The Primer: Week 10 Edition (2020 Fantasy Football)
Houston Texans at Cleveland Browns
Spread: Browns -3.5
Texans vs. Browns Betting Matchup
Deshaun Watson: After starting out the year slow, which was likely due to a brutal schedule, Watson has been a top-10 quarterback in each of his last four games, scoring 24-plus fantasy points in each of them. Week 9 was the first since Week 3 where he didn’t throw for at least 300 yards. He’s also thrown multiple touchdowns in six-straight games. We haven’t even reached his ceiling, as he’s scored just one rushing touchdown on the season. The Browns opponents have averaged a robust 68.1 plays per game, while the Texans opponents have averaged 68.0 plays per game. However, both of the offenses in this game average less than 61.0 plays per game, so something has to give. It’s possible that Watson gets many more offensive plays than he’s used to. The total of 54.0 points on this game suggests it’s going to be beneficial for both offenses. It also helps to know that the Texans have thrown the ball on 62.3 percent of plays while the Browns opponents have chosen to pass on 60.6 percent of plays, which are both numbers well above the league average. The Browns pass defense has been a bit Jekyll and Hyde, allowing four quarterbacks to finish with 26-plus fantasy points, but holding the other four quarterbacks they’ve played to fewer than 13 fantasy points. The last time we saw them, it was during that game against the Raiders where there were 50 MPH winds, which really shouldn’t impact our judgement. Prior to that, it was Joe Burrow carving them up for 406 yards and three touchdowns. There are no warning signs about a bust performance here, especially considering the Texans are likely to struggle running the ball against the Browns. Start Watson as a QB1. He makes a solid option in DFS tournaments this week.
Baker Mayfield: It wasn’t the way the Browns wanted to head into the bye week, but the winds swirling limited him to just 122 yards through the air and just six points for the offense overall. Outside of one game against the Bengals defense where he went bananas, Mayfield hasn’t topped 15.58 fantasy points. We know this is a team that wants to run the ball, and there’s no better way to show that than let you know Mayfield has thrown the ball more than 30 times just once in his last seven games. The Texans have faced an average of 68.0 plays per game while Mayfield and the Browns have averaged just 60.6 plays per game, so we could see more volume than usual. The Texans have allowed 1.59 overall fantasy points per offensive snap to their opponents, which ranks as the second-highest number in the league, behind only the Falcons, so efficiency has been there, too. That’s allowed them to allow the third-most fantasy points per game overall, behind only the Seahawks and Falcons. When you remove all rushing totals from quarterbacks, the Texans have allowed 0.568 fantasy points per attempt to quarterbacks, which ranks as the second-highest number to only the Jaguars. The biggest concern we have here is that the Texans won’t be able to stop the Browns’ run game. If Chubb and Hunt run all over them, it will limit Mayfield’s pass attempts. This is where the high-play potential creeps in because even though the Texans have allowed the third-most fantasy points to running backs, they’ve allowed 17-plus fantasy points to 7-of-8 quarterbacks, including Jake Luton‘s first NFL start last week. Mayfield should offer solid QB2 numbers, though his floor has been so low, it’s hard to say he makes it into the top-tier streamer conversation.
David Johnson and Duke Johnson: It was a shame to see David go down early in the game against the Jaguars, as it ended his streak of five straight games of finishing as a top-25 running back. He suffered a concussion and that left the door open for Duke, who played competently, though not great against a weak Jaguars run defense. If David couldn’t make it back for this game, Duke would essentially just take his spot in the rankings. The matchup with the Browns isn’t a great one on the ground, as running backs have averaged just 3.86 yards per carry against them. There have been just two running backs who’ve totaled more than 57 yards on the ground against them, and both had 20-plus carries. They have allowed seven rushing touchdowns (ninth-most), though we all know those aren’t very sticky. There’s ultimately a reason teams have chosen to run the ball just 39.5 percent of the time against them. It’s easier to move the ball through the air, which includes to running backs, as they’ve averaged a massive 7.23 yards per target, the third-highest mark in the league. While David hasn’t been targeted much in the passing game, Duke has seen nine targets over the last two games. If David plays, he should be considered a low-end RB2 in a matchup that favors Duke’s skill-set a bit more. If David sits, Duke would actually be considered a middling RB2 play because of his usage in the passing game and not having to share the workload with anyone. *Update* David has been ruled OUT for this game, so Duke enters the middling RB2 conversation.
Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt: It seems like the Browns are planning to have Chubb back for this game, but we’ll have to pay attention to his practice reports as the week goes on. Hunt has struggled a bit to fill his shoes over the last few weeks, as he’s still yet to top 86 yards on the ground or 26 yards through the air. Hunt hasn’t scored a rushing touchdown since back in Week 4. I’m fairly certain the Browns would have to actively “try” to not score a rushing touchdown in this game against the Texans. Despite already having their bye out of the way, the Texans have allowed a league-high 1,159 rushing yards this season. That amounts to 144.9 rushing yards per game, and that’s just their average. On the ground, even without receiving production, the Texans have allowed a massive 22.0 fantasy points per game on the ground, which is more than 11 teams allow to the position as a whole. Despite limiting production through the air to running backs, the Texans have still allowed the second-most total yards (182.1 per game) to running backs this year. There have been six running backs who’ve finished as the RB11 or better against the Texans this year, including four of them who scored 21.4 or more PPR points. If Chubb is good to go, he’s going to run all over them. Do they limit him in his first game back? It’s possible, but you should trust him as a low-end RB1 regardless. Maybe Hunt is better in the timeshare role? In Weeks 1-5 with Chubb, he was the No. 7 running back in fantasy points. In Weeks 6-8 without Chubb, he was the No. 14 running back. This matchup is good enough to support two top-24 running backs for the Browns, as running backs have averaged 30.8 touches per game against the Texans. Because of that, Hunt is in the low-end RB2 territory with upside for more if they ease Chubb in. *Update* Chubb has been removed from the injury report and will play.
Will Fuller: So much for the boom-or-bust receiver that many viewed him as coming into the season, eh? Fuller has been a top-36 wide receiver in 7-of-8 games this year, including top-15 performances in three of his last five games. The emergence of Brandin Cooks hasn’t slowed his production, though it has limited his targets a bit. His 11 targets over the last two games leaves a bit to be desired, but he’s been efficient throughout his career, so we have to give him the benefit of the doubt. The Browns have allowed the fifth-most fantasy points per game to wide receivers. It’s good to know that teams are targeting their receivers heavily in the red zone against the Browns, as they’ve faced a league-high 36 red zone targets to receivers, as well as a league-high 18 targets in goal-to-go situations. Fuller does lead the team with seven red zone targets. Fuller plays most of his snaps at LWR, so he’ll see a lot of Terrance Mitchell, who’s actually been the Browns best cornerback this year, allowing just a 53.1 percent catch-rate, 13.7 yards per reception, and a touchdown every 24.5 targets in coverage. We’re at the point where you’re playing Fuller every week as a WR2, though the shrinking targets have been masked by touchdowns. Because of that, he’s not someone who should be played in cash games.
Brandin Cooks: He’s now seen at least nine targets in each of his last four games. Since the start of Week 5, Cooks has 39 targets, which ranks 10th among receivers. It’s quite remarkable how we went from someone who was being dropped in fantasy leagues, to one being plugged in as a WR3 or better every week. It seems his chemistry with Watson just took a little bit of time without the preseason. The matchup with the Browns has been good for receivers, as they’ve allowed 14 different receivers finish as top-36 options against them. Cooks’ primary spot to line up is at RWR, which is where Denzel Ward is planted. He’s the most talented Browns cornerback, though there’ve been a few mishaps in his coverage this year, allowing four touchdowns on just 39 targets. We know touchdowns are hard to rely on consistently, and he has allowed just 7.23 yards per target in his coverage, so it’s not like he’s been terrible. Cooks also sneaks into the slot about 30-35 percent of the time, which is a very good thing against the Browns, as it’s where they’ve struggled the most. With his target share, Cooks should remain in lineups as a WR3 who has a stable floor.
Randall Cobb: The targets have taken shape and we have a clear pecking order, but is there a method to the madness?
Cobb is obviously on the short end of the stick here, but it certainly helps knowing that we expect more pass attempts out of Watson this week, and that Cobb has what is the best matchup on the field. Outside of a few outliers where he’s seen three targets and 10 targets, Cobb has lived in the 4-6 target range, which could be enough to do some damage here. The Browns have played eight games, which means they’ve played eight slot-heavy receivers. Five of them have finished with 12.6 or more PPR points, including Hunter Renfrow and Willie Snead. Cobb should be considered a decent bye week filler as a WR5-type option who has the best matchup on the field.
Jarvis Landry: In the first game without Odell Beckham, we watched Landry rack up 11 targets. The results were hardly ideal (four catches for 52 yards), but the wind clearly affected all pass-catchers in that game. Landry is one of two wide receivers who’ve seen 50-plus targets without a touchdown (A.J. Green is the other). That’s why there’s a negative view on him this year, but a fun fact is that he’s averaging essentially the same yards per target as he did last year. Targets are a big deal against the Texans, as they’ve allowed the third-most fantasy points per target (2.07) to wide receivers this year. It surely helps that receivers have caught a massive 71.3 percent of passes thrown to them against the Texans, which is the second-highest mark in the league. The matchup is great for Landry, as the Texans have safety Eric Murray coming down to defend slot receivers. He’s allowed 20-of-26 passing for 252 yards and two touchdowns in his coverage. Landry should be able to get back into the WR3 conversation this week.
Rashard Higgins: I’d warned everyone to approach the waiver wire and Week 8 with caution when it came to Higgins, as this offense just doesn’t throw the ball enough to start a No. 2 option confidently. The 50 MPH wind gusts in that game surely didn’t help matters, but my point stands. The Browns have averaged just 29.1 pass attempts per game, which doesn’t allow for multiple fantasy relevant receivers without hyper-efficiency. If you’re looking for something to make you feel good about him, the Texans have allowed a wide receiver touchdown every 12.3 targets, which is the third-most in the NFL. Despite allowing the third-most fantasy points to running backs, they’ve still allowed the seventh-most fantasy points to wide receivers. The thing to watch is whether cornerback Bradley Roby plays, as he’s the one who’d cover Higgins most of the time on the perimeter. He missed last week, leaving the secondary to Vernon Hargreaves and Phillip Gaines, who’ve both struggled mightily this year, allowing 615 yards and five touchdowns on just 64 targets in coverage. If Roby is out, Higgins should get into the WR4/5 conversation. If Roby plays, he drops down a tier.
Jordan Akins and Darren Fells: There have still been just two games all year where we’ve seen a Texans tight end see more than four targets, which is far from ideal. What makes it worse is that they can be tempting, as they’ve scored 10-plus PPR points on five different occasions due to their efficiency. However, when you combine their minimal target share with the fact that tight ends are seeing just a 15.5 percent target share against the Browns, the fourth-lowest percentage in the league, you have a hard time finding that reason to start them. Even when targeted, they’ve allowed just 6.04 yards per target (sixth-lowest), which is thanks to the league-low 8.87 yards per reception. So, they don’t allow big plays to tight ends, which is another problem. There are better streaming options this week.
Austin Hooper: He was forced to miss their last two games due to an appendectomy, so the bye week seemed to come at the right time. Prior to his injury, Hooper’s target share was rising almost every week. His target share percentage has gone 5, 17, 17, 23, 27, 21. Keep in mind that was with Odell Beckham in the lineup. Now going into a matchup with the Texans, who’ve allowed a robust 73.6 percent catch-rate (8th-highest) and 7.92 yards per target (9th-highest) to tight ends, Hooper should offer a stable floor in his return to the lineup. The only tight end who saw five-plus targets against the Texans and didn’t finish as a top-15 tight end was Tyler Eifert. When you know that teams average a massive 68.0 plays per game against the Texans, we’re expecting at least 30-35 pass attempts out of Mayfield, which should net more than a handful for Hooper. He’s in the high-end TE2 conversation with some upside should he return to the target share he had pre-injury.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Carolina Panthers
Spread: Buccaneers -6
Buccaneers vs. Panthers Betting Matchup
Tom Brady: Can we all agree that Brady simply had a bad day? It just so happens it was on national television, which makes everyone question whether he’s reached the end. We can’t dismiss the previous six games where he threw 17 touchdowns and just one interception. The biggest issue was pressure last week, as he was under duress on 54 percent of his dropbacks. That’s an issue. Prior to that game, he’d been under pressure on just 21.2 percent of dropbacks. While in a clean pocket, Brady has completed 71.2 percent of passes and has a 108.1 QB Rating (16th among quarterbacks). While under pressure, Brady has completed just 44.0 percent of his passes and has posted a 53.3 QB Rating (22nd among quarterbacks). Why is this so important? The Panthers have sacked the opposing quarterback on just 2.6 percent of dropbacks, which is the lowest mark in all of football. They’ve continually struggled to get pressure on the quarterback. The Bucs have chosen to throw the ball a very-high 63.3 percent of the time, while the Panthers have faced a pass play 60.3 percent of the time, which is above the league average, so we should see plenty of pass attempts out of Brady this week, and most of them while in a clean pocket. They’ve allowed a massive 68.8 percent completion-rate on the season, but completions have been going for just 9.97 yards a pop. This might be a good thing for Brady to rebuild some confidence after it was shot against the Saints. After starting out the year hot and holding 5-of-6 quarterbacks to 16.7 fantasy points or less, the Panthers defense has started to slip and has allowed each of the last three quarterbacks post top-12 numbers. Brady should be back into the low-end QB1 conversation despite his slip-up in Week 9.
Teddy Bridgewater: Through nine weeks, Bridgewater currently sits as the No. 12 quarterback in fantasy, though it’s worth noting he hasn’t had his bye week yet. He’s still yet to throw more than two touchdowns in any game, which likely comes down to him not taking risks, as he’s thrown into tight coverage just 9.8 percent of the time, the lowest mark in the league. No other quarterback is under 11.0 percent. That’s why you see a sky-high 71.9 percent completion-rate from him on the season. The Bucs have allowed a 67.8 percent completion-rate to opponents, though their completions haven’t gone very far, as the 7.08 yards per attempt they’ve allowed suggests. They’ve also intercepted a league-high 11 passes, so coverage has been tight. The last time these two teams played, Bridgewater threw the ball 42 times, which netted a season-high 367 yards, but he failed to throw a touchdown while throwing two interceptions. That was one of the just two games this year where the Bucs allowed a quarterback to hit more than 7.89 yards per attempt, so they’ve consistently been a tough defense to rack up yardage against. I’d expect a lot of dumpoffs to the running backs. Bridgewater is fine as a mid-to-low-end QB2 but he’s not a recommended streamer in 1QB leagues.
Leonard Fournette and Ronald Jones: The Bucs set the NFL record for fewest rushing attempts in Week 9. During a week where Brady clearly didn’t have it, this shouldn’t have been the case. We should fully expect things to get back to normal this week against a Panthers team that’s faced a massive 28.3 running back touches per game. If you were to break it down to weighted opportunity, the Panthers have faced the second-most opportunities in the league. Something that plays into Fournette’s new role (19 targets over the last three games) is the fact that the Panthers have allowed a league-high 63 receptions to running backs. There have already been eight running backs who’ve caught at least four passes against them. That should provide a rock-solid floor for Fournette in this game. As for Jones, he seems to still have the early-down role as long as he doesn’t fumble or drop a screen pass. The Panthers have been much better against the run this year, though they’re far from great. They’ve still allowed 4.57 yards per carry and a touchdown every 21.3 carries, which are both good numbers for Jones. If you recall the first game between these two, Jones ran for 23 yards and a touchdown on just seven carries before getting benched for Fournette, who proceeded to pile up 116 total yards and two touchdowns, finishing as the RB3 on the week. Fournette’s role is the safer of the two right now, though it shouldn’t shock anyone if Jones is the bigger producer. Fournette should be in the low-end RB2/high-end RB3 conversation while Jones makes sense as a solid RB3.
Christian McCaffrey and Mike Davis: This season has been dreadful for early-round picks and McCaffrey wasn’t excluded. Unfortunately, he’s in danger of missing more time with a shoulder injury that he sustained at the end of the Week 9 loss to the Chiefs. They’re describing him as day-to-day, so stay tuned for updates. Teams have seemed to realize they can’t run the ball effectively on the Bucs, so they’ve opted to try and get production through the air with their running backs, targeting them on 22.4 percent of their attempts, which ranks as the sixth-most in the league. That’s led to them allowing 12.5 PPR points per game through the air alone, which is where the Panthers running backs did damage against them back in their Week 2 matchup where Bridgewater targeted McCaffrey and Davis a combined 13 times, netting 12 receptions for 103 yards on them. You can practically forget about production on the ground against the Bucs, as there’s been just one team (Packers) who averaged more than 3.60 yards per carry against them, and even then, they finished with 80 yards on 19 carries, so it wasn’t a massive performance. The 89 rushing yards they allowed to the combination of Saints running backs last week was the most they’ve allowed in a single game this year to a team of running backs. Two of McCaffrey’s three worst games last year came against the Bucs. If he suits up, you’re playing him, but it may not be a week to pay up in DFS. If he sits, Davis steps in as a low-end RB1/high-end RB2 who will make his mark in the passing game. *Update* McCaffrey has been ruled OUT for this game.
Mike Evans: So, the good news is that in the first game with all three Pro Bowl receivers in the lineup, Evans led them in targets (6), receptions (4), and yards (64). He even saw two goal-line fade opportunities, though they were not converted. The bad news is that it was the worst game of Brady’s time with the Bucs. I will say that it’s promising to see Evans play in the slot 45 percent of the time, as that’s going to allow him mismatches in the future. The Panthers have been what can best be described as an average defense against receivers, allowing a 67.4 percent completion-rate, 11.77 yards per reception, 7.94 yards per target, and ultimately 1.74 PPR points per target, which ranks 24th in the league, so slightly below average. That didn’t matter all that much to Evans back in Week 2 when he racked up seven catches for 104 yards and a touchdown, though it’s important to note that Godwin was out that week, they didn’t have Brown, and Gronkowski wasn’t heavily involved at that time. We only have one bad sample of this offense with all these playmakers at wide receiver, so we can’t draw conclusive results, but it didn’t look that bad for Evans, who should remain in the low-end WR2/high-end WR3 conversation.
Antonio Brown: He was a full-time player in his first game with the Bucs, playing 39-of-50 snaps while getting targeted five times. He caught three balls for 31 yards and looked solid for the most part, though it may take some time for him to learn the playbook, as one of his targets appeared to be a miscommunication with Brady where he stopped his route and it led to an interception. He’s going to see a mixture of Donte Jackson and Rasul Douglas, two cornerbacks who are certainly beatable. They’ve combined to allow 47-of-70 passing for 511 yards and four touchdowns in their coverage this year, which isn’t as bad as many (myself included) expected, but it’s also not a matchup you need to avoid. There have been just eight wide receivers who’ve seen more than five targets against the Panthers this year, and each of them finished as the WR42 or better. Knowing Brown is a full-time player, he should be considered a low-end WR3 who should only get better as the weeks go on.
Chris Godwin: We didn’t know how much his finger would bother him throughout last week’s game, but it’s safe to say he’s fine after playing a receiver-high 47 snaps last week. Unfortunately, the stats don’t show that, as he caught just three balls for 41 yards in Brady’s worst game in quite some time. Still, Godwin has seen at least six targets in each of the five games he’s played, so don’t panic on him just yet. There have been just five wide receivers who’ve topped 65 yards against the Panthers this year and all of them saw at least 10 targets, which isn’t great, though Godwin likely has the best matchup on the field in the slot. He’ll match up with Corn Elder, who’s been much better than expected, though he’s still a former fifth-round pick who has allowed 20-of-32 passing for 210 yards and two touchdowns in his short career. While he wasn’t charged with much of the production allowed to Tyreek Hill last week (9/113/2), Hill plays in the slot most of the time, which is clearly an area of weakness for the Panthers, as Keenan Allen also hit them up for 13/132/1 this year. Godwin should be in the low-end WR2 conversation.
Robby Anderson: He’s seen 39.4 percent of the Panthers’ air yards this year, so his production isn’t by accident. The unfortunate part is that he hasn’t scored a touchdown since Week 1, and if you recall, that was just a blunder by the cornerback that left Anderson wide open for a long touchdown. Still, despite the lack of scoring, Anderson has finished as a top-46 wide receiver every single week, which is tough to do. Unfortunately, he hasn’t finished better than WR19 in half PPR formats since Week 1. It may not get much easier against the Bucs this week, as they’ve allowed just one top-12 performance this year. It needs to be noted that two of the top-three performances they allowed to wide receivers were to the Panthers, though. Both Anderson (9/109/0) and Moore (8/120/0) had phenomenal games without finding the end zone. They were two of just four wide receivers who’ve totaled more than 74 yards against the Bucs this year (others were Nelson Agholor and Allen Robinson). The one thing we know is that you need volume against them, as no receiver has finished with more than 72 yards without seeing at least nine targets against them. The Bucs did not use Carlton Davis in a shadow role in their first meeting, so we shouldn’t expect it here, either. Anderson should be considered a solid WR2 whose floor has been ridiculously good. *Update* Davis is questionable after popping up with a knee injury on Thursday. If he were out, it would upgrade Anderson’s (and Moore’s) matchup.
D.J. Moore: He’s now seen six or fewer targets in six of his last seven games. He’s actually starting to lose even more of his role to Samuel over the last month or so. Here are the targets by week:
So, if we were to look at Weeks 3 through 9, we’d see that Moore’s 40 targets barely edge out Samuel’s 33 targets, and he missed a game. This has become a real problem for Moore’s reliability, as evidenced by his weekly fantasy finishes: 49, 14, 50, 49, 14, 25, 5, 51, 82. He’s a good football player, but if you’re not getting the targets it doesn’t matter. He saw a season-high 13 targets in the first meeting with the Bucs and turned them into a massive eight catches for 120 yards, which turned out to be the second-best fantasy performance they’ve allowed all season. Moore does appear to have a better matchup than Anderson this week, as he’ll see Jamel Dean more than he will Carlton Davis. Dean hasn’t been bad, allowing just 25-of-43 passing for 243 yards and three touchdowns in his coverage, but two of those touchdowns came against the Saints last week. Moore is not a consistently high-floor option, but knowing the Panthers are likely to struggle on the ground, he should have a higher target floor in this game, making him a WR3 with upside should he actually get more than six targets.
Curtis Samuel: Looking at the chart above in Moore’s notes, you understand the opportunities Samuel’s been getting, and that doesn’t even account for the 21 carries he’s received over his last seven games. That’s an additional three opportunities per game, and he’s only getting more efficient as the weeks go on. You can’t get too crazy, as Week 9 was the first one he’s topped 51 receiving yards, but he’s starting to look like a great floor option. The Bucs have allowed 16 wide receivers to score double-digit PPR points, though just one has been able to top 20 PPR points. The matchup in the slot with Sean Murphy-Bunting is a great one, as he’s allowed a ridiculous 36-of-40 passing for 413 yards and three touchdowns in his coverage. It’s simple: target him and get production. The last time these two teams played, he allowed 6-of-6 passing for 69 yards in his coverage. Samuel has crept into the WR4 conversation, and though he may not have a massive ceiling, his floor is stable for those with bye week issues.
Rob Gronkowski: It was a bad game for the Bucs overall in Week 9 and that didn’t exclude Gronkowski, who saw six targets, though they led to just one catch for two yards. It was the first time since Week 4 where he didn’t total at least 52 yards and/or score a touchdown. Shake it off as a bad game from all parties. Teams have thrown to their tight ends quite often against the Panthers, as evidenced by the 72 targets (ranks as the second-most in NFL). The production on a per target basis hasn’t been great, as they’ve allowed just 6.47 yards per target and a touchdown every 24.0 targets, which are both numbers that are lower than the league average. Travis Kelce was the only tight end who topped 54 yards against them, but that hasn’t stopped eight tight ends from finishing as top-18 options against them. That highlights a decent floor but it’s going to get harder to find a ceiling for Gronkowski considering the full house of pass-catching options the Bucs have.
Ian Thomas: There’s been just one game he’s seen more than three targets this season. There have been zero games he’s finished with more than 8.5 PPR points. Yes, he’s had great matchups and failed to produce (or get targeted), so you’re not considering him.
Los Angeles Chargers at Miami Dolphins
Spread: Dolphins -1.5
Chargers vs. Dolphins Betting Matchup
Justin Herbert: For the fifth-straight game, Herbert finished as a top-10 quarterback. Since he became the starter in Week 2, he’s been the No. 4 fantasy quarterback in points per game. Even better, he’s now thrown at least 42 pass attempts in each of their last three games, so the reigns have been removed. Knowing the Chargers have allowed five straight teams score 29 or more points against them, that’s unlikely to stop. The Chargers are averaging a meteoric 72.4 plays per game this year, while the Dolphins opponents are averaging a robust 66.4 plays per game. This is a recipe for fantasy success. The Dolphins have allowed the sixth-most fantasy points on the ground to opposing quarterbacks, which bodes well for Herbert who’s quietly posted 111 yards and a touchdown on the ground over the last three games. We also can’t overlook the fact that Kyler Murray, who’s been somewhat of an inefficient passer in the NFL (7.13 yards per attempt), just completed 21-of-26 passes for 283 yards and three touchdowns against them. If there’s a trend against the Dolphins, it’s that they’ve severely struggled against mobile quarterbacks. We’ve seen Murray, Russell Wilson, Josh Allen, and Cam Newton average 8.2 or more yards per attempt and finish with 20-plus fantasy points, while Jared Goff, Joe Flacco, Jimmy Garoppolo, and Gardner Minshew struggled and averaged less than 6.6 yards per attempt and 15 fantasy points. The sheer number of plays for Herbert should carry him to a nice fantasy day, though the only concern is that their implied team total sits at just 22.8 points. Still, you’re starting him as a stable QB1 who should have a high floor.
Tua Tagovailoa: His second start looked much better than the first, as he completed 20-of-28 passes for 248 yards and two touchdowns, though the lack of volume is a problem. That’s just 50 pass attempts in his first two NFL starts, so unless he’s a hyper-efficient passer (like he was against the Cardinals), he’s not going to provide a very high floor for streamers. The Chargers have faced an average of 37.0 pass attempts per game, as teams have chosen to pass the ball 61.9 percent of the time against them, which is the sixth-highest mark in football. Volume has been necessary, as there have been just two quarterbacks who’ve averaged more than 7.17 yards per attempt against the Chargers. There have been four quarterbacks who’ve finished as top-12 options against the Chargers, but every one of them threw the ball 41-plus times. What has to make you feel good about Tagovailoa this week is that the Chargers have allowed five straight teams to score 29 or more points, while the Dolphins have a 25.3-point implied team total. The lack of pass attempts are a concern though, and unless the Chargers jump out to a big lead, it’s hard to see that changing, which is what keeps Tagovailoa in the middling QB2 range. *Update* It does help that the Chargers will be without Joey Bosa, their best pass-rusher.
Justin Jackson, Troymaine Pope, and Joshua Kelley: It seems like Jackson’s knee injury isn’t something that’ll knock him out for an extended period of time, but he’s clearly not someone who’ll be getting a full workload any time soon. Ballage filled in admirably for him, racking up 84 total yards and a touchdown on 17 touches. What that did more than anything was highlight the fact that the team has lost all confidence in Kelley, who’s finished with less than 3.2 yards per carry in four of his last five games. In fact, he hasn’t topped 32 rushing yards since back in Week 3. He saw five targets last week, though that was more to do with the fact that Austin Ekeler, Jackson, and Pope were out. The Dolphins have faced 26.8 running back touches per game, allowing the sixth-most fantasy points per opportunity to running backs. No running back has cracked 90 yards on the ground against them this year, but that’s because just two running backs have totaled more than 11 carries against them, as the 4.63 yards per carry they’ve allowed is well above the league average. However, because of the lack of true volume running backs, the Dolphins have allowed just five running backs to finish top-30 against them. Crazy, right? It’s weird how a matchup with the Chargers timeshare is on deck, as we have no idea how to project their touches moving forward. Ballage went back to the practice squad after the game, though he can still be called back up. I’m willing to bet Jackson doesn’t get in a full practice this week, making him hard to trust, while Pope would be returning off his injury, and Kelley is just… well, not good. I’m going to come back and update my expectations Friday night/Saturday morning, so check back for those. As of now, Jackson would be the best bet, but he’d be nothing more than an RB3 who comes with risk. *Update* Jackson has been ruled OUT, so you need to pay attention on Sunday morning. If they bring Kalen Ballage back up from the practice squad, he’d likely be the top back and have RB3 viability.
Jordan Howard, Matt Breida, and DeAndre Washington: This game features a lot of running back question marks on both sides of the ball. The Dolphins snap counts in Week 9 without Breida in the lineup went Salvon Ahmed 28, Howard 21, Patrick Laird 12. It’s clear they didn’t want to commit to any of them, which is likely why they traded for Washington at the trade deadline. We don’t know if Breida will be available for this week’s game, but Washington will be. The Chargers have allowed just four rushing touchdowns on the season, which has kept their overall numbers down, but they’re allowing a massive 4.97 yards per carry, which ranks fourth behind only the Texans, Bengals, and Lions. There have been six running backs who’ve totaled at least 65 yards on the ground. After giving them just one target last week, will the Dolphins get their running backs heavily involved in the passing game this week? The Chargers opponents have targeted their running backs on 23.6 percent of pass attempts, which ranks third-most in the league. We’ve seen five different running backs rack up six-plus receptions, though that may be hard for any of them in this backfield considering how little Tagovailoa has thrown the ball. There have been 10 top-30 running backs against the Chargers, but predicting this backfield is likely to be a mess. If Breida gets in a full practice, he’d be the preferred play as an RB3. If he misses the game, Washington will move into that spot. It’s possible they make Howard inactive again, so he’s not someone I’d be looking to play. *Update* Breida has been listed as questionable after practicing in a limited fashion all week. We’ll be talking about this backfield on the Sunday morning livestream depending on which running backs are active.
Keenan Allen: Outside of the game he needed to leave early against the Saints, Allen has totaled at least eight targets in every game, including at least 10 targets in every game with Herbert under center. The Dolphins have seen the third-highest target share (62.5 percent) to wide receivers this year, which bodes well for Allen’s massive target share in this offense. The downside is that the Dolphins might give him the shadow treatment with Xavien Howard, who completely shut down DeAndre Hopkins last week, holding him to 3/30/0. Howard hasn’t been shadowing receivers every week, but after that, it might be the new norm. The reason it may not happen is due to the fact that Howard doesn’t typically travel into the slot, and that’s where Allen runs 45 percent of his routes and sees 35 percent of his targets. When he goes there, he’ll see Nik Needham, who’s allowed 19-of-27 passing for 201 yards in his coverage. Allen is not someone you’d even think about sitting, so keep him in lineups, but you may not want to expect a top-five performance.
Mike Williams: It seems like Williams is doing okay after coming down hard late in the game and laying on the ground for quite a while. He’s now seen at least seven targets in three of the last four games, and all those games netted at least five catches and 81 yards. With Herbert playing lights out, all Williams needs is the targets. There are just four teams in the NFL who’ve allowed lower than a 62.0 percent catch-rate to wide receivers; the Dolphins are one of them. Williams doesn’t go into the slot very often, which isn’t good for his projection, as it means he’ll see Xavien Howard and/or Byron Jones in coverage. Those two have combined to allow just 41-of-70 passing for 603 yards and four touchdowns in their coverage. While that’s not unbeatable, it would be nice to mix in some Nik Needham coverage in there, too. Regardless, the 1.68 PPR points per target the Dolphins have allowed to receivers ranks as the seventh-lowest mark in football. Because of that, we need to keep expectations in check for Williams, but as long as he gets in a full practice, he should be on the back-end WR3 radar.
DeVante Parker: He’s averaging just 1.9 yards of separation at target, which ranks as the third-worst in the NFL, so he’s going to need Tagovailoa to trust him in tight coverage. Tagovailoa did 25.0 percent of the time in Week 9, which is a good sign. There are suddenly no other receivers in this offense who have the potential to see double-digit targets, as Preston Williams is expected to be out for a little bit. Targets have been the biggest issue for Parker this year, as he’s seen five or fewer targets in 4-of-8 games. We know the Dolphins aren’t going to have Tagovailoa drop back and throw 40 times, but we’re going to need more than the 25.0 pass attempts than he’s averaged the last two weeks. It’s even more important this week because the Chargers opponents have targeted their wide receivers on just 51.0 percent of passes, which ranks as the third-lowest number in football. While Casey Hayward is one of the best cornerbacks in football, he’s struggled a bit as of late, allowing a touchdown in four of the last five games. He’s only allowing a 45.7 percent catch-rate in his coverage, but when he gets beat, it’s for 17.3 yards per reception. It seems likely that Hayward shadows Parker given the lack of weapons available for the Dolphins at receiver. Because of that and the volume concerns, Parker should remain in WR3 territory, though he may have caught Hayward at the right time.
Hunter Henry: The disappointing season continued for Henry last week, as he failed to reach 40 yards for the fifth straight game. Since the start of Week 4, Henry ranks 21st among tight ends in fantasy scoring, behind guys like Irv Smith and Anthony Firkser. Seriously. He ranks 10th in targets, so it’s not that. For whatever reason, he’s just not connecting with Herbert. Meanwhile, the Dolphins are one of just four teams who’ve allowed fewer than 300 yards to tight ends this season. They are the only team in the NFL who’ve yet to allow a tight end finish with double-digit PPR points. They’ve done that despite seeing seven-plus targets to George Kittle, Gerald Everett, and Greg Olsen. It’s not even competition either, as tight ends have scored 11.5 percent less fantasy points than they typically average against the Dolphins. Knowing both Keenan Allen and Mike Williams have tough matchups, it should create more opportunities for Henry, but that hasn’t been the problem. It’s hard to see that changing in this matchup, making Henry just a low-end TE1/high-end TE2 that you shouldn’t be afraid to bench if you have a better option.
Mike Gesicki: We thought the move to Tagovailoa might have been a good thing for Gesicki but we haven’t seen it through two games. Granted, Tagovailoa has thrown just 50 pass attempts, but Gesicki has seen just six of them (12 percent target share) that have amounted to just four catches for 50 scoreless yards. The Chargers have allowed just 6.60 yards per target to tight ends, which is the 13th-lowest mark in the league, though they have allowed six touchdowns on 60 targets to them. That’s one every 10.0 targets, which is the sixth-most often. With Preston Williams likely out of the lineup, it opens some opportunities. There have been five different tight ends who’ve finished as top-eight options against the Chargers, and even though touchdowns have played a big role in that, five tight ends have totaled at least 45 yards against them. This isn’t a great matchup, but the loss of Desmond King (Chargers traded him away) might show up with Gesicki lined up in the slot. He’s in the high-end TE2 conversation. He comes with risk, sure, but what tight ends don’t?
Denver Broncos at Las Vegas Raiders
Spread: Raiders -4
Broncos vs. Raiders Betting Matchup
Drew Lock: It was good to see him take advantage of a great matchup last week, as he racked up a career-high 313 yards, while throwing for two touchdowns and rushing for another. He’s now thrown for 561 yards and five touchdowns over the last two weeks, giving fantasy managers confidence to consider him as a streamer. He’s averaging a league-high 10.0 air yards per target. No other quarterback is averaging above 9.4 intended air yards. The Raiders have struggled to get pressure on the opposing quarterback this year, as they’ve generated a sack on just 3.0 percent of dropbacks, which could mean extra time for Lock to unload deep. The Raiders have allowed 27 pass plays of 20-plus yards, which ranks as the 10th-most in the league. They’ve held opposing quarterbacks to a mediocre 7.57 yards per attempt, but volume (36.1 pass attempts per game) has carried them through. It should also be noted that consistency has been there, as the only two quarterbacks that have finished with less than 7.76 yards per attempt were Cam Newton (duh) and Baker Mayfield (50 MPH wind game). Lock should feel the ability to take chances, too, as the Raiders have intercepted just three passes all year. The high total doesn’t help, but we still can’t forget that Lock has thrown for 254 yards or less in 10-of-11 starts in his career, so you’re going to need touchdown luck on your side. He’s a fine mid-to-low-end QB2 but don’t expect a repeat of the Falcons game.
Derek Carr: After posting three straight games of 19-plus fantasy points and working his way into the streaming conversation, Carr has faceplanted each of the last two weeks and finished outside the top-20 quarterbacks. It doesn’t help that he’s thrown the ball just 47 times in the two games combined, which have netted just 276 yards. Still, if we exclude the game with 50 MPH winds, he’s thrown multiple touchdowns in each of his last six games. Teams have not been able to run the ball against the Broncos, and that has led to plenty of passing opportunities, as 6-of-8 quarterbacks have thrown the ball at least 35 times, including four quarterbacks who’ve topped 40 attempts. In fact, the only two quarterbacks who failed to score 18.2-plus fantasy points were the two who failed to throw more than 25 pass attempts (Cam Newton and Patrick Mahomes (snow game)). Prior to the last two weeks, Carr had averaged 35.2 pass attempts per game, and this game will be back at home in the dome. Carr has also rushed for at least 10 yards in five of the last six games, giving him another avenue to a fantasy floor. Carr isn’t the worst bye week solution as a mid-level QB2.
Melvin Gordon and Phillip Lindsay: This backfield has been a complete mess since Lindsay returned to the lineup. The snaps have been Gordon 126, Lindsay 71, which seems like a good thing for Gordon, but the opportunities have been much closer with it being Gordon 43, Lindsay 29. They’re splitting the rushing work almost 50/50 while Gordon sees most of the work in the passing game, running 74 routes to Lindsay’s 35 routes. This can be important for Gordon’s production this week, as running backs have continually been targeted against the Raiders, seeing a massive 25.6 percent target share. Not that it matters to Pat Shurmur, as he didn’t take advantage of the fact that the Falcons were horrendous against pass-catching backs last week. This is what we call “rational” coaching, so it’s sad we can’t expect them to exploit the opponent’s weakness. There have been 11 running backs who’ve finished as a top-30 running back against the Raiders, though they have seemingly gotten better since their horrendous start when they allowed three straight top-two performances. Since that time, no running back has scored more than 18.6 PPR points against them, though Kalen Ballage did come out of the Week 9 game with 84 total yards and a touchdown, so it’s far from a must-avoid matchup. All-in-all, they’ve allowed 4.71 yards per carry (sixth-most) and a touchdown every 17.8 carries (second-most often), so even if they don’t take advantage through the air, the running backs should have some success on the ground. It’s tough to trust either of them as a sturdy RB2 considering their roles and lack of consistency, but Gordon is in the low-end RB2/high-end RB3 conversation while Lindsay can be considered as an RB3.
Josh Jacobs: Life isn’t easy on Jacobs, as he’s faced eight-plus men in the box on 28.0 percent of his carries, which ranks as the fifth-most in the NFL. That could be part of the reason he’s averaging just 3.65 yards per carry on the season. According to NFL NextGenStats, Jacobs is averaging almost exactly what he’s been expected to based on yards before contact, defenders in the box, etc. Things will not get easier this week. The Broncos are one of just three teams who’ve allowed fewer than five total touchdowns to running backs. If you look at weighted opportunity, the Broncos are allowing the fewest fantasy points per opportunity to running backs. Meanwhile, Jacobs ranks 54th among running backs in weighted points per opportunity. That doesn’t mean we can’t see a decent performance with his volume, as Jacobs is receiving the seventh-most weighted opportunity per week, and that’s helped guys like James Conner, Justin Jackson, and Derrick Henry to post top-15 performances against the Broncos. The biggest concern for Jacobs is his lack of involvement in the passing game, as he’s seen just one target in each of the last two games. There have only been two running backs who’ve topped 28 yards through the air against the Broncos, so it’s not like we should expect a lot of production there, but it lowers his floor if he can’t find room on the ground. One thing that boosts his stock is knowing the Raiders have a 28.5-point team-implied total and are five-point home favorites. Because of that, Jacobs sneaks into the low-end RB1 territory, but I’m not expecting huge numbers.
Jerry Jeudy: Knowing the Lock is averaging more air yards than any other quarterback on his pass attempts, it’s a good thing the Broncos have shifted Jeudy out to the perimeter, as he’s able to make more splash plays. He’s now seen 24 targets over the last two weeks, which is tied with D.K. Metcalf, Tyreek Hill, and Jakobi Meyers for the most in the league during that time. The Raiders haven’t seen many targets directed at wide receivers (18.5 per game), but when they do get targeted, they’ve averaged 9.36 yards per target, which is the fifth-highest mark in football. They’ve allowed the 10th-most pass plays of 20-plus yards this year. He’s playing most of his snaps at RWR, which means he’ll see Nevin Lawson the most, a veteran cornerback who’s been objectively bad throughout his six-plus years in the league, allowing at least a 104.8 QB Rating in his coverage in 6-of-7 seasons. We can’t assume that Jeudy gets these massive target totals every week because it’s rare to see lock throw the ball 40-plus times, but he’s clearly emerging as a go-to option while on the perimeter. He should be in the high-end WR3 conversation right now.
Tim Patrick: It was good to see him return to make it back to the lineup with no setbacks, playing 60-of-73 snaps. Patrick has seen steady targets throughout the season, as he has no games with less than four targets, while three of his last four games have netted seven-plus targets. That’s the great news. The downside is that Jeudy is emerging, and Patrick has topped 44 yards just twice on the season. Another downside is that opponents have targeted their wide receivers just 51.2 percent of the time against the Raiders, which ranks as the fourth-lowest mark in football. Receivers have totaled just 18.5 targets per game against them, which might make it tough for two receivers to be usable. There have been three teams who’ve had multiple receivers finish top-40 against them (Chargers, Bucs, Bills), so it’s possible. His primary matchup will be against Travon Mullen, who’s really struggled in coverage this year, allowing 25-of-35 passing for 298 yards and three touchdowns. Because of that, Patrick remains in the WR4 conversation, albeit the low-end one.
KJ Hamler: He’s coming off a 10-target game, so there will be plenty of fantasy managers wondering what to do with Hamler. Well, he’s taken over the slot role with Jerry Jeudy moving to the perimeter, which will give him mismatches at times, including last week against the Falcons. Unfortunately, this week’s matchup with Lamarcus Joyner isn’t one of them. He’s faced 41 targets, allowing just 30 receptions for 314 yards and no touchdowns. That’s just 10.5 yards per reception, which is very similar to the 9.8 yards per reception he allowed last year, so he’s kept the play in front of him. Take last week as a step in the right direction for Hamler, though not a step into your starting lineup just yet.
Henry Ruggs: And the beat goes on… Ruggs has now seen just 21 targets and caught 10 passes through six games with the team that selected him 12th overall in the NFL Draft. Meanwhile, Jerry Jeudy caught seven passes for 125 yards and a touchdown last week alone, and CeeDee Lamb caught four passes for 71 yards and a touchdown from a third-string quarterback. The Raiders don’t know how to utilize the receiver they selected over those two. The Broncos secondary has had issues slowing down receivers, as they’ve already allowed 15 of them finish with 10.7 or more PPR points through eight games. A lot of it has to do with volume, as they’ve allowed just 7.77 yards per target (seventh-lowest mark in NFL). The 21.9 wide receiver targets per game is due to teams struggling to move the ball with their running backs. Does this mean Ruggs will get more than four targets for the first time since Week 1? The Broncos perimeter cornerback duo of A.J. Bouye and Michael Ojemudia both are 4.4-speed guys, so it might be tough to expect a big play, which stinks because that’s seemingly the only way the Raiders know how to get him the ball with his 20.4-yard average depth of target. Ruggs is sadly just a boom-or-bust WR4/5 option.
Nelson Agholor: The good news is that Agholor has now finished as a top-38 wide receiver in 5-of-8 games this year. The bad news is that he has just one came with more than four targets, which means he’s practically unplayable. His 3.1 targets per game rank behind guys like Demarcus Robinson and Chris Conley. The matchup with the Broncos hasn’t been great for low volume guys like him, as they’ve allowed just 7.77 yards per target to receivers, the seventh-lowest mark in the league, though it helps that they’ve allowed a touchdown every 15.9 targets, which is the ninth most often. Meanwhile, Agholor has caught one every 5.0 targets, which is a rate that’s clearly unsustainable. His 13.9 yards per target ranks second in the NFL among receivers with 20-plus targets, behind only Justin Jefferson. Still, without targets, it’s impossible to rank him higher than a WR5.
Noah Fant: He had to leave the game last week against the Falcons, crumbling what was supposed to be a big game against the Falcons. He did ultimately return and played 57-of-73 snaps, but he was a non-factor upon his return, finishing with just three catches for 45 yards. This was a re-aggravation of the ankle injury he had a few weeks back that the Broncos tried to downplay then, saying it was a mild high-ankle sprain. Be prepared to see Fant miss some practice time and be listed as questionable for this game. The Raiders haven’t been nearly as good of a matchup for tight ends as the Falcons, as they’ve allowed just a 58.6 percent completion-rate (4th-lowest) and 6.33 yards per target (8th-lowest) to the position. That’s led to just two tight ends finishing with more than 33 yards against them. Those tight ends were Travis Kelce (8/108/1 on 12 targets) and Rob Gronkowski (5/62/1 on eight targets), so they were both targeted quite heavily. Last week was the first time Fant saw fewer than five targets, and with Albert Okwuegbunam out for the season, we should expect his target share to be relatively safe if his ankle is good to go. As long as he gets in a full practice at some point, Fant should be considered a low-end TE1 in a semi-tough matchup. *Update* He did get a full practice in on Friday.
Darren Waller: There are two tight ends you put into your lineup every single week without hesitation, and Waller is one of them. He’s totaled 71 targets on the year and his 111.4 PPR points would rank 26th among wide receivers, and that’s despite having his bye week out of the way. The downside is that teams have started to catch on to what the Raiders want to do and it’s limited his production over the last four weeks, as he’s failed to top 50 yards in any of the games. He has, however, scored in three of them, keeping his fantasy numbers afloat. Tight ends have hauled in 80.0 percent of their passes against the Broncos, which ranks as the third-highest mark in the league. This is great for a tight end who’s seen at least six targets in 7-of-8 games this season, including eight-plus targets in five of them. We’ve watched just three tight ends see more than five targets against the Broncos and their finishes were TE6, TE8, and TE11. We also know that wide receivers have averaged 21.9 wide receiver targets against them, a number that the Raiders never hit, so Waller should be in for even more than some expect. He’s an every-week start, and this game is no exception.