Deshaun Watson, HOU (at Seattle) - Perhaps he’s too obvious to be a sleeper with his recent high output, but start/sit questions this week seem to indicate that he’s seen as more of a QB15-20 because of the matchup at Seattle. The Seahawks defense isn’t as scary as it looks on paper. Jared Goff and the Rams offense moved the ball well against them, as did Marcus Mariota and Aaron Rodgers, albeit all on the road. Jacoby Brissett and Brian Hoyer are the quarterbacks they shut down at home, and Watson has a lot more to offer than they did, including an extra week to prepare during Houston’s bye.
Matt Moore, MIA (vs Baltimore) - The Ravens pass defense appears to be one of the best in the league at first glance, but they have faced Andy Dalton, DeShone Kizer, Blake Bortles, Ben Roethlisberger, EJ Manuel, Mitchell Trubisky, and Case Keenum. Moore isn’t a worldbeater by any measure, but he threw for multiple scores and 200+ yards in each of his last three starts. He’s a safe waiver wire bye week coverage option with the chemistry he displayed throwing to Jarvis Landry (three touchdowns) and Kenny Stills (five touchdowns) over the last three plus games together.
Andy Dalton, CIN (vs Indianapolis) - Dalton has had trouble finding time to throw downfield, but that shouldn’t be as big a deal against a Colts defense that has only 13 sacks this year. That same Colts pass defense has allowed at least 295 passing yards to every quarterback they have faced this year except DeShone Kizer, who still had 242 passing yards and accounted for three scores. Even Blake Bortles was a good start against them last week.
Joe Mixon, CIN (vs Indianapolis) - Mixon might not be a sleeper because of what was invested in him in drafts, but he has been falling out of favor in fantasy lineups just the same. This is a good week to go back to him in a game the Bengals should dominate at home against a reeling opponent. The Colts have given up ten running back touchdowns in seven games this year, and in three games they have given up multiple running back scores. The last two teams to face the Colts fed their running backs over 30 carries, and Mixon is the clear favorite to lead the Bengals back in touches this week.
Bilal Powell/Matt Forte, NYJ (vs Atlanta) - Powell and Forte are situated well to take advantage of a Falcons defense that has allowed three running back receiving touchdowns. Their last two opponents gave their running backs 30 and 31 rushing attempts, so even though Powell and Forte are splitting the work, there could be more than enough to go around as long the Jets keep this one close.
DeAndre Washington/Jalen Richard, OAK (at Buffalo) - Marshawn Lynch’s suspension could be a boon to an offense that looked better without him in Week 7. Washington and Richard should split the backfield work down the middle, with Richard the best big play threat and better PPR back, and Washington more likely to get goal line touches after his impressive effort getting to paydirt last week. The Bills defense has surrendered a score to a running back in three of the last four weeks, and last week was their worst defensive performance of the year, so they could be vulnerable against a hot Raiders offense as long as going east for an early game doesn’t throw them off.
Rob Kelley, WAS (vs Dallas) - Kelley has been held in check by a good Eagles run defense twice already this year, and he was hurt against Kansas City and the Rams. While this doesn’t speak well to his durability this year, he is healthy now, and he had 12 carries for 78 yards before exiting against the Rams. This week, he gets the Cowboys, a run defense that has already allowed three backs to go over 118 yards. Check the Washington injury report to make sure their offensive line actually has most of its starters this year - the majority were on the report to start the week.
Dion Lewis, NE (vs Los Angeles Chargers) - The Chargers run defense is among the worst in the league, and that won’t be lost on Bill Belichick, who never likes to take on an opponent’s strength. In this case, that is the edge rush from Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram III, which can be slowed down by running Lewis and possibly more short passing to James White. Before the Raiders and Broncos inexplicably abandoned the run, the Chargers had given up 122, 136, and 172 yard games to opposing running backs. Lewis has led the team in carries each of the last two games, and he should get the call at the goal line after Mike Gillislee failed when Lewis put them at the one last week.
LeGarrette Blount, Wendell Smallwood, PHI (vs San Francisco) - Blount should return to Patriots form this week in what appears to be a likely blowout win for the surging Eagles against the sinking 49ers. San Francisco has allowed two different backs to score three times against them. Four running backs have scored as receivers against them. Opposing running backs have combined for at least 125 total yards against them in every game this year, and opposing backfields have combined for over 175 total yards against them in each of the last four games. Get your Eagles running backs in.
Kenny Stills, MIA (at Baltimore) **Thursday** - Stills caught two touchdowns from Matt Moore last week, and Moore targeted him deep on multiple other targets that drew penalties. In the last four games Stills and Moore have played together, they have combined for five scores and at least one in every game. The Dolphins are getting Jay Ajayi going enough that play action passing should have the desired effect on the defense honoring the run, and all it takes is one shot from Moore to Stills to make your week. Even if DeVante Parker goes, his role should be limited.
Josh Doctson, WAS (vs Dallas) - Doctson is going to get a chance to play more for Washington as a “hot hand” at wide receiver, with Terrelle Pryor’s hands and game ice cold. The Cowboys have allowed seven scores to opposing wideouts over the last five games, including two-score games from Davante Adams and Emmanuel Sanders. Doctson should get a few chances at high value deep targets and red zone targets in what promises to be one of the highest scoring games of the week.
Juju Smith-Schuster, PIT (at Detroit) - Make sure that Smith-Schuster is fully recovered from his second concussion this year before playing him, but as long as he is, he is a good high ceiling start with Martavis Bryant inactive for this one. The Lions have Darius Slay, but he is more likely to be locked up with Antonio Brown. #2 receivers Ted Ginn Jr, Devin Funchess, and Mohamed Sanu have all scored against the Lions in the last four games, Smith-Schuster could be next.
Deonte Thompson, BUF (vs Oakland) - Thompson wasn’t a new face last week for Tyrod Taylor, who played with Thompson as far back as high school and for three years when the two were together in Baltimore. Taylor used the words “trust” “confidence” and “chemistry” describing their connection. Thompson had 4-107 last week on only 14 routes. With more preparation time, he could do even more this week against a Raiders defense that gave up two long scores last week and even allowed the Ravens deep passing game to get going earlier this season.
T.J. Jones, DET (vs Pittsburgh) - Kenny Golladay was an in-week downgrade and Golden Tate is unsure if he can go against the Steelers on Sunday night, so Jones is set up for a larger role, with a starting spot possible. Eric Ebron has been a letdown, so Jones should have a good number of targets against a Steelers pass defense that is good, but not as good as their numbers appear because they’ve faced Mike Glennon, Blake Bortles, Joe Flacco, Andy Dalton, Case Keenum, and DeShone Kizer.
Paul Richardson Jr/Tyler Lockett, SEA (vs Houston) - Houston’s pass defense is missing JJ Watt and Whitney Mercilus, so containing Russell Wilson in the pocket is going to be very difficult. We saw Wilson taking copious deep shots last week. Richardson caught one, and Lockett was just overthrown on another. Houston gave up a lot in the downfield passing game to Tom Brady and Alex Smith, so it should be there for Wilson, with one or both of these two on the receiving end.
Ryan Griffin, HOU (at Seattle) - CJ Fiedorowicz is due back in a few weeks, but for now Griffin should be the primary receiving tight end. He’s already had a score and two-point conversion from Deshaun Watson, and he had a season-high targets with eight in the last game before the Week 7 bye. Seattle’s corners are the strength of their pass defense, with opponents completing at least five passes to tight ends in each of the last four games, including a 4-98 to Tyler Higbee in Week 6 and 6-60-1 line to Evan Engram last week.
Tyler Kroft, CIN (vs Indianapolis) - Kroft has been a steady target in place of Tyler Eifert, with three scores in the last three games and at least four catches in all three. Indianapolis has given up scores to tight ends in three of the last four games, and the Bengals should spend enough time in the Colts end of the field to give Kroft a good shot at making it four of five.
Julius Thomas, MIA (at Baltimore) **Thursday** - Thomas is actually getting open downfield and making plays. Matt Moore is much more willing to throw downfield than Jay Cutler has been, and Thomas is facing a Ravens pass defense that has allowed six scores to tight ends this year, including three to Marcedes Lewis and two to Bears tight ends with Mitchell Trubisky throwing the ball.
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