Start ‘Em or Sit ‘Em is geared toward season-long leagues but can also be used for daily fantasy purposes.
Start of the Week: Kirk Cousins vs. Dolphins: Cousins was as bad as one can be this past Monday night against the Seahawks, going into halftime with 27 yards passing. He was able to garbage-time his way at the end to finish with 208 yards and a touchdown, thrown to Dalvin Cook with less than two minutes to play in a 21-0 game. After the game, the Vikings fired OC John DeFilippo and promoted QBs coach Kevin Stefanski to play-caller. Stefanski was eyed as Pat Shurmur’s OC when he got the Giants job, but the Vikings blocked the move. Cousins was undeniably one of the best quarterbacks in the league the first month-plus of the season, but this offense has fallen apart at times. The offensive line just isn’t any good, and DeFilippo may have relied too heavily on the pass with such a weak blocking unit. This is a get-right spot for the entire offense, however. The Dolphins are coming off their “Super Bowl”, a Week 14 home win over the Patriots. Miami is still in the playoff hunt at 7-6, but they’re really not that good. The Fins have beaten the Jets twice, the Bills, Raiders, Titans, and Bears for their other six wins. They’ve lost to the Bengals, Lions, and Colts. Top CB Xavien Howard (knee) also remains out after hurting his knee in Week 13. Tom Brady, who typically struggles in Miami, carved this sorry defense up for 358 yards and three touchdowns last week with Howard out of the lineup. Miami is 26th in pass-defense DVOA and dead last in fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks over the last five weeks. The Dolphins are 29th in adjusted sack rate. Cousins is feeling some heat. Stefanski isn’t going to make sweeping changes to the offense in Week 15 with the Vikings still holding a playoff spot. This looks like a great spot for everyone involved to take a breath and go out and lay one on the Dolphins in Minnesota’s friendly dome environment. The Vikings’ implied team total of 25.75 points is seventh-highest on the week. I’d have zero concerns firing Cousins up as a streamer play.
Lamar Jackson vs. Bucs: Josh Allen’s last three weeks is what everyone has wanted Jackson to be, as Allen has rushed for 335 yards and two touchdowns over his last three games, adding another three touchdowns as a passer with 597 yards through the air. Allen is the overall QB2 in fantasy points per game Weeks 12-14. Jackson has been fine, but the upside hasn’t been there as the QB14 since taking over under center in Week 11. Starting with his most recent, Jackson has weekly finishes of QB12 — QB11 — QB15 — QB13 in that span. The rushing output has been pretty good, averaging 82.5 yards on the ground with two touchdowns, but Jackson hasn’t done enough as a passer to raise his floor or ceiling. His high-water mark over the last four weeks is 178 yards against Oakland three Sundays ago. He’s averaging just 150 passing yards with three touchdowns and three picks through the air. Jackson is missing way too many easy throws and makings pitch-and-catch completions look extraordinarily difficult. It is who he is right now; Jackson just needs work as a thrower. He’s all arm. Rotoworld’s own Rich Hribar compared him to Vince Young last week. It fits him perfectly. The good news is Jackson will remain the starter for the Ravens after coach John Harbaugh announced it on Wednesday, and the Ravens come back home for yet another easy matchup. The Bucs are 28th in fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks and 30th in team-defense DVOA, checking in at 28th against the pass and 30th versus the run. Tampa has played much better of late, allowing the ninth-fewest fantasy points to quarterbacks the last five weeks, but they’ve faced Nick Mullens, Eli Manning, Alex Smith, an injured Cam Newton, and Drew Brees in Tampa Bay in that span. Even if the Bucs are a little bit better on defense, this game still features two of the six fastest-paced offenses in the league. That means more plays and more opportunities for fantasy production. This game’s 46.5-point total is the week’s sixth-highest. We’d like to see more from Jackson, but he’s a fine back-end QB1 with obvious upside if everything goes right. Joe Flacco is healthy and will be the No. 2. That could shorten Jackson’s leash if he plays poorly, but it shouldn’t be a problem at home in one of the easier matchups.
Derek Carr at Bengals: Carr hasn’t thrown an interception since Week 5, but he also only has four multi-touchdown games in that span with one day above 300 yards. That 300-yard game came last week against the Steelers, with Carr also tossing two touchdowns and legitimately making some good throws. He threw a strike to Seth Roberts deep over the top of the defense to set up the eventual game-winning touchdown. Overall, though, Carr is still not a very good quarterback. He’s a guy who needs literally everything around him to go right and be perfect with a clean pocket in order to have success. Any pressure, and Carr tends to collapse and make horrible decisions. This spot on the road against a Bengals unit that is dead last in fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks, 29th in passing touchdowns given up, and 27th in pass-defense DVOA looks like one Carr can possibly take advantage and put up some usable numbers. Cincinnati is also 25th in sacks. Carr has had very few useful weeks as the overall QB23 in fantasy points per game, but when games stay competitive, he’s able to accrue some stats. Carr was the QB3 in Week 8 against the Colts, put the QB4 on the Chiefs in Week 13, and was the QB13 last Sunday against Pittsburgh. All came at home but were close games on the scoreboard. The Raiders are just three-point ‘dogs going into Cincinnati, and nobody should expect the Jeff Driskel-led Bengals to blow Oakland out. This game’s 46-point total is the seventh-highest on the board of 16 matchups. The Raiders will also be considerable up in pace, as the Bengals play at the 10th-fastest offensive pace and face the third-most plays per game on defense. The only concerns here for Carr is this being an early 1 PM ET start on the road. But everything else looks good on paper for Carr to pop back up for a top 12-15 week.
Russell Wilson at 49ers: Wilson is coming off a disaster of a Week 14 against the Vikings when he completed just 10-of-20 passes for 72 scoreless yards and a pick. He was able to considerably raises his scoring output with 61 rushing yards, however, but still finished as the week’s QB27. The Seahawks still managed to win with relative ease. Prior to last Monday night, Wilson had been on a tear and had some putting his name into the MVP conversation. Wilson entered Week 14 having thrown multiple touchdowns in eight straight games and 11-of-12 games overall. Since the Seahawks’ Week 7 bye, Wilson was the overall QB5 in fantasy points per game prior to Monday. Seattle hosted the 49ers just two weeks back, and Wilson threw a season-high four touchdowns on just 17 attempts as the Seahawks rolled Nick Mullens’ group. In San Francisco this time, things might be a bit more competitive, but the Seahawks should win this one as 4.5-point favorites. The Niners are 18th in fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks but 25th in pass-defense DVOA. They’ve faced an assortment of bad quarterbacks/offense, including Josh Rosen twice, Case Keenum, Matthew Stafford, Derek Carr, and Eli Manning. Wilson (four TDs), Jameis Winston (312 yards, 2 TDs), Jared Goff (2 TDs, 39 points), Aaron Rodgers (425 yards, 2 TDs), Philip Rivers (250 yards, 3 TDs), Patrick Mahomes (314 yards, 3 TDs), and Kirk Cousins (244 yards, 2 TDs) have all had pretty good success against the defense. Since Week 9, Wilson has averaged 38.2 rushing yards after not topping 21 yards on the ground in any game Weeks 1-8. Wilson is firmly back on the QB1 map.
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Aaron Rodgers at Bears: It’s been a pretty trying season for Rodgers. It’s arguably his worst as a pro. And in fantasy, he’s barely hanging on as a QB1 as the overall QB11 in points per game, sitting right behind Mitchell Trubisky, Jared Goff, and Philip Rivers. In the Packers’ first game post-Mike McCarthy, Green Bay trounced the Falcons at Lambeau, and Rodgers threw for a season-low 196 yards and two scores. Interim coach Joe Philbin is an old-head, vanilla-style offensive “mind,” who probably prefers to be as balanced as he can get on offense. In his last four road games, starting with the most recent, Rodgers is the QB25 (@ MIN), QB6 (@ SEA), QB12 (@NE), and QB17 (@ LAR). Granted, those are some tough matchups, but this one is just as difficult. The Bears are No. 1 in pass-defense DVOA, No. 8 in fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks, and t-4th in sacks. On top of that, Packers RT Bryan Bulaga injured his knee in Week 13 and remained out of practice Wednesday. RG Byron Bell was just sent to injured reserve with a knee injury of his own this week. And LG Lane Taylor has a foot injury that forced him to miss Week 14. He was limited in practice Wednesday. Missing even one lineman against this pass rush is not ideal. The Bears just took Jared Goff’s soul and dominated the Rams’ offensive line last Sunday night. Chicago is allowing just 17.5 points per game at Soldier Field this season, and that includes the Patriots’ 38 spot in Week 7. Rodgers is a fringe QB1 in one-quarterback leagues this week. I’d start all three of the above listed Cousins, Jackson, and Wilson over Rodgers. Carr is more of a wild card but also a dark horse play.
Jameis Winston at Ravens: Since taking back starting duties in Week 12, Winston is the overall QB4 in fantasy points per game. It’s gone pretty much exactly as we expected; the Bucs throw the ball so much that whoever is at quarterback for them is an auto-play QB1. On the year, Winston and Ryan Fitzpatrick’s numbers combined make them the overall QB2 behind Patrick Mahomes. There are a couple things to like about this matchup for Winston. Both offenses are top-six in pace, which should mean more plays and more opportunities to score fantasy points. Also, the Bucs are heavy eight-point road underdogs. That should lead to a ton of pass attempts for Winston. But this matchup is insanely difficult on paper. Baltimore is No. 3 in fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks, No. 5 in adjusted sack rate, No. 6 in passing touchdowns surrendered, and No. 4 in pass-defense DVOA. The Ravens are allowing just 17 points per game at home. The six quarterbacks to face the Ravens in Baltimore, starting with the most recent, have been Derek Carr (QB26), Andy Dalton (QB9), Ben Roethlisberger (QB5), Drew Brees (QB17), Case Keenum (QB30), and Nathan Peterman (QB37). Dalton and Big Ben have put up respectable finishes, but those also came in weeks with multiple teams on bye. Winston isn’t one to completely write off as a play, but there’s no way we can expect him to produce at a top-four clip like he has been. He needs to be bumped down to the 10-15 range at quarterback with a shot at being benched if he starts throwing picks. The Ravens D/ST is a better play in my book than Winston is as a fantasy starter in the semifinals.
Ryan Tannehill at Vikings: Since coming back from his injury in Week 12, Tannehill has thrown multiple touchdown passes in all three games with an 8:1 TD:INT mark in that span. He’s the overall QB9 in fantasy points per game since Week 12. I’m not buying it. Fifty-five of Tannehill’s 265 yards last week came on that fluke lateral-touchdown play to Kenyan Drake. Tannehill also hasn’t been running the ball with zero rushing touchdowns this season and no more than 17 yards on the ground since Week 3. He now gets to go to Minnesota to face a Vikings Defense that is No. 5 in fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks, No. 2 in adjusted sack rate, and No. 8 in pass-defense DVOA. This unit just absolutely shut down Russell Wilson in his own house last Monday night, holding him to a pitiful 10-of-20 passing for 72 scoreless yards and an interception. Minnesota is surrendering just 19.3 points per game at home. The last quarterback to come to Minnesota was Aaron Rodgers, and he was just the overall QB25 in Week 12. Tannehill doesn’t have volume on his side, either. The Dolphins are 31st in offensive plays per game and operate at the fifth-slowest pace. Miami’s implied team total of 18.75 points is the fifth-lowest of the week.
Start of the Week: Gus Edwards vs. Bucs: Edwards’ playing time has taken a hit since Kenneth Dixon was activated from injured reserve in Week 13. Weeks 11-12, Edwards was in on 61.7% of the snaps, but over the last two weeks he’s played 46.7% of the downs. However, Edwards remains a large part of the Lamar Jackson-led offense. He saw 40 carries Weeks 11-12 and has seen 37 totes Weeks 13-14. This offense is running the ball at a league-high rate with Jackson at quarterback, and no other team is particularly close. Even with Dixon emerging, there’s enough to go around for all three of Jackson, Edwards, and Dixon to get what they need. And this matchup is especially juicy. Edwards hasn’t scored in the last three games but is still getting red-zone work and carries near the goal line. He was stuffed on a carry from inside the five-yard line last week at Kansas City, and Dixon later scored. Predicting touchdowns is nearly impossible, but we do want players who at least are put in position to score. And Edwards has that feather in his cap. The Bucs are 29th in fantasy points allowed to running backs and 30th in run-defense DVOA. Tampa Bay is surrendering 4.61 YPC to opposing runners and has yielded the second-most rushing touchdowns. In a game between two of the six fastest-paced offenses, and the Ravens at home as eight-point favorites, I’m running Edwards out wherever I have him. He also looks like a solid play on FanDuel at $6,300. Anytime Edwards takes the field, he’s a threat for a touchdown. And averaging 19.25 carries per game in his four weeks as the top dog, we also have volume to fall back on. This game has a solid total at 46.5 points, and the Ravens’ implied team total of 27.25 is the fourth-highest of Week 15.
Justin Jackson at Chiefs: Melvin Gordon (knee) practiced on a limited basis Tuesday and Wednesday before traveling with the team to Kansas City for Thursday night’s AFC West tilt. Gordon is labeling himself a game-time decision. Meanwhile, Austin Ekeler (neck, concussion) has already been ruled out. That leaves Jackson and rookie UDFA Detrez Newsome as the lone healthy backs. Even if Gordon plays, he doesn’t figure to be anywhere close to 100 percent. He’ll still be a must-play in season-long leagues if active, but it would be hard to expect him to handle his normal workload. Jackson would seem to be involved either way. These two clubs met in Week 1 and combined for 66 points. In that one, Gordon and Ekeler combined for 34 touches, turning them into 292 yards and a touchdown. As the No. 2, Ekeler handled 10 touches and went for 126 yards and a score. The Chargers’ backs were whooping the Chiefs’ linebackers in the pass game. Gordon had 102 yards as a receiver, and Ekeler had 87. So, even if Gordon plays, there’s enough here to warrant RB2/FLEX consideration for Jackson. He shouldn’t have any trouble getting double-digit touches. And Kansas City is dead last in run-defense DVOA, 31st in fantasy points allowed to running backs, and only three teams have allowed more catches to the running back spot. This game’s 53-point total is the second-highest of the week. With Gordon active, Jackson is a top-25 play. If Gordon sits, Jackson is an RB1.
Lamar Miller at Jets: Miller has 100-plus total yards in five of his last seven games but is coming off a bit of a stinker against the Colts last week. He turned 14 carries into just 33 yards but did pound in a one-yard touchdown while catches five balls to boost his fantasy floor. Since Week 7, Miller is the overall RB20 in points per game. He’s averaging 18.5 touches in that span. Alfred Blue has done nothing with his touches, and D’Onta Foreman (Achilles’) has yet to make his season debut and was a healthy scratch last week. Miller played 71% of the downs against Indy in Week 14. Very few running backs can be counted on for the kind of playing time and touch volume Miller receives. He now gets a cushy spot against a Jets Defense that is 20th in fantasy points allowed to running backs and 23rd in run-defense DVOA. Only five teams have faced more rushing attempts, and the Jets are 28th in opponent plays per game, while Houston is No. 8 in offensive pace. The Texans are 6.5-point road favorites, so if things go to plan, Miller should have an outside shot at 20 carries and another 100-yard game. Gang Green has coughed up the sixth-most rushing touchdowns. Sony Michel had a 21-133-1 day against the Jets in Week 12. LeSean McCoy went 26-113-2 the game before that. Frank Gore had 20 carries the previous week. Jordan Howard had a 22-81-1 day Week 8. Latavius Murray went 15-69-2 in Week 7. Running backs have feasted on the Jets.
Chris Carson at 49ers: Carson is very similar to Lamar Miller above. He’s not flashy, but he gets steady work and is the lead back in a run-heavy offense. The Seahawks have found a system that works with Carson as the starter and early-down guy, Rashaad Penny the change-of-pace, and Mike Davis operating on third downs and in the two-minute offense. Excluding Week 9 when he was injured and the missed game in Week 10, Carson has averaged 18 carries across the last seven games. He has four touchdowns on the ground and is averaging a healthy 4.4 YPC. Not many running backs run harder and churn out more yards after contact than Carson. The 49ers are middle of the road at 14th in run-defense DVOA and 17th in fantasy points allowed to running backs. But Seahawks RBs combined for 144 yards and a touchdown on 24 carries against this defense just two weeks ago in Seattle. Carson led the way with a 13-69 line (5.3 YPC), but Penny was the one who found the end zone on a long run of 20 yards. The Seahawks are still No. 1 in the league in run percentage (52.29%); the Titans are next-closest at 47.47%. Seattle is a 4.5-point road favorite going to San Francisco. Carson’s volume and team-leading 18 carries inside the 10-yard line have him as a solid, if unspectacular, RB2. Those 18 carries inside the 10 are ninth-most in the NFL.
Kenyan Drake at Vikings: Every time I put Drake in this space, which has seemed like four or five times already this year, he seems to do something good. He’s one player I can’t get right. But there’s no way I can in good faith recommend a running back who is now part of a three-man committee that is led by Frank Gore and has since seen Brandon Bolden enter the mix. Drake is by far the most talented of the trio, but coach Adam Gase refuses to play him. Drake is averaging just 9.2 touches per game over the Dolphins’ last five. His touch counts in those contests go as follows: 7 > 10 > 13 > 9 > 7. That last seven-touch game came last week against the Patriots, but Drake made his final one count, catching a lateral from DeVante Parker and taking it 55 yards to the house for the game-winning score as the clock hit zeroes. Drake scores on the flukiest plays and always has to bust a long one to bring back fantasy value. There’s just no way we can be trotting Drake out there in redraft league on such low volume hoping for a big play. The matchup obviously isn’t great, either. Minnesota is No. 10 in fantasy points allowed to running backs and No. 12 in run-defense DVOA. The Vikings allow just 3.77 YPC but have yielded the third-most catches to the position. Playing Drake in catchup mode would make sense, but Gase hasn’t done that this season, instead sticking with his plan of hammering Gore on early downs while now adding Bolden to the mix. Miami’s implied team total of 18.75 points is the fifth-lowest of the week, and the Dolphins are 28th in offensive pace.
Josh Adams at Rams: Darren Sproles returned from a 12-week hamstring injury in Week 13 to play 9-of-75 snaps in an easy win over the Redskins, but his playing time bumped up considerably last week in Dallas, playing 23-of-52 downs. As a result, Adams was a big loser who got in on just 40.4% of the plays after playing 55% of the snaps or more each of the previous three games. Adams’ seven carries also tied a six-game low, and he hasn’t scored in two-straight games. The return of Sproles is a real hit to Adams’ stock. For Adams to be successful, the Eagles need to either be winning or somewhat in control of the game. The Eagles are the biggest underdogs of the week, getting 11 points from the Rams. With Carson Wentz (back) expected to miss this one, the Eagles wouldn’t seem to have much of a prayer with Nick Foles considering all of the other injuries across the Philly roster. It’s a very real possibility Adams sees single-digit carries. He would absolutely have to score a touchdown to pay off even as an RB2. The Rams are vulnerable against the run, checking at 24th in DVOA, but they’re middle of the pack in carries faced and fantasy points against because teams typically have to chase points against them. Adams is a scary-low floor RB4 in this one. He has no passing-game role to fall back on either, with just one target since Week 11.
Mark Ingram at Panthers: Ingram found pay dirt last week against the Bucs, scoring his first touchdown since Week 11. After back-to-back 100-yard rushing games Weeks 10 and 11, Ingram is averaging just 10.3 carries for 43.7 yards the last three weeks with virtually zero pass-game involvement. He’s the overall RB42 in fantasy points per game in that span. This offense as a whole just plays so much better at home in the Superdome. They’ll again be outdoors come Monday night in Carolina. And the strength of the Panthers Defense is their ability to stop the run. Carolina is No. 6 in fantasy points allowed to running backs and No. 8 in run-defense DVOA. The Panthers are also No. 5 in opponent plays per game, which could also pose a problem here for Ingram. He looks like a poor bet to get more than 10-12 touches against a tough run defense unless the Saints go into Charlotte and blow the Panthers out. Carolina has allowed the opposing team’s lead back to score a rushing touchdown in five-straight games, which would seem to bode well for either Ingram or Alvin Kamara. But with Ingram right now, he’s so touchdown-dependent with a scary-low floor as a borderline RB3. The Saints’ implied team total of 29.25 points is the second-highest of Week 15.
Start of the Week: Tyler Boyd vs. Raiders: Jeff Driskel has played the bulk of the last three games at quarterback for the Bengals. In those three outings, Boyd has receiving lines of 3-52 — 6-97 — 7-85-1 against the Chargers, Broncos, and Browns. All three of those teams are top-nine in pass-defense DVOA. Boyd is averaging 7.3 targets per game in that span as the team’s obvious No. 1 receiver with A.J. Green (toe) done for the season. Boyd is still running over 75% of his routes out of the slot and will do battle with Raiders fourth-round rookie CB Nick Nelson inside on Sunday. Over the last three weeks, Nelson has allowed a 114.4 passer rating in his coverage, while receivers have caught 8-of-9 targets for 103 yards. Oakland is 32nd in pass-defense DVOA in large part because they get zero pressure on quarterbacks, checking in at the bottom of the league in sacks. Driskel and Boyd should have a relatively easy day of pitch-and-catch whenever Joe Mixon isn’t running the ball down the Raiders’ throats. This game pits two bad defenses against each other and features a solid 46-point total. No. 1 receivers have fared well against Oakland. JuJu Smith-Schuster had 8-130-2 last week. Tyreek Hill should have had multiple long touchdowns the previous game. Christian Kirk and Larry Fitzgerald scored a combined three times in Week 11, with Fitzgerald scoring twice out of the slot. Keenan Allen went 6-57-1 the week before. All of that has happened since the Raiders’ bye. Boyd is a high-floor WR2 play, though he doesn’t possess as much upside as others.
Tyler Lockett at 49ers: Doug Baldwin (hip) missed last Monday night’s game against the Vikings and didn’t practice at all last week. He didn’t even participate in pregame warmups, suggesting Baldwin isn’t all that close to a return. He’s been playing hurt all year, and maybe the Seahawks are going to rest him when they can down the stretch as they eye the playoffs. Baldwin remained sidelined on Wednesday and is day to day. Lockett led the Seahawks with six targets against Minnesota, and he and David Moore (0-0 on five targets) were the only players to see more than one target on a night Russell Wilson threw just 20 passes. Lockett didn’t do much, but his 42 receiving yards accounted for 58.3% of Wilson’s 72 passing yards. Wilson should have no trouble bouncing back this Sunday, and if Wilson has a big game chances are Lockett also will. Lockett hauled in a 52-yard touchdown against this same Niners defense in Week 12. San Francisco is 28th in fantasy points allowed to wideouts and is the only team to allow 20-plus touchdowns to the position. Lockett’s upside is through the roof, and if Baldwin sits, he’ll also have a likely uptick in volume. The Wilson-Chris Carson-Lockett trio is very much in play on Sunday.
Josh Reynolds vs. Eagles: The entire L.A. offense laid an egg last Sunday night in Chicago. But Reynolds’ seven targets tied for second on the team, and his 36 yards receiving trailed only Robert Woods. Reynolds has played at least 97% of the snaps in all three games since Cooper Kupp’s season-ending torn ACL. No team runs more three-wide personnel than the Rams. This is a spot to hop right back on the Rams as the projected highest scoring team of the week with an implied team total of 32.75 points. The Eagles are 31st in fantasy points allowed to receivers, giving up the second-most catches for the second-most yards to the position. This defense just got lit up by Amari Cooper for a 10-217-3 line last Sunday afternoon. Reynolds runs most of his routes outside and should see a lot of Rasul Douglas and Sidney Jones. Averaging 6.7 targets per game since the Kupp injury, Reynolds is firmly on the WR3 map as an every-down player in an offense expected to bounce back at home against a defense that has been scorched on the back end and over the top.
Dante Pettis vs. Seahawks: Since the 49ers’ Week 11 bye, Pettis has played 89.6% of the offensive snaps and has drawn exactly seven targets in all three games. Only George Kittle has seen more targets in that span with 30. Marquise Goodwin even returned last week after missing two games, but he saw just two targets. Pettis has emerged as the No. 1 wideout with Pierre Garcon (knee) on injured reserve. Not only is Pettis getting the looks, he’s also making them count. Pettis has at least one touchdown in all three games and had his biggest day against this Seattle defense in Week 12, hauling in five passes for 129 yards and two scores, including a 75-yarder where he outran everyone to the end zone. Over the last three weeks, the Seahawks have given up the 10th-most fantasy points to receivers. For as good a roll this team has been on, the secondary remains a question mark. Supposed No. 1 corner Shaquill Griffin has been anything but as Pro Football Focus’ No. 112 cover corner out of 114 qualifiers this season. Teammate Tre Flowers hasn’t been much better, checking in at No. 109. Slot CB Justin Coleman has been the best at No. 20. Pettis runs over 65% of his routes on the outside, so he’ll see a lot of Griffin and Flowers. San Francisco is coming off a win over the Broncos but figures to be playing from behind in this one as 4.5-point underdogs. Nick Mullens threw the ball a season-high 48 times against Seattle in Week 13. Pettis is a WR3.
Demaryius Thomas at Jets: Thomas has been a total dud since being acquired from the Broncos. In five games with his new team, Thomas is averaging 27 yards receiving. He has a two-touchdown game mixed in there after beating the Titans for 4-38-2 in Week 12. But overall, Thomas is the WR60 in fantasy points per game since the Week 9 debut. He’s averaging 3.2 targets a week with the Texans. The Jets are 26th in fantasy points allowed to receivers, but 11th in pass-defense DVOA. Throw those numbers out the window, though. It’s simply impossible to trust Thomas on 3.2 targets per game. The Texans are 6.5-point favorites in this one and should be able to control this game on the ground. DeAndre Hopkins will get “his,” while Thomas and the others scrap for leftovers.
Randall Cobb at Bears: It’s been another season to forget for Cobb in his contract year. He’s missed a bunch of time to injuries and is averaging a career-worst 9.6 yards per catch. However, Cobb has been healthy enough the last two weeks and reestablished himself as the Packers’ No. 2 option. He scored his first touchdown since Week 1 last week, posting a 5-43-1 day against the Falcons. But this matchup against the Bears doesn’t look like one to go out of the way to attack, even with the Bears losing slot CB Bryce Callahan to a season-ending broken foot last Sunday night. Callahan was Pro Football Focus’ No. 8 cover corner out of 114 qualifiers, and now career special teamer Sherrick McManis will take over inside between Kyle Fuller and Prince Amukamara. McManis is the clear weak point, but this Bears Defense is just so good everywhere else on the field that it can mask the loss better than most everyone else. Cobb torched this defense for 9-142-1 in Week 1, but that was well before all the injury issues and heavily aided by a miracle performance from Aaron Rodgers. Chicago is No. 1 in pass-defense DVOA. Sterling Shepard (4-28), Bruce Ellington (6-28), Adam Thielen (7-66), Zay Jones (4-18), and Jermaine Kearse (3-30) have all underperformed against Chicago since Week 8. A slot wideout hasn’t scored against the Bears since Julian Edelman went 5-36-1 in Week 7, and even his catches and yards were a disappointment. Cobb is playable in deeper leagues, but in 12-teamers, he’s more of a play-at-your-own-risk WR4 with a basement-level floor.
Allen Robinson vs. Packers: Robinson hasn’t scored a touchdown in four games and is coming off a subpar 5-42 night against the Rams with Mitchell Trubisky and Jared Goff trading interceptions in that one. Trubisky threw a single score, but it went to an offensive lineman on a trick play. The good news for Robinson is he’s seen at least seven targets in his last three healthy games with Trubisky under center. The bad news is Trubisky remains wildly inconsistent, and now Robinson appears to have come down with a hip ailment. It kept him out of practice on Wednesday, but Robinson did play his normal allotment of snaps in Week 14. It may not be serious. But Robinson figures to see a lot of Packers stud rookie CB Jaire Alexander this weekend. Alexander is Pro Football Focus’ No. 11 cover corner out of 114 qualifiers. The tough individual matchup combined with Trubisky’s ups and downs and now Robinson possibly being less than 100% makes him really hard to trot out there in fantasy lineups. Robinson has just one 100-yard game this year. He’s been extremely reliant on the touchdowns. With just one since Week 2, he’s more of a low-floor WR4.
Start of the Week: Cameron Brate at Ravens: Brate had an extremely difficult matchup last week against a Saints Defense that has been shutting down tight ends all season, but he was able to take advantage of it and make both of his catches count for red-zone touchdowns. Since O.J. Howard (ankle) had his season end, Brate has three touchdowns in three games and dropped a fourth while a fifth target in the end zone fell incomplete. Any time the Bucs get in the red zone, Jameis Winston is immediately looking for his big tight end. And defending tight ends has been the weakness of the Baltimore defense. The Ravens have allowed the sixth-most catches for the eighth-most yards, 10th-most touchdowns, and ninth-most fantasy points to the position. Travis Kelce went 7-77-1 against Baltimore last week. Austin Hooper led the Falcons in receiving with a 5-44-1 afternoon in Week 13. Jared Cook caught a touchdown in Week 12. Greg Olsen had a 4-56-1 line in Week 8. Ben Watson went 6-43-1 the previous game. At this point, Brate’s touchdown upside is just too good.
Ian Thomas vs. Saints: Greg Olsen (foot, I.R.) has missed the majority of the last two games. In that span, rookie Ian Thomas has drawn 16 targets, including an 11-target Week 14 that saw him set season-highs across the board with nine catches for 77 yards. Cam Newton’s surgically-repaired right shoulder has been flaring up, and Newton isn’t driving the ball downfield as much, instead checking down to Christian McCaffrey and his tight end. The matchup isn’t great on paper for Thomas, with the Saints No. 3 in fantasy points allowed to tight ends, but Cameron Brate just scored a pair of touchdowns against them last Sunday. Thomas’ eight targets per game volume over the past two games is enough to make him a streamer in a game with a 52-point total.
C.J. Uzomah vs. Raiders: With Jeff Driskel under center the last three weeks, Uzomah leads the Bengals with 23 targets. He hasn’t done a lot with them, catching 14 for just 109 scoreless yards, but volume is king at the tight end spot. Uzomah is on the field a ton and now gets a Raiders Defense that is dead last in fantasy points allowed to tight ends. They’ve surrendered the most touchdowns to the position, and only the Broncos have given up more yards. Travis Kelce just went 12-168-2 against Oakland in Week 13. The Ravens’ trio of tight ends had a combined 6-118 day in Week 12 with Lamar Jackson throwing them the ball. Uzomah has long been brining up the rear of acceptable streamers. This game has some sleeper appeal to it with a reasonable 46-point total.
Vernon Davis at Jaguars: Jordan Reed finally got hurt last week, injuring his foot. The issue isn’t believed to be all that serious, but Reed didn’t practice on Wednesday and seems like a long shot to suit up in Jacksonville. Davis played 79% of the snaps last week, and that was with Reed leaving partway through the game. With Reed out of the lineup last season, Davis was virtually an every-down players. He’s going to be on the field a ton, and the path to passing success against Jacksonville is between the hash marks. The Jaguars are 17th in fantasy points allowed to tight ends but have given up the fourth-most touchdowns to the position. Davis is a TE1 if Reed sits.
Trey Burton vs. Packers: Burton has cleared five targets in game just once since Week 7. And he hasn’t topped 40 yards since going 9-126-1 against New England that same week. Burton has the talent to have big games, but he simply doesn’t see the ball enough as Tarik Cohen has become the only reliable part of this Chicago pass offense. The matchup isn’t any good for Burton, either. Green Bay has allowed the sixth-fewest catches and second-most fantasy points to tight ends. Only one has scored a touchdown, and that was Ed Dickson from 15 yards out in Week 11 on his lone catch of the game. When these teams met in Week 1, Burton caught just 1-of-5 targets for 15 scoreless yards. Austin Hooper (4-37) was shut down last week. Burton’s floor is incredibly low.
Evan Engram vs. Titans: Engram popped up for a big game last week against the Redskins, going 3-77 on five targets, but Odell Beckham (quad) missed that contest and is expected back this week. He’ll resume his alpha-dog spot as a target hog while Saquon Barkley does the rest on the ground. Anything behind those two is merely scraps. The Titans have been stingy against tight ends all season, allowing the sixth-fewest catches to the position and the fewest fantasy points. Tennessee is the only team yet to allow a tight end to score a touchdown.
Jimmy Graham at Bears: Since the Week 7 bye, Graham has been a virtual non-factor. He was averaging 7.5 targets per game before the open date. He’s seeing 4.5 the last seven weeks while dealing with a thumb injury. Graham has just one touchdown since Week 4 and has topped 34 yards just once in the last five outings. The Bears are No. 9 in catches allowed to tight ends and 11th in fantasy points given up to the position. Graham had one of his worst games of the season in Week 1 against Chicago, catching only two passes for a measly eight yards on four targets. Hard pass.