It’s officially BYEWEEK SZN – a critical time for average and below-average teams to sneak up on an unsuspecting juggernaut weakened by a star player on bye. If you’re one of those middling teams, then it’s time to take a few chances, hoping that one of these unknown guys will blow up for a week and put you back in the race.
Everybody wants to at least win their $20 league entry fee back so they can get an extra side of guac with their Chipotle, right?
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 who 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.
Jacoby Brissett, Indianapolis @ Tennessee: Back-to-back Rack weeks for Brissett. Coming off a solid game in which he surpassed the 300-yd mark against a terrible pass defense in San Francisco, Brissett gets an almost-as-bad secondary in Tennessee. He’s a viable start option for players with their QB1 on bye.
Josh McCown, New York Jets vs. New England: Even after a strong(ish) showing against Tampa Bay last Thursday, the Patriots still rank among the lowest teams in pass defense efficiency. Belichick fixing the defensive shortcomings is as inevitable as nuclear war and just as enticing, so take advantage while you can. McCown will need to throw to keep up with Brady.
Ameer Abdullah, Detriot @ New Orleans: Abdullah is caught in fantasy no-man’s land. He’s getting enough opportunities per game to warrant a weekly start, but he’s cashing in on those opportunities (18 per game) as you’d expect him to: less than half a point per. But you’re desperate to avoid starting someone like Kyle Juszczyk this week, so you’ve got to plug in Abdullah and ride the opportunities against New Orleans’ (obviously) bottom of the league run defense.
Rex Burkhead, New England @ New York Jets: A rib fracture has sidelined him since Week 2, but early week reports have Burkhead penciled into the lineup for Week 6. While every recommendation to start a Patriot running back should end with a Cialis commercial length disclaimer speed-read, I think Burkhead gets a healthy number of opportunities (say, 12) against a weak Jets linebacker corps (and weak run defense, overall).
Jamaal Charles, Denver vs. New York Giants: Make no mistake, CJ Anderson has pitbull grip on the starting job, but Charles is receiving ten opportunities per game, and looking like vintage Jamaal Charles while doing so. In a very Rackable matchup against a limping Giants team incapable of stopping the run or pass-catching backs, Charles could net 15 points and keep you afloat.
Latavius Murray, Minnesota vs. Green Bay: Murray performed adequately in his first game as the Vikings’ feature back, a position handed down by the turf monster that robbed Dalvin Cook of his Rookie of the Year campaign. Any back that receives 15+ opportunities per game is Rackable during BYEWEEK SZN – particularly when his QB is Case Keenum or Lost Puppy Sam Bradford, and his team’s goal that week is to keep Aaron Rodgers from ripping their hearts out in his next commercial. Minnesota will run, stall, and use clock. This game is going to go by like the last two minutes of a March Madness game.
Derrick Henry, Tennessee vs. Indianapolis: Due to his obvious talent but frustratingly low opportunities per game, Henry is an occasional guest here in Flex On ‘Em. In a matchup with a bottom-feeding defense in Indianapolis, and with Mariota either sidelined or hobbled, expect him to get a bump in opportunities and be even more productive in using them. Even in a 50/50 timeshare with DeMarco Murray, Henry is Rackable this week.
Marlon Mack, Indianapolis @ Tennessee: Like Jamaal Charles, Mack is the clear RB2 in his team’s backfield, but he’s getting nearly ten opportunities per game and is scoring nearly a point per. In a matchup with a middling Tennessee run defense, Mack should receive at least his typical number of opportunities and hope that some of those opportunities are of the pass-catching variety. Tennessee ranks at the bottom of the NFL in yards given up to pass-catching RBs.
Aaron Jones, Green Bay @ Minnesota: Aaron Jones looked positively electric last week against Dallas and should see his role increase going forward, healthy Ty Montgomery or not. Now, Jones may have just capitalized on a Dallas defense with so much pregame anxiety deciding whether they should sit, stand, or kneel that they were mentally drained by kickoff, but regardless, he balled out. Even with a tougher matchup in Minnesota set for Week 6, Jones should see enough opportunities against a defense hedging to stop the pass.
Roger Lewis, New York Giants @ Denver: Lewis is the only wide receiver to exit last week’s game healthy. OBJ, Brandon Marshall, and Sterling Shepard are all dealing with ailments that are going to keep them out for the year (OBJ, Marshall) or the month. This is an opportunity-based Rack, of which Lewis should get into the double digits. By no means are you going to buy his jersey, but you may be able to squeeze double digit fantasy points out of him this week.
JuJu Smith-Schuster, Pittsburgh @ Kansas City: Nobody plays possum more than Ben Roethlisberger, and his comments this past week are more of the same. At this point, he could be lying on the field, screaming bloody murder while holding his severed leg and I still wouldn’t take him seriously. If Ben Roethlisberger was Ben Revere we’d all be drinking tea and eating crumpets with busted ass teeth. Anyway, Smith-Schuster’s usage is low, but the points per opportunity are there to warrant Racking him in a slow week. The Chiefs have shut down WR1s and WR2s, but struggled mightily to contain deeper receiving corps like they faced in the LA Chargers and Washington. With Brown and Bryant to contain, hopefully you’ll have enough JuJu to get lucky with Smith-Schuster.
Marvin Jones, Detriot @ New Orleans: Death, Ben Roethlisberger playing possum, and starting your receivers against New Orleans. Golden Tate is a definite Rack throughout BYEWEEK SZN and Marvin Jones can slide on up the ranks based on matchups. This is a good one.
Demarcus Robinson, Kansas City @ Pittsburgh: Who? Like Roger Lewis, Robinson jumps straight from nobody to fantasy relevant because of injuries. Reports out of KC have Albert Wilson getting the bulk of the opportunities in the absence of Chris Conley, but those same reports highlight Robinson as the deep threat. It’s not a great matchup with a strong Pittsburgh secondary, but the opportunities will be there.
Jermain Kearse, New York Jets vs. New England: All of the same thinking that applies to Josh McCown also applies to Kearse. Also, I have used up my monthly quota of f*uc%ing Harry Potter jokes already so I’m being a good little $hi! here by not working Jermain’s last name into any b!tc#ing magical curse jokes.
Travis Benjamin, Los Angeles Chargers @ Oakland: Finally, owners that thought they were drafting Kelvin Benjamin can Rack their guy. Derek Carr or not, the Chargers will be testing a teetering Oakland juggernaut from all angles. Benjamin isn’t getting the number of opportunities to warrant weekly Racks, but here’s to hoping he gets a few extra targets this week and continue scoring more than a point per.
BONUS TIGHT END SECTION: This isn’t just relevant because it’s BYEWEEK SZN: the Tight End position in fantasy is such a desolate, depressing, wasteland that Ridley Scott is going to make a movie about it (Seriously, the ad campaign for Blade Runner 2049 is so saturated it makes the over-the-top advertising images in the movie pale in comparison). Three guys that could keep the position from being a total bust this week are C.J. Fiedorowicz, George Kittle, and Zach Miller. All are likely available in your league and face bottom-3 defenses against the tight end.
Mailbag Questions? Need Rack/Rest advice? Hit me up on Twitter: @DJEN5EN
Mitchell Trubisky, Chicago @ Baltimore: He replaced hilariously ineffective Mike Glennon just before halftime in Monday’s game against the Vikings and had middling success against their above average unit. I wouldn’t expect even middling returns facing a Baltimore team that ranks second in pass defense. There will be times when Trubisky is Rackable, but this isn’t one of them.
Blake Bortles, Jacksonville vs. Los Angeles Rams: Back to back weeks as a Rest for Bortles, who now draws a Rams team that can give up yards to better QBs, but likely won’t against Blake. People say the world is falling apart, but I’m not sure you can make that argument when Blake Bortles is throwing the ball less than thirty times per game and is scoring less than half a point per; those numbers are the definition of homeostasis.
Giants Running Backs, New York Giants @ Denver: It should come as no surprise that the Giants have started the season with five straight “L”s given they don’t have a running back ranked in the top fifty in fantasy scoring. Gallman may be a worthy sign and stash, but he’s not Rackable against a Denver defense that shuts down the run better than anyone else in football.
Mark Ingram, New Orleans vs. Detroit: I guess we finally know “Whose Man’s” the New Orleans backfield is: Alvin Kamara’s. With Adrian Peterson shipped off to Arizona, you’d expect Ingram to be an auto-Rack for the rest of the season – but that isn’t the case. I think Ingram’s opportunities per game remain static and Kamara absorbs Peterson’s touches. Seeing as Ingram is scoring less than a half a point per touch, don’t expect explosive returns just because he’s the only Heisman trophy winner left.
Adrian Peterson, Arizona @ Tampa Bay: Well, speak of the devil. Peterson was traded for a conditional 6th rounder for a reason and, if he has any value going forward, then it won’t be in his first week versus a Tampa Bay team that ranks in sixth against the run. Maybe in a few weeks, after he’s learned the playbook and become acclimated, he’ll be Rackable, but not this week.
Jonathan Stewart, Carolina vs. Philadelphia (Thursday Night Football): The Panthers are clearly limiting rookie running back Christian McCaffrey’s rushing attempts to keep him healthy and fresh throughout the season, and Stewart is the benefactor of that methodology. At almost 18 opportunities per game, he’s seeing the volume most players dream about. He’s just not converting them into points (0.4 points per opportunity). Take a shot with someone else, particularly considering the top-ten rush defense matchup in Philadelphia.
Doug Martin, Tampa Bay @ Arizona: In the first half of last week’s game versus the Patriots Martin looked fresh and powerful in his season premiere off of suspension. He faded in the second half, though, finishing with just 73 yards on 13 carries. Martin’s use this season will be matchup-driven, and on the road in Arizona isn’t a matchup to exploit.
Sammy Watkins, Los Angeles Rams @ Jacksonville: Given that it feels like the Jaguars have a top-ten pick every year since 1982, it makes sense that all of that talent would start to gel at some point. But it really hasn’t, with one lone exception: the secondary. The Jags field Football Outsiders’ number one overall defense, despite fielding the same metrics’ second worst run defense. You read that right. Their secondary is so good it buoys one of the worst front-sevens all the way up to the top overall defense. As far as Watkins goes, he’s back to his old tricks, pining for more touches on Instagram like an 18 year old boy in heat. Surely, his lack of targets and production have nothing to do with him. *Remembers he’s had Jared Goff and Tyrod Taylor as his quarterbacks* Wait could Sammy Watkins be the greatest receiver of all time and we’ll never know? I fully expect him to get traded to New England late in his career and explode for thousands of yards and dozens of TDs while catching the ball from grandpa Tom Brady, whose youngest son Welkedmandola plays slot receiver on the team, too.
Cooper Kupp, Los Angeles Rams @ Jacksonville: Basically Sammy Watkins this week, without the subtweeting.
Kendall Wright, Chicago @ Baltimore: Wright appears to have won the competition for WR1 in Chicago, a competition that started with contestants tying one hand behind their backs and ended with three Did Not Finishes and Markus Wheaton failing miserably to fulfill my prediction that he was fantasy’s next Emma Stone. Trubisky bumps his value a little bit, but not enough to warrant a Rack against a Baltimore team as proficient against the pass as Jacksonville.
Marquise Goodwin, San Francisco @ Washington: “He’s really fast,” is about the only thing anyone ever says about Marquise Goodwin. Well, that and that he was an Olympic athlete in 2012. Never a word about his route running, blocking, catching, or anything that signifies “hey this really fast person is also a wide receiver”. He’s seeing six targets a game and, maybe, one of those is a long one – but that doesn’t necessarily mean he’ll catch it or that a top ten Washington secondary will allow him to catch it.
Allen Hurns, Jacksonville vs. Los Angeles Rams: See every Flex On ‘Em in the last month. It’s easier for me to type that than quote-within-a-quote-within-a-quote this thing.
Ted Ginn, New Orleans vs. Detroit: Just a name brand player at this point; a guy you may see sitting on your bench or on the waiver wire and think “he’s good enough, right?” He’s not. And he’s not getting enough opportunities (less than five per game) to think he could have a big enough week to earn a Rack, even during BYEWEEK SZN.
(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.
Alex Smith, Kansas City vs. Pittsburgh: It’s like Alex Smith is Cinderella and the clock just flat out runs out of batteries and never strikes midnight. What a story his borderline MVP first five weeks has been. He’s throwing the ball over thirty times a game and no quarterback not named Deshaun Watson (who has submitted a limited sample size) is scoring more per opportunity. This week brings a wounded animal in Pittsburgh and the league’s third-best defense against the pass – not a good combination for Smith. While he could still thrive working off play-action, temper your expectations for the guy you probably didn’t even draft and now count on every week. He’s earned it.
Tweets Of The Week
As always, a pair of tweets to sum up the week that was in the NFL world and out.
RIP Tom Petty. pic.twitter.com/8akHgv3hKd— Cody Worsham (@CodyWorsham) October 7, 2017
*Pick In BOLD
Last Week (1-1-1)
Season (6-9-1) (nice)
Carolina -3 vs Philadelphia
New York Giants +12 @ Denver
Tennessee -1.5 vs. Indianapolis
Have a good weekend, everybody.
*ALL DEFENSIVE RANKING REFERENCES PER FOOTBALLOUTSIDERS.COM
**PLAYER STATISTICS VIA PROFOOTBALLREFERENCE.COM