The Primer: Week 9 Edition (2020 Fantasy Football)
Carolina Panthers at Kansas City Chiefs
Line: KC by 10.5
Teddy Bridgewater: It was a sloppy game between the Panthers and Falcons last year while playing in the rain, and it clearly affected Bridgewater’s performance, finishing with just 12.0 fantasy points. It was the fourth time this year where he’s scored fewer than 15 fantasy points, so his fantasy floor is not something you’re streaming him for. The Chiefs are the NFL’s best defense when it comes to fantasy points allowed per offensive snap. Every play nets just 1.18 PPR points, while a team like the Falcons have allowed a league-leading 1.72 PPR points per play. The Chiefs have allowed the third-fewest fantasy points per actual pass attempt, behind only the Bears and the Rams, so their pass defense is legit. They’ve allowed just a 60.1 percent completion-rate, which ranks second to only the Steelers. Bridgewater hasn’t flashed much mobility at this point in his career, but the Chiefs have allowed the fourth-most fantasy points on the ground to quarterbacks this year. That’s ultimately the reason they’ve allowed three quarterbacks to finish with 20-plus points, but if you remove rushing production, the only quarterback who posted 15-plus points against them was Derek Carr when he threw for 347 yards and three touchdowns in Week 5. So, it’s not impossible, though it’s also not likely that Bridgewater gets into the QB1 conversation. It’s a low floor for him when you see that 5-of-8 quarterbacks have averaged 6.35 or less yards per attempt. He should be considered a middling QB2 who has a limited ceiling. We’ve also found out that he’ll be without his starting left tackle, Russell Okung.
Patrick Mahomes: I think every now and then, the Chiefs like to remind the league what they’re capable of. Week 8 was one of those games, as Mahomes crushed the Jets for 416 yards and five touchdowns. What if I told you the Panthers have allowed a touchdown on just 3.13 percent of pass attempts this year? When you combine that with the minimal 6.64 yards per attempt, and you have a defense that’s allowed just 0.373 fantasy points per actual pass attempt, which ranks as the fourth-lowest mark in the league. When they do allow a pass, it goes for an average of just 9.60 yards, which is the lowest number in the NFL. I mentioned it last week, but part of this feels like a hoax, as they’re one of four teams who’ve failed to generate a sack on at least 3.5 percent of their opponents dropbacks. They’ve sacked the opposing quarterback just 2.70 percent of the time. No one else with a sack-rate of less than 5.10 percent has allowed fewer than 7.09 yards per attempt. The Jets only pressured Mahomes 19.0 percent of the time last week, and we saw what happened. When in a clean pocket, Mahomes has a 129.2 QB Rating, which is second to only Russell Wilson. Start him as a you normally would, as the matchup might be better than what it looks like on paper. He’s accounted for 23 of the 27 Chiefs offensive touchdowns they’ve had this year and they’re a team that’s projected for over 30 points.
Christian McCaffrey and Mike Davis: We should have back the No. 1 pick in fantasy drafts for this game, which is great news for all football fans. For those who wondered about a potential timeshare with Davis playing as well as he was, the last three weeks likely brought you back down to earth. You don’t pay McCaffrey the money they did to be part of a big timeshare. It’s been a while, so let me remind you of why McCaffrey was the No. 1 pick in fantasy drafts.
|Week||Rush Yds||RuTD||Rec Yds||ReTD||Total Yds||PPR Pts|
Yeah, he’s simply dominant, and it didn’t stop in the new offensive scheme, as he totaled 53.3 PPR points through the first two games, which included a game against the Bucs. Meanwhile, the Chiefs have allowed 153.5 total yards per game to running backs. Many will look at their ranking as the team who’s allowed the 11th fewest fantasy points to running backs, but that has a lot to do with lack of touchdowns, as the 4.66 yards per carry and 6.59 yards per target they’ve allowed to running backs are both above the league average. Also, let’s not pretend that McCaffrey won’t score. Get him back in lineups as an elite RB1 and expect results.
Clyde Edwards-Helaire and Le’Veon Bell: This backfield has been anything but potent this year, though much of it comes down to a lack of volume, as they’ve averaged a pedestrian 26.0 touches per game. Last week was the first one Edwards-Helaire hasn’t finished as a top-30 running back, so he’s delivered a floor, but not much of a ceiling. Will that change this week against the Panthers? A massive 41.7 percent of the fantasy points scored by skill-position players against them has come via the running back position. The Packers are the only team who’s allowed a higher percentage. When you look at fantasy points allowed to wide receivers, 31 teams in the league have allowed more points to wide receivers, but the Panthers are close to not being in that group, as they’ve allowed just 1.15 PPR more points per game to wide receivers than running backs. There should be a lot of production to be had in this game out of this backfield. What if I told you that running backs outscore quarterbacks by a full 14.62 PPR points per game against the Panthers? That’s the second-highest number in the NFL. A lot of damage is done on the ground, as evidenced by the 4.67 yards per carry and touchdown every 20.3 carries, but they’ve also allowed 13.1 PPR points per game through the air to running backs, which is one of the highest marks in the league. Edwards-Helaire did play twice the number of snaps that Bell did last week, so we should still be expecting 15-plus touches out of Edwards-Helaire against a Panthers team that’s faced 30.1 running back touches per game. Through eight games, they’ve allowed seven running backs to score 13.7-plus PPR points and finish as top-20 options, including five top-three performances. Edwards-Helaire should be back in lineups as a low-end RB1/high-end RB2 this week who should bounce back. As for Bell, he’s a bit trickier, as he played just 17 snaps last week and saw nine opportunities. There hasn’t been a game this year where Bell has seen more than 14 touches, and he’s been held to less than 10 in 3-of-4 games. The matchup is good enough to allow production to multiple backs, so he can be placed into the RB3 conversation, though he’s far from a lock for production.
Robby Anderson: The finishing stat line (5/48/0) was nothing worth writing home about, but Anderson saw eight targets, which bring him to eight-plus targets in 6-of-8 games this year. He’s also totaled at least 74 yards in 6-of-8 games, so even though he didn’t live up to our low-end WR1 expectations last week, he remains in that conversation with the numbers he’s posting. The next issue is the Chiefs defense, though, as they’ve continually been better than anyone thinks. They’ve allowed the second-fewest fantasy points per target (1.56) to wide receivers this year. Since the start of last year when they moved to their 4-3 base defense, they’ve allowed just 124.4 yards per game to the wide receiver position, which is the lowest in the NFL. Targets haven’t made a world of difference, either, as the 7.25 yards per target they’ve allowed to receivers is the lowest mark in the league, as is the 58.5 percent completion-rate. It’s crazy to say but no receiver has finished better than the WR23 against the Chiefs this year, and there have been nine wide receivers who’ve seen at least seven targets. Anderson should still be played, but he’s more of a low-end WR2 this week.
D.J. Moore: It seems like it’s been a disappointing season for Moore to this point, right? Well, his current 16-game pace is 66 receptions, 1,244 yards, and six touchdowns. His totals last year were 87 receptions, 1,175 yards, and four touchdowns. So, he’s a lot more volatile in his receptions, but is on pace for more yards and touchdowns. In the end, he’ll probably finish with better numbers, but there’s a volatility involved with a player who’s seen in-between four and six targets in 5-of-8 games. Despite that, he ranks fifth in the NFL in air yards. The lack of elite targets to Moore is problematic in a matchup like this, as the Chiefs have allowed the fewest yards per target (7.25) to wide receivers this year. Since the start of 2019, the Chiefs have allowed a league-low 124.4 yards per game to wide receivers. Because of that, we’ve seen just seven wide receivers finish as top-36 options against them. The Chiefs haven’t had their bye week yet, so that’s eight games worth of wide receivers, so less than one top-36 wide receiver per game. There were, however, two games where they allowed two top-36 wide receivers, so it’s not impossible for Anderson and Moore to finish there. But understand that no receiver has finished a game with 20 PPR points against them, so the ceiling is somewhat limited. Moore has the tougher matchup too, as he’ll see Bashaud Breeland in coverage, a cornerback who’s allowed just six catches for 44 yards on 12 targets in his coverage this year. Moore should remain in the WR3 conversation, but he’s far from a lock for top-30 production.
Curtis Samuel: He’s totaled 16 targets and eight carries over the last three games, which amounts to 8.0 opportunities per game. That’s enough to be in the fantasy conversation every week and is why his Week 8 game wasn’t really a fluke. He hasn’t topped six targets since Week 1, so it’s not like he’s an auto-start or someone who gives you a massive ceiling, but during bye weeks, he can be considered. The issue is that the Chiefs have been one of the better teams against wide receivers, allowing the fourth-fewest fantasy points per game to them. There have been two slot-heavy receivers who’ve finished as top-36 options against them, but both saw at least seven targets, a number we shouldn’t be counting on for Samuel. Knowing there have been just five wide receivers who’ve totaled 50-plus yards against them, you can find higher floor options than Samuel this week.
Tyreek Hill: He’s still yet to record a 100-yard game this year, yet he’s the No. 5 receiver in PPR formats. Crazy, right? Will his touchdown luck run out? He’s now scored at least one touchdown in 7-of-8 games, averaging a touchdown every 7.6 touches. As odd as it may sound, the Panthers have allowed the 11th-fewest fantasy points per game to their opponents, and wide receivers have accounted for just 43.3 percent of the skill-players production against them, which is tied for the third-lowest mark in the league. They’ve allowed just five touchdowns on 150 targets this season, which includes two games against the Falcons, one against the Bucs, Chargers, and Cardinals. Those are some teams with some big-name receivers. Now, to be fair, it’s been very boom-or-bust to wide receivers, as there have been four receivers who’ve totaled 100-plus yards through the air, while every other receiver has finished with 65 or less yards. What did the four 100-yard receivers have in common? They all saw at least 10 targets. There’s only one receiver on the Chiefs who’s seen 10-plus targets in a game this year, and that’s Hill, who has two such games. Start him as a WR1 despite the tougher matchup than most believe.
Sammy Watkins or Demarcus Robinson: We don’t know if he’ll be ready to play in this game, but whenever a wide receiver misses multiple weeks with a soft tissue injury, you should be cautious about playing them. Through eight games, the Panthers have allowed just six top-36 wide receivers against them, so it’s far from a matchup that you should feel necessary to take on risk. Robinson would take Watkins’ place if he’s held out once again, but again, this matchup is not the Jets and you shouldn’t feel compelled to start him.
Mecole Hardman: There will be many coming here to see whether Hardman is worth a start after his nine-target game that produced 7/96/1 against the Jets. Here are the routes he’s run along with the targets he’s received in every game this year:
There is nothing there indicating he should be trusted under any circumstance. The Jets are a funnel defense, and the Chiefs took advantage of that. The Panthers are a reverse funnel defense that allows a lot more production to the running backs. Hardman is a boom-or-bust WR5 option until we see him run more than 30 routes in back-to-back games.
Ian Thomas: He saw his second-highest target total of the season in Week 8… which amounted to a whole three targets. He hasn’t caught more than three balls or topped 28 yards all season and has just one touchdown through eight games. The Chiefs have also allowed the 10th-fewest fantasy points to tight ends this season. You don’t need to consider Thomas at this point.
Travis Kelce: Through eight games, Kelce is currently on pace for 96 receptions, 1,120 yards, and 12 touchdowns. If he kept up that pace, it would be the second-best fantasy season of his career. If you removed the snow game, he’s totaled at least 70 yards and/or a touchdown in every game. This week is going to be a tough test, though. The Panthers have allowed just 8.08 yards per reception to tight ends, which is the lowest number in the league, while no other team has allowed less than 8.88 yards per reception. They’ve played against Darren Waller, Jared Cook, Hunter Henry, Rob Gronkowski, Hayden Hurst twice, and Jimmy Graham, yet they have not allowed a tight end more than 54 yards or 12.2 PPR points. This defensive scheme under Phil Snow has slowed down opposing pass attacks, and though they’ve allowed a few big games to wide receivers, we haven’t seen it to tight ends just yet. It may not be worth it to pay up for Kelce in DFS this week, but he’s still a high-end TE1 in redraft formats.
Houston Texans at Jacksonville Jaguars
Line: HOU by 7.0
Deshaun Watson: It was a shame the streak had to stop for their bye week, as Watson has thrown for 300-plus yards in each of their last four games. He’s also thrown for 11 touchdowns over those four games and was the No. 2 quarterback during Weeks 4-7. The Jaguars have allowed the second-most fantasy points per offensive play, behind only the Falcons. The 8.45 yards per attempt they’ve allowed is the third-highest mark in the NFL, which is surely aided by the fact that they’ve allowed a massive 71.6 percent completion-rate. Watson is usually under pressure, but that shouldn’t be too much of an issue this week, as the Jaguars have netted a sack on just 2.48 percent of dropbacks, which is tied for the lowest number in the league. Teams have been able to choose whichever way they want to beat the Jaguars, and even though they’ve allowed the fourth-most fantasy points per game to quarterbacks, teams have thrown the ball just 52.5 percent of the time against them. Meanwhile, the Texans have thrown the ball on 63.4 percent of plays. Now that we know Will Fuller remains at his disposal, starting Watson as a high-end QB1 is the play.
Jake Luton: In case you haven’t heard, Gardner Minshew has multiple fractures in his throwing hand, and also a strained ligament that has led to him being ruled out. That will lead to them starting Luton, a sixth-round rookie who averaged just 7.1 yards per attempt in college, at Oregon State. He did throw 38 touchdowns to just seven interceptions in his final two seasons, so he did play the game manager role well by not turning the ball over. He has no mobility at all and struggles to work through his progressions, so it could lead to a lot of sacks. He gets a great matchup, as the Texans have generated the 11th-lowest average pressure rate, while generating a sack on just 6.3 percent of dropbacks. Their defense has allowed the third-most total fantasy points per game to opponents, right behind the Seahawks and Falcons. Quarterbacks have thrown a touchdown on 7.14 percent of their pass attempts, which ranks as the second-highest mark in the NFL. They’ve allowed at least 17.1 fantasy points to 6-of-7 quarterbacks they’ve played this year, including Minshew who threw for 301 yards and two touchdowns in their Week 5 matchup. Look, you’re just hoping Luton can be competent against a below-average defense in 2QB leagues, and that’s about it.
David Johnson: Despite not having a 100-yard game on the ground and not topping 42 yards through the air, Johnson remains as the No. 18 running back in fantasy. The best trait is reliability at the running back position, and Johnson has delivered that. He’s totaled at least 15 opportunities in every game, including at least 18 of them in each of his last four games. That should continue in Week 9, now fresh off his bye week, and against a Jaguars defense that’s faced an average of 31.1 running back touches per game, which ranks top-six in the NFL. Even better, it’s amounted to fantasy points, as they’ve allowed the seventh-most points per opportunity. They’ve allowed at least 11.5 PPR points on seven different occasions, which is the second-highest mark in the NFL. Why is that number significant? It’s the average number it took to get into top-24 (RB2) territory last year. They’ve allowed nine different running backs to finish as the RB26 or better through just seven games, including three top-four performances. Johnson himself finished as the RB25 in Week 5, totaling a season-high 96 rushing yards in that game, though he didn’t score, limiting his upside. That was one of just two games all year he finished with more than 3.1 yards per carry, and there should be plenty of scoring opportunities, as the Texans are projected for a robust 28.5 points. There have been three running backs who’ve scored multiple touchdowns against them. Start Johnson as a high-end RB2 this week.
James Robinson: It’s kind of crazy to see the insane touch share that Robinson has in this backfield, as he’s totaled 134 of 156 available touches. With a rookie quarterback under center, they’re likely going to try and run the ball early, which can be done against the Texans. As a whole, the only team that’s allowed more points to skill-position players than the Texans is the Seahawks. Running backs have managed to rack up a league-leading 5.65 yards per carry against the Texans, which is flat-out ridiculous. There’s just one other team in the league allowing more than 4.97 yards per carry. It’s not just that, either, as they’ve allowed a rushing touchdown every 20.8 carries, which is the fourth-most often. They’ve allowed a league-high 159.7 PPR points on the ground to running backs, which amounts to 22.8 PPR points per game, and is more than 13 teams allow to running backs as a whole. We all know that Robinson gets like 90 percent of the Jaguars running back touches, right? Well, the Texans have allowed 188.6 total yards to running backs this year, which is easily the highest number in the NFL. Are you ready for the only bad news? Robinson played them in Week 5 and struggled to do much of anything, rushing for just 48 yards on 13 carries, though he did salvage his fantasy day by hauling in five passes for 22 yards. The Jaguars and the Packers (without Aaron Jones) were the only two teams whose running backs failed to rush for at least 149 yards against the Texans. Let’s call that a blip on the radar for Robinson, who should deliver RB1 numbers this week.
Will Fuller: After all that trade talk, he didn’t go anywhere. That’s a good thing for his fantasy managers, as we know exactly what we have in Houston. Despite his big fat zero in Week 2, Fuller sits as the No. 18 wide receiver in PPR formats. He’s scored in five straight contests, which is bound to stop at some point, though it’s tough to say that happens against the Jaguars. Surprisingly, they have allowed just six wide receiver touchdowns on the year (sixth-fewest), but I do believe part of that comes down to how poorly they’ve played against running backs, allowing nine touchdowns to them. Their defense has allowed at least 30 points to each of their last six opponents and the Texans have a 28.5-point team total, so there’s going to be plenty of opportunities. The most important number to look at is the 9.25 yards per target they’ve allowed to receivers, which is the sixth-highest mark in the league. In their first meeting, Fuller caught 4-of-8 targets for 58 yards and a touchdown. He should be in lineups as a WR2.
Brandin Cooks: Since Bill O’Brien was let go, the Texans have made it a point to get Cooks involved in the offense, as he’s seen a massive 30 targets over their last three games. During that three-game stretch from Week 5-7, he was the No. 3 receiver in fantasy, behind only A.J. Brown and Chase Claypool. He’s playing all over the formation, including the slot, so it’s not like there’ll be one cornerback he’ll see more than most. There have been 12 wide receivers who’ve posted double-digit PPR games against the Jaguars, all finishing as top-42 options in those weeks, or high-end WR4s as the floor. Remember that game where Cooks went bananas and caught eight balls for 161 yards and a touchdown? Yeah, that was against these Jaguars. Go ahead and start him as a high-end WR3 who should arguably be higher with his recent target share.
Randall Cobb: You may have missed it because he went into his bye week after Week 7, but he finished with a season-high 10 targets in their game against the Packers, racking up a season-high eight receptions and 95 yards. That was an outlier in what’ve been moderate target totals for Cobb, as he’s seen in-between 3-6 targets in every other game, including the last game against the Jaguars where he caught 6-of-6 targets for 47 scoreless yards. The Jaguars now have Tre Herndon covering the slot, and he’s done a competent job, allowing 7-of-12 passing for 95 yards and a touchdown over the three games he’s been there. Teams can pick-and-choose their matchups against the Jaguars, so would it surprise anyone if Cobb produced like a WR3/4? Nah, but he’s clearly third in the pecking order in a game they should win pretty handily. He should be considered a WR5 with a decent floor.
D.J. Chark: We’ve heard Chark complaining about the quarterback play, so let’s see if it gets better with Luton under center. The real issue with projecting Chark is the fact that his target totals have been all over the board, ranging from as low as three targets to as many as 14 targets. He’s seen four or less targets more than he’s seen eight-plus targets, which isn’t great with a rookie making his first start, though we could see him latch onto one receiver, and Chark would make the most sense. Many have missed the fact that the Texans have allowed the third-most fantasy points per target to wide receivers because they’ve been so bad against the run, so it almost goes overlooked. They’ve also allowed a league-high 71.9 percent completion-rate to wide receivers. None of that helped Chark in their last matchup when he totaled a season-low 16 yards on just four targets, and that was in a game Minshew threw for 301 yards. There have been just four receivers who’ve been targeted eight-plus times against the Texans, and every one of them totaled at least 14.9 PPR points and finished as a top-25 receiver. Can we confidently project that for Chark? Not really. He should be treated as a risk/reward WR3 with Luton under center, as we legitimately have no idea what to expect.
Keelan Cole: Did you realize that Cole is the No. 35 wide receiver in PPR formats? The craziest part about it is that he’s totaled more than 58 yards just once all season. He’s been somewhat consistent, totaling at least four catches and 43 yards in 5-of-7 games, though the two where he didn’t have come in the last three weeks. We learned that Minshew was trying to play through an injury, so that couldn’t have helped. Will Luton be able to keep Cole in the fantasy conversation? The fact that Cole has seen at least five targets in 6-of-7 games suggests he’s a big part of Jay Gruden’s offensive scheme, regardless of matchup. The Texans have safety Eric Murray covering the slot right now, and he’s done a poor job, allowing 22-of-27 passing for 281 yards and two touchdowns in his coverage. If you go back to the Week 6 meeting with these teams, Cole scored a touchdown, but should’ve had another had Minshew not overthrown him. There is some appeal in this matchup, but there’s also a ton of uncertainty with Luton under center, making him a risky WR4.
Laviska Shenault: We were trending in the right direction with Shenault, who has gone 4, 4, 6, 6, 8, and 7 targets over the first six weeks, but saw just three targets in Week 7. He’s topped 44 receiving yards just twice all season, and it’s hard to see that getting better as the third option with a rookie quarterback under center. The good news is that Bradley Roby is likely to cover D.J. Chark in this game, which would leave Shenault with Vernon Hargreaves in coverage. It was a similar situation in Week 5 when Shenault posted a career-high seven receptions for 79 yards against them. Hargreaves has allowed a 106.1 QB Rating in his coverage over the course of his four-plus year career, so it’s a big sample size. The downside is that we have no idea what to expect out of Luton and it’s highly unlikely we see him throw the ball 49 times like Minshew did back in Week 5. Shenault is a risky WR4/5.
Jordan Akins and Darren Fells: It seems like Akins may return this week after missing the last three games with concussion/ankle injuries. When he’s been on the field and targeted, Akins has done as good as anyone, bringing in 14-of-15 targets for 168 yards and a touchdown. His 11.2 yards per target ranks third among tight ends with 10-plus targets. Fells isn’t far behind with his 10.8 yards per target. Why don’t the Texans utilize their tight ends more? The Jaguars have allowed the fourth-most fantasy points per game to tight ends despite seeing just 6.4 targets per game to the position. The 2.58 PPR points per target they’ve allowed is the most in the NFL. Fells stepped in as the starter for Akins when they played in Week 5 and it turned into two targets, two receptions, 57 yards, and a touchdown. There’s only been one tight end who’s posted more yardage than Fells did in that game, but again, it’s due to a lack of targets, as just one tight end has seen more than five targets against the Jaguars. If being forced to pick one, it should be Akins, though it’s hard to say either is anything more than a mid-tier TE2 who’s lacking a floor for streamers, as there’s been just one game all year he’s seen more than three targets. In fact, there have been just two instances where either of them has seen more than four targets.
Tyler Eifert: In the last four full games he’s played, Eifert has seen 22 targets, which is more than enough to be fantasy relevant. Unfortunately, they haven’t made him fantasy relevant because he’s failed to record more than three catches or 36 yards in any one game, including the one he played against the Texans in Week 5 when he saw a season-high seven targets that netted just three catches for 16 yards. With Luton under center, you don’t need to contemplate taking on the risk by starting the inefficient tight end.
Baltimore Ravens at Indianapolis Colts
Line: BAL by 3.0
Lamar Jackson: To put it lightly, Jackson hasn’t lived up to the fantasy expectations we had for him this year. We’re now halfway through the fantasy season and Jackson has yet to post a top-three finish. In fact, he’s finished outside the top-12 quarterbacks more than he’s finished inside of them. The Colts defense has slipped a bit recently, but they’re still allowing the fewest fantasy points per game to opposing offenses, including a league-low 13.2 points per game to quarterbacks. A big part of the issue is lack of plays, as they’re one of just three teams who’ve faced less than 60 plays per game. The Ravens have averaged just 62.9 plays per game themselves, which is the ninth-lowest mark in the league. Another issue for Jackson is that the Colts haven’t allowed a quarterback to rush for more than 41 yards since the start of the 2018 season, a span of 39 games. That’s problematic considering Jackson has completed just 54.6 percent of his passes, averaged 6.1 yards per attempt, and thrown just eight touchdowns over his last five games. Can the Colts defense be the one to break him of his troubled passing days? They have allowed back-to-back 300-yard passers, as both Joe Burrow and Matthew Stafford were able to hit that mark while averaging 8.0-plus yards per attempt. Jackson has multiple avenues to fantasy points, but this matchup doesn’t appear to be one where he’ll live up to his draft position. Consider him a mid-to-low-end QB1 right now who needs to start improving as a passer.
Philip Rivers: After throwing for just four touchdowns over the first five games, Rivers has turned things around and has thrown six touchdowns over the last two games. He’s also averaged 36.7 pass attempts per game, which is enough to be considered as a streamer, though an immobile quarterback like him requires big numbers through the air to be considered as a streamer. One thing that we know about the Ravens is that they like to blitz, and oddly enough, Rivers has a league-high 109.4 QB Rating when throwing under pressure. Still, despite the game where Patrick Mahomes dismantled them, the Ravens have allowed just 6.59 yards per attempt to quarterbacks, which is the second-lowest number in the NFL. It should be interesting to see the pass/run split the Colts deploy because the Ravens opponents have chosen to throw the ball on 64.4 percent of plays, which ranks as the second-highest percentage in football, while the Colts have been a run-heavy team while throwing the ball just 54.6 percent of the time. If someone looks at the fantasy points per game allowed to quarterbacks, the Ravens don’t look so intimidating, allowing the 14th-most fantasy points to the position, but if you were to remove the rushing production (they’ve allowed three rushing touchdowns to quarterbacks), they’ve allowed just 14.99 fantasy points per game to quarterbacks, which would be tied for the third-fewest. Rivers’ floor is just too low to be considered as a streamer, even if he is better against pressure than everyone else.
Mark Ingram, JK Dobbins, and Gus Edwards: In the first game without Ingram (we’re hearing it may be a multiple game thing), we watched Edwards and Dobbins split the work equally, as they both finished with 17 opportunities. Dobbins did everything they could’ve hoped, racking up 113 yards against one of the best run defenses in the league. By comparison, Ingram has played 21 games in a Ravens uniform, and he’s reached that number once. Unfortunately, they get another brutal matchup in Week 9, as the Colts are one of the best run defenses in football. They’ve allowed a minuscule 3.26 yards per carry on the year, which ranks as the second-lowest mark in football, behind only the Bucs. Going back to the start of the Matt Eberflus’ run as defensive coordinator – which is now a 39-game sample size – we have just one 100-yard rusher against them. The Colts have allowed a measly 62.3 fantasy points on the ground to running backs this year, or 8.9 points per game. When you know the Ravens running backs aren’t targeted in the passing game (they’ve combined for just 3.6 targets per game this year), this is a real problem. All in all, the Colts have allowed a tiny 94.7 total yards per game to running backs, which is the lowest mark in the NFL. If Ingram remains out, Dobbins remains my favorite play, as he’s got the most one-play upside, but in this matchup, he’d be just a low-end RB2/high-end RB3. Edwards would fit into the low-upside RB3 territory as the primary 1-2 down back who gets goal-line work, even though the Colts have allowed just three rushing touchdowns on the year. *Update* Ingram has been ruled out for this game.
Jonathan Taylor, Jordan Wilkins, and Nyheim Hines: What a swift change of events, as it seemed this would be Taylor’s backfield coming out of the bye, but instead, we got a three-way timeshare with Wilkins leading the way. Wilkins not only got more touches, but he led them in snaps with 39, while Taylor played 26, and Hines 16. What do we expect moving forward? Probably a mess considering they’re not going to simply move on from Taylor after selecting him in the second-round of the NFL Draft. But we’d talked about it here last week; Taylor hasn’t been very elusive. Coming into that game, Wilkins had broken just as many tackles on 28 percent of the touches. It’s now being rumored that Taylor is dealing with an ankle injury, which sounds awfully convenient, and Frank Reich said he knew nothing of that during the game. No matter the case, this is not a week to expect much out of this backfield, as the Ravens have been the best run defense in football through eight weeks. How is that possible when they’ve allowed the third-fewest points to the position? When you factor in that targets are worth nearly 2.5x the amount of a carry, the Ravens have allowed the fewest PPR points per opportunity to running backs. It certainly helps that they’ve allowed just three total touchdowns to them on 168 touches. Teams have chosen to run the ball just 35.6 percent of the time against them, which ranks as the second-lowest number in the league. Running backs haven’t totaled many yards per reception, but the 8.1 targets per game is solid, as are the 5.6 receptions, though Taylor hasn’t seen more than four targets since back in Week 1, and after last week’s performance, it’s likely that Wilkins steals more work than usual. Taylor should be considered a low upside, low-end RB2/high-end RB3 this week. Wilkins should be stashed in all leagues but not be started this week if you can help it, as it’s just one week of solid usage. Still, he’s one of the better handcuffs in football. Hines is getting the same amount of playing time he did last year, and it’s frustrating, as he hasn’t played more than 25 snaps since Week 1. Hines still offers an RB4 floor in fantasy leagues and gets into the top-30 conversation if he finds the end zone, which is how he should be viewed this week.
Marquise Brown: Coming into Week 8, he led the NFL in percentage of his team’s air yards with 45.1 percent. How ridiculous is that? No player in the league was over 43.0 percent last year. In fact, just five receivers were over 37.0 percent. The Ravens didn’t take many deep shots in that game and it brought down his overall share, but he’s still in the elite territory. The Colts have allowed the fewest fantasy points per game to opponents, but wide receivers have been the ones least affected by that, as they’ve generated 58.8 percent of the fantasy production of skill-position players against the Colts. In fact, they’ve now allowed eight top-36 wide receiver performances over the last three games. It wasn’t like they had great competition, either, as they played the Lions, Bengals, and Browns. Brown will see a mix of all cornerbacks, but it’s Rock Ya-Sin most of the time, who’s allowed 14.8 yards per reception in his coverage this season. Even on the other side of the field, Xavier Rhodes has allowed 17.2 yards per reception. If Jackson can find his rhythm as a passer, Brown can get behind this defense, though it feels like we’ve said that before, and we’ve been left with just two top-30 performances all year. The Ravens are going to have some issues moving the ball on the ground, and Brown’s speed can show up in the dome. Consider him a back-end WR3 who has bust potential, but you simply don’t want to miss it when he and Jackson connect.
T.Y. Hilton: He suffered a groin injury during last week’s game that forced him to leave. They’ve said they’ll monitor him throughout the week, but soft tissue injuries rarely go away in just a few days. I’m expecting him to miss this game. After not practicing all week, I’m expecting him to be ruled out. *Update* He’s been ruled out.
Zach Pascal: He’s playing the most snaps and running the most routes among Colts receivers, but his opportunity has been too spotty to trust. He has now seen at least six targets in three of the last four games, but he doesn’t offer any big-play upside, so it’s been boring production, as he’s finished with 44-58 yards in those games. With Michael Pittman back in the lineup, he could lose some red zone looks, too. The good news for him is that the Ravens will be without their superstar slot cornerback Marlon Humphrey, who tested positive for COVID. That will change their defense quite a bit, as they’re already without Anthony Averett and Tavon Young on the depth chart. It will be interesting to see how they shift around their cornerbacks for this game. There have been 11 receivers who’ve totaled 50-plus yards against the Ravens this year, so Pascal might not be the worst WR5 through the bye week, but as we’ve talked about, his upside is limited.
Marcus Johnson and Michael Pittman: These two would be running essentially the same number of routes if Hilton were to miss this game, while Pascal would play on the inside in three wide receiver sets. Johnson played slightly ahead of Pittman last week, though it was his first week back from his injury, so he could be eased back in. The Ravens secondary is not one to attack on the perimeter, as Marcus Peters and Jimmy Smith are both above-average cornerbacks. There have been just nine receivers who’ve finished top-36 against the Ravens this year and each of them totaled at least six targets. If forced to pick one of them, it’d be Johnson due to his one-play upside nature, while Pittman is more of a red zone force, but I don’t feel strongly about either of them as a great play this week.
Mark Andrews: You know what’s crazy? Both Robert Tonyan and Hayden Hurst have more fantasy points than Andrews this year. His fantasy finishes have been: 1, 30, 35, 3, 3, 30, 22. There is no in-between. He’s either a big boom, or he’s been outside the top-20 at the position. The good news is that he’s seen 38.1 percent of the Ravens targets inside the red zone, which ranks as the second-highest mark in the league. Knowing the Colts are so good against the run, we should expect some red zone passes. The problem is that the matchup with the Colts isn’t one to be exploited by tight ends, as we already know they don’t allow a whole lot of fantasy points to begin with (fewest in the league), so when you add in that just 10.8 percent of the production they’ve allowed to skill-position players goes to tight ends, it’s worrisome. The 6.7 PPR points per game they’ve allowed to tight ends is the lowest mark in football, and they’re one of just two teams who’ve yet to allow a touchdown to them. It’s not just lack of volume, either, as they’ve allowed just 1.00 PPR points per target, which is again, the lowest mark in the league. There have been two tight ends who’ve finished better than TE22 against them, and both of those tight ends (T.J. Hockenson, Austin Hooper) saw 10 targets. Andrews hasn’t hit that number this year. Even though those tight ends saw 10 targets, they turned them into 7/65/0 and 5/57/0, so it’s not like they smashed. Andrews is likely going to be touchdown-or-bust in this matchup, which stinks because you kind of have to play him with the upside he presents.
Trey Burton: The tight end snap counts for the Colts last week went: Jack Doyle 45, Burton 39, and Mo Alie-Cox 32. This is odd, to say the least. There was a lot of blocking, as the routes run went Burton 15, Doyle 14, and Alie-Cox 9. Burton has still totaled at least five opportunities in each game he’s played with the Colts, and he’s scored three touchdowns in his last two games (two of them coming via the rush), so we have to assume they keep on coming. He appears to be the new Eric Ebron of the offense, which was a role that had value, even if he didn’t play all the snaps. The Ravens have struggled a bit with tight ends this year, as there’ve been five different tight ends who’ve hit double-digit PPR points against them, including Ebron’s 4/48/1 performance last week. It’s the one position they’re average against, allowing near league averages in completion percentage (69.2), yards per target (7.31), and a touchdown every 13.0 targets to them. If Hilton misses the game, we could see more targets funneled to the tight ends, too. Burton should be in the mid-to-high-end TE2 conversation, as there haven’t been many tight ends who’ve seen the consistent opportunities that he has.
Seattle Seahawks at Buffalo Bills
Line: SEA by 3.0
Russell Wilson: In case you haven’t realized it yet, the Seahawks are letting Russ cook, win the MVP, whatever he wants. He’s now scored 20.9-plus fantasy points in every game this year and has shown no signs of slowing down. His current 16-game pace is 4,917 yards and 59.4 touchdowns. Crazy, right? Even while leading this year, the Seahawks are throwing the ball on 61 percent of their plays, which ranks second in the NFL. The Bills secondary hasn’t been the one we’ve seen over the last few years, as they’ve already allowed five different quarterbacks score 20.6-plus fantasy points against them. By comparison, there was just one of those quarterbacks all of 2019. It’s crazy, but the only quarterback who hasn’t finished as a top-12 option against the Bills was Sam Darnold, who accomplished that feat twice. When you look at their vitals against opponents, they’re essentially an average defense, allowing 7.27 yards per attempt (17th-highest), a 67.7 percent completion-rate (10th-highest), and a 4.62 percent touchdown-rate (18th-highest). Then you add in their 6.81 percent sack-rate (11th-highest) and you don’t feel like it’s a matchup you need to avoid. It also doesn’t hurt to know they’ve allowed the sixth-most fantasy points on the ground to quarterbacks, as Wilson has added almost 40 yards per game on the ground. The only thing I’d wonder about from a DFS standpoint is the weather come Sunday, so pay attention to that, but otherwise, Wilson should continue his MVP tour.
Josh Allen: What’s the best thing for a struggling quarterback? A matchup with the Seahawks? Maybe. Allen has not been very good over the last four weeks and is the No. 14 quarterback over that time. I will say that he’s thrown the ball just 45 times in two of those games combined, something that won’t happen in Week 9, as quarterbacks have averaged a massive 46.9 pass attempts per game. They’ve allowed the combination of quarterbacks, running backs, wide receivers, and tight ends to average 116.5 fantasy points per game, which is the most in the NFL. Is that a lot? Well, here’s how I can break this down. The Seahawks offense averages 122.4 fantasy points per game (tops in the NFL), so their opponents essentially turn into 95 percent of the Seahawks offense for the week. The Seahawks have allowed a somewhat-high 7.82 yards per attempt, but their 3.96 percent touchdown-rate ranks as the eighth-lowest mark in the league. So, how are they allowing the second-most fantasy points per game to quarterbacks? Well, their opponents have averaged a robust 75.0 plays per game, and it certainly helps someone like Allen to know they’ve allowed the second-most fantasy points on the ground to quarterbacks. They’ve allowed 192 yards and four touchdowns on the ground, which makes up quite a bit of fantasy production through seven games. The Bills have been pretty pass-heavy and that bodes well for the matchup with the Seahawks, who’ve faced a pass on a league-leading 64.8 percent of plays. Allen may be struggling but volume should carry him through to a rock-solid QB1 day with week-winning upside.
Chris Carson and DeeJay Dallas: This backfield’s picture isn’t likely to be cleared up until later in the week, so stay tuned, as I’ll come back and update later in the week. With Carson out of the lineup, Dallas played a massive 54-of-68 snaps and received 23 of the 24 opportunities available to Seahawks running backs. He responded well, finishing as the No. 4 running back on the week with his two touchdowns in a tough matchup. This week’s matchup against the Bills isn’t nearly as bad, as they’ve allowed the 17th-most fantasy points to running backs and have allowed seven different running backs finish as top-24 options against them, including four inside the top-12. There have been three running backs who’ve totaled at least 102 yards on the ground, though the remaining ones were all held to 60 or less rushing yards. It’s worth noting that just three running backs have totaled more than two receptions against them, and none have totaled more than 36 receiving yards. They’re also one of the seven teams who’ve yet to allow a receiving touchdown to running backs, so production hasn’t been easy to come by through the air against them. Carson is the only running back on the Seahawks who’s averaged over 4.0 yards per carry, so he’s the one you’d ideally see on the field. If Carson practices and plays, he should be viewed as a mid-to-high-end RB2, though he’s not a locked-in DFS play. If Carson sits and Dallas gets the backfield to himself again, he’d be in the low-end RB2 conversation. I’ll come back and update the bottom of these notes later in the week. *Update* Carson has been ruled out for this game, making Dallas a mid-to-low-end RB2 play this week.
Zach Moss and Devin Singletary: The line I used last week was, “… it might be wise to predict the switch before it happens, so I’ll say I prefer Moss.” It’s nice when the trends lead to the correct answer. Moss not only out-produced Singletary, but he also out-snapped him 31-28. Both running backs had a good game, so Singletary isn’t off the radar by any means. Many see the Seahawks on the schedule and think, “Oh, lots of fantasy points!” but the running backs haven’t seen much of that production. Of the fantasy points they’ve allowed to skill-position players, just 25.9 percent have gone to running backs, which is the second-lowest mark in the league, behind only the Saints. It’s not a good week to expect a great follow-up week for these running backs, as teams have chosen to run the ball a league-low 35.2 percent of the time against the Seahawks. Despite teams averaging a ridiculous 75.0 plays per game against them, running backs have averaged just 26.7 touches per game. Meanwhile, the Bills have averaged 63.1 plays per game, and their running backs have averaged just 21.8 touches per game. There’s been just one running back who’s totaled more than 65 yards on the ground against the Seahawks this year, so the matchup doesn’t bode well for Moss, who has only seen eight targets on the year. Singletary has seen 30 targets and should lead the backfield in snaps this week, though he’s still not getting goal-line carries. There have been five running backs who’ve amassed at least four receptions, so we should see him offer a decent floor. Moss should be considered a touchdown-dependent RB3 who has a lower floor than Singletary. I’ll stick Singletary in the middling RB3 territory as someone who may lack upside, but should finish as a top-36 running back even without a touchdown.
D.K. Metcalf: He’s now seen 41.0 percent of the Seahawks’ air yards, which is obviously a great thing when Russell Wilson is throwing you the football. That number ranks as the third-highest percentage in the league. It’s not just that, though, as he’s averaging a ridiculous 7.0 yards after the catch, which is also one of the highest marks in the league. Despite ranking 18th in receptions, Metcalf is the No. 3 receiver in PPR leagues. The Bills are surely going to ask Tre’Davious White to cover him this week, which should be an epic battle, as he’s one of the league’s elite young cornerbacks. However, White hasn’t been what most would describe as “elite” this season, allowing a 125.4 QB Rating in his coverage, though it’s on a very small sample size (20 targets), as teams don’t actively target him. Over his first three years in the league, he allowed just five touchdowns on 221 targets, but he’s allowed two of them on 20 targets this season. Bottom line is that Metcalf doesn’t have an easy path to fantasy points this week. Should you doubt him? Absolutely not, but if you’re playing DFS, you might want to lean towards Lockett.
Tyler Lockett: After his 20-target, 200-yard, three-touchdown game in Week 7, Lockett came crashing back down to earth last week, catching 4-of-5 targets for 33 yards. That’s how it goes sometimes, as Lockett’s weekly finishes have been 21, 12, 1, 70, 53, 1, 58. If you’re wondering what type of week this one is, you’re likely getting a “boom” performance. The Bills have allowed the sixth-fewest points per game to wide receivers this year, but if you pay attention to where those points have come from, it benefits Lockett quite a bit. The top two performances against them this year have been Cooper Kupp (9/107/1) and Jamison Crowder (7/115/1), both slot-heavy receivers. You can even look at last week and see that backup slot receiver Jakobi Meyers racked up 6/58/0 while playing in place of Julian Edelman. This isn’t much different than last year, as the top-three performances they allowed to wide receivers were those who played most of their snaps in the slot. Taron Johnson is the guy he’ll see the most, and he’s the cornerback who’s allowed 428 yards in his coverage, the fourth-most in the NFL. Lockett should be played as a WR1 this week, and you should certainly have exposure in DFS.
Stefon Diggs: There are just seven wide receivers who’ve seen at least eight targets in 75 percent of their games, and Diggs is one of them. He also has three games of 11-plus targets, which is a number he’s likely to hit in Week 9. Of the fantasy production allowed to running backs, wide receivers, and tight ends against the Seahawks, we’ve watched wide receivers account for 63.3 percent of it, which is the highest percentage in the NFL, and no other team is above 60.1 percent. Wide receivers have accounted for 64.9 percent of the targets against the Seahawks, which ranks as the second-highest number in the league. All in all, receivers have averaged 30.4 targets per game against them. So, when you see they’ve allowed 57.7 PPR points per game to wide receivers (no that’s not a typo), you should get excited. It’s not just points due to volume, either. They’ve allowed a ridiculously-high 70.9 percent completion-rate to wide receivers, which ranks as the third-highest percentage in the game. Diggs is a surefire WR1 this week against a team that’s allowed 11 receivers to hit 20-plus PPR points against them this year.
John Brown: The bad news is that Brown saw just two targets last week. The good news is that he played 47-of-58 snaps, which tells us he’s healthy. That’s important when trusting someone like him in fantasy lineups. Sure, he hasn’t topped 42 yards since Week 2, but you need to get over that this week. Wide receivers have crushed against the Seahawks, and the best way to highlight that is letting you know that wide receivers have outscored running backs 57.7 to 23.6 PPR points against them. That’s a massive 34.1-point gap. No other team has larger than a 22.2-point gap. That’s also more points allowed to receivers than any other team in the league by a full 12.9 PPR points per game. Receivers are averaging 30.4 targets per game against the Seahawks. There are two teams in the league who don’t see that many pass attempts per game. There have been 17 wide receivers who’ve finished with at least 11.5 PPR points against them, which is typically enough to get into the WR3 range. Guys, they’ve played just seven games. You may not feel great about it, but Brown should seriously be considered for your WR3 slot this week.
Cole Beasley: What in the world happened to Beasley last week? He was supposed to be our high-floor play during bye weeks, but Allen threw the ball just 18 times, netting just two targets. That was just the sixth time in 23 games with the Bills where he’s seen fewer than six targets, so we can’t overreact, especially when he’s about to play a defense that’s seen 18 wide receivers total six-plus targets against them through seven games. 17 of them have finished with at least five receptions, which should bring us back the high floor that we seek when playing Beasley. The slot is actually the position they’ve allowed the least production, but it’s still not bad, as Ugo Amadi has allowed 20-of-27 passing for 194 yards in his coverage. Even Larry Fitzgerald was able to catch 8-of-8 targets for 62 yards in this matchup. Beasley doesn’t have a massive ceiling like Diggs and Brown, but he offers a solid floor as a high-end WR4.
Greg Olsen and Will Dissly: We’ve been monitoring the snaps between these two, and while Dissly out-snapped Olsen last week 43-37, it was Olsen who ran 22 routes while Dissly ran just 16 of them. It didn’t amount to production for either of them, as they combined for just five targets and one reception. We should see more production out of them this week, as the Bills have allowed a massive 22.7 percent of production to skill-position players go to tight ends, which ranks as the second-most in the NFL. It certainly helps that they’ve seen a 25.1 percent target share, which ranks as the second-most in football. They’ve already allowed six tight end touchdowns, including multiple touchdowns to both Travis Kelce and Jonnu Smith. Those two scored 20-plus PPR points, while both Mike Gesicki and Darren Waller also netted 17-plus PPR points. To be fair, that’s some great competition they’ve played, but still, it’s massive production. If the Seahawks decide not to target Metcalf as much in Tre’Davious White‘s coverage, we could see the tight ends become much more involved. The issue is that we don’t know which one will see more targets. I’ll say that I prefer Dissly, though he’s tough to play as anything more than a touchdown-dependent TE2.
Tyler Kroft: It’s not like you’re considering a Bills tight end, but in case you were, this is not a matchup to attack. The Seahawks have been a defense to attack with wide receivers, but tight ends… not so much. They’ve accounted for just 10.8 percent of production by skill-position players against the Seahawks, which is the lowest percentage in the NFL. Granted, that percentage is on a much higher number than most, but still, the 9.8 PPR points per game they’ve allowed to tight ends ranks as the eighth-lowest number in the league.