Fantasy managers of Houston Texans wide receiver Will Fuller, welcome to therapy.
Sit right next to the folks who are trying to make a last-ditch playoff push without Mike Evans and D.J. Moore as the Tampa Buccaneers and Carolina Panthers are on a bye week. New Orleans Saints running back Alvin Kamara’s fantasy GMs will be over in the corner laughing — and crying.
Perfect timing. Confirmation that, yes, fantasy football does indeed hate you — or it’s at least toying with you.
But no worries, that just means you have to dig a little deeper in your bench or waiver wire to find exploitable matchups. Check out some suggestions below.
Vikings QB Kirk Cousins vs. Jaguars
The Jacksonville Jaguars give up the sixth-most fantasy points to running backs, but they’ve allowed the third-most points to quarterbacks. In fact, in the last seven games, only the Detroit Lions’ Matthew Stafford failed to score multiple touchdowns while others three passers have had three scores or more.
Cousins has thrown for 300 yards and three touchdowns in back-to-back games and has had five three-score games since Week 3. Sure, he can be erratic sometimes, and Dalvin Cook may take a large chunk of the production, but there should be enough to go around with the Vikings 9 1/2-point favorites.
Also consider this: Adam Thielen has been activated to return from the COVID-19 list to rejoin Justin Jefferson, who has come into his own with three touchdowns in the last two games. And NFL.com analyst Bucky Brooks noted that the Jaguars defense “needs more talent and experience,” especially a secondary that has been hit hard by injuries since November.
Also consider: Titans QB Ryan Tannehill vs. Browns
Eagles RB Miles Sanders at Packers
Game script and the Seattle Seahawks’ defensive strengths and weaknesses worked against Sanders last week.
“We knew probably going into this game that we were at least going to have to put the ball in the air to give ourselves a chance,” coach Doug Pederson said via inquirer.com. “That is a good rush defense and it’s a good front, and they did a nice job.”
It should be the opposite in Week 13, at least where the Packers’ vulnerabilities are. Thankfully, the Chicago Bears gave a preview of what the Packers can do for the ground game of a struggling offense. David Montgomery pieced together a great game rushing and receiving to finish with his best fantasy day (20.3, standard scoring) since Week 8 of 2019.
Pederson also acknowledged his offensive line has been shaky, so leaning on a strong running game and check-downs to a catch specialist like Sanders could help bail out Carson Wentz against a strong rush.
Also consider: Giants RB Wayne Gallman at Seahawks
Ravens RB J.K. Dobbins vs. Cowboys
Judging by that haphazard offensive showing against the Pittsburgh Steelers Wednesday, the Ravens need Lamar Jackson — but you could argue they need Dobbins even more.
Look, I may not be a professional offensive coordinator, but I can do simple math. Good things happen when Dobbins gets 15 carries: 113 yards against the Steelers; 70 yards and a score against the Tennessee Titans.
Even in a timeshare his chances are good. Collectively, running backs are averaging a touchdown a game against the Cowboys and about 131 yards per game.
Also consider: Broncos RB Melvin Gordon at Chiefs
49ers WR Deebo Samuel vs. Bills
The Bills might be favored by almost a field goal but I’ve learned the hard way not to underestimate the 49ers.
The Bills have had a lot of trouble containing physical receivers such as the Arizona Cardinals’ DeAndre Hopkins, Seahawks’ D.K. Metcalf and Titans’ A.J. Brown. Samuel returned from a hamstring injury in Week 12 against the Los Angeles Rams, and all he did was haul in a career-high 11 receptions for 133 yards (second highest).
At 5-foot-11, Samuel might not have the height of some of his contemporaries but the 214-pounder packs a punch. Coach Kyle Shanahan said that for defenders it “probably feels similar to hitting a fullback.”
Niners legend Jerry Rice said on San Francisco’s KGMZ-FM that Samuel plays like a “(ticked) off” receiver.
“Really it’s the YAC after the catch,” Rice said. “I love seeing this guy after he catches the football because you know he’s not looking to go down. He’s looking to punish someone.”
Just like his namesake bully from “Friday.”
Also consider: Bears WR Allen Robinson vs. Lions
Texans WR Brandin Cooks vs. Colts
Before we get into Cooks, let’s give a slow hand clap for Fantasy’s Law (kind of like Murphy’s Law, only more cruel) for its creativity in ruining yet another season for Will Fuller. Fuller looked like he actually might make it through a season without a major injury but this time Fantasy Law got him with a six-game suspension for performance enhancing drugs.
Now it’s time to let Cooks cook. He has seen at least eight targets in six games and he figures to get at least that many with Fuller out for the rest of the season. Even in a tough matchup against the Colts, a six-catch game for 80 yards, at minimum, seems reasonable.
He’s a good flex option and a solid WR2 in PPR leagues.
Also consider: Steelers WR Chase Claypool vs. Washington
Steelers TE Eric Ebron vs. Washington
Ebron can have some maddening drops sometimes but Ben Roethlisberger keeps looking for him. Ebron received 11 targets Wednesday against the Ravens and has had at least six looks in the last for games. In that same span, he has been targeted in the red zone six times (tied for third most) and has two touchdowns, according to FantasyData.com. Washington has allowed the 12th most fantasy points to tight ends.
Also consider: Lions TE T.J. Hockenson at Bears
Raiders K Daniel Carlson at Jets
Carlson has missed just two field goals and one extra point all season. The Raiders will be highly motivated get some points on the board after the thumping they took at the hands of the Falcons, though the health of Josh Jacobs’ ankle could be a factor. Still, the New York Jets are fantasy’s second most generous opponent, allowing three or more attempts in five games.
Also consider: Patriots K Nick Folks at Chargers
Chiefs defense/special teams vs. Broncos
The Broncos provided the middling Raiders defense its best fantasy performance of the season and helped the Saints DST continue a double-digit streak. Guess which other team had its best fantasy day of the season: The Chiefs, Week 7 in Denver (24 points).
Also consider: Packers DST vs. Eagles
Lions QB Matthew Stafford at Bears
It took 42 pass attempts for Stafford to generate 17 points (Yahoo format) against the Bears in Week 1, just like it took 42 pass attempts to generate … checks notes … 17 points against the Texans on Thanksgiving. It’s not a stretch to say his lackluster play lately contributed to Matt Patricia’s firing. Let’s count the ways this Bears rematch is worrisome:
Stafford has produced fewer than 18 points in three of the last four games.
It’s a division game — one with playoff implications — and they tend to be low-scoring. This game has the second-lowest over-under at 44 1/2, with the Bears favored by 3.
The Lions offense ranks 25th in sacks per pass attempt, a measure of their effectiveness protecting Stafford. Despite falling flat against Aaron Rodgers, the Bears rank 11th in pass defense and second in red zone defense.
His best receiver, Kenny Golladay (hip) hasn’t played since Week 8 and missed Wednesday’s practice.
Who knows what interim coach Darrell Bevell has in store for Stafford, but the former Seahawks and Vikings coordinator has featured run-heavy schemes.
Also consider: Browns QB Baker Mayfield at Titans
Falcons RB Todd Gurley vs. Saints
Most fantasy managers who have Gurley will have to start him — provided he can return from knee injury — but if you have any kind of lineup flexibility, it’s best to avoid this matchup.
Only two running backs have topped 100 scrimmage yards and none at the position have scored rushing or receiving touchdowns against the Saints since Week 5.
Gurley has been pretty touchdown dependent, with one game over 100 scrimmage yards and only two with more than two receptions.
Also consider: Bills RB Zack Moss vs. 49ers
Cardinals RB Chase Edmonds vs. Rams
Kenyan Drake has been eating a larger share of the rushing workload over the last three weeks. Edmonds hasn’t had more than eight carries in that span.
That makes him more dependent on receptions to be fantasy relevant, and that’s a shaky proposition with a quarterback that’s just as likely to scramble as pass to his check-down options. Also, the Rams have not given up a touchdown catch to a running back since Week 1.
Also consider: Dolphins RB Salvon Ahmed vs. Bengals
Bengals WR Tyler Boyd at Dolphins
Boyd can be a tough matchup because even good secondaries will have trouble defending the slot sometimes.
That might not matter against the Dolphins. Most of the secondary is sub-70 in opponent passer rating, and that’s a testament to defensive backs coach Gerald Alexander and defensive coordinator Josh Boyer, who has a background in coaching cornerbacks.
Boyer had a hand in discovering and developing slot corner Nik Needham, who has held quarterbacks to 65.2 rating (of 158.3).
“He always has the tough task of — whether it’s covering (Jamison) Crowder in the slot, I think this week Tyler Boyd’s in the slot and he’s a really good receiver,” safety Eric Rowe said via the team website. “(Nik is) always up to it. So his development, he’s a key piece of this defense.”
By the way, the Bengals are sticking with quarterback Brandon Allen, who helped author Boyd’s worst performance this season — three catches for 15 yards for a measly 3 points (half-point PPR).
Also consider: Eagles WR Travis Fulgham at Packers
Giants WR Sterling Shepard at Seahawks
Seattle’s D isn’t the gimme matchup it used to be. Carlos Dunlap (provided his foot’s OK) and Jamal Adams have helped give the pass rush some teeth. The Seahawks haven’t allowed a touchdown or a 100-yard game to a wide receiver in the last three games.
Oh, and did we mention journeyman Colt McCoy will likely start in place of Daniel Jones (hamstring)? However, you could make an exception for Shepard in full-point PPR leagues.
Also consider: Saints WR Emmanuel Sanders at Falcons
Washington TE Logan Thomas at Steelers
He’s not a big yardage guy, going over 50 yards just twice, so he’s kind of a dart throw on the hopes he can get into the end zone. But is it possible for Thomas to score on any team outside the NFC Least? So far the answer has been no, and this matchup (fewest fantasy points allowed to tight ends) isn’t the time to test it.
Also consider: Texans TE Jordan Akins vs. Colts
Bengals K Randy Bullock at Dolphins
This is a case of very resistible force meets immovable object. Bullock has made just one field goal in each of his last four games, and he was limited to a single attempt in three of them. The Dolphins have held kickers to a league-low 4.6 fantasy points per game.
Also consider: Broncos K Brandon McManus at Chiefs
Browns defense/special teams at Titans
The Browns had a huge letdown against the Jaguars, ending up with zero points. The Titans have slapped negative points on both the Colts and Bills. Those same Colts had been the only DST to score more than 4 fantasy points on the Titans (10) just two earlier, so you can see where this is headed.