By The Hudsonian, Joshua Hudson
I would first like to start off by saying I’m sorry.
When The Commish and I started this site up last year, we wanted nothing more than to provide you all with a fresh, real perspective on fantasy football and deliver advice that rivaled the “experts” but presented in a less filtered way that made it too mainstream. Of course, as a new entity, it’s hard to dedicate 100% of our time to this as like you, we have bills to pay, mouths to feed, all that gooey nonsense that you really don’t care about.
I have tried my hardest to not let my day job get in the way of answering any fantasy questions any of you have, ranking the players on a weekly basis, and writing this column. In fact, this is actually my favorite column to write so I’ve always made this a priority.
This past week, I failed. My job sent me on the road and unbeknownst to me before leaving, the hotel I was booked did not have WiFi — I know, right? Is that even possible nowadays?! — so I had no way of posting what I had written. I tried to at least make up for it by getting my list to my social media superstars, but that is expecting you to have blind faith without knowing why I like those particular players.
So for that, I apologize. I am here to do better this week and earn back your trust, as all of you are coming up on your final weeks before the playoffs. Who is going to get you over the top and get you a win this week? The next paragraph down starts the show!
That brings us to this week’s Confidence Plays. Here’s your refresher because I know you’ll get this confused. This column serves as a Start/Sit of sorts. I break things down into three categories. Start means exactly that. These are your studs, the guys we know are going to be studs this year and this is a week they return some of that draft value. Get them into your lineup! Play analyzes the fringe starters, your FLEX plays if you will. These guys could be on your bench one week and thrust into your starting lineup the next based on the matchup. When you see them mentioned here, put them in your lineup in some way, shape, or form. Do not misconstrue what Bench means. Seriously. I’m not saying to not start the players that end up in this section. Maybe they’re your studs that you know you’re going to start, but with bad match-ups, temper expectations. If I tell you to bench them, then you can blame me if they go off. These choices are based on my rankings, so feel free to check them out if you haven’t already!
QB Alex Smith (KC) – I guess it’s not overly shocking to see him on this list. To date, he’s been fantasy’s number 3 QB and he’s coming off a bye week. Doesn’t Andy Reid only have like 2 losses in his entire coaching career coming out of a bye week? Yes, the Chiefs are on the road, but they’re traveling to visit the Giants. If that alone doesn’t sell you, the Giants allow the most fantasy points to opposing QBs and just allowed 31 fantasy points to 49ers rookie QB C.J. Beathard. Insert wide-eyed shocked face emoji. Smith is my number 1 QB this week and for good reason.
RB Melvin Gordon (LAC) – The Bills just named rookie Nathan Peterman as their starting QB for Sunday’s tilt with the Chargers. They’re also traveling cross-country to visit Los Angeles to play the Chargers. In the last 2 weeks, the Bills have allowed 475 rushing yards and 7 TDs and a whopping 109.5 fantasy points to opposing RBs. Gordon was a little sluggish against the Jaguars this past week. A date with the Bills and some home cooking ought to get him back on track.
RBs Mark Ingram & Alvin Kamara (NO) – These two are inseparable. Unless you don’t own both, in which case they are. But you can certainly play them separately and get equal production from both. The Saints matchup this week isn’t the best, but it certainly isn’t the worst. The Saints run a ball control offense now and with the way they’re playing, not even Washington’s middle of the road rush defense is stopping them. Ingram and Kamara have combined to score 134.5 fantasy points over the last 3 weeks, including 4 TDs apiece. Nothing is stopping either of them at the moment, so deploy with confidence this week as both are top 10 options.
WR Antonio Brown (PIT) – What a let down last week, huh? The Colts currently allow the 8th most fantasy points to WRs and Brown gets all of 7.7 last week. This week, he faces a Titans team that allows — wait for it — the 9th most fantasy points to WRs. The Titans only allow 62.9 yards to number one WRs though, but I have a feeling after last week, Big Ben will want to get him back on track in time for the stretch run.
WR DeAndre Hopkins (HOU) – Yes, I’m aware Patrick Peterson lives in the Cardinals secondary. I also know that the Cards allow the 7th most fantasy points to opposing WRs. Did you know they actually rate better in DVOA versus number 2 WRs than number 1 WRs? Look, Tom Savage is not a great quarterback. But he knows who is going to bail him out. And he wears number 10. I’m just sayin’.
TE Rob Gronkowski (NE) – I don’t feel like I write enough about Gronk. I should. He’s a stand up dude. And he’s going to Mexico City this week for a Raiders “home game.” Gronk is going to party in Tijuana the night before, get airlifted into the stadium, and destroy a Raiders defense that has given up an average of 13.2 fantasy points — 9th most — to TEs and 4 TDs. Don’t be surprised is Gronk doubles that even with a hangover. I’ll let you decide how much of what I just wrote is fictional.
QB Derek Carr (OAK) – The Patriots defense has been better the last three weeks. They haven’t allowed a 300-yard passer in that time span and have played the likes of Matt Ryan, Philip Rivers, and Brock Osweiler. Okay, ol’ B.O. doesn’t belong in the same category as the other two, but you catch my drift. The Raiders looked better on offense the three weeks leading into their bye, and Carr hasn’t passed for less than 300 yards since Week 6. Something’s gotta give. I’ll take Carr to have a 20+ point fantasy game making him a low-end QB1 this week.
RB Jerick McKinnon (MIN) – From Weeks 5 to 8, McKinnon had three games where he scored 24.9 fantasy points or more. Coming out of the bye, facing the Redskins, he had all of 6.7. Bleh. The Rams allow about 41 yards receiving to RBs and allow the 7th most fantasy points to RBs. With Latavius Murray getting a healthy dose of carries, McKinnon needs a big play or two to make it worth your while. I don’t know about you, but I think he’s due.
RB Adrian Peterson (ARI) – In Peterson’s four games with the Cardinals, he’s had 26, 11, 37, and 21 carries. He’s scored 27.4, 4.3, 18.7, and 3.2 fantasy points. Seems like a double digit effort is on tap for Sunday, yes? This play is all about volume as the Texans allow the fewest fantasy points to opposing RBs, but when the matchup is Tom Savage versus Blaine Gabbert, all bets are off. The Cardinals will lean on Peterson heavily and when he breaks one, you won’t be sorry you started him.
WR Alshon Jeffery (PHI) – Don’t look now, but QB Carson Wentz is finally developing a rapport with his new toy. Jeffery has 3 TDs in his last two weeks and 35 targets over his last four weeks. Do I need to tell you how bad the Cowboys secondary is? Of course I do. They allow the 6th most fantasy points to opposing WRs and given up 136.5 fantasy points to WRs over their last four weeks. You catch my drift yet?
WR Sterling Shepard (NYG) – The Chiefs come into town and as electric as their offense is and how porous the Giants defense has, the Giants will inevitably have to play catchup. When they were playing catchup to the 49ers — yes, you read that right — Shepard went off for 11 catches and 142 yards. To really drive the point home, the Chiefs allow the most fantasy points to opposing WRs. Good players on bad teams can still help your fantasy teams people.
TE Jared Cook (OAK) – Last time we saw Jared Cook, he went for 8 catches and 126 yards. Is he finally realizing his immense potential after all these years? Two of his last three games have resulted in 100+ yard receiving games and the Patriots just lost LB Donta Hightower for the year. Derek Carr seems to like him, so that means you should too.
TE Tyler Kroft (CIN) – A classic case of “start your tight ends against the Broncos” right here. The Broncos allow the 2nd most fantasy points to opposing TEs and Kroft, aside from his stinker last week against the Titans, has been an admirable fill-in for the injured Tyler Eifert. A great streaming option this week.
Your streaming defenses of the week are Chargers D/ST, Bengals D/ST, & Cardinals D/ST.
QB Jared Goff (LAR) – I’m playing with fire here. He’s one of the hottest QBs in fantasy at the moment but the Vikings have allowed only two QBs to break 20 fantasy points on them — Big Ben and Kirk Cousins. Look, if Goff becomes the third to break 20 on the Vikes, would you be surprised? No, but I’d rather take a pass this week than find out.
RB DeMarco Murray (TEN) – Kind of hard to not like anyone this week, with so few options at RB any way. But after Murray’s explosion last week, I bet everyone will rush to plug Murray into their lineups. It’s a short week, never ideal, but the Steelers haven’t given up over 100 rushing yards or a rushing TD since Week 5. I have him 19th this week so you’re likely still starting him, just temper expectations because he’s not putting up more than 20 points.
WRs Davante Adams & Jordy Nelson (GB) – The Ravens give up the 2nd fewest fantasy points to WRs. Adams came through late to salvage his day this past Sunday but Jordy wasn’t as lucky. I’m expecting both to struggle this week as it’s going to be a long day for QB Brett Hundley and the Packers offense.
TE Jordan Reed (WSH) – He’s still banged up and the Redskins face a Saints defense that is surging and allows the 4th fewest fantasy points to TEs. Even at 100%, Reed is no savior this week.