With ten weeks of games in the books, we have a very clear idea of the best run and pass defenses in the league, and the best units to targets. Things can and will still change going forward as teams quit on their coaches, lose players to injury and get players back, and otherwise traverse the twists and turns that make up an NFL season. This is still a good point to forecast how the schedule will affect value going forward to inform our trade deadline dealings.
Danny Woodhead, Alex Collins, Javorius Allen, RB, BAL - I’ve been hammering this one as of late and I do think it will come through. When the Ravens have an advantage over the opposing offense, their defense goes in for the kills and creates a very running back friendly game script. Ravens running backs have combined for at least 36 touches in each of their four wins this year, with at least 157 total yards in each game. Weeks 11, 12, 15 and 16 all look like wins against the Packers, Texans, Browns and Colts. Woodhead is the PPR play, Collins is a non-ppr flex and emergency RB2, and Allen will have value if Woodhead can’t stay healthy. Think of him as a high value handcuff for the stretch run.
Jeremy Maclin, WR, BAL - The other big beneficiary in Ravens wins has been Maclin. He has scored in three of the four wins and caught six balls (albeit for only 43 yards) in the other. He had his best fantasy weeks for PPR leagues in Week 9 and his shoulder at least got some rest during the bye, although he is still wearing a red non-contact jersey in practice. The Packers, Texans, Colts, and Browns all struggle to defend the pass, enhancing Maclin’s outlook in Weeks 11, 12, 15 and 16. You have to rely on Joe Flacco here, but Maclin should be very cheap in trades.
Emmanuel Sanders, Demaryius Thomas, WR, DEN - Sanders and Thomas won’t be as cheap as Maclin, and you have to rely on Brock Osweiler, Trevor Siemian, or Paxton Lynch, but at least the Denver defense isn’t keeping games low scoring any more. The Broncos have a Week 13-16 run of Miami, the Jets, Indianapolis, and Washington. The Dolphins, Jets, and Washington have all allowed six wide receiver scores in their last four games. The Colts have allowed four in their last three and let Blake Bortles pass for over 300 yards against them in Week 7, with three Jaguars receivers going over 60 yards in the process. Sanders and Thomas aren’t sexy, but they are generally safe plays. Sanders looked as good last week as he has all year, putting his ankle injury behind him, and Thomas has gotten in the end zone in each of the last two weeks after a seven-game drought to open the season.
Leonard Fournette, TJ Yeldon, Chris Ivory, RB, Blake Bortles, QB, Marqise Lee, Keelan Cole, Dede Westbrook, WR, JAX - The Jaguars have matchups at Arizona (Week 12) and home against Seattle (Week 14), but the other four games are clear sailing against Cleveland, Indianapolis (Week 13), Houston (Week 15), and San Francisco (Week 16). Fournette is an obvious winner here, but if his ankle problems come back up, Yeldon and Ivory will have value, with Yeldon seeming to be the leader for the #2 job right now. I would never recommend playing Blake Bortles with anything important on the line, but the matchups are good enough to enhance the value of Lee, and whoever is the primary deep threat in this pass offense. Allen Hurns is hurt and out for who knows how long, Cole is the deep threat right now, but Westbrook could change that when he returns to the field this week. The Jaguars have let Bortles throw 35 or more times in three of the last four weeks, and he accounted for 330 yards on only 26 attempts the first time he faced Indianapolis.
Alex Smith, QB, Kareem Hunt, RB, Tyreek Hill, WR, Travis Kelce, TE, KC - Outside of a Week 15 home game against the Chargers, the Chiefs have a set of junior varsity defenses left on their schedule, starting with the listless Giants this week. Buffalo, the Jets, and Oakland are up in Weeks 12-14 and a defense that is giving the Giants a run for their money in ignominy, the Dolphins, are up in Week 16. Smith is a QB1 you can count on, Hunt could and should return to his dominant early season form, Kelce should destroy the Raiders and Dolphins, and Hill’s week-winning upside will very much be in play.
Philip Rivers, QB, Keenan Allen, WR, LAC - Both of these players should be available for well below their draft price in redraft, and following up on last week’s entry on Allen, the death grip his dynasty owner should have might be loosening. The Chargers schedule is similar to the Chiefs, but possibly even better: Buffalo, at Dallas (Thanksgiving), Cleveland, at Washington, at Kansas City, and the Jets in Week 16. None of these defenses are scary against the pass right now, and a few are among our favorite units to exploit.
Dion Lewis, Rex Burkhead, RB, NE - You have to love all of the parts of the Patriots offense going forward, but Lewis and Burkhead are set to capitalize on a scheduling quirk that put the Dolphins and the Bills on the schedule twice each during the Week 12-16 span, with only the Steelers in Week 15 breaking up the AFC East also-ran tour. Buffalo has collapsed against the run without Marcell Dareus, allowing seven running back scores and 465 rushing yards over the last two weeks. Miami has allowed five running back scores over the last two weeks, and 456 rushing yards to running backs over the last three weeks. The Patriots should be leading most of this quartet of games comfortably in the second half, which should set up Burkhead unless Mike Gillislee takes this role back.
Martavis Bryant, WR, PIT - This one is on the list for one reason, and one reason only - Houston in Week 16. The Texans have given up a two-score game to a wide receiver each of the last three weeks (Robert Woods, T.Y. Hilton, Paul Richardson Jr) with all going over 100 yards, and two going over 170. Even if you say, that will be Antonio Brown, Tyler Lockett went over 100 in the same game that Richardson went off, and Sammy Watkins had a long score last week. So, even if Bryant doesn’t get the deep targets, there might be a good game for him there. I would have included Juju Smith-Schuster, but he’s already an everyweek start for you.
DeAndre Hopkins, WR, HOU - Jacksonville and Pittsburgh loom large in Weeks 15 and 16. Hopkins will also draw Patrick Peterson this week and the Ravens defense in Week 12. Perhaps there is reason for hope here. Hopkins actually had a touchdown and 7-55 against the Jags in Week 1, playing with Tom Savage and a very green Deshaun Watson. The Steelers have given up 100-yard receiver games each of the last two weeks and four wide receiver scores in the last four weeks. Joe Haden is also going to be out for 3-6 weeks - if the Steelers are cruising to an AFC North title, they may choose to rest him until the playoffs. Even though Hopkins is on the negative schedule list, he might be available in a redraft buy low on the schedule issue. You will get the benefit of the Tennessee and San Francisco matchups in Weeks 13 and 14. He makes sense as a trade target in redraft for a team on the edge of playoff contention that needs wide receiver and has a surplus to draw from elsewhere because despite the horrible journey with Brock Osweiler last year, Hopkins has been quarterback-proof so far this year. He might be schedule-proof, too.
T.Y. Hilton, WR, IND - Hilton will give you Tennessee in Week 12 and a Buffalo matchup that is getting better by the week in Week 14. Weeks 13 (Jacksonville), 15 (Denver), and 16 (Baltimore) look bleak. You might be tempted to play him, but Hilton has not come through against anyone except Cleveland, San Francisco, and Houston this year, and the second Texans matchup is unfortunately in Week 17 this year. You might want to make other plans for the playoffs if Hilton is one of your core wide receivers.
Josh McCown, QB, Bilal Powell, RB, Robby Anderson, WR, Austin Seferian-Jenkins, TE, NYJ - The Jets were a fun story for a while this year, and new offensive coordinator John Morton proved to be a worthy successor to Chan Gailey, using inventiveness, including borrowing from the college game, to gussy up an offense that was pieced together from other team’s castoffs and a few youngsters. That could come to a screeching halt against a Week 12-16 schedule of Carolina, Kansas City, Denver, New Orleans, and the Chargers. All of these teams can get pressure on the quarterback, and we saw the Jets offense bring the Bucs defense and pass rush back to life last week. We wouldn’t have wanted to rely on any Jets in the fantasy playoffs coming into this year, and we might not by the time the fantasy playoffs get here.
Matt Ryan, QB, Julio Jones, WR, Devonta Freeman, RB, ATL - Remember when we thought getting the Saints in Weeks 14 and 16 was a good thing for the Falcons offense? This unit is still struggling to find its identity under Steve Sarkisian and underachieving. Weeks 12 and 15 are faceoffs against the Bucs, who are suddenly tough on defense again, at least they were against the Jets and Panthers in recent home games. Week 15 should not be assumed to be a pushover game with Tampa as the venue.