Another round of NFL games is in the books, and we are already a quarter of a way through the regular season. It’s moving even faster for fantasy purposes with most leagues starting their playoffs in Week 13 of the NFL season. You should now have a pretty good idea of where you stand in the playoff picture for your league, but it’s not too late to make a push if you got off to a slow start.
We are now into the second round of bye weeks, so your starting options might be more limited with the following teams on a bye:
- Chicago Bears
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Start: Patrick Mahomes – Kansas City
This doesn’t take much explanation, but don’t get cute sitting Mahomes against Jacksonville. You should lower your expectation, and there might be an interception or two, but I’m confident in Mahomes’ chances to finish as a QB1 this Week.
Stream: Blake Bortles – Jacksonville Jaguars
Bortles is only 18.1% owned on ESPN leagues and is a prime spot to finish as a top 10 QB this week. He gets to go up against the porous Kansas City defense which has given up the second most yards to opposing QBs. Even better for Bortles is that Leonard Fournette is out. The Jaguars change the style of play when Fournette is in the game, which benefits Bortles in yardage, interceptions, and TD output:
Sit: Russell Wilson – Seattle Seahawks
It would have been unthinkable last season if you thought you should sit Wilson in any week, regardless of the matchup. But here we are. The Seattle coaching staff is doing their best to destroy Russell Wilson. He faces the Rams this week in a divisional matchup, who have had plenty of time to prepare for this game after their Thursday Night Football blockbuster with the Vikings. Wilson is QB20 on the season, and his usually reliable fantasy floor has evaporated as his rush attempts have dropped off. In 2017, he averaged nearly 6 attempts per game for 36 yards. Through four weeks in 2018, he’s averaging 10 yards per game on approximately 3 attempts.
Start: Matt Breida – San Francisco 49ers
Just as we predicted at the start of the season, Matt Breida leads the NFL in Football Outsiders’ DYAR and DVOA metrics and is 3rd in the NFL in rushing yards. In reality, no one predicted this, but it provides a perfect snapshot of the unpredictability of the game we love. Breida is a solid play this week against the Cardinals who have given up the most fantasy points to opposing RBs (albeit partially inflated by the 8 total TDs scored by opposing backs) and were just gashed by Mike Davis (you’re not alone if you’re wondering who the heck Mike Davis is).
Start: James Conner – Pittsburgh Steelers
Since bursting onto fantasy radars in Week 1, Conner’s fantasy production has dropped each week and he failed to reach 10 points against the Ravens in Week 4. No wonder Le’Veon Bell chose now to voice his intentions to return to the Steelers. However, I believe Conner will bounce back in a big way against the Falcons, who have given up the second most fantasy points to the position which is in part due to them conceding 10.5 receptions and 77.5 receiving yards per game to running backs. This is a perfect spot for Conner to bounce back, after posting 5 receptions in three straight games to open the season.
Sit: Chris Carson – Seattle Seahawks
Just as Carson was making the running back position his own, with a 20 point outing against the Cowboys, he suffered an injury which allowed Mike Davis to post his own 100 yard game against the soft Cardinals rush defense. Right on cue, the perpetually infuriating Pete Carroll has said that Davis and Penny will remain involved, which makes this running back committee one to avoid for the near future, particularly with a tough matchup against the Rams this week.
Sit: Jamaal Williams – Green Bay Packers
This is Aaron Jones backfield now. He came back from his suspension and produced immediately, finishing with 15.2 fantasy points. The snap count between Jones and Williams was almost identical, and both had 11 carries. Of course, Jones did more with his carries because he’s actually a good running back, but his usage in the Red Zone tells the biggest story. Williams had zero attempts, Jones had 5, and Ty Montgomery had 2. Yes, even Ty-Mo had more opportunities than Williams, who failed to register a target in the air either. He should be strapped to your benches in Week 5, even with a juicy matchup against the Lions who have given up the third most fantasy points against the run.
P.S. Start Aaron Jones.
Start: Amari Cooper – Oakland Raiders
Cooper has been the definition of boom or bust this season. He scored a combined 6.5 points in Weeks 1 and 3, and a whopping 48.4 points in Weeks 2 (WR10) and 4 (WR7). This week, he has the chance to buck his up and down trend, and post back to back top 12 fantasy weeks. To many people’s surprise, the Chargers have been awful against the pass and given up the 6th most points to the WR position. They are clearly missing Jason Verrett and Joey Bosa’s absence on the defensive line will not be helping matters either. Amari has been moved around the field in his four games this season, lining up as a left, right, and slot receiver at a rate of 30.3%, 34.5%, and 35.2% respectively. The Chargers best CB Casey Hayward shadows the opposing WR1 but does not line up in the slot. This should present Cooper with an opportunity to line up against Desmond King on a third of his routes, who is allowing a 75% completion rate and a passer rating of 92.4 when targeted. Even more, promising for Cooper is that when he doesn’t see Hayward, Trevor Williams has allowed a passer rating of 153.3 on 7 targets.
There is a risk in starting Amari this week, but it might just pay off, especially given the fact that the Chargers are expected to score points against an average at best Oakland defense.
Start: Jamison Crowder – Washington Redskins
tson. However, the Saints are particularly vulnerable in the slot this season. Expect the Redskins, coming off their bye week to take full advantage.
Sit: Nelson Agholor – Philadelphia Eagles
Alshon Jeffrey is back, and he looked very good in his return to playing action catching 8 passes for 105 yards and a touchdown on 9 targets. Agholor was also heavily targeted but only managed 5 catches on 12 targets for 22 yards. Whilst there is the volume for Agholor, he is being used in a very specific role, which is evident from his average depth of target of 8.4 yards (per airyards.com) and his total yardage line of 168 yards through 4 games. Zach Ertz leads the team in targets, and the return of Jeffrey puts Agholor third in line. If you’re desperate, he’s a borderline flex play in PPR scoring, but he’s a sit for me this week against a solid Vikings defense that had only given up 317 yards to WRs in three games prior to running into the LA Rams buzz saw.
Sit: Donte Moncrief – Jacksonville Jaguars
Fresh off his first 100 yard game for the Jags, as well as a touchdown, Moncrief at first seems like a strange sit decision. Especially when you consider the easy matchup against the Chiefs. However, when you look a little closer, there is a reason for concern this week. Firstly, Keelan Cole and Dede Westbrook both have several more targets than him, and Cole has played 6% more snaps. The target share and snap count tell us that is a clear WR timeshare. So far in 2018, Moncrief has run an equal 45.3% of his snaps from both the left and the right WR positions and approximately 10% from the slot. Unfortunately this week, when he lines up on the right side of the field he will draw coverage from Orlando Scandrick (the left CB on 93.6% of snaps). Despite the poor KC secondary, Scandrick has been a bright spot and has allowed only 7 completions on 20 targets and a passer rating of 59.2. Moncrief has only caught 54.5% of his targets this season, and that efficiency could be even worse with nearly half of his snaps coming against Scandrick.
It’s counter-intuitive to bench a guy off a 21 point outing, but Cole and Westbrook are much safer options this week.
Start: George Kittle – San Francisco 49ers
Kittle had a big Week 4, making my sit call look pretty foolish. In my defense, he was only 5 for 43 before his 82-yard touchdown catch and run late in the 3rd quarter. He won’t score one of those each week, but importantly he led the team in targets with 8. 1 more than Pierre Garçon who had 7. In 2017 Kittle performed better by 3.5ppg without Beathard, but it seems that has changed in 2018. Kittle owners rejoice, he’s still a viable fantasy asset, which considering the wasteland that is the TE position, is a very fortunate thing. The Cardinals have been above average against the TE, but volume alone should keep Kittle in the start column.
Stream: Austin Seferian-Jenkins – Jacksonville Jaguars
It’s touchdown or bust for ASJ, as he is yet to record more than 3 catches or reach 30 yards in a game. However, he managed a touchdown against New England to finish with 11.3 points on the week putting as the TE12 for the week. If you are streaming the positions, that is a more than respectable finish. In Week 5, he matches up against the undefeated Kansas City Chiefs, who once again showed off the frailties of their defense against Denver. Whilst they have only given up 1 touchdown to the TE position, they have conceded the 4th most points to the position and the 3rd most yardage. Expect Jacksonville to target this area, particularly as Blake Bortles improves his output when Leonard Fournette does not play (see above).
Sit: Eric Ebron – Indianapolis Colts
The Patriots defense is not the strongest, but they defend against the TE position well. Ebron has seen his playing time skyrocket thanks to the absence of Jack Doyle, averaging approximately 35% in over the first two weeks and 85% over Weeks 3 and 4. It follows then that his target output has increased (averaging 10.5 per game in Weeks 3 and 4). His strong Week 4 outing came against the Texans who have been awful against the TE position (dating back to last season too). The Patriots have given up the 2nd fewest points to the position, which makes Ebron a sit candidate, especially given that the Patriots scheme to take away their opponents best options. However, given the lack of the depth of the position, Ebron could still finish Week 5 as low-end TE1 on volume alone, but you might be able to find a better matchup and avoid the Thursday night game.
Stream: Arizona Cardinals
The Cards have a nice matchup in Week 5 against the 49ers and C.J. Beathard. Whilst he was serviceable against the Chargers, Arizona has been quietly successful against the pass, conceding the 5th fewest fantasy points to QBs (and the Redskins in first place have only played 3 games). As well as being inside the top 8 for fantasy points conceded to the TE and WR positions. However, you beat the Cardinals on the ground (see above). Whilst I expect the Cardinals to cede points on the ground, their ability to defend the pass, and Beathard’s tendency to turn the ball over means that the Cardinals are in play as a streaming option this week.
Sit: Seattle Seahawks
The ‘Hawks find themselves as the 7th highest scoring defense on ESPN but should be avoided at all costs this week, as they face the Rams juggernaut offense. No defense has managed to score a single fantasy point against Sean McVay and Jared Goff. Twice opposing defenses have been held to zero. This sounds bad until you realise the next two defenses scored negative points. Making things even worse is the loss of Earl Thomas for the rest of the season. Bench the Seattle defense this week.
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See you next week.