Start ‘Em or Sit ‘Em is geared toward season-long leagues but can also be used for daily fantasy purposes.
Start of the Week: Jameis Winston vs. Browns: Listed in this exact same spot last week, Winston answered the bell with 395 yards and four touchdowns against the Falcons en route to the overall QB1 performance for Week 6, edging out Dak Prescott and Aaron Rodgers. Winston is going to make mistakes, as evidenced by his two interceptions, but you can live with them when he’s attempting so many passes and throwing for gobs of yards with scores. On paper, this matchup isn’t amazing, with the Browns checking in at No. 3 in pass-defense DVOA, 9th in fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks, and t-4th in interceptions. But Tampa Bay throws the ball at the seventh-highest clip and has no means of running the ball with Peyton Barber really struggling back there. The Browns have allowed only one top-12 QB performance this season — Derek Carr’s OT-aided day in Week 4 — but I’ll bank on the volume and supporting cast with Winston to keep him afloat as a QB1. This game’s 50-point total is tied for the fourth-highest on the slate. With the sad state of the Tampa Bay defense, Winston and the offense may be thrust into shootouts on a weekly basis.
Andy Dalton at Chiefs: Another carryover from last week, Dalton’s previous performance left a lot to be desired in the Bengals’ Week 6 loss to the Steelers. He uncorked 42 pass attempts, but Dalton managed just 229 yards on them, averaging a pitiful 5.5 YPA. That’s well below his 7.3 season average, but Dalton did manage to throw multiple touchdowns (two) for the fifth time in six games. His 14 touchdowns on the year are good for fourth in the league. Outside of the touchdowns, Dalton’s other counting stats have been the definition of average. A date with the Chiefs could be just what he needs to break back into the top 12 for the week. Kansas City is 28th in fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks and dead last in passing yards allowed (2,142) as the only team that has yielded more than 2,000 yards through the air. Case Keenum is the only passer out of six not to have a QB1 week against the Chiefs. Jimmy Garoppolo accomplished the feat despite missing a large chunk of the day with a torn ACL. Arrowhead is one of the toughest places to play, and the Bengals have some troubles in primetime affairs. However, this game’s 59-point total is far and away the largest of Week 7. Fantasy owners would be smart to hammer the heck out of this one and play all relevant Bengals and Chiefs. Dalton is a strong streamer for Aaron Rodgers and Ben Roethlisberger owners.
Baker Mayfield at Bucs: Mayfield was a dud as the QB21 at home last week against the Chargers, but his supporting cast is doing him little favors with Antonio Callaway failing to take advantage of opportunities and several other wideouts hurt. The good news for fantasy is Mayfield has attempted at least 40 passes in all three of his starts, averaging 43.3 in them. The bad is he’s tossed just four touchdowns to five interceptions. This is a total smash spot for Mayfield and the Cleveland offense, though. The Bucs are getting embarrassed on a weekly basis on defense, surrendering the most passing touchdowns and most fantasy points to quarterbacks while also checking in at 32nd in pass-defense DVOA. Matt Ryan (354 yards, 3 TDs, QB4), Mitchell Trubisky (354 yards, 6 TDs, QB1), Ben Roethlisberger (353 yards, 3 TDs, QB10), and Drew Brees (439 yards, 3 TDs, QB2) have all registered top-10 weeks against the Bucs through five games. Only Nick Foles in Week 2 failed to put together a usable fantasy week as the QB19, and he still through for 334 yards and a touchdown on 48 attempts. The Bucs fired DC Mike Smith after last week’s loss to the Falcons, but it’s hard to believe these guys are all of the sudden going to turn things around in seven days. Even if Mayfield isn’t going to post elite numbers, he has a good chance at having his best game to date with multiple touchdowns and 300-plus yards. His ankle is said to be a non-issue after slipping on the sidelines last Sunday. This game has the fourth-highest total of the week at 50 points.
Carson Wentz vs. Panthers: Since debuting in Week 3 against the Colts, Wentz has steadily gotten better, knocking the rust off from his ACL rehab and returning to his old form as a bit of a gunslinger who plays with some reckless abandon in order to create plays. Over the last three weeks, Wentz has averaged 312.3 yards through the air with seven touchdowns and multiple scores in all three starts. Wentz has registered back-to-back overall QB8 performances, so it’s safe to say he’s back in the every-week QB1 conversation. The Panthers have notoriously been strong against the pass, but they’ve been wholly unimpressive much of the season. Carolina is below average in both pass-defense DVOA (21st) and fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks (18th). Eli Manning had his best game of the season against the Panthers in Week 5, throwing for 326 yards and two touchdowns. Andy Dalton had 352 yards and two scores in Week 3. And Matt Ryan totaled 290 yards with four touchdowns as the QB5 in Week 2. Wentz has just as much upside, if not more, than Ryan. Wentz faced this defense in Carolina last season and tossed three touchdowns. The 45.5-point total doesn’t leap off the page as a fantasy goldmine, but there’s enough here for Wentz.
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Deshaun Watson at Jaguars: Fantasy’s QB13 in points per game, Watson has tumbled down the quarterback ranks with back-to-back rough games against the Cowboys and Bills. He has just two touchdowns and three interceptions in that span and has been getting lit up with big hits, suffering a broken rib and collapsed lung against Dallas two weeks back. He’s playing through it, but Watson’s game is suffering. He attempted a season-low 25 passes last week in a narrow win over Buffalo in what was easily his worst game of the year. Watson has absorbed a league-high 24 sacks. His dual-threat ability keeps him viable as a fantasy starter, but traveling to Jacksonville isn’t a recipe for a bounce-back, even if the Jaguars just got shellshocked by Dak Prescott the previous week. Even with that bad performance by the defense, Jacksonville is still No. 3 in fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks and No. 7 in pass-defense DVOA. This is a chance for them to get right in the sack column against the league-worst Texans offensive line. Pretty much all Texans are off limits in this game outside of alpha dog WR1 DeAndre Hopkins. The 42-point total is the second-lowest on the board. Both offenses are in a funk. We could get a field-goal fest and defensive slobber-knocker.
Sam Darnold vs. Vikings: Darnold is coming off arguably his best game of the season, a 280-yards, two-touchdowns win over the Colts at home as the QB15 in fantasy. He’s been pretty good in recent weeks, with five touchdowns in his last two starts, even if K Jason Myers had to kick seven field goals in Week 6. The yards haven’t really been there for Darnold with four sub-200-yards days out of six. On paper, the Vikings look like a beatable bunch on the defensive side; they’re 25th in pass-defense DVOA and 23rd in fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks. But this Minnesota defense swallowed up rookie signal-caller Josh Rosen in Week 6 and has otherwise been pretty decent outside of matchups with Aaron Rodgers and Jared Goff, who guide two of the league’s top offenses. Darnold lighting this unit up doesn’t look like it’s in the cards, especially with how banged up the Jets’ receiving corps is considering all three of Quincy Enunwa (ankle), Terrelle Pryor (groin), and Robby Anderson (hamstring) all missing practice Wednesday. Enunwa has already been ruled out. Minnesota did lose top slot CB Mike Hughes to a torn ACL last Sunday, but Mackensie Alexander is a capable replacement. The pass-rush is also top-five in sacks, even without Everson Griffen (personal) in the lineup and ruled out for Week 7. I’d be hammering the under on the Jets’ implied total of 22. Think they’re getting too much love after beating up on an injury-ravaged Colts squad.
Dak Prescott at Redskins: Last week’s overall QB2, Prescott did his damage on the ground with 82 yards rushing and a score. It was a glimpse of rookie-year Prescott that we hadn’t seen in a while. The problem is he’s still not throwing for many yards, as he’s been held under 200 four times and only has one day of more than 250 with 255 against the Lions. Washington isn’t a stiff test by any means, checking in at 13th in pass-defense DVOA, 17th in fantasy points to quarterbacks, and t-26th in sacks, but this figures to be one of the slowest games imaginable with both teams bottom-eight in pace. The Redskins’ real weakness is their run defense, bring up the rear at 30th in DVOA. Ezekiel Elliott should feast, but Prescott remains without a formidable supporting cast of wideouts and tight ends. He would have to have another big game as a runner to bring back fantasy value. Prior to last week, Prescott had been averaging 24.2 rush yards with no scores. The 41.5-point total for Cowboys-Redskins is the lowest of Week 7. Elliott looks like the only option on Dallas’ side of the ball.
Start of the Week: Tevin Coleman vs. Giants: Coleman has really not been impressive this season, averaging a lackluster 3.7 YPC without a rushing touchdown since Week 1. He bailed us out last week, however, by corralling a six-yard receiving touchdown against the Bucs after mustering up 35 yards on 10 carries. With Devonta Freeman (foot, groin, I.R.) now out for at least the next eight games, this backfield is all Coleman and Ito Smith’s as the 1A-1B punch. Neither has been anything to write home about outside of solid games against the Panthers in Week 2. Smith has scored a touchdown three-straight weeks, though, but is averaging an even-worse 3.2 YPC. Coleman is still the preferred ball carrier for Atlanta and gets a mediocre Giants run defense that is 20th in fantasy points allowed to running backs that checks in at No. 22 in DVOA. They’ve given up the most receiving touchdowns to the position on top of it. The Eagles tandem of Corey Clement and Wendell Smallwood combined for 120 yards and a score on 33 touches versus the G-Men last week. Christian McCaffrey went for 93 yards and a score the previous game. Alvin Kamara piled up 181 yards and three scores in Week 4. Lamar Miller caught a touchdown, his only score of the season, in Week 3. And Ezekiel Elliott found the end zone in Week 2. The 54.5-point total for Giants-Falcons is the second-highest of the week, and this one will be played in fantasy-friendly Mercedes-Benz Stadium. We’re likely to get either a track meet or a Falcons blowout win. Both are good for Coleman.
Dion Lewis vs. Chargers: Lewis has been a pretty large bust his first six games in Tennessee. He hasn’t scored since Week 1 and has caught more than three passes in a game just once since the opener despite playing over 63% of the snaps. Lewis is averaging a healthy 13.8 touches per week compared to 38% of the snaps and 12.7 touches for Derrick Henry. But this Tennessee offense has had legitimately only one even remotely positive day, a Week 4 win over the Eagles. Everybody thought the switch was flipped that afternoon, but the Titans have managed 13 points in two games since. Week 7 in London looks like a potential bounce-back spot. The Chargers are middle of the pack in roughly every defensive category and have been on the road for what will amount to about 10 days. They won in Cleveland last week, stayed on the east coast, and then flew across the pond for this one. London games have had a tendency to pop off with some shootouts in recent memory. The Bolts are 14th in fantasy points yielded to running backs and 20th in run-defense DVOA. But they’ve allowed the fourth-most receiving yards to the position. That’s where Lewis can obviously be a factor since Henry is a no-show in the pass game. The Chargers are favored by a touchdown, so even if this thing gets lopsided a bit, Lewis figures to be the beneficiary. He’s too good of a player to be struggling in the gutters as the overall RB40 in fantasy points per game. Duke Johnson had a 4-73 receiving day against L.A. last week. Jalen Richard went 6-53 the week before. Todd Gurley had 5-51 in Week 3, and LeSean McCoy-Chris Ivory combined for 5-59 in Week 2.
Corey Clement vs. Panthers: In the Eagles’ first game sans Jay Ajayi (knee, I.R.), Wendell Smallwood made the start and played 62% of the snaps while Clement was only in on 36.6% of the plays. Smallwood out-touched Clement 19-14, but it was Clement who found the end zone with a rushing score and out-gained Smallwood 79-51. With Darren Sproles (hamstring) still not practicing, it should be another Smallwood-Clement one-two punch against Carolina. The Panthers are 10th in fantasy points allowed to running backs and 17th in run-defense DVOA, but they’re getting shredded for 5.08 YPC. Adrian Peterson just hung a 17-97 line on Carolina last week. Saquon Barkley totaled 129 yards with two touchdowns the previous game. Giovani Bernard had 86 yards and a score in Week 3. Tevin Coleman and Ito Smith combined for 179 yards in Week 2, with both averaging over 5.1 YPC. The Coleman-Smith duo most closely resembles the Clement-Smallwood one in terms of split and opportunity. Clement is completely over his quad injury and has had 10 days to rest. He’s the preferred play over Smallwood, but both are very much on the RB2/FLEX map at home.
Kenyan Drake vs. Lions: Drake has found himself on the other side of the fence in this column each of the past two weeks, but I’m starting to buy back in a bit with Drake getting touch counts of 13 and 17 the last two games against the Bengals and Bears. He was almost the goat for the Dolphins last week against Chicago, losing a fumble at the goal line in overtime, but the defense bailed him out and K Jason Sanders was able to nail the winning field goal the next series. He’ll look to build off the season-high 17 touches last week in a ripe spot against the Lions. Detroit is 28th in fantasy points allowed to running backs and 27th in run-defense DVOA. The Lions are surrendering nearly six yards per carry at 5.98 and give up over five catches per game to the position. Frank Gore is still out-carrying Drake on a weekly basis, but with Brock Osweiler at quarterback again I would expect coach Adam Gase to lean more on his running backs. I’m also expecting the Lions to go into Miami and win this one outright despite being three-point ‘dogs. If the Dolphins fall behind and need to chase points, Drake is their preferred backfield weapon. Either way, this should be close enough where Osweiler won’t have to stand back there and uncork balls downfield all day. The path to success against the Detroit defense is via the running backs.
Isaiah Crowell vs. Vikings: If Crowell continues down the same path he’s been taking through six weeks, that would mean he’s going to explode for over 100 yards and multiple touchdowns against Minnesota. In odd-numbered weeks, Crowell has amassed 355 yards and five touchdowns on the ground compared to 75 yards and no scores in even-numbered weeks. Don’t count me as one buying this trend to continue. Crowell has the ability to pop off at the most random times, but this looks like a definite shy-away spot. While the Vikings have struggled a bit in pass defense, their run-game unit has remained strong. Minnesota is yielding just 3.8 YPC and the eighth-fewest fantasy points to running backs while checking in at No. 9 in run-defense DVOA. The Jets are also underdogs going up against one of the league’s best offenses. If this game gets out of hand at all, it’ll be blouses for Crowell’s afternoon. He doesn’t play in pass situations, so it would be a lot of Bilal Powell in catchup mode. Matt Breida, Alfred Morris, Jamaal Williams, Chris Ivory, Jay Ajayi, and David Johnson have all failed to top 60 yards rushing against the Vikings, and only Johnson has scored on the ground. Minnesota even held Todd Gurley out of the end zone via the run and “limited” him to 83 yards rushing in Week 4. Crowell is a low-floor, highly-bust-rate RB3 play.
Nyheim Hines vs. Bills: Marlon Mack returned to the Colts’ lineup last week against the Jets. In two games Mack has played this season, Hines has experienced his lowest snap shares (41%, 43.5%) and lowest touch totals (5, 5), so it’s pretty evident Mack being available is a pretty big drain on Hines’ numbers. He also dropped a touchdown in Week 6 and was pretty much benched thereafter. While the Bills’ offense is a total clusterfudge, the defense has been pretty respectable. Buffalo is No. 3 in total defense DVOA, checking in at No. 2 against the pass and No. 7 versus the run. The Bills have allowed the 12th-most catches to running backs, but that’s mainly because of blowouts and sheer opportunity since Buffalo’s offense can’t sustain drives. This one figures to be much closer than most think. Derek Anderson is a capable veteran with loads of experience, and I think Buffalo has a decent shot to go into Indy and claim a win. And with Mack and Jordan Wilkins healthy for the Colts, this three-headed rotation is virtually off limits from a fantasy perspective. Mack might be worth a flier as a last-ditch RB3 just on volume alone. Hines’ floor is far too low.
Jordan Howard vs. Patriots: Howard is up there as one of the bigger disappointments of the first month-and-a-half of the season. He has just one touchdown on the ground and after coach Matt Nagy insisted Howard would be a bigger part of the pass game, Howard hasn’t caught a pass since Week 3. His snap share has been on a steady decline from a high-water mark of 72.7% in Week 2 > 62.2 > 54.1 > BYE > 51.4 the last four weeks. Howard and Tarik Cohen were essentially in a 50-50 split last week with Cohen playing a season-high 48.6% of the snaps. Howard averaged a solid 4.9 YPC last week in Miami but lost a fumble at the goal line and has strung together his two lowest touch totals of the season the past two games. Meanwhile, Cohen has 295 yards and two touchdowns on 32 touches in that span, while Howard is at 94 scoreless rushing yards on 25 carries with no catches. This game has some fantasy appeal with the high-octane Patriots in two and a 49.5-point total, but Howard’s lack of pass-game involvement and pedestrian rushing numbers makes him a low-floor play, especially if the Bears get behind and have to play catchup with Tom Brady, which is a distinct possibility. New England is 13th in run-defense DVOA and 17th in fantasy points allowed to running backs, so this doesn’t jump off the page as a spot Howard owners need to play him. Most of the damage by running backs against the Patriots have been by ones who catch the ball.
Start of the Week: Corey Davis vs. Chargers: It’s been a rough last two weeks for Davis and the Titans’ offense as a whole. Tennessee lost 13-12 in Buffalo in Week 5 before then getting shut out in embarrassing fashion last week at home against the Ravens. Davis managed five catches for 73 scoreless yards on 10 targets in that span. In Weeks 1-4, Davis was averaging 9.25 targets per game with games of 15, 13, and 7 targets. Davis is seeing a robust 30% of the Titans’ target share. Marcus Mariota has been downright terrible for a large portion of the season, but I like this London game to possibly turn into a bit of a shootout. The 45.5-point over-under is pretty much smack-dab in the middle of the Week 7 slate in terms of totals. There have been a number of sneaky-upside slugfests across the pond in recent years. The Chargers have played better defense overall of late, but they’ve faced Baker Mayfield, Derek Carr, and C.J. Beathard each of the last three weeks. Mariota may not be much better, if at all, than that combination, but the Bolts have been away from home for what’s going to be about 10 days after staying in Cleveland to hop a flight to London following their Week 6 win. The Chargers are 25th in DVOA against opposing No. 1 wideouts, as Casey Hayward simply isn’t playing at his 2016 and 2017 level. Hayward is allowing a 130.7 passer rating in his coverage through six games after quarterbacks compiled ratings of 53.4 and 58.6 the previous two years. Davis’ volume upside along with the Chargers’ slumping pass defense makes him a viable WR3 with upside.
Sammy Watkins vs. Bengals: Watkins dudded big time against the Patriots last week, catching just two balls for 18 yards in a back-and-forth nail-biter that saw the teams combine for 83 points. Watkins took a distant backseat to Tyreek Hill, who exploded for three late touchdowns to claw the Chiefs back into it. In his previous three healthy games, however, Watkins has seen target counts of 7 > 8 > 8 and topped 75 yards and/or scored a touchdown in all three. He’s going to have his big game soon. A date with a Bengals defense that is 20th in pass-defense DVOA, 18th in fantasy points allowed to receivers that has allowed the sixth-most catches and seventh-most yards to the position might be just what Watkins needs to get back on the map. Both Antonio Brown and JuJu Smith-Schuster went for over 100 yards against this defense last week as the Bengals lost starting CB Darqueze Dennard in the process. He injured his shoulder and was in a sling on Wednesday. Being attached to Patrick Mahomes obviously makes Watkins that much more attractive. And with this game having the highest total on the board at 59 points and the Chiefs having the top implied team total of the week at 32.5, Watkins is a lock-and-load upside WR3.
Sterling Shepard at Falcons: Shepard hasn’t scored since Week 4 and has yet to top 80 yards in a game this season. The targets have been there, though, with at least seven in 5-of-6 games. Evan Engram is expected back from his sprained MCL this week, which will pose a threat to Shepard’s outlook over the long run, but this game has way too much shootout potential or points-chasing upside from the Giants perspective to worry about Engram getting in the way. Eli Manning may have to throw the ball 40-plus times Monday night for better or worse. Atlanta has been terrible in all facets of the game defensively and is 29th in pass-defense DVOA and 29th in fantasy points allowed to receivers, giving up the most touchdowns to the position. Secondary Bucs wideouts Chris Godwin (6-56-1), DeSean Jackson (4-77), and Adam Humphries (4-82) had big days against the Falcons last Sunday. If not for Tampa Bay, we’d be talking about the Falcons as the league’s worst defense. Running over 72% of his routes out of the slot, Shepard should see a lot of Falcons nickel CB Brian Poole. He is Pro Football Focus’ No. 94 cover corner out of 112 qualifiers and has allowed the second-highest passer rating (140.2) among qualified slot corners. Shepard is a solid WR3.
Antonio Callaway at Bucs: It’s been a forgettable rookie season for Callaway to this point. He’s been credited with four drops by Pro Football Focus, but one could argue he’s muffed maybe double that amount. The good news is the targets keep coming because the Browns are so incredibly depleted at receiver with Josh Gordon shipped out of town, Rashard Higgins in week two of a sprained MCL recovery, and Derrick Willies breaking his collarbone. Rod Streater was also just lost last week to a season-ending neck injury. The Browns have no choice but to keep playing Callaway, and he was in on a season-high 97.3% of the snaps last Sunday against the Chargers. He saw 10 targets, but again was unable to turn them into much, gaining nine yards on two catches. Callaway should have had a long touchdown but lost the ball in the sun and dropped another long pass in the second half. Normally, I would stay as far away as possible from a player like Callaway, but the volume is there, he’s on the field a ton, and the matchup this week is as good as it gets. The Bucs have been the laughingstock of the league defensively and just fired DC Mike Smith. Tampa Bay is dead last in pass-defense DVOA and 31st in fantasy points allowed to receivers. They simply don’t have a competent secondary. Taylor Gabriel (7-104-2), Nelson Agholor (8-88-1), and Ted Ginn (5-68-1) have all smashed against the Bucs, with regulars like Michael Thomas (16-180-1), JuJu Smith-Schuster (9-116), and Julio Jones (10-143) all having monster games. We simply want players on the field who are getting opportunities in our lineups against this defense. You can do a lot worse than Callaway as a bye-week fill-in for owners of Packers, Steelers, Raiders, and Seahawks wideouts. The 50-point total for Browns-Bucs is the fourth-highest of the week.
Will Fuller at Jaguars: Fuller has stacked back-to-back down games on top of each other the last two weeks, catching 2-of-3 targets for 15 yards against the Cowboys in Week 5 and then nabbing 2-of-3 targets again for 33 yards against the Bills last Sunday. Keke Coutee’s emergence as a formidable option out of the slot appears to be sucking some of the juice out of Fuller’s once-bountiful weekly stat lines. Fuller is still on the field plenty, and he and Deshaun Watson just missed on a would-be long touchdown last week, so I’m not ready to throw in the towel on Fuller for the rest of the season. But this matchup in Jacksonville is another tough test, even if the Jaguars just got boat-raced by Dak Prescott and friends last week. The Jaguars are still one of the best defenses in the league, checking in at No. 7 in pass-defense DVOA and first in fantasy points allowed to wideouts. The problem is they’ve actually done worse against opposing No. 1 receivers. Football Outsiders has them at No. 23 in DVOA vs. top wideouts and 12th against twos and first against “other” receivers. Fuller falls into the No. 2 or other category. This game has a disgusting 42-point total and could get really sloppy for both offenses. Fuller is best left on the bench in 12-team leagues.
Tyrell Williams vs. Titans: The Gazelle had his random breakout game of the season last week against the Browns, snaring three passes for 118 yards and a pair of scores on four targets. Much like Robby Anderson the week before, surely there are owners running to the wire to pick Williams up this week just from reading his box score. But Williams’ four targets were the second-most he’s drawn this season, behind the five he saw in Week 1. He’d topped 48 yards just once in five games before last Sunday. The volume just isn’t there for Williams; he has to live off big plays, and that just isn’t feasible for fantasy outside of leagues that give extra points for long touchdowns. The Titans are middle of the pack in both pass-defense DVOA (17th) and fantasy points allowed to receivers (14th), but overall they allow the fifth-fewest pass yards and the sixth-fewest air plays of 20-plus yards. Low volume and low chances for a big play make Williams someone to avoid.
Marvin Jones at Dolphins: I’m one of Jones’ biggest fans and have routinely listed him in the starts section of this piece the first month-plus of the season. He’s done well playing over 93% of the snaps while totaling 50 yards and/or one touchdown in all five games, but Jones is really living on the red-zone looks. That’s great to have in the back pocket, but Jones has been out-targeted by teammates Golden Tate (51) and Kenny Golladay (41) by a pretty significant margin with Jones at 33. Against a strong Miami pass defense that is 11th in DVOA, fifth in passer rating allowed, and 11th in fantasy points surrendered to receivers, it’s tough to gets behind Jones when Tate and Golladay have the better matchups inside and size-wise. Jones has yet to come down with the big plays over the top of the defense that made him such a fantasy stud last year, even if he’s on pace for the exact same number of targets. The upcoming schedule looks pretty tough for the Detroit pass offense.
Editor’s Note: Like the last two weeks, we’re going to go over some streaming options at the tight end position. It’s still just too thin of a position with the injuries to Hunter Henry (torn ACL), Tyler Eifert (broken ankle), Jack Doyle (hip), Will Dissly (torn patella tendon), and Delanie Walker (broken ankle). Greg Olsen is back from his broken foot to provide some help. Evan Engram should be back from his MCL sprain. But Vance McDonald, Jimmy Graham, and Jared Cook are all on bye. In the “Sits” section, I’ll caution some tough matchups.
Start of the Week: David Njoku at Bucs: As Rotoworld’s Evan Silva pointed out the other day on Twitter, since Baker Mayfield took over as the starter three games ago, Njoku has led the Browns in catches in Week 4, led the team in targets Week 5, and then led the team in both last week. The sophomore tight end is averaging 10 targets per game in that span and finally came down with a touchdown in the fourth quarter last week on a play the Browns had been trying to get him the ball on several times in previous games. Njoku now gets a Tampa Bay defense that is at or near the bottom in virtually every statistical category while also getting smeared by tight ends. No team has allowed more fantasy points to the position, and the Bucs are 30th in DVOA versus tight ends. Austin Hooper matched a career-high with nine catches for 71 yards and a touchdown against the Bucs last week. Trey Burton hung 2-86-1 on Tampa in Week 4. Vance McDonald went 4-112-1 in Week 3. Zach Ertz and Josh Perkins combined for 15-151-0 in Week 2. Njoku is an auto-start at a weak position against a horrendous defense in a game with the fourth-highest total on the board at 50 points.
O.J. Howard vs. Browns: Howard returned from the bye off his MCL sprain last week in Atlanta and played over 51% of the snaps. That’s below his previous roughly-70% average from Weeks 1-3, but Howard was still able to nab four balls for 62 yards and a score. He’s been as consistent as anyone at tight end through six weeks, topping 50 yards in all four of his healthy games and scoring a couple touchdowns. The Browns have been solid against tight ends, but they’ve faced guys like Antonio Gates, the Ravens’ collection at the position, Chris Herndon, and Ben Watson. Jared Cook took the Cleveland defense to the woodshed in Week 4, hanging an 8-110-2 line. The Bucs pass the ball at the seventh-highest clip in the league. Howard is a must-start TE1.
C.J. Uzomah at Chiefs: In the two games since Tyler Eifert (leg, I.R.) got hurt, Uzomah has played 91.7 and 91.8 percent of the snaps while running a combined 69 pass routes. He had a big game last week against the Steelers, corralling 6-of-7 targets for 54 yards, tying for third on the Bengals in looks behind A.J. Green and Tyler Boyd. That’s where Uzomah is going to fit in the rest of the way, even when one-trick-pony deep threat John Ross returns. The Chiefs have allowed the fourth-most fantasy points to tight ends. Rob Gronkowski went 3-97 last week. Niles Paul and James O’Shaughnessy combined for 10-92 the previous game. Jeff Heuerman led the Broncos with 57 yards in Week 4. George Kittle had 5-79 in Week 3. And Jesse James went 5-138-1 in Week 2. Uzomah is a Grade A streamer in a game with an astronomical 59-point total.
Charles Clay at Colts: Clay is about as low as I’ll go this week when digging for a plug-and-play option, and I was forced to grab him off the wire in one league where I have Jimmy Graham on bye. Pickings are slim out there. Clay has yet to top four catches or 40 yards in a game this season and is still looking for his first touchdown. The floor is extremely low. But the Colts are severely banged up on defense and have allowed the fifth-most fantasy points, third-most catches, and fifth-most yards to tight ends. Jets rookie Chris Herndon caught a touchdown against them last week, turning two grabs into 56 yards. Rob Gronkowski had 6-75 in Week 5. Dallas Goedert (7-73-1) and Zach Ertz (5-73-0) were 1-2 in receiving yards for the Eagles in Week 3. Jordan Reed went 6-55 in Week 2. The Colts play at the fastest pace in the league, which in turn leads to more plays and possessions for the opposing team. Derek Anderson being under center for the Bills also offers a more controlled option who should be able to find his open targets. The Bills have very little and Clay has been in on over 70% of the plays each of the last three weeks. You can do worse.
None. Greg Olsen has a tough draw against an Eagles defense that is No. 2 in DVOA and No. 3 in fantasy points allowed to the position. The Bills also pose a test to Eric Ebron, with Buffalo surrendering the seventh-fewest fantasy points to tight ends and playing stellar pass defense as a whole. T.Y. Hilton coming back could also be a bit of a drag on Ebron.