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 49ers, Giants, Bears, and Bills are all out on BYE.
Start: Justin Herbert vs. Jets
Since Week 4 (his 3rd career start), Herbert averages 26.3 FPG, which ranks 2nd-best among QBs, behind only Kyler Murray. He’s reached 40 pass attempts in 3 of his last 4 games, and averages 6.0 rushing FPG over this span. All of this, meanwhile, has been accomplished in spite of the league’s 4th-toughest QB schedule to-date, worth about -1.0 FPG off of his per-game average. This week, he gets a top-5 matchup, and his best matchup since he torched the Jaguars to the tune of 38.5 fantasy points in Week 7. The Jets are giving up the 4th-most FPG to opposing QBs (22.4), while also ranking bottom-5 in opposing passer rating (103.8) and passing fantasy points allowed per pass attempt (0.632). He’s an easy must-start top-5 QB this week.
Sit: Ryan Tannehill at Ravens
Tannehill’s schedule has toughened and we’ve seen him slow down, throwing for a combined 305 passing yards against the Bears and Colts over the past two weeks. He gets another brutal matchup this week, against a Ravens defense that ranks 4th-best in passing FPG allowed to opposing QBs (13.7) and 7th-best in opposing passer rating (88.3). He’s just a mid- to low-end QB2 this week.
Start: Jameis Winston vs. Falcons
It’s going to be very interesting to see how different the Saints offense looks this week with Winston under center. Will HC Sean Payton turn Winston into a game-manager like he did with Teddy Bridgewater? Or, will he let him stretch the field and throw YOLO balls like we are accustomed to from Jameis? One thing is for sure: This matchup and game environment couldn’t get much better for fantasy. The Falcons are bottom-5 in all of the key metrics (fantasy points per attempt, yards per game, DVOA, passer rating) and have allowed a 300-yard passer in 8-of-9 games with the only failure being the aforementioned Bridgewater in a rain-soaked TNF game where he got hurt. Plus, Falcons-Saints is one of the few true shootout spots we have as Vegas has set the over/under at 50 points, fourth-highest on the slate.
Sit: Joe Burrow at Washington
Coming off of a predictably underwhelming performance last week against the Steelers, Burrow finds himself in a similar spot here. Washington’s front-seven isn’t as dominant as the Steelers, but they’re definitely capable of taking over a game. The Bengals had to reshuffle their line because of injuries last week and they should get T Jonah Williams back for Week 11, but it still may not matter all that much. After taking four sacks and completing just 51% of his passes against Blitzburgh, Burrow will be under duress all day long against this Washington defense that ranks second-best in sack rate (9.6%). The No. 1 team in sack rate, you ask? It’s the Steelers (10.5%). Washington’s pass defense is one of the most underrated units and it all starts up front with their pass rush. Only the Colts (215.7) are allowing fewer passing yards per game than Washington (218.7).
Sit: Jared Goff at Buccaneers
After flopping in the best matchup he’ll get all season (15.5 fantasy points vs. Seahawks), Goff and the Rams go on the road to take on a formidable Bucs’ defense that is limiting opposing QBs to the ninth-fewest fantasy points per attempt and the eighth-lowest passer rating (89.9). Goff has now failed to finish as a QB1 (top-12) in four-straight outings and has settled in as a low-volume, low-ceiling option in fantasy. Outside of one game against the Dolphins where the Rams got stomped and Goff had to throw it 61 times in catch up mode, he’s been between 27-38 attempts in his other eight games. There are just higher upside streaming options this week like Jameis Winston.
Start: James Robinson vs. Steelers
Robinson has finished 2nd (Week 7), 4th (Week 9), and 5th (Week 10) in XFP over his last 3 games. Over this span, Robinson earned 90%, 73%, and 82% of the team’s snaps. He averages 19.2 XFP per game (2nd-most) and 19.7 FPG (3rd-most) over this stretch. And Jacksonville has lost those 3 games by a combined 16 points. Chris Thompson sat out Week 7 (COVID) and missed part of Week 10 due to a back injury. He’s now on the injured reserve. Robinson gets a bottom-5 matchup this week against the Steelers, but with a bell cow-workload imminent, he should still be started as a low-end RB1 at worst.
Start: D’Andre Swift at Panthers
Since Detroit’s Week 5 bye, Swift ranks 5th in FPG (17.2) and 8th in XFP per game (14.9). He earned the start and totaled 16.3 XFP in Week 10, slightly above his Week 9 total of 15.6, but below his season-high 19.9 in Week 6. But, more importantly, that 16.3 XFP represented a season-high 82% share of the team’s backfield XFP. From Weeks 1-9, he earned just 46% of the backfield XFP. If he saw an 82% share of the backfield XFP all season, he’d be averaging 20.3 XFP per game, which would rank 4th-most among all RBs. Maybe an 82% of share of the team’s workload is a little too lofty of an expectation this week, but still, given the matchup, it’s hard to imagine Swift should be ranked any lower than a low-end RB1. Carolina ranks 4th-worst in YPC allowed (4.86), 5th-worst in rushing FPG allowed (16.9), 7th-worst in receiving FPG allowed, and 4th-worst in total FPG allowed to opposing RBs (29.1).
Sit: Ronald Jones vs. Rams
Jones exploded last week, scoring 25.8 fantasy points, with 61% of that coming on just one play. This all came in a top-3 matchup against the Panthers, and he now faces a bottom-10 matchup against the Rams. Los Angeles is giving up the 6th-fewest rushing FPG to opposing RBs (10.5), while also ranking 10th-best in YPC allowed (4.03). The spread is in Tampa Bay’s favor, but not by much (-3.5). That’s especially concerning given the fact that Jones has played on just 40% of the team’s snaps since Week 7. He totaled just 22.0 rushing yards and 11.3 receiving yards per game across his prior 3 games before facing Carolina. He’s just a high-end RB3 this week.
Start: Duke Johnson vs. Patriots
Sure, last week was disappointing. There is no doubt about that. In his first spot of David Johnson (concussion; IR), Duke underwhelmed — but it wasn’t because of his usage. Dookie was Houston’s workhorse and handled every single one of the Texans handoffs (14) and played on 54-of-57 snaps. Look, Deshaun Watson rarely throws to his RBs, but Duke only getting one target last week was very unlucky. I’m expecting a bounceback performance for Duke here against this Patriots defense that is struggling against the pass and run. On the ground, New England is quietly allowing the fifth-most yards per game to RBs (93.2) and rank 31st in FootballOutsiders’ DVOA metrics. Only the Texans run defense rates out worse. Which leads us to…
Start: Damien Harris at Texans
Harris has been incredible as the Patriots lead back since Week 6. Outside of one bad game against the Broncos where the Patriots offense didn’t show up, Harris has cleared 70 scrimmage yards in his other five outings and never dipped below 5.0 YPC. This week, he gets the dream matchup against a laughably bad Texans front-seven that is hemorrhaging yards and fantasy points to every running back that faces them. Clyde Edwards-Helaire (25/138/1), Ravens RBs (21/176/1), James Conner (18/109/1), Dalvin Cook (27/130/2), Derrick Henry (22/212/2), Jamaal Williams (19/77/1), James Robinson (25/99/1), and Browns RBs (38/230/1) have all cashed in against the Texans. Look for an extremely run-heavy game-plan from OC Josh McDaniels this week.
Sit: Jonathan Taylor vs. Panthers
This one is painful. Especially considering how good this matchup is for the Colts run game. Even so, there is no way you can trust Taylor in your lineups this week. His usage just continues to trend downwards — Taylor’s snap rates over the last four weeks are 59% > 34% > 31% > 25% — as HC Frank Reich continues to keep Jordan Wilkins and Nyheim Hines heavily involved. This backfield is a true three-headed monster and Taylor is truly the No. 3 back in rotation. Over the last two weeks, Wilkins has out-carried Taylor 39 to 24 while Hines has out-snapped (62 to 38) and out-targeted (8 to 2) him.
Sit: Rams RBs at Buccaneers
Until HC Sean McVay stops with the nonsense and commits to one of these three backs, all of them are unplayable in fantasy. It’s especially frustrating considering 1) how productive this backfield could be and 2) how well Darrell Henderson is playing. Coming out of their bye last week, the Rams backfield turned into a gross three-man committee as Malcolm Brown (41% snap share) actually led the way followed by Henderson (33%) and Cam Akers (26%). What McVay loves when he watches Brown will never make sense. Nevertheless, Brown’s constant involvement and Akers re-emergence makes Henderson a very shaky RB3 against this Bucs’ front-seven that is allowing a league-low YPC (3.1), success rate (30%), and yards per game (45.9).
Start: Jamison Crowder at Chargers
Crowder wasn’t quite fully healthy in Week 9, but still walked away with 10.6 fantasy points on just 19 routes. For perspective, he averaged 41.8 routes per game heading into Week 9. Before that, in the 4 games he was active, Crowder finished 2nd, 19th, 16th, and 8th among WRs in XFP, drawing double-digit targets in every game and reaching 100-plus yards in 3 of 4. He came into Week 9, ranking 2nd among all WRs in XFP per game (18.3), 2nd in XFP% (25.9%), 5th in FPG (19.8), and 1st in targets per game (11.5). He should now be fully healthy off of the team’s Week 10 bye. But Chargers’ slot CB Chris Harris Jr. is likely to sit out again this week, which means Crowder gets a pillow-soft matchup against Tevaughn Campbell. The Chargers are giving up the 2nd-most fantasy points per target to opposing slot WRs (2.28), and that’s also where they’ve surrendered 45% of their WR production (7th-most). So, a slot funnel offense meets a slot funnel defense. You know what to do.
Start: Terry McLaurin vs. Bengals
It can be easily argued that McLaurin’s had the league’s toughest CB draw to-date. Shadow coverage from Darius Slay (Week 1), Patrick Peterson (Week 2), James Bradberry (Weeks 6 & 9), Trevon Diggs (Week 7), and Desmond Trufant (Week 10). His 3 non-shadow games came against the league’s toughest, 2nd-toughest, and 15th-toughest defenses against opposing outside WRs. It’s also even easier to argue that McLaurin’s been the most disadvantaged WR by poor QB play. And still, he averages 17.2 FPG (11th-most) on 9.6 targets per game (6th-most). The good news is, this matchup appears soft – the Bengals are giving up the 4th-most FPG (27.4) and the 2nd-most fantasy points per target (2.24) to opposing outside WRs, which is where McLaurin runs 75% of his routes. Better yet, Alex Smith may be a big improvement on Kyle Allen and Dwayne Haskins. McLaurin averages 8.5 targets, 105.0 yards, and 21.4 FPG over the last two weeks with Smith under center.
Sit: Jarvis Landry vs. Eagles
Landry has played in 9 games this season, averaging just 9.7 FPG with highs of just 15.3, 12.8, and 11.1. He runs 51% of his routes from the slot, and will likely see shadow coverage from Darius Slay on the bulk of his other 49% of routes from the outside. Uncoincidentally, Philadelphia ranks best in schedule-adjusted FPG allowed to opposing WR1s (-5.5). And they’re also lights-out against the slot, surrendering the 4th-fewest FPG to opposing slot WRs (10.9). Landry is an easy “sit”.
Start: Tee Higgins at Washington
Even though this matchup is rough for Joe Burrow, there is absolutely no way you’re taking Higgins out of a lineup right now. The rookie is just absolutely scorching hot and has now ripped off 60 yards or scored a touchdown in seven-straight games. Over his last four outings? Higgins is the WR7 in fantasy points per game (19.1) trailing only Davante Adams, Julio Jones, Keenan Allen, Tyreek Hill, Terry McLaurin, and Tyler Lockett in this span.
Start: CeeDee Lamb at Vikings
Dallas’ offense has predictably crumbled without Dak Prescott under center, but things are looking up a little bit now. Andy Dalton has been activated off of the COVID list and will be back in time to play against the Vikings while saving Amari Cooper, CeeDee Lamb, and Michael Gallup from the dregs of Garrett Gilbert and Ben DiNucci. And this week, Lamb’s matchup couldn’t get much better. If Dalton can just get him the ball, Lamb has a legitimate WR1 ceiling in this spot. The Vikings interior slot coverage is arguably the worst in the league as their secondary has been rinsed for 27.5 fantasy points per game by slot wideouts. That’s third-most in the NFL. In fact, a league-high 67% of the Vikings total fantasy production allowed to WRs has come through the slot and that’s where Lamb lines up 93% of the time. Lamb is going to run circles around Vikings slot CB Jeff Gladney, who is allowing the fifth-most fantasy points per snap among qualified CBs.
Sit: Travis Fulgham at Browns
After looking like the second coming of Kenny Golladay in his first few starts, Fulgham came crashing back down to earth this past week against the Giants (1 catch for 5 yards). With Jalen Reagor and Dallas Goedert now back healthy, predicting the Eagles' target distribution is a bit tricky. While Fulgham is playing extremely well, a big part of his breakout was simply because Carson Wentz had no one else to throw to in Week 4-7. In fact, Reagor led the team in routes in Week 10 and has actually seen 13 targets to Fulgham’s 12 over their last two games combined. Consider Fulgham a completely boom-or-bust WR3 this week.
Start: Mark Andrews vs. Titans
Andrews saw season-highs in routes run (33), targets (9), catches (7), and receiving yards (61) in Week 10. It’s no coincidence that this was also a game in which Nick Boyle left early with a gruesome knee injury. He’s now out for the year, opening a pathway for Andrews to finally see a full-time workload – he’s played on just 65% of the team’s snaps thus far. He also gets a premier matchup against a Titans defense that is giving up the 4th-most schedule-adjusted FPG to opposing TEs (+2.7). Start him with confidence as an easy top-3 TE this week.
Sit: Robert Tonyan at Colts
In games Davante Adams has started and finished, Tonyan averages just 3.0 targets, 2.3 catches, 29.0 yards, and 0.0 touchdowns per game. Yeah, that’s not going to get it done. And especially not this week, against a Colts defense that ranks best in FPG allowed to opposing TEs (7.3). He’s an easy “sit”, or, better yet, an easy “drop.”
Start: Hunter Henry vs. Jets
After finally cashing in on the consistent volume he’s seen from Justin Herbert last week (4/30/1), Henry is in a fantastic matchup. The Jets secondary is miserable and especially so in the middle of the field against tight ends. This year, only Falcons (2.47) and Jaguars (2.30) are allowing more fantasy points per target to the position than the Jets (2.27). What’s interesting is that New York really hasn’t faced that many good tight ends. Travis Kelce (8/109/1) went nuclear against them, but he can do that in any matchup. Meanwhile, Jordan Reed (7/50/2), Mo Alie-Cox (3/50/1), Dolphins TEs (4/54/2), and Tyler Kroft (4/64) have all far exceeded expectations in this matchup. You’re starting Henry as a confident TE1 play.
Sit: Jonnu Smith at Ravens
It looked like Smith was well on his way to a nice breakout campaign to start this season. To open the year, Smith went for 18/221/5 in the Titans first four games and has since compiled just 8/97/1 over his last five. What happened? Well, Smith’s targets are way down because Anthony Firkser is playing a ton. Over the last month, Smith and Firsker have both seen 14 targets as the duo has split snaps closely (78 to 62 routes). This makes Smith a completely TD-dependent TE2.