Fantasy Football Intelligence: The Tapas Version

Fantasy Football Intelligence: The Tapas Version
November 12, 2019

Week 10 was an odd one. If you are managing a playoff team and you came out of this week with a win, good for you. In addition to negotiating six teams on a bye, there were some unexpected results to navigate. If I had a research department, I’d love to know how many weeks in the last ten years both Drew Brees and Aaron Rodgers failed to score even one TD when both were playing. Similarly, Saquon Barkley, Alvin Kamara and Zeke Elliott all failed to crack 50 yards rushing or score. Cooper Kupp entered this week with 58 catches and 792 yards and left the week with the same total. Not one catch on only four targets. If you own Mahomes, Hill, Henry or Aaron Jones you probably had a good week, especially if you grabbed the Ravens defense as we suggested a couple weeks ago for their choice matchup with the Bengals. If you had the foresight (or the lack of options) to start Christian Kirk who erupted for three scores after none in the first nine weeks, congratulations.

My wonderful bride and I began dating 10 years ago this week. Our first date was at a tapas restaurant called Solea in Waltham, MA. (It is still open…haven’t been there in years but it was a good first date spot.) To commemorate the occasion, here are 32 small plates of forward looking fantasy insight, one for each team. And here is a great track from Carlos Santana, who is Mexican-American not Spanish, but it’s appropriate for fantasy football and I like the song.

Arizona – Kyler Murray has recorded no TDs in 4/10 games; that would scare me if I needed him to be good three weeks in a row in the fantasy playoffs. As we discussed the last two weeks, the backfield is currently too crowded to be relied upon.

Atlanta – They have two games left with Tampa and other than @SF on 12/15 I feel pretty good about Ryan, Jones, Hooper and Ridley. The win against New Orleans was impressive, but it is hard to believe the good play is sustainable which means that a top player nicked up late in the season may not be rushed back – something to consider at your trading deadline.

Baltimore – The defense is getting healthy at the right time and their schedule is fairly favorable in the fantasy playoffs. Jackson, Ingram (non-PPR) and Andrews are reliable; Brown is a weapon, but it looks like he will be hit or miss.

Buffalo – Josh Allen has had at least one rushing or passing score every week, but the schedule gets tough in December, vs. BAL, @PIT, @NE, and yardage will be tough to accumulate in those games. Devin Singletary is getting the bulk of the RB action, but loses goal line carries and scores to Allen and Gore. Not enough upside here to rely on any receivers.

Carolina – Set and forget McCaffrey, he looks like a fantasy MVP. Moore is getting a lot of catches and yards, but Samuel has been getting the TDs; if this changes even a little, Moore could be a difference maker the rest of the way.

Chicago – We picked them for regression and so they have – the offense’s inconsistency has hurt the defense and with vs. DAL, @GB, vs. KC and @MIN, the December schedule looks rough. Allen Robinson is good, but is held back by Trubisky though David Montgomery could make some hay in November. This could be a tough situation by December.

Cincinnati – Now starting a rookie QB, they are a target for defensive streamers. We correctly downgraded all their skill players in preseason ranks and while there are match-ups with NYJ and MIA in the back half, none of their skill players should be a week-in, week-out starter.

Cleveland – They have two games with Cincinnati, vs. MIA and @AZ on the schedule so there will be some offensive production and possibly some good match-ups for the defense. Countering that is a regressing Baker Mayfield and borderline incompetent Freddie Kitchens. Cross your fingers with any starter other than Chubb.

Dallas – After the big 3, Gallup has upside as a WR3 and the defense has usable starts left @DET, vs .BUF, @CHI and vs. WAS, but I wouldn’t trust them otherwise. Prescott looks like a mid-range QB1. They are fine from a fantasy perspective, but watching them, they seem like they don’t know what they want to be. Are they Zeke’s team or Dak’s team? Until they answer they answer that for themselves, they won’t be reliable in big games.

Denver – The less exposure the better. Lindsay and Sutton are both good players, but the overall lack of quality on the team will render both risky plays. Denver finishes at home with DET and OAK in weeks 16-17, so if the team hasn’t mailed it in, Lindsay and Sutton could produce in the fantasy playoffs.

Detroit – The health of Stafford informs everything going forward. Golladay is an every week starter regardless, but don’t use Jones or Hockenson without Stafford. If Stafford comes back, he is a viable back end QB1. The backfield is an unusable mess.

Green Bay – Despite Rodgers lack of scores this week, start him along with Jones and Adams confidently. Jamaal Williams has carved out a role, but is TD dependent; if Jones were to get hurt, Williams becomes a RB1 and is a great handcuff now. The pass distribution is too wide to make any of the secondary receivers reliable week-to-week and the defense is match-up dependent.

Houston – While Watson and Hopkins are the blue chips, Hyde is a mid-level RB2 and Fells a back end TD1 with 6 TDs. Duke Johnson has some PPR value, but along with Stills and Fuller (he just returned to practice) is not getting consistent touches week-to-week. In a deep league where 7-10 touches have value however, they make good use of what they get.

Indianapolis – Three division games in the next three weeks tell the tale of this team. Presuming Brissett gets back they will be competitive, but the Colts and fantasy owners really need the return of T.Y. Hilton who has been nicked up most of the year, but still highly productive. He’s likely at least a week away. The lack of passing game impacts Mack’s running and the red zone play calling impacts Mack’s fantasy value, keeping him a high end RB2, not a 1. Jack Doyle and Eric Ebron are viable TEs in a pinch.

Jacksonville – Nick Foles return should not impact the breakout of D.J. Chark who along with Fournette are reliable starters. Fournette, like D.J. Moore of Carolina, is due to get a few more TDs, enhancing his already high value. Foles, Westbrook and the defense all have streaming value.

Kansas City – The defense has a pass rush and not much else. Better than their 6-4 record, the offense is rounding into form. Watch the usage, Damien Williams could be a fantasy difference maker if he finishes the way he did last year. Outside of Hill and Kelce, the receiver I would pick to start at this point is Hardman, not Watkins.

Los Angeles Chargers – At 4-6 and with two games left with KC, the disappointing season is effectively over. Rivers has been somewhat reckless and Keenan Allen has been inconsistent. Mike Williams would have to improve to be inconsistent. TE Hunter Henry has been the best receiver since he returned and is a high end TE1. Austin Ekeler and Melvin Gordon are diluting the fantasy value of each other but both are RB2 worthy. The defense is getting healthier, but their best match-ups left are on the road.

Los Angeles Rams – Another disappointment, they have not been the same since the Super Bowl. They will battle for a wild card and while they have two left with AZ, they also have BAL and SEA at home and visit DAL and SF. Goff is not a fantasy starter, Woods hasn’t scored and Cooks is concussed. Kupp will hopefully return to WR1 status and Gurley is a mid range RB2 with scoring upside, but this team is likely to miss the playoffs.

Miami – Not the pansy they were earlier. Flores is remaking the culture and they have covered their last five, winning their last two. Still lacking in talent and angling for a high pick they remain a target for streamers. DaVante Parker is hot and a WR3 start until further notice. There is no running game to speak of.

Minnesota – Cook is the #2 back in fantasy this year and Minnesota is riding him. The narrow usage keeps Diggs and Thielen (when healthy) relevant, but Cousins has only attempted more than 35 passes twice this season (for context, Tom Brady has thrown 35+ passes in 8/9 games). If you have Thielen or Diggs you are starting them, but they are more like WR2’s than 1’s. They finish with 3/4 division games at home including GB in week 16.

New England – The schedule wks 14-17 is vs. KC, @CIN, vs. BUF, vs. MIA. Brady, Edelman and Michel (non-PPR) will be viable. Keep an eye on James White. Once they get past KC, look for the defense to perform well again too.

New Orleans – Jared Cook is back and can provide TE production if you need it. Kamara does not look 100% and Murray is taking some of his carries. How the team bounces back @TB this week will tell us a lot going forward.

New York Giants – Barkley had one rushing yard against the Jets and is hurt again. They are assembling pieces and on any given week Jones, Tate, Engram, Slayton (Barkley and Shepard if healthy) can put up points. Focus on 12/15 vs. MIA and 12/22 @ WAS, playoff weeks where Giants skill players have value.

New York Jets – We thought the Jets would be .500, but early injuries to Sam Darnold and C.J. Mosley along with overrating Adam Gase doomed our prediction. Couple it with o-line injuries that have slowed Le’Veon Bell and we have the 2nd worst team in NY. They have a favorable schedule over the next month where Bell can make some hay (along with Jamison Crowder in PPR), but they face teams that have something to play for weeks 15-17 and my only start would be Bell, begrudgingly as a RB2.

Oakland Raiders – Surprisingly good on offense, they have delivered Jacobs and Waller as weekly starters. Carr is on the radar these last couple of bye weeks and keep an eye on Tyrell Williams, but no reliable fantasy plays here beyond the RB and TE.

Philadelphia – They may be through the worst of it. The Eagles face NE and SEA at home, but their last five games are @MIA, vs. NYG, @WAS, vs. DAL, @NYG so Wentz, Howard/Sanders, Ertz and Jeffrey could all be fantasy difference makers before the season is over and the defense could have some days as well as they battle for the division or a wild card.

Pittsburgh – After losing their QB and dealing with multiple injuries to their #1 RB, the Steelers D has risen to the occasion and the offense is doing just enough. Conner is mid-range RB1, startable when healthy and the defense is usable for the next six weeks before they visit Baltimore in week 17. Smith-Schuster is battling, but circumstances prevent him from delivering consistent results, though the favorable schedule keeps him in most lineups.

San Francisco – The defense has a couple of tough games with Baltimore and New Orleans left, but by and large are a strong unit. Kittle (when healthy) is by far the best starter and Coleman has risky RB2 value. Sanders (if the rib injury isn’t serious) is a WR2/3. Avoid Garoppolo or any RB besides Coleman unless Coleman gets hurt.

Seattle – Tasty matchup for Wilson, Carson, Lockett and the defense with Arizona in week 16. The addition of Josh Gordon may make Wilson even better, but his presence likely diminishes the value of Metcalf. Watch out for a rematch with the 49ers in week 17 that could tamp down the offense. Lockett suffered an injury in overtime, hopefully he will be okay after the week 11 bye. Kudos to Wilson and the Hawks on a great Monday Night Football win in OT.

Tampa Bay – Much better in fantasy than in real life, you already know to start the WRs. Ronald Jones role in the offense continues to grow and he enters the back end RB2/FLEX conversation. Even Winston, in leagues where INTs are only -1, can bring value.

Tennessee – Derrick Henry is the only sure thing. With a heavy division schedule (4/6 games, 2 vs. Houston), the rest of the offense and the defense isn’t reliable. If you have a need and a strong stomach, you can stream Tannehill who has been QB10 the last four weeks. Tannehill spreads the passes around though, so the receivers are a crapshoot. The Titans are generally well coached, but they are the opposite of Tampa Bay, better in real life than fantasy.

Washington – Derrius Guice is returning this week. If you need a RB, he is worth a flyer, but based on his history and the other backs in Washington, don’t expect him to be a bellcow. Terry McLaurin had a great start to the year, but as long as Haskins is starting it does not appear that he will have enough help at QB to be productive. He is down to 68% owned at this point, so if Keenum gets a start or Haskins starts to play better, McLaurin could resurface as a sanitation engineer in garbage time.