I’m starting Howard every week, but after the week he had before the bye, some might be questioning his role. I would expect a high-volume bounce-back game for Jordan Howard this week against the Dolphins. Matt Nagy admitted that they used Tarik Cohen more against the Bucs because it simply made sense to take advantage of that Bucs pass defense… and it worked. Even so, Howard still out-snapped Cohen in that game. This week, they go up against the Dolphins, who’ve had the second most rushing attempts against them so far through five weeks, and is allowing about 100 yards and a little less than a TD on the ground per game. The game plan will likely change, putting less on Mitch Trubisky, and more on getting the run game established. 20, 17, 26 were Howard’s touch numbers from the first three weeks. Don’t let one game scare you away, especially when the game plan made football sense.
Putting him on here because it’s hard to get used to him or any Browns RB as a RB1. He hasn’t had less than 16 carries in any game, scored at least one TD in every game except against the Ravens, and had 22+ carries in 3 of his 5 games. Neutral matchup at home, he’ll be in my lineups.
Are we finally feeling comfortable with a Seahawks RB? With Rashaad Penny out of the rotation, the Seahawks have been determined to run the ball with Chris Carson, and now with Mike Davis in the mix after a couple of solid performances this season. Over the last three weeks, Seattle has ran the ball 35 times per game, more than any other team, and with success. Russell Wilson only threw the ball no more than 26 times over that span. 32 carries for 102 yards and a TD for Carson in Week 3 before he missed in Week 4, then returned in Week 5 with another 19 carries for 116 yards against the Rams. I don’t expect the offense to cover the defense’s weakness for that long, which is part of why they want to run the ball a ton and control the clock, but I’m not too worried about that this week against the Raiders. They’ve allowed the 4th most rushing yards so far this season and more than 5 yards per carry. If the Seahawks are riding the hot hand, we should too, as long as we know who that is.
You don’t need me to tell you to start Lynch, but Oakland should be able to run the ball against the Seahawks, who’ve allowed the 5th most rushing yards per game over the last three games, and the 4th most per game over the entire season, the 3rd most over the last two weeks, and they’re allowing 5.4 yards per carry. He’s a good bet this week.
James White and Sony Michel
I’m really not sure why I’m telling you to start James White… you already know that. I thought that since I’m mentioning Sony Michel, might as well talk about how good White’s matchup is as well. In what should be the highest scoring game of the week, you want as much exposure as possible. Sony Michel should see some volume in this game, assuming Kansas City doesn’t go up early. He might not need a ton of volume, though, since KC has allowed 6.4 yards per carry over the last three weeks, by far the most in the league, and 5.8 yards per carry for the season, which is also the most in the league. KC has also allowed the most receiving yards and TDs to RBs, along with allowing the third most receptions to them. Fire both of these guys up.
Mohamed Sanu and Calvin Ridley
Sanu has the best matchup against M.J. Stewart in the slot. Probably the best possible matchup you can have this week, period. Stewart is allowing almost a full fantasy point per route run against him, he’s being targeting on 29% of routes run against him, and the Bucs as a whole are allowing the most amount of fantasy points to slot WRs. So, I’m starting Sanu. Ridley plays in the slot about 25% of the time, but just remember that he’s not playing a full complement of snaps. Brent Grimes hasn’t been good, so I can see Ridley taking advantage when he’s on Grimes’ side as well, so Ridley is a start too. It’s tough to bench Ridley with how dynamic he’s been and against a TB secondary who has been lit up. On a per game basis, the Bucs are allowing the most passing TDs, the highest completion percentage, and the highest passer rating so far this season. The over/under on this game is 57.5, so you gotta start you guys in this matchup.
A couple of things to unwind here. Last week, AJ Green played in the slot on 45% of his snaps, which is a big bump from his normal 27%; that was to avoid Xavien Howard as much as possible. Because of it, Boyd was on the outside more than he or we would have liked against tougher CBs, so he took a dip in production, while AJ Green had his first 100 yard game of the season. The other thing to unwind is that Joe Haden started to shadow last week against Julio Jones, even into the slot. So this week, there’s no reason for Green to go into the slot because Haden will follow him anyway, so I would expect Boyd to resume as the main operator out of the slot. Make sense? Ok, back to the matchup. It’s sweet. The Steelers have allowed the 2nd most fantasy points to slot WRs, and with Boyd’s target share expected to back up in what should be a high scoring game, he should bounce back.
With TY Hilton most likely out again this week against the Jets, Rogers will assume the #1 WR role out of the slot for Andrew Luck. He caught 8 of 11 targets last week for 66 yards, so he’s more of a PPR play. The Jets have been terrible against slot WRs – Emmanuel Sanders was targeted 14 times last week against them, because they’ve given up the 3rd most fantasy points to slot WRs so far this season. I’m perfectly fine playing him after two high-volume games for Rogers, especially because the Jets are tougher on the perimeter.
This game is going to be a shootout, and Watkins is a key cog in this Chiefs offense. He plays almost every snap with Mahomes, and there’s no corner on the Patriots that should scare you. Outside of the first week, in this three healthy games he’s averaging 6 catches for 78 yards. The upside will be there every week, so it’ll be tough to have him on my bench most weeks, especially in a game that Vegas is projecting at 60 total points.
Again, you want guys in this game and against this Chiefs defense, and Edelman showed that he’s a main piece of this offense. He’s obviously more of a PPR play for a high floor, but he almost had a TD on a WR screen last week that ended up at the 1 yard line.
Nyheim Hines (PPR only)
The Jets have allowed the most receptions and yards to RBs over the last two weeks, against the Broncos and Jaguars – two teams who aren’t necessarily the most RB pass-heavy teams, so Nyheim Hines can get his usual share of 6-8 targets this week. Just a side note, I re-watched the game against the Redskins when Marlon Mack was back healthy and starting; Hines was in a ton either way, and was even on the field at the same time with Mack and Jordan Wilkins at times; Hines was even the first read for Luck on a handful of plays that didn’t end up going to Hines. So if you’re trying to figure out who the back to own in this Indy backfield is whether Mack is back or not, which he should be this week (he practiced in full on Wednesday), it’s Hines.
Corey Clement/Wendell Smallwood
We’ll see a ton of Clement and Smallwood against the Giants on Thursday night in what should be a true committee. In the Week 3 game against Indy, this was the first and only game with both Clement and Smallwood available without Jay Ajayi. Clement had 19 touches to Smallwood’s 13. Clement getting 19 in this game indicates that he would be the favorite to be the 1a if you’re trying to decide between the two. Both are more appealing in PPR because of their involvement in the pass game, so both are startable in this matchup. Just keep in mind that you can come out disappointed since they will be splitting the load, but Clement did also out-snap Smallwood 55% to 35% in that game against Indy. Smallwood got some goal line work, and we’ll probably see these two split those opportunities, but outside of goal-line, Clement will be the overall favorite in the red zone. Clement has been more efficient with his touches, but not sure the Eagles make changes too quickly because of it. The Giants are middle of the pack when it comes to run defense or defense against pass-catching RBs, so it’s not a matchup we should be concerned about.
Can we finally start him? If he gets some full practices in, and there’s no talk about a pitch count, I’ll start him against the Cardinals if I don’t have other decent options. Arizona has allowed the most rushing attempts (26 more than the next team), the third most rushing yards, and the most rushing TDs in the league. That sounds like a good matchup to me, and even with the Vikings’ offensive line struggles, this is a matchup they can potentially win. Even if they get Cook going in the pass game, it’s a plus matchup with the Cardinals giving up the third most receiving yards to RBs. It makes me nervous to put Cook in my lineup, as I’d like to see him get a week of full practices in and some confident words from him and the coaches, but let’s hope it’s a get right spot for him at home.
Even after Isaiah Crowell had a monster game last week, we still have to pay attention to Bilal Powell’s 20 carries for 99 yards. Powell out-touched Crowell 20-16 and 55% to 44%; it’s basically a near-even split with Powell getting the edge. The reason why Powell is a bit more attractive against the Colts is because they’ve allowed the 2nd most receptions, 3rd most targets, and the 4th most receiving yards to RBs. Taking advantage of that would lean more in the direction of Powell’s skillset. Keep in mind that the Jets aren’t going to be able to sustain 35 carries combined from their two RBs, so we should see a reduced touch total in most games going forward.
Davis has exceeded his expectations with the opportunity he received this season. When he got the 21 carries with Chris Carson out in Week 4, he turned 21 carries and 4 catches into 124 yards and 2 TDs. Last week with Carson back, he had 14 touches for 75 yards. He’s a RB3 type of play, but you’re depending on the Seahawks as a whole to really get volume on the ground like they did over the past few weeks. Against the Raiders, it’s very possible, and they’ve allowed more than 5 yards per carry so far this season and the 4th most rushing yards. This is a matchup where both Chris Carson and Mike Davis can get work, but understand that Davis is the 2nd fiddle in this rushing attack, and you’re hoping he gets 12-15 touches.
I’m only mentioning Lindsay here just in case you were afraid of starting him against a more tough matchup on paper against the Rams than what they actually are. The Rams have allowed 128 rushing yards per game and 5.6 yards per carry over the last three games; the matchup is fine. The only reason he’s more desperate than an actual start in this article is because he’s capping out at about 15 touches per game, but he should maintain his usual floor.
Keke probably has the best matchup in this game against the Bills. With Tre White covering DeAndre Hopkins, Will Fuller going up against Phillip Gaines, who might be a bit of an upgrade over Ryan Lewis, Coutee can see some decent opportunity once again. They’ve allowed the 10th most fantasy points to slot WRs, so that plus some volume will make Coutee a nice PPR play this week.
The Eagles are worse on the perimeter, but with Evan Engram out again, Shepard becomes a play. It’s not an amazing matchup or anything, but I do think his short to intermediate targets will be there since the Giants don’t really pass the ball downfield a ton.
The game script should be positive for Green Bay against San Francisco, and Aaron Jones can see double digit touches for only the 2nd time this season. He saw 12 touches in Week 4, and only 9 touches last week, although the Packers were trying to come from behind. I only list him here because he can take any play to the house and is a ceiling play if your team needs it or you have no one else. Jones just isn’t getting enough touches to feel confident that he’ll produce, and he’ll likely be TD dependent – and there’s no guarantee he’ll actually be in on goal line work. Do the Packers even hand the ball off at the goal line? This is still a 3-way committee with no back getting enough touches yet. And by the way, the 49ers have actually been pretty stout against the run this year, only allowing 3.3 yards per carry over the last three weeks, and 3.7 for the year.
Alfred Morris and Kyle Juszczyk
Morris can legitimately get 20+ touches against the Packers without Matt Breida playing, but if the Packers get out to a lead, the 49ers may abandon the run entirely. I think Morris will still probably be in on those passing plays, but Kyle Juszczyk figures to have a big role in the passing game as well. Morris and Juszczyk will be on the field a ton together, and the better pass-catcher Juszczyk will get more looks. Morris can still end with 4-5 receptions, so he can be fine. Regardless of game script, when a RB assumes an almost every-down role, he probably should be started. I highly doubt Raheem Mostert, who’s a glorified special teams player, will get a ton of snaps.
Dude has been super disappointing this year in good matchups, especially with all the drops, but he’s going up against Malcolm Butler, who’s one of the worst starting CBs in the NFL right now. Of course I rather start John Brown, who’ll see some of Butler as well, but if you’re desperate, this is a spot to start Crabtree. If you can’t start him this week, when will you ever? Butler and the Titans have allowed the most fantasy points to WRs on his side of the field, and that’s where Crabtree lines up more than 50% of the time.
Gordon has yet to play anywhere close to a full complement of snaps – 22% in Week 4 and 26% in Week 5. Had 2 targets and 4 targets, but obviously can take one play and make it worth your while. The Chiefs have been pretty bad on the side of the field he’s lined up the most so far where Steven Nelson lines up, so he’s a high ceiling shot that you can take in a high scoring game if you don’t have any other consistent options.
Williams runs the most routes against E.J. Gaines’ side of the field than any other Chargers WR, and that’s the spot to take advantage of. They’ve allowed the 2nd most fantasy points over the last four weeks to that spot, and yes, Williams will be boom/bust, but this is a decent matchup to play him in if you’re desperate at WR this week.
We have to monitor if Quincy Enunwa will primarily play on the outside or in the slot this week. They moved him outside a bit more in Week 4, then moved him out primarily in Week 5, but we don’t know if that was because they wanted to avoid Chris Harris. But if he continues to play outside with Jermaine Kearse in the slot, Robby Anderson’s value goes up, and so does Jermaine Kearse’s a bit. Either way, it’s a good matchup against a banged up Indy defense, so if you’re looking for a boom/bust play, Anderson’s a good one.
Mr. Every Other Week: 1 catch, 10 catches, 2 catches, 8 catches, 1 catch over the last five weeks, so if that trend continues, we should play him this week. He does have a good matchup – Shaq Griffin is by no means someone we need to worry about. The Seahawks aren’t good on the perimeter, and he’ll see both Griffin and Tre Flowers. He can probably have a 8-catch game this week to continue his streak; I just hope he does so I can keep giving him that name.
Yeldon should be the workhorse in this game against Dallas, but to my surprise, they’ve held it down against the run even without Sean Lee. Without him the past two weeks, the Cowboys have allowed only 3.24 yards per carry. Kerryon was able to do some work on limited carries, but Yeldon isn’t the runner Kerryon is. Yeldon’s saving grace will come in the passing game, so he’s a start this week for sure because of the touches, but don’t be surprised if it doesn’t turn into a ton of production.
Xavien Howard should follow Allen Robinson around the formation except when he’s in the slot. AJ Green lined up in the slot more last week to avoid Howard, and we can see Robinson do the same; he actually lines up in the slot 35% of the time anyway, so we can see a bit of a bump there. Either way, Robinson isn’t a must-start, but if you do, don’t be surprised if his production is limited. Even in the Mitch Trubisky massacre of Week 4, he only caught 2 passes on 4 targets, but at least one of them was a TD.
The Steelers had enough of Artie Burns and Cody Sensabaugh getting burned by top WRs, so they’re allowing Joe Haden to just shadow the opposing team’s top WR anywhere they go in the formation, including the slot. He limited Julio Jones 5 catches for 62 yards, and we can see a similar outing for AJ Green while Andy Dalton takes advantage of the rest of this terrible secondary.
Landry had his two worst games of the season in Baker Mayfield’s two starts, and this week doesn’t get much easier when he faces up against Desmond King. He’s a good nickel corner, who can limit Landry to another sub-par performance like he’s had over the last two weeks. However, with Rashard Higgins out for this game, Landry can see an uptick in target share.
Tre’Davious White has been exceptional so far this year, and did it again last week against Corey Davis. Hopkins will probably still be peppered with targets regardless, so I’m not sitting him, but I would temper my expectations. This can be a bigger Keke Coutee and Will Fuller game because of the matchup.
Jeffery can overcome tough CB matchups, but Janoris Jenkins and the Giants have done a pretty good job against #1s. He should get the targets, but don’t be surprised if he has another game like he had last week against Xavier Rhodes.
Jimmy Smith didn’t play a full complement of snaps in his first game back last week, but he upgrades this defense tremendously, and Davis will see a lot of him, and then see a lot of Brandon Carr in the slot as well, and then see Marlon Humphrey on the other side, so it’s not the best matchup for him. I’m actually okay sitting Davis if you have another option, only because Mariota doesn’t throw the ball a ton, and this can be a closer game than we think.
One game where Drake was still used less than Frank Gore in the running game, and then all of a sudden used like David Johnson in the passing game means I need to see more before I trust Drake’s usage. I’ll be playing more predictable options over Drake this week. And by the way, the Bears have allowed the least amount of rushing yards, receptions, and reception yards to RBs… not quite the spot for Drake to keep the momentum going.
Devonta Freeman/Tevin Coleman
Freeman has a bone contusion, and might not play on Sunday. Even if he does suit up, I can’t trust him while he’s battling a foot, a knee, and two other guys in his backfield. Coleman is startable if Freeman sits, but just keep in mind that the Bucs are stout against the run, and Matt Ryan will probably attack them through the air. I’m staying away, even in a high scoring game, but Coleman would be startable if Freeman is out again; there is a glimmer of hope he is involved in the aerial attack like Tarik Cohen before his bye.