Every week, Graham Barfield and Scott Barrett (see if you can guess who wrote what) provide their most and least favorite plays for shallow (10-teams) and deep (12- and 14-teams) leagues.
Please note that the “sit” calls in this column are not universal but are more recommendations to consider if you have options that project similarly. As always, our projections should be used as the final call.
This week, the Chiefs, Falcons, Cowboys, and Jets are all out on BYE.
Start: Justin Herbert at Dolphins
We are witnessing one of the best seasons by a rookie quarterback ever. Justin Herbert has been absolutely on fire, putting up 24.4 fantasy points per game which is the most all-time by a rookie quarterback. The next closest rookies? They are Deshaun Watson (24.1) in 2017, Cam Newton (23.2) in 2011, Robert Griffin III (21.2) in 2012… and Joe Burrow (18.7). How crazy is this: Herbert has thrown for 3+ touchdowns or 300 yards in every single game so far this season. His 306.6 yards per game is the most all-time for a rookie QB by far. For reference, Andrew Luck averaged 273.4 YPG in his rookie season. The Dolphins secondary has been playing pretty well all season long, but matchups have not mattered for Herbert so far. You’re starting him as a no-brainer QB1 from here on out.
Sit: Ryan Tannehill vs. Colts
It hurts to put Tannehill in this part of the column because we have been so high on him, but we have to trust the process here. The Colts have been one of the toughest matchups for opposing quarterbacks all year long. Indy’s stifling zone coverage is surrendering the fifth-fewest passing fantasy points per attempt and a league-low 78.9 passer rating this season. The only two quarterbacks that have finished as a QB1 (top-12) against the Colts this year were Gardner Minshew back in Week 1 and Matthew Stafford in Week 8 (and he needed 42 attempts to get there). There are a few quarterbacks with higher ceilings than Tannehill this week, namely Jared Goff (see below), Derek Carr, and even Baker Mayfield.
Start: Jared Goff vs. Seahawks
The top-3 highest scoring QBs in fantasy are:
1. Kyler Murray (30.1 FPG)
2. Russell Wilson (29.5 FPG)
3. Seattle’s Opponents (28.1 FPG)
Goff has been fairly underwhelming thus far, ranking just 22nd in FPG (18.2), but he gets a dream matchup to make up for that fact. When facing Seattle, opposing QBs are out-scoring their per-game average by a league-high +8.0 FPG. Add that back to Goff’s average, and we should expect mid-range QB1 production this week (26.2 FPG). I’m not quite that optimistic, but do feel comfortable starting him as a low-end QB1 at worst. He’s your top recommended streamer of the week.
Sit: Joe Burrow at Steelers
Joe Burrow is awesome -- one of the most exciting rookie QBs in quite some time (though, so is Justin Herbert, of course). He’s hit 300 passing yards in 5 of 8 career starts, something only Patrick Mahomes and Kurt Warner have ever accomplished. Still, he ranks just 20th in FPG (18.7) due in part to an offensive line that is allowing pressure on 28% of his dropbacks (6th-worst). That’s going to be a problem this week, against a Steelers defense that leads the league in pressure rate (37%) and ranks 2nd-best in opposing passer rating (80.0) and 5th-best in FPG allowed (17.1) to opposing QBs. He’s just a mid-range QB2 this week.
Start: Mike Davis vs. Buccaneers
Getting Christian McCaffrey back for one week was pretty fun while it lasted. Unfortunately, CMC is going to be out for at least Week 10 with a shoulder injury that could end up costing him multiple games. This means that Davis is back in the fold as an RB1 start for as long as CMC is sidelined. In the six games that McCaffrey missed in Week 3-8, Davis was fantasy football’s RB5 in FPG (17.5) while leading all RBs in snap rate (79%) and ranking fifth in touches per game (18.8) in this span. Sure, the Bucs’ front-seven is incredible. But Davis’ secure volume makes him a sure-fire RB1. We have Davis pegged as a top-8 play for Week 10.
Start: James Conner vs. Bengals
After flopping in what is one of the best matchups he’ll see all season against Dallas, Conner is in another fantastic draw this week. Both Benny Snell and Anthony McFarland played more than expected last week, but that was mostly due to game script and the fact the Steelers came out completely flat offensively. This week, Conner faces a Bengals front-seven that is allowing the third-most YPC to RBs (5.1) and will be without even more firepower with DE Carlos Dunlap now in Seattle. We’re trusting Conner as a RB1 play this week. The Steelers are 7-point home-favorites and should control the game, which will lend itself to more carries for Conner.
Sit: Melvin Gordon at Raiders
Unsurprisingly, Gordon has been far less productive when Phillip Lindsay is healthy and in the lineup this year. In four games with Lindsay active, Gordon has averaged just 12.0 fantasy points per game but 16.8 FPG when Lindsay doesn’t play. Frankly, Lindsay has looked like the far better runner in Denver and all Gordon can really hold on to is passing down work. It’s possible OC Pat Shurmur just unleashes Lindsay as the “1A” runner in this backfield down the stretch run. While Gordon has plodded to 3.6 YPC on his 31 carries over the last three weeks, Lindsay has continued to look electric and averaged 8.0 YPC on 23 attempts.
Start: Nick Chubb vs. Texans
Kareem Hunt struggled starting in Nick Chubb’s absence, but due to poor game script and bad matchups, Cleveland was forced to lean more pass-heavy than they typically like to be, and it’s not unlikely Chubb also would have disappointed his fantasy owners in these games. With Chubb fully healthy out of the bye, this game sets up perfectly for Cleveland to revert back to their run-heavy inclination. The Browns are favored by 3.0-points behind the 6th-highest implied point total of the week (28.0) against a Houston defense that ranks worst in YPC allowed (5.44) and worst in rushing FPG allowed (22.0) to opposing RBs. If you own Chubb, start him as a high-end RB2 in PPR leagues.
Start: Duke Johnson at Browns
David Johnson played just 7 snaps before exiting early due to injury (concussion). In his absence, Duke Johnson played on 50 of 55 snaps, earning 16 of 16 carries and 4 of 4 targets. That’s elite bell-cow usage, typically good enough for any league-average talent to flirt with RB1 production. His Week 10 matchup against the Browns is somewhere between neutral and slightly below-average, but start him with confidence as a high-end RB2 this week if David Johnson sits out.
Sit: Jerick McKinnon at Saints
The good news is Raheem Mostert is still out, and McKinnon comes fresh off of a game in which he saw 74% of the snaps, handling 12 of 16 carries and 4 of 6 targets out of the backfield. Still, I hope we’ve learned by now we can’t really trust RB usage to ever remain consistent in a Shanahan backfield. Further, it’s a brutal matchup this week, against a Saints defense that ranks bottom-5 in FPG allowed to opposing RBs for the 3rd-straight season. He’s just a high-end RB3 this week.
Start: Jarvis Landry vs. Texans
With Odell Beckham (ACL) out, Baker Mayfield has only had eyes for Jarvis Landry over their last two games. In Week 7-8, Landry saw a monster 32% of Browns’ targets as Mayfield’s go-to option. In a game that has a ton of shootout appeal, Landry is a high-end WR2 start against a Texans secondary that is giving up the seventh-most PPR points per game to wideouts. Adam Thielen (8/114/1 in Week 4), A.J. Brown (5/56/2 in Week 6), Davante Adams (13/196/2 in Week 7), and D.J. Chark (7/146/1 in Week 9) have all gone nuts vs. Houston in recent weeks. Coming out of a bye, Landry has had an extra week to rest and should have no problem eating against the Texans terrible secondary.
Sit: Justin Jefferson at Bears
Will Kirk Cousins actually have to throw the ball? That is the question we have to answer when it comes to Adam Thielen and Jefferson’s outlook every week. It all comes down to how you think the game is going to play out. Because when the Vikings are ahead in games, they have no interest in letting Cousins chuck it. This year, Cousins is averaging 30.6 attempts per game in Vikings’ losses and 18.7 attempts/game in their wins. Despite being 3-5 and being on the road, Vegas has installed the Vikings as 2.5-point favorites over the inept 5-4 Bears. Make no mistake: Minnesota is built on the run and their offense is centered around Dalvin Cook. They likely won’t have to throw a ton to beat Chicago this week, which makes Jefferson a boom/bust WR3 bet.
Start: Travis Fulgham at Giants
Since Week 4, Fulgham ranks 5th among WRs in FPG (19.3). Since Week 5, he ranks 5th in XFP per game (17.6). Over this span, he’s averaging an obscene 10.3 targets, 112.0 air yards, 1.8 end zone targets, and 1.0 deep targets per game. He’s found the end zone in 4 of 5 games, and has hit 70-plus receiving yards in 4 straight games, averaging 92.0 YPG over this span. Ride this pony until the wheels fall off.
Start: Brandin Cooks at Browns
As much as we love Will Fuller here at FantasyPoints, it might be time to wonder if Cooks is really the WR1 on this team. Since the Bill O’Brien firing heading into Week 5, Brandin Cooks has seen better volume (measured by XFP) than Fuller in 4 of 4 games. Over this span, he averages 15.2 XFP per game (6th-most) to Fuller’s 10.8 (25th-most). Cooks has seen at least 9 targets in every game, averaging 9.8 per game to Fuller’s 7.5. He ranks 6th in FPG (20.6) over this span, while Fuller ranks 14th (18.4). In any case, both have great matchups this week. Cleveland is giving up the 2nd-most schedule-adjusted FPG to opposing WRs (+8.4). Start both with confidence as high-end WR2s this week.
Start: Diontae Johnson vs. Bengals
Johnson has played in 7 games this year. In 3 he exited early in the 1st quarter due to injury. But he saw at least 10 targets in each of the other 4 games, averaging 12.3 targets, 19.6 XFP, and 19.5 FPG in those games. In other words, when he’s suffered an in-game injury, he’s understandably struggled. When he’s been healthy, he’s put up mid-WR1 production on mid-WR1 usage. Start him this week against a Bengals defense that is giving up the 10th-most FPG to opposing outside WRs. Sit: Darius Slayton vs. Eagles
How much better is Darius Slay in comparison to Darius Slayton? A ton.
Okay, maybe not quite, but he’s certainly someone to be feared. Slay will shadow Slayton this week, just as he did in Week 7, when he held him to just 4.3 fantasy points. The Eagles are giving up the fewest schedule-adjusted FPG to opposing WR1s (-6.4), and that’s entirely due to how dominant Slay has been thus far.
Start: Jimmy Graham vs. Vikings
With no Travis Kelce, this slate is a mess for tight ends. Oh! And we don’t have Chris Herndon! I’m sure you’re just devastated. Seriously, though. TE is an absolute dumpster fire and anyone with a reasonable shot at 5-6 targets and a score is a strong play at the position. Graham has seen at least six targets in four-straight games and is getting fed the ball in scoring position, ranking second in the league in red-zone targets (13) and fourth in end zone looks (7) among tight ends. Against this Vikings secondary that is allowing the fourth-most fantasy points per target and fourth-most yards per game to tight ends, Graham is a locked-in top-8 play.
Start: Dallas Goedert at Giants
Even though he disappointed in the box score in his first game back in Week 8 coming off an injury (1/15 receiving), Goedert’s usage was promising. In his first game action since Week 3, Goedert ran a route on 29 of Carson Wentz’s 39 dropbacks (74%) and that type of involvement is sure to turn into production for as long as Zach Ertz (ankle) is out. Goedert’s talent is not in question and if he’s going to be playing a near every down role, the production will come. We’re trusting Goedert as a low-end TE1 this week.
Sit: Jonnu Smith vs. Colts
The Titans are going with a full-blown TE by committee and featuring both Smith and Anthony Firkser in their passing attack. In fact, over the past three weeks, Smith has run 55 routes and seen 7 targets while Firsker has run 47 routes and seen 11 targets. With Smith ceding work to Firkser, he is going to be a shaky TE2 moving forward. Plus, this matchup is absolutely terrible for opposing tight ends. The Colts are limiting enemy TEs to the fewest fantasy points per target and third-fewest yards per game.
Start: Eric Ebron vs. Bengals
Ebron has reached at least 11.0 fantasy points in three straight games, while also seeing a significant boost in volume over this span. Over his last three games, Ebron is averaging 6.3 targets per game on an 85% route share. Across his first 5 games, he averaged just 4.8 targets per game on a 73% route share. This boost in volume is coming at an opportune time – Cincinnati is giving up the 2nd-most FPG to opposing TEs (17.8), surrendering 6 touchdowns to TEs over their last 4 games.