I know this column is about football. More specifically, fantasy football. But I want to take a few minutes to talk about my first love — baseball. More specifically, the New York Yankees. Most of you that read this know I am a Philadelphia Eagles fan. You’re probably wondering where my Yankee fandom comes from. I guess now is as good a time as any to tell this story.
Baseball was the first sport I ever played. I loved it. I was an average ballplayer, but I kept making teams because I played catcher, a position most people didn’t like. For me, playing catcher always kept me involved. Everything was on my shoulders, from what the pitcher threw to keeping the batters and baserunners honest.
It was the ultimate chess match. And I craved it.
My uncle Carl was a big baseball fan as well. He lived in Ft. Lauderdale, FL. Growing up, he attended a lot of Spring Training games (as most Floridians do). At the time, the Yankees Spring Training home was in Ft. Lauderdale. He became a fan as a result. With how close Carl and my mom were, Carl and I used to talk a lot as a result. I always loved when my mom would take us down to Ft. Lauderdale/Miami to see family, as seeing Carl was always something I loved. The bond that I developed with Carl led me to my Yankee fandom. We rooted for the team together. It’s something I’ll always cherish.
You’ll notice a lot of past tense being used in this intro, and for good reason.
When I was 14, Carl passed away after contracting HIV. When he died, one of his possessions that was given to me was a baseball. It wasn’t just any baseball, though. It was a baseball that was signed by many Yankees from the teams of the 70s. Just a couple of the signatures on the ball include Thurmon Munson and Graig Nettles.
Carl didn’t put it on a pedestal, though. He didn’t put it in a case and stare at it. He played with it. (Not the smartest thing, but he was a kid.) The signatures are worn and barely recognizable. And you know what? I don’t care. Never really did. As much as I love the fact that I have a ball signed by the great Thurmon Munson (among others), it reminds me of my uncle. It reminds me of why I love baseball and why I love sports. It’s a game. It brings people together. It’s competitive.
More importantly, it’s fun.
I mention this origin of my Yankees fandom because they were just eliminated from the playoffs. By the hated Boston Red Sox, no less. For the last 12 years, being a Yankees fan has been frustrating. (And yes, I understand how insensitive that is with our storied history compared to fans of other franchises.) We come into every season with the expectation of World Series or bust. They build their team the same way year in and year out, and it still isn’t working.
Maybe, just maybe, it’s time to switch up the approach to get over the hump. Time to zag after zigging all these years. Who knows? The results can’t get much worse, right?
Through four weeks of the NFL season, it’s easy to feel down if your fantasy football team is sitting at 0-4 or 1-3. Hell, even 2-2. Some players you had high expectations for might have started slow, but their usage suggests better days are ahead. On the other hand, some players just might not recover. As much as that sucks, we have to move forward. Don’t be afraid to make moves. Being complacent isn’t going to turn your season around. Just because it worked for you in the past doesn’t mean it’ll continue to work for you now.
The season is still young. So let’s work on turning it around.
Last week’s picks were so-so. Marquez Valdes-Scantling was ruled out before the game, so we took a tie in the Plays to go with only six wins. Fades were better, eight correct calls out of 16. On the season, I’m at a 51.6% hit rate, so still better than .500!
A quick reminder of what Play and Fade mean: Play simply means players that I love based on matchups and my expectation that they’ll finish with more points than projected. Fade indicates players that I think will underperform their projections/consensus weekly rankings. It doesn’t mean I’m outright benching them, but I’m likely not rushing to put them in any DFS lineups either. Onto Week 5.
QB Kirk Cousins (MIN) vs. DET – Kirk Cousins did not look great against Cleveland last week. But you know what heals an ailing QB? A date with Detroit. Cousins has won six straight games against the Lions, so expect that streak to continue. Do you know what else Cousins has done against the Lions of late? In their last five meetings, he’s thrown 14 touchdowns and tossed a grand total of ZERO interceptions. The Lions are so bad against RBs that most QBs have been subpar against them, but don’t fall for that with Cousins. He’s a QB1 this week.
Other QBs with good matchups: Zach Wilson (NYJ) @ ATL and Mac Jones (NE) @ HOU
RB Cordarrelle Patterson/Mike Davis (ATL) vs. NYJ – Yeah, I’m playing both Falcons running backs this week in London. We’ve talked at length about how atrocious the Jets are against running backs. They allow almost 34 PPR fantasy points a game to RBs. The average player may not realize that Mike Davis is outsnapping Cordarrelle Patterson by a 2-to-1 margin. Even if Patterson scores all the touchdowns like last week, I firmly expect Davis to be an RB2 with RB1 upside this week. So dial them both up with confidence.
RB Leonard Fournette (TB) vs. MIA – At this point, you should already know that Leonard Fournette is the Bucs RB to roster. On the season, he’s handling 60% of the snaps and has scored 45.8 fantasy points to Ronald Jones’ 26.9. Last week, with Giovani Bernard out, Fournette handled 80% of the snaps. That’s the good news when considering playing Fournette this week. The better news? Miami has been steamrolled by RBs this year. They’ve allowed the 3rd most rushing yards and fantasy points to RBs, and yield 6.5 receptions a game to RBs. With Fournette handling a large amount of passing work as well — tied for 7th in targets and tied for 8th in receptions among RBs — Fournette has a clear path to an RB1 week.
Other RBs with good matchups: Zack Moss (BUF) @ KC, Chuba Hubbard (CAR) vs. PHI, and Damien Harris (NE) @ HOU
WR Marquise “Hollywood” Brown (BAL) vs. IND – If not for three dropped touchdowns in Week 3, Hollywood Brown would not only lead the NFL in touchdown catches but would likely be THE WR1 in fantasy. Do you know who is tied for the most touchdowns allowed to WRs to start this season? The Ravens’ Week 5 opponent, the Indianapolis Colts. Lamar Jackson has looked to Brown often through four weeks, as he leads Baltimore in receptions, yards, and touchdowns. Bet big on Brown lighting up the Colts on Monday night.
WR DeVante Parker (MIA) @ TB – Now that the Bucs are on cornerback number 29 through four weeks, it’s safe to say just start any of your wide receivers against the Bucs. They’ve allowed the most fantasy points to WRs so far, and while typing this, they just lost three more corners. (I kid.) Jacoby Brissett is a veteran, and he knows what he needs to do to put the team in a position to win. That doesn’t include handing the ball off against the best rush defense in the league. Parker should be an easy WR2 this week.
Other WRs with good matchups: Corey Davis (NYJ) @ ATL, Tyler Boyd (CIN) vs. GB, and Laviska Shenault (JAX) vs. TEN
TE Mike Gesicki (MIA) @ TB – Like with DeVante Parker, Mike Gesicki should be an absolute monster against the Bucs on Sunday. Over the last two weeks, with Brissett starting for Miami, Gesicki has seen a whopping 18 targets, leading to 15 catches and 35.3 fantasy points. He’s the TE3 over those last two weeks. The Bucs have allowed three TDs to TEs the previous two weeks and have given up the 2nd most receptions to the position this season. Gesicki should be a top 5 TE this week.
Other TEs with good matchups: Hunter Henry (NE) @ HOU and Dalton Schultz (DAL) vs. NYG
QB Patrick Mahomes (KC) vs. BUF – I’m fully prepared for this to come back and bite me in the ass. And it’s not even that I think Patrick Mahomes will be bad this week. I just don’t think he’s going to be great. The Bills have been outstanding against QBs this year, allowing the fewest fantasy points to QBs on the year. Yes, I’m aware they’ve faced Ben Roethlisberger, Jacoby Brissett, Taylor Heinicke, and Davis Mills in the process, which heavily skews those numbers. But they also have the 2nd most interceptions on the year. And this goes back to last year, when they allowed the 11th fewest passing yards, the 9th fewest passing TDs, and tied for the 7th most interceptions. Buffalo is playing like they have a point to prove after getting boat-raced in the playoffs by these same Chiefs a year ago, and Mahomes is playing pretty careless football. He already has four interceptions in his last three games when he had only six all of last year. Give a hungry defense an opportunity for takeaways, and bad things can happen for your quarterback. I fully expect a QB1 week from Mahomes, but it’s likely more in the 8-11 range.
Other QBs with bad matchups: Daniel Jones (NYG) @ DAL and Matt Ryan (ATL) vs. NYJ
RB Austin Ekeler (LAC) vs. CLE – This pains me to write, as Austin Ekeler has been nothing short of fantastic for fantasy managers to begin 2021. But man, that Cleveland defense has been so good to start the season. They’ve allowed the 2nd fewest fantasy points to RBs and the 5th fewest receptions on the season. More to the point, in back-to-back weeks, they held David Montgomery to 7.5 fantasy points (RB39) and Dalvin Cook/Alexander Mattison to 54 rushing yards and 8.4 total fantasy points. Ekeler’s usage all over the offense has been encouraging, so hopefully, that provides him a decent floor, but I will be shocked if he’s a top-15 RB this week.
RB Clyde Edwards-Helaire (KC) vs. BUF – Clyde Edwards-Helaire needed a matchup with Philadelphia to get back on track. He rushed for 102 yards and added a receiving touchdown, en route to finishing as the RB12 on the week. But that was Week 4. Buffalo lurks in Week 5, and they have just bottled up RBs this year. The one big catch and run from Antonio Gibson in Week 3 is the only touchdown they’ve allowed to an RB this year. They’ve given up the 4th fewest fantasy points per game and the 3rd fewest receptions to RBs through four weeks. And for an RB known for his pass-catching prowess, CEH has 3, 0, 2, and 3 targets in each game this year. The upside is capped unless he scores a TD, and he has zero red-zone TDs on six rushing attempts this year. Easy fade for me this week.
Other RBs with bad matchups: Antonio Gibson (WAS) vs. NO, Miles Sanders (PHI) @ CAR, and Myles Gaskin (MIA) @ TB
WR Brandin Cooks (HOU) vs. NE – Brandin Cooks has over 200 receiving yards in two career games against his former team, the New England Patriots. But as we’ve talked about for as long as Club Fantasy has existed, Bill Belichick is a master at eliminating a team’s best weapon. They neutralized Mike Gesicki (3 targets, 0 receptions) in Week 1, Corey Davis (5 targets, 2 catches for 8 yards) in Week 2, Alvin Kamara (3.7 yards/carry on 24 carries) in Week 3, and Chris Godwin (5 targets, 3 catches for 55 yards) in Week 4. Cooks gets that treatment this week, and after watching rookie QB Davis Mills get dragged by the Bills in Week 4, Cooks doesn’t stand a chance this week.
WR Odell Beckham Jr. (CLE) @ LAC – OBJ hasn’t given us many reasons to start him in about a year. And yes, much of that is due to injury, but I digress. The rapport he has with QB Baker Mayfield is non-existent. To make matters worse, the Chargers have smothered WRs to date, allowing the 2nd fewest fantasy points. And that includes holding Tyreek Hill to less than 60 receiving yards. I expect this game to be a defensive slugfest, featuring a lot of tough runs and underneath throws. That doesn’t favor OBJ’s skillset. There are better FLEX options out there.
Other WRs with bad matchups: Mike Williams (LAC) vs. CLE, DeVonta Smith (PHI) @ CAR, and Michael Pittman Jr. (IND) @ BAL
TE Kyle Pitts (ATL) vs. NYJ – With the Thursday news that WR Calvin Ridley is not making the trip to London for this week’s game to tend to a personal matter, I’m likely going to regret this pick. But much like the Mahomes selection, I’m not backing down. I faded Cordarrelle Patterson last week because Washington has done well in slowing down receiving backs. Funny story — Patterson played WR most of that game, a position Washington hasn’t been able to stop all year. So while the Jets have done well at stopping TEs on the year — they’ve allowed the 8th fewest fantasy points to the position this year — I’m going to treat Pitts as a WR. So how does New York handle WRs? Extremely well, as a matter of fact. They’ve allowed the 3rd fewest fantasy points, as teams just decide to run all over them instead. I have no doubt Pitts will see plenty of targets because that’s just the Atlanta offense. But he’s also going to see double coverage without Ridley. Asking the rookie to do more than what he’s doing when he’s not exactly lighting up the stat sheet while seeing single coverage probably isn’t smart. Don’t be surprised if Pitts doesn’t have the breakout game many are expecting because he’s playing “the god damn Jets.” (Love a good Big Daddy reference.)
Other TEs with bad matchups: Robert Tonyan (GB) @ CIN and Maxx Williams (ARI) vs. SF
Did you make it this far and still need more Start/Sit suggestions? Club Fantasy does a show every Saturday morning at 11 AM EST on YouTube that is 100% dedicated to your questions. So tune in and fire away! It will be a boring show without you!