Start your studs! I try to focus on the guys that are on the fringe of your starting lineup.
DeMarco Murray is dealing with “tightness” in his hamstring. Mike Mularkey said that the timeshare is a good model, and that Henry is their go-to in the 4th quarter. These are all signs pointing to Henry having a bigger role going forward, especially with Murray banged up. They each played an equal number of snaps on Monday night, and there’s no reason they should risk re-aggravating Murray’s injury even further. Murray didn’t practice on Wednesday, but if Murray has a full practice or two by the end of the week, I don’t feel as strong to start Henry, and he will figuratively move to the “Desperate Starts” section. The Browns have been great against the run this year, but with Mariota also limited with his hamstring injury, I would expect the Titans to try and win this game on the ground, with Henry seeing the most benefit.
Robert Turbin’s injury opened the door for rookie Marlon Mack to get more field time, but Gore benefits as well. Turbin was their primary goal line back, and it should be all Gore now. Gore’s snaps should go up, and in this game against the Jaguars, I expect the Colts to try to win this game on the ground. The Jaguars’ secondary has been spectacular, but they’ve been giving up 145 yards on the ground per game, 2nd most in the NFL. They’ve also been giving up 5.2 yards per carry, which is the most in the NFL. Gore is the guy they will lean on, and he will be in my lineup as long as I’m not sitting any other workhorses for him.
This is another case of how I expect a team to try to move the ball. Pittsburgh’s secondary has been stellar this season, and it wouldn’t be wise to test them all game. I expect Mixon to get the rock a ton in this game, and I’m hoping he will take a step forward after the bye and take full control of this backfield. Mixon is very talented, and should be able to take advantage of a Pittsburgh defense that has allowed 118 yards per game on the ground, and 4.7 yards per carry. Again, don’t bench any of your studs, but Mixon is a good play this week.
If Bilal Powell is out again, Forte is a start for me. If you look how they used these guys last week, Forte outsnapped McGuire 43-20, so I expect Forte to continue getting the work. His 8 catches on 8 targets was very encouraging, and sets a nice floor for the week on top of his rushes and possible goal line carries. The Dolphins have been pretty good against the run, but they have given up some big receiving games to backs. In any game script, Forte will be the back the Jets lean on primary. I’m only starting him if Powell is out.
I think Doug Martin is an every-week start from here on out, as long as he doesn’t share too much early down work, which doesn’t seem to be happening. The reason why he’s here is because some might be scared of Buffalo’s rush defense, but with Jameis Winston’s throwing shoulder injury, I expect the Bucs to lean heavily on Martin. I’m not worried about the Bills going up in this game to make it a negative game script. Because of those reasons, I think Martin is a good start this week and should remain so most weeks.
Funchess should see a lot of Kyle Fuller, who made some plays last week, but the Bears are still giving up the 6th most fantasy points this season to wide receivers lining up on that side of the field. Prince Amukamara has done a much better job on his side of the field, where Kelvin Benjamin lines up most of the time. With Funchess 9 targets over the last 4 weeks, he should be in your lineup.
Danny Amendola, Chris Hogan
The weak link of the Falcons passing defense has been the slot. Amendola and Hogan have run 88% and 49% of their routes from the slot so far this season, and should benefit from the Falcons allowing the 4th most fantasy points to slot WRs. This should be a high scoring game, and Brady should take advantage of the hole in the Falcons’ defense.
Lee’s target totals have been all over the place this year, but he has gotten volume in a few games. This game should be one of them. The Colts have been very vulnerable on the perimeter, and Lee switches between both sides all game long. Over the last 4 weeks, the Colts have given up the 6th most fantasy points to WRs lining up on the perimeter, so Lee should have a big day.
Woods has actually been the one consistent piece of the Rams passing offense outside of Todd Gurley. He’s averaging 7 targets over the last 4 weeks, and will see a ton of Justin Bethel, who is giving up a ton of fantasy points to anyone who faces off with him. The Cardinals give up the most fantasy points to wide receivers lining up on that side of the field. I’m a lot more comfortable playing him in PPR, and hope that he racks up a ton of catches to provide a high floor this week.
Agholor is in a good matchup this week, in what should be a great primetime matchup. The Redskins’ DBs are banged up on the outside, but the Redskins also have been vulnerable to the slot receiver, giving up the 11th most fantasy points. Agholor isn’t the best play because he’s not getting the volume we like to see to feel confident in him, but he makes big plays and is efficient with his looks.
Garcon has a great matchup this week against a Dallas defense that struggles on the perimeter. Garcon lines up primarily on the right side of the field, and the Cowboys have given up the 3rd most fantasy points to WRs this year. The other side of the field has been giving up the 6th most fantasy points to WRs, and Garcon lines up there as well. The new QB CJ Beathard seems to like Garcon, since he peppered him with 8 of his 12 targets last week. I’m not worried about the QB change, and the 49ers will likely have to try to make their way back into this game, setting up a good game script for Garcon.
If Jason McCourty plays the left side and doesn’t shadow, he should see a lot of Eric Decker. The other side of the field has been giving up the 7th most fantasy points to wide receivers lining up there, and that’s where Rishard Matthews has lined up 43% of the time so far. He also played the slot 34% of the time, and Cleveland has given up the 4th most fantasy points to slot WRs in the last 4 games. Matthews is a great receiver, and he is going to be in my lineups most weeks.
The Chargers have to find a way to move the ball, and throwing it to WRs are the more difficult route against the Broncos. Rivers should attack the middle of the field with his tight ends, and Hunter Henry should benefit. Henry has seen his snap count steadily increase throughout the season, and he almost had a full time role at 83% this past week. Denver has given up the 5th most fantasy points to the tight end, so I expect Rivers to target Henry early and often.
Stefon Diggs is still banged up, and this isn’t a secondary that is kind to WRs anyway. Rudolph saw benefit with Diggs out hobbled the past 2 weeks, seeing 9 targets in each game. Baltimore gives up the 6th most fantasy points to tight ends, so I expect Keenum to try and keep the ball away from the Baltimore corners and hone in on Rudolph.
ASJ leads tight ends in targets since he made his debut this season in Week 3. He has caught 2 TDs the last 2 weeks (should have been 3 if it wasn’t for that bad call last week), and faces a Miami team that gives up the 7th most fantasy points to tight ends. He’s the #1 target for Josh McCown, who has a history of loving some tight end, so expect a good game out of ASJ this week.
Aaron Jones/Ty Montgomery
I don’t trust either of these guys this week; there’s just too much flux for me to put them in my lineup. With Aaron Rodgers now out, how will they be used? Will Jones become the early down back with Montgomery in a passing down role? Will Hundley make it a habit to dump it down to Montgomery? Is Montgomery healthy, and if he is, will he be taking more snaps this week? If this situation was clear with one guy, it’s one thing. But with the QB change and with the confusion about who the guy in the backfield is, I’m trying to stay away. If you can’t stay away, and have no other choices, you can probably do worse. The matchup this week is good, and Hundley should be able to move the ball. One or both of these guys can be relevant in this game, I’m just trying to stay away until there’s more clarity on their roles and usage.
Darkwa has looked good since he’s gotten opportunity. Him and that Giants’ offensive line did very well against a Broncos defense that was just shutting down the run completely. Now Seattle comes to town, and a lot of people might be sitting Darkwa because they have better options, which is fine. But if you don’t have better options, and you’re looking at scatbacks, I think Darkwa should see the touches in this game, and I think he’s an okay start. If the game remains close, the Giants will keep grinding out yards on the ground and Darkwa will be the guy. The Seahawks’ secondary will probably keep the Giants’ pass catchers in check, so the game plan looks pretty obvious to me.
I don’t think I’ll be playing DeMarco Murray this week. With the hamstring strain, with Derrick Henry’s rise in snaps, it’s not looking good for DeMarco. Now, we can point to the Seattle game where everyone was saying to bench Murray in a similar situation and Murray ran wild on that long TD run. Well, besides that TD run he didn’t do anything. Against the Browns, there’s no reason to force Murray in the game if you have a healthy and capable back behind him. He’s risky to me this week. If you don’t have anyone else, and he gets a practice in late in the week and is active, go ahead and play him.
Cooper has made it to the desperate start section! The Chiefs have not been good against WRs, and Cooper finally has a good matchup that he can take advantage of. He has lined up on the left side of the field 48% of the time where Terrence Mitchell lines up, and that side has given up the 2nd most fantasy points. The Chiefs as a whole have been giving up almost 40 points a game to WRs. If Cooper can’t get it done in this matchup, I’m done.
Mohamed Sanu/Taylor Gabriel
These two are far from sure things, but against this New England defense, there’s going to be a lot of scoring. This game has the highest point total of the week at 55, so you’re placing a smart bet on these guys to score. No word on whether Sanu will suit up this week, and if he doesn’t, Gabriel gets a bump with a better chance of scoring and making a big play. He did get 8 targets last week, so the opportunity will be there if Sanu misses. Update from Wednesday: Sanu is practicing, which is a good sign, but monitor him as the week progresses.
With Emmanuel Sanders out this week, Fowler might switch out from his usual slot position to the outside. The slot is the most giving in terms of fantasy points against the Chargers, so we can hope that Fowler runs some routes from there this week. Casey Hayward will be shadowing DeMaryius Thomas, so Fowler should see some extra targets go his way. He should get volume in what isn’t the best matchup, but if you’re hurting at WR, he could turn that volume into points.
Morris Claiborne has done a good job this year as a shadow corner, and this week he’ll be going up against DeVante Parker. As of Wednesday, Parker is still day-to-day with his ankle injury, so he might not even suit up. Jarvis Landry lines up in the slot, where Buster Skrine has been giving up the 4th least fantasy points, so that leaves Stills to possibly get some targets and get a TD in this game. His one outlier 10-target game came against the Jets, so it might not be a bad idea to expect something similar this week.
Anderson caught his lone TD of the season on a long bomb from McCown the last time these two teams faced off in New Jersey. Byron Maxwell has not been good this year, and the Dolphins have allowed the 5th most fantasy points to WRs lining up on the right side of the field. Anderson saw 12 targets last week in a shootout, and I expect that to come down this week, but he has a plus matchup; he lines up on that side of the field 40% of the time.
Pittsburgh’s secondary has been one of the best in the league this year, and they’ve hardly been given up fantasy points to wide receivers so far. AJ Green should see a combination of Artie Burns and Joe Haden, who he’s gone against twice a year in the past when Haden was a member of the Browns. I’m never benching Green, but if he doesn’t put up a big day, it shouldn’t surprise you.
Jordy Nelson, Davante Adams
This one’s obvious: no Aaron Rodgers. These two are still obviously startable in a great matchup. Brett Hundley has been in his system for a couple of years now, and should be serviceable in this game. It’ll be interesting to see who he prefers, and whether he can maintain their fantasy relevance.
I’m not benching Hilton, even against a really good Jaguars secondary. Hilton lines up all over the place, so he won’t be locked in on one CB. Jalen Ramsey’s side of the field has been a little leaky lately, so hopefully Hilton can take advantage. I know it’s tough to start him after he didn’t perform in a great matchup on Monday, but I would still start him with tempered expectations this week.
Allen did okay against the Broncos their first time around in Denver, and this week Denver comes to LA. He lines up primarily in the slot, but does move around a bit. The Broncos’ secondary has gotten better over the past few weeks, but their one position to attack is the slot right now, surprisingly. Chris Harris usually mans the slot, but he has been giving up some fantasy points this year, although he’s gotten better over the last 4 weeks. Not expecting a huge day out of Allen, but he’s staying in my lineup.
Stefon Diggs, Adam Thielen
Going against the Baltimore secondary is no joke. These two will probably have a hard time in this game, as Baltimore’s secondary is giving up the 2nd fewest fantasy points to the WR position, and they are doing it on the perimeter and in the slot. These guys are not must-starts this week in my opinion (especially with Diggs not 100%), so if you can find a better option it might be a good idea. In PPR leagues, I’m okay starting Thielen because of his short depth of target and high percentage routes, along with Diggs not being 100%. As of Wednesday, the Vikings were unsure of Diggs’ status.
Benjamin runs most of his routes on the left side of the field where Prince Amukamara lines up, and the Bears have given up the 4th least fantasy points to WRs from that position. Benjamin is a bit hobbled right now too; he left practice on Wednesday, but don’t have a word as of Thursday morning on whether he aggravated the knee that was bothering him.
Wallace should be shadowed by Xavier Rhodes, who has done a pretty good job this year. The Ravens passing attack isn’t anything I usually want a part of anyway. Wallace has put up a couple of decent fantasy days, but his volume isn’t consistent enough to put him in my lineup this week.
Brown has been phased out of this offense a bit once John Brown got healthy, getting only 1 target last week. His matchup isn’t bad, but he should see some of Trumaine Johnson, which isn’t a good combination for his lack of targets. He won’t be in my starting lineup this week.
Moncrief had a decent fantasy day on Monday night against a horrible Titans secondary, catching 5 of 7 for 67 yards. However, during the three weeks before that he was averaging only 3 targets per game. I expect something similar in this game, as he’ll see a lot of A.J. Bouye and the rest of this very good Jacksonville secondary.
Hurns had a 10 target game a few games back, but has been averaging 3 targets in the other three games around it. In this matchup, he’ll be going up against Nate Hairston, who’s done a good job for the Colts, allowing the 6th least fantasy points to slot WRs. Not a good start this week.
Travis Benjamin, Tyrell Williams
I’m definitely trying to find other options outside of these guys, since they aren’t getting the type of volume to justify playing them against the Broncos defense. The Broncos don’t give up big plays, and both of these guys are big play receivers.
Crowder has been a shell of himself this season, and is going up against Patrick Robinson, who has done a decent job against slot WRs this season. Not picking this week as Crowder’s breakout week.