Fantasy Football Start or Sit: Week 7
My wife and I just settled on our Halloween costumes for this year.
It took some consideration and debating, but we looked at our options on the bench -- like rehashing Fry and Leela or using some already-acquired goods to go as Jim and Pam -- and also considered doing something new. After all, the only thing restricting us was budget. We still didn't break the bank with our decision, but the point is that the possibilities were essentially endless.
That's not the case for our fantasy football teams. We have a roster, and we have the waiver-wire. We also have some trade options, but those don't factor into weekly start-or-sit dilemmas -- especially in deeper leagues (14-plus teams where you're generally starting whomever is healthy unless your roster is loaded).
But those start-or-sit scenarios get difficult in small and standard-sized leagues like 8-, 10-, and even some 12-team leagues because only the best options are rostered. In those leagues, I'm not deciding between Damion Ratley and Taylor Gabriel this week. Those decisions are more like: Chris Godwin or Keelan Cole, Alex Collins or Austin Ekeler, and even Drew Brees or Andy Dalton. So while Brees and Michael Thomas travel to face one of the league's toughest defenses, are they both must-sits?
For many reasons, I like to bucket players into groups when deciding who we should start or sit in a given week. To me, no player is ever a must-sit, but there are players you should want to sit if you have other, more viable options. That's the goal here, as well as to show why we should feel certain ways about players.
So, based on market shares, snap counts, betting lines, and defensive matchups, I'll be grouping players into three tiers to help with start-or-sit decisions: players we should be confident about starting, players we can consider playing whenever we don't have better alternatives but who aren't must-plays, and players we should try to bench whenever we do have better alternatives.
These players are listed in order of confidence and preference (so higher on the list means more startable; these aren't rankings, but they're close), and the groupings reflect a 12-team, single-quarterback league with the following hypothetical in mind: if I had other viable options on my bench, should I want to start this player this week? Players not listed should be presumed sit-worthy in a shallow or standard-sized league, and all fantasy points references and rankings reflect half-PPR scoring.
Start With Confidence
- Patrick Mahomes: Mahomes has been the QB4, QB2, QB9, QB11, QB17 (against the Jaguars), and QB3 this season. The Cincinnati Bengals have forced just one quarterback to finish worse than the QB12 (Ryan Tannehill was the QB29 in Week 5).
- Cam Newton: Generally, we want to deploy Newton as a home favorite, but that's not a luxury we get in season-long formats. Quarterbacks against the Philadelphia Eagles have been either held under 14.5 fantasy points or scored more than 31.0. However, Newton has at least 18.0 fantasy points in every game, thanks to rushing lines of 58, 42, 36, 29, and 43 yards, and Marcus Mariota -- the only mobile threat to face Philly -- ran 10 times for 46 yards and a touchdown against the Eagles in Week 4.
- Jared Goff: Goff gets to face the San Francisco 49ers on a short week. He has actually been the QB18 and QB26 in his past two games, which is always in his range of outcomes. As an 11-point favorite at the open, that's in the cards this week, yet the matchup is too good to ignore in a mostly down week at the position.
- Matt Ryan: Ryan has averaged 32.1 fantasy points at home (4 games), compared to 12.1 on the road (2 games). They get yet another home game this week against the New York Giants, who have been about a league-average pass defense by numerous measures. With a total that opened at 54 points, Ryan should come through yet again.
- Tom Brady: Brady faces a Chicago Bears team coming off of a letdown loss. In his first three games, Brady averaged 15.9 passing fantasy points, a number that's up to 20.7 over his past three. Brady has been pressured at the 7th-lowest rate, via ProFooballFocus (PFF), likely mitigating a usually lethal pass rush.
- Carson Wentz: Wentz has been about a league-average passer by our NEP metrics and faces a Carolina Panthers pass defense that ranks outside the top 20 by those same metrics. Excluding his return to action, Wentz has produced at least 20 fantasy points in every game, while the Panthers have let up 17.4 fantasy points per game from passing production over the past four weeks.
- Andy Dalton: Dalton faces a Kansas City Chiefs team that has been roughly league average (16th by numberFire's metrics). Dalton has had a stead floor (at least 13.9 fantasy points in every game with an average of 19.4. Factoring out rushing production (the Chiefs have let up three rushing scores to quarterbacks this year) and a dud from Case Keenum, opposing passers have averaged 22.2 passing fantasy points against the Chiefs.
- Matthew Stafford: Miami started hot against the pass, but they're 21st in adjusted yards per attempt over the past four weeks. Stafford is coming in off a bye week, and Stafford has the Lions as a borderline top-12 passing offense when adjusted for opponent, according to numberFire's metrics.
Consider If Needed
- Drew Brees: Brees had a bye week to figure out the Baltimore Ravens' top-tier pass defense (second by our adjusted metrics) and has three top-three games out of five outings. Baltimore, though, has allowed just a single top-14 quarterback week. Brees falls out of confident start territory, as we have seen a floor game from him outdoors (8.7 fantasy points in the Meadowlands in Week 4), and Mark Ingram is back to steal some work.
- Philip Rivers: Rivers heads to London to face the Tennessee Titans' bottom-half pass defense. They've kept four straight passers to 7.0 yards per attempt or fewer (albeit Blake Bortles, Carson Wentz, Josh Allen, and Joe Flacco). Tennessee hasn't given up more than two touchdown passes in a game, primarily because opponents constantly own a lead against them. Coming off a 20-attempt, 207-yard, 2-touchdown game, Rivers is a high-floor option here, but the ceiling seems capped in what should be a blowout (the spread opened at 6.5 points in favor of the Los Angeles Chargers).
- Kirk Cousins: If not for a rushing score last week, Cousins would've had his 3rd game with fewer than 15 fantasy points over his past four outings. He's faced tough defenses, sure, but the New York Jets aren't a pushover, ranking 10th in pass defense by numberFire's metrics, yet they have let up 355 yards per game to quarterbacks over the past 3. Cousins has been kept clean on just 59.1% of his drop backs, ranking 32nd among 37 qualified passers, via PFF, so he's not the safest bet to come through in this spot.
- Deshaun Watson: The Jacksonville Jaguars have let up an average of just 11.0 passing fantasy points per game, and the only quarterback to top 17.8 fantasy points against them was Dak Prescott, thanks to 82 rushing yards and a touchdown. Watson had run for 40.2 yards per game before just 2 yards in Week 6, but it's a losing proposition to bank on Watson as a road underdog in a 12-team league.
- Jameis Winston: Winston put up 32.9 fantasy points last week in a plus spot but now faces a top-3 pass defense -- the Cleveland Browns -- that has let up just a single top-12 passer and 1.5 passing scores per game. He's not someone to stream again with confidence, even as a home favorite in a game with an opening total of 49.5 points.
- Baker Mayfield: Mayfield's floor has actually been okay excluding his debut (14.8, 19.0, 14.3 fantasy points), and he now faces a Tampa Bay Buccaneers defense that has let up 27.3 passing fantasy points per game and 10.7 adjusted yards per attempt and 0.68 fantasy points per attempt (both league-worst marks).
Bench If Possible
- Andrew Luck: Luck has been trending up and has been improving his average depth of target, but the Buffalo Bills, ranked third in pass defense by numberFire's metrics, have not let up a top-18 week to a quarterback in four straight games.
- Mitchell Trubisky: Trubisky has jumped his touchdown numbers from 2 through his first three games to 9 over his past two, while averaging at least 10.2 yards per attempt in those most recent games. His Passing NEP per drop back in those two games is 0.66 (the league average this season is 0.12) The New England Patriots' pass defense (22nd by numberFire's metrics) allow for Trubisky to enter the streaming conversation at home -- but don't go out of your way to target him.
- Joe Flacco: Flacco hasn't thrown for more than 2 touchdowns since Week 1, yet he's had a usable floor each week with at least 12.2 fantasy points in all six outings. A matchup with the New Orleans Saints' 29th ranked pass defense helps. New Orleans is 31st in adjusted yards per attempt and fantasy points per attempt allowed to passers. He's a low-end streamer -- not someone you should go out of your way to start.
- Alex Smith: Smith hasn't finished better than QB13 yet and hasn't hit 20 fantasy points in a game. He's not running the ball much, either, maxing out at 20 yards in a single game. Dallas has kept opposing passers in check and haven't let up more than two touchdowns in a game.
- Blake Bortles: Bortles' offensive line has been diminished in recent weeks, meaning that a spot against a bottom-tier Houston Texans pass defense isn't a slam dunk for him, given their promising pass rush. Bortles has averaged 31.3 rushing yards per game but has multiple passing touchdowns in just two of six outings.
- Eli Manning: Manning has actually averaged 277 yards per game through the air and now faces a Atlanta Falcons defense that has let up five straight top-10 quarterback performances (30.1 fantasy points per game). He's still someone to bench first, but if you're desperate, then Manning could be in play, given the matchup and the 54-point total at the open.
- Sam Darnold: Darnold faces a Minnesota Vikings defense that ranks 25th against the pass and is losing key contributors by the week. The rookie passer has produced at least 18.2 fantasy points in his past two outings with almost no rushing involvement. Still, he's not on the standard-league streaming radar given the lack of his ceiling (just two of six games over 200 passing yards).
- Case Keenum: Keenum gets a short week to face the Arizona Cardinals on the road. Arizona has let four quarterbacks get to 18.0 or more fantasy points already, a mark Keenum has hit in three of six games. However, the Cards had let up a rushing touchdown in consecutive games to passers -- boosting fantasy production -- and have kept four straight opponents under 7.0 yards per attempt. The offensive line is thinning out for Keenum, and no team has taken away more Net Expected Points from sacks than the Cardinals. Keenum shouldn't be a streaming option unless you're desperate.
- Dak Prescott: Prescott could be a viable fantasy asset if he starts to run more (8.5 attempts for 58 yards per game over his past 2), yet he has averaged 11.6 points as a passer. For context, opponents against the Jaguars have averaged 11.0. Washington's middle-of-the-pack pass defense doesn't put Prescott, who has just a single finish better than QB18 in play in shallow and standard-sized leagues.
- Josh Rosen: Rosen has been solid when not under pressure, but he's constantly facing pressure (41.6% of his drop backs, via ProFootballFocus). The Denver Broncos' pass rush isn't elite, but it's a middle-of-the-pack unit, which could keep Rosen, yet to surpass 240 passing yards or 12.5 fantasy points, bottled up another week.
- Marcus Mariota: Mariota has thrown for more than 129 yards only once and is fresh off an 11-sack, 10-completion outing. The Chargers rank 5th in quarterback hit rate, via FantasyData, and Mariota even has a league-worst quarterback rating from a clean pocket, via PFF. You can't start him.
Start With Confidence
- Todd Gurley: Gurley's 26.5 opportunities (carries plus targets) per game lead all backs, and he's been a top-10 rusher every week, with at least 22.0 fantasy points in every game. Gurley has 26 carries from inside the 10, 11 more than any other player.
- Melvin Gordon: Gordon's worst finish this season is RB14, and he's averaged north of 21 opportunities per game. The Titans are 22nd in Rushing Success Rate allowed to backs, as well, and this is a game where the Chargers should lead (6.5-point favorites).
- Saquon Barkley: Barkley's workload (22.5 opportunities per game, fifth-most among rushers) keeps him as a stellar RB1 in any game, but he now faces a Falcons squad that ranks 31st in fantasy points per target and 23rd in Rushing Success Rate allowed.
- Ezekiel Elliott: Elliott has averaged 24.5 opportunities per game, second-most among all backs. Washington ranks 29th in Rushing Success Rate allowed to backs, as well, so Zeke sets up as a great play even as a slight road underdog.
- Christian McCaffrey: McCaffrey has finished as a top-25 back in every game and is coming off a 100% snap game, his second of the season. The Eagles have been tough on running backs this year (top-12 in fantasy points per carry and per target), but CMC is a locked-in RB1 each week with his workload.
- Joe Mixon: Mixon has played at least 68.9% of snaps in his healthy games, finishing as a top-12 back in all three of those. The Chiefs are 32nd in Rushing Success Rate allowed to backs, as well, and this game has a sky-high over/under.
- Kareem Hunt: Hunt's Chiefs have the highest implied total of the weekend, and the Bengals are just 27th in Rushing Success Rate allowed. Hunt's lack of pass game involvement spiked in Week 6 (six targets for 105 yards and a touchdown, narrowly missing a second score) to quell any concerns.
- Alvin Kamara: Kamara's snap rate fell from 77.3% or higher in the first four games to 47.0% in Mark Ingram's return to action, but there also was no need to run Kamara out in a super positive game script. Late last year, Kamara outsnapped Ingram, so he's a locked-in RB1 with his receiving role in a game against the Ravens' tough run defense.
- Sony Michel: Michel's Patriots are road favorites on the Bears, a tough matchup on paper. Michel, though, has averaged 22.3 carries over the past three weeks, and the Pats' implied total of 26.5 points should give him shots at touchdowns. He's averaged 4.0 carries from inside the 10 in that stretch, second-most in the league.
- James White: White has been a top-22 back in every game, and he's averaged 8.5 targets per game to start the year, third-most among all backs. The Bears are more beatable out of the backfield (ninth in fantasy points per target) than they are on the ground, so White could see heavy receiving usage.
Consider If Needed
- David Johnson: Johnson faces a Broncos team that has let up two straight 200-yard rushers, but he's not a great bet to take full advantage. Right guard Justin Pugh broke his hand last week, and left guard Mike Iupati left with a back injury. They're both day-to-day, and 55 of Johnson's 92 carries have come directly off the center. As an offense, the Cardinals' backs rank 28th in Rushing Success Rate, and Arizona is actually a slim underdog at home.
- Tevin Coleman: Coleman has averaged fewer than 50 total yards per game since a 125-yard breakout in Week 2. Still, the Falcons are without Devonta Freeman, and the Falcons get a home matchup against the Giants in a game with a total north of 50 points.
- LeSean McCoy: McCoy has totaled 48 opportunities in his past two games while playing at least 70% of snaps in each of those contests. He's yet to get to even 86 rushing yards in a game, and he's now without Josh Allen (if that matters?). However, you're probably not in a state to bench a player with 24 opportunities per game the past two weeks, regardless of his lack of touchdown upside.
- Tarik Cohen: Cohen has had consecutive top-eight weeks while playing shy of 50.0% of snaps in every game this season. Cohen has seen 17 targets over the past two, and the Pats are 23rd in fantasy points per target to backs. He should be featured in the game plan.
- Mark Ingram: Ingram turned 18 opportunities and a 54.5% snap rate into 73 yards, not the most efficient day. He was, however, saved by two touchdowns. The point is that he now faces a Ravens defense that has let up just one total touchdown to backs to start the season.
- T.J. Yeldon: News that Carlos Hyde won't play this week keeps Yeldon in a solid spot. Yeldon has produced at least 8.0 fantasy points in every game, ranking has a top-34 back in all of those. His snap rate did decline (92.8% in Week 5 and 64.6% in Week 6). Yeldon is dealing with ankle issues, but the Texans are below average in fantasy points per target allowed to the position. If he pushes for two-thirds of the snaps, he should come through again as one of the highest-floor running backs available.
- Adrian Peterson: Peterson is a 1.5-point favorite at home, so we can guess at a neutral or even positive script here. In those circumstances, we can lean on AD, who has averaged 22.0 opportunities in his three games with at least half the snaps played.
- Latavius Murray: Murray is headed toward another lead-back outing in Week 7. He's played 74.2% and 81.7% of snaps the past two games with opportunity counts of 13 and 16 in those. The Vikes are road favorites on a mid-range rush defense in the Jets.
- Matt Breida: Breida has had double-digit opportunities in every healthy game and has finished as a top-30 back in every week since Week 2. He played 47.4% of snaps last week, so it seems like he's healthy enough for a negative script in Week 7.
- Chris Thompson: Thompson has averaged 7.8 targets per game (7, 14, 2, and 8), and he's finished as a top-30 back in three of four games. He can get phased out early, but Dallas' rush defense is tough, so he's in play for a strong pass-game workload again.
- Jordan Howard: Howard's snap rate has fizzled to 54.1% and 51.4% the past two games, and we can start to panic after his RB52 and RB41 finishes, but he still has had 12 and 15 opportunities in those, nothing to ignore when he's in a game with a total of nearly 50 points. Normally, he'd profile as a flashy name to sit, but the situation isn't quite as bad as the recent finishes suggest, and he's had all four red zone carries in those two games.
- Phillip Lindsay: Lindsay's Week 6 snap rate was problematic (30.3%), yet he was the RB24 on just 11 opportunities, thanks to 6 catches for 46 yards. The Broncos just lost left guard Ronald Leary for the season, but the Cardinals have already let up five top-12 running back weeks and seven top-24 weeks).
- Wendell Smallwood: Smallwood was the first option for the Eagles last week and wound up playing 62.0% of the snaps and handling 20 opportunities. He parlayed those into just 51 yards, but indications are that he will be the go-to back in a game where his team is favored by five points. He had six of nine red zone carries in Week 6.
- Nick Chubb: Chubb has maxed out at three touches in a game this year, but with Carlos Hyde out of the way, he stands to take over a significant portion of Hyde's workload. The Bucs will be without Gerald McCoy this week, and that -- plus the opportunity and over/under in this game -- puts Chubb into playable status.
- Kenyan Drake: It's hard to stomach Drake at this point, but he's actually averaged 18.0 opportunities over the past two games and has played 60.0% of snaps in five of six games. Detroit boasts a bottom-two rush defense by Rushing Success Rate allowed.
- Kerryon Johnson: Johnson has yet to hit 50.0% of snaps but has averaged 14.3 opportunities per game over his past four. Miami, though, has allowed six different backs to post a top-12 week.
- Corey Clement: Clement returned to play 36.6% of snaps and handle 14 opportunities. He generated 69 yards and a rushing score on those looks. He was treated as a secondary option behind Smallwood, so we should keep that in mind, but he's a flex play with his per-touch potential. Carolina has let up 1.36 fantasy points per target to backs (sixth-most of any team).
- Peyton Barber: Barber, coming off of a 41-snap, 17-opportunity game, is a flex candidate. He's been fending off Ronald Jones but has yet to score on the ground (63 carries). As a home favorite in a game with an over/under that's nearly 50 points, you could do worse than Barber this week.
- Duke Johnson: Johnson has maxed out at eight opportunities in a single game. However, Duke has played roughly half the snaps in two straight contests, and now is losing competition from Carlos Hyde. It's possible Nick Chubb is used identically, but the Bucs have let up more fantasy points per target to backs than any other team. It could happen this week.
- Marlon Mack: Mack handled 14 of 25 available opportunities for running backs in the Colts' offense last week, and he played 34.8% of the snaps. That's not usually a rate high enough to warrant starting, but Indy is a 7.5-point favorite over the Bills, suggesting that he'll be in play for double-digit carries again.
- Royce Freeman: Freeman led the Broncos' backfield in snaps (just 37.9%) last week but has had double-digit looks just once in his past five games. Still, this week presents a spot for the Broncos to build a lead and let Freeman handle touches against a backfield that has let 10 different rushers finish inside the top-36 already this season.
- Lamar Miller: Miller would normally be a player we could just write up as a sit because of the terrible matchup (19-point implied team total, 5-point road underdog, depleted offensive line against a team that ranks fifth in Rushing Success Rate allowed to backs), but he still played 67.2% of snaps and handled 18 opportunities in Week 6. He's been the RB23, RB35, RB28, RB38, and RB30, scoring at least 8.0 fantasy points in four of five games.
- Bilal Powell: Despite a falling snap rate (63.6%, 54.8%, 45.1%), Powell has finished as the RB37 or better in every game, thanks to opportunity totals of 14, 11, 15, 15, 20, and 17. He's not someone to target actively, but he's a flex-worthy play if needed.
- Dion Lewis: The Chargers have allowed 1.32 fantasy points per target to backs, ranking 24th in the league, and Lewis is fresh off of a 72.7% snap game. He's been above 63.0% in three straight contests, so he's a dart throw if you need to go there.
Bench If Possible
- Alex Collins: Collins runs the risk of being scripted out of this game if Baltimore falls behind. He's averaged fewer than 50 yards per game on the ground, and the Saints are the top rush defense by Rushing Success Rate allowed.
- Javorius Allen: Allen makes sense in theory but had a lowly four touches in Week 6, while playing 37.3% of the team's snaps. The Saints are 20th in fantasy points per target allowed to backs, though, so he could be in store for extra receiving work.
- Austin Ekeler: Ekeler is a borderline bench candidate. He's a sure bet for about a third of the snaps and roughly 10 touches in a strong offense. He's been the RB22, RB22, and RB35 even with just three total catches in that span. Still, he's not the type of play we should be hoping to deploy in a positive script.
- Isaiah Crowell: Crowell's alternated big games and duds. For all of the Vikings' defensive struggles, they've limited big plays (7th in Rushing NEP per carry allowed to backs) but have let up some consistent gains (28th in Rushing Success Rate allowed). Crowell has had at least 15 looks in four of his past five games, so he's in the flex conversation, but he's a bench-if-possible given the Vikings' propensity to limit big rushes.
- Nyheim Hines: Hines' snap count dropped to 43.5% last week with the return of the Mack, and he saw just six total opportunities. As a home favorite and with a quarterback downgrade, Hines should have his pass-catching role limited. Bench him if you can.
- Derrick Henry: Henry's Titans are 6.5-point underdogs in London, not a script we can deploy him in even if we're desperate. He has yet to score more than six fantasy points, despite double-digit chances in five of six games.
Start With Confidence
- Adam Thielen: Thielen has been over 100 yards in every game and has a 32.8% target share and 44.2% of the air yards in the Vikings' offense. He'll face a depleted Jets secondary that ranks 21st in fantasy points per target allowed to receivers since Week 4.
- Julio Jones: Jones has yet to score this year but has at least 8.7 fantasy points in every game and at least 12.1 in four of six games. Jones has accounted for a league-high 47.7% of his team's air yards and has been targeted on 31.1% of Matt Ryan's throws. As a whole, the Giants' pass defense grades out as a below-average unit.
- A.J. Green: Green has a 24.5% target share and 34.4% air yards share over his past three games but faces a Chiefs secondary that has actually been kind of tough this year, ranking third in fantasy points per target and fourth in Target Success Rate allowed to receivers. Still, Green, who has a league-high 11 end zone targets, is a locked-in play in a game with a 58.5-point total.
- Odell Beckham: OBJ has accounted for 29.8% of the team's targets and 41.1% of the air yards even in a bit of a down stretch to start the season. He's still had a high floor -- at least 7.1 fantasy points in every game -- and now faces a Falcons defense surrendering 1.65 fantasy points per target to receivers (25th-most).
- DeAndre Hopkins: Hopkins had 16 and 13 targets against the Jags last year, but he caught just 11 of those 29 targets for a total of 135 yards. He did score in each game, though, to help out. Nuk's 29.9% target share and 41.5% air yards share keep him a must-play.
- Stefon Diggs: Diggs owns a sturdy 24.6% target share and 32.6% of the air yards in his offense but is prone to down weeks while Thielen takes over in the slot. He moves all over the field enough to get some mismatches, and the Jets have let up five top-25 performances to receivers over the past three weeks.
- Tyreek Hill: Hill has offered up double-digit fantasy points in five of six games this year and has twice finished as the WR1. The Bengals haven't let up a top-six receiver game yet but have surrendered three top-12 and six top-24 games.
- Julian Edelman: Edelman has a 21.1% target share since his return, and Chicago has been vulnerable to receivers this year. Additionally, short passes to Edelman make sense to deal with the Bears' pass rush.
- Brandin Cooks: Cooks came back strong in Week 6, running a route on 34 of 35 drop backs and seeing 121 air yards on 6 targets. He reeled in just 2 of those balls for 53 yards, but he can avoid the stationary Richard Sherman.
- Robert Woods: Woods also can avoid Richard Sherman's coverage often enough based on his pre-snap alignment. Woods has accounted for 25.8% of the targets and 35.8% of the air yards in the league's second-best passing offense this season. He's been a top-16 receiver in four straight weeks and has notched at least 15.6 fantasy points in all of those.
- Alshon Jeffery: Jeffery has seen 9, 8, and 12 targets in his three games (a 24.8% target share), finishing as the WR11, WR74, and WR8. He's scored three times and had three end zone targets. Carolina's pass defense is middle-of-the-road.
- Golden Tate: Tate has averaged a team-high 10.2 targets per game over the full season, and Miami is 23rd in fantasy points per target allowed to the position.
Consider If Needed
- Michael Thomas: Thomas' matchup against the Ravens is a prime example of the start/sit dilemma in fantasy football. The Ravens are first in Target Success Rate allowed to receivers and now have Jimmy Smith back. They've allowed just two top-12 receivers this year. Thomas' elite volume has tailed off quickly (17, 13, 10, 4, 5 targets), and he's been scoreless in two straight games. He's down to a 17.8% air yards share over his past two games. He's got more competition now than ever before with Mark Ingram and Tre'Quan Smith. But you're still not going to bench him unless you're loaded at receiver or are in a shallow league because the total is still 50 points and he has 11 combined targets from inside the 10 and the end zone.
- Mike Evans: Evans has posted two straight duds (8.9 and 7.8 fantasy points), and the Browns are a tough matchup, ranking sixth in fantasy points per target allowed to receivers. His target share is down to 17.6% over the past three games, and he's just third in target share from Winston this season.
- Emmanuel Sanders: Sanders faces a Cardinals secondary that ranks first in fantasy points per target allowed, primarily because they had limited touchdowns (just two on the year). Those two scorers came in the past two weeks to slot receivers Trent Taylor and Adam Thielen. Sanders' target share sits at 26.7% over the past three games.
- Jarvis Landry: Landry has fallen from must-start status, despite 10, 10, and 9 targets in his past three games. He caught just two of nine last week for 11 yards and has just 1 touchdown this season. However, he's run every route available the past two weeks, and Tampa is 31st in both Target Success Rate and fantasy points per target allowed to receivers.
- Kenny Golladay: Golladay is coming into this one off of a 7-target game (30.4% of the team's attempts), and he's been a top-25 receiver in four of five games, thanks to a floor of 53 yards and 4 catches.
- Keenan Allen: Allen has been the WR44, WR76, WR41, WR22, and WR27 over his past five games and still has a 29.8% target share over his past three games. Allen will avoid Adoree' Jackson, but the Logan Ryan slot matchup isn't necessarily elite, either. He's still in the WR2 conversation, given the market shares.
- Tyler Boyd: Boyd gets a boost in a game with a massive total, but the Chiefs do a have a deceptively good receiver defense. Boyd has 24.5% of the Bengals' targets over the past three games.
- Sammy Watkins: Watkins' dud last week didn't make much sense. He ran every possible pass route but saw just 11.1% of the team's targets and 6.7% of the air yards. Still, his projected floor gets raise in a game with a 58.5-point total, so Watkins -- despite a down game and a tough matchup -- still sets up as someone to plug into our lineups this week.
- Josh Gordon: Gordon's snaps went up in Week 6 (63 after playing 18 in each of his first two games with the Pats), and his route share spiked to nearly 70%. The total is nearly 50 points, and Gordon has two end zone targets already with the Patriots.
- Allen Robinson: Robinson's target share is down to 18.9% and his air yards share is just 25.0% over the past three games, but he's still had at least 50 yards or a score in every game, and the Patriots are just a mid-range pass defense. In a game with a high total, that keeps him in the WR3 conversation.
- Devin Funchess: Funchess has a 23.4% target share over his past three games -- plus 36.1% of the team's air yards. He's had at least 3 catches and 41 yards in every game, so he's got a high enough floor for the flex in most 12- and 14-team lineups. In Greg Olsen's return, Funchess finished as the WR15 (15.9 fantasy points), and the Eagles are 22nd in Target Success Rate allowed to receivers.
- Marvin Jones: Jones has 11 end zone targets but just a single finish better than WR30 and nothing better than WR19 to show for it. His yardage upside is gone, as he's been under 70 yards in every contest. He now will face Xavien Howard on a significant portion of his routes. Knock him down the list, but he's still had a 7.0-point fantasy floor, keeping him out of "bench if possible" territory.
- John Brown: Brown was phased out last week, seeing just 3 targets after having 10, 9, 7, and 14 in the four weeks leading up to it. He's been held to fewer than 60 yards in two straight games, but it's a bounce-back spot against a Saints pas defense that ranks 30th in Target Success Rate to receivers.
- Sterling Shepard: Shepard is still playable because of the matchup with Atlanta, but he had a 14.8% target share in the first two weeks with Evan Engram healthy and finished with 7.3 and 3.9 fantasy points. Engram should be back, meaning he falls down the pecking order.
- Michael Crabtree: Crabtree notched his first top-30 week this year a week ago (WR13 and 18.3 fantasy points) despite running just 26 routes. He's up to a 29.1% air yards share over his past two games, though, and a matchup with the Saints keeps him in play this week.
- Corey Davis: Davis has finished better than WR44 once because his offense has thrown for more than 130 yards once. His usage (31.1% target share and 40.3% air yards share) is elite, and the Chargers are 27th in fantasy points per target allowed to receivers. If there's a week for a solid game, it's this one.
Bench If Possible
- Will Fuller: Fuller doesn't need volume in most matchups, but in Jacksonville, we can't bank on his current volume (three targets in each of his past two games -- despite playing his usual snaps and running routes) against a defense that has let up just 1.17 fantasy points per target to the position (second-fewest).
- Demaryius Thomas: Thomas plays from the slot enough to avoid Patrick Peterson on a significant portion of his routes, but his target share has fallen to 14.3% over the past three games, and he's run 52.7% and 77.3% of routes the past two games. He's banking on touchdowns, something the Cardinals have limited this season, letting up just two -- both to interior receivers.
- DeSean Jackson: Jackson has run a route on fewer than 70% of drop backs in every game this year but has seen 12 targets from Jameis Winston, more than any other Buc. In a game with a total near 50 points, he's worth a dart in deeper leagues, but that's it, given how low the floor can be.
- Taylor Gabriel: Gabriel is trending the right way with a 34.4% air yards share and 23.3% of the Bears' targets over the past three games, so he's in play in deeper leagues in a game with a high total and a New England defense that ranks a respectable 11th in Passing NEP per attempt on deep throws.
- Antonio Callaway: Callaway sounds like a "start" if we're just looking at matchups, and he's got a 32.0% air yards share and 21.1% target share over the past three games, yet he hasn't hit double-digit fantasy points in four straight games. He's a deep-league start and a desperation start, but he's not a slam dunk as much as we'd want him to be in this spot.
- Marquise Goodwin: Goodwin's route rate jumped to 96.4% last week, up from 63.9% and 64.3% in his two most recent healthy games, but we have to expect the 49ers to throw in a game against the Rams. San Fran is a 10-point underdog, and the Rams are beatable deep, ranking 30th in Passing NEP per attempt on deep throws.
- Chris Godwin: Godwin has been the WR35, WR29, WR26, WR87, and WR20 this year, finishing as a flex-worthy option in every game he's scored. He's maxed out at 74 yards, but out of the bye, he saw 9 targets (22.5% of the looks) and scored again.
- Robby Anderson: Anderson gets a boost from the absence of Quincy Enunwa's 27.6% target share through Week 5. Anderson is up to a 19.5% target share and 33.3% of the air yards over his past three games, but you can't be overly eager to target him in a game where his Jets have an implied total of 22 points.
- Keelan Cole, Donte Moncrief, and Dede Westbrook: The top finish for these receivers by week are WR48, WR7, WR51, WR13, WR30, and WR34, so the weekly gamble hasn't even been worth the payoff. Houston -- for all of its struggles -- ranks 10th in fantasy points per target to tight ends.
- Jamison Crowder, Paul Richardson, and Josh Doctson: The Cowboys have let up just two top-12 receivers this year and keep pass volume in check. None of them have a target share above 15.0% this season, so the volume isn't there to project any of them for a usable week in standard sized-leagues.
- Larry Fitzgerald: Fitz is running nearly 80% of his routes from the slot, and that means a matchup with Chris Harris, one of the toughest matchups possible. He has yet to finish better than WR37 in a week and hasn't topped 6.4 fantasy points since Week 1.
- Pierre Garcon: The Rams have let up 10 touchdowns, 9.0 yards per target, and 1.79 fantasy points per target to receivers, yet Garcon hasn't gotten to 60 yards or the end zone yet this season. He owns a 23.6% target share and 28.8% of the air yards over the past three games, so he's a sit based on his ceiling rather than his floor.
- Nelson Agholor: Agholor busted out some big gains in Week 6 but still returned just 10.6 fantasy points (WR39). He's down to an 11.9% target share over his past two games.
- Mike Williams: Williams has been better than the WR40 just once this year and has actually been the WR98, WR65, and WR92 the past three weeks while boasting a lowly 13.1% target share.
- Christian Kirk: Kirk is trending up, with a 22.0% target share outside of Week 1, yet the Cardinals' low volume combined with a tough overall matchup with Denver on a short week keeps him out of the 12-team league conversation.
Start With Confidence
- Travis Kelce: Kelce owns a 26.8% target share on the season and 26.5% of the air yards in the league's top passing offense, per numberFire's metrics. As a home favorite in a game with a total near 60 points, you can't ask for anything else.
- Zach Ertz: Ertz has a 29.1% target share since the return of Alshon Jeffery and has run a route on at least 86.5% of drop backs in every game this year. His nine targets last week marked the first single-digit target game for him this season. Carolina has let up 1.62 fantasy points per target to tight ends, 24th-most in the league.
- Rob Gronkowski: You're taking what you can get from Gronk, who has been staying in to block a bit more of late (he ran a route on 92.7%, 86.8%, and 96.4% of drop backs through Week 3 before 71.4%, 77.3%, and 73.7% the past three games). He hasn't scored since Week 1 and has just 2 end zone targets but has at least averaged 86.0 receiving yards per game over the past two weeks.
- David Njoku: Njoku's targets have gotten even heavier over the past two weeks (11 and 12 after an average of 5.8 through Week 4). The Bucs are 32nd in fantasy points per target and 29th in Target Success Rate allowed to tight ends.
- George Kittle: Kittle has been a super efficient option this year and has accounted for 23.3% of the 49ers' targets. The Rams haven't let up a touchdown to the position yet, but they're 19th in Target Success Rate allowed to tight ends.
- Kyle Rudolph: He's been scoreless in three straight games but has had at least four catches in every week since Week 2, which can't be understated given the volatility at the tight end position. The Jets are 21st in fantasy points per target allowed to tight ends.
- Jordan Reed: Reed's 9 targets led to just 36 yards last week, and he hasn't scored since Week 1. He also hasn't topped 65 yards yet, so the ceiling has been capped. A matchup with Dallas, who has let up just two top-12 tight end weeks, keeps Reed as just a fringe TE1 option this week.
Consider If Needed
- Eric Ebron: Ebron's 19.9% target share over the past three games and heavy goal-line usage keeps him in the conversation, despite playing a really tough pass defense. Buffalo has let up just 6.0 yards per target to tight ends, yet the Colts' pass-heavy approach keeps Ebron in the TE1 conversation.
- Evan Engram: Engram owned a 16.0% target share in his two healthy games and gets a dome matchup with a bottom-five tight end defense. We just can't know how healthy he is or if he'll be limited.
- Greg Olsen: Olsen's matchup is borderline dreadful, as the Eagles are 1st in Target Success Rate allowed to tight ends (and 11th in fantasy points per target). However, he returned in Week 6 to play 98.3% of snaps and ran a route on 81.4% of the Panthers' drop backs. Overall, he had 7 targets in his return, an 18.9% target share. That keeps him as a floor play despite the matchup.
- Trey Burton: Burton has had at least four catches in three of his past four games and a touchdown in three of those four, too. He's cleared 55 yards just once, so a touchdown threat in a game with a total that's nearly 50 points is playable, even if the floor could fall out.
- Austin Hooper: Hooper's target share has spiked to 26.2% over the past two games (it's 16.7% on the full season), and he's accounted for 19.4% of the team's air yards in those two contests. He's now a home favorite in a dome with an over/under of 54 points.
- O.J. Howard: Howard was back in action last week, playing 51.5% of snaps (compared to an average snap rate of 70.2% through Week 3). He had just 4 targets but netted 62 yards a 1 touchdown. The high total keeps him in play this week.
- C.J. Uzomah: Uzomah's route rate spiked to 84.4% last week, and he saw 7 targets for 54 yards last week. The Chiefs are a bottom-half tight end defense, so Uzomah is in contention as a streamer this week in a game that should feature the most points.
- Ricky Seals-Jones: RSJ's snap count has dipped of late (92.5%, 97.8%, 84.0%, 65.0%, 66.7%, 67.2%), but he still has 16 targets in his past three games and a 32.4% air yards share. Denver's 29th in fantasy points per target allowed to tight ends. The matchup suggests to sit him, but let's be realistic with our tight end selection. The deep balls keep him in desperation play
Bench If Possible
- Benjamin Watson: Watson's route rate has fallen each week (76.1%, 68.4%, 60.8%, 40.0%, and 37.5%), and he's yet to score this season. He now has more competition for goal-line looks and targets.
- Cameron Brate: Brate was outsnapped by Antony Auclair last week and got bailed out with a touchdown on his lone target.
- Antonio Gates: Gates has run more than half of the Chargers' pass routes just once this year and has averaged 3.0 targets per game. The Titans are first in fantasy points per target to the position.