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 Cardinals, Texans, Washington, and Jaguars are all out on BYE.
Start: Ryan Tannehill at Bengals
Since taking over as the Titans starter, Tannehill ranks first in passer rating (115.3), first in yards per attempt (8.9), second in touchdown rate (7.6%), and seventh in fantasy points per game (19.9) since the start of last season. Including the postseason, Tannehill has scored 17 or more fantasy points in 16 of his 19 starts with the Titans. Despite the production, Tannehill continues to be slept on. It’s past time we started treating him as a locked-in QB1. This week, Tannehill catches a great matchup against a Bengals secondary that is allowing seventh-most passing fantasy points per attempt and has allowed a top-12 (QB1) performance in four of their past five games. If Joe Burrow can keep this game close, it’ll force the Titans to keep their foot on the gas on offense giving this game shootout potential.
Sit: Drew Brees at Bears
Even if Brees gets Michael Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders back this week, this is a full fade spot for him. The Bears are one of the NFL’s five actually good defenses and their stifling zone coverage has limited opposing QBs to a league-low 0.34 fantasy points per attempt and the fourth-lowest passer rating (78.6). There are just better streaming options to play over Brees this week like Teddy Bridgewater (rostered in 50% of Yahoo leagues) and Jimmy Garoppolo (33%).
Start: Carson Wentz vs. Cowboys
The Eagles are cursed and/or are being smitten by some wrathful fantasy god. There’s just no other way to explain the plague of injuries they’ve suffered. As a result, Wentz’s play has suffered as well – his 4.31 AYN/A average ranks 30th among QBs, ahead of only Daniel Jones and Sam Darnold.
But Wentz has actually performed quite well from a fantasy perspective, ranking 11th in FPG (21.8). After a slow start, Wentz has scored 23.5, 22.4, 19.4, 29.4, and 28.8 fantasy points over the past five weeks. Over this span, he ranks 4th in FPG (24.7), tied with Patrick Mahomes. One big reason for this sudden upsurge in fantasy production is due to an increased role as a runner. He ranks tied with Kyler Murray for 2nd among QBs in carries inside the 10-yard-line, and since Week 3 is averaging 6.4 carries, 35.2 rushing yards, and 0.8 rushing touchdowns per game. Across the full season, he averages 6.9 rushing FPG, ahead of Josh Allen, and just behind Murray, Cam Newton, and Lamar Jackson.
He’s likely to get back TE Dallas Goedert and WR Jalen Reagor this week, and hopefully a few offensive linemen as well. Dallas, his Week 8 opponent, ranks 7th-worst in opposing passer rating (105.1) and 5th-worst in passing fantasy points allowed per passing attempt (0.57). Start him with confidence as a low-end QB1 this week.
Sit: Matthew Stafford vs. Colts
The concerns with Stafford are two-fold: 1) lack of volume – Stafford ranks bottom-10 in pass attempts per game in both losses and wins. And 2) a bad matchup – Indianapolis is giving up the fewest passing FPG to opposing QBs (11.4), while also ranking best in opposing passer rating (71.2). He’s just a low-end QB2 this week.
Start: Jonathan Taylor at Lions
Taylor’s season has been a little bit disappointing so far – especially considering Marlon Mack is out for the season – but this is a potential blowup spot for him. The Lions defense is giving up the eighth-most scrimmage yards, seventh-most yards per touch, and the fifth-most fantasy points per game to opposing backs. Nyheim Hines and Jordan Wilkins are going to remain annoyingly involved because HC Frank Reich is obsessed with committee backfields, but Taylor has the RB1 potential this week in this matchup. The Colts offensive line should pave massive holes against the Lions weak front-seven for Taylor all day long. We have Taylor ranked well above consensus at RB4 in our projections.
Sit: David Montgomery vs. Saints
Montgomery is the literal definition of a volume-based running back. When has Montgomery ever exceeded expectations? Ever? This season, Montgomery ranks 12th in carries (96) and fifth in targets (35), but only 27th in fantasy points per game. Even without Tarik Cohen, Montgomery is still just an empty calorie RB2. Montgomery is bad even in good matchups and this week, he has a terrible draw. Even though the Saints pass defense has struggled this year, they’re still very good against the run – and rank fourth-best in FootballOutsiders run DVOA and second-best in YPC allowed (3.4).
Start: Todd Gurley at Panthers
RB feels pretty deep this week, and especially if we get word Joe Mixon, Aaron Jones, Phillip Lindsay, and Miles Sanders are likely to remain out, so you may not think Gurley is totally necessary, but he also might be a much better play than you realize. At the very least, he’s far less “gross” of a play than he seemed to be to start the year. Gurley now averages 15.9 FPG, hitting 15.0 in 4 of his last 5 games. He’s a high-end RB2 this week up against a Carolina defense that’s allowing opposing RBs to out-score their per-game average by 7.7 FPG (3rd-most).
Start: Myles Gaskin vs. Rams
Gaskin earned just 53% of Miami’s RB XFP through their first 4 games of the season, but that jumped to 72% over their last two games with Jordan Howard out (a healthy scratch). If he maintained that over the full season, he’d average 18.9 XFP per game, which would rank 7th-most at the RB position. He’s a high-end RB2 this week, in a neutral matchup against the Rams.
Sit: Los Angeles Chargers RBs
This was a full-blown committee in Week 7, with Joshua Kelley out-snapping Justin Jackson 37 to 30. By XFP it was close as well (14.8 vs. 13.8). Both are just high-end RB3s this week (Jackson above Kelley due to projected game script), against a Denver defense that ranks top-7 in FPG allowed to opposing RBs both through the air and on the ground, and 3rd-best by schedule-adjusted FPG allowed to opposing RBs (-6.1).
Start: Tyler Boyd vs. Titans
Coming off of an 11/101/1 demolition of the Browns, Boyd finds himself in another great matchup this week against the Titans soft coverage. Through six games, Tennessee has allowed a whopping 29.3 fantasy points per game to slot receivers, which is tied with the Seahawks for second-most. Even the ghost of JuJu Smith-Schuster had his first good game in weeks against the Titans last week, turning his 14 targets into 9/85 receiving. Boyd is often Joe Burrow’s first look in his progressions and is going to get fed plenty in this spot. As 5.5-point underdogs, the Bengals should have to throw a bunch to keep up with the Titans scoring.
Start: Brandon Aiyuk at Seahawks
With Deebo Samuel (hamstring) out for the next two weeks, Aiyuk will resume as the 49ers No. 1 receiver (outside of George Kittle) just in time for a date with the Seahawks terrible secondary. This 49ers-Seahawks game has the highest over/under (54) of the week and with the 49ers likely to trail throughout, there should be ample opportunity for Aiyuk to take advantage of what has been the worst pass defense in the league by far. Seattle is allowing the most fantasy points to receivers out wide and the second-most through the slot. Wherever Aiyuk lines up this week, he’s bound to have the upper hand in this matchup.
Sit: DeVante Parker vs. Rams
This might be a surprise, but the Rams aren’t putting Jalen Ramsey in shadow man-to-man coverage this year. Instead, they’re moving Ramsey all over the field and letting him do what he does best regardless of where he’s lining up. Even though it’s unlikely Parker catches a 1 vs. 1 shadow from Ramsey this week, it’s undeniably a tough matchup. The Rams are playing zone 70% of the time (10th-most) and limiting opposing passers to a league-low 6.7 yards when they play zone. Especially since Tua Tagovailoa is making his first start, this is not the week to trust Parker in your lineups.
Start: Justin Jefferson at Packers
Jefferson – PFF’s single-highest-graded WR (90.8) – is averaging 7.5 targets per game, 116.8 yards per game, and 21.9 FPG since Week 3. Green Bay ranks 5th-worst in passer rating allowed (107.7), but they’re especially stout against opposing WR1s. Since Week 4, Jaire Alexander has shadowed Calvin Ridley, Mike Evans, and Will Fuller, allowing them to total just 6 yards on a combined 7 targets (78 routes) against his coverage. Of course, Adam Thielen did get the better of Alexander in Week 1, but the disparity in talent between him and Josh Jackson should lead to more looks for Jefferson. Green Bay’s defense also sports the league’s 3rd-highest zone coverage rate, and Jefferson not only out-targets Thielen when against zone coverage (since Week 3), but he’s also averaging an absurd 12.7 YPT against zone coverage.
Start: Travis Fulgham vs. Cowboys
Since Week 4, Travis Fulgham ranks 6th among all WRs in FPG (19.2). Since Week 5, he ranks 6th among all WRs in XFP per game (19.4). Over this span, he averages 11.3 targets, 128.0 air yards, 2.0 end zone targets, and 1.3 deep targets per game. That’s truly absurd levels of usage, along with terrific production. And maybe his volume isn’t quite as good this week, with TE Dallas Goedert and WR Jalen Reagor likely to return, but still, he has a long way to fall while still being a highly recommended “start”. In this good matchup – Dallas is giving up the 4th-most FPG to opposing outside WRs – I’ll be starting Fulgham as a low-end WR2.
Read what NFL Insider Adam Caplan had to say about Fulgham’s long-term (dynasty) value here.
Sit: Julian Edelman at Bills
New England’s QB situation is a mess – Cam Newton and Jarrett Stidham combine to total 50 pass attempts, 319 passing yards, 0 passing touchdowns, and 6 interceptions over their past two games. But the bigger concern with Edelman is his health. Since first popping up on the injury report in Week 3, Edelman averages just 19.8 YPG and 3.8 YPT. Even in this soft matchup, he’s too risky to start as anything more than a low-end WR4.
Start: Jonnu Smith at Bengals
Coming off of his worst game of the season so far (1/9 receiving), this is a massive bounceback spot for Smith. The Bengals have been hammered by enemy tight ends all year long and have surrendered the fifth-most receptions and third-most yards to the position. Over the last three weeks, Mark Andrews (6/51/1), Colts TEs (7/87/2), and Browns TEs (6/76/3) have all found a ton of success in this matchup. OC Arthur Smith is one of the best play designers in the league and should scheme Smith into plenty of advantageous looks this week.
Sit: T.J. Hockenson vs. Colts
While Hockenson was one of our top plays last week against Atlanta, this spot is far different. The Colts are holding opposing tight ends to a league-low 3.6 yards per target thanks to one of the best coverage units in the NFL. Indianapolis plays zone coverage 75% of the time and does an incredible job of keeping everything in front of them. Especially with stud LB Darius Leonard likely back this week coming off of an extra week of rest, this is not the week to play Hockenson.
Start: Rob Gronkowski at Giants
Gronk is back? Gronk really might be back.
Gronkowski posted a 5-61-1 line on 8 targets last week, after posting a near-identical 5-78-1 line on 8 targets the week prior. Over this span, Gronkowski totals 33.7 XFP, 181 air yards, 4 end zone targets, and 2 deep targets, leading TEs in every category, and in most cases by a wide margin (52% more air yards than the next-closest TE). Even dating back to Week 3, Gronkowski ranks 4th in XFP, averaging 12.3 XFP per game.
The matchup isn’t great on paper, but I’m still starting him as mid-TE1 with Chris Godwin out.
Start: Jimmy Graham vs. Saints
Graham, at this stage of his career, is naturally going to be pretty touchdown-or-bust, but, given the current state of the TE position, he’s still very startable. Among all TEs, Graham ranks 5th in XFP per game, 11th in FPG (10.6), 9th in targets per game (5.9), and 2nd in XTD per game (0.6). He gets a great matchup this week, against a New Orleans defense that is giving up the 2nd-most FPG to opposing TEs (18.6). He’s not a sexy play by any stretch, but he is a low-end TE1 this week.
Sit: Robert Tonyan vs. Vikings
As much as we all love “Big Bob” Tonyan here at Fantasy Points, he’s still a shaky start this week. The matchup isn’t great – Minnesota ranks 7th-best in schedule-adjusted FPG allowed to opposing TEs (-4.1) – and he does have some pretty serious volume concerns. Though he ranks 8th in FPG (11.8), he ranks just 30th in XFP per game (6.0). He saw just only targets while playing on a season-low 49% of the snaps last week, after a prior season-low in Week 6 (57%).