Starts and Fades: Week 16

Well everyone, this is it. The rabble have lost. All that remains are the elite fantasy GM’s to duke it out for the coveted championship (the real championships, not those fake ones that end in week 17). Maybe you got here through a dominant draft. Maybe you got here by deftly playing the waiver wire. Maybe you got here by sheer luck. The how doesn’t matter anymore; what does matter is that you made it to the top of the mountain.

However, if you wish to hoist the trophy you will need to defeat one last challenger. This is no easy task this year given the list of key players who will not be available for championship week: Lamar Miller, Odell Beckham, Jr., Devonta Freeman, Cam Newton, Andy Dalton, A. J. Green, Tyler Boyd, Marvin Jones, Kerryon Johnson, Josh Gordon, Jay Ajayi, Cooper Kupp, Jimmy Garoppolo, Jerick McKinnon, Le’Veon Bell, James Conner, Sammy Watkins, and Marshawn Lynch. Do you have the skills to navigate this minefield and reach the finish line? That’s where we come in.

Before we make our picks for championship week though, let’s take a look at how we did last week.

Last Week’s Starts: David Johnson, Ken Dixon, Doug Martin, Dalvin Cook

Johnson’s 3 YPC mark was disappointing against a soft Falcons defense, but he did rack up over 100 yards from scrimmage and a touchdown as we predicted. Dixon handled a fairly substantial number of carries for being a backup running back, but was not as involved in the passing game as we would have hoped. His 1 catch for 2 yards didn’t add much to his 11 carries for 48 yards. Contrary to our belief that the Raiders would keep it close with the Bengals, the Bengals ran roughshod over the Raiders. This worked out about as well for Martin as you would expect (9 carries for 39 yards). Cook was actually allowed to touch the ball this week, and now we see why Defilippo was not retained as OC. Cook galloped to 136 yards and 2 touchdowns, chipping in another 27 yards on his lone catch.

Last Week’s Fades: Aaron Jones, Mike Evans, Kenny Golladay

It’s hard to judge our prediction for Jones. On the one hand, his 25 yards on 3 carries was impressive against a stout Bears front. On the other hand, those 3 carries were all he got before leaving the game with an injury. We can speculate all day what a full game of Jones would have resulted in, but ultimately you were better off heeding our advice. The same could not be said for Evans and Golladay. Despite facing daunting matchups, both Evans (4/121/0) and Golladay (7/146/0) managed to post solid yardage.

Overall, last week was very much a mixed bag. We’ll aim to even out our performance for the championship week.

Starts

Titans D/ST

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Defenses are a prickly thing in fantasy. There’s rarely any point in carrying backups, but that means you have to balance weekly performance against long-term utility; is it worth starting the top option one week if it means you’re starting the Oakland defense the next week? For the championship though, defenses get a lot simpler. There’s no thinking “what about next week?”, simply “who will be good this week?” This week, that’s the Titans. I know it does’t mean much to say that they are fresh off shutting down Jacksonville and an OBJ-less Giants, but then it’s not like the Redskins are a juggernaut either. Washington’s offensive line has been decimated, they’re down their top two tight ends and primary deep threat, and are currently starting their fourth string QB, a 32-year-old career journeyman who hadn’t started a game since 2011 and wasn’t even a member of the team three weeks ago. Oh, and Tennessee is at home. The Titans have been up and down all year, but they should be solid this week.

Elijah McGuire

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The Jets’ running back corps is waging a war of attrition and losing. Of course, the silver lining is that for every running back that goes down, another must step up. The next man up this time is McGuire, and since his only competition at the moment is satellite back Trenton Cannon, McGuire is likely to have a strong grip on the title of lead back. He’ll be leading the running game against the visiting Packers, who have only been average against the run. McGuire is unlikely to be on the leaderboards for top running back of the week, but if you need an RB2 this week he should see enough volume to rack up at least some points. He may even find his way to the end zone.

Jamaal Williams

New York Rangers v Detroit Red Wings

Opposite McGuire on Sunday will be fellow backup running back Williams. Unlike McGuire, Williams absolutely has the potential to be on the leaderboards this week. Williams will act as the feature back in the wake of Aaron Jones being placed on IR and is likely to see almost every offensive snap on the Aaron Rodgers-led offense (his only competition is Kapri Bibbs, who was just picked up this week). That may not mean as much this year as it has in the past, but having Rodgers as the QB still opens a lot of running room for whoever lines up in the backfield with him. The Jets are also a bottom-10 defense against the run, something Williams should easily be able to take advantage of.

Tyler Lockett

NFL: Buffalo Bills at Seattle Seahawks

For a guy who’s supposed to be a boom-or-bust WR3/4, Lockett has been amazingly consistent this year. You can usually expect 3-5 catches, at least 50 yards, and a better than 50/50 chance of a touchdown. All this despite the extremely run-heavy approach the Seahawks have adopted. He’s got an excellent matchup this week too. For as good as the Chiefs’ offense has been this season, their defense has been equally poor. Lockett is likely to find room against the porous Kansas City secondary and reach double-digit touchdowns for the first time in his career as he enters this game with 9 on the season.

Fades

Gus Edwards

Tampa Bay Buccaneers v Baltimore Ravens

Edwards has been remarkably consistent lately, failing to crack 80 yards only once since taking over as the lead back and reaching 100 yards rushing 3 out of 5 weeks. On a team that desperately wants to play strong defense and run the ball, he’s been just what the doctor ordered. However, he may not see the same usage this week. The Chargers defense is fairly average against the run in terms of efficiency (4.3 YPC), but they’re top 10 in total rushing yards allowed per game. That’s because the Chargers’ offense is a juggernaut that is nearly impossible to stop, forcing teams to pass to keep up. Edwards has no role in the passing game, so if the Ravens find themselves behind he will lose work to Ken Dixon and Ty Montgomery.

Leonard Fournette

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On the surface this appears to be a good matchup for the up-and-down power back as Miami has been a bottom-10 run defense this year. However, Fournette’s situation is not as rosy at it seems. For starters, home Miami and road Miami are two entirely different animals. Since the Dolphins’ bye, they shut down LeSean McCoy and Sony Michel at home while getting blown up by Marlon Mack and the Latavius Murray-Dalvin Cook one-two punch on the road. This game will be in Miami. Second, calling the Jaguars’ offense dysfunctional is an understatement, and the Dolphins’ defense is wildly opportunistic. Lastly, the Jaguars brass has made a clear statement that they are looking to put Fournette in bubble wrap for the rest of this year; he has not topped 15 carries two weeks in a row now. Fournette may be able to find his way to the end zone, but that’s about all the upside he has as he won’t see the touches to put up any significant yardage.

Jaylen Samuels

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With James Conner missing another week due to a high-ankle sprain, Samuels will get another opportunity to act as the feature back. He hasn’t necessarily been anything special in the role, but he hasn’t done anything to lose it either. Besides, who are we fantasy-goers to complain about being able to pick up a feature back off waivers at the start of the playoffs? However, this week probably won’t go quite as well for Samuels as the last two weeks. The Saints boast the top run defense in the NFL and are second in YPC allowed. Samuels may find his way into the end zone, but his yardage is unlikely to be very high.

Of course, all this is a moot point if you’re fortunately enough to have Samuels in a Yahoo league. Given the wasteland at tight end right now, even a bad game from Samuels is worth starting in the TE slot.

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Starts and Fades: Week 15

Wow. That’s about the only way to describe all the upsets last week. The Miami Miracle took down the Patriots, the Raiders beat the visiting Steelers, and the Bears defense absolutely stuffed the Rams elite offense. The Saints and Chiefs almost joined this list as the Saints sleepwalked through three quarters before finally rumbling to life and the Chiefs needed overtime to put away the visiting Ravens. This was also among the lowest scoring weeks on the year as only one team reached 40 points (you’re lying if you thought that one team would have been the Giants going into this week though).

Overall, that was a wacky week. Of course, with a wacky week of real football, wacky things tend to happen in fantasy as well. Did you start the right players? Or were you bamboozled like Gronk trying to tackle Kenyan Drake? If you fall in the latter category, that’s where we come in, especially as we enter the fantasy playoffs. Before we get to this week’s picks though, let’s look at how we did last week.

Last Week’s Starts: Josh Allen, Chris Godwin

Josh Allen continued chugging along exactly like he has the last few weeks. His passing numbers don’t look great as he only threw for 206 yards and no touchdowns while throwing 2 interceptions and losing a fumble. However, he once again hit the century mark on the ground and added a touchdown as well, leaving him as the QB8 for the week. Godwin wasn’t so successful, though it wasn’t from a lack of effort on Jameis Winston’s part getting Godwin the ball. Godwin lead the Bucs with 10 targets, but only managed to snag 1 catch for 13 yards, easily his worst output of the season.

Last Week’s Fades: Tyreek Hill, Chris Carson

Hill benefited from Sammy Watkins’s absence in a close game. Hill’s 8/139/0 effort wasn’t the best he’d done this year, but it was better than we thought he would do against a stout Baltimore defense. Carson, and really the entire Seattle running game, proved immune to Minnesota’s tough run defense. Carson logged 22 carries for 90 yards and a touchdown, continuing his run as a reliable RB2.

Overall, not our best record on the late release. With a little more time this week, our projections should look a little better.

Starts

David Johnson

Washington Redskins v Arizona Cardinals

There’s a good chance that most of you who have DJ are not particularly relevant in the fantasy playoffs. For a top 3 pick, he has been rather underwhelming. He is nonetheless in a good spot this week for those who did make it (or those who traded for him). Atlanta has been atrocious against the run all season as they are allowing 5 YPC, the second worst mark in the league. They also aren’t all that great at defending against receiving backs, although it does look like they’ve improved since the beginning of the season. DJ figures to continue to get fed as QB Josh Rosen stumbles through his rookie season, so with the positive matchup DJ stands to easily reach 100 yards from scrimmage and will likely see a touchdown to end his current 4 game drought.

Ken Dixon

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Yes, the Ravens backfield is a mess. Yes, Gus Edwards appears to be the lead back. So why are we recommending Dixon? Simple; he’s better. Remember, at one point Dixon was the anointed savior of the Ravens backfield. That status was derailed by injuries and a suspension, but the skill is still there. He outproduced Edwards last week against the Chiefs and the Baltimore brass have made it clear that they want to give Dixon more touches. Against a Tampa Bay defense that’s bottom 10 in the league against the run, Dixon should find room to operate. He’s still in a timeshare so don’t expect him to be among the week leaders, but he should be the best option in the Ravens backfield with respectable RB2 numbers.

Doug Martin

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As Oakland’s early down pounder, Martin’s volume has been spotty on the cellar-dweller Raiders. His 3.9 YPC mark isn’t exactly top notch either. However, this could easily be his best week of the season. No team has allowed more rushing yards that the Bengals this year, and their offense sans Andy Dalton, A. J. Green, and Tyler Eifert isn’t exactly putting points on the board. It’ll be hard for the Raiders to find themselves down by enough to abandon the run, which should give Martin plenty of opportunities to rack up points for fantasy owners.

Dalvin Cook

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Well Cook truthers, this is it. John Defilippo, the rising star who Minnesota hired as the new offensive coordinator during the offseason, was removed from his duties at least in part due to his unwillingness to use Cook despite head coach Mike Zimmer’s pleading. Cook has looked like lightning in a bottle when healthy, and if replacement OC Kevin Stefanski follows Zimmer’s orders Cook might finally start seeing some volume. The coaching change came at a good time for Cook too; Miami is allowing 139.5 rushing yards per game, well within the bottom 5 of the league. If the Viking defense can rediscover its spark and shut down the hot-and-cold Miami offense, Cook should be in for a career day.

Fades

Aaron Jones

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Jones owners have probably been aggravated by the Packers’ inconsistent use of their star running back. After all, he’s averaging an incredible 5.6 YPC on the season and has logged a touchdown for 5 straight weeks. While the coaching change might be the breath of fresh air this offense needs, this week will provide a be a bit of a stumbling block. The Bears are the second best run defense in the NFL and are fresh off holding the top fantasy running back to 58 total yards on 14 touches. Jones will likely find very little room to run, and is unlikely to see his touchdown streak extended.

Mike Evans

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Evans hasn’t always been a top receiver play this year, but he’s been a good play more often than not. Unfortunately, this week looks like it’s more likely to be a miss than a hit. This week he draws a tough matchup against a Ravens defense that just held the red-hot Chiefs to their second lowest point total of the year (only 1 point off their lowest). While Tyreek Hill certainly didn’t look too bad, he was also the only 100-yard receiver the Ravens allowed all year. Evans will be operating in a weaker offense and competing with more mouths to feed. Don’t expect much out of him this week.

Kenny Golladay

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Golladay’s production has been rather erratic since he became the only healthy starting receiver the Lions had left. On the one hand, he has a ton of talent and has the trust of Matthew Stafford. On the other hand, with Golden Tate now with the Eagles and Marvin Jones on IR defenses can pile all their DBs on Golladay. This week seems like a week where the defense will win that battle. The Bills’ roller-coaster offense has been overshadowing the stingiest pass defense in the NFL; their 185.8 passing yards allowed per game is almost 20 fewer than the second lowest mark. What’s more, only two players have reached the century mark against them, and both of those receivers were slot receivers (Adam Thielen and Julian Edelman). Golladay is likely to face blanket coverage that will prevent him from being able to do much in the stat sheet.

Starts and Fades: Week 14

Last week was the type of week that proves the mantra “any given weekend.” The Cowboys stunned the Saints on Thursday, the NFC North took a beating as the Bears and Packers were upended by the Giants and Cardinals, respectively, the reeling Jaguars shut out the streaking Colts, and the Chargers comeback victory against the Steelers literally made history at Heinz Field. The Chiefs and Titans almost made that list too, but both managed to just escape the Raiders and Jets, respectively.

Of course, when you get a wild weekend like that there will always be some random guy putting up monster numbers while the stud players struggle. Did you play the right players on your fantasy team? If not, that’s where we come in. Before we name this week’s picks though, let’s take a look at how we did last week.

Last Week’s Starts: Gus Edwards, Royce Freeman, Cameron Brate, Curtis Samuel

Edwards put up a decent 82 yards, but failed to find the end zone or notch any catches. What’s worse, it looks like he’s starting to cede touches to Ken Dixon and Ty Montgomery, which does not bode well for his numbers moving forward. Freeman’s 12 carries for 48 yards looked downright pedestrian against a weak Bengals defense, which is all the more surprising as backfield-mate Phillip Lindsay went bonkers. Brate was almost invisible against one of the worse defenses in the NFL at covering tight ends. On the other side of the ball though, Samuel led the Panthers in both targets and yards to put up a respectable 6/88/0 line.

Last Week’s Fades: Julio Jones, Nick Chubb, Sony Michel

Baltimore absolutely shut down Jones, as he managed just 2 catches for 18 yards despite being targeted 8 times. Chubb’s saving grace was his rushing touchdown. Without that, he only managed to rack up 31 yards on the ground and an additional 3 catches for 41 yards through the air. Michel only managed to put up 70 total yards and no touchdowns while ceding rushing attempts to pretty much the whole offense (Edelman, White, Burkhead, Patterson, Develin, and Brady all registered carries on the day).

Overall, our fade picks were pretty on point but our start picks were a bit of a mixed bag. We’ll look to even it out this week.

Note: Due to a busy week at the writer’s real (read: boring) job, this article is coming out late and will therefore be much shorter than normal. We hope to get this out a little earlier next week so that we can put in the proper time each pick deserves.

Starts

Josh Allen

NFL: Buffalo Bills at Miami Dolphins

We’re calling for starting a rookie QB on what is quite possibly the most talent-deficient offense in the NFL? Yes. Allen is absolutely not afraid to use his cannon arm to get it deep, which has spurred the development of Zay Jones and Robert Foster. This makes Allen a little turnover-prone, but while Jets safety Jamal Adams is formidable on the back end of the defense the rest of New York’s secondary isn’t nearly as imposing. On top of that, Allen has proven to be a formidable scrambler. He’s racked up 234 yards and a touchdown over the last two weeks alone, and has 4 rushing touchdowns to his name on the season despite missing 4 games. If your playoff QB is struggling a bit, Allen could be your streaming answer.

Chris Godwin

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Godwin’s production in typically inconsistent as he plays behind Mike Evans and DeSean Jackson on the outside while Adam Humphries mans the slot. However, Jackson is not quite a paragon of health, and when he misses time Godwin balls out. Jackson has missed three games between this year and last year, including last week. In those three weeks, Godwin has posted a lofty 15/310/2 line. With Jackson in line to miss this week’s game as well, Godwin’s good fortunes should continue. This is especially true with Tampa playing the Saints this week. The New Orleans offense is formidable, and star corner Marshon Lattimore will likely be attached to Mike Evans at the hip. Since Winston will likely need to be slinging to keep up, this makes Godwin the easier target. This should be a career game for Godwin.

Fades

Tyreek Hill

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The Chiefs’ offense has been incredible this year, on pace to match or break records all over the place. Hill himself has had quite a year, though he is prone to the down game here and there. Despite Sammy Watkins’s absence, consider this to be one of those weeks. While Baltimore hasn’t been lighting up the fantasy stat sheets, they’re playing lights out in the real world. They currently rank first in points per game allowed, yards per game allowed, and yards per play allowed, they’ve only allowed one 100-yard rusher all year, and they’re fresh off shutting down a white-hot Julio Jones. Hill should get some volume being the only notable healthy receiver, but the Ravens defense should hold his efficiency low enough to make this a bad week for Hill.

Chris Carson

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Carson has been the engine behind the Seahawks’ league-leading ground attack. His numbers haven’t been spectacular on the whole, but he’s been a reliable RB2 for those who picked him. However, he may have some troubles finding room to run this week. Minnesota’s run D is one of the best in the NFL, allowing a mere 3.7 YPC and 99.2 yards per game, both easily within the top 10. On top of the bad matchup, rookie Rashaad Penny is starting to live up to his draft pedigree and is gradually cutting into Carson’s workload. Decreasing volume in a bad matchup does not bode well for fantasy scoring.

Starts and Fades: Week 13

This season continues to chug along as the most prolific offensive season in NFL history. Here’s another fun stat showing just how ridiculous it’s been; last week was the first time since week 3 that only one team surpassed 40 points. Taking it a step further, there has not been a single week this season where every team has scored under 40. That’s a whole lot of points for your fantasy team…assuming you’re starting the right players. That’s where we come in. Before we jump into this week’s picks though, let’s take a look at how we did last week.

Last Week’s Starts: Theo Riddick, Gus Edwards, Chris Carson, Josh Adams

Riddick did pretty much exactly what we projected. He only managed 60 total yards and did not score a touchdown, but his 7 catches were mighty fine for those in PPR leagues.  The Gus bus racked up another 100+ yards at over 5 yards per carry. He didn’t log a catch or touchdown, but it’s tough to complain when your RB is gaining yards like that. Carson may not have racked up too many yards, but his 55 yards and a touchdown produced respectable fantasy numbers. His 2 catches for 8 yards wasn’t much either, although PPR owners shouldn’t complain. Adams’s efficiency disappointed as he posted a mere 3.8 YPC against a struggling Giants run defense, but 84 yards and a touchdown is nothing to sneeze at.

Last Week’s Fades: Leonard Fournette, Christian McCaffrey, Aaron Jones

Yeah…can we not talk about this? We have to? Alright, fine. Our fade projections were awful last week. Jones churned out 72 yards and a touchdown on the ground (at a respectable 4.2 YPC at that) while adding 3 catches for 21 yards receiving, and he had the worst day of the group. Fournette racked up 95 yards at 5.3 yards a pop while tallying 2 touchdowns and 3 catches, and his day could have been even better had he not gotten himself ejected. Rubbing salt in the wound, CMC was the top fantasy back of the week posting over 100 yards and a touchdown both by land and air.

Overall, our start projections were solid while our fade projections…were not, to put it lightly. We’ll look to right the ship this week.

Starts

Gus Edwards

NFL: Oakland Raiders at Baltimore Ravens

The Gus bus is getting good enough that he won’t be shown here much longer. However, at least for this week there are a couple of key points worth mentioning. Most notably, Alex Collins  (Gus’s biggest competition for touches) was just put on IR. Ken Dixon was activated in his place, but while Dixon is talented, he’ll likely only be a change-of-pace back for at least a couple weeks. The other backs the Ravens have are Buck Allen and Ty Montgomery, neither of whom are particularly effective between the tackles. What I’m trying to say is that this backfield is less cluttered than it initially appears; Gus is far and away the lead back. There are concerns that his two breakout weeks came against the two worst run defenses in the NFL, but then the Falcons aren’t exactly stout against the run either; they are currently allowing the 8th most rushing yards per game and the 3rd highest YPC. Gus should continue to put up solid numbers this week.

Royce Freeman

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There’s no question that Phillip Lindsay is the lead back in Denver and is in line for a terrific week this week as well. That’s no secret and is hardly news-worthy. However, Lindsay has not topped 15 carries in any game that Freeman has played this season which means that Freeman definitely still has a role. Namely, Freeman has a nose for the end zone, consistently notching touchdowns even on fewer than 10 carries a game. If you know he’s getting at least a few carries per game, you can’t ask for a much better opponent than Cincinnati. The Bengals have allowed the second most rushing yards and third most rushing touchdowns this year, and with their offense unable to piece together more than 2 healthy skill players at a time they aren’t likely to push the Broncos into playing from behind. Freeman may not see loads of touches, but expect efficient yardage and likely a touchdown.

Cameron Brate

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With O. J. Howard on injured reserve, Brate is now the every-down TE for the pass-happy Buccaneers. It didn’t translate to too much last week outside of a touchdown, but this should be Brate’s breakout week. Carolina has been awful against tight ends this season, something the Bucs were able to take advantage of 4 weeks ago (Howard and Brate combined for a 7/68/2 receiving line). The QB situation has been a bit erratic, which is a concern against an otherwise decent Panther defense, but Brate should easily have his best day of the year this week.

Curtis Samuel

New England Patriots v Carolina Panthers

I think at this point most everyone is aware of how bad the Tampa Bay defense is. Obviously CMC should have himself a good game, as should D. J. Moore now that he seems to be taking over as the top receiving option. However, don’t sleep on Samuel this week. He’s been little more than a gadget player for Carolina so far and is at risk of losing snaps as both Torrey Smith and Devin Funchess are healthy now, but he’s racked up 6 touchdowns on just 24 touches this season so it’s not like the low volume is a death sentence. Against such a weak defense as the Bucs, the likelihood that Samuel finds the end zone seems pretty high. His volume and yardage likely won’t amount to much, but if you’re desperate for a flex play he has the touchdown upside to make him a good option.

Fades

Julio Jones

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There’s no question that Julio has been amazing this year, posting over 100 yards 8 times in 11 games including the last 6 weeks in a row. Unfortunately, he may have some trouble extending that streak this week. The Ravens have yet to allow a 100-yard receiver this year against a slate that includes A. J. Green, Michael Thomas, and the Antonio Brown/Juju Smith-Schuster duo twice. On top of the solid secondary play, the Baltimore offense has morphed with Lamar Jackson at the helm into a run-heavy operation. If they are able to consistently move the chains on the ground (not exactly a difficult feat against a poor Falcons run D), Atlanta will find itself running fewer plays than normal, which means fewer opportunities for Julio. His recent spate of touchdowns is encouraging and could provide some relief, but Julio is more likely to have a tough week.

Nick Chubb

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Chubb is really starting to look like a true feature back, and the Cleveland brass even said that they would start giving him more opportunities in the passing game. He’s going to need those chances this week against a tough Texans defense. Houston clocks in as a top 10 run defense, and is 5th in YPC allowed at 3.8. Houston also has the ability to put up points in a hurry, which could force the game script away from Chubb’s legs. It’s entirely possible that Chubb could simply see enough volume to make for a decent fantasy week (e.g., 28 carries last week), but I wouldn’t count on that volume in a game that figures to be pretty competitive. This has the makings of a down week for Chubb.

Sony Michel

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Do you know the most yards the Vikings have given up to any running back this year? 83 yards to Todd Gurley. Michel is definitely talented, but is he at Gurley’s level? I think not. Michel is going to have a rough time finding holes to run through against this vicious Minnesota run D. Making matters worse is the return of Rex Burkhead. The Patriots like to use Burkhead as their goal-line hammer and are already using James White as their receiving back. That leaves Michel with the most touches, but operating purely as a between-the-20s runner. Low catch totals, low touchdown upside, and going up against a very good defense? No thanks.

Starts and Fades: Week 12

How about that Monday night game? That was the first time in NFL history that both teams scored over 50 points. In total, there were 10 passing touchdowns, 1 rushing touchdown (by a QB rather than one of the two Pro Bowl RBs in the game), and 3 defensive touchdowns. Oh, and over 1000 yards of offense. Not surprisingly, the game was a boon to fantasy players. For those who didn’t have a horse in that race though, did you start the right players to overcome the instant Monday night classic? Maybe a little advice from us could help. Before we get into this week’s picks though, let’s take a look at how we did last week.

Last Week’s Starts: Dion Lewis, T. Y. Hilton, Larry Fitzgerald, Chiefs Offense, Rams Offense

Getting the bad out of the way first, Lewis was awful. He handled 10 carries for an abysmal 24 yards and was only able to tack on 1 catch for 8 yards. This was a surprisingly poor showing from a player seemingly on the rise with what appeared to be a plus matchup. The rest of the picks turned out pretty good though. Hilton absolutely balled out to the tune of 9/155/2. Fitz was a victim of an extremely low volume Arizona passing attack with only 2 catches, but both catches went for touchdowns so it’s hard to complain. As for the Chiefs and Rams offenses, I think they lived up to their billing. The only two starters to underperform were Sammy Watkins (left after the first series with an injury) and Todd Gurley (played through an ankle injury). Even the Rams TEs and both defenses were worth starting.

Last Week’s Fades: Julio Jones, Juju Smith-Schuster, Dalvin Cook

Julio Jones overcame the strong Dallas coverage unit to post a solid 6/118/1 line, becoming just the third receiver and fourth player to break 100 yards against the Cowboys this season. Juju did not hit on one of his trademark big plays, but he remained heavily involved with 8 catches for 104 yards. Also not a bad fantasy day by any stretch. Cook was our only hit in this section, posting a paltry 12 yards on 9 carries. He did add 3 catches, but actually recorded a net of -2 yards on those.

Overall, our starts were pretty on point but our fades could use a little work. We’ll aim to fix that with this week’s picks.

Starts

Theo Riddick

NFL: Chicago Bears at Detroit Lions

Detroit’s offense is suddenly being torn apart. First Golden Tate is traded away, then Marvin Jones goes down with an injury, and now star rookie Kerryon Johnson is injured and in danger of missing multiple games. This doesn’t spell anything good for the Lions’ offense in general, but one major beneficiary will be Riddick. LeGarrette Blount and Zach Zenner don’t offer much in the pass-catching department out of the backfield, and Golladay can’t eat up all those missing targets himself. Bruce Ellington will take some of them, but Stafford has a much more familiar safety valve in Riddick. Knowing Riddick’s playstyle (and the Bears’ defense he’ll be facing), he likely won’t rack up too many yards and is unlikely to score touchdowns. However, if your league has any sort of PPR Riddick should gain plenty of points that way for you.

Gus Edwards

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Up until last week, Edwards really only showed up during garbage time. However, with Alex Collins proving ineffective Edwards was given a chance. What followed was a spectacular 115-yard effort that marked the best game of any Ravens running back this year. It would appear that as long as Lamar Jackson is lining up at quarterback Edwards will be the primary running back. There is speculation that Edwards may lose touches again if Flacco comes back this week, but the general consensus appears to be the Flacco isn’t quite ready yet. Even then, Edwards has likely earned himself more touches in base sets. This week against the Raiders is a good time to add touches too, as the Raiders are giving up the second-most rushing yard per game this year.

Chris Carson

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Carson has been a bit up-and-down this year due to a litany of minor injuries, but when he’s healthy he keeps getting fed and keeps rewarding the Seahawks for doing so. Back to full health, he draws a matchup with Carolina this week. On the surface this looks like a somewhat tough matchup as the Panthers are top 10 in rushing yards allowed. However, keep in mind that their numbers are heavily influenced by three consecutive games against Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Tampa (the Eagles are bottom 10 in rushing yards, the Ravens are bottom 10 in YPC, and Tampa is both). More recently, both James Conner and Kerryon Johnson posted over 5 YPC on the Panthers defense before both left early with injuries. Carolina’s run defense is overdue for a reckoning, and the Carson-led Seattle ground attack is likely the group to do it.

Josh Adams

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Philadelphia’s offense has struggled this year, especially on the ground since Jay Ajayi went on IR early in the year. Enter Josh Adams. He has yet to reach 10 carries in a game and has only reached 10 touches twice, but he has by far been the lone bright spot in an otherwise disappointing backfield. Over the past three games, he has averaged at least 6.7 YPC each game. Those weren’t cupcake matchups either as that slate included the Jaguars and Saints. This week, the Eagles face a much softer run defense in the New York Giants, who have allowed a 100-yard rusher every week since trading away Damon Harrison. This situation feels very reminiscent of Aaron Jones’s breakout against Miami a few weeks ago. The Eagles still have a bit more of a committee than Green Bay did at the time, but even 12 or 13 carries for Adams could bring a huge fantasy day.

Fades

Leonard Fournette

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Let me start out by saying that I don’t necessarily expect Fournette to be outright bad. This is, after all, a fades section, not a sit section. I would not be surprised to see Fournette end the game with 30 touches and likely a touchdown. The reason I’m putting him here though is that I do not expect any sort of efficiency whatsoever; I would not be surprised to see Fournette fail to reach 100 scrimmage yards on those 30 touches. The Bills are top 10 in both total rushing yards allowed and yards per carry allowed despite being almost constantly in negative game scripts. Against a pretty one-dimensional offense like the Jaguars, the Bills D is likely to load the box, making Fournette’s life even harder. Fournette is probably worth starting based on volume alone, but don’t expect him to carry your fantasy team this week.

Christian McCaffrey

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McCaffrey will likely never have a truly bad game due to his receiving abilities, but that doesn’t mean he’s guaranteed to churn out good games. Seattle is fresh off shutting down breakout star Aaron Jones with a defense that has looked surprisingly feisty despite all the new faces. Seattle also has a highly effective, clock-burning run game, something that Carolina has not been very good at stopping lately. That will likely result in fewer chances for CMC. Fewer opportunities than usual against an above average defense usually doesn’t end well.

Aaron Jones

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Aaron Jones burst onto the scene against Miami two weeks ago, but then was stifled by the Seahawks defense/Green Bay coaches last week. Unfortunately for Jones, his job isn’t getting any easier this week. Minnesota is top 5 in the league for both rushing yards allowed and YPC allowed. The Vikings also boast a potent offense, albeit a mistake-prone one. Green Bay is likely going to continue to rely on Aaron Rodgers’s arm rather than Jones’s legs in an effort to keep up. Low volume against a tough defense is going to make it a long day for Jones.

Starts and Fades: Week 11

Well that was an interesting week. The Steelers and Saints each dropped 50-burgers on each other’s division opponents and the Bills’ feeble offense put up 41 of their own, good for the third highest score of the week. Not to mention the killer upsets by the Titans and Browns. Those weren’t by small amounts either; the Browns beat the Falcons by 12 and the Titans whipped the Patriots by a whopping 24.

Of course, of paramount importance is the fantasy fallout. There were some major booms if you picked the right players to start. There were also some major busts. Did you pick the right ones? If not, then you’re in the right place to make sure it doesn’t happen again this week. Before we dive into this week’s starts and fades however, let’s take a look at how we did last week.

Last Week’s Starts: Vance McDonald, Mark Ingram, Duke Johnson, Aaron Jones

As expected, Jesse James cut into McDonald’s playing time a bit. McDonald’s 4 catches for 44 yards wasn’t great, but he did snag a touchdown to reward the managers who took a chance on his roller-coaster production. Ingram plowed ahead for 104 rushing yards on just 13 carries. He also racked up a 3/58/1 receiving line. Duke was surprisingly a victim of game flow in this one as Cleveland held a lead for most of the game. However, he managed to pick up 46 yards and a touchdown on just 7 touches, so still not a bad fantasy outing. Owners in PPR leagues aren’t complaining about the 4 catches either. Jones was one of the major breakout stories of the week. Finally given a chance as the feature back after slogging through an inexplicable RBBC for most of the season, Jones exploded for 145 yards and 2 touchdowns on the ground while chipping in 3 catches for an additional 27 yards through the air.

Last Week’s Fades: Joe Mixon, James White, Brandin Cooks, Ezekiel Elliott

While Mixon was certainly efficient at a 5.5 YPC mark, the scoreboard quickly got out of hand. Mixon’s 85 yards and no touchdowns was a far cry from his weekly average. While we were not correct about why White didn’t produce this week, we were still correct that he wouldn’t produce. He only managed 5 catches for 31 yards, and his only carry actually went for negative yards as Sony Michel returned to the lineup. Cooks was surprisingly Goff’s top target by a mile against the quietly stout Seahawks defense. He didn’t score a touchdown, but it’s hard to complain about a 100-yard game. PPR owners also loved his 10 receptions. Zeke made absolute fools of our projection. Despite facing a tough Philadelphia front seven, Zeke rumbled to an impressive 151 yards and a touchdown on the ground while chipping in a 6/36/1 receiving line.

Overall, we whiffed on a couple of the fades, but most of our were pretty accurate. Not a bad week. Let’s see if we can pick up those last couple this week.

Starts

Dion Lewis

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Since Tennessee’s bye, Lewis has definitely been fed as the lead back of the Titans’ backfield while Derrick Henry has been relegated to change-of-pace duties. Even so, the Colts defense is middle-of-the-road against the run so we’re not expecting a breakout game of any sort on the ground. The reason Lewis is here is because of his role in the passing game. Last week aside (where the Titans didn’t need to pass much as they had their way with the Patriots), Lewis’s role in the passing game has been steadily increasing. He notched 6 catches for 64 yards just before the bye against the Chargers and was actually the Titans’ leading receiver against the Cowboys with a 4/60/1 line. Running backs facing the Colts have generally found success through the air this year, including a combined 10/107/1 from the Jaguars running backs last week and 10/67/0 from the Raiders just before their bye. Lewis’s passing game role makes him valuable in all formats, but especially in PPR this week.

T. Y. Hilton

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Hilton has been quiet lately. Since coming back from his early-season injury, he’s posted a combined 8/136/2 over three games. However, he should have an easier time getting open against the Titans. While Tennessee’s secondary is certainly improving, they still struggle to contain receivers and are especially vulnerable to the deep ball. This just so happens to be one of Hilton’s specialties. I wouldn’t necessarily expect a huge volume of targets as Andrew Luck has taken a liking to his tight ends lately, but the targets Hilton does receive should be big plays.

Larry Fitzgerald

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Mike McCoy needs to apologize to Fitzgerald. The legendary receiver has been quiet for most of the season as the former OC ran the Cardinals’ offense into the ground. Enter new OC Byron Leftwich. In the two games since Leftwich took over, Fitz has posted two of his three best games of the season and the entire Cardinals offense looks to finally be lurching forward. The boost comes just in time too as Arizona takes on the hapless Raiders this week. Fitz should have a field day against Oakland’s weak secondary.

Chiefs and Rams offense

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Do you own a starting player from the Chiefs or Rams not named Gerald Everett or Tyler Higbee? If so, start them. Heck, even Everett and Higbee have a chance this week. After all, the over/under for this game is one of the highest ever recorded, if not the highest. The Vegas odds pass the eye test too; the Chiefs and Rams are ranked 2 & 3 in points per game on offense and both have had their share of struggles on defense. Mahomes will be trading touchdowns with Goff and Gurley all day. Don’t overthink this one.

Fades

Julio Jones

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After a bit of a slow start to the year, Jones is finally getting into gear. Over the past four weeks, he has logged at least 7 catches and 100 yards per week while adding 2 touchdowns. However, he may find the visiting Cowboys to be a little tougher of a challenge. The Cowboys secondary has shut down opposing wideouts all year. Only two wide receivers have eclipsed 100 yards against them; DeAndre Hopkins and Golden Tate. Julio certainly has the talent to join those two and become just the third wide receiver to post 100 yards on the Cowboys, but it’s tough to feel confident in that. The sheer number of weapons Atlanta has to spread the ball between isn’t helping. Jones should still be startable, but don’t expect elite numbers this week.

Juju Smith-Schuster

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Juju has been a bit up-and-down this year. This isn’t necessarily surprising given his primary role as the deep ball specialist in the Pittsburgh offense, but it does make him susceptible to bad matchups like this week. Jacksonville’s defense certainly has not lived up to it’s billing after last year, but that doesn’t mean they’re bad. A. J. Bouye is coming back this week, and the Jaguars’ D was still capable of preventing the big play even while he was out. Juju will find it difficult to find space for his big plays this week.

Dalvin Cook

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Cook finally looked healthy last week against the Lions, galloping to 89 yards on just 10 carries and chipping in for another 20 yards on 4 catches. After the encouraging showing, OC John DeFelippo stated that Cook will be a full go this week. Just in time to face…a stone wall. The Bears defense has not been kind to running backs this year. They are allowing a league-best 3.6 YPC and have only surrendered 2 touchdowns on the ground, with one of those being a QB sneak from the 1 in garbage time. There is a faint glimmer of hope in that Chicago’s defense can be beat through the air by particularly shifty checkdown targets (namely slot receivers and satellite backs), but don’t expect much in the way of rushing production.

Starts and Fades: Week 10

No season in NFL history has seen as much offense as this season. The league as a whole is currently on pace to beat both the previous yardage and scoring records, and by decent margins on both fronts. This surge is being spearheaded by a wave of young offensive minds taking over as head coaches. These coaches are not afraid to borrow the high-flying concepts colleges have been using to put up video game scores, and in the copycat NFL these concepts have spread like wildfire.

Of course, this has made for one heck of a year for fantasy football. An astounding 17 QBs – just over half the starters in the league – are on track for 30 passing touchdowns this season. Oh, and that list includes Ryan Fitzpatrick and Carson Wentz, both of whom are on track to hit 30 touchdowns despite missing games (Fitzpatrick has 5 starts, Wentz has 6). This offensive boom has been a boon for fantasy teams everywhere…if you’re picking the right players to start. That’s where we come in. However, before we get to this week’s starts and fades, let’s look at how we did last week.

Last Week’s Starts: Vance McDonald, D. J. Moore, Adrian Peterson, Brandin Cooks, Marquez Valdes-Scantling

Despite seeing 6 targets, McDonald was only able to corral 3 for 25 yards. At least we weren’t entirely off-base though as fellow Pittsburgh TE Jesse James caught 2 for 53 yards of his own. That’s a combined mark of 5/78/0, which would be a pretty solid line…if it weren’t split across two players. Moore did manage to post another 32 yards on the ground, but was not involved much in the passing game (1/16/0) as the Panthers held a comfortable lead for most of the day. I’m not even sure what happened to Peterson. After torching the Panthers, Cowboys, and Giants, Peterson was held to a mere 17 yards on the ground by the same Falcons team that gave up 82 yards to Peyton Barber at a clip of 6.3 YPC. At least Cooks (6/114/1) and MVS (3/101/0) hit home with solid weeks.

Last Week’s Fades: James Conner, Kerryon Johnson, Phillip Lindsay

Conner had an up-and-down season before this week. He was able to take advantage of some easy matchups (Cleveland x2, Atlanta, Cincinnati) but struggled otherwise, including a forgettable performance against a very weak Chiefs run defense. The first time he met the Ravens this year, he was only able to post 44 total yards on 12 touches. Consider his 107 yards rushing and 7/56/1 receiving line against the Ravens this week to be his official ascension to the elite ranks of fantasy backs as he was able to stick it to a tough run D on the road. Johnson and Lindsay were not so productive, as predicted. Johnson ran into problems against a stiff Vikings defense, and Lindsay was limited to his lowest efficiency of the year.

Overall, we were a bit hit-or-miss last week. Let’s see if we can drop the miss part this week.

Starts

Vance McDonald

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Part of me feels like a sucker for continuously putting McDonald in here, but it’s really hard not to. The guy has immense talent, and the Steelers have fed him just often enough to keep us coming back for more (even if it’s less often than we fantasy players would like to see). As a result, whenever the Steelers face a defense that’s weak to TEs I can’t stop myself from listing McDonald here. And boy, does he have a good matchup this week. Over the last 4 weeks, the Panthers have let up 35 catches for 400 yards and 5 touchdowns to opposing TEs. That’s an average of 9/100/1 per week. It doesn’t get much better than this. Cue Jesse James breakout game in 3, 2…

Mark Ingram

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Ingram’s certainly had a rough first half of the 2018 season. After being suspended for the first four games, he comes back only to underwhelm for the next four. If not for his two-touchdown effort in week 5 we’d be talking about how he’s waiver wire fodder by now. Before we get too carried away though, let’s look at his opponents in those four weeks; Washington, Baltimore, Minnesota, and the L. A. Rams. All except L. A. are well within the top half of the league in YPC allowed, and Baltimore and Minnesota are well within the top 10. While the Rams may not have the stout run D the others have, they do have a prolific offense that forced the Saints to go pedal to the metal, a game script that favors Alvin Kamara over Ingram. What I’m trying to say is that Ingram hasn’t exactly been facing cupcake teams. Cue a Bengals team allowing the third highest YPC in the league, missing their top offensive weapon in A. J. Green, and likely will be struggling to run the ball against the Saints’ league-leading run D. Given that it’s looking like a positive game script against a weak run D, Ingram should finally have his breakout game this year.

Duke Johnson

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I fully admit that this may just be a knee-jerk reaction to Duke’s stellar game against the Chiefs, but it’s hard not to like this matchup nonetheless. New leadership takes over and Johnson’s role immediately explodes against a team with a high-flying offense that is susceptible to pass-catching backs. The next team up? Also boasts a high-flying offense that is susceptible to pass-catching backs. If new OC Freddie Kitchens calls a similar game, Johnson should be in for another good week.

Aaron Jones

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With the Green Bay backfield down to just two, Jones looked poised to deliver as the definite lead back against a weak New England run D. While he was efficient, Green Bay trailed the entire game which reduced Jones’s workload. Miami doesn’t boast nearly as capable an offense, and is similarly susceptible to the run. If Aaron Rodgers can get the Packers out to an early lead against the dink-and-dunk Brock Lobster, Jones should have the true breakout game we’ve been waiting for all season.

Fades

Joe Mixon

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Mixon has been a revelation this year, easily propelling himself into back-end RB1 territory on a weekly basis. However, this may not be the week to start him if you have the option. The Saints boast the toughest run defense in the league, allowing a scant 3.4 YPC. To make matters worse, the Saints offense is an absolute machine, forcing opponents to ditch the run game in an effort to keep up. The final nail in the coffin? A. J. Green is out. Without the premier playmaker on the outside, the Saints don’t have much to fear in the passing game. Mixon is likely to find himself staring down the toughest run D in the league while running with a negative game script with minimal help from the passing game to take the heat off. That does not bode well for the young back’s prospects this week.

James White

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White has been one of the biggest surprises of the season. Thrust into a premier role after the Patriots backfield was decimated by injuries, he actually added some decent rushing production to go with an overload of catches. Add in the slew of high-powered offenses the Patriots have had to contend with over the last several weeks (Indianapolis, Kansas City, Chicago, Green Bay) that forced the Pats to pass even more than usual and we have White currently sitting as a mid-range RB1. That’s unlikely to continue this week. The Titans offense is far from being a juggernaut, and backfield mate Sony Michel is on track to return to his lead back duties. With less field time and fewer passes, White’s role should be significantly diminished this week.

Brandin Cooks

NFL: Los Angeles Chargers at Los Angeles Rams

We correctly predicted Cooks’s strong game last week, but his stat line may not look so rosy this week. Seattle’s defense has slowly grown into its own over the course of the season and is pretty solid at stopping the deep ball that Cooks specializes in. The easier way to attack the Seahawks is underneath, which Cooper Kupp and Robert Woods are better poised to do. Cooks will undoubtedly get something – the Rams offense is still a juggernaut regardless of the defense they face – but don’t expect another 100+ yard effort boosted by a touchdown.

Ezekiel Elliott

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Ever since thrashing the Lions in week 4, Zeke has struggled to find his groove; he’s fallen under 3 YPC twice and has only broken 100 yards rushing once in the four games since then. His path doesn’t get any easier this week as the Eagles are allowing the second fewest rushing yards per game in the NFL. It’s possible Amari Cooper opens up the offense a bit to give Zeke more room to run, but I just don’t see him getting enough space against the Eagles’ stout front seven. Making his job even harder is that the Cowboys will likely be playing in catchup mode all day as the Philadelphia offense continues to settle in.

Starts and Fades: Week 9

Sorry we’re a little late this week – sometimes real life gets in the way of our fantasies – but better late than never! Speaking of real life getting in the way of fantasy, how about Todd Gurley giving up the sure touchdown to guarantee a win? I’m guessing more than a few fantasy owners were upset about that one. Of course, I’m sure the Aaron Rodgers fantasy owners were even less pleased with Ty Montgomery fumbling away a shot at a Rodgers Special. Hopefully they didn’t throw as big a temper tantrum as Montgomery did.

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Fantasy owners’ reactions to pretty much the entire last 2 minutes of the GB@LA game. In other news, guess who’s back?

Of course, if you start all the right players then you don’t sweat the “what if’s”. That’s where we come in. Before we get to your week 9 starts and fades, however, let’s take a look at how we did last week.

Last week’s Starts: Lamar Miller, Phillip Lindsay, Chris Carson, Jordy Nelson

Miller (133 yards and a touchdown), Lindsay (112 total yards and a touchdown), and Carson (124 total yards and a touchdown) all posted remarkably similar stat lines last week. If you started any of the three, you were probably pretty happy. Jordy, however, did not make fantasy owners so happy. Despite stepping in as the de facto WR1 after the Raiders traded away Amari Cooper, Nelson received a whopping 3 targets that he turned into 2 catches for 16 yards. Of course, the entire Oakland offense stunk in this one so it wasn’t Jordy’s fault necessarily, but that doesn’t take the sting away from those who started Nelson.

Last week’s Fades: Devin Funchess, Mark Ingram, Josh Gordon

Funchess took a backseat last week in the Carolina passing game as his 3/27/0 line was well below his season average of 5 catches for 60 yards and a coin flip for a touchdown. Ingram did churn out 92 total yards on 16 touches, but he did not find the end zone and his 3 catches weren’t exactly lighting it up in PPR formats. It was better than we had expected, but still wasn’t a great total for fantasy purposes. Gordon’s ascent hit a road bump against a fierce Buffalo defense that forced Brady to throw quickly to his checkdown targets more often than not. Flash’s 4/42/0 line was well below his averages with Brady so far.

Overall, last was a pretty solid week as our only real miss was with Jordy Nelson. We’ll look to keep the good times rolling this week.

Starts

Vance McDonald

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The Ravens defense hasn’t necessarily been elite, but they have been strong. Even while letting up 36 points to the Panthers last week they actually did a decent job of limiting Carolina’s yardage (3 turnovers from the offense are mostly to blame for the score), and they did similarly well against another high powered offense (New Orleans) the week before. Their only notable weakness is against tight ends. Over the past four weeks, the only team to not boast a tight end with 60 yards or a touchdown was a dysfunctional Titans offense that let up 11 sacks. McDonald has been up and down this season, but his boom weeks have been pretty solid. Against a defense that is easiest to attack over the middle, that should mean start-worthy production from the veteran.

D. J. Moore

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Moore has slowly seen his workload increase over the last several weeks. Last week against the Ravens he actually was the Panthers’ top receiver in terms of targets, receptions, and yardage. He even chipped in 39 yards on the ground. This week Carolina draws Tampa Bay, whose defense has allowed season highs to pretty much every offense they’ve faced. Regardless of whether you believe the Panthers will contend with Fitzmagic or Fitztragic, the Carolina offense should roll. With Moore’s rising role in the offense, that means he should have a solid day.

Adrian Peterson

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The ageless wonder is having a stellar age 33 season as the heartbeat of the Redskins’ offense. Expect the storybook comeback to continue as Washington takes on the Falcons. Atlanta’s defense is weakest against receiving backs, but they haven’t exactly been strong against the traditional ground game either. While they did a good job of bottling up Saquon Barkley last week, they were lit up by James Conner and Peyton Barber the previous two weeks. If the Washington defense can hold up their end of the bargain at home – something they’ve done well for most of the season – then Peterson should feast.

Brandin Cooks

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Cooks started off the year great, racking up an impressive 26 catches for 452 yards over the first four games. Then his production suddenly fell off a cliff. While this didn’t directly coincide with Cooper Kupp’s MCL sprain, it’s likely that Kupp’s absence has hurt Cooks’ numbers as defenses were better able to shift coverage Cooks’ way. Now that Kupp is returning to the lineup, Cooks figures to have an easier time getting open. Kupp’s return couldn’t have come at a better time either; the Saints have struggled to slow down opponents’ passing games and have been particularly weak to the deep ball (see: John Brown). On top of that, Cooks didn’t exactly leave New Orleans on good terms. So in summary, we have a revenge story-line against lighter-than-expected coverage from a poor pass defense in a slug-fest of offensive heavyweights. I’m buying into that.

Marquez Valdes-Scantling

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There were many question marks about Green Bay’s wide receiver depth entering the season, and those question marks were put to the test when both Geronimo Allison and Randall Cobb went down early in the season. MVS quickly grew from this crucible into one of the more reliable weapons for Aaron Rodgers. In fact, last week against the Rams he out-snapped Randall Cobb and was targeted more than Geronimo Allison despite both of the starters being reasonably healthy. With Allison falling back to an injury designation this week, MVS will be thrust back into the starting lineup. This is a good week for that to happen as the Patriots are known for focusing on their opponents’ premier weapon. In this case, that means New England will likely put most of its attention on Davante Adams, leaving the rest of the receivers to run free against what has been a disappointing secondary. MVS appears to be in the position to benefit the most.

Fades

James Conner

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Conner has had a prolific stretch these last three games, posting no worse than 110 yards rushing, 2 touchdowns, and 4 catches in any of those contests. However, those weren’t exactly elite defenses he was running over; the Falcons, Bengals, and Browns all rank in the bottom ten in the league for YPC allowed. Baltimore, meanwhile, is sitting pretty with the 7th best YPC against mark in the NFL. In fact, they limited Conner to a mere 19 yards on 9 carries back in week 4 in Pittsburgh. I wouldn’t expect the Ravens defense to be quite so successful this time around, but don’t be surprised to see a steep dropoff for Conner this week.

Kerryon Johnson

NFL: Seattle Seahawks at Detroit Lions

Ever since week 3 when he became the first Lions running back to eclipse 100 yards rushing since 2013, Johnson has been on a roll. Even in a down game against the Seahawks last week where he only posted 8 carries for 22 yards on the ground, he managed 6 catches for 69 yards through the air. Don’t expect so much success this week. Minnesota boasts a stout run defense, and they aren’t particularly susceptible to receiving backs either. Beyond that, the Vikings have a strong offense that could easily force Detroit into catch-up mode, pushing focus away from the running game. The rookie Johnson is on his way to a strong rookie campaign, but this will not be one of his better games.

Phillip Lindsay

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Lindsay is one of the more surprising stories of the year. Signed as an undrafted rookie, he’s risen quickly from 3rd string running back to borderline feature back as his backfield mates have fallen due to ineffectiveness (Devontae Booker) and injury (Royce Freeman). Unfortunately, the good times may hit a rough patch this week. Houston has been a bit up and down against the run over the last few weeks, but on the season they’ve been pretty stout, most notably holding Ezekiel Elliott to 54 yards on 20 carries. Houston has also added former Bronco Demaryius Thomas to its stable of impressive wide receivers. With Deshaun Watson showing shades of last year’s breakout debut and quite possibly the best 1-2 punch at wide receiver in the entire league, it’s not at all unreasonable to believe that Denver will find itself down early to a prolific Texan air attack. That type of game script doesn’t bode well for Lindsay’s volume.

PSF NFL Weekly Pick’em: Week 8 Preview, Predictions, Analysis

Welcome back to the eighth edition of the extravagant PSF NFL Weekly Pick’em. Week 7 was an absolute week full of fun for most of our writers, and they’ll look to continue the stretch run as we head into Week 8 and beyond. We learned a lot in Week 7, including how bad the NFC West is, how great the LA Rams are, and the Chiefs once again showcased their dominance on the national stage with a blowout win against the Bengals. It’s starting to become the norm of this 2018 NFL season.

The PSF NFL pick’em crew is in its second season, with a few new faces, a new indefinite leader, and some of your favorite pickers. Without further ado, let’s meet everyone on the crew. Be sure to check them out on twitter and give everybody a follow. They’re genuinely great people and are worth a follow.

  • Tristan Beckmann (@TBeckmann24)
  • Chris Chastain (@ChrisC_01)
  • Ian Cusick (@IanMCusick)
  • Eric Jensen (@eric18utah)
  • Alex Levin (@TubaDeus)
  • Pro Sports Fandom (@ProSportsFandom)
  • Brian Willis (@RealBrianWillis)
  • Tim (@ObstructedView2)

And before we start, I’m going to remind you of the format used in the pick’em. Each week of the season, the crew will pick every NFL games and we will publish our picks on Pro Sports Fandom. At the conclusion of the week, we will calculate the results and update our standings. At the end of the season, the picker with the best overall record will be crowned as the PSF NFL Pick’em Champion. Here’s the updated standings through six weeks of action!

Standings:

T1. Brian Willis (65-42)

T1. Tristan Beckmann (65-42)

3. Ian Cusick (64-43)

4. Chris Chastain (62-45)

T5. Obstructed Viewer (61-46)

T5. Alex Levin (61-46)

7. Pro Sports Fandom (56-51)

8. Eric Jensen (54-43)

Let’s start off with the game picks that everyone agreed on for the week 8 games. (The predicted winners are noted in bold.)

Kansas City Chiefs over Denver Broncos.

Pittsburgh Steelers over Cleveland Browns.

Detroit Lions over Seattle Seahawks.

Indianapolis Colts over Oakland Raiders.

Los Angeles Rams over Green Bay Packers.

New England Patriots over Buffalo Bills.

Now let’s see the game picks that mostly everyone agreed on for the eighth week of games. (The predicted winners are noted in bold.)

Houston Texans over Miami Dolphins. Eric Jensen was the only writer who picked the Dolphins to win.

Philadelphia Eagles over Jacksonville Jaguars. Ian Cusick was the only writer who picked the Jaguars to win.

Washington Redskins over New York Giants. Tristan Beckmann and Pro Sports Fandom were the only writers who picked the Giants to win.

Cincinnati Bengals over Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Brian Willis and Chris Chastain were the only writers who picked the Buccaneers to win.

Chicago Bears over New York Jets. Eric Jensen was the only writer who picked the Jets to win.

New Orleans Saints over Minnesota Vikings. Obstructed Viewer and Pro Sports Fandom were the only writers who picked the Vikings to win.

Now let’s see the game picks that the group had mixed opinions on for week 8’s games. (The predicted winners are noted in bold.)

The writers split on the Baltimore Ravens @ Carolina Panthers. Tristan Beckmann, Eric Jensen, Obstructed Viewer, and Pro Sports Fandom all picked the Panthers to win. Alex Levin, Chris Chastain, Brian Willis, and Ian Cusick all picked the Ravens to win.

The writers split on the San Francisco 49ers @ Arizona Cardinals. Tristan Beckmann, Alex Levin, Brian Willis, and Obstructed Viewer all picked the Cardinals to win. Eric Jensen, Pro Sports Fandom, Ian Cusick, and Chris Chastain all picked the 49ers to win.

Starts and Fades: Week 8

Two weeks ago Drew Brees eclipsed Peyton Manning’s all-time passing yards record. This week, Brees became just the fourth QB in NFL history to reach 500 passing touchdowns. He threw an extra one in there for good measure, bringing him to 501 total. He is a mere 3 touchdown passes behind Tom Brady – Brady actually threw his own 500th touchdown two weeks ago against Kansas City but was somewhat overshadowed by Brees setting the yardage record (sorry Tom) – and both QBs are easily on track to surpass Brett Favre this year. The fact that neither appears to be slowing down would imply that these two will both surpass Manning next year as they continue their battle for first. Soak it in folks; we are literally watching the two of them rewrite the history books. A toast to two of history’s greatest QBs who have dominated football in real life and fantasy for the better part of two decades!

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Of course, it’s every fantasy GM’s dream to be as dominant as these two. It’s great to have the long-term records, but – as both legendary QBs will tell you – it all starts by taking everything one week at a time. You have to make sure you’re starting the right players at the right times. That’s where we come in. Before we get to this week’s starts and fades however, let’s take a look at how we did last week.

Last Week’s Starts: Phillip Lindsay, Austin Ekeler, Baker Mayfield, Willie Snead

Lindsay was a worthy inclusion, piling up 90 yards and a touchdown on just 14 carries. Ekeler was OK in PPR formats, but his 12/42/0 line on the ground and 5/26/0 line through the air were quite underwhelming given the golden opportunity he had with Melvin Gordon out. Mayfield was similarly adequate but underwhelming against a weak Tampa Bay defense. After Tampa’s previous high-scoring affairs, Mayfield’s 215 yards and 2 touchdowns through the air seemed rather pedestrian. Snead, meanwhile, simply did not reach even minimum expectations. Against a Saints defense that has been rather subpar against slot receivers so far this year, Snead posted his worst game of the season at 3/23/0.

Last Week’s Fades: Sony Michel, T. Y. Hilton, Christian McCaffrey

Michel was off to a solid start against the Bears, posting 22 yards on 4 carries along with a catch for 13 yards. His only blemish was a lost fumble. Unfortunately, it’s tough to evaluate him as he injured his knee early on in the contest. Hilton’s 4 catches for 25 yards was what we had in mind when we placed him in this category. The 2 touchdowns were a bit of a surprise though. We were on point with CMC at least. He supplied some PPR value with 6 catches, but his 80 total yards and no touchdowns resulted in one of his lowest fantasy outputs of the year.

Overall, our projections were a bit scattered over the board. Not our worst week, but definitely still some room for improvement. We’ll try to pick up the bottom end this week.

Starts

Lamar Miller

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There’s no question that this has been a disappointing year for Lamar Miller so far. He’s rarely seeing targets in the passing game and has only reached 20 carries in a game twice. Even with the carries he does get, he’s been a bit inconsistent; he’s registered 3 games with at least 4.5 YPC and 3 games with no more than 3.5 YPC. Fortunately for Miller, Miami’s run defense leaves something to be desired. They are fresh off of giving up 158 yards to Kerryon Johnson on just 19 carries. Even LeGarrette Blount put up 50 yards on them at 5.0 YPC, both season-highs for the short-yardage bruiser. Miller, meanwhile, just had a nice confidence booster against Jacksonville with his first 100-yard game of the year. Expect the positive vibes to continue this week.

Phillip Lindsay

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Alright, this one kinda feels like cheating. Obviously Lindsay is going to have a good week with Royce Freeman hobbled/out with a high ankle sprain. Still, we have to put this one in here to make sure nobody sleeps on the situation. With Freeman injured, Lindsay is likely to see something close to a feature-back workload. This is already good news for Lindsay, who is averaging a gaudy 5.8 YPC coming into the week, but what makes it even better is that he’ll be facing a Kansas City defense that has struggled against the run all season. The Chiefs even give up more catches to running backs than the average defense. Lindsay should rack up the yards in this one, and likely a couple touchdowns to go with it. I would consider anything below a borderline RB1/2 week to be a disappointment.

Chris Carson

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On the one hand, it’s logical to be a bit leery seeing as how the Seahawks seem intent on giving Carson, Mike Davis, and Rashaad Penny chances to produce in the running game. After all, three-headed monsters are great in real life but just drain the points out of fantasy. However, for being in a committee attack Carson has had an awful lot of carries (19 and 14 the last two weeks), and he gets a dream matchup against the pitiful Detroit (lack of) run defense this week. Even if the Seattle backfield continues to split carries, Carson should pick up the bulk of them and be very efficient with them this week. His third 100-yard game of the season is not out of the question.

Jordy Nelson

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With Amari Cooper traded to Dallas, Nelson takes over as the de facto WR1 for the Raiders. Oakland does employ a spread-the-wealth offense, but Jordy has proven that he’s still capable as a featured receiver through his week 3 explosion and subsequent 3-game touchdown streak. He now has a clear path to plenty of targets on a team that just sent its bellcow back to IR and figures to be behind frequently. This week’s outlook is looking even sunnier against a Colts defense that has frequently struggled against outside receivers. Jordy is the type of sneaky start who could easily win you the week this week.

Fades

Devin Funchess

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Funchess has been the quintessential WR2 this season, reliably churning out about 5 catches and 60 yards with a 50/50 chance for a touchdown any given week. This week, however, he runs headlong into one of the hottest defenses in the NFL. Baltimore was more than solid against the Saints’ juggernaut offense, limiting top receiver Michael Thomas to a 7/69/1 line despite the Saints playing from behind for most of the game. Given Carolina’s own defensive prowess, this should be a low-scoring game where the passing games should largely be held in check. Funchess should be left on your bench this week.

Mark Ingram

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If not for 2 touchdowns against Washington in Ingram’s first game back, we’d be talking about how much of a bust Ingram is this year compared to last. In his first two games back, Ingram has carried the ball 28 times for a mere 85 yards and has only managed to tack on 4 catches for 30 yards. It’s worth noting that Washington and Baltimore are two of the toughest run defenses in the NFL right now (both well within top 10 for both yards-per-carry and total yards allowed) so his play could very easily just be a matter of circumstance more than any dropoff in Ingram’s play. Unfortunately, it doesn’t get easier this week as the Vikings are at the same level. To make matters worse, the Vikings boast a potent offense that will likely press the Saints to pass more, taking away opportunities from Ingram. Ingram will return to form at some point this season, but it will not be this week.

Josh Gordon

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It’s amazing to watch how quickly the chemistry between Brady and Gordon is growing. At the rate we’re going we’ll be hearing comparisons to Moss’s days in New England by the end of the season. However, in the meantime the Patriots face the Bills. For all the struggles the Bills offense has gone through, the defense has been pretty stout. Sure they just gave up a bunch of points to the Colts, but consider that the Colts started several drives on Buffalo’s side of the field. Makes it a little easier to score then. Even then, star receiver T. Y. Hilton only managed to salvage his fantasy day by being Andrew Luck’s go-to target in the red zone. As talented as Gordon is, he has a ways to go before becoming Brady’s automatic target when in scoring position. That role is filled more frequently by Gronk, James White, and Julian Edelman, in order. Between the low chance of drawing red zone targets and suffocating coverage by the Bills’ underrated secondary, Gordon is unlikely to Flash much in the stat book this week.