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Inside the Matchup
Week 9
11/1/18; Updated: 11/2/18

By: Andy Swanson | Jason Katz | Nick Caron | Justin Bales



Thursday:

OAK @ SF

Sunday Early:

PIT @ BAL | KC @ CLE | CHI @ BUF | TB @ CAR

NYJ @ MIA | DET @ MIN | ATL @ WAS

Sunday Late:

HOU @ DEN | LAC @ SEA | LAR @ NO | GB @ NE

Monday:

TEN @ DAL


Notes:
- Green highllight indicates plus matchup (top eight)
- Red highlight indicates negative matchup (bottom eight)

Raiders at 49ers - (Caron)
Line: SF -2.5
Total: 45.5

Passing Game Thoughts: The Raiders’ first game without Amari Cooper ended in a loss, but it’s hard to blame the passing game which saw Derek Carr throw for 244 yards and three touchdowns. Unfortunately, Carr went from targeting Amari Cooper constantly to targeting only one player - running back Jalen Richard – eight times in the contest. Jared Cook remained the one fantasy-relevant pass catcher on the roster, as he caught four passes for 74 yards and a touchdown; as he continues to be a top five-scoring player at the position. With Cooper gone, Cook is by far the preferred red zone weapon on the team and that makes him an easy TE1 especially this week against a 49ers defense that has already conceded 100-yard days to tight ends Travis Kelce and Jimmy Graham.

Unfortunately, the wide receiver position is one that fantasy owners would probably be wise to avoid until we see a more condensed target distribution. Sure, Jordy Nelson, Seth Roberts or Brandon LaFell could score a touchdown this week against the 49ers who have conceded 11 touchdowns and five different 100-yard games to opposing wide receivers so far this season, but it’s hard to predict which one will do it given their lack of targets. Carr himself could be a mid-level QB2 this week if you’re in a two-quarterback or superflex league, but he’s not a great option in a standard league given the Raiders overall lack of offensive firepower.

SF FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.8
SF FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.13
SF FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.9
SF FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.13

Running Game Thoughts: If you predicted that the Raiders would turn to veteran Doug Martin to replace Marshawn Lynch as the primary ball carrier, you were correct. However, if you predicted that Jalen Richard would still end up being the better fantasy asset in PPR formats, you were also correct. The Raiders found themselves in a negative game script late in their Week 8 contest against the Colts, which certainly led to better production for Richard, but it’s worth considering that they’re probably going to be behind a lot for the remainder of the season and trusting Doug Martin when the team could be down multiple scores is a very risky proposition.

Richard has proven himself to be a consistent option out of the backfield and that makes him a viable weekly fantasy starter in PPR formats, especially when the team looks like they might fall behind. This week could be a bit more positive for Martin, though, as the 49ers are only a slight favorite at home against the Raiders and don’t possess a particularly high-powered offense themselves. That should allow these teams to stay relatively close and likely lead to additional touches on the ground for Martin with fewer targets in the passing game for Richard. The 49ers have only allowed one runner - Melvin Gordon - to reach even 70 rushing yards this season, so it seems unlikely that Martin will do what Kareem Hunt, Kerryon Johnson, Dalvin Cook, Aaron Jones and David Johnson were unable to do. Even Todd Gurley, despite scoring three total touchdowns, only compiled 63 rushing yards on 15 carries against this defense. Richard and Martin both have Flex potential depending on your league’s scoring format.

Value Meter:
TE1: Jared Cook
Flex: Jalen Richard (PPR only), Doug Martin (standard only)
Bench: Derek Carr, Jordy Nelson, Seth Roberts, Brandon LaFell, Martavis Bryant

Passing Game Thoughts: The 49ers passing game stayed pretty consistent the first few weeks that C.J. Beathard was behind center in San Francisco, but things have definitely taken a step back over the past two weeks as he’s struggled to get the ball to his receivers. Marquise Goodwin did score on a 55-yard touchdown, but that was his only catch this past week, and he only had two catches for 24 yards the week prior. The targets simply haven’t been there as he’s only seen the ball nine total times over the past two games since his breakout Week 6 performance where he torched Green Bay for 126 yards and a pair of touchdowns. This past week, though, we did see the emergence of Kendrick Bourne, who got the start alongside Goodwin with Pierre Garcon out. Garcon could be back this week, but if he’s not, Bourne is a player who could again lead the team in targets. If nothing else, that’s worth a look in DFS tournaments given his tiny salary, but he’s not a usable player in typical seasonal fantasy leagues.

The only real consistent contributor in the 49ers passing game continues to be tight end George Kittle who caught another five passes for 57 yards this past week against the Cardinals. The Raiders got absolutely humiliated by the Colts when they allowed three different tight ends score touchdowns against them. Kittle is again a strong play as a second-tier TE1 as he’s caught at least four passes in all but one game this season.

OAK FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.10
OAK FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.4
OAK FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.11
OAK FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.6

Running Game Thoughts: The 49ers running game has been snake bitten by injuries this season and that has really caused it to be a confusing fantasy situation. Matt Breida is clearly the most explosive player in this backfield, but he’s unhealthy heading into this week’s contest against the awful Raiders run defense that has given up nearly 900 yards and seven touchdowns on the ground along with another 286 receiving yards and two touchdowns to running backs in the passing game. This past week, it was Marlon Mack and Nyheim Hines who destroyed them for 220 rushing yards and two touchdowns combined.

There is certainly an opportunity for someone in this backfield to produce fantasy points but the health of Breida is always a concern as he’s dealing with an ankle injury and he’s been knocked out of multiple games this season. The matchup alone makes Breida a player who you can consider playing as a low-level RB2, but the touch volume concerns are certainly real.

Value Meter:
RB2: Matt Breida
TE1: George Kittle
Flex: Marquise Goodwin
Bench: C.J. Beathard, Alfred Morris, Raheem Mostert, Pierre Garcon, Kendrick Bourne, Trent Taylor, Dante Pettis

Prediction: 49ers 24, Raiders 20 ^ Top

Steelers @ Ravens - (Swanson)
Line: BAL -2.5
Total: 47.5

Passing Game Thoughts: Although he ranks seventh in the league in fantasy points per game, Ben Roethlisberger is quietly in the midst of his best season as a pro. He is on pace to throw for over 5000 yards for the first time in his career and has a very realistic chance of setting a new career mark in touchdown passes and completion percentage. Big Ben has also been a very consistent performer for fantasy owners with at least 22 points in all but one of his games and no fewer than 250 yards and a touchdown in each contest.

Big Ben’s consistency and fantasy value will be put to the test this week as the Steelers head south to take on the Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium. John Harbaugh’s defense is one of only a handful of teams that can boast relative ownage of Big Ben and the Steelers passing attack, as Roethlisberger has one touchdown pass in his previous four games on the road against Baltimore.

One reason why the Ravens have had success limiting Big Ben and the Steelers at home is by getting pressure on the quarterback with the front four of the defense, leaving the linebackers and talented secondary of the Ravens to blanket Antonio Brown, JuJu Smith-Schuster, and the other skill position players. Big Ben can counter that strategy by using all of his weapons, including both tight ends in Jesse James and Vance McDonald, and checking the ball down to running back James Conner out of the backfield.

Antonio Brown is a must-start in all formats regardless of the opponent or the location. Although Smith-Schuster was relatively quiet with four catches for 33 yards and no scores last week against the Browns, his ability to attack the middle of the field and find the gaps in zone coverage will be critical in this game.

The Ravens enter the game tied with Arizona for the fewest points allowed to opposing quarterbacks. In the case of the Cardinals, they allow few points to opposing quarterbacks because it is so easy to run on their front seven. The Ravens, on the other hand, rank first in fewest points to both quarterbacks and running backs, making them a difficult unit to attack as they do not have a weakness in their armor.

Injuries to the Ravens defense could make things easier for Big Ben and the Steelers. Staring inside linebacker C.J. Mosely missed practice on Wednesday with a thigh injury, and defensive backs Marlon Humphrey and Tony Jefferson are dealing with thigh and hamstring injuries respectively.

BAL FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.31
BAL FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.32
BAL FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.27
BAL FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.15

Running Game Thoughts: James Conner continues to make life without Le’Veon Bell easier for Steeler fans and coaches to stomach, with over 130 total yards and two touchdowns in each of his last three games. The second-year player from the University of Pittsburgh has been a one-man wrecking crew for fantasy owners by taking advantage of favorable matchups against Atlanta, Cincinnati, and Cleveland.

A road tilt against the Ravens does not constitute a positive matchup for Conner and owners should not expect another 30-point explosion. No running back has reached 100 combined yards or posted a multi-touchdown performance this year against Baltimore, and only three opposing running backs have managed to reach double digits in fantasy points.

The Ravens held Conner to a season-low 19 yards on nine carries when the two teams played in Pittsburgh Week 4. Although he did receive a season-high seven targets in that game, he converted on three of those passes into three catches for 25 yards. Conner is a must-start each week and is always in line for a possible huge game, but don’t be surprised if he fails to continue his three-game 100-yard rushing and multi-touchdown streak.

Value Meter:
QB1: Ben Roethlisberger (Low-End)
RB1: James Conner (Low-End)
WR1: Antonio Brown (Low-End)
WR2: JuJu Smith-Schuster (Low-End)
TE1: Vance McDonald (Low-End)

Passing Game Thoughts: After starting the season off with five touchdowns in his first two games, including three touchdowns and 236 yards in a blowout win over the Bills, Joe Flacco has been a disappointing QB2 for fantasy owners over the past four weeks. He failed to throw for more than 300 yards in any of Ravens games in October, and his completion percentage dropped over ten percentage points during that time. To make matters worse for the small faction of fantasy owners forced to start Flacco, the Ravens continue to toy around with playing Lamar Jackson in short yardage plays and in certain formations.

The Baltimore receiving group of Michael Crabtree, John Brown, and Willie Snead rank 17th in combined fantasy points among wide receiving corps in the league, with seven receiving touchdowns and 1,528 yards. Brown continues to be Flacco’s favorite target on deep and intermediate routes, while Crabtree and Snead share duties on short and medium targets. Snead had been the favorite target as of late, 28 targets in the last three games, including a game-high 11 targets last week in the team’s 36-21 loss on the road to the Panthers.

A home matchup against Pittsburgh could be exactly what Flacco needs to turn around his recent struggles, as the Steelers allow the fifth-most points to opposing quarterbacks. Every quarterback that has faced the Steelers not named Matt Ryan scored at least 19 fantasy points, including Flacco’s 25.9 points and 363 passing yards in Week 4.

The Steelers best cornerback at stopping deep passes and the person most likely to match up against John Brown is veteran Joe Haden. Brown certainly has the speed to beat Haden on deep routes, but don’t be surprised to see Flacco look to more advantageous matchups like Crabtree against Artie Burns or Willie Snead in the slot against Mike Hilton.

The tight end position continues to be a favorite option for Flacco as evident to the 11 combined targets last week between Hayden Hurst, Mark Andrews, and Nick Boyle. The tight end committee of shared targets makes starting a Raven tight end a risky proposition, but it should be noted that first-round pick Hurst caught a touchdown last week in garbage time against the Panthers.

PIT FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.5
PIT FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.29
PIT FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.4
PIT FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.4

Running Game Thoughts: The Ravens made a surprising trade with the Green Bay Packers for Ty Montgomery, adding another player to an already crowded backfield of Alex Collins, Buck Allen, Kenneth Dixon (IR), and Gus Edwards. Collins continues to be the running back to own with six total touchdowns in eight games. But volume and fumbling issues remain to be a concern for Collins owners, as the former fifth-round pick in the 2016 draft has just 11 carries in each of his previous two games and displayed ball security issues at times this season. Collins missed practice Thursday with a foot issue so check practice reports on Friday for his status.

It remains to be seen how Montgomery will fit into the running back rotation, making the former Packer a wait and see in fantasy leagues. However, offensive coordinator Marty Mornhingweg is a creative play caller and could design plays specifically to take advantage of Montgomery’s experience as a wide receiver.

Regardless of who carries the ball on Sunday, teams have found it difficult to move the ball and score touchdowns against Pittsburgh. The Steelers allow the fourth-fewest points to opposing running backs and no RB has rushed for more than 75 yards on the ground against the front seven led by Cam Hayward and Stephon Tuitt.

The blueprint is clear that passing the ball against the Steelers is the best way to victory. Look for Mornhinweg to try to establish the run with the hope of making play action passes more effective, but don’t be surprised if the majority of fantasy points for Baltimore running backs come in the passing game.

Value Meter:
QB1: Joe Flacco (Low-End)
RB2: Alex Collins (Low-End)
WR2: John Brown (Low-End)
WR3: Michael Crabtree (High-End)
WR4: Willie Snead (High-End)
TE2: Hayden Hurst (Low-End)

Prediction: Ravens 21, Steelers 20 ^ Top

Chiefs @ Browns - (Swanson)
Line: KC -8.0
Total: 51.0

Passing Game Thoughts: Patrick Mahomes leads all quarterbacks in passing touchdowns, passing yards, and of course, fantasy points per game. He has yet to score fewer than 23 fantasy points in any game while reaching the 30-point plateau in each of his last three games. There isn’t much to say about Mahomes that has not already been written or talked about ad nauseam. The person fortunate enough to draft or pick him up off waivers is likely in first place in your league.

Mahomes once again is a top-5 play as the Chiefs head north to take on the Cleveland Browns at First Energy Stadium. Although he is a must-start regardless of the matchup, the fact that favorite target Tyreek Hill may miss the game with a groin injury may change the offensive scheme by head coach Andy Reid to a more run-heavy approach. Hill did practice on Wednesday, but it may make sense for the Chiefs to limit their star receiver heading into the bye.

The coaching turmoil in Cleveland over the week in which Hue Jackson and Todd Haley each lost their jobs resulted in offensive coordinator Gregg Williams taking over as interim head coach. Say what you want about Williams, a megalomanic coach who claims to have turned down eleven head coaching opportunities over the past decade, he does have the Browns playing decent pass defense. Cleveland ranks 19th in fantasy points per game to opposing QBs, with only Derek Carr of all players managing to throw for more than two touchdowns in a game.

Drew Brees struggled to score points against the Browns at home, Joe Flacco failed to throw a passing touchdown Week 5, and Sam Darnold had arguably his worst game of the year against the Browns. Those examples do not necessarily mean that Mahomes will struggle, but expectations might need to be tempered, especially compared to the gaudy numbers the Chiefs have posted over the first half of the season.

If Hill does miss the game, look for Sammy Watkins to be heavily involved along with tight end Travis Kelce. Owners in deep leagues looking for a home run play at wide receiver during the six-team byenado, Chris Conley could be a sneaky play.

CLE FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.19
CLE FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.5
CLE FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.8
CLE FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.20

Running Game Thoughts: With an average of 18.2 fantasy points per game and at least one touchdown in all but one game this season, Kareem Hunt has been a consistent stud as the No.5 ranked running back in fantasy football. Hunt overcame any worries of not getting action in the passing game with five catches in each of his last three games, including a 105-yard and one receiving touchdown performance against the Patriots Week 6.

Look for Andy Reid and the Chiefs to take a page out of the Steeler’s playbook by featuring Hunt heavily in the run and passing game similar to how James Conner was used last week. Connor rushed for 146 yards on 26 carries while adding 66 more yards in the receiving game.

The Browns allow the fifth-most points to opposing running backs and three 30-plus performances on the season - two by Conner and one by Melvin Gordon. Hunt may not get the same level of volume that Conner and Gordon received in their respective games, but he will undoubtedly be active and has a high probability for keeping his touchdown scoring streak alive.

Value Meter:
QB1: Patrick Mahomes (Elite)
RB1: Kareem Hunt (Elite)
WR1: Tyreek Hill (High-End)
WR2: Sammy Watkins (Low-End)
TE1: Travis Kelce (Elite)

Passing Game Thoughts: The turmoil in Cleveland is the exact opposite of what rookie Baker Mayfield needs and deserves as the first overall pick in the 2018 NFL draft. Continuity and stability are critical in the development of young players, especially at the quarterback position, but the Browns are continuing their dysfunctional ways and could mess up Mayfield irreparably.

We don’t know much at all about interim offensive coordinator Freddy Kitchens other than the fact that he has zero experience calling plays, and interim head coach Gregg Williams did not give much confidence Kitchens at his press conference. Will this help or hurt Mayfield, Jarvis Landry, and David Njoku? As a former running back coach, will Kitchens opt to run the ball more and get Duke Johnson more involved in the passing game?

We do not have many answers regarding the Browns, but we do know that a home matchup against a mediocre Chiefs defense is not a bad way for a rookie offensive coordinator to get his feet wet. Kansas City allows the sixth-most points to opposing quarterbacks and the 17th-most points to wide receivers. Philip Rivers, Ben Roethlisberger, and Blake Bortles each posted at least 30 fantasy points against the Chiefs, while Tom Brady and Case Keenum managed to top the 20-point mark in Weeks 6 and 8.

The Chiefs are getting better defensively, especially at home, but a road matchup against the Browns should present a positive game script for Baker and the passing game to be chasing points.

On the injury front, wide receiver Rashard Higgins continues to be limited with a knee injury and appears unlikely to play on Sunday. If Higgins is out, Antonio Calloway will once again get a high target volume opposite of Jarvis Landry.

KC FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.7
KC FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.2
KC FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.17
KC FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.8

Running Game Thoughts: Nick Chubb’s two starts as the lead back for the Browns have been solid but not overly impressive, with the former Georgia Bulldog rushing for 80 yards and a touchdown on 18 carries Week 1 followed by 65 yards on 18 carries last week against the Steelers. His 4.0 yard per carry average is nothing to write home about, but his usage level is encouraging, and he did find the end zone against the Bucs.

It would make a ton of sense for the Browns to lean heavily on the run as long as they can in the first half to win time of possession and keep the ball out of Patrick Mahomes’ hands as much as possible. The quick strike ability of the Chiefs may make this strategy moot, but it still makes sense to run the ball early and often. Only the Cardinals have allowed more fantasy points on the ground than the Chiefs, with 11 opposing running backs reaching double figures this season against Bob Sutton’s defense.

Getting Duke Johnson more involved also makes a ton of sense based on the logic that he is one of the best pass catching and route running options on the team and the Chiefs allow the most receiving yards to running backs on the year. A game script for Johnson should also be in play if the Chiefs continue their impressive play and break out with an early lead.

Value Meter:
QB2; Baker Mayfield (High-End)
RB1: Nick Chubb (Low-End)
RB3: Duke Johnson (High-End)
WR2: Jarvis Landry (High-End)
WR4: Antonio Callaway (High-End)
TE1: David Njoku (Low-End)

Prediction: Chiefs 34, Browns 14 ^ Top

Bears at Bills - (Katz)
Line: CHI -10.0
Total: 37.5

Passing Game Thoughts: There are conflicting views on whether Mitchell Trubisky is ascending or whether he is going full 2015 Blake Bortles on us. Either way you slice it, the man is a locked in elite fantasy QB1. The Bills held their own for a while against the Patriots last Monday night, but eventually they cracked. Trubisky should fare much better. At this point, I’d rather have Trubisky than Tom Brady in fake football. Trubisky has thrown a Pat Mahomes like 13 touchdowns over his last four games, but his real value comes from his rushing floor. Trubisky has at least 47 rushing yards in each of his last four games. He’s basically giving you a touchdown’s worth of production on the ground. Allen Robinson missed last week with a groin injury and he appears headed for the same fate this week, missing practice on Thursday. Taylor Gabriel has slowed down lately while Trey Burton has been very inconsistent. Trubisky is working while his weapons are not. The Bills are only allowing 223 passing yards per game, but they have allowed 13 passing touchdowns. This shouldn’t be a game where Trubisky needs to throw a lot, but he can get to where he needs to be with a single touchdown and some rushing stats.

BUF FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.26
BUF FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.11
BUF FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.28
BUF FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.22

Running Game Thoughts: No reason to fight it any longer – Tarik Cohen is an RB1. Ever since Matt Nagy unleashed him against the Bucs, Cohen has scored in every game. His touch counts over the first three weeks: eight, five eight. His touch counts over the last four weeks: 20, 12, 14, 6. The six is less than ideal, but the usage has clearly increased. The Bills were just wrecked by James White in the passing game and you can bet the Bears coaches will take note of that when planning this week’s scheme. Jordan Howard has been relegated to a touchdown or bust RB2 that has conveniently fallen into the end zone back to back games. Positive game script may allow for it to happen again.

Value Meter:
QB1: Mitchell Trubisky (mid-range)
RB1: Tarik Cohen (low end)
RB2: Jordan Howard (low end, touchdown dependent)
WR3: Taylor Gabriel
TE1: Trey Burton (low end)
Bench: Allen Robinson, Anthony Miller

Passing Game Thoughts: Move along, nothing to see here. Derek Anderson threw for 290 yards last week before exiting after a big hit late in the game. Anderson also threw a touchdown to the wrong team. Nathan Peterman has been named the starter for Week 9. I would say that downgrades the entire Bills offense, but for fantasy, it doesn’t matter at all. You were already streaming defenses against the Bills and you were already benching all members of the Bills passing game.

CHI FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.13
CHI FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.30
CHI FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.13
CHI FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.14

Running Game Thoughts: LeSean McCoy remains a solid, yet unspectacular PPR option due to his receiving ability. He led the team with 82 yards on six receptions last week, posting respectable fantasy numbers despite rushing for 13 yards on 12 carries. The Bears still haven’t allowed a rushing touchdown and you can bank on McCoy not being the guy to finally punch one in against them. The Bills will continue to scheme the ball into McCoy’s hands in space and give him a shot to make something happen. He’s a low ceiling option.

Value Meter:
RB2: LeSean McCoy (low end)
Bench: Derek Anderson, Nathan Peterman, Zay Jones, Kelvin Benjamin

Prediction: Bears 30, Bills 10 ^ Top

Buccaneers at Panthers - (Bales)
Line: CAR -6.0
Total: 55.0

Passing Game Thoughts: The CPanthers have been an average defense against the pass, allowing 255.0 passing yards per game. They have also only allowed 13 passing touchdowns, while recording nine interceptions this season. Matchups have not mattered for Ryan Fitzpatrick, who will draw the start for the Buccaneers this week. In three full starts, Fitzpatrick is averaging 410.0 passing yards and 3.7 passing touchdowns per game. He also saw limited action last week, but still totaled 194 yards and two touchdowns.

Mike Evans has been his favorite target, as all four of Evans’ touchdowns have come from Fitzpatrick. He’s also averaging 7.7 receptions for 122.3 yards and 1.0 touchdown on 10.0 targets in three full games with Fitzpatrick this season. Evans also posted a 6/179/1 line last week, with the majority of it coming after Fitzpatrick entered the game. DeSean Jackson and Chris Godwin are two other receivers that will benefit from the quarterback change. Both have flashed tremendous upside, as Jackson is averaging a 3.7 / 84.9 / 0.6 line on 6.1 targets, while Godwin is averaging a 4.0 / 48.6 / 0.6 line on 6.3 targets per game. O.J. Howard gets arguably the best matchup in this game, as Carolina has been one of the worst defenses in the NFL against the tight end. Howard has only struggled in one game this season, but he’s averaging 4.0 receptions for 69.8 yards and 0.5 touchdowns on 4.4 targets in all other contests. The Tampa Bay passing attack will also likely be featured, as the Bucs are sizeable underdogs, and should be throwing from start to finish.

CAR FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.12
CAR FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.22
CAR FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.26
CAR FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.1

Running Game Thoughts: Ronald Jones is doubtful to play this week, leaving the majority of the snaps for Peyton Barber. Barber is coming off of a solid effort, running for 85 yards and one touchdown on 19 carries. He may only see limited carries, though, as Tampa Bay should be utilizing the passing attack, and Barber is not a huge part of the aerial game plan. Jacquizz Rodgers should handle the receptions for their running backs, but he won’t play enough to make an impact. Carolina also ranks eighth in the NFL, allowing only 95.9 rushing yards per game. They have also allowed only five rushing touchdowns this season, and Barber is not an elite back that can perform in difficult matchups.

Value Meter:
QB1: Ryan Fitzpatrick (low-end)
WR1: Mike Evans (high-end)
WR2: DeSean Jackson (mid-range)
WR3: Chris Godwin
TE1: O.J. Howard
Bench: Peyton Barber

Passing Game Thoughts: The Panthers passing game is in a great spot this week. The Buccaneers are allowing 318.0 passing yards per game, ranking second last in the NFL. They have also allowed 20 passing touchdowns, while recording only one interception. Overall, they’re allowing their opponents to record a 123.5 quarterback rating, the best in the NFL. Cam Newton is only averaging 235.1 passing yards and 1.9 passing touchdowns per game this season. But he is averaging 44.1 yards and 0.6 touchdowns on the ground. Newton’s versatility has made him one of the most consistent fantasy options in the NFL.

Devin Funchess has featured mixed results this season, but he has been the top target at the receiver position. Through seven games, he’s averaging 4.6 receptions for 57.3 yards and 0.4 touchdowns on 7.1 targets. D.J. Moore saw an increased role with Torrey Smith injured, and that could be the case again this week. Last week, Moore caught five passes for 90 yards on six targets. He also added 39 yards on the ground. Greg Olsen finally looks healthy, and Tampa Bay has struggled against the tight end. Over the last three week, Olsen has totaled 10 receptions for 109 yards and two touchdowns on 16 targets.

TB FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.1
TB FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.10
TB FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.3
TB FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.2

Running Game Thoughts: Christian McCaffrey has been playing at an elite level averaging 103.3 yards and 0.4 touchdowns on 19.4 touches (6.3 receptions) per game. Tampa Bay has quietly stopped running backs this season, holding them to 96.9 yards per game but have allowed eight rushing touchdowns. Furthermore, McCaffrey doesn’t need elite rushing stats to be a great fantasy option because he contributes such a large role in the passing game. Regardless of game script, McCaffrey will see plenty of touches on Sunday.

Value Meter:
QB1: Cam Newton (high-end)
RB1: Christian McCaffrey (mid-range)
WR2: Devin Funchess
WR3: D.J. Moore (if Smith is out)
TE1: Greg Olsen (low-end)

Prediction: Panthers 31, Bucs 27 ^ Top

Jets at Dolphins - (Katz)
Line: MIA -3.0
Total: 43.5

Passing Game Thoughts: This is the second meeting between these two teams and in the first contest, Sam Darnold threw for 334 yards. The vast majority of those yards came from Quincy Enunwa, Terrelle Pryor, and Bilal Powell. What do those three all have in common? In this week’s contest, it will be a whole new set of receivers for Darnold attempting to exploit a Dolphins defense allowing 265 passing yards per game and coming off a game where they just let Deshaun Watson toss five scores. Jermaine Kearse saw 10 targets last week, but only managed to catch three of them for 30 yards. Chris Herndon has three touchdowns in his last two games, but there’s no deliberate effort to get him the ball so don’t go chasing. With Robby Anderson still out, there’s nothing here on this Jets passing attack that is even the least bit exciting.

MIA FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.16
MIA FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.3
MIA FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.16
MIA FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.12

Running Game Thoughts: Isaiah Crowell’s 200-yard explosion against Denver seems like a distant memory right now. He amassed a LeGarrette Blount-like 25 yards on his 13 carries last week, which was still better than Trenton Cannon’s 10-16. Neither was particularly involved in the passing game. The Dolphins just allowed a 100-yard rushing day to Lamar Miller and are currently allowing a league high 143.1 rushing yards per game. You can start Crowell this week because there’s always a chance he pops, but you won’t feel good about it. Perhaps Elijah McGuire will return and infuse some life into this rushing attack. He has yet to be activated off the IR as of Thursday night.

Value Meter:
Flex: Isaiah Crowell
Bench: Sam Darnold, Jermaine Kearse, Robby Anderson, Quincy Enunwa, Chris Herndon

Passing Game Thoughts: Remember two weeks ago when Brock Osweiler made you think that maybe he learned how to play quarterback? Osweiler was dreadful against the Texans last week. Although he was only charged with one interception, he easily could’ve had two or three more and he also committed one of the most heinous fumble sixes you’ll ever see that was inexplicably overturned on replay. It was encouraging to see Jakeem Grant start in three receiver sets and command eight targets. Unfortunately, he only caught four of them. Danny Amendola had a respectable 43 yards on five receptions, but did his fantasy work on his 28-yard touchdown bomb to Kenyan Drake. The real story is the DeVante Parker “breakout” that’s been four years in the making. He was surely a hot pickup in fantasy leagues this week, but we’ve seen this from Parker before. I will admit that he made some impressive catches, but I’ve learned to never trust Parker. The Jets passing defense is legit. They are fifth in QB rating allowed at 86.1 and have 10 interceptions on the season already. This game being in Miami helps, but this could get ugly for Osweiler.

NYJ FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.11
NYJ FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.14
NYJ FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.7
NYJ FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.25

Running Game Thoughts: Frank Gore played a season high 44% of the snaps last week, which was frustrating for Kenyan Drake owners as Drake continues to be far superior. Gore refuses to die, but man does he look slow out there. Drake and Gore each saw 12 carries, with Drake picking up 58 yards and Gore 53. Drake rushed for a score and caught the aforementioned 28-yard touchdown from Amendola. This is now back-to-back RB1 efforts from Drake, who has earned his way back into the circle of trust. On a week with six teams off, Gore is worth consideration as a “he’ll at least get you five” type of guy. The Jets allow 4.4 yards per carry and have been more vulnerable on the ground than through the air. With the game being at home, Miami should avoid significant negative game script like they saw last week, making their running game something worth investing in.

Value Meter:
RB2: Kenyan Drake (mid-range)
Flex: Jakeem Grant, Danny Amendola, Frank Gore
Bench: DeVante Parker (donít fall for it!), Brock Osweiler

Prediction: Jets 19, Dolphins 16 ^ Top

Lions @ Vikings - (Swanson)
Line: MIN -5.0
Total: 49.0

Passing Game Thoughts: The passing game for the Lions will look significantly different going forward after the team traded Golden Tate to the Eagles for a third-round pick. Tate, a former second-round pick by the Seattle Seahawks in the 2010 NFL draft, ends his career with the Lions ranked fifth all-time on the team in receptions and seventh in receiving yards.

With Tate now a member of the defending Super Bowl champion Eagles, quarterback Matthew Stafford will need to find a new favorite target. Although T.J. Jones is likely the next man up and will take Tate’s spot in the slot, look for Stafford to rely more on second-year beast Kenny Golladay and veteran Marvin Jones.

Jones delivered his best performance of the season last week against the Seahawks, with seven catches for 117 yards and two touchdowns. Replicating that feat this week with Xavier Rhodes likely shadowing Jones may be a difficult task, especially if the Lions offensive line is unable to give Stafford enough time to throw the ball downfield on slow developing routes to Jones.

Golladay appeared to be on the brink of a breakout season with three consecutive weeks of either 100 yards or a touchdown to begin the season. To say that he cooled off over the past month would be an understatement, as Golladay garnered just three targets combined in his previous two games, including a one catch for 12-yard dud last week against Seattle. The absence of Tate should give Golladay more targets and return the young stud into WR3 consideration.

This week’s matchup against the Vikings is not great for any of the skill position players for the Lions, as the Vikings have been quite good against opposing wide receivers and quarterbacks after starting the season off slowly. Over the past three weeks, Minnesota ranks third in fewest points to QBs and WRs, including limiting Drew Brees to just 120 passing yards and a touchdown last week. Although Brees’ stats are somewhat skewed based on the success of the Saints run offense and a pick-six by the Saints defense, Mike Zimmer’s defense is playing much better as of late and will give Stafford a difficult time on Sunday.

MIN FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.17
MIN FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.20
MIN FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.30
MIN FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.7

Running Game Thoughts: Rookie running back Kerryon Johnson disappointed fantasy owners with eight carries for 22 yards and zero touchdowns in Week 8 against the Seahawks after posting 158 yards on 19 carries the week prior against the Dolphins. The lack of carries was a direct result of a negative game script created by an early 14-point lead by the Seahawks which forced the Lions to pass more than anticipated.

On a positive note, Johnson continues to show his value in the passing game with a career-high six catches for 69 yards on eight targets against the Seahawks. Incumbent passing down back Theo Riddick has been out since Week 6 with a knee injury and is questionable for Sunday’s game against the Vikings. If Riddick can play, he could eat into Johnson’s value by taking back his role as Stafford’s favorite target out of the backfield.

Teams have found running the ball against the Vikings to be an easier task in 2018 compared to year’s past, as Minnesota ranks 20th in fantasy points allowed to opposing RBs through eight weeks after leading the league in run defense last year. Yards will always be difficult to come by against a tough defensive line of Linval Joseph, Sheldon Richardson, and Everson Griffen. But scoring touchdowns is not an impossible task, as evident by the five total touchdowns allowed to RBs.

A matchup to watch is Riddick or Johnson catching passes out of the backfield, especially if the Lions are presented with another negative game script that forces Stafford to pass heavily. Five running backs have reached at least 50 receiving yards or a touchdown this season against the Vikings, while the Lions rank eighth in receptions to running backs. The passing game is where fantasy value will be found for Lions running backs.

Value Meter:
QB1: Matthew Stafford (Low-End)
RB1: Kerryon Johnson (Low-End)
WR2: Kenny Golladay (Low-End)
WR2: Marvin Jones (Low-End)

Passing Game Thoughts: Kirk Cousins enters Week 9 as the No.8 fantasy quarterback with an average of 25.5 points per game. He is on pace to throw for 30 touchdowns and complete 70% of this passes for the first time in his seven-year NFL career. Although he has not thrown for more than two touchdowns in a game over the past month, his floor of 19 points gives fantasy owners a nice reliable option at QB.

It helps to have the top receiving tandem in the league and a wide receiver primed to set the NFL record for consecutive 100-yard games. Adam Thielen leads all receivers in targets (98), receptions (74), and receiving yards (925), and his six receiving touchdowns places him third behind Antonio Brown and Tyreek Hill. Stefon Diggs has five games of at least 100 receiving yards and a touchdown, including last week’s 10/119/1 line again against the Saints.

Both players should be considered WR1s this week against a Lions defense that has given up 9 receiving touchdowns to wide receivers in seven games, including receiving touchdowns to both Tyler Lockett and David Moore last week. Assuming that cornerback Darius Slay will matchup outside primarily on Diggs, Thielen should have a field day once again in the slot against corner Jalen Tabor or strong safety Quandre Diggs.

Kyle Rudolph owners looking for a good matchup for their tight end could be in line for a solid performance against a Lions secondary and linebacking group that has allowed a TE1 in three of their previous four games. A monster game is likely out of the cards due to his low volume, but don’t be surprised if he gets open in the red zone for a score.

DET FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.21
DET FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.6
DET FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.22
DET FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.10

Running Game Thoughts: All indications point to the Vikings keeping Dalvin Cook on the sideline until after the Week 10 bye to ensure that he is fully healed from a lingering hamstring injury before returning to the field.

Cook’s absence has boosted Latavius Murray back into fantasy relevance as a high-end No.2 running back. The five-year veteran’s 19.2 fantasy points per game over the past three weeks ranks sixth behind Melvin Gordon, James Conner, Todd Gurley, Kareem Hunt, and Marlon Mack. In addition to reaching the end zone in each of his last three games, the team is incorporating him into the passing game with eight catches over that span.

Murray should be considered a high-end RB2 this week against the Lions, a team that allows the sixth-most points to RBs. Including Chris Carson’s 105-yard, one touchdown game last week, six running backs have reached at least ten fantasy points against the Lions, including Ezekiel Elliott’s 30-point barrage Week 4.

It should be noted that the Lions did bolster their defensive line with the acquisition of Damon Harrison from the Giants. With a full week of practice with his new team, look for Harrison to have more of a positive effect on the Detroit run defense against the Vikings.

Value Meter:
QB1: Kirk Cousins (Low-End)
RB1: Latavius Murray (Low-End)
WR1: Adam Thielen (Elite)
WR1: Stefon Diggs (Low-End)
TE: Kyle Rudolph

Prediction: Vikings 30, Lions 24 ^ Top

Falcons at Redskins - (Katz)
Line: WAS -1.5
Total: 48.0

Passing Game Thoughts: Matt Ryan and the always banged up, but never inactive Julio Jones will be well rested coming off a bye. Julio has been outstanding this season. He’s caught exactly five balls in three games and then exactly 9 or 10 in the rest of them. His single game low in receiving yardage is 62. His TD drought is well documented and don’t count on him reaching paydirt this week (or ever) as Julio looks to set records for underperforming expected touchdown totals. With just three red zone targets on the season, he is a nonfactor in that area, regardless of how much you or I think he should be. Calvin Ridley is a far better bet for a touchdown, even if he hasn’t scored in three games. Ridley stormed out of the gate with three consecutive WR1 performances in Weeks 2-4, but has tailed off considerably. He’s a touchdown or bust option. Mohamed Sanu is a bye week filler and Austin Hooper is a back end TE1 like every other TE not named Travis Kelce or Zach Ertz.

The Redskins defense has been surprisingly stingy this season. Aside from their evisceration by Drew Brees, the Redskins haven’t allowed more than 17 points in a game, except for the 21 they allowed to the Colts. It is fair to question their performance though, as they contained a clearly less than 100 percent Andrew Luck and a very hobbled Aaron Rodgers. The other QBs they held in check were Sam Bradford, Cam Newton, Dak Prescott, and the ghost of the ghost of Eli Manning. Matt Ryan, given the health of Luck and Rodgers at the time, is probably the second best QB they’ve faced this season.

WAS FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.18
WAS FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.28
WAS FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.14
WAS FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.21

Running Game Thoughts: Tevin Coleman has not excelled like we had hoped in the absence of Devonta Freeman, but he’s been a reliable RB2. Coleman will continue to split snaps with Ito Smith in a near even time share. The Redskins only allow 80.1 rushing yards against per game, but they’ve also faced the fewest attempts at just 146. They’ve also been one of the better teams at defending pass catching RBs and we know the Falcons like to utilize their RBs in space. This strikes me as a game where the Falcons will try and move the ball through the air and perhaps one of the RBs will punch in a short TD. As for which RB that ends up being, your guess is as good as mine.

Value Meter:
QB1: Matt Ryan (low end)
WR1: Julio Jones (mid-range)
RB2: Tevin Coleman (low end)
TE1: Austin Hooper (low end)
Flex: Ito Smith

Passing Game Thoughts: There was once a time when there were many pieces of the Redskins passing game that you had interest in but not in 2018. Jamison Crowder hasn’t played since Week 5 and has already been ruled out this week with an ankle injury. Paul Richardson and Josh Doctsonhat topped 50 yards in a game only twice this season. The lone relevant party is Jordan Reed and just barely. Reed had a PPR useful 7-38 last week, but still hasn’t scored since Week 1 and still hasn’t eclipsed 65 yards receiving in a game. If you wanted to drop Reed because you had someone else, I wouldn’t blame you. I might even prefer the TE on the other side of the field. The Falcons allow 307 passing yards per game and have allowed 17 touchdowns. None of that matters though, as Alex Smith isn’t going to take advantage. Avoid members of this passing attack.

ATL FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.2
ATL FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.8
ATL FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.2
ATL FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.16

Running Game Thoughts: Don’t avoid Adrian Peterson. Without a doubt the biggest “L” I’m going to take this year is declaring that Peterson was done. Although, to be fair, he was done for three years. Like his namesake, Purple Jesus has since been resurrected. In seven games, Peterson has busted just twice. In the other five, he’s recorded no fewer than 96 rushing yards giving the Redskins what they’ve long wanted in a feature back, which is turning Chris Thompson (ribs) into Duke Johnson. Thompson came out of the gates hot, but then cooled off, got hurt, and returned even colder. Thompson touched the ball 28 times over the first two games but has just 26 touches over his last three. The potential for negative game script is here, though, and the Falcons allow 69.2 receiving yards to opposing RBs. With bye weeks to cover, CT is still a worthwhile option if he suits up. If he sits, Kapri Bibbs will likely fill the backup, pass-catching role.

Value Meter:
RB2: Adrian Peterson (high end)
TE2: Jordan Reed
Flex: Chris Thompson

Prediction: Falcons 24, Redskins 20 ^ Top

Texans at Broncos - (Caron)
Line: DEN -1.0
Total: 46.0

Passing Game Thoughts: Deshaun Watson will be without field stretching wide receiver Will Fuller for the remainder of the 2018 season, but there’s still a good chance that Watson remains a strong weekly fantasy starter due to his willingness to throw the ball down the field and also his rushing ability. After coming off of two poor performances, Watson had his biggest game of the 2018 season this past week, throwing for 239 yards and five touchdowns while avoiding any turnovers. That type of production is possible in just about any game with Watson at the helm and that’s why he is such a great fantasy weapon to have on your roster.

This week, we’ll see Watson and the Texans take on a struggling Broncos team, but one that still has some dangerous players on defense that we want to keep an eye on. Perhaps most notably, their lead pass rusher, Von Miller, is having another strong season rushing the passer as he’s on pace for 16 sacks this season. He’ll face a Texans offensive line that has struggled mightily to protect Watson, conceding 26 sacks, tied for fifth-most in the league thus far. That could make things tough on Watson who typically does like to wait until his receivers get further down the field than most quarterbacks do, although his mobility does negate some of that poor offensive line play.

Another player who we should probably be avoiding this week is wide receiver Keke Coutee who primarily plays out of the slot and will likely be covered most snaps by Chris Harris, who is still among the league’s elite slot cornerbacks. DeAndre Hopkins will likely see coverage shaded his direction, but he’s such a target magnet that he should remain a strong WR1 in practically any matchup. The other player of note in this passing game is the newly-acquired Demaryius Thomas who comes over from Denver. Thomas has seemingly lost a step this season, but he’s still a solid second option in this passing game and will help pull some attention away from Hopkins. Playing Thomas in his first game in a new offense is probably not advised, but he’s a physical receiver who has a history of playing well in the red zone, so there’s always a possibility of a touchdown. We’ll want to see what kind of snap and target share he’s logging before he’s someone we trust as anything more than a Flex play, however, especially considering that his first game in a Texans uniform will be against his former team, the Broncos, who are well aware of his strengths, weaknesses and tendencies.

DEN FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.22
DEN FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.9
DEN FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.20
DEN FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.11

Running Game Thoughts: Back-to-back 100-yard rushing days, both with a touchdown, have fantasy owners opening their arms once again to Texans running back Lamar Miller. Miller had been a massive disappointment through the first six weeks of the season but now he’s being talked about as a strong RB2 heading into this game and that seems like it could be a trap waiting to happen. The running back crop isn’t particularly strong this week given the teams on bye, but Miller is still a risky play due to his lack of involvement in the passing game. The other concern is that the Texans are still giving Alfred Blue a good number of touches, especially when they get ahead on the scoreboard. Still, the Broncos run defense has been terrible this season, including giving up the second-most rushing yards in the league this far, so Miller does have strong upside in this contest. It’d just be nice to see him targeted a bit more in the passing game before we start feeling confident about him as an RB1 or high-end RB2.

Value Meter:
QB1: Deshaun Watson
RB2: Lamar Miller
WR1: DeAndre Hopkins
Flex: Demaryius Thomas
Bench: Alfred Blue, Keke Coutee, Jordan Thomas, Ryan Griffin

Passing Game Thoughts: Case Keenum was one of the stronger streaming options on the board in Week 8, as he threw for 262 yards and a pair of touchdowns against the Chiefs, but now he’ll be matched up in Week 9 against the Texans - a defense that’s been significantly better against opposing quarterbacks. Oh, and he’ll be without Demaryius Thomas, who will be on the opposite sideline, playing for the Texans. Needless to say, this doesn’t look like a Keenum week for fantasy.

However, the target opportunities just got even more consolidated in this Denver passing game, and that’s what we should be interested in. Emmanuel Sanders saw just four targets this past week, which he caught all four of, but he was only able to turn it into 57 yards. Courtland Sutton, the rookie receiver who is now expected to take over Thomas’ role in the offense, saw just four targets, which he caught three of for 78 yards. Thomas led the team with seven targets. Those passes have to go somewhere and it only makes sense, given Denver’s recent history, that they’ll primarily be going to Sanders and Sutton. It would be safe to assume that both players will see at least six targets in this matchup against the Texans, making them viable fantasy options despite a weaker on-paper matchup. Sanders remains a high-end WR2 but could sneak in as a low-end WR1 for WR-needy teams. Sutton, on the other hand, is a strong WR3/Flex play with WR2 upside who could end up being the team’s primary red zone weapon. There are a number of other players who are being targeted only a few times per game in this offense, but they’re not worth fantasy consideration for now, at least until we see which one of them - if any - sees an uptick in targets this week.

HOU FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.24
HOU FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.19
HOU FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.25
HOU FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.17

Running Game Thoughts: Denver has utilized a three-headed backfield this season, but an injury to Royce Freeman kept him out in Week 8, which led to a season-high 18 rush attempts for fellow rookie Phillip Lindsay. Lindsay turned that into 95 rushing yards and a touchdown, adding three catches in the passing game. It was his second straight 90-plus yard rushing performance this season and he is the only Denver back to reach 90 yards on the ground in a single game so far in 2018. This would be another obvious “start him” week for Lindsay but there is a possibility that Freeman is back on the field this weekend. He’s not currently practicing as of Thursday, however, so this is a situation we’ll want to monitor leading up to gametime.

If Freeman is unable to play, Devontae Booker becomes an even more viable potential Flex option in PPR formats, as he is the team’s lead pass catcher out of the backfield and did see nine carries on the ground this past week in what was a somewhat surprisingly close game on the road against the Chiefs. The Texans defense has given up a league-most five receiving touchdowns to opposing running backs this season and an average of nearly six catches per game to the position, so both Lindsay and Booker could be possible starts this week, depending on Freeman’s availability.

Value Meter:
RB2: Phillip Lindsay
WR2: Emmanuel Sanders (high-end)
WR3: Courtland Sutton
Flex: Devontae Booker (PPR only, if Freeman does not play)
Bench: Case Keenum, Jeff Heuerman

Prediction: Texans 27, Broncos 24 ^ Top

Chargers at Seahawks - (Caron)
Line: SEA -1.0
Total: 48.0

Passing Game Thoughts: Red hot NFL MVP candidate Philip Rivers is coming off of his bye and will now head to Seattle to face a depleted Seahawks secondary, but one that has still performed well this season. The Seahawks have given up just 10 passing touchdowns so far this season while forcing 10 interceptions, which is among the best ratios in the league. Rivers, however, has a healthy group of receivers and is playing some of the best football of his career, having already thrown 17 touchdowns with only three interceptions.

What’s been a bit bizarre is that despite all of that success, wide receiver Keenan Allen has been a big disappointment for fantasy purposes. Allen has just one 100-yard game and one touchdown on the season - both of which came back in Week 1 - and he hasn’t topped 20 fantasy points in any other game. The nice thing is that, despite his struggles, he’s still seeing plenty of targets, averaging eight per game, which should give fantasy owners some hope that better days are yet to come. We saw this in 2017 when Allen started the season off slow, only to finish as one of the best fantasy players in the entire league in the second half of the season. We could see that again in 2018, so don’t be eager to move on from the receiver and don’t be too scared to play him even in this seemingly difficult matchup. We know that Allen gives us a decent 12-or-so point floor in PPR formats, which gives us the security we need to play him in really any league format, but he’s also only a couple catches - preferably one in the end zone - away from finishing as an elite option each week. That type of floor/upside combination is tough to come by.

The other pass catchers in this offense continue to be confusing as well, with Tyrell Williams having delivered back-to-back monster games leading into the Chargers’ bye, while Mike Williams only caught two total passes during those two games. Neither player is seeing enough targets to be a trustworthy fantasy play, but both have touchdown upside in this offense and could be snuck into lineups, especially in non-PPR formats, if you’re looking for bodies during this tough bye week.

SEA FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.29
SEA FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.21
SEA FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.19
SEA FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.30

Running Game Thoughts: Fantasy owners are hoping that two weeks will be enough for Melvin Gordon to at least mostly recover from the hamstring injury that was ailing him. Gordon has been an absolute machine when he’s been healthy, completely crushing the competition to the tune of 466 yards rushing, 30 catches for 279 yards and a total of nine touchdowns through just six games played. Simply put, he’s been a league-winner and has to be considered an RB1 if he’s on the field.

If Gordon is again unable to play, however, Austin Ekeler moves into RB2 consideration. Ekeler touched the ball 16 times in Week 7 against the Titans when Gordon was out. While he didn’t have a huge game with those touches, the willingness to give him a solid workload is about all that we can ask for as fantasy owners. This is a relatively difficult matchup on-paper against a Seattle defense that has only given up one rusher of 80-or-more yards and only five total running back touchdowns on the season, however, so Ekeler is only a borderline Flex option in PPR formats if Gordon is able to suit up.

Value Meter:
QB1: Philip Rivers
WR1: Keenan Allen (low-end)
Flex: Mike Williams, Tyrell Williams, Austin Ekeler
Bench: Travis Benjamin, Antonio Gates, Virgil Green

Passing Game Thoughts: It’s been a tough first half of the 2018 season for Russell Wilson and the Seahawks, but Wilson has really picked up the pace from a fantasy standpoint, throwing three touchdowns in each of his past three games. Unfortunately, the yardage totals haven’t been there to make him an elite option, but it’s good to see that Wilson is still being relied upon to get the ball into the end zone when the Seahawks do get in range.

The weird thing about 2018 for Wilson, which has really been the main reason for his lack of fantasy production, is his shockingly low rushing numbers. Wilson has rushed for just 77 yards on the season thus far, which puts him on pace to be just an average NFL quarterback in that statistic. Throughout his career, Wilson has been an absolute nightmare for opposing defenses, rushing for hundreds of yards per season, and that helped make him the league’s top-scoring fantasy quarterback in 2017. Without that rushing total, Wilson goes from being an elite fantasy QB to simply a borderline QB1.

Wide receiver Doug Baldwin has been one of the biggest fantasy disappointments thus far in 2018 and that’s partially due to his injury, but he also simply hasn’t been effective when he’s been on the field. He has just one game with more than 50 receiving yards and he hasn’t scored a touchdown yet this season. Seeing an average of just five targets per game since coming back from injury, Baldwin is simply not getting the volume he has in the past and that alone makes him a poor play, especially against a good Chargers secondary.

The main receiver in this passing attack has been Tyler Lockett, who has now shockingly scored a touchdown in six of his first seven games of the 2018 season. He’s only catching two or three passes per game most weeks, however, so that gigantic touchdown efficiency is almost certain to correct itself going forward, so we need to start seeing more volume from him before considering him anything more than a WR3/Flex play. The last weapon in this passing game has been second-year wide receiver David Moore who has stepped up in a big way over the past three games, catching nine total passes including four touchdowns over that stretch. Moore’s target total remains low, as he’s seen just 14 passes come his way this season, but he’s someone who fantasy owners could consider in DFS tournaments for a small salary.

LAC FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.14
LAC FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.17
LAC FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.18
LAC FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.19

Running Game Thoughts: He hasn’t been particularly efficient with his touches and he’s practically nonexistent in the passing game, but Chris Carson continues to be the only game in town for the Seattle backfield. First round rookie Rashaad Penny remains sidelined and is apparently a complete non-factor while Carson continues to rack up huge touch totals.

The Chargers are a middle-of-the-road fantasy run defense, having given up about 4.5 yards per carry on the season, but they’ve also only given up four total touchdowns to the position. Only Todd Gurley has eclipsed 100 rushing yards against them in a single game and only Gurley and Dion Lewis have even hit the 50 rushing yard mark against the Chargers. Still, Carson could see another 20 touches in this contest and even at a mediocre efficiency rate, that’s enough to make him a usable RB2, especially in non-PPR formats.

Value Meter:
QB1: Russell Wilson (low-end)
RB2: Chris Carson
Flex: Tyler Lockett, Doug Baldwin
Bench: Rashaad Penny, Mike Davis, David Moore, Ed Dickson, Nick Vannett

Prediction: Chargers 27, Seahawks 21 ^ Top

Rams at Saints - (Bales)
Line: LAR -2.0
Total: 59.5

Passing Game Thoughts: This game is going to feature a plethora of scoring from both teams. The Saints have struggled to defend the pass, allowing 300.0 passing yards per game. They have also allowed 15 passing touchdowns, while recording only three interceptions. Jared Goff has struggled on the road, but he’s still averaging 303.1 passing yards and 2.1 passing touchdowns per game. This game should stay close throughout, meaning Goff should continue to see 30+ pass attempts this week.

Cooper Kupp is expected to return from injury, and he gets an elite matchup, as the Saints have struggled against slot receivers. Kupp is also averaging 6.0 receptions for 87.6 yards and 1.0 touchdown on 8.0 targets in his five healthy games. Brandin Cooks and Robert Woods are two more receiving options worth considering. In healthy games, they combined to score less than 10 fantasy points in only two games. Both players are relatively consistent, while also coming with tremendous upside. Woods may get the slightly better matchup of the duo, but they can both be considered in lineups.

NO FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.4
NO FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.26
NO FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.1
NO FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.31

Running Game Thoughts: The Saints own one of the best run defenses in the NFL only allowing 74.1 rushing yards per game, although they have allowed seven rushing touchdowns. Still, none of that matters, as Todd Gurley is as matchup proof of a running back as there is in the NFL. Through eight games, he’s averaging 143.9 yards and 1.9 touchdowns on 25.0 touches per game. He’s averaging nearly 4.0 receptions per game, as well. If the Saints are able to slow him down on the ground, Gurley will use his receiving skills to score fantasy points.

Value Meter:
QB1: Jared Goff (high-end)
RB1: Todd Gurley (elite)
WR1: Cooper Kupp (low-end)
WR2: Brandin Cooks
WR2: Robert Woods

Passing Game Thoughts: The Rams have found defensive success this season, allowing only 231.0 passing yards per game. They have also allowed only 12 passing touchdowns with seven interceptions this season. The Saints feature an elite offense, though, starting with Drew Brees. He’s averaging 284.3 passing yards and 2.0 passing touchdowns. He does give a few snaps each game to Taysom Hill, which is a bit of concern, but Brees also can score rushing touchdowns, as he owns two on the season.

Michael Thomas has cooled down a bit recently, but he’s still one of the best receivers in the NFL. Through seven games, he’s averaging 8.3 receptions for 95.6 yards and 0.6 touchdowns on 9.1 targets per game. Tre’Quan Smith has seen more targets recently, but he only makes a high upside option. Ben Watson also owns a small role in this offense and can be considered in a high scoring game, but he has struggled to produce at times this season.

LAR FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.27
LAR FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.23
LAR FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.15
LAR FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.18

Running Game Thoughts: Mark Ingram has played a relatively large role in the offense since returning from his suspension. Through three games, Ingram is averaging 49.3 rushing yards and 0.7 rushing touchdowns on 13.7 carries. He has also totaled seven receptions for 59 yards in those games. Kamara struggled against the Redskins, but he was dealing with an injury in that game, and he has seen his role increase since. On the season, he’s averaging 19.6 touches (6.7 receptions) per game, turning those into 114.4 yards and 1.3 touchdowns. The Rams are only allowing 100.9 rushing yards per game, while allowing only five rushing touchdowns. While that may slow Ingram down a bit, Kamara is a safe option because of his receiving credentials.

Value Meter:
QB1: Drew Brees (low-end)
RB1: Alvin Kamara (elite)
RB2: Mark Ingram (mid-range)
WR1: Michael Thomas (elite)
TE2: Ben Watson

Prediction: Rams 35, Saints 31 ^ Top

Packers at Patriots - (Katz)
Line: NE -5.0
Total: 56.5

Passing Game Thoughts: Aaron Rodgers has been good, not great for fantasy this season. I know the bar for quality play shouldn’t be three touchdowns, but when we’re talking about a QB that typically gets drafted in the fourth round, he’s held to a higher standard. Rodgers has just two games with three touchdown passes while he has three games with only one. He has five games under 300 yards and two games over 425 yards. His lower output has done nothing to suppress the value of elite WR1 Davante Adams, who has 81 yards or a touchdown in every game this season.

Adams will face off against a Patriots defense that ranks 26th against schedule adjusted opposing WR1s. In a projected shootout against a middle of the road passing defense allowing 277 passing yards per game, Rodgers and Adams are both primed for big days.

When the ball isn’t headed Adams’ way, it’s anyone’s guess as to who it will be. Jimmy Graham’s production has been inconsistent and he’s only found the endzone once. At WR, Randall Cobb actually played behind Marquez Valdez-Scantling, running fewer routes than MVS last week. Geronimo Allison vanished (1-9), but he’s right there in the mix with Cobb and MVS. You can certainly do worse than trying to guess the Packers’ WR2, but no one other than Rodgers and Adams can be started with any confidence.

NE FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.6
NE FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.16
NE FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.21
NE FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.5

Running Game Thoughts: I have been an outspoken critic of the Aaron Jones truthers for quite some time now. It has nothing to do with Jones’ ability – I do think he is, by far, the best RB on the Packers. I just saw no deliberate effort to push him ahead of Jamaal Williams and Ty Montgomery. That all changed last week. Jones played over 60% of the snaps and the Packers shipped TyMont off to Baltimore (as opposed to cutting him, which is what I suspect they would’ve done had they not found a trade partner). This sets up Jones to be the lead back in a 60-40 split with Williams which is all Jones needs to be fantasy viable.

The Patriots allow 64.2 receiving yards per game to opposing RBs, so hopefully Mike McCarthy allows Jones to play on passing downs. Who cares if he can’t block? Have him flare out instead. The Patriots have only allowed three rushing scores this season, but that has more to do with opponent and game flow. This game should be very pass heavy so if there is a rushing score, it will be because someone busted a big play or a WR was downed inside the five. Either way, you can start Jones now with some level of confidence.

Value Meter:
QB1: Aaron Rodgers (high end)
RB2: Aaron Jones (low end)
WR1: Davante Adams (elite)
TE1: Jimmy Graham (low end)
Flex: Randall Cobb, Marquez Valdez-Scantling, Geronimo Allison
Bench: Jamaal Williams

Passing Game Thoughts: Even against a Bills team that posed no threat to the Patriots, Tom Brady threw the ball 45 times. When the Patriots have no running backs they just won’t run the ball and let Brady do the heavy lifting. Brady has only had one truly monstrous game this year, but he has thrown three touchdowns in four games. Even with Brady’s strong start, Julian Edelman is the only Patriots receiver you can trust. Rob Gronkowski has become just another tight end. You start him, but he’s not giving you any decisive advantage (although he very well could have a huge game at any moment, especially this week). Edelman is averaging 8.5 targets a game since his return from suspension. Josh Gordon has apparently been doing typical Josh Gordon things off the field in not showing up on time for meetings. He still played 84% of the snaps last week, though, and after the Patriots failed to make a move for a WR, Gordon’s breakout could come at any moment, possibly this week in a shootout. The Packers are only allowing 222 passing yards per game, but their schedule adjusted pass defense ranking is bottom half of the league.

GB FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.20
GB FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.15
GB FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.10
GB FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.28

Running Game Thoughts: Sony Michel (knee) got in a limited practice last week before sitting out Monday night’s contest against the Bills. His return to practice this week puts him on track to play Sunday. In the absence of Michel, Cordarrelle Patterson actually handled the majority of RB work on the rare occasions when the Patriots actually ran the ball. James White continues to catch pass after pass from the running back position which locks him into lineups every week regardless of matchup. Michel should walk right back into 20 carries against a Packers defense allowing 4.4 yards per carry. In a game that should feature a lot of scoring, Michel should get some goal line opportunities as well. As long as his health checks out, insert him right back into your lineups.

Value Meter:
QB1: Tom Brady (mid-range)
RB1: James White (low end)
RB2: Sony Michel (mid-range)
WR2: Julian Edelman (mid-range)
WR3: Josh Gordon
TE1: Rob Gronkowski (not elite, but you canít bench him)
Bench: Chris Hogan

Prediction: Patriots 34, Packers 29 ^ Top

Titans at Cowboys - (Katz)
Line: DAL -5.5
Total: 40.5

Passing Game Thoughts: The biggest problem with the Titans passing game is…all of it. Marcus Mariota has three passing touchdowns on the season. Three! It’s not surprising that no member of his supporting cast is worth starting. Corey Davis was supposed to breakout this year but aside from his monster game against Philly, Davis has 62 scoreless yards or fewer in every other game. Rishard Matthews has been cut and the team refuses to use Taywan Taylor in a meaningful way.

The Cowboys allow the third fewest passing yards per game with 217 and have allowed the fewest passing touchdowns in the NFL this season with eight. Byron Jones is an elite shutdown corner, who will be locked on Davis. This game has a low projected point total and features two teams that play at the speed in which Philip Rivers runs. Avoid.

DAL FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.28
DAL FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.25
DAL FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.31
DAL FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.27

Running Game Thoughts: Derrick Henry finally eclipsed the exceedingly elusive six point barrier in Week 7, but let’s not pretend that you should be upset if you benched or dropped Henry. Henry fell into the end zone, but otherwise had just 33 rushing yards and 32 receiving yards, the latter of which was another fluke. The only Titan you want anywhere near your lineup is Dion Lewis. He led the team in rushing with 91 yards while adding 64 yards on six receptions. The Cowboys have the 24th ranked defense adjusted for schedule in terms of defending pass catching RBs, but allow just 3.6 yards per carry. It will, once again, be a Lewis day.

Value Meter:
RB2: Dion Lewis (low end, PPR preferred)
Bench: Marcus Mariota, Corey Davis, Derrick Henry, Taywan Taylor

Passing Game Thoughts: Don’t look now, but Dak Prescott has actually been a serviceable fantasy QB in three of the past four games. After throwing just two touchdowns over his first three games, Prescott has thrown for six and rushed for two over his last four. He is still not a recommended fantasy option, though, as the Titans are one of the better pass defenses in the league, allowing just nine passing touchdowns and 226 yards per game. Prescott will have a new toy to work with this week in the recently acquired and vastly overpaid, Amari Cooper. It is fair to project Cooper to play less than a full complement of snaps. Having the bye week to learn the offense certainly helped, but there is only so much a player can digest in a week and a half. Until we see how this low volume passing game shakes out, you cannot use any Cowboys receivers.

TEN FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.25
TEN FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.27
TEN FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.12
TEN FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.32

Running Game Thoughts: Ezekiel Elliott is coming off his worst game of the season where he rushed for a mere 33 yards on 15 carries and added only nine yards through the air. The Titans have been great at preventing rushing scores, allowing just three, and limiting big plays with their longest rush allowed on the season 22 yards. In a slow paced game where game script is highly unlikely to turn against the Cowboys, expect them to lean heavily on Zeke. 25 touches is well within reach and don’t let his lackluster pre-bye performance shake your confidence in him.

Value Meter:
RB1: Ezekiel Elliott (mid-range)
Bench: Dak Prescott, Amari Cooper, Cole Beasley, Michael Gallup

Prediction: Cowboys 19, Titans 13 ^ Top