The Primer: Week 12 Edition (2019 Fantasy Football)
Remember when your league mates used to show up for your fantasy draft with a magazine that was outdated by a full month? You know who I’m talking about, the guy who would stop at the local Walgreens and pick up that magazine without doing any offseason research. He’d then proceed to talk smack about all the picks being made, telling everyone he was straight-up stealing the players. Those were good times.
The internet has transformed the way we’re able to get information, but there’s something that happened in fantasy football a little over five years ago that destroyed part of the game for me. You see, I was the type of owner who knew which players were on every roster. I knew the strengths and weaknesses of every team in the league. If I got a text message from a friend asking me what I wanted for Player X, I knew exactly who I’d target on their team.
I made trades as quick as possible. You want to make a deal? Go to your computer and click ‘accept’ right now. I didn’t want them to have time to go talk to other owners. I didn’t want them to have time to research why I was willing to make the deal. The longer they waited, the more likely the deal would never happen. So many of the trades I made came back to bite the other owners in the butt. In fact, one of the owners in the league actually named his team “DON’T TRADE WITH MIKE T” to warn other owners of what had happened in the past.
Then that thing happened.
Yahoo introduced trade (bleeping) evaluators. No longer could I swipe a player in a trade that their owner was devaluing due to a recent performance. No longer could I get a player who’d be promoted into the starting lineup due to injury. Why? Because they “have to look and see what the evaluator says.”
The only time you can take advantage of this is if you disagree with those who set the projections. Are there some advantages that can be had in there? Sure, but it’s minimal. The only time you’re able to clearly win a trade is by making a trade before the projections have caught up to the news, and even then, you’ll be looked at like a “shady” league mate because you took advantage of the situation.
There are few advantages to be had in fantasy football nowadays. This was one of them for those of us who were on the ball. I’d like to start a petition to ban trade evaluators. Okay, maybe it doesn’t have to be that harsh. Put them behind paywalls. At least force someone who puts no time into their research pay for something that could prevent them from doing something stupid. I HATE TRADE EVALUATORS. Now who’s with me?
In case you’ve missed it, I’ve been going back into The Primer on Saturday morning trying to update you on the injury reports that impact your decisions. While I cannot write a whole new article, I do talk about a lot of these things on our Sunday morning livestream, which is FREE to everyone. It’s where I discuss all the latest injury news and then take your questions live from 11-12am EST. Click here to be taken to our YouTube page where you can get notifications when we go live.
If you’re new around these parts, here’s what you can expect out of this article each and every week: numbers, facts, stats, opinions, and some shenanigans here and there. It’s my unbiased opinion about everyone on your roster. Whether it be season-long advice, DFS advice, wide receiver/cornerback matchups, or snap counts, it’s all covered. The idea here is to give you as much information as possible and give you as much confidence as possible when you hit that ‘submit lineup’ button each week. Who should be in your lineup this week?
Miami Dolphins at Cleveland Browns
Line: CLE by 10.5
Ryan Fitzpatrick: He was able to surpass the 300-yard barrier last week against the Bills, which was the first time all season, but it was also the second straight game he failed to throw a touchdown pass. He caught a break this week when we found out that defensive tackle Larry Ogunjobi would be out for this week, and defensive end Myles Garrett would be out for the season. Both of those will result in a slowed-down Browns pass-rush. They’ve allowed at least two touchdowns to every quarterback not named Luke Falk or Mason Rudolph, including Jared Goff. There is an asterisk next to his performance though, as the Browns were without both starting cornerbacks in that game. Still, allowing 8-of-10 quarterbacks to finish top-15 against you with Garrett and Ogunjobi, there’s clearly a hole in the defensive scheme. On top of that, safety Morgan Burnett is out for the season after suffering a torn Achilles last week. We can’t forget about the fact that Fitzpatrick can get pulled for Josh Rosen at any point, which bakes in some additional risk, but he can be considered a middling QB2 this week who should offer a solid floor.
Baker Mayfield: The game against the Steelers started out well for Mayfield, though the play-calling turned very safe, very quickly. Still, it was his biggest fantasy game of the year. He’s now thrown two touchdowns in back-to-back games, something he hadn’t done once through the first eight games. There wasn’t a better time for him to do it, either, as fantasy players may have come confidence to stick him into lineups against the Dolphins. Like the Browns, they’ve allowed at least two passing touchdowns in 8-of-10 games this year with the only exceptions being Brian Hoyer and Sam Darnold. The craziest part is that they’ve allowed that despite seeing 36 or less attempts in each of those eight games. The Dolphins have played better since Week 6, holding 4-of-6 quarterbacks to less than 7.0 yards per attempt, but is it the competition? They’ve played Case Keenum, Josh Allen (twice), Mason Rudolph, Sam Darnold, and Brian Hoyer during that stretch. Allen is the only one of note and he finished as a top-eight quarterback on both occasions. It seems very likely the Browns will deploy a run-heavy approach in this game, but Mayfield should provide a stable floor as his team has a 27.5-point implied total. He may have started out the season extremely weak, but he could finish strong. He should be considered a high-end QB2 this week.
Kalen Ballage and Patrick Laird: Of the hundreds of running backs who’ve totaled at least 60 carries in a season post-merger era, Ballage’s 1.91 yards per carry would rank dead last. The closest to him was Deji Karim who averaged 2.06 yards per carry in 2011. Outside of those two, no one else with 60-plus carries has finished averaging less than 2.25 yards per carry. It’s not just that, either. Ballage has totaled just 50 yards on 22 targets. Of all the running backs who’ve seen 20-plus targets in a season, Ballage’s 2.27 yards per target ranks as the 11th-worst mark since they started tracking targets. Whew. The matchup against the Browns hasn’t been one you need to target in fantasy, as they’ve allowed just four running backs to finish top-18 against them. They’re middle-of-the-pack in a lot of ways (yards per carry, yards per target, points per opportunity), though it does help Ballage’s case that the Browns will be without both Larry Ogunjobi and Myles Garrett on the defensive line. But with the Dolphins being on the road as a double-digit underdog, that’s not a recipe for success with what might be the most inefficient running back in the post-merger era. Ballage can help fill a bye week void, but he’s nothing more than a low-end RB3 with a lackluster ceiling. It seems like Laird is the primary pass-catcher, hauling in all six targets for 51 yards last week. He had more yards on six targets last week than Ballage has had on 22 targets this year. If you’re looking for an emergency RB4 off the waiver wire, Laird should be able to help fill a void in your lineup.
Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt: The timeshare continued in Week 11, as Chubb essentially handled the early-down work while Hunt is acting as the third-down back, as well as a lining up as a receiver at times. The bad news for Chubb is that it’s lowered his weekly floor, as he needs to score with limited work in the passing game. Fortunately, the matchup with the Dolphins should offer plenty of opportunities. They’ve now faced an average of 32.1 running back touches per game, which is one of the highest marks in football. They’ve only allowed six rushing touchdowns, which is quite remarkable, as they’ve faced 276 carries on the year, which amounts to one every 46 carries. Is it because they’re stout up front? Doubtful. They simply don’t have the talent. Eventually, the touchdowns will shift from the air to the run. In a home game as a double-digit favorite against a team that’s allowed five different 100-yard rushers, you’re playing Chubb as a high-end RB1. He’s someone who’s due for some positive touchdown regression, too, as he’s one of just three running backs who’ve tallied 1,000 rushing yards, yet he’s scored just six rushing touchdowns, while the other two running backs have totaled 11 apiece. Hunt is clearly going to be involved, as he’s totaled 27 opportunities in his first two games with the team, including 17 targets. The Dolphins have allowed a league-high 2.00 fantasy points per target to running backs. There should be enough work to go around for Hunt to touch the ball 10-12 times in this game and can be started as a middling RB3 with his efficiency.
DeVante Parker: He just continues to produce and now has 55 yards and/or a touchdown in 9-of-10 games this season with the only exception being his matchup with the Patriots and Stephon Gilmore. I said it last week, but if you were to remove Parker’s name from his production this year, he’d be started as a WR2 nearly every week. The matchup with the Browns shouldn’t scare you off him, as they’ve allowed 13 different wide receivers to finish as the WR40 or better with double-digit PPR points. They were missing Denzel Ward and Greedy Williams for a few games, which surely didn’t help. Parker moves around the formation, so he’ll see a mixture of everyone, though his primary matchup will be against Ward, who’s been solid this year, allowing 15-of-39 passing for 238 yards and one touchdown in his coverage. But when you have a wide receiver who’s averaging 8.3 targets per game when Fitzpatrick plays, you have to ride the waves. After posting 135 yards in a brutal matchup with Tre’Davious White last week, Parker has earned the right to be started as a WR3 even in tough matchups.
Allen Hurns: He’s the clear-cut No. 2 receiver who’s taken over in the Preston Williams role, though he’s received somewhat reduced targets. His snaps have amounted to 10 targets for six catches and 85 yards. Hurns will see Greedy Williams much of the time this week, a rookie cornerback who’s been solid, though beatable at times. The Browns have allowed just six receivers to total more than four receptions against them, which kind of takes the wind out of Hurns’ sails, as he hasn’t been a deep threat with the Dolphins with a long catch of just 27 yards. He’s not the worst WR5 option in deeper leagues, but you can likely find better streamers with higher ceilings.
Albert Wilson/Jakeem Grant: Some may ask about these two considering their production/target share, but the truth is that they’re sharing a role. Grant is the one continually outproducing Wilson, but we did see Wilson tally a season-high six targets in Week 11. The Browns have allowed multiple receiving touchdowns to three different receivers this year, with two of them being slot-heavy receivers, though both of them saw 11-plus targets. It’s impossible to start either of these receivers with any confidence, though Grant remains the more efficient one.
Odell Beckham: We seemed like we were on a path to a monster game with Beckham, who burned Steven Nelson for a 43-yard touchdown, though upon review, they ruled him down at the half-yard-line. The good news is that Mayfield is starting to throw touchdowns and it’s only a matter of time before we get an explosion from Beckham. The Dolphins lost their best cornerback Xavien Howard a few weeks ago, and though many were surprised with the lack of production out of the Jets and Colts receivers, John Brown was able to remind everyone they’re still horrendous on the back end. He was the eighth wide receiver they allowed to finish as a top-10 option against them this season. Think about it… Beckham will match up with Nik Needham and Ken Crawley this week. If Beckham can’t explode in this matchup, it may never happen. Lock him into lineups as a WR1 this week. Heck, play him in cash if you’d like.
Jarvis Landry: He’s now scored in three straight weeks and has totaled 40 targets over the last four weeks, so Landry is here to stay. He’s likely reached his upside as a low-end WR2 this year, but with his target share (24 percent), he should remain in the top-30 receivers, especially if Mayfield continues to improve. The Dolphins are obviously going to present the ‘revenge game’ narrative for Landry, who was with them before signing with the Browns last year. It also doesn’t hurt that they’ve struggled to defend the slot, allowing 722 yards and eight touchdowns on 87 slot targets this year. That’s between all pass-catchers. A touchdown every 10.9 targets is about as bad as it gets. They’re mixing and matching players in that secondary, so he’ll likely see a combination of Eric Rowe and Jomal Wiltz in coverage. The only concern is a run-heavy gameplan for the Browns. Receivers have averaged just 17.9 targets per game against the Dolphins due to lack of competition, but fortunately for Landry, the Browns targets are very concentrated to him and Beckham. He should be in lineups as a high-end WR3 at this point.
Mike Gesicki: The targets remain intact for Gesicki who’s now seen six targets in three straight games, something that’s hard to find at tight end. It at least presents somewhat of a decent floor from week-to-week, though he’s failed to reach 30 yards in three of his last four games. The Browns have been a matchup to aggressively attack with tight ends who get targets, though. They’ve allowed the 19th most fantasy points to the tight end position, which isn’t great, but it’s all about the volume. When targeted, tight ends are averaging 8.64 yards and 2.08 PPR points per target, which are both top-five numbers. Of the six tight ends who saw more than three targets against the Browns, five of them finished top-16, with four of them finishing top-eight. They also just lost safety Morgan Burnett for the season, which surely won’t help. Gesicki is on the streaming radar as a high-end TE2 this week.
David Njoku: It seems like we could get Njoku back in Week 12, which is great news for those who’ve suffered while streaming the position. We don’t know for sure just yet, so stay tuned for updates on his status. Teams have averaged just 31.5 pass attempts per game against the Dolphins, which has limited the volume to many skill-position players, though tight ends have seen a respectable 7.1 targets per game in their matchups. Those targets have amounted to 8.32 yards a pop, which is the seventh-highest mark in the league, though they’ve only allowed three touchdowns all year, keeping the overall points allowed minimal. Despite the lack of touchdowns, there’ve been five tight ends who’ve finished top-14 against them, which is streaming territory. I’d prefer a week of Njoku back in the lineup before fully trusting him, but if you missed out on some of the other prime tight end targets on the waiver wire, Njoku is absolutely worth picking up. He gets the Cardinals in Week 15. *Update* He won’t play in Week 12, though the expectation is that he’ll be ready next week.
Detroit Lions at Washington Redskins
Line: DET by 3.0
Matthew Stafford: The Lions know they’re not making the playoffs, right? Because of that, it’s hard to see Stafford take the field any time soon when we hear Ian Rapoport’s report that this could be a six-week injury. Because of that, we’ll prepare for Driskel, who’s played admirably in Stafford’s absence. Sure, Sam Darnold just threw for 293 yards and four touchdowns against the Redskins, but that was somewhat shocking considering the Redskins had played better pass defense as of late. Even including that game, the Redskins have allowed the third-fewest fantasy points overall to quarterbacks, running backs, wide receivers, and tight ends over the last four weeks. That includes just 11.8 fantasy points per game to quarterbacks. The combination of Ryan Fitzpatrick, Jimmy Garoppolo, Kirk Cousins, and Josh Allen had thrown for a combined two touchdowns against them in Weeks 6-9. They are who we thought they were? The fact remains that every starting quarterback has averaged at least 7.2 yards per attempt when playing the Redskins, which is pretty crazy entering Week 12. The lack of attempts is what’s killed some quarterbacks against them, as they’ve faced just 31.4 pass attempts per game, which ranks as the fifth-lowest mark in football. Fortunately for Driskel, the Lions don’t have much of a run-game, though he did throw just 26 pass attempts against the Cowboys last week. The Redskins do allow a league-high 71.7 percent completion-rate and a 6.05 percent touchdown-rate, which ranks as the fifth-highest mark in the league. Bottom line, Driskel should offer a stable floor in this matchup, but may not present a massive ceiling due to lack of competition on the other side of the field. He’s a middling QB2 this week. *Update* Stafford has officially been ruled out.
Dwayne Haskins: If there were a week to even contemplate Haskins, it would’ve been against the Jets. He completed just 54.3 percent of his passes, and while the stat sheet shows two touchdowns, he relied on Guice to do major work after the catch on one, and completely underthrew Sprinkle on the other one, though he was able to make a diving play. In the end, it wasn’t a great day for Haskins. The Lions have been a great matchup for quarterbacks, allowing 18 passing touchdowns over their last six games, including at least two touchdowns to every quarterback. They’ve allowed the third-most fantasy points through the air this year, as not many of the points they’ve allowed to quarterbacks have been on the ground. That’s good for the pocket-passer Haskins who offers almost nothing on the ground. Oddly enough, Philip Rivers was the only quarterback to not finish top-12 against the Lions this year, which includes Mitch Trubisky, Derek Carr, and Daniel Jones. Every quarterback has thrown for at least 293 yards and/or two touchdowns. We could see a performance similar to last week’s from Haskins, but betting on him to shine might be a mistake. He can be played in 2QB formats, but I wouldn’t trust him to stream in standard leagues.
Bo Scarbrough, Ty Johnson, and J.D. McKissic: Just toss some names in a hat and guess which one will lead the team in touches this week. In all seriousness, Scarbrough played well in Week 11 but he offers little-to-nothing in the passing game. Here’s a chart of the touches each game since Kerryon Johnson went down:
There is no continuity to that chart, outside of the fact that McKissic will see 4-7 touches per game unless someone has to leave injured. We must assume Scarbrough has carved out the early-down role, which carries some value, but there’s been no running back with less than 16 carries who’s topped 67 yards on the ground against the Redskins. They have faced a massive 27.9 carries per game, which is the most in the NFL, while the Lions average just 23.1 per game. Another downside to Scarbrough is that the Redskins have allowed a rushing touchdown once every 39.9 carries, which is one of the better marks in the NFL. Teams have averaged a massive 66.1 plays per game against the Redskins, so we should see enough work to go around, but the timeshare prevents us from truly trusting anyone. Scarbrough looks like a low-end RB3 who’ll need to find the end zone to hit double-digit PPR points. McKissic offers a stable floor for those who play in PPR leagues but is just a weak RB4. Johnson is not someone to trust and can safely be dropped in most formats.
Adrian Peterson and Derrius Guice: Who would’ve thought that the first time Bill Callahan would abandon the run would be the game he got Guice back in the lineup. As expected, Peterson and Guice crush each other’s touch upside, as they’re both going to get work. Peterson out-touched Guice 11 to 8, but Guice is the one who broke a long play for a touchdown. It’s also ugly to see Wendell Smallwood lead this backfield with three targets. We should assume that Guice’s role grows with time and could be a 50/50 split this week. It’s a big opportunity, as the Lions have allowed more fantasy points per opportunity than any other team in the NFL. They’ve allowed 1.02 fantasy points per opportunity (carry or target), which includes 4.34 yards per carry, 8.09 yards per target, and 17 total touchdowns to the running back position. There have been four running backs who’ve scored multiple touchdowns against them this year. We’ve watched 13 different running backs finish as top-24 options against the Lions this year, including a top-16 running back in 9-of-10 games. The only team who failed to have a top-16 running back was the Eagles, who split the workload between Miles Sanders (RB22) and Jordan Howard (RB32). They should be able to run the ball a bit more often in this matchup, though Guice is the one with more juice in his legs right now. Guice can be played as an RB3 with upside for more should his role grow, like it should. Peterson is moving more towards the Frank Gore-type role where he could still see 15 carries, though he doesn’t offer much big-play upside. He’s still in the low-end RB3 conversation this week.
Kenny Golladay: He’s been the most impacted by Driskel under center, as he’s tallied a team-high 14 targets, but has netted just four receptions for 91 yards and a touchdown in the two games combined. Should we be concerned? Well, it’s a small sample size and both matchups were tough, so you shouldn’t go off the deep end with Golladay. This week, however, the matchup is pristine. Some may see that the Redskins rank 16th against wide receivers and think, “huh?” but the Redskins have allowed a massive 2.11 PPR points per target to wide receivers. The only team that’s worse is the Giants. So, if you’re targeted, you’re likely producing. Josh Norman continues to be a shell of his former self, allowing a 133.1 QB Rating in his coverage, which ranks as the second-worst mark in football of the 93 cornerbacks who’ve seen at least 25 targets in coverage. You should be slotting Golladay back into lineups as a low-end WR2 and hoping for a bounce-back. If he doesn’t produce here, there’ll be concern.
Marvin Jones: Does he want Stafford to come back? I’m kidding, of course he does. But Jones has been uber-efficient with Driskel, catching 9-of-11 targets for 120 yards and two touchdowns in two brutal matchups against the Bears and Cowboys. Now heading into one of the better matchups for receivers? It’s going to be hard to make a case against him. If there’s one, it’s that the Redskins have faced just 16.1 wide receiver targets per week, which doesn’t allow for a lot of room for two receivers to produce, let alone Amendola who’s seen 13 targets over the last two weeks. With that being said, they’ve allowed a touchdown reception every 12.4 targets, which is the second most often in the league. How to display that to make sense? Only the Bengals have faced fewer wide receiver targets, yet only six teams have allowed more wide receiver touchdowns. Jones moves around but does play the most of his snaps at RWR, which is where Josh Norman is planted. He’s allowed seven touchdowns on 45 targets in his coverage this year, so he’s clearly nothing to fear when deciding to start/sit Jones. In fact, it’s a plus for receivers at this point in time. Start Jones as a high-end WR3 who might take a backseat to Golladay this week, but he’s playing just too well to bench.
Danny Amendola: He’s totaled 13 targets in the two games with Driskel under center. They’ve only amounted to 86 yards, so it’s not like he’s a must-play or anything, but with it being the last week with teams on bye, some may be considering him. The issue isn’t the matchup but rather the number of targets to be divided among the receivers. Redskins opponents have only had to target their receivers 16.1 times per game, which is the second-lowest mark in the league. Fabian Moreau is the one covering the slot for them, and he’s allowed a ridiculous 20-of-21 passing for 251 yards and a touchdown in his coverage. The bottom line is that if Amendola is targeted, he’s likely to play well. Consider him a decent WR4/5 bye week filler.
Terry McLaurin: It was a frustrating day for McLaurin owners last Sunday, as he saw just four targets against a very beatable Jets secondary. He finished with just three catches for 69 yards in the best matchup he could ask for, though it could’ve been much more had his 55-yard-catch not been called back due to penalty. It’s going to be hard to trust him in this matchup against Darius Slay, who just kept Amari Cooper in check last week, allowing just three catches for 38 yards on eight targets. The good news is that Bill Callahan said they were going to move McLaurin around the formation, and they did just that. He ran just 19.5 percent of his routes from the slot in Weeks 1-9 but ran 32 percent of his routes from the slot in Week 11. Slay will travel into the slot at times, but he hasn’t been as effective there. McLaurin is going to be a very good player in this league, but Haskins struggles have proven to be a cause for concern, so when you combine the tough matchup, he’s just a borderline WR3/4 this week.
Paul Richardson/Kelvin Harmon: With Richardson inactive last week, Harmon stepped into the No. 2 role and saw a team-high six targets. He caught five of them for 53 yards, so he did his job. Richardson’s injury is a hamstring, so even if he’s active, they could ease him back in. If he plays, you can’t trust either of them. If Richardson remains out, Harmon has a little bit of appeal knowing that McLaurin will receive shadow treatment from Darius Slay. That would leave Harmon with Rashaan Melvin, who’s been struggling in coverage. He’s allowed a massive 9.4 yards per target in his coverage this year, including 9-of-11 passing for 90 yards against the Cowboys last week. Still, trusting Haskins’ No. 2 target in the offense seems too risky for my blood. He’s in the WR5 conversation if Richardson is out but nothing is guaranteed. *Update* It appears Richardson will be back in the lineup this week. It’s safe to avoid both of them.
T.J. Hockenson: There hasn’t been many more frustrating options at tight end with Hockenson, who appears to be set in a five-plus target role for multiple weeks, then all of a sudden sees one or two targets the following week. It makes for a horrible streaming performance from time-to-time, but some will ask if it’s worth riding that wave. He’s totaled more than 32 yards just three times all season and hasn’t scored since back in Week 4. Welcome to the tight end streaming game. The Redskins have actually been solid against the tight end position this year, allowing just one tight end to score more than 12.5 PPR points all year, though it was Ryan Griffin last week when he tagged them for 109 yards and a touchdown. Prior to him, there wasn’t a tight end who totaled more than 54 yards against them, which included Zach Ertz, Evan Engram, and George Kittle. Knowing how good the matchups are for Golladay and Jones, it’s tough to see Hockenson being a massive part of the gameplan, but we cannot scratch off a tight end who’s seen at least five targets in four of the last six games. He’s still in the streaming conversation as a high-end TE2 but it’s been a frustrating year for those who took a chance on him.
Jeremy Sprinkle: There aren’t many teams with a less relevant tight end in football, as Sprinkle’s had the starting job for quite a while but hasn’t topped three targets since way back in Week 3. His yardage has ranged from 8-24 this year with nothing more and nothing less. He caught a touchdown last week, but it was on the goal-line and off play-action where a lineman would’ve scored on this type of play. The Lions have allowed a massive 9.06 yards per target to tight ends, which ranks as the fourth highest mark in football, but when you’re capped at three targets, it won’t matter much. Sprinkle is not a streaming option.
Oakland Raiders at New York Jets
Line: OAK by 3.0
Derek Carr: It wasn’t the blowout we were expecting against the Bengals last week, though Carr salvaged his fantasy day with a rushing touchdown. He did everything he was supposed to do in the gameplan, completing 25-of-29 passes for 292 yards, but things never really came together for a massive performance. He’s still not topped 32 pass attempts since back in Week 3 and even then, he’s topped 34 pass attempts once. He needs to be nearly perfect in order to amount to fantasy success, as his legs provide practically no value. The Jets do allow plenty of efficiency, as 8-of-10 quarterbacks have totaled 15-plus fantasy points against them. Over the last four weeks, they’ve been as bad as ever, allowing 12 passing touchdowns to the combination of Gardner Minshew, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Daniel Jones, and Dwayne Haskins. Not shocking, Haskins was the only one of them who didn’t finish as a top-five quarterback. The wildcard in this matchup, however, is that this is a true coast-to-coast road trip for the Raiders, which can affect player performance, something that many have backed-up over time. Carr is the key to the offense’s success this week though, as the Jets are allowing a league-low 3.01 yards per carry. He may not offer the biggest ceiling, but he should offer a solid floor in this game as a low-end QB1/high-end QB2. The cross-country trek is enough to move me off him in cash games.
Sam Darnold: We’ve now watched Darnold post back-to-back top-eight performances, so are you trusting him? He’s completed exactly 19-of-30 passes each of the last two weeks, so it hasn’t even been volume. The Raiders present a plus-matchup for quarterbacks, though you wouldn’t know it by Ryan Finley‘s final stat line. They actually played really well against Philip Rivers in Week 10 as well. Over the last two games, they’ve allowed just 30-of-62 passing for 322 yards, two touchdowns, and four interceptions. Both games were at home, while they’ll be traveling across the country for this game. It’s somewhat crazy to see what the Raiders have done given all the injuries they’ve dealt with, as they’ve lost starting safeties Karl Joseph and Johnathan Abram, starting linebacker Vontaze Burfict, starting cornerback Gareon Conley, and were without starting nickel cornerback Lamarcus Joyner last week. So, what happens when a surging quarterback and a surging defense meet? Again, it helps that Darnold is at home while the Raiders are making the longest trip possible. While I’ve been one of those willing to trust Darnold over the last few matchups, this one is a bit murkier, as the Raiders pass-rush has been extremely good over the last month. He should be considered a middling QB2 with a wide range of outcomes.
Josh Jacobs: He’s a clear-cut workhorse for the Raiders, though the lack of scoring last week turned him into somewhat of a disappointment in a prime matchup. He’s now totaled at least 17 touches in seven straight games, which is good because he’ll need volume against a Jets defense that has been stout against the run. They’ve allowed a league-low 3.03 yards per carry this year, and the only running back who’s been able to tally more than 76 yards on the ground was Ezekiel Elliott, who took 28 carries to get there. The passing game usage is important here, as that’s where plenty of running backs have been able to do damage. There’ve been nine running backs who’ve totaled at least four receptions, with eight of them able to rack-up 36 or more yards. Jacobs has seen anywhere from 2-5 targets over the last eight games but has yet to top 30 yards in that area. Why? Well, Jalen Richard has run eight more pass routes than him and has seen essentially the same number of targets. There should be scoring opportunities for Jacobs here, as running backs have received 30 goal-to-go touches against the Jets, which ranks as the third-most in the league. It’s not likely to be an efficient matchup for him, but his volume is enough to carry him into the high-end RB2 range.
Le’Veon Bell: We’ve seen a shift over the last two weeks with Bell, as he went from playing 91.2 percent of the snaps to just 64.4 percent. Is it worrisome? As long as he keeps getting 20 touches it’s not, but they’ve run 135 plays over the last two weeks, a number that won’t keep up. The Raiders opponents have averaged just 61.9 plays per game this year, which ranks as the ninth-lowest mark in the league. Because of that, running backs have combined to average just 20.8 carries per game. If Bell is getting just 69 percent of the carries (like he has the last two weeks), we could be looking at 14-15 carries. The Raiders had been playing well against the run but have seemingly slipped over the last few weeks. Over their last three games, they’ve allowed 321 yards on 63 carries (5.10 yards per carry) with two touchdowns to the combination of running backs from the Lions, Chargers, and Bengals. What’s similar between those teams? Not great offensive lines, just like Bell’s, so maybe his efficiency picks up in this game. He needs it, as he still has just one game where he’s hit the 4.0 yards per carry mark. Add in the fact that the Raiders are traveling coast-to-coast and you have yourself a solid matchup for Bell. Start him as a low-end RB1 this week and expect results, even if he is sharing some work.
Tyrell Williams: It almost feels like I’m looking at the deep version of Jason Witten when I look at Williams’ stats over the weeks. He’s tallied in-between 4-6 targets in each of the last four games with 3-4 receptions in each of the last six games. It just seems that he’s not as heavily involved since he missed time with his foot injury. When someone has a ceiling of four receptions over a six-week period, you need some big catches and/or touchdowns to get him into the WR3 conversation, which is something that’s certainly possible with him against the Jets. They’ve allowed the second-most fantasy points to the wide receiver position, including 15 touchdowns. The one worrisome part is that no receiver has scored more than 15 PPR points against them while seeing less than seven targets, again, a number Williams hasn’t hit since returning from his foot injury four weeks ago. The Jets have Bless Austin and Arthur Maulet covering the perimeter receivers, a duo that’s only seen 18 targets in coverage this year, allowing 10/84 on them, so not bad on the small sample size. Against the Redskins, you’d expect them to do well. Williams should be a WR3 this week but needs more targets if he wants to get into that top-24 conversation.
Hunter Renfrow: The descent of Williams has allowed him to receive more targets in the offense, as he’s now seen 22 targets over the last four weeks. He’s done well with them, too, totaling 19 receptions for 250 yards and two touchdowns. The matchups have been good, which helps, and some will think that’s the case this week, but don’t be so quick on the trigger. The Jets one solid piece in coverage this year has been Brian Poole, who’s allowed just 230 yards and one touchdown on 45 targets in coverage this year. The only slot receiver who had a really good game against him was Golden Tate, who caught just four passes, but one of them was for a 61-yard touchdown. That’s not something you want to bank on with Renfrow. He should offer a stable WR4/5 floor but it’s not a great matchup.
Robby Anderson: He’s had matchups against the Dolphins, Giants, and Redskins the last three weeks. In that time, he’s totaled four catches for 50 yards and one touchdown… combined. It’s gotten to the point where it’s not even funny anymore. Darnold has finished as a top-eight quarterback in each of the last two games and Anderson isn’t even involved. He’s now finished with one or two catches in five of the last seven games. The matchup with the Raiders should have been one to get excited about, but it’s impossible to start him with any confidence, as his vitals are not good, totaling just 10 targets over the last three weeks. He’ll see Daryl Worley in coverage most of the time, a four-year veteran who’s been mediocre throughout his career. He’s playing what might be his best season, though, allowing just a 52.7 percent catch-rate in his coverage, though there have been three receptions that have gone for 37-plus yards against him. He doesn’t have the speed to hang with Anderson, so there could be a big play here, but trusting him as anything more than a boom-or-bust WR5 would be a mistake based on what we’ve seen in other great matchups.
Demaryius Thomas: We’re now dealing with a seven-game sample size where Thomas is averaging 6.3 targets per game with the Jets. Since joining the team back in Week 5, he’s totaled 28 receptions for 361 yards though he hasn’t scored a touchdown, while Robby Anderson has tallied 15 receptions for 244 yards but has two touchdowns. Thomas is the more stable option on a weekly basis, while Anderson offers more “boom” potential, though his boom might be a 0.1 on the Richter scale. The Raiders will have rookie Trayvon Mullen covering Thomas most of the time, who’s been average since replacing Gareon Conley in the starting lineup. On the year, he’s allowed 21-of-32 passing for 217 yards and two touchdowns, which is good enough for a 92.8 QB Rating. Thomas has finished in-between the WR22 and WR48 in 5-of-7 games, which is where his most likely outcome lies. He should be considered a limited-ceiling WR4 receiver who can bust if Darnold regresses.
Jamison Crowder: He’s now finished as a top-15 PPR receiver in each of the last three games. Will it continue? Do you think his 15.7 yards per reception over the last two weeks will continue? Probably not. The Raiders have been a good matchup for wide receivers and particularly in the slot, but was the injury to Lamarcus Joyner a blessing in disguise? With him out, they went to Nevin Lawson, who allowed just 3-of-4 passing for 7 yards in the matchup against the Bengals. He was a giant part of the reason Tyler Boyd was kept in check, though Ryan Finley was also part to blame. Lawson wasn’t a very good cornerback with the Lions, but most Raiders have exceeded expectations this year, so credit to the coaching staff. It’s not a matchup I’d consider benching Crowder with how often he’s targeted/how well he’s played, but he’s in the WR3 conversation. He leads all Jets receivers with nine red zone targets on the year, while no one else has more than four.
Darren Waller: It was good to see him get into the high-target territory last week, as the seven targets equaled what he’d seen over the previous two weeks combined. He’s still seen at least five targets in 9-of-10 games, so we know he’s a weekly start. He’s also totaled at least 50 yards in seven games, something only Travis Kelce, Zach Ertz, and George Kittle can say. The Jets haven’t been a matchup you need to run from, as they’ve allowed five different tight ends total 41-plus yards, including a six-catch, 95-yard game to Mike Gesicki. They’ve only faced 5.5 targets per game to tight ends, which has allowed them to limit production as a whole. They’ve also allowed just two touchdowns to the position, which crushes the upside for streamers. Waller is not a streamer and you play him every week, though his upside may be a bit capped with Jamal Adams on the other side of the field. The Jets were the worst matchup in the league for tight ends last year, and while this is a different scheme, Adams remains.
Ryan Griffin: Is Griffin what everyone wanted Chris Herndon to be? He’s now caught 25-of-30 targets for 269 yards and four touchdowns. Nearly all of his production has come over the last six games, which is when Darnold returned to the lineup. You do need to beware of two games mixed in there where he saw just one target against the Giants and two targets against the Patriots, though they were particularly bad matchups for tight end production. The Raiders are not one of those teams. They’ve allowed a league-low 60.8 percent completion-rate to the position, but that hasn’t stopped production, as they’ve allowed the fifth-most points to tight ends this year. Much of it comes from the fact that they’ve allowed a touchdown every 11.3 targets to the position (fourth-most often). His inconsistent targets are maddening, but you can’t overlook him as a streamer this week. He’s in the low-end TE1/high-end TE2 conversation.