of trust by now and be in lineups as a WR3.
Allen Hurns, Albert Wilson, and Jakeem Grant: It’s tough to say how the Dolphins will handle the receiving situation behind Parker, though my best guess would be that Hurns moves into Preston Williams‘ role (with fewer targets), while Wilson plays the slot role, though it’s clear they’re going to mix Grant in, who got five targets last week. This is clearly a situation to monitor, but none of them should be considered sturdy options this week knowing the Colts face an average of just 15.6 wide receiver targets per game.
Zach Pascal: What a performance by Pascal last week, as he tallied five catches for 76 yards and a touchdown (18.6 PPR points) against a defense that had not allowed a receiver more than 12.2 PPR points since way back in Week 2. He also did that with backup quarterback Brian Hoyer, so you should have little concerns about the perceived downgrade from Brissett, though it should be noted that two of his six targets did come from Brissett. Still, with T.Y. Hilton and Parris Campbell out of the lineup, Pascal is the clear-cut No. 1 receiver and should be locked into 6-8 targets against a Dolphins defense that’s allowed 9.23 yards per target to wide receivers, including a touchdown every 10.1 targets, while no other team has allowed one less than every 12.3 targets. Pascal should be in lineups as a low-end WR2/high-end WR3.
Deon Cain and Chester Rogers: Once Hoyer came into the game last week, his target share went like this: Rogers 5, Pascal 4, Parris Campbell 4, Doyle 4, Nyheim Hines 3, Ebron 2, Cain 2, and Mo Alie-Cox 1. So, he really favored the short-area, middle of the field receivers, as Rogers, the running backs, and tight ends accounted for 15-of-26 targets. Because of that, Rogers is probably the better option of these two. Still, with so few pass attempts expected, he’s nothing more than a WR4/5-type option.
Mike Gesicki: Since the start of Week 5, here are the leaders in air yards per game among tight ends: Hunter Henry 87.8, Gerald Everett 76.5, Zach Ertz 74.2, Travis Kelce 65.8, Mark Andrews 64.5, and Mike Gesicki 59.8. For those wondering, Evan Engram sits at 53.0, Darren Waller is at 51.5, and George Kittle is at 51.2. It goes to show you the opportunity that Gesicki’s had over the last month. He’s averaged 5.0 targets per game and has totaled at least 41 yards in 3-of-4 games. He’s still yet to score a touchdown in the NFL, but we’re trending in that direction. His target-floor should only rise with Preston Williams out of the lineup and the Colts have been one of the most giving teams to tight ends. They’ve allowed the seventh-most fantasy points to the position, as they’ve allowed seven different tight ends to finish with at least four receptions against them. That provides a solid foundation for a streaming tight end, as evidenced by the nine tight ends that have finished as top-18 options against them. Gesicki belongs in the low-end TE1/high-end TE2 conversation this week.
Eric Ebron and Jack Doyle: Once Hoyer came in the game last week, Doyle saw four targets while Ebron saw two of them. Doyle continues to play more snaps, run more routes, and has now outproduced Ebron in back-to-back games. It’s almost like this makes sense. Ebron hasn’t seen more than five targets all season, and his two targets in Week 9 were a season-low. Nobody will disagree that Ebron has more big-play upside, Doyle is the safer option right now. It’s kind of crazy, but the Dolphins have allowed just one top-12 tight end performance this year, and it was way back in Week 1 to Mark Andrews. Is it because they’re so good against them? No. They’ve allowed a 76 percent completion-rate when targeted (3rd-highest) and 9.06 yards per target (6th-highest). There’s been minimal targets against them, combined with lackluster competition. They actually should’ve allowed a top-five performance to Ryan Griffin last week, but they overturned his touchdown for whatever reason. There isn’t likely to be a lot of volume in the passing game for the Colts, which is always concerning, but Doyle is in the high-end TE2 conversation, while Ebron can be considered, though you must understand your sacrificing floor for upside.
Carolina Panthers at Green Bay Packers
Line: GB by 5.0
Kyle Allen: You have to wonder how Cam Newton going to injured reserve affects Allen. Some quarterbacks play better with pressure on them, while others loosen up a bit when they’re locked-in as the starter. We’ll find out against the Packers, who’ve faded as a defense after a hot start. After allowing just 35 points over the first three games (11.7 per game), they’ve allowed 154 points over their last six games (25.7 per game). They pressured the opposing quarterback an average of 45.9 percent of the time in the first five games, but have averaged just 25.3 percent over the last four games, which is one of the lowest marks in the league. They haven’t been an elite matchup for quarterbacks, though, as just one has finished better than QB10 against them, which has a lot to do with limited volume. Just three quarterbacks have thrown more than 32 passes against them, so when you add in the fact that Allen has topped 34 attempts just once, it’s not a great combination for fantasy football unless he has phenomenal efficiency. It’s fair to say that Allen doesn’t have that while completing less than 57 percent of his passes over three of the last four games. The Panthers simply want him to manage the game and not much else, and that’s held him to 17.3 or less fantasy points in each of his last five games, which included matchups with the Texans and Bucs. It’s not as bad of a matchup as it used to be, but Allen’s not a recommended streaming option.
Aaron Rodgers: Just as it seemed Rodgers and the Matt LaFleur offense had turned the corner, we watched him go back to dud-status in Week 9 against the Chargers. It’s been somewhat feast-or-famine with him this year, as he’s posted 25-plus fantasy points three times, but he’s also scored 14.4 or less on five occasions. This can likely win you a bar bet: Rodgers has finished outside the top-22 quarterbacks more than he’s finished top-10 this year. Still, he’s been a top-12 option in four of the last six games, so we can’t pretend he wasn’t on the right track. The Panthers are the opposite of the Chargers, as their games have net an average of 132.6 plays, the third-highest mark in the league, while the Chargers games net an average of 118.7 plays, the second-lowest in the league. Rodgers will have plenty of opportunity to do what he wants in this matchup. Per Sports Info Solutions, Rodgers has had a 25.0-point higher QB Rating against zone coverage this year, and it was 10.0 points higher in 2018 as well. It would help to know that the Panthers play zone coverage on a league-high 85 percent of snaps then, right? We’ve seen three different quarterbacks throw for 330-plus yards against the Panthers this year, though nobody has thrown for more than two touchdowns. Rodgers at home is usually money in the bank, so combining that with the above factors, he’s a high-end QB1 this week who should bounce back.
Christian McCaffrey: Let’s keep the tally going, shall we? McCaffrey has now finished as the RB9 or better in 15 of his last 17 games played, including nine of them that were top-three. The RB1, no matter what. We haven’t even talked about the fact that he’s about to go against the Packers defense that’s allowed the fifth-most fantasy points to running backs on the season. There have been four running backs who’ve finished with 25-plus PPR points against them, and you’ll like McCaffrey even more when you hear those running backs were Jordan Howard (32.5), Phillip Lindsay (29.0), Dalvin Cook (28.1), and Melvin Gordon (25.9). They’ve allowed a massive 4.89 yards per carry on the season, and have now allowed 10 rushing touchdowns over the last eight games. The way to operate in DFS and the way to justify McCaffrey’s massive price-tag is to go by the 2.5x rule. His DraftKings price is $10,500 would mean he needs 26.3 PPR points to hit value, a number he’s hit in 6-of-8 games this year. Add in the plus matchup and you play him no matter what.
Aaron Jones and Jamaal Williams: The bad news about playing teams who play a slow-paced game is a lack of touches to go around. Knowing the Chargers were slow-paced, we should’ve expected a somewhat disappointing performance from one of the Packers running backs, but who knew it would be Jones? The Packers ran just 50 plays in Week 9, something that shouldn’t happen again in Week 10, as the Panthers opponents have averaged 68.1 plays per game, the second-highest mark in the league (the Chargers opponents have averaged just 57.8 plays per game, the third-lowest mark). Despite the high play-count, running backs have combined to average a mediocre 25.9 touches per game against the Panthers. Why? Well, the efficiency has been off the charts, as they’ve allowed a league-high 1.04 PPR points per opportunity (carries and targets), which is higher than the crazy efficiency the Lions have allowed. There has been just two running backs who’ve totaled more than 14 carries against the Panthers, yet six running backs have totaled at least 15.9 PPR points. Start Jones as an RB1 and expect him to get back in the end zone. Williams should have enough volume here to carry him into the RB3 conversation. Some wonder (I’m looking at you, Dan Harris, my Sunday podcast host) why I’m not higher on Williams, but it’s due to him totaling just 7-10 touches in each of the last three games. That’s Duke Johnson-type touches that’ll suffer when he doesn’t find the end zone. But in Week 10, he’s in the RB3 conversation with all the bye week problems and plus-matchup.
D.J. Moore: It’s clear that he and Allen are now on the same page, as he’s seen 37 targets over the last four games that have netted 25 receptions for 303 yards, though Moore hasn’t found the end zone since way back in Week 3. Moore’s 28 percent target share during that time is massive, though Samuel has slightly edged him in air yards. The Packers are a weird defense to pick up on. They’ve seen the 15th fewest targets (155), allowed the fifth-fewest receptions (88), and the fifth-fewest touchdowns (5) to receivers, but have allowed the eighth-most yards (1,532). The 17.4 yards per reception they’re allowing is easily the highest in the NFL, as no other team is over 15.7 yards per reception. They’ve allowed nine top-36 wide receiver performances this year, and that’s through nine games, so an average of just one per game. This matchup might better suit Samuel’s role, as he’s more of the downfield receiver, but it’s impossible to pass on Moore’s target-share. He should be in lineups as a low-end WR2/high-end WR3.
Curtis Samuel: He now has at least 100 air yards in each of the last three games they’ve played. Do you know how many wide receivers can say they’ve had three straight games like that since Week 5? One. Mike Evans. That’s it. His average depth of target is 16.1 yards down the field, which matches up well with the Packers, who’ve allowed a league-high 17.4 yards per reception. They’ve allowed a league-high 11 passing plays that have gone for 40-plus yards. The Packers have allowed just the eighth-fewest fantasy points per game this year, though the lack of volume is likely the reason. They’ve faced an average of just 17.2 wide receiver targets per game, which is much lower than the 20.5 the Panthers wide receivers have averaged. It’s very top-heavy with Samuel and Moore, so they’re even more appealing in a concentrated offense. His opportunity combined with the weakness of the Packers defense (getting beat deep), and Samuel should be in lineups as a WR3 with upside.
Davante Adams: He saw 11 targets in his first game back, which is always a good thing, even though they amounted to just seven catches, 41 yards, and a WR33 finish. The good news is that he made it through the game setback-free. Can you believe Adams has still yet to score? He’s totaled 419 yards but no touchdowns. Mike Williams and Robert Woods are the only other two receivers over 350 receiving yards without a receiving touchdown. There have been eight wide receivers who’ve totaled seven or more receptions against the Panthers, but just two of them have scored touchdowns. The Panthers had a scare last week with James Bradberry who had to leave the game for excessive cramping last week, but he said he could’ve returned, so we have to believe he’ll be out there this week. He’s the one Adams will see the most of this week, and it’s certainly the toughest matchup on the field for the Packers, as he’s allowed just a 54.5 percent catch-rate in his coverage this year with no touchdowns, though the Panthers are playing much more zone than ever. You’re starting Adams as a WR1 no matter the matchup, but it’s not a matchup you need to target aggressively in cash games.
Geronimo Allison/Allen Lazard: The Packers ran more four wide receiver sets in Week 9, which had Allison and Lazard both running routes in the slot. Allison ran just three more routes than Lazard, so the gap is shrinking between Lazard and the remaining wide receivers. Lazard has now seen 4-5 targets in each of the last four games while Allison has ranged from 0-7 this season while showing absolutely zero consistency. Despite 16 fewer targets, Lazard has just five fewer catches, 12 fewer yards, and one fewer touchdown than Allison. The Panthers have been beaten in the slot on a regular basis, so it’d be good if we had some clarity on the situation, though that’s very unlikely. Knowing Lazard has been working his way into the Rodgers circle of trust, I might be more open to playing him over Allison, though they’re close. There have been six slot-heavy receivers who’ve totaled at least 65 yards against the Panthers, which puts both of them in the WR4 conversation.
Marquez Valdes-Scantling: He was second on the team with 33 snaps in Week 9, but he was targeted just twice and didn’t catch either of them. He seems to be lurking around the 60 percent of snaps mark, and though it’s not the end of the world, his nine targets over the last four weeks kind of are. If not for a 74-yard catch-and-run for a touchdown in Week 7, Valdes-Scantling hasn’t been fantasy relevant since way back in Week 3. He’s been out-targeted 18 to 9 by Allen Lazard over the last four weeks, and rightfully so. There have been 13 wide receivers who’ve hit double-digit PPR points against the Panthers, but 12 of them have seen at least five targets, a number Valdes-Scantling hasn’t seen since Week 4. He’s nothing more than a WR5 in this matchup.
Greg Olsen: Olsen has totaled at least 40 yards in two of the last three games, but he continues to be extremely matchup dependent. Fortunately for him, the Packers have been a somewhat giving team to tight ends this year, allowing 14.4 PPR points per game to the position, which ranks as the eighth-most in the league. They’ve allowed top-12 finishes to five different tight ends, including a 126-yard, two-touchdown outburst to Darren Waller just a few weeks ago. With the struggles they’re having stopping the deep-ball, we could see them hang back a bit and allow Olsen to run free underneath while trying to prevent Curtis Samuel from getting over the top. We’ve seen a wide range of outcomes out of him, so when considering him, you need to understand he has a zero-point fantasy floor. There was a game where he had zero yards, and another he had just five yards. He’s also failed to score in any non-Cardinals game. The odd part is that Olsen’s targets haven’t correlated with Allen’s pass attempts, so even though we expect more passes out of the team, it doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll go to Olsen, who’s a mediocre streaming option.
Jimmy Graham: Between him and Greg Olsen, we might see someone retire mid-game this week. Both are extremely clunky and have been losing appeal as the year’s gone on. Graham has totaled four or five targets in each of the last four games, but he’s failed to top 20 yards in three of them. He had just six air yards last week on his four targets. Six. He simply cannot stretch the field anymore, so you’re left relying on touchdowns for him to be worthy as a streamer. The Panthers have faced just 40 tight end targets all season, so seeing them allow the fourth-fewest yardage and 10th-fewest touchdowns shouldn’t come as a shock. When targeted, they’ve allowed a solid 8.15 yards per target, which is actually above the league average, though they’ve allowed a touchdown every 20.0 targets, which doesn’t mesh well with Graham’s 4-5 targets. The only tight end who totaled at least four catches and more than 20 yards against them was George Kittle. I wouldn’t blame you to shoot for the touchdown potential with Graham, but his floor leaves him in middling TE2 territory. You have to wonder if the Packers take a look at rookie Jace Sternberger here soon, as he was activated off IR last week. It’s just another worrisome factor when considering Graham.
Los Angeles Rams at Pittsburgh Steelers
Line: LAR by 3.5
Jared Goff: Dating back to Week 13 of last year, Goff has thrown exactly 18 touchdowns over his last 16 games. That’s the course of an entire season. It’s not due to a lack of attempts, either, as he’s totaled 600 pass attempts over that time. Many will see two touchdown passes in each of the last two games, but you have to discount the fact that they were against the Falcons and Bengals, two teams that have allowed 30 passing touchdowns over their combined 16 games played. The Steelers have been a brutal matchup for quarterbacks ever since they acquired Minkah Fitzpatrick from the Dolphins, though it didn’t seem like it last week. Even including that three-touchdown game for Brian Hoyer, the Steelers have allowed just 131-of-206 passing (63.6 percent) for 1,346 yards (6.53 yards per attempt) with nine touchdowns and 11 interceptions over their last six games. During that span, no quarterback has finished with more than 17.3 fantasy points or finished better than the QB16. Now, did the bye week help the Rams regroup and get things together? I’m not going to dismiss that possibility, but it seems they may be without Brandin Cooks, and their offensive line may be bottom-five in the NFL. That’s not good against the Steelers pass-rush that has generated a 9.5 percent sack-rate and pressure the quarterback an average of 40.4 percent of the time, the third-highest mark in the league. The one area of the field they do struggle is the slot, which is where Goff has turned to. There are certainly pros and cons to this matchup, but Goff’s struggles haven’t gone unnoticed and they keep him in QB2 territory.
Mason Rudolph: Mike Tomlin came out after the Week 9 game and said, “Rudolph needs to help Rudolph start faster.” That was likely a shot at his unwillingness to throw the ball down the field last week. The Rams are not going to make life easier, as they’re top-10 in pressuring quarterbacks, while the Colts were outside the top-20. The Rams added Jalen Ramsey to the secondary at the trade deadline, boosting them to another level in the secondary, though they did lose both Aqib Talib and Marcus Peters. In the two games with Ramsey, they allowed Matt Ryan and Andy Dalton to combine for just 48-of-79 passing (60.8 percent) for 488 yards (6.18 yards per attempt) with one touchdown. That’s obviously not good for Rudolph, who’s in a much lower tier than those two. He’s not a streaming option in this game and is not an ideal start even in 2QB leagues.
Todd Gurley and Darrell Henderson: The London game against the Bengals got some talking about the possibility that Henderson has carved out a bigger role, but gamescript was a huge factor, and the Rams have openly rested Gurley when they have the opportunity. We also can’t forget about Malcolm Brown who was out of the lineup the last two games. The reason I’m not excited about Henderson is due to the fact that this backfield has combined to average 22.3 touches per game. That’s not nearly enough touches for there to be any sort of successful timeshare, especially when the offensive line isn’t opening many holes. As a team, they’re averaging just 3.96 yards per carry, though the eight rushing touchdowns have propped them up. Add in the fact that they’re going to play the Steelers, and you have yourself a messy situation. They’ve still yet to allow a running back to finish top-16 against them this season. A big part of that is due to the fact that they’ve yet to allow more than 89 yards on the ground and have allowed just four rushing touchdowns all season. It’s not just the 3.84 yards per carry they’ve held running backs to, but they’ve also stunted production through the air, allowing just 1.23 PPR points per target in the passing game, which ranks as the second-lowest mark in the league. There have been six running backs who’ve totaled at least 15 touches, yet none of them finished with more than 13.8 PPR points. Gurley is the only one worth considering and even he is just a middling RB2 in a brutal matchup, though he has scored six times in the last four games.
James Conner and Jaylen Samuels: It seems like the Steelers are planning to have Conner back in the fold this week, so we should too. The Rams have faced six different running backs who’ve carried the ball at least 14 times this year, and all of them have been able to finish as top-20 running backs, which includes Ronald Jones and Joe Mixon. The stats say they’ve allowed the 17th-most fantasy points to running backs, but that number is kind of skewed by Christian McCaffrey‘s 42.9-point performance, as he was the only one to cross the 20-point threshold. The 3.82 yards per carry they allow isn’t very good, nor is the 5.64 yards per target, which means one thing… volume is required. Will the Steelers give Conner a big workload again? He’s been injured off-and-on all year, so they could decide to lighten his load. Still, it’s tough to see a situation where he doesn’t see at least 15 touches with Rudolph under center. He’s a bit riskier coming off injury, leaving him in middling RB2 territory, but if he’s in the lineup, you’re probably playing him. Samuels is a bit tougher to gauge, as we don’t know how heavy he’ll be involved. After seeing 13 targets last week, Rudolph could feel pressure to push the ball down the field a bit more in this game. Some will point to the game in Week 4 and say Samuels had 18 touches in that matchup with Conner in the lineup, but that was against the Bengals, who see over 30 running back touches per game. Samuels should be considered a high-end RB4 who is worth more in PPR formats. If Conner were to be held out, he’d move into the RB2 conversation once again. *Update* Conner has been downgraded to doubtful for this game, so Samuels appears to be the lead back once again. He can be considered a mid-to-low-end RB2 with a decent floor, though you shouldn’t be expecting a performance like last week.
Cooper Kupp: You get your superstar WR1 back in the lineup against the Steelers this week. He’s now finished as a top-10 receiver in four of his last six games. The Steelers have struggled with slot-heavy receivers this year, too. As a team, they’ve allowed 57-of-80 passing for 585 yards and six touchdowns in the slot. Mike Hilton is the primary nickel cornerback, who has personally allowed 18 catches for 178 yards and two touchdowns on 26 targets. The Steelers have yet to allow a 100-yard receiver against them and haven’t allowed one more than 76 yards since way back in Week 1. That’s despite three different receivers seeing 10-plus targets against them, including Tyler Lockett. Kupp is going to be in lineups as a WR1 every week because of what he means to Goff and the offense, though this matchup hasn’t presented a massive ceiling.
Robert Woods: If you were to ask random fantasy players how Woods should be valued the rest of the season, there would be a lot of them who’d tell you he’s a low-end WR2. Well, if you were to go through his games, he’s finished inside the top-24 receivers just once all year. Keep in mind that he ranks 20th in targets among wide receivers and has garnered 12 carries as well. He’s had some bad touchdown luck, though, as he Mike Williams, and Davante Adams are the only receivers with more than 350 yards without a touchdown. The matchup he’ll have this week is Joe Haden, who’s been stationary at LCB, which is where Woods lines up most of the time. He’s allowed 23-of-36 passing in his coverage for 242 yards and two touchdowns, so he’s not unbeatable, but it’s also not a plus-matchup. Zach Pascal was the first receiver since Week 2 who finished with more than 12.2 PPR points against the Steelers, so it’d be odd to expect two Rams receivers to hit that mark, especially with Goff struggling. Knowing Kupp is the clear-cut No. 1 here, Woods should be considered a WR3.
Josh Reynolds: It seems the Rams may be without Brandin Cooks for some time, which means Reynolds will step into the starting lineup. He saw eight targets in Cooks’ relief while against the Bengals, leading many to believe he’s going to be a viable bye week replacement. This is where you should approach with caution, as he’s seen 18 targets on the season, but caught just five of them for 107 yards and a touchdown. It was really hit-or-miss with Reynolds in the starting lineup last year, as he posted 20-plus PPR points twice, while scoring 6.6 or less PPR points three times in six games. You kind of have to play the matchups with him, and this one is not very good. The Steelers have allowed just three top-24 receivers all year, and two of them came from back in Weeks 1 and 2 when Minkah Fitzpatrick wasn’t on the team. He’ll see Steven Nelson in coverage the most, a cornerback who’s allowed just a 53.3 percent catch-rate in his coverage. That doesn’t mesh well with Reynolds’ 27.8 percent catch-rate this year. He’s just a WR4 this week.
JuJu Smith-Schuster: He’s now finished outside the top-60 wide receivers in three of the last five games, highlighting the major issues at quarterback. And now, he gets to go against Jalen Ramsey and the Rams. The good news is that the Rams haven’t had Ramsey travel into the slot with the team, and that’s where Smith-Schuster plays over half the time. The bad news is that Nickell Robey-Coleman is still pretty dang good. He’s allowed just 16 catches for 125 yards and one touchdown in his slot coverage this year, which spans over 30 targets. The Steelers really should be taking a page out of the Bucs gameplan against them, as Smith-Schuster can be used similarly to Chris Godwin, who had a massive game against them, though that was without Ramsey. It’s frustrating to watch Rudolph’s inconsistency in targeting Smith-Schuster as well. Here are his target totals with Rudolph/Hodges: 7-4-7-4-9-5. Going by that, he should be targeted seven-plus times this game. He’s just a WR3 this week and far from a sure thing as the quarterback woes continue. *Update* He popped up on the injury report with a toe injury and is now listed as questionable for this game. This surely doesn’t help you feel better about his matchup.
Diontae Johnson: Similar to Smith-Schuster, Johnson’s dealt with horrendous quarterback play over the last month, leading him to finish with 27 or less yards in 3-of-4 games. The biggest concern is the two targets last week, as he’d had a six-target floor in his games with Rudolph. The Rams have a combination of Jalen Ramsey, Troy Hill, and Nickell Robey-Coleman at cornerback, and the assumption should be that Ramsey takes Smith-Schuster in 2WR sets, while playing sides when he moves into the slot. That means Johnson will see Hill a good portion of the game. After playing like a backup his first four years in the league, Hill has been much better in 2019, allowing just 9-of-21 passing for 100 scoreless yards in his coverage. Those are great marks, though it is a small sample size. One thing we do know is that he’s the best matchup on the field. Johnson cannot be trusted as anything more than a WR4 with Rudolph’s inconsistency.
Gerald Everett: You know the fantasy season has gone haywire when owners can’t wait until Everett comes back from his bye week. It’s been a whirlwind for him this season, as someone who appeared destined for his lackluster role the first three weeks, but since Week 4, Everett has more air yards than any tight end in the league (not including Week 9). Some may wonder why that matters so much. Well, it’s what correlates the most to success at the tight end position. Here are the other leaders since that time: Travis Kelce, Austin Hooper, Zach Ertz, and Mark Andrews. The Steelers have allowed a 71.9 percent catch-rate to the tight end position this year, which is above the league average, and have allowed a touchdown every 11.4 targets. They’ve also allowed four different tight ends to emerge from the game with at least four catches and 45 yards. Everett should be considered a somewhat stable low-end TE1 with upside.
Vance McDonald: Despite taking on a much bigger role this year, McDonald has still yet to top 40 yards in a game. To be fair, he has topped four targets just twice all year, so the targets have been harder to come by, and Nick Vannett has stolen a few here and there. Whatever the case, that means McDonald is a touchdown-or-bust option most weeks. The Rams have allowed three touchdowns on 57 targets to the tight end position this year, which doesn’t leave him with great odds. They have allowed a decent 8.28 yards per target, but you should also know the Rams have had a somewhat difficult schedule against tight ends, too. They’ve played George Kittle, Austin Hooper, and Will Dissly, so it’s not too surprising to see them allow decent numbers. Betting on McDonald takes risk in general, but by playing him, you’re also betting on Rudolph. He’s just a mediocre TE2 option.
Minnesota Vikings at Dallas Cowboys
Line: DAL by 3.0
Kirk Cousins: He may not have played a great game in Week 9 but he got the job done for his fantasy owners, throwing at least three touchdowns for the third time in the last four games. He also threw a season-high 38 times, though that was likely due to the inefficiency (50 percent completion-rate). He’s the No. 4 quarterback in fantasy football over the last five weeks, behind only Deshaun Watson, Russell Wilson, and Aaron Rodgers. He’s now headed into a matchup with the Cowboys, who haven’t provided much of a ceiling for opposing quarterbacks this year. There hasn’t been a single quarterback who has reached 20 fantasy points, and Sam Darnold (weird, right?) was the only one who finished better than the QB12 against them. Darnold was actually the only one who’s averaged more than 7.35 yards per attempt against them, which is an issue for a quarterback that averages just 28.1 pass attempts per game. And it’s not like touchdowns have made up for the lack of yards per attempt, as they’ve allowed just seven passing touchdowns through eight games. The Cowboys have also pressured the opposing quarterback 40-plus percent of the time in four of their last six games, which could create issues for Cousins, who’s been pressured on 40.8 percent of his dropbacks himself. Knowing he’s without Adam Thielen in the nail in the coffin and why he should be considered just a high-end QB2 this week with a low ceiling.
Dak Prescott: Through eight games, Prescott has finished as a top-13 quarterback seven times, a top-nine quarterback five times, and a top-three quarterback twice, though he hasn’t gotten into that top-three since way back in Week 2. The only game he finished outside the top-13 was against the Saints, who’ve turned out to be one of the more underrated defenses. But here are the ranks (against fantasy quarterbacks) of the teams he’s played thus far: 25th, 16th, 27th, 21st, 8th, 19th, 17th, 25th. So, he’s played just one top-15 defense all year. The Vikings are the No. 12 defense in the league, allowing 15.3 fantasy points per game. They are allowing an unusually-high 68.4 percent completion-rate, but they haven’t amounted to much, as the 6.90 yards per attempt ranks as the eighth-lowest mark in the league. There have been three quarterbacks who’ve been able to finish inside the top-18 against the Vikings, and all of them finished with at least 40 pass attempts, a number Prescott has hit in just 2-of-8 games. There have been five quarterbacks who’ve been able to throw at least two touchdowns against them, while the only quarterback(s) who didn’t throw at least one was the Redskins combination of Case Keenum and Dwayne Haskins. The Vikings have allowed just 63 yards on the ground to quarterbacks, which ranks as the third-lowest mark in the league. With the fantasy-floor that Prescott has offered, he still belongs in the QB1 conversation, though he’s definitely on the low-end of that conversation this week.
Dalvin Cook: It was somewhat of a disappointing game for Cook against the leaky Chiefs run defense last week, though he finished as a top-20 back for the ninth straight game. Here’s a weird stat: Cook has yet to have back-to-back games without finishing as a top-five running back this year. Will that stat hold strong against the Cowboys this week? They’ve allowed just one top-12 performance all year and it was to Aaron Jones back in Week 5 when he destroyed them for 182 total yards and four touchdowns. They’ve allowed a mediocre 4.20 yards per carry, which is right around the league average, but have allowed a touchdown every 21.0 carries, which is the fourth-most often in the league. They are coming off an emotional division win over the Giants where they held Saquon Barkley to just 28 yards on 14 carries, but the Cowboys defensive line was continually in the backfield. The Vikings offensive line has been one of the better run-blocking units in football, as Gary Kubiak’s zone-blocking scheme has done wonders for Cook/Alexander Mattison. The Cowboys have allowed just the 16th-most fantasy points to running backs, but they’ve faced just 18.4 carries per game. In the two games they’ve faced more than 22 running back carries, they’ve allowed 224 yards on 49 carries (4.57 yards per carry) and four touchdowns. The Vikings carries by week: 32-25-31-16-31-30-32-36-25. So, it’s safe to say they’re likely going to run the ball and the Cowboys have struggled with volume. Start Cook as a rock-solid RB1 this week and don’t shy away in DFS.
Ezekiel Elliott: Another week gone by and another week where Elliott still doesn’t have a top-three finish this year. Even worse, he saw exactly zero targets last week. It’s upsetting because his passing-game usage had been on the rise, as he totaled 24 targets over the previous four games. He’s still had at least 22 opportunities (carries and targets) in six of the last seven games. He’s going to need those opportunities against the Vikings, who’ve allowed the eighth-fewest PPR points per opportunity (0.76). They’ve allowed just two rushing touchdowns all season, which is the second-lowest mark in the league. The only running back who enjoyed continued success against them was Aaron Jones back in Week 2 when he carried the ball 23 times for 116 yards and a touchdown. While some will point to Damien Williams as a success last week, but a 91-yard touchdown run is what makes his numbers look good. Outside of that carry, he totaled just 34 yards on 11 carries. No running back has totaled more than four receptions against the Vikings either, though they have allowed three receiving touchdowns to running backs. You’re playing Elliott as an RB1 every week, but this is not one where you need to aggressively attack him in DFS.
Stefon Diggs: You have to assume that a lot of the gameplan against the Chiefs involved Adam Thielen, as Diggs was a non-factor in that game, finishing with just four targets, one reception, and four yards. The Cowboys don’t shadow opposing receivers but do bracket them pretty well in their zone-heavy scheme. We’ve seen just four receivers finish with more than 10.8 PPR points against them this year, which is rather absurd. Even the Patriots have allowed five wide receivers to top that mark. In fact, there are just nine other teams who’ve allowed less than 10 of those performances. Still, Diggs without Thielen is very appealing, as he should be locked into eight-plus targets. There have been six receivers who’ve seen such volume against the Cowboys. Here are their numbers: Robby Anderson (23.5), Michael Thomas (18.5), Terry McLaurin (17.2), Jamison Crowder (15.8), Preston Williams (10.8), and Cody Latimer (10.4). You should have Diggs in your lineup as a low-end WR1/high-end WR2, though this matchup hasn’t netted big results.
Olabisi Johnson/Laquon Treadwell: If you haven’t read the above paragraph on Diggs, I’d suggest doing so. The Cowboys are not a matchup to attack wide receivers for a floor-type performance. Even going back to the start of last year, a span of 24 games, the Cowboys have allowed just 20 wide receivers to top 10.8 PPR points against them, which isn’t even in WR3 territory. Even with Thielen out, these two shouldn’t be considered streaming options.
Amari Cooper: We’re lucky Cooper is so darn efficient, as he’s reached double-digit targets just once this year. He’s actually ranks just 17th among receivers in average air yards per game since Week 5. He’s currently the WR9 on the season with 57 targets, while no one else in the top-10 has less than 70 targets. The Vikings secondary isn’t as daunting as it once was, as Xavier Rhodes has been beatable this year. On 45 targets, he’s allowed 38 receptions for 352 yards and three touchdowns. If you watched him try to defend Davante Adams earlier in the year, he was falling all over the field, so Cooper will give him fits as one of the best route runners in the league. You have to wonder if they even try to have him shadow Cooper. Whatever the case, Cooper should be in lineups as he normally is, and you can consider him a decent tournament play this week. *Update* Cooper had an MRI done on his knee this week and though it came back suggesting a “manageable” injury, it’s something we need to monitor. He didn’t practice on Thursday but did get in a limited practice on Friday. He’s listed as questionable and expected to play.
Michael Gallup: After a red-hot start, Gallup has slowed down as of late, finishing with less than 50 yards in three straight games, though he did find the end zone last week, salvaging his fantasy day. The Vikings have not been a scary matchup for wide receivers despite the perception among fantasy owners. The average top-36 fantasy performance (WR3 or better) required 11.7 PPR points in 2018. The Vikings have allowed 13 wide receivers to hit that mark this year, which is more than any team in the league. They’ve allowed just three receivers to score more than 20 PPR points, so the ceiling hasn’t been as high, but the floor should be there for Gallup, as he’ll see Trae Waynes much of the time. He’s allowing a 70 percent catch-rate in his coverage and has allowed a touchdown every 15.0 targets. Gallup has been struggling a bit, but he’s still seen at least six targets in 5-of-6 games. Keep him in lineups as a high-end WR3.
Kyle Rudolph: We’ve seen him become a bigger part of this offense over the last month, totaling 17 targets over the last four games after receiving just nine targets over the first five games. With Thielen out, that should continue, though Irv Smith Jr. will also eat into that share. The Cowboys haven’t been a team you need to avoid, either. They’ve allowed a 72.1 percent completion-rate to tight ends (6th-highest) and 7.69 yards per target (18th-highest), which has netted four top-14 performances against them through eight games. This is the type of contest where you should be able to play Rudolph and expect a three-catch, 30-yard floor with a decent shot at a touchdown with how well Cousins has been playing. That puts him on the streaming radar as a high-end TE2.
Jason Witten: It’s gotten a few laughs on the podcast, but I’ll continue to suggest Witten as a decent streaming option. He’s received at least four targets in every game and has now totaled 20 targets over the last three games. Here are his weekly finishes: 15-7-18-18-22-11-16-8. He may not offer a massive ceiling, but he has a dependable floor. He’s unfortunately going into a matchup with the Vikings, a team that’s allowed the second-fewest fantasy points per target this season. They have faced 86 targets (2nd-most in the league) and allowed 59 receptions (2nd-most), but they’ve amounted to just 6.08 yards per target (4th-fewest) and no touchdowns. They’re the only team remaining who’s yet to allow a touchdown, and it’s impressive considering they’ve played Darren Waller, Austin Hooper, Zach Ertz, Travis Kelce, Evan Engram, and T.J. Hockenson. Witten has shown a solid floor, but allowing the second-fewest fantasy points per target with that competition demands respect, making Witten an unattractive streamer this week. Don’t worry, we’ll come back to him next week.