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Running Backs

James Conner and Jaylen Samuels – Baltimore isn’t the same defense it was after losing some key pieces this past offseason. They’re giving up 5.4 YPC for the season; Nick Chubb gained 165 yards on 20 carries last week; Dontrell Hilliard was even able to gain 27 yards on 6 carries. The week prior, LeSean McCoy and Darrel Williams took a combined 17 carries for 116 yards. The Ravens also have given up the most rushing TDs, while each of the RBs I mentioned grabbed 3 receptions each. Conner should be in lineups this week. The only potential downside for Conner moving forward is that there isn’t as much weekly volume for the entire backfield if Samuels continues to touch the ball at a similar percentage. As far as Samuels, he’s more of a desperate start, but wanted to talk about him with Conner. With Samuels heavily involved in the game plan in Week 4 (him and Conner both had 18 touches each), one can hope he’ll be as involved this week in a good matchup at home. He’s obviously a risk since we don’t know if he’ll be as involved as he was; it could’ve been a game plan specifically for the lowly Bengals while Mason Rudolph takes it slow.

David Montgomery – Montgomery finally has a good matchup once we know, or think we know, that he’s the guy in the backfield. After 24 touches last week, we have to assume Chicago’s defense keeps Oakland in check while feeding Montgomery on offense with Chase Daniel under center. Matt Nagy is so unpredictable, so something as straightforward as this might not come to fruition. On a per carry basis, Oakland hasn’t been bad against the run, but I’ll follow the volume in this matchup.

Melvin Gordon and Austin Ekeler – Both of these guys should be viable in Gordon’s first real game back this year. We saw the Cowboys take it slow with Ezekiel Elliott after his holdout, and Ekeler is obviously in much better game shape than Gordon right now. This can easily be a 50/50 split, and can easily be in the favor of Ekeler this week. The matchup is great, too; Denver just gave up a ridiculous 225 rushing yards to Fournette last week. They also lost Bradley Chubb, which is a huge hit to that defensive front. Denver has been really good preventing RBs from catching the ball; they’ve given up the least receptions so far this year to the position. These two should produce enough to each return RB2 numbers.

Aaron Jones – The split in Week 3 was tough, and while Aaron Jones had almost all the opportunities in Week 4, TDs and receptions saved both fantasy days. This week, Jamaal Williams might not play with his concussion after that brutal hit last week, so Jones should see a lot of opportunity. The Cowboys run defense isn’t as daunting as it was last season, and we know Matt LaFleur is going to try to run the ball no matter what. Jones will get enough opportunity without Williams that he has to be in lineups this week. If Williams miraculously makes his way out of the concussion protocol, I’d downgrade Jones a bit.

Damien Williams and LeSean McCoy – With Damien Williams getting a full practice on a Wednesday, that’s a great sign that he’ll be active on Sunday night. Darrel Williams will likely take a back seat to Damien and McCoy, with them taking over as the 1-2 in this backfield. Both are very startable, and Williams is a preferred start in PPR. Both will likely play near the goal line depending on how versatile they want to be. The Colts are allowing 5 YPC this year, and with how potent the Chiefs’ offense is, both of these guys are very startable as RB2s.

Marlon Mack – The Chiefs have given up 509 rushing yards over the first four games, which is fourth highest in the league. Imagine how many yards they’d be giving up if they didn’t have big leads in most of their games. Assuming he plays, Mack should be able to get it done against this defense with some volume. The total on this game is 56.5, so there will be some scoring on both sides. If Mack doesn’t play with his ankle injury, Nyheim Hines has some PPR value in the second half if the Colts are down, but they will likely attempt to run the ball with Jordan Wilkins before the game potentially gets out of hand.

Tevin Coleman – If Coleman plays, he’s a good start at home against Cleveland. The outside zone scheme has proved wonders with Matt Breida, Raheem Mostert, and hell anyone who lines up in that backfield. Coleman is a favorite of Shanahan, and unlike Breida, will likely gain control of most red zone touches, including goal-line opportunties. With Jeff Wilson scoring twice in back to back games, Coleman has an opportunity to have value in all facets – run game, pass game, and goal line, even if it’s in a committee with Breida. Breida will likely have the same value he did without Coleman: 12-15 efficient touches per game without any goal line work.

Wide Receivers

Larry Fitzgerald – Fitzgerald’s volume has been decreasing every week, but with Christian Kirk and Damiere Byrd likely out this week, Fitz gets a big bump. He’ll likely see 10+ targets against Cincinnati.

Calvin Ridley – Ridley hasn’t had the best matchups lately, but we need to be back in on him this week against Houston. He lines up primarily on Johnathan Joseph’s side of the field, and that’s where we want him to be. Houston in general has given up the 3rd most fantasy points to WRs on the perimeter, and Joseph has been giving up the most fantasy points to WRs running routes against him out of the three corners in Houston. If you’re worried about Mohamed Sanu this week, Houston has been holding it down against slot WRs this year.

John Brown – Brown has a great matchup against Malcolm Butler this week. Brown does move around the formation a ton, but they will try and take advantage of Butler, and we might see more than the average of 35% of routes run on Butler’s side. Tennessee has allowed the 5th most fantasy points to WRs on Butler’s side of the field. Even with Josh Allen out, Brown should be okay; Matt Barkley targeted him 5 times after Allen left the game for a 31% target share. He wasn’t even afraid to throw a long pass to Brown against Stephon Gilmore on his first attempt of the game (Brown caught it).

Allen Robinson – Robinson has looked great this year, and if it wasn’t for circumstances out of his control (QB, strange playcalling), he would likely be having a much bigger season than he is. Either way, he looked good against Xavier Rhodes and the Vikings last week, and he has a great matchup in London this week against the Raiders. Oakland is giving up top-12 fantasy points to WRs at every position, left, right, and slot. A perfect matchup for Robinson, as he also lines up at every position. Start him as a WR2.

Tyler Boyd – Tough game last week on Monday night in a great matchup, but he should be able to bounce back in another great matchup this week. Andy Dalton is a deer in headlights in primetime games. The Cardinals are giving up the 3rd most fantasy points to slot WRs, and without John Ross, Boyd should get some volume in a high-pace game. Boyd has the 2nd highest touches in the league without a TD so far – he’s due.

Brandin Cooks – Cooks has been money since his dud in Week 1. This week, he has a great matchup primarily running against Tre Flowers on that left side of the offense. He’ll likely be targeted a ton with the Seahawks giving up the 7th most fantasy points to WRs lining up on that side of the perimeter. On the other side and the slot, they’ve been relatively stout so far this year, but Kupp and Woods can get it done in any matchup because of the scheme they’re in.

Adam Thielen, Stefon Diggs – If you don’t trust to start them in this matchup, when will you ever? The Giants are absolutely terrible against the pass, especially on the perimeter where these two line up on a majority of their routes. The Giants are giving up the 2nd most fantasy points to perimeter WRs, so I would have these guys in my lineup, even though this can turn into a run-heavy affair. I mean, with both Thielen and Diggs unhappy after last week, you have two squeaky wheels.

Julian Edelman, Josh Gordon, Phillip Dorsett – Edelman and Gordon should be in, and Dorsett is the more desperate option with upside in this matchup. Washington gives up the 5th most fantasy points to perimeter WRs (Gordon, Dorsett), and the 10th most to slot WRs (Edelman, Dorsett). It’s a mismatch for Tom Brady and Co.

Alshon Jeffery – Jeffery can have his way with the Jets secondary. No word on whether DeSean Jackson will play this week, but the Jets have given up the 6th most fantasy points to perimeter WRs (and they had a bye), where Alshon runs 90% of his routes from. Start him as a WR2.

Desperate Starts

Running Backs

Sony Michel – Who knows how Michel will be used this week. Washington’s offense is in the middle of a lot of uncertainty at the moment; Jay Gruden refuses to name a starting QB as of Wednesday. Either way, the Patriots defense can lock the Redskins’ offense down, and they’ll be able to move the ball on this offense pretty easily. Whether that means Michel as their closer in the second half, or it means he has some opportunities at the goal line, this would be the time you start him if you do. Rex Burkhead was limited in practice all week prior to their Week 4 game, so that could’ve affect Michel getting 17 carries. When Burkhead was healthy against the Jets, Michel only had 9 carries. I’ll play Michel for the potential upside this week, but knowing the risk of Burkhead potentially being favored ahead of him.

Jordan Howard and Miles Sanders – Howard’s a good start this week against a Jets team who will likely get blown out (Philly favored by 13.5). We should see a lot of use between him and Miles Sanders, especially in the second half. With Howard’s snaps taking a bit of a leap last week and being the exclusive goal line back here, he’s a low-end RB2 start with upside. As far as Sanders, he’s had to depend on big plays to get you points, but the Jets aren’t going to stop him from doing that; he’s a RB3/flex option.

Ronald Jones – Jones showed enough explosiveness and volume over the last two weeks to put him in the low-end RB2 conversation this week. Saints are tough against the run, but he has upside if you need it, in what should be a high scoring game.

Wide Receivers

Auden Tate – Tate had 16 targets over last two weeks, including an impressive 6 of 10 for 88 yards against a tough Buffalo defense. Tyler Boyd is only out-targeting him by 1 over the last two games. This was all with John Ross playing, so with Ross missing a month or so, Tate can have some value before him or AJ Green come back. Byron Murphy has given up 0.37 fantasy points per route run against him, so if Tate continues to be targeted, he can return WR3 numbers.

Mecole Hardman, Demarcus Robinson – The Lions took a page out of the Patriots’ defensive playbook and shadowed 3 WRs with 3 CBs last week against the Chiefs. In shadow coverage, Robinson and Hardman combined for only 39 yards. Indianapolis doesn’t do that; they primarily play zone, and when they play man, it’s hardly press coverage. These two can take advantage, especially because of where they line up. Both Watkins and Hardman play a majority of their snaps from the slot, where the Colts give up the 14th most fantasy points. Robinson run routes primarily from the left perimeter, where the Colts are giving up the 11th most fantasy points. Watkins is a WR2, and Hardman and Robinson are flex plays with upside this week. Between Robinson and Hardman, Robinson is the better play, since Hardman usually has to depend on a long ball; the Colts have been keeping everything in front of them for the most part this year.

Sterling Shepard – Shepard will see a lot more snaps on the outside with Golden Tate returning to the lineup. He’ll see a lot of Xavier Rhodes, but Rhodes hasn’t particularly played well this year. The Vikings are actually giving up a ton of fantasy points to WRs, so Shepard actually isn’t a bad start this week. The Vikings are allowing the 4th most fantasy points to perimeter WRs this year! However, because of the introduction of a legit pass-catcher, the targets might not be as guaranteed. As far as Golden Tate, I would love to have him on my bench and watch the target distribution play out.

Robby Anderson – If Sam Darnold plays this week, it’ll be hard to keep Robby on your bench against the Eagles. He will see the better outside corner of the two in Rasul Douglas, but “better” is relative. Douglas did do a good job against MVS last week, though. The difference is that there’s no reason why you wouldn’t pass it to Davante Adams when Sidney Jones was giving up so much damn room to operate. The Eagles have allowed the most fantasy points to WRs on the perimeter, where Robby runs 84% of his routes. Even if it’s Luke Falk under center, we can be encouraged by the 6/4/81 game they had together in Week 2 against the Browns.

Nelson Agholor – Agholor has a pretty good matchup against the Jets; the slot continues to be a problem for them, giving up the 8th most fantasy points to slot WRs this year (and they had a bye too). If DeSean Jackson is back this week, I’m not sure I’d trust Agholor, and would only play him for upside.

Diontae Johnson – Johnson runs most of his routes on the left side of the perimeter, where the Ravens are giving up the 10th most fantasy points. He’s on a roll right now with Rudolph has his QB and Juju getting the defensive attention. He’s a flex start with upside.

Temper Expectations

Running Backs

Todd Gurley – It’s tough to feel confident in Gurley’s volume so far, and while 7 catches last week seemed hopeful, Jared Goff threw the ball 68 times; that’s not going to happen so often. The Seahawks have actually been pretty good against the run; they’re giving up less than 4 YPC, giving up the 7th least rushing yards. If the Rams choose to use Gurley in the pass game, it can succeed; both David Johnson and Alvin Kamara had over 90 yards receiving each on 8 and 9 receptions, respectively. He’s a mid-RB2 this week.

Joe Mixon – Cincinnati has its offensive line issues, but Mixon has been relatively effective with the volume he’s had over the last two weeks. The offense was terrible in Pittsburgh, but that was primetime Andy Dalton on the road. This week, the Bengals are at home against a bad Cardinals defense. There will likely be a lot of passing in this game, and goal line chances can present themselves to Mixon with the Bengals most likely being able to move the ball through the air. He’s a mid-RB2.

Wayne Gallman – Wayne Gallman’s usage in the pass game was pretty encouraging. He can likely maintain a high floor because of it, especially in PPR leagues, but the Vikings are not going to make it easy. There are two issues in this game – one is that Gallman might not get rushing volume with the Vikings going up in this game. The second is that it’s a tough defense to run against, forcing backs significantly under 4 yards per carry. If he gets another 7 targets though, his day can be saved. Start him as a flex option if you need to.

Le’Veon Bell – Obvious start to most, but with the offense struggling and the tough matchup on the ground, I just want to slow down the second guessing. He’ll be involved enough in the passing game for a very high floor. However, Philly is just ridiculously tough to run the ball against. No RB was able to put up more than 36 yards on the ground against them. However, Chris Thompson, Guice, Freeman, and Aaron Jones had decent games through the air, and that’s the hope Bell has in this game. I’m not benching him for anyone in a normal-sized league… we just have to temper expectations. He gets a bump up if Sam Darnold is back.

Devonta Freeman – Ito Smith has seen 100% of the Falcons’ goal line carries so far this year, and if that continues, it will severely limit Freeman’s upside. After his big game in the receiving game last week, it’s probably a good time to sell. Freeman out-touched Smith by a ton, but it’s possible the split gets a little closer if the Falcons aren’t completely out of the game like they were last week against the Titans. The good news is that the Texans have given up the most receptions to RBs so far this year, so Freeman can return RB2 numbers this week.

Derrick Henry – He has a tough matchup against the Bills, but he’s been getting enough volume that he’s a tough sit. With Josh Allen potentially out this week, Buffalo’s offense might struggle enough to keep Tennessee in good position to score consistently.

Frank Gore – Gore’s been getting a ton of volume; he went over 100 yards against the Patriots last week. This dude’s career is such an anomaly. With the volume he’s been getting, assuming Devin Singletary is out, Gore is still a play. With Allen out though, he might not have as many running lanes as he did with his mobile QB. He’s a RB3/flex in a tough matchup.

Wide Receivers

Marquise Brown – The Steelers have given up a ton of points to WRs this season, but it’s mainly from the slot. Phillip Dorsett, Julian Edelman, Tyler Lockett all had good games against the Steelers, as they’ve given up the most fantasy points to slot WRs, but the 2nd least to perimeter WRs. Brown lines up primarily on the outside, but does run routes from the slot around 30% of the time – he’ll have his opportunity, and it only takes one play. If you had to sit him one week for a high floor option, this might be the week.

DJ Moore and Curtis Samuel – It’s tough to know what to expect from these two this week. They were in a prime spot last week against Houston, but they chose to feed Christian McCaffrey almost 40 touches. That volume will for CMC will likely come down this week (I would think), leaving more opportunity for these two WRs. The next battle is Jalen Ramsey potentially playing; my guess is that he won’t shadow, and will stay on his side of the field where Samuel runs a majority of his routes from. Moore lines up primarily on the left side, where he’ll see AJ Bouye, who hasn’t been himself this year. Between the two, Moore has the matchup advantage, but Samuel has out-targeted Moore 14-7 in Kyle Allen’s two starts. If you can avoid the uncertainty for these two, I would.

Jarvis Landry – Landry had a big game in a great matchup last week, and he should be able to get out of the concussion protocol in time with his game on Monday night. This week, he goes up against a 49ers team who is a lot more stout against slot WRs, but Tyler Boyd was able to rack up 10 receptions against them in Week 2. What we really have to pay attention to this week is whether Rashard Higgins makes his way back.

Amari Cooper – Alshon Jeffery scored last week, but Kevin King had him on lockdown for most of the night. This week Amari Cooper will either be shadowed him King or Alexander. Both provide tough matchups; Alexander shut down Emmanuel Sanders in Week 3. Cooper can overcome these matchups, but it’s a tough one. The Cowboys will likely run Zeke into the ground against the Packers terrible rush defense. He’ll be in my lineups, but I’ll lower my expectations.

Marquez Valdes-Scantling – MVS gets a bump with Davante Adams likely missing this week, but he has a tough matchup seeing mostly Byron Jones on the left side. He’ll have his opportunities against Chidobe Awuzie on the right side on around 35% of his routes. It’s also possible MVS slides to the right side where Davante Adams normally lines up and sees Awuzie most of the night. MVS is more of a potential volume play as the defacto #1 WR. Jake Kumerow will likely play in 3 WR sets on the outside as he’s back at practice; he’s been a favorite of Rodgers, and he’ll likely get some opportunity as well.

DJ Chark – Chark has played really well this year, and he impresses me more with every game. Chris Harris did not shadow him last week, and he had a TD called back. He might not get the shadow from James Bradberry this week, but I think it makes sense to, especially with him being Gardner Minshew’s favorite target. I’ll start Chark as a WR3 this week, but tempering my expectations in a potential tough matchup.

Keenan Allen – Allen will likely be shadowed by Chris Harris, but he actually doesn’t follow into the slot – this is basically the opposite of what he was doing last season. This means Allen will likely see him on about 50% of routes, and will be free of his coverage on the other 50%. With that being said, the Broncos have been pretty good against slot WRs this year; Allen isn’t a guy you bench obviously, as he can overcome any matchup.

Tyrell Williams – Williams is banged up, but if he plays, he has a tough matchup where he primarily lines up against Prince Amukamara, but will have less of a tough time on the other side against Kyle Fuller. Williams will be about 50% against Amukamara, and the other 50% agaist Fuller and Buster Skrine, so it’s not the worst matchup for him… as long as the Raiders can keep Derek Carr upright.

Juju Smith-Schuster – Juju has it rough right now with Mason Rudolph, but a turnaround is always possible. The Ravens haven’t been good against slot WRs, giving up the 6th most fantasy points to the position. Let’s hope for some more volume – if that gets fixed, you should have your Juju back.


Running Backs

Josh Jacobs – Dalvin Cook took 14 carries for 35 yards last week. Aaron Jones went 13 for 39. If Josh Jacons was involved in the passing game, maybe we’d have some hope with the Bears giving up the 4th most receptions to RBs… but he’s not, so we’ll have to depend on him getting volume. Do you expect Derek Carr to move the ball against this defense to set up Jacobs in good position to score? I’m looking for other options if possible.

Wide Receivers

AJ Brown – After 2 TDs last week, you might think about starting him this week, but without much volume and seeing a lot of Tre White this week, I’ll leave him on my bench or the waiver wire.

Terry McLaurin – McLaurin’s great, but I don’t want to test Stephon Gilmore. The QB situation is up in the air, and there can be a change mid-game once again. With McLaurin recovering from a hamstring injury, things don’t point to anything positive for McLaurin this week.