The Primer: Week 3 Edition (2020 Fantasy Football)
Chicago Bears at Atlanta Falcons
Mitchell Trubisky: Trubisky has posted solid fantasy numbers through two weeks (QB14), but it hasn’t all been pretty. He leads the league in bad pass percentage, as 38.9 percent of his throws have been considered poor. The Falcons have allowed 133.8 fantasy points per game to opponents, which is the highest in the league, as no other team is allowing more than 121.6 fantasy points per game. The problem with contemplating Trubisky is that he’s so hot and cold. He played extremely well for the first half of last week’s game, but fell apart in the second half, though one of his interceptions was on Allen Robinson. The good news is that this is the first game of the Bears that has a total of more than 44 points. Trubisky has played eight career games in a dome or retractable roof, though it hasn’t changed much with his performance, as his completion percentage is static, while his touchdown to interception ratio is worse (7 passing touchdowns, 6 interceptions). The Falcons have played against Russell Wilson and Dak Prescott over the first two weeks, so of course their numbers are going to look putrid. Going back to last year, they were slightly below average in every major statistical category, and they lost their top cornerback in the offseason, so that surely didn’t help. Trubisky is the definition of a risk/reward QB2 because it shouldn’t surprise anyone if he finishes as a top-10 quarterback this week, but it also shouldn’t if he finishes outside the top-20.
Matt Ryan: You have to feel bad for Ryan and the Falcons offense, as they continue to post numbers year-in and year-out, yet the team doesn’t win games. Ryan has thrown 90 passes through two games, which puts him on a pace of 720 pass attempts, and keep in mind they led throughout the entirety of their Week 2 game. The Bears will be their toughest test yet, though. They’ve actually faced the sixth-most pass attempts but have allowed the third-fewest fantasy points to quarterbacks. When throwing the ball, Daniel Jones and Matthew Stafford combined to average just 0.29 fantasy points per pass attempt, which ranks as the second-lowest mark in the league. The addition of Robert Quinn in Week 2 helped the defense generate more pressure up front, which in turn didn’t allow Jones to take many shots down the field. Going back to the start of the 2019 season, the Bears have allowed just one quarterback to post more than 19.9 fantasy points, and that was Patrick Mahomes. During that 18-game stretch, there’s been just one quarterback to average more than 7.72 yards per attempt. There are going to be many weeks where we love Ryan as a QB1, but this is not one of them. He should be looked at as a middling QB2 in this tough matchup.
David Montgomery and Tarik Cohen: The touch count for the Bears through two weeks is: Montgomery 33, Cohen 15, and Cordarrelle Patterson 14 (yes, I’m counting him as a running back). The way to see that is that Montgomery is the leader in essentially a 55/45 timeshare. That’s not great considering the Bears are 2-0 and the gamescript fit his role perfectly in Week 2. He’s run extremely well, averaging 5.0 yards per carry, and made a few shifty moves in the open field last week that led to a 28-yard receiving touchdown, but will those positive gamescripts continue? They are three-point underdogs in this game, and the Falcons have stopped the run extremely well considering their competition. Despite playing against Ezekiel Elliott and Chris Carson, they’ve allowed just 3.45 yards per carry through two weeks. There seem to be a variety of ways to score, though, as Carson caught two touchdowns, Elliott rushed for one, while Dak Prescott rushed for three. Montgomery is going to get the goal-line, which is the positive here, as the Bears are implied for 22 points. Where the Falcons struggle is to limit running backs through the air, as they’ve allowed 15-of-16 passes to be completed for 85 yards and two touchdowns. Since Dan Quinn became the Falcons coach, they’ve allowed an average of 6.4 receptions per game to running backs. Montgomery can have his role diminish in a highly negative gamescript, though oddsmakers have this as a close game. Plug him in as a low-end RB2 this week. Cohen is officially someone I’m worried about with just three targets through two games. Montgomery has six targets. Heck, Javon Wims has four targets. Cohen is not an early-down back who’s going to grind out a high yards per carry. If he’s not getting the targets, you can’t use him in fantasy. The Falcons matchup suits him well, especially indoors, but he must be classified as a risky RB4/flex with some upside should Matt Nagy actually use him in the passing game.
Todd Gurley: After Gurley totaled 19 of the Falcons 28 opportunities in Week 1 (67.9 percent), he totaled 21 of 34 opportunities in Week 2 (61.8 percent). Those are decent shares, but there is a warning sign above him. He caught just 1-of-5 targets in Week 1 and then saw zero targets in Week 2. If all he’s getting is early-down work, he’s going to be a touchdown-or-bust player. Targets are worth 2.5x what a carry is worth, so we don’t care so much about his 21 carries that went for a measly 61 yards. Fortunately, he plays for a high-powered offense that should be in scoring position often. This week may not be one of those high-scoring weeks, though. The Bears aren’t a cake matchup, especially with Akiem Hicks on the field. You can go back to last year and see they allowed 4.12 yards per carry without him, but just 2.92 yards per carry with him. The Falcons are projected for 25.0 points, which bodes well for Gurley considering the Bears have not allowed a quarterback more than two passing touchdowns since back in Week 7 of 2018. Gurley has received all five of the red zone carries for the Falcons this year. He’s a touchdown dependent RB2 but one who has a better shot than most to get one this week.
Allen Robinson: It hasn’t been a great start to the season for Robinson, who caught just 3-of-9 targets for 33 yards against the Giants last week. He also dropped a pass that fell into the defenders hands for an interception. Fortunately, he has a matchup with the Falcons on deck. Their cornerback duo of Isaiah Oliver and A.J. Terrell is one to target with wide receivers. We’ve already watched four different receivers total 16-plus PPR points against them, and none of those wide receivers even saw double-digit targets. Knowing that Robinson has seen at least seven targets in 16 of his last 18 games, he’s going to produce against a secondary that’s allowing 2.01 PPR points per target. Plug him in as a low-end WR1 this week and expect results. He should be someone to consider as a discounted stud in cash games, too.
Anthony Miller: He’s averaging 4.1 air yards per snap, which ranks as the second-highest mark in the NFL behind only DeSean Jackson. That’s the good news. The bad news is that he’s not an every-down player and wound up with a big fat zero in Week 2. He dropped what should’ve been a touchdown early in the game and played just 26 snaps against the Giants in a cake matchup. There were just three games he played less than 31 snaps in 2019, so his role has sadly not grown this year. The Falcons brought in Darqueze Dennard to cover the slot this year, but it hasn’t panned out through two weeks, as he’s allowed 16-of-20 passing for 160 yards through two weeks. Their entire cornerback unit is what I’d describe as below average. If Miller were to get the targets, he’d likely produce in this matchup, but we can’t guarantee anything when he’s playing less than 30 snaps. For now, he’s just a talented WR4/5 who comes with a low floor in a plus-matchup.
Julio Jones: He’s trying to play through a hamstring injury right now, which can be problematic for fantasy owners. There’s no way you can sit Jones when he’s active, but he was more of a decoy last week. It should be noted that he did drop a long touchdown that was thrown by Russell Gage. Stay tuned for updates to Jones’ status, but he’s continually played through injuries throughout his career. The Bears secondary has played extremely well early in the season, holding Marvin Jones to just 4/55/0 on eight targets and then Darius Slayton to 3/33/0 on six targets. These guys are not Julio Jones, but they’re typically fantasy producers. Jones lines up on the left side of the formation most often, which means he’ll see a lot of rookie Jaylon Johnson in coverage. While Johnson has looked solid, he’s still a rookie. On 12 targets in coverage, he’s allowed 5/79/0, so not shutdown, but also very good for no preseason action and being thrown into the fire. There were just five receivers who posted WR1 numbers against the Bears last year, so they’ve been a relatively tough matchup. You have to play Jones if he takes the field, but temper expectations and avoid him in cash games. *Update* The Falcons are admitting Jones may have worsened his hamstring condition last week and there’s talk of holding him out in Week 3. He didn’t practice all week, though they’re calling him a game-time decision. You should plan to be without the star wide receiver.
Calvin Ridley: We talked about a year three explosion from Ridley, but to lead all wide receivers by 16.1 half PPR points after two weeks? Sheesh. He’s playing the alpha in this offense while Julio Jones plays through a hamstring injury, racking up 22 targets, 16 receptions, 239 yards, and four touchdowns. This week will be the toughest test yet when he lines up across from Kyle Fuller, the Bears top cornerback who’s allowed just 6-of-15 passing for 70 scoreless yards in his coverage this year, including an interception. This should be a good battle, and while Fuller is a good cornerback, Ridley’s better. Look for them to try and stretch the field with Ridley, as the route Fuller struggled the most with in 2019 was the go route and post route, allowing over 20 yards per target on said routes. Fuller is better when he can be physical with wide receivers, only Ridley’s a bit too shifty for that physical play. Continue plugging him in as a WR1 until he gives you a reason not to, especially while Jones is playing at less than 100 percent.
Russell Gage: He’s not going away anytime soon. Since taking over for Mohamed Sanu in that role, Gage has totaled 87 targets over a span of 11 games, which amounts to 7.9 per game. Over the course of a season, that would amount to 127 targets. Here’s a list of big-name players who saw fewer targets than that in 2019: DeVante Parker, Davante Adams, Courtland Sutton, Chris Godwin, Amari Cooper… do you catch my drift? His targets aren’t worth as much as those guys, but he’s a reliable player in fantasy because of his target floor. The Bears have Buster Skrine covering the slot, and while he played well in 2019, slot receivers have fared well this year. First, it was Danny Amendola racking up 5/81/0 on seven targets, and then it was Golden Tate catching all five of his targets for 47 yards. Again, not sexy, but worth a spot-start in such an injury-plagued week. With the Bears defending the run so well, we saw Matthew Stafford rack up 42 pass attempts while Daniel Jones hit the 40 mark. If the Falcons go down a similar path, which seems likely, Gage should be able to fill a WR4-type role on your fantasy team. He’s reminding me of 2018 Adam Humphries who finished as a top-30 wide receiver, but you always knew his ceiling was limited. *Update* If Julio Jones doesn’t play, Gage moves up in target share and becomes a safer play, though his matchup remains the same.
Jimmy Graham: I tried to warn you about Graham last week, saying he’ll be a touchdown-or-bust option most weeks, but after seeing just one target in Week 2, you can’t even consider him. He even saw his snaps decrease from 52 in the opener, to just 40 against the Giants. The Falcons secondary has had a rough start to the year against tight ends, allowing Greg Olsen to catch all four of his targets for 24 yards and a touchdown in Week 1, and then allowing backup tight end Dalton Schultz to obliterate them for nine catches, 88 yards, and a touchdown last week. It’s difficult to know who to trust against the Falcons because almost all the matchups are so good, but this all comes back to the fantasy floor for Graham, which was one catch for 18 yards last week. He can’t be a recommended streamer with a one-target floor, even in what appears to be a great matchup. He’s a touchdown-dependent TE2.
Hayden Hurst: For those that took a chance on Hurst’s role in this offense during draft season, congrats. He racked up eight targets in his second game with the team and turned them into 5/72/1. He’s seen 13 of the 14 targets that have gone to tight ends in this offense, which is another good sign about sustainability. The Bears have been pretty generous to tight ends over the first two weeks of 2020, allowing T.J. Hockenson to finish as the TE4 in Week 1, and then Evan Engram to bounce back and finish as a top-15 option in Week 2. It seems the Bears are willing to allow you to dink-and-dunk your way down the field with tight ends, as they allowed the fifth-most receptions to tight ends last year, but the 9.23 yards per reception they allowed was the second-lowest mark in football. Seeing Hurst get eight targets in a game Ryan threw the ball 36 times has to make you feel good about his floor, so continue trotting him out there this week as a mid-to-low-end TE1, though there are likely better tournament options.
Los Angeles Rams at Buffalo Bills
Jared Goff: He’s benefited from his receivers after the catch, as they lead the league with 10.1 yards after the catch. Goff’s average depth of throw is an NFL-low 4.0 yards down the field. That has dropped his sack rate down to just 6.1 percent, as Sean McVay clearly wants to get the ball out quickly. The Bills haven’t gotten as much pressure early in the year, as they’ve produced a sack on just 6.8 percent of dropbacks, which is a slight step back from last year, but it’s even worse when you consider they played against the Jets and Dolphins offensive lines, which are both brand-new units. Goff has been pressured on just 28.1 percent of his dropbacks, which is much better than the 36.0 percent he was last year. We can’t pretend this is a good matchup, though, as the Bills have allowed just 6.24 yards per attempt since the start of last year. Going through those 18 games, there have been just four quarterbacks who’ve thrown more than one touchdown pass, and just three quarterbacks who’ve thrown for more than 282 yards. Goff snuck away with a decent game last week, but I’m not betting on him finishing as a top-18 option in Week 3.
Josh Allen: How fun has it been to watch Allen play football this year? He came into the season with a career high of 266 passing yards in a game. He smashed that in Week 1 with 312 yards, and then proceeded to destroy that mark in Week 2 when he threw for 417 yards against the Dolphins. He leads the NFL in passing yards through two weeks, which is something I never thought I’d say. Even better, he’s completed 70.4 percent of his passes. Credit where it’s due… Josh Allen has improved every single season and that’s all you can ask for. Sadly, he doesn’t get to play the Jets and Dolphins every week, so this matchup with the Rams should be a real test. They played against Dak Prescott and Carson Wentz over the first two games, and have walked away allowing just 508 passing yards and one passing touchdown through those games. It’s not a lack of pass attempts, either, as Prescott threw 39 times and Wentz threw 43 times. Since acquiring Jalen Ramsey at the trade deadline last year, the Rams have allowed just one quarterback (Lamar Jackson) more than 17.68 fantasy points, which would’ve been the QB18 in Week 2. Outside of Lamar Jackson, they also haven’t allowed a quarterback to rush for more than 32 yards in their last 18 games, which included Prescott, Wentz, Kyler Murray twice, and Russell Wilson. Through two weeks, Allen would definitely be in the top-five conversation for MVP, but this week will be a telling one. With how well he’s played, it’s tough to move him out of the QB1 conversation, especially with his rushing floor, but he’s at the bottom end of that conversation in this matchup.
Darrell Henderson, Malcolm Brown, and Cam Akers: We were told by Sean McVay himself that this would be a timeshare in 2020 and he wasn’t lying. Through two games, the touch count is: Brown 32, Akers 18, Henderson 17. We may have lost one part of that timeshare in Week 2 as Akers had to leave with a rib injury. That would certainly help clear things up and make us feel better about both Brown and Henderson, as the Rams running backs have combined to average 33.5 touches per game, which is enough for two running backs to be productive. The Bills run defense isn’t anything too intimidating and they were without two starting linebackers last week, though you wouldn’t know it by the stat sheet. They have yet to play a running back who’s totaled more than seven carries. This is what happens when you play the Jets and Dolphins over the first two weeks. If you look at them last year, they allowed a healthy 4.37 yards per carry, though the 25.6 touches per game they allowed to running backs was the eighth-lowest mark in football. I’ve brought this stat up before and I think it makes sense to do it again given the Rams willingness to run the ball in the red zone. Under Sean McDermott, the Bills have now allowed 46 rushing touchdowns to running backs over 50 regular season games. That averages out to 14.7 per season. By comparison, there were just five teams who allowed more than that in 2019. If Akers is ruled out, Henderson is my favorite play as a high-end RB3, though Brown is right there in a tier below (low-end RB3). They come with risk, sure, but given the number of touches going around combined with touchdown upside, it’s a risk you should be willing to take. Akers is currently questionable for the game, but don’t be surprised if he misses at least one week with his rib cartilage injury. *Update* Akers did not practice all week and is considered unlikely to play.
Devin Singletary and
Zack Moss: We asked the question all offseason: Which running back will have more value this year? Maybe the answer was… neither of them? In two games where their offense scored a combined 58 points, these two have combined for just 30.3 half PPR points (Singletary 16.4, Moss 13.9). It seemed like Moss was someone who had more value with the goal-line work, but then he walked out of Week 2 without a single target, making touchdowns absolutely necessary. To this point, Singletary has played 85 snaps while Moss has played 67 snaps, so we have to give the nod to Singletary, though it’s not a wide gap. The Rams have had two tough tests right out of the gate with Ezekiel Elliott and Miles Sanders, and though neither of them cracked the century mark, they both finished as top-12 running backs. Seriously, the stat lines were nearly identical.
If the Bills running backs were to split that work evenly, we’d walk away with minimal satisfaction. If there’s a positive here, it’s that both of these teams have run more than 69 plays per game through two weeks, so maybe we can get a high volume game, though we can’t project either of these running backs for 15 touches. Consider Singletary a solid floor RB3 play, while Moss is more of a low-end RB3/flex who needs to score in order to justify playing him as anything more. *Update* Moss has been ruled OUT for this game, moving Singletary up into middling RB2 territory in a game he should net 16-plus touches.
Robert Woods: Don’t hit the panic button on Woods after his weak outing against the revamped Eagles secondary. He did manage to sneak in a rushing touchdown to ensure he didn’t completely bust, but five targets isn’t ideal. Still, it’s one game. That was the first time he hasn’t seen at least eight targets in a game since back in Week 8 of last year. The Bills are likely going to use Tre’Davious White to shadow Woods while he’s on the perimeter, which is where he runs his routes about 55 percent of the time. He’s one of the best cornerbacks in football and has allowed just a 54.1 percent catch rate over the course of his career, and that’s while often shadowing opposing No. 1 receivers. There have been 17 wide receivers who’ve seen eight or more targets against the Bills over their last 18 games, but only five of them have scored more than 16 PPR points, which is middling WR2 territory most of the time. Of those five wide receivers, four of them were slot-heavy receivers (Jamison Crowder three times, Jarvis Landry, DeVante Parker). You need to keep expectations in check for Woods this week, as he’s likely a low-end WR2 for this one. He can still do some damage during that 45 percent slot usage.
Cooper Kupp: We knew that Kupp’s usage would change a bit this year with them wanting to run more 12 personnel, but he’s still playing almost every snap and still running about 60 percent of his routes from the slot. That’s a big positive in this matchup because of the top five performances against the Bills secondary over the last two years, slot-heavy receivers have accounted for four of them. This is highly unusual. Taron Johnson is the one who’ll be tasked with trying to slow Kupp down this week. He was in coverage for eight of Jamison Crowder‘s receptions in Week 1, even though they amounted to just 56 yards. That’s been Johnson’s thing over the last two years, allowing a high 74 percent catch-rate, but limiting the yards overall by keeping the play in front of him. Kupp should offer a solid floor with the best matchup of the Rams receivers, though I can’t say he’s anything more than a mid-to-low-end WR2.
Van Jefferson and Josh Reynolds: You would’ve thought that Jefferson surpassed Reynolds based on the target numbers from Week 2, as Jefferson saw five targets while Reynolds saw two. Unfortunately, that was not the case, as Jefferson ran just 15 routes while Reynolds ran 17 of them. They’re still sharing that No. 3 wide receiver role, though Jefferson should pull away with it sooner rather than later. The Bills have allowed a league-low 6.42 yards per target to wide receivers this year, so volume is paramount for a receiver to be successful. No wide receiver scored more than 12.8 PPR points against the Bills without at least eight targets last year, so feel free to avoid them in this matchup.
Stefon Diggs: See Diggs get targets, see Diggs succeed. I don’t know what was so hard about this for the Vikings to understand, as he continually struggled to get targeted in that offense. He ended last year with 94 targets and that was with Adam Thielen missing essentially half the season. With the Bills, he’s now on pace for a ridiculous 176 targets, 128 receptions, 1,912 yards, and eight touchdowns. No big deal. That’s obviously not going to be sustainable, and he’ll have his toughest matchup of the season here in Week 3 when Jalen Ramsey is asked to shadow him. We saw fellow route-running savant Amari Cooper wiggle his way to a 10-catch, 81-yard performance against Ramsey back in Week 1, so he’s not unbeatable. Still, Ramsey has allowed just four touchdowns in his coverage over the last two-plus years, which has spanned over 173 targets, with most of which coming against top-tier receivers. You can’t keep Diggs out of your lineup with the targets he’s getting, but temper expectations into WR3 territory this week.
John Brown: The targets came back down to where we expected them to be with Brown in Week 2, as he saw just six of them, though that was enough to produce 82 yards and a touchdown, though most of that came on a late 46-yard touchdown catch. With Josh Allen dropping back to pass a lot more, it’s put Brown on a path to exceed last year’s 115 targets, even with Diggs on the roster. On top of that, Diggs will often draw the opponent’s top cornerback in coverage, leaving Brown with a better WR/CB matchup. The Rams have Jalen Ramsey and Darious Williams on the perimeter, but we’re expecting Ramsey to shadow Diggs, which would leave Brown with Williams. He’s only faced 23 career targets, but he’s been promising on them, intercepting three passes while allowing one touchdown. He did a great job with Michael Gallup for most of Week 1, and then held his own against the Eagles in Week 2. Brown should be considered a semi-risky WR3/4-type option this week, though it helps that Allen is playing better than ever.
Cole Beasley: He just continues to do his thing in the slot, as he’s now totaled at least 9.0 PPR points in 14-of-17 games since the start of the 2019 season. Even with Diggs and Brown going off the first two weeks, he’s managed to stay afloat as a top-45 receiver in PPR formats. The Rams allowed stud nickel cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman to walk in free agency, leaving them to start Troy Hill in his place. There was a point in Hill’s career where he was a cornerback you targeted heavily in matchups, as he was allowing over a 110 QB Rating in his coverage during his first four years in the league. Then he had a breakout year in 2019 where he allowed a miniscule 5.95 yards per target in his coverage. Of the 95 cornerbacks who covered at least 300 snaps in 2019, his 54.7 QB Rating in coverage was the fifth best in football. Fast forward one year and he’s allowed 12-of-13 passes to be completed for 139 yards in his coverage. The move to the slot has clearly had a negative impact on his play. Beasley should offer a solid floor of a WR4, particularly in PPR formats.
Tyler Higbee: We’re now two weeks in and Higbee has played a rock-solid 87.3 percent of the snaps. Not that you were wondering if you should play him or not after that three-touchdown performance, but if you were here, I told you his vitals were good in Week 1 despite a weak stat line. The Bills defense has been a magnet for tight end targets, as they’ve seen 20 targets (third-most), which has led to them allowing 15 receptions for 170 yards and a touchdown. Those are great numbers and keep in mind that the two tight ends they played against (Mike Gesicki, Chris Herndon) have not been particularly efficient throughout their careers. Of the production they’ve allowed to running backs, wide receivers, and tight ends, 24.1 percent of it has been the tight ends, which ranks as the ninth-highest percentage in the league. With the tough matchup for Robert Woods, we should see Higbee peppered with some targets in this matchup, making him a rock-solid TE1.
Dawson Knox: Despite Josh Allen throwing the ball 81 times through two weeks, Knox has seen just six targets for a 7.4 percent target share. Allen doesn’t want to check down, and when he does, it’s to Cole Beasley. It’s not like this is a good matchup, either, as the Rams have seen 20 tight end targets that have amounted to just 95 scoreless yards. That’s a ridiculously low 1.03 PPR points per target they’ve allowed, which includes a game against the Eagles tight ends. Knox is not on the streaming radar. *Update* He’s been ruled out with a concussion.
Las Vegas Raiders at New England Patriots
Derek Carr: It was a great performance by Carr on Monday night, as he continually took advantage of the matchups the Saints gave him. He’s completed at least 73 percent of his passes in each of his first two games and has yet to throw an interception. Now onto the Patriots defense, who looked more than human last week against Russell Wilson. They had allowed just 12 passing touchdowns during the entirety of the 2019 season but allowed five of them to Wilson on Sunday night. While I think it’s more of a reflection on Wilson, it’s clear that the Patriots defense isn’t on the same level as they were last year, and how could they be considering the five near full-time starters they lost on defense? They looked much better in Week 1 against Ryan Fitzpatrick, though he was also without DeVante Parker for much of that game. What Carr has going for him is that there’s no surefire WR1 on the Raiders for the Patriots to try and remove from the game, though it shouldn’t shock anyone to see Stephon Gilmore cover Darren Waller. Knowing that Carr has just one game with more than 21 fantasy points over his last 22 games, it’s fair to say the reward is not as great as the risk. There are better options available to stream.
Cam Newton: I missed this stat after the Week 1 game, but Newton’s 15 carries in that contest were the second highest of his entire career high. He followed that up by throwing for 397 yards, which was the third-highest mark of his career. It’s fair to say he’s back, and it appears that Josh McDaniels knows how to best utilize him. The Raiders defense has allowed just two passing touchdowns through two weeks, but the 8.07 yards per attempt they’ve allowed is a bit more telling, as teams have just punched it in with their running backs on the goal line. The Raiders defense has also generated a sack on just 1.4 percent of opponent dropbacks, which is not great, as pressure is the only thing that seems to rattle Newton. When you add in that Newton has been pressured on just 18.8 percent of his dropbacks, he should have a lot of time to throw in this matchup. Even going back to last year, under the same scheme, the Raiders allowed a league-high 8.28 yards per attempt, including a massive 15.4 yards per reception to wide receivers. We know Newton’s going to tally fantasy points on the ground, but he should be able to through the air this week as well. Knowing his team-implied point total is 26.8, start him as a QB1 with confidence.
Josh Jacobs: Don’t worry much about Jacobs’ lackluster performance in Week 2 against the Saints, as we already knew it was going to be a tough one. Instead, be excited that this offense is putting points up on the board. Scoring 34 points in each of the first two games is a massive accomplishment for this team that didn’t score more than 31 points in any game last year. That was legitimately the only thing I was concerned about with Jacobs coming into the season; his upside in what’s been a low-scoring offense. Oddsmakers don’t see that continuing this week, as the Raiders are projected for just 20.8 points against the Patriots. This isn’t a great matchup, but it’s much better than it was last year when the Patriots allowed just 76.1 rushing yards per game and allowed one rushing touchdown the entire season. Through two games in 2020, they’ve allowed 184 rushing yards and a touchdown to the combination of Dolphins and Seahawks running backs. Chris Carson was the only one who totaled more than 13 touches, and he wound up with 19.8 PPR points. The lone concern with Jacobs is his usage in the pass game. It appeared great in Week 1 when he saw a career-high six targets, but then we went back to just three targets in Week 2, reminiscent of his 2019 season. When the Raiders are six-point underdogs, that’s a legitimate concern, though this is where I tell you he ran 17 pass routes in Monday’s game, which was nearly double of that of Jalen Richard (10). Jacobs should continue to be trotted out as a low-end RB1 with a stable floor.
James White, and Rex Burkhead: It was incredibly sad to hear about White’s personal tragedy last week, so I want to send nothing but positive thoughts to him and his family. He is expected to be back with the team for this game, so we’ll move forward assuming he does. Michel has picked up right where he left off last year, averaging just 3.3 yards per carry and not catching a single pass. It’s brutal, too, as Cam Newton‘s presence should be opening holes up for him. It’s worth noting that he’s faced 8-plus man defensive fronts on 41.2 percent of his carries, which is the fourth-highest mark in the league. According to NFL’s NextGenStats, he’s getting almost exactly what he’s been expected to, though that doesn’t soak up fantasy owners’ tears. In a game they’re six-point favorites against a team that has allowed 4.66 yards per carry and four rushing touchdowns on just 41 carries, he must be under consideration as a mid-to-low-end RB3 who comes with touchdown upside. Guys, Newton isn’t going to rush for two touchdowns every game. That same Raiders team that’s allowed a lot of rushing totals has allowed a massive 9.83 targets to running backs, and that’s something we continually saw last year, as they allowed the fourth-most fantasy points through the air to running backs. We don’t know how much White will be involved, so it’s a tough week to rank him, but given the matchup, he should offer high-end RB4 value in PPR formats. Burkhead has been even less efficient than Michel and will concede the passing down work to White, so he’s droppable. *Update* White has been ruled out for this game, meaning Burkhead is going to have a bigger role, though it didn’t amount to much last week.
Henry Ruggs: We knew he was questionable for last week’s game and that he had a tough matchup, but one catch for four yards in a game they scored 34 points? Yikes. I’m old enough to remember when I thought the Raiders would manufacture touches for Ruggs after spending the No. 12 overall pick on him. Insert shrug emoji. He may have been playing through his injury, but it’s all relevant to fantasy owners. The matchup in Week 3 doesn’t get much better, as the Patriots secondary has been one of the worst to attack with wide receivers since the start of the 2018 season. In 2018, they allowed just 1.61 PPR points per target, which ranked as the seventh-lowest mark. In 2019, they allowed just 1.21 PPR points per target, easily the best in the NFL. You can look at see them allowing 2.31 PPR points through two games and use that as a reason to doubt them, but it’s a small sample size, and Russell Wilson did a number on them. The Dolphins didn’t have a receiver over 47 yards in Week 1. In a matchup like this, I’m looking for reasons to sit Ruggs, especially on a short week. He’s an ultra-risky WR4/5 option who should have better days ahead with how this offense is moving. *Update* Ruggs has been ruled OUT for this game.
Bryan Edwards: He continued to play a full-time role in Week 2, though he ended the game with just two targets. He has just three on the season, which is not going to get it done. He’s caught all three of them and looks good out there, but this is what we’ve come to expect out of the Raiders offense, as they spread the ball around, and it leads to some inconsistent receivers. There’s a chance that Stephon Gilmore covers Darren Waller in this game, but if he doesn’t, Edwards would make the most sense for him to cover while they could bracket Ruggs. No matter which way you slice it, you can’t start Edwards until he starts seeing consistent targets. He’s rosterable in 12-team leagues with deep benches, but I can’t say you absolutely need to hang onto him.
Hunter Renfrow: It was my concern before the season with Renfrow, as I asked, “what’s the upside?” The Raiders receivers have been difficult to predict under Greg Olson/Jon Gruden, but as the clear-cut No. 3 receiver behind both Henry Ruggs and Bryan Edwards, I couldn’t see any chance you’d start Renfrow with confidence. He’s seen just five targets through two games, and though he’s caught all of them, they’ve gone for 58 yards. He’s playing just under 50 percent of the snaps, so feel free to move on. *Update* With Ruggs out for this week, Renfrow becomes a candidate to lead this team in targets, though he’s still stuck in the WR4/5 territory in a tough matchup.
Julian Edelman: I had to double-check the stat sheet from Sunday night’s game, as Edelman’s eight catches for 179 yards brought his season average to 13.1 yards per target. He’s never averaged more than 7.9 yards per target in his career. Just 51 of his 236 yards are after contact, so Newton is targeting him much further down the field. He’s running 81 percent of his routes from in the slot, which means he’ll see veteran Lamarcus Joyner in the slot. After a rough start to his slot cornerback transition (from safety), Joyner has been solid, allowing just 9.7 yards per reception, though the 72.9 percent completion-rate is high. The best performance by a slot-heavy receiver against the Raiders since the start of last year is Keenan Allen‘s eight-catch, 68-yard game where he didn’t even score. That’s not great for his projection in this game, but you have to keep playing him while getting the targets he is (9.0 per game) from Newton. Consider him a decent floor WR3 who may not come with a massive ceiling in this contest.
N’Keal Harry: It’s been a good two weeks for Harry with Cam Newton, as he’s been targeted a team-high 18 times, connecting on 13 of them for 111 yards, though he hasn’t found the end zone just yet. That could change in Week 3 against the Raiders, who have struggled on the perimeter. The duo of Travon Mullen and Damon Arnette have combined to allow 13 receptions for 216 yards and two touchdowns on 18 targets in coverage. Keep in mind they played against a Michael Thomas-less Saints and Panthers receiving corps. This was a problem last year, too, as they allowed seven different perimeter receivers post more than 100 yards, and that doesn’t even include Allen Robinson‘s 97-yard, two-touchdown performance. Harry is quickly moving up the ranks as Newton shows he can still play, and he deserves consideration as a WR4 this week who comes with some touchdown upside.
Darren Waller: Remember when the Raiders drafted a bunch of wide receivers that would ruin Waller’s fantasy prospects? That was fun. He has 24 targets through two games, while Ruggs and Edwards have combined for 11 targets. He’s currently the TE2 in PPR formats, just 2.2 points behind Travis Kelce. The Saints had absolutely no solution for him, including Malcolm Jenkins, one of the best cover safeties out there. It’s why you must wonder if the Patriots use Stephon Gilmore to cover him. The Patriots played a couple big-name tight ends last year and here were the results: Zach Ertz 9/94/0, Travis Kelce 7/66/0, and Mark Andrews 2/21/0. Not the worst results, but definitely could be better. The Patriots defense isn’t the same, though, and have five new starters in the mix. Mike Gesicki was held to just 3/30/0 in Week 1 and then exploded in Week 2, so maybe it’s the scheme that limits the production? You can’t sit a tight end who’s averaging 12 targets per game, but you can limit expectations considering he might be staring at Gilmore in coverage. He’s a TE1 every week, but this is one where you want to stay away in cash games.
Ryan Izzo: The Patriots tight ends have combined for four targets over the first two games. Sure, Izzo has received all of them, but let’s not pretend that you’re considering him. The Raiders allowed a touchdown to Jared Cook last week, sure, but they’ve also held tight ends to just 66 yards on 11 targets through two games. Carry on.
Houston Texans at Pittsburgh Steelers
Deshaun Watson: Watson’s receivers have dropped 12.5 percent of passes this year, which leads the NFL. He’s also been sacked on a ridiculous 20 percent of his dropbacks. Just how bad is that? The Colts lead the league with a 13.2 percent sack rate. The matchup against the Ravens was brutal, but it doesn’t get much better this week when they travel to Pittsburgh to play a Steelers defense that’s allowed just one top-12 performance since Week 2 of last year. That’s a span of 16 games where they’ve allowed just one QB1 performance. Not confidence inspiring for a quarterback coming off two mediocre performances. On top of that, his top receiver is dealing with a hamstring injury. It’s quite remarkable, but since acquiring Minkah Fitzpatrick in Week 3 of last year, the Steelers haven’t allowed a quarterback to average more than 7.53 yards per attempt in a game. That’s nuts. It’s also not good for Watson who doesn’t chuck the ball up 40-plus times like some quarterbacks do. The only positive I can find here is that both Lamar Jackson and Robert Griffin rushed for 50-plus yards against the Steelers last year, while Josh Allen and Baker Mayfield both rushed for a touchdown, so we must hope Watson buries his head down and scrambles for a lot of yardage. He’s more of a high-end QB2 this week than a must-start.
Ben Roethlisberger: It would seem Roethlisberger hasn’t missed a beat while completing 68.5 percent of his passes for 7.4 yards per attempt and five touchdowns through two games, but we can’t forget he’s played the Giants and Broncos injury-riddled defense over the first two weeks. Fortunately, he gets another plus matchup in Week 3 when the Texans come to town. The Texans have had a gauntlet of a schedule to start the year, playing against Patrick Mahomes in the opener, and then Lamar Jackson in Week 2. They’ve walked out of those games allowing just 415 passing yards with four passing touchdowns. If you combined them together, they would be the QB14 in fantasy, slightly ahead of Mitch Trubisky. Not bad for a unit we all left for dead, though it’s worth noting that neither quarterback attempted more than 32 passes. It’s still a team that’s allowed 14 of the last 18 quarterbacks they’ve played to finish as a top-15 quarterback, including six top-six performances. The concern for Roethlisberger’s ceiling is that the Texans aren’t putting points on the board, which could lead to a ho-hum fantasy day for the Steelers pass attack. Roethlisberger should be someone we can pencil in for 250 yards and two touchdowns, but I don’t know if he’ll need to do more than that, which makes him a mid-to-high-end QB2 this week.
David Johnson and Duke Johnson: It was all David Johnson for the Texans in Week 2, as he totaled all 15 opportunities for the Texans running backs. It didn’t amount to much, as he tallied just 50 scoreless yards against a stingy Baltimore defense. That matchup likely primed him for this one, as the Steelers have been the worst matchup for running backs since the start of 2019. Here’s a fun fact: You’d have to go all the way back to Week 16 of 2018 to find the last time they allowed a top-12 performance to a running back. That’s 19 straight games without allowing a running back to finish as an RB1. It’s not due to a lack of trying, either, as the Steelers faced the ninth-most running back touches in 2019. Over their last 18 games, running backs have averaged a miniscule 0.65 PPR points per opportunity (carries and targets). Think about how good that is… even if Johnson were to get 20 touches, their average performance would give him 13.0 PPR points. Johnson is just a low-end RB2/high-end RB3 who you’re hoping finds the end zone similar to Melvin Gordon last week. Duke Johnson was reportedly close to playing last week and will put a dent into David’s workload, though not enough to make Duke a viable fantasy option, especially in this game.
James Conner and Benny Snell: So much for those Snell hopes and dreams on the waiver wire, eh? I figured they’d give Conner another chance and he played well, compiling 121 total yards and a touchdown on 18 touches while Snell totaled exactly one yard on his four touches. This is Conner’s backfield, but the Steelers will show no hesitance no move away from him if he’s inefficient or dealing with an injury. There was no team in the NFL who allowed more fantasy points on the ground than the Texans last year, and it wasn’t all that close, as the Chiefs were a full 16 PPR points behind them at No. 2. It wasn’t just on the ground, either. They allowed a massive 1.98 PPR points per target through the air, which ranked second to only the Dolphins. When you have those numbers combined with a running back who’ll likely see 18-plus opportunities, it’s a recipe for big success. Both the Chiefs and Ravens rushed for more than 160 yards in their matchups against them, so there’s little reason to doubt the Steelers backs. Play Conner as a low-end RB1 and as long as he stays upright, he should crush this matchup.
Will Fuller: He was on and off the field throughout Week 2 and wound up playing 37 snaps, but he didn’t have a single target. Fantasy owners have seen this all too often with Fuller. Just one week after accounting for 51 percent of their air yards, this happens. You’ll need to monitor his practice participation throughout the week, but the matchup leaves a lot to be desired. The Steelers have allowed just two wide receivers to top 100 yards against them since the start of last year. One was Tyler Boyd, who is nothing like Fuller, while the other was Darius Slayton in Week 1. Both of them saw nine targets, a number that’s going to be hard for Fuller to get to if he’s not 100 percent, especially now that Brandin Cooks is near full health and developing rapport with Watson. The Steelers allowed just six plays of 40-plus yards last year and none with 60-plus yards, so relying on a big play out of Fuller wouldn’t make sense. You need volume, so pay attention to the practice reports. If he’s practicing in full, you must consider him as a boom-or-bust WR3. If he’s limited throughout the week and questionable, he moves into WR4 territory with donut potential (a zero in your lineup). I’ll update his notes later in the week.
Brandin Cooks: It was good to see Cooks on the field in a full-time role, as his connection grew stronger with Deshaun Watson. He caught 5-of-8 targets for 95 yards, leading the team in a brutal matchup against the Ravens secondary. The Steelers aren’t slouches either, as they’ve allowed just 16 receivers to score more than 11.2 PPR points against them since the start of last year. Why is that number significant? It’s the average number of points it took to finish as a top-36 receiver in 2019. That’s what you’re looking for when starting any wide receiver, a top-36 performance. Cooks tends to do well against slower cornerbacks, and the Steelers duo of Joe Haden and Steven Nelson kind of fit in that group. Nelson ran a 4.49 when coming into the NFL while Haden ran a 4.52, though both are slower than they were when they came into the league. It’s not a great matchup, but we’d give Cooks a solid bump if Fuller can’t go or is limited throughout the week. For now, we’ll assume Fuller plays after being limited in practice. Cooks should be in the high-end WR4 conversation whose arrow is trending up.
Randall Cobb: We saw Cobb a lot more involved in the offense in Week 2, though it took a zero-target game from Will Fuller to get there. He caught 5-of-6 targets for 59 yards, though he did have the best matchup on the field. He actually does once again this week against Mike Hilton, though it’s not a smash spot or anything. In his four years with the Steelers, Hilton has allowed a pedestrian 66.1 percent catch-rate (this is decent for a slot cornerback) and 10.4 yards per reception with a touchdown every 31 targets. The Steelers biggest weakness is over the middle of the field, but the only receivers who’ve truly capitalized on that saw seven-plus targets and had a big role in their offense (Tyler Boyd, Tyler Lockett, Christian Kirk, Julian Edelman, and Jarvis Landry). Those are the slot receivers who finished top-36 against the Steelers. If Fuller is inactive, there’s a chance, but I don’t think Cobb should be considered anything more than a WR5 in fantasy right now.
JuJu Smith-Schuster: It’s been good to see Smith-Schuster be fantasy relevant again, though he’s seemingly taken a backseat to Diontae Johnson through two weeks. He’s totaled a solid 14 targets that have turned into 117 yards and two touchdowns, but his 19.2 percent target share pales in comparison to Johnson’s 31.5 percent share. The matchups will likely dictate who has the better week, but this week, they could choose either matchup. Smith-Schuster will see a mix of Bradley Roby and John Reid in coverage, a duo that’s allowed 5-for-5 passing for 51 yards and a touchdown while covering the slot over the first two weeks. Not many realize, but Sammy Watkins plays the slot the most for the Chiefs, and if you recall, it was him having a big game in Week 1 where he tallied seven catches for 82 yards and a touchdown. Smith-Schuster should be started as a rock-solid WR2 who clearly has top-12 upside, but he’s going to need to surpass his teammate in targets to get there.
Diontae Johnson: He’s now seen 31.5 percent of Ben Roethlisberger‘s targets, a number that ranks second in the NFL among wide receivers. He’s made them count, too, racking up 14 catches for 149 yards and a touchdown through two games. By comparison, in Antonio Brown‘s final season with the Steelers, he saw a 24.8 percent target share. It’s possible that Johnson’s the wide receiver to own in Pittsburgh, though there’s obviously room for both of them to be fantasy starters. The Texans secondary is nothing to be worried about, though they’ve surprisingly held every receiver on the Chiefs and Ravens to less than 85 yards. With that being said, the only player who saw more than six targets was Sammy Watkins, who turned in a 21.2 PPR-point performance. The mix of Vernon Hargreaves and Lonnie Johnson will be asked to slow down Johnson, and I’m not sure they’re capable, as that duo has allowed 246-of-351 passing for 3,152 yards and 20 touchdowns in their coverage. That’s a 70.1 percent completion rate, 12.8 yards per reception, and a touchdown every 17.6 targets. Start Johnson as a WR2 as long as he’s getting the targets.
James Washington and Chase Claypool: Some will wonder if Claypool is the add off the waiver wire after his big catch last week, but he’s still trailing Washington in the pecking order. Claypool ran 13 routes while Washington ran 22 of them. This is not a team that runs 4WR sets, so we’re going to have to wait for one of them to emerge before relying on either of them as anything more than a big play or bust WR5/6-type option. For now, the better option is Washington, but knowing the Texans have faced just 18.0 receiver targets per game, it’s tough to say either of them are good bets.
Jordan Akins and Darren Fells: After a solid Week 1 performance where he found the end zone, Akins racked up seven targets in Week 2, which was the second-highest mark of his career. He caught all of them for 55 yards, further making us consider him a legitimate streaming option. Unfortunately, he’s going to share the red zone work with the vulture, Fells. But there have been 15 targets to the two of them through two weeks, amounting to a respectable 22.1 percent target share. The Steelers have allowed just a 52.9 percent catch-rate to tight ends through two games, which is much different than the 69.9 percent completion rate they allowed in 2019. They actually allowed 1.93 PPR points per target to tight ends last year, which was the fifth-highest mark in the league, but they faced the fourth-fewest targets, so their overall numbers looked better. With how dominant they are against running backs and wide receivers, it’s only natural to expect them to have some sort of weakness. If Will Fuller is held out, the target floor goes up for Akins, but even if he plays, Akins is on the high-end TE2 radar. I’ll update later in the week based on the practice reports.
Eric Ebron: It hasn’t been the start Ebron wanted to his career in Pittsburgh, as he’s caught 4-of-7 targets for 61 scoreless yards. I was worried about his role and when he’d get on the field, but he’s run 55 pass routes through two weeks, which is among the top-20 tight ends in football. The downside is that he’s averaging just 1.11 yards per route run, which ranks as the 12th-worst among tight ends with at least five targets. It could take some time for him to get on the same page with Roethlisberger given the lack of preseason action, and it’s not like Diontae Johnson will continue to get a 31.5 percent target share. Ebron is someone to watch as the weeks go on because it shouldn’t surprise you if he has a big game with the number of pass routes he’s running. But save that for a week when the Steelers are involved in a potential shootout. That’s not something we see happening this week, as the total of 45 points is mediocre. On top of that, Smith-Schuster and Johnson have plus matchups with the cornerbacks this week, so no need to force-feed Ebron. He’s on our radar, but not a recommended streamer just yet.