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 Eagles, Rams, Browns, and Bengals are all out on BYE.
Start: Josh Allen vs. Seahawks
Allen has long been one of the most matchup-sensitive QB in fantasy football. Here’s what we had to say in the offseason: “Since entering the league, Josh Allen averages 25.8 FPG against bottom-12 defenses (by FPG allowed). If over a full season that would rank 6th-most all-time, comparable to Peyton Manning’s famed 2013 season (26.3).” That trend has remained true this year as well, though he’s faced just one opponent ranking bottom-12 in schedule-adjusted FPG, and owns our 4th-toughest QB schedule to-date (-1.9). This week? He gets the ultimate QB matchup, against a Seattle defense that’s allowing opposing QBs to exceed their per-game average by a league-high 7.9 FPG.
Start: Derek Carr at Chargers
For similar reasons to Allen, Carr is a very intriguing streaming option for those with a QB on bye. We should probably throw out last week’s game for Carr – Las Vegas and their opponent (Cleveland) had little success throwing the ball in a game with 25 mph sustained winds and gusts of up to 40 mph. This came after three-straight games hitting 20.0 or more fantasy points, despite tough matchups against the Bills, Chiefs, and Buccaneers. Coming into last week’s game, Carr ranked 14th among QBs in FPG (19.4), and that’s in spite of the league’s toughest QB schedule.
His schedule has been worth 3.6 FPG below expectation, which, if added back to his (pre-Cleveland) average, would push him up to 23.0 FPG (would rank 7th-best). Los Angeles is the softest matchup he’s faced thus far, and worth an additional +3.3 points above his expectation (4th-most), which would push his per game up average even further to 26.3 fantasy points. While that’s probably still way too optimistic, he should be started with confidence as a low-end QB1 this week.
Sit: Ryan Tannehill vs. Bears
I’m sure by now you know we’re firmly #TeamTannehill here at FantasyPoints, but he’s just a mid-range QB2 this week in a brutal matchup against the Bears. Chicago ranks top-5 in pressure rate, opposing passer rating, passing fantasy points allowed per pass attempt, and FPG allowed to opposing QBs.
Start: Matt Ryan vs. Broncos
Even though this matchup is just neutral — Denver is 18th in passing fantasy points allowed per attempt — we’ve seen enough from Ryan to know that his production is entirely dependent on Julio Jones’ health. When Julio is on the field this year, Ryan has completed 72% of his passes for 8.3 yards per attempt and just 60% of his passes for 7.0 YPA when Julio is off of the field. On a fantasy scoring basis? Ryan has finished as a QB1 (top-12) in 4-of-5 games when Julio plays and he’s finished as the QB23 or worse in three outings without him. Sure, Calvin Ridley (foot) is questionable to play but his status doesn’t drastically change Ryan’s outlook. In fact, it’ll force Ryan to just feed Julio even more. When Ridley missed the Falcons final three games last year, Julio got 48 targets and Ryan averaged 302.3 yards per game. Of course, Atlanta’s defense will keep Denver in the game and it could make this game a shootout. The over/under has been on the rise all week, opening at 47.5 and it’s now up to 50 points.
Sit: Teddy Bridgewater at Chiefs
You might be tempted to stream Bridgewater because the Panthers should have to throw a ton to keep up with Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs scoring. That’s always the theory. However, Kansas City’s defense has quietly been lights out and their secondary has been one of the league’s most underrated units. This year, the Chiefs are allowing the second-lowest completion rate (60.1%), yards per attempt (6.7), passer rating (77.0), and passing yards per game (214.9) across the board. Bridgewater is just a mid-range QB2 option this week.
Start: James Conner at Cowboys
Since 2018, Conner averages 21.5 FPG in wins and ties, but only 11.5 FPG in losses. He averages 24.0 FPG in games Pittsburgh has won by 7 or more points. Good news! The Steelers are 14.0-point favorites, and against a Dallas defense that ranks 3rd-worst in YPC allowed (4.97) and 2nd-worst in rushing FPG allowed (19.9) to opposing RBs. Start Conner with confidence as a mid-range RB1 this week, and especially with potential touchdown-vulture Benny Snell seeing his snap count dwindle to 6 and then 0 in recent weeks.
Start: Chase Edmonds vs. Dolphins
Kenyan Drake was held out of practice on Wednesday, after being carted off the field in Arizona’s last game. HC Kliff Kingsbury has said Drake’s ankle injury isn’t as severe as first believed, but it’s looking highly unlikely he’s going to be available Sunday afternoon against the Dolphins. If he’s out, start Edmonds with confidence as a lock-and-load RB1. And, even if he suits up, I wouldn’t expect Drake to hamper Edmonds much at all.
The fact of the matter is, Edmonds has fully earned the bell cow workload he’s about to get. Edmonds has played much better than Drake, has looked much better than Drake, and Arizona’s offense has been much better with Drake off the field. Drake and Edmonds are the only Arizona RBs to play a single offensive snap this year, so I’m not expecting much competition for touches from Eno Benjamin or Jonathan Ward. And this week’s matchup is great – Miami is a top run funnel defense, ranking 4th-worst in YPC allowed (4.96) but 4th-best in opposing passer rating (81.7). They’re giving up the 7th-most FPG to opposing RBs, and Edmonds ranks 29th in FPG (12.0) despite handling just 43% of the team’s backfield XFP thus far.
Sit: Jonathan Taylor vs. Ravens
Taylor has failed to reach even 11.5 XFP in each of his last 5 games, averaging 13.0 carries and 2.2 targets per game over this span. For perspective, 11.5 XFP ranks between 20th and 25th-best among RBs in most weeks. He’s now also dealing with an ankle injury, in addition to drawing a bottom-5 matchup against the Ravens. He’s just a low-end RB2 this week.
Start: D’Andre Swift at Vikings
After a rough start to this season, Swift is finally starting to trend in the right direction. The Lions offense was a disaster last week and it was a big part of the reason he struggled (six carries for 1 yard), but Swift’s underlying usage continued to be encouraging. Swift’s 62% snap rate was a season-high and over his last three combined games, he has seen 45% of the Lions carries. Keep in mind, Swift saw just 14% of the team’s carries. This week, Swift will be relied on heavily if Matthew Stafford misses because of COVID and this matchup couldn’t be much better. The Vikings are allowing the fifth-most rushing fantasy points per game and have leaked the third-most receptions per game to RBs over the last five weeks.
Start: Justin Jackson vs. Raiders
Running back is hard this week with no Joe Mixon/Gio Bernard, Kareem Hunt, Miles Sanders/Boston Scott, Rams RBs, and possibly no Chris Carson or Aaron Jones again. It’s going to force you to make some tough decisions and Jackson is one of the few exciting RB2 starts this week. Over the last three games with Austin Ekeler (hamstring) out, Jackson easily leads this backfield in snaps (114), carries (37), and targets (17) and now gets a great chance to have a ceiling game against a bad Raiders run defense. Vegas is allowing the seventh-most yards per carry, sixth-most receptions per game, and second-most fantasy points per carry to opposing RBs.
Sit: Devin Singletary at Seahawks
Is Zack Moss already the “1A” in this backfield? Since Moss returned in Week 6, Singletary’s snap rate has steadily trended downwards (75% > 54% > 48%) while Moss’ workload seemingly rises every week. What’s most troubling for Singletary is that Moss is already the red-zone back, as the rookie has six red-zone carries to Singletary’s three over the Bills last three games. A committee back that is third on his team to get scoring looks (behind both Josh Allen and Zack Moss), Singletary is just a low-ceiling RB3 option. We have both 49ers RBs, La’Mical Perine, and Damien Harris all ranked ahead of him this week.
Start: Stefon Diggs vs. Seahawks
Diggs has been a quiet revelation in 2020, ranking 4th in XFP per game (16.9) and 12th in FPG (17.7), but you’ll be starting him as a top-3 WR this week. Opposing WRs are out-scoring their per-game average by a whopping +23.8 FPG when facing Seattle. For perspective that’s 2.8X as much as the next-closest defense (Cleveland, +8.4). In just 7 games this year, Seattle has allowed 5 different WRs to reach 25.0-plus fantasy points, 8 WRs to reach 23.0-plus, and 11 WRs to reach 20.0-plus fantasy points.
Start: Keenan Allen vs. Raiders
Adjusting for the fact that Allen played in only one quarter in Week 5, he’s averaging 20.2 XFP, 22.7 FPG, 102.7 air yards, and 13.0 targets per four quarters since Justin Herbert took over in Week 2. Even more ludicrously, he’s been targeted on 34% of Herbert’s throws over this span. That’s elite high-end WR1 volume and production. Look for another big game this week against a Raiders slot funnel defense that is allowing the 7th-most FPG to slot WRs but the 4th-fewest FPG to outside WRs.
Sit: D.J. Chark Jr. vs. Texans
Chark averages just 48.5 YPG, after averaging 67.2 YPG last year. Jacksonville is starting Jake Luton in place of Gardner Minshew this week, who has never played in an NFL game. And, Chark is likely to draw shadow coverage from Bradley Roby, who ranks 6th-best of 93 qualifying CBs in yards allowed per snap in coverage. This one’s easy – Chark is just a high-end WR4 this week.
Start: Brandin Cooks at Jaguars
Call it low-hanging fruit, but I’m riding the hot hand here. Ever since the Texans got rid of Bill O’Brien, they’ve finally started to feature Cooks as we expected. Over his last three games before the bye, Cooks saw 12, 9, and 9 targets in a mini hot-streak that obviously started with his 8/161/1 demolition of the Jaguars back in Week 5. Now, the concern this week for the Texans passing attack is pretty straight-forward: Can Jake Luton and the Jaguars offense make the game competitive enough so Deshaun Watson keeps his foot on the gas? Even if the Texans don’t have to do much in the fourth quarter, it’s hard to shy away here. Houston has this week’s third-highest implied scoring total (28.5) this week, which is right behind the Seahawks (28.8).
Start: Diontae Johnson at Cowboys
After burning everyone once again last week, it’ll be hard to plug Johnson into lineups despite what is an obviously amazing matchup. The thing is, I think last week was just a mix of a bad matchup and randomness for Johnson. It’s not like he wasn’t involved. Johnson led the team in routes and was on the field for 33 of Ben Roethlisberger’s 37 dropbacks (89%). In his three other full games this year, Johnson saw at least 31% of Steelers’ targets in each. What has changed? He’s fully healthy and not on the injury report for the first time all season. Pittsburgh could just rely on the run and their defense and cruise over Dallas — they are massive 14-point road favorites — but Johnson still carries a massive ceiling in this spot even if he only gets 5-7 targets.
Start: Antonio Brown vs. Saints
One of the toughest questions this week is what to do with AB. Sure, he hasn’t stepped foot on the field in over a year. We also have no clue if he’s still the same player he once was. But if last year is any precedent, we know Tom Brady is obsessed with AB. In Brown’s only game action with the Patriots last year, Brady peppered him eight times (on just 24 snaps) for a 4/56/1 line. It’d be foolish to think Brown will play every snap in his debut, but the routes he does run will be meaningful. With Chris Godwin (finger) questionable at best, AB is in line to get at least 4-5 targets against what has been an absolutely terrible Saints secondary so far. New Orleans is allowing the sixth-most fantasy points per target (FP/T) on short throws (0-9 yards) and the second-most FP/T on intermediate (10-19 yards) throws to receivers, which is exactly where you’d expect Brown to see his looks. If you’re an underdog in your matchup this week and need upside at your WR3 or FLEX spots, AB has it.
Welp, we were riding high and cruising with Cooper as a WR1 and Lamb as an amazing WR2 just one month ago. Now that Dallas is down to their fourth-string quarterbacks (Garrett Gilbert or Cooper Rush), it’s impossible to trust any of these Cowboys receivers this week. It pains me to say this… but we desperately need Andy Dalton back for any of these guys to have hope. Pittsburgh’s incredibly aggressive front-seven is likely going to wreck this game for Dallas. The Steelers are blitzing at the league’s third-highest rate (42.3%) and generating pressure on 35% of dropbacks, by far the highest clip in the league.
Sit: DeVante Parker at Cardinals
The concern for Parker this week is two-fold: 1) Tua Tagovailoa didn’t look exactly comfortable in his first start (and Parker only got two targets) and 2) the Cardinals are not a good matchup for boundary wideouts. Arizona is only allowing 13.3 fantasy points per game to outside receivers (eighth-fewest) while most of their production is going through the slot. Just 36% of the Cardinals fantasy points allowed to wideouts are coming from boundary receivers, which is the fourth-lowest rate in the league. Per PFF, Parker runs 72% of his routes out wide. He is just a boom-or-bust WR4 option on this slate.
Start: Noah Fant at Falcons
Fant ranks 6th in FPG per game (11.9), 5th in XFP per game (11.9), and 5th in targets per game (7.2), earning between 6 and 10 targets in each of his last 4 games. He’s no longer on the injury report with an ankle injury which might have impacted his performance over the past few weeks, and he’s now back to his typical 75-80% route share. I’m expecting top-5 returns this week, in a dream matchup against the Falcons. Opposing TEs are out-scoring their per-game average by a league-high 9.4 FPG (over 2x as much as the next-closest defense) when facing Atlanta. Ian Thomas is the only TE who has flopped against them (because, of course), but Robert Tonyan (33.8), Jimmy Graham (24.0), Dalton Schultz (23.8), and Greg Olsen (16.9) all went off for monster games.
Sit: Dalton Schultz vs. Steelers
Schultz’s concerns are two-fold: 1) His Week 9 starting QB is either Garrett Gilbert or Cooper Rush. Gilbert and Rush have combined to complete just 3 passes in the NFL. 2) He has a bottom-3 matchup against the Steelers. They’ve given up season-highs of 15.7, 10.2, and 6.2 fantasy points to opposing TEs, despite facing names like Mark Andrews, Noah Fant, Evan Engram, and Jonnu Smith.
Start: Evan Engram at Washington
Take a deep breath, light a candle, and say a prayer… but Engram is actually a pretty decent play this week. He’s seen an uptick in targets over his last two games and draws a good matchup against a Football Team that is permitting the fifth-most fantasy points per target and eighth-most yards per game to tight ends. You may remember that Engram flopped in this exact matchup a few weeks ago (2 receptions, 30 yards) but that was mainly because Daniel Jones only threw the ball 19 times. Washington is actually favored to win this game (by 2.5 points), so the Giants should have to throw a lot more in this spot.
Sit: None of note
Tight end is an absolute trash heap this week. Things are so bad, we have Mike Gesicki at TE16 this week. Really, unless you have Travis Kelce, anyone with a pulse works at tight end at this point. There are no “bad” plays. You’re just hoping for 6-7 points to get you by. If you’re truly desperate, Greg Olsen, Tyler Kroft and Jordan Akins are the three super low-owned TEs I’d look for unless Ross Dwelley is available. Olsen faces a Bills defense that is quietly allowing the seventh-most fantasy points per target to TEs; Kroft will likely get another start with Dawson Knox (calf/COVID) questionable; and Akins is returning to the lineup for the first time since Week 4 against a Jags’ secondary that is allowing the most fantasy points per target to the position.