Every fantasy football season reminds me of Christmas day but spread out over 16 weeks.
Much like every December 25th, I spend weeks preparing in earnest for everything to go “perfectly” and every year I am quickly reminded that everything goes off the rails quickly — whether injuries and lineup decisions went awry with football or screaming children and flaming Christmas trees (yes like the Griswold’s that really happened).
After all the chaos subsides both situations pass by us like a blue leaving us pining for next year, when we can do it all over again.
Every week all season long I will be breaking down your start or sit predicaments using our tools such as the Head to Head Tool to provide you with an in-depth, yet easily digested, way to look at player matchups comparatively that can give your fantasy roster the needed edge to bring home the win.
Start Blake Bortles vs NYJ or Ryan Fitzpatrick vs CHI
After three weeks of football, Blake Bortles stands as the 15th ranked quarterback in fantasy. This overall ranking is deceiving as Bortles has finished as the QB19, QB4, and QB 26 in each individual week with 59.5 percent of his total fantasy points being scored in Week 2.
The biggest plus for the highly volatile Bortles for this week has nothing to do with who is lining up out wide or in the slot, but who stands in the backfield.
Since Leonard Fournette entered the league his impact on this Jaguars passing attack and namely Blake Bortles has been tremendous. On a microscopic scale of 20 snaps in 2018, the effect of Fournette can still be felt as pass game metrics across the board are increased, with pass success rate increasing by 13.1 percent, explosive pass percentage increasing by 7.7 percent, and yards per attempt increasing by 1.5.
In looking back to 2017 for a larger sample size of nearly identical snap totals, the trend continues as Fournette on the field equates to a 12.2 greater pass success rate, 3.7 percent higher explosive pass percentage, and a 0.38 higher yards per attempt.
After pulling their best Incredible Hulk impression in Week 1 versus Matthew Stafford the Jets defense has appeared more mild-mannered like Bruce Banner in recent week surrendering back to back efficient outings to Ryan Tannehill and Baker Mayfield. Yes, I’m excluding the dumpster fire quarterback play of Tyrod Taylor in Week 3 because sandwiched in between these other two performances, it stands as an outlier.
Both Tannehill and Mayfield combined to post a 73.9 percent completion percentage and both respectively finished with 100.1 or better quarterback ratings. Bortles remains a rollercoaster option in fantasy, but the matchup is not as stout as the lingering Week 1 headline might make it appear.
(JAC offensive splits with/without Leonard Fournette via our Injury Impact Tool)
In Week 3 start and sit I preached that Ryan Fitzpatrick faced a more difficult matchup than much of the statistics suggested with Joe Haden returning. While Fitzpatrick experienced some hiccups in last week’s game with three second-quarter interceptions; overall, I was wrong as he still rolled up 25.1 fantasy points en route to a top 10 finish amongst quarterbacks.
Ryan Fitzpatrick has been the best quarterback statistically in the NFL. The bearded gunslinger set an NFL record last week versus the Steelers becoming the first quarterback to surpass 400 passing yards in three consecutive starts. Fitzpatrick’s stellar season is not encased with the shallow window dressing of hollow yards as he is currently second in the NFL in passing touchdowns (11), fifth in completion percentage (70.3) and second in passer rating (124.8).
If Ryan Fitzpatrick is playing the role of unsung hero, i.e., David, that would make the Chicago Bears menacing defense with Khalil Mack Goliath. The Bears defense has been a tough matchup for opposing quarterbacks with Chicago ranking in the 72nd percentile in interceptions forced per game and in the 100th percentile in sacks per game.
(Chicago Bears DST Metrics)
Quarterbacks that are able to buy time in the pocket and hurl the rock deep have found success versus the Bears.
With Fitzpatrick protected by the tenth ranked pass blocking offensive line, he looks to exploit this weakness.
Fitzpatrick has been attacking opposing teams deep often as he leads the NFL in net yards per pass attempt (10.36) and 45 percent of his passing touchdowns have been 15 or more yards down the field. This coincides perfectly with the Bears vulnerability, per the heat maps below, as 57 percent of their passing touchdowns allowed have been from passes that have traveled 15 yards or more.
The manner in which Fitzpatrick has been attacking opposing secondaries matches up well with the Bears this week. Look for Fitzpatrick to continue his hot streak this week in Chicago.
(Ryan Fitzpatrick’s Passing Touchdown Heat Map vs CHI DST Passing Touchdowns Allowed Heat Map)
Start- Ryan Fitzpatrick
Start A.J. Green vs ATL or Kerryon Johnson vs DAL or Will Fuller vs IND (Standard Scoring)
A.J. Green has been his stellar self so far this season as the sixth-ranked wide receiver in standard scoring despite missing a large chunk of Week 3 to injury. All practice reports currently have Green as a full go for Sunday. Green has been moving all around the formation under Bill Lazor even getting some time in the slot as Tavon Young for the Ravens can attest to.
Green still primarily lines on left side of the field and will see a healthy dose of Robert Alford this week. Alford is not a bad corner by any means, but over the last two seasons, Green has been elite versus zone coverage that Alford spends the vast majority of games in. Green is off to another fantastic start this season totaling a 67 percent catch rate and 137.3 rating versus zone coverage.
Green’s red zone role for the Bengals has been pivotal especially considering the scoring format here with Green with six red-zone targets so far this season which ranks eighth amongst wide receivers. A.J. Green is primed for another masterful performance this week.
Kerryon Johnson enters Week 4 riding high after leading the Lions in snaps for the running back position in consecutive weeks and amazing a career-high 18 touches. It’s not hard to see why the Lions are looking to get Johnson more involved after not only passing the eye test as the most explosive weapon in this backfield but also leading the team in yards per carry and catch rate through three weeks of football.
Johnson takes on a Cowboys run defense that has been solid so far, ranking in the 60th percentile or better allowing only 75.3 rushing yards per game and 0.67 rushing touchdowns per game. In Week 4, the heart and soul of this run defense will be sitting on the sidelines in street clothes. Sean Lee is shelved with a hamstring ailment. When Lee has missed time during the last two seasons the run defense for Dallas has taken a massive hit, allowing the opposition greater run success rates, more explosive runs, and higher yards per carry.
With Kerryon Johnson demanding more work on a weekly basis versus this shell of a run defense in Week 4, it will be tough to sit him on the fantasy bench. Though with consideration to standard scoring, where touchdowns and red zone involvement are key for fantasy dominance, Johnson is definitively behind LeGarrette Blount with only one red zone carry to Blount’s four.
(DAL defensive splits with/without Sean Lee from 2017-2018, via our Injury Impact Tool)
After missing Week 1 with a hamstring injury, Will Fuller has been putting in the extra work to prove in 2018 that his 2017 stretch of dominance with Deshaun Watson was no fluke. After sitting out opening day, Fuller has been a fantasy monster in back to back weeks, finishing as the WR7 and WR8 in standard scoring. Fuller is averaging 10 targets per game and has scored a touchdown and surpassed 100 receiving yards in each of his two games.
Will Fuller is presented with yet another mouth-watering matchup this week against the Colts and cornerback Nate Hairston. To say Will Fuller is an explosive deep threat would not shock anyone but even that is possibly putting it mildly. Over the past two seasons, Fuller has amassed 20 targets with an average depth of target (adot) of 20 yards or plus hauling in eight of those passes and converting 87.5 percent of them (seven) into touchdowns. Coincidentally Hairston has struggled deep allowing opposing receivers over the last two seasons to haul in 55 percent of their targets with an adot at or exceeding 20 yards for two touchdowns.
Look for Fuller to push his streak of 100 yards and a touchdown to three games this week versus the Colts.
Start- A.J. Green
Start Randall Cobb vs BUF or Kenny Stills vs NE (0.5 Point per Reception Scoring)
Randall Cobb exploded in Week 1 versus the NFC North rival Bears for nine receptions and 142 yards and one touchdown, but since that game, Cobb has fizzled. Cobb has not surpassed four receptions or 30 yards receiving in the following two games despite maintaining a 22.1 percent target share.
Randall Cobb faces off against a Bills team that despite getting the win against a talented Vikings team were ripped in half by Adam Thielen. Thielen has run over 56 percent of his routes from the slot on the season and is fresh off totaling 14 receptions on 19 targets for 105 receiving yards. Phillip Gaines who Cobb looks to match up against on most snaps is currently allowing a 139.9 quarterback rating to opposing passers. Even with Cobb falling flat on his face after the Bears game he is still seeing incredible volume in nine targets per game from one of the best rocket arms in the NFL in Aaron Rodgers.
Assuming Cobb, who popped up with a late week hamstring injury, plays his usual complement of snaps, he will continue to be peppered with targets this week as Rodgers will look to avoid Tre’Davious White, who is coming off a shutdown performance versus Stefon Diggs. Cobbs heat map below and usage across the middle lines up with the soft spot in the pass defense as the Bills have allowed the bulk of receiving yardage (175) to opposing teams on short passes over the middle.
(Randall Cobb’s Pass Game Usage Heat Map vs BUF DST Passing Yardage Allowed Heat Map)
Kenny Stills has been a valuable asset in fantasy so far this season finishing as a top 30 wide receiver in two of his three games, but the higher floor everyone hoped in 2018 has not come to fruition. The prevailing thought was that with Jarvis Landry leaving South Beach for Cleveland, Stills would walk into a higher weekly target share. Stills, however, has remained stagnant with a 17.3 percent target share in 2018 which if we are splitting hairs is actually down from 17.9 percent in 2017. Stills has yet to see more than five targets in any game and has only been targeted in the red zone once on the season.
Ryan Tannehill has been superb this season, but much of that efficiency has come by way of his propensity to take what a defense is giving him, spreading out targets across the depth chart. Stills productive areas of the field matchup poorly with the Patriots this week. New England has been victimized early and often by the short passing game in the middle and left sides of the field. Stills definitely has more boom weeks left this season, but sadly this does not look to be one of them.
Start- Randall Cobb
Derek also writes for Gridiron Experts, Fantasy Data, & is a co-author of the 2019 Fantasy Football Black Book. Weekly guest on Sirius Fantasy Sports Radio and expert consensus ranker at FantasyPros. Born in Louisiana he is a diehard Saints fan. Derek now resides Fort Worth, Texas with his beautiful, football loving wife and three kids.