The Primer: Week 8 Edition (2020 Fantasy Football)
Pittsburgh Steelers at Baltimore Ravens
Line: BAL by 3.5
Ben Roethlisberger: After scoring at least 18.2 fantasy points in each of his first four games, Roethlisberger has struggled over the last two weeks, producing just 430 yards, three touchdowns, and three interceptions. There were some fluky interceptions last week, but still, less than 13 fantasy points in back-to-back games is not great. Let’s take a look at his last five games in Baltimore, shall we?
|2014 – W2||22||37||217||0||1||7.68|
|2015 – W16||24||34||220||0||2||6.80|
|2016 – W9||23||45||264||1||1||13.56|
|2017 – W4||18||30||216||1||1||11.64|
|2018 – W9||28||47||270||2||0||18.80|
Granted, it’s not the same exact players on either side of the ball, but it is the same coaches, and you can see the trend in his numbers over the years. Those were also with Antonio Brown as his No. 1 receiver. Outside of the game against Patrick Mahomes in Week 3, the Ravens haven’t allowed a quarterback to average more than 7.6 yards per attempt. Outside of that Mahomes game, they’ve allowed four passing touchdowns in the other five games combined. They have allowed three top-18 quarterback performances this year, but every one of those quarterbacks had a rushing touchdown, something Roethlisberger hasn’t had for years. Even with Mahomes throwing for 385 yards and four touchdowns, the Ravens have allowed the ninth fewest fantasy points through the air alone (no rushing), including the seventh-fewest points per actual pass attempt. It’s tough to see Roethlisberger throwing three touchdowns, which is likely what he’d need to finish as a top-12 quarterback this week, as he’s failed to throw for more than 239 yards in 4-of-6 games this year, and the Ravens are clearly one of the better defenses in the league. He’s just a mediocre QB2 this week and not one you should aim to play.
Lamar Jackson: Did the bye week come at the right time for Jackson? I’d say yes, as he was missing some pretty routine throws that he was making on a consistent basis last year. It was good to see him generate his first 100-yard game on the ground before the bye week, especially when he was coming off a game where he ran for just three yards. His rushing is more important than ever, as he’s failed to throw for more than 204 yards or two touchdowns in any of his last five games. The Steelers are a stingy defense that’s been generating tons of pressure, which is something they’ve done in years past. Jackson played against them in Week 5 last year, completing 19-of-28 passes for 161 yards, one touchdown, and three interceptions. Fortunately, he rushed for 70 yards, salvaging his fantasy day. The issue with fantasy players against the Steelers this year is that their opponents have been running just 58.3 plays per game, which is the lowest mark in the NFL. It also doesn’t help that they’ve allowed just a 58.7 percent completion-rate. The NFL today is designed to complete more passes, as evidenced by the 66 percent completion-rate, but that hasn’t mattered to the Steelers defense. It surely helps that they’re continually generating pressure and forcing opponents into rushed pass attempts. They lead the league in pressure rate and sack percentage, as they’ve brought down the opposing quarterback 11.4 percent of the time. It’s worth noting that they’ve allowed just 5.3 fantasy points on the ground to quarterbacks this year, which is the lowest number in football. Teams have chosen to pass against them on a league-high 65.1 percent of plays, but they’ve still allowed the sixth-fewest fantasy points per game. Jackson should come with a solid floor given his rushing totals but it’s not a week to get excited about him as an elite play. He should be in the mid-to-low-end QB1 conversation this week, though you should also know that no quarterback has finished better than QB16 against them since Week 11 of last year.
James Conner: Sure, Benny Snell stole a touchdown from him last week. That’s going to happen here and there, as the Steelers are clearly mixing in their other running backs to give Conner a break. His weighted opportunity ranks 18th per game among running backs, but if you removed Week 1 where he left early, he’d rank 14th. He’s getting plenty of work. The issue ahead of him this week is the Ravens defense, who have allowed the fewest fantasy points on the ground to running backs through seven weeks. They’ve had their bye week, but still, they’ve still allowed just 55.0 points on the ground, or 9.17 per game. Through their six games, they’ve allowed just two running back touchdowns on 149 total touches. Conner has received 15-plus carries in five straight games, and the Ravens have allowed a respectable 4.34 yards per carry, so we should get some production there, though they’ve stonewalled running backs on the goal-line, allowing just one rushing touchdown on 13 goal-to-go touches. Teams have chosen to run the ball against the Ravens just 36.0 percent of the time, which is the fifth-lowest mark in the league. They’ve been solid against backs through the air, too, as they’ve allowed just 5.13 yards per target, which is the 12th-lowest mark in football. Conner’s opportunity keeps him in the RB2 territory this week, though it’s tough to see him break into the top-12 running backs this week.
Mark Ingram, Gus Edwards, and JK Dobbins: Why haven’t the Ravens used Ingram more? Well, he’s broken just three tackles on his 53 touches. At least Dobbins gives them some breakaway upside, as 61 percent of his rushing production has come on three carries. On the season, Ingram has 50 carries, Edwards has 48, and Dobbins has 25. That’s a giant mess of a timeshare. When you factor in the matchup this week, it’s even worse, as the Steelers have allowed the fewest fantasy points per game to running backs. They also face an average of just 20.7 running back touches per game, which doesn’t bode well for three-way timeshares. The weighted opportunity running backs have had against them ranks as the lowest in the league by a full 15 percent. They’ve allowed just 3.31 yards per carry despite playing against Saquon Barkley, Melvin Gordon, David Johnson, Miles Sanders, Joe Mixon, and Derrick Henry. If you removed the one 74-yard run from Miles Sanders, they’ve allowed just 2.64 yards per carry. Running backs also haven’t been involved in the passing game against the Steelers, as they’ve seen just a 13.9 percent target share, which is the lowest in the NFL. I know I’m piling on here, but they’ve allowed just 501 total yards to running backs through six games. That amounts to just 83.5 total yards per game. If you wanted to start one, it should be Dobbins, who has run 83 routes compared to the 39 for Ingram and 38 for Edwards. Still, he’s nothing more than a low-end RB3 who you’re hoping they moved some things around during the bye week, similar to the way the Lions did with D’Andre Swift. Now, if Ingram were forced to miss this game with injury, Dobbins would move into low-end RB2 territory, as his floor would rise a bit. Even if Ingram plays, you should aim not to play him. He’s nothing more than a touchdown-or-bust RB4 option. Edwards would have the primary two-down role if Ingram were held out, but against the Steelers, that’s not going to add much value. He’d take Ingram’s spot as a touchdown-dependent RB4. *Update* Ingram has been ruled as doubtful after not practicing all week. He’s not going to play.
JuJu Smith-Schuster: Week 7 was the first one where Smith-Schuster felt like he’s someone who could compete for the No. 1 receiving option in the Steelers passing attack, racking up 14 targets against the Titans. Unfortunately, it didn’t amount to a huge day as he caught nine passes for 85 yards in a plus matchup where he was playing against a backup cornerback for half the day. I’m not sold this was the turnaround performance that some believe. In fact, he’s someone I’d consider benching in Week 8, as he’s got a date with what might be the best slot cornerback in the league, Marlon Humphrey. Teams have been willing to test him, as evidenced by the target every 4.8 snaps in coverage. He’s allowed just 196 scoreless yards on 37 targets through six games. That amounts to just 5.30 yards per target without a touchdown. Whew. All in all, the Ravens have allowed just five receivers finish better than WR35, and four of them were uber-fast receivers (Terry McLaurin, Tyreek Hill, Mecole Hardman, and Brandin Cooks). Smith-Schuster should be considered a low-end WR3/high-end WR4 this week and one with a low ceiling.
Diontae Johnson: I remember saying something to the effect of, “There’s no way Johnson returns to the lineup and sees the 31.3 percent target share he saw over the first few weeks before injury.” I was wrong. Despite missing one full game and the majority of two others, Johnson is just one target off the team-lead. His 15 targets in Week 7 accounted for 30.6 of Roethlisberger’s attempts. In the three full games he’s played, Johnson has totaled 10, 13, and 15 targets. He’s a must-play every week, though this week’s matchup is about as bad as it gets. Despite that big game by the Chiefs offense, the Ravens have allowed the third-fewest PPR points per target (1.59) to wide receivers this year. Outside of the Chiefs game in Week 3, they’ve allowed just three wide receivers to finish better than WR35. The Steelers move Johnson around but he does play most of his snaps at LWR, which means he’ll see Jimmy Smith the most, a good cornerback who’s dealt with some health issues over the last couple years. He’s been good this year, allowing just 9-of-15 passing for a minuscule 68 yards and no touchdown. It’s not a great matchup for Johnson but his ridiculous target share keeps him in the high-end WR3 territory. *Update* Smith is dealing with an Achilles injury that caused him to miss a practice this week, so Johnson’s matchup could be better than expected.
Chase Claypool: We talked about it a lot last week, and we were correct in assuming that Claypool would rank third in wide receiver snaps. The snap count went Smith-Schuster 65, Johnson 59, Claypool 51, and James Washington 18. The one target he saw is hardly ideal, especially knowing they threw the ball 49 times, but given his snaps, you shouldn’t be too concerned. Claypool should see a lot of Marcus Peters in coverage this week, and while he’s a good cornerback, he can get beat down the field at times. He’s allowed 15.3 yards per reception in his coverage this year and has allowed a touchdown every 10.7 targets, so you shouldn’t simply scratch Claypool off your potential start list. There have been five wide receivers who’ve posted top-30 numbers against the Ravens, and four of them were straight-up burners (Terry McLaurin, Tyreek Hill, Mecole Hardman, and Brandin Cooks). Claypool ran a 4.42-second 40-yard dash but has looked even faster in pads. He should be considered a boom-or-bust WR4 in this matchup.
Marquise Brown: He leads the NFL in targets (16) that have traveled over 20 yards in the air. He’s only caught 31.3 percent of them, but if that percentage goes up at all, you’re going to start seeing big fantasy performances. His 666 air yards through six games was the third-highest mark in the NFL. 61.5 percent of the fantasy production the Steelers have allowed to skill-position players has gone to wide receivers, which is the second-highest mark in the league. The Steelers have surprisingly allowed three 100-yard receivers through six games. Despite already getting their bye out of the way, they’ve allowed 21 pass plays of 20-plus yards this season, which ranks as the 12th-most. He’s going to see Joe Haden in coverage most of the game, who’s allowed 14.4 yards per reception in his coverage, including three receptions over 20 yards. He’s also allowed two touchdowns over the last three games. This is not a matchup where you play receivers expecting tons of receptions, but rather look for the big play. Knowing the Ravens aren’t going to be running on the Steelers, we should expect even more targets to Brown this week, and the fact that they’ve allowed the seventh-highest yards per reception to wide receivers (14.23), Brown has the best chance to succeed. He should be played as a decent WR3 this week.
Eric Ebron: Despite all the Steelers receivers being healthy last week, Ebron saw a season-high eight targets against the Titans. Sure, it helps that Roethlisberger threw 49 passes, but it’s still a good sign for Ebron. The 42 routes he ran last week ranked second among tight ends, which is a great sign for production. The Ravens are a fairly dominant defense against almost all positions, but they’re simply average against tight ends, allowing the 14th-most fantasy points to them. The 7.06 yards per target is close to the league average, while the touchdown every 15.7 targets is right there as well. They’ve allowed four tight ends hit double-digit PPR points against them, though it did require touchdowns for two of them. The concern here is Roethlisberger’s struggles in Baltimore over the last five years, but Ebron’s role is growing and he seems locked into five-plus targets. Consider him a mid-to-high-end TE2.
Mark Andrews: He’s been extremely hit-or-miss this year, as he’s either totaled 55-plus yards and scored at least one touchdown, or he’s totaled fewer than 30 yards with no touchdown. His fantasy finishes in half-PPR formats have been 1, 30, 35, 3, 3, 30. The Steelers have allowed just 48.9 percent of passes directed at tight ends to be completed. That’s helped them allow a piddly 4.98 yards per target to the position, and they’ve allowed just one touchdown on 47 targets. Despite playing against Zach Ertz, Noah Fant, Jonnu Smith, Austin Hooper, Evan Engram, and Jordan Akins, they’ve yet to allow a tight end record more than 57 yards or finish better than the TE9. When the two teams met last year, he totaled five catches for 45 yards on seven targets. Bottom line is that Andrews is far from a sure thing to produce for his fantasy managers but you’re going to play him in redraft leagues due to the upside he presents, which is top-three every week.
Los Angeles Chargers at Denver Broncos
Line: LAC by 3.0
Justin Herbert: What a meteoric rise it’s been for Herbert, who’s now finished as the QB7, QB4, and QB1 over his last three games. He’s completing 67.4 percent of his passes, averaging 8.4 yards per attempt, and throwing a touchdown on 6.5 percent of his attempts. Oh, he’s also rushed for 121 yards and two touchdowns in five games. By comparison, Patrick Mahomes has completed 65.7 percent of his passes, averaging 7.8 yards per attempt, and throwing a touchdown on 6.6 percent of his attempts. Crazy, right? Especially when you consider his surrounding cast, offensive line, and coaching staff. Can he continue the magic against the Broncos, a defense that’s allowed the 11th-most fantasy points to quarterbacks through seven weeks? It’s kind of crazy they’ve allowed as many points they have to quarterbacks, as they’ve allowed the seventh-fewest yards per attempt (6.82), the ninth-lowest touchdown percentage (3.70 percent), and are generating a sack on 7.63 percent of dropbacks (seventh-most). All in all, they’ve allowed just 0.407 fantasy points per actual pass attempt, which is the ninth-lowest mark. So, how do they allow so many fantasy points? They’ve faced 36.0 pass attempts per game (10th-most) and have allowed the fifth-most fantasy points on the ground to quarterbacks. Herbert has proven himself enough to the point where you start him, even if the matchup isn’t great on paper. He’s a stable QB1.
Drew Lock: Prior to the snowstorm against the Chiefs, Lock had 27.4 percent of his passes travel over 20 yards, which was the highest percentage in the league, as no other quarterback was over 20.6 percent. The unfortunate part is that he’s completed just 3-of-17 on those passes. Considering he’s got a 13.1 QB Rating on deep balls, maybe Pat Shurmur should dial that down a bit? The Chargers are the next up, and while they’ve allowed three 300-yard passers through six games, every one of those quarterbacks threw at least 46 passes. They’ve held 4-of-6 quarterbacks to 6.9 or less yards per attempt, and it’s all combined to where they’re allowing just 6.88 yards per attempt on the season, which ranks as the eighth-lowest mark in the league. They’ve had tough competition, too, as they’ve played against Patrick Mahomes, Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Gardner Minshew, Joe Burrow, and Teddy Bridgewater. So, to know they’ve allowed the third-most fantasy points to quarterbacks with that competition makes sense. It also doesn’t help matters that they’ve allowed the sixth-most fantasy points on the ground to quarterbacks. Lock has 12 rushing yards through four games this year. He’s not someone I’d recommend as a streamer.
Justin Jackson and Joshua Kelley: It’s clear that Jackson’s injury last week affected his playing time, as he played 31 snaps while Kelley played 38 of them. The Chargers even mixed in Troymaine Pope for 12 snaps, which is something that doesn’t happen when Jackson’s 100 percent. Fortunately for Jackson, Kelley did nothing with his opportunity and averaged less than 2.9 yards per carry for the fourth time in his last five games. The matchup against the Broncos is not a good one for running backs, as they’ve allowed sub-4.0 yards per carry on the ground and just 1.20 PPR points per target to them. On the year, they’ve allowed just two touchdowns on 148 touches to running backs. All that amounts to just 0.67 PPR points per opportunity to running backs, which ranks second to only the 49ers. Because of the dominance against the run, teams have run the ball on just 39.2 percent of plays. Jackson and Kelley ran essentially the same number of routes last week, though Jackson turned in 43 yards while Kelley totaled 24 of them. This is clearly a timeshare but one that might be a bit more split if Jackson can practice in full at some point this week. If he does, Jackson should be the leader in this backfield, though the matchup and risk keep him in RB3 territory. Kelley is just a low-upside, low-end RB3/high-end RB4. *Update* Jackson practiced in full all week.
Melvin Gordon and Phillip Lindsay: Revenge game! Gordon and the Chargers obviously have a history and it wasn’t a pretty one on his exit. He might have the backfield to himself, as Lindsay suffered a concussion in Week 7 and is going through the protocol. It is worth noting that Lindsay got the start last week versus the Chiefs, so if he plays, we have to dial back expectations for Gordon. We watched James Robinson play well against the Chargers last week, but as a defense, they’ve allowed just 57.5 fantasy points on the ground to running backs, which is the second-lowest number in the league behind only the Ravens. Fortunately, Gordon is involved in the passing game and ranks 21st among all running backs in routes despite having his bye and missing another week. The Chargers have allowed 87.9 PPR points through the air to running backs, which is the seventh-highest number in the league. There have been six running backs who’ve caught at least four passes, including four who’ve caught six or more. Gordon would love to stick it to his old team, and if Lindsay is out, it would give him a lot of opportunity to do just that. Gordon should be treated as a rock-solid RB2 if Lindsay were held out, but would move down into high-end RB3 territory if Lindsay plays. Lindsay himself would be a low-end RB3 if he played because despite him starting over Gordon, he’s been non-existent in the passing game, which has been necessary for fantasy points against the Chargers.
Keenan Allen: Despite missing more than half of a game with his back injury and having his bye week, Allen ranks seventh in the NFL in targets since the start of Week 2, which is when Herbert took over. In the four full games Allen has played, he’s totaled 10, 19, 11, and 13 targets. That’s absolutely ridiculous volume, especially when you consider Herbert is playing at a Pro Bowl level. The matchup with the Broncos isn’t the same as it used to be, as Allen and Chris Harris Jr. would duke it out over the middle of the field. Instead, he’ll see a combination of the Broncos cornerback trio of Bryce Callahan, Michael Ojemudia, and A.J. Bouye. Considering no teams have had much success running on the Broncos, they’re gone to the air, which is why receivers have seen 21.3 targets per game against them. They’ve been pretty good considering all that’s happened (loss of Von Miller and Jurrell Casey, injury to Bouye), allowing just 7.68 yards per target and 1.70 PPR points per target, which are both below the league average. But again, the volume has allowed receivers to score 37.7 PPR points per game against them, which ranks as the 14th-most in the league. They have allowed seven different wide receivers to post top-25 numbers, which is more than a stable enough floor for someone like Allen, who’s made his way into the WR1 conversation.
Mike Williams: There have been just two times all season where Williams has seen more than four targets. Week 1, when Tyrod Taylor was under center, and Week 5, when Keenan Allen had to leave the game with back issues. Am I ready to move on? No, not with the way that Herbert has played. We have just too small of a sample size to say he’s nothing with Allen in the lineup. He may have the best matchup on the field this week, as he’ll play most of his snaps against rookie Michael Ojemudia, a third-rounder who’s been bleeding yardage in his coverage. He’s allowed 23-of-38 passing for 328 yards and two touchdowns in his coverage to this point, which amounts to a 106.0 QB Rating. That’s a massive 14.3 yards per reception, which is perfect for someone like Williams, whose average depth of target is 17.2 yards down the field, which ranks third in the NFL. He’s not someone who needs to be played but he is someone who can be plugged in as an upside WR4 considering the Chargers will have trouble moving the ball on the ground. He’s a solid leverage play off Allen in tournaments.
Jerry Jeudy: After totaling at least 55 yards in each of his first four games, Jeudy has fallen off the fantasy map, as he’s failed to top 32 yards in each of his last two games, though we should give him a pass for the game last week that was played in a blizzard. The Chargers are not a matchup that you should be expecting a wide receiver to get back on track, as they’ve allowed the 10th-fewest points to the receiver position. It’s not just a lack of volume, either, as they’ve allowed just 1.65 PPR points per target, which is tied for the sixth-lowest mark in the league. He’ll see Desmond King in coverage much of the day, the Chargers slot cornerback who’s allowed 50-of-61 passing for 531 yards and two touchdowns since the start of last year. That’s a ridiculously high 82.0 percent catch-rate, though the receptions have amounted to just 10.6 yards a pop, so he’ll need volume to crack out some numbers. If Tim Patrick can’t play with his hamstring injury, Jeudy would likely be a candidate for six-plus targets and be considered a decent WR4. If Patrick does play, Jeudy would fall into riskier territory with his recent lack of targets.
Tim Patrick: He suffered a hamstring injury in the Week 7 loss to the Chiefs, which makes him iffy for this game against the Chargers. Make sure you stay tuned to the bottom of the notes, as I’ll update them by Friday night/Saturday morning. Prior to Week 7, Patrick had been on a roll, racking up 214 yards in the previous two weeks. The matchup this week against the Chargers is not a great one for him, as the Chargers have been hard on opposing perimeter receivers. There have been just four receivers to score more than 10.5 PPR points against them, and all of them saw at least seven targets, which might be wishful thinking for a receiver coming off a hamstring injury. My advice would be to look elsewhere for a streaming option.
Hunter Henry: You’d think that with the way Herbert’s been playing, that Henry’s value would be through the roof. Unfortunately, that hasn’t been the case. He’s now totaled less than 40 yards in three straight games, including terrific matchups against the Jaguars and Saints. The targets are there, as he’s seen at least seven targets in 5-of-6 games, so that’s not it. Things should even out over time, but he’s been extremely inefficient with his targets to this point. Will a matchup with the Broncos change that? They have allowed a 76.2 percent catch-rate to tight ends, which is among the highest in the league, but those receptions have gone for an average of just 9.72 yards, which is the sixth-lowest mark in football. Despite playing against some very good tight ends (Jonnu Smith, Rob Gronkowski, Eric Ebron, and Travis Kelce), there hasn’t been a single tight end who’s topped 49 yards against them. Just two of those tight ends topped five targets, which is a number that Henry sees regularly, so we can’t automatically say he won’t produce. His targets will keep him in the TE1 conversation no matter what, but he’s more of a mid-to-low TE1 this week in what’s a tough matchup.
Noah Fant and Albert Okwuegbunam: Fant returned to the lineup last week and ran a tight end team-high 26 routes, though they only netted three catches for 38 yards, and he appeared hobbled at times throughout the game. Meanwhile Okwuegbunam ran 18 routes and racked up seven catches for 60 yards. Suddenly, Fant may have competition for targets, as “Albert O” has totaled 13 targets over the last two weeks. Don’t forget that him and Drew Lock were teammates at Missouri and connected really well. The Chargers have not been a dominant defense against tight ends, and in fact, they are below average, allowing 2.10 PPR points per target, which ranks as the seventh-highest mark in football. Teams have targeted their tight ends just 6.5 times per game, which is far from ideal, but the Broncos have targeted their tight ends 10.2 times per game, so something has to give. With Tim Patrick looking extremely iffy, there may be even more targets to go around. There have already been three top-seven performances by tight ends against the Chargers, so as long as Fant practices in full at some point this week, he should be considered a top-10 play. If he doesn’t, things get a bit dicier, so stay tuned here for updates. As for Okwuegbunam, he’d be a borderline TE1 if Fant were to sit out. If Fant plays and Patrick sits, he moves up into the TE2 with upside category. Clearly, there’s a lot to sort out here as the week goes on.
New Orleans Saints at Chicago Bears
Line: NO by 4.0
Drew Brees: I’ll admit it. I didn’t think Brees would have a great game last week without his top two receivers and playing against the team who’d allowed the fewest yards per attempt in football. It wasn’t a massive game, but it was better than expected, throwing for 287 yards and two touchdowns. Has Brees found his groove? He’s inching closer and closer to his career averages in most statistical categories and might get Michael Thomas back this week. The matchup this week is less than ideal, though. The Bears have allowed the second-fewest fantasy points to quarterbacks, and it’s not just because of one thing. They’ve allowed just 6.56 yards per attempt (4th), a 2.38 percent touchdown-rate (1st), and have allowed a 58.7 percent completion-rate (1st). If there’s an issue with their defense, it’s that they’ve failed to generate consistent pressure and have sacked quarterbacks on just 5.97 percent of their dropbacks. Brees has thrown a deep ball on just 4.2 percent of his attempts, which is the lowest mark in the league. That means he’ll have to consistently beat the Bears defense, which seems less than ideal. Outside of a game against Patrick Mahomes, the Bears defense hasn’t allowed a top-12 quarterback performance since Week 11 of 2018. Brees is moving back towards the QB1 conversation, but against the Bears, he’s just a QB2.
Nick Foles: What you saw on Monday night was a glimpse of what it’s looked like with Foles over the last few weeks. This is nothing new. Outside of his game against the Falcons (potentially the league’s worst defense), Foles has averaged just 5.83 yards per attempt and has thrown three touchdowns to five interceptions. The Saints have faced just 61.3 plays per game on defense, which has allowed them to rank 10th in terms of overall fantasy points per game allowed to opposing teams, but from an efficiency standpoint, they’ve allowed the third-most fantasy points per offensive play. It doesn’t help that they’ve allowed a touchdown pass on 8.54 percent of pass attempts. How bad is that? Patrick Mahomes‘ career touchdown rate is 6.86 percent. All in all, the Saints have allowed 0.634 fantasy points per actual pass attempt, which is the highest mark in the league (Falcons are closest at 0.609). Considering Foles doesn’t have any mobility, that’s important. The Bears also pass the ball 65.1 percent of the time, which is the second-highest rate in the NFL. Seeing that every quarterback that’s played the Saints has scored at least 19.16 fantasy points makes you feel like Foles could be a streamer, but I wouldn’t trust him with the way he’s playing right now.
Alvin Kamara and Latavius Murray: We’re almost halfway through the NFL season and Kamara has yet to finish worse than RB13 in half-PPR formats or RB9 in PPR formats. The amount of work he’s been getting through the air has led him to the most weighted opportunity in the league, even though him and Murray are essentially a 55/45 split on the ground. The Bears defense as a whole has allowed just 1.18 PPR points per offensive play to opposing offenses. That’s not running backs; that’s the whole team. Running backs have averaged 0.76 PPR points per opportunity (carry or target), which ranks as the 10th-lowest number in the league, so it’s not as bad as the passing game. The Bears have allowed the same number of yards per carry as they have yards per target (4.40), which is extremely rare. Knowing that, you should be able to do the math to figure out that they’ve allowed the 10th-most fantasy points on the ground to running backs but have allowed the fourth-fewest through the air to them. Through seven games, they’ve still yet to allow a top-15 running back performance, though there have been eight running backs who’ve reached double-digit PPR days. That’s right, no running back has finished with more than 15.6 PPR points against them, which makes it difficult to pay up for Kamara in DFS cash lineups. You’re playing him in redraft, obviously. As for Murray, this matchup does better suit his skillset, but the Bears have faced an average of 22.7 running back carries per game. If the timeshare of 55/45 holds up on the ground, we’d be looking at 10-11 carries. He’s fine as a low-end RB3/high-end RB4 but will let you down if he doesn’t score.
David Montgomery: The elite workload has been there over the last three weeks; there’s no doubt about that. In that time, his workload is comparable to guys like Joe Mixon and Clyde Edwards-Helaire, though his production hasn’t lived up to expectations. He hasn’t topped 3.4 yards per carry since way back in Week 2, and he’s scored one touchdown over his last five games. The matchup this week isn’t going to help. When you look at a running back’s schedule, one of the last five teams you hope to see is the Saints. Since the start of last year, they’ve allowed just 1,498 yards on 415 carries (3.61 yards per carry), but maybe more importantly, just 68.1 rushing yards per game to running backs over that time. Even if Montgomery had 100 percent of the Bears rushing production, that’s not a good game. It doesn’t help to know that Montgomery hasn’t topped 64 yards himself in 6-of-7 games this year. They’re also allowing just 4.66 yards per target through the air, which is the fourth-lowest mark in the league. Combining Montgomery’s ineffectiveness with the Saints impenetrable run defense seems like you’re setting yourself up for failure. The worst part about Montgomery is that he doesn’t offer breakaway potential (one run of 15-plus yards all season), so despite getting the work he is, he can’t pay off on just one play like most running backs can. He’s still in the RB2 conversation due to the opportunity he’s had, but the upside is non-existent.
Michael Thomas: He suffered a hamstring injury in practice last week, leading to him missing that game, and is now considered questionable for this game. It’s something I’ll come back and update by Saturday morning, but for now, we’ll expect him back. Returning to a matchup with the Bears would be a tough one, as they’ve allowed a league-low 1.43 PPR points per target to receivers, which is 8.9 percent lower than the closest team (Rams). It’s not due to lack of trying by opponents, as they’ve faced 20.4 targets per game to receivers alone, yet they’ve still not allowed a single top-20 wide receiver performance on the year. Keep in mind they’ve played against Mike Evans (who saw nine targets that game), Calvin Ridley (12 targets), D.J. Moore (11 targets), Robby Anderson, Cooper Kupp, and Robert Woods. That’s a diverse collection of receivers. You wouldn’t even consider benching Thomas in redraft leagues, but this is not a week to play Thomas in anything outside of tournaments in DFS. *Update* Thomas has been ruled OUT for this game.
Tre’Quan Smith: It was certainly a disappointing to watch Smith finish with just four catches for 54 yards against the Panthers, though it wasn’t really his fault, as he caught all four of his targets. With Michael Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders out of the lineup, you would’ve thought he would’ve had more. That may be the case again this week against the Bears, who’ve been brutal on opposing receviers. Through seven games, they’ve allowed just four receivers to top 58 yards against them. They’ve also allowed just a 57.3 percent catch-rate to receivers, so the targets absolutely need to be there in order for a receiver to succeed. He’s moving all over the formation, including the slot almost half the time, which does get him away from Kyle Fuller and Jaylon Johnson. The Bears have Buster Skrine in the slot, and he’s allowed 28-of-39 passing for 279 yards and a touchdown in his coverage, so he is the weakest link. Still, it’s a brutal matchup. If Thomas and Sanders are out again, Smith should still be in the high-end WR4 conversation, as even backup receiver Marquez Callaway suffered an ankle sprain last week. If Thomas plays, Smith would move down into WR5 territory. *Update* Thomas has been ruled OUT.
Allen Robinson: He suffered a head injury at the end of the game Monday night, which could be an issue for his availability on a short week. It’s something we need to pay attention to as the week goes on, as he must go through the concussion protocol. Robinson should be the only viable Bears receiver this week, as just 46.7 percent of pass attempts against the Saints have gone to wide receivers, which is the lowest mark in the league. Receivers have accounted for just 10.3 receptions per game against them, which is the lowest mark in the league, though the receptions they have allowed have gone for a lot of production. They’re allowing a massive 15.66 yards per reception and have allowed a touchdown every 10.3 targets; both are marks that lead the league. That adds up to 2.29 PPR points per target, which is great for a receiver that’s seen at least nine targets in 6-of-7 games. If Robinson is cleared and suits up, he should be considered a low-end WR1, but you should have alternate plans in case he’s held out. *Update* Robinson didn’t practice all week but has been cleared and will play in this game.
Darnell Mooney: He’s playing a full-time role in the offense and has now seen at least five targets in five straight games, which puts him on the fantasy radar. He should’ve had a very long touchdown on Monday night, but Foles just missed him with no defender in sight. If Allen Robinson were forced to miss this game, Mooney’s floor would go up, and he’d need that because just 46.7 percent of the targets against the Saints have been directed at wide receivers. They’ve seen just 93 targets to the position, which is a league-low, and amounts to just 15.5 per game. When receivers do catch the ball, it goes for A TON. They’ve allowed 15.7 yards per reception (1st), 10.44 yards per target (2nd), and a touchdown every 10.3 targets (1st). That all amounts to 2.29 PPR points per target. To put things in perspective, if Mooney saw just five targets and was an average receiver against them, he’d score 11.5 PPR points. He’s not the worst hail mary play in this game, but he’s still a boom-or-bust WR5 due to his lackluster quarterback play. If Robinson were to miss the game, it would bump his floor up a bit.
Jared Cook: We figured we could rely on six-plus targets with Michael Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders out of the lineup… but no. Cook has now seen 15 targets over his last four games, which is far from ideal. They have been okay in fantasy because he’s scored on three of them, but his yardage leaves something to be desired (32 yards or less in three of those games). There are just five teams who’ve seen more targets directed at tight ends than the Bears. That’s led to 52 yards and/or a touchdown to 6-of-7 tight ends. The only tight end who failed to hit one of those markers was Ian Thomas, who saw one target. It’s not that the Bears are a smash spot, as only two of those tight ends were able to hit top-12 numbers. Going back to the start of last year (span of 23 games), they’ve allowed just three tight ends to top 56 yards against them. But again, with the receivers ailing, we should expect targets for Cook, and that puts him in the TE1 conversation this week.
Jimmy Graham: Is Graham suddenly sharing the work with Cole Kmet and Demetrius Harris? He saw a respectable six targets last week but knowing Kmet and Harris combined for five themselves is worrisome. Looking at the routes, we shouldn’t be too concerned, as Graham has run 59 routes the last two weeks, while Kmet has run 20, and Harris has run 15 of them. We have another revenge game narrative as Graham will be going against his former team. He’s only played them once since his departure, totaling three catches for 34 yards. This year, it’s been a good time to attack the Saints with tight ends, as teams have chosen to target their tight ends 27.6 percent of the time, which is the highest percentage in the league. Production has followed, as 24.8 percent of the production they’ve allowed to running backs, wide receivers, and tight ends has gone to the tight end position. They have already allowed five different tight ends to finish as top-10 options against them, with the only one who didn’t was Ian Thomas, who saw one target. All in all, they’ve allowed the second-most fantasy points per game to tight ends, and Graham is seeing a respectable 15.1 percent target share. He can be considered a low-end TE1 this week, who can’t be trusted as more than that with Foles’ play as of late.
San Francisco 49ers at Seattle Seahawks
Line: SEA by 3.0
Jimmy Garoppolo: He’s now failed to score 14 fantasy points in three of his last four games, which is obviously not ideal. The matchup against the Patriots wasn’t a bad one, but he failed to throw a touchdown while throwing two interceptions. One of the balls just sailed on him, while the other one was a deep ball he threw off his back foot. He bounced back well off his last two-interception game, so can he do it again? The Seahawks are one of just five teams who’ve allowed more fantasy points per game to quarterbacks than running backs. In fact, the 3.92-point gap they’ve allowed is the most in football. It may not sound like much, but when you hear that running backs have outscored quarterbacks by 16.52 points against the Panthers, it highlights the extreme. It’s not just quarterbacks who score points against them, either. The Seahawks have allowed a league-high 118.0 fantasy points per game to the combination of quarterbacks, running backs, wide receivers, and tight ends. It is worth noting that 42.8 of the points the Seahawks have allowed to quarterback has been on the ground, which is something that takes away a bit of appeal from Garoppolo, who doesn’t run. If we removed the 7.1 fantasy points per game they’ve allowed on the ground, the Seahawks would go from allowing the second-most fantasy points to allowing the 17th-most fantasy points to them. Still, it’s worth noting that teams have thrown the ball 64.5 percent of the time against the Seahawks, which is the second-highest number in the league. Garoppolo shouldn’t be under much pressure, either, as the Seahawks have generated a sack on just 3.04 percent of dropbacks, which is ranks fourth-worst in the NFL. The 49ers games have averaged just 124.6 plays per game (sixth-lowest in NFL) while the Seahawks have averaged a league-high 140.9 plays, so we could see more volume than normal out of Garoppolo. Five of the six quarterbacks they’ve played have thrown for at least 315 yards. Playing without Deebo Samuel isn’t great, but this matchup should be good enough to net mid-to-high-end QB2 numbers.
Russell Wilson: It wasn’t his best game on Sunday night despite the big fantasy numbers, as he threw three interceptions for the fourth time in his career, and the first time since 2017. Still, he managed to rack up 29.9 fantasy points, and kept his streak of 20-plus fantasy points going. Can he keep that going against the 49ers? Despite all the injuries they’ve dealt with, they are allowing the third-fewest fantasy points per offensive play. We have both ends of the spectrum in this game, as the 49ers have allowed the second-fewest fantasy points per game (72.7) to their opponents, while the Seahawks lead the league while averaging 123.2 fantasy points per game. Meanwhile, the Seahawks defense has allowed the most fantasy points per game (118.0) to their opponents. What happens when an immovable force meets something that continually breaks barriers? We did see Wilson rush for a massive 84 yards last week, which is good news considering the 49ers have allowed more rushing yards (253) than any other team in the NFL. It’s also good to look at the competition the 49ers have played this year. Here they are with their points per game ranking on the season:
|Player||PPG Rank||Finish vs. SF|
Notice anything? Good quarterbacks have played very well, while bad quarterbacks have played… not well. The 49ers have allowed just one quarterback to top 6.89 yards per attempt (Fitzpatrick – 12.50 YPA), but again, the competition hasn’t been great. Wilson is being played no matter the matchup in redraft leagues, and though this is viewed as a tough game, he should be considered for tournaments.
Jerick McKinnon and JaMycal Hasty: It seems like the 49ers will be without Raheem Mostert, Jeff Wilson, and Tevin Coleman this week, leaving behind a lot of touches. The timeshare has been difficult to predict on a weekly basis, but the 49ers running backs have averaged 30.0 touches per game this year. No matter which way you slice it between these two backs, they’re both getting touches. That’s one issue; the other is the Seahawks run defense. Of the production they’ve allowed to skill-position players, just 24.6 percent has gone to the running back position, which is the lowest number in the league (yes, even lower than the Steelers). That’s despite facing a respectable 27.0 touches per game to running backs. They’ve allowed just 3.92 yards per carry, which is low enough as it is, but another issue is that teams have run the ball just 35.5 percent of the time against them, which is the second-lowest mark in football. Because of that, they’ve allowed the 10th-fewest points on the ground. The 4.91 yards per target isn’t great, either, but the 9.5 targets per game to running backs has carried some performances. There have been eight running backs who’ve totaled at least three receptions, including three who caught five-plus passes. It’s difficult to say with any certainty that McKinnon will be the primary back, but he should be the clear-cut receiving option, which is what matters quite a bit in this matchup. He shouldn’t be trusted as anything more than a high-end RB3, but there’s opportunity available. Hasty has run just eight routes over the last two weeks, which worries me a bit, but he’s looked very good on the ground. He’s someone I’d expect to total a dozen touches, so he can be considered as a low-end RB3. *Update* Tevin Coleman practiced on Thursday, so they’re going to see how he feels before making him active. It’s something to keep an eye on, as he would add even more uncertainty to the backfield.
Carlos Hyde and DeeJay Dallas: This is certainly a situation to monitor as the week goes on, as we’re hearing that Hyde is dealing with a hamstring injury. If he’s not able to go, Dallas would have the backfield practically all to himself, as Carson is out for a few weeks and Travis Homer has a bone bruise on his knee. It’s not the greatest week to walk into a workhorse role, as the 49ers have allowed a league-low 0.67 PPR points per opportunity to running backs this year. There’s been just one running back who’s totaled more than 63 yards on the ground against the 49ers, and it was Darrell Henderson, who totaled 88 yards and failed to hit 10 PPR points. They’ve allowed the fifth-fewest fantasy points on the ground to running backs and that’s despite not having their bye week out of the way. The 5.70 yards per target is right around the league average, which does benefit Dallas, whose receiving abilities are one of the better parts of his game. There has been just one running back who’s finished better than RB17 against the 49ers, so even in a workhorse role, either of these running backs will be nothing more than a low-end RB2. If Hyde is held out, Dallas would be someone to start because he’d be locked into 15-plus touches. I’ll be coming back later in the week (by Saturday morning the latest) to update my projections on these two backs as we get more information. *Update* They’re actually saying Chris Carson will be a game-time decision, though it feels like a long shot. Meanwhile, Hyde didn’t practice and is questionable. This is a situation that’s likely not going to be situated until Sunday.
Brandon Aiyuk: With Deebo Samuel out of the lineup for a few weeks, Aiyuk has a massive opportunity to make some waves in fantasy. Even with Samuel in the lineup the last few weeks, Aiyuk has averaged 6.6 targets/carries per game, so he’s been involved. Coming off a career-high 115 yards against the Patriots, Aiyuk will have what might be the best matchup in the league. Wide receivers have outscored running backs by a massive 37.6 PPR points per game against the Seahawks. They’ve already allowed 132 receptions to wide receivers through six games, which amounts to 22.0 per game. We know the Seahawks are a matchup to attack, right? Well, it should make you feel better to know that a league-high 65.6 percent of the fantasy production that has gone to skill-position players against them has gone to wide receivers. It surely helps that their opponents’ wide receivers have seen a league-high 188 targets despite the Seahawks already having their bye week. It’s not just volume, either. They are one of three teams in the league who’ve allowed a 70-plus percent catch-rate to wide receivers. The other two teams? The Texans and Jets. With the lack of healthy running backs and Samuel out, Aiyuk should be considered a rock-solid WR3 with top-12 upside this week.
Kendrick Bourne: If you’re looking for a last-minute wide receiver to stick into lineups, Bourne might not be a bad option. In the first four games (before Deebo Samuel had a full-time role), Bourne totaled at least five targets in each game. The Seahawks have seen an average of 31.3 wide receiver targets per game. Guys, there are two teams in the NFL who don’t see that many pass attempts per game. There have somehow been 10 wide receivers who’ve totaled 20-plus PPR points against them. While we don’t need to expect that, they have allowed 15 wide receivers to hit at least 11.5 PPR points against them. Bourne looks like someone who should deliver a solid WR4/5 floor with upside for more in a great matchup.
D.K. Metcalf: He’s totaled 296 yards on passes that have traveled over 20 yards in the air, which ranks as the most in the NFL. His efficiency on those passes is ridiculous, as he’s caught 7-of-12 for 296 yards and three touchdowns. Still, it’s going to lead to some disappointing performances, like the one he had on Sunday night. The 49ers haven’t been a team to actively target with wide receivers, but it’s worth noting they’ve allowed four passes that have gone for 40-plus yards, which is the seventh-most in the league. It’s pretty crazy what Jason Verrett has done since re-joining the 49ers defense, as he’s allowed just 46 yards on 154 snaps in coverage. That 0.30 yards per snap is the lowest in football. Between Verrett and Emmanuel Moseley, they’ve allowed just 60.0 PPR points on 40 targets in coverage, or just 1.50 points per target. That would rank second in the NFL to only the Bears defense. All season, the 49ers have allowed just three top-24 receivers, with DeAndre Hopkins being the only No. 1 receiver on that list (others are Preston Williams and Braxton Berrios). Metcalf has game breaking one-play upside, so he can turn into a WR1 at any point, so you’re starting him in a game the Seahawks are likely to throw more than normal with their running back health issues. Start him as a high-end WR2 in redraft leagues but reserve him for tournaments in DFS.
Tyler Lockett: His 53.0 PPR points in Week 7 were the most since Will Fuller‘s 53.7 PPR points in Week 5 of last year. He came into Week 7 as the No. 17 wide receiver and left that game as the No. 2 receiver. There are going to be some swings in his performances with Metcalf out there stealing some production, but Lockett should’ve been a borderline WR1 in lineups regardless of that game. The 49ers have allowed just 7.36 yards per target to wide receivers, which is the lowest number in the league. They’ve allowed just three receivers to finish with more than 60 yards. There’s been just four receivers who’ve totaled more than four receptions. They’ve done a good job with slot receivers over the last two weeks on the stat sheet, as Julian Edelman caught just one pass for 13 yards while Cooper Kupp caught three passes for 11 yards. I say stat sheet because we all know about Cam Newton‘s horrendous game, and if you watched Kupp’s game, you’d know that he lost the ball in the lights on what would’ve been a long touchdown, and then he dropped another end zone target. Believe me when I say that Jamar Taylor is not good, and he’s the cornerback who’ll be covering Lockett most of the time. He’s been on six teams over the last four years. Lockett should remain in lineups as a high-end WR2 despite the tough matchup on paper.
George Kittle: He’s now totaled 40 targets in the four full games he’s played, which amounts to a ridiculous 10.0 targets per game. He’s been a bit up-and-down production-wise, but with all the injuries on the 49ers (Samuel, Mostert, Wilson, Coleman), we should expect a big game out of him this week. If there were a game we could guarantee 10-plus targets for a tight end, it has to be this one, right? However, there are some things I see that just stand out in my research for the week, and one of those things in this game was that teams have targeted their tight ends just 11.5 percent of the time against the Seahawks, which is easily the lowest mark in the league; no other team is under 13.5 percent. That’s led to them being one of just four teams who’ve allowed less than 10 percent of fantasy production to tight ends. It’s odd though because they’ve allowed 8.55 yards per target to the position when targeted, which is the seventh-highest number in the league, and usually most telling when it comes to tight ends. Kittle is going to steal a lot of those 31.3 targets per game that go to wide receivers against the Seahawks. Kittle has seen a 29.0 percent target share since returning to the lineup, and that was with Samuel in the lineup. He’s the best tight end on the slate.
Greg Olsen and Will Dissly: We’re starting to see more of a timeshare between these two tight ends, as we watched Dissly trail Olsen in routes 36-29 last week, which is a very small gap. It’s something to monitor, as Dissly hadn’t run more than 14 routes in the first five games. Don’t forget, he was coming off an Achilles injury, so the recovery was a long one. It’s not a shock to see Dissly see a season-high four targets last week. The 49ers have faced an average of just 6.0 targets per game to tight ends, and on those targets, they’ve allowed just 1.55 PPR points per target, which ranks as the eighth-lowest mark in the league. There have been five tight ends who’ve seen four-plus targets, but just two of them have topped 22 yards. I’m not big on either of these tight ends until we see one emerge as the clear-cut leader, and from the trend we saw last week, it might be Dissly.