The Primer: Week 10 Edition (2020 Fantasy Football)
Buffalo Bills at Arizona Cardinals
Spread: Cardinals -2.5
Bills vs. Cardinals Betting Matchup
Josh Allen: Is Allen back in fantasy managers’ good graces after his 36-point explosion against the Seahawks last week? It’s a step in the right direction, though that was a matchup that everyone seems to crush in. It was Allen’s first game over 16.38 fantasy points since Week 4, so we can’t automatically assume he’s completely fixed. It does certainly help that he got his confidence back, as he rides highs and lows almost like Cam Newton does. This game will be played in a dome, which is seemingly a good thing for Allen. It’s a small sample size, but in the four games he’s played in them, he’s completed 68-of-97 passes (70.1 percent) for 799 yards (8.24 YPA) and four touchdowns with no interceptions. The Cardinals defense is coming off a game where they allowed Tua Tagovailoa complete 20-of-28 passes for 248 yards and two touchdowns, though it needs to be noted that they were without two of their starting cornerbacks and one starting linebacker. It seems Dre Kirkpatrick could return, while Byron Murphy and Devon Kennard need to clear the COVID protocol after testing positive last week. One thing that stands out about the Cardinals defense is that they’ve allowed a massive 6.75 yards per carry to quarterbacks, which ranks as the second-highest mark in the league. They’ve allowed just one rushing touchdown to them, but the yards per carry is the sticky number, even if it is on a small sample size (28 carries). The only quarterbacks who’ve averaged less than 7.46 yards per attempt were Joe Flacco, Dwayne Haskins, and Andy Dalton, so it’s not even a matchup to be worried about through the air. Allen should be back in fantasy lineups as a QB1 in what’s projected to be the highest-scoring game of the week.
Kyler Murray: He’s been on fire on the ground all season, as his 543 yards and eight rushing touchdowns would rank as the No. 18 running back. Keep in mind the running backs have all their receiving production included in that. Now you start to add in some competent passing numbers, defenses have some real problems. He’s now completed at least 70 percent of his passes in four of the last five games, and more importantly, he’s totaled 7.5 or more yards per attempt in them. When a quarterback with his mobility is in a groove as a passer, they’re essentially unstoppable. The Bills have not been close to the defense they were last year, as they’ve already allowed seven different quarterbacks to post top-12 numbers against them. In fact, anyone not named Sam Darnold has finished as a QB1. They’ve done it in a variety of ways, as six of them have thrown at least two touchdowns, while four of them scored a rushing touchdown. The Bills defense has allowed the fifth-most fantasy points on the ground to opposing quarterbacks, as they’ve been able to rack up 179 yards and four rushing touchdowns through nine games. This is obviously all good news for Murray, who’s a must-play in fantasy. While we’ve all been waiting for the Bills defense to turn back into the defense that held all quarterbacks to 22 points in 2019, but we’re at the point where that doesn’t matter anymore. What we have is a plus matchup for a quarterback who’s been destroying every matchup in sight.
Zack Moss and Devin Singletary: The snaps over the last three weeks had been trending towards Moss having more fantasy value than Singletary, and that’s precisely what’s happened in Weeks 8 and 9. Over the last three weeks, Moss has played 35, 31, and 38 snaps, while Singletary has played 40, 28, and 31 snaps. Clearly, it’s still a timeshare, but when you factor in that Moss has six carries inside the five-yard line despite missing three games, while Singletary has just four of them while playing all nine games, you know which one has more value. Even the pass routes are starting to even out a bit over the last two weeks (Singletary 31, Moss 23), so Moss doesn’t even necessarily need a positive gamescript. The Cardinals have yet to allow a running back more than 84 yards on the ground this year, and that’s despite them facing 10 different running backs who’ve totaled double-digit carries. The 4.30 yards per carry they’ve allowed is right around the league average, so it’s not one to necessarily avoid, but teams have called a run play just 40.7 percent of the time against them. The Bills themselves call a run play on just 41.6 percent of their plays, so it’s not much different, though that’s netted the Bills running back combo to just 21.1 touches per game. Until they start leaning on one of these guys significantly more than the other, it’s going to be touchdown-or-bust most weeks. The Cardinals have allowed seven total touchdowns to running backs on 223 touches (one every 31.9 touches), which aren’t the greatest of odds. Knowing that Moss continues to trend in the right position, he’s the high-end RB3 in this matchup who is a bit more touchdown-reliant than some in that area of the rankings. Singletary is slowly fading into the RB4 conversation as someone who hasn’t topped 12 touches in four of the last five games and isn’t getting goal-line work.
Chase Edmonds: It was a big disappointment for Edmonds last week, as he got all the work we could’ve asked for but finished with just 88 total yards on a massive 28 touches against the Dolphins. When some have compared his explosiveness to Kenyan Drake‘s and said he was the clear-cut better back, it’s a lot different when coming off the bench fresh while everyone else is tired, so maybe the scheme and offensive line just isn’t allowing for much production in the offense. It’s odd because you’d think Kyler Murray‘s presence and threat to run would open more lanes for them but that hasn’t been the case. The Bills have already allowed three running backs to hit 100 yards on the ground against them, including Clyde Edwards-Helaire, Darrell Henderson, and Damien Harris. Those aren’t running backs in the Dalvin Cook/Aaron Jones territory or anything. There have also been six running backs who’ve totaled at least 25 yards through the air, allowing for multiple avenues for production. In terms of fantasy points per weighted opportunity, the Bills allow the 12th-most fantasy points per opportunity, though it’s also worth noting the Dolphins allowed the eighth-most. They have already allowed nine rushing touchdowns on the year (fourth-most) but have yet to allow a receiving touchdown. Prior to the game against the Seahawks, who had to start their third-string running back, the Bills had allowed at least 97 rushing yards and a touchdown to each of the last four backfields they faced (Titans, Chiefs, Jets, and Patriots). Edmonds may have let you down last week, but you cannot pass up his opportunity as long as Drake is out. He should be treated as a low-end RB1. *Update* Kenyan Drake practiced in a limited fashion all week and is listed as questionable. If he plays, Edmonds would still be the favored option but he’d move down into RB3 territory. Drake is more of a wait-and-see if you can who’d be a middling RB3 if he suits up.
Stefon Diggs: The only wide receivers averaging more targets per game than Diggs are Davante Adams and Keenan Allen, two guys who most have as top-six options in their rest of season rankings at wide receiver. It’s been consistent too, as he’s seen at least eight targets in 7-of-9 games. Because of that, he’s finished with 86 yards and/or a touchdown in 8-of-9 games with the lone exception coming against the Jets (huh?) where he still caught six passes for 48 yards. The Cardinals were missing two starting cornerbacks last week, which certainly didn’t help them, but the Dolphins really have just DeVante Parker as a threat, and he caught 6-of-7 targets for 64 yards. Patrick Peterson is someone who does some shadow work for them, but knowing the Bills have both John Brown and Diggs on the perimeter, we may not see him shadow in this game. The thing to watch is whether Dre Kirkpatrick can return to the lineup, as he’s been a solid No. 2 cornerback for them. Peterson is very good, there’s no doubt about that, but he’s not the shutdown cornerback he once was. He’s allowed 27-of-44 passing for 383 yards and a touchdown in his coverage this year, so when he does allow a reception, it goes for 14.2 yards, which actually suits Diggs well. Of the seven wide receivers who’ve seen eight-plus targets against the Cardinals, six of them finished with at least 13.4 PPR points, with the only exception being Jeff Smith. You’re starting Diggs every week, and though this matchup isn’t as good as last week, he’s still in the WR1 territory.
John Brown: We trusted Brown last week and it worked out, even though he wasn’t one of the receivers to catch one of Allen’s three touchdowns he threw. He’s healthy again, so it’s good to see him pop on the stat sheet in a plus-matchup. It was the first time since Week 2 that he’d topped 42 yards in a game, so we can’t automatically assume he’s a must-start, though we’re trending in the right direction. The Cardinals may get Dre Kirkpatrick back in the lineup this week, as he’s been dealing with a thigh injury and didn’t practice at all last week. That’s the cornerback Brown would likely see most of the time, because if Patrick Peterson shadows, it’ll be Diggs. On 45 targets in coverage, Kirkpatrick has allowed 34 receptions for 379 yards and two touchdowns, which is good for a 105-plus QB Rating in his coverage. If he does play, he also may be playing at less than 100 percent. Don’t forget that Brown used to play on this field and knows the turf as good as anyone. Still, the Cardinals have allowed just nine wide receivers to deliver top-36 performances against them, and he’s clearly behind Diggs on the pecking order, so he should be treated as a WR4. If Kirkpatrick has to miss another week, Brown would move up in the ranks.
Cole Beasley: It seems we’ve lost the consistency that Beasley brought to fantasy lineups, as he’s now seen just five targets over the last two weeks, totaling five receptions for 63 scoreless yards. This coincides with the return of John Brown into a full-time role now that he’s healthy. On top of that, the Bills are inserting Gabriel Davis into the slot a bit, as he’s played 15 snaps there over the last two weeks and has more targets than Beasley. The matchup with the Cardinals could be very good for Beasley if Byron Murphy is forced to miss another game with COVID, as he’s their primary slot cornerback. His replacement last week was undrafted rookie Jace Whittaker, who saw his first game action in Week 9, allowing two receptions for 27 yards and a touchdown on… two targets. Beasley is still out there in a near full-time role, so we can just assume he fades into the background, and the matchup is great, so I’d be willing to trot him out there as a WR4/5 in a pinch as long as Murphy is out.
DeAndre Hopkins: His performances over the last six weeks have been like a yoyo, starting as the No. 11 wide receiver in Week 3, then WR46, WR7, WR38, WR8, and WR76. The matchup against the Dolphins was always going to be a tough one but it got even tougher when the Dolphins decided to have Xavien Howard shadow him all game. He did a great job, too, as he was glued to Hopkins, forcing Murray to look elsewhere. Unfortunately, Hopkins is going to find himself in shadow coverage once again in Week 10, as the Bills are certainly going to put Tre’Davious White on him. While D.K. Metcalf was able to get production, it helps that he has Russell Wilson. Murray has been good, but Hopkins was just shut down by Howard, which doesn’t inspire much confidence. I mentioned it last week when talking about Metcalf, but White hasn’t been a complete shutdown cornerback this year. He’s allowed 17-of-28 passing for 292 yards and three touchdowns, so over 10.4 yards per target and a touchdown every nine targets. You’re never going to bench Hopkins, so just hope for the best in a tough matchup (that might not be as bad as it was last year). It’s just not a week to play Hopkins in cash lineups.
Christian Kirk: If you were here last week, I didn’t like Kirk much because he was supposed to match up with Xavien Howard, the cornerback who ended up shutting down Hopkins. Still, Kirk didn’t have an easy matchup against Byron Jones, but it was better. Jones was their prized free agent who was torched for 116 yards and two touchdowns in that game. Kirk has now scored at least 12.8 PPR points in each of his last four games, including 20-plus points in his last three, with the game against the Dolphins being the most meaningful, as it was the first difficult matchup he succeeded in. That gives us a lot more confidence heading into this week’s matchup with the Bills. While Hopkins deals with Tre’Davious White, Kirk should see a lot of either Josh Norman or Levi Wallace in coverage. Wallace has been filling in for Norman, who’s been dealing with a hamstring injury, but he’s played much better than Norman. If Norman gets cleared, it’s actually an upgrade for Kirk. The Bills have allowed 11 different receivers to finish as the WR31 or better this year, and with the possibility of White slowing Hopkins, we could see another big game for Kirk, who’s caught fire. He should be considered a mid-to-low-end WR3 at this point.
Tyler Kroft: The Bills tight end room is one to avoid, generally speaking. There’s been just two games where one of them has seen more than three targets, and no games where anyone has seen more than five targets. It’s not like you’re missing production, either, as they’ve topped 7.1 PPR points just twice. The Cardinals have not been a matchup to target with tight ends this year, as they’ve allowed just one top-12 tight end all season.
Dan Arnold: This is a game where tight ends can essentially be ignored. Similar to the Bills tight ends, no Cardinals tight end has seen more than four targets this season. There’s been just one occasion where they’ve totaled more than two receptions. You’d love to attack the matchup, as teams have targeted their tight ends against the Bills 25.2 percent of the time, second-highest mark in the league, but you just can’t with this group.
San Francisco 49ers at New Orleans Saints
Spread: Saints -9.5
49ers vs. Saints Betting Matchup
Nick Mullens: Let’s be honest, he was put in a very bad spot in Week 9. The 49ers offense was without their top two running backs, top three wide receivers, top tight end, and top offensive tackle. It was not a shock to see him struggle to put up points. Now they’ll travel across the country to play in New Orleans against a Saints team coming off their best defensive performance of the year. There was a lot of room for improvement on this defense but they’ve been getting better by the week. After allowing 27.36 fantasy points to Justin Herbert in Week 5, they’ve watched the fantasy points allowed go down to 19.16, 16.88, and then 2.36 against Tom Brady last Sunday night. The 7.23 yards per attempt they’ve allowed is right around the league average, though the 6.38 percent touchdown-rate is the second-highest in the league and ultimately what’s led to a lot of fantasy points. Volume has helped as well, as teams have chosen to pass 62.1 percent of the time against the Saints, which is the fifth-highest mark in the league. When these two teams met last year, Kyle Shanahan seemed to know how to navigate through the defense, as Jimmy Garoppolo had a career day, throwing for 349 yards and four touchdowns on just 35 pass attempts. The problem comes back to the lack of options available for Mullens, as George Kittle and Deebo Samuel remain out, and others are questionable. It also appears like Mullens can be yanked if he struggles early on, so go ahead and find yourself another streamer.
Drew Brees: So, Michael Thomas comes back to the offense and the Saints just march up and down the field against one of the best defenses in the league? Thomas wasn’t even heavily involved but clearly his presence helped considering Brees completed a season-high 81.2 percent of his passes and threw four touchdowns on just 32 pass attempts. After a slow start to the season, Brees is slowly morphing back into the quarterback he was last year, and let me tell you, that quarterback made a lot of big plays against an even better version of this 49ers defense. When they met in Week 14 of last year, Brees completed 29-of-40 passes for 349 yards and five touchdowns. He even rushed for a touchdown in that game, scoring 40.06 fantasy points. This 49ers defense has started to fall apart due to a lot of different things, though injuries were certainly a big factor. Over the last two weeks, we’ve watched Russell Wilson and Aaron Rodgers completely dissect them with 52-of-68 passing for 566 yards and eight touchdowns. A couple weeks before that, it was Ryan Fitzpatrick lighting them up for 350 yards and three touchdowns on just 28 pass attempts. Teams are still struggling to run the ball on the 49ers, which could lead to a game very similar to Brees’ against the Bucs last week. He’s in the low-end QB1/high-end QB2 territory, though lack of competition can limit upside.
Raheem Mostert and Jerick McKinnon: What have you learned in 2020? Never completely trust a 49ers running back in fantasy football. Is Mostert different? Well, he’s coming off his second multi-game injury, which could lead Kyle Shanahan perplexed on whether or not to give him a full workload. Mostert’s touch totals through his four games have been 19, 10 (left early with injury), 14, and 19 (left early with injury). That seems stable enough, but again, never fully trust a 49ers running back. Running backs have accounted for just 26.5 percent of the production by skill-position players against the Saints, which is the third-lowest percentage in the league. If you look at the production they’ve allowed on the ground, you won’t be excited to start someone like Mostert. They’ve allowed just 9.2 fantasy points per game on the ground, which ranks second to only the Colts. The Saints and 49ers are both part of a short list of six teams that have allowed five or less total touchdowns to running backs. As a whole, running backs have averaged just 24.8 touches per game against the Saints, which is not good for a backfield that splits the touches so much. Neither is the fact that they’ve allowed just 100.3 total yards per game to running backs. Their efficiency is phenomenal, as the 3.59 yards per carry they allow ranks as the fifth-fewest, while the 4.54 yards per target ranks as the third-fewest. All-in-all, the points per weighted opportunity they allow ranks as the fourth-lowest mark. Mostert should be considered the best play as a low-end RB2/high-end RB3 who comes with risk of play-time restrictions as well as a tough matchup. McKinnon would return to the role he was playing earlier in the season. In the four games he’s played with Mostert, he’s totaled 6, 4, 3, and 8 touches. He’s nothing more than an RB4 option with Mostert back. *Update* We got news late on Wednesday that Mostert will be OUT this week, meaning it’ll be McKinnon and Ja’Mycal Hasty again this week. We’ve already pointed out that this matchup is less than ideal, meaning McKinnon should be considered a high-end RB3 while Hasty is just a mediocre RB4 option.
Alvin Kamara and Latavius Murray: We knew it was a tough matchup last week against the Bucs, but Kamara came out with the RB8 performance. He’s finished as a top-13 running back every single game this year, so despite tough matchups, he’s getting it done. That’s important because he has a brutal stretch coming up, playing against the 49ers (3rd-fewest points allowed to RBs), Falcons (10th-fewest), Broncos (8th-fewest), Falcons again, and Eagles (6th-fewest). There are just six teams in the NFL who’ve allowed five or less total touchdowns to running backs, and the 49ers are one of them. This is a battle of efficiency versus the defense who stops efficiency. Kamara ranks No. 1 in weighted opportunity while the 49ers rank No. 2 in points allowed per opportunity. The 49ers haven’t allowed a running back more than 88 yards on the ground this year (just one over 63 yards) and have allowed just three rushing touchdowns. And keep in mind there have been five running backs who’ve totaled at least 15 carries. They have allowed 5.77 yards per target to running backs, which is essentially the league average, so that’s where Kamara is likely to get his production. He has seen at least six targets in 7-of-8 games, including eight-plus targets in six of them. Oddly enough, Kamara hasn’t topped 83 rushing yards all season, so this matchup shouldn’t be one we run too far from. His upside might be a bit capped but he’s still an RB1 play every single week. Murray on the other hand, this matchup doesn’t match his skill-set at all as the short-yardage, partial goal-line back. Unless he falls into the end zone, he’s not going to be someone who’ll pay off in lineups, making him a touchdown-dependent RB4.
Brandon Aiyuk: There are a lot of factors to watch with Aiyuk this week, as we don’t know if Raheem Mostert, Deebo Samuel, or Kendrick Bourne will play in this game. We do know George Kittle is out, which frees up a lot of targets in this offense. Wide receivers have been targeted just 50.7 percent of the time against the Saints, and that’s despite the success they’ve had. Clearly, the defensive scheme doesn’t entice quarterbacks to force the ball to their receivers, but when targeted, they’ve had success. The 2.12 PPR points per target they’ve allowed to receivers ranks as the second-highest mark in the league, behind only the Vikings. The 9.70 yards per target ranks as the second-most in the league. They’ve also allowed a touchdown every 12.8 targets to wide receivers, which is the fourth-most often. We didn’t see the Bucs take advantage of that last week, and it’s more what we expected from their seemingly top-tier defense on paper. Have they turned a corner? It’s possible, which adds a level of risk to Aiyuk, though the targets he’ll receive should carry him into the low-end WR3 conversation.
Deebo Samuel: We don’t know for certain if Samuel will play this week, as Kyle Shanahan has said he has a “chance” to play in this game. That doesn’t sound promising for a guy who’s coming off a three-week absence. If he does play, you need to at least consider getting him into your lineup. He played against a very similar Saints defense (who was playing well) in Week 14 of last year and totaled five catches for 76 yards, while also adding another 33 yards on the ground. Samuel moves all over the formation, so there’s not one cornerback who’d see him more than others. The 9.70 yards per target the Saints have allowed to wide receivers is the second-most in the NFL, so as long as Samuel comes back into his normal role, this should be a productive game. There have already been 11 wide receivers who’ve compiled at least 62 receiving yards against the Saints. Samuel is shaping up as a risk/reward WR4 right now who could move up if he practices in full. *Update* Samuel has been ruled OUT for this game. Richie James can be considered an emergency WR5.
Michael Thomas: He returned to the lineup last week and played 40 snaps in the blowout against the Bucs. He saw six targets, hauling in five of them for 51 yards, which isn’t what those who drafted him in the first round of drafts expected, but it was a tough matchup with Carlton Davis. Things will get easier for Thomas this week against the 49ers who are coming off a game where they allowed Davante Adams to run through them for 10 receptions, 173 yards, and a touchdown. The crazy part? He was the third receiver who’s totaled at least 10 receptions against the 49ers. When these two teams met last year in Week 14, Thomas destroyed them for 11 receptions, 134 yards, and a touchdown. And don’t forget, they were an elite defense last year. Not only is Richard Sherman missing from the secondary, but slot cornerback K’Waun Williams is out with a high-ankle sprain, while safety Jaquiski Tartt is dealing with turf toe. Get Thomas back in lineups as a WR1 and you just might be reminded why you drafted him in the first round.
Emmanuel Sanders: It could be nothing, but it could be something… In the two games Michael Thomas has played, here are the routes run: Thomas 59, Tre’Quan Smith 49, Sanders 37. In the four games without Thomas, Sanders ran 32.3 routes per game, which is much more than the 18.5 with him in the lineup. Again, small sample size, but something we’ll monitor. The matchup with the 49ers isn’t one where all receivers need to be played, though it’s not one you need to avoid, either. They’ve allowed 12 receivers to finish top-36 against them through nine games. Touchdowns were the common denominator in most of them, as there were just two receivers who made it there without scoring. Sanders knows the scheme, as he was on the other sideline last year. With Thomas back in the lineup, we just don’t have a whole lot to go off with Sanders, so let’s consider him a touchdown-dependent WR4 for this game who comes with some risk.
Jordan Reed and Ross Dwelley: It was Dwelley out there more often than not last week, as he ran 24 routes compared to just 10 for Reed. We don’t know if that’s because Reed’s knee injury isn’t fully healed or if they just hadn’t built him into the gameplan. We need to monitor the practice reports throughout the week. Neither of them were productive against the Packers, combining for just four receptions and 55 yards on five targets. Coming into that game, teams hadn’t targeted tight ends very much against the Packers. The Saints, on the other hand, have watched tight ends get targeted 24.8 percent of the time, which ranks as the fifth-highest mark in the league. Unfortunately, the efficiency hasn’t been there. They’ve allowed the fourth-fewest yards per target (5.72) to tight ends. If you were to remove the one game against Darren Waller where he caught 12 passes for 103 yards and a touchdown, we wouldn’t look at the matchup against the Saints as a great one. They have allowed a touchdown to six different tight ends, but outside of Waller, no one has topped 50 yards, and just one has topped 36 yards. Reed is more of a wide receiver, so he’d get a boost if he’s practicing in full, and he’d be in the high-end TE2 conversation because the targets need to go somewhere. Dwelley isn’t someone I’d consider as long as Reed is active, as he loses his target floor. *Update* Reed is not on the injury report and should be a full-go.
Jared Cook: He had a bad game in Week 9, as he not only dropped an easy completion, but he also fumbled a ball on the two-yard-line. That led to rookie Adam Trautman seeing three targets, catching all of them for 39 yards and a touchdown. Trautman also out-snapped Cook 29-26. Was this due to gamescript or due to poor play? Cook did run more routes, so we shouldn’t overreact just yet. It is problematic that Cook has seen less than five targets in four of his last five games and hasn’t topped 52 yards since back in Week 1. The matchup with the 49ers has not been one to attack with tight ends, as they’ve allowed just one tight end to top 8.6 PPR points against them all year. They’ve allowed just 6.33 yards per target and a touchdown every 26.0 targets, which are both below the league average. It does help that safety Jaquiski Tartt is not expected to play, but we have enough concerns about Cook’s matchup/playing time to remove him from the auto-start category. He’s in the low-end TE1 territory as someone who has more scoring opportunities than most in that range.
Seattle Seahawks at Los Angeles Rams
Spread: Rams -1.5
Seahawks vs. Rams Betting Matchup
Russell Wilson: We’re now halfway through the fantasy season and Wilson has yet to have a game with fewer than 20.9 fantasy points. The state of the defense has allowed him more pass attempts than he’s ever had in his NFL career, as he’s currently on pace for 594 of them (career-high is 553). It’s not shocking that one of the best quarterbacks we’ve ever seen is on pace for over 5,000 yards and 56 touchdowns. This week is one where the league MVP is about to go up against the league’s best defense. While it’s tough to quantify that, the Rams have allowed the fewest overall fantasy points per offensive play (1.19) this year, as they’ve battled the Bears battle back-and-forth for that No. 1 spot. The Seahawks offense has generated a massive 116.5 fantasy points per game as an offense this year (most in the NFL), but the Rams have allowed just 76.4 fantasy points per game as a defense (second-fewest), so we have a crossroads. The 6.31 yards per attempt they’ve allowed is the lowest in the league, while the 3.26 percent touchdown-rate is the third-lowest mark. Removing rushing, the Rams have allowed a tiny 0.361 fantasy points per pass attempt on the season. That means a quarterback – on average – could attempt 40 passes and finish with just 14.4 fantasy points. Wilson is far from average, but it’s been a brutal matchup. There have been two games where they failed to show up and allowed both Jimmy Garoppolo and Josh Allen 23.5-plus fantasy points against them, though it’s worth noting both those games were on the road. Look, there’s no chance you’re considering anyone else in redraft leagues, but in DFS, it may not be the best week to pay up for Wilson.
Jared Goff: Through the halfway point of the season, Goff is on pace for 4,290 yards, 26 touchdowns, and 12 interceptions. The issue for fantasy players is that Goff has thrown more than two touchdowns just twice over his last 24 games. For a guy who’s run for just 80 yards in that span, it’s a problem, as it presents an extremely low floor. Here comes the Seahawks defense to the rescue. Their opponents have run a league-high 73.6 offensive plays per game, while the Rams have run 68.1 plays per game themselves, which ranks as the fifth-most in the league. That’s the type of stuff you look for to find potential fantasy explosions. The thing that’s limited Goff the most is that this offense has thrown the ball just 53.9 percent of the time, which ranks as the eighth-lowest mark in football. It sure helps knowing that Seahawks opponents have thrown the ball a league-high 65.4 percent of the time. It’s not just volume, either. They’ve allowed 8.14 yards per attempt, which is the fourth-highest mark in the league. Think about this… they’ve allowed just a 4.37 percent touchdown-rate (ranks 24th) but have allowed the most fantasy points per game to quarterbacks. The Seahawks defense as a whole have allowed 118.75 fantasy points per game, which is easily the most in the NFL, as no other team has allowed more than 109.67 points per game. I don’t trust Goff very often, but when I do, it’s against the Seahawks. He should be considered a solid low-end QB1.
Chris Carson: The Seahawks backfield has been one that’s tough to talk about before Sunday when we find out about the inactives. Carson is likely expected back this week, as he was never placed on injured reserve, and this will be the third game. The snap share last week with him out was Travis Homer 31, DeeJay Dallas 20, and Alex Collins 13. So, an ugly timeshare. A touchdown saved Dallas’ performance last week, which is something that shouldn’t be expected this week. The Rams are one of just three teams who’ve allowed fewer than five total touchdowns to running backs, and one of 12 teams who’ve allowed fewer than 1,000 total yards to them. It’s not that it’s a horrible matchup for efficiency, as they’ve allowed 4.04 yards per carry (12th-lowest) and 5.61 yards per target (14th-lowest), but the touchdowns simply haven’t been there. Because of that, they’ve allowed the ninth-fewest fantasy points per game to running backs. Considering the Seahawks running backs have combined for just 24.5 touches per game, it’s not one to attack if there’s a timeshare. If Carson plays, he should be considered a mid-to-high-end RB2, but if he’s out, no one on this team will be considered better than a risky RB3-type option. I’ll come back and update later in the week.
Darrell Henderson, Malcolm Brown, and Cam Akers: Heading into their bye week, Henderson ranked No. 4 in red zone carries with 28 of them. The crazy part is that he’s accounted for just 56.0 percent of the Rams’ red zone carries, which ranked 10th. Lesson: they run the ball a lot in the red zone. Not many realize it, but running backs typically outscore quarterbacks on a points per game basis. Not one running back, but rather the whole team of running backs. Against the Seahawks, it’s quarterbacks who outscore running backs by 3.69 fantasy points per game, which ranks second to only the Falcons. Despite the Seahawks allowing a ridiculous 30.4 points per game to their opponents (third in NFL), they’ve allowed just the 15th-fewest fantasy points to running backs. Running backs have accounted for just 25.0 percent of the production to skill-position players against the Seahawks, which ranks as the second-lowest number in the league. That’s largely because their opponents have chosen to run the ball on a league-low 34.6 percent of plays. Even when teams try to run on the Seahawks, they don’t have much success, as indicated by the minuscule 3.60 yards per carry. Even through the air, they’ve allowed just 1.37 PPR points per target, which ranks as the eighth-fewest in the league. In a game with such a high total, we don’t want to erase the possibility that someone falls into the end zone, and Henderson would be the one with the best shot. Because of that, he’s a low-end RB2. Brown continually sees 6-12 opportunities, so he stays in the RB4 conversation, but there’s not much upside in this matchup. Akers has only seen playing time when Henderson is out of the lineup, so he’s off the radar.
D.K. Metcalf: What a stud. He had a matchup with one of the best young cornerbacks in the game last week and destroyed him for 7/108/1 on nine targets. Metcalf has now finished with 92-plus yards in 7-of-8 games this year and is on pace for 1,576 yards and 16 touchdowns. Keep in mind that he’s doing that without seeing Davante Adams-like targets. Next up on the list: Jalen Ramsey and the Rams. Wide receivers have been targeted a league-low 49.3 percent of the time against them this year. Meanwhile, Wilson has targeted his wide receivers on 58.9 percent of passes, so there’s somewhat of a discrepancy there. The targets directed at wide receivers have netted just 7.33 yards per attempt against the Rams, which is the second-lowest number in the league. The Rams have done a great job keeping the play in front of them, as they’ve allowed a league-low 11.08 yards per reception to wide receivers. To be fair, the Bills allowed less then 12 yards per reception to receivers coming into last week’s game against Metcalf, and we all know how that ended. This should be a fun matchup to watch between Ramsey and him, though we’re taking Metcalf’s side. The benefit of perceived “shutdown” cornerbacks is that it means the receiver is typically in one-on-one coverage. I don’t know if there’s a cornerback who can shut down Metcalf in one-on-one coverage.
Tyler Lockett: He hasn’t been the receiver many thought he’d be, as he was supposed to be the “safe” option. He’s now finished outside the top-50 wide receivers in four of his last five games. He’s scored seven touchdowns this year, but six of them came in just two games. More bad news: The Rams are the only team in the league who’s yet to allow 1,000 yards to wide receivers. On the year, they’ve allowed a minuscule 124.6 yards per game to them. Receivers haven’t been targeted much against them, though that’s likely due to the fact that they haven’t had much success. The 1.57 PPR points per target they’ve allowed ranks as the third-lowest mark in the league. The bright spot for Lockett is that he plays most of his snaps in the slot, which gives him the best matchup on the field. Troy Hill took over in the slot when they allowed Nickell Robey-Coleman to walk in free agency. He’s allowed 37-of-50 passing for 361 yards in his coverage. He’s allowed a reception every 7.7 snaps in coverage, while the perimeter combination of Jalen Ramsey and Darious Williams has allowed one every 17.7 snaps in coverage. Lockett has fallen into the WR2 territory, but he just might be the most productive Seahawks receiver this week. Something to think about for those who are playing DFS tournaments.
Robert Woods: It’s been a rocky road for Woods with targets this year, as he’s hovered in the 5-8 range in most games. Fortunately, he’s done well with them, scoring six touchdowns (4 receiving, 2 rushing). Did you know he’s on pace for just 74 receptions and 872 yards, though? That’s a bit worrisome for someone most are relying on for WR2 production. This week should not be a problem. You want double-digit targets? You’re likely going to get them against the Seahawks, as they’ve watched wide receviers get targeted a league-leading 66.9 percent of the time. On top of that, Goff has targeted his receivers on 62.3 percent of his passes, which is well above the league average. Then you look at the fantasy points per game the Seahawks allow to receivers and it should make you smile. The 59.5 PPR points per game they’ve allowed rank as the most in the league and it’s not even close, as the closest team is the Titans, who’ve allowed 46.6 PPR points per game to them. If you’re looking for someone to rack up receptions, Woods can be your guy, as receivers have a league-leading 71.8 percent catch-rate against the Seahawks. He can be started as a borderline WR1 this week.
Cooper Kupp: He went into his bye week, so you may not have realized Kupp had a ridiculous 20 targets against the Dolphins in Week 8. He’s now seen 17 more targets than teammate Robert Woods, which is something not many expected. He’s finished as a top-40 wide receiver in 6-of-8 games, but he’s cracked the top-30 just three times. Still, his stability is something that should be valued. If you were to take all of the fantasy points wide receviers have scored against the Seahawks and put them up against all the points scored by running backs against them, you’d find that receivers have averaged a ridiculous 34.5 more PPR points per game. The closest team to that number in the Falcons, who’ve allowed 23.9 more points per game to them. They are allowing a ridiculous 22.0 receptions per game to wide receivers alone. How high is that? Well, there are just six teams who’ve seen 176 targets to wide receivers, which is the number of receptions the Seahawks have allowed. That’s possible because of the massive 71.8 percent catch-rate they’ve allowed to wide receivers, which is the highest mark in the league. The slot hasn’t been a strength for them, either, as we’ve watched Julian Edelman post a career-high 179 yards and Russell Gage post a career-high 114 yards. Kupp should be played as a low-end WR1/high-end WR2 this week.
Josh Reynolds: Will the Rams move to Van Jefferson after we witnessed what might have been the worst display of effort from Reynolds in Week 8 when he did the anti-DK Metcalf when trying to catch the defender who was running back a pick-six from Jared Goff? I really wish we hadn’t seen that because Reynolds has seen 22 targets over the last three games, which certainly puts him on the fantasy radar, especially in a great matchup. The Seahawks have already had their bye week, yet they’ve allowed 94.0 more PPR points to wide receivers than any other team in the league. There have been a ridiculous 22 wide receivers who’ve finished as top-50 options against them, which is essentially WR4 or better territory. 19 of them were top-35 options, so WR3 or better. If you’re looking for a hail mary in deep leagues, Reynolds could pay off for you, though I won’t lie… I’m a bit concerned about a potential benching.
Greg Olsen and Will Dissly: First, it was Dissly taking away some snaps/routes from Olsen. Now, it’s Jacob Hollister. Over the last three weeks, here are the routes run by each tight end: Olsen 79, Dissly 53, Hollister 41. Russell Wilson has targeted tight ends on just 19.5 percent of his pass attempts, which is not nearly enough to consider a tight end who’s part of a three-way timeshare. Opponents have targeted their tight ends 25.0 percent of the time against the Rams, which ranks as the fourth-highest mark in the NFL. Unfortunately, those targets haven’t done a whole lot of damage, as they’ve allowed just 5.84 yards per target, which ranks as the fifth-lowest number in the league. The only tight end who’s totaled more than 42 yards against them was George Kittle. It’s best to sit this tight end battle out until we see one emerge as the favorite, as Hollister was the only one with more than four targets over the last four games.
Gerald Everett and Tyler Higbee: We’ve definitely started to witness a shift in the Rams’ tight end usage, as Everett has seen 4, 4, 5, and 9 targets over their last four games. That comes after he saw five targets over the first four games combined. Meanwhile, Higbee hasn’t seen more than four targets since way back in Week 2. Outside of that three-touchdown game against the Eagles, Higbee hasn’t finished as a top-15 tight end. Teams haven’t targeted their tight ends against the Seahawks very much from a target share perspective, as the 11.5 percent is the lowest number in the league. Think about that for a minute. Despite the fact that teams have averaged 45.8 pass attempts per game against them, tight ends have averaged 5.3 targets as a whole. It should come as no surprise that tight ends have only accounted for 10.3 percent of the fantasy production against them by skill-position players, which is also the lowest mark in the league. The Rams have only targeted their tight ends 7.0 times per game, so when you know this is a timeshare, it’s one to be cautious about. The Seahawks have allowed 20 different receivers to hit double-digit PPR points, but just one tight end (Lee Smith 10.4 PPR points). Everett would be the best bet, but neither are strong options this week.
Cincinnati Bengals at Pittsburgh Steelers
Spread: Steelers -7
Bengals vs. Steelers Betting Matchup
Joe Burrow: It’s a shame the Bengals bye had to come when it did, as he was heating up. He’s completed 72.6 percent of his passes over the last two weeks, while averaging 7.80 yards per attempt with five touchdowns and one interception. They were great matchups, so while it’s good to see him take advantage of them, we can’t say he’s an automatic starter in his next game, which happens to be against one of the better defenses in football. The good news for his matchup this week is that 60 percent of the production by skill-position players against the Steelers has gone to wide receivers (second-most in NFL), which is where a massive 67.6 percent of Burrow’s attempts have gone. The downside is that there’s just one team who’s held opponents to less than a 60.2 percent completion-rate, and it’s the Steelers who’ve held their opponents to just a 56.9 percent completion-rate. More bad news is the fact that the Steelers lead the league with a 10.7 percent sack-rate. Meanwhile, Burrow has been sacked on 7.2 percent of his dropbacks, so there’s going to be a lot of pressure coming his way. The Steelers haven’t allowed a top-12 quarterback performance all season, and in fact, you’d have to go all the way back to Week 11 of last year to find the last quarterback to do so. It doesn’t mean Burrow isn’t usable, as 6-of-8 quarterbacks have thrown two touchdowns (though none have more than two). He should have plenty of pass attempts, which should allow him to reach top-20 numbers, so he’s perfectly fine for 2QB/Superflex formats.
Ben Roethlisberger: No one could’ve predicted the gamescript that took place in Week 9 against the Cowboys, but Roethlisberger and his pass catchers were happy it went the way it did, as it allowed him to rack up over 300 yards and three touchdowns. Could something similar happen this week against the Bengals? They’re another defense that struggles in both facets of the game, so the Steelers can choose which area to attack. They’ve allowed multiple touchdowns to 7-of-8 quarterbacks this year, including 10 passing touchdowns over their last three games, which were games against Ryan Tannehill, Baker Mayfield, and Philip Rivers. It also helps to know that they sack the opposing quarterback on just 3.78 percent of dropbacks (sixth-fewest), as Roethlisberger suffered injuries to both of his knees last week. The 7.47 yards per attempt the Bengals defense has allowed is right around the league average, though the touchdown percentage of 6.09 percent ranks as the eighth-highest mark. There’s certainly a level of risk with Roethlisberger this week, as there was last week, but do you want to tempt fate a second time? Roethlisberger should be considered a high-end QB2 rather than a must-start, even though it is a plus-matchup.
Joe Mixon and Giovani Bernard: It seems likely that Mixon returns this week, though it’s likely he also returns to more of a timeshare than when he left. While he was out, Bernard posted 174 total yards and three touchdowns. In case you’d forgotten, Mixon started to pull away with nearly all the touches in this backfield, as Bernard totaled just six touches in Weeks 4, 5, and 6 combined. We don’t want to go back to the start of the year where we had to worry about gamescript with Mixon, because this week, it’s likely to be a negative one. Teams have chosen not to target their running backs very much against the Steelers (13.5 percent, second-lowest number in the NFL), which could have something to do with their continuous blitzing, forcing running backs to stay in and pass block. Running backs have combined for just 45.7 PPR points through the air against the Steelers, which amounts to a minuscule 5.7 PPR points per game. Touches have been hard to come by in general, as running backs have combined for just 23.2 touches per game against the Steelers. If you go by weighted opportunity, no team in the league has seen less opportunity to running backs than them. Because of that, the Steelers have allowed a league-low 17.7 PPR points per game to running backs. Even if Mixon plays, he’s more of a middling RB2 this week. If he sits out another game, Bernard would take his place in the rankings. *Update* Mixon is listed as doubtful on the final injury report, which almost certainly means he’s out. Bernard shifts into the rankings as a low-end RB2.
James Conner: It was maybe the most disappointing performance of Week 9, as everything pointed to a Conner RB1 performance against the Cowboys, but gamescript got away from them and he finished with just 11 touches for a measly 20 yards. That doesn’t make you feel all warm and fuzzy, but maybe a matchup against the Bengals can help get him back in your good graces. The 5.40 yards per carry they’ve allowed through eight games ranks as the second-highest number to only the Texans, a team Conner ran all over for 109 yards and a touchdown. Another positive that we can take away from last week’s game is that Roethlisberger is not 100 percent healthy while Conner is going to be fresh as can be. The Bengals have allowed just five rushing touchdowns on the year, which has kept them from allowing massive performances to running backs, and why they rank as just the 13th-best matchup for running backs on a points per game basis. They also haven’t allowed much production through the air to running backs, as the 30 receptions and 212 yards they’ve allowed both rank as the fourth-fewest in the league. That hasn’t stopped seven running backs from finishing as top-20 options against them, including six top-10 performances. This game is eerily similar to last week’s game, though I’m not betting that Conner flops twice. Plug him in as a low-end RB1.
Tyler Boyd: Through eight games, Boyd is on track for 108 receptions, 1,168 yards, and six touchdowns. Keep in mind that those are his numbers while Joe Burrow figures things out in his first NFL season. It’s not just Burrow, either, as Boyd has totaled 215 targets over the first 24 games in Zac Taylor’s system. He’s the chain mover and the most reliant. He’s also the preferred option in the red zone, as he’s seen 11 targets in the red zone, while Higgins has seen six, and Green three. The Steelers have Mike Hilton defending the slot, a cornerback who can be beat. Randall Cobb, CeeDee Lamb, Willie Snead, Greg Ward, and Jerry Jeudy were all slot-heavy receivers who were able to post double-digit PPR points against them despite none of them seeing more than seven targets. Hilton actually had to miss last week, which led to safety Cameron Sutton coming down to defend the slot, and he allowed 3-of-5 passing for 66 yards. They’re saying Hilton “has a chance” to play this week, which means he may not even be 100 percent. The last time Boyd played against this Steelers defense was Week 12 of last year when he caught 5-of-9 targets for 101 yards and a touchdown. There are just 12 receivers who’ve seen at least eight targets in 62.5 percent of their games and Boyd is one of them. Keep him out there as a low-end WR2 this week.
Tee Higgins: Even though he wasn’t a full-time starter until Week 3, Higgins ranked as the No. 23 receiver in fantasy heading into his bye week. Since the time he joined the starting lineup in Week 3, through Week 8, he’d posted the ninth-most PPR points among receivers. He’s finished at least 62 yards and/or a touchdown in six straight games. The average reception against the Steelers goes for 14.59 yards, which is the third-highest mark in the NFL and bodes well for Higgins’ decent 13.2 air yards per target. It’s worth noting that he has the toughest matchup of the Bengals receivers, lining up at RWR the most, which is where Joe Haden plays. He’s a veteran cornerback who’s allowed just 22-of-43 passing for 300 yards and two touchdowns in his coverage this year. Higgins will some of Steven Nelson as well, who’s been just a step behind Haden but still solid. But when you look at the team as a whole, there are holes in the secondary, as they’ve allowed the sixth-most fantasy points per target to wide receivers. Higgins deserves the benefit of the doubt to be in your starting lineup as a WR3.
A.J. Green: Outside of the one game against the Ravens, Green has seen at least five targets in every game, though it hasn’t led to a touchdown just yet. He leads the NFL with 63 targets and no touchdowns. Coming into 2020, Green had caught a touchdown every 16.3 targets over the course of his career, so they’re bound to catch up at some point. Green has struggled to gain separation this year (tied with Kenny Golladay for dead last with 1.8 yards of separation), so it’s definitely a good thing that Burrow has been willing to throw into tight coverage on 22.4 percent of his passes, the most in the league among quarterbacks who’ve started at least four games. The Steelers have allowed plenty of fantasy points to wide receivers (12th-most in the NFL), though many receivers have relied on big plays. Green actually has the highest average depth of target among Bengals receivers, which is a bit surprising. Green has had some success over the years against the Steelers, but we’re at a different point of his career where we’re legitimately “hoping” for WR3 production rather than expecting it. For now, he should be treated as a middling WR4 who hasn’t done enough with his high target share to earn your trust.
Diontae Johnson: Another week has gone by, and another week we’ve learned that Johnson is getting an elite target share. He’s now seen at least 10 targets in four of the five full games he’s played. The downside is that he’s being targeted close to the line of scrimmage a lot of the time, which has led to just 10.0 yards per reception while Claypool has been stretching the field and getting splash plays. It’s also worth noting that Johnson played a season-high 21 snaps in the slot last week (his previous high this season was 7 snaps). The Bengals have faced three receivers who’ve seen 10-plus targets and the results were 8/128/1 by Corey Davis, 8/72/1 by Greg Ward, and 6/77/1 by Marquise Brown. The duo of LeShaun Sims and William Jackson have not been good, allowing 48-of-72 passing for 619 yards and seven touchdowns in their coverage. With Roethlisberger’s knee injuries, we could see him check down a bit more kind of like he did last week, which leads to a solid day for Johnson. He should be treated as a solid low-end WR2.
Chase Claypool: Remember when everyone panicked about the one target he had against the Titans? We talked about not panicking considering he played nearly all the snaps, which has certainly paid off. Over the last two weeks, he’s seen a team-high 22 targets, turning them into 13 receptions, 111 yards, and a touchdown. His 11.8-yard average depth of target leads the team, as do his 12 targets that have traveled 20-plus yards in the air. This is important because the Bengals have allowed 34 pass plays go for 20-plus yards, which is the third-most in the NFL. The perimeter cornerback duo of William Jackson and LeShaun Sims have allowed 12.9 yards per reception and a touchdown every 10.3 targets. Like all Steelers receivers, Claypool won’t always live up to his ranking because there are so many mouths to feed, but he needs to remain in lineups as a top-24 option.
JuJu Smith-Schuster: It seems that Smith-Schuster has regained his form over the last three weeks, racking up 29 targets, 22 receptions, 245 yards, and a touchdown. He’s now finished as a top-36 receiver in 5-of-8 games, including each of the last three. The Bengals slot cornerback is Mackensie Alexander, who’s struggled in coverage this year, allowing 22-of-27 passing for 228 yards and one touchdown in his coverage. That production has been spread out, though, as just one slot-heavy receiver has topped 54 yards against them, and that was Greg Ward when he was force-fed 11 targets in Week 3, totaling 8/72/1. We could see less downfield passing out of Roethlisberger this week with his knee injuries, which would surely benefit someone like Smith-Schuster who has just a 6.0-yard average depth of target. We’re going to struggle with the Steelers wide receivers nearly every week because they’re all guys you need to play, but they’re likely to cannibalize each other’s upside. Smith-Schuster should be in the high-end WR3 conversation.
Drew Sample: Despite not being the starter to begin the year, Sample went into his bye week ranking 10th among tight ends with 221 routes run. Unfortunately, his 0.79 yards per route run ranks as the eighth-worst among tight ends. He’s been targeted five-plus times in three games, and all of them were against teams who struggled with tight ends (Browns twice, Jaguars). Sadly, the Steelers are not a team that struggles against them. In fact, they’ve allowed a league-low 4.92 yards per target to them and have allowed just one touchdown on 63 targets to them. We haven’t even mentioned the piddly 49.2 percent completion-rate they’ve allowed to the position. Sample isn’t on the streaming radar.
Eric Ebron: Despite the Steelers’ wide receivers seeing tons of targets, Ebron has managed to see 5.9 targets per game since the start of Week 2. He’s totaled at least 43 yards and/or a touchdown in 6-of-7 games, which is rare for tight ends in today’s game. Vance McDonald tested positive for COVID, and not that he was taking much appeal from Ebron, it does free up another 1.4 targets per game. It surely helps to know that the Bengals opponents have targeted their tight end on 25.1 percent of passes, which ranks as the third-highest number in football. That’s been a major factor in them allowing 17.6 PPR points per game to tight ends, which ranks as the second-highest number in football. Prior to Jonnu Smith not running routes and not seeing targets (caught 2-of-2 targets for 29 yards), the Bengals had allowed three straight top-three tight end performances to Hunter Bryant, Trey Burton, and Mark Andrews. If he gets targets, he’ll produce in this game. Ebron should be squarely in the middle of the TE1 conversation.