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.
Handcuffing is a widely used strategy in fantasy football, but rarely is it used correctly. We often hear about handcuffing during fantasy draft season. People prioritize handcuffs in the late rounds, and what typically ends up happening is they drop these players three weeks into the season.
Sure, if you drafted James Conner last year, the strategy worked like gangbusters. But that’s the exception, not the rule. So the advice I gave back in August, and will continue to give, is don’t handcuff on draft day unless you have a crazy deep bench. Instead, spend those late-round picks on high-upside wide receivers and late-round quarterback options.
But that’s not to say that I’m against the idea of handcuffing. In fact, it’s the exact opposite. Handcuffing is an excellent strategy in mid-November. At this time of year, you likely have a player or two who are simply wasting space on your bench. These guys are never going to crack your starting lineup, so why are they still on your roster?
Cut bait on these space eaters and grab some of the premium handcuffs. Guys like Tony Pollard, Ryquell Armstead, and Rashaad Penny are widely available and should be stashed immediately. While there’s no guarantee that they’ll be fantasy relevant this season, their fantasy value would shoot through the roof if their respective starter was lost due to injury.
Sure, you could try to win the free agent bidding war for their services after the fact. But wouldn’t you rather take the shot now? Not only do you have the potential to make a massive return on investment, but also just think of how tilted your league will get when they see that handcuff already owned on your roster. It’s a pre-troll move, which is never a bad thing.
Greenline: DAL -6.2, O/U OFF
Fantasy facts: Dak Prescott is tied with Patrick Mahomes for the league lead in deep-ball touchdowns with nine. To go along with those scores, Prescott has completed 23-of-46 deep balls for 763 yards. While Prescott was essentially a low-upside fantasy option over his first three seasons in the league, all this pushing the ball downfield has led to increased fantasy upside. Look for that to continue down the stretch, including this week.
Matchup upgrade: Ezekiel Elliott is coming off a down game in Week 10, but he’s poised to bounce right back. The Lions are the No. 2 fantasy matchup for running backs and allow a healthy 4.4 yards per carry to the position. … T.J. Hockenson has been hit-or-miss in his rookie season, but this is a week where we want to stream him. Dallas has been one of the better fantasy matchups this season with only the Cardinals and Bucs allowing more fantasy points to tight ends.
Matchup downgrade: Amari Cooper looks like he’ll be good to go despite his nagging knee injury. Cooper is an every-week starter in season-long but is shaping up to be a fade in DFS with shadow coverage projected to come from Darius Slay. The Lions corner has seen just 28 targets thrown into his coverage on 248 routes covered this season.
Key injuries: Ty Johnson managed to get to limited on Thursday, but it isn’t certain if he’s managed to clear the league concussion protocol. If Johnson is unable to play, we’ll see an uninspiring backfield split between J.D. McKissic and Paul Perkins.
Greenline: IND -2.7, O/U 43.9
Fantasy facts: He was one of last season’s biggest fantasy disappointments, but Leonard Fournette has managed to bounce back in a big way. The Jags running back enters the week second at the position in yards after contact per attempt at 3.75. So not only is Fournette racking up touches in a three-down role, he’s also getting the most out of his work. He’s a prime example of why we shouldn’t necessarily hold a down year against players for fantasy purposes.
Matchup upgrade: Mid-pack matchups are the best you’re going to find in this one.
Matchup downgrade: With T.Y. Hilton looking iffy yet again, the Colts will likely rely on Zach Pascal as their top pass-catching option. Pascal has flashed at points this season, but this isn’t the week to roll with him in fantasy. He’s a good bet to see plenty of A.J. Bouye in coverage. The Jags corner has allowed just one touchdown in his coverage this season.
Greenline: BU -5.4, O/U 40.3
Fantasy facts: John Brown has been one of the most unsung fantasy wideouts of 2019. He enters the week 19th among wide receivers in fantasy scoring and is seeing a 23.7% target share. That’s the 12th-highest in the league through the first 10 weeks of the season. All that volume means we can expect Brown to continue to produce, especially in this matchup.
Matchup upgrade: We’re upgrading essentially all fantasy-relevant players on the Bills this week. Devin Singletary had a down game last week, but he bounces back in a big way against a Dolphins defense that is allowing the second-most scrimmage yards per game (165.8) to running backs. Josh Allen is in the mix as a premium streamer. Miami allows 8.1 yards per attempt and 2.2 passing scores per game.
Matchup downgrade: DeVante Parker is in consideration as a WR3 starter most weeks, but it’s best to fade him in this one. The Bills have used Tre’Davious White to shadow opposing No. 1 receivers in each of the last two weeks, so it’s likely Parker gets the same treatment. White is allowing just 54% of his targets to be caught with zero touchdowns scored in his coverage this season.
Key injuries: None
Greenline: MIN -9, O/U 40.8
Fantasy facts: Only Drew Brees has a higher adjusted completion percentage than Kirk Cousins. If you aren’t familiar with that number, it’s a great way of viewing true efficiency. We scrub out non-targeted pass attempts and then divide into that number a quarterback’s combined completions and receiver drops. Cousins is currently at 81.5%. Sure, you don’t get fantasy points for that, but his efficiency means we can expect a continued high floor going forward. That said, the Broncos are the third-toughest matchup for quarterbacks and allow just 212.6 net passing yards this season.
Matchup upgrade: Entering the season, the Vikings were regarded as one of the better secondaries in the league. Fast forward to November, and they’ve been anything but that on the field. The once-vaunted Xavier Rhodes has allowed a massive 86% of his targets to be caught with three scores coming in his coverage. While the Broncos quarterback situation is far from optimal, it’s hard to not like Courtland Sutton in this matchup.
Matchup downgrade: Of course, the matchup isn’t as good on the other side of the field. With Adam Thielen unlikely to play, Stefon Diggs will get the star treatment. That means a shadow from Chris Harris Jr. The veteran corner has been one of the league’s toughest matchups this season, with opposing wideouts seeing an average of just 3.9 targets per game in Harris’ coverage. … This matchup is also tough on the other side of the ball for Phillip Lindsay and Royce Freeman. Minnesota’s surging run defense surrenders the fifth-fewest fantasy points per game to opposing backfields.
Key injuries: Other than Thielen, there are no major injuries to monitor.
Greenline: NO -5.4, O/U 50.2
Fantasy facts: Since Week 3, no quarterback has more passing yards per game than Jameis Winston. He’s averaging 337.6 passing yards per game and ranks eighth in fantasy points per game over that span. Sure, it isn’t always pretty, but Winston yardage numbers actually means a relatively high fantasy floor. This week is a tough matchup, but Winston is still in play as a back-end QB1.
Matchup upgrade: The good times just continue to roll for Michael Thomas. The Saints wideout racked up another 13 catches last week and currently sits with a massive 86 through his first nine games. Could we see him top the century mark this week? That’s certainly a possibility against the shaky Bucs secondary. Thomas will see his share of Sean Murphy-Bunting on the outside. So far this season, Murphy-Bunting is allowing a 64% catch rate with three touchdowns scored in his coverage.
Drew Brees was a major fantasy disappointment last week, but it’s a new day for Brees and the Saints offense. Tampa Bay’s defense has been one of the most fantasy friendly for opposing passing games this season. The Bucs allow a league-high 312 net passing yards per game and 2.4 passing scores per game to opposing signal-callers. Brees bounces back in a big way this week.
Matchup downgrade: Tampa Bay’s run defense has been the lone unit to hold Christian McCaffrey in check this season and enter the week as the second-toughest matchup for running backs. That isn’t what you want to hear if you own Alvin Kamara or Latavius Murray. Given the matchup, it’s best to leave Murray on the bench. However, Kamara owners shouldn’t overthink it. Even in a tough matchup, Kamara can still put up RB1 numbers thanks to his ability in the passing game.
Greenline: WAS -2, O/U 39.4
Fantasy facts: Over the last month, here is the Jets’ wide receiver target share breakdown: Jamison Crowder 19.1%, Demaryius Thomas 18.3%, Robby Anderson 14.5%. Entering the season, most pundits had Anderson as the top receiver in this group, but that just isn’t the case. At this point, he’s essentially a boom-or-bust No. 3. In that role, it’s essentially impossible for Anderson to sustain consistent production. He’s droppable in all redraft formats.
Matchup upgrade: It’s been a bit of a fantasy roller coaster ride with Terry McLaurin this season, but the Redskins rookie is worth consideration as a starter this week. The Jets secondary is banged up and could be relying on Nate Hairston and Arthur Maulet on the outside.
Matchup downgrade: While this isn’t the most exciting game for fantasy purposes, the matchups are all neutral or better.
Greenline: CAR -3.1, O/U 48.9
Fantasy facts: With Devonta Freeman sidelined and Ito Smith on injured reserve, the Falcons will turn to Brian Hill in the backfield. Hill saw plenty of volume in college with 349 carries in 2016. He managed a solid 5.3 yards per carry, but only went for 2.9 yards after contact per attempt. While that’s a decent number at the pro level, it’s a tad low for college running backs, especially those outside of the Power 5. So while Hill can certainly handle a full workload, don’t get your hopes up for an efficient performance. He’s best viewed as an RB2 option.
Matchup upgrade: D.J. Moore is starting to heat up for the Carolina Panthers. Even in the frigid temperatures of Lambeau Field last week, Moore managed nine catches for 120 yards. That’s back-to-back 100-yard performances for the young wideout. This surge in production comes at exactly the right time for Moore, as the Panthers square off against Atlanta this week. The Falcons secondary has been one of the league’s most fantasy-friendly for wide receivers in 2019 and just gave up a massive day to Michael Thomas in Week 10. Curtis Samuel also gets a boost in this one, and Kyle Allen is worth streamer consideration as a fringe-QB1 play.
Matchup downgrade: Matt Ryan was back under center last week, but he managed just 182 passing yards. We could be looking at another lackluster performance from Ryan in this one. While he isn’t the worst play on the board, the Panthers enter the week as the No. 23 matchup for quarterbacks. The Panthers put a damper on Ryan’s upside.
Greenline: BLT -4.5, O/U 50.6
Fantasy facts: Lamar Jackson leads the league in non-throw touch share at 23.9%. The next highest is Josh Allen at 14.0%. That isn’t a huge surprise, and isn’t actually the stat we need to key in on. Because Jackson touches the ball so much, Mark Ingram enters the week with a touch share at just 30.9%. That’s nearly 20% lower than league leader, Dalvin Cook. Ingram’s lack of volume in the Ravens’ offense puts a major cap on his fantasy upside going forward.
Matchup upgrade: The Ravens have shown us this season that they aren’t just good at running the football. The passing game is also clicking and Marquise Brown is a big part of that success. The rookie has found paydirt four times this season and is averaging an impressive 16.2 yards per catch. Brown gets a favorable draw this week against the Texans with coverage to come from Gareon Conley and Johnathan Joseph on the outside. The Houston duo have surrendered a combined seven touchdowns this season.
Matchup downgrade: While the Texans struggle against the pass, the Baltimore secondary is emerging as one of the league’s better units. The Week 7 addition of Marcus Peters essentially gives the Ravens four cornerbacks on the field in their subpackages with Marlon Humphrey and Jimmy Smith manning the other two corner spots and Brandon Carr playing a hybrid big nickel role. That makes this a challenging matchup for the Texans wideouts. To be clear, we start DeAndre Hopkins no matter what, but this isn’t the week to roll the dice on Kenny Stills. Will Fuller is tricky, as he’s likely to return this week from a hamstring injury. The safe play is to fade him this week. Likewise, you may want to pass on Darren Fells in this matchup. Sure, he’s been a red-zone monster, but the Ravens have allowed just two touchdowns to tight ends this season.
Key injuries: Will Fuller is the main injury to note in this contest.
Greenline: SF -9.9, O/U 44.9
Fantasy facts: Jimmy Garoppolo is certainly in the streamer conversation this week, but there is a number that suggests we shouldn’t expect much upside out of the 49ers signal-caller. Only 8.1% of Garoppolo’s passes have gone for 20-plus yards this season. That’s the second-lowest rate in the league. With so few shots downfield, it’s very difficult for Garoppolo to put up a big fantasy line.
Matchup upgrade: This was supposed to be the George Kittle smash week with the Cardinals offering up one touchdown per game to opposing tight ends. But Kittle is banged up and is trending toward not playing. If he sits, Ross Dwelley will again serve as the top pass-catching tight end for the 49ers. The matchup is uber-juicy, but Dwelley would only be a desperation Hail Mary.
Matchup downgrade: After a somewhat quiet first two months of the season, Christian Kirk exploded in Week 10, finding the end zone three times. While that production is certainly encouraging, don’t expect Kirk to put up similar numbers this week. The Cardinals wideout gets a major downgrade against the fierce 49ers secondary. San Francisco’s trio of Richard Sherman, K’Waun Williams, and Emmanuel Moseley have been stellar, holding opposing wideouts to the fourth-fewest fantasy points per game this season.
Chase Edmonds hasn’t practiced this week and looks like he’ll be sidelined again. So that leaves us with the head-scratching committee of David Johnson and Kenyan Drake. Last week, Drake surprisingly led the backfield in touches with Johnson looking like a shell of his former self. That coupled with this brutal matchup makes it extremely difficult to trust Johnson this week. How the mighty have fallen.
Key injuries: Matt Breida’s nagging ankle injury will keep him out for this week and potentially next week. That means a slight uptick for Tevin Coleman, with Raheem Mostert sliding into flex territory. … Emmanuel Sanders is dealing with a ribs issue that kept him out of practice on Wednesday and Thursday. Sanders is shaping up to be a game-time decision. If he doesn’t play, expect to see plenty of Deebo Samuel.
Greenline: CAR -3.1, O/U 48.9
Fantasy facts: The Oakland Raiders are feeding Josh Jacobs. The rookie running back enters the week ninth in the league in carries with 168. Not only that, but Jacobs has as many runs of 15-plus yards as Christian McCaffrey with 11 on the season. Look for that upside and volume to continue for Jacobs this week with an extremely favorable matchup on tap against the Bengals. Opposing running backs have carved up the Cincinnati defense all season, with backfields scoring an average of 29.4 fantasy points per game against the Bengals.
Matchup upgrade: We’re going to exploit this matchup with the Bengals from all angles, as Derek Carr is in play as a priority quarterback streamer. The Bengals allow a league-high 9.0 net yards per attempt. Hunter Renfrow also gets a matchup boost out of the slot against Darqueze Dennard. The Bengals corner has played just two games this season, but allowed a 75% catch rate in 2018.
Matchup downgrade: Good matchups abound in this one. Start ‘em if you got ‘em.
Key injuries: A.J. Green is not practicing this week. In other news, the sky is blue.
Greenline: NE -3.1, O/U 45.8
Fantasy facts: Since Week 4, the Eagles have run 12 personnel on 52.5% of their offensive plays. That’s important information for anyone who picked up Dallas Goedert. Zach Ertz is still locked in as the top tight end target, but Goedert is on the field enough to sustain front-end TE2 production going forward.
Matchup upgrade: As we do every week, we’re upgrading a passing game against the Eagles. Tom Brady is a top-10 play with Julian Edelman slotted in as a WR1 option and Mohamed Sanu in WR3 territory. Those looking for DFS upside may want to take a peek at Phillip Dorsett. He isn’t the best season-long option, but Dorsett does come with an appealing ceiling with coverage likely to come from Ronald Darby.
Matchup downgrade: Philadelphia is the polar opposite against the run, and enter the week allowing the second-fewest yards per carry at just 3.37. That means it’s likely to be another inefficient day at the office for Sony Michel. While we normally could at least hope for touchdown upside from Michel, that isn’t the case this week. the Eagles have allowed opposing running backs to score on just 36% of goal line attempts.
Key injuries: Alshon Jeffery is dealing with an ankle injury and is very much up in the air for this contest. If he does suit up, he’ll have to contend with a shadow from Stephon Gilmore. Wideouts have struggled in Gilmore’s coverage all season, managing just a 48.1% catch rate and zero touchdowns. It could be a quiet day for Jeffery.
Greenline: LA -6.1, O/U 41
Fantasy facts: Believe it or not, it’s been a relatively good season for Todd Gurley. Sure, he enters the week a lowly 22nd among running backs in fantasy scoring, but the Rams back has generated 2.8 yards after contact per attempt and is coming off a strong performance against a tough Steelers defense. So why isn’t Gurley putting up good fantasy numbers? Volume. Gurley has just a 27.2% team touch share this season. That’s 33rd among running backs. Touches trump everything else in fantasy football, and Gurley simply isn’t seeing enough of them to be anything more than an RB2 option.
Matchup upgrade: Tight end is a complete mess this season, but we have at least seen some upside out of Gerald Everett. The Rams tight end has been a bit of a breakout this year and enters the week 11th at the position in fantasy scoring. He’s in play as a priority streamer this week with the Bears currently allowing the fifth-most fantasy points per game to the position.
Matchup downgrade: No. 1 wideouts facing the Rams can expect to see a shadow from Jalen Ramsey every week. That means Allen Robinson in this matchup. While we’re technically labeling this as a downgrade, Robinson owners shouldn’t necessarily be that intimidated. In his three game since joining the Rams, Ramsey has allowed 14 catches on 17 targets. Robinson is still a WR2 option.
Key injuries: David Montgomery was a mid-week downgrade to DNP on Thursday with an ankle injury. While Matt Nagy seemed to suggest the injury was minor, it’s a good idea to keep an eye on Montgomery’s status.
Greenline: KC -4.5, O/U 53.4
Fantasy facts: While his 2019 campaign didn’t start very well after returning from his holdout, Melvin Gordon finally flashed a high fantasy ceiling last week. Better yet, since Week 7, only Dalvin Cook has more goal-line carries than Gordon. He’s seen seven carries inside the 5 over that span. Those are extremely valuable touches that should continue to come in this plus matchup. The Chiefs allow the most fantasy points per game to running backs this season.
Matchup upgrade: We have two great tight ends in this one with Hunter Henry and Travis Kelce on the field. We’re obviously starting both of these guys, but Henry draws the better matchup. Kansas City is the No. 8 matchup for the position, whereas Los Angeles has allowed the seventh-fewest fantasy points per game to tight ends. No, that isn’t a reason to sit Kelce. He gets his regardless. But Henry owners have to be happy with this matchup.
Matchup downgrade: Technically speaking, this is a downgrade for Patrick Mahomes, but who are we kidding? If you own Mahomes, you start Mahomes. Period.
Key injuries: None