The Primer: Week 9 Edition (2020 Fantasy Football)
This is typically the area where I write an intro on something to do with life, but I wanted to do something a bit different this week. I posted on Twitter earlier this week that I was going to do somewhat of an AMA at the top of The Primer this week, as I was hoping to give you a glimpse behind the curtain into who I am beyond fantasy analyst. Here are some of the questions that stood out.
How’s the book coming along? – @InternetNitWit on Twitter (and many others)
For those who don’t know, I started writing a novel two and a half years ago. The plan was to finish it last offseason, but with everything going haywire in the world and having my three-year-old at home, it prevented me from working on it as much as I wanted to. I’m currently 45,000 words into it, so if I had to guess, about halfway. Someone else asked me about what kind of novel it is, so I might as well let you know it’s fiction, probably in the psychological suspense or young adult sub-genre.
What veggies will you eat, if any? – @trevtron on Twitter
I’m a child when it comes to eating vegetables. My parents raised me to eat everything on my plate, so I vowed that once I got older, I wouldn’t put anything on my plate that I don’t want to eat. Potatoes and lettuce are solid, though.
What’s the biggest misconception about your job? What’s the most common question your family and new friends ask you when they find out what you do? – from @bankingruns on Twitter
The biggest misconception would be that it’s easy. There’s so much competition in the industry, so unless you want someone to steal your job, you better keep working. The most common question is “So, what do you do when the season is over?” or “Can you help me with my fantasy team?”
What golf irons do you use? What’s your handicap? – @jflesher on Twitter
I use Srixon irons now, though I didn’t get on the course at all this past summer. I’ve never taken the time to actually figure out my handicap, but if I had to estimate, it’s around a 15.
Are you finally willing to admit who the real GOAT is? – @MKetchen on Twitter
This question was submitted with a picture of Tom Brady. It really all comes down to how you define GOAT. He’s certainly the most accomplished quarterback and the most clutch one I’ve ever seen. However, if you’re going to say most talented of all-time, even Brady will tell you he isn’t that.
What’s your favorite movie to watch with your kids? – @HCFrost01 on Twitter
It’d have to be The Family Man. There’s something about that movie that just makes you appreciate things just a little bit more. You don’t need all the finer things to know that you have it all.
Best part of being a dad? – @silversimplex on Twitter
This is so hard to answer. I’ve written and deleted the answer over 10 times. I think it’s just something that you can’t put into words. You just love watching their personalities develop and then thinking to yourself, “I know exactly where that came from,” even if they don’t. It also warms your heart when they just walk over and say, “I love you, daddy.”
What’s your favorite video game? – @Jakkp0t on Twitter
I’m competitive as hell when it comes to video games and was at my peak of that during Call of Duty: Black Ops 2. That would probably be my favorite. I don’t have much time to play anymore, but when I do, I typically hop on some form of first-person shooter.
If you could wipe your memory clean of one TV show and re-watch it from the beginning, which show would it be? – @barbageddon_ on Twitter
This was such a great question; I actually called my wife over to ask her what she’d say. Ultimately, it would be either Breaking Bad or Dexter. I absolutely loved both shows, and am extremely happy that Dexter is coming back, because the way it “ended” was… well, not good. Ozark is definitely trending in the right direction, and I can’t wait to see how it ends.
Who are your top-12 first-round picks of all-time for TV characters? – @catfishmcfly on Twitter
There are so many great ones, but we have to take the length of the role they played into consideration: Michael Scott, Hank Moody, Ron Swanson, Jesse Pinkman, Walter White, Dwight Schrute, Dexter Morgan, Jim Halpert, Saul Goodman, Phil Dunphy, Andy Dwyer, and Tyrion Lannister.
How’s your mom doing? (a lot of you)
I want to thank everyone who reached out to me asking about her, as it means the world to me. I’m also happy to say that thanks to all of your positive thoughts/prayers that her procedure went extremely well and that she was able to go home last Sunday afternoon. It was ruled as a heart attack, so there’s still a road to recovery, but we’re happy to see her back at home.
This was fun and I hope to do it more in the future. Follow me on Twitter @MikeTagliereNFL, as I’m always trying to answer questions on there. We’ll get back to the normal intros next week!
So, what does The Primer offer? Anything you could ever want. Seriously, it’ll have wide receiver/cornerback matchups, recent history against each team, comparable player performances, unique stats, and most importantly, how they should be played that particular week. The idea here is to give you as much information and confidence as possible when you hit that ‘Submit Lineup’ button each week.
On top of all that, I’ll come back by Saturday morning to update once practice participation reports are posted. Still want more? We’ll be doing a livestream on our YouTube channel every Sunday morning from 11-12 EST, breaking down the inactives and letting you know which players benefit the most from them.
New York Giants at Washington Football Team
Line: WAS by 3.0
Daniel Jones: He played much better than anyone expected him to Monday night when he threw for 256 yards and two touchdowns against the Bucs. Not many have noticed, but the three full games he’s played with Sterling Shepard, he’s thrown two touchdowns in each of them, while throwing just one touchdown in the other five games combined. Jones is also starting to use his legs a lot more, as he’s totaled 273 rushing yards over the last six games, or 45.5 yards per game. Because of that, it needs to be noted that Washington has allowed the most fantasy points on the ground to quarterbacks through eight weeks, as they’ve allowed a massive 216 yards and four touchdowns to them. That’s why they’ve allowed the 13th fewest fantasy points per game. It would be a lot worse of a matchup if we removed the rushing, as they’ve allowed the fewest fantasy points through the air to quarterbacks. It certainly helps that they’ve been generating pressure that’s led to a boatload of sacks, as the 10.1 percent sack-rate suggests (second-highest in the NFL). Because of that, teams have chosen to drop back and pass just 51.7 percent of the time, which ranks as the third-lowest mark in the league. The three quarterbacks who’ve finished top-12 against Washington all had a rushing touchdown. These two teams played just three weeks ago where Jones threw for just 112 yards and one touchdown and rushed for 74 yards (he’s one of three quarterbacks to rush for 53-plus yards). With Shepard, he should fare much better in this game, but it hasn’t been a matchup to exploit with quarterbacks. He should be in the middling QB2 territory due to his rushing floor, but don’t play him looking for a ceiling, especially knowing his team has a 19.3-point implied total.
Kyle Allen: He’s played well in the chances he’s had this year, completing 68.8 percent of his passes while throwing four touchdowns to one interception. The concern would be that when leading in games, Washington is throwing the ball just 47 percent of the time, which is the fourth-lowest mark in football. It doesn’t happen much, but against the Giants, it might. When these two teams met in Week 6, we saw Allen complete 31-of-42 passes for 280 yards and two touchdowns. The hope is that Washington struggles to run the ball, leading to more pass attempts. Teams have thrown the ball just 57.8 of the time, which ranks 18th in the league, which is somewhat surprising considering they’ve allowed just 3.86 yards per carry on the ground with a touchdown every 44.0 carries, which are both well below average. The running backs combined for just 77 yards on 21 carries (3.67 yards per carry) in that Week 6 game, so it’s not like they didn’t try to run the ball. Given their time on the bye and the Giants coming off a Monday night game, they should have the advantage here, though there are enough question marks keeping Allen out of the top-15 conversation, though he’s a solid mid-to-low-end QB2 in Superflex formats.
Wayne Gallman and
Devonta Freeman: There appeared to be some holes for Gallman to run through against the Bucs, which is not something anyone would’ve expected. Have they figured out something up front on the offensive line? It’s odd because starting left guard Will Hernandez was out for the game. It could’ve been the Bucs playing a bit lackadaisical in the matchup they were expected to crush. They have another brutal matchup in Week 9 against Washington, the team who held their running backs to just 61 yards on the ground. There have been just two running backs all year who’ve totaled more than 61 yards on the ground against them, and those running backs were Nick Chubb (19 carries) and Kenyan Drake (20 carries). Between running backs, wide receivers, and tight ends, they’ve combined to score just 59.9 PPR points per game against Washington, which is the lowest in the NFL. The 3.84 yards per carry they’ve allowed ranks as the eighth-best mark in the league. You can’t even get much done in the passing game against them, as they’ve allowed just 3.93 yards per target to running backs, which is the second-lowest number in the NFL. If Freeman were to remain out, Gallman would get enough touches to get into high-end RB3 territory but lacks a high ceiling. If Freeman plays, it muddies the water quite a bit and moves both of them into iffy RB3/RB4 territory, as they may split touches with the way Gallman played last week. *Update* Freeman has been ruled out, making Gallman the surefire starter in this game.
Antonio Gibson and J.D. McKissic: We’ve monitored this timeshare throughout the weeks but now after a bye week, we should probably get a refresher. Here are the offensive snaps each of them has played through seven games:
There’s been a consistency to this backfield, though many feels it’s unpredictable. McKissic has run 52 more routes and has seen 10 more targets than Gibson, so he’s clearly the back who’d benefit from a negative gamescript, while Gibson is the one who has 84 carries to just 32 to for McKissic. In a game against the Giants, it should be a positive gamescript, or at least very closely contested. In their Week 6 game against each other, Gibson totaled 13 touches for 55 yards while McKissic also had 14 touches but his went for 84 total yards. The 3.86 yards per carry the Giants have allowed to running backs ranks as the ninth-lowest number in football, but the 6.61 yards per target ranks as the fifth-highest mark, so it makes sense that McKissic outproduced Gibson. The grey area here is that Washington is coming off their bye, which is the time to make bigger adjustments if you want to, so could they allow Gibson’s role to grow? It’s possible. The Giants have allowed six different running backs to finish as the RB14 or better, so the upside is there, though he’ll need to score or be more involved in the passing game. It’s worth noting that five of the six running backs who finished as the RB14 or better recorded at least three receptions and 39 yards through the air. Gibson should be considered a low-end RB2 who could see a bump out of the bye week, though we can’t rely on it. McKissic should produce a decent enough floor to be a low-end RB3, particularly in PPR formats.
Sterling Shepard: The streak continues. We’ve now gone 19 straight games with at least six targets for Shepard (not counting the game he needed to leave early vs. the Bears). In the three full games he’s played this year, Shepard has posted 6/47/0, 6/59/1, and 8/74/0. Those are great numbers for someone who’s somehow available in 50 percent of leagues. Some may look at the schedule and think, “Oh, great matchup this week against Washington.” On the contrary, the Football Team has allowed the fewest fantasy points per game (25.7) to the wide receiver position. Part of what crushes the value for receivers is that you find out they’ve been targeted just 16.0 times per game against Washington. Shepard will see a mix of the perimeter cornerbacks, so there’s not one matchup we should say he’ll have more than others. There have been eight receivers who’ve seen the six-plus targets that Shepard seems to be locked into, but just four of those receivers have finished as top-36 options. This is not a great matchup that you need to attack with Shepard, though he remains in high-end WR4 territory due to his steady flux of targets.
Darius Slayton: The Giants were really trying to work the ball down the field to Slayton on Monday night, though they just never connected. With Washington’s fierce pass-rush it seems unlikely that happens in Week 9. It was a good sign for his production that he saw nine targets with Shepard in the lineup, though. Of the production Washington has allowed to skill-position players, just 42.9 percent of it has gone to the wide receiver position, which is the second-lowest number in the league. They’re not a team that allows big performances to wide receivers, as evidenced by not one single receiver topping 86 yards against them. It’s not just that; they haven’t allowed touchdowns, either. The Bears are the only team that’s allowed fewer than the three touchdowns Washington has to wide receivers. It is worth noting that while Slayton did score in their Week 6 matchup, he finished with just two catches for 41 yards in that game. Believe it or not, that was the fifth-best game that Washington has allowed to wide receivers this season. He offers more one-play upside than Shepard, but if Slayton doesn’t hit that big play, he’ll be more of a disappointment. He should be considered a risk/reward WR4 in a tough matchup.
Terry McLaurin: He has a massive 29.6 percent target share in Washington’s offense, which ranks third in the NFL. Knowing they’re allowing Kyle Allen more freedom to pass the ball, McLaurin’s stock is through the roof. This week’s matchup isn’t great, though. The Giants have not been a great matchup for receivers to this point, as they’ve allowed just four receivers hit 15-plus PPR points on the season (excluding Brandon Aiyuk‘s rushing touchdown). Here’s the crazy part: All four receivers were slot-heavy, which is not something we’d call McLaurin, as he plays there just 28 percent of the time. Some will point at Mike Evans last week, but did you know they moved him into the slot 58 percent of the time in that game? What was the best perimeter performance against them? It was McLaurin’s 7/74/0 against them in Week 6, though it took him 12 targets to get there. The only receiver who topped McLaurin’s 74 yards against them was CeeDee Lamb, who saw 11 targets and plays almost all of his snaps in the slot. James Bradberry has been great for the Giants and has held some very good receivers in check this year, so we need to temper expectations, but you should still be starting McLaurin as a WR2 this week.
Evan Engram: They’re continually trying to get the ball into Engram’s hands, as he’s now totaled 19 targets and three carries over the last two weeks. He’s turned those opportunities into 119 total yards, so it wasn’t a complete waste. He’s still yet to score a receiving touchdown this year on 54 targets, while no other tight end has gone more than 26 targets without a touchdown. Of the production by skill-position players, tight ends have accounted for 25.0 percent of it against Washington, which is the highest mark in the league (no other team is over 22.7 percent). This is similar to how things were in Carolina under Ron Rivera, so his scheme allows for tight end production. Despite there being just two tight ends who’ve topped four targets against them, there have been four tight ends who’ve scored double-digit PPR points. Washington also lost safety Landon Collins to a torn Achilles, which could be considered a hit to their defense, though he hasn’t been particularly good in coverage this year. The downside is that these teams played just a few weeks ago and Engram saw just three targets, netting two catches for 30 yards. He’s due some positive touchdown regression, and knowing Washington has allowed a tight end touchdown every 9.4 targets, this could be his week. His recent surge in targets keeps him in the low-end TE1 conversation.
Logan Thomas: Remember when we stopped caring if Thomas was seeing the targets because they were so inefficient? He’d totaled just 106 yards and one touchdown on 32 targets with Dwayne Haskins under center, but things have changed a bit with Kyle Allen under center. He’s totaled 102 yards and two touchdowns over the last two games on just eight targets. I’m guessing his recent surge is going to earn him a higher target share moving forward. The Giants have been very good against perimeter wide receivers, so it would make sense for more targets to be funneled over the middle of the field. Thomas caught 3-of-4 targets for 42 yards and a touchdown in their first game against each other in Week 6. He’s one of four tight ends who’ve totaled 40-plus yards against them, but the odd part is that just one tight end has seen more than four targets against them. That tight end was Richard Rodgers, who caught 6-of-8 targets for 85 yards. The 8.09 yards per target suggests it’s not a bad matchup at all, though the volume needs to increase to give Thomas some wiggle room. He’s moving back up the streaming board and can be considered as a high-end TE2 this week.
Chicago Bears at Tennessee Titans
Line: TEN by 6.0
Nick Foles: I’m not going to lie – I’m fully expecting the Bears to turn back to Mitch Trubisky at some point, as Foles isn’t the answer they’d hoped. The defense continually keeps him in the game and puts him in good spots, but the offense has managed just 17.4 points per game over the last five games. Can he step up against a Titans defense that’s allowed an average of 31.3 points per game to their opponents over the last three weeks, including at least 27 points to each of their opponents (Texans, Steelers, Bengals)? Their pass rush is nearly non-existent, as evidenced by their measly 2.48 percent sack-rate, which is the lowest mark in the NFL. The Bears drop back to pass 65.3 percent of the time, which is the second-highest mark in the league, while the Titans opponents have thrown the ball 59.5 percent of the time, which is the 13th-highest mark in the league. There should be plenty of pass attempts available for Foles in this game. Still, knowing he offers nothing on the ground, it’s not like you’re ever going to confidently stream him. Volume has been somewhat necessary, as just two quarterbacks have averaged more than 7.5 yards per attempt against them, and just one has finished better than the No. 12 quarterback on the week. Foles should offer a decent floor in 2QB leagues, but I believe you can find better options with higher ceilings in standard 1QB leagues. It should also be noted that he may be without four starting offensive linemen for this game.
Ryan Tannehill: Another week goes by and another week Tannehill posts 17.3 fantasy points. That’s the precise number of points he’s scored in each of the last two games and is the mark he’s hit in 15-of-17 starts with the Titans. That might prove to be difficult against a Bears defense that has allowed just 5-of-23 quarterbacks hit that mark since the start of last year. In fact, only one quarterback (Patrick Mahomes) has broken the 20-point barrier. It’s pretty remarkable what they’ve done as a defensive unit, as there’s been just one quarterback to average more than 7.72 yards per attempt over those 23 games, and that was Jared Goff, who threw for 173 yards on just 18 attempts, so a very small sample size. This is a point where the team that continually breaks efficiency meets one that’s been extremely efficient themselves, as the Bears have allowed just 1.22 PPR points per play to opponents, which is the third-lowest mark in the league. They’re allowing a league-low 2.73 percent touchdown-rate and just 6.60 yards per attempt. It all amounts to just 0.356 fantasy points per actual pass attempt, which is the lowest number in the NFL. Looking at the two games Tannehill failed to hit his 17.3-point threshold as the starter, they’ve come against the Vikings in 2020 (odd, because they’ve allowed the fifth-most fantasy points to quarterbacks) and the Colts in 2019 (allowed the 11th-most points to quarterbacks). So, he’s stepped up even in tough matchups. Because of that, he remains in the high-end QB2 conversation, but he’s fighting an uphill battle for any upside this week.
David Montgomery: He ran extremely hard last week and looked better than usual… Still, it led to just 12.5 PPR points in the low-scoring Bears offense. His weighted opportunity ever since Tarik Cohen was lost for the season ranks as top-five among running backs, though we know his efficiency and lack of scoring opportunities moves him down the rankings. The Titans have allowed 4.66 yards per carry on the season, which ranks as the ninth-highest mark in the league, and it’s allowed two running backs (Dalvin Cook and James Robinson) to crack the 100-yard barrier on the ground. The issue is that Montgomery hasn’t topped 89 rushing yards all season and has topped 100 yards just twice in his 24 career games. He’s someone who needs work in the passing game to reach top-15 potential. Running backs have been targeted just 15.0 percent of the time against the Titans, which is the third-lowest percentage in the NFL, but knowing how often we’re projecting the Bears to drop back and pass in this game, Montgomery’s five-target floor he’s had over the last five weeks should be relatively safe. It is worth noting that no running back has been able to crack three receptions or 29 yards through the air against them. Montgomery should be considered a low-end RB2 who’s struggling to reach high-end RB2 territory due to lack of red zone trips for the Bears offense. The lone issue with him this week is that the Bears are going to have more backups than starters on the offensive line.
Derrick Henry: We’ve watched his carries come back down to earth a bit over the last four games, averaging a still-high 19.8 carries per game, but it’s down from the 27.3 carries per game he averaged in the first three games. It may not seem like much, but when he’s not really involved in the passing game, it does give him a downgrade. The Bears have been allowing 4.35 yards per carry on the ground, which is far from a shutdown defense. In fact, they’re flat-out average against the run, as they’ve also allowed a touchdown every 30.0 carries, which is right around the league average. They’ve limited production through the air to running backs, but we know better than to expect that out of Henry who has just 18 targets through seven games. There have been seven running backs who’ve totaled at least 12 carries against the Bears, and six of them averaged at least 4.00 yards per carry, including four of them who averaged at least 5.58 yards. There’s no reason to ever considering benching Henry, and the Bears defense is more worrisome against the pass than they are against the run.
Allen Robinson: Despite being listed as doubtful on Friday, Robinson was cleared for the game on Saturday, giving us questions about his role in the gameplan against the Saints. He overcame those questions, racking up six catches for 87 yards and a touchdown on seven targets. Despite failing to reach eight targets in Week 8, Robinson is one of just seven receivers who’ve seen eight-plus targets in 75 percent of their games. The Seahawks and Texans are the only two defenses who’ve allowed more fantasy points to skill-position players than the Titans. It surely helps wide receivers knowing that they’ve seen a league-high 65.3 percent target share against them. Speaking of the Seahawks, they’re the only team who’s allowed more fantasy points per game to wide receivers, as the Titans are allowing an average of 17.7 receptions, 199.7 yards, and 1.43 touchdowns per game to the position. There have already been 10 receivers who’ve amassed six-plus receptions against them, which is flat-out madness. Heck, there have been four receivers who’ve totaled at least nine receptions. Knowing the Bears pass-happy ways combined with the Titans strengths/weaknesses, Robinson should be in lineups as a rock-solid WR1.
Darnell Mooney: We’re slowly starting to see him morph into the Taylor Gabriel of Matt Nagy’s offense, which netted 141 targets over 25 games the last two years. That amounts to 5.6 targets per game, and Mooney has averaged 6.2 targets over the last six games. It hurts to know that the Titans are allowing just 11.27 yards per reception to receivers, which ranks as the third-lowest mark in the NFL, so the points they’re allowing to receivers are based on a lot of volume. The good news is that receivers have been targeted 25.6 times per game against the Titans, and that’s allowed them to score a massive 46.8 PPR points per game. Mooney has one-play upside, but Nick Foles is struggling to hit him in stride with much of anything. He is moving his way up into the WR4/5 conversation, though until Foles starts playing better, he can’t be trusted as anything more than that.
Anthony Miller: He was targeted a massive 11 times in the Week 8 game against the Saints, so it’s no surprise that he played a season-high 53 snaps in that game. Was it a product of them not thinking they’d have Allen Robinson available for that game, or has Matt Nagy decided to involve Miller more in the offense moving forward? We’ll see. Miller is running over 90 percent of his routes from the slot, so he’ll see Chris Jackson in coverage, a backup rookie cornerback who’s allowed 20-of-25 passing for 201 yards and two touchdowns in his coverage. He’s only playing because Kristian Fulton went to IR last week. His play is also the reason we saw the Titans trade for Desmond King at the trade deadline (who cannot play this week). Miller has a great matchup, but we’ve seen this before, meaning he shouldn’t be confidently played as anything more than a WR5.
A.J. Brown: He didn’t have the greatest individual performance in Week 8, though a late touchdown salvaged his fantasy day. Oddly enough, he still hasn’t seen 10 targets in a game this year, while Corey Davis has hit that mark in each of the last two games. The Bears defense has allowed just two wide receiver touchdowns all year, which is the fewest in the NFL. That’s over a span of 158 targets, so volume has been there (19.8 wide receiver targets per game). This is where efficiency meets its counterpart on the other side of the field, as Brown has always been a dominant point-per-target guy, while the Bears have allowed a minuscule 1.41 PPR points per target to receivers, which is nearly 10 percent better than any other team. Brown has the better matchup than Davis, as he’ll match up with rookie Jaylon Johnson, who has been good, but has still been beat at times. He’s allowed 111 yards after the catch, which is something that’s big for Brown. This isn’t a matchup to play Brown in DFS considering the Bears have still yet to allow more than 16.0 PPR points to a receiver, but you’re still playing him as a mid-to-low-end WR2 in redraft leagues.
Corey Davis: He’s now seen 10 targets in back-to-back games and has scored at least 11.9 PPR points in each of the five games he’s played in, giving us more and more confidence to start him on a weekly basis. Want to see something crazy? Look at this:
If that doesn’t highlight Davis’ value, I’m not sure what will, as they’ve both played five games this year. The targets are going to be necessary in this game against the Bears, who’ve allowed a piddly 7.49 yards per target and 58.9 percent completion-rate to receivers. Add in the fact that they’ve allowed just two receiver touchdowns, and you have what’s been the lowest PPR points per target (1.41) in the league. Making matters worse, he’ll see Kyle Fuller most of the time, who is the Bears best cornerback. He’s allowed just 5.06 yards per target and one touchdown on 47 targets in his coverage this year and is playing at a Pro Bowl level. Davis has clearly been undervalued by the fantasy community to this point, but this is a week that’s set up for disappointment, making him a high-end WR4.
Jimmy Graham: He’s now seen at least five targets in 7-of-8 games, which is fantastic for a tight end. He’s also failed to top 34 yards in 7-of-8 games, which is pretty bad for consistency. His four touchdowns have bailed out what’s been a horrendous 5.0 yards per target, so understand that when you start him, you’re doing it looking for a touchdown. It certainly helps knowing that he ranks No. 2 in the league with 11 red zone targets, including a league-high seven of them inside the 10-yard line. The Titans have allowed four touchdowns to tight ends through seven games, but it should be noted that teams have targeted tight ends 16 times in the red zone against them, which is the second-highest mark in the league. There have been just four tight ends who’ve seen more than three targets against the Titans, and in those games, they’ve allowed at least 11.0 PPR points to each of them, including Tyler Eifert and Darren Fells. Tight ends have been tough to predict this year, so when you have a tight end pretty much locked into five targets against a defense like the Titans, you should consider him as a decent low-end TE1 streamer.
Jonnu Smith: After a red-hot start, Smith has hit a wall over the last three weeks, totaling just four receptions for 51 yards… in the three games combined. His injury did force him to leave the game against the Texans early, but he’s now struggled in the two games since then, including last week in what was a great matchup against the Bengals. The Bears haven’t been a smash spot for tight ends, but it also hasn’t been a bad one this year, as we’ve seen four different tight ends finish with at least 51 yards against them. No tight end has totaled more than 65 yards, but there’s something to be said about the consistency. On top of those four tight ends who hit 51 yards, there were another three tight ends who found the end zone against them. The only tight end who didn’t finish with at least 7.1 PPR points against them was Ian Thomas, who saw one target. The bottom line is that the Bears are willing to allow a short reception (68.3 percent completion-rate), but they haven’t gone very far (9.81 yards per reception). Smith is someone who continually breaks tackles, but his recent performances are the biggest concern. He’s still in the TE1 conversation due to his efficiency combined with the tough matchup for the Titans receivers, but he’s no longer part of the elite conversation.
Detroit Lions at Minnesota Vikings
Line: MIN by 3.5
Matthew Stafford: Welcome to 2020, where Kareem Hunt busts against the Raiders and Stafford posts his best fantasy game against the Colts, while playing without Kenny Golladay for a majority of it. The good news is that we now have back-to-back 300-yard games for Stafford, which is a number he didn’t hit in any of his first five games. It’s unsure if the Vikings even have enough cornerbacks on their roster to cover in 3WR sets, but even with their cornerbacks semi-healthy, the Vikings have allowed a 6.75 percent touchdown-rate to their opponents this year, which is the fourth-highest number in the league. The once fearful Vikings defense has allowed at least 22 points to every one of their opponents, including 31-plus points to 3-of-7 opponents. They’ve allowed 5-of-7 quarterbacks to hit at least 8.3 yards per attempt against them this year, so it’s not just touchdowns. The only quarterbacks who failed to hit 20 fantasy points against the Vikings were Ryan Tannehill (threw for 325 yards but no touchdowns) and Philip Rivers (threw just 25 passes). If you go by solely passing production, the Vikings have allowed the third-most fantasy points per pass attempt. Stafford has been a disappointment for most of the year, but this matchup is about as good as it gets, even if he is without Golladay for this game. Consider him a high-end QB2 streaming option. *Update* Stafford was placed on the COVID list yesterday, but it’s reportedly due to close contact, and not because he contracted COVID himself. He still has a chance to play in this game, so don’t automatically rule him out. We won’t learn of his status until Sunday morning.
Kirk Cousins: When involved in a game that has a neutral gamescript, the Vikings are passing the ball just 46 percent of the time, which is the second-lowest mark in the league. In fact, there are just four teams who are under 52 percent. This is bad news considering the Vikings are 3.5-point favorites. Overall, the Vikings pass the ball on just 50.4 percent of their plays, while the Lions opponents have thrown the ball just 54.6 percent of the time, which is the seventh-lowest number in the league. It’s been really hit-or-miss with Cousins this year, as he’s scored 19.4-plus points in three games but has finished with less than 15 fantasy points in each of the other four games. Prior to last week against the Colts, the Lions had held three of their last four opponents to 23 points or less, so it’s tough to say this game could/should be a shootout, especially knowing Stafford is without Kenny Golladay. The Lions have also been continually gashed by running backs, which is another ding in the negative column for Cousins. The glaring positive is that no quarterback has finished outside the top-20 against the Lions, and they’ve allowed at least 15.5 fantasy points to each of the seven quarterbacks they’ve played. You need the Lions to come out and throw a lot of points on the board for Cousins to be more than a middling QB2 this week, which is not something to expect out of an offense that’s in the bottom half of the league in scoring. It’s possible, but Cousins’ floor is too low to move him into the must-stream territory.
D’Andre Swift and Adrian Peterson: This backfield continues to disappoint for fantasy, and though some will point out Swift’s 38 snaps and compare it to Peterson’s 12/Kerryon Johnson‘s 11, what do you expect in a game they were trailing by double digits? Swift has the receiving role locked down, as evidenced by his 106 routes on the year while neither Peterson or Johnson have more than 62. Touches, that’s what you want to look at. Here is their weighted opportunity by week:
Swift has been getting a bigger role since their bye week, but it’s far from a workhorse role. His 20.5 average of weighted opportunity in those games is equal to guys like Antonio Gibson and Kenyan Drake. They’re all in the low-end RB2/high-end RB3 conversation most weeks, but far from locks. The Vikings have faced a ridiculously high 31.1 running back touches per game, so there may be enough opportunity to go around this week. In fact, there was just one game where they didn’t play a running back who totaled at least 16 carries against them. Peterson played against his former team last year while with Washington and ran for 76 yards on 14 carries. If Swift gets the touch share he has over the last three weeks (39-of-80), he should leave this game with 15 touches, which puts him in the mid-to-low-end RB2 territory. And you can argue that with Golladay out, we may see him get more targets. The lone warning sign is that the Vikings allow the 10th-fewest points per weighted opportunity to running backs. Peterson should be in the low-end RB3 territory during bye weeks as the running back who’s most likely to lead this team in carries, though he lacks upside.
Dalvin Cook: Holy explosion, Batman! Cook returned from his injury and bye week and decided to light the fantasy world on fire. He racked up 226 total yards and four touchdowns against the Packers, netting the biggest fantasy performance of the year (48.6 PPR points) for running backs. Even looking at last year, his performance would’ve been the No. 2 performance on the year. He goes from one juicy matchup to another, as the Lions have allowed 32.1 PPR points per game to the running back position. Of the production they’ve allowed to running backs, wide receivers, and tight ends, 39.7 percent has gone to the running back position, which ranks as the third-most in the NFL. The only team who’s allowed more total touchdowns to the running back position than the Lions is… the Packers. You know, the team that Cook just dismantled? Who do you think has the No. 2 running back fantasy performance of this year? Aaron Jones. Do you know who he played when he scored 45.6 PPR points? The Lions. He’s one of four running backs who’ve scored multiple touchdowns against the Lions this year. They’ve played just seven games. Cook is a rock-star RB1 and someone you should play in DFS if you can afford him.
Kenny Golladay: He’s been announced as out for this game and is likely going to miss an extended period of time.
Marvin Jones: After starting out the year extremely slow where he totaled just 146 yards and one touchdown over the first five games combined, Jones has found his stride over the last two weeks, racking up 119 yards and two touchdowns. With Kenny Golladay out, we should expect to see six-plus targets in every game for Jones, and in this matchup, you should be very excited about that. The Vikings have allowed a league-leading 15 touchdowns to wide receivers through seven games, or 2.14 per game. Seriously, they’ve allowed a touchdown every 9.6 targets to wide receivers, which is a tad ridiculous. If you have a receiver who’s going to be targeted a lot against the Vikings, you kind of have to play him considering they’ve allowed a ridiculous 2.24 PPR points per target to the position. Their cornerback depth chart is completely decimated. I’m not kidding; take a look at this:
|Mike Hughes||Hurt, IR|
|Holton Hill||Hurt, DNP last week|
If you have Jones, he should probably be in your lineup, as the Vikings are running out of bodies to put on the field. Consider him a stable WR3 who has top-12 upside this week.
Marvin Hall: He came out of nowhere and saw seven targets last week, though it’s not likely he’s here to stay in the fantasy conversation. He’s a fourth-year player who’s never seen more than 19 targets in a season, and he hadn’t seen more than two targets in a game this year prior to Week 8. The Vikings are a team to attack with wide receivers, as they’ve allowed the second-most fantasy points per target (2.24) to wide receivers this season. Still, I wouldn’t be shocked if Quintez Cephus is active for this game and cuts into the production. Without the 73-yard reception that Hall had late garbage time, he was held to three catches for 40 yards the remainder of the contest. I’d prefer to make him do it again before trusting him as anything more than a risky WR5.
Danny Amendola: He’s quietly totaled at least 54 yards in three of the last four games, and he’s done that while seeing just 13 targets in the four games combined. With Golladay out in Weeks 1 and 2, Amendola was a much bigger part of the pass attack, seeing seven targets in each of those two games. If he gets that against a Vikings secondary that’s allowed 2.24 PPR points per target on the season, we’ll be into starting territory. The cornerback the Vikings had in the slot was Mike Hughes, who is on IR, which has moved Jeff Gladney to that spot. In his coverage, he’s allowed 30-of-42 passing for 450 yards and five touchdowns. There are just two cornerbacks in the NFL who’ve allowed more yards in their coverage. Amendola seems like a solid choice for a fantasy team who wants a high-floor streamer who’ll likely deliver top-45 numbers in a PPR format. There have already been 12 wide receivers who’ve finished as the WR41 or better against the Vikings this year.
Adam Thielen: Here are the fantasy finishes by Thielen in half PPR formats this year: 3, 87, 36, 5, 5, 20, 60. It’s kind of like Kirk Cousins, so it makes sense. When your offense is averaging just 27.0 pass attempts per game, this is bound to happen. The Lions don’t have a shutdown cornerback like Jaire Alexander, and that’s why we’ve seen eight different receivers rack up 15-plus PPR points against them this year, including 20-plus points to four of them. Thielen will run most of his routes against rookie Jeff Okudah this week, their No. 3 overall pick who’s struggled a bit in coverage, though he’s yet to allow a touchdown in his coverage. He’s allowing a fairly high 9.89 yards per target in his coverage, which is what we look for consistency. If the alignment remains the same, Thielen has a better matchup than Jefferson this week, so plug him in as a high-end WR2 and hope for a bounce-back performance.
Justin Jefferson: It’s been extremely hit-or-miss for the rookie Jefferson, who’s finished as a top-30 wide receiver three times but has also finished outside the top-65 receivers in four games. Just like Thielen, they’re victims of an offense that throws the ball just 27.0 times per game. Against the Lions, receivers have averaged 21.4 targets per game, which would be more than enough for Jefferson to produce, as the Vikings are a very top-heavy target team. Receivers have seen 61.2 percent of targets that opponents have thrown, which is the fifth-highest mark in the NFL. If only they’d move Jefferson back into the slot a bit more, as it’d give him a great matchup. The issue is that Jefferson is running about 75 percent of his routes on the perimeter now, which means he’ll see a lot of Amani Oruwariye in coverage, the Lions best cornerback to this point, as he’s seen the same number of targets as Jeff Okudah, but allowed 121 fewer yards. Jefferson is a boom-or-bust WR3 in fantasy right now, though it helps to know the Vikings team-implied total is 28.3 points.
T.J. Hockenson: We saw a massive bump in Hockenson’s usage as soon as Golladay left the lineup last week, and it led to the second-highest targeted game of his career. He turned 10 targets into 7/65/0 against the team (Colts) who’ve been better against tight ends than anyone in the league. The matchup gets much better in Week 9 and we already know Golladay is out. The Vikings have allowed the 17th-most fantasy points per game to tight ends, which is obviously right around the league average, but that doesn’t tell the whole story. They’ve allowed a league-high 11.9 yards per target to tight ends, which is 13.4 percent higher than any other team in the league. Teams have essentially chosen to throw to their receivers rather than tight ends, but not because they can’t. When they’ve allowed a tight end reception, they’ve gone for an average of 15.25 yards, which is also the highest mark in the league. There have been three tight ends who’ve seen at least five targets against the Vikings, and here are their totals: Mo Alie Cox 5/111/0, Robert Tonyan 5/79/0, and Jonnu Smith 5/61/0. That’s not even including Hayden Hurst‘s 4/57/1 on four targets in Week 6. Hockenson should be locked into lineups as a rock-solid TE1 this week who’s seen five targets inside the five-yard line, the most in the NFL.
Irv Smith: After running 31-plus routes in each of the last two games, we saw that dialed back in a big way in Week 8 when the Vikings were in a positive gamescript. That’s a swing and miss for tight end streamers because no one expected the Vikings to win that game. The Vikings are favorites here, which does not bode well for the projected pass attempts. We still haven’t seen a Vikings tight end top five targets all year, so it’s not like you’re getting a massive ceiling while taking on that risk. The Lions have not been a matchup that you need to target with tight ends, either, as there hasn’t been one who’s finished with more than 12.8 PPR points all season. In fact, the only tight end who totaled more than 25 yards against them was Hayden Hurst when he finished with 6/68/0 on seven targets. He’s the only tight end who’s finished with more than three receptions as well, so feel free to pass on Smith this week.