Start ‘Em or Sit ‘Em is geared toward season-long leagues but can also be used for daily fantasy purposes.
Start of the Week: Ryan Fitzpatrick at Panthers: FitzMagic is back, baby! Jameis Winston was putting up fantasy numbers, but he could not stop turning the football over and it all came to a head last week in Cincinnati, getting him benched after four interceptions. Since coming back from suspension, Winston has thrown 10 picks and fumbled twice in just over three games of action. In his two full starts, things were fun, even with the turnovers, as Winston was averaging 380 passing yards with five touchdowns. But it’s back to Fitzpatrick after he came on in relief to play 25 snaps last week and brought the Bucs all the way back to tie the game after entering with a 34-16 deficit. Fitzpatrick went 11-of-15 for 194 yards and two touchdowns while the Bengals were playing not to lose instead of keeping the foot on the gas. Either way, FitzMagic’s moments have been, well, magical while he’s been in there this year. He leads the league in yards per attempt (10.8) and passer rating (119.3) while throwing a touchdown on over 11% of his throws. On the road against the Panthers doesn’t jump off the page as a welcoming matchup, but the Bucs throw the ball at the eighth-highest clip and operate at the third-fastest pace. This offense is just too voluminous from a passing standpoint, making whoever starts under center for the Bucs a weekly QB1. Carolina shut down Joe Flacco with ease last week, but this pass defense has been beatable for big games in 2018, checking in at 21st in fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks and 20th in pass-defense DVOA. Two weeks back, Carson Wentz went 30-of-37 for 310 yards and two touchdowns against the Panthers. Alex Smith had one of his three multi-touchdown games to date the week before. Even Eli Manning threw for 326 yards and two touchdowns in Carolina in Week 5. There’s more than enough here for Fitzpatrick to bring back QB1 output after averaging 37 attempts and 410 passing yards Weeks 1-3 with 12 total touchdowns. The 55-point total for Bucs-Panthers is the third-highest of the week behind Rams-Saints (60) and Packers-Patriots (57).
Kirk Cousins vs. Lions: Cousins disappointed in real life a bit last week in the tough home loss to the Saints, throwing a bad pick-six that essentially did the Vikings in, but he still was able to put a top-10 fantasy week on the board thanks to a four-week best 359 passing yards. But Cousins hasn’t had a three-touchdown game over his last four outings after doing it twice Weeks 1-4. He’s the overall QB15 in fantasy points per game since Week 5. The big games haven’t been there mostly because the running game has started clicking with Latavius Murray and the Vikings blowing out the Cardinals and Jets in Weeks 6 and 7. I’m not expecting a top 3-5 week from Cousins against Detroit because the Lions play at the league’s slowest pace, and the Vikings are home favorites. But I am looking for a bounce-back effort from the Vikings as a team. This game has a healthy 49.5-point total as the fifth-highest of the week. Detroit is 12th in fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks but 30th in pass-defense DVOA and 31st in interceptions. The one advantage they do have is in the trenches; Detroit is No. 1 in adjusted sack rate at Football Outsiders while Minnesota’s offensive line has surrendered the eighth-most sacks. However, there’s still enough here for Cousins to be a useful fantasy starter in a week with six teams on bye after Russell Wilson just sliced this secondary for 248 yards and three touchdowns on 17 attempts last week.
Dak Prescott vs. Titans: Prescott still doesn’t have a 300-yard passing game to his name this season and has yet to even top 275 yards through the air. But he is running the ball more. averaging over 7.5 carries per game the last three times out and has scored as a runner in back-to-back games. Prescott was the QB2 and QB6 in Weeks 6 and 7 before last week’s bye. He now has Amari Cooper added to his arsenal out wide. Cooper has not been good in recent memory, but he’s a talented player who badly needed a change of scenery. I’d be thoroughly surprised if he doesn’t play better. But what really puts Prescott back on the fantasy map is the aforementioned uptick in rushing stats. This game against Tennessee doesn’t look all that attractive for fantasy, but on a short week like this I’m totally willing to take Prescott at home fresh off a bye when he’s averaging 49.7 rushing yards over the last three. That’s a nice floor to fall back on at quarterback. And the Titans allowed over 300 yards and two touchdowns to Philip Rivers through the air last time out. This game has the second-lowest total of the week at 41 points, and both teams are bottom-12 in pace. By no means are we expecting a top-end QB1 day from Prescott, but he’s very much on the QB1 fringe. If he can score again on the ground as we’re seeing glimpses of the old Dak, then he’ll pay off big time.
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Russell Wilson vs. Chargers: It’s a rough week at quarterback with Carson Wentz, Andrew Luck, and Andy Dalton all on bye. Even Blake Bortles is off this week. While not good in real life, he’s very useful in fantasy. Anyway, Wilson is coming off his best game of the season, throwing for 248 yards and three touchdowns in Detroit. And he did it on a season-low 17 attempts. It was Wilson’s first game with fewer than 20 attempts in four years. Fewer passing attempts have been the theme of Wilson’s 2018 season as well. Among passers who have started and finished seven games, Wilson’s 182 attempts are dead last. The Seahawks are the only team in the league that throws the ball less than 50% of the time, and they’re at 47.76% pass to 52.24% run. Wilson has averaged 20.3 attempts per game the last three weeks but has thrown a whopping nine touchdowns in that span with just one interception. He hasn’t thrown the ball more than 26 times since Week 2. He’s throwing a touchdown on 8.8% of his passes, which is unsustainable, and that rate is at 14.8% the last three weeks. That’s astronomical. But let’s keep riding the wave against the Chargers. L.A. is 19th in fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks and a middling 15th in pass-defense DVOA. Marcus Mariota had his second-most passing yards (237) of the season against the Chargers in Week 7 while also throwing a touchdown. Overall, this defense hasn’t faced very talented quarterbacks/offenses, having already gone up against Mariota, C.J. Beathard, Derek Carr, Josh Allen, and Baker Mayfield. The Seahawks are humming right now, having booted Brandon Marshall from the offense and replacing him with David Moore. Tyler Lockett keeps scoring long touchdowns. And Doug Baldwin has alternated solid games with down ones. Volume is the one concern with Wilson. We’ve already accepted the fact that he’s not going to run the ball much this season. But with LE Joey Bosa (foot) still out for the Bolts and their secondary giving up big plays, Wilson is a comfortable QB1 play at home.
Matthew Stafford at Vikings: Stafford has thrown multiple touchdowns in six-straight games, but after unloading 97 passing attempts the first two weeks, Stafford has averaged 30.8 attempts the last five, and that number is inflated after uncorking 40 throws last week. With the Lions playing more ball-control offense in an effort to hide their defense, Detroit is operating at the slowest pace, and Stafford’s numbers have been affected by it. He saw his pass attempts decline in each successive game from 36 > 30 > 26 > 22 in Weeks 3-7. (The Lions had a bye Week 6.) After trading away Golden Tate on Tuesday, the Lions probably want to stay as balanced as possible. The Vikings are middle of the pack at 18th in fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks and 16th in pass-defense DVOA, but coach Mike Zimmer has owned Stafford in the division. Here are Stafford’s last eight games against Zimmer’s defense dating back to 2014, starting with the most recent: 250 yards, 2 TDs, 1 INT > 209-0-0 > 232-1-0 > 219-2-1 > 256-2-0 > 286-2-1 > 153-1-0 > 185-1-0. And this year, there hasn’t been enough volume Stafford to be a useful fantasy asset. Since Week 3, Stafford is the QB19 in fantasy points per game with zero top-12 finishes. He’s been ultra-consistent as the QB14 twice and the QB15 twice in that span. He’s fine for that output, but there’s no upside.
Ben Roethlisberger at Ravens: The QB10 in fantasy points per game, Big Ben is fifth in pass attempts and sixth in yards. But he’s 12th in touchdowns, 14th in yards per attempt, 17th in passer rating, and 19th in completion rate. Three of his four multi-touchdown games this season have been at home with the other being in Tampa Bay on Monday Night Football against the league’s worst defense. He has a 2:3 TD:INT mark in his other two road affairs versus Cleveland and Cincinnati. Roethlisberger now gets a date with a Ravens Defense No. 2 in fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks and 10th in pass-defense DVOA. Only the Jaguars are allowing fewer yards through the air. Here are Big Ben’s last four games in Baltimore dating back to 2014, starting with the most recent: 216 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT > 264-1-1 > 220-0-2 > 217-0-1. He hasn’t been good in Baltimore, and Big Ben’s struggles on the road in 1 PM ET starts have also been well documented. The Ravens held Cam Newton to 219 yards passing and two touchdowns last week, limited Drew Brees to 212 yards and two scores in Baltimore Week 7, and shut out the Titans in Week 6. When these teams met in Week 4 in Pittsburgh, Ben had just one touchdown and 274 yards as the QB20 that week. It’s tough to sit Ben on a week with six teams on bye, but I’d play any of the aforementioned “starts” over him. Pittsburgh’s implied team total of 22.25 points is the sixth-lowest of Week 9.
Mitchell Trubisky at Bills: Since Week 4, Trubisky has been on an absolute tear as the overall QB1 in fantasy points per game in that span. He’s thrown 13 touchdowns in four games with three 300-yard days while averaging 58 rushing yards and scoring a 14th touchdown on the ground. Trubisky has done it against the Bucs, Dolphins, Patriots, and Jets, and three of those have been at home. The rushing output is what’s making Trubisky so elite as a fantasy asset, as he’s completed a pitiful 53% of his passes the last two games. Going to Buffalo will be a different test. The Bills are horrible, but their defense is as good as their offense is bad. The defense is what keeps them from getting embarrassed each week. The Bills are seventh in fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks, sixth in pass yards allowed, and fourth in pass-defense DVOA. Buffalo just shut down Tom Brady in Buffalo last Monday night, holding the Patriots to zero passing scores, one rushing touchdown, and three Stephen Gostkowski field goals. Opposing offenses are averaging 20.3 points per game in Buffalo, and Philip Rivers (256 yards, 3 TDs) in Week 2 was the only one to have any real success through the air. The Bills have faced a number of mobile quarterbacks, but have surrendered just 98 rushing yards to the position and no scores. Marcus Mariota (2-10), Deshaun Watson (2-2), and Andrew Luck (3-5) all did nothing as a runner. Bears-Bills has by far the lowest total on the board at 37.5 points. Trubisky owners may be in for a rude awakening Sunday.
Start of the Week: Mark Ingram vs. Rams: Ingram played 54.5% of the snaps in his Week 5 debut against the Redskins, turning 18 touches into 73 yards and two touchdowns as the overall RB7. In two games since, Ingram has played 46.8% of the downs and averaged 15 touches with 124 scoreless yards. He’s the overall RB34 in half-PPR in that span. The playing time and touch numbers are there, however, and a matchup at the Superdome with the Rams is the prescribed medicine for a breakout. The Rams are getting flamed in run defense, allowing 4.75 YPC to opposing backs and check in at 25th in run-defense DVOA. They simply don’t really care about stopping the run, as DC Wade Phillips knows this is a passing league and focuses the bulk of his attention there. The Saints aren’t afraid to run the ball, and this is an opportunity to get Ingram going again. He has five carries inside the 10-yard line in three games. The Rams were gouged by Aaron Jones for 12-86-1 last week. Raheem Mostert averaged 8.4 YPC the week before in a blowout loss. Chris Carson and Mike Davis combined for 31-184-1 in Week 5. And Melvin Gordon and Austin Ekeler teamed up for 19-127-1 in Week 3. Alvin Kamara is an elite RB1, and Ingram should prop back up to mid-to-high RB2 status this week with upside for more if he can find the end zone. The 60-point total for Rams-Saints is the highest of the season, and New Orleans’ implied total of 30.75 is the second-highest of the week.
Latavius Murray vs. Lions: Murray has been the Vikings’ unquestioned No. 1 back the last four weeks with Dalvin Cook nursing a hamstring injury. And over the last three, Murray has scored four touchdowns on the ground and is the overall RB7 in fantasy points per game. This is an obvious start, but running back is ultra-shallow this week. Additionally, Cook returned to a limited practice Wednesday and is nearing a return, possibly as soon as Sunday. Cook is itching to get back, but earlier reports had him sitting out through the Week 10 bye. Even if Cook returns this week, expect Murray to remain the 1A to Cook’s 1B, and Cook stealing a handful or two of carries shouldn’t scare owners out of using Murray. The Lions are dreadful against the run; Detroit is 25th in fantasy points allowed to running backs, yielding 5.53 YPC, and 30th in run-defense DVOA. The Lions added NT Damon Harrison via trade last week, and he was in on 39-of-63 snaps versus Seattle in Week 8, earning his highest run-defense grade of the season from Pro Football Focus. But the Lions still got gashed on the ground with Chris Carson amassing a 25-105-1 rushing line. This defense needs more than Harrison. Detroit has surrendered 100 yards and/or one touchdown to a running back three times in the last four weeks. Murray is a lock-and-load RB1 at home with Minnesota favored.
Austin Ekeler at Seahawks: Melvin Gordon missed Week 7 with a hamstring injury and had the Week 8 bye to get ready. He was back at a limited practice Wednesday and has eyes on a return against Seattle. In his absence two weeks ago against the Titans, Ekeler played 95.5% of the snaps and turned 17 touches into 78 scoreless yards. It was a relatively disappointing game considering his playing time. He’s a no-brainer start if Gordon somehow doesn’t play Sunday, but even if Gordon is back, Ekeler is very much on the RB2 map. From Weeks 1-6 with Gordon in the lineup, Ekeler was the RB23 in half-PPR points per game. He averaged 8.83 touches per game in that span and scored three times. This offense likes to run through its backfield, and OC Ken Whisenhunt does a great job getting the most out of both backs. Seattle is a tough draw on the road, as the Seahawks are No. 6 in run-defense DVOA and 13th in fantasy points allowed to running backs. But the Bolts are coming off the bye having two weeks to prepare and are No. 6 in total offense. A good way to counteract the pass rush is to get the ball in the hands of the running back. Kerryon Johnson finished second on the Lions with a 6-69 receiving line last week. Jalen Richard led the Raiders with seven catches in Week 6. And Todd Gurley and David Johnson were heavily involved in the pass game Weeks 4-5. There’s proven to be enough to go around for Ekeler with Gordon healthy. He’s a start either way.
Dion Lewis at Cowboys: Lewis is currently fantasy’s RB36 in half-PPR points per game. Year one in Tennessee has been a huge disappointment, but Lewis is hardly to blame. Nobody on this offense has done much of anything outside of one game against the Eagles. However, Lewis is coming off arguably his best game with the Titans. Week 7 in London against the Chargers, Lewis played 63.4% of the snaps in a close contest and set new season-highs with 19 touches and 155 total yards. He hasn’t found the end zone since Week 1, and Tennessee has the fewest points in the NFL outside of Buffalo. While the Cowboys have been really strong in run defense, checking in at No. 4 in DVOA and 10th in fantasy points allowed to running backs, giving up just 3.47 YPC, they do have issues stopping running backs who excel in the pass game. Among the 14 teams that have had their bye, only the Falcons have surrendered more catches to running backs than Dallas. Last time out in Week 7, the Cowboys gave up a 4-43-1 receiving line to Redskins’ third-down RB Kapri Bibbs. Alfred Blue caught eight balls for 73 yards against the Cowboys in Week 5. Saquon Barkley led the Giants with 14 catches and 80 yards in Week 2. And Christian McCaffrey went 6-45 through the air in the opener. Lewis is one of the better receiving backs in the league; he just needs opportunities. This game doesn’t have much fantasy excitement, but Lewis should play 60-70% of the downs and flirt with 15 touches. On a light week with six byes, Lewis is very much on the RB2 map.
Tevin Coleman at Redskins: Coleman has been a relative disappointment in his contract year. Gifted No. 1 duties due to Devonta Freeman’s inability to stay healthy, Coleman has had a hard time taking advantage of the opportunity. His game is built on speed, but Coleman is 39th among 50 qualifying running backs in Pro Football Focus’ Elusive Rating and is the site’s worst back overall among 60 runners. Coleman’s 3.8 YPC average is a career low. He was bottled up for 20 yards on 10 carries before breaking a 30-yard touchdown run last time out against the Giants as he waltzed into the end zone completely untouched. Coleman is living on big plays, and they’ve been few and far between. Luckily for him, rookie Ito Smith hasn’t been any better, so Coleman continues to hold the 1A job to Smith’s 1B. He’s getting a dozen or so touches per game but now faces a really tough Redskins run defense. They’re No. 7 in fantasy points allowed to running backs and No. 2 in rush yards allowed. Washington suffocated Saquon Barkley last week, holding him to 38 scoreless yards on 13 carries. The game before that, the Skins bottled up Ezekiel Elliott for 33 yards on 15 totes. And in Week 6, Christian McCaffrey was limited to 20 yards on eight attempts. So, over the last three weeks, Barkley, Elliott, and McCaffrey have combined for 91 scoreless yards on 36 carries, averaging 2.53 yards per carry. Coleman would have to completely buck the trends of both his own poor play and the Redskins’ impressive run defense to put up a usable week. The Falcons are also going to be playing their third road game of the season after scoring 12 and 17 points in the first two. This offense isn’t the same outside of the dome and has lost both starting guards to I.R. this season.
Alex Collins vs. Steelers: Collins has been my true nemesis this season. I didn’t like him last week in Carolina, and he of course scored a 14-yard touchdown on the opening drive. He has three touchdowns over the last three weeks and has seen double-digit carries in six straight games. The volume could be better if the Ravens would just commit to him, but Joe Flacco is attempting the most passes per game in the league. Collins has frankly needed those touchdowns to stay afloat in fantasy. He’s averaging 43.75 rushing yards per game. Collins is RB3/4 material when held out of the end zone. He now gets a date with a Steelers Defense that is No. 3 in fantasy points allowed to running backs, allowing just 3.5 YPC, 11th in run-defense DVOA, and No. 6 in total rush defense. When the Steelers and Ravens met in Pittsburgh in Week 4, Collins had an 11-42 rushing line but somehow caught a three-yard touchdown on his lone target. That’s obviously not normal for him. If not for that catch, he’d have been the RB39. The Ravens have since added Ty Montgomery at the trade deadline to perhaps boost the pass game. And Collins now appears to be dealing with a foot injury that had him limited on Wednesday. Collins is hands-off for me Sunday.
Peyton Barber at Panthers: Ronald Jones injured his hamstring, so Barber matched a season-high with 19 carries last week and set new season-bests with 85 rushing yards while scoring his first touchdown against the Bengals. Jones is expected to be sidelined multiple weeks. Barber should be locked into double-digit carries, but the matchup with Carolina looks pretty daunting. The Panthers are No. 9 in fantasy points allowed to running backs and No. 7 in run-defense DVOA. Alex Collins scored against them last week but otherwise had 49 yards on 11 carries. The Eagles’ trio amassed a pitiful 21-55-0 rushing line against Carolina in Week 7. Saquon Barkley was limited to 48 yards on 15 carries in Week 5. The only back to have any real success the last month has been Adrian Peterson with 17-97 on the ground but no touchdown. Barber is extremely dependent on scoring a touchdown while playing in such a pass-happy offense going up against a tough run defense. Odds are stacked against him. Barber was the RB53 Weeks 1-7 before scoring last week.
Start of the Week: Devin Funchess vs. Bucs: Funchess is coming off season-lows in targets (3), catches (3), and yards (27) last week against the Ravens and didn’t score a touchdown after finding pay dirt in three of the previous four games. His snap share was also down a bit at 73.8% after being in on 91.5% of the plays the week before and 96.7% in Week 6. But with the Panthers rolling the Ravens in the second half, that may have had more to do with it, as Cam Newton threw the ball just 11 times after the break. Funchess saw at least seven targets in each game Weeks 2-7 and gets a prime bounce-back spot at home against the Bucs. Tampa Bay is dead last in pass-defense DVOA and 31st in fantasy points allowed to receivers. Funchess has yet to hit 80 yards in a game this year, but this will easily be his best opportunity. Tyler Boyd (9-138-1) and A.J. Green (5-76-1) both topped 75 yards with a score last week against the Bucs. Jarvis Landry went 10-97-1 the previous week. Mohamed Sanu scored a touchdown in Week 5 before getting hurt, and Julio Jones went 10-144 in that game. Taylor Gabriel had 7-104-2 while Allen Robinson also scored in Week 4. This pass defense has gotten flamed week in and week out, and Cam Newton is playing some of the best ball of his career right now. The return of Greg Olsen and emergence of D.J. Moore are concerns for Funchess, along with Christian McCaffrey’s heavy involvement, but there is plenty to go around this week. Funchess leads the Panthers with eight red-zone targets and is an upside WR2. Carolina’s implied team total of 30.75 points is the second-highest on the board, along with the Saints, behind the Chiefs.
Kenny Golladay at Vikings: Since the Week 6 bye, Golladay has seen a total of three targets. He had a 4-98-1 day against the Packers in Week 5. But over his last four games, Golladay has drawn four targets or less in three times. However, as we all know, the Lions dealt Golden Tate to the Eagles on Tuesday, thus creating a 9.9-targets-per-game void in the Detroit offense. Tate was the Lions’ targets leader, so those figure to trickle down to Golladay and Marvin Jones, with maybe a sprinkling going to Kerryon Johnson and/or Theo Riddick. T.J. Jones is also in the mix. But Golladay and Jones are the clear winners here. Averaging 6.3 targets per game the first half of the season, Golladay figures to jump up close to the 9.0 mark the final nine games. A matchup with the Vikings appears tough on paper, with Minnesota checking in at No. 3 in fantasy points allowed to receivers, but Xavier Rhodes (ankle) isn’t healthy and they’ve faced a pretty light schedule of passing offenses, already going against the Jets, Cardinals, Bills, and 49ers. While Matthew Stafford isn’t throwing a lot of passes compared to his career norm, the avenue of those targets is narrowed even further following the Tate deal. Golladay and Jones are every-week WR2 plays with upside.
Courtland Sutton vs. Texans: Like Golladay above, Sutton was another big winner of the trade deadline. The 40th pick back in April’s draft, Sutton is “ready for a bigger role,” according to GM John Elway, so Elway dealt Demaryius Thomas to the Texans. Sutton had already been stealing Thomas’ snaps before the trade, as both were playing around 70% of the downs behind Emmanuel Sanders at 85-90%. Sutton should now bump into that 80-plus range with upside for more. Thomas leaves behind 7.0 targets per game, and Sutton figures to see a significant boost on his 4.6 mark. Sutton is t-6th in the league averaging 19.1 yards per catch, and when he doesn’t make the play downfield he’s usually drawing a penalty. He simply needed to play more. Case Keenum isn’t good at all, but he’s attempted the ninth-most passes in the league. Denver trails so often that it is forced to throw, even though running the ball is their best offense. The Texans have allowed the ninth-most receptions to opposing wideouts and are 14th in pass-defense DVOA. They’re the definition of a pass-funnel defense, as Houston is No. 1 in run-defense DVOA. No. 1 CB Johnathan Joseph injured his ankle/knee last week and was limited on Wednesday. The Texans may be forced to play CB Shareece Wright significant snaps in his return from a groin issue. And Kevin Johnson is still out with a concussion. As is the case with Golladay, Sutton is a set-and-forget upside WR2 moving forward.
Tre’Quan Smith vs. Rams: After going 3-111-2 in Week 5 against the Redskins and catching Drew Brees’ record-setting touchdown pass, Smith was one of the hot pickups of the week, especially with Ted Ginn going on I.R. with a knee injury. Smith has had back-to-back slow games of 3-44 and 3-18, but both were on the road against the Ravens and Vikings. This pass offense just plays better in the Superdome, and Rams-Saints is the obvious big shootout of Week 9 with the highest Vegas total of the season to date at 60 points. Smith has played 73.2% and 77.4% of the snaps the last two weeks. The Saints have played three games at home so far and have topped 40 points in two of them. Ginn went 5-68-1 in Week 1 against the Bucs, and Smith had his previously mentioned 3-111-2 day in the Ginn role back in Week 5. The Rams remain without starting CB Aqib Talib (ankle, I.R.), and Marcus Peters has been taking way too many gambles and guessing wrong this season. He is Pro Football Focus’ No. 104 cover corner out of 109 qualifiers. Talib’s replacement, Troy Hill, has been marginally better as the No. 73 cover corner. Brees should light this secondary up at home in what expects to be an up-and-down knockout slugfest of a shootout.
Randall Cobb at Patriots: Cobb returned from his four-week long hamstring injury last Sunday against the Rams. But he played just 46.2% of the snaps, trailing all three of Davante Adams (76.9), Marquez Valdes-Scantling (59.6), and Geronimo Allison (57.7) in that department. Cobb’s five targets were tied with MVS for second on the team. This has the looks of a three-way timeshare behind Adams. It’s hard to suggest flat-out sitting a guy in a game like this with a sky-high 57-point total, but the Packers may be realizing Cobb offers them less than MVS and Allison in terms of playmaking ability at this stage of their respective careers. Playing less than half the snaps isn’t something to get excited about with a wideout. When on the field, Cobb figures to see plenty of Patriots slot CB Jonathan Jones. Quarterbacks have a brutal 75.7 passer rating when throwing at Jones in the slot. Aaron Rodgers is obviously the gold standard, but he might have better matchups elsewhere, like with Jimmy Graham down the seam or MVS streaking down the sideline on the opposite side of Stephon Gilmore’s coverage. Cobb is more of a WR4, but he’s not a terrible bye-week fill-in when he’s on the field in a game with such a high total.
David Moore vs. Chargers: The product of East Central (OK), 23-year-old Moore played a career-high 71.4% of the snaps last week in Detroit and caught all four of his targets for 97 yards and a touchdown. He’s scored in three straight games and has four touchdown in that span. Moore has done it on 11 total targets. That pace is simply impossible to keep up. Moore is obviously worth adding in all formats now that Brandon Marshall has been released, locking Moore into snaps alongside Tyler Lockett and Doug Baldwin, but when Russell Wilson is attempting the fewest passes in the league, it’s hard to bank on Moore doing it every week. The Chargers aren’t a rough draw, giving up the 17th-most fantasy points to receivers and checking in at No. 15 in pass-defense DVOA, but volume is the concern. He’s going to have to beat Casey Hayward or Trevor Williams for a score. And with Doug Baldwin not getting any love last week, it feels like it could be a Baldwin game, as he’s rotated bad weeks with good ones all season. Moore has big bust potential.
Calvin Ridley at Redskins: After injuring his ankle early in Week 6, Ridley was able to come back Week 7 and play his normal 63% of the snaps, seeing six targets and turning them into a 5-43 line against the Giants. He hasn’t scored since Week 4 after amassing six touchdowns in a three-week span Weeks 2-4. And Ridley hasn’t topped 55 yards in a game since that Week 4 day. October was a really quiet month for the rookie. And now the Falcons head out on the road against a Redskins Defense that is the backbone of the team. Washington plays at the fourth-slowest pace in the league while its defense faces the seventh-fewest plays per game. On top of that, the Falcons have struggled to put up points on the road in two away games this season, scoring 12 against the Eagles in the season opener and 17 in Week 5 at the Steelers. Ridley was a Week 1 non-factor and went just 4-38 in Pittsburgh on five targets. He averaged 5.5 targets in two healthy games in October. Washington is No. 9 in pass-defense DVOA and 13th in total pass defense. Atlanta’s implied team total of 22.75 points is well below their home points scored average of 32.2 points. Ridley is obviously on the WR3/4 radar on such a light week with so many byes, but expectations need to be tempered and maybe fall in line with his October averages. He’s going to need a touchdown to pay off.
Editor’s Note: Like the last few weeks, we’re going to go over some streaming options at the tight end position. It’s too thin of a position with the injuries to Hunter Henry (torn ACL), Tyler Eifert (broken ankle), Will Dissly (torn patella tendon), and Delanie Walker (broken ankle). Jack Doyle, and Evan Engram recently returned from injuries to help out. But C.J. Uzomah, Doyle, Eric Ebron, Engram, Zach Ertz, and Dallas Goedert are all out on bye this week. In the “Sits” section, I’ll caution some tough matchups.
Start of the Week: David Njoku vs. Chiefs: Njoku airballed last week with no catches on no targets in the loss to the Steelers. Prior to that, he’d cleared 50 yards in all of Baker Mayfield’s starts and scored a touchdown Weeks 6 and 7. It’s time to go back to the well, even off the goose egg. The Chiefs have allowed the seventh-most fantasy points to tight ends, giving up the second-most yards to the position. Jeff Heuerman of the Broncos caught a touchdown versus Kansas City last week and had another potential score fall to the ground on an end-zone look. He also led Denver with 57 receiving yards when the teams met in Week 4. C.J. Uzomah scored against the Chiefs in Week 7. Rob Gronkowski had a 3-97 night in Week 6. Niles Paul and James O’Shaughnessy combined for a 10-92 day the previous week. Njoku is a top-five play at the position. He had 35 targets Weeks 4-7. The Browns should be playing catchup all afternoon.
Kyle Rudolph vs. Lions: Rudolph has been abysmal much of the season; he has zero upside but can be relied on for a handful of catches and 35-50 yards. However, he hasn’t scored since Week 3 and has topped 50 yards just once over the last five weeks. With the Vikings’ offensive line in such a sad state, Rudolph has had to chip more at the end of the line to help out as a blocker. The Lions provide a get-right spot, though. Detroit is 23rd in fantasy points allowed to tight ends and has surrendered four touchdowns to the position. Making his season debut last week, Ed Dickson hung a 2-54-1 day on the Lions. Mike Gesicki had a season-high 44 yards in Week 7. Jimmy Graham went 6-76 in Week 5. Geoff Swain had 39 yards and a touchdown the previous game. It’s a great individual draw for Rudolph that could get even better if Stefon Diggs (ribs) is unable to play after missing practice Wednesday and Thursday, though he says he’s playing.
Vance McDonald at Ravens: Too bad we can’t just start “Steelers TEs” instead of being forced to pick between McDonald and Jesse James. One of the two always has a big game, but picking which one it will be is the tough part. McDonald has seen at least five targets in 3-of-6 games and reeled in all five of his targets against the Ravens in Week 4 for 62 yards. Baltimore has surrendered the sixth-most catches for the 11th-most yards to tight ends. Greg Olsen caught a touchdown against the Ravens last week. Ben Watson went 6-43-1 in Week 7 in Baltimore. David Njoku led the Browns with 6-69 in Week 5. Baltimore’s outside corners have played really well, so the path to success against this defense appears to be between the numbers.
Chris Herndon at Dolphins: Herndon has reeled in a touchdown in three straight games and has run more pass routes in each successive outing, going from 7 > 13 > 17 while playing a three-week high 50% of the snaps last Sunday against the Bears. Sam Darnold is leaning on Herndon in the red zone ever since Quincy Enunwa injured his ankle. The Dolphins have allowed the most touchdowns and 12th-most fantasy points to tight ends. Texans rookie Jordan Thomas just caught two touchdowns against Miami last Thursday night. The Lions’ Michael Roberts caught two scores the week before. Herndon isn’t a bad flier for those desperate for something at tight end.
None. Nobody is sitting Rob Gronkowski, and nobody should even consider it. But he hasn’t scored or had 100 yards since Week 1 and has been dealing with an ailing back. He now gets a Packers Defense that has stamped out tight ends, allowing the fifth-fewest fantasy points and zero touchdowns to the position. Gronk can pop any week, but it’s been frustrating the first eight weeks. Charles Clay had a season-high 36 yards last week but hasn’t scored in God knows how long. He now gets a Bears Defense that has allowed the fewest catches to tight ends. Ed Dickson had that huge game in Detroit last week where he seems to love to play. But Dickson now gets a Chargers Defense that is No. 1 in DVOA against tight ends led by rookie S Derwin James. Trey Burton has been getting by on big yards on few targets. He’s had more than five targets in game just once and has seen exactly four looks four times in the last six games. The Bills are one of the best defenses in the league. They’re 11th in fantasy points allowed to tight ends and No. 5 in DVOA versus the position.