The Primer: Week 7 Edition (2020 Fantasy Football)
Dallas Cowboys at Washington Football Team
Line: DAL by 1.0
Andy Dalton: It wasn’t a great starting debut for Dalton with the Cowboys. It seems many have forgotten he completed 9-of-11 passes for 111 yards in relief of Dak Prescott just two weeks ago. The good news is that they trusted him to throw the ball 54 times, as that’ll typically lead to results with his group of pass catchers. The issue this week, however, is that teams have decided to drop back and pass on Washington just 51.6 percent of the time, which is the second-lowest mark in the league. Part of the reason is due to their pass-rush that has picked up a sack on 8.38 percent of dropbacks, which ranks as the sixth-highest mark in the league. Unfortunately, the Cowboys offensive line is crippling in front of Dalton, and he doesn’t have the mobility that Prescott did. The two quarterbacks we’ve seen have the most success against Washington were Kyler Murray and Lamar Jackson, two quarterbacks with insane mobility who both rushed for at least 53 yards and a touchdown. No quarterback has thrown for more than two touchdowns against Washington, so it’s tough to say that Dalton even offers much upside after witnessing his offensive line take another hit (Zack Martin) on Monday night. Dalton should be considered a mid-to-low-end QB2 this week.
Kyle Allen: It wasn’t a horrible game by Allen last week, as he threw for 280 yards and two touchdowns against the Giants. They haven’t been the smash spot that some thought they might be this year, but Allen proved worthy of being considered as a streamer, particularly in 2QB formats. He’s actually scored 16-plus fantasy points in four of his last six games. Volume has a lot to do with that, but is there reason to doubt volume for him in Week 7? Teams have chosen to pass on the Cowboys just 50.6 percent of the time, which is the lowest mark in the league. They’ve still faced 32.3 pass attempts per game because their opponents have averaged a massive 68.2 plays per game, so there’s still hope for Allen’s volume, especially since they can’t seem to get their ground game going. It’s worth noting that the Cowboys defense has actually played better over the last three weeks, allowing 577 yards on 88 pass attempts (6.56 yards per attempt), and not allowing any of Kyler Murray, Daniel Jones, or Baker Mayfield to throw for more than 224 yards. It also doesn’t help that Allen lost one of their few offensive linemen, Saahdiq Charles, who dislocated his kneecap in Week 6. This doesn’t appear to be a high-scoring contest on either side of the ball, making Allen a pedestrian QB2 in Superflex/2QB formats.
Ezekiel Elliott: He’s on the struggle bus this season, as he’s now fumbled five times, losing four of them. To make matters worse, he doesn’t have a 100-yard rushing game on his resume in 2020. The offensive line continues to get worse, and they may be without their best offensive lineman, Zack Martin, who suffered a concussion on Monday night. With the short week, there’s real concern there, especially for an offensive lineman. With that being said, there should be a whole lot of volume available to the Cowboys running backs this week, as teams have chosen to run the ball 48.4 percent of the time (third-highest mark in the league), which has allowed running backs to average 27.8 touches per game against them. They’ve played against five running backs who’ve totaled at least 15 carries and here were their performances: Nick Chubb 19/108/2, Darrell Henderson 15/38/1, Kareem Hunt 16/46/0, Kenyan Drake 20/86/0, and Devonta Freeman 18/61/0. So, while it hasn’t been bad, it also hasn’t been a smash spot on the ground for running backs not named Nick Chubb. From an efficiency standpoint, they’ve allowed the sixth-fewest PPR points per opportunity to running backs. Elliott has yet to crack 4.8 yards per carry in a single game this year, though he has seen at least eight targets in three of the last four games, which has provided a floor. Unfortunately, the offense isn’t going to be in scoring position nearly as much without Prescott in the lineup, so his ceiling has taken a hit. He’s still an RB1 with his workload, but not the elite one we’re used to.
Antonio Gibson and J.D. McKissic: Here we go again. Even though it was a neutral gamescript throughout this game, we saw McKissic out-snap Gibson once again 39 to 27. Here are their snap counts by the week:
That’s going to limit Gibson’s upside in lineups, especially if the game goes south, like this one can, though the Cowboys aren’t the team they were just two weeks ago. But here’s something that’s great for Gibson’s value: Every single one of the Cowboys opponents has been able to run the ball at least 20 times, and every team has had at least 24 running back touches. They’ve faced a league-high 28.0 carries per game against them, which is more carries than most teams allow touches to running backs. Over the last five games, Gibson has accounted for 61.1 percent of the team’s carries, so we should be able to lock him in for at least 12-15 carries this week with upside for more. Gibson has also received five carries inside the five-yard line over the last five weeks, so he should have a good shot at a touchdown against the Cowboys, who’ve allowed seven rushing touchdowns through six games. Gibson should offer low-end RB2 value with upside if Washington can keep the game close. McKissic is a bit more dependent on gamescript, though as we saw last week, he still offers a stable floor through bye weeks, as he’s seen eight targets in three straight weeks, and has totaled at least 37 receiving yards in four straight weeks. The Cowboys have allowed a league-low 3.79 yards per target to running backs, so don’t go expecting a lot of production to McKissic, but he should be a decent RB4 option for those in bye week trouble.
Amari Cooper: It seemed like the Cowboys forgot they had Cooper on the team for six quarters, as he had just four targets in Week 5, and then saw just one target during the first half of Week 6. Fortunately, they realized he’s pretty dang good and wound up targeting him 10 times for 7/79/1. He’s now totaled at least 79 yards in 5-of-6 games, though we have seen a clear downgrade in quarterback play. That’s one issue, while the next one is the Week 7 matchup. Just 42.1 of the production that Washington has allowed to skill-position players has gone to wide receivers, which is the fourth-lowest mark in the league. When you find out that Washington has allowed just 65.0 PPR points per game to the combination of running backs, wide receivers, and tight ends (ranks as the fifth-lowest in football), that’s not good. Would you believe me if I told you there’s no team in the league who’s allowed fewer fantasy points per game to wide receivers than Washington? It’s crazy but true. It certainly helps that they’ve only had to defend 16.3 wide receiver targets per game, something that will bump up against the Cowboys whose receivers average 29.8 targets per game. From a per-target standpoint, Washington has allowed 8.66 yards per target to wide receivers, which ranks as the 12th-most, so maybe the stats they’ve allowed has been more of a small sample size? According to Football Outsiders DVOA, they rank as the 22nd defense against No. 1 receivers. You start Cooper as a WR1 but understand he may lose some of that consistency with Dalton under center.
CeeDee Lamb: He continues to pull away from Gallup as the clear-cut No. 2 receiver for the Cowboys, as he’s now seen 21 targets over the last two weeks. He hasn’t seen fewer than six targets all season and actually ranks eighth among receivers with his 50 targets on the season. He’s done work with those targets too, totaling at least five receptions and 59 yards in every game. Washington has Jimmy Moreland defending the slot, and he’s been good, but also hasn’t been tested very much. He’s allowed 13-of-17 passing for 103 scoreless yards in slot coverage to this point. He only has 68 career targets in his coverage, where he’s allowed a 79 percent catch-rate and 10.5 yards per reception, so it’s far from an avoid matchup, even if Washington has allowed the fewest fantasy points per game to wide receivers. Given his target share, Lamb belongs in lineups as a low-end WR2 moving forward.
Michael Gallup: He’s falling further and further behind Cooper and Lamb, as his 34 targets through six weeks pales in comparison (Cooper 65, Lamb 50). He’s playing the field-stretcher, as evidenced by his 16.8-yard average depth of target which ranks fourth in the NFL, though he did see three end zone targets in last week’s loss. Now on to play a Washington defense that’s allowed the fewest fantasy points per game to wide receivers. The crazy part is that they’ve allowed the ninth-most pass plays of 20-plus yards this year. They’ve allowed just a 62.2 percent catch-rate to receivers, but when they do allow a catch, it goes for 13.92 yards, which is the ninth-highest mark in the league. Still, he’ll see the most of Kendall Fuller in coverage, who happens to be playing great football. He’s allowed just 3-of-11 passing for 56 yards in his coverage while intercepting four passes, including at least one in each of the last three games. The touchdown catch that Darius Slayton had last week was on Fuller’s side of the field, but oddly enough, they had him playing free safety on that play. Gallup is someone who’s turning into a big-play-or-bust WR4 option.
Terry McLaurin: After watching McLaurin see 12 targets last week with Allen under center, you should have very little concerns about his rest of season value. Washington is clearly going to allow Allen to throw the ball a lot, even in neutral gamescripts, which bodes well for McLaurin, as it’s similar to the way D.J. Moore was used under Scott Turner last year. There hasn’t been a game this year where McLaurin has seen fewer than seven targets, so he’s in your lineup every week regardless of matchup. This week is one where you’re looking forward to starting him as he should light up the scoreboard against the Cowboys secondary. It was surprising to see DeAndre Hopkins held to just two catches for 73 yards last week, as the Cowboy have already allowed five different receivers total 100-plus yards against them. But watching that game, you could tell Kyler Murray was off. The three times a receiver saw double-digit targets against the Cowboys this year: Tyler Lockett 9/100/3, Calvin Ridley 7/109/2, and Darius Slayton 8/129/0. There have been nine wide receivers who’ve posted top-24 numbers against them, highlighting a rock-solid floor. Start McLaurin as a WR1 this week, and yes, he’s safe enough for cash-game lineups.
Dontrelle Inman: He’s running nearly as many routes as McLaurin, and though he won’t get near the targets, he has seen five-plus targets in 5-of-6 games this year. Every wide receiver who’s seen five targets against the Cowboys has produced 8.0 or more PPR points, including nine top-24 options. In his first full game with Kyle Allen, Inman caught all five of his targets for 45 yards, so if you’re looking for someone who can come in and offer some sort of a floor during bye weeks, Inman doesn’t look horrendous as a WR5.
Dalton Schultz: The hype machine has died down quite a bit over the last few weeks, as Schultz has totaled just five catches for 41 yards in the last two games combined, which included just a 9.3 percent target share. Is there a glimmer of hope this week? Of the production that the Football Team has allowed to skill-position players, tight ends have accounted for 25.8 percent of them, which is the third-highest mark in the league. We’ve watched them allow four different tight ends produce top-15 numbers, including Gerald Everett, Dallas Goedert, and Zach Ertz. The 2.34 PPR points per target they’ve allowed ranks as the sixth most in football, and it’s not just touchdowns, as the 8.98 yards per target ranks as the fourth-highest number in the league. Schultz is not a guarantee, but which tight ends are? He should be in the low-end TE1/high-end TE2 conversation this week.
Logan Thomas: Can there be efficiency for Thomas under Kyle Allen? As odd as it sounds, he totaled a season-high 42 yards on just four targets last week, including his second touchdown of the season. The downside is that his four targets accounted for just a 9.5 percent target share in Week 6, his lowest mark on the season. The Cowboys have allowed 7.21 yards per target to the tight end position, which is right around the league average, but have played some questionable competition. The best tight end they’ve played was Hayden Hurst, who totaled 5/72/1 on eight targets. Unfortunately, Thomas belongs in the questionable competition conversation, as there’s certainly concerns about a player who hasn’t topped 42 yards despite seeing the fifth-most targets (35) among tight ends, especially considering they’ve cut back his workload a bit (four targets in each of the last three games). Thomas is not the worst option as a streamer considering he does have a four-target floor, but there’s not much upside here.
Detroit Lions at Atlanta Falcons
Line: ATL by 2.5
Matthew Stafford: It was a disappointing fantasy day for Stafford last week, as the Jaguars just didn’t keep the game close enough to warrant pass attempts out of the Lions offense. Because of that, Stafford totaled just 31 pass attempts, a number that he’s now been stuck at for the last three games. Will it change in Week 7? Yes. Opponents have averaged a massive 39.8 pass attempts per game against the Falcons, which is the second-most in the league. As a whole, the Falcons are allowing a massive 1.85 fantasy points per play to opponents. Just how bad is that? There is no other team in the league allowing more than 1.62 points per play. Between the quarterbacks, running backs, wide receivers, and tight ends, the Falcons are allowing a massive 120.3 fantasy points per game, which is the most in the NFL. It may have started out poorly for Kirk Cousins last week, but he ultimately came through and scored 23.7 fantasy points. The Falcons have now played six games; there hasn’t been a single one where the opposing quarterback(s) have scored fewer than 20.8 fantasy points. The 8.67 yards per attempt they’ve allowed is the most in the league, as are the 149.8 points they’ve allowed through the air alone, which is where Stafford makes his mark. In fact, there’s not another team that’s allowed more than 124.5 points through the air, highlighting just how great the matchup is. Stafford should be started as a rock-solid QB1 this week who has top-three potential in this matchup.
Matt Ryan: Julio Jones comes back = QB1 Matt Ryan comes back. In the three full games with Jones, Ryan’s averaged 364.7 passing yards and 3.33 touchdowns. Jones’ presence produces a butterfly effect throughout the lineup, and it opens other doors for Ryan. Speaking of open doors, the Lions have been a defense to attack with quarterbacks, as they’ve allowed the ninth-most fantasy points to the position despite facing the third-fewest pass attempts on the season. Sure, they’ve had their bye week, but 0.50 fantasy points per actual pass attempt ranks as the 12th-highest mark in football, and we know that’s where Ryan makes his mark in fantasy. There hasn’t been a quarterback who’s thrown for less than 240 yards, but there also hasn’t been one who’s thrown for more than 270 yards, so it’s been a high-floor matchup rather a high-ceiling one. Gardner Minshew was the first quarterback who didn’t throw for at least two touchdowns against them. The biggest issue for Ryan’s ceiling is due to the lack of passing teams have done against the Lions, as they’ve faced just a 54.2 percent pass-rate, though that hasn’t been an issue for Ryan, who’s run a pass play on 60.9 percent of plays. In the end, Ryan should be a high-floor, low-end QB1 who might have some upside if the Lions can throw points on the board.
Adrian Peterson and D’Andre Swift: I mentioned last week that it was possible we saw Swift shifted into a bigger role after the bye week, and while the box score says that Swift had his breakout game, I wouldn’t be so quick to say that. Do you know how many touches the Lions running backs had last week? 38 of them. Swift saw 17 of them, or 44.7 percent. Do you know how many touches this Lions backfield averaged coming into this game? 26.5 of them. Applying Week 6’s touch share, Swift would project for 11.9 touches per game, which isn’t a whole lot. His role could (and should) continue to grow, but he’s far from a locked-in stud in fantasy. We talked about it last week with Alexander Mattison, but the Falcons are a funnel defense. Teams have realized that, as just 36.4 percent of plays against them have been run plays. That’s the fifth-lowest mark in the league. The opportunity in the passing game cannot be overlooked, though. Their opponents have essentially used a short passing game instead of the run game, as running backs have accounted for 55 targets, 328 yards, and four touchdowns through the air, which are all the most in the NFL. That would benefit Swift’s role the most, as he’s averaged 2.02 yards per route run this year, which ranks as the third-highest in the NFL among running backs who’ve seen at least 15 targets. He’s also run nearly 20 more routes than Peterson. So, while Peterson is still going to be involved, Swift should have the more valuable role this week, and maybe moving forward. Knowing there have been five different running backs who’ve caught at least five passes against the Falcons, Swift should deliver a stable floor as an RB3, but don’t jump to conclusions just yet. Peterson still had 16 touches last week, so he’s still certainly involved, and he’s also totaled 48.3 percent of the Lions carries in the red zone, but oddly enough, Swift has totaled four carries inside the five-yard line while Peterson has just one. Peterson should be considered a low-upside, low-end RB3/high-end RB4.
Todd Gurley and Brian Hill: Was it a coincidence that the first game without Dan Quinn netted the most weighted opportunity for Gurley? He racked up 20 carries and four targets against the Vikings, and though they didn’t amount to a massive fantasy performance, it’s encouraging for his role moving forward. The Lions have allowed the sixth-most fantasy points per game to running backs through five games. They’ve allowed a massive 5.25 yards per carry on the season, though Aaron Jones did account for a lot of that back in Week 2 when he racked up 168 yards and two touchdowns on 18 carries. He was one of the four top-10 performances the Lions have allowed to running backs, as both Alvin Kamara and Latavius Murray finished there in Week 4, and then James Robinson last week. They did limit Robinson to just 29 yards on 12 carries last week, but he did chip in with four receptions for 24 yards and a touchdown, salvaging his fantasy day. He was the first starting running back who totaled fewer than 64 yards on the ground, and that includes David Montgomery. The Falcons have a 29.5-point team-implied total as home favorites, which bodes well for Gurley’s scoring opportunities. He should be in lineups as a high-end RB2 this week. Hill managed to get 12 opportunities of his own last week, though he lost a fumble, which is never something you want to hear about a running back trying to earn more work in a timeshare. The Lions have faced a rather-high 28.2 running back touches per game, so we should see another 8-10 opportunities come Hill’s way, unless he’s punished for the fumble. That fumble did take place at the end of the first quarter and he got another nine opportunities after that, so we must assume he’s okay. Still, he’s just an emergency RB4-type option.
Kenny Golladay: He’s now seen 21 targets through three games, which may not seem like a whole lot, but when you know that Stafford has totaled just 31 attempts in each game, his 22.6 percent target share is solid. Fortunately, teams have thrown against the Falcons, as highlighted by their 63.6 percent pass-rate and 39.8 pass attempts per game. They have allowed a massive 217.5 yards per game to wide receivers alone. The 10.2 yards per target they’ve allowed to them ranks second behind only the Saints. On top of that, they’re allowing a sky-high 67.2 percent catch-rate, as well as 15.2 yards per reception, so you’re really getting the best of both worlds with someone like Golladay, who usually struggles with catch-rate, but does gain a ton of yards per reception. Through three games, Golladay ranks ninth in yards per route run, so there are going to be big games when he gets the targets. This should be one of them. Start him as a WR1 and expect results.
Marvin Jones: Here are a few receivers who have more yardage than Jones on the year: Dontrelle Inman, Olamide Zaccheaus, Willie Snead, David Moore, Jalen Guyton, and Kalif Raymond. There are a lot more, as he ranked 91st in yards among receivers through six weeks. This game is the last hope for a resurgence. The Falcons have already allowed 11 different receivers to post top-36 numbers against them, so essentially two per game. Jones has seen at least five targets in 3-of-5 games this year, and knowing teams have thrown the ball 63.6 percent of the time against the Falcons, we should expect at least five targets in this game. The Falcons have allowed a massive 10.2 yards per target to wide receivers, and it’s not on a small sample size anymore, as they’ve seen 128 targets, which ranks as the third-most in the league. They are who they are, but the question now is: Is Jones who he appears to be, or does he have a big game left? My gut tells me he’s going to have a top-36 performance, but he has to be considered a WR4 with how poorly he’s produced.
Danny Amendola: He’s now seen declining targets in three straight games, which coincides with the return of Golladay to the lineup. You never played Amendola for the ceiling, so knowing his floor is no longer there, it’s tough to trust him, even during bye weeks. The Falcons have struggled with slot receivers, but that’s easy to do when you play against Justin Jefferson, Tyler Lockett, and CeeDee Lamb in three of your games. It seems they’ve moved Isaiah Oliver into the slot for good and he’s done better there than on the perimeter, as he’s allowed just 74 yards on 11 targets over the last two weeks in the slot. Because of that, Amendola isn’t a great streaming option.
Julio Jones: We got to see one of the greatest to ever play return in Week 6 and what a treat it was watching him rack up eight receptions for 137 yards and two touchdowns. He looked like he was 100 percent for the first time all season. It was a great matchup against the Vikings last week, and he’ll get a similarly good one in Week 7. Wide receivers have seen a massive 65.3 percent target share against the Lions this year, which ranks second to only the Seahawks. With the way the Lions align, it would be Amani Oruwariye matching up against Jones most of the time, a second-year cornerback who’s been pretty solid in coverage this year, though he’s allowed 14.0 yards per reception in his coverage, which is one of the higher marks in the league. Jones also moves into the slot 26 percent of the time, which is golden for his matchup, as the Lions have been destroyed by slot receivers all year. Look, you’re starting Jones as a WR1 every week now that he’s proven to be healthy.
Calvin Ridley: Outside of that one game on Monday night where he didn’t catch a pass, Ridley has totaled at least 110 yards and/or scored a touchdown in every game. Despite having that zero-point game in Week 4, Ridley is still the No. 1 receiver in fantasy. You can say his ceiling took a hit with Jones back in the lineup, and that’s fine, but there should be room for both of them to get near double-digit targets in Week 7. The Lions have faced an average of 22.2 wide receiver targets per game, which has accounted for a 65.3 percent target share (ranks second in the NFL). The cornerback Ridley will see about 70 percent of the time is rookie Jeffrey Okudah, who’s had some issues to this point, allowing a 73.1 percent catch-rate and 11.5 yards per target in his coverage. Ridley should continue to be plugging into lineups as a sturdy WR1 even with Jones back.
Russell Gage: I mentioned last week that if/when Jones came back to the lineup, it would help everyone involved in the Falcons offense. While Gage finished with just four targets last week, they amounted to four catches for 65 yards. He hasn’t seen more than five targets since back in Week 2, which is worrisome when you’re playing him for a floor and not necessarily a ceiling. It certainly helps that the Lions opponents have targeted their wide receivers 65.3 percent of the time, which is the second-highest mark in the league. It also helps to know that the Lions have been crushed by slot-heavy receivers. Here are the ones they’ve played through five games: Keelan Cole 6/143/0, Emmanuel Sanders 6/93/0, Andy Isabella/Larry Fitzgerald 5/47/2, Allen Lazard 3/45/0, and Anthony Miller 4/76/1. It’s clearly a weakness between Darryl Roberts and Justin Coleman. Gage should be able to offer a WR4/5-type floor in this game.
T.J. Hockenson: It really stinks that we can’t start Hockenson with too much confidence, as his 14.9 percent target share is teetering on good, but given the lack of volume from Stafford, it’s limited Hockenson’s opportunity. He’s seen at least four targets in every game but has seen more than five targets just once. He’s totaled just 26 yards over the last two weeks combined, and they were great matchups against the Saints and Jaguars, so it causes a bit of concern, but not enough to keep him out of lineups against the Falcons. They have already allowed five tight ends to post top-12 numbers, and that’s not even including Kyle Rudolph‘s No. 18 finish last week. The only tight end who didn’t finish with top-12 numbers was Ian Thomas, who finished his game with one target. As a whole, they’ve allowed an 81.6 percent completion-rate (2nd-highest), 8.94 yards per target (5th-highest), and a touchdown every 7.0 targets (2nd-highest). All of that amounts to a massive 2.57 PPR points per target. Start Hockenson as a strong TE1 this week.
Hayden Hurst: It happened again in Week 6. When Julio Jones plays, here are Hurst’s numbers: 3/38/0, 5/72/1, 4/51/0, and 4/57/1. He’s not getting a whole lot of volume, but he’s been much more efficient, as has the whole offense. For whatever reason, teams have avoided throwing to their tight ends against the Lions, as they’ve seen a crazy-low 12.9 percent target share. It’s going to be tough advocating for more usage when they’re allowing just a 45.5 percent completion-rate when targeted, which is the lowest number in the league. That has led to them allowing just 6.5 PPR points per game to tight ends as a whole, which is the second-lowest mark in the league. It’s a small sample size (22 targets) but based on what we’ve seen, it’s not a great matchup for someone like Hurst, who hasn’t seen the volume that some expected. Still, with all the uncertainty surrounding tight ends around the league, he should be considered a high-end TE2 for this week’s game.
Carolina Panthers at New Orleans Saints
Line: NO by 7.5
Teddy Bridgewater: Revenge game narrative engage! Bridgewater has been fairly predictable in fantasy this year, as he’s produced well against the Raiders, Cardinals, and Falcons, while struggling a bit against the Bucs, Chargers, and Bears. What does that tell us about Week 7 against his former team that was expected to be great but have allowed at least 20 points to every quarterback they’ve played? Oddly enough, the Saints have allowed more fantasy points per actual pass attempt than any other team in the league. The 0.632 points per attempt slightly edges out the Falcons 0.627 the Falcons have allowed. A big part of that is due to the 8.77 percent touchdown-rate they’ve allowed, which is the highest mark in the NFL. When you look at the more predictive stat, yards per attempt, they’ve allowed a pedestrian 7.46 yards, which is essentially the league average. Football Outsiders have the Saints as the 13th-toughest pass defense in DVOA due to the level of competition they’ve played. Who has the advantage in this game? Bridgewater, who’s practiced against Dennis Allen’s defense, or the Saints defense, who likely understand Bridgewater’s weaknesses? The fact that the Saints have allowed at least three quarterback touchdowns in every game despite not seeing more than 38 pass attempts is enough to say that it’s not a bad matchup, but does the bye week help them get back on track? Bridgewater should be considered a middling QB2 against his former team, as they match up pretty well with the Panthers skill-position players.
Drew Brees: The bye week should’ve allowed the Saints to get back their star wide receiver and hopefully get Brees back on the right track, as his 2020 season has started less than stellar. Heading into his bye week, he was the No. 20 quarterback in points per game, just above Carson Wentz. Four of his five games were without Thomas, so that could certainly be a hindrance. Teams have found it much easier to go on the ground against the Panthers, as quarterbacks have averaged just 13.9 fantasy points per game, while running backs have averaged a massive 32.3 PPR points. One of the craziest stats you’ll see is that the Panthers are allowing just 6.08 yards per attempt this year, which is easily the lowest mark in the league. Teams have tried to pass against them, too, as the 60.4 percent pass-rate is the 11th-highest mark in football, but the 0.352 fantasy points per actual pass attempt ranks as the second-lowest to only the Bears. There are enough questions about this game to downgrade Brees into the high-end QB2 territory, though the 67.0 percent completion-rate and 9.07 yards per reception they’ve allowed seems to fit what he does well right now. *Update* Brees is going to be without both Michael Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders this week, which makes him a less-than-ideal streamer. He’s just a mid-to-low-end QB2 this week.
Mike Davis: He’s now played in large portions of four games. His finishes in those games (PPR format): RB9, RB7, RB1, and RB20. That’s pretty dang good for a waiver wire running back, and it’s possible because the Panthers have simply handed Christian McCaffrey‘s role over to him. It’s going to be another tough game for him this week, as the Saints have continually been one of the best in the game at slowing down running backs. No running back has finished better than RB15 against them and they’ve played Aaron Jones, Josh Jacobs, and Ronald Jones, so it wasn’t lack of talent. They rank as the 11th-best team against running backs from an efficiency standpoint, right next to the Bears, who rank 12th. Now, with that being said, they have allowed at least 19.2 PPR points to each of the last four backfields they’ve played, so knowing that Davis has accounted for 83 percent of the Panthers running back production since McCaffrey went down, he should still offer a stable floor. He may not be a matchup-winner this week, but he should still offer high-end RB2 value. *Update* Davis was wearning a non-contact jersey at Wednesday’s practice.
Alvin Kamara and Latavius Murray: Heading into his bye week, Kamara was the No. 1 running back in PPR formats by a full 34.3 points, which is a tad ridiculous through five weeks. Coming out of his bye, he’s still the No. 1 running back by a full 23.9 PPR points. Murray has been getting work too, as he’s totaled just nine fewer carries than Kamara. Even though he’s only seen eight targets, this game should benefit both of their roles. When playing against the Panthers, running backs have outscored quarterbacks by 18.41 PPR points. Crazy, right? That’s the largest gap in the league. Of the 71.95 PPR points per game they allow to skill-position players, running backs have accounted for 44.9 percent of it, which is a league-high. Some will see that teams have ranked 22nd in run-rate against the Panthers and think, “Why would they do that?” but if you look at the weighted opportunity, which relies heavily on passing-game usage, you’d see they face the more opportunity than any other team when it comes to running backs. Teams have used the west-coast passing attack against them, racking up short receptions. You’re starting Kamara as an elite RB1 against a team that’s allowed 39 running back touchdowns over their last 22 games. Murray should receive at least 10 carries in this game, and he’s seen 10 red zone carries to Kamara’s 14, so he should have a decent shot to find the end zone. He should be considered a decent RB3-type option, though his floor is lower than most if he doesn’t score.
Robby Anderson: Just when I make peace that Anderson is the No. 1 option for the Panthers, they go and give Moore 11 targets. It shouldn’t change the outlook, though, as Anderson ranks seventh in targets (51) and sixth in fantasy points. He’s an every-week starter in fantasy, and now has at least 10.5 PPR points in every game, including 17.9 or more in four of them. For whatever reason, teams have chosen not to continuously attack the Saints with their wide receivers, as they’ve amounted to a league-low 42.7 percent target share through the five games they’ve played, while no other team is under 48.1 percent. The crazy part is that they’ve allowed just a 61.6 percent catch-rate to receivers, but when they allow receptions, it’s for a lot of yards. The 16.7 yards per reception they’ve allowed is easily the highest number in the NFL, as no other team is above 15.2 yards per reception. We’ve come to know Anderson as the receiver who has a lower average depth of target in this offense, but Anderson does have one more deep target than Moore on the year. They move Anderson and Moore around, but most of Anderson’s routes will be covered by Janoris Jenkins (if he’s cleared to play from his shoulder injury) or Patrick Robinson, so his matchup is slightly better than Moore’s, too. Anderson should be in lineups as a low-end WR2.
D.J. Moore: After seeing just 15 targets in the previous three games, Moore saw 11 targets against a stingy Bears defense, turning them into 5/93/0. He played well in that game and looked like the receiver we’ve come to know over the last two years. The Saints have allowed a league-high 10.3 yards per target to wide receivers, but the issue is that receivers have averaged just 14.6 targets per game against them. Fortunately, the Panthers have a very top-heavy receiving corps when it comes to targets, as Moore and Anderson have accounted for 99 of the 131 Panthers targets to wide receivers (75.6 percent). The Saints have also allowed a touchdown every 10.4 targets to wide receivers, which is more often than any other team in the league. Moore’s primary matchup will be against Marshon Lattimore, a cornerback who’s struggled this year, allowing a perfect 158.3 QB Rating in his coverage. He’s allowed 15-of-19 passing for 254 yards and three touchdowns to this point. Do I think that’ll continue? No. Through his first three years in the league, he never allowed anything more than an 89.7 QB Rating in his coverage over a full season. He was playing through an injury in Week 5, it seemed (he missed Week 4), so maybe the bye week came at the right time. Some will point to Moore’s 6/126/2 in their matchup last year, but Lattimore was out for that game. With Lattimore’s unpredictability and Moore’s instability, there are many outcomes to his projection. For now, let’s keep him in the high-end WR3 territory.
Michael Thomas: After reportedly punching a teammate, Thomas was held out of Week 5. His ankle should be 100 percent now that he’s had five full weeks off. He’s returning to a matchup that’s been much tougher than expected for wide receivers, as we’ve watched running backs outscore them against the Panthers. There are only two teams in the NFL who can say that: The Panthers and Packers. Through six games, they’ve allowed just 7.16 yards per target to wide receivers, which is the lowest number in the league. Want the good news? They struggle with alphas. We’ve watched Keenan Allen tag them for 13/132/1, Mike Evans for 7/104/1, and Calvin Ridley for 8/136/0. This just feels like a game where Thomas is going to explode back onto the fantasy scene and remind everyone that he was a 1,700-yard receiver last year, including the Saints. I have zero concerns about playing him as an elite WR1 in redraft leagues and in DFS cash-game lineups. *Update* He is now apparently dealing with a hamstring injury and has not practiced. His status appears to be trending in the wrong direction. Be prepared to be without him this week. Tre’Quan Smith would be in the low-end WR3 conversation if Thomas is held out. Latest update: He’s been ruled OUT. Emmanuel Sanders: He’s watched his role grow significantly over the last four weeks without Thomas in the lineup, but does that come to a halt? Don’t forget that Thomas saw 185-of-278 wide receiver targets in this offense last year. Sure, they didn’t have Sanders, but the offense moved pretty well with that target share taking place. We have to take note of Sanders’ 23 targets over the last two games, though. Unfortunately, the Saints are walking into a matchup with the Panthers, who’ve been extremely good against wide receivers. Through six games, they’ve allowed just 71.95 fantasy points per game to the combination of running backs, wide receivers, and tight ends. That’s the 14th-lowest mark in the league, but it gets worse. They’ve allowed just 40.5 percent of those points to wide receivers, which is the lowest percentage in the league. The only receivers who’ve finished as top-36 options were the ones who saw double-digit targets, which is something that’s not going to happen for Sanders with Thomas back in the lineup. Sanders should be considered a very-iffy WR4 option this week. *Update* Sanders has been placed on the COVID list and will not play in this game. Tre’Quan Smith is suddenly on the low-end WR3 radar with Sanders out and Thomas trending that way.
Ian Thomas: It’s a waste of a great matchup for Thomas, because of the fantasy points the Saints have allowed to running backs, wide receivers, and tight ends, the tight ends have accounted for 28.6 percent of those points, which is the highest mark in the league. It certainly helps they’ve seen 31.6 percent of targets against them. But again, Thomas has just 11 targets on the season, including two of them over his last two games. He’s not someone who I’d recommend streaming.
Jared Cook: He returned in Week 5, only to see three targets for the second consecutive game. His target totals from his first four games are 7, 5, 3, 3. That doesn’t inspire confidence when you want when starting a tight end, especially knowing Michael Thomas is returning to the lineup. The Panthers have allowed just 4.70 yards per target to tight ends through six games, which ranks as the second-lowest number in football. It’s not due to a lack of volume, either, as they’ve faced 47 targets (seventh-most) and allowed just two touchdowns. All in all, it amounts to just 1.34 PPR points per target, which is the fourth-lowest number in the league. Cook should be considered a touchdown-or-bust TE2 until he gets more involved in the offense, though Emmanuel Sanders‘ role has grown to the point where that may not happen. *Update* Now that Sanders has been ruled out and Thomas is trending that way, Cook is back into the TE1 conversation as a solid play who should net at least five targets.
Pittsburgh Steelers at Tennessee Titans
Line: PIT by 2.0
Ben Roethlisberger: Here are his fantasy finishes through the first five games of the season: 9, 17, 14, 10, and 23. It’s the same old Roethlisberger that we’ve come to love as a streamer, though he hasn’t had one of those blow-up type games just yet. Will it come in Week 7? The Titans opponents have averaged 1.60 fantasy points per offensive play, which ranks as the third-highest number in the league, behind only the Falcons and Packers, so they’re certainly a matchup to target in fantasy. The Titans have allowed the seventh-most fantasy points per game to quarterbacks, while allowing 0.55 fantasy points per actual pass attempt (no rushing), which also ranks as the seventh-highest mark. It helps that their opponents have averaged a stable 66.2 plays per game, which has led to quarterbacks averaging 37.6 pass attempts per game. With the efficiency and potency of the Titans offense, it’s unlikely we see a Browns-like situation last week where the Steelers are able to simply sit on the ball and have Roethlisberger throw just 22 pass attempts. The Titans have now allowed at least 251 yards and two touchdowns to each of the last four quarterbacks they’ve played, and Roethlisberger should have a fully-healthy receiver corps for this game. He should be considered a solid, high-floor, low-end QB1.
Ryan Tannehill: We now have a 15-game sample size with Tannehill as the starter of the Titans, and he’s scored 17.9 or more fantasy points in 13 of them, including 26.7 or more points in three of his last four games. He’s a stable high-floor quarterback who continually breaks efficiency. Can he keep it up against the Steelers? Teams have chosen to drop back and pass on 66.3 percent of plays against them, which is the highest percentage in the league. They’ve also not had too much luck, as the 58.5 percent completion-rate is the second-lowest mark in the league. They’ve also sacked the opposing quarterback on 12.3 percent of dropbacks, which is flat-out ridiculous, as no other team is over 9.3 percent. This is particularly worrisome because Tannehill just lost his starting left tackle Taylor Lewan for the season. With that being said, the Steelers have allowed 4-of-5 quarterbacks throw for at least 258 yards and two touchdowns against them. It also helps that Tannehill has been the best quarterback in the league under pressure, boasting a 110.5 QB Rating when he’s under duress, which has been 27.6 percent of the time. It’s safe to say Derrick Henry is going to have trouble moving the ball against this Steelers defense, which should put more of the load on Tannehill’s shoulders, though we haven’t seen a quarterback finish as a top-12 option against them since Week 11 of last year. Because of that, Tannehill should be considered a high-end QB2 who seemingly always outperforms expectations.
James Conner: Ever since that disaster that had him leave the game early in Week 1, here are Conner’s weekly finishes among running backs: 10, 7, 20, and 6. We talked about it in during July and August… he’s an RB1 when he’s on the field, and he’s proven that to this point. The Titans are next up on the docket, a team that’s allowed five running backs finish as top-22 options, including four who were top-14, including David Johnson last week when he totaled 69 total yards and a touchdown. They’ve allowed a massive 5.02 yards per carry on the ground this year without Jurrell Casey, though they’ve faced the eighth-fewest carries in the league to this point. It’s because teams have run the ball just 40.8 percent of the time, which ranks as the 13th-lowest percentage in the league. But again, any running back who’s totaled more than 12 touches against them has finished with at least 13.9 PPR points and a top-14 finish. The Steelers are going on the road, but they’re still the favorites in this game, which bodes well for Conner who’s received at least 18 touches in each of the last four games. Trot him out there as a low-end RB1 who should continue to thrive in his workhorse role.
Derrick Henry: We talked about it being a smash-spot last week against the Texans, and Henry delivered when he pummeled their defense for 264 total yards and two touchdowns. The matchup aligned so well for his strengths, their weaknesses, and play-calling tendencies. Unfortunately, this matchup with the Steelers is brutal. They’ve not only allowed the fewest fantasy points per game to running backs, but they’ve faced the lowest weighted opportunity in the league, and it’s not even close. Opposing teams of running backs are averaging just 20.2 touches per game against them, so even if Henry totaled 85 percent of the Titans touches (like he has this year), he’d be looking at 17 touches against a team that’s allowed 3.22 yards per carry on the year. It doesn’t help that the Steelers opponents have averaged a minuscule 58.8 plays per game, as the Titans are used to running 68.4 plays per game. There has been one running back who’s broken the 100 total yards barrier against them over their last 22 games. No, I’m not just talking about rushing yards. Total yards. One running back in 22 games. Miles Sanders was the first running back to finish as a top-12 option against them since 2018, and it took a long 74-yard touchdown run to get there. We don’t have a history to go off with Henry versus the Steelers, as he’s played them just once in 2017, and that was when he was the backup to Demarco Murray. You’re starting Henry because you’re never sitting him, but it’s a week where you’re going to need one of those signature long runs in order for him to hit RB1 territory, as running backs just don’t grind it out against the Steelers.
JuJu Smith-Schuster: He has now totaled more than 84 yards and/or eight targets just once in his last 17 games. His yardage totals this year are 69, 48, 43, 28, and 6. As you can see, it’s been nothing but a decline for him. Everyone else has been doing fine, so what’s the deal? It’s tough to say but he simply hasn’t produced without Antonio Brown on the field. When teams have dropped back to pass against the Titans, they’ve targeted their wide receivers 62.8 percent of the time, which is a very healthy number, as it ranks as the third-highest mark in the NFL. The good news is that he is still playing almost all of his snaps in the slot, which should give him a lot of plus matchups. The Titans have rookie Kristian Fulton manning the slot, a second-round cornerback out of LSU who’s allowed 8-of-9 passing for 58 yards and a touchdown in the slot to this point, which is obviously not great. The questions we have right now aren’t really with the matchups, but more to do with Smith-Schuster himself, as he’s given us no indication that he should be relied upon in fantasy, as he’s failed to top 48 yards in every game since Week 1. We don’t want to give up on someone as talented as he is, but at some point, you have to say enough is enough. He should be considered a low-end WR3 until we see him start to produce like the other Steelers wide receivers have.
Diontae Johnson: He was expected to play last week until the Steelers ruled him out late in the week, allowing Claypool to further his role in the offense. Suddenly, there are a lot of mouths to feed in this offense. Think about it, the last time Johnson was healthy and on the field for a full game, he was battling with only Smith-Schuster for targets. Gone are the days he sees a 30-plus percent target share. The Titans have allowed the fourth-most fantasy points per game to wide receivers, so maybe there’s enough to go around. I mean, they’ve already allowed 11 wide receivers to score 10.7 or more PPR points against them. There’s just one team in the league who’s allowed more receivers to hit that number. Based on where Johnson was aligning before his injuries, he would be seeing a lot of Malcolm Butler, who’s played better than expected this year, though he has been targeted a lot. He’s seen 42 targets in coverage, allowing 25/340/1 on them. The 340 yards are the sixth-most by any one cornerback. He’s been targeted once every 4.5 routes, which is the sixth-most often. Johnson should be considered a risk/reward WR4 in his return, as he was the No. 1 receiver before dealing with concussion/back issues.
Chase Claypool: The Steelers have done a good job moving him around the formation, which should make it easy to keep a big role for him in the offense despite the return of Diontae Johnson. Over the last three weeks, Claypool has played 40 snaps in the slot, 59 at LWR, and 59 at RWR, so it’s tough to say who’ll suffer most now that all four wide receivers are healthy, though we have to suspect it’ll be Washington, who has seen 18 targets over the last three weeks. Whatever they do, they have to keep the rookie Claypool on the field, as his 14.0 yards per target and touchdown every 3.8 touches is simply too good to remove. Fortunately, the Titans have allowed 45.1 PPR points per game to opposing receivers, which ranks as the fourth-most in the league, including 23.6 targets per game. Because of that, we’ve seen 11 different receivers score at least 10.7 PPR points, which is typically good enough for a WR3 performance, highlighting a solid floor for Claypool. Again, there is some uncertainty with Johnson due back, but there’s no way they can take Claypool out of the gameplan. Keep him in lineups as a high-end WR3.
James Washington: He’s seen 18 targets over the last three weeks, but those games were played without Diontae Johnson for much of them. Knowing how well Claypool has played, it’s likely Washington who sees the largest dip in snaps with Johnson back. But it is crazy to see the target totals from these four wide receivers to this point: Smith-Schuster 28, Johnson 26, Washington 26, and Claypool 24. Knowing the Steelers don’t run 4WR sets, it’s Washington who’s the odd man out.
A.J. Brown: What a stud. Brown has been back for two weeks, and he’s made his mark in both games, totaling 16 targets, 12 receptions, 138 yards, and three touchdowns. With Jonnu Smith likely out of the lineup this week, we should have a concentrated target share to the wide receivers. The Steelers have faced 20.2 wide receiver targets per game to this point, which is slightly more than average. They haven’t been the dominant pass defense they were last year, as they’re allowing 1.93 PPR points per target to wide receivers, which ranks as the seventh-highest mark in the league. There have been just two wide receivers to see more than seven targets against them, and both of those receivers finished as top-five options (Travis Fulgham 10/152/1, Darius Slayton 6/102/2). He plays most of his snaps at LWR, which means he’ll see Steven Nelson the most. He hasn’t been someone to run from this year, as he’s allowed a sturdy 9.5 yards per target and a touchdown every 12.0 targets. Knowing the Titans are likely to be throwing the ball a bit more this week, Brown should be in lineups as a solid high-end WR2.
Corey Davis: The Titans activated Davis off the COVID list on Monday, so he’ll be back in the lineup this week. Don’t forget about him, as he saw 19 targets over the first three weeks, totaling a respectable 206 yards and one touchdown. Given the nature of the matchup (brutal run defense), we should expect more pass attempts out of the Titans offense. The Steelers have allowed just seven wide receivers to post top-48 (WR4) numbers against them through five games, so it hasn’t been a crush spot, and Davis will line up on Joe Haden‘s side of the field most of the time. He’s allowed just a 48.1 percent catch-rate in his coverage, but has allowed two touchdowns on 27 targets, so if you’re starting Davis, you’re probably looking for a touchdown to salvage a mediocre-to-bad fantasy day. Consider him a borderline WR4/5 option.
Adam Humphries: He quietly leads the Titans wide receivers in targets, though it’s largely tied to the injuries/absences of A.J. Brown and Corey Davis. Still, Humphries missed a game himself. He’s seen at least six targets in every game this year and has posted at least four catches and 41 yards in each of them. He’s basically a Cole Beasley-type of receiver who’s playing for one of the most efficient quarterbacks in football. It also doesn’t hurt that the Steelers have allowed some solid production to slot receivers this year, as Randall Cobb caught 4/95/1, Greg Ward 4/26/1, Jerry Jeudy 4/62/0, and Jarvis Landry 3/40/0. Their slot cornerback Mike Hilton has been the weakest link, allowing 9.9 yards per target in his coverage on the young season. Humphries isn’t the sexiest play, but he should give you an 8-10-point PPR floor in this matchup. *Update* Hilton has been ruled out, upgrading Humphries’ matchup a bit more.
Eric Ebron: We’ve been on a roller coaster with Ebron’s targets through five games: 2, 5, 7, 6, 4. Those are the totals to this point, and it’s tough to see that number rising with all four wide receivers healthy. Still, 22 targets over the last four weeks is something we can work with when it comes to streamers. Despite missing a week due to bye, he ranks 21st among tight ends in routes run, which should keep up considering the Steelers don’t run 4WR sets. The matchup with the Titans is a good one, as they’ve already allowed four top-16 tight end performances through five games, and they haven’t played top-tier talent. Darren Fells, Noah Fant, Tyler Eifert, Kyle Rudolph, and Dawson Knox… that’s the competition they’ve played, yet they’ve still allowed the seventh-most fantasy points per target to tight ends (2.23). Ebron makes sense as a low-end TE1 streamer this week.
Jonnu Smith and Anthony Firkser: It seems that Smith will be a game-time decision this week with his ankle injury, but we’ll pay attention as the week goes on. Firkser stepped into his place last week and racked up nine targets, eight receptions, 113 yards, and a touchdown against the Texans. We saw Tannehill throw the ball 40-plus times for just the second time in a Titans uniform, so we can’t assume that happens every week, but against the Steelers, we should see more pass attempts than normal. The good news is that the Steelers have faced 8.0 targets per game, which is one of the higher marks in the NFL. The bad news is that that’s a decent sample size, and they’ve allowed just 1.20 PPR points per target on them, which ranks as the second-lowest mark in the league. Was it the competition? Not really. They’ve played against Zach Ertz, Noah Fant, Evan Engram, Austin Hooper, and Jordan Akins, so there are no Ian Thomas‘ or Dan Arnold‘s in there. If Smith plays, you have to play him with how efficient he’s been in what should be a pass-heavy day, even if the Steelers have been good against the position. If he sits, Firkser is on the streaming radar, but he’s a lot more iffy as a TE2. *Update* Smith was a full participant in practice on both Thursday and Friday, so he’s likely going to be a full go for this game.