After six teams went on a bye last weekend, we’re finally back to the usual four-team absence. That doesn’t mean the fantasy impact will be lower, though. You won’t be able to play some of the top fantasy scorers in Russell Wilson, Aaron Rodgers, Aaron Jones, Derrick Henry, Chris Carson, and Saquon Barkley, to name a few. So, what does all of this mean? You’ll have tough decisions on which of your usual reserves—or even waiver wire pickups—deserve a start this weekend. Now is the time to prove yourself as the best GM of your league by building a lineup full of win-not-kill guys for Week 11.
Whether you’re playing in an 8-, 10- or 12-team league, you must have doubts about who to put in that widely open flex position, who to stream at quarterback, or how you could address all of the uncertainty surrounding the tight end slot. Let’s take a look at some of the best and worst options you should consider.
Drew Brees, NO (at TB) - START
Show me last week’s game, and I will show you a good outlier. Just in case you have been out of this world, the 7-1 Saints lost to the 1-7 Falcons while New Orleans couldn’t even score a touchdown all game. Brees got sacked six times to the lone sack he had in his other two starts this season. Only Michael Thomas surpassed the 13-yard mark among wide receivers, and even while racking up 152 yards, he didn’t score. Jared Cook finished the day with 74 yards on six catches, but couldn’t cross the line either. I mean, if someone is bound to rebound this week, it is Drew Brees—who by the way completed 32 of his 45 passes for 287 yards and no picks. This game has the second-highest over/under of the week at 50.5 points, and Tampa Bay comes from giving up 324 passing yards and three TDs to rookie Kyler Murray last weekend for a fantasy score of 32 points. Those three touchdowns were not rare. The Bucs have conceded at least three passing scores in each of their last three games, including five to the Seahawks in Week 9.
Josh Allen, BUF (at MIA) - START
As “average” as you might consider Josh Allen, there aren’t many—if any—players in fantasy football as reliable and consistent as the second-year quarterback has been this season. It’s been ten weeks already, and Allen has yet to finish a game without scoring a touchdown (either rushing or passing). With such a running prowess—Allen has rushed for 25-plus yards in all but two games this year, including a couple of 45-yard performances—his floor has been quite high every week, and he can be considered a weekly 20-point play. Allen’s ceiling hasn’t shown great heights, though, topping at 28.1 points this past weekend. Even with that, Miami has one of the worst defenses he’ll have faced so far, ranking 24th in fantasy points per game allowed to QBs. Although the Dolphins have improved a bit lately, it must be said that their better numbers were related to facing Sam Darnold and Brian Hoyer, and both of them still scored a TD in their matches.
Ryan Fitzpatrick, MIA (vs. BUF) - SIT
Staying in the same game, Fitzpatrick sits at the opposite corner this weekend. The Dolphins have flipped the switch and somehow are on a two-game winning streak playing under the veteran QB. Players want to win, not to tank. That is obvious, as obvious as Fitzpatrick has nothing to lose at the point he’s at in his career, so he will do everything at his hand to score him some final Ws. The problem with playing Fitzpatrick is that he’s been a complete boom-or-bust play all season long. His last fantasy scores have gone up and down—11 to 23 to 15 to 27 to 15 points—and although the trend indicates positive regression should happen next, Buffalo isn’t going to make it easy. The Bills are allowing the fourth-fewest fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks, and none of the last three they faced scored more than 20 FP. In fact, of those three, only one could pass for more than 172 yards and score two touchdowns (the other two scored one combined). Fitzpatrick was also checked for a potential concussion last weekend. He will start, but even with that, the risk and low upside are not worth playing him.
Carson Wentz, PHI (vs. NE) - SIT
Rostering players that play against the Dolphins has become the strategy of the season. But leaving others out of lineups when they face the stout Patriots defense isn’t far from it. This week Wentz is a clear fade considering all of the ingredients of his situation. The Patriots defense is the main one, obviously. They are the no. 1 defense in the league, they have allowed just three (!) touchdowns in nine games, and they have intercepted 19 passes already. No wonder they are allowing the fewest fantasy points per game to QBs in all fantasy football. Then, the Eagles are missing plenty of attacking power due to injuries: RB Jordan Howard is questionable, WR DeSean Jackson is out for the season, and WR Alshon Jeffery has missed practices earlier this week. Wentz himself is having a tough year. Although he has scored a touchdown in his last three games, he has also thrown an interception, he fumbled the ball three times, and he fell under 200 yards passing in two of the three outings. His best games have come against below-average defenses, and New England’s is not one of those.
Josh Jacobs, OAK (vs. CIN) - START
When you can play the offensive rookie of the year, you play him. And when he faces one of the worst defenses against the run, you don’t even question your decision. The Bengals are giving up 29.1 fantasy points to backfields this season, which ranks them as the third-worst team in the league. Although Baltimore rushers could only score 12.2 FP on them, it was Lamar Jackson who ran over them. And other than that, the Bengals have allowed rushers to rack up 134 yards or score one or more touchdowns every single week. Jacobs himself is having a historic season. He’s one of only nine rookies ever to score seven touchdowns in his first nine professional games. He’s on a two-game scoring streak (two TDs against Detroit, one against the Chargers), has rushed for 120-yards in two of his last four games, and he’s even contributing on the passing game by averaging 1.6 receptions and 14.7 yards per game. Great player, great matchup.
Melvin Gordon, LAC (vs. KC) - START
Considering how Austin Ekeler started the year, I never thought I would advise starting Gordon over him at any point in 2019. This is still a hard decision to make, though, but Gordon’s steadily improving his performances and the cupcake matchup just called for it. Melvin Gordon’s first three games weren’t good (70 yards from scrimmage, one score combined), but his last three have brought 2018 memories back: 276 yards (two games of 80-plus yards rushing) with four touchdowns on the ground. All in all, 57.6 fantasy points in three games and back-to-back 20-plus points outings. Gordon has rendered Ekeler null in the rushing side of the game while limiting his targets, too. He has made Ekeler a complete touchdown-dependent player to succeed in fantasy leagues. The Chiefs have looked horrid stopping the run. Teams know that’s the way to beat them, and last week Derrick Henry ran all over them to the tune of 188 yards and two touchdowns. Gordon might be in for his best game of the season.
Sony Michel, NE (at PHI) - SIT
New England is only a 3.5-point favorite entering their game against Philadelphia on Sunday. Even with that, I don’t think they’ll try to run the ball that much to kill the clock considering how vulnerable the Eagles are through the air and how well they’ve done against the run—they rank seventh in fantasy points allowed to RBs. Michel started the season on the low, then peaked in weeks 5 to 7, but his last two games brought him back to the abyss with performances of 7.4 and 4.0 fantasy points. Michel’s upside on the passing game is virtually nonexistent and—too bad for him—that seems to be the only exploitable part of Philly’s defense against rushers. Baltimore limited Michel to just 18 yards on four attempts due mostly to game script. If the Eagles get the lead, consider Michel’s opportunities to be low at best. And if they don’t consider Michel a touchdown-or-bust play due to his low overall production this season.
Kenyan Drake, ARI (at SF) - SIT
Arizona trusted Drake as the best possible addition to its backfield given the health issues it was going through, and Drake responded straight away with a great game against no less than the 49ers in Week 9: 110 yards on 15 carries with a touchdown, and 52 receiving yards on four-of-four receptions. His best game of the season by a mile and an encouraging outcome for the future. Last week against Tampa Bay, though, things turned sour. Drake still carried the ball ten times and completed six receptions, but he could only amass 41 yards from scrimmage. The Cardinals’ backfield is a bit of a mess. David Johnson is healthy but fumbled the ball last weekend and was benched for the rest of the game after that. He’s still—supposedly—the no. 1 rusher on the team. And don’t forget that even while he torched San Francisco, the Niners defense ranks third against RBs this season.
John Brown, BUF (at MIA) - START
Forgive me for picking against Miami, but stacking Josh Allen (read above), and John Brown looks like one of the safest and best plays of the week (and the whole year, to be honest). The Dolphins have not been that bad against wide receivers. They rank in the middle of the pack in fantasy points allowed to the position, but they have surrendered the second-most receiving touchdowns (14). Although Indianapolis’ receivers (led by a third-string QB) failed to score, Miami has allowed seven touchdowns combined in its last five games and two to the receiving corps of three of those five teams. I already told you how solid Josh Allen has been all year (basically a lock to score 20 fantasy points weekly), and Josh Brown isn’t far from him. Brown is averaging 14.2 FP but has only fallen under 10 points one time. His ceiling might not be too high (he’s reached 25 points), but he hasn’t been lucky at scoring touchdowns, and that has affected his value. He’s virtually a weekly five-reception, 70-yard receiver, so scoring would be the cherry on top.
Terry McLaurin, WAS (vs. NYJ) - START
Do you remember Scary, Terry? Oh, the good old days of the early season. The rookie started the year with a bang, stringing three games in which he scored a touchdown and received for more than 62 yards each time. He followed that with a not-horrid outing against stout New England and then exploded again against Miami for 100 yards and two scores. Since then, nothing. McLaurin has played three more games but has just racked up 89 yards on nine receptions combined in that span. Not that he’s fallen out of favor, as he still gets targeted six times per game, but his production has been too limited playing under Dwayne Haskins. This week might reverse McLaurin’s course, though, as the Jets have been bad against WRs all season. They rank 31st in points allowed to the position, and the numbers show it: New York has allowed the opposing WRs to score three or four touchdowns in their last three games and to gain at least 181 yards in each. This is not a safe start (McLaurin is volatile, and Haskins hasn’t proved anything), but the matchup is too good to pass on it.
Kenny Golladay, DET (vs. DAL) - SIT
This game has everything to stay away from anything-Lions. Matthew Stafford should be out injured, and Jeff Driskel will start at quarterback. Driskel wasn’t bad, but he wasn’t good last week. Only Marvin Jones Jr. topped three receptions. Kenny Golladay was the star of the day, though, as he converted 57 yards and three catches in a touchdown. The problem is that the went for 47 yards in the scoring play, so that was all he did last Sunday (in fact, he finished with just 14.7 points of which 11.7 came from the scoring play). I told you last weekend how random the Lions receiving corps are when it comes to who gets the weekly bounty. This next weekend will mix that randomness with a middling quarterback and the second-best defense against WRs in the nation. The Cowboys have limited the Eagles, Giants, and Vikings receivers to under 84 yards at most in their last three weeks, and they have allowed two receiving touchdowns in their last seven games (one in their previous three).
Christian Kirk, ARI (at SF) - SIT
Of the seven receivers to score at least three touchdowns in a single game this season, only Mike Evans and Stefon Diggs—capital S studs—were able to put on good games after that one. The rest did a bunch of nothing in their followup matches. Kirk is by no means a great player yet, let alone a stud receiver. Up to last weekend, Kirk had scored a grand total of zero touchdowns for the Cardinals. That game also marked his season-best in receiving yards with 138 on six receptions against the worst-ranked defense (Tampa Bay) against WRs. San Francisco, on the other hand, ranks fourth and just two weeks ago limited Kirk to eight yards (!) on two receptions (!!) for a fantasy score of 3.6 fantasy points. That was probably a fluke, at least to a certain point. Kirk has not dropped from eight fantasy points in any of his games and was averaging 11.9 before his explosion. But don’t buy the hype, because regression is coming fast.
Jared Cook, NO (at TB) - START
Studying tight ends drains the life out of my body. There is no reason for what they do on the field, how they perform, who does what, and what to expect. Take Jared Cook. He entered the season as a 2018-beast, but this year he has turned into just another guy at the position. The good thing for Cook, though, is that he’s been hot lately and in his last three games (although he’s missed three consecutive weeks from 7 to 9 though, due to DNPs and a bye) he’s scored 12-plus fantasy points each time. He received for 41 yards and a score against Tampa Bay, put another TD on the scoreboard one week later against Jacksonville, and this past weekend he amassed all of 74 yards finished the day as the second Saints receiver in yardage. There is not a lot you can look at when picking a tight end, honestly, and when you think they’ll hit a home run, they go and strikeout. But again, Cook is on a hot streak, and he already hanged a 4/41/1 line on Tampa (31st defense against TEs) in Week 5.
T.J. Hockenson, DET (vs. DAL) - START
The sensation at the tight end position in Week 1, Hockenson had a massive debut and then flopped all the way down to the underground. He has kind of made amends lately, although don’t expect fireworks. He’s scored at least six fantasy points in four of his five games after Detroit’s Week 5 bye, but has failed to score again—he did so for the last time in Week 4. You can count on Hockenson catching three passes weekly and getting to around 35 yards on average, but that’s pretty much it. He doesn’t look bad as a streaming option against a terrible Cowboys TE defense (third-worst against the position). Dallas has given up at least a touchdown or up to 65 receiving yards to each of the last five tight ends they have faced, and two of them scored 22-plus fantasy points (a treasure considering the status of the TE position).
Zach Ertz, PHI (vs. NE) - SIT
After handing you names such as Cook’s or Hockenson’s as potential good starts this weekend, you must think I’ve lost my mind by telling you to sit sure-thing Zach Ertz, right? Such is the (tight end) world we live in, folks. If you have read Carson Wentz’s blurb above, you know how the Eagles look on offense. Ertz is pretty much their go-to player and defenses know it, so they can easily focus on him and put all of their efforts in stopping him. That is bad. Having New England applying that strategy is worse. As a surprise to no one, the Patriots also rank atop the leaderboards in limiting TE fantasy points, having stopped them from getting to more than 41 receiving yards in seven of their nine games and not allowing more than 8.8 fantasy points also in seven occasions. If you want an Eagle, go with Dallas Goedert exploiting the holes Ertz will open for him.
O.J. Howard, TB (vs. NO) - SIT
It is good to have O.J. Howard back producing, because that means he is also back to the column and the sitting side of it. Pretty much as I did above with Christian Kirk, I have to tell you to fade Howard this weekend. Do you trust Tampa Bay really giving him the chance to ball two weeks in a row after what he did in his first six games? Let me doubt it, and let’s find a way to see if this is real before getting too deep into it. Sure, Howard scored a more than palatable 14.7 points against Arizona last weekend (the worst teams against TEs by the way), but half of those can be attributed to catching a pass for a touchdown. Other than that, 47 yards on four receptions aren’t that good looking, right? And New Orleans’ isn’t the strongest of defenses but has limited tight ends to just two TDs all season long and fewer than eight fantasy points in three of their last five games.
I am a promoter at DraftKings and am also an avid fan and user (my username is chapulana) and may sometimes play on my personal account in the games that I offer advice on. Although I have expressed my personal view on the games and strategies above, they do not necessarily reflect the view(s) of DraftKings and I may also deploy different players and strategies than what I recommend above. I am not an employee of DraftKings and do not have access to any non-public information.