By The Hudsonian, Joshua Hudson
It’s a week before Thanksgiving, and I have plenty to do so I’ll just get to the part you skim through. Just a heads up, I will be posting two Confidence Plays columns next week. A Thursday edition on Wednesday just for the Thanksgiving day games, and a Friday edition for the weekend games where I will share all the things I’m thankful for. Another heads up, it’s my favorite column of the year to write. You’ve been warned.
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 Drew Brees (NO) – Brees at home is more money than Steph Curry from half court. Add in the multitude of injuries the Eagles are dealing with in their secondary, and Brees could hang 50 on the defending champs.
QB Russell Wilson (SEA) – Don’t look now, but Russell Wilson has heated up. He’s now QB11 on the season and, since Week 5, he is QB6 with 27.59 fantasy points per game. The Packers currently allow the 12th fewest fantasy points to QBs, but Wilson isn’t exactly lighting up the stat sheet in terms of yards — it’s in his scoring efficiency and high percentage throws. And over the last two weeks, his rushing ability. He has 133 rushing yards and a touchdown in that time, and has a 21 to 5 touchdown to interception ratio on the season. Ride with Wilson this week.
QB Lamar Jackson (BAL) – With six teams on a bye, taking a flier on Jackson in his first career start against a defense that allows the most fantasy points to opposing QBs since Week 3 doesn’t sound so crazy. Look, Jackson isn’t going to come in and throw for 300 yards and 3 TDs. The way the Ravens have deployed Jackson in sub-packages throughout the year leads me to believe there will be a strong emphasis on the ground game and high percentage throws to let the game come to him. Jackson could easily top 100 rushing yards and 3 total TDs with anywhere from 100 to 175 yards passing. The numbers don’t look great for a QB on the field, but Fantasy? Awesome. Do you remember the likes of Tim Tebow, Johnny Manziel, and Terrelle Pryor — the QB version — putting up great fantasy days? It can happen for Jackson as well.
RB David Johnson (ARI) – I’ll take fantasy studs who play the Raiders for $400, Alex.
RB Aaron Jones (GB) – #FreeAaronJones worked! Mike McCarthy listened and unleashed Jones to the tune of 15 carries, 145 yards, 2 touchdowns, and an additional 3 catches for 27 yards last week against Miami. His 34.2 fantasy points were 5th among RBs last week. The Seahawks allow the 15th most fantasy points to RBs — middle of the road — which tells me they’re nothing special. Aaron Rodgers has a ground game to lean on for once in his career, and he’s currently QB9 on the season. A shift to Jones will help the Packers control the clock — something the Seahawks have done so well this season — and increase Jones’ fantasy potential as a result.
RB Philip Lindsay (DEN) – Chargers starting middle linebacker Denzel Perryman missed nine games last year. In the seven games he played, the Chargers allowed a shade over 4 yards per carry. In the nine games he missed, the Chargers allowed over 5 yards per carry. Perryman has played nine games this year. The Chargers have allowed 4.5 yards per carry this year. Perryman was just placed on Injured Reserve with a knee injury. Philip Lindsay should be in for a solid day on the ground, and as a safety blanket for Case Keenum as the Broncos inevitably play catch up.
RB Jalen Richard (OAK) – The Oakland Raiders are a terrible football team. That said, they sometimes have players that can be useful on your fantasy teams. Richard is one such player. The Raiders are constantly playing from behind, forcing the team to throw. Richard already has 48 receptions on the year, averaging just over 5 catches and 44 yards. His 9.4 point floor is pretty solid as a FLEX in weeks like this where there are six teams on a bye. You could do a lot worse.
WR Odell Beckham Jr. (NYG) – The Bucs allow the highest completion percentage, 7th most passing yards, 4th most yards per attempt, the most passing touchdowns, the highest passer rating, and have a league low one interception. They’re going to make Eli Manning look like Peyton Manning. That benefits OBJ. Big week coming up for the mercurial wideout.
WR Alshon Jeffery (PHI) – Since Week 1, the Saints have allowed the most fantasy points to opposing WRs. Since Week 6, the 2nd most. It makes sense. The Saints’ passing offense ranks 8th in the league, and they’re scoring 36.7 points per game — tops in the league. Teams have to throw to keep up. The Eagles just lost their number one corner (Ronald Darby) to an ACL injury to go along with the season-ending injury that Safety Rodney McLeod suffered earlier this year. Their number two and three corners, Jalen Mills and Sidney Jones, missed last week and both are questionable this week. Expect a ton of targets for TE Zach Ertz and Jeffery this week just to try and keep pace with the vaunted Saints offense.
WR Corey Davis (TEN) – Every time Davis has a good game, I jump back on the bandwagon. Not that I ever really jumped off, I just moved closer to the back to jump out of the exit while the bandwagon kept right on moving. Davis is still getting a ton of targets — over 30% of the team’s targets — and every so often those targets connect. Watching the Titans offense over the last couple of weeks, they’re finally clicking. The running game is working — Derrick Henry had two touchdowns last week! — and Mariota looks healthier and more in sync with the offense. The Colts defense has plenty of weaknesses, and no corner that can body up the 6’4″ Davis. He should yield top 20 results this week.
WR Chris Godwin (TB) – Mike Evans is annoying me this year. Things started so well and have just foundered. The biggest beneficiary? 2nd-year wideout Chris Godwin. He’s averaging just over 6 targets a game the last five weeks. Working in his favor this week is that Janoris Jenkins will be draped over Mike Evans, so Godwin will be facing B.W. Webb most of the day. Pro Football Focus grades him as the 74th “best” corner in the league. Monitor Godwin’s ankle injury because if he plays, it’s a great matchup for Godwin and a solid FLEX play this week.
TE Eric Ebron (IND) – Over the last two games since Jack Doyle returned — the Colts had their bye in Week 9 — Doyle has run 41 routes to Ebron’s 22. Yes, almost double. Their fantasy point totals over that time? Ebron has 42.8 and Doyle has 25.6. Ebron may have limited opportunities, but as his Week 10 performance showed — 3 targets, 3 receptions, 2 touchdowns and a rushing score — he doesn’t need volume to be a top 5 tight end. Tight ends on the Colts currently account for over 29% of the target share, so despite the fact the Titans allow the fewest fantasy points to opposing tight ends, I have no doubt Ebron will score and Doyle will see plenty of looks.
TE Vance McDonald (PIT) – The Jaguars have allowed the 3rd most fantasy points to opposing tight ends since Week 5. The problem with the Steelers is that they deploy McDonald and Jesse James fairly equally — McDonald has run about 30 routes more and only has five more targets than James — so it’s always hard to gauge who will shine. McDonald averaged 14.2 fantasy points per game in the three road games he’s played this year. Add that with the great matchup, and he has top 10 upside.
TE Mark Andrews (BAL) – You know I like Jackson. You also read that I think there are going to be a lot of safe, high percentage throws to ease him into the starting role. Enter Mark Andrews. The Ravens deploy their three TEs — Andrews, Hayden Hurst, and Nick Boyle — regularly so trying to guess who shines is like trying to pick winning lotto numbers. But Andrews has been the TE on the field the most, even since Hurst, the 1st round pick, came back from the injury he suffered during the preseason. Expect an uptick in looks from Jackson in Andrews direction as he becomes a solid streaming option this week.
QB Philip Rivers (LAC) – With so many quality QBs in the league now, even the good ones who have good weeks will inevitably have “bad” fantasy weeks. You beat Denver by running so I expect lots of Melvin Gordon this week. Rivers should have his 250 and two touchdowns — a solid day, but not a top ten day.
QB Kirk Cousins (MIN) – The Bears finally won a division game since Mike Ditka was a head coach. (That’s a joke, people. Calm down.) They currently lead the division by a half game over the Vikings. Cousins has been inconsistent from a fantasy perspective the last few weeks. Since Week 5, Cousins is QB20. Not exactly what we thought when we drafted him. There are better options available.
QB Andy Dalton (CIN) – From Weeks 1 through 6, Dalton was QB11. Since Week 7, he’s QB26. He also doesn’t currently have his number one receiver (A.J. Green). Even though he lit up the Ravens for 34.6 fantasy points in Week 2, Dalton’s recent struggles don’t signal a new beginning.
RB Leonard Fournette (JAX) – Last week’s return to prominence should signal a return to RB1 territory, right? Gotta love the volume — 29 total touches! — but with only 109 total yards, therein lies the issue. Less than 4 yards per touch, only 2.2 yards per carry, is he really back? He broke only three total tackles and averaged 1.5 yards after contact per attempt. The Steelers have the 4th best run defense in the league. Fournette isn’t the RB1 we drafted him as. Yet. His upside lies with the touch volume, which could waver with the amount of quality running backs behind him.
RB Joe Mixon (CIN) – Mixon looked good last week without A.J. Green in the lineup but the Bengals abandoned the run and left us to wonder what could’ve been. The Ravens allow only 4 yards per carry and the fewest receiving yards per game to running backs. He’s a low end RB2 for me this week.
RB Adrian Peterson (WAS) – The Texans have allowed only 3 rushing touchdowns on the year, and the lowest yards per carry average to running backs. Peterson is RB36 over the last two weeks. Is he hitting a lull? He’s outside my top 20 at RB this week.
RB Jordan Howard (CHI) – He’s dead to me. Well, Matt Nagy is dead to me. For misusing my dude. I can’t wait until the Bears trade Howard in the offseason.
WR Mike Evans (TB) – If you take away Evans’ 31.9 point Week 8 and replace it with his average since Week 6, he’s WR38 the last five weeks. Janoris Jenkins has a reputation for being a shut down corner but he’s been anything but that this year, allowing the 3rd most receptions among corners. I have faith Eli Manning will dissect the Bucs defense, forcing FitzMagic and the Bucs to throw. But, Evans’ poor games the last few weeks leave me with little confidence he’ll show out.
WR Tyler Boyd (CIN) – Boyd’s first week as the unofficial number one wide receiver with A.J. Green sidelined did not go over well. I don’t think it gets much better against a Baltimore pass defense that allows the fewest yards per pass attempt and the second fewest passing yards.
WR Allen Robinson (CHI) – The Rhodes Closed. I loved Revis Island and I love Rhodes Closed. With Allen Robinson en route, expect a u-turn. It’s the best analogy I have. Look for Anthony Miller and Trey Burton to have the big games for the Bears offense.
All Ravens WRs (BAL) – Kind of strange to have the Ravens WR on the Fade list when the QB throwing to them is on the Play list, huh? I think Jackson looks towards the tight ends and gains yards on his own. I don’t have a single Ravens WR above 40 this week.
TE Kyle Rudolph (MIN) – And we’re back. I missed you Kyle. But this is your home. Sorry buddy. The Bears allow the 6th fewest fantasy points to TEs over the last four weeks, and you know he’s fourth in the pecking order for targets now that Cook is back in the starting lineup.
TE Evan Engram (NYG) – The addition of Barkley to the Giants offense has removed Engram from focus. It’s Barkley, OBJ, a splash of Shepard, and a dash of Engram. More like a pinch, really. Engram has only two games this year where he’s scored double-digit fantasy points. The Bucs can’t guard tight ends — 2nd most fantasy points allowed to TEs this season — but I don’t see the Giants exploiting that weakness when Barkley is likely to go for 200 total yards.
TE Benjamin Watson (NO) – The Saints will likely score 50 on the Eagles. I don’t expect Watson to be in the scoring brigade, as the Eagles have allowed the 4th fewest yards to tight ends and the fewest fantasy points to tight ends since Week 3.