The Primer: Week 7 Edition (2020 Fantasy Football)
Seattle Seahawks at Arizona Cardinals
Line: SEA by 3.5
Russell Wilson: Going into his bye week, Wilson was the No. 1 fantasy quarterback by a full 10 points. His ridiculous 72.8 percent completion-rate, 8.9 yards per attempt, and 19:3 touchdown to interception ratio are MVP numbers. Looking on the surface, the Cardinals are a tough matchup for quarterbacks. They’ve allowed the eighth-fewest fantasy points (16.8), the eighth-fewest yards per attempt (6.74), and the 10th-lowest completion-rate. We must not forget that it’s still a small sample size, and the sample size of quarterbacks the Cardinals have played… isn’t great. They’ve played Jimmy Garoppolo (259/2) without George Kittle and Deebo Samuel, Dwayne Haskins (223/1), Matthew Stafford (270/2), Teddy Bridgewater (276/2), Joe Flacco (195/1), and Andy Dalton (266/1). Yuck. The only quarterback who threw more than 37 passes was Dalton, who looked horrible on Monday night. The Cardinals lost their best player on defense (Chandler Jones) before that game, so when you see them pressure Andy Dalton behind that horrendous offensive line just 28.8 percent of the time, Wilson should have more time than usual. This is not to say the Cardinals defense hasn’t improved; they clearly have. The one concern you must have is that Wilson played this defense twice last year and accounted for just 240/1 and 169/1 in the two games. They only let him throw a combined 59 times in those two games, but his efficiency wasn’t top notch. In fact, those were two of his worst four games in 2019 from a fantasy perspective. You’re starting Wilson in season-long, but there’s enough concern to avoid him in DFS cash games.
Kyler Murray: His fantasy finishes through six games are: 5, 5, 10, 8, 5, 4. Not too shabby, eh? It’s rare to see a quarterback finish top-10 that many weeks in a row, and it’s especially rare when he’s averaged just 7.3 yards per attempt while throwing six interceptions. His rushing totals (370/6) are currently above Lamar Jackson (346/2), so if he does pick up his passing totals, we have the No. 1 quarterback in fantasy moving forward. This is a game where Murray should rack up the pass attempts, as opponents have dropped back to pass 65.6 percent of the time against the Seahawks, the second-highest percentage in the league. Not just that, but teams have averaged a non-believable 75.6 plays per game against them, which is 5.8 more plays per game than any other team in the NFL. The Cardinals themselves rank ninth in the NFL in offensive plays per game with 66.2 of them. Every quarterback who’s played against the Seahawks has thrown at least 39 pass attempts, and they’ve all thrown for at least 249 yards, with 4-of-5 throwing for 315-plus yards. The only quarterback who failed to post top-12 numbers was Kirk Cousins in the Week 5 game where it was raining throughout. Even better, they’ve allowed two quarterbacks (Cam Newton, Ryan Fitzpatrick) rush for 47 yards, and they both were able to score rushing touchdowns (Newton actually had two). I had Murray as the No. 1 quarterback last week and it’s tough to say he’s not there again this week.
Chris Carson: Despite the concerns about Carson coming into the season, he’s silenced all the doubters while posting the fifth-most running back points heading into his bye week. That’s pretty remarkable considering he’s touched the ball just 16.4 times per game. His weighted opportunity per game ranks 17th among running backs, so his efficiency has helped carry him to where he is. Will it continue against the Cardinals? They have allowed a massive 1.78 PPR points per target to running backs, which ranks as the third-most in the league to this point. They’ve allowed the fourth-most yards per target (6.68) and the second-most receiving touchdowns (3), which bodes well for Carson’s role as the primary pass-catching back who’s received 23 of the 32 targets available to Seahawks running backs. We can’t overlook the 4.35 yards per carry they’ve allowed, either. In the full game Carson played against this same scheme last year, he totaled 104 yards on 22 carries, added another four catches for 41 yards, but didn’t find the end zone. Among fantasy points scored by running backs, wide receivers, and tight ends, 36.2 percent of it has gone to running backs, which is the 10th-highest mark in the league. Carson might be leaned on more than some think in this divisional showdown, and he should be started as a low-end RB1 this week in what oddsmakers are projecting to be a high-scoring affair where the Seahawks have a 30-point team-implied total.
Kenyan Drake and Chase Edmonds: The reaction when Drake went off for 164 yards and two touchdowns against the Cowboys on Monday night was probably something like -_- if my reaction was anything like yours. He’s received 18-plus touches in 5-of-6 games and hasn’t had fewer than 13 carries in any game. Still, he’s barely being used in the passing game and has weighted opportunity similar to someone like Devin Singletary or Jonathan Taylor. That’s not great heading into this matchup. Against the Seahawks, wide receivers have outscored running backs by a massive 38.2 PPR points per game. There is no other team in the league who has a gap of more than 23.1 points. So, it should come as no surprise to hear that of the 90.88 fantasy points per game the Seahawks have allowed to skill-position players, a league-low 23.9 percent of that has gone to running backs. Part of the reason that’s happened is due to teams being forced to go pass-heavy against them. Their opponents have called a run play on just 34.4 percent of plays, which is the second-lowest number in the league. Even through the air, the Seahawks haven’t allowed a lot of production or efficiency, as the 3.88 yards and 1.10 PPR points per target both rank as the lowest marks in the league. Just one running back was able to rush for more than 65 yards against them this year, and that was a game that was played in the rain against the run-heavy Vikings. Bottom line is that Drake’s role is on the ground, where the Seahawks have allowed just 55.8 fantasy points through five games, which ranks as the eighth-fewest in the league. Keep in mind that’s while their opponents have averaged a ridiculous 75.6 offensive plays per game. Drake is in the low-end RB2 conversation because of his guaranteed touches, but this is not a week to get excited about him. As for Edmonds, he had a very small role last week while Drake looked good. Edmonds is valuable if the Cardinals fall behind, which is well within the realm of possibilities, but we’ve already talked about the Seahawks being the best defense in the league at defending pass-catching running backs, making him a low-upside, low-end RB3.
D.K. Metcalf: Remember when I said that Metcalf had top-12 wide receiver upside prior to the season? Well, maybe I was underestimating his true potential. He ranked 13th in targets among receivers heading into the bye week but ranked No. 4 among receivers. Had he not prematurely celebrated at the one-yard line, he would’ve ranked as the No. 2 receiver. The crazy part is that he has just one game with more than four receptions, so there’s room for more. The Cardinals haven’t been the giving tree they were last year, as they’ve allowed just 7.43 yards per target (3rd-lowest) and 1.55 PPR points per target (2nd-lowest) through six games. They’ve played an impressive list of No. 1 wide receivers, too. Terry McLaurin, Kenny Golladay, D.J. Moore/Robby Anderson, and Amari Cooper. Now, even though they’ve been good as a team, they did allow all four of those receivers to finish as top-22 options. They also allowed Jamison Crowder to post the No. 7 wide receiver numbers in Week 5, as he racked up 8/116/1 on 10 targets. The question I’m wondering is: Do the Cardinals shadow Metcalf with Patrick Peterson? He hasn’t been shadowing this year, but knowing David Moore is the No. 3, they may view Metcalf as a priority. Dre Kirkpatrick has done a solid job, so they could just play sides, but either way, you shouldn’t be sitting Metcalf, who’s now totaled at least 92 yards in every game. He should be glued into lineups as a low-end WR1, at worst, though this matchup isn’t as fruitful as it once was.
Tyler Lockett: He’s taken a backseat to Metcalf this year, though it’s worth noting Lockett has seen just one less target than him. Don’t let the last two games deter you from Lockett, as he’s still capable of single-handedly winning you a week. The Cardinals have allowed just the second-fewest fantasy points per target to receivers, so it hasn’t been a smash spot, though if there were one spot that I’d label as a weakness among their cornerbacks, it’s the slot cornerback Byron Murphy, which is the guy who’ll defend Lockett in this game. He’s allowed 22-of-36 passing for 275 yards and a touchdown in his coverage. The only slot-heavy receivers who saw more than five targets against the Cardinals were Jamison Crowder, who popped off for eight catches, 116 yards, and a touchdown (WR7), and CeeDee Lamb, who snagged seven balls for 64 yards (WR27). If you were to pick which Seahawks wide receiver had the better cornerback matchup in this game, it’d be Lockett. He should get back into lineups as a high-end WR2.
DeAndre Hopkins: It was a very disappointing day for Hopkins last week, as the Cowboys struggled to put points on the board, and Kyler Murray was a bit off in his attempts that went Hopkins’ way. We can’t panic considering he still ranks third in targets and is the No. 2 receiver on the year. It also doesn’t hurt that a league-high 65.7 percent of targets have gone to wide receivers when playing the Seahawks. That’s a big part of the reason wide receivers have scored 38.2 more PPR points per game against the Seahawks than running backs have, which is also the widest margin in the league. Despite already getting their bye out of the way, the Seahawks have still seen 17 more wide receiver targets than the closest team. They’ve been good targets, too, as we’ve watched 10 different wide receivers finish as top-25 options against them, including eight of them who finished as top-12 options. There have been seven wide receivers who’ve totaled over 100 yards. Seriously, there’s nothing about this matchup you don’t like. Start Hopkins as the No. 1 wide receiver.
Christian Kirk: How odd is it that the game Kirk saw a season-low three targets is the one where he produced the most? He’s now posted 57 yards and/or a touchdown in four straight games and is headed into a matchup with what appears to be the league’s worst pass defense. When playing the Seahawks, wide receivers have accounted for 65.9 percent of the fantasy production they allow to running backs, wide receivers, and tight ends, which is the highest mark in the league. There have been 12 different wide receivers who’ve finished with at least 65 yards receiving. This is your reminder that the Seahawks have only played five games. Teams have thrown the ball an average of 47.8 pass attempts against them, so we should see a high-volume game out of Murray. Shaquill Griffin is the one who’ll see Kirk the most, and he’s been the one roasted in coverage the most, allowing 27-of-41 passing for 382 yards and four touchdowns. You should feel pretty good about playing Kirk as a low-end WR3 with upside this week.
Greg Olsen: It’s been tough to predict the target share Olsen will get, as his target totals have varied so much. He’s gone 4, 1, 6, 7, 1. That obviously isn’t ideal when streaming a tight end, but it helps when the matchup they’re in is expected to be a shootout. Here are the pass routes between the Seahawks tight ends through five games:
As you can see, Olsen is clearly the primary tight end, even if his targets have fluctuated. The Cardinals aren’t the smash spot they were for tight ends last year, though the scheme is the same and the players are very similar. They’ve allowed five tight ends to finish top-20 against them this year through six games, so it’s not like it’s a must-avoid matchup, either. On a per-target basis, they’ve allowed the seventh-fewest fantasy points per target, but they’ve also had some light competition that has included Chris Herndon, Logan Thomas, and Ian Thomas. Still, we have to take note that no tight end has totaled more than four catches or 53 yards against them. Considering that and Olsen’s bumpy target totals, he should be considered just a middling TE2 here.
Darrell Daniels: It appears the Cardinals have moved Daniels ahead of Dan Arnold on the depth chart, though it hasn’t made much of a difference in production, as Daniels has seen just three targets over the last two weeks. On top of the Cardinals’ tight ends not being involved very much, teams have opted to go different routes against the Seahawks this year, as tight ends have seen a league-low 12.1 percent target share against them.
San Francisco 49ers at New England Patriots
Line: NE by 2.5
Jimmy Garoppolo: It was good to see Garoppolo get back on track in a brutal matchup against the Rams where he threw for a season-high 268 times and three touchdowns. He’s still yet to throw the ball more than 33 times, which will limit his upside as a pocket-passer and force him to throw three touchdowns in order to hit top-12-type numbers. It helps that he’s posted 8.21 yards per attempt over the course of his career, which is the most among active quarterbacks. Speaking of yards per attempt, did you know the Patriots are one of just five teams in the NFL who’s allowed more than 8.0 yards per attempt on the season? We don’t see giant results because teams have dropped back to pass on just 51.7 percent of snaps, which is the third-lowest mark in football. Because of that, they’ve faced a season-low 143 pass attempts while no other team in the league has seen fewer than 161 attempts. That amounts to just 28.6 pass attempts, which doesn’t bode well for a 49ers team that’s been run-heavy under Kyle Shanahan. However, with Raheem Mostert dealing with a high-ankle sprain, we could see them lean on the pass a bit more. We did see Derek Carr complete 24-of-32 passes for 261 yards and two touchdowns against them, and he’s a quarterback who utilizes similar tools in his offense with moveable chess pieces, and a big highly-targeted tight end. We also can’t forget about the revenge game narrative, can we? I’m kidding, of course, but I do believe he can be trusted as a decent No. 2 quarterback in 2QB/Superflex formats.
Cam Newton: The honeymoon phase appears to be over with Newton and the Patriots, as he’s looked like a much different passer over the two games. He completed 71.4 percent of his passes for 8.76 yards per attempt in the first two weeks but has completed just 64.1 percent of his passes for 6.02 yards per attempt over the last two games. He’s thrown for just two touchdowns on the year while having four passes intercepted. We’ve never seen Newton have more interceptions than touchdowns, and that’s hard to do in today’s NFL. Still, we have his mobility and rushing upside for fantasy purposes, and that’s been consistent. He’s rushed at least nine times in every game and averaged 56.3 rushing yards per game, while rushing for five touchdowns in four games. That’s allowed him to finish with 17.4 or more fantasy points in 3-of-4 games, which is typically enough to get into the low-end QB1/high-end QB2 territory. If he can get it together passing, we could see a fantasy star. The 49ers have remained very competitive on defense despite all the injuries they’ve dealt with, as they’ve held 5-of-6 quarterbacks to less than 6.9 yards per attempt. The only quarterback who was able to post big numbers was Ryan Fitzpatrick, who caught fire. The big thing you need to know, however, is that the 49ers have allowed 35.1 fantasy points on the ground to quarterbacks, which is the second-highest mark in the NFL. The only mobile quarterback they played was Kyler Murray, who rushed for 91 yards and a touchdown. They’ve allowed 6.60 yards per carry to quarterbacks, which is again the second-highest mark in the league. Despite the tough matchup through the air, Newton should be able to post high-end QB2 numbers with his totals on the ground.
Jerick McKinnon and JaMycal Hasty: What happened last week after Raheem Mostert went down with his high-ankle sprain? McKinnon played the most snaps (23) but it was the rookie Hasty who out-carried him 9 to 6. Kyle Shanahan said after the game that Hasty had fresh legs, so they wanted to give him a run. What’s the plan for this week with Mostert out? Well, that’s up in the air, as Jeff Wilson might be able to come back from his calf injury. For now, we’ll plan on Hasty and McKinnon forming a 1-2 punch. The good news is that the Patriots opponents have run the ball 48.3 percent of the time, which is the fourth-highest mark in the league. The bad news is that their opponents have run a league-low 58.4 plays per game, so it’s amounted 27.4 running back touches per game (23.0 carries, 4.4 receptions). While their secondary has struggled a bit with all the losses this offseason, their front seven has done a great job holding running backs in check, as the 0.71 PPR points per opportunity ranks as the third-lowest in the league. It’s limited opposing running backs, as just one running back has totaled more than 12.1 PPR points against them, and that was Chris Carson who racked up 108 total yards and a touchdown on 20 touches, something we can’t anticipate for either of these backs. I thought Hasty looked good against the Rams last week and did nothing to receive less work, while McKinnon has averaged just 3.14 yards per carry since he was forced into a bigger role. My guess is that Hasty winds up with more carries while McKinnon gets most of the passing down work, but we’ve never seen this combination before. For now, I’d treat Hasty as a risk/reward RB3/flex-type play who has a lower floor than most. McKinnon should offer RB3 numbers and is likely safer, though he doesn’t offer the upside that Hasty does.
Damien Harris, James White, and Rex Burkhead: So much for the Patriots leaning on Harris more than Sony Michel, eh? He ran the ball 17 times for 100 yards in his debut, but then ran the ball just six times for 17 yards last week. The Patriots offense was a mess, so it’s tough to take much away from that game in a tough matchup against the Broncos. Unfortunately, the matchup on the ground isn’t great this week, either. Despite all the injuries, the 49ers have allowed the second-fewest fantasy points per opportunity (0.65) to running backs. We haven’t seen a team of running backs total more than 92 yards on the ground against them this year. The best performance on the ground we’ve seen against them was Darrell Henderson last week when he racked up 88 yards on 14 carries, though he didn’t score. Knowing that teams have averaged just 20.0 carries per game against the 49ers, it’s really tough to like Harris as anything more than a touchdown-hopeful RB4, though Newton appears to have a lock on that job. It hasn’t been that much better for pass-catching backs, either. They haven’t allowed a single running back to top 34 yards through the air against them, and though they’ve lacked volume (just 5.7 targets per game), they’ve also lacked efficiency, as the 5.24 yards per target ranks as the 13th-lowest number in the league. Still, it’s better to attack them that way than on the ground. Did you know that White averages just as much weighted opportunity in PPR leagues as someone like Kenyan Drake and Antonio Gibson? He can be played as a high-end RB3 in PPR formats with confidence. Burkhead is somewhat of an afterthought with White back in the lineup who’s reserved for those with serious bye week issues at running back.
Deebo Samuel: Over the last two weeks, he’s led the 49ers wide receivers with 14 targets, 8 receptions, 85 yards, and one touchdown. Those are all high marks on the team in that time, but that’s not saying much. Samuel does look great, though, and that’s something to be happy about with him coming off broken foot surgery just a few months ago. Do the Patriots have Stephon Gilmore shadow him? Should that scare you that much? Well, Gilmore hasn’t been the shutdown cornerback he was last year, as he’s allowed 13-of-21 passing for 192 yards and two touchdowns in his coverage to this point. Did you happen to see Samuel’s average depth of target was negative 5.3 yards last week? They’re finding creative ways to get the ball into his hands, so it’s up to him to create after the catch, something he’s done extremely well during his time in the NFL. We can’t pretend this is a great matchup considering there’s been just five receivers who’ve topped 48 yards through five games. Samuel is moving up the ranks but finds himself stuck in that borderline WR3/4 territory. There will be better days for him, though you never know when he breaks a tackle and is just gone. His targets do warrant consideration in starting lineups.
Brandon Aiyuk: Now that Samuel is back in a full-time role, Aiyuk’s role has faded quite a bit. He’s totaled just 14 targets over the last three weeks combined, and even worse, he’s only seen one carry. It’s odd considering he’s been so good with the ball in his hands, totaling 69 yards and two touchdowns on four carries this season. In a run-heavy offense against a defense that sees the fourth-lowest pass percentage isn’t great for projections with Aiyuk. We don’t even know if Stephon Gilmore shadows Samuel, so it’s possible Aiyuk sees a mix of Gilmore and J.C. Jackson. The Patriots have allowed a rather-high 2.05 PPR points per target to wide receivers, which ranks as the fifth-highest mark in the league. The issue has been volume, as receivers have averaged just 17.6 targets per game against them. There’s just one team who’s seen fewer wide receiver targets than them. Considering the 49ers have averaged 14.2 of them, is that an improvement? Technically, every matchup would be. Aiyuk is just a WR4/5 until we have games that we believe will net more volume, though this matchup isn’t as bad as we thought it would be.
Julian Edelman: Remember the first two weeks where Edelman was on pace for his best season yet? I remember the Twitter streets flooded with “Edelman just posted a career-high 179 yards with Cam Newton.” Since that time (three games), Edelman has seen 18 targets and caught seven of them for 64 yards. My mentions have been flooded with questions about dropping Edelman. I typically give veterans the benefit of the doubt, but we can’t forget that Edelman is 34 years old. The 49ers were a brutal matchup for slot receivers, but the loss of K’Waun Williams didn’t help. That moved Jamar Taylor into the slot, and though we didn’t see Cooper Kupp do much last week, Taylor has been one to target over his years in the league. Over the course of his seven-plus years in the league, he’s allowed a 111.9 QB Rating in his coverage. And to be fair, Kupp should’ve had a better game, as he dropped a touchdown, and Goff missed him on two deep targets. The Patriots are a run-first offense under Newton (called a pass play just 50.2 percent of the time), so expectations should be limited for Edelman, but he does have the best matchup on the field among Patriots receivers. He should be considered a low-end WR3/high-end WR4 with less of a ceiling than most in that area.
N’Keal Harry: He’s seen a declining role in the offense over the last three weeks, as he’s totaled just 12 targets (compared to 18 the first two weeks). It’s not just the lack of targets, but lack of efficiency as well. He’s failed to reach 40 yards in 4-of-5 games this year and is now averaging just 5.02 yards per target in his career. When you combine that with the lowly 7.36 yards per target the 49ers have allowed to wide receivers (2nd-best in NFL), he’s not someone you should be considering.
George Kittle: He’s either totaled exactly 44 yards and no touchdown, or he’s posted 100-plus yards and a touchdown. There’s been no in-between. Kittle is front-and-center of this offense and everyone knows it, though no one has been able to stop it. This is the third straight year he’s averaged 9.8 or more yards per target. Will Bill Belichick have the answer? The Patriots actually rank No. 1 in the Football Outsiders DVOA metric that takes level of competition into consideration. Through five games, they’ve allowed just 200 yards to the tight end position, which ranks as the third-lowest mark in all of football. They’ve played against Travis Kelce, Darren Waller, and Mike Gesicki, yet no tight end has walked out of the game with more than three receptions. Now that’s a crazy stat. It’s worth noting that none of them saw more than six targets, so the way they’re scheming against tight ends must be working. Kittle has never played against the Patriots, so it’s tough to say how we should feel about it. What I can tell you is that over the last six times they’ve played Kelce, he hasn’t topped more than 13.6 PPR points, so while you’re playing Kittle in redraft leagues, maybe you shouldn’t be paying up in DFS cash lineups.
Ryan Izzo: Can we skip the Patriots tight end section every week? I mean, they’ve targeted their tight ends as a whole 11 times through five games. Izzo hasn’t topped three targets and has seen just one red zone target. There’s also been just one tight end who’s scored more than 8.6 PPR points against the 49ers all season.
Kansas City Chiefs at Denver Broncos
Line: KC by 9.5
Patrick Mahomes: He hasn’t been flashy outside of the game against the Ravens where he went nuclear, but he’s now thrown at least two touchdowns in every game, and has crossed the 300-yard barrier in three of his last five games. He played a very good game against the Bills last week with all things considered, as the weather made the field pretty sloppy. The matchup this week isn’t the best against the Broncos, who’ve held every opponent to 28 points or less, something that’s rare in today’s NFL. It’s crazy to think how good this Broncos defense could’ve been without injuries, because even with the injuries to Von Miller, Jurrell Casey, and A.J. Bouye, they’ve still allowed the sixth-fewest fantasy points per offensive play. Here’s something that benefits Mahomes, though. They are one of just eight teams who’ve allowed more fantasy points per game to quarterbacks than running backs. Still, despite playing against Ryan Tannehill, Ben Roethlisberger, and Tom Brady, they haven’t allowed more than 7.8 yards per attempt to any quarterback. With that being said, every quarterback they’ve played has scored at least 15.88 fantasy points and finished as a top-18 quarterback. This is due to how good the Broncos run defense is. Mahomes played this Vic Fangio defense in Week 15 last year, piling up 340 yards and two touchdowns, though you should also know that game was in the snow at Kansas City, which presents a lot of unknown factors. You’re starting Mahomes in season-long leagues every week, and though you should have some shares in tournaments, there are likely better cash-game options. This is the lowest total on a Chiefs game I recall seeing in quite some time.
Drew Lock: We got into a Tim Patrick talk on the waiver wire podcast this week, and I brought up a stat to try and argue against picking him up. The stat was that Drew Lock has failed to throw for more than 216 yards in all but one of his NFL games, which doesn’t present a whole lot of opportunity to his receivers. Over his last six NFL games, he has not thrown more than one touchdown pass. In fact, he’s combined for just three touchdowns in those games. Yes, he left one of those games early, but does that really help you make a case for him? Now onto a Chiefs team that just made Josh Allen look pretty bad, though the game being played in the rain didn’t help matters. The Chiefs allowed just one passing touchdown in each of their first four games but have allowed five of them over their last two games. They’ve faced an average of just 31.3 pass attempts per game, which is the third-lowest mark in the league. The 208.0 passing yards per game ranks as the third-lowest number as well. Mobility has carried some quarterbacks to quality fantasy output in their games against the Chiefs, but we know by now that Lock doesn’t offer anything on the ground. He’s not someone you should be aiming to start as anything more than a low-end QB2 whose team is projected for just 18.8 points.
Clyde Edwards-Helaire and Le’Veon Bell: I’ve been saying it on the podcast, but I’ll repeat it here: I believe Edwards-Helaire is a better running back than Bell at this stage of their careers. Bell is someone who operates behind good offensive lines, which is not something we can say about the Chiefs, as Edwards-Helaire has averaged just 1.47 yards before contact, which is slightly below the league average, and he’s shifty. Still, you don’t sign Bell to sit him on the bench as “only” a backup, so he’ll have a role. This is not the matchup you want to walk back into with a timeshare, as the Broncos have allowed the fewest fantasy points per opportunity. A carry/target averages just 0.64 PPR points to running backs, which is miserable. Think about that: If a running back were to get 20 opportunities (something that’s hard to see for either of these running backs), that would amount to 12.8 PPR points. Now to be fair, they’ve played against the Patriots and Jets running backs over the last two weeks, which are far from potent. Still, we’ve seen just two starting running backs finish with more than 9.3 PPR points against them, and those running backs were Derrick Henry and James Conner, who both touched the ball at least 18 times. Edwards-Helaire should still be the lead back and offer RB2 value here, though there’s risk in the matchup and the touches. As for Bell, it’s hard to imagine he walks in and sees more than 8-12 opportunities in his first game with the team, as he wasn’t able to join them until the middle of this week due to COVID restrictions. Given the nature of the matchup, you should be hesitant to use him as anything more than a low-end RB3/flex play.
Melvin Gordon and Phillip Lindsay: So, apparently, Gordon had strep throat last week and it was the reason for missing the game. He’s still facing a possible three-game suspension by the league, so it’s a situation we need to pay attention to as the week goes on. Lindsay stepped in and played well in his absence, racking up 101 yards on the ground against a tough Patriots run defense. Do the Broncos move towards more of a timeshare with Lindsay back to full health? Against the Chiefs, they’ll want to utilize their running backs a lot. Their opponents have chosen a run play on 47.2 percent of plays, which ranks as the fifth-highest mark in the league. In terms of weighted opportunity, running backs average the 10th-most against the Chiefs, and though the numbers haven’t been huge to this point, the level of competition has been weak. Per Football Outsiders DVOA, the Chiefs are still the sixth-worst run defense in the league. The question is: Can the Broncos keep the game close enough to keep getting touches to their running backs? Six different running backs have totaled 62 or more yards on the ground, while seven running backs have totaled at least 25 yards through the air. If Gordon plays, you have to assume he gets the majority of work, including pass-game and goal-line usage, which is important, so consider him a somewhat sturdy RB2, though the 18.8-point team-implied total is worrisome. Lindsay didn’t even get a single target last week, which worries me about his floor. Lindsay also played this team twice last year without Gordon and finished two games with just 68 scoreless yards on 18 carries. He’s more of an RB3/flex play this week who carries gamescript concerns, as he ran just 11 routes in Gordon’s absence last week.
Tyreek Hill: The rain wasn’t good for the Chiefs downfield pass attack, and it hurt Hill’s performance last week, as he totaled just three targets that led to 3/20/0 in his first “bust” performance of the year. You need to shake it off considering the weather. Looking forward to the Broncos matchup, the 7.51 yards per target they have allowed to receivers ranks as the third-lowest mark in the league, which is pretty crazy considering the injuries they’ve dealt with. So, how is it they’ve allowed the 12th-most fantasy points to receivers? Well, they’ve been so good against the run, teams are using the short passing game to move the ball. The average completion goes for just 11.73 yards, which ranks as the sixth-lowest mark in football. It also doesn’t hurt that receivers have averaged a massive 22.8 targets per game against the Broncos. Hill is running nearly 60 percent of his routes from the slot, which means he’ll see Bryce Callahan in coverage most of the time. Callahan is someone who was being forced to play on the perimeter to start the year due to injuries, but he’s always been better in the slot. We still saw Jamison Crowder rack up seven catches for 104 yards against them in the slot a few weeks back. Callahan was a 4.49-speed guy coming out of college, so he’s not slow, but he’s also not as fast as Hill. Considering the run-game may struggle a bit, we should see Hill get back on track as a WR1 this week.
Mecole Hardman: It was a major disappointment to see Hardman play just 29 snaps in Week 6 with Sammy Watkins out of the lineup, but we’re seeing a trend here. Hardman is essentially someone the Chiefs want in the slot, and that’s where Hill is playing 60 percent of his snaps. Because of that, you’re seeing Demarcus Robinson and Byron Pringle get a lot more snaps in Watkins’ place. He’s still yet to see more than six targets in an NFL game, and in fact, he has seen four or less in 17-of-22 games. You can only start him as a hail-mary WR5/6 where you’re hoping for that one big play.
Demarcus Robinson: With Sammy Watkins out of the lineup, Robinson played 69-of-73 snaps last week. He also led the wide receivers with six targets, catching five of them for 69 yards in a messy game. He plays on both sides of the formation, so he’ll see a mix of the Broncos cornerbacks, who might get their top cornerback A.J. Bouye back this week. As a whole, they’ve allowed just 7.51 yards per target to wide receivers (4th-lowest), but there’s been enough volume to bring them up to the defense that’s allowed the 12th-most fantasy points to the position. There have been 10 wide receivers who’ve been able to post double-digit PPR days against them, which is what fantasy managers want when looking for a streamer. Robinson might not be the worst WR4/5 option considering his massive role with Watkins out.
Jerry Jeudy: He’s seen just nine targets over the last two weeks combined, which surely won’t get it done when the quarterbacks averaging less than 7.0 yards per attempt. It was his first game where he finished with less than 55 yards, but the two receptions in each of the last two games is certainly concerning. The Chiefs are not a matchup where wide receivers excel, as they’ve allowed the fifth-fewest points per game to them. Through six games, there have been just seven wide receivers who’ve finished as top-36 wide receivers against them, with five of those receivers seeing seven-plus targets. The good news for Jeudy is that two of them have been slot-heavy receivers (Keenan Allen, Cole Beasley), which is the role he’s been playing. They have Tyrann Mathieu covering the slot most of the time, and though he had a lot of issues in coverage with the Cardinals and Texans, it seems he’s fit in well with the Chiefs. In his time with them, he’s allowed 78-of-120 passing for 742 yards and three touchdowns, which amounts to a QB Rating of less than 80.0. Jeudy is still the best receiver on this team, but if you’re not getting targets, you can’t produce. Consider him a mediocre WR4 until we see the targets come back.
Tim Patrick: We’ve now watched Patrick post back-to-back 100-yard games, though they were both against teams who’ve rank in the top-eight in terms of yards per target to wide receivers. This week’s matchup is not like that. The Chiefs have allowed just 7.66 yards per target, which ranks as the fifth-lowest number in football. They’ve also allowed the fifth-fewest fantasy points to wide receivers on the year, and it’s not a fluke considering they ranked second against them in 2019 in the same defensive scheme. My advice would be to limit expectations for Patrick in this matchup, as he should be considered a relatively weak WR4/5 option.
Travis Kelce: He was the Kelce we all know and love last week, racking up 5/65/2 in a messy game against the Bills defense that can’t seem to stop tight ends. It’s not quite the same story with the Broncos, though. They’ve faced four tight ends who’ve seen four-plus targets, and while all of them totaled at least three catches and 36 yards, none of them topped 49 yards. The only top-12 tight end they’ve played was Jonnu Smith, who turned seven targets into 4/36/1 back in Week 1, which was the biggest tight end performance they allowed. The Broncos were good against tight ends in this same scheme last year, though it didn’t stop Kelce from catching 17 balls for 186 yards in the two games combined. You’re never going to bench Kelce, so the only reason you’d be here is to ask about playing him for DFS purposes. While this isn’t a great matchup on paper, I don’t think it’s a matchup you should run from, especially knowing the George Kittle (the other expensive tight end) has a brutal matchup against the Patriots. If you’re paying up, Kelce would be my pick.
Noah Fant: It seems the Broncos are expecting Fant back this week, though we’ll need to pay attention throughout the week to ensure he’s on track to suit up. Despite the Broncos passing game not living up to expectations, Fant has played quite well this year. His fantasy finishes are 3, 9, 14, and 14 (left the game early). He’s a TE1 in fantasy football with that consistency. The Chiefs have been a mediocre matchup for tight ends, as they’ve allowed a slightly below average 6.54 yards per target despite playing against Darren Waller, Hunter Henry, and Mark Andrews in three of their games. Waller and Henry were both still able to post respectable numbers and finish inside the top-12 tight ends, though they did both see at least seven targets, a number Fant has failed to reach in 3-of-4 games, and will be coming off a high-ankle sprain (if he plays at all). But again, he’s been consistent in fantasy and has at least five targets in each game, so he’s still on the TE1 radar, though he’s in the lower portion of that conversation with the injury risk.
Jacksonville Jaguars at Los Angeles Chargers
Line: LAC by 7.5
Gardner Minshew: Here are his fantasy finishes through six games: 11, 12, 30, 13, 13, 12. Is there some sort of consistency you’re looking for? It doesn’t get much more consistent than this. Outside of the one game on Thursday night football without D.J. Chark, Minshew has finished as a low-end QB1/high-end QB2 in every game. Should we expect that again in Week 7? The Chargers have been a hard defense to predict quarterbacks against, as the fantasy finishes for them have been: 20, 7, 21, 2, 11. The common denominator among the three quarterbacks who finishes top-12 were pass attempts, as they all threw the ball at least 46 times. Teams have chosen to throw the ball 63.4 percent of the time against the Chargers, which ranks as the sixth-highest mark in football. That’s why the 6.95 yards per attempt they’ve allowed isn’t the biggest deal to someone like Minshew, as the Jaguars have thrown the ball at least 40 times in each of the last five games. They lead the league with a 67.7 percent passing rate, which brings a solid floor to someone like Minshew who’s also rushed for at least 18 yards and/or a touchdown in 5-of-6 games. Minshew can be considered a high-end QB2 streamer considering the volume we should see in this game.
Justin Herbert: What an incredible start to Herbert’s career. Not only was he forced his way into the starting job due to a medical mishap an hour before the game, but he’s forced Anthony Lynn to change his course of action. He’s thrown for seven touchdowns over his last two games against the Bucs and Saints defenses, which are no pushover matchups. His 8.5 yards per attempt ranks fifth in the NFL, so it’s not just touchdowns. Now on to play against the team that’s allowed the second-most yards per attempt (8.56) in all of football. They’ve also allowed a league-high 73.4 percent completion-rate. The issue is that teams have gone extremely run-heavy against them, as evidenced by the league-low 51.3 percent pass-rate. Because of that, we’ve seen just one quarterback (Philip Rivers in Week 1) throw the ball more than 36 times. Still, no quarterback has averaged less than 7.19 yards per attempt, so they haven’t needed much volume to produce. It’s been a bit of Jekyll and Hyde for quarterbacks, though, as Ryan Tannehill, Deshaun Watson, and Ryan Fitzpatrick were all able to finish as top-eight options, while Rivers, Joe Burrow, and Matthew Stafford finished outside the top-20. It comes down to how well the Chargers run the ball, as that’s the one thing that could impact Herbert’s upside. Oddsmakers have given them a 28.5-point team-implied total, which bodes well for his floor. It’s hard to say Herbert isn’t a low-end QB1 option this week.
James Robinson: He’s now failed to top 48 yards on the ground in three of his last four games despite matchups against the Dolphins, Bengals, Texans, and Lions. That’s the bad news. The good news is that he’s been used in the passing game, averaging 5.3 targets, 4.8 receptions, and 40.3 yards through the air. The matchup this week is much tougher than his recent competition. The Chargers are still the only team in the league who’s yet to allow a rushing touchdown. On the ground, they’ve allowed just 39.6 fantasy points, which is the lowest in the league, and a number that amounts to just 7.92 points per week. Fortunately, the 76.1 PPR points they’ve allowed through the air is the fifth-most in football. We’ve seen four different running backs in just five games finish with six or more receptions against the Chargers. Still, no running back has been able to finish better than the RB9 against them, and they’ve played against Alvin Kamara, Mike Davis, Ronald Jones, Joe Mixon, and Clyde-Edwards Helaire, so the competition has been stellar. Robinson should still be played considering his workhorse role, but he’s more of an RB2 this week.
Justin Jackson and Joshua Kelley: In a game that was close throughout, Jackson out-touched Kelley 20 to 12. He also outperformed him, racking up 94 total yards against a tough Saints defense. Did he earn the starting job? He should’ve considering Kelley has now averaged 2.8 or less yards per carry in three of their last four games and offers minimal upside in the receiving department. Still, it’s likely to be a timeshare. There should be plenty of carries to go around this week, as the Jaguars are a team that’s faced a lot of volume. Their opponents have gone with a run play on 48.7 percent of snaps, which is the highest mark in football. That’s led to a massive 31.8 running back touches per game against them, which is also the highest number in the league. Despite the fact that the Jaguars have played just six games, there have already been eight running backs who’ve amassed 15 touches against them, including three of them with 25 or more. It’s not just a lot of touches, either. The efficiency has been rock-solid, as the 0.93 PPR points per opportunity they’ve allowed is the ninth-highest mark in football. In a game that was close throughout against the Saints, Jackson played 42 snaps to Kelley’s 25, so we must assume he’s the lead back here. Jackson should be able to be plugged in as a low-end RB2 with upside, while Kelley should still reach double-digit touches and gets into the low-end RB3/flex conversation.
D.J. Chark: He played 57-of-64 snaps against the Lions and saw a season-high 14 targets; I think he’s healthy. Unfortunately, those targets amounted to just 7/45/0, so maybe his ankle affected his effectiveness, though he should’ve had an easy touchdown where Minshew overthrew him. The bad news this week is that he’s going to see Casey Hayward in coverage, which is one of the toughest cornerbacks in the league. Despite covering some of the top receivers in the league, he’s allowed just 16-of-32 passing for 216 yards and a touchdown in his coverage. The Chargers haven’t used him to shadow receivers this year, so it’s possible they just play sides, and if that happens, Chark will actually play about 60 percent of his snaps against Michael Davis, a former undrafted free agent who’s allowed 22-of-29 passing for 247 yards in his coverage. This is far from a great matchup, as the Chargers have allowed just 1.65 PPR points per target to receivers, which ranks as the sixth-lowest mark in the league. Chark should be in the WR3 conversation this week, as Minshew should be slinging the ball quite a bit.
Laviska Shenault: He had his worst game in the NFL last week, but there was a positive to take away from it. He saw seven targets, which now brings his total to four straight games of six-plus targets, which is typically enough to get into the WR3/4 conversation when he has a good matchup. The Chargers don’t qualify as a good matchup for wide receivers, as Shenault plays on Casey Hayward‘s side of the field most of the time, who happens to be one of the better cornerbacks in the league. The hope would be that they use him to shadow Chark, though that hasn’t been their gameplan this year. They’ve allowed just four wide receivers to finish top-36 against them this year, and every one of those receivers totaled at least seven targets. That’s a number that Shenault can get to, though Chark is the one who’d have the best shot. Shenault remains in the WR4 conversation, though I don’t think this is a matchup you need to target.
Keelan Cole: We talk a lot about Chark and Shenault, but what about Cole? Did you know he leads this team in targets through six weeks? He’s been the only consistent option in this receiver corps, totaling at least five targets while hauling in 43 yards and/or a touchdown in every game. Unfortunately, the Chargers have Desmond King in the slot, who’s done a great job covering slot receivers over the years. He has allowed a sky-high 77.7 percent catch-rate in his coverage, but those receptions have only gone for 9.2 yards a pop with a touchdown every 30.1 targets. So, in other words, he’s allowed the receptions to pile up but he’ll keep the play in front of him. There have been just four top-36 wide receiver performances against the Chargers this year, and Tyreek Hill was the only slot-heavy receiver to get there. Cole should be considered a sturdy WR4 for the remainder of the season, but he’s a relatively weak WR4 option this week.
Keenan Allen: He had to leave their Week 5 game early due to some back issues but they’re expecting him to be fine moving forward. Over his last three and a half games with Herbert, he’s racked up 42 targets, 30 receptions, 319 yards, and two touchdowns. Despite missing almost one full game, he was the No. 13 wide receiver during that stretch. With Austin Ekeler out of the lineup, the Chargers are extremely top-heavy in where their targets are going, so the concerns about Herbert’s upside not throwing the ball a ton in this matchup don’t trickle down to Allen very much. The Jaguars are allowing a massive 69.9 percent catch-rate to receivers, along with 9.0 yards per target, which are both in the top-10. There have been 10 wide receivers who’ve turned in double-digit PPR performances against the Jaguars, though just one of them (Brandin Cooks) has finished better than the WR20. He was also the only receiver who saw double-digit target against the Jaguars, so we shouldn’t be worried about Allen’s upside here, especially when we see that Adam Humphries totaled 5/48/1 and Tyler Boyd posted 7/90/0, both fellow slot-heavy receivers. Start Allen as a high-end WR2.
Mike Williams: He stepped up big in their last game after Allen went down, compiling eight targets and turning them into 5/109/2. It seems that Herbert can support fantasy options, and maybe multiple receivers, though Allen appears to be the favorite when both are on the field. The Jaguars have oddly been ranked as the No. 3 defense in DVOA against No. 1 receivers but rank 23rd against No. 2 receivers. It’s subjective to say which receiver is the No. 1 option in this offense because it comes down to Keenan Allen playing most of his snaps in the slot, which removes him from the No. 1 receiver territory. Due to the lack of targets they’ve faced to wide receivers (18.8 per game), we haven’t seen a lot of big performances against the Jaguars, though the 9.0 yards per target suggests it’s an above-average matchup. Williams plays on both sides of the field, so he won’t see one cornerback more than another, so we have to rely on the overall numbers. Williams is moving up the rest of season rankings but we need to see him produce with Allen on the field before we trust him as anything more than a somewhat touchdown-dependent WR3.
James O’Shaughnessy: I don’t think many realize the duo of Tyler Eifert and O’Shaughnessy has 38 targets on the year, which would rank fourth among tight ends. Eifert played just five snaps last week and re-aggravated his neck injury, which means he’s almost certainly out this week. Despite playing in the backup role, O’Shaughnessy has caught 12-of-15 passes for 115 yards this season. Knowing tight ends have seen a 16.7 percent target share in the Jaguars offense, and that we’re expecting Minshew to throw the ball 40-plus times, we should see at least five targets to O’Shaughnessy. The Chargers have allowed 4-of-5 starting tight ends to finish with at least 45 yards. The only exception was Ian Thomas, who saw two targets. If you’re desperate for a streamer, and if Eifert is out (he has been ruled out), O’Shaughnessy makes some sense.
Hunter Henry: He’s now been targeted at least seven times in 4-of-5 games this season, something that’s extremely rare for tight ends in today’s NFL. It’s disappointing that he’s been held below 40 yards in each of the last two games, but targets amount to production more often than not. You’d actually think his production would go up with Ekeler out of the lineup, but it’s had a reverse effect. Welcome to the matchup with the Jaguars, where fantasy points are given away for free. Seriously, they’ve allowed a league-high 2.63 PPR points per target to tight ends, which includes 10.63 yards per target and a touchdown every 7.0 targets. If Henry gets the seven targets he has in 4-of-5 games this year, he should finish as a top-three tight end. What makes the 2.63 PPR points per target even better is that they’ve played against Jonnu Smith, Darren Fells, T.J. Hockenson, Mike Gesicki, Jack Doyle, and Drew Sample, so it hasn’t been a brutal schedule or anything. Henry should be played as a high-end TE1 this week.