By The Hudsonian, Joshua Hudson
So I’ve written four different introductions to this week’s Confidence Plays and none of them have come out the way I expected. So, I’m just going to say a couple of things that were sprinkled through each of them and get to the point.
- The COVID spread among Titans players is not a great start to the season for them. Hopefully they learn from their selfish ways and correct them.
- Adam Thielen currently has a 31% target share for Minnesota. The Vikings are currently last in the NFL in passing attempts, averaging 25 per game. If you have Justin Jefferson in redraft, I would have zero issue selling to the highest bidder.
- Ron Rivera benching Dwayne Haskins in favor of Kyle Allen is not a forward-thinking move. You can’t evaluate a player you didn’t draft in just four games. If Allen helps you win games, you’re now out of the running for one of the top quarterbacks in the 2021 draft. Not smart.
- Why are Dan Quinn and Adam Gase still employed, but Bill O’Brien, who held two positions with the Texans, is not? Look, they all suck, but Atlanta and New York need to get moving already.
- I hit on 60% of these picks last week. Damn proud of myself for that, and hopefully you won some matchups as a result!
- Wear. A. Damn. Mask. Please and thank you.
Onto my Week 5 picks!
If you read this column last week or in the preseason, you have a good idea as to what my Confidence Plays represent. It’s essentially a start/sit column featuring players I think will boom (play) versus those I think will bust (fade). I try to focus on some middle-of-the-road and streaming options, as you’re likely playing your top guys regardless of the matchup, but some of those top guys may land on the Fade side. (Some matchups suck — what do you want me to do?) Don’t interpret this as “I have to sit Patrick Mahomes to play Derek Carr because Carr is a Play this week.” Don’t be that fantasy player. But maybe put some of them in your DFS lineups to maximize upside or play them as your RB2 or WR2 or in your FLEX. Or, you know, stream them.
QB Drew Brees (NO) – Drew Brees looked damn good last week without Michael Thomas. The biggest key? The run game was working. The Chargers have allowed 29 receptions to RBs so far in 2020 and over the last two weeks, the Chargers haven’t been good at stopping RBs, period. On the season, the Chargers haven’t been good at stopping QBs either, allowing the 5th most fantasy points to QBs through the first four weeks. On a Monday night, in primetime, I’m thinking Brees has himself a game.
QB Ben Roethlisberger (PIT) – The Eagles defense has been the lone bright spot on an otherwise dismal season. But Roethlisberger and the Steelers have had two weeks to prepare for this game. Big Ben is averaging 24.5 fantasy points per game so far this year (10th best among QBs) and will need to throw as Philly has throttled run games this year. The Eagles have allowed the 10th most passing yards this year, which plays into Ben’s gunslinging mentality. A top 12 finish is imminent.
RB Clyde Edwards-Helaire (KC) – Start your running backs against the Raiders. It really is that simple. CEH hasn’t been spectacular since Week 1, with finishes of RB26, RB12, and RB22 from Weeks 2 through 4, but that all turns around in Week 5 (you know, if the game is played). The Raiders are allowing 114 rushing yards and almost 8 receptions per game to RBs through 4 weeks. They’ve also allowed the most rushing TDs to RBs so fire up CEH as a top 5 RB this week.
RB Todd Gurley (ATL) – If you thought the Raiders gave up a lot of points to RBs, the Panthers are kindly asking you to “hold their beer.” They’re tied with Las Vegas with the most rushing TDs allowed to RBs and have allowed the most receptions to RBs this year. For all the flack we’ve given to Gurley this year, he’s tied for second in rushing TDs with four. Gurley has always had a nose for the end zone and that should continue this week for a solid RB2 week.
RB David Johnson (HOU) – Now that Bill O’Brien is out, let’s all hope the offense is better as a result. David Johnson’s snap counts went from the 95% range in Weeks 2 and 3 to 55% in Week 4 with the return of Duke Johnson. With little production from the team’s receivers — in which HOU is running 3 WR sets 70% of the time — maybe it’s time to play David AND Duke at the same time? BOB ran a total of three plays in 21 personnel (2 RBs, 1 TE) in four weeks. Three. The Jaguars are allowing 31.4 fantasy points per game to RBs through four weeks so there’s room for both to succeed if deployed. In the immortal words of Manny Fresh, “Go DJ. That’s my DJ.”
WR Adam Thielen (MIN) – Not to beat a dead horse or anything, but the Seahawks secondary is awful. Seriously. They’ve allowed 500 yards more than the next closest team, just to WRs alone. They’re also allowing 23.5 receptions per game to WRs. Minnesota currently averages 25 pass attempts per game. Kirk Cousins could set a personal best single game completion percentage this week if all goes to plan. Thielen is currently receiving a 31% target share. That’s not a typo. I know Justin Jefferson is all the rage over the past two weeks, but Thielen has one more target and one more touchdown than Jefferson so I’d bank on Thielen’s floor this week.
WR Darius Slayton (NYG) – While the Seahawks have allowed the most yards to WRs this year, the Cowboys have allowed the most receiving TDs to WRs this year. Remember when the vaunted Steelers defense was burned for two touchdowns in Week 1 by Giants WR Darius Slayton? Good times. And remember when Jason Garrett was fired by the Cowboys this offseason? I do. Do you also remember when he was brought in to be the Offensive Coordinator of the Giants? Who could forget. Players have revenge games all the time. So do coaches. Slayton is currently the Giants leader in receiving yards, routes run, and receiving touchdowns. In fact, he’s the only receiver on the Giants to catch a TD pass. The Giants have no running game, so the passing game is where it’s at.
WR Deebo Samuel (SF) – True to his word, Kyle Shanahan kept Deebo Samuel on a pitch count this week. Of the 16 routes he ran in Week 4, he was targeted on three of them. This week, against Miami, is a good week to push it a little more. Six WRs this year have put up 12 or more fantasy points against this secondary. With so much focus likely heading to George Kittle after his blow up last week, single coverage on Samuel and company is likely. Samuel should be in for a nice floor game as a FLEX with WR2 upside, even if they limit his reps another week.
TE Hunter Henry (LAC) – What the Raiders are to RBs, the Saints are to TEs. NO has allowed the 2nd most fantasy points to TEs this year, and it’s not because of one big blow up game. In every game this year, they’ve allowed a TE ten or more fantasy points. Hunter Henry is currently the only TE in the top 15 to not score a touchdown, but he’s 3rd in receiving yards. Even if he doesn’t score a touchdown this week, you have a ten point floor with Henry, and that’s all you can ask for at TE these days.
TE Tyler Higbee (LAR) – People want to point out that Higbee is currently TE9 on the season. And it’s true, he is, but it’s literally on the backs of one good game against Philadelphia where he scored three touchdowns in the red zone. He hasn’t eclipsed 7.0 fantasy points in any other game this year. Seven fantasy points per game isn’t even top 20 right now, but I digress. I’ve mentioned how Washington has been good against RBs and WRs. They’ve faltered against TEs though, allowing over 20 fantasy points twice this year. Higbee is currently 5th on the Rams in routes run, but just like against Philadelphia, it wouldn’t surprise me to see Sean McVay take advantage of a weakness. Higbee could have a big game this week.
QB Matt Ryan (ATL) – Man, Matt Ryan looked AWFUL against the Packers on Monday night. The good news for him and the Falcons is that the way to beat the Panthers is to run the football. While they’ve allowed the 2nd most fantasy points to RBs on the season, they’ve allowed the 3rd fewest to QBs and are tied for the 8th fewest passing TDs allowed. Atlanta will need to readjust their game plan if they want to avoid an 0-5 start.
QB Derek Carr (LV) – If the Chiefs can throttle Lamar Jackson, I’m fairly certain they’ll have zero issue with Derek Carr. In his career against KC, he has only one game with more than 300 passing yards, and that was back in 2017. He averages only 228 yards per game against them. The Chiefs are allowing only 213 passing yards and one touchdown pass per game to QBs. There is zero upside by streaming Carr this week if you have Aaron Rodgers or Matthew Stafford on a bye.
RB Miles Sanders (PHI) – You’re looking at about a 12.5 point ceiling with Sanders going against Pittsburgh this week. They have absolutely stifled running games this season, allowing only 40.3 rushing yards per game to RBs. If would use Sanders in the receiving game more, that ceiling is likely higher. Considering their lack of receiving options, Sanders has caught only half his targets the last two weeks for a total of 42 yards, good for a measly 0.67 yards pre route run. It was almost a full yard higher last year (1.61). Last week was Sanders first this season with under 30 routes run. If you’re not throwing the ball to your top playmaker, do you even offense, bro? Fade with confidence this week.
RB Jonathan Taylor (IND) – If you had told me before the season, that we’d see the 3-1 Browns welcome the 3-1 Colts to Cleveland in Week 5, I’d have spit out my Truly on my computer. Both teams are in the top half of the league in rushing (CLE – 1st; IND – 13th) and both are in the top 5 in fewest rushing yards allowed (CLE – 5th; IND – 4th). So why is Jonathan Taylor on this list and not Kareem Hunt? Passing game usage. The Browns allow just over 6 receptions a game to RBs and Taylor has seen two targets over the last two weeks. He’s averaging 0.1 receptions per route run. His counterpart, Nyheim Hines, is averaging 0.28 receptions per route, a considerable difference when you realize Hines has ran only five more routes than Taylor the last two weeks. Taylor will need a touchdown to salvage his fantasy day, something he’s only done twice this year.
RB Darrell Henderson (LAR) – When trying to decipher the Rams backfield usage, make you’re stocked up on Advil. For the life of me, I can’t figure out why Malcolm Brown out-snapped Henderson in Week 4, but here we are. The Washington Football Team has had their share of struggles this year, but their defense has been a lone bright spot, specifically their run defense. They’re allowing the 7th fewest fantasy points per game and 7th fewest receptions to RBs and Henderson’s up and down usage makes him difficult to trust, even as the RB in the Rams offense that’s tops in receiving yards (62).
WR Robert Woods (LAR) – I mentioned the Washington Football Team had a good defense before, right? They’re pass defense has been solid as well, allowing the 2nd fewest fantasy points to WRs through four weeks. Robert Woods has been his typical “safe floor” self the last couple of weeks, combining for 21.4 fantasy points while running the most routes on the team. But while he’s WR29 the last two weeks, teammate Cooper Kupp is WR7. Given the tough matchup, you’re looking at another “floor” game for woods, and a particularly lower one more than likley.
WR Calvin Ridley (ATL) – Ridley’s bagel on Monday Night could’ve at least been schmeared, right? Matt Ryan couldn’t hit Ridley if he tried. And he did, with five targets. I mentioned above that you beat Carolina on the ground, not through the air, so it’s only right that the Panthers have allowed the 7th fewest fantasy points to WRs this year. I’m all on board the Ridley 2020 breakout, but it’s going to have some bumps in the road along the way. This will be one of those weeks.
WR Odell Beckhan Jr. (CLE) – We finally got the OBJ breakout game we’ve been waiting for — a week later than I thought, but whatevs. The Colts are savages against opposing WRs though. They’ve allowed the second fewest receiving yards to WRs on the season (507) and allow only 11 receptions per game. The Browns have attempted the 5th fewest attempts in the league to date which makes precision a must against Indy. OBJ currently averages 14.8 yards per reception so there’s hope for a couple of big plays, but he currently has a 53.3% catch rate. Those two just don’t fit well together against a tough defense.
TE Zack Ertz (PHI) – Four catches for nine yards last week. That’s it. Um, wut? Maybe the talk of Ertz’s decline wasn’t premature. The good news is he leads the Eagles in routes run, and it’s not particularly close. The production will come eventually. The bad news is the Steelers defense will be all up in Carson Wentz’s face and as a result, not a ton of time to throw. Ertz’s yards per route run this year is an abysmal 0.84, currently 37th out of 44 qualified TEs. More targets within five yards of the line doesn’t bode well for Ertz’s upside.
TE Dalton Schultz (DAL) – I’ve mentioned this in previous articles, but the Giants cover TEs well. Dalton Schultz has been a 2020 breakout on a Cowboys passing offense that is poised to shatter records if they hold their pace. Since he became the starter after Blake Jarwin’s injury, Schultz is tied for fourth among TEs in routes run and third in targets. The Giants allow the 10th most yards to TEs and haven’t yielded a single touchdown through four games. With Schultz being 5th in the Dallas pecking order, it’s not hard to imagine this being a tougher game for him to continue his top 10 production.