The Primer: Week 8 Edition (2020 Fantasy Football)
Indianapolis Colts at Detroit Lions
Line: IND by 2.5
Philip Rivers: Can you believe that Rivers has a higher QB Rating when under pressure than when he does in a clean pocket? Seriously. He has a 104.9 QB Rating under pressure, which ranks as the second-highest mark in the league, while posting just an 89.4 QB Rating without pressure. That doesn’t help fantasy managers too much, but it’s interesting nonetheless. The Lions have only generated a sack on 3.64 percent of dropbacks, so is that a bad thing for Rivers? I’m kidding. Those numbers should even out over time for him. Rivers is coming off his best fantasy day as a Colts player, as he posted 24.7 fantasy points against the Bengals, which topped his piddly 14.8 points in Week 1. It’s tough to say you should be considering him after just one of his six games has produced 15-plus fantasy points. The Lions matchup hasn’t been one to run from for fantasy managers, as there hasn’t been one quarterback who’s finished outside the top 20 against them. It’s also worth noting that there has been just one quarterback who’s finished better than QB10, so quarterbacks have essentially lived in the QB2 territory. Just one quarterback has topped 270 yards, and just one quarterback has thrown more than two touchdowns. Their opponents have averaged 35.3 pass attempts per game and 7.45 yards per attempt, which are both essentially the league average. That’s probably the definition of this matchup… average. Rivers is just a mid-to-low-end QB2 with his lack of upside.
Matthew Stafford: It’s been a disappointing year for those who advocated for him late in drafts. I wasn’t one of them, though I did love him last week in what was likely to be his best matchup all year. He didn’t live up to expectations, throwing for 340 yards and one touchdown. It could’ve just as easily been sub-300 yards and no touchdown if not for Todd Gurley falling into the endzone and giving them another chance. Now onto a much tougher matchup with the Colts. They have allowed the fewest points to quarterbacks as a while, but even more importantly, they’ve allowed the fewest fantasy points through the air to quarterbacks, which is where Stafford generates almost all his fantasy totals. The 0.355 points per actual pass attempt they’ve allowed ranks as the second-best to only the Bears. When you see that and combine it with the fact that Stafford has thrown more than 36 pass attempts all season, you must be worried. Their opponents have averaged just 59.7 plays per game, which is the third-fewest, and the Lions offense has averaged just 62.8 plays per game, which ranks as the 10th-lowest mark. A good game against the Colts would be 275 yards and two touchdowns, which is not enough of a ceiling to start Stafford confidently, especially knowing he’s finished better than QB15 just once this season.
Jonathan Taylor and Nyheim Hines: Taylor’s yards per carry is fine, but we expected more out of the rookie who broke records at Wisconsin. Why isn’t he generating more behind this great offensive line? Well, it doesn’t help that he’s broken just 11 tackles on 105 total touches, which is one of the worst rates in the league. By comparison, Hines has broken eight tackles on just 49 touches. Heck, Jordan Wilkins has broken 11 tackles on his 29 carries. When you see Taylor’s minuscule 2.17 yards after contact, you understand why he hasn’t lived up to expectations. Watching the film on him, he has gotten better as the year’s gone on, but there’s still room for improvement. Will he make the Lions pay for passing on him in this year’s draft? Opponents have averaged 23.8 carries per game against them, and it might be more if they weren’t so efficient with them. Each carry has netted 4.79 yards per carry. Each target has netted 6.62 yards. Every 19 touches net a touchdown. There have been five different running backs who’ve finished as top-10 options against the Lions, including seven running backs who’ve totaled at least 63 yards on the ground. This is your reminder that they’ve played six games. The 0.97 PPR points per opportunity they’ve allowed ranks fifth, right behind the Panthers. Taylor hasn’t lived up to expectations, but this is another week he should post low-end RB1 numbers. Through six games, Hines has averaged the same amount of weighted opportunity as someone like Chase Edmonds and Frank Gore, so he has value in a pinch, especially knowing the Lions allowed the sixth-most fantasy points per target to running backs. He should be considered a high-end RB4 during bye weeks.
D’Andre Swift and Adrian Peterson: Did you know that 39.5 percent of Swift’s rushing yards have come on just two carries? He found the endzone last week, which salvaged his fantasy day, but don’t forget what we talked about last week. Swift has totaled just 44.8 percent of the Lions running back touches over the last two weeks. His role has grown, sure, but Matt Patricia fails to realize he’s the best back on the field right now. Peterson used to be the king of breaking tackles, but this year, he’s broken just seven tackles on 86 total touches, which is among the worst broken tackle rates in the league. Now onto a matchup with the Colts, who’ve been one of the better run-stopping units ever since Matt Eberflus took over the defense. No running back has topped 72 yards on the ground against them this year, and that’s despite five different running backs totaling 14-plus carries, including Kareem Hunt, Dalvin Cook, Joe Mixon, and James Robinson. If you go back to last year, there was just one running back (Derrick Henry) who totaled more than 88 rushing yards. It’s no fluke. There’s also been just one running back who’s caught more than three passes or 30 yards through the air against them. All in all, they’ve allowed the fourth-fewest points per opportunity to running backs, so volume has been necessary to post fantasy numbers against them. Swift is a low-end RB2/high-end RB3 and not one you should aim to play in DFS lineups. Peterson continues to lose more and more work to Swift and given the tough matchup against a Colts team that’s allowed just 3.48 yards per carry, and you have a weak RB3/RB4 option.
T.Y. Hilton: As Hilton went into his bye week, here are some receivers who had outscored him through six weeks: Gabriel Davis, Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Anthony Miller, and Nelson Agholor. Not great. He did finally post six catches for 69 yards in Week 5, but then fell back into his old ways in Week 6 when he caught just one ball for 11 yards. Something that’s becoming a bigger issue is his lack of targets, as he’s topped five targets just once over the last five games. It surely doesn’t hurt that 64.2 percent of targets against the Lions go to wide receivers, which ranks as the second-highest mark in the league. Among the cornerbacks who’ve played at least 100 snaps in coverage, Jeff Okudah has allowed 2.35 yards per snap, which ranks as the second-highest mark in football. I mentioned in Rivers’ notes that this is the definition of an average matchup, and the same goes for Hilton. There have been 11 wide receivers who’ve posted 11.4 or more PPR points against them, which put the odds in Hilton’s favor to get into WR4 territory this week.
Zach Pascal: He’s now seen 17 targets over the three games without Michael Pittman, which is enough to be considered fantasy relevant. He’s also reached at least 54 yards in two of those games, which is something T.Y. Hilton has done twice in his last 10 games. Pascal is playing in the slot 80 percent of the time since the injuries to Pittman and Parris Campbell, which is something that should benefit him in this matchup with the Lions. There have been 14 receivers who’ve seen more than three targets against them, and 12 of them finished with 9.4 or more PPR points. While defending the slot, Darryl Roberts has allowed 20-of-28 passing for 226 yards and three touchdowns. It seems like Justin Coleman might return from his hamstring injury soon, but he was torched for a 107.3 QB Rating in his coverage last year while playing that position and would be coming off a month-plus absence. Pascal is in the WR4/5 conversation this week.
Marcus Johnson: He saw eight targets in Week 6, putting him on the fantasy map. He’s run 75 routes over the last three weeks, which isn’t a whole lot, as it’s less than 75 percent of the routes that Hilton and Pascal are running. He’s averaging double the yards per route they are, though his efficiency is unlikely to continue with how unpredictable Rivers has been. The Lions have been a solid matchup for receivers, though they’ve been better on the perimeter than they have in the slot. The perimeter duo of Amani Oruwariye and Jeff Okudah have combined to allow 38-of-65 passing for 552 yards, but they haven’t allowed a touchdown in their coverage. Let’s make sure that Johnson wasn’t just a flash in the pan for one week, as I’m guessing that Hilton and Pascal are still ahead of him in the pecking order.
Kenny Golladay: It seemed that every catch Golladay made last week, he was taking a big hit. That’s far from ideal, though he continually comes down with tough catches. The 2.0 yards of separation at target is the fifth-lowest mark in football, so we should expect that to continue happening. The Colts have been one of the better defenses in the league through six games, but they’ve also been slipping a bit as of late and have allowed six top-36 wide receivers in their last two games. It’s good news for Golladay that 61.7 percent of the passes that have been thrown against the Colts have gone to wide receivers, which ranks as the fourth-highest percentage in the league. While the Colts haven’t allowed tons of fantasy production this year (they’ve allowed the fewest fantasy points per game overall to opponents), 59.3 percent of the production they’ve allowed to skill-position players has gone to wide receivers, which ranks as the third-highest mark in the league. He’s going to see the most of Xavier Rhodes, the cornerback Golladay knows from his time in Minnesota. I’m not overly concerned with the matchup for him this week and would suggest starting him as a low-end WR1/high-end WR2.
Marvin Jones: He’s averaging just 1.04 yards per route run this year, which is the eighth-worst in football, with the likes of Gabriel Davis and Larry Fitzgerald. He did show some sign of life last week, totaling 80 yards on six targets against the Falcons. With Golladay in the lineup, Jones has averaged 4.0 targets per game, which is less than ideal, as is the fact that Danny Amendola has totaled more yards than him through six games (270-226). His matchup is better than Golladay’s this week, as the Colts second-year cornerback Rock Ya-Sin has struggled in coverage as of late, allowing 10-of-15 passing for 172 yards over their last two games. The Lions do move Golladay and Jones back and forth, so he’s not the only one who’ll see Ya-Sin. The Colts have been one of the better defenses, but the only games they failed to allow multiple double-digit PPR receivers were against the Jets (duh) and the Vikings when Kirk Cousins completed just 11-of-26 passes in Week 2. Overall, they’ve allowed 12 different receivers to finish as WR46 or better, so Jones stays in the WR4/5 conversation, even with the lack of targets he usually sees.
Trey Burton: Don’t look now, but Burton is being used eerily similar to the way Eric Ebron was used with the Colts. Since joining the starting lineup, he’s seen at least five targets in each game, and even got a goal-line carry last week. The Lions have been one of the better teams at defending tight ends, but it’s an extremely small sample size for a team that was slightly below average against them last year, in the same scheme. Still, teams have chosen to target their tight ends just 14.2 percent of the time against them, which ranks as the third-lowest number in the league. Even worse, just 9.4 percent of fantasy production has gone to tight ends. Still, targets are all you can ask for from a streamer that’s available in almost 80 percent of leagues, and Burton is getting them. He appears to be someone who’ll be in the streamer conversation more than not, but this isn’t a matchup that absolutely needs to be attacked. He should be considered a high-end TE2 with his steady flow of targets.
T.J. Hockenson: His targets have consistently ranged from 4-7 per week, and he’s been mighty efficient, as he’s totaled at least 53 yards and/or a touchdown in every game. Despite ranking 17th among tight ends in targets, Hockenson is currently the No. 7 tight end in PPR formats. His next challenge is a tough one. The Colts are one of just two teams who’ve yet to allow a touchdown to tight ends. Of the fantasy production they’ve allowed to skill-position players, just 8.4 percent has gone to the tight end position, which is the lowest mark in the league. To this point, they’ve allowed just 3.72 yards per target to them, which ranks No. 1 in the NFL. Through six games, the Colts have allowed 134 yards to tight ends. That’s bananas. The 0.84 PPR points per target is easily the lowest mark in the NFL, so it’s probably best to be cautious with what you expect out of Hockenson this week. He’s still in the low-end TE1 conversation but is far from a lock for top-12 production.
Minnesota Vikings at Green Bay Packers
Line: GB by 6.5
Kirk Cousins: It wasn’t pretty, but in the end, Cousins came through with 23.7 fantasy points against the Falcons in Week 6, living up to the streamer we’d hoped he’d be. It’s been an odd year for Cousins, who already has 10 interceptions through six games. Over the previous 31 games, he had just 16 interceptions. The Vikings have him pushing the ball down the field, and the defense is continually putting them in a bad spot. It’s not going to change as the Vikings have apparently started the rebuild process, so we should continue to see Cousins playing from behind. That’s what happened the first time they played the Packers this year, though they only ran 52 offensive plays in that game. If they can stay on the field a bit longer, it would help. The Packers have faced just 60.0 plays per game, which ranks as the fifth-lowest in the NFL, but from an efficiency standpoint, they allow the sixth-most fantasy points per offensive play. Quarterbacks have completed 71.0 percent of their passes against them, which ranks fourth behind only the Falcons, Jaguars, and Jets. If the Packers were to face more volume, they’d be in trouble. That’s where the issues lie, though. The Vikings have averaged just 59.3 plays per game, which is the third-lowest number in football, so when you combine that with the Packers 60.0 plays per game allowed, it presents a much lower floor than we’d like. It’s also why we’ve seen a limited ceiling for opposing quarterbacks against them, though 5-of-6 quarterbacks have thrown multiple touchdowns. Cousins should be considered a middling QB2 for this game who’d outperform expectations if the Vikings could run 60-plus plays.
Aaron Rodgers: He got back on track last week in a plus-matchup against the Texans, racking up 283 yards and four touchdowns on just 34 pass attempts. That’s become a trend, as he’s now thrown the ball 35 times or less in each of the last five games. It surely helps that Rodgers has thrown a touchdown on 8.2 percent of his attempts. The Vikings were getting hammered with Yannick Ngakoue, so they’re not going to get better without him. When it comes to strictly passing, the Vikings have allowed the fourth-most fantasy points per actual pass attempt. We watched Rodgers dismantle them for 364 yards and four touchdowns in Week 1, though he did throw the ball 44 times in that game. The Vikings have only faced 35.2 pass attempts per game, yet they’ve allowed the seventh-most fantasy points to quarterbacks, including three top-seven performances. It’s quite ridiculous, but 5-of-6 quarterbacks have averaged at least 8.3 yards per attempt against them. The 6.64 percent touchdown-rate they’ve allowed ranks as the fifth-highest mark, too. Even if the Packers continue their run-heavy ways, Rodgers should still be able to be efficient enough to be a middling QB1 this week. *Update* The Vikings are going to be without two starting cornerbacks this week.
Dalvin Cook and Alexander Mattison: Despite missing half of a game and already having his bye week out of the way, Cook ranks second in the NFL in broken tackles (24) on the ground. You know how we all love the Panthers matchup for running backs? Well, the Packers have allowed more fantasy points per game to the position than any other team in the league, including the Panthers. Running backs have actually outscored quarterbacks by 14.54 points per game when playing the Packers, which is the second largest gap in the NFL. They’ve produced in both the run and pass game, as evidenced by the 4.54 yards per carry and 7.92 yards per target. If Cook can get a handful of targets, they can go a long way, as the Packers have allowed a league-leading 2.06 PPR points per target to running backs, while no other team has allowed more than 1.85 per target. Despite the Packers already getting their bye week out of the way, they still lead the league in touchdowns (10) allowed to running backs, as they’ve scored once every 16.8 touches. All of this amounts to 1.14 PPR points per opportunity for running backs, which is the highest number in the NFL. As long as Cook gets in a full practice, you should have zero concerns about playing him in this matchup. In fact, he should be considered a lock for top-five production if he’s healthy. Mattison would go back into his backup role with Cook active, though if Cook is not 100 percent, we could see 10 or so opportunities for Mattison, which would carry RB4 value in this matchup. Stay tuned for updates.
Aaron Jones and Jamaal Williams: It seemed like Jones was close to playing last week, though I’m guessing the matchup allowed them to play it safe. For now, we’ll assume he plays this week. Williams did a great job in his place last week, racking up 24 of the 29 running back opportunities in the Packers backfield. He’s clearly someone they’ve started to fall back in love with, and it’s likely he’s carved out a real role alongside Jones even when healthy. Jones is used in a different role than most running backs and has four targets that have gone 20-plus yards down the field despite only playing in five games. How rare is that for a running back? There are just four other running backs who’ve seen more than one such target. The matchup with the Vikings is one that Jones has absolutely smashed over the last couple years. Here are his last four games against them:
|2018 – W12||17||72||1||3||21||0||18.3|
|2019 – W2||23||116||1||4||34||0||25.0|
|2019 – W16||23||154||2||2||6||0||30.0|
|2020 – W1||16||66||1||4||10||0||17.6|
Sure, they allowed 17.6 PPR points to Jones in Week 1, but they’ve also allowed 100-plus rushing yards to both Derrick Henry and Jonathan Taylor this year. Oddly enough, the Vikings have allowed the eighth-fewest PPR points per opportunity this year, though there’s been plenty of volume to make up for that, as they’ve faced a massive 31.5 running back touches per game. If Jones plays, you have to plug him in as an RB1 but don’t be surprised if Williams into his touches a bit. Williams should be viewed as a high-end RB4 if Jones plays but should be considered a must-play low-end RB1 if Jones were held out again. *Update* Jones has been ruled OUT for this game, which means Williams will be a low-end RB1/high-end RB2 for this week. A.J. Dillon can fill in as a desperation RB4.
Adam Thielen: Going into his bye week, Thielen ranked second in air yards (684) despite ranking 11th in targets. Even though the Vikings offense has lacked elite pass attempt volume, the expected fantasy output on Thielen’s targets is greater than the average receiver target. The downside in this matchup is that the Packers have allowed fewer yards than every other team in the NFL when it comes to wide receivers. Through six games, they’re allowing just 149.8 yards per game to them. Lack of volume has been a big part of the issue, as they’ve allowed 1.78 PPR points per target, which is right around the league average. Thielen was able to rack up six catches for 110 yards and two touchdowns in the first meeting between these two teams, though much of that came in garbage time. Since that game, Jaire Alexander has allowed just 10-of-17 passing for 56 yards in his coverage. Pretty dominant, right? I’d guess that he shadows Thielen in this game. I’m not going to say that he’ll shut out Thielen, but he is good enough to temper expectations a bit. Thielen has scored in 5-of-6 games and is averaging 8.2 targets per game, so he’s still in the low-end WR1/high-end WR2 conversation but it’s not a week play him in DFS cash lineups.
Justin Jefferson: He’s averaging a massive 3.20 yards per route run this year, which ranks second to only Davante Adams. How good is that? Michael Thomas led all wide receivers last year with 2.88 yards per route run. It helps that he ranks second in yards (286) on targets over 20 yards. Is that sustainable? Well, probably not, but it does help that Cousins throws the deep ball on 20.6 percent of his attempts, which ranks as the highest mark in football. The Packers have done a good job with slot-heavy receivers this year, though Randall Cobb threw a wrench in that last week when he caught eight passes for 95 yards. We don’t have a big sample size to go off with Chandon Sullivan, who’s a third-year cornerback who went undrafted, and is playing his first full-time role. But Jefferson has played just 42.3 percent of his snaps in the slot, so he’ll also see a lot of Josh Jackson as well, who’s been a bust since the Packers drafted him in 2018, allowing a 68.6 percent catch-rate and a touchdown every 14.3 targets. Knowing Jefferson has totaled 100-plus yards in three of his last four games, you have to keep him in lineups as a low-end WR2, though volume is the concern in this game.
Davante Adams: He’s the WR1. He’s only played three and a half games, yet ranks as the No. 14 wide receiver in PPR formats. He posted the best wide receiver performance of the year in Week 7 when he tallied 13 receptions for 196 yards and two touchdowns but was dethroned later that night when Tyler Lockett went bananas. Can Adams one-up his performance from last week? I kid, kind of. Going into their bye week, the Vikings starting cornerback Adams will see most, Jeff Gladney, had allowed more yardage in his coverage (388) than all but one cornerback. On just 32 targets in his coverage, he’s allowed 388 yards and three touchdowns. In fact, the Vikings don’t have a single cornerback who’s played at least 50 snaps in coverage who’s allowed lower than a 101.9 QB Rating. There have been four wide receivers who’ve already hit 22-plus PPR points against the Vikings, including Adams in Week 1 when he went for 14/156/2. Start him anywhere and everywhere you can. Duh.
Marquez Valdes-Scantling: He’s been targeted deep 14 times this year, which ranks as the third-highest mark in the league. Why haven’t his numbers been bigger then? Well, he’s caught just three of them. Despite lacking other options in the offense, his targets and performance have slowly been declining. He’s still seen at least four targets in every game, so there’s always a chance he blows up with Rodgers. It also doesn’t hurt that he’s playing against the Vikings team who he had his best performance of the season against back in Week 1 when he totaled 4/96/1 on six targets. Cameron Dantzler is the cornerback he’ll see much of the time in coverage, a rookie who’s allowed 316 yards and four touchdowns on just 37 targets in coverage. The Vikings have allowed a total of 11 receivers to hit double-digit PPR days, so Valdes-Scantling is someone you can consider playing as a boom-or-bust WR5 if you’re looking for a ceiling.
Irv Smith: He’s now seen five targets in back-to-back games, but what you really need to know about is the trends in his playing time. His routes run have gone: 16, 17, 17, 12, 31, 28. It’s almost like a lightbulb went off and the Vikings started playing him more. His 59 routes in Weeks 5-6 ranked eighth among tight ends. It’s paid off, too, as he’s turned those 10 targets into eight receptions for 119 yards. The only concern is that opponents have targeted tight ends just 13.5 percent of the time against the Packers, which ranks as the second-lowest mark in the league. However, when targeted, they have allowed a massive 10.04 yards per target to tight ends on the season, including a 77.8 percent completion-rate. In a game where the Vikings are likely to have 35-plus pass attempts, Smith should be a quality high-end TE2 streamer (and maybe rest of season) option.
Robert Tonyan: Remember when Tonyan was the No. 1 tight end in fantasy coming off his three-touchdown game against the Falcons? Since that time, he’s seen six targets and caught five passes for 57 yards. He has been trying to play through a few injuries, so maybe he’s getting healthier as the weeks go on? The Vikings don’t look so bad on paper against the tight end position, as they’ve allowed the 14th-fewest fantasy points per game to the position, but when you look at their efficiency numbers, they’re likely a top-five matchup for tight ends. They’ve allowed an 80.0 percent catch-rate (3rd-highest), 15.13 yards per reception (highest in NFL), 12.1 yards per target (most in NFL), and 2.41 PPR points per target (4th-highest). That doesn’t seem like such a brutal matchup, does it? We should pay attention to the injury reports because if Tonyan practices in full, he should be a solid low-end TE1/high-end TE2 streamer.
New York Jets at Kansas City Chiefs
Line: KC by 19.5
Sam Darnold: The Chiefs are known as a matchup that people think, “Oh, their opponent will fall behind and rack up points in garbage time!” Nope. They’ve allowed just a 60.1 percent completion-rate to opponents, which is the third-best mark in football. They’ve allowed the sixth-fewest fantasy points overall, and the fourth-fewest fantasy points per offensive play. Knowing the Jets run just 61.9 plays per game, you don’t need to be running to the waiver wire to stream Darnold. If you’re thinking about it, stop, get some help.
Patrick Mahomes: Week 7 was the first time all season where Mahomes failed to score at least 20.2 fantasy points, and it took a blizzard to do it. I’d be willing to bet that he has much better odds of cracking 25 points this week than finishing below 15 points. The Jets have allowed a massive 71.4 percent completion-rate, and they’ve done that while playing against Josh Allen twice, Jimmy Garoppolo, Philip Rivers, Brett Rypien, Kyler Murray, and Ryan Fitzpatrick. Whew. They’ve allowed an average of 29.0 points per game to those teams, and though some of those points have come from the rushing attack, we know by now that the Chiefs are throwing every chance they get in the red zone. Mahomes has accounted for 18 of the 21 touchdowns they’ve scored on offense, so when you see their 34.0-point team-implied total, you need to get excited. Lack of competition is surely a concern, though we have seen three quarterbacks total 37-plus attempts against the Jets, including two of them (Allen and Murray) to finish as top-five options. Mahomes should be a lock for 275-plus yards and two touchdowns, though I’d say 300-plus yards and three touchdowns is a much likelier outcome. Start him as you normally would.
Frank Gore and Lamical Perine: Gore has now totaled 26 touches in the two games without Le’Veon Bell on the roster, though he may be losing his grip on the primary running back job. Perine out-snapped him 40 to 16 in their Week 7 game against the Bills, and that was in a neutral gamescript throughout. Against the Chiefs, you know they’re going to fall behind, so who’s running the pass routes? Perine has run double the routes that Gore has over the last two weeks combined, including a three to one ratio in Week 7. Running backs have amassed 1,144 total yards against the Chiefs, which ranks as the third-most in the league. That means there’s been 163.4 total yards up for grabs to running backs every game. Volume is the biggest concern with the Jets backfield, as the running backs have combined to average just 21.6 touches per game. So, even if you project Gore to get just 10 carries, it’s a giant chunk of the pie. The Chiefs have allowed 4.82 yards per carry and 6.76 yards per target, which are both above the league average, so efficiency should be better than usual for the Jets, who average 3.87 yards per carry and 4.52 yards per target. Perine is probably the preferred option here, but I don’t anticipate Gore simply going away. Consider Perine a low-end RB3 while Gore is a middling RB4.
Clyde Edwards-Helaire and Le’Veon Bell: Fun fact: Edwards-Helaire ranks second in the NFL with 33 broken tackles. Yes, the Chiefs added Bell to the backfield, but it’s not due to Edwards-Helaire not being able to carry the workload. In Bell’s first game, the split in opportunities was Edwards-Helaire 12, Bell 6. It was an odd game in the snow, so we can’t take too much away from it. I’m sure that Bell would love to stick it to his old team this week, but will Andy Reid give him a bigger role to do so? The Jets have faced the fourth-most weighted opportunity to running backs, as they’ve averaged a massive 203 touches through seven games. That amounts to 29.0 per game, so there should be plenty to go around in a game they’re almost 20-point favorites and projected to score 34.0 points. The Jets were a solid run defense last year, though this team looks like they’ve simply given up on the season and have now allowed 90-plus rushing yards to three different running backs. Their schedule hasn’t even been tough, as they’ve played the Bills running backs twice, the 49ers, Colts, Broncos, Cardinals, and Dolphins. The issue here is that we may not see the check-downs to running backs as much knowing the Jets cornerback issues, and that’s a big part of Edwards-Helaire’s value in this offense. You should still be starting him as a low-end RB1/high-end RB2 this week. Bell’s role should grow this week, as we should see more touches available than the 15 there were between these two running backs last week. I’d expect at least 28-plus touches out of them in this game, which should put Bell in the 10-12 range against his former team. He should be considered a mid-to-high-end RB3.
Jamison Crowder and Braxton Berrios: It seems unlikely that we see Crowder for this game, as he suffered a groin injury late last week, forcing him to sit against the Bills. Soft tissue injuries are rarely a one-week thing, especially when they happen late in the prior week. If we see a status change, I’ll come back and update, but prepare to be without him. Berrios has stepped in and played well in his absences this year, as he’s racked up 19 targets in those three games, catching 14 passes for 158 yards and two touchdowns. The Chiefs are not a team that allows much production to the receiver position, as evidenced by the 9.9 receptions and 130.1 yards per game they allow to them. Berrios is fine as a guy you can snag off waivers to ensure you don’t walk away from the week with a zero, because he does offer a floor, but the ceiling is minimal. *Update* Crowder has been ruled OUT.
Denzel Mims: The good news is that he saw seven targets in his NFL debut, which is more than most receivers can say on a weekly basis. He caught four of them for 42 yards, which isn’t bad when you consider the matchup against the Bills. The Jets receivers have been targeted 22.9 times per game, so there are targets to go around, especially if Jamison Crowder sits out again. The unfortunate part is that the Chiefs are not a matchup to attack with wide receivers, as they’ve allowed just eight wide receviers to finish as top-48 options (WR4 or better), and five of them needed to score, which is something the Jets receivers have done just four times all season. All in all, the 911 yards the Chiefs have allowed to receivers ranks second in the NFL, though the 130.1 yards per game is the best in the NFL. Mims is someone who should be stashed, but he’s nothing more than a WR5 this week.
Tyreek Hill: He’s now scored a touchdown in 6-of-7 games but has still yet to crack 100 yards receiving. I guess we shouldn’t be too surprised considering he accomplished that feat just twice during the 2019 season, so twice in his last 19 games. Does that change this week? There have already been three receivers who’ve hit the century mark against the Jets this year, including Cole Beasley, who tagged them for 11/112/0 last week. The Jets are allowing a massive 70.5 percent completion-rate to wide receivers, which ranks as the second-worst to only the Texans. The lone downside for Hill is that Brian Poole is the Jets best cornerback, and he’s been solid over the last two years while covering the slot (where Hill plays 65 percent of the time), allowing just 58-of-88 passing for 490 yards and one touchdown. That’s just 5.57 yards per target, though Hill isn’t your average slot receiver. Poole’s 4.5-second speed can certainly show up here. Hill is a favorite of mine in tournament lineups this week and should be in redraft lineups as a WR1.
Sammy Watkins and Demarcus Robinson: Someone asked Watkins on Twitter during last week’s game if he’d be back in Week 8 and he said yes, so it seems he’s feeling better. The three full games he’s played this year have netted 9, 8, and 7 targets, so he’s certainly someone who needs to be on the fantasy radar. The Jets have been a decent matchup for receivers to this point, although the 1.81 PPR points per target they’ve allowed is right near the league average. That’s kept them right in the middle of the pack when it comes to fantasy points allowed, as they rank 15th against wide receivers. Watkins primary matchup would be the best on the field, as Pierre Desir has allowed 24-of-33 passing for 299 yards and five touchdowns (most in NFL) in his coverage. We have to see how Watkins is doing in practice before playing him with any confidence, but this matchup isn’t one that should cause you to be concerned. If he practices in full, he can be considered an upside WR4. If he doesn’t play, Robinson would move into the WR4/5 conversation. *Update* Watkins did not practice all week and has been ruled OUT.
Chris Herndon: Over the last two weeks, the Jets tight ends have combined for five targets (Ryan Griffin 3, Herndon 1, Wesco 1). That’s not going to appeal to anyone, especially when they had one of the best matchups in the league last week when they played the Bills. None of them caught a single pass in that game. You cannot start a Jets tight end right now, and it’s not like the Chiefs have been extremely giving to them.
Travis Kelce: He’s coming off a game where he totaled just three receptions and 31 yards. Sure, it was in the snow, but you know what he did the last time he came off a three-catch performance? He caught eight passes for 108 yards and a touchdown. This is one of those matchups where if you simply look at fantasy points allowed, you’ll see the Jets rank 13th against them, which is not great, but also not bad. When you see they’ve faced the eighth-fewest targets despite playing all seven games, that’s the giveaway. From an efficiency standpoint, they’ve allowed 2.42 PPR points per target to tight ends, which ranks as the third-most in the NFL, behind only the Jaguars and Falcons. Kelce leads the NFL in both red zone targets and targets inside the 10-yard line. Well, the Jets have allowed 5-of-11 red zone targets to tight ends go for touchdowns. Start Kelce as an elite TE1 and expect game-breaking upside.
Los Angeles Rams at Miami Dolphins
Line: LAR by 4.0
Jared Goff: He’s coming off a game against the Bears defense that allows the lowest touchdown percentage in the league, and he’s now being gifted a matchup with the team that’s allowed the second-lowest percentage in the league. That’s right, the Dolphins have allowed just a 3.35 percent touchdown-rate. When Goff is averaging just 31.9 pass attempts per game, it’s a problem against these defenses, even if he is playing efficient. He essentially needs to throw for three touchdowns or get a rushing score (he’s done twice this year) in order to get into streaming status. When you compare his attempts to last year (39.1 per game), you can understand our dilemma. Outside of the Week 2 game against Josh Allen, the Dolphins defense has allowed a total of just three passing touchdowns in the other five games, including two to Russell Wilson. To be fair, both Allen and Wilson averaged over 10.5 yards per attempt in their games, so we might see Goff be efficient, but knowing the Dolphins have a rookie quarterback under center, it’s tough to see the Rams having to lay it on thick this week in what should be a low-scoring week. I do think he presents a decent QB2 floor but the lack of ceiling means he’s a semi-weak streamer.
Tua Tagovailoa: It was a shock to the NFL community when the Dolphins named Tagovailoa the starter after Ryan Fitzpatrick had averaged 7.8 yards per attempt with 10 touchdowns and seven interceptions through six games. The team was one game out of first place, but this was apparently the week to install the lefty under center. They’re throwing him into the fire against the Rams, too. They’re coming off a game in which they pressured Nick Foles on 45.5 percent of his dropbacks, so they’re firing on all cylinders. As a whole, the Rams have allowed their opponents 17.7 points per game, which is the second-lowest number in the NFL behind only the Ravens. The 6.49 yards per attempt they’ve allowed ranks as the second-lowest number in the league, while the 3.15 percent touchdown-rate also ranks as the second-lowest in the league. This is going to be a tough matchup for Tagovailoa in his first NFL start. There are better streaming options.
Darrell Henderson, Malcolm Brown, and Cam Akers: Fun fact I found while doing research this week: Akers has averaged 4.15 yards after contact, which is one of the best marks in the NFL, though it is a very small sample size (26 carries). Henderson appears to have a stranglehold on the job, though don’t get too comfy as a fantasy manager, as continually on a short leash. Still, his weighted opportunity is up there with guys like Jonathan Taylor. Of the production the Dolphins have allowed to skill-position players, 40.4 percent of it has gone to running backs, which is the third-highest mark in the league. But here’s one of the craziest stats you might read this week: The Dolphins have faced just one running back all season who’s totaled more than 11 carries. That running back was Chris Carson, who went for 80 yards and two touchdowns on 16 carries. Still, the Dolphins have allowed at least 93 rushing yards to running backs in 5-of-6 games this year. If Henderson gets volume, he’ll produce like a high-end RB2, as the Dolphins have allowed the third-most fantasy points per opportunity to running backs, behind only the Packers and Raiders. He’s totaled at least 14 opportunities in five of the last six games, so we must assume he’ll be in that range again, so start him as an RB2 until McVay gives us a reason not to, but I’m not touching him in DFS cash games. After the Week 1 game where Brown had 22 opportunities, he’s finished with 11 or less in five of the last six games. He hasn’t been forgotten, as he’s still received at least seven carries in 6-of-7 games and has 19 targets on the season, so he can be thought of as a last-minute RB4 replacement. Akers hasn’t had a touch the last two weeks, so it’s hard to recommend him to even be rostered at this point.
Myles Gaskin and Matt Breida: With a rookie quarterback making his first NFL start, you’d better expect a run-heavy game plan out of the Dolphins, though that may not last as long as they’d like considering the spread on the game. Going into their bye week, Gaskin ranked 13th among running backs in weighted opportunity, and that’s only been rising since they started making Jordan Howard inactive. Over their last two games, Gaskin has totaled 43 total touches, which is obviously great for trust in fantasy lineups. Opponents have averaged 26.0 running back touches per game against the Rams, though they haven’t had much success, as they’ve allowed the 10th-fewest points to the position. There have been three running backs who’ve been able to crack the top-20 against them, and all of them totaled at least 17 touches. It’s also worth noting that all three of those running backs came over the first three weeks of the season, while David Montgomery‘s 69 scoreless yards for 11.9 PPR points were the best performance against them since Week 3. The area where Gaskin may be able to do some damage is through the air, as he’s seen at least four targets in every game, and the Rams have allowed the 10th-most fantasy points through the air to running backs. Gaskin is getting enough touches to get into RB2 territory, though his ceiling isn’t very high in this matchup. Breida’s role has grown in the two weeks that Howard has been inactive, totaling 18 opportunities in the two games combined, which is enough to consider for desperation RB4 potential, though there are likely better options on your roster.
Robert Woods: He went back to his 5-7 target role in Week 7, which is becoming somewhat routine now that Goff is attempting just 31.9 passes per game. Fortunately, they’re adding in a few carries every game, giving him a bit more opportunities to put up fantasy points. Here are his fantasy finishes in half-PPR formats this year: 18, 37, 9, 51, 21, 24, 71. He’s given a pretty stable floor, but the upside has been non-existent. Knowing teams have averaged just 34.8 pass attempts against the Dolphins this year, it may be a problem. It’s not bad that 21.2 of those attempts are directed at wide receivers (60.9 percent), but the 1.67 PPR points per target they’ve allowed to receivers ranks as the ninth-lowest mark in the league. The only receiver who finished with top-12 numbers against them was Stefon Diggs, who saw 13 targets and turned them into 8/153/1. Him and Jamison Crowder have been the only receivers to pile up more than five receptions against the Dolphins. Woods is starting to look more and more like a high-end WR3 than the WR2 we hoped he’d be.
Cooper Kupp: Bear with Kupp through the last two weeks, as he’s come up short in tough matchups. The good news is that he’s averaging 7.3 targets and a 23 percent target share. The matchup with Dolphins is a good one for him, as they’ve really struggled to defend slot-heavy receivers. Adding up the slot cornerbacks they’ve put out there, they’ve combined to allow 26-of-37 passing for 275 yards and a touchdown. While Robert Woods deals with Xavien Howard most of the day, Kupp will battle with Nik Needham, who’s allowed most of the slot production in his coverage. There have been four slot-heavy receivers who’ve finished as top-40 receivers against the Dolphins, which should make you feel comfortable with Kupp’s floor. He should be in lineups as a low-end WR2 this week.
DeVante Parker: The bye week seemed to come at the right time for Parker, as he’s been playing through some nicks and bruises. It’s led to some inconsistent production, as he’s totaled just five receptions over the last two games, and now has a rookie quarterback under center. Those are concerns, as is his matchup with the Rams. Jalen Ramsey has allowed just 0.57 yards per snap in coverage, which ranks as the eighth-lowest mark in all of football. Teams are also avoiding him when possible, as he’s seen just one target every 9.4 snaps in coverage, which also ranks as the eighth-lowest mark in the league, and that’s despite covering top receivers. Parker has been struggling to gain separation, as evidenced by his 1.9-yard average depth of separation at target, which ranks as the third-lowest mark in the league. But hey, Tagovailoa has to throw to someone, right? Parker is still someone who should be considered a mid-to-low-end WR3, but he doesn’t have a very high ceiling this week.
Preston Williams: Is he rounding into shape now over a year removed from his torn ACL? Some have blamed that as his reason for early season struggles, but his target shares are still nothing to get excited about, as he’s seen just 13 targets over the last four games. He’s scored in three of those games, propping up his fantasy totals, as he’s topped 41 yards just once all season. Of the fantasy production the Rams have allowed to opponents’ skill-position players, just 43.8 percent of it has gone to wide receivers, which is the third-lowest mark in football. Williams has generated a league-low 1.7 yards of separation at target, which doesn’t provide Tagovailoa with a big window against one of the best secondaries in the league. In fact, Darious Williams has been just as good as Jalen Ramsey, allowing just 14-of-26 passing for 222 yards and one touchdown while intercepting two passes. The Rams have allowed just five top-36 wide receivers through seven games, and all of them have seen at least six targets. Williams is someone I’d fade as a WR5.
Gerald Everett and Tyler Higbee: With Higbee a late scratch last week, Everett stepped into a slightly bigger role, running 20 routes, which is a number Higbee hasn’t hit since Week 1. It’s still not a lot of routes, as the Rams essentially let Johnny Mundt run 14 routes as well in Higbee’s role. The Dolphins are one of just two teams who’ve yet to allow a touchdown to tight ends. It’s not just that, either, as they’ve yet to allow a tight end more than 44 yards. It’s impressive when you see that George Kittle was one of the tight ends they played when he caught four passes for 44 yards on eight targets, so he wasn’t short on volume, either (that was the game Jimmy Garoppolo was benched). This is a Rams tight end group that hasn’t had a single player get more than five targets in a game all season, so don’t feel the need to play any of them, though Everett is on the TE2 radar if Higbee is out again. If Higbee plays, I wouldn’t aim to play either of them. *Update* Higbee has been listed as questionable.
Mike Gesicki: Over their last two games, Gesicki has totaled eight targets and turned them into 5/91/0. Meanwhile, Adam Shaheen and Durham Smythe have combined for eight targets and turned them into 7/88/3. This is not great news. What is great news is that it’s not likely to keep up. In those two games, Gesicki has run 50 routes, while Shaheen has run 14, and Smythe has run just four of them. Still, Gesicki’s fantasy finishes have been maddening: 24, 2, 15, 45, 7, 76. That’s extremely boom-or-bust, and now having a rookie quarterback under center isn’t likely to help his consistency, as they’re likely to go a bit more run-heavy. One bit that you should know is that Gesicki has been working with the scout team all year, so he should have chemistry with Tagovailoa from day one. The Rams aren’t a team who’s been great against tight ends, allowing both George Kittle and Tyler Kroft to finish as top-two options against them. Targets have been funneled to them due to their cornerback talent, and that’s led to a league-leading 64 targets against them. They’re allowing a pedestrian 1.61 PPR points per target, so it hasn’t been a smash spot without a lot of volume, but Gesicki should be in the TE1 conversation this week.