The Fantasy Focus is a weekly column that breaks down everything you need to know to set your fantasy football lineups. Make your start and sit decisions with fantasy facts, injury information, matchups stats, predictions for the week and more.
Depth is very important in fantasy football. We know, all too well, that injuries can happen at any time. You can’t predict them. And sometimes, those injuries can absolutely decimate our fantasy teams. While depth isn’t going to prevent injuries, it will at least help you roll with the punches down the stretch.
Over the last few days, I’ve received a bunch of questions from folks asking if they should trade away running backs to get other positions in return. Almost every time, my response has been “nope, keep your depth at running back.” Even if you think you’re loaded at the position, you can never have enough depth.
Two running backs aren’t enough. Three running backs aren’t enough. If you really want to roll into the fantasy playoffs with enough ammunition to take your league by storm, you need at least four running backs. And I’m not talking about fringe guys with upside like the Jamaal Williams types of the world. I mean legitimate top-25 guys who can start for your team every week.
Sure, you aren’t going to use all four each week. But if disaster strikes and one of your starters goes down, you’ll be able to move the next man up right into your starting lineup without skipping a beat. You simply won’t be able to do that with a running back off waivers. Better yet, those running backs you don’t trade away can’t be used against you in the fantasy playoffs.
It’s a win-win situation that will go a long way in helping you win your league.
Of course, it’s a lot easier said than done to have that many running backs in the top-25. So if you find that an impossible task, your next best bet is to load up on handcuffs. Sure, you may not be able to start them if disaster strikes your roster, but you also give yourself some lottery tickets in case their respective starter goes down. It happens every year, and those teams with the key handcuffs tend to be the ones who catch fire down the stretch.
Greenline: CHI -2.3, O/U 41.7
Fantasy facts: The Lions are pushing the ball downfield this season and that tendency has led to a lot of fantasy production from the wide receivers. Kenny Golladay enters the week leading all receivers with 23 deep-ball targets and an average depth of target of 17.42 yards. Golladay hasn’t been the most consistent fantasy option this season, but all those downfield targets mean major fantasy upside in any given week.
Matchup upgrade: After a slow start to the season, David Montgomery has picked up steam. Over the last two weeks, only Christian McCaffrey has more fantasy points among running backs. Look for the good times to continue for Montgomery this week with a plus matchup on tap against the Lions. So far this season, Detroit has allowed nine rushing scores to running backs. That stat bodes especially well for Montgomery, who has seen a massive 13 goal-line carries so far this season.
Matchup downgrade: Allen Robinson is having one of the better bounceback seasons of 2019. The Bears wideout currently ranks 16th among wideouts in fantasy scoring. While he remains an every-week WR2 play in season-long leagues, owners should be aware that Robinson will likely draw a shadow from Darius Slay this week. Slay is holding opposing wideouts to a 58% catch rate and is coming off a Week 9 outing where he saw zero targets thrown into his coverage.
Key injuries: None
Greenline: BLT -10.6, O/U 44.3
Fantasy facts: Heading into this season, we knew Lamar Jackson could run the football. The young signal-caller’s legs are a big reason why he won the Heisman trophy three years ago. However, I don’t know if anyone saw Jackson being this consistently explosive on the ground. So far this season, 11.1% of Jackson’s runs have gone for 15-plus yards. That’s an almost unfathomable number, but Jackson is showing no signs of letting up. Jackson currently sits at 637 rushing yards. That puts him on pace to obliterate the single-season quarterback record of 1,039 yards set by Michael Vick in 2006.
Matchup upgrade: You can’t stop Jackson. You can only hope to contain him. And the Bengals weren’t even remotely close to doing that back in Week 6 when Jackson went off for a massive 152 rushing yards and a score. While he isn’t putting up big numbers with his arm, Jackson has found pay dirt as a runner in each of his last three games and enters the week with 637 rushing yards. Jackson’s massive ceiling/floor combination makes him one of the best plays on the board this week.
Mark Ingram also gets an upgrade in this matchup. Cincinnati has consistently struggled against the run and allow an average of 122.5 rushing yards and one rushing score per game to running backs. Ingram doesn’t see a ton of volume, but the matchup pushes him into back-end RB1 territory.
Matchup downgrade: It’s been a lost season for Joe Mixon. The Bengals back has run hard, but the overall state of the Cincinnati offense just hasn’t helped his cause. With Ryan Finley under center things aren’t likely to get any better going forward. Mixon gets a downgrade this week and can only be trusted as a flex option against the Ravens. Gamescript has led to opposing backfields averaging just 16.3 carries per game against the Ravens.
Key injuries: The saga continues for A.J. Green. After it looked likely that he’d finally return this week, Green was downgraded to doubtful following missed practices on Wednesday and Thursday. At this point, there’s no telling when he’s going to get back on the field.
Greenline: KC – 6, O/U 48.4
Fantasy facts: Derrick Henry may not see much work in the passing game with just 11 catches on 16 targets this season. But he’s averaging a massive 18.3 yards per catch. That’s the highest number among qualifying running backs. The conventional narrative on Henry entering the season was that he couldn’t be a PPR RB1 because of his minimal involvement in the passing game. So far, that idea has proven to be false, as Henry ranks ninth among running backs in PPR scoring.
Matchup upgrade: And Henry isn’t likely to fall off this week against the Chiefs. So far this season, Kansas City has allowed the third-most fantasy points per game to running backs. The Chiefs surrender an average of 117.4 rushing yards per game to opposing backfields. Only the Bengals and Redskins give up more per game to the position.
Matchup downgrade: With all the matchups either favorable or neutral, there are no major downgrades in this one.
Key injuries: After sitting out the last two weeks, Patrick Mahomes appears poised to return after getting full practices in on both Wednesday and Thursday. He immediately slots right back in as a top-five play. … Delanie Walker hasn’t practiced this week and looks like he’ll miss another game. That keeps Jonnu Smith on the streamer radar. Smith has a reasonably good matchup this week with the Chiefs allowing the 10th-most fantasy points per game to tight ends.
Greenline: NO -13.5, O/U 51.2
Fantasy facts: Michael Thomas is in the midst of a monster season. The Saints wideout has a massive 73 catches through the first eight games of the season. That puts him on pace for 146 receptions, which would break the all-time record of 143 by Marvin Harrison im 2002. While Thomas’ low aDOT of 7.7 yards doesn’t give him much fantasy upside, his heavy volume in the passing game gives him the highest fantasy floor of any non-quarterback in the league right now
Matchup upgrade: Thomas is a lock to continue his productive ways this week against a shaky Atlanta secondary that has been one of the top fantasy matchups for wideouts this season. Since Week 5, no defense has allowed more yards per game to receivers and only the Bucs have surrendered more fantasy points per game to the position over that span.
Matchup downgrade: Julio Jones doesn’t quite have Thomas’s floor, but the all-world Falcons receiver does enter the week in the top 10 among wideouts in fantasy scoring. He’s obviously an every-week starter in season-long leagues, but Jones does draw a tough matchup in this one with shadow coverage expected to come from Marshon Lattimore. The Saints corner got off to a rough start but steadied in October. Lattimore has held Mike Evans, D.J. Chark, and Allen Robinson in check in his last three games in shadow coverage.
Key injuries: Jared Cook and Tre’Quan Smith will both be back in the lineup for the Saints this week. New Orleans is essentially back to full strength in the passing game, which is a good thing for Drew Brees. Of course, so is his matchup. The Falcons are giving up the second-most fantasy points per game to quarterbacks, making Brees one of the top plays on the board this week.
Greenline: NYG -2.2, O/U 44.2
Fantasy facts: Sure, Le’Veon Bell has been a fantasy disappointment this season, but the veteran running back did finish 10th in PPR scoring at the position last week. While his efficiency has been lackluster this season, Bell remains an every-week play thanks to the heavy volume he’s seeing. He’s one of just eight players to average over 20 touches per game this season with his current average sitting at 20.75. That volume keeps Bell at least in RB2 territory going forward. Bell is currently dealing with a knee injury but got limited work in on Thursday and is trending toward playing this week.
Matchup upgrade: We’re upgrading across the board at wide receiver in this contest. With Sterling Shepard potentially out for the rest of the season due to the lingering symptoms from his second concussion of the season, Golden Tate is essentially locked in as the No. 1 receiver and Darius Slayton gets a fantasy boost. The Jets corners have allowed a 68% catch rate to opposing receivers with Darryl Roberts surrendering four receiving scores in his coverage this year.
Matchup downgrade: The tight end situation for the Jets is a bit up in the air. We’ve seen Ryan Griffin emerge over the last month all while Chris Herndon has been angling for a return. The uncertainty of how which player will see more receiving targets makes things complicated, as does the matchup. Believe it or not, the Giants have actually defended tight ends well this season. Tight ends are averaging just 3.4 catches and 41.1 receiving yards per game against the Giants.
Key injuries: Speaking of tight ends, the Giants will be without their top option this week, as Evan Engram is week-to-week with a foot injury. Rhett Ellison will be the pass-catching option in Engram’s stead. Ellison doesn’t offer much season-long appeal, but he is in the mix as a DFS punt.
Greenline: CLV -3.2, O/U 40.3
Fantasy facts: It’s a bit much to call Odell Beckham Jr. a bust, but the Browns wideout certainly has been one of the biggest fantasy disappointments this season. The offseason hype machine had Beckham poised for his best season as a pro, and he’s certainly fallen short of those aspirations so far. Through the first eight games, he ranks just 24th among wideouts in fantasy score. Sure, that’s starter-worthy, but not what people signed up for.
So what’s the issue here? A bit part of Beckham’s lackluster production stems from where he’s being targeted. Beckham’s average depth of target sits at 11.1 yards. If the season ended today, that would be a career low. Last season, he saw an aDOT of 12.6 and was at 13.0 in 2017. Those totals aren’t the highest in the league, but they do indicate more consistent targets deeper downfield. If we don’t see Beckham’s aDOT rise over the second half of the season, we’re likely to continue to see similar production out of him.
Matchup upgrade: Kareem Hunt returns from suspension this week, and that fact certainly has more than a few Nick Chubb owners worried. If you’re in that boat, I wouldn’t panic just yet. Chubb has done nothing this season to warrant reducing his workload as a runner, so expect Hunt to be more of a passing-down option. Additionally, Chubb gets a plus matchup this week. The Bills run defense has backslid over the last two weeks allowing big days to the Eagles’ backfield and Adrian Peterson. Chubb his big-time upside this week. As for Hunt, it’s tough to trust him in his first game back. He’s best left on the bench to be safe.
Matchup downgrade: The bad news continues to come in for Beckham owners. Not only do the aDOT stats not bode well for him, but he also draws yet another tough matchup. The Bills used Tre’Davious White to shadow for the first time this season last week against Washington. White tracked Terry McLaurin on the perimeter, which makes it likely he’ll do the same against Beckham. White is allowing a 59% catch rate with zero touchdowns scored in his coverage this season. Beckham remains only a WR2 play.
And it’s not just Beckham who gets a downgrade against Buffalo. Baker Mayfield faces the third-toughest matchup for quarterbacks in this contest. The Bills have allowed just 200.8 net yards and 0.6 touchdowns through the air this season.
Key injuries: Ricky Seals-Jones left last week’s contest with a knee injury and has yet to suit up for practice this week. Demetrius Harris will get the bulk of the reps at tight end for the Browns, but isn’t worth a look as a streamer option.
Greenline: TB -5.2, O.U 51.9
Fantasy facts: Over his last three games, Mike Evans has seen seven end-zone targets, scoring on three of them. Only nine other receivers have seen at least seven end-zone targets on the season. Evans has been on fire over his last few games, and this work in the red zone is a big reason why. While he may not be the most consistent option, Evans’ has one of the highest fantasy ceilings of any wideout in the league.
Matchup upgrade: We just saw the Seahawks go off on the Tampa Bay secondary, so let’s roll with the trend and fire up Christian Kirk in this matchup. Kirk didn’t do much last week, but he’s averaging 8.2 targets per game this season and offers significantly more upside than Larry Fitzgerald. The veteran wideout hasn’t topped 100 receiving yards since Week 2.
After a hot start to the season, Chris Godwin has taken a back seat to Mike Evans in the Bucs offense over the last two weeks. But don’t let that dissuade you from firing Godwin up this week. Evans figures to draw shadow coverage from Patrick Peterson, which means Jameis Winston should be looking Godwin’s way early and often. Godwin will see both Byron Murphy and Tramaine Brock in coverage. The Cardinals duo have allowed a combined 8 receiving touchdowns on the season.
Love him or hate him, there’s no denying Winston has upside. The Bucs signal-caller has topped 300 passing yards in five of his last six games with 14 touchdowns over that span. He’s in play as a premium streamer this week against a Cardinals defense that allows the fourth-most fantasy points per game to quarterbacks.
We’re also firing up O.J. Howard in this contest. Sure, he’s done very little to earn our fantasy trust, but this one is all about the matchup. Arizona has struggled mightily against tight ends this season, allowing an average of 90 receiving yards and one score per game to the position. Howard is far from the safest play this week, but the matchup is too juicy to pass up.
Matchup downgrade: While it’s impossible to sit Evans in season-long leagues, fantasy owners should be aware that he is a good bet to draw a shadow from Peterson. The Cardinals corner has looked rusty at times since returning from suspension, but he’s been one of the league’s best shadow corners over the last half decade.
David Johnson looks like he’ll be back on the field this week, but we expect a committee situation given how Kenyan Drake performed in his debut with the team. Johnson is likely to lead that committee, but we could be looking at a 65:35 split. Reduced touches plus this matchup makes Johnson a somewhat risky play this week. Tampa has allowed the second-fewest fantasy points per game to running backs this season, so it’s best to consider Johnson a mid-range RB2 play with Drake coming in as a flex option at best.
Key injuries: Chase Edmonds remains sidelined for the Cardinals with a hamstring injury. With running back depth thin in fantasy football, it isn’t advisable to cut Edmonds. He’ll have a role when he returns.
Greenline: IND -11.5, O/U 44.6
Fantasy facts: Kalen Ballage will be a three-down back by default for the Dolphins after the team traded away Kenyan Drake and Mark Walton was suspended for four games. While there’s certainly potential for volume in that role, don’t get your hopes up for Ballage. The second-year back is last in the league with just 1.40 yards after contact per attempt. He’s also forced just three missed tackles on 35 carries. That inability to generate extra yards and make defenders miss bode poorly for his fantasy prospects.
Matchup upgrade: Zach Pascal isn’t necessarily a household name for fantasy football, but the Colts wideout has seized his opportunity with T.Y. Hilton banged up and posted two strong statistical performances over his last three games. Pascal should continue his productive ways this week against the Dolphins. With Xavien Howard out for the season, Miami has cobbled together a secondary that allowed 22 catches on 29 targets last week against the Jets.
Matchup downgrade: Ryan Fitzpatrick showed us some of that magic he’s famous for last week, but don’t get sucked in by the trick. The Colts have done a good job of bottling up opposing quarterbacks and allow an average of 15.2 fantasy points per game to the position. Fitzpatrick isn’t a streamer option this week.
Key injuries: Both Hilton and Jacoby Brissett are banged up for the Colts this week. Hilton is listed as doubtful and won’t suit up. Brissett’s status is much more up in the air. He’s dealing with an MCL sprain but has been limited in practice. There’s a chance he plays, but Brian Hoyer will get the start if Brissett isn’t ready. Hoyer’s presence is an obvious downgrade for the offense, but we wouldn’t fade Colts skill options given the matchup.
Greenline: GB -5.6, O/U 47
Fantasy facts: There seems to be widespread disappointment in Davante Adams among the fantasy playing public. Sure, injuries aren’t fun, but they do happen in football. But anyone who suggests Adams is a fantasy disappointment besides the injury isn’t paying attention. In his last two games, Adams has 26 targets and 17 catches. Last week wasn’t the biggest fantasy performance for Adams, but all of that volume suggests a massive performance is brewing for Adams.
Matchup upgrade: Gamescript took the wind out of Aaron Jones’ sails last week, but we’re going right back to the well with him in this matchup. The Panthers are currently the No. 5 matchup for running backs, thanks in large part to the fact that they lead the league with a massive 1.4 rushing scores per game allowed to the position.
Matchup downgrade: It’s been hit or miss with Jimmy Graham for much of the season and this week is shaping up to be a miss week. Carolina may struggle against running backs, but they’ve had no problem keeping tight ends in check. Only five teams allow fewer fantasy points per game to the position this season. Fade Graham this week and opt for another tight end streamer.
Key injuries: None
Greenline: LA -4.1, O/U 43.7
Fantasy facts: Jared Goff has failed to display a ton of upside this season, but he is trending in the right direction. Over his first four games of the season Goff posted an aDOT of 8.0 yards, which is very low. The lower that number, the fewer big plays that quarterback tends to produce. Over his last four games, Goff’s aDOT has moved up to 9.1. He also has seven end-zone throws over that span. While neither of those numbers are elite, they at least are in a range that suggest Goff will produce occasional big games down the stretch.
Matchup upgrade: Cooper Kupp has been fantastic this season and enters the week top-five in both catches (58) and yards (792). Kupp is an obvious season-long start every week, but he’s also worth paying up for this week in DFS. Kupp will see plenty of Mike Hilton out of the slot. Hilton is allowing a 71.4% catch rate and surrendered a touchdown in his coverage last week against the Colts.
Matchup downgrade: At this time last year, Todd Gurley was the toast of the fantasy football world. But not for long in the NFL, as Gurley doesn’t look like the same player and has found himself in a committee situation in the Rams backfield for much of the season. Add to that the fact that he’s facing a Steelers defense that currently allows the sixth-fewest fantasy points per game to running backs, and we have all the reason we need to downgrade Gurley outside of the top-15 running backs this week.
Key injuries: Brandin Cooks will miss at least this week with his second documented concussion of the season. With Cooks sidelined, look for Josh Reynolds to be on the field in 11-personnel. Reynolds is worth a desperation dart in deep leagues. … James Conner is trending toward missing his second game in a row and Trey Edmunds is also banged up with a ribs injury. That means we’ll likely see plenty of Jaylen Samuels along with some Tony Brooks-James mixed in.
Greenline: DAL -2.7, O/U 48.7
Fantasy facts: Dalvin Cook is one of this year’s biggest breakouts in fantasy football. The Vikings back enters the week second to only Christian McCaffrey in fantasy scoring and leads the league in rushing yards with 894. But it isn’t just efficiency that has helped propel Cook to produce these fantasy numbers. It’s also about the quality of touches he’s seeing. Cook currently leads the league with 14 goal-line carries. Those are extremely valuable touches that will continue to give Cook a massive ceiling/floor combination going forward.
Matchup upgrade: Amari Cooper is dealing with a knee injury, so we’ll need to monitor his status heading into this week. If he’s able to play, he’ll get a big-time matchup boost. The Vikings have been one of the tougher matchups for wideouts over the past few seasons, but that seems to have reversed over the last month. Since Week 7, Minnesota has allowed an average of 14 catches for 191 yards and 1.7 touchdowns per game to wide receivers.
Matchup downgrade: The Vikings have struggled against the pass, but they’ve done well against the run this season. Only four defenses currently allow fewer fantasy points per game to running backs. No, that doesn’t mean we even think about sitting Ezekiel Elliott in season-long leagues. But he is a fad candidate in any DFS contests that include Sunday night.
Key injuries: In addition to Cooper, Michael Gallup is also banged up in practice on Thursday. Gallup got a full season in, but it’s still worth monitoring. … Adam Thielen will be sidelined with a hamstring injury this week, so expect to see more of Laquon Treadwell. The former first-rounder has posted his two highest single-game grades of his career this season with the second coming last week. So I’m telling you there’s still a chance for Treadwell.
Greenline: SF -5.1, O/U 47.3
Fantasy facts: Chris Carson leads the league with 57 combined forced missed tackles (46 as a runner and 11 as a receiver). While you don’t get points for making a defender miss, all those misses have added up to extra yards. Carson is racking up an average of 3.9 yards after contact per attempt, which is also among the league leaders. Carson not only has the lead role in a run-heavy offense, but he’s also playing good football. He’s locked in as a rock-solid RB1 the rest of the way.
Matchup upgrade: With the 49ers passing showing signs of life, there’s going to be times where we can stream Jimmy Garoppolo. This week is one of those times. Seattle’s Legion of Gloom secondary is allowing 289.4 net passing yards per game, which is the sixth-most in the league. With Emmanuel Sanders finally giving the 49ers a steady target at wideout, Garoppolo is in play as a fringe-QB1 option
Matchup downgrade: Tyler Lockett has put up big-time numbers in the middle of the season and is coming off a 13-catch game in Week 9. But Lockett gets a brutal draw this week with the 49ers on tap. San Francisco’s secondary has been arguably the league’s best with four corners grading out in the top 20. Over the last five weeks, the 49ers have allowed just 92 receiving yards per game to wideouts. That’s the lowest in the league. That means we’re also downgrading D.K. Metcalf. And this isn’t the week to start Josh Gordon. Let’s see how the Seahawks use him before we consider him for fantasy starting lineups.
Key injuries: Matt Breida was on the injury report on Thursday with an ankle injury. Breida has battled ankle issues in the past, so this is worth keeping a close eye on. If can’t suit up for Monday’s contest, Tevin Coleman would be a back-end RB1 play.