Welcome to the Rundown where I give at least a sentence on every single fantasy relevant player this week. Let’s begin!
TNF: Pittsburgh Steelers at Cleveland Browns
Although Cleveland has generally been a fantasy-friendly defense for opposing passing offenses, they played much of the year without cornerbacks Denzel Ward and Greedy Williams. Mason Rudolph is not a recommended start, ranking as just a back-end QB2. JuJu Smith-Schuster can be started as a decent flex option. The aforementioned Browns CBs patrol the perimeter which means JuJu should remain mostly Ward/Greedy-free, running a majority of his routes out of the slot. Diontate Johnson and James Washington more or less cancel each other out and should not be considered for starting lineups outside of 2nd-flex PPR leagues with deep benches. Vance McDonald has seen reasonable volume since his return from injury. His matchup is strong, as Cleveland allowed Noah Fant to look like a true TE1 in Week 9 and Dawson Knox a moderate statline in Week 10. James Conner is expected to return to action this week and should be fired up confidently as a RB1. It’s a great matchup and he should see 20+ touches after the Conner-less backfield sputtered last week against the Rams. Jaylen Samuels and Trey Edmunds should not be in starting lineups, although both are good bench stashes.
Baker Mayfield has defied recent expectations, turning in Top 14 results in 3 of his last 4 games. The Steelers got roasted early in the year by Tom Brady and Russell Wilson. They made a big move after those two contests though, trading for stud defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick. Although the Steelers’ slate of opposing quarterbacks has been largely unexciting, they did face both Lamar Jackson and Philip Rivers post-Minkah-trade and handily held them in check. He’s been a big time difference maker in the turnover department, forcing three fumbles and intercepting eight passes since his arrival. Mayfield recent success should not be expected this week. He’s just a mid-to-low QB2. That being said, Mayfield’s connection with Jarvis Landry is undeniable. The slot receiver has taken over as the team’s defacto No. 1 pass catching option, racking up an absurd 33 targets over the last three games. He’s a matchup-proof WR2 with excellent upside in PPR formats. Odell Beckham Jr. remains just a high floor/capped ceiling WR2/3. Rashard Higgins is someone to keep an eye on but he does not belong on fantasy rosters yet. WR Antonio Callaway is ignorable. TEs Demetrius Harris and Ricky Seals-Jones have a nice matchup. Demetrius Harris has seen mild usage in RSJ’s recent injury absence. RSJ is the No. 1 TE though so if you’re desperate for a spot-start at the position, he’s one to consider. The Browns immediately incorporated Kareem Hunt into their offense, having him on the field for 54% of their offensive plays, while Nick Chubb logged 81%. Even with Hunt seeing so much time on the field, Chubb still logged 20 carries and 4 targets last week. Hunt will undoubtedly become a featured part of this offense -- 10+ touches per week, especially air work, is a reasonable expectation. Chubb is the RB13 this week. Hunt is a great flex option, especially in PPR.
As Adam Levitan pointed out on twitter, the Panthers defense is a run-funnel -- they’re excellent against the pass but woeful against the run. The matchup drops Matt Ryan’s ceiling but a high-scoring game script should fall in his favor. Ryan is the QB13 this week. With Austin Hooper likely out for a month with an MCL sprain, the big boys, Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley should see 2 or more targets per week added to their workloads. Julio is a WR1. Ridley is a WR3 with WR2 upside in PPR. Slot receiver Russell Gage is not worthy of fantasy consideration with such a bad matchup and meager workload. On Establish The Run’s free podcast Episode 33: Week 10 Recap NFC Team-by-Team, Adam Levitan and Evan Silva highlighted tight end Jaeden Graham’s preseason prowess. He’s a decent pass catching tight end but he’s got a tough matchup this week. He should be considered for next week though in a projected blowout affair against the Bucs at home. Brian Hill is an immediate high-end RB2, replacing the banged up Devonta Freeman. Hill is a talented back who needs to be in starting rosters. As shown in the aforementioned Levitan tweet, the Panthers are the league’s worst run defense in DVOA.
Kyle Allen deserves real streaming consideration this week against one of the league’s worst overall defenses. He’s a high-end QB2. Accordingly, this is also a blowup spot for the DJ Moore/Curtis Samuel wide receiver duo. Both are high floor WR2s with decent chances at a big day, given their unique run after the catch abilities. Greg Olsen returned to TE1 form last week, hauling in 8 of 10 targets for 98 yards. If he’s got a shot to turn in that sort of a performance again this year, it’s this week. He’s a risky TE1 with a grand ceiling. Christian McCaffrey is, of course, the overall RB1. This is a dream matchup. Keep Reggie Bonnafon as a handcuff if you’re a CMC owner.
If not for Russell Wilson and Lamar Jackson, Dak Prescott would be the top contender for MVP honors this year. He’s the real damn deal and he’s got an outstanding matchup against one of the league’s worst pass defenses. He’s the QB3 this week. Amari Cooper’s sore knee didn’t slow him down at all last week. He’s a top-tier WR1 against this secondary. Like Cooper, Michael Gallup also had a successful outing last week. He’s solid WR2. Even Randall Cobb got in on the fun in last week’s game against the Vikings, hauling in 6 of 9 targets for 106 yards and a score. He’s a flex option this week with a low-end WR2 ceiling in PPR. Jason Witten is sadly no more than a TD-dependent TE option. This is as good of a week as any though. He’s a desperation option. Ezekiel Elliott is the overall RB2, squaring off against fantasy’s 2nd-most friendly .5PPR running back defense. Tony Pollard is a great bench stash.
Matthew Stafford has still not returned to practice. Jeff Driskel will likely start this week but he should not be in fantasy lineups. With Driskel at the helm and a bad matchup on tap, Kenny Golladay must be downgraded to a WR2. Marvin Jones Jr. is just a PPR flex option. Wide receiver Danny Amendola is not a recommended fantasy asset until Matthew Stafford’s return -- at that point, he will reassume his stout PPR flex-ability. TJ Hockenson is a low-end TE1 this week. His usage has been solid since the bye and the Driskel-safety-blanket effect could be in play. As of now, JD McKissic is the presumed bell cow for Sunday’s stiff matchup, making him a decent flex option. Ty Johnson has resumed practicing, however, part of clearing the concussion protocol -- which he is currently still in -- is getting in full practices and seeing how his noggin responds. He’s not out of the woods yet.
Nick Foles is set to make his return this week after Garnder Minshew II blew his opportunity to retain the starting job. The Indy defense is no slouch, making this a relatively tough spot for Foles come back to. He can only be considered as a mid-tier QB2, although he’s a worthwhile investment for the rest of the season. Their Weeks 12-16 schedule: at TEN, TB, LAC, at OAK, and at ATL. Foles showed no connection with breakout WR DJ Chark Jr. before getting injured in Week 1. It’s reasonable to assume Chark remains the team’s nominal No. 1 WR, but expectations must be dropped. He’s a high floor/capped ceiling WR2 until they show otherwise. Dede Westbrook was slated to be Foles’ favorite passing game option. Consider him a flex with upside in PPR leagues for now. TE Seth DeValve is the other pure pass catcher worth discussion. He’s a TE1/2 as we don’t know how the two will mesh. Leonard Fournette may see a bump in his already-monstrous workload this week, as the Jags may opt to ease Foles back into live action. He’s a Top 5 running back option -- let’s hope his aerial usage continues with Foles. Ryquell Armstead is the handcuff.
Jacoby Brissett should return for this divisional showdown. It’s likely he could’ve played last week, but the team presumably thought they could squeak past Miami without their starting quarterback. He’s a back-end QB1 in a decent matchup. With TY Hilton and Parris Campbell likely out (Kevin Bowen), Zach Pascal and Chester Rogers are the wide receivers of note. Rogers is a long-shot 2nd-flex option. Pascal has flex appeal with a back-end WR2 ceiling. The tight ends were the stars of the show last week with Eric Ebron seeing 12 targets and Jack Doyle securing 3 of 4, one of them going for a score. The tight ends are a toss up but both are reasonable back-end TE1 starters. Marlon Mack is a Top 10 RB this week, in a decent matchup. He should hit 20 touches, no problem. Nyheim Hines doesn’t belong on fantasy rosters.
Blowup spot here, for QB Josh Allen. He should run (and throw) wild in this one. He’s the overall QB5 on the week. John Brown hasn’t shown us a ceiling game in a while but Miami is an excellent place for him to do it. Get him into your lineup as a WR2. Cole Beasley is a viable flex option in PPR formats. If he plays (knee), Dawson Knox is a back-end TE1. His season’s been very up and down though. Devin Singletary’s usage last week was superb -- he stumbled in the box score though. Still, if he continues seeing this kind of passing game volume, the big days will come. Against Miami, this should be the day. He (boldly) comes in as the RB12 this week. Frank Gore will, no doubt, be given some revenge touches against the Dolphins. He’s a decent flex in Standard, but don’t expect a ceiling game.
Ryan Fitzpatrick gets to face-off against Buffalo’s buzzsaw pass defense this week. He’s just a back-end QB2. DeVante Parker is a flex option with WR2 upside, based on the likelihood of Fitz shooting him double digit targets this weekend. There’s a very outside chance that Mike Gesicki could produce this week but he’s not a recommended start -- neither are any of the other pure pass catchers. Kalen Ballage has stepped into bell cow duties. Buffalo is surprisingly weak against opposing backfields, making Ballage a decent flex this week.
This isn’t a great matchup for Deshaun Watson but he can’t be lowered past the QB8 spot. Will Fuller and his balky hamstring have returned to practice this week, likely kicking Kenny Stills back into the slot and DeAndre Carter out of the starting lineup. DeAndre Hopkins remains a no-brainer WR1. Fuller would be the boomest/bustest flex option. Stills would be just a PPR flex. TE Darren Fells is a red zone machine. He’s a TE1. Carlos Hyde will receive his requisite 20ish carries, making for RB2/3 production. Duke Johnson Jr. has earned PPR flex-ability at this point as well.
Lamar Jackson should obliterate this JJ Watt-less defense. He’s the overall QB1. Marquise Brown worryingly was a limited practice participant on Wednesday but was unable to practice on Thursday. We’ll need to monitor this closely as Hollywood has serious upside with a WR2 floor. Willie Snead IV would garner strong flex appeal, should Brown miss this weekend’s game. Tight ends Mark Andrews and Nick Boyle are both TE1s this week with Andrews retaining the higher ceiling. Should Brown be absent both would be strong plays. WR Myles Boykin would be a flex consideration as well. Mark Ingram II should have no issue producing in such a good matchup this week. He’s a back-end RB1. Gus Edwards and Justice Hill can be ignored, although Edwards is a worthy bench stash.
New York Jets at Washington Football Team
Sam Darnold continues to be a terrifying start, even in cake matchups. He got the job done last week but has otherwise stumbled should-be great spots. Given the recent success though, he comes in as the QB18, one spot ahead of Nick Foles (for reference). Jamison Crowder has been an animal over the last two weeks. He deserves WR2 consideration across all formats with back-end WR1 upside in PPR. Both Robby Anderson and Demaryius Thomas are ignorable outside of very deep leagues. With Chris Herndon headed to injured reserve, Ryan Griffin assumes full-time TE starter status. He’s a back-end TE1. Le’Veon Bell has shown enough consistency to be let out of the RB2 doghouse. He’s back in the weekly-RB1 good graces. Bilal Powell may have usurped the handcuff role for the NYJ squad.
Dwayne Haskins Jr. gets his easiest matchup to date and is still entirely unstartable. Of the pass catchers, only Terry McLaurin deserves starting consideration this week against the Jets’ silly secondary. He’s a high-upside flex. Adrian Peterson is a great flex option with serious RB2 upside in such a good matchup. Derrius Guice should immediately step into Chris Thompson’s pass catching role. He could be flexed in PPR leagues this week if necessary.
Short answer: Start them all.
Drew Brees is a Top 5 option this week, facing the Bucs pass-funnel defense (hat tip to Mr. Adam Levitan and his good, good tweet). Michael Thomas is a dominant WR1 with an astronomically high ceiling. Burners Ted Ginn Jr. and Tre’Quan Smith are likely best left on benches/free agency, however, one could start Ginn as a very boom/bust 2nd-flex option in Standard leagues. Jared Cook should be in lineups this week with a high upside as a TE1. It’s been ages since Alvin Kamara gave us a box score-shattering performance. As long as they get him involved in the passing game this week, he should hit that mark. He’s the overall RB6. Latavius Murray is unlikely to be productive this week and TB typically shuts down pure rushing -- the type of work Murray is likely to see.
Saints’ CB Marshon Lattimore pulled his hamstring last week, potentially setting him up for a multi-week absence. It’s a devastating blow that bodes extremely well for Jameis Winston and Co. Winston is the overall QB7 and both Mike Evans and Chris Godwin should be considered top-tier WR1s. OJ Howard finally broke out last week. The Saints pose a difficult matchup but Arians may opt to reward Howard for the good work -- we know he’d love to keep Howard as a featured part of the Bucs’ offense moving forward. Consider him a startable TE1. Ronald Jones II erupted last week, being given bell cow duties. He lost a fumble though and Peyton Barber immediately came in and stole a red zone touchdown. On Wednesday, Bruce Arians quelled fears over a reduced workload for Jones, as punishment for the fumble, by stating he’d like to get Jones even more involved in the passing game. He’s a rock-solid RB2, even in a tough matchup. Peyton Barber and Dare Ogunbowale are ignorable.
Facing a battered and bruised (hat tip to Mr. Evan Silva for the injured personnel info) 49ers team coming off of a short week of rest from Monday Night Football that went into overtime (88 snaps for the offense and 74 snaps for the defense), the Cardinals may actually surpass their outrageous production from Week 9’s SF at ARI tilt. Kyler Murray is the overall QB9 with a shot to finish in the Top 3. Christian Kirk has ascended to every-week high-end WR2 status with an easy shot at a WR1 finish this week. Larry Fitzgerald shook off some rust and had himself a day last week, but he shouldn’t be considered outside of 2nd-flex PPR leagues. Andy Isabella has burst onto national radar over the last two weeks and could similarly be started in a team’s 2nd-flex, although his ascension makes him a more attractive option. He’s a dart throw but I love his odds to reel in a long touchdown this week. Chase Edmonds and his bum hammy are shelved for now and Kenyan Drake is playing so damn well. David Johnson is fighting through ankle and back injuries -- which was clear to the naked eye last week. Incredibly, he’s not listed on this week’s injury report though. I’m rolling with my analysis over Kliff Kingsbury’s possible trickery. Kenyan Drake is set to lead this backfield as a true workhorse. He’s this week’s RB14 but can easily vault into the Top 10. I expect David Johnson to be an active roster decoy. He’s the RB36.
Jimmy Garoppolo had a fantastic outing the last time these teams played. This time around though, he’s likely to be missing LT Joe Staley, pass catching RB Matt Breida, All-World TE George Kittle, and stud WR Emmanuel Sanders, among others. Although it’s a great matchup, he can only be considered a mid-to-high QB1. Deebo Samuel stepped the hell up last week against Seattle and can be securely started as an upside flex this week. WR Kendrick Bourne and TE Ross Dwelley both had solid workloads. (although, we must remember that this game did see overtime) The pair should remain part of this week’s game plan, assuming the aforementioned players indeed miss the contest. Bourne is a mild flex option while Dwelley is a TE1. Remember, Arizona is fantasy’s friendliest defense to opposing tight ends. With Matt Breida sidelined, Tevin Coleman should see a slight uptick in touches, although Raheem Mostert will more or less slide in a directly take over the Breida role. Coleman is a back-end RB2. Mostert is a decent flex option.
The Ryan Finley-lead Bengals are a sorry sight. Even in a good matchup, he’s just a QB3. AJ Green will undoubtedly continue his injured-feigned holdout. Tyler Boyd and Auden Tate should continue to see a flex-able target distribution while Alex Erickson should not be started. TE Tyler Eifert is just a TE1/2. Joe Mixon has suddenly seen a matchup-proof workload explosion with Finley at the helm. In such a great matchup, with such a great expected workload, he’s a high-end RB2.
As miraculous as it may seem, Derek Carr is the overall QB10 -- and it’s not just the matchup. This Raiders offense is humming. WR Tyrell Williams is a good bet to find the end zone this week. He’s a WR2. Even slot man Hunter Renfrow should make noise in the box score. He’s a solid flex option. TE Darren Waller has been quiet over the last few weeks. This matchup with the Bengals is just what the doctor ordered though. He’s got Top 3-5 upside written all over him. Josh Jacobs is similarly set to smash this spot, coming in as this week’s RB7. The rookie’s playing out of his mind and he really can’t ask for a better matchup than with Cincinnati’s terribly slow linebacking corps.
Attacking the Eagles’ defense via rushing is a fool’s errand and Bill Belichick is no fool. Expect a Super Bowl performance out of Tom Brady and James White this week. Brady’s locked-in as the overall QB6 this week and James White finds himself as an RB2, likely operating as Brady’s go-to passing game option. Julian Edelam should be considered as a WR1 against Philly’s pathetic secondary. Mohamed Sanu and Phillip Dorsett II are both legit flex options across all formats. Ben Watson could be started as a very desperate TE, although he’s really not part of this passing game. Sony Michel is in line for a very down week and can only be started as an RB3. Rex Burkhead is perhaps startable as a 3rd-flex option in PPR leagues.
Carson Wentz’s ho-hum year is likely to continue against New England’s shutdown pass defense. He’s the QB15. Alshon Jeffery’s ankle injury has kept him from practicing this week, putting his availability for Sunday squarely in doubt. Expect tight ends Zach Ertz and Dallas Goedert to lead the way in the passing game this week. Nelson Agholor will takeover as the team’s No. 1 WR but he is not a recommended start. Neither are any of the other receivers, including the newly re-signed Jordan Matthews. Both Nick Chubb and Mark Ingram II found running room against New England in Week 8 and 9, boding somewhat well for the rushing oriented Jordan Howard. He’s a mild flex option. Miles Sanders should see 10-15 touches, with an emphasis on passing game work. He’s a strong flex, especially in PPR.
SNF: Chicago Bears at Los Angeles Rams
As usual, Mitchell Trubisky is an outrageously low floor QB option. He’s likely to be under duress for much of this matchup. He’s a QB3. For the first time this year, I’ll be suggesting Allen Robinson II be considered as just a PPR flex option. The combination of Trubisky on the run and Jalen Ramsey’s expected shadow coverage drop the talented WR’s prospects into shaky territory. If you have a better option, bench him. With both starting tight ends out (Trey Burton and Adam Shaheen), it’s possible Taylor Gabriel and Anthony Miller get a flex-able workload. I do not suggest betting on it though. If anything, WR/RB Tarik Cohen could be the beneficiary as a constantly-used safety blanket. He’s a PPR 2nd-flex option. David Montgomery was finally able to get in a limited practice on Friday after turning his ankle. The fact that he was able to join practice bodes well for his availability on Sunday Night, however, he’s likely to be a game time decision as he’s truly Questionable. Savvy planners should look elsewhere for a RB2 option as the late kickoff could seriously tank a lineup, were he to be declared out at game time. UDFA RB Ryan Hall has never touched the ball during a pro game. He would not be a recommended start if he were to “replace” Montgomery.
Los Angeles walks into this game with some troubling injury issues. RT Rob Havenstein is likely to be out, as is TE Tyler Higbee. Brandin Cooks was ruled out at the beginning of the week as well. Jared Goff is likely to be feeling the heat from the Bears’ defensive front with Havenstein and Higbee out. Missing his deep threat doesn’t help either. In such a tough matchup, he’s just a back-end QB2. Cooper Kupp’s been battling an illness all week. Coupling that with Goff’s issues, we should probably drop Kupp’s production expectations to the WR2 variety. Robert Woods is a flex. Gerald Everrett should be considered a mid-to-low TE1 this week, given the matchup. Chicago’s run defense has played below expectations but the Rams’ offense overall isn’t likely to exceed expectations. Todd Gurley II is just a back-end RB2 on a limited workload.
Patrick Mahomes is back, showing no ill-effects from his injured knee. He’s the overall QB2 this week, behind Lamar Jackson. The Chargers, of course, boast a stout pass defense. But this is a “defenses don’t matter” situation. Tyreek Hill is, as always, in contention to finish as the overall WR1. Sammy Watkins is a great PPR flex option. He doesn’t often produce in the yardage department but his target volume is excellent. Mecole Hardman always deserves flex consideration, given his propensity to house Mahomes’ long balls. His floor is a goose egg though, so start him at your own risk. Demarcus Robinson is an unattractive 2nd-flex option in PPR-only. Travis Kelce is a no-brainer Top 3 tight end. Damien Williams owns this backfield now. LeSean McCoy was a healthy scratch last week and neither Darrel Williams not Darwin Thompson saw serious action. It’s an excellent matchup against a bad Chargers Run D. He’s a high-end RB2 with easy RB1 upside.
Philip Rivers’ is just a high-end QB2, even in a matchup where he should be forced to throw. This offense belongs to the ground game. Keenan Allen is a WR2 with decent upside in full-point PPR leagues. Mike Williams is a just a flex option, but not a strong one. Hunter Henry is a Top 5 tight end. Tight ends who are legitimate candidates to lead their team in targets on a weekly basis are so rare and so valuable. That’s Henry. Melvin Gordon III has shed his rust and now holds the reins to this offense. He’s the overall RB4, setting his sights on the defense that Derrick Henry just hung 191 yards from scrimmage and touchdown on. KC’s run defense is nonexistent. Austin Ekeler can even be started as a mid-to-low RB2. It’s a great matchup for the RB duo.