Embed from Getty Images

 

Very interesting week for RBs with a lot of the fringe RB2 guys having tough matchups and/or not enough volume. Not all of them will fail, but it’s tough to be excited or feel confident in about any of them, which is why I don’t have too many of them in the Start section this week. I could have guys like David Johnson there with his juicy matchup, but I think you guys are starting your RB1s regardless 🙂

Starts

Matt Breida

Breida is a tough SOB. He refuses to miss games, even after suffering what seemed like a couple of pretty bad injuries throughout the season. If he truly had a high ankle sprain, it’s amazing that he was able to play on Monday night. This week, he goes up against a Rams defense that stepped it up against the Broncos last week, but were only tested with 15 total carries. Before last week’s game the Rams were giving up 128 rushing yards per game and 5.6 yards per carry. Including last week’s game, the Rams are still giving up 4.8 yards per carry. Breida has already been very efficient, averaging almost 7 yards per carry himself. It’s possible the Rams blow the 49ers out of the water, but it’s also possible that it stays a close divisional game in San Francisco. I’m fine rolling an efficient Breida out there, even on his 10-15 carries a game, especially after the 49ers gave Breida a goal line carry that he converted this past Monday.

Kerryon Johnson

KJ is in a good spot this week coming out of the bye against Miami, who’ve allowed 147 rushing yards per game over the last three. Johnson’s upside is still limited with the other two backs involved and the fact that he’s not the goal line back, but if he can get 15 touches in this game, he can do damage and enough to keep his floor somewhat high. I rather have guys who have more volume over him, but if you need a RB, he can do some work against this defense. Note: Theo Riddick didn’t practice on Thursday, so if he doesn’t go this week, Johnson will be a must-start as the guy playing the passing down role in Riddick’s absence in addition to the work he was already getting.

Tarik Cohen

Cohen’s usage saw a big bump over the last two games. After averaging 7 touches over the first three games, he’s averaging 16 over the last two. That type of usage, especially when most of it comes in the passing game, is always a start, especially when it’s one of the main focuses on offense. Over the past two games, he’s averaging 105 yards receiving and 42 yards rushing. The Patriots have allowed the 5th most receiving yards to RBs, so it’s a matchup Matt Nagy will likely look to exploit. Cohen should be in lineups this week, especially in PPR leagues.

John Brown

Ken Crawley has stepped it up lately, but this is still a matchup John Brown can take advantage of. He moves around the formation a bunch, but lines up on Crawley’s side of the field about 45% of the time. The Saints have given up the most fantasy points to WRs lining up on that right side. The problem with John Brown is that he’s only had 5 catches in a game once this season, and he’s reliant on those big plays. The last two weeks he had 6 catches for 86 yards combined. That was against Cleveland and Tennessee, so with a higher over/under this week against a potent offense, Flacco should be looking at him more to exploit this matchup. I’m sure he rather throw Crawley’s way than Marshon Lattimore’s way.

Devin Funchess

Even with Greg Olsen back last week, Funchess caught 5 of 8 for 74 yards and a TD. This week, he gets to face a Philly defense that struggles on the perimeter. Ronald Darby is the better corner between him and Jalen Mills, but Darby hasn’t been great, and with Funchess’ 5-inch height advantage, it’s hard to imagine Funchess not coming down with a TD this week. He lines up on that side about 58% of the time, and is on Mills’ side about 25% of the time, and that’s where he needs to be targeted on every snap. The Eagles have been giving up the 2nd most fantasy points to WRs on Mills’ side and the 9th most on Darby’s side. Olsen coming back was a concern, but even with Olsen getting his targets last week, it didn’t take away from Funch; not to mention that Philly has actually held it down pretty damn well against tight ends this year.

Taylor Gabriel

Gabriel and Tarik Cohen have been the cogs of the Bears’ improvement on offense over the past two games. Gabriel’s averaging 6 catches per game, and over 100 yards in each of the last two. He’s a tough bench right now, and if the Bears want to keep up with the Patriots, Gabriel will have some big plays dialed up for him. I think Gabriel has a high enough floor in PPR to be worth having in lineups because of the upside that he brings. He lines up all over the place pretty equally, so he probably wouldn’t draw any shadow coverage. I would assume Allen Robinson will be shadowed by Stephon Gilmore, and that’s who the Patriots will choose to take out if they need to choose one weapon, so that should open things up for Gabriel, especially when he lines up inside against Jonathan Jones.

Tyler Boyd

With the way Boyd has been playing this season, he should not be benched. I put him here because I get questions about starting him still, but he’s been getting it done for you on a weekly basis with one off week that made a ton of football sense. He’s a key cog in a hot Bengals offense, and this week he has another good matchup against the Chiefs, which should be a shootout. Boyd is an auto-start right now. Set it and forget it. His next three matchups out of the slot are oh so juicy against the Chiefs, Bucs, and Saints.

Jarvis Landry

This can be a get-right spot for Jarvis Landry, who has been struggling with Baker Mayfield. The infamous M.J. Stewart will be on Landry in this game for the Bucs, and we know at this point that this is the matchup to take advantage of. Mayfield hasn’t given Landry a ton of catchable targets, but Tampa Bay has given up the most fantasy points to slot WRs this season, including over the last four weeks, and that’s because Stewart is giving up almost a full fantasy point per route run against him. He’s being targeted on almost 30% of those routes, so Landry should be in for a big day.

Emmanuel Sanders

Sanders is the lone bright spot on this Denver offense, and he sees another good matchup this week against Budda Baker. Baker is a good player, but not so great in coverage yet; the Cardinals’ vulnerability in their passing defense is against slot WRs, giving up the 7th most fantasy points to the position. Peterson and Benwikere have been holding it down on the outside.

Keke Coutee

Cole Beasley completely lit up the Jaguars’ backup nickel corner Tyler Patmon last week, and it can happen again this week with Keke if DJ Hayden doesn’t make it back from his toe injury. It makes sense to attack the slot with Jalen Ramsey and A.J. Bouye having their hands full on the outside covering DeAndre Hopkins and Will Fuller. You usually want to sit guys against the Jaguars, but there’s a liability in this defense that I’m sure Bill O’Brien is aware of and they have a weapon in Keke that can expose it for the second straight week.

Brandin Cooks and Robert Woods

Cooks had an off week last week, so I wanted to touch on his matchup this week. Cook should be in lineups every week after starting the season catching 5, 7, 7, 7 balls. Only caught 2 last week, but we should see that bounce back, especially with Cooper Kupp out. Jimmie Ward had a rough game against Davante Adams last week, but you can’t judge a guy on being beat by Aaron Rodgers and Adams. Either way, the 49ers are giving up the 2nd most fantasy points to WRs lining up opposite Richard Sherman’s side, and the 10th most fantasy points to WRs lining up in the slot, where we should see Robert Woods while Kupp is out. With Kupp out for most of last week’s game, Woods played 57% of his snaps split out side from the slot. These two should see extra volume, while Richard Sherman will see Josh Reynolds all day. Smart offensive coaching.

Josh Gordon

We can finally start him with some confidence. Last week, he played 81% of offensive snaps compared to 26% the week before, led the team in routes ran, targets, and air yards. Bill Belichick actually gave us something, and said that his role is growing every week, and this is a good week to Gordon to come through. The Bears have struggled on the perimeter, particularly on Kyle Fuller’s side, but they’ve given up the 11th most and 7th most fantasy points to WRs on the left and right side of the field, respectively. I can definitely see Gordon catching a TD on Fuller this week. Even with his sub-par output last week, when you have this type of usage, you want to start these guys. You don’t chase points, you chase opportunity and usage, especially with Gordon’s talent. If it wasn’t for a blatant pass interference in the end zone, Gordon would’ve came down with a long TD last week against Steven Nelson.

Marquise Goodwin

Tough to sit Goodwin after his 2 TD performance last week, and when he’s going to go up against Troy Hill and Sam Shields, and even Marcus Peters. None of these corners for the Rams have played particularly well ever since Aqib Talib got hurt. Troy Hill was targeted a ton last week, and Sam Shields isn’t good either, which has resulted in the Rams giving up the 2nd most fantasy points to WRs on that side of the ball over the last four weeks. Honestly, Goodwin has an advantage anywhere he lines up. Would be tough to bench with CJ Beathard willing to go deep to him, something that Jimmy Garropolo has never done with Goodwin. Goodwin almost caught a 3rd TD last week if it wasn’t for a slight underthrow and good catch-up coverage by Kevin King.

Desperate Starts

Phillip Lindsay and Royce Freeman

Not sure why Devontae Booker is getting so much run in this offense, but he played 33% of snaps while Royce Freeman took the lead for the first time with 38% of snaps. Freeman led the team in carries, but was out-touched by Lindsay 11-9. Both are startable as desperate options on Thursday against an Arizona defense that has been giving up 171 rushing yards per game over the last 3 games and 151 over the entire season, which both rank 2nd to last. They’re also allowing 5.1 yards per carry over the last three games. Because of the matchup, you can hope that both get enough in what should be a close game. Hopefully the game stays close enough to the point where Booker doesn’t need to come in for his pass-catching chops.

Peyton Barber

Barber came out of the bye with his role intact, and with a potential neutral matchup, Barber has a chance of seeing some volume in this game. You can make an argument that Barber didn’t have the best luck to begin the season; his first four games were against New Orleans, Philly, Pittsburgh, and Chicago… those turned out to be some pretty good rush defenses. He finally saw a bad defense last week and did well with his opportunity. Cleveland has allowed an average of 167 yards per game and 5.6 yards per carry over the last three, which both rank 3rd worst. He’s someone who has a shot at potentially crossing the 20-carry threshold for the first time this season and actually producing with it.

Kenyan Drake/Frank Gore

The Lions are allowing 5.3 yards per carry and 145.8 rushing yards per game this season, both 3rd worst in the league. Both Drake and Gore can get enough production on limited work to warrant a start, but keep in mind that the Dolphins ran 75 plays last week in that OT game compared to the 55.8 plays per game they’re averaging for the year, which is 2nd lowest in the league. Because of that, I’m not sure we can expect both Gore and Drake to get the 16 and 17 touches they each had, respectively. If we want to be more realistic, it will probably be 10-12 range for Gore and 13-15 range for Drake. Either way, if you can’t start your Dolphins RBs against the Lions, you can’t start them against anyone. Just understand that there is no continuity in their usage, but at least the expectations is somewhat clearer with Frank Gore, although the floor isn’t high.

Corey Clement

With Corey Clement getting a mini bye to rest up, he should be all systems go against the Panthers this week; we should obviously still monitor whether he’ll be on a pitch count as it was reported right before last week’s game. The Panthers can be run on when you look at it on a per carry basis, but they just don’t allow a ton of total rushing yards per game. However, with Clement potentially get 15+ rushing attempts along with his passing game and goal line work, it’s tough to sit him. Corey Clement got the lion’s share of snaps last week, but it was most likely due to Clement being on that pitch count. The roles should reverse this week.

Willie Snead

Start Snead in PPR leagues for another 5-6 catch 50 yard outing. He’s money for 10 points in PPR, especially against PJ Williams this week. He had 10 targets last week, and he has Flacco’s trust right now.

DJ Moore

This is super desperate, but with DJ Moore’s role growing, he can pop off a big play against this secondary. Moore is still not playing a huge complement of snaps, but he caught 4 of 4 for 49 yards in Week 5 and 4 of 5 for 59 yards in Week 6. He’s doing that on only 40-50% of offensive snaps, so if his role grows even more we have to keep an eye out for him. Had a couple of terrible fumbles which I think cost the team the game last week, but Ron Rivera didn’t go away from him. He’s a ceiling play if you need one against this struggling secondary.

Dede Westbrook

With Houston’s nickel corner Aaron Colvin still out with an ankle injury, the slot is the spot to attack. Over the last 4 games, the Texans have given up the 7th most fantasy points to slot WRs. The last two games the Texans played against the Bills and Cowboys, so I wouldn’t take too much from those games. The two games before that, Chester Rogers and Sterling Shepard each had at least 6 receptions for 80 yards, with Shepard catching a TD and Rogers catching a 2 pt conversion. There’s some upside for Westbrook in this game, if you’re desperate. I know it’s tough to choose a Jaguars WR, but Dede probably has the best combination of matchup and talent of the three this week.

Sterling Shepard

Evan Engram is likely back this week, so Shepard’s target share will likely go down moving forward. However, Eli Manning might want to take advantage of the matchup in the slot this week against a Falcons team allowing the 4th most fantasy points to slot WRs. Manning is hard to trust, but if you’re looking for some upside, you might want to hope that he exploits the matchup with Shepard.

Jermaine Kearse

Kearse has a great matchup this week against Mackensie Alexander in the slot. That position is where the Vikings have struggled on defense this year, allowing the 5th most fantasy points to slot WRs. With Quincy Enunwa out with a high ankle sprain, Kearse should be the most targeted Jets WR after taking Enunwa’s spot on the interior, and build on his 10/9/94 performance last week. He’ll be Sam Darnold’s safety blanket.

Corey Davis

I think it’s time we can get back on Davis this week, even if he draws a shadow from Casey Hayward. Hayward hasn’t been that shut down corner we’ve seen in the past, and the Chargers have allowed the 6th most fantasy points to WRs lining on the right side of the field, and Corey Davis lines up on that side on about 50% of his snaps. Remember, since that blowup game against Philly, Davis saw Tre’Davious White and the Ravens defense, so don’t get too caught up in Davis’ lack of production. Tyreek Hill, Robert Woods, Brandin Cooks were all guys who had great games against the Chargers. Davis has the advantage in this matchup with the Chargers not really having much of a pass rush without Joey Bosa in the lineup, and it was the Ravens pass rush that took the Titans down last week. Mariota threw the ball a ridiculously low 15 times last week, and Davis saw 4 targets – still a 27% target share. That attempt number should go way up this week.

Temper Expectations

Sony Michel

The vulnerabilities in the Chicago defense is in the secondary, but they’ve been stout against the run. They’ve allowed a 100-yard game to Frank Gore last week for the first time in 16 games, but they do play better at home, allowing only 67 yards per game on the ground and 3.4 yards per carry. I wouldn’t expect the game plan for the Patriots to run the ball when they can find holes through the air. Either way, there’s no way I bench Michel even in this matchup with the Patriots offense rolling; there’s always the possibility of Michel producing with volume. I can’t sit a guy averaging 22 carries over the last three games on a good offense.

Jordan Howard

Howard doesn’t give us a ton of confidence after his last few games, but who are you going to sit him for? ~15 carries is probably his floor in this matchup, and the upside of 20 carries means he probably shouldn’t be on the bench. Will the Bears try and run the ball to keep Tom Brady off the field and rely on their defense? Will they just run their best offense with Tarik Cohen getting a ton of play from the get-go because they know they have to score a bunch? We can try and guess the narrative, but the vibes don’t allow us to feel fully confident in Howard even in a decent matchup.

Carlos Hyde

Hyde got some serious volume to begin the season, but he hasn’t had less than 14, and that 14 came in a blowout last week. The Bucs vulnerability hasn’t been defending the run; they’ve actually been pretty good in that aspect. They’re just terrible against the pass. The reason why it’s tough to just sit Hyde because of it is because goal line chances are very possible with the Browns moving the ball through the air. Just keep in mind that Hyde will probably be very TD dependent in this game.

LeSean McCoy

The Colts have surprisingly allowed only 3.7 yards per carry this year (4th best), but it’s possible this game remains close and McCoy gets some volume once again. With volume, McCoy should be fine, but if he doesn’t get it, we can be looking at a disappointing week from him.

TJ Yeldon

Yeldon will see another tough matchup this week against Houston; they’ve allowed only 3.5 yards per carry this year. The only team that’s allowed less is New Orleans. They’ve been in the middle of the pack as far as allowing receptions to RBs, so Yeldon has a shot of coming through for you with him being involved as the primary pass-catcher out of the backfield. He’s tough to sit with his involvement in both facets of the game, but I would lower my expectations this week yet again.

Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara

I’m not benching either of these guys, and if I had to choose one it would be Kamara in this matchup because it might be easier for him to find space catching the ball than it would Ingram running the ball into that stout defensive front… although they’ve allowed the least amount of RB reception yards in the league. Baltimore has allowed only 3.5 yards per carry and 62 yards total rushing yards over the last 3 games. If anyone can move the ball against the Ravens, it would be the Saints after have an extra week to study them, so I won’t be benching either guy. Just lower your expectations.

Adrian Peterson

Dallas has a tough defense, with or without Sean Lee for once. They’re only allowing 83 yards on the ground per game and 3.6 yards per carry over the last three weeks. Peterson can overcome with volume and hopefully a goal line TD in what should be a neutral game script, but if he doesn’t get the volume, he’ll be TD dependent.

Tevin Coleman and Ito Smith

The matchup for the Falcons against the Giants this week on Monday night is fine, but can we really be excited about the potential volume either of these guys will get? We have a two-game sample size of Ito Smith playing a little less than half of the snaps without Devonta Freeman, and a four-game sample size without Freeman with Ito playing about 29% and 15% of snaps in Weeks 2 and 3, respectively. In the two games with close to even snappage (that’s not a word), with Coleman being the 1a, Ito saw 10 touches to Coleman’s 17 in Week 4, and then out-touched Coleman 13-11 in Week 6. Freeman was playing in Week 5, so it’s not in the sample. The goal line and red zone work has been very positive for Ito, but it’s more of a split than it is Ito’s role. He’s had 3 TDs in 3 games, so you’ll be hanging your hat on him scoring again, but if he doesn’t score, you’re probably not happy with the output unless his touch numbers go up. If the Falcons actually end up leading in this game, which they can against the mess of a Giants offense, we can see that happen.

Kenny Golladay

I’m still starting him, but he’ll see a lot of Xavien Howard. I’m not terrified of the matchup, but Howard can limit you. Golladay moves around enough to avoid Howard, but it’ll be interesting to see if Howard chooses to shadow Golladay. If he does, Marvin Jones get an upgrade.

DeAndre Hopkins and Will Fuller

Expectations aren’t high for Fuller, who hasn’t come through in two weeks, but we all knew the regression was coming at some point. He’s also banged up, and so is Deshaun Watson. Each of these guys will likely be shadowed, with Ramsey on Hopkins and Bouye on Fuller, so we have to lower our expectations, and be pleasantly surprised if they come through. Hopkins will be in my lineups, but I can understand benching Fuller for a more dependable option. Fuller is a trade target right now, and will be a heavier target if he doesn’t come through with a good game against the Jags. Buy low.

TY Hilton

TY Hilton got a full practice in this week, so he’s likely back. He’ll be shadowed by Tre’Davious White while on the outside, where he runs about 75% of his routes from. First week back, plus seeing White all game, not the best formula for a good game. He’s tough to bench, but I can understand it in this particular circumstance if you have a better option that you’ve been using while Hilton was out. He’ll be back to must-start territory the following week… maybe until he sees Jalen Ramsey… twice.

Michael Thomas

You’re starting Thomas, but these corners for the Ravens and this overall defense is no joke. Jimmy Smith is back, and while he’s still not playing a full complement of snaps, Brandon Carr and Marlon Humphrey are holding it down when he’s not on the field. Thomas will hopefully see more of Tavon Young in the slot in this game. The Saints are coming off a bye, so Sean Payton has had an extra week game planning against this team, and I wouldn’t bet against him to know how to get Michael Thomas in space. Just lower your expectations this week.

Alshon Jeffery

Carolina’s corners have struggled on the outside, and even if James Bradberry ends up shadowing Jeffery, I’m not super worried. Bradberry has been targeted on 26% of routes run against him, and he’s giving up some fantasy points, but he has held some big-time WRs in check. He shadowed Julio in Week 2 and AJ Green in Week 3. Odell was the only WR to have a big game against him. He’s a bigger corner, so that does benefit him running against Jeffery, but we saw that Jeffery is here to play this season after catching 2 TDs against a Giants team that has been holding it down against #1 WRs. With that said, Janoris Jenkins didn’t shadow Jeffery in that game. Jeffery moves all around the formation, and Carolina’s defense given up the 3rd most fantasy points on that right side of the field, so there is a vulnerability Carson Wentz can take advantage of.

Sits

Derrick Henry and Dion Lewis

This might be obvious to most, but Tennessee has had real issues getting production out of their RBs. The Chargers are allowing only 73 yards rushing on the ground per game over the last 3, which ranks third. The Chargers have allowed the 4th most receiving yards to RBs, so if you’re super desperate, Lewis is an option, and not a must-sit like Henry is at this point.

Marlon Mack

Mack led the Colts in carries with 12, producing an efficient 89 yards last week, but the Bills have been pretty stout against the run this year, allowing only 3.8 yards per carry and 92 yards total on the ground per game, 6th best and 8th best in the league, respectively. The positive for Mack is that it’s a potential game script that would allow some more volume, but we could have said that about any of the teams that went up against Buffalo over the first six weeks. The most notable RB who went up against Buffalo this year was Melvin Gordon, who went 9 for 28 against them in Week 2. Last week, Mack played in a three-man timeshare with Nyheim Hines still out-snapping him 43% to 35%. It’s tough for me to play a RB who has a shot to play only 35% of snaps, and I don’t think it was because they were limiting his work. Frank Reich likes to play his guys in a commitee, and with two other guys (probably Hines and Wilkins this week if Turbin misses) seeing snaps, Mack’s floor and ceiling is limited.

Bilal Powell and Isaiah Crowell

Bilal Powell has been getting volume over the last two games, so he’s an ok RB3 start this week, but if I have other options, I rather sit these two against a Minnesota defense allowing only 93 total yards rushing per game regardless of whether they’re at home or not. With these two splitting the load, their floor and upside is capped in this matchup.

Lamar Miller

Lamar Miller had a healthy snap count last week, but Alfred Blue was squarely in the mix as well against Buffalo. This week, it’ll be tough to trust Miller’s touches or production in Jacksonville. They’ve been middle of the pack in rushing yards allowed to opponents, but this offense can be stalled more often than not. I’m trying to find another option that has a bit more upside than Miller this week.

Larry Fitzgerald

Larry finally had some targets last week, but him and Josh Rosen just aren’t on the same page right now; he hasn’t had more than 39 yards receiving since Week 1. Fitz will be matched up with Chris Harris Jr. in the slot, so if you were thinking about starting him out of desperation, I would try to find another option.

Cole Beasley

Last week was an anomaly against the Jaguars backup corner Tyler Patmon. This week, it’s not a good matchup for Beasley with the Redskins doing a complete 180 from last year and actually defending the slot well, but struggling more on the perimeter. Remember, Beasley caught more than half of his total receptions for the year last week, so let’s take that with a grain of salt and not chase the points this week.

Demaryius Thomas

With DT seeing a lot of Patrick Peterson, I’m not feeling this matchup and rather look elsewhere. PP shadowed last week, but not sure if DT will get that type attention. Either way, the Cardinals have been good on the perimeter with Benwikere on the other side, so I rather look for another option.

Nelson Agholor

Agholor hasn’t come through since him and Carson Wentz have been on the field together. He had 91 yards last week, but it was only on 3 catches on 5 targets. Before last week, we saw yardage totals of 24, 22, and 45 targets in some good matchups. This week, he goes up against a Carolina defense that has held it down against slot WRs, giving up the 3rd least amount of fantasy points to the position. I rather look elsewhere this week, and not chase his yardage from last week.