The Primer: Week 7 Edition (2020 Fantasy Football)
Have you ever talked to that person who tells you they were just in the right place at the right time? I’m sure there’ve been times where you walk away jealous of that person, saying that you wish you’d have that happen to you. I know I have.
It’s natural to be jealous of someone who gets something you’ve been working towards for a long time, especially if they just stumbled into that opportunity without much hard work. This happens in every line of work and/or life. Whether it be a streamer on Twitch who just happened to have the right person watching that day (who then decided to promote their work), or a salesman who made a big sale when the boss was under duress about hitting a quota, or even someone finding their soulmate while stopping at the grocery store on the way home from work.
Meanwhile, you’ve been streaming every day for six months and have 10 viewers. You’ve been hitting your sales numbers consistently with no recognition. You’ve been on a million dating sites trying to find your match because you are tired of being single but haven’t had any luck. Let me tell you, most of the time, it’s not even that you’ve done anything wrong.
Let me ask you a question. All those people who were in the right place at the right time… What do every one of them have in common? They were in a place. They were doing something that they didn’t even believe would lead to the opportunity they received.
You can’t be in the right place at the right time unless you put yourself out there.
Maybe you took the day off streaming because you were burnt out and thought no would even care. Maybe you took a sick day at work because you were tired of no one recognizing your sales numbers. Maybe you decided not to go to the grocery store after work and just stopped at McDonald’s instead. You don’t know it, but those could’ve been the days you missed being in the right place at the right time.
You may find it to be a funny movie, but there’s a real-life lesson to be learned from the movie “Yes Man.” You can continue to feel sorry for yourself and think that nothing goes your way. It’s very easy to do that. I’ve done that. But it’s when you continuously put yourself out there in situations is when you’ll see the benefits. Every time you step out to do something, you’re that much closer to being in the right place at the right time.
Does it suck watching someone get an opportunity that you know they didn’t work hard for? Absolutely. Will they appreciate the opportunity as much as you do? Probably not. My grandfather always told me, “You’ll appreciate things more when you work for them and earn them on your own.” Continue to put yourself out there, and then one day, you’ll be telling people, “As fate would have it, I was just in the right place at the right time.”
So, what does The Primer offer? Anything you could ever want. Seriously, it’ll have wide receiver/cornerback matchups, recent history against each team, comparable player performances, unique stats, and most importantly, how they should be played that particular week. The idea here is to give you as much information and confidence as possible when you hit that ‘Submit Lineup’ button each week.
On top of all that, I’ll come back by Saturday morning to update once practice participation reports are posted. Still want more? We’ll be doing a livestream on our YouTube channel every Sunday morning from 11-12 EST, breaking down the inactives and letting you know which players benefit the most from them.
Now, which players should be in your lineup this week?
Buffalo Bills at New York Jets
Line: BUF by 13.0
Josh Allen: After looking like the contender for league MVP in Weeks 1-4, Allen hasn’t looked great the last two weeks. In those games, he’s completed just 40-of-68 passes for 385 yards, four touchdowns, and three interceptions. He’d thrown just three interceptions in his previous 15 games. Fortunately, he has the right matchup at the right time in order for him to get back on track. The Jets have allowed a ridiculously high 71.8 percent completion-rate and have the look of a team that’s just given up. This is the same team – that looked better – he played back in Week 1 when he threw for a then-career-high 312 yards and two touchdowns, while rushing for another 57 yards and a touchdown. Oddly enough, the 6.78 yards per attempt that Allen averaged in that game was the lowest yards per attempt the Jets have allowed all year. Allen has his hands in just about every Bills touchdown, so knowing the Jets have allowed at least 24 points in every game, including 30-plus points in four of their last five games, it should be a very good day. The concern is that the Bills go back to their run-heavy ways and while it would limit Allen’s upside as a passer, it might get him some of his rushing confidence back, and relieve the pressure of throwing the ball 36.0 times per game. In a game where they’re 12.5-point favorites, you should be starting Allen as a QB1 with confidence.
Sam Darnold or Joe Flacco: It doesn’t really matter who’s under center for the Jets; you’re not playing them. Through six games this year, they’ve combined for 198.2 yards per game. Even worse, they’ve thrown a combined four touchdowns and five interceptions through six games. No, it doesn’t matter that the Bills have allowed the fifth-most fantasy points to quarterbacks.
Devin Singletary and Zack Moss: The first four weeks of this backfield seemed fruitful for fantasy, even if there would be a guessing game between the two of them. They totaled 409 total yards and two touchdowns through the first four games but have totaled just 162 total yards and one touchdown over the last two games while totaling just 36 touches in the two games combined. What made it worse was that the matchups against the Titans and Chiefs were good ones. Now onto a rematch with the Jets, a defense that held them to 41 yards on 18 carries in the first matchup, though they also added 39 yards and a touchdown through the air. Make no mistake about it; this Jets team has gotten worse since then. They have faced the fifth-most weighted opportunity to running backs this year. Running backs have amassed 30.3 touches per game against them, while running the ball 46.7 percent of the time, which is the seventh-highest mark in the league. The Bills have rushed the ball just 38.6 percent of the time (rank 23rd) to this point, so something has to give. Including that game in Week 1, no team of running backs have totaled fewer than 26 touches against the Jets, so even if they’re a better run defense than they’re given credit for, there are fantasy points available. Singletary is the best bet, though he’s certainly not an upside play. Consider him a high-end RB3 during the bye weeks. Moss had just five carries in his return from injury, though it was a messy game, so maybe they held him back. Whatever the case, it’s difficult to trust him until we see him get double-digit opportunities. He really should against the Jets, so consider him an RB4 with a little bit of risk.
Frank Gore and Lamical Perine: Through six weeks, Frank Gore ranks as the No. 37 running back in weighted opportunity, so whether we like it or not, he has some fantasy value. He racked up 15 opportunities in the first game post-Bell and was more efficient than usual as he totaled 70 total yards on them. He’s still scored just three total touchdowns over his last 455 touches. The Bills have allowed two 100-yard rushers in their last four games, though they were both young, spry running backs (Clyde Edwards-Helaire, Darrell Henderson). As a whole, they’re allowing 0.81 PPR points per opportunity, which is the league average. The only time they’ve faced fewer than 26 running back touches was… against the Jets, in Week 1 when Gore, Josh Adams, and Le’Veon Bell combined for just 18 touches. With Adam Gase seemingly refusing to see what he has in Perine, Gore should continue to see at least 12-15 opportunities, even if he does lack scoring upside. He’s a back-end RB3/low-upside flex during bye weeks considering he’ll give you somewhat of a floor. Perine did tie a career-high nine touches last week, so we’re headed in the right direction, but he’s nothing more than a desperation RB4 option right now in a low-scoring offense.
Stefon Diggs: It’s been a great journey watching Diggs play with the Bills for six weeks, as he’s getting the targets he deserves and is doing work with them. He currently sits as the No. 4 wide receiver in PPR formats and has a chance to leap into the No. 1 position with a big game in Week 7 against the Jets. He currently sits just 5.5 PPR points behind Calvin Ridley, the No. 1 receiver. If Week 1 was a preview of what we can expect from Diggs against the Jets, we’re on a good track, as he caught 8-of-9 targets for 86 yards, though he didn’t score in that game. The Jets perimeter cornerback situation is a rough one, as they’ll be asking the trio of Blessuan Austin, Pierre Desir, and Lamar Jackson to cover him. Those three have combined to allow 43-of-58 passing for 594 yards and seven touchdowns in their coverage. We’ve seen two receivers (Tim Patrick, DeAndre Hopkins) eclipse 110 receiving yards over their last three games. Start Diggs as a star WR1 this week and expect results. *Update* With John Brown being ruled out, you can play Diggs in cash lineups.
John Brown: After catching six passes in Week 1, Brown has been quiet on the stat sheet, as he’s totaled just eight receptions over his last four games combined, including two games with nothing to show that he even played. If you’ve paid attention, you know that Brown’s been trying to play through a lower body injury, and it’s clearly affecting his play. The matchup against the Jets is a great one, and he showed that when he caught six passes for 70 yards and a touchdown against them in Week 1, though a lot has changed since that game where he got 10 targets. He hasn’t seen more than six targets since that game. There have been nine receivers who’ve totaled at least 52 yards against the Jets, so we should see some sort of floor if Brown is healthy, so paying attention to his practice participation is important. For what it’s worth, Brown would see Blessuan Austin the most in coverage, who has been better than Pierre Desir/Lamar Jackson, though not great. If Brown can get in a full practice at some point, he can be considered a low-end WR3 this week with some upside. If he’s limited, he is more of a risk/reward WR4. *Update* Brown has been ruled OUT for this game.
Cole Beasley: The Beasley tracker continues. We’re making this a thing. He’s now totaled at least 9.0 PPR points in 18-of-21 games since the start of the 2019 season. He’s seen at least six targets in 5-of-6 games this year, including the Week 1 game against the Jets where he caught 4-of-7 targets for 58 scoreless yards. It’s worth noting that Allen threw the ball 47 times in that game. Brian Poole is the Jets best cornerback and it’s showed in his coverage this year, as he’s allowed 16-of-22 passing for just 165 scoreless yards. The best game a slot receiver had against them was Jerry Jeudy‘s two-catch, 61-yard, one-touchdown performance, and that touchdown came on the perimeter. Outside of that, Beasley’s 4/58/0 was the best, so it’s clearly not the greatest matchup for him. Still, knowing Beasley’s stable floor that’s produced at least 53 yards and/or a touchdown in every game this year is solid for those looking for a WR4/5-type streamer.
Jamison Crowder: He’s now seen double-digit targets in every game he’s played this year. Despite missing two weeks with a hamstring injury, Crowder ranks 13th in targets among wide receivers. Clearly, it doesn’t matter who’s under center. Unfortunately, we saw the whole “bad team” come to life again last week, as Crowder’s 13 targets netted just 48 yards, though PPR leaguers won’t complain about the seven receptions. He’s caught at least seven balls in every game, including the one against the Bills in Week 1. Here are his stat lines against the Bills in their last three meetings: 7/115/1, 8/66/1, and 14/99/0. Do you think his role succeeds against Sean McDermott’s scheme or what? Going back to the start of last year, the top-five wide performances against the Bills have been Jarvis Landry, Cooper Kupp, and Jamison Crowder (three times). They’re all slot-heavy receivers. Heck, even Isaiah Ford totaled 7/76/0 against them in Week 2, and Hunter Renfrow 5/57/0 in Week 4. You need to keep plugging Crowder in as a high-end WR3 with a rock-solid floor no matter who’s under center. *Update* Crowder is dealing with a groin injury and was forced to miss practice on Thursday. There’s a chance he misses this game, so pay attention to the inactives as we approach Sunday.
Dawson Knox: He was held out last week, but it’s not like you were contemplating playing him anyway. The Bills tight end room has been a mess, combining for just 24 targets through six weeks, which amounts to a 10.9 percent target share between Knox, Tyler Kroft, and Lee Smith. This is not a situation you need to monitor. *Update* Knox has been ruled out for this game.
Ryan Griffin and Chris Herndon: You might be wondering if Herndon played in Week 6 after seeing the box score, but I can assure you that he did. He was on the field for 45 snaps while Griffin played 26 of them, though it was Griffin who was targeted three times while Herndon saw none. It stinks that we can’t trust either of them because tight ends have been targeted 28.3 percent of the time against the Bills, which is the second-highest mark in the league, so targets have been funneled there. There have been four tight ends who’ve scored 17-plus PPR points against them through just six games. But still, you cannot trust either of these tight ends with the way they’ve played this year.
Cleveland Browns at Cincinnati Bengals
Line: CLE by 3.0
Baker Mayfield: It was a game to be forgotten for Mayfield last week. He needs to have a short memory, though. The last time he played this Bengals team, he was coming off a brutal game where he completed just 53.8 percent of his passes for 189 yards and one touchdown. In that Week 2 game against the Bengals, however, he was able to complete a season-high 69.6 percent of passes for 219 yards and two touchdowns on just 23 pass attempts. Keep in mind he did that while the duo of Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt combined for 210 yards and three touchdowns on the ground. While I love Hunt this week, he’s not going to produce that much. Prior to last week’s debacle, Mayfield had thrown at least two touchdowns in each of his last four games. The Bengals have allowed multiple touchdowns to quarterbacks in each of their last five games, including Philip Rivers last week, who showed signs of life when he threw for 371 yards and three touchdowns after being left for dead. That was the second time in three games they’d allowed a quarterback throw for 350-plus yards, as Gardner Minshew hit that mark in Week 4. It’s hard to trust Mayfield after that disaster in Week 6 but he’s not the worst streaming option this week as a middling QB2.
Joe Burrow: He’s now gone two weeks without throwing a single touchdown, which is not something you want to see with streamers. It wasn’t all bad, though, as he hit the 300-yard mark for the fourth time in the last five games, and he also rushed for a touchdown. On the season, he’s now thrown for 1,617 yards but with six touchdowns. That amounts to 269.5 yards per touchdown. How improbable is it that he continues that pace? Well, there was no quarterback in the NFL last year who averaged more than 218.4 yards per touchdown. Oddly enough, the quarterback who averaged 218.4 yards per touchdown last year was Andy Dalton, while playing for Zac Taylor. Maybe his playbook can use some work in the red zone. The Browns are not a team who’s done well slowing down opposing quarterbacks, as they’ve allowed a passing touchdown every 133.1 passing yards, including a career-high three touchdowns to Burrow in Week 2. Now, to be fair, Burrow did throw the ball a ridiculous 61 times in that game, something we can’t expect again. Don’t look now but Burrow has thrown the ball just 66 times over the last two weeks combined. The Browns pass rush has been somewhat mediocre through six games, generating a 5.29 percent sack-rate, which ranks 20th in the NFL and helps Burrow, who’s seemingly always under pressure. There are some inconsistencies with both of these teams, which leads to a high-variance streamer. I wouldn’t be shocked to see him finish as a high-end QB2 or high-end QB3, so we have to go somewhere in between. He’s got a higher ceiling than most in the middling QB2 range but he also has a lower floor. He’s got a higher ceiling than most in the middling QB2 range, but he also has a lower floor.
Kareem Hunt: We talked about how tough of a matchup the Steelers were last week, right? Sadly, it was even worse than we thought, as he finished with just 57 total yards and no touchdown. That’s the bad news. The good news is that he should find his way back into fantasy owners’ hearts this week with a matchup against the Bengals, a team that he and Nick Chubb trampled on back in Week 2 when they combined for 234 total yards and four touchdowns. Hunt won’t be getting the 35 touches that they combined for, but this is a team that’s faced an average of 27.3 running back touches per game, so we’re looking at what should be 20-plus touches for Hunt in this game. There have already been eight different running backs who’ve totaled at least 57 yards on the ground against them. Guys, they’ve played just six games. Outside of that game against the Browns, they’ve only allowed one running back touchdown (Joshua Kelley), which is a tad worrisome for running backs moving forward, but not enough to move me off Hunt as a candidate for the RB1 this week. He’s a must-start everywhere and should be fresh coming off just a 15-touch game.
Joe Mixon and Giovani Bernard: Mixon was forced to leave the game last week with an ankle injury, but he was able to return for the second half, so we must assume he’ll be okay for this game. It does provide a level of uncertainty to his massive workload in the passing game they’ve been giving him, especially if he doesn’t get in a full practice (stay tuned for notes on that). When these two teams met back in Week 2, Mixon was bottled up and held to just 46 yards on 16 carries but did add a season-high 40 yards through the air. Last week was the first one where the Browns allowed more than 57 yards on the ground to a running back, which is impressive considering they’d played Mixon, Ezekiel Elliott, and Jonathan Taylor in the first five games. They’ve allowed just 3.81 yards per carry, which is one of the lowest marks in football, but they’ve allowed a solid 6.56 yards per target, and have been tagged for a touchdown every 16.6 carries. Because of that, they’ve allowed the 10th-most fantasy points per opportunity to running backs. But again, Mixon needs that passing game usage to remain in that RB1 territory, as the 1.05 yards before contact that his offensive line is creating isn’t enough for him to produce consistently on the ground. As long as Mixon gets in a full practice this week, he should be in lineups as a low-end RB1/high-end RB2. If he doesn’t, we have to dial back expectations. If Mixon were to miss this game, we’d look at Bernard as a candidate for 15-plus touches, and would walk into the RB2 conversation. Stay tuned for updates. *Update* Mixon didn’t practice all week and has been ruled OUT for this week’s game. Bernard will take his place and should be viewed as a middling RB2 who isn’t nearly as good as Mixon, but touches should carry him to fantasy relevance.
Odell Beckham: The Browns offense was a wreck last week and it trickled throughout the lineup, including Beckham, Landry, and even Kareem Hunt. His four targets were the lowest number he’s had in a Browns uniform. It’s kind of crazy how much Beckham has fallen off since going to the Browns, as he’s topped 87 yards just twice over 22 games and he’s scored multiple touchdowns just once. We have enough of a sample size to judge, too. The Browns don’t want to throw the ball a whole lot under Kevin Stefanski and that’s cutting into the floor that Beckham once had. There should be a bit more targets to go around this week, as it’s a rematch of their Week 2 matchup where Beckham totaled 74 yards and a touchdown while Mayfield threw the ball just 23 times. The Bengals secondary hasn’t been nearly as bad as some thought it might be, as they’ve been right around the league average in yards per target (8.43), catch-rate (64.3 percent), and touchdown-rate (every 19.2 targets). It all amounts to 1.80 PPR points per target, which is precisely the league average to wide receivers. Without Chubb in the lineup, we should see a bit more passing out of the Browns offense, though that’s far from a guarantee. Beckham is starting to look more and more like a low-end WR2 who’ll have some WR1 weeks, but more often than not, you don’t want to rely on them. *Update* Bengals top cornerback William Jackson is dealing with a concussion and will not play this week. That combined with Hooper being out, Beckham should be a candidate for 10-plus targets in this game.
Jarvis Landry: This is kind of crazy and it’s not me suggesting that Landry is better than Beckham, but let’s look at their numbers since Beckham joined the team:
On the 2020 season, Landry has essentially been forgotten by fantasy managers, but did you know that him and Beckham have the same number of yards despite Landry seeing 10 fewer targets? Again, Beckham gets top-tier cornerbacks in coverage, so it’s not apples to apples in real-life football terms, but in fantasy, points are points. Both have been disappointing in Kevin Stefanski’s offense, and it’s left Landry outside the top-40 receivers through six weeks. He’s topped six targets just once, and that was in a game Mayfield threw the ball 37 times, something that won’t happen very often. The last time they played the Bengals, he threw the ball just 23 times. They had Chubb that game, so we should expect more pass attempts against a team whose opponents have averaged 66.7 plays per game. Mackensie Alexander was their big free agent signing to come in and cover the slot, but he’s struggled a bit, allowing 14-of-18 passing for 150 yards and a touchdown in his coverage. It’s far from a guarantee, but Landry should be considered a low-end WR3 this week.
Tyler Boyd: Some will say that Boyd is a boring WR3 that is fine but this is your opportunity to buy him before they realize he’s the only consistent option in this offense. While Green and Higgins battle for more targets on the perimeter, Boyd will reap the benefits. He’s seen at least eight targets in four of the last five games and is going into a great matchup against a Browns defense that allowed him 7/72/1 on eight targets back in Week 2. Receivers have seen a massive 140 targets against the Browns, which ranks as the second-highest total right behind the Seahawks. That amounts to 23.3 targets per game, which is more than enough, even when you have three wide receivers getting consistent targets like the Bengals do. The Browns were tired of watching Tavierre Thomas getting burned, so they’ve shifted to Kevin Johnson, a cornerback who’s on his third team in three years. Throughout his five-plus years in the league, he’s allowed a 65.3 percent catch-rate, 11.7 yards per reception, and a touchdown every 14.4 targets in coverage. With that being said, he did do a good job limiting JuJu Smith-Schuster last week while Chase Claypool and James Washington did work. Still, Ben Roethlisberger threw the ball just 22 times in that game, so there wasn’t really a test. Boyd should remain in lineups as a low-end WR2/high-end WR3 this week.
Tee Higgins: Since becoming a starter in Week 3, Higgins has seen at least seven targets in every game and has produced. He’s averaging a massive 11.5 yards per target over the last three weeks, which included games against the Ravens and Colts. He’s now someone you should be considering as an every-week option in fantasy lineups. With that being said, he does have the toughest matchup of Bengals receivers this week, as he plays most of his snaps at RWR, which is the area of the field that Denzel Ward monitors. Some might say that it’s not a bad matchup, as Ward has allowed four touchdowns on 30 targets, but the 7.67 yards per target he’s allowed is a lot more static and predictable. Still, it does seem like he’s tried to play through a few injuries this year, which may be limiting his effectiveness. The Browns have seen an average of 23.3 targets per game to wide receivers, which is enough for multiple receivers to be relevant. With the target share he’s getting, Higgins should be in the WR3 territory, even if his matchup is the toughest among Bengals receivers, as he’ll only see Ward roughly 60 percent of the time.
A.J. Green: Here we go again… The targets were attractive through three weeks, as he’d seen 28 of them, which was among the best in the game. The production wasn’t there, but we figured it would eventually even out. He then proceeded to catch one pass in the next two games while seeing just six targets. He appeared to be someone you could drop with the emergence of Higgins, but wait… there’s a twist in this story. Just when we thought we could quit him, Green led the team with 11 targets last week, racking up eight receptions for 96 yards in a tough matchup against the Colts. If you know the algorithm to predict Green’s target share, congrats. The Browns are a team he struggled against back in Week 2, though it’s worth noting he didn’t look right after falling hard on the first play of the game. He proceeded to total just 3/29/0 on 13 targets. He’s going to see a lot of Terrance Mitchell in coverage this week, a cornerback who’s been doing a solid job in coverage, allowing just a 51.2 percent completion-rate and just one touchdown on 41 targets in coverage. When he has allowed a reception, they’ve gone for 14.2 yards a pop, which is high, but Green doesn’t have a reception over 19 yards this season. We have a one-game sample size of what looked like the old Green, but that’s not enough to start him with confidence. He should be considered a risk/reward WR4 this week. If he produces top-40 numbers this week, you’ll be using him against the Titans next week.
Austin Hooper: We talked about Hooper’s increased role last week and that trend continued in Week 6 when he saw six targets. He’s now caught five passes in each of his last three games, which is certainly something streamers can rely on. He’s still yet to top 57 yards and he’s scored just one touchdown, but again, tight ends have not been reliant this year, so the targets and receptions are what we should be looking at. His target share percentage has gone 5, 17, 17, 23, 27, 21, so there’s a clear escalation, especially with Nick Chubb out of the lineup. The Bengals have been a popular team to play tight ends against because of the volume they’ve seen. They’ve seen a league-high 56 targets through six games, even though they’ve been a rather efficient defense against them, as evidenced by the 1.69 PPR points per target they’ve allowed which is near the league average. But again, they have now allowed 56-plus yards to four different tight ends. It is worth noting that each of those tight ends have seen at least five targets, but now that Hooper is there, he should be considered a decent low-end TE1 streaming option. *Update* Hooper has been ruled OUT for this game with an illness. If you’re desperate, David Njoku can provide last-minute value as a TE2.
Drew Sample: You remember that week where a lot of fantasy managers ran to the waiver wire to snag Sample after he caught seven passes for 45 yards? Yeah, I was one of them. While he hasn’t lived up to the expectations, the Bengals clearly saw a hole in the Browns defense, because between Sample and C.J. Uzomah, they combined for 15 targets, 11 receptions, 87 yards, and a touchdown in that game. It wasn’t really a fluke, either, as the Browns have allowed the 10th-most fantasy points to tight ends. Sample should be able to give you some sort of floor in a matchup against a team that has allowed six tight ends rack up at least four receptions and 31 yards. It may not sound like a lot but 7.1 PPR points has been a solid fantasy day for a tight end streamer in 2020.
Green Bay Packers at Houston Texans
Line: GB by 3.5
Aaron Rodgers: There was certainly a stumble in Rodgers’ MVP campaign in Week 6 as he struggled without time, as the Bucs sacked him four times and held him to just 4.6 yards per attempt on the day. Considering how well he’d played to this point, we have to shake it off as a bad day, but it’s also worth noting teams have opted to go with the run against the Texans, and it’s hard to disagree considering their troubles slowing it down. The 52.8 percent pass-rate ranks as the sixth-lowest mark in football. Still, that’s not enough to deter you when you find out they’ve still allowed the fourth-most fantasy points through the air this season. Not only has efficiency been there (0.56 fantasy points per actual pass attempt ranks fourth-highest in NFL), and despite the run-heavy play selection, there are enough plays being run against the Texans (69.3 per game ranks second in the NFL) to allow for plenty of pass attempts. Outside of one game against the Jaguars, the Texans have allowed at least 28 points in every game. When you combine that with the Packers team-implied total of 30.0 points, you should be expecting Rodgers to get back on track, even if Aaron Jones has a massive game. Start Rodgers as a middling QB1 this week.
Deshaun Watson: Despite starting the season with one of the worst schedules, Watson sits as the No. 5 quarterback through six weeks and has now scored at least 20.9 fantasy points in three straight weeks. He’s had great matchups in those games against the Vikings, Jaguars, and Titans, but that’s what good quarterbacks do; they take advantage of plus matchups. The Packers defense would qualify as a plus matchup. Their defense has allowed 1.62 PPR points per offensive play to their opponents which ranks as the second-highest number in the league to only the Falcons. They’re one of just five teams who’ve allowed a 70-plus percent completion percentage to their opponents. But here’s the issue: They have been a reverse funnel defense where teams have absolutely obliterated them on the ground, while their pass defense hasn’t been horrendous. They’ve allowed just one quarterback to average more than 8.0 yards per attempt, which has ultimately kept every quarterback under 290 yards through the air. However, they’ve allowed at least two passing touchdowns in 4-of-5 games, with the only exception being Matt Ryan when he lost Julio Jones in their Week 4 matchup. The Packers have only faced 32.2 pass attempts per game, a number Watson has surpassed in each of his last three games. On efficiency, they’ve allowed the ninth-most fantasy points per actual pass attempt. It is worth noting that under Matt LaFleur, they’ve yet to allow a quarterback to rush for more than 34 yards. Watson will attempt to go toe-to-toe with the Packers, who’ll surely put points on the board against their defense, so go ahead and plug him in as a sturdy QB1 this week.
Aaron Jones and Jamaal Williams: Through six weeks, Jones ranks ninth among running backs in weighted opportunity, though we saw him tally a season-low 13 touches last week. I wouldn’t worry too much about it considering he’s totaled at least 20 opportunities in the other four games. When you look at fantasy points allowed to opposing skill-position players, the Texans have allowed the third-most, right behind the Falcons and Seahawks, two matchups we love to attack. On the ground alone, they’ve allowed a massive 144.9 fantasy points. There is no other team that’s allowed more than 110.1 points on the ground. It wasn’t just Derrick Henry, either. We’ve watched Henry, Dalvin Cook, Clyde Edwards-Helaire, and James Conner all rush for at least 109 yards and a touchdown. Teams are also choosing to run the ball 47.1 percent of the time against them, which bodes well for the number of touches available to the Packers backs. All in all, they’ve faced an average of 33.3 running back opportunities per game. They’ve also allowed a league-leading eight rushing touchdowns through six games, which is tied with the Panthers, a team we continually attack. Jones has totaled 103 of the 173 opportunities to Packers running backs, so even if Jones sees his 60 percent average, he’d be around 20 opportunities in this game. Considering the Texans have allowed 0.99 PPR points per opportunity on average, Jones is in the conversation for the RB1 this week. Williams has averaged 9.4 opportunities per game himself, so if you’re searching for a last-minute RB4, he should deliver a decent floor for a guy that’s available in almost every league. *Update* Jones suffered a calf injury in practice this week and is trending downward after not practicing on Friday. They’re calling him a game-time decision. If he were to be ruled out, Williams would likely net 12-15 touches while A.J. Dillon would also get some work. Williams would be considered a high-end RB3 while Dillon would enter the RB4/flex discussion due to the high-quality matchup.
David Johnson: One of the knocks I had with Johnson heading into the season was that Deshaun Watson never targeted his running backs in the passing game. With DeAndre Hopkins gone, I thought there may be a chance that changes, but it’s proven to be a real issue for Johnson, who now has 20 targets and just 12 receptions through six games. Knowing he hasn’t topped two receptions or 29 yards through the air in each of the last five games, there’s little reason to expect it now. The Packers are a great matchup for running backs, as we’ve watched them average a league-high 34.8 PPR points per game, which is more than wide receviers have scored against them (32.5). They’re one of just two teams who’ve allowed more points to running backs than wide receivers (Panthers are the other). Of the production they’ve allowed to the skill-position players, running backs have accounted for 44.6 percent of it. What happens when you see the Panthers or Raiders on the fantasy schedule? You get excited, right? Well, the Packers have allowed more fantasy points per opportunity than any other team in the league, as they’ve allowed a massive 1.14 PPR points per opportunity, something Johnson gets plenty of. The 4.79 yards per carry is high, though not massive like some teams (ranks as ninth-most), but they’ve allowed a touchdown every 15.7 carries. If Johnson can get targeted a bit more, the Packers have also allowed 7.56 yards and 1.94 PPR points per target to running backs, which are both near the top of the league. Johnson should be considered a rock-solid RB2 this week, but he’ll have a tough time finishing as an RB1 unless he starts getting targets.
Davante Adams: The good news is that Adams returned to the lineup and saw a team-high 10 targets. The bad news is that both him and Rodgers had a bad game, though it still led to 12.1 PPR points. He’s now seen at least 10 targets in 10 of his last 11 full games, which is volume you just don’t see in today’s NFL. The Texans have allowed a league-high 73.2 percent completion-rate to wide receivers, so even if the average reception only amounts to 11.9 yards, you’ll take that with a player like Adams, who should rack up the receptions. The Texans have played against just one receiver who’s received 10 targets and that was Adam Thielen when he tagged them for eight receptions, 114 yards, and a touchdown. In fact, they’ve played against three receivers who’ve totaled eight or more targets and their finishes were WR4, WR10, and WR25. Bradley Roby has been the cornerback they’ve trusted covering opposing No. 1 receivers, and while he’s been solid allowing just 6.5 yards per target, he has allowed a touchdown every 9.3 targets in coverage. The Packers move Adams around enough to create mismatches, and there is little-to-no depth in the Texans secondary. In the end, they’ve allowed the fourth-most fantasy points per target to receivers. Start Adams as you normally would, and he should be safe enough to trust in DFS cash games as well.
Marquez Valdes-Scantling: It seems we’ve gone back to the same old Valdes-Scantling who just can’t seem to make anything of his targets. He’s seen a rock-solid 30 targets over their five games (6.0 per game), and even with Rodgers playing at an MVP level, Valdes-Scantling ranks outside the top-60 wide receivers. He actually ranks 12th in the NFL with a 36.0 percent share of his team’s air yards, so his targets have been highly valuable, too. The only receivers with more deep targets than him (14) are Marquise Brown and Calvin Ridley. He’s going to catch a long touchdown one of these weeks and it’ll all make sense to those of us who’ve been following his opportunity. He’s going to see the most of Vernon Hargreaves this week, which is a matchup that receivers have feasted on throughout his career, as he’s allowed a 69.5 percent catch-rate, 12.8 yards per reception, and a touchdown every 28.3 targets in his coverage. He’s certainly someone who the Packers could pick on this week when they do go to the air. Still, we’ve seen the opportunity before for Valdes-Scantling and he’s failed to capitalize, making him a risk/reward WR5 with more upside than most waiver wire options.
Will Fuller: He’s now scored a touchdown in four straight games and has totaled at least four receptions and 54 yards in 5-of-6 games, highlighting a rock-solid floor. If you removed the one blip on the radar in Week 2, we’d be talking about Fuller as a top-10 wide receiver for the rest of the season. He’s got volume and has been efficient with volume throughout his career, so what’s not to like? You have to wonder if the Packers use Jaire Alexander to shadow Fuller, or if they simply play sides considering Brandin Cooks has been on fire the last two weeks. The lone top-18 performance the Packers have allowed to a wide receiver was Adam Thielen back in Week 1 where he tallied six catches for 110 yards and two touchdowns. Since then, the best game they’ve allowed has been Olamide Zaccheaus‘ eight-catch, 86-yard performance. He’s the only other receiver who’s topped 56 yards against the Packers, and that includes Calvin Ridley, Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, and Emmanuel Sanders. The cornerback opposite Alexander would be either Kevin King or Josh Jackson, which have been two hit-or-miss cornerbacks, though mostly miss. Still, you can’t sit Fuller with the way he’s been producing. Consider him as a solid WR2 in fantasy lineups.
Brandin Cooks: Now two weeks removed from the exit of Bill O’Brien, Cooks has tallied 21 targets, 17 receptions, 229 yards, and two touchdowns in those games, which has been enough to be the No. 2 receiver in fantasy football. There have been rumors about the Texans potentially shopping Cooks and/or Fuller at the trade deadline in order to recoup some of the lost draft picks under O’Brien. Could this be them highlighting his ability to still play at a high level? The Packers may have their top cornerback Jaire Alexander cover Will Fuller, which would leave Cooks matched up with Kevin King or Josh Jackson, a duo that’s combined to allow 13-of-21 passing for 132 yards and two touchdowns in their coverage this year. That may not seem like much, but that’s better than what Alexander’s allowed. All in all, the Packers have allowed just 135 yards per game to wide receivers, which is hardly ideal when you have three different fantasy relevant receivers. Cooks has forced his way back into fantasy managers’ hearts, but that doesn’t make him an auto-start in a tough matchup against the Packers, though he should probably win the tie-breaker if your forced choosing between him and someone else in the low-end WR3/high-end WR4 territory.
Randall Cobb: Revenge game narrative alert! We can’t get too excited considering Cobb has just a 14.0 percent target share and has seen just 10.7 of the team’s air yards through six weeks, and it seems like Cooks’ role just continues to grow. The Packers opponents have averaged just 59.2 offensive plays per game, and that’s limited the opportunity they have, as wide receivers have averaged just 17.6 targets and 135.0 yards per game against them. There have been just four receivers who’ve finished better than the WR40 against them, and three of them needed to score in order to get there. Cobb has seen just three red zone targets through six games, so relying on a touchdown wouldn’t make too much sense. The Packers new slot cornerback Chandon Sullivan is coming off a game where he held Chris Godwin to five catches for 48 yards last week. Cobb should be considered a relatively weak WR5 this week.
Robert Tonyan: Despite already getting his bye week out of the way, Tonyan ranks 24th among tight ends in routes run. Of the tight ends who’ve seen 15-plus targets, Tonyan ranks 15th in yards per route run despite not seeing a target in Week 1. The Texans are clearly not a matchup to avoid now that we’ve seen Travis Kelce, Eric Ebron, and then… Anthony Firkser post at least 50 yards and a touchdown against them. It also hasn’t been what you’d call a can’t-miss matchup, either, as we’ve watched Mark Andrews finish with one catch for 29 yards, and Tyler Eifert finish with three catches for 16 yards despite seeing seven targets. With Marquez Valdes-Scantling struggling to do much with his targets, I’d expect more targets to start moving the big tight end’s way. Still, that would require some assumptions, which is always dangerous to do, especially when Aaron Jones and Davante Adams both have plus matchups in this game. For now, Tonyan should be considered a high-end TE2 who has top-five upside in this matchup. *Update* He missed practice on Wednesday and Thursday with an ankle injury but returned on Friday and is labeled as questionable.
Jordan Akins and Darren Fells: I wish we could get just one of these guys active on gameday each week, as they’ve combined to receive a 17.0 percent target share, but when you start dividing that up, it becomes a mess. Akins has missed the last two weeks with a concussion though he has practiced in a limited capacity. He should be expected back soon, but if he remains out, Fells gets a big jump in the rankings, as he did the last two weeks. Due to the limited plays their opponents have, the Packers have faced just 27 tight end targets through five games, or 5.4 per game. They’ve been below average on those targets, allowing a massive 10.0 yards per target, which ranks as the second-most in the NFL, but they’ve allowed just one touchdown, so when you factor in the limited targets, it drops them in the fantasy points allowed category. Rob Gronkowski was the first tight end to finish better than TE12 against them, but he also saw eight targets a number we know neither of these tight ends is getting if they’re both in the lineup. If Akins is active, he’s the preferred option, but not a great TE2 option. If Akins is out again, Fells would become a middling TE2 option with some touchdown upside in a game that’s projected for a lot of points.