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Thread: Fantasy Football News, Info, Articles 2017/18 (Lots of ESPN Insider)

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  1. #76  
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    Best and worst wide receiver matchups for fantasy football Week 8
    Mike Clay
    ESPN INSIDER


    By utilizing our play-by-play data, we're now able to identify where each wide receiver and cornerback lines up on each play. By tracking matchups between the two positions, including potential shadow situations, we can offer the best projections, rankings and fantasy advice each week this NFL season.

    Below are the receivers with the best and worst Week 8 matchups, as well as the corresponding fantasy impact.


    To view the primary defenders the top three wide receivers for each team will see this weekend, be sure to check out our weekly WR vs. CB cheat sheet.

    Downloadable cheat sheet PDF

    Because of the size of the chart in the PDF, here is a key to help you get the most out of it each week:

    Rt = Number of routes run by each player during the 2017 season
    LWR/Slot/RWR = Percentage of the player's routes run from left wide receiver, the slot and right wide receiver, respectively
    T/R = Percentage of a player's pass routes in which he's targeted
    F/R = Fantasy points per pass route
    Green suggests an advantage for the offensive player, while red indicates an advantage for the defender
    An "S" indicates projected shadow coverage

    Advantageous matchups


    Eagles' Alshon Jeffery vs. 49ers' Dontae Johnson

    Jeffery has a tough slate this season, but Week 8 sets him up with one of his lightest matchups. The ex-Chicago receiver lines up wide to Carson Wentz's left on 48 percent of his routes, which is where Johnson calls home. Receivers lined up against Johnson have been targeted 53 times (fourth-most) and have produced 78 fantasy points this year (11th). Jeffery will also see plenty of Rashard Robinson, who has also had his struggles this season, but hasn't allowed as much fantasy production. Slot man Nelson Agholor is a strong candidate for touchdown regression-to-the-mean, and with K'Waun Williams doubtful, he may actually have a tougher matchup against Jimmie Ward.


    Bengals' A.J. Green vs. Colts' Vontae Davis and Rashaan Melvin

    The Colts have surrendered the seventh-most fantasy points per game to wide receivers this year. That includes the third-most to players lined up on the perimeter, which is where Green has aligned on 89 percent of his routes this season. Melvin has been better than expected in coverage this season, but left last week's game with a concussion. Davis' struggles have carried over from a disappointing 2016 season. Green will see a fairly equal share of Davis and either Melvin (if he returns) or replacement Kenny Moore II in the game. Moore was an undrafted free agent signing earlier this year. Needless to say, Green should be upgraded big time.


    Broncos' Demaryius Thomas vs. Chiefs' Terrance Mitchell

    The Chiefs have allowed the second-most fantasy points to wide receivers this season. One reason for that is game script (teams are often throwing while trailing Kansas City on the scoreboard), but the other is the poor cornerback play opposite Marcus Peters. Players who have lined up against Mitchell have been targeted 69 times (second-most), racked up 613 receiving yards (most), scored five touchdowns (second-most) and have 127 fantasy points (most). Based on his 2017 usage, Thomas will run half of his routes against Mitchell, 38 percent against Peters and 12 percent in the slot against Phillip Gaines. That calls for an upgrade. Slot man Bennie Fowler III also has a strong matchup against Gaines, who has allowed 84 fantasy points this season (seventh-most). If Emmanuel Sanders is able to return from injury, he'll see Peters on roughly 45 percent of his routes and should be downgraded slightly.


    Panthers' Kelvin Benjamin and Devin Funchess vs. Buccaneers' Brent Grimes and Robert McClain

    The Buccaneers are allowing an NFL-high 44 fantasy points per game to wide receivers this season. Grimes hasn't been nearly as dominant as he was last season and 2016 first-round pick Vernon Hargreaves III has been so bad that the team demoted him to nickel/slot duties in Week 7. That sets Benjamin and Funchess up to face Grimes and journeyman McClain on roughly 80 percent of their routes during this week's game. Both wideouts should be upgraded.


    Chargers' Keenan Allen vs. Patriots' Eric Rowe or Jonathan Jones

    The Patriots are allowing the third-most fantasy points to wide receivers, which includes the most to slot receivers this year. Though the New England defense has played better in recent weeks, injuries to Rowe and Stephon Gilmore means left cornerback is a weak spot in the unit. Rowe was attacked often and struggled in coverage during 54 coverage snaps earlier this year, but he's been out with a groin injury. If he doesn't return, Jones will fill in. Either way, it will be a big mismatch against Allen, who has lined up in the slot on more than half of his routes this season. It's possible the Patriots choose to shadow Allen with Butler, but he's rarely shadowed receivers this season and he only traveled to the slot three times when shadowing DeSean Jackson and Robby Anderson earlier this year. Allen will see some of Butler and Gilmore (if he returns) on the perimeter, but the big edge inside is enough to upgrade him.


    Seahawks' Doug Baldwin vs. Texans' Kareem Jackson

    Baldwin is the Seahawks' primary slot receiver and has lined up inside on 71 percent of his routes this season. Jackson fits a similar bill on the other side of the ball, aligning inside on 57 percent of his coverage snaps this year (a number that is much higher when Houston is in nickel). Houston hasn't allowed a ton of fantasy points to the slot this year, but Jackson has been targeted on 21 percent of his routes and is allowing 0.40 fantasy points per route, which is one of the worst rates at the position. Especially if Kevin Johnson returns from injury this week, expect Baldwin to be busy in a plus matchup.


    49ers' Marquise Goodwin vs. Eagles' Jalen Mills and Rasul Douglas

    If Eagles' Ronald Darby returns this week, expect him to slide back in at left corner, which will kick Mills over to the right side. That would set up Goodwin to run over half his routes against the struggling second-year corner. Goodwin has been the league's unluckiest player in the touchdown department this season and is set up with a nice matchup. If Darby remains out, both Goodwin and Pierre Garcon will be positioned nicely against Mills and Douglas. The Eagles have allowed the fifth-most fantasy points to wide receivers this year, including the most to players lined up on the perimeter. Players lined up against Mills have been targeted an NFL-high 74 times and have scored 113 fantasy points (second-most).

    Tough matchups


    Cowboys' Dez Bryant vs. Redskins' Bashaud Breeland and Josh Norman/Quinton Dunbar

    Even with Norman missing nearly three full games, Washington has allowed the third-fewest fantasy points to wide receivers this season. A big chunk of the credit for that goes to Breeland, who has enjoyed a bounce-back 2017 season, and Norman's replacement Dunbar. Norman is questionable to return this week. If he does, it's possible but unlikely that he will shadow Bryant. Norman chased Bryant around roughly half the time during the two 2016 meetings between these teams. Regardless, Washington's success against perimeter receivers this season means Bryant (and Terrance Williams) need to be downgraded. Bryant has lined up outside on 72 percent of his routes this season.

    Texans' Will Fuller V vs. Seahawks' Richard Sherman

    Because Sherman rarely shadows and wide receivers rarely stick on one side, he's barely been worth discussion in this column this season. This week is an exception considering that Fuller has aligned wide to the right on 48 percent of his routes this year. That's enough to downgrade him against Sherman, who has lined up across from that spot on 95 percent of his coverage snaps. Rookie Shaquill Griffin has been targeted a lot more often than Sherman, but has been decent on the opposite side of the field. Seattle has allowed the sixth-fewest fantasy points to wide receivers and the fewest to players lined up wide to the right (Sherman's side of the field). DeAndre Hopkins is fine to fire up and probably a good contrarian play in DFS tournaments this week, but Fuller should be avoided.


    Chiefs' Tyreek Hill vs. Broncos' Aqib Talib, Chris Harris Jr. and Bradley Roby

    Granted he was playing a lesser offensive role, but Hill was limited to nine catches for 52 yards and one touchdown on 14 targets against the Broncos last season. Because he lines up all over the formation, Hill will see a fairly even share of Denver's three standout corners this week. Hill is always a threat for a big play, but should certainly be downgraded against this secondary and thus avoided in DFS cash games.


    Dolphins' DeVante Parker, Kenny Stills and Jarvis Landry vs. Ravens' Jimmy Smith, Brandon Carr and Lardarius Webb

    The Ravens are allowing 22 fantasy points per game to wide receivers this year, which trails only the Steelers for fewest in the league. Though teams haven't been afraid to target Webb in the slot this year, Baltimore has allowed the third-fewest fantasy points to players lined up inside. That doesn't bode particularly well for Landry (Miami's slot receiver), though he actually has a better matchup than his teammates. Parker (79 percent perimeter) and Stills (60 percent) will work primarily against Smith and Carr on the outside. The Ravens are allowing 13.8 fantasy points per game to players lined up outside, which is fourth-fewest in the league. Landry sees enough work that he's still a viable fantasy starter, but red-hot Stills is a shaky play even if Parker (ankle) remains out.


    Vikings' Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen vs. Browns' Jason McCourty and Briean Boddy-Calhoun

    McCourty missed Week 7 with an injury, but shadowed A.J. Green in Week 4 and DeAndre Hopkins in Week 6. Because Thielen usually lines up in the slot, it makes sense that McCourty would follow Diggs around when he lines up outside (Diggs has lined up on the perimeter on 76 percent of his routes) instead of covering Laquon Treadwell. Thielen would then run a majority of his routes against Browns' slot man Boddy-Calhoun, who has been terrific in coverage this season. Even if Diggs and Thielen get away from McCourty and Boddy-Calhoun a few times, Jamar Taylor has been solid in coverage, once again, this season. In a nutshell, if McCourty plays, this matchup presents a challenge for Minnesota's top-two wideouts. This, of course, all assumes Diggs (groin) returns from injury.


    Patriots' Brandin Cooks vs. Chargers Casey Hayward

    Hayward shadowed Demaryius Thomas in Weeks 1 and 7, and has also shadowed Amari Cooper, Odell Beckham Jr. and Alshon Jeffery this season. Because Cooks lines up outside on 82 percent of his routes, whereas Chris Hogan lines in the slot half the time, it makes sense that Hayward will shadow Cooks this week (Hayward has traveled to the slot one percent of the time this year). Even if Hayward plays his side this week, second-year corner Trevor Williams continues to play at a high level and would be on Cooks roughly half the time. No matter how you slice it, this is a tough matchup for Cooks and he should be downgraded. Hogan and Danny Amendola move around enough that their value isn't impacted much.


    Steelers' Antonio Brown vs. Lions' Darius Slay

    Slay has shadowed in six straight games, which has included showdowns with Odell Beckham Jr., Julio Jones, Stefon Diggs, Kelvin Benjamin and Michael Thomas. That said, it's safe to expect him to follow Brown all over the perimeter in Week 8. Slay has been terrific again this season, but quarterbacks have not been afraid to target their top receivers against Detroit. Receivers aligned across from Slay have been targeted 38 times this season and have scored 70 fantasy points (15th-most). Yes, this is a tough matchup for Brown, but he's too good and will see enough work that he remains a quality play. You may want to consider spending elsewhere in DFS cash games, but that's about it.


    Redskins' Jamison Crowder vs. Cowboys' Orlando Scandrick

    The Cowboys have allowed the second-fewest fantasy points to players aligned in the slot this season. Crowder has lined up inside on 79 percent of his routes and Scandrick is Dallas' slot man in nickel situations. Dallas has actually been beat up a bit by perimeter receivers, so expect Kirk Cousins to rely more on Terrelle Pryor Sr. and Josh Doctson this week. Crowder obviously should not be in lineups.


    Lions' Marvin Jones Jr. and Kenny Golladay vs. Steelers' Artie Burns and Joe Haden

    Golden Tate is expected to miss a few games, which positions Jones and Golladay for bigger roles in the near future. Unfortunately for those invested in the two players, the increased usage may not mean much fantasy production in Week 8. The Steelers are allowing an NFL-low 20 fantasy points per game to wide receivers this season. Jones (90 percent perimeter) and Golladay (77 percent) will work primarily against Burns and Haden this week. Both players rank among the league's top corners in terms of fantasy points allowed per route. Neither wide receiver is more than a flex dart throw with six teams on a bye this week.

    Other notes

    The Jets' Morris Claiborne has shadowed the opposing team's top wide receiver in six consecutive games and thus is very likely to follow Julio Jones all over the field this week. Though Claiborne is a solid corner, this is not a situation where you need to downgrade Jones. He's still a strong WR1 play against New York.

    The Panthers' James Bradberry shadowed Mike Evans part-time during the second meeting between the teams last year. It's possible we see the same plan play out this week, though the Buccaneers did not have DeSean Jackson opposite Evans last year. My guess is Bradberry and Daryl Worley simply play their sides this week. Of course, both have given up a lot of fantasy points this season, so Evans and Jackson do not need to be downgraded regardless.
     

  2. #77  
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    Carolina options looking just fine for Week 8
    Eric Karabell
    ESPN INSIDER
    10/26/17

    It might seem strange that a pair of Carolina Panthers wide receivers earned WR2 status for Week 8 in the ESPN Fantasy staff rankings, especially considering that QB Cam Newton and the entire offense were shut down last week in a 17-3 loss to the Chicago Bears. Then again, the Bears aren’t pushovers defensively and this week’s foe, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, kind of are. The Buccaneers are permitting the most fantasy points to wide receivers this season, as the lack of a pass rush and the struggles of cornerbacks Brent Grimes, Vernon Hargreaves III and Robert McClain set up both Kelvin Benjamin and Devin Funchess quite nicely.
    Newton and the Panthers have been something of an enigma this season. The quarterback has thrown more interceptions than touchdown passes. He was terrible against the Saints in Week 3 -- also a misconstrued defense, by the way -- but bounced back for consecutive performances with three touchdown passes. Newton also has rushed for a touchdown in three of his past five games. He's not as consistent as most would like, but he's nevertheless a top-10 quarterback in season-long fantasy scoring. That’s pretty much what matters most. Oh, and did we mention the Buccaneers are bad defensively?

    Benjamin and Funchess are not the leading receivers on the Panthers, a team forced to adjust when awesome tight end Greg Olsen broke a foot in Week 2. Rookie Christian McCaffrey is a PPR giant, reminding us of the Danny Woodhead seasons when he was a surprise top-10 finisher in the format. The Stanford product is on pace for what would be a historic total for a rookie at his position -- 101 receptions. He’s not a factor running the football, but neither is Jonathan Stewart, for that matter. Newton boasts all three of the team’s rushing touchdowns.

    Carolina’s schedule appears mighty favorable, by the way, so Newton’s owners must consider the risk/reward of an upside-laden player who delivers strong performances roughly half of the time. Before your league’s trade deadline, you also should consider the following truth: Newton is not a disappointment and neither is McCaffrey. Benjamin -- contrary to preseason opinion -- is in fine shape, and Funchess has emerged as a WR3 choice most weeks. The team also brought back Kaelin Clay this week, and he could vault over disappointing rookie Curtis Samuel immediately.

    Finally, Olsen is eligible to return in Week 12 and, while recovery time from a Jones fracture is tricky to predict, you should check to see if the impatient Olsen manager in your league cut him last month. He’s coming back. The Panthers are coming back against a weak defense this week, and they’ll get a rematch in Week 16. We'll take another look at these Panthers when Olsen returns but, even without him, this is still going to be a dangerous offense for this week and beyond.

    Week 8 quarterback ranking thoughts: There's an interesting QB matchup between Buffalo’s Tyrod Taylor and Oakland’s Derek Carr on the schedule. Taylor has both the better ranking and matchup, and is coming off his best statistical game against -- naturally -- the Buccaneers. Carr is also coming off his best game, with 417 passing yards and three touchdowns. Buffalo is good, but have we underrated Carr? … I can’t recall Atlanta’s Matt Ryan, last season’s surprise darling, being ranked outside the top 10 this season, but it’s true. I’m on board with that. The Falcons' offense is a mess, despite the long-awaited Julio Jones score. I ranked the Jets' Josh McCown, going up against the Falcons' defense, only two spots worse. … Don’t overthink past individual results in London games. Minnesota’s Case Keenum faces the Browns. It might be his last start before Sam Bradford and/or possibly Teddy Bridgewater return. Statement game? I’ve got him over Matthew Stafford, facing the tough Steelers defense.

    Week 8 running back ranking thoughts: Some might wonder why neither of the Raiders running backs warrants staff top-25 status, despite overrated starter Marshawn Lynch serving a suspension. We don’t know if DeAndre Washington or Jalen Richard is the guy. Several rankers really like Washington more -- like 10 spots more. I'm not sure I understand why. … I think we have to view New England’s Dion Lewis as a flex option at this point, and perhaps over James White, who earns the designation as well. … Why does Carlos Hyde get such a poor ranking from me? The Eagles haven’t allowed 60 rushing yards since Week 2. … You can’t expect Chiefs rookie Kareem Hunt to run all over Denver, but he does catch passes. I can’t see moving him from safe RB1 status. … Denver’s C.J. Anderson has a great matchup against the Chiefs but can he take advantage of it? Apparently I’m the least skeptical of the rankers, but I can’t say I feel confident there. … We’ve all got the Vikings’ Jerick McKinnon over Latavius Murray, despite Week 7 results. I feel more confident about that one.

    Week 8 wide receiver ranking thoughts: We know the reasons to not feel confident in Colts star T.Y. Hilton. Andrew Luck isn’t his quarterback right now and the Bengals are a top-five team in preventing WR fantasy points. Still, we're talking about Hilton. He's still sixth in the league in receiving yards and still a WR2 for me. Meanwhile, you should just cut Donte Moncrief. The Colts might move on from him. … Watch the Michael Thomas knee injury because, if the Saints are still concerned on Friday, then Thomas moves to WR2 status. The Bears aren’t a bad defense. … I'm not sure I see the optimism from others with Jeremy Maclin against Miami. First, Maclin has been limited with a shoulder injury. Next, he has been unproductive and everything Joe Flacco sends in his direction is a short pass. Finally, the Dolphins aren’t terrible defensively. … I didn’t rank Golden Tate, Emmanuel Sanders or Willie Snead. The latter might play, but at this point, he needs to show us something first. … I’m alone in my Deonte Thompson love. It’s more for deeper formats, but Taylor made him matter last week. Watch Dontrelle Inman, replacing Thompson in Chicago, matter immediately as well. … Don’t even think about playing Martavis Bryant until something changes. … I would not play any of the Washington wide receivers. There might come a time soon where Josh Doctson challenges that for me, but that time has not yet arrived.
     

  3. #78  
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    Best, worst matchups at all fantasy football positions for Week 8
    Tristan Cockcroft
    ESPN INSIDER

    Matchups are often a driving force behind fantasy football owners' weekly lineup decisions. When choosing between two (or more) similarly talented players, you know the first question that comes to mind: Which one has the best matchup?

    Ah, but what, exactly, constitutes a favorable or unfavorable matchup?

    That's where the "Matchups Map" comes in. Each week, I'll provide a schedule-independent method to determine strength of positional matchups, using the most recent, relevant data. Check back for updated numbers each week, including matchup highlights at each position -- both favorable and unfavorable -- based upon those statistics. For these purposes, we will use PPR (point per reception) scoring, though I have analyzed this data for both PPR and non-PPR and have found that the rankings would scarcely change (if at all). Therefore, these help in either scoring format.

    The maps include two measures: The first, "Rk," is my personal ranking of how favorable/unfavorable I consider that positional matchup; the second, "Adj. FPA," reflects how far above or below a player's average that defense has held opponents at that position. All data is from the past five weeks of NFL action.

    Finally, a caveat: Remember that matchups are only one ingredient in my rankings formula. Not every favorable matchup should be exploited; not every unfavorable matchup should be avoided. To get the most complete recipe for whom to start and sit, consult my weekly rankings.

    Quarterbacks

    Favorable matchup: Philip Rivers, Los Angeles Chargers (at New England Patriots)

    One so-so game by Matt Ryan -- some of which should be blamed on the Atlanta Falcons' playcalling -- shouldn't deflect us from recognizing that the New England Patriots represent one of the most favorable matchups for an opposing quarterback this season. After all, entering that game, the Patriots were the only team in history to allow 300 yards passing in each of their first six games to begin a season, and including that game against the Falcons, they had allowed 2.4 fantasy points per game more to opposing quarterbacks than any other team. Rivers enters the week having totaled 70.34 fantasy points in his past four games, during which time he attempted 144 passes. He'll probably be tasked with throwing nearly 40 times in this game, too, considering the strength of the Patriots' offense, evidenced by this game having one of the larger over/unders of the week.

    Unfavorable matchup: Matthew Stafford, Detroit Lions (vs. Pittsburgh Steelers)

    Only the Jacksonville Jaguars (6.9) have afforded opposing quarterbacks fewer fantasy points per game than the Pittsburgh Steelers (9.9) this season, and while Stafford is arguably the best QB the Steelers will have faced to date, let's stress that word arguably. Alex Smith, the most accurate passer in the league thus far, scored 15.14 points against them in Week 6, but that performance was hardly pretty and was padded in large part by De'Anthony Thomas' 57-yard touchdown reception. Stafford has the league's sixth-worst qualified completion percentage (60.4), and he'll likely be playing this game without Golden Tate (shoulder), whose matchup as the Lions' typical slot receiver would've aligned him best against the Steelers' defense.

    Running backs

    Favorable matchup: LeGarrette Blount, Philadelphia Eagles (vs. San Francisco 49ers)

    For those feeling the bye-week pinch, Blount is a better fill-in than you might think. As the Eagles' designated short-yardage (and therefore goal-line) back, he's a stronger play when his team faces a weak overall defense, making it easier for Philadelphia to advance the football into scoring position. In this case, though, Blount's matchup is only strengthened by how poorly the San Francisco 49ers have performed against running backs in all situations. They've allowed 3.6 PPR fantasy points more per game to opposing running backs than any other team this season, as well as 30-plus in each of their past five games and 51.9 against Ezekiel Elliott and the Dallas Cowboys in Week 7. They've also allowed the most carries within 3 yards of their goal line (12) and have tied for the most touchdowns allowed on such carries (5). Blount's critics will point to Wendell Smallwood's return last week, threatening his workload and casting the Eagles' backfield into a committee picture, but Blount played more snaps (24 to 21) and had more carries (14 to 8).

    Unfavorable matchup: C.J. Anderson, Denver Broncos (at Kansas City Chiefs)

    Despite facing the third-roughest schedule against running backs to date, the Kansas City Chiefs have limited the position to the ninth-fewest PPR fantasy points per game (20.7). They're especially strong against pass-catching backs, having allowed an NFL-low 0.97 fantasy points per target to the position, and that's despite facing Le'Veon Bell (28.1 PPR fantasy points, but just 4.2 points via receptions in Week 6), Chris Thompson (1.7 and 1.4, Week 4) and James White (9.8 and 6.0, Week 1) already. Game flow has certainly contributed to the Chiefs' success, as they've played a good portion of their defensive snaps with a lead, but considering the Broncos' recent offensive struggles, that's a potential concern in this game as well.

    Wide receivers

    Favorable matchup: Kelvin Benjamin, Carolina Panthers (at Tampa Bay Buccaneers)

    No team has allowed more PPR fantasy points per game to opposing wide receivers this season (44.4 points) than the Buccaneers, and they've allowed multiple wide receivers to score at least 12.5 in four of their six games. While the Panthers disappointed in Week 7, bear in mind they had what was a "sneaky-bad" matchup -- a matchup that most fantasy owners didn't realize was as poor as it is. This week brings a matchup much more conducive to success for both Benjamin and Devin Funchess, and it helps prop Cam Newton back up as a QB1. Benjamin, by the way, has averaged 18.2 PPR fantasy points in his four career games against the Buccaneers, his second-highest number against any of the nine teams he has faced multiple times.

    Unfavorable matchup: Michael Thomas, New Orleans Saints (vs. Chicago Bears)

    Speaking of that sneaky-bad matchup, here it is. While the Chicago Bears have struggled at times against opposing No. 1 wide receivers -- Antonio Brown scored 27.0 fantasy points against them in Week 3, Mike Evans had 22.3 in Week 2 and Jordy Nelson put up 23.5 in Week 4 -- they've been stingy against everybody else they've faced. That's thanks in large part to the play of cornerbacks Prince Amukamara and Bryce Callahan, and Amukamara is the one who should most often find himself aligned with Thomas in coverage. Another concern here is the fact that Thomas has shown a pattern of adhering to matchups in his career, such as 2016 Week 2 against the New York Giants (9.6 points), 2016 Week 10 against the Denver Broncos (4.0), 2016 Week 13 against the Detroit Lions (8.2), Week 1 against the Minnesota Vikings (9.5) and Week 6 against the Lions (4.1).

    Tight ends

    Favorable matchup: Kyle Rudolph, Minnesota Vikings (at Cleveland Browns)

    After failing to capture Case Keenum's attention earlier in the year, Rudolph has become a much more integral part of the Vikings' offense the past three weeks. During that time span, his 25 targets lead all tight ends, his three red zone targets are tied for ninth, and his 35.5 PPR fantasy points rank seventh. This matchup against a Browns defense that has been battered and bruised by TE2-caliber talent should help him pad the stat sheet. Tyler Kroft scored 24.8 against them in Week 4, Jesse James dropped 22.1 in Week 1, Benjamin Watson posted 17.1 in Week 2 and Ryan Griffin scored 10.2 in Week 6.

    Unfavorable matchup: Zach Miller, Chicago Bears (at New Orleans Saints)

    Though Miller has a massive, 30 percent target share since Mitchell Trubisky took over as the Bears' starting quarterback, be careful not to read too much into that, considering the team has also attempted a league-low 50 passes during those three games (bear in mind that includes several teams having their bye weeks during that span, too). This is a team that doesn't want to throw the football any more than is absolutely necessary, which is a bad mix considering the New Orleans Saints' numbers against the position thus far. The Saints' 9.9 PPR fantasy points allowed to tight ends is sixth-fewest in the league.
     

  4. #79  
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    Watching for top receivers to score touchdowns
    Eric Karabell
    ESPN INSIDER

    Now that Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones has mercifully erased that annoying zero from his touchdown column, the fantasy world can move on to complaining about other receivers seemingly allergic to the end zone. Perhaps that’s a bit of hyperbole, because I haven’t seen fantasy managers actually up in arms over the lack of Adam Thielen's scoring prowess. Nevertheless, this is the final weekend of October and we all want to see our players produce. In any event, here are the three wide receivers with the most PPR points this season who have yet to cross that goal line, as we eagerly watch for signs of progress this bye-filled weekend!
    Adam Thielen, Minnesota Vikings: I don’t think people realize how good the Mankato product is, and things should only get better Sunday morning against Cleveland. Wait, morning? Yes! Please set your rosters before going to sleep on Saturday, as Sunday’s slate starts bright and early, from London, at 9:30 am ET. Regardless, Thielen ranks 12th among all wide receivers in PPR despite no touchdowns. He’s really good. We still don’t know for sure if Stefon Diggs, who has scored four touchdowns, will suit up, but buy low on Thielen anyway. The touchdowns will come regardless of which quarterback ends up under center going forward.

    Pierre Garcon, San Francisco 49ers: He’s been around a long time and hasn’t been much of a touchdown factor, so always keep expectations in check. That said, he’s always going to be a weekly flex option at the very least, regardless of quarterback. News flash: Garcon and Julio Jones have the same numbers! Well, Garcon actually has slightly better numbers, only with one fewer touchdown. Perhaps he rectifies this in Philadelphia on Sunday. In PPR formats, Garcon actually has a decent shot at 1,000 receiving yards and top-20 WR status.

    Demaryius Thomas, Denver Broncos: Based on ADP, one could make the case that Thomas is the new reigning "bust" at wide receiver, since Oakland’s Amari Cooper had a monster game in Week 7 and most Terrelle Pryor Sr. managers have already decided to simply move on, as they probably should. It’s not like Pryor has the track record of Cooper or Thomas. The Broncos are a mess, though I admit I’m far more concerned about running back C.J. Anderson. Thomas, who hasn’t done much in two of his last three games, should have a great game this Monday. I’d buy low here as well.

    As for other wide receivers sans touchdowns, there’s nobody in the above class. The next-best options are both on bye: Robert Woods of the Rams and Marqise Lee of the Jaguars. After that, it’s San Francisco’s Marquise Goodwin, Tampa Bay’s Adam Humphries and Seattle’s Tyler Lockett. Hey, you can watch all three of them this weekend -- and with six teams on bye, you might need to by default. However, you might be alone.

    Too many time-shares: Perhaps Oakland Raiders running back Marshawn Lynch simply needs this forced week off in order to rejuvenate for the rest of the season, because his first half hasn’t been so good. Lynch, the No. 14 running back chosen in ADP but currently ranked 43rd at the position in PPR scoring, serves his one-game suspension this week. He will be replaced by some unannounced combination of Jalen Richard and DeAndre Washington. I ranked Richard higher than Washington. He has certainly performed better, but who knows what Oakland does. I don’t think, however, even if Richard or Washington rumbles for like 200 total yards and multiple touchdowns that it necessarily means that Lynch comes back to a spot on the bench.

    As for other running back situations with at least some degree of uncertainty, the backfields of the Vikings, Jets and Seahawks all seem interesting. Heading into Week 7 everyone loved Jerick McKinnon, and for good reason. He seemed like a vastly different player than he used to be, while Latavius Murray looked awful. Then Murray rambled for 113 rushing yards against the Ravens, after failing to top 31 yards in any previous game, while McKinnon took a backseat. I don’t expect that to continue. As for the Jets, Bilal Powell and Matt Forte figure to again share the football. With the Seahawks, I’ve just about given up on C.J. Prosise ever being healthy. Of course, you know that as soon as you give up on a player, that’s when they emerge.

    Scorching in Seattle?: The Houston Texans come off the bye for a difficult matchup in Seattle, so we’ll probably get a better idea of just how good rookie quarterback Deshaun Watson truly is. Watson has thrown at least three touchdowns (12 total, actually) in each of his last three games. In fact, Philadelphia's Carson Wentz and Dallas' Dak Prescott both have similar streaks. According to ESPN Stats & Info, no quarterback in his first or second season has extended such a streak to four games, other than Kurt Warner (1999) and Dan Marino (1984).

    Wentz and Prescott have considerably easier matchups that Watson on Sunday. The Seahawks have permitted five touchdown passes all season. We’ve collectively ranked Watson as a QB1 this week, and nobody’s going to bail if he struggles in Seattle. However, it’s certainly worth watching to see if he thrives again and becomes, essentially, matchup-proof.

    MVP! MVP! MVP!: Speaking of Wentz, he leads the NFL in touchdown passes and is second to Alex Smith in fantasy scoring, but the absence of left tackle Jason Peters is likely to present a problem at some point. Halapoulivaati Vaitai is the replacement. Wentz had vastly different numbers as a rookie when right tackle Lane Johnson served his 10-game suspension, and Vaitai was pressed into starting duty for part of that stretch, too. While we might not see problems manifest in a home game against the winless 49ers, let’s not be naive about the future, either. The Eagles can’t have their franchise player taking the hits he did on Monday against Washington.

    Plus, one-half of the team’s remaining games after this Sunday are against top-10 defenses in terms of preventing fantasy points to quarterbacks (Broncos, Seahawks, Rams, Bears), so Wentz managers should keep expectations relatively in check. This week should go well, however, and it figures to be a positive game for Alshon Jeffery, who really hasn’t thrived yet, and surprise Nelson Agholor. Perhaps another week of a healthy Wendell Smallwood will also add clarity to his expected workload.
     

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    Watching for top receivers to score touchdowns
    Eric Karabell
    ESPN INSIDER

    Now that Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones has mercifully erased that annoying zero from his touchdown column, the fantasy world can move on to complaining about other receivers seemingly allergic to the end zone. Perhaps that’s a bit of hyperbole, because I haven’t seen fantasy managers actually up in arms over the lack of Adam Thielen's scoring prowess. Nevertheless, this is the final weekend of October and we all want to see our players produce. In any event, here are the three wide receivers with the most PPR points this season who have yet to cross that goal line, as we eagerly watch for signs of progress this bye-filled weekend!
    Adam Thielen, Minnesota Vikings: I don’t think people realize how good the Mankato product is, and things should only get better Sunday morning against Cleveland. Wait, morning? Yes! Please set your rosters before going to sleep on Saturday, as Sunday’s slate starts bright and early, from London, at 9:30 am ET. Regardless, Thielen ranks 12th among all wide receivers in PPR despite no touchdowns. He’s really good. We still don’t know for sure if Stefon Diggs, who has scored four touchdowns, will suit up, but buy low on Thielen anyway. The touchdowns will come regardless of which quarterback ends up under center going forward.

    Pierre Garcon, San Francisco 49ers: He’s been around a long time and hasn’t been much of a touchdown factor, so always keep expectations in check. That said, he’s always going to be a weekly flex option at the very least, regardless of quarterback. News flash: Garcon and Julio Jones have the same numbers! Well, Garcon actually has slightly better numbers, only with one fewer touchdown. Perhaps he rectifies this in Philadelphia on Sunday. In PPR formats, Garcon actually has a decent shot at 1,000 receiving yards and top-20 WR status.

    Demaryius Thomas, Denver Broncos: Based on ADP, one could make the case that Thomas is the new reigning "bust" at wide receiver, since Oakland’s Amari Cooper had a monster game in Week 7 and most Terrelle Pryor Sr. managers have already decided to simply move on, as they probably should. It’s not like Pryor has the track record of Cooper or Thomas. The Broncos are a mess, though I admit I’m far more concerned about running back C.J. Anderson. Thomas, who hasn’t done much in two of his last three games, should have a great game this Monday. I’d buy low here as well.

    As for other wide receivers sans touchdowns, there’s nobody in the above class. The next-best options are both on bye: Robert Woods of the Rams and Marqise Lee of the Jaguars. After that, it’s San Francisco’s Marquise Goodwin, Tampa Bay’s Adam Humphries and Seattle’s Tyler Lockett. Hey, you can watch all three of them this weekend -- and with six teams on bye, you might need to by default. However, you might be alone.

    Too many time-shares: Perhaps Oakland Raiders running back Marshawn Lynch simply needs this forced week off in order to rejuvenate for the rest of the season, because his first half hasn’t been so good. Lynch, the No. 14 running back chosen in ADP but currently ranked 43rd at the position in PPR scoring, serves his one-game suspension this week. He will be replaced by some unannounced combination of Jalen Richard and DeAndre Washington. I ranked Richard higher than Washington. He has certainly performed better, but who knows what Oakland does. I don’t think, however, even if Richard or Washington rumbles for like 200 total yards and multiple touchdowns that it necessarily means that Lynch comes back to a spot on the bench.

    As for other running back situations with at least some degree of uncertainty, the backfields of the Vikings, Jets and Seahawks all seem interesting. Heading into Week 7 everyone loved Jerick McKinnon, and for good reason. He seemed like a vastly different player than he used to be, while Latavius Murray looked awful. Then Murray rambled for 113 rushing yards against the Ravens, after failing to top 31 yards in any previous game, while McKinnon took a backseat. I don’t expect that to continue. As for the Jets, Bilal Powell and Matt Forte figure to again share the football. With the Seahawks, I’ve just about given up on C.J. Prosise ever being healthy. Of course, you know that as soon as you give up on a player, that’s when they emerge.

    Scorching in Seattle?: The Houston Texans come off the bye for a difficult matchup in Seattle, so we’ll probably get a better idea of just how good rookie quarterback Deshaun Watson truly is. Watson has thrown at least three touchdowns (12 total, actually) in each of his last three games. In fact, Philadelphia's Carson Wentz and Dallas' Dak Prescott both have similar streaks. According to ESPN Stats & Info, no quarterback in his first or second season has extended such a streak to four games, other than Kurt Warner (1999) and Dan Marino (1984).

    Wentz and Prescott have considerably easier matchups that Watson on Sunday. The Seahawks have permitted five touchdown passes all season. We’ve collectively ranked Watson as a QB1 this week, and nobody’s going to bail if he struggles in Seattle. However, it’s certainly worth watching to see if he thrives again and becomes, essentially, matchup-proof.

    MVP! MVP! MVP!: Speaking of Wentz, he leads the NFL in touchdown passes and is second to Alex Smith in fantasy scoring, but the absence of left tackle Jason Peters is likely to present a problem at some point. Halapoulivaati Vaitai is the replacement. Wentz had vastly different numbers as a rookie when right tackle Lane Johnson served his 10-game suspension, and Vaitai was pressed into starting duty for part of that stretch, too. While we might not see problems manifest in a home game against the winless 49ers, let’s not be naive about the future, either. The Eagles can’t have their franchise player taking the hits he did on Monday against Washington.

    Plus, one-half of the team’s remaining games after this Sunday are against top-10 defenses in terms of preventing fantasy points to quarterbacks (Broncos, Seahawks, Rams, Bears), so Wentz managers should keep expectations relatively in check. This week should go well, however, and it figures to be a positive game for Alshon Jeffery, who really hasn’t thrived yet, and surprise Nelson Agholor. Perhaps another week of a healthy Wendell Smallwood will also add clarity to his expected workload.

    "Look for Pittsburgh to throw plenty of passes against a Lions defense that ranks 28th in yards per attempt (YPA) over the past five weeks, so rate Roethlisberger as a very good spot start and consider JuJu Smith-Schuster a quality flex option as well (assuming he clears the league's concussion protocol by game time)."

    Big question of the week

    Will Amari Cooper follow up his monstrous 11-catch, 210-yard, 2-touchdown performance against the Chiefs with another big week on the road in Buffalo?

    If you left Cooper out of your lineup last week and missed out on all the fun, you weren't alone. But the question is whether it was a one-week thing or if he's truly back to being a top-level fantasy wideout. Paul Gutierrez of ESPN's NFL Nation sees last week as a huge week for Cooper and a sign of big things to come.

    "Not only did Cooper rediscover himself, so, too, did Raiders first-year offensive coordinator Todd Downing," he writes. "Cooper was moved all over the field against the Chiefs, and did most of his damage from the slot. Eleven of his 18 targets came when he was in the slot, per Pro Football Focus, and he caught six passes for 95 yards and a touchdown there. With the Bills banged up in the secondary and having surrendered an average of 350 passing yards per game since Week 5, Cooper should be primed for another good day."
     

  6. #81  
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    Is Deshaun Watson in the same fantasy tier as Brady and Brees?
    Eric Karabell
    ESPN INSIDER


    It is entirely one thing for a rookie quarterback in his sixth career start to become the first to ever throw for more than 400 passing yards with four passing touchdowns while also rushing for more than 50 yards in one game, but to execute these historic statistics against the mighty Seattle Seahawks and in their stadium is quite ridiculous. Still, this is what Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson achieved Sunday in arguably the best football game of the season, a 41-38 Seahawks win because veteran Russell Wilson and his team’s defense were just a little bit better.

    That’s hardly a slight on Watson, of course, as the Clemson product selected 12th overall in the draft totaled 32.8 PPR points, and by the way, he’s already topped that mark in two other games. Watson was ranked as the No. 10 quarterback for Week 8 by ESPN Fantasy’s crew but clearly that wasn’t generous enough. The thought was the Seahawks' defense, perhaps not as dominant as in recent seasons but still really tough and in a top tier with the Denver Broncos, would make things difficult for Watson. Well, the kid didn’t win the game, but it sure didn’t look like things were difficult as he proved himself matchup-proof for fantasy purposes and vaults to the top of the position hierarchy.

    After all, no quarterback in history had ever thrown more than 18 touchdown passes in his first seven career games, but Watson, after thriving against the likes of the New England Patriots, Tennessee Titans and Cleveland Browns defenses, showed against Seattle it doesn’t really matter which team he’s facing or where. His ability to elude defenders and improvise plays is indeed special, and he might just end up fantasy’s top player this season. After all, the Texans still meet the defenses of the Arizona Cardinals, Baltimore Ravens and San Francisco 49ers this season, along with the lowly Indianapolis Colts twice! There’s a legitimate debate for Watson versus Tom Brady, and perhaps this rare hot take is driven by Sunday’s events, but who possesses more statistical upside? Brady last reached 20 PPR points in Week 4. Watson is getting there every week!

    Further, according to colleague Tristan H. Cockcroft, Watson’s 168.86 fantasy points through his first seven games -- and remember the Texans foolishly started veteran Tom Savage in Week 1! -- represent the third most since 1950, regardless of position. Only Eric Dickerson and Marcus Allen had more. There’s simply no excuse for Watson to be active in only barely a third of ESPN standard leagues in any week -- as he was for this Week 8 -- unless he starts acting like a rookie, which doesn’t seem likely. Trade Brady, Carson Wentz or Drew Brees for Watson? Yeah, that actually appears the proper move.

    Second down: As for the other Texans, sophomore wide receiver Will Fuller V hauled in two more touchdowns on five receptions and 125 yards, earning a cool 29.5 PPR points. Fuller has played in four games and caught 13 passes, with seven of them going for touchdowns. Fuller is talented, of course, but that’s an unsustainable rate of touchdowns to receptions and it can’t possibly continue. It doesn’t mean Fuller can’t become a safe WR2, though, because he did see eight targets and there could be more 100-yard games with Watson at the helm. Normally we’d quickly move to trade someone like Fuller, but it’s unlikely someone in your league will fall for believing Fuller will score twice every week, either. DeAndre Hopkins enters Sunday night as fantasy’s top scorer of the week and a potential top-five wide receiver the rest of the way, but Fuller might now be a WR2 as well.

    Meanwhile, running back Lamar Miller might seem statistically disappointing this season, with perhaps Watson’s and the passing game’s emergence playing a role, but that’s actually not true. Miller’s performing just fine. It was nice to see the veteran find the end zone twice in Seattle, as he entered the week having scored two touchdowns in six games, both in Week 4 against the Titans. Unlike in his Miami Dolphins days, the perceived problem hasn’t been a lack of touches. Miller has shared some touches with rookie D'Onta Foreman but he’s also reached double digits in PPR scoring in all but one game, so opportunity is there and should remain so. Face it, Miller is more RB2 than top-10 option, but he’s worth activating each and every week.

    Third down: As for the Seattle side of this -- the Seahawks did, after all, win the exciting contest -- it’s pretty clear Wilson isn’t slowing down, and part of the reason is the sheer lack of any semblance of a running game for support. Few thought former Packer Eddie Lacy would be great, but he might not be worth the team’s roster spot, let alone a fantasy one. Lacy turned his six rushes Sunday into the same number of rushing yards as you and I: zero. That still beat Thomas Rawls, who rushed for minus-1 yard. There’s no sign of brittle pass-catcher C.J. Prosise suiting up for a game. Wilson has to throw the football, and another thing we’re learning is that it doesn’t have to be to wide receiver Doug Baldwin. Oh, Baldwin led the team with 10 targets Sunday but managed a mere six catches for 54 yards. We still like him and view him as a WR1.

    However, Baldwin has topped Sunday’s 11.4 PPR points -- which for context, won’t result in a top-20 performance at the position for Week 8 -- in a mere two games this season, while wide receiver colleagues Paul Richardson, Tyler Lockett and tight end Jimmy Graham each performed better Sunday. Richardson caught two touchdowns, giving him five in the past six games, and he should appear on many more fantasy rosters soon. He’s currently at 10 percent. Lockett had 121 receiving yards, which is a Seahawks season best. And Graham has scored four touchdowns the past three games and reached double digits in PPR scoring five consecutive games. He’s no Zach Ertz, but Seattle’s schedule is eminently friendly the rest of the way and Wilson should be a top-five QB, Baldwin a top-10 WR and Graham perhaps a top-five TE.

    Fourth down: Rookie running backs Joe Mixon of the Cincinnati Bengals and Marlon Mack of the Indianapolis Colts faced off Sunday as fantasy managers wondered aloud -- we’ve heard you! -- why these guys aren’t being given the opportunity to reach statistical stardom. Well, perhaps there’s a reason why and it’s time to stop expecting such great results. Mixon turned a short Andy Dalton pass into an exciting 67-yard play that nearly resulted in a touchdown, but on his other touches, and against a poor defense, the Oklahoma product was relatively quiet, as in past weeks. Mixon entered play averaging 3.2 yards per rush. That will drop after he turned his 11 carries into a meager 17 yards. The Colts had permitted more than 170 rushing yards and a total of 77 PPR points to the position the past two games. Mixon hardly stepped up and two of the next three games are at Jacksonville and Denver. He shouldn’t be ranked as a RB2.

    Mack continues to make big plays, as he did with his 24-yard catch-and-run for a touchdown Sunday, and for the fifth game of his six he’s delivered a play of 20 or more yards, but unfortunately he’s been consistent in subpar areas as well. Mack rushed 11 times for 27 yards. He’s reached 30 rushing yards in one game. Beloved veteran Frank Gore, meanwhile, rushed for 82 yards and while that was a season best, there’s no indication the Colts will either trade him before Tuesday’s deadline or limit his touches. Mack has recently seen more work in the passing game and perhaps as with Duke Johnson Jr. or Chris Thompson he’ll earn flex status for his receiving work soon, but he’s not there yet. Several rookie running backs are having fantastic seasons, and Mixon and Mack could become valuable and reliable fantasy assets, but they’re certainly not there yet.
     

  7. #82  
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    Fantasy football cheat sheet: Start, sit and more tips for Week 9
    Joe Kaiser
    ESPN INSIDER


    Thursday night football continues to be extremely unpredictable, with the New York Jets pulling away this week for a 34-21 win over the Buffalo Bills, but the big story heading into Week 9 comes on the injury front: Houston rookie quarterback Deshaun Watson, one of the best things to come around in the NFL in recent years, is out for the season after tearing an ACL in practice.

    Make sure you catch Mike Clay's write-up on how Watson's absence impacts DeAndre Hopkins, Will Fuller V and Lamar Miller for the rest of the fantasy football season.

    We wish Watson well in his recovery and send positive vibes his way.

    Back on the fantasy side of things, the ESPN Insider cheat sheet provides a rundown of the greatest hits from all of our Insider fantasy football content. You'll find answers to the biggest questions of the week, along with injury updates, matchup advantages and wild-card plays from Eric Karabell, Tristan H. Cockcroft, Mike Clay, Matt Bowen, Al Zeidenfeld, KC Joyner and Scott Kacsmar. It's all the best tips, distilled into one handy file.

    Here's what our experts are saying about Week 9 in the NFL:

    Top tips


    Drew Brees, QB, New Orleans Saints

    While Brees isn't having nearly the dominant season that he's routinely had in the past, this week's game against Tampa Bay has the Saints' offense salivating.

    "Brees' career home/road splits, the Saints' team total, and the Buccaneers' inefficiency in stopping the pass are all in play here," writes Zeidenfeld in his weekly Best Buys column. "I am completely enamored with the Saints' offense this week at home against the Bucs ..."

    Lamar Miller, RB, Houston Texans

    Obviously, things aren't the same in Houston without Deshaun Watson, but that could also mean more opportunities for Miller against Indianapolis as the offense moves back to Tom Savage behind center.

    "Miller is still getting great usage, as he played a season-high 87 percent of the Texans' snaps last week and is getting 19.6 touches per game (including 2.5 catches)," Zeidenfeld writes. "As a staple in my head-to-head lineups, I love to lean on high-volume running backs playing at home on favored teams, and in Week 9, Miller checks off all the boxes. The Colts have been shredded in just about every way imaginable on defense, and the Texans' offense is humming along like a well-oiled machine. I'm going to take advantage of the modest price point to attack the third-most generous defense versus running backs in the NFL."

    Jared Goff, QB, and the Los Angeles Rams offense

    The Rams face a banged-up Giants defense and have the options on offense to take advantage.

    "Goff may be under consideration for spot-start duty this week by many fantasy managers who are looking for a strong bye week fill-in, as Goff has posted 16 or more fantasy points in four of his seven games," Joyner writes. "The blocking matchup leans heavily in the direction of Goff jumping over that 16-point bar, as the Rams' offense ranks second in TIP (2.6), ninth in sack rate (4.6 percent) and 10th in QC (8.3).

    "Those numbers stand in contrast to a Giants defense that rates 31st in QC (5.4), 28th in sack rate (3.2) and 15th in TIP (2.3). New York also will have to worry about the Rams' superb run blocking, as Los Angeles ranks second in yards per carry before first defensive contact (YBCT) at 3.1 and first in GBR (53.8), so rushing the passer could be second on the Giants' defensive priority list."

    Playing the matchups

    Adrian Peterson, RB, Arizona Cardinals

    With the Cardinals now down to their backup quarterback for the remainder of the season, there's a good chance their offense will lean heavily on the ground game going forward. Enter Peterson, the future Hall of Famer, in a dream matchup against the 49ers.

    "Coming off his bye week, it'd stand to reason that Peterson, 32 years of age and with 2,482 career carries, will have the freshest legs he'll have the remainder of the year," Cockcroft writes. "He burst through with 25.4 PPR fantasy points the last time he was coming off a rest period, back in Week 6 after being traded by the New Orleans Saints, who had scarcely used him and were coming off their own bye week.

    "Peterson now draws a 49ers matchup that represents the position's best, whether using seasonal (9.8 Adjusted Fantasy Points Added) or past-five data. They've struggled particularly against pass-catching backs, which could make Andre Ellington (likely questionable with a quadriceps injury) or Kerwynn Williams (if Ellington is again inactive) a flex-play consideration in 14-plus-team leagues, but they haven't been good against pure rushers, either. Ezekiel Elliott tore this defense to shreds in Week 7 (26.7 fantasy points rushing out of 40.9 total), while LeGarrette Blount (10.8 rushing out of 12.2 in Week 8) and Marlon Mack (15.1 out of 16.3 in Week 5) also had productive games against it in the past four weeks."


    New Orleans receiver Michael Thomas has a great matchup this weekend against Tampa Bay. AP Photo/Matt Dunham
    Michael Thomas, WR, New Orleans Saints

    It doesn't matter which Tampa Bay cornerback covers Thomas, according to Clay, because he has an advantage over all of them. And there's a chance the Bucs will be short-handed in the secondary as they were last week.

    "The Buccaneers are allowing an NFL-high 41 fantasy points per game to wide receivers this season. As if that isn't bad enough, their top two corners, Brent Grimes and Robert McClain, missed the team's Week 8 game and are questionable for Week 9," he writes. "This is already a good matchup for Thomas, as well as Ted Ginn Jr. and slot man Brandon Coleman, but it would be even nicer if Ryan Smith and Javien Elliott are again forced into action. Thomas should obviously be started and is a strong DFS option. Ginn has some flex appeal, and Coleman is worth a look only in DFS tournaments."

    Dez Bryant, WR, Dallas Cowboys

    While Ezekiel Elliott will play against Kansas City, the Cowboys will still look to take advantage of a glaring weakness in the Chiefs' secondary, Clay explains.

    "The Chiefs' cornerback unit has struggled so badly this season that the team benched both No. 2 Terrance Mitchell and No. 3 and slot corner Phillip Gaines on Monday," he writes. "The two corners were replaced by Kenneth Acker and Steven Nelson, respectively. It would be hard for these two to be much worse than their predecessors, but it's also unlikely that they'll be much better. The Chiefs have allowed the second-most fantasy points to wide receivers this season, despite surrendering the fourth fewest to players lined up wide to the right (Marcus Peters' side).

    "Offenses will continue to try to exploit those cornerback spots away from Peters, as Denver did Monday, targeting the receiver lined up across from Acker on 12 of 38 pass plays. Bryant will run half his routes against Acker and will see a fairly even split of Nelson and Peters on the other half. Upgrade him, but avoid Terrance Williams in deep leagues, as he'll see Peters on more than half his routes."

    Injury impact

    Jordan Reed, TE, Washington Redskins -- Reed (hamstring) didn't participate in Thursday's practice and has been ruled out for Sunday's game against the Seattle Seahawks.

    Deshaun Watson, QB, Houston Texans -- Watson tore and ACL in practice this week and was placed on injured reserve, ending his season. Tom Savage, the Week 1 starter, takes over.

    Earl Thomas, S, Seattle Seahawks -- Thomas (hamstring) is doubtful to play against the Redskins, and the Seahawks probably will stay on the safe side and hold him out due to the tricky nature of hamstring injuries.

    Corey Davis, WR, Tennessee Titans -- Davis hasn't played since Week 2 due to a hamstring injury, but he returns this week and is expected to start against the Ravens opposite Rishard Matthews.

    Emmanuel Sanders, WR, Denver Broncos -- Sanders is officially listed as questionable, but Broncos coach Vance Joseph said Thursday that the receiver is "progressing fast" and that "chances are" he'll play, per Nicki Jhabvala of The Denver Post. Sanders has missed the past two games.

    Pierre Garcon, WR, San Francisco 49ers -- Garcon has been placed on IR due to a neck injury suffered in the second quarter of last week's game against Philadelphia.

    Lottery tickets

    T.Y. Hilton, WR, Indianapolis Colts

    The absence of Andrew Luck all season has kept Hilton's production down and forced him to fall off the fantasy radar of a lot of people, but this week's game against the Texans presents an opportunity. Kacsmar hits on that in his best DFS matchups column.

    "... Hilton has one touchdown all season and has been held under 60 yards in all but two games," Kacsmar writes. "But in the two games he posted huge numbers with 153 and 177 yards. He has been great against the Texans in the past ..."

    Alex Collins, RB, Baltimore Ravens

    "Did you see Collins run the ball on Thursday night versus Miami?" Bowen asks in his fantasy takeaways column. "Man, that was some physical stuff. He showcased downhill speed, as well as some wiggle to slip past defenders at the second level. All in all, that allowed Collins to rack up 113 yards on the ground (18 carries) and chip in another 30 yards receiving yards on two grabs. Hey, that's a 20-touch night for Collins! His skill set is a really good fit on early downs for an offense that must run the rock to compete."

    Marshawn Lynch, RB, Oakland Raiders

    Lynch has been a disappointment this season, but a matchup against the Miami Dolphins bodes well for the 31-year-old veteran.

    "It might seem like the Sunday night game between the Oakland Raiders and the Dolphins will be mighty boring, but both teams' running back situations bear watching," Karabell notes. "The Raiders get Lynch back from suspension and, while I'm not expecting great things, the Dolphins were mighty awful in their most recent game, a 40-0 shellacking against the Baltimore Ravens. So, who knows?"

    Big question of the week

    How will the Carolina Panthers adjust offensively against Atlanta following the shocking trade of Kelvin Benjamin to Buffalo?

    Kacsmar notes that no Benjamin in Carolina essentially anoints Devin Funchess as the new No. 1 wide receiver for the Panthers.

    "With tight end Greg Olsen still out, Funchess will have to step up in his third season as a former second-round pick," Kacsmar notes. "He had 14 catches for 123 yards and three touchdowns in New England and Detroit this year when Cam Newton was playing well. If Newton can get back to playing at that level again, Funchess will benefit greatly from what should be an increased target share. ..."
     

  8. #83  
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    How will Hopkins and Hilton fare long term with backup QBs?
    Eric Karabell
    ESPN INSIDER
    11/6/17

    Below-average quarterback play can obviously affect the production of a top wide receiver. Just ask those who relied on Houston Texans wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins last season, a longtime star whose awesome production cratered in 2016 because the team’s quarterbacks couldn’t get him the football. Much of the time, however, a top wide receiver can overcome virtually anything. Those relying on Hopkins had to enter Week 9 with concerns after starting quarterback Deshaun Watson shredded a knee this week, rendering him out for rest of the season and forcing backup Tom Savage back into play.

    Hopkins would have been the top wide receiver in ESPN Fantasy’s Week 9 rankings with Watson. Without Watson, he clearly wasn’t, but Sunday’s 20-14 Texans loss to the Indianapolis Colts gave hope -- and similarly reminded fantasy managers how top receivers can (and often do) remain relevant regardless of outside circumstance. No, Hopkins and Colts star T.Y. Hilton aren’t likely to attain previous statistical heights with the likes of Savage and Colts backup Jacoby Brissett slinging the passes, but let’s not disregard them as weekly WR2 options and perhaps more in appealing matchups.

    Sunday was actually quite the appealing matchup for Hopkins, and while it took much of the game for him to make an impact, Hopkins ended up with a solid 20.6 PPR points on six receptions for 86 yards and a fourth-quarter touchdown to make the actual game interesting. Hopkins came close to a second touchdown in the final minute. It would have helped if Watson was in there -- the Texans scored 38 points with him in Seattle a week earlier -- or if Savage was more competent, but nobody can complain about 16 targets. Hopkins feels more like a high-end WR2 the rest of the way, which is still extremely valuable. Colleague Will Fuller V also saw plenty of attention, with eight targets, but converted only two of them. Fuller is going to struggle to score touchdowns with Savage but boasts flex status.

    Then there’s Hilton, who wasn’t regarded cumulatively as a WR2 for the Texans game by the ESPN Fantasy staff, though this writer trusted him enough -- and didn’t trust others enough -- to rank him 17th. Hilton totaled five receptions and 11.1 PPR points over his past three games, and that was enough to send fantasy managers and many analysts looking for other options. My theory for more than a decade has been that the skills of a top wide receiver matter more than the lack of them for a backup quarterback, and Hilton proved it yet again, though it’s probably too much to ask for consistency.

    Still, Hilton followed up fantastic performances in Weeks 3 and 5 -- also sans Andrew Luck -- with Sunday’s season-best 34.5 PPR points on five grabs for 175 yards and two touchdowns. On the second score Hilton did much of the work himself, taking a short pass 80 yards. Sit Hilton for future contests at your own peril. I won’t predict more than regular, mid-tier WR2 placement the rest of the way, but it would be tough for me to leave him out of my top 20, even for future meetings with the defensively strong Pittsburgh Steelers, Jacksonville Jaguars and, well, the Denver Broncos.

    Second down: Wide receivers for the Philadelphia Eagles and Los Angeles Rams sure don’t need to worry about quarterback play. Sophomore quarterbacks Carson Wentz and Jared Goff each led their teams to 51 points Sunday, as the Eagles made the mighty Broncos look just terrible, while the Rams went to New Jersey and embarrassed the lowly New York Giants. For Philly, Wentz continued his potential MVP campaign -- perhaps in real life, as well as fantasy -- with four touchdown passes, and there’s little doubt among fantasy managers he’s a top-five option regardless of matchup. He did this against the Broncos -- and sans his top weapon, tight end Zach Ertz! Alshon Jeffery entered play with three touchdowns and added two more, perhaps solidifying WR2 status for him the rest of the way, as well.

    Goff led all quarterbacks in scoring for the early Sunday game by providing his first four-touchdown effort of the season, although rummaging through the awful Giants defense isn’t quite like embarrassing the Broncos. Veteran Robert Woods continued his relative emergence with a season-best 23 points on four catches for 70 yards and his first two touchdowns of the season. Even Sammy Watkins found the end zone for just the second game in his rough season, hauling in a 67-yarder on his lone reception -- but don’t get any ideas of WR2 relevance there. These Rams are more matchup plays than sure things in fantasy; only running back Todd Gurley is a weekly play, and he had another fine day, as he’s close to reaching his entire season total of fantasy points from 2016 despite half the season remaining.

    Back to the Philadelphia running game for a minute: Recently acquired Jay Ajayi scored his first touchdown of the season on a 46-yard jaunt late in the first half. As expected, Ajayi didn’t see major snaps, but he looked rejuvenated on his eight touches just days after his acquisition from the Dolphins. LeGarrette Blount is still an Eagle and still involved, while rookie Corey Clement scored three touchdowns Sunday. But after the team serves its bye in Week 10, look for Ajayi to handle a considerably larger role. In other words, don’t rush to add Clement in redraft formats.

    Third down: The big stories Sunday morning involved the Jaguars' benching top-10 running back Leonard Fournette for violating team rules and the Eagles' deeming top fantasy tight end Ertz too injured to play through a hamstring issue. Neither team struggled to score points -- and each looks terrific defensively -- and as of now, those relying on Fournette and Ertz shouldn’t panic. Fournette, who last played in Week 6 thanks to an ankle injury and the bye week, should be healthy enough and motivated for an appealing schedule the rest of the way. He’s someone to trade for, not run away from. Chris Ivory provided 13.3 PPR points in his place, but again, knowing the circumstances, that was a bit disappointing.

    While Ertz’s usual production was replaced by Trey Burton and Brent Celek, the Eagles are approaching their bye, and that should permit plenty of time for Ertz to recover physically. The Eagles are so deep offensively it might concern those relying on individual players, but remember, Ertz still hasn’t scored in single-digits for PPR in any game he’s played in this season. Plenty of tight ends stepped up with Ertz and Rob Gronkowski (bye week) out, including top-10 options Evan Engram and Jack Doyle, plus Washington fill-in Vernon Davis and Baltimore’s Benjamin Watson.

    Fourth down: As for a few others who did suit up but left their games prematurely, Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver A.J. Green was ejected in the second quarter against the Jaguars for throwing punches at Jaguars cornerback Jalen Ramsey. Green might not have had a great statistical effort to start with, but he ended up with 1.6 PPR points. That’s a temporary problem. Green surely remains a top-five WR option despite the difficult Sunday and, barring a suspension for his behavior, remains reliable. The Bengals managed a mere one touchdown at Jacksonville, and rookie Joe Mixon provided it -- just his second of a frustrating season. Mixon remains a late-tier RB2 most weeks, and things should get better.

    Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston scored 3.5 points for a road game at the New Orleans Saints before a recurrence of his shoulder injury ended his afternoon. Winston is oozing with statistical upside, but fantasy managers can’t rely on him until he proves safer health. And by the way, the Saints have really improved defensively, so any perceived narrative that future foes such as Buffalo’s Tyrod Taylor, Washington’s Kirk Cousins and Goff will automatically thrive should be dispelled. Buccaneers wide receiver Mike Evans -- the most active receiver in ESPN formats -- was held to one catch on six targets while running back Doug Martin turned eight carries into 7 yards. Keep Evans and Martin in starting lineups for Week 10 against the New York Jets, but shaky quarterback play limits their upside.
     

  9. #84  
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    Week 9 fantasy takeaways on Kamara, Jeffery and more
    Matt Bowen
    ESPN INSIDER
    11/6/17

    With 152 total yards and two touchdowns on Sunday, New Orleans rookie running back Alvin Kamara continues to pump out high-end fantasy production. He's a rising star -- an RB1 with proven versatility. But along with Kamara, what else jumped out from the Week 9 slate of games? Let's take a look at Alshon Jeffery's fit in Philadelphia's high-powered offense, break down the negative impact of Tom Savage in Houston's passing game, discuss Adrian Peterson's monster workload and much more.

    Here are the Week 9 fantasy takeaways.


    Saints RB Alvin Kamara is a rising fantasy star

    Kamara's amazing production in the win over the Buccaneers was good for 31.2 points in PPR leagues and 25.2 points in non-PPR scoring. Really, it's all about the versatility Kamara brings to Sean Payton's offense in New Orleans. He's a legit weapon, a chess piece for Payton in the passing game and a player who should carry RB1 value again this week versus Buffalo.

    The rookie consistently pops on the tape. Just look at his touchdown on the screen pass Sunday. The vision in the open field, the quick burst and the body control to shake off a tackle. That's good football. As for the touchdown run, he hit the hole with speed, slipped a tackle attempt and put the ball in the end zone. That works.

    Given Kamara's skill set and the true fit he has in New Orleans, he could have a David Johnson-type impact if Mark Ingram were to go down with an injury. The ability is there in a modern NFL offense. He's a rising star.

    The Tom Savage effect on DeAndre Hopkins and Will Fuller V

    We knew that the Texans' game plan would look a little stale without Deshaun Watson under center. Gone would be the creativity, the movement, the play-action out of the shotgun/pistol -- everything that opens up windows in the passing game. With Watson, Houston's offense was tough to prepare for, and it created a lot of opportunities for both Hopkins and Fuller.

    However, with Savage running the offense, the quarterback struggled in the passing game (19-of-44, 219 yards, one touchdown), and he was consistently putting the ball into almost nonexistent windows against a really poor Colts defense. The targets were there for Hopkins (16) and Fuller (eight), and Savage did throw a solid ball on the fade route to Hopkins for his lone touchdown pass of the day. Still, I think we can all see where this is going.

    Hopkins (six receptions, 86 yards, one touchdown) is going to stay in the mix as a WR1. He can win one-on-one battles on the outside, and the target volume will be there. He'll get his red zone throws, too. Fuller (two catches, 32 yards), on the other hand, is going to drop down in my ranks next week against the Rams defense. Even with the speed to run post routes and fly routes all day long, it was the Watson-facilitated offense that created a ton of production for Fuller. He's going to slide into the WR3 range until I see some consistency and better field vision from Savage.

    Alshon Jeffery emerging as a consistent WR2 in Philadelphia's high-powered offense

    With the addition of running back Jay Ajayi, and so many weapons already on this Eagles offense, it's tough for fantasy managers to key in on which players are going to see consistent touches/targets outside of tight end Zach Ertz (when he comes back from that hamstring injury). However, that's why I'm looking at Jeffery here. In his last four games, Jeffery has seen 35 targets from Carson Wentz and has three touchdowns during that stretch -- with two coming on Sunday against the Broncos secondary.

    Jeffery's first score came on a smooth call from Doug Pederson. It was a run-pass option for Wentz -- the inside zone plus the QB keep and the fade route. It was a modern-day triple-option, really. You pull the ball and hit Jeffery on the fade when the cornerback bites. Wentz showcased perfect execution. Then the quarterback came back to Jeffery again off the bootleg look in the red zone when the wide receiver separated on the crossing route. Those were two great calls to get him the ball.

    Look, this Eagles offense is very similar to the Kansas City system under Andy Reid. It's a mix of West Coast concepts and some spread looks. That creates stress for opposing defenses and puts Wentz in a position to produce. Jeffery is a fit for that game plan, which is why I'm counting on him to be a consistent option in Philadelphia. Think volume here and WR2 numbers moving forward in a high-powered offense when the Eagles come back from the bye in Week 11.

    Can Adrian Peterson sustain his heavy workload against Seattle in Week 10?

    Even with a short week coming up against that Seahawks defensive front on Thursday night, managers are going to put Peterson in the lineup as an RB1 -- and why shouldn't they? The guy just carried the ball 37 times -- a career-high number -- for 159 yards in a win over the 49ers. He also had two grabs in the passing game. It was monster-level volume.

    Besides, with Drew Stanton now at quarterback for the Cardinals, the Arizona offense is very dependent on Peterson's running. If the Cardinals want to compete down the stretch, Peterson has to carry this unit. That's going to be reflected in both the game plan and the workload we are going to see with the veteran running back. It's also going to grind him down.

    That means more carries and more total touches for Peterson. That's really my main concern on a short week versus a much tougher Seahawks defense. This is a 32-year-old running back. Even though Peterson did rip off some runs on Sunday, Seattle is going to load the box and play eight-man fronts with Kam Chancellor rolled down in an effort to squeeze that Cardinals offense. Because of that, I wouldn't be surprised if Peterson puts up only midtier RB2 numbers -- even with another heavy workload.

    Is there concern over Kareem Hunt's touchdown drought?

    Now Hunt hasn't scored a touchdown in six straight weeks. That's a long drought for an RB1 in any format, and his volume has fluctuated, too. In his last four games, Hunt has dipped below double-digit carries twice (Steelers, Cowboys), and he has only five red zone touches in that span. Yes, game flow plays a major role in terms of total carries and red zone touches, especially for a Kansas City offense that will use a lot of creativity and window dressing to move the ball around. Andy Reid loves to go deep into his playbook in scoring situations. You're bound to see some wild stuff.

    All that said, I'm still betting on the talent with Hunt here. I love his game on tape. He's averaging over 5.2 yards per carry and he can be a factor in the passing game. If I'm Reid, I use this bye week to get back to the scripted red zone targets out of the backfield we saw with Hunt earlier in the season and to use those shotgun runs/spread schemes to get him going inside the 10-yard line. He will no doubt be a high-end RB1 in my ranks versus the Giants' suspect defense in Week 11 when the Chiefs come off the bye.

    Lock in Robby Anderson as a WR3/flex in Week 10

    In his last three games, Anderson has caught 13 of 16 targets for 187 yards (14.8 yards per catch), and he's scored a touchdown in all three matchups. The volume is there with the Jets wide receiver and so is the speed. This guy can really move. He's a blazer, a big-play target who is also working with a veteran quarterback in Josh McCown.

    Just go back to New York's win over the Bills on Thursday night. With the ball between the 20- and 35-yard line, and Buffalo showing a single-high-safety look, McCown checked to a four verticals concept. That was smart football there, with the inside seams now holding the free safety in the deep middle of the field. That created a one-on-one for Anderson outside the numbers. He beat the coverage, separated over the top and glided to the ball. That's worth six points.

    Looking ahead to Week 10, Anderson has a really good matchup against the Buccaneers. The Tampa Bay defense simply cannot rush the passer with any consistency, and the secondary play has been subpar this season. He's going to see targets, and he brings a pretty high ceiling to the lineup because of his speed over the top. Give me Anderson as a solid WR3/flex this week.

    Beware of the pass defense in New Orleans

    At the start of the season, fantasy managers were falling all over themselves to get their guys in the lineup when the Saints defense was on the schedule. In Weeks 1 and 2, the Saints ranked dead last in the NFL with an average of 388.5 passing yards allowed per game and a total QBR of 95.2. That young secondary was getting destroyed.

    Then came this current six-game winning streak, and New Orleans now leads the NFL with an average of only 151.2 passing yards allowed per game -- and that total QBR has plummeted to 26.4. The Saints are pressuring like crazy (blitzing on 44 percent of snaps heading into Week 9), the defensive front is getting home, and the play of rookie cornerback Marshon Lattimore jumps off the film. He's for real.

    Yes, Jameis Winston left the game early on Sunday, but Mike Evans was held to just one grab for 13 yards on six targets, DeSean Jackson caught two passes for 25 yards and Cameron Brate was a no-show versus the Saints defense. This is a consistent trend with New Orleans. The tape doesn't lie. That has to impact lineups moving forward, starting with a matchup against the Bills in Week 10.
     

  10. #85  
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    Best and worst wide receiver matchups for fantasy football Week 10
    Mike Clay
    ESPN INSIDER

    By utilizing our play-by-play data, we're now able to identify where each wide receiver and cornerback lines up on each play. By tracking matchups between the two positions, including potential shadow situations, we can offer the best projections, rankings and fantasy advice each week this NFL season.

    Below are the receivers with the best and worst Week 10 matchups, as well as the corresponding fantasy impact.


    To view the primary defenders the top three wide receivers for each team will see this weekend, be sure to check out our weekly WR vs. CB cheat sheet.

    Downloadable cheat sheet PDF

    Because of the size of the chart in the PDF, here is a key to help you get the most out of it each week:

    Rt = Number of routes run by each player during the 2017 season
    LWR/Slot/RWR = Percentage of the player's routes run from left wide receiver, the slot and right wide receiver, respectively
    T/R = Percentage of a player's pass routes on which he's targeted
    F/R = Fantasy points per pass route
    Green suggests an advantage for the offensive player, while red indicates an advantage for the defender
    An "S" indicates projected shadow coverage

    Advantageous matchups


    Seahawks' Doug Baldwin vs. Cardinals' Tyrann Mathieu

    Is Baldwin on your roster and you fear shadow coverage from Patrick Peterson in Week 10? Well, fear not, because Peterson will not be on the star wideout much on Thursday night. Yes, Peterson has shadowed in every game this season, but he does not spend much time in the slot, which is where Baldwin aligns on 72 percent of his routes. Peterson has lined up inside 11 percent of the time this season and didn't shadow during any of the four meetings with Seattle over the past two seasons. Instead, expect Baldwin to run most of his routes against slot corner Mathieu. On 49 career routes when lined up against Mathieu, Baldwin has produced nine catches for 158 yards and one touchdown on 12 targets. The Cardinals have allowed the fourth-most fantasy points to wide receivers and the sixth most to players lined up in the slot this season. Tyler Lockett and Paul Richardson will see a pretty equal share of Peterson and Tramon Williams on the perimeter and shouldn't be downgraded.

    Giants' Sterling Shepard vs. 49ers' K'Waun Williams or Leon Hall

    The 49ers haven't allowed a ton of production to slot receivers this season, but that's been a byproduct of teams targeting their top perimeter receivers against San Francisco's struggling perimeter corners. The Giants' top targets, however, happen to be slot man Shepard and tight end Evan Engram. Williams has struggled in coverage this season, and even if he remains out with his quad injury, replacement Hall hasn't been any better. Shepard has lined up in the slot on 84 percent of his routes this season and will be up against Williams or Hall on a majority of his routes this week. Already seeing enough volume to warrant WR2 consideration, Shepard is a must-start.


    Steelers' Antonio Brown vs. Colts' Vontae Davis or Pierre Desir

    Offenses have thrown 63 percent of their passes to wide receivers against the Colts this year (third highest), and Indianapolis has allowed the seventh-most fantasy points to wide receivers. The Colts have allowed 27.3 fantasy points per game to players lined up on the perimeter, which is third most. So, yeah, Brown is a decent play in fantasy this week. If Davis returns (he was a healthy scratch last week) and starts, Brown will see him most often in coverage. Despite lining up against Davis on only 25 of his career pass routes, Brown has scored four touchdowns on those plays, most of any other corner he's faced. If Davis is out, Desir will fill in, but either way it's a very nice matchup. Brown also will see Rashaan Melvin on around 30 percent of his routes. Melvin is playing well this season, but he won't be on Brown enough to hinder what should be a big game.


    Rams' Sammy Watkins, Robert Woods and Cooper Kupp vs. Texans' Kevin Johnson, Johnathan Joseph and Kareem Jackson

    The Texans have allowed the ninth-most fantasy points to wide receivers, including the fourth most to players lined up on the perimeter. Watkins and Woods have worked primarily on the outside and Kupp is the team's top slot receiver. Houston has allowed the third-most fantasy points to slot receivers over the past four weeks, which helps solidify Kupp as a flex option against Jackson. Watkins has caught zero passes or one pass during four of his past five games and is thus a risky play. Woods actually has the toughest matchup, as he'll see top corner Joseph on roughly 55 percent of his routes.

    Tough matchups


    Buccaneers' DeSean Jackson vs. Jets' Morris Claiborne

    With Mike Evans suspended this week, Jackson will be the focal point for the New York defense. He's the team's clear No. 1 wide receiver with Adam Humphries in the slot and rookie Chris Godwin filling in for Evans. Claiborne was out last week, but he shadowed during his past seven games. Assuming he returns in Week 10, expect him to travel with Jackson, who has lined up against Claiborne on 48 plays in his career. He's produced seven catches, 111 yards and one touchdown on nine targets. Jackson should only be downgraded for the matchup slightly. Despite Claiborne's strong play, the Jets have allowed the eighth-most fantasy points to wide receivers, which opens the door for Humphries or Godwin to sneak into some fantasy value against Buster Skrine and Darryl Roberts.

    Broncos' Demaryius Thomas vs. Patriots Stephon Gilmore and Broncos' Emmanuel Sanders vs. Patriots' Malcolm Butler

    New England has allowed the third-most fantasy points to wide receivers this season, so it may be a surprise to see their corners as a "tough" matchup. However, considering that Thomas (85 percent), Sanders (73 percent), Gilmore (90 percent) and Butler (93 percent) primarily operate on the perimeter, it's fair to say Denver's top two wideouts will be matched up with New England's top two corners throughout this week's game. In fact, based on how New England has defended Denver in past seasons, I expect Gilmore to shadow Thomas and Butler to shadow Sanders. On 121 career routes against Butler, Sanders has caught 19 of 30 targets for 285 yards and zero touchdowns. Despite New England's defensive woes, Gilmore and Butler are still pretty good corners, which means a slight downgrade for Thomas and Sanders is in order.


    Lions' Marvin Jones Jr. vs. Browns' Jason McCourty and Lions' Golden Tate vs. Browns' Briean Boddy-Calhoun

    Jones sits 15th among wide receivers in fantasy points, but he has a tough challenge ahead of him this week. McCourty has been outstanding this season, but he's missed the team's past two games with an ankle injury. If he returns this week, there's a reasonable chance he will shadow Jones. Prior to the injury, McCourty had fared well while shadowing both A.J. Green and DeAndre Hopkins. He's been targeted on only 16 percent of his coverage snaps and is allowing 0.20 fantasy points per route, both of which are quality numbers. Believe it or not, even with McCourty missing time, Cleveland has surrendered the eighth-fewest fantasy points to wide receivers, which means Jones should be downgraded even if McCourty doesn't shadow or is out. Tate has a relatively tough matchup, as well, with Boddy-Calhoun playing at a high level in the slot. Receivers lined up against Boddy-Calhoun have been targeted on 9 percent of their routes and are averaging 0.14 fantasy points per route. Both are lowest among corners set to play a top-three role this weekend.


    Colts' T.Y. Hilton and Donte Moncrief vs. Steelers' Joe Haden and Artie Burns

    The Steelers are allowing 23.3 fantasy points per game to wide receivers this season (second fewest). They're allowing 15.3 per game to players lined up on the perimeter (second fewest), which is where Hilton (61 percent) and Moncrief (84 percent) are most often. Burns and Haden man the perimeter for Pittsburgh and have been terrific in coverage this season. Hilton has lined up against Haden on 46 career pass plays. He produced seven catches, 113 yards and two touchdowns on 12 targets on those snaps. On 21 routes against Burns last season, Moncrief put up three catches, 19 yards and no touchdowns on five targets. Both receivers will see some time in the slot, but Mike Hilton has been terrific, as well. Moncrief should be benched and Hilton is no more than a flex option this week.


    Jaguars' Marqise Lee vs. Chargers' Casey Hayward

    Hayward has shadowed in five of eight games this season, including matchups with Demaryius Thomas (twice), Alshon Jeffery, Odell Beckham Jr. and Amari Cooper. He's a good bet to follow Lee around in Week 10. Hayward doesn't travel to the slot, but Lee has lined up inside on only 13 percent of his routes this season, so he won't get much relief from Los Angeles' standout corner. The Chargers have allowed the second-fewest fantasy points to players lined up wide to the right. When these teams met in Week 2 last season, Hayward lined up against Lee on 26 pass plays. Lee was limited to three catches for 55 yards on five targets on those snaps and 75 total yards on five catches in the game. Lee should obviously be downgraded significantly.


    Chargers' Tyrell Williams, Travis Benjamin and Keenan Allen vs. Jaguars' Jalen Ramsey, A.J. Bouye and Aaron Colvin

    The Jaguars are surrendering an NFL-low 21.2 fantasy points per game to wide receivers this season. They're allowing the fourth-fewest points to players lined up on the perimeter and the fewest to those lined up in the slot. Williams and Benjamin are the Chargers' primary perimeter receivers and, along with rookie Mike Williams, will face off with Ramsey and Bouye throughout Sunday's game. None of those three wide receivers should be in lineups this week. Allen, meanwhile, has run half of his routes from the slot this season, so he'll only see Ramsey and Bouye (both have lined up in the slot seven percent of the time this year) half the time. Of course, Colvin has been terrific inside, which means life won't be much easier away from the two big names. He's best viewed as a WR3 this week.


    Vikings' Stefon Diggs vs. Redskins' Josh Norman

    Only four defenses have allowed fewer fantasy points to wide receivers than Washington this season. The Redskins' dominance has primarily been on the perimeter, as outside receivers are averaging and NFL-low 13.2 fantasy points. Diggs has aligned on the outside on 78 percent of his routes. He'll primarily see Norman in coverage, but he will also see some of Bashaud Breeland and Quinton Dunbar on the other side of the field and Kendall Fuller in the slot. Speaking of Fuller, the Redskins have allowed the third-most fantasy points to slot receivers this season, though they've been better in that department as of late and Fuller has graded out as a top-15 cover corner by Pro Football Focus. That suggests that life may not be easy for Adam Thielen, either.


    Patriots' Brandin Cooks, Chris Hogan and Danny Amendola vs. Broncos' Aqib Talib, Chris Harris Jr. and Bradley Roby

    Despite getting shredded by Carson Wentz and the Eagles in Week 9, the Broncos have still allowed the fourth-fewest fantasy points to wide receivers this season. Cooks lines up on the perimeter 83 percent of the time and will thus see Talib and Roby most often in coverage. Hogan (shoulder) appears doubtful for the game, but he or replacement Phillip Dorsett primarily work outside, as well. Regardless of Hogan's status, Amendola will primarily work against Denver slot corner Harris in what will be his toughest challenge of the season. Amendola has an 11-6-52-0 career line on 70 routes against Harris. On 24 routes against Denver last season while with the Saints, Cooks produced three catches for 98 yards and one touchdown on five targets. On 73 routes against Denver over the past three years, Hogan has collected eight catches for 72 yards and one touchdown. Despite the Broncos' rough Week 9, the Patriots' receivers should be downgraded.


    Redskins' Josh Doctson vs. Vikings' Xavier Rhodes

    Rhodes has shadowed Antonio Brown, Mike Evans, Marvin Jones Jr., Davante Adams and Mike Wallace this season. He wasn't asked to shadow against teams with muddier wide receiver situations (Chicago, Cleveland) in recent weeks. "Muddy" is certainly one way to categorize the Redskins' wide receiver situation, with Doctson overtaking Terrelle Pryor Sr. at split end in recent weeks, Ryan Grant holding down the fort at flanker and Jamison Crowder in the slot. That all being said, it's very possible Rhodes simply plays his side and doesn't shadow Doctson this week. That would mean Doctson will align on Rhodes' side of the field on roughly 45 percent of his routes. Doctson will also see some of Trae Waynes on the other side, so he doesn't need to be downgraded much, but especially against a very good Vikings' defense, you may want to steer clear of Redskins' wide receivers.

    Other Notes

    The Rams' Trumaine Johnson is a decent bet to shadow DeAndre Hopkins of the Texans this week, but Johnson has struggled in coverage this year and quarterbacks haven't been afraid to throw at him, especially when he's shadowing a top receiver. Hopkins is obviously safe to fire up, and Will Fuller V is a flex option against Kayvon Webster.

    The Bills have used Tre'Davious White as a shadow corner when E.J. Gaines has been sidelined, but the two corners have simply played their sides when both have been healthy. Gaines remains questionable for Week 10, so if he's out, expect White, who is playing well, to shadow the Saints' Michael Thomas, leaving Ted Ginn Jr. with a plus matchup against Shareece Wright. If Gaines returns, both Thomas and Ginn will have their hands full on the perimeter against White and Gaines. Though White has been tough in coverage, players lined up against him have scored 94 fantasy points this season (eighth most), so Thomas won't need to be downgraded more than slightly.
     

  11. #86  
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    Week 10 fantasy football flex rankings
    Eric Karabell
    ESPN INSIDER


    It's Week 10, and we’re getting to the point where we can’t keep the suspensions straight. One guy did something last year, and another started a melee this past week, and one is out, and the other might be, and ... it can get confusing.

    The flex rankings are posted on Wednesdays but the staff rankings are updated through Saturday night, so make sure you keep up with the news and activate the players actually playing in the games, because these situations can be, well, fluid. The flex rankings aren’t.

    Here they are. Let’s flex!

    1. Antonio Brown, WR, Steelers: Still leads the NFL in targets, and he’s coming off his bye week.
    2. Le'Veon Bell, RB, Steelers: And he still leads the NFL in rushing attempts. Look for these Steelers to lead the flex rankings a few more times!

    3. Julio Jones, WR, Falcons: What people probably don’t realize is that the lack of touchdowns isn’t predictive of anything. He’s scoring this Sunday.

    4. Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Cowboys: I give up. If somehow this legal ridiculousness ends this week and he sits out Sunday, then sit him, but Alfred Morris wouldn’t go in this spot. More like the late 30s.

    5. Todd Gurley II, RB, Rams: Your non-quarterback PPR scoring leader is on pace for more than 2,000 total yards and 20 touchdowns. Not bad!

    6. A.J. Green, WR, Bengals: He’s playing Sunday against a team that doesn’t stop the pass and should be plenty motivated after escaping suspension.

    7. Michael Thomas, WR, Saints

    8. Dez Bryant, WR, Cowboys

    9. LeSean McCoy, RB, Bills: Still about as safe as can be, and most of these running backs have the occasional off game.

    10. Leonard Fournette, RB, Jaguars: Something tells me he’ll be on time this week.

    11. Melvin Gordon, RB, Chargers

    12. DeAndre Hopkins, WR, Texans: Still posted a decent statistical game sans Deshaun Watson. Just don’t expect consistency week to week.

    13. Doug Baldwin, WR, Seahawks: Everyone is talking about Carson Wentz and Tom Brady for MVP, but Baldwin’s QB is also putting on a show.

    14. Jordan Howard, RB, Bears

    15. Alvin Kamara, RB, Saints: Isn’t likely to rush for 1,000 yards but still might end up as fantasy’s most valuable rookie running back.

    16. Mark Ingram, RB, Saints: Don’t forget him. Yes, two Saints running backs can thrive. They are thriving!

    17. Carlos Hyde, RB, 49ers: Give him credit. He has played all the games.

    18. Devonta Freeman, RB, Falcons: On pace for 1,000 rushing yards, but where are the receptions? This doesn’t look like a top-10 running back anymore.

    19. Christian McCaffrey, RB, Panthers: Now that he has scored a rushing touchdown, there’s simply no stopping him!

    20. Jarvis Landry, WR, Dolphins: Jay Cutler can make plays. He just doesn’t always feel like it.

    21. Brandin Cooks, WR, Patriots: Can’t say a matchup in Denver is so scary anymore.

    22. Golden Tate, WR, Lions: His first 100-catch campaign is within reach.

    23. Adam Thielen, WR, Vikings: The potential/likely loss of Sam Bradford for the season really doesn’t make me like Thielen less. In fact, it’s kind of the opposite.

    24. Lamar Miller, RB, Texans: Let’s see if defenses can stack the box and make Tom Savage throw downfield. Um, I think I know my answer.

    25. Chris Thompson, RB, Redskins: Let’s give him the credit he’s due. He’s really good, and Terrelle Pryor Sr. isn’t right now.

    26. Jerick McKinnon, RB, Vikings

    27. Demaryius Thomas, WR, Broncos: Numbers say the Patriots can be thrown on, but when it’s Brock Osweiler, the numbers might say different.

    28. Marvin Jones Jr., WR, Lions: Really likes performing at Lambeau Field. Also has 36 targets the past three games. Can that continue?

    29. Stefon Diggs, WR, Vikings

    30. Rob Gronkowski, TE, Patriots: The lone member of the top tight end tier (Zach Ertz, Travis Kelce) not on a bye this week. Lot of pressure, Gronk.

    31. Keenan Allen, WR, Chargers: Matchup in Jacksonville doesn’t seem like much fun.

    32. T.Y. Hilton, WR, Colts: Might be all or nothing with him, but the “all” games are awesome.

    33. Joe Mixon, RB, Bengals: No reason why he still can’t emerge as a statistical star. Just don’t expect it.

    34. James White, RB, Patriots

    35. Evan Engram, TE, Giants: Yes, he is deserving of this generous ranking.

    36. Jordy Nelson, WR, Packers: No, he might not be deserving of this not-so-generous ranking. But let’s see more.

    37. Larry Fitzgerald, WR, Cardinals: Any quarterback can find him.

    38. DeVante Parker, WR, Dolphins: Look at his numbers lately. There’s a WR2 lurking here for sure.

    39. Doug Martin, RB, Buccaneers: This team is a mess, but one would think Martin will get plenty of chances this week.

    40. DeMarco Murray, RB, Titans: I’m taking the under on 1,000 rushing yards. Becoming more of a flex than RB2.

    41. Jimmy Graham, TE, Seahawks

    42. Sterling Shepard, WR, Giants

    43. Robby Anderson, WR, Jets: He has outscored Allen, Nelson and Thomas in PPR this season.

    44. Aaron Jones, RB, Packers: His usage Monday was mystifying. Could get 18 touches or five again. Good thinking, Packers (he writes sarcastically).

    45. Adrian Peterson, RB, Cardinals: Perhaps he really will run all over and embarrass the Seahawks. Or perhaps it’s back to 21 rushing yards like Week 7. Tough to read this situation.

    46. Robert Woods, WR, Rams: He’s the first Rams receiver you want now.

    47. Mohamed Sanu, WR, Falcons: He’s not the first Falcons receiver you want, but you want both.

    48. Kelvin Benjamin, WR, Bills: Playing the New Orleans defense isn’t exactly such a breeze anymore.

    49. Davante Adams, WR, Packers

    50. Orleans Darkwa, RB, Giants

    51. Kenyan Drake, RB, Dolphins: Looked pretty good in extended action with Jay Ajayi gone. Still, it’s a time-share.

    52. Tevin Coleman, RB, Falcons

    53. Matt Forte, RB, Jets: Sure seems like he’s back to being the Jets' running back to rely on.

    54. DeSean Jackson, WR, Buccaneers: Yes, he’s likely to see more looks with Mike Evans suspended, but don’t presume Jackson has a big game against Morris Claiborne.

    55. Emmanuel Sanders, WR, Broncos

    56. Devin Funchess, WR, Panthers: The trade of Kelvin Benjamin might not have altered his outlook at all.

    57. Rishard Matthews, WR, Titans

    58. Delanie Walker, TE, Titans

    59. Jack Doyle, TE, Colts

    60. Ameer Abdullah, RB, Lions: I’ve just about given up on actually activating a Lions running back at this point, unless circumstances demand it. They haven’t yet.

    61. Frank Gore, RB, Colts

    62. Bilal Powell, RB, Jets: Oh, what could have been.

    63. Dion Lewis, RB, Patriots

    64. JuJu Smith-Schuster, WR, Steelers: Will be interesting to see how the Steelers decide to score their 38 points at Indy this week. Perhaps Martavis Bryant even plays a role.

    65. Ted Ginn Jr., WR, Saints

    66. Marqise Lee, WR, Jaguars: Underrated player, but likely facing corner Casey Hayward this week.

    67. Rob Kelley, RB, Redskins

    68. Tarik Cohen, RB, Bears

    69. Damien Williams, RB, Dolphins: If he catches six passes each week and finds the end zone on occasion, he’ll rank better than this.

    70. Cameron Brate, TE, Buccaneers: Would figure Ryan Fitzpatrick leans on him a bit more this week.

    71. Danny Amendola, WR, Patriots

    72. Isaiah Crowell, RB, Browns

    73. Derrick Henry, RB, Titans: We’re still going to be talking about this guy in Week 15 as on the verge of greatness, aren’t we?

    74. Jamison Crowder, WR, Redskins

    75. C.J. Anderson, RB, Broncos: Didn’t run well in Philly, but few running backs are. Still, expectations are low for this week and the future.

    76. Corey Davis, WR, Titans: If he’s available in your league, go get him, even if he sits on the fantasy bench a bit longer.

    77. Marquise Goodwin, WR, 49ers: Best they've got with Pierre Garcon gone, and this is a good matchup.

    78. Jermaine Kearse, WR, Jets

    79. Randall Cobb, WR, Packers

    80. Jason Witten, TE, Cowboys: Had one target last week. Not a consistent option in this offense, and don’t expect anything different if Elliott sits.

    81. Kyle Rudolph, TE, Vikings

    82. Josh Doctson, WR, Redskins: Future does look bright, but facts are facts: He has caught 11 passes ... this season.

    83. Jonathan Stewart, RB, Panthers: Speaking of the number 11, he turned that many carries into a minus-1.9 in PPR last week. Hard to do, folks.

    84. Duke Johnson Jr., RB, Browns: Has cooled off considerably the past three games.

    85. John Brown, WR, Cardinals

    86. Thomas Rawls, RB, Seahawks: Could get the start Thursday with Eddie Lacy hurt and, um, bad.

    87. Latavius Murray, RB, Vikings

    88. Ty Montgomery, RB, Packers: Perhaps he really is back in the picture.

    89. Will Fuller V, WR, Texans: His picture is cloudy with Watson out.

    90. Cooper Kupp, WR, Rams

    91. Paul Richardson, WR, Seahawks

    92. Brandon LaFell, WR, Bengals

    93. Theo Riddick, RB, Lions

    94. Marlon Mack, RB, Colts

    95. Sammy Watkins, WR, Rams: The positive news is he scored on a 67-yard touchdown last week. The negative is that was his lone target.

    96. Tyler Lockett, WR, Seahawks

    97. Allen Hurns, WR, Jaguars

    98. Chris Ivory, RB, Jaguars: Hasn’t run like Fournette when Fournette has been absent.

    99. Devontae Booker, RB, Broncos: We were told his breakout was coming in Week 9. He got eight touches.

    100. Jamaal Charles, RB, Broncos

    Others: Adam Humphries, WR, Buccaneers; Kenny Stills, WR, Dolphins; Eric Decker, WR, Titans; D'Onta Foreman, RB, Texans; Rex Burkhead, RB, Patriots; Mike Gillislee, RB, Patriots; Austin Ekeler, RB, Chargers; Andre Ellington, RB, Cardinals
     

  12. #87  
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    Time to bench Brady against the Broncos?
    Eric Karabell
    ESPN INSIDER


    To me, the most interesting game on this week’s slate is the Sunday night option with Tom Brady taking on Von Miller. Other players are involved, of course, but the New England Patriots are coming off their bye week for a road tilt in the thin air of Colorado. Meanwhile, the Denver Broncos are a mess on both sides of the football, with Brock Osweiler at quarterback and a defense coming off a 51-point shredding in Philadelphia. Does that mean Brady will have a great game and, if so, should fantasy managers shy away from the Denver defense not only this week but moving forward?
    Brady, despite being the No. 6 quarterback in fantasy this season, really hasn’t been so awesome. Over his past four games, he has averaged 16.2 fantasy points, which ranks only 11th at the position in that span. That’s essentially what the surprising Josh McCown of the New York Jets has averaged this season. Over the first four weeks of the year, Brady averaged 24.4 points, which led all quarterbacks.

    Those relying on Brady on a week-to-week basis might not have noticed, but that’s a big difference from his current numbers. Perhaps we won’t get an answer on how to view him moving forward if Miller’s defense bounces back. Still, while nobody in fantasy would bench Brady, if they also rostered Carson Wentz or Alex Smith -- the actual top scorers in fantasy this season -- maybe they should, depending on weekly matchups.

    It’s also worth watching the New England weapons for some degree of clarity. Wide receiver Chris Hogan, who has the same number of receptions and targets (and only two points fewer overall) as the far more popular Brandin Cooks in PPR scoring, injured his right shoulder in Week 8 and isn’t expected to suit up. Phillip Dorsett would presumably fill in but, again, fantasy managers shouldn’t get too excited there because Denver’s cornerbacks are among the best in the league. Rob Gronkowski is always a play and so is Cooks. Running back James White is underrated. Beyond that, the Patriots have been rather ordinary on offense for the past month, scoring fewer than 25 points in every game since Week 4.

    While we’re watching how New England’s offense performs and which players get the love, it’s really all about Denver’s defense -- which I still wouldn’t recommend this week. As a staff, we have the San Francisco 49ers, Miami Dolphins and Cincinnati Bengals all ranked better -- which seems crazy, but wise. The Broncos D/ST ranks only 15th in fantasy points this season, but is the fifth-most rostered unit in ESPN formats. Is this one of those times a fantasy manager should add a second defense? Well, to some with tight benches it might make more sense to simply cut Denver’s defense, though there are some really appealing opponents (Dolphins, Jets, Colts) remaining for them. It’s a tough call.

    Finally, heading into the Week 9 game in Philadelphia, it sure seemed that the Broncos were moving to more of a time-share at running back, or perhaps Devontae Booker would simply pass C.J. Anderson on the depth chart. Does that happen this week? The Broncos rely on two wide receivers in the passing game -- and Emmanuel Sanders is active -- and little else. Perhaps Osweiler, whose main goal should be to avoid turnovers, looks to others like Bennie Fowler III and tight end A.J. Derby. It seems like a predictable offense, but fantasy managers would like running back clarity, at the least. Add Booker now, just in case he becomes the top option.

    Down by the Bay: The starting quarterbacks for the Green Bay Packers and Tampa Bay Buccaneers this week are Brett Hundley and Ryan Fitzpatrick. Good times! We’ve already seen Hundley for a few games and things haven’t gone well for either Green Bay's running game or awesome receivers Jordy Nelson and Davante Adams. The Packers play in Chicago against the Bears and, at this point, against an underrated defense, it’s tough to expect much. Still, we will watch to see the breakdown of touches for the running backs. Aaron Jones was great in Weeks 5 and 7. After the bye, however, they went back to Ty Montgomery.

    Meanwhile, Fitzpatrick is a competent player, and he might be no less accurate than the injured Jameis Winston. He has been successful in the past, though not last year with the Jets, who happen to be Sunday’s opponent. (It’s a revenge game!) Fitzpatrick is not a terrible play this week, but again, with Mike Evans serving a suspension, I’m not really watching DeSean Jackson and Adam Humphries. I’d like to see Doug Martin get going, because there’s a chance we’ll see more Jacquizz Rodgers and Peyton Barber.

    All about the Benjamins: Kelvin Benjamin makes his Buffalo Bills debut after being acquired from the Carolina Panthers, and perhaps this really is the deep threat quarterback Tyrod Taylor needs. Taylor averages less than 7.0 yards per pass attempt, which isn’t so good and falls short of the top 20 at the position. Taylor takes care of the football, of course, and he adds much value with his legs. Perhaps Buffalo's passing game can look better against the Saints, not only with Benjamin in uniform, but also underrated tight end Charles Clay, who returns to the fray after suffering a knee injury in Week 5.

    Since I made reference to “Benjamins” in the plural, I suppose I should discuss Los Angeles Chargers option Travis Benjamin as well. Sadly, I don’t have much to say there. Travis Benjamin actually had nine targets in his most recent game, but with the expected emergence of rookie Mike Williams, that doesn’t figure to continue. Plus, the Chargers play in Jacksonville. No defense has allowed fewer fantasy points to both quarterbacks and wide receivers than the Jaguars.

    Injunction junction, what’s your function? As of this writing -- and yes, I’ve typed those words many times before with this topic -- it appears that Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott will finally, mercifully, start serving his six-game suspension this week. Then again, things change. They have myriad times over with this case already. But if Elliott does sit, that means all of the active members of the Dallas backfield should be on rosters in case they become valuable. In order, I’d add Alfred Morris, Darren McFadden and then Rod Smith.


    I think McFadden, who hasn’t dressed for a game this season, will be active and will get chances. That said, it’s reasonable to think that Morris, who has a rushing attempt in each of the past five games but a mere 14 all season, gets the first opportunity. Add him first. Smith is the youngest of the group and catches passes, so he could be the guy as well. I honestly don’t think the Cowboys ever thought Elliott would have to serve the suspension in 2017 and hey, who knows for sure? Until I see the game at Atlanta start on Sunday and someone else gets the first carry, I might not believe it.

    Plan ahead if you can, but I reiterate: even if Elliott misses this game, there’s still a chance he doesn’t miss all six. I have to be pragmatic here because this saga has been a roller coaster.
     

  13. #88  
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    Saints running backs, defense continue to thrive
    Eric Karabell
    ESPN INSIDER

    The New Orleans Saints won their seventh consecutive game on Sunday with an impressive 47-10 drubbing of the Buffalo Bills, achieving this on the road and without the aid of quarterback Drew Brees throwing for some ridiculous number of yards and a myriad of touchdowns. In fact, Brees threw for nary a score, and for the sixth consecutive game, he did not reach as many as 20 fantasy points. These Saints rely on a fantastic and versatile running game -- even Brees scrambled for a score for the first time in four years -- and an underrated but surging defense to win games. And it sure is working.
    Both veteran Mark Ingram and rookie Alvin Kamara continued to secure RB1 status in fantasy leagues, combining for a cool 55.9 PPR points. No other team can claim a pair of running backs worthy of top-20 status, let alone top-10. Ingram led all Week 10 running back scorers entering the Sunday night game with 31.1 points, achieved with 131 rushing yards and a club-record-tying three touchdowns, while Kamara totaled 138 yards and scored a touchdown for the fourth consecutive week. Kamara led all running backs in fantasy points in Week 9, and each player was in the top 10 in Week 8, as well.

    The last time a pair of Saints each rushed for more than 100 yards in a game was more than a decade ago when Reggie Bush and Deuce McAllister achieved it late in the 2006 campaign, and no Saints team had rushed for more than Sunday’s 298 yards in a game since 1981. Indeed, this isn’t a typical Saints team at all, or even like last year’s version that was 16th in rushing, but it can support two star running backs. Incidentally, the Bills entered play having allowed an average of only 84 rushing yards per game, and while they’re no offensive juggernaut themselves, their only touchdown came with backups in the final minutes.

    Certainly what Ingram and Kamara are achieving appears legitimate, and the ESPN Fantasy rankings boasted each in the top 10 for this week. That should continue. Now we’re also going to have to consider the Saints D/ST as a top-10 unit, which is truly rare. The Saints D/ST entered Week 10 sixth in season scoring but first since Week 3. The Saints lost their first two games and permitted 65 points, but since then, the Saints have allowed more than 17 points in just one game, and the D/ST boasts five games with double-digit fantasy points. No opposing quarterback has reached as many as 15 fantasy points in a game since Tom Brady in Week 2. If you’re thinking Kirk Cousins, Jared Goff and Cam Newton are great plays over the next three weeks, think again.

    Second down: Few teams in recent seasons have been able to provide multiple running backs as top-20 fantasy options, but the defending NFC champion Atlanta Falcons have been one of them. However, that’s changed this season as both Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman, among other Falcons, have disappointed. Freeman left Sunday’s impressive win over the Dallas Cowboys early with a concussion, leaving Coleman his first opportunity of the season for volume, and he rushed for a season-best 83 yards and scored a touchdown. Let’s remember Coleman was actually Atlanta’s choice for lead back duties in 2015, but he missed Week 1 and Freeman seized the job. It doesn’t seem likely that Freeman will miss considerable, if any, time with his head injury, but if he does, Coleman would step into his RB1 status.

    But all eyes weren’t on the Atlanta running backs. Instead, the focus entering the Sunday afternoon game was on those of the Cowboys with Ezekiel Elliott serving the first game of his six-game suspension. As expected, Alfred Morris saw the first opportunity to seize the role, and he ended up with 11 of the team’s 15 carries from a running back. Morris broke a 20-yard run in the second half to buoy what was otherwise an uninspiring performance, as his other 10 runs totaled 33 yards. Rod Smith, as expected, was a factor in the passing game with four catches on six targets, while Darren McFadden, in his first action of the season, lost 2 yards on his lone rush. This is a time-share. Morris leads it, but Smith could be more valuable in PPR formats. And roster McFadden, as well, just in case. No Cowboys running back will come recommended in Week 11 against the Philadelphia Eagles.

    Third down: As for quarterbacks who provided big numbers, Washington’s Kirk Cousins and Minnesota’s Case Keenum were the leaders from the early Sunday games. Cousins rushed for a pair of touchdowns and threw for another as he continues to prove he’s matchup-proof, though that will certainly be tested against the Saints. Cousins continues to thrive with little consistent aid from teammates. Even running back Chris Thompson was quiet on Sunday. Tight end Vernon Davis and wide receiver Jamison Crowder each caught seven passes on 11 targets, and they should be rostered in more leagues. Davis has outscored brittle Jordan Reed this season, and there’s no telling when Reed will play again. Maurice Harris essentially replaced Terrelle Pryor Sr. in the rotation and made an acrobatic touchdown reception, though it’s premature to call him a 10-team league addition.

    Keenum threw four touchdown passes, but his security as the starter will likely remain week-to-week, as Teddy Bridgewater suited up for the first time since the 2015 season as the backup for this game and shed pregame tears of joy. Keenum also threw a pair of ugly second-half interceptions as his team was holding on to a large lead and might have become the first quarterback in recent memory to throw for 300 yards and four scores and still get pulled. It could still occur at any point, so if you roster Keenum, be prepared. However, it shouldn’t matter to awesome wide receiver Adam Thielen. The sure-handed Thielen continues to be the lone player this season with five receptions in every game. He caught eight passes for 166 yards and his second touchdown in as many weeks, looking like a safe WR1 option regardless of his quarterback.

    Fourth down: More than a few of the wide receivers appearing on the latest ESPN most added list came through for fantasy managers with performances proving their worth. Robert Woods of the Los Angeles Rams entered the Sunday night Patriots-Broncos game as fantasy’s top PPR scorer for the week with 37.1 points. It included 171 receiving yards and a pair of touchdowns, one of them an electrifying 94-yarder. As colleague Tristan H. Cockcroft noted, Woods boasts consecutive games of 23-plus PPR points after achieving such a mark only three times in his previous 64 games. While Sammy Watkins found the end zone on Sunday, Woods is the top Rams receiver, though he’ll likely miss the top 20 in our rankings for the next three weeks against the Vikings, Saints and Cardinals, each featuring strong cover cornerbacks who figure to shadow him.

    The schedule looks easier in future weeks for the New York Giants’ Sterling Shepard, Pittsburgh Steelers’ JuJu Smith-Schuster and New York Jets’ Robby Anderson, each of whom continued to produce. Shepard and teammate Evan Engram are the top targets for beleaguered quarterback Eli Manning, who can’t win games with this team but can keep his top targets busy. Shepard had 142 receiving yards. The Giants play the Chiefs, Redskins and Raiders over the next three weeks. Smith-Schuster caught a touchdown for the third consecutive game and should no longer feel threatened by the presence of Martavis Bryant. The Steelers have home games with the Titans and Packers ahead. Anderson has scored a touchdown in four consecutive games. He won’t score in Week 11, as his team has its bye week, but he has become dependable.
     

  14. #89  
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    Best, worst matchups at all fantasy football positions for Week 11
    Tristan Cockcroft
    ESPN INSIDER

    Matchups are often a driving force behind fantasy football owners' weekly lineup decisions. When choosing between two (or more) similarly talented players, you know the first question that comes to mind: Which one has the best matchup?

    Ah, but what, exactly, constitutes a favorable or unfavorable matchup?


    That's where the "Matchups Map" comes in. Each week, I'll provide a schedule-independent method to determine strength of positional matchups, using the most recent, relevant data. Check back for updated numbers each week, including matchup highlights at each position -- both favorable and unfavorable -- based upon those statistics. For these purposes, we will use PPR (point per reception) scoring, though I have analyzed this data for both PPR and non-PPR and have found the rankings would scarcely change (if at all). Therefore, these help in either scoring format.

    The maps include two measures: The first, "Rk," is my personal ranking of how favorable/unfavorable I consider that positional matchup; the second, "Adj. FPA," reflects how far above or below a player's average that defense has held opponents at that position. All data is from the past five weeks of NFL action.

    Finally, a caveat: Remember that matchups are only one ingredient in my rankings formula. Not every favorable matchup should be exploited; not every unfavorable matchup should be avoided. To get the most complete recipe for whom to start and sit, consult my weekly rankings.

    Quarterbacks

    Favorable matchup: Eli Manning, New York Giants (vs. Kansas City Chiefs)

    Your opinion of the Chiefs' passing defense probably hinges upon which of their games you remember best. In their past three games, Derek Carr (30.18 fantasy points, Week 7) and Dak Prescott (26.66, Week 9) thrived, while Trevor Siemian (7.92, Week 8) looked awful. Siemian, though, was concluding a miserable five-game stretch during which he averaged 244 yards passing with just three touchdowns and eight interceptions and ultimately lost his starting job afterward -- and he also played that game without Emmanuel Sanders (ankle). The Chiefs have had a difficult time containing opposing wide receivers all year, and with Sterling Shepard coming off a career-best game in terms of targets and catches, and Evan Engram heavily utilized in the passing game (and often lined up as a receiver himself), Manning shouldn't have much trouble moving the football against them. An added potential bonus: The Chiefs should ultimately win this game and likely will possess a lead for the majority of it, so Manning could be tasked with 40-plus pass attempts playing catch-up, padding his fantasy stats.

    Unfavorable matchup: Kirk Cousins, Washington Redskins (at New Orleans Saints)

    Again, this probably comes down to your opinion of the defense. In the past five weeks, the Saints have afforded their opponent's starting quarterback 14.88, 11.88, 9.86, 3.48 and 2.94 fantasy points. An average of 11.98 during that span ranks seventh best. Now what if I told you that the identities of those quarterbacks were Matthew Stafford, Brett Hundley, Mitchell Trubisky, Jameis Winston and Tyrod Taylor, and that in Winston's case, he played through a shoulder injury and only half the game at that? I think the Saints deserve more credit than caveats, considering cornerback Marshon Lattimore has been one of the game's best at his position, while Ken Crawley and P.J. Williams have played especially well of late to make life difficult for opposing passers. Cousins' wide receiver corps has been largely up and down this year, and Jordan Reed's constant injury issues take away an integral part of his passing game, as well. It has made Cousins susceptible to his matchups -- see: Seattle Seahawks, Week 9 -- and means that any potential fantasy success for him this week probably hinges upon volume.

    Running backs

    Favorable matchup: Dion Lewis, New England Patriots (at Oakland Raiders)

    I know that it's difficult to trust a Patriots running back, but the numbers tell us that Lewis has a leg up on the rest of his backfield competition. He has led Patriots running backs in both carries and total touches in each of the team's past four games, averaging 13.3 and 14.0 during that time span, and his 4.2-yard average per carry also leads the bunch. This is an exceptional matchup against a Raiders defense that has allowed an average of 22.3 fantasy points to Javorius Allen, Melvin Gordon, Kareem Hunt, LeSean McCoy, Kenyan Drake and Damien Williams -- that's excluding any secondary players involved in those games and only averaging those players' contributions -- in the team's past five games. Lewis remains available in more than 60 percent of ESPN leagues, probably due to our collective lack of trust in Bill Belichick's game plans, but that also makes him one of the week's strongest plug-in choices. Also consider Rex Burkhead, who has averaged 10.3 touches in his past three games and should play a significant enough role to contribute as a flex play.

    Unfavorable matchup: Adrian Peterson, Arizona Cardinals (at Houston Texans)

    Only Le'Veon Bell (32.8) and Ezekiel Elliott (29.3) have averaged more touches per game than Peterson (24.8) since his trade to the Cardinals following Week 5, so there's a volume angle to the veteran running back that keeps him in the RB2 class, at minimum. But consider this: Peterson's 0.50 fantasy points-per-touch average during that same span ranks sixth worst among the 44 running backs who have averaged double-digit touches. If his Cardinals debut, in which he capitalized upon a great matchup against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, is stuck in your memory, then you probably think Peterson is matchup-proof. If you instead recall his Week 10 stinker against the Seahawks, then you probably realize he is not. The Texans have allowed the seventh-fewest rushing yards per game (96.9) and yards per carry (3.7) this season, and they've held Leonard Fournette (Week 1), Todd Gurley II (Week 10), Kareem Hunt (Week 5), Duke Johnson Jr. (Week 6), DeMarco Murray (Week 4) and James White (Week 3) to an average of 4.6 fantasy points beneath their seasonal averages in past meetings. Peterson's average as a Cardinal is 12.4.

    Wide receivers

    Favorable matchup: Jarvis Landry, Miami Dolphins (vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers)

    Not that he shouldn't be a mainstay in your lineup every week, but Landry absolutely demands a spot considering his Week 11 matchup. His 9.7 fantasy points per game working out of the slot (out of his 14.8 overall average) is second best among wide receivers since the beginning of last season, so he should capitalize on a Buccaneers defense that has allowed the second-most fantasy points to opposing slot receivers (187.7, trailing only the Patriots' 206.1). Landry will represent the first true test for Buccaneers cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III, who was shifted to the slot in mid-October but hasn't had to face a receiver close to Landry's caliber since then. And if Hargreaves (hamstring) is unable to suit up, the matchup will only strengthen.

    Unfavorable matchup: Sammy Watkins, Los Angeles Rams (at Minnesota Vikings)

    Watkins -- and to a perhaps greater extent red-hot quarterback Jared Goff -- faces a significant test in Week 11, going up against a Vikings defense that has allowed the ninth-fewest fantasy points per target (1.50) and ninth-fewest Adjusted Fantasy Points Added (minus-1.27) to opposing No. 1 wide receivers. It's Watkins who is of greatest concern as a fantasy play, as he's likely to draw the most one-on-one matchups with star cornerback Xavier Rhodes, who is largely the reason behind the Vikings' stinginess against opposing receivers. Watkins is fourth in the league in yards per reception (17.7) and fifth in average depth of target (16.3 yards), but the Vikings have afforded the sixth-fewest yards per reception (10.5), second-fewest 20-yard passing plays (21) and second-fewest 40-yard passing plays (two).

    Tight ends

    Favorable matchup: Tyler Kroft, Cincinnati Bengals (at Denver Broncos)

    By now, you're surely aware of the Giants as the dream matchup for tight ends; they have allowed a touchdown to an opposing tight end in 11 consecutive games. But the Broncos aren't really that much less attractive a matchup. In their nine games this season, the Broncos opponent's primary tight end has averaged 14.8 fantasy points per game, including solid days by not-so-assured fantasy starters such as Charles Clay (15.9, Week 3), Jared Cook (7.6, Week 4), Hunter Henry (11.3, Week 7) and Trey Burton (12.1, Week 9). One of the reasons for this is the team's lack of elite talent at linebacker and safety compared to cornerback. Kroft doesn't get enough respect in fantasy (available in more than 40 percent in ESPN leagues), but his per-game averages since he took over as the Bengals' leading man at the position in Week 3 are impressive: 10.2 fantasy points (11th among tight ends), 51.1 offensive snaps (14th), 0.7 end-zone targets (sixth).

    Unfavorable matchup: Delanie Walker, Tennessee Titans (at Pittsburgh Steelers)

    No team in the NFL has afforded fewer fantasy points per target (1.30) to opposing tight ends than the Steelers, and their 57 percent catch rate and 9.5 fantasy points per game afforded to the position both rank third lowest. This defense just held Jack Doyle, he of the 11.7 fantasy points-per-game average, to 2.9 in Week 10, and it kept Travis Kelce (16.1 average) to just 7.7 on seven targets in Week 6. Walker has a reputation as a high-floor, heavily-targeted tight end, but he has been phased out as one of Marcus Mariota's more trusted options when in scoring position this year. Walker's current paces of 34 routes run and seven targets in the red zone would represent his lowest of each since 2012.
     

  15. #90  
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    Offenses should thrive as Tampa Bay and Miami finally meet
    Eric Karabell
    ESPN INSIDER

    The Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Miami Dolphins were supposed to meet at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami way back in Week 1, but Mother Nature intervened and the teams were forced to serve their bye weeks at the very beginning of the season, rather than this Sunday. Back then, things seemed otherwise positive for both the Bucs and Fins. The Buccaneers won more than they lost in 2016 and figured that QB Jameis Winston would continue to make strides, especially as the team added WR DeSean Jackson. The Dolphins were a playoff team last year and thought that replacing injured Ryan Tannehill with Jay Cutler wouldn’t alter their trajectory all that much.
    Well, fast-forward to Week 11 when these losing teams will finally meet and, while there aren’t any important playoff implications on the line, fantasy managers should be taking notes because both of these defenses are, shall we say, having problems. The Buccaneers managed to beat the Jets last Sunday to end a five-game losing streak. Prior to that, however, more than one offense had their way this disappointing defense. On the other sideline, the Dolphins have lost three in a row, permitting an average of 37 points per game in that span. On Monday night, the Carolina Panthers rushed for nearly 300 yards as a team against Miami.

    This is why I’m optimistic about the starting running backs in this game performing better than our overall staff rankings seem to expect. No, Doug Martin is not having a good season. In the past, we’ve certainly noted how Martin has been a fantasy star in two of his five seasons, rushing for more than 1,400 yards and scoring touchdowns in 2012 and 2015, but otherwise he has been a huge bust. Martin has been disappointing again in 2017, but despite the Buccaneers suggesting that others will get chances in the No. 1 role, that hasn’t occurred. Martin rushed 20 times in Week 10 and now faces a defense that allowed Carolina’s Jonathan Stewart to look like an in-his-prime Barry Sanders. I’ve got Martin as a mid-RB2.

    With Jay Ajayi traded out of town, the Dolphins turned to the combination of Kenyan Drake and Damien Williams to split touches. So far, that is working out considerably better than when Ajayi was around, for whatever on- or off-the-field reasons one might want to imply. Drake has averaged 16.8 PPR points in two games -- a top-10 total each week. That’s enough to pique our collective interest but, again, he’s also facing a struggling Buccaneers defense missing key players. Unlike WR Mike Evans, those missing pieces are not returning this week from a one-game suspension. I have Drake ranked right after Martin, and more generously than others.

    Fantasy managers know the running backs we can count on and, to be fair, Martin and Drake aren’t in that class. One started the season a month late because of a suspension (so he shouldn't even have had a chance to face Miami) and the other was a backup until a few weeks ago. That said, this is a game of matchups and this week, the matchup says that points should flow in the Buccaneers-Dolphins game. Neither Ryan Fitzpatrick nor Cutler should face heavy pressure and there are numerous receiving weapons on each side to watch. Evans should be motivated after his one-game absence. Jackson has found the end zone twice all year. TE Cameron Brate is underrated. Miami’s Jarvis Landry and DeVante Parker are really good. Look, you already know you can count on those guys. Now it's time to look at the running backs.

    Week 11 QB ranking thoughts: Carolina’s Cam Newton is the lone bye-week quarterback we will really miss, though Indianapolis’ Jacoby Brissett has been better than people realize. … Chicago's defense also has been better than people realize, but I still like Detroit’s Matthew Stafford as a top-10 option. … My colleagues who didn’t rank Stafford in the top 10 did put Pittsburgh’s Ben Roethlisberger there, in a home game. OK, so it’s not on the road but still, Big Ben ranks 20th in QB scoring. He hasn’t scored 18 points in any game, including the home ones. I'll pass. … My issue with ranking Minnesota’s Case Keenum any higher is that I don’t feel great about him finishing the game. The Vikings clearly are going to turn to Teddy Bridgewater at some point. I don’t want to risk it.

    Week 11 RB ranking thoughts: New Orleans rookie Alvin Kamara is playing so well and doing so many things with his receptions, I’m surprised others don’t have him in the top five. We can debate Kamara versus Mark Ingram all day long. Let’s just agree that both are awesome. … It’s almost a shame that Atlanta fill-in Tevin Coleman gets his first start in a while at Seattle. In just about any other matchup, he’s top 10 for sure. He's still a strong RB2 against the Seahawks. … I don’t enjoy ranking Adrian Peterson and Marshawn Lynch in the top 20, but there just aren't 20 other running backs who deserve it. … Is this the week Baltimore’s Alex Collins scores a touchdown? We all ranked him similarly, but if he rushes for 75-plus yards and scores, he’ll be RB2 material next week. … There's a huge difference of opinion on Green Bay rookie Jamaal Williams. We don’t know if he’s good, but he should get volume. I felt like that deserved strong flex consideration. … Fantasy managers with Alfred Morris can’t like his ranking, but the Eagles can stop the run. They also play with a lead so often that other teams are forced to throw. Frankly, the difference between the rankings of Morris and Rod Smith should be small.

    Week 11 WR ranking thoughts: I don’t mind being low man on Atlanta’s Julio Jones, who is still great, but not great enough. The numbers don’t lie. Davante Adams and Tyreek Hill both have more PPR points. Jones and Keenan Allen are the only receivers in the top 40 of PPR scoring with fewer than two touchdowns. Jones could certainly score against the Seahawks, who are missing Richard Sherman, but do you expect it? … By the way, Allen is getting too much love as well. The catches aren’t there and he might be missing his starting quarterback. … I’m a little surprised Pittsburgh’s JuJu Smith-Schuster didn’t get more rankings love. He sure looks to be legit. … Davante Adams over Jordy Nelson? Yes, if you’ve got both, that seems to me to be the proper move. … Who is the receiver I wanted to rank better but couldn’t due to the matchup? That would be Tennessee rookie Corey Davis.
     

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    Making sense of the Washington offense after another injury
    Eric Karabell
    ESPN INSDER

    In a season in which rookie running backs both expected and unexpected have thrived for fantasy managers, add another one to the list. The Washington Redskins lost underrated running back Chris Thompson to a broken leg Sunday and Samaje Perine, a fourth-round selection from Oklahoma that entered play averaging 3.2 yards per carry in limited use, emerged with 117 rushing yards and a touchdown. From Kareem Hunt to Alvin Kamara and quite a few others it has been a bountiful season for the first-year running backs, and Perine looks like the latest to become important.

    Thompson, a surprising but consistent contributor who wasn’t selected in most leagues, entered the weekend 11th among running backs and 30th overall in PPR scoring. He caught a receiving touchdown from Kirk Cousins in the rough 34-31 overtime loss to the New Orleans Saints, the seventh and final time he reached 10 or more PPR points in 2017. Thompson’s right leg was rolled up on during a Cousins scamper in the third quarter, and he’ll need season-ending surgery. With Rob Kelley having been placed on injured reserve earlier in the week with ankle and knee injuries sustained in Week 10, that presents Perine with a significant opportunity and an enticing schedule the rest of the way, as well.

    Then again, the Redskins have been a clear passing team thanks to the wizardry of Cousins, who threw for 322 yards and three touchdowns against a tough Saints defense. Cousins doesn’t always find a way to actually win NFL games, as his team sputters along at 4-6, but for fantasy purposes he remains a clear top-10 option that seldom disappoints. Ordinarily we’d view the loss of yet another offensive skill position player like Thompson as a key hurdle to maintaining value, but it doesn’t seem to matter to Cousins, who has overcome the loss of so many key colleagues, including tight end Jordan Reed and wide receiver Terrelle Pryor Sr., and he isn’t exactly buoyed by a great offensive line or effective running game.

    Perhaps that changes with Perine, who scored his first rushing touchdown of the season on a 1-yarder in the second quarter and was looking like a breakout option even before the Thompson injury, as he had a 30-yard rush on the team’s first touchdown drive. The Redskins entered Sunday 24th in rushing and with Cousins and Thompson the lone individuals with more than 80 PPR points for the season. While Perine didn’t catch many passes in college and doesn’t figure to handle a large role in the passing game for Washington as Thompson did, he’s physical like Kelley and followed his blocks well Sunday. Perine isn’t particularly fast but he breaks tackles and should be viewed as a potential RB2 moving forward, with recent pickup Byron Marshall likely handling passing down duties.

    As for Cousins, he tossed touchdown passes to Thompson, the running back’s team-leading fourth of the season, as well as Ryan Grant -- no, not the former Green Bay Packers star, who retired in 2012 -- and fourth-string tight end Jeremy Sprinkle. Nine different Redskins have receiving touchdowns this season, and Jamison Crowder still isn’t one of them. But it’s likely coming. If you’re thinking of writing off Cousins in fantasy because Thompson is gone, that’s a mistake. No quarterback has more 25-point fantasy efforts this season. Cousins thrived against the New Orleans blitz, setting season bests in completions, yards and touchdowns against the pressure, according to ESPN Stats & Information research. Now it appears he might have a pretty decent running game, as well.

    Second down: In other quarterback news, hopefully you didn’t rely on Buffalo Bills rookie Nathan Peterman, as he tossed five first-half interceptions in the blowout loss to the Los Angeles Chargers. Peterman scored a minus-7 in fantasy. That’s bad. Luckily he wasn’t active in more than 2 percent of ESPN standard leagues. Oakland Raiders veteran Derek Carr, however, was active in more than half of ESPN’s leagues, a top-10 figure. Carr figured to have his way with the New England Patriots' secondary permitting more than 20 fantasy points per game, but instead the Raiders trailed 30-0 after three quarters in Mexico City and Carr finished with 15 fantasy points, most of it in garbage time.

    Several things are noteworthy here. For one, Carr has underachieved for much of the season, reaching an ordinary 16 fantasy points in a mere three games. He had thrown for more than 300 passing yards in three consecutive games, but with turnovers. Receivers Michael Crabtree and Amari Cooper continue to drop passes and underachieve. The team’s defense has struggled. It’s certainly possible Carr and his weapons rebound in Week 13 against the New York Giants, a bad team that held the Kansas City Chiefs to nary a touchdown Sunday, but it seems dangerous to rely on Raiders at this point.

    Oh, and by the way, fantasy managers should be relying more on recent trends than season-long ones that could be misleading. The Patriots haven’t permitted more than 237 passing yards in any of their past four games, nor more than one passing touchdown in any of those contests. The Patriots have won six consecutive games and no team has scored more than 17 points against them in that span. The Patriots D/ST, available in more than half of ESPN’s leagues, should be held in high, top-10 regard the rest of the way as it faces the Bills and Miami Dolphins twice each, plus the New York Jets.

    Third down: Minnesota Vikings running back Latavius Murray scored two touchdowns in the impressive 24-7 win over the Los Angeles Rams and fantasy managers might be wondering why the ESPN rankers -- hand raised! -- continue to exalt Jerick McKinnon instead for PPR formats. After all, Murray, who scored a season-best 22.6 PPR points, has scored touchdowns in three of four games. Well, the smaller McKinnon obviously doesn’t get the same number of rushing attempts, and he has been statistically quiet the past two games, but McKinnon is a valuable pass-catcher. In fact, McKinnon had three games in a four-week stretch recently with more than 24 PPR points. This isn’t to say that Murray is a fluke. He boasts a 1,000-yard rushing season to his credit and scored 12 touchdowns for the Raiders last season, and could have RB2 value in the right matchups, but we’ll likely rank the more versatile McKinnon the better option in Week 13 at Detroit, so don’t overreact to Sunday’s performance.

    One other running back note and as with Thompson, it’s not a positive one: Houston Texans rookie D'Onta Foreman scored his first two rushing touchdowns in Sunday’s 31-21 win over the Arizona Cardinals and caught a season-best three passes but he suffered a season-ending torn Achilles on the second score. Foreman showed promise this season and while he might not have supplanted starter Lamar Miller, as we’re finding in a season with myriad injuries top handcuff options are pretty valuable, too. The Texans don’t seem to have an obvious fantasy addition to back up Miller at this point, but keep an eye on the news this week. Meanwhile, those relying on Miller can rest a bit easier.

    Fourth down: Los Angeles Chargers wide receiver Keenan Allen entered play No. 26 at his position in PPR scoring, which was not what most expected this season. While he has had trouble staying healthy in past seasons and that depressed his value in ESPN average live drafts, he’s also had period of PPR stardom. But entering Sunday’s game with the Bills, Allen had topped five receptions in one only game, had reached 70 receiving yards just twice and last scored a touchdown in Week 1. So, of course, he then took out all his season frustrations on the Bills with a ridiculous 40.2 PPR points, featuring 12 catches, 159 receiving yards and two touchdowns. Yep, that’s fantasy. A guy with one touchdown in nine games doubled the mark in one afternoon. Allen is generally a consistent performer and should be a strong WR2 for upcoming games with the Dallas Cowboys, Cleveland Browns and Washington.

    Injury affected the wide receiver position as well on Sunday as recent Bills acquisition Kelvin Benjamin suffered a right knee injury and was carted off the field against the Chargers. Benjamin wasn’t a popular fantasy option Sunday due to a quarterback making his first NFL start, but he is rostered in more than 90 percent of ESPN leagues. The Bills haven’t announced their Week 12 quarterback yet or whether Benjamin is expected to suit up, and perhaps fantasy managers want no part of the offense save for running back LeSean McCoy anyway, but there is potential value here. After all, quarterback Tyrod Taylor was a near top-10 fantasy option at his position before his (brief) benching and he’s ninth among quarterbacks in scoring this week despite coming off the bench for one half of play
     

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