By The Hudsonian, Joshua Hudson
Fantasy. Football. Champion.
That’s what we’re all after. The trophy. The prize. The bacon. The cheese. The bragging rights. Whatever you’re chasing, it’s at your fingertips. Let’s get you there!
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 matchups 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 Mitchell Trubisky (CHI) – Take out the two games Trubisky missed, and he’s QB7 on the year. Last week, he was QB4 in what was a wildly uncharacteristic week for QB scoring. The 49ers have allowed the 5th most fantasy points to QBs on the season, and the 3rd most over the last five weeks. Trubisky and the Bears are one game out from getting a first-round bye. I fully expect HC Matt Nagy to open the playbook and bust out the Madden level plays, and Trubisky is going to go bonkers on Sunday. He’s my number two QB this week.
QB Russell Wilson (SEA) – I’m very torn with Wilson. On one hand, the Chiefs have one of the worst pass defenses in the league and have allowed the 2nd most fantasy points to QBs since the start of the season — and the 2nd most over the last five weeks. On the other hand, Wilson has only 68 pass attempts over his last three weeks and somehow has 6 TD passes. Wilson’s season has been super efficient at an absolutely unsustainable rate, but he’s maintaining it. For reference, here are the number of TD passes and pass attempts for the top five QBs in TD passes this year: Patrick Mahomes (516 pass attempt, 45 touchdown passes), Andrew Luck (557, 34), Drew Brees (450, 31), Philip Rivers (447, 31), and Wilson (377, 31). See? Something’s gotta give. I say Wilson continues to defy logic and have a top 7 day.
QB Baker Mayfield (CLE) – The last time Mayfield and the Browns played the Bengals, Mayfield had 4 TDs and finished as the number one QB in Week 12. Since then, the Bengals have swallowed up QBs, limiting Derek Carr, Case Keenum, and Philip Rivers to less than 16 fantasy points each week. But the Bengals have Hue Jackson. It really is that simple. Bring it home, Baker!
RB Nick Chubb (CLE) – Since Week 7, Chubb is RB7. And just when you thought the Broncos had him bottled up for three-plus quarters on Saturday, he finishes with 100 yards on 20 carries. The Bengals have allowed the most fantasy points to opposing RBs this year, but they have improved over the last six weeks — allowing the 2nd most fantasy points to opposing RBs. I also keep coming back to “the Bengals have Hue Jackson.”
RB Marlon Mack (IND) – I have to say, I was not expecting that last week. Marlon Mack just destroyed the Cowboys running game. Heading into last week, Dallas had allowed the 7th fewest fantasy points to RBs on the season and the fewest fantasy points over the previous five weeks. Then Mack went HAM on ’em– 27 carries for a career-high 139 yards and 2 TDs. In fact, that was the most carries Mack has ever received in a game. If he can do that against one of the top run defenses in the league, what do you think he’ll do to the Giants– who not only allowed the 3rd most fantasy points to RBs over the last six weeks but just allowed Derrick Henry to scamper for 170 yards and 2 TDs? Mack is top 10 for me this week.
RB Chris Carson (SEA) – The Seahawks commitment to the run is impressive. And it’s elevating Chris Carson into surefire RB2 territory. It also makes one wonder why the hell Seattle spent a first round pick on Rashaad Penny. But I digress. Carson has been RB14 since Week 8, and he has 44 carries over his last two games. The Chiefs run defense has been much better of late, but over the season, they’ve allowed the 2nd most fantasy points to opposing RBs. When a team like the Seahawks are that committed to running the ball, something has to give.
RB Derrick Henry (TEN) – I can’t believe I’m putting Henry here for yet another week. Screw it, I’m with Henry as he goes for the trifecta. He has 6 TDs over the last two weeks to go with 87.04 fantasy points. I doubt he catches Gurley’s unreal 131.1 fantasy points from last year’s playoff run, but even another 30 point effort would be rather impressive from a guy who had all of 95.52 fantasy points the first 13 weeks of the season. The Redskins present an interesting matchup. From Weeks 10-14, they allowed the 9th most fantasy points to RBs. Then they shut down Leonard Fournette, who has no semblance of a QB. Mariota has been serviceable enough to make defenses pay attention to him. I firmly believe Henry is once again on his way to a top 20 performance.
WR DeAndre Hopkins (HOU) – Next to Davante Adams, you’d be hard pressed to find another WR in fantasy who has been as consistent as Hopkins. His lowest fantasy point total on the year was 12.4. And that’s still quality WR2 numbers in most leagues. Now he faces an Eagles team that, while they looked very different on defense last week against the Rams, still has one of the worst pass defenses in the league– allowing the second most passing yards per game this year. They have also allowed the 2nd most fantasy points to opposing WRs on the year, and the most yards per game to opposing teams’ number one WR. Hopkins is my number one receiver this week.
WR Alshon Jeffery (PHI) – Staying in the same game, Jeffery made sure you didn’t forget about him with his stunning showing against the Rams on Sunday night. 8 catches for 160 yards with Nick Foles at QB. Jeffery has Foles’ trust, and that bodes well in a game the Eagles absolutely have to win. It’s also great news against a Texans defense that is the 2nd worst statistically at covering number one receivers, allows the third most yards per game to opposing number one receivers, and the 10th most fantasy points to opposing WRs over the last five weeks. This should be the Hopkins-Jeffery Showdown in Philly on Sunday.
WR Allen Robinson (CHI) – Robinson’s season has been somewhat disappointing for fantasy owners who spent a mid-round pick on him to their WR2. He’s WR39 on the year, and missed two games earlier in the year. Here’s his last chance to give owners a reason to reinvest in him next year. The 49ers have allowed just under 70 yards per game to opposing number one receivers, and have allowed the 4th most fantasy points to opposing WRs since Week 11. Robinson, I believe in thee this week.
WR Robby Anderson (NYJ) – Don’t look now, but we’re finally seeing the Robby Anderson many thought they’d see all season. Over his last four weeks, Anderson has 4.2, 8.8, 17.6, and 22.6 fantasy points. Sam Darnold is starting to find him, and that’s good for not only his growth but the Jets offense. In the last five weeks, the Packers have allowed 71 yards per game to opposing number one receivers, and the 11th most fantasy points to opposing WRs. In a game you know Rodgers will throw after losing RB Aaron Jones, Darnold and the Jets will have to throw to keep up. Anderson is a solid FLEX this week with WR2 upside.
TE Austin Hooper (ATL) – He laid an egg last week. Not literally, but there is a zero in his stat column. In what has yet again been an up and down year for TEs, Hooper is TE5 but you’ve hardly been happy with his output. This week should get you back on board Hooper’s bandwagon. The last time he played the Panthers, he went for 5-59-1, good for 16.9 fantasy points. The Panthers have allowed the 3rd most fantasy points to opposing TEs this year, so I’m all in on another standout day for Hooper as the Falcons try to salvage their season.
TE Jared Cook (OAK) – Cook has an offhand chance to be the 5th TE this year to exceed 200 fantasy points in a season, topping the total number of TEs to hit that mark the last two seasons combined. The Broncos shut down Cook in their first meeting, holding him to 4-49 (8.9 fantasy points), but they haven’t been good against TEs this year. They’ve allowed the 5th most fantasy points to TEs this season, and the 2nd most over the last five weeks. I think Cook has a top 5 week, and becomes the 5th TE this season to exceed 200 fantasy points.
TE David Njoku (CLE) – It’s clear when watching Njoku that he’s a very talented TE. What’s unclear is just how he fits into the Browns offense. His production is erratic, which makes him strictly a matchup play in the early part of his career. That said, Njoku dominated the Bengals earlier this season to the tune of 5-63-1. No reason to think he can’t do it again. The Bengals also have Hue Jackson on their coaching staff. That will never get old.
QB Jared Goff (LAR) – Goff has really felt the effects of not having Cooper Kupp. Goff is QB24 since Kupp went down, and that’s largely carried by the Rams shootout win over the Chiefs. Take away that game, and Goff has two games with fewer than 11 fantasy points and one game with negative points. And that’s not a typo. His matchup against the Cardinals may seem like a cakewalk on paper, but they’ve been great at holding QBs under 25 fantasy points. Only two QBs have exceeded that plateau — not even the almighty Patrick Mahomes surpassed 25 fantasy points against the Cardinals defense — so with Goff trending in the wrong direction, I don’t see this as a big bounce back week for him.
QB Kirk Cousins (MIN) – Mike Zimmer’s new offense is clearly ground and pound, leaving Kirk Cousins on the outside looking in. Maybe that’s a good thing with his propensity for throwing interceptions that lead to touchdowns. Since Week 5, Cousins isn’t even averaging 20 fantasy points per game. Cousins didn’t even top 9 fantasy points the last time he played the Lions. Do you still need reasons to fade Cousins this week?
QB Jameis Winston (TB) – I was down on Winston last week, but I thought he’d at least top 5 fantasy points. Jeez. Things don’t get any better this week as the Bucs travel to Dallas, where the Cowboys are a very different team. They’ve allowed 19.27 fantasy points per game at home. This one will not be easy for Winston and company.
RB James Conner (PIT) – Even if Conner plays this week (and I’m not 100% sure he does), a matchup with the Saints is hardly what RBs across the league look for. Christian McCaffrey, Ezekiel Elliott, Saquon Barkley, and Latavius Murray are the only RBs to top 20 fantasy points against the Saints. Statistically, the Saints aren’t great at covering RBs out of the backfield so Conner would have to do most of his work as a receiver to have a productive day. If Conner doesn’t go, Samuels will have top 20 upside as a receiving threat.
RB Leonard Fournette (JAX) – Cody Kessler is the worst thing to happen to Leonard Fournette’s fantasy value. After three straight games over 20 fantasy points when he came back from his hamstring injury, he got suspended and then hasn’t topped 10 fantasy points since. Dalvin Cook slashed the Dolphins run defense last week, but he had a competent QB operating the offense. Fournette should run all over the Dolphins, but at this point, I’m not holding my breath.
RB Jamaal Williams (GB) – Remember at the beginning of the season when Williams was the starting RB and the Packers had no running game and he produced little in the way of fantasy points? Now that Aaron Jones is on Injured Reserve with a knee injury, Williams returns to the starter’s role. Please, enlighten me– why are people excited about this? The Jets happen to have a pretty good run defense too. They’ve allowed the fewest fantasy points to RBs over the last six weeks. Tell me again why Jamaal Williams is gonna “show out”?
RB Mark Ingram (NO) – Ingram has been more touchdown dependent this year since he’s been sparsely used in the passing game. And he only has six total, so he hasn’t been a reliable fantasy option as a result. The Steelers are pretty stingy to RBs — only eight RBs have topped double digits on them — and are tied for the 8th fewest rushing touchdowns allowed. I hope you don’t have to rely on Ingram in your fantasy championship.
WR Mike Evans (TB) – A huge 64-yard bomb saved Evans from a mediocre fantasy performance. And it was much needed, considering the duds so much of the stars laid last week. Against Dallas this week, he’s going to need another huge bomb to save his day. The Cowboys are top ten in the league at covering number one wide receivers and allow the 3rd fewest fantasy points to WRs this year. I think the Bucs receivers will have some problems on Sunday.
WR D.J. Moore (CAR) – With the news that Cam Newton is being shut down for the season, all of the Panthers wideouts take a huge hit with a backup quarterback throwing the football. The Panthers offense is already pretty simple as it is. Be prepared for it to become even simpler. Moore may have a chance to return some value with some end arounds, but I’m not overly confident– especially now that the Falcons have gotten healthy on defense. Couple that with a below average QB? I’ll pass on Moore this week.
WR Courtland Sutton (DEN) – The injury to Emmanuel Sanders has not proven fruitful for Sutton, but for his rookie counterpart, DaeSean Hamilton. QB Case Keenum keeps it short and rarely throws downfield. Sutton lives there. Hamilton is the new go-to in the Broncos passing game. I can’t wait until the Broncos find a more capable QB.
TE Zach Ertz (PHI) – Apparently Alshon Jeffery is the preferred target for Nick Foles. And this is a great matchup for Ertz and the Eagles to exploit as the Texans have allowed almost 70 yards per game to TEs, and the 6th most fantasy points to opposing TEs over the year. Here’s hoping I’m wrong about this, but having Foles at QB diminishes his value at the absolute worse time.
TE Vance McDonald (PIT) – The Saints have allowed the 5th fewest fantasy points to TEs on the season, and because I’m putting McDonald on this list, you just know he’s going to go off and defy the numbers. You’ve been warned.