By The Hudsonian, Joshua Hudson
For those who don’t know, I live in Florida. It’s hot, humid, and sticky. The plus side is that is really the only season a year that we see. I don’t own a snowblower or a snow shovel or an ice scraper for my car windows. No one needs that crap.
The downside? For two weeks out of the year, the weather starts to get cooler. And when your allergies flare up because Mother Nature is a fickle mistress, you start to feel like crap. Your head feels warm, your throat scratchy, and your sinuses don’t have an off switch. And you’re lethargic. You want nothing more than to just stay in bed and sleep until you wake up and Florida gets back on schedule.
We’ve entered the first week of “winter” and when I say it’s gotten cooler, the temperatures have dipped into the seventies. And I feel warm, my throat is scratchy, and my sinuses are permanently on. I’m miserable and all I want to do is snuggle in my cool bed and be left alone. That said, this week’s column will be short. Until I start writing, and then I won’t be able to shut up. Probably. Maybe. Ah hell, I’ll get right to it.
This column is all about who to start and sit, or Play and Fade. I think the meanings are pretty simple. Play offers up a series of players that, based on my rankings, outperform their preseason rankings and draft positions. They may be obvious names, but some may be diamonds in the rough. Fade focuses on the obvious players that were taken higher in drafts and won’t put up numbers relative to their norm, or players with absolutely atrocious match ups that I plan to bench this week. My choices are based off my weekly FLEX rankings. Go ahead, take a quick gander before making your way back to the main event.
QB Ryan Fitzpatrick (TB) – Why are people so shocked to see that I ranked him at number two this week among QBs? Even counting his putrid performance against the Bears, where he was pulled at halftime in favor of Jameis Winston, FitzMagic averages over 34 fantasy points a game- second only to Patrick Mahomes. The Bucs offense is third in the NFL in total yards, and are number one in passing yards. Yes, the Bucs. More than the Chiefs and Rams. The Redskins just got torched by Matt Ryan and the Falcons at home, and now go on the road to visit Tampa. The Bucs defense is so bad it forces FitzMagic to throw. I’m starting FitzMagic over Andrew Luck in one league this week. Yes, the same Andrew Luck who has five straight games with 3 or more touchdowns. That’s how confident I am in this selection. Your move.
QB Philip Rivers (LAC) – A third string QB who went undrafted in 2017 lit up the Raiders secondary for three touchdowns in primetime. What do you think a 16-year vet like Philip Rivers, who also happens to be having arguably the best season of his career, will do?
QB Nick Mullens (SF) – Speaking of the aforementioned third string QB who went undrafted in 2017, Mullens is a great story. His first career start comes on a short week and in primetime. Lo and behold, the 49ers play in primetime again this week, and have now had 11 days to prepare for the Giants- another woebegone franchise prone to implode. Deshaun Watson, Kirk Cousins, and Joe Flacco are on byes this week. If you want to chase points and feel like gambling, you can do worse than Mullens this week.
RB Kareem Hunt (KC) – Hunt is one of three running backs to total over 600 rushing and receiving yards since Week 5. He has 9 total touchdowns in the last five weeks, second only to Todd Gurley. Arizona allows the second most rushing yards per game to opponents, and are tied for the second most rushing touchdowns allowed. Hunt is my number one running back this week.
RB David Johnson (ARI) – On the flip side, the Chiefs are pretty vulnerable to running backs as well, especially to running backs who catch the ball out of the backfield. The Chiefs allow the most receiving yards (72.1) to running backs per game this year. Johnson’s last game saw the introduction of new offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich’s play-calling and Johnson tied his season-high of 4 receptions and 41 yards. They want to get Johnson the ball more through the air. With a week to prepare, Johnson should hold tremendous value in PPR leagues like Club Fantasy this week.
RB Duke Johnson Jr. (CLE) – Speaking of receiving yards by running backs, the fantasy community welcomed Duke Johnson Jr. back to fantasy relevance following the dismissal of Head Coach Hue Jackson and Offensive Coordinator Todd Haley. Just in time too. This week’s opponent, the Falcons, allow the second most receiving yards to running backs this year. Duke should be top 15 this week.
RB Mark Ingram II (NO) – Since his triumphant return from suspension in Week 5, Ingram has been bleh. Over the last three weeks, Ingram is RB40 while teammate Alvin Kamara is RB4. I think both will be great this week. Since Week 5, the Bengals have allowed the 2nd most fantasy points to opposing RBs. There’s plenty to go around this week for both Kamara and Ingram. In my best Yoda voice, “a solid FLEX Ingram is.”
WR Julio Jones (ATL) – Julio Jones scored a touchdown. I really just wanted to type that because I can’t type it enough. You’re starting him even in the worst matchup, but you must also know that Julio Jones finally scored a touchdown last week.
WR Josh Gordon (NE) – Gordon has 100 receiving efforts in two of his last three games. I think he’s starting to find some rapport with Tom Terrific so he’s inching up the weekly fantasy rankings as a result. So why do I have him in my top 10 this week? Have you seen Malcolm Butler play football? Or whoever replaced Malcolm Butler? He’s been AWFUL. Butler allows the 8th highest snaps/reception ratio in the league; the 7th highest QB rating when targeted, tied for the most receptions allowed and the most receiving yards. To top it all, Gordon runs most of his routes from the same side of the field Malcolm Butler plays on. Do you seriously need more convincing?
WR Tyler Boyd (CIN) – With A.J. Green missing time because of a foot injury, Tyler Boyd slides into the number one role in the offense. Andy Dalton will feed Boyd often because he really doesn’t have anyone else to throw to. Boyd also runs most of his routes from the slot where he’ll see plenty of P.J. Williams, who is not exactly known as a shut down corner.
WR Golden Tate (PHI) – This is a huge gamble. Tate, recently acquired from the Lions, will be playing his first game with the Eagles and his second game against the Cowboys. If there’s one thing I love about Doug Pederson, he doesn’t exude ego. He has probably seen the Lions-Cowboys game like 12 times over the last two weeks to see how the Lions lined up Tate and fed him the ball for a stat line of 8 catches for 132 yards and 2 touchdowns. Carson Wentz will get comfortable with Tate quickly, and I think Tate burns Dem ‘Boys again.
TE Greg Olsen (CAR) – He’s baaaaaaaack. Told ya.
TE George Kittle (SF) – Kittle is making a case to be in the same sentence with Travis Kelce and Zach Ertz as one of the best tight ends in the league. His catch during Week 8’s game against the Raiders was something out of a magic show. Zach Ertz burned the Giants defense for 17.8 fantasy points in Week 6. Kittle is the 49ers best offensive weapon, so I expect similar production on Monday night.
TE Benjamin Watson (NO) – Watson has a touchdown in two out of his last three games. The third game? A goose egg. No catches, yards, touchdowns, or targets. He’s streaky, and it all depends on game flow. This week against the Bengals, there’s upside for Watson. Since Week 6, the Bengals have allowed the 2nd most fantasy points per game to opposing TEs. If there’s one thing Drew Brees does better than most, it is exploit weaknesses. The Bengals allow 70 yards a game to TEs. I’d call that a weakness.
QB Tom Brady (NE) -Brady was consensus top 5 at the start of the season. Over the season, he’s QB12. Over the last two weeks, Brady is QB16. Every defense Brady’s faced this year that has been top 10 in the fewest fantasy points allowed to opposing QBs at the time he played them, he’s scored fewer than 21 fantasy points. This week’s opponent is Tennessee. They currently allow the 7th fewest fantasy points to opposing QBs.
QB Matthew Stafford (DET) – In a time where QBs are throwing for more yards than ever, Matthew Stafford must have missed the memo. He’s QB19 on the season, and doesn’t even average 20 fantasy points per game. He gets the Bears this week who, since Week 3, have allowed the 5th fewest fantasy points per game to opposing QBs and are second in the league with 14 interceptions. It’s going to be a long day for Stafford.
QB Marcus Mariota (TEN) – It was great to see Mariota look like the guy who was picked 2nd overall in the NFL draft a few years ago. But Sunday, he faces Bill Belichick and the Patriots. Mariota will have to throw to keep up as Tom Brady will move the ball (just not for a ton of points) against a weak set of Titans corners. But Mariota doesn’t have near the offense weapons that Brady has, which limits his effectiveness. Don’t get caught up in the hype of last week.
RB Leonard Fournette (JAX) – Fournette is slated to play on Sunday. That’s the good news. The bad news? Backup T.J. Yeldon has looked great and the team traded for Carlos Hyde a couple of weeks ago. Fournette will surely be eased back into the rotation to further protect his ailing hamstring, and there’s plenty of depth to allow for that to happen. Let’s wait and see how the Jaguars deploy Fournette before rushing to start him if your options are solid.
RB Kenyan Drake (MIA) – The ultimate Fantasy yo-yo. As great as Drake can be, his head coach hates him, but apparently hates you more. Last week, 35-year old Frank Gore carried the ball 20 times and had one reception. Drake, the younger and more explosive back, had all of three carries and added 4 receptions. The split in usage is baffling. The Packers allow the 5th most fantasy points per game to opposing RBs since Week 5, and allow just south of 40 receiving yards per game to RBs. All signs point to a big week for Drake, but when he’s only getting 7 touches, that’s a difficult outcome to predict.
RB Chris Carson (SEA) – The last time Carson and the Seahawks played the Rams, he rushed for 116 yards. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. The Rams can be had via the run — and the pass, as it were — but only one running back has topped 20 fantasy points on them and it was Alvin Kamara last week. Carson is also banged up, so look for a more thorough split in carries between him and Mike Davis.
RB Sony Michel (NE) – By all accounts, Sony Michel is slated to play this week after missing the last two games due to a knee injury. Two problems: James White and the Titans run defense. James White is RB3 since Week 4. The Titans allow the 4th fewest fantasy points to RBs over the same time span. A lot working against Michel this week.
WR Kenny Golladay (DET) – Golladay has scored 16.30 fantasy points… over his last three games. He also has only 7 targets over those three games, compared to 22 for Marvin Jones Jr. Golladay is young, so these are the inevitable growing pains. But until some production starts hitting the stat sheet, maybe ride with Jones Jr. over Golladay.
WR Alshon Jeffery (PHI) – Jeffery has played five games this year. In three of those games, he’s scored over 20 fantasy points. The addition of Golden Tate should help take some pressure off him and open things up for him even more. I don’t think that starts this week. I mentioned above my thoughts on Tate. Jeffery will likely draw Byron Jones for much of the day, who’s 5th in the league in coverage snaps/reception and has allowed the 10th lowest QB rating when thrown at. Better options than Jeffery this week.
WRs Allen Robinson & Taylor Gabriel (CHI) – Robinson has missed the last two games due to a groin injury. There’s a chance he misses a third. That means Taylor Gabriel will draw Lions corner Darius Clay. If Robinson does play, Gabriel belongs in the “Play” category– since he’s likely to see Teez Tabor who labors to cover receivers– as a favor to us. No, that wasn’t an audition for a job writing for Dr. Seuss, I’m just really not feeling well. Humor me.
WR Randall Cobb (GB) – Will people stop forcing his name into the air? He’s not good. There are two rookies on this team that should be out-snapping him as they’ve outperformed him on a per snap basis. Marquez Valdes-Scantling and Equanimeous St. Brown are the future, and I expect a lot of MVS this week with Adams drawing Xavien Howard this week. Don’t waste your time with Cobb, as his middling performances this year — he hasn’t hit double digit fantasy points since Week 1, and missed three games in between — don’t belong in your weekly lineups.
TE Jared Cook (OAK) – The Raiders are a Black Hole. Ironically, that’s where they play. Jared Cook can have big games, but after what I saw last week, I have no more faith in anyone on this team. If you still can, trade Cook for a bag of peanuts and a six pack. Actually, I doubt you’d get a six pack. It’s that bad in Oakland.
TE Rob Gronkowski (NE) – Since Week 2, Gronk is TE17. That’s not what we signed up for when we likely spent a 2nd or 3rd round pick on him. His back has been tightening up and he was inactive last week. There’s a chance he misses this week as well. Not coincidentally, the games Gronk has missed, Josh Gordon has had over 100 yards receiving. Even if he plays, Gordon has a standout matchup so I don’t expect much from Gronk, who has only two double digit fantasy games since Week 2.
TE C.J. Uzomah (CIN) – The Saints shut down RBs and TEs. Uzomah should see some targets as a result of A.J. Green’s absence, but the odds aren’t in his favor. No tight end has scored more than 9.8 fantasy points against them. Fade Uzomah this week.