As always, the primary function of this column is to help you secure the bottom half of your starting lineup.
Fantasy football is won and lost in WR2/RB2 and FLEX spots. The goal is to avoid being the person tweeting screenshots of a 30-point performance sitting on their bench.
Racks: Players that are in a good position to outperform their typical projections. If they’re on your squad, then Rack them into your lineup and don’t look back.
Rests: These are players facing tough weeks, whether due to matchup or other circumstances. Rest them for this week.
Flex, rack, rest; welcome (back) to your weekly workout.
Mailbag Questions? Need Rack/Rest advice? Hit me up on Twitter: @DJEN5EN
Jacoby Brissett, Indianapolis vs. San Francisco: Brissett has been serviceable since taking over for original Andrew Luck placeholder Scott Tolzien, particularly with his legs making up for the passing yardage he leaves on the field. With a bottom-tier pass defense in the 49ers coming to town, expect Brissett to have his best fantasy performance of the season – he’s a worthy replacement for owners with their regular QB on a bye.
Duke Johnson, Cleveland vs. New York Jets: Johson is losing to equally-mediocre teammate Isaiah Crowell in the much-coveted Browns RB touches battle, 13-9, and now gets the overachieving Jets at home. So, why the Rack? Surprisingly, it’s the New York pass defense that has excelled, while its run defense has been exposed repeatedly, and never more than against pass-catching backs. Johnson is receiving eight such targets per game, while Crowell receives one. Like the Dementors in Harry Potter, the nebulous haters and doubters are creeping into the periphery in Cleveland, and head coach Hue Jackson better start making things happen before he ends up, like so many before him, at the wrong end of an unforgivable curse.
Doug Martin, Tampa Bay vs. New England: You’ve been patiently waiting for weeks to unwrap your Muscle Hamster, and it’s finally time to start enjoying your new toy, however lame (his legs only move in one direction and his torso doesn’t rotate) he ultimately ends up being. The Patriots are still horrific defensively, and I’m positively giddy at the thought of watching hit-averse Stephon Gilmore bounce off of Martin like this unsuspecting young woman.
Marshawn Lynch, Oakland vs. Baltimore: Owners who listened to Buzzfeed’s “OMG 10 Times You Were Marshawn Lynch”-hype and overdrafted Lynch are probably sorry to see him even appearing in a flex column. But these are the times. The good news is he’s a Rack this week, thanks to a matchup with a mediocre run defense in Baltimore, and the fact that Jack Del Rio isn’t dumb enough to expect E.J. Manuel to throw with any kind of success against the (statistically) best pass defense in the league.
Javorius Allen, Baltimore @ Oakland: There are rumblings that free agent pickup Alex Collins is primed to take over the feature back role for the Ravens, so this could be the last week you can count on Allen from a fantasy perspective. Oakland fields a strong run defense, but they have been positively gashed by pass-catching backs so far this season. As long as Allen is the trusted receiving back, expect him to get (at least) his standard 16 opportunities (targets + rushing attempts) this week. That many opportunities is worth a flex spot.
Tarik Cohen, Chicago vs. Minnesota: Despite me (maybe) prematurely playing TLC’s Graduation Song a little early for Cohen, I still think he’s an every week starter, even against a top-ten rushing defense in Minnesota. The thing with Minnesota’s rush defense is that, like Oakland, they have trouble stopping receiving backs. If Cohen isn’t a receiving back, well, then he’s just your standard short guy who is very strong but still picked late in your local recreational pickup game.
Christian McCaffrey, Carolina @ Detroit: Like Cohen, McCaffrey shouldn’t belong in a flex column, but unlike Cohen, McCaffrey has yet to explode onto the NFL stage. This is the week. The Lions are an overall top-6 defense, a ranking derived from their pass/run defense balance, and I think that’s why this is McCaffrey’s game. Cam Newton and Co. will need to get creative, and I think McCaffrey will be the beneficiary of a couple dump-offs he’ll take for big yardage.
Latavius Murray, Minnesota @ Chicago: Future household name Dalvin Cook’s knee imploded on Sunday, opening the door for the ever-consistent Murray to increase his opportunities per game. He’s definitely worth a Rack against a Chicago team that can’t stop the run or the pass: the ultimate purgatory.
Davante Parker, Miami vs. Tennessee: Man, it’s like Jay Cutler lackadaisically trotted out wide and tossed the internet sharks a big, juicy-ass bucket of chum to work themselves into a biting, sniping frenzy. This guy can’t stop, won’t stop looking like he’s in a perpetual walkthrough in the dead of summer. That being said, HC Adam Gase has to be feeling the pressure of being an offensive-minded coach who signed his quarterback and has yet to crack 20 points. Tennessee’s pass defense was just torched by young buck Deshaun Watson and, while that may be a little bit of an anomaly, they do have an early track record of failure against WR2s. Enter Parker.
Sammy Watkins, Los Angeles Rams vs. Seattle: Jared Goff, NFL Quarterback is starting to sound less like an oxymoron and more like a Larry David-esque “mehhhhh, ok, fine”. Expect Seattle to win this game and bring the Rams back to Earth, but Watkins should have a quietly effective game in a matchup that, at first glance, appears to be worthy of a Rest. Oddly enough, it’s WR1s that Seattle corners are struggling with, despite shutting down everyone else. I wouldn’t start Kupp or Woods or anyone else not named Gurley in Rams white and blue and uh … gold (seriously, what is that uniform color combination abomination?).
Golden Tate, Detroit vs. Carolina: Tate draws a strong defensive secondary in Week 5 but, like the case of Watkins vs. Seattle, one that struggles against WR1s. While your (and my) opinion on considering Golden Tate a WR1 may vary, he lines up as such and draws a respectable nine targets per game. I can see him scoring a red zone TD in a close game.
Tyrell Williams, Los Angeles Chargers @ New York Giants: Williams is only drawing six targets per game, but is cashing them in to the tune of 1.25 points per. Unlike their playoff hopes, the Giants’ defense isn’t dead on arrival. But their secondary is exposable, particularly Eli Apple, who should square off with Williams in Week 5.
Adam Thielen, Minnesota @ Chicago: Case Keenum is playing out of his mind, which for him means he looks like your standard top 15-20 quarterback. The Vikings still have Rackable Latavius Murray keeping a bottom-third Chicago defense honest, and Thielen catches an unbelievable 75% of his targets, notching a point per. Really, the only thing keeping him from being an every week Rack is that he hasn’t had a chance to unleash his own super-coordinated touchdown dance.
Jermaine Kearse, New York Jets @ Cleveland: This Rack is 100% matchup-driven, as the Browns are bottom-three in all pass defense metrics. This game is going to be a high-scoring affair, as both teams have serious talent issues on the defensive side of the ball. I think Cleveland puts up a high number on the Jets and sells out to stop the run, forcing McCown to throw. Kearse should see more than his standard six opportunities and will hopefully cash one in.
DeSean Jackson, Tampa Bay vs. New England: Stephon Gilmore, whose family now gets to watch him (Hyperlink Update: I’ve been blocked by Stephon Gilmore, though I don’t think I’ve ever tweeted at him *hmm emoji*) get roasted in primetime, will likely be tasked with keeping the speedy Jackson in check; this is great news for Jackson owners and karma fans.
Andy Dalton, Cincinnati vs. Buffalo: Expect the Bills’ zone defense to bait Dalton into throwing his trademark soul-crushing (not that he has one) interceptions. Buffalo has only allowed one touchdown through the air and fewer than 14 points on average; this one is going to be a punting extravaganza.
Blake Bortles, Jacksonville @ Pittsburgh: Bortles has been treading water as fantasy’s 17th highest scoring quarterback; never quite playing abysmally enough to be funny, but never good enough to scare NFL defenses. Expect him to sink a little further this week against a Steelers defense with the league’s 3rd best overall DVOA and top-10 pass defense.
LeGarrette Blount, Philadelphia vs. Arizona: Blount has rebounded from an awful preseason to post a respectable 0.87 points per opportunity in the first month of the season. With that being said, his Week 5 matchup against an Arizona team with a balanced defense leaves a lot to be desired. I think the Eagles go to the air in this one.
Mike Gillislee, New England @ Tampa Bay: This could be one of the most anticipated Thursday night games since the league started shoving them down players’ throats in 2006. The entire football world anxiously awaits a chance to kick dirt on the dead, decaying body that is the Patriots’ defense. If the Patriots, like so many times before, are able to climb out of the hole, then it’ll be with Tom Brady’s arm and not via the ground game against a top-3 run defense. James White is the sneaky play as the pass-catching back of the week in Boston.
Derrick Henry, Tennessee @ Miami: Not getting enough touches to warrant a Rack vs. the league’s 2nd best run defense. I swear I’m not trying to ether DeMarco Murray but, come on, let’s get Henry rolling more than ten times per game.
Joe Mixon, Cincinnati vs. Buffalo: With Dalvin Cook sidelined for the season and Fournette struggling with nagging injuries, it’s Mixon who carries the rookie-running-back-sensation crown for now. Don’t expect a ton of yardage against a Bills defense getting run-stopping DE Shaq Lawson back from injury and Marcell Dareus another week removed from his ankle injury. Really, I see pass-catching Gio Bernard being the back you want in this matchup; the Bills will be turning to 5th-round rookie LB Matt Milano to patrol the screen and dump-off game that worked for Cincinnati in Week 4.
Ameer Abdullah, Detroit vs. Carolina: Abdullah is getting an unbelievable 19+ opportunities per game, which says less about him than it does about Theo Riddick. Week 5 brings a Carolina team that has yet to give up 50 yards rushing to a player. Find someone else.
Kelvin Benjamin, Carolina @ Detroit: Maybe instead of condescendingly laughing at a female reporter’s route concept question, Cam Newton should consider asking Benjamin if he knows the full route tree, seeing as he’s only getting open enough to warrant fewer than five targets per game. Couple the low number of opportunities with an up-and-coming Detroit defense, and it’s welcome to Rest City for Benjamin this week. Good thing I’m a big strapping man that has played fantasy football, so I’m authorized to talk about it.
Doug Baldwin, Seattle @ Los Angeles Rams: Baldwin has been surprisingly efficient in producing a full point per opportunity, but now gets a Rams team that ranks 7th in defending de facto WR1s. Even if you, like I, consider Baldwin a WR2 on the field, the Rams are equally good against those.
Sterling Shepard, New York Giants vs. Los Angeles Chargers: They say the NFL is unpredictable and nothing says unpredictable like having the two most football-averse major cities in the country field two damn teams each. Completely ridiculous. Regarding Shepard, this will be an OBJ week for the Giants, as the Chargers seem to have minor difficulty with WR1s (18th), but lock down on WR2s (8th).
Jeremy Maclin, Baltimore vs. Oakland: I would rather start E.J. Manuel and his receivers than Joe Flacco and his. Sad!
Allen Hurns, Jacksonville @ Pittsburgh: I wrote this about Hurns last week:
I wrote this about Hurns last week:
I will concede that the game being in London, and particularly with the Jags’ familiarity with playing there, may warp the traditional outlook on the matchup – but I wouldn’t bet on Hurns and Bortles to be the beneficiaries. As a matter of fact, I wouldn’t bet on Hurns and Bortles, ever. Don’t even bet on them to lose, because they’ll find a way to lose that for you too.
That, folks, is called hedging your bets. A no-lose situation. Hurns doesn’t produce and I get to say told you so, and if Hurns does produce, then I get to also say told you so. Obviously, the latter applies after last week’s respectable 10-point fantasy day. Don’t expect a repeat.
Ah, the ultra-rare quote-within-a-quote opportunity; the ultimate writing laziness. Hurns last week lived up to the expectation and produced a measly 4.2 points on 10 targets. This week he’ll face a Steelers secondary that is even better than their Week 4 opponent, the New York Jets.
(Future) Fantasy Ghost Of The Week
Each week I’ll highlight a typical fantasy star that will likely under-produce. This doesn’t mean they’re automatic “Rests” – but be prepared to be disappointed.
Deshaun Watson, QB, Houston vs. Kansas City: It’s tempting for fantasy owners whose quarterbacks are on bye to plug-and-play Watson after two phenomenal weeks at the helm in Houston. Keep in mind Week 3 & 4 opponents New England and Tennessee, the two worst defenses in the league, whereas his Week 5 Chiefs opponent is top-ten against the pass and top half of the league, overall. Look, you’re probably a better quarterback than Tom Savage, and it took until Week 3 for Watson to beat him out – and this isn’t to say Watson won’t have fantasy impact later this season (hello Cleveland) – but resist the urge to Rack him this week.
Tweets Of The Week
A pair of tweets to sum up the week that was in the NFL world and out.
The Sheriff and I have set up an account to aid survivors and their families. I've pledged the first $10K. https://t.co/UMcQtZLgmr— Steve Sisolak (@SteveSisolak) October 2, 2017
cam better dig deep if he wants to comeback from this drag-worthy comment https://t.co/HftxDdfyIm— Mina Kimes (@minakimes) October 4, 2017
*Pick In BOLD
Last Week (0-3)
Season (5-8) (Not good)
Tampa Bay +5.5 vs New England
Houston +2.5 vs. Kansas City
Chicago +3 vs. Minnesota
Have a good weekend, everybody.