As you might imagine, especially given my position, I have heard it my entire life.
It’s been yelled at me, tweeted at me, asked pointedly to me on radio and TV shows, and it’s been an accusation I’ve gotten from a few of my current co-workers.
Fantasy football ruins the game.
I remember former NFL quarterback Jake “The Snake” Plummer talking to ESPN about fantasy football. “I think it has ruined the game,” he replied. “There are no true fans anymore. … If I lost a game … no Denver [Broncos] fan was mad because I lost, but happy because I threw three TDs.”
Former NFL coach Todd Haley, a true football guy, told Peter King, “It’s anti-team. The way fans looked at what we did on offense was so fantasy football-driven.”
I remember getting into a Twitter beef with former NFL wide receiver Jeremy Maclin (seriously, Google it) after Jeremy originally tweeted, “It amazes me how ‘Fantasy Football’ is the only football that some of you know. It’s sad. News flash for yall: I don’t give a damn about ur ‘Fantasy’ football team.”
After some back and forth with me, Jeremy wrote this in back-to-back tweets.
“you of all ppl should know what my tweet means … football is about what a team achieves … how can one possibly be a diehard fan of a team, but want a player on that team to do bad because he plays them in fantasy?”
And that’s the crux of it, really. The old-school critics of fantasy football argue to this day — though the arguments are fewer and farther between — that people root for players instead of a team … instead of THEIR team. Jeremy didn’t understand why someone would rather root for random NFL players than the Kansas City Chiefs.
That’s the question all the purists have: How can you root for some random group of players instead of your own team? You are ruining the game.
Twitter is, to be kind, an imperfect place to have a nuanced conversation. And at the time a tweet was limited to 140 characters, so I definitely couldn’t tell him the story I recently told Peyton Manning during the fantasy football episode of Peyton’s Places. (Forget me; Peyton’s awesome in it and — this is not #companyman talking — you should definitely watch it.)
In the show, I told Peyton how fantasy football was invented. I’m not sure how many people are aware that it was invented by a guy named Wilfred “Bill” Winkenbach. Everyone called him Wink, and in November 1962, he was a minority owner of the Oakland Raiders of the old AFL. He was in New York City for a road game against the New York Titans.
It was the end of a truly miserable 16-day East Coast road swing. Wink, naturally, was frustrated with his team’s struggles, and was hanging out with Raiders PR head Bill Tunnell and Oakland Tribune writer Scotty Stirling at the Hotel Manhattan in New York City (it’s now called The Row NYC).
As they were complaining about the team, Wink had a question he asked of his friends. “What if we created our own football league based on actual player performances? And what if we were all team owners?”
The premise was simple. The Raiders were 0-7, had just fired their head coach, Marty Feldman, and there was no hope on the horizon. So Wink and his friends wanted players to root for who actually had a chance to win.
A winless team that has just fired its head coach and is devoid of hope of getting any better. Why does that sound so familiar to me?
I have been a die-hard Washington Redskins fan since I was 5 years old and living in Virginia. I moved to Texas when I was 12, but by then the Skins fandom had taken hold in a significant way. I’ve seen three Super Bowl wins, spent an insane amount of money on RGIII swag his rookie year and have been a very vocal and public fan of the team for more than four decades.
Did you see the quotes from Redskins team president Bruce Allen’s news conference?
“It seems like a long time ago when we won the division, and in football I guess it’s sort of like those doggy years,” Allen said. “It does multiply with each year. But I’ve seen different people perform. I’ve seen the way people have evaluated talent. I’ve seen the way they’ve worked together and I know this group will do it again.”
Allen continued, “That’s part of the evaluation process right now. We’re looking for solutions to get the team back on track.”
Oh, I should clarify. These are Allen quotes from his news conference in December 2014, when he was addressing the media after his fourth last-place finish in his first five years on the job. Yeah, they sound familiar, don’t they? A point others have made, including NBC Sports Washington, where I found this quote when I was looking up old quotes for this column:
“Well, the one thing I do love about the NFL — and I love in all of sports — it does have a scoreboard,” Allen said. “We either win or lose as a team, and it is my responsibility to make sure that we have all the people in place throughout the organization doing their jobs. And as I said earlier, holding those people accountable. And that includes myself.”
One thing is clear: Fantasy managers have a very different interpretation of the phrase “holding people accountable.”
Old-school football guys like Allen sit there and deride fantasy football, but I’ll tell you something. You finish last in fantasy and something happens to you. You’re standing on a street corner in an embarrassing outfit, getting a tattoo, being taped to the wall, having to retake the SAT, buying everyone’s drinks at the next draft, performing in public, or a million other creative punishments that I’ve written about for years and that we show at the end of every episode of The Fantasy Show on ESPN+ in our segment called “Don’t Be This Guy.”
Whatever it is, there is a consequence for last place. There always is.
Except with the Washington Redskins.
Since Allen took over full control of football operations, the team is 59-89-1. He has a win percentage of .399. The other three NFC East teams over that stretch have a .515 win percentage.
In fact, Allen’s .399 win percentage is the fifth worst in the NFL since he took over in 2010. Only the Raiders, Buccaneers, Jaguars and Browns have been worse.
He has no playoff wins.
His teams have the second-most yards per play allowed (5.8) during that stretch and the third-worst scoring defense (25.0 points per game). I could do this all day with bad Bruce Allen stats, but the issue isn’t that I know how bad the team has been under him. The issue is that he and owner Dan Snyder don’t seem aware. Or don’t seem to care. There’s no other explanation, because Allen’s most recent news conference was a combination of platitudes and cluelessness.
“That’s a fair question,” Allen said in response to the many excellent and fair questions about why fans should have confidence in the current executive team. “Right now we’re all 0-5,” Allen said, “I don’t believe anybody is hiding from that record.” (Daniel Snyder did not attend the news conference, so, uh … )
To me, the craziest part of the news conference was Allen saying, “The culture is actually damn good.”
The culture is that Trent Williams, one of the highest-paid left tackles in the NFL, is giving up well over a half million dollars per game to not play for this team. Think about that. He’d rather lose millions of dollars than play for a team whose “culture is damn good.”
Current Redskins players essentially have to play 16 away games. That’s because the team that once had a waiting list for tickets that was decades long now sees its stadium filled with fans of the other team. Did you see what Tom Brady said after playing last week at FedEx Field?
“That was ridiculous,” Brady said. “I thought it was pretty amazing. That felt like a home game.”
That’s the culture.
The only way to get players (and whomever the next coach is) to come there is to massively overpay them, which is what they had to do to get Landon Collins this offseason. That’s the culture Allen has fostered.
It’s easy to dump on Daniel Snyder, and certainly the buck stops with him. And there’s no question he’s made mistakes — he’s admitted that himself. But weirdly, I don’t totally blame him. Everything I have heard about him is that he actually wants to win. Desperately. And unlike a lot of NFL owners, he does spend money on players. His issue is he’s trusted the wrong person. He’s been brainwashed, bamboozled, hoodwinked, fooled into thinking Bruce Allen is anything other than the worst general manager in the NFL.
Winless team, fired head coach and no hope in sight. If Wink Winkenbach didn’t invent fantasy football in 1962, a Redskins fan would have done it this year.
Because all any of us want is some hope. Any kind of hope. We have it on draft day with our players, we have when the season starts. Miami fans have hope. It’s going to be a tough season this year, but the franchise has smart coaches with great pedigrees and a ton of draft capital. The Dolphins have a direction and a plan.
What hope is there in Washington? At least fantasy managers are aware when they’ve made a mistake. I had Baker Mayfield as a top-five QB this year. Bad call by me. That’s entirely on me and I’ll cop to it. It’s not the only mistake I made in the preseason and certainly not my last. But at least I am aware of the mistake and I understand the flawed process that led me to that call. And I’m taking steps to improve on that process.
Every fantasy manager does that. Acknowledges mistakes, owns them, works to improve on them. How are we more self-aware than an NFL general manager?
As Scott Van Pelt said in his excellent “One Big Thing” from Monday night about the Redskins, “Rock-bottom isn’t a moment; it is a seemingly perpetual state.”
Over the years, I’ve been interviewed a gazillion times on fantasy football and its popularity, and the subject of fantasy ruining the game often comes up. And I would always say that I have been a die-hard Redskins fan since I was 5 years old and was living in Virginia. And that even though I love fantasy, I’d rather lose my fantasy matchup if it meant the Redskins won. And my colleagues who watch football with me every Sunday at ESPN would vouch for me that I’m telling the truth in that regard. They hear me yell much more about the Skins than I ever do about fantasy.
No longer. I’m done. Oh, if asked, I’ll still tell you the Redskins are my team. I still hope they will succeed. I still love Terry McLaurin and Derrius Guice and other players. But as long as Bruce Allen is there, I won’t feel anything other than numbness as loss after loss continues to pile up.
Here’s the thing: To Jeremy Maclin, Jake Plummer, Todd Haley and every other NFL coach, GM, crusty old commentator and current player who feels I am ruining the game, who asks me how can I root for my fantasy football squad over MY OWN NFL TEAM?
It’s very simple.
I’d much rather root for a group of players I drafted than a group Bruce Allen put together.
Because I know what I’m doing, at least.
HAIL TO MY FANTASY TEAM.
Let’s get to it.
Quarterbacks I love in Week 6
Dak Prescott, Cowboys (at Jets): Do you think the Cowboys win this game? I do. And when the Cowboys win this season, Prescott averages 306.7 passing yards, completes over 74.5% of his passes and averages 27.9 fantasy points. The Jets allowed opposing QBs to average 299.7 passing yards against them in their first three games before last weekend’s game against Philly, during which the Eagles scored two defensive touchdowns. Prescott is an obvious name, of course, but I listed him here because his projection is just 18.3, and man, oh man, do I want the over on that.
Matt Ryan, Falcons (at Cardinals): Another obvious name, but I’m the highest of our rankers on Ryan. I have him as a top-four play this weekend against a Cardinals team that is tied for the fifth-most red zone drives allowed. Lamar Jackson, Matthew Stafford and Kyle Allen have all scored more than 24 points against Arizona this season, and with at least 300 yards passing in every game this season, Ryan will join that list in the final weekend to take advantage of the Cardinals without Patrick Peterson.
Philip Rivers, Chargers (vs. Steelers): The Steelers blitz at the fourth-highest rate this season, and against the blitz this season all Rivers has done is go 27-of-39 for 378 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions. The Steelers travel cross-country with a third-string QB and a bunch of other injuries to face an angry Chargers team that just gave Denver its first win. L.A. will take it out on Pittsburgh. By the way, want a weird fact that really isn’t a predictor of anything but which I find interesting nonetheless? In his past five home games following a game in which Rivers threw zero touchdown passes, he has thrown for more than 310 yards and multiple touchdowns in each of them (averaging 19.7 points per game).
Kyler Murray, Cardinals (vs. Falcons): One of only three QBs to score at least 16 points in every game this season, Murray also leads all QBs with 189 rushing yards over the past three weeks. But his legs aren’t the only thing on the up-and-up:
Completion rate in Weeks 1-2: 57.4%
Completion rate in Weeks 3-5: 67.3%
The Falcons have allowed 963 passing yards and 10 TD passes (0 INTs) to Jacoby Brissett, Marcus Mariota and Deshaun Watson over the past three weeks. Giddyup. By the way, the other two QBs with at least 16 points in every game this season: Patrick Mahomes and …
Others receiving votes: Gardner Minshew II. Yes, Gardner Minshew has at least 16 points in every game he’s played this season. He has multiple touchdown passes in four of five games, and has more mobility than he gets credit for (a rush of 10-plus yards in three of his past four games). In a decent matchup with the Saints’ bottom-eight pass defense the past four weeks, Minshew is a viable QB1 streamer this weekend. … Don’t look now, but over the past two weeks, the Minnesota Vikings’ passing rate has been over 60% after being in the 42% range in Weeks 1-3. Kirk Cousins has is a viable fill-in this weekend against a Philly secondary that has allowed 320-plus passing yards three times this season and season-high point totals to Aaron Rodgers (25.5) and Case Keenum (27.2). … Just like Philly, Tampa Bay is another defense that is really strong against the run but pretty weak against the pass. Kyle Allen is going to have to throw against a Bucs squad that is allowing the most passing yards per game and just made Teddy Bridgewater look like Patrick Mahomes.
Quarterbacks I hate in Week 6
Carson Wentz, Eagles (at Vikings): Not counting the game against the semipro Washington Redskins, Wentz is averaging 209.8 passing yards per game this season. After three consecutive games with fewer than 20 completions, he now has to go on the road to face a Vikings team that is allowing just 14 fantasy points per game to opposing quarterbacks. I have Wentz just outside my top 10 this weekend.
Jared Goff, Rams (vs. 49ers): There’s been some gaudy fantasy numbers recently, but from a real football perspective, Goff has been inconsistent, to be kind. He’s at home in this one, which has been a good thing for him the past year-plus. That said, other than Richard Sherman saying Baker Mayfield didn’t shake his hand, I believe in the Niners’ defense. The unit has the second-best completion percentage against, the best passer rating against, and has allowed the second-fewest passing yards per game over the past four games. San Francisco brings pressure (the 49ers are second in disrupted dropback percentage and fifth in sack rate), and that’s not good for Goff. Since the beginning of last season, Goff is 29th in completion percentage and 21st in touchdown rate when under pressure.
Aaron Rodgers, Packers (vs. Lions): If ever there was an indication we are in a new era for both teams, it’s this. Rodgers, at home, on Monday night against the Lions? That used to make him an automatic top-three play, and yet I’m fading this one if I can. The Lions are quietly looking for their fifth consecutive victory against Green Bay, and have allowed just four passing touchdowns this season, tied for third-fewest in the NFL. After holding Patrick Mahomes to his lowest fantasy total of the season, head coach Matt Patricia has had two weeks to prepare to stop Rodgers, who now has just six touchdowns passes in five games, fewer fantasy points than Andy Dalton and Marcus Mariota (among others), and more than 14.5 points in a game just once this season.
Matthew Stafford, Lions (at Packers): If Rodgers isn’t chucking it all over the place, it’s hard to see Stafford getting into a shootout here. And that’s his best hope at a big fantasy day in this one. The strength of the Packers’ defense is their secondary, as Green Bay allows just 20.6 completions per game this season (tied for fifth fewest). Considering the Lions are passing at the lowest rate in Stafford’s career, this is a road game against a divisional opponent, and the Packers have the 30th-ranked run defense over the past four weeks, expect a heavy dose of Kerryon Johnson, which makes Stafford a fringe QB2 play at best.
Running backs I love in Week 6
Kerryon Johnson, Lions (at Packers): See Stafford, Matthew. There have been six running backs this season to receive 10 or more carries against Green Bay. They average 5.52 yards per carry and have six rushing touchdowns among them. With 73% of the Lions’ carries since Week 3, Johnson is poised for a big workload against a Packers squad that is allowing 5.16 yards per carry overall (third-most in the NFL).
Chris Carson, Seahawks (at Browns): Here’s the entire list of players with at least 15 carries in all five weeks this season: Christian McCaffrey, Nick Chubb, Derrick Henry, and … Chris Carson. Yeah, a funny thing happened on the way to Rashaad Penny-ville: People forgot Carson is actually good. I have been banging the drum for Carson (literally — the past three years on The Fantasy Show on ESPN+, we have a Chris Carson drum that I bang) and did it again this preseason. I hope people finally get it. Fumbles or not, he’s the Seahawks’ guy. And Sunday will only solidify it against a Browns team that is allowing the third-most yards per carry this season. You just saw what Matt Breida and Tevin Coleman did to this run defense, right? (27 carries for 211 yards and two touchdowns, in case you didn’t.) I have Carson as a top-six play this weekend.
James Conner, Steelers (at Chargers): With Jaylen Samuels out and Benny Snell Jr. not proven in the pass game (just 29 receptions in 39 career college games), expect a heavy workload for Conner, especially in the pass game, as the Steelers are either starting third-string QB Devlin Hodges or banged-up dink-and-dunker Mason Rudolph. The two running backs to get at least 15 carries against the Chargers this season (Marlon Mack and Phillip Lindsay) have combined for 40 carries, 288 yards and two touchdowns. I say Conner gets that level of work and does something with it against a Bolts team that is tied for the sixth-worst red zone defense in the league.
Sony Michel, Patriots (vs. Giants): Despite a brutal start to the season, Michel was on the “love” list last weekend, and he paid off. I’m back on him again on a short week in what should be a bad-weather game. He has at least 15 carries in four of five games this season (and a rushing score in three of his past four). I like Michel’s chances of once again getting into the end zone, as he’s currently top three in the NFL in both red zone carries and goal-to-go carries. The Giants are more than two-touchdown underdogs and have a bottom-eight run defense, both of which point in favor of another strong game from Michel.
Others receiving votes: Until we see it from Melvin Gordon, I am going to continue to rank Austin Ekeler ahead of him. And despite Gordon’s presence, I’m starting Ekeler at home against a Steelers team that has coughed up the sixth-most RB receptions this season. Ekeler continues to lead all RBs in receiving yards (356), receptions (39), receiving TDs (3) and targets (41). … Not the best start for Damien Williams last weekend in his return from injury, but the sledding should be smoother this weekend against a Texans team that has given up an NFL-high 45 RB receptions this season and allows the fifth-highest completion percentage on short passes. In his first game back for the Chiefs last weekend, Damien Williams (32) played more snaps than LeSean McCoy (13) and Darrel Williams (12) combined. … In the same game, Carlos Hyde should be flex-worthy against a Chiefs team coughing up 5.3 yards per carry (second-worst in the NFL). … And I know you are shocked after the open to this column, but yes, here I am saying something positive about the Redskins. Adrian Peterson is in line for a heavy workload against a Dolphins squad that is giving up a NFL-high 175.8 rushing yards a game. … It should go without saying, but if David Johnson was to miss this weekend’s game for the Cardinals, Chase Edmonds would be a must-start. Edmonds is averaging 6.7 yards per carry and has caught 84% of his career targets, making him a very capable fill-in against the Falcons’ porous defense. Even if Johnson is healthy, Edmonds deserves consideration in deep leagues as a desperation flex play or DFS tournament punt.
Running backs I hate in Week 6
Melvin Gordon, Chargers (vs. Steelers): Obviously, there’s a real chance I’m wrong here, but … how lucky do you feel? Gordon played 10 fewer snaps than Ekeler last weekend and, honestly, looked like the worse RB. Maybe it’s just rust, but maybe it’s why the Chargers didn’t want to pay him a lot. In his past five games (including playoffs), Gordon has 60 carries for just 169 yards (2.8 yards per carry). Off a 12-carry, 31-yard performance last weekend (his second-fewest rushing yards in a game with at least 12 carries during his career), Gordon finds himself on the wrong side of a platoon (or at least, he should, if Anthony Lynn is watching the games) against a Steelers team that ranks fourth-best in yards per carry after first contact (1.12). You’re gonna need a rushing touchdown from Gordon here, and while that’s obviously very possible, I’d hate to count on it, especially given how good Ekeler has been.
Joe Mixon, Bengals (at Ravens): The big play hasn’t been there this season, as Mixon has 66 carries without a 20-yard rush to his name. This is a tough matchup behind one of the league’s worst offensive lines. The Ravens actually rank third-best in limiting yards after first contact (1.09 per carry), which is a problem when you consider the Bengals are actually third-worst in yards per carry before first contact. On the road as a double-digit underdog, you’d expect the team with the third-most pass attempts this season to have to throw even more. Which would be fine, except so far this season, Giovani Bernard has a slight edge in targets and has run more routes than Mixon.
Jordan Howard and Miles Sanders, Eagles (at Vikings): Insert running back playing Minnesota here. Despite word out of Philly that Howard will get more touches (he has certainly earned it), the fact is Doug Pederson is and always has been a running back by committee (RBBC) coach. Only once this season has an Eagles RB gotten more than 15 touches in a game. Meanwhile, you want “Minnesota is awesome against the run” stats? I got “Minnesota is awesome against the run” stats: top five in terms of red zone defense, yards per carry allowed, lowest completion percentage to running backs, and fewest running back receptions. And the Vikings have allowed just one — count it, one — rushing touchdown this season.
Peyton Barber and Ronald Jones II, Buccaneers (vs. Panthers, in London): Another RBBC, we actually have some data as these two teams played in Week 2. Now, that was a weird game that was stopped and started due to bad weather, but still. That week, Barber and Jones rushed 27 times for 91 yards (3.37 YPC). And despite the Bucs’ running backs getting 27 carries that week (tied for fourth-most), they ranked only 19th in RB fantasy points (18.7). And now this RBBC travels to London to play a Panthers team that has slowed the pace (and thus limited possessions) since Kyle Allen took over. The Buccaneers’ offensive line is banged up, and when you look at the snap shares from last weekend’s game against the Saints (Barber 34.5%, Jones 34.5%, Dare Ogunbowale 30.9%), you know this committee isn’t going away anytime soon. One of these guys could have a good game against Carolina’s 20th-ranked run defense, but I have no confidence in which one it’ll be.
Pass-catchers I love in Week 6
Keenan Allen, Chargers (vs. Steelers): Even after last weekend’s disappointment (and despite him being an obvious, must-start wide receiver), I’m putting him here because I am the only ranker (as of this writing) to have him as the No. 1 play at the position this weekend. He’s getting more than 46% of the Chargers’ target share from the slot, the Steelers are worst in the NFL in terms of most slot yards allowed, most slot completions allowed, and fourth-worst in slot completion percentage. Death, taxes, and you start your slot receivers against the Steelers.
DJ Chark Jr., Jaguars (vs. Saints): Chark, who somehow is still available in 15% of ESPN leagues, is merely the fifth-best WR in fantasy right now. Coming off a Week 5 in which he set career highs in catches (8), receiving yards (164) and fantasy points (36.4), Chark now has five touchdown receptions in his past five games. With a 21.8% target share, expect this to be another Chark Week (thank you, thank you! I’ll show myself out) against a Saints squad that has given up the seventh-most fantasy points to WRs and the fifth-most yards to them this season.
Mohamed Sanu, Falcons (at Cardinals): If you’ve played fantasy football for any amount of time, you’ve had Sanu on your team at some point. He’s the textbook example of never exciting enough to roster but also productive enough to be useful in a bye-week pinch. That week is this week. One of just 12 receivers with four or more catches in all five weeks this season, Sanu actually leads Falcons WRs in receptions (29). He is running the majority of his routes out of the slot, and if you think Pittsburgh is bad against the slot, Arizona is right there. Against slot receivers this season, the Cards have given up the third-most receptions, the third-most yards, and are tied for the second-most touchdowns allowed.
Austin Hooper, Falcons (at Cardinals): You start your slot receivers against the Steelers and you start your tight ends against the Cardinals. To be fair, you start everyone against the Cards, but whatevs. Hooper has quietly been balling out this season, with double-digit targets in each of the past two weeks and the second-most catches among all tight ends. Meanwhile, as brutal as Arizona’s defense has been, it is at its brutalest (which I’m semi-positive is a word) facing tight ends. The Cardinals allow the most touchdowns, yards and fantasy points to opposing tight ends while allowing the third-most receptions. Giddyup.
Will Dissly, Seahawks (at Browns): Speaking of quiet, over the past four weeks the No. 1 tight end in fantasy is … Will Dissly. He has at least five catches and 50 yards in each of those games, and he’s been targeted on 28.9% of his routes this season (fifth-highest among TEs). The Browns have been washed for four touchdowns to opposing tight ends this season, tied for second-most in the NFL.
Others receiving votes: The Jets have been much more vulnerable to the deep pass (15-plus yards) this season than short passes, so give me some Michael Gallup in this one. More than 38% of Gallup’s points have come via the deep ball, and in three games this season, he has 20 catches for 339 yards and a TD (17.0 yards per catch). … Over the past three weeks, only four wide receivers have run more routes than Josh Gordon. He hasn’t had that big game yet, but gut feeling it could come Thursday night facing a Giants defense that has allowed the most yards and third-most receptions to outside wide receivers this season. … Speaking of defenses that are brutal against outside receivers, the Eagles allow the second-most yards, fifth-most receptions and are tied for second-most TDs to receivers lined up outside. Lord help me, but I like Stefon Diggs this weekend as Kirk Cousins continues his “get my wide receivers happy again” tour. … Look, I have to watch the Redskins-Dolphins game because it’s my job. YOU don’t have to. But that doesn’t mean you can’t use some of the players in the game. Preston Williams has a 22.6% target share from Josh Rosen and at least five targets from him in every game they’ve played together. I tried to dance around it in my open, but in case it wasn’t clear, the Redskins are not a good defense. … With at least seven targets in every game this season, it’s hard not to be excited about Mark Andrews this weekend against a Bengals secondary that is allowing a league-high 15.3 yards per TE reception and a league-high 12.6 air yards per TE target.
Pass-catchers I hate in Week 6
JuJu Smith-Schuster, Steelers (at Chargers): To be fair, he was on the hate list last week and, one missed tackle and long touchdown later, I was wrong. But I’m back again. Smith-Schuster’s touchdown last week went for 35 yards, which means he was 6-for-40 the rest of the time. Yeesh. In the past two weeks, he’s averaging 9.0 yards per catch (first three weeks: 17.4) and now he’s likely playing with a third-string QB on the road. The Chargers have allowed the second-fewest red zone drives this season, and don’t look now, but Diontae Johnson actually leads the Steelers in targets and receptions over the past three weeks. JuJu is incredibly talented and better days are ahead, but I have him outside my top 20 this week.
Marquise Brown, Ravens (vs. Bengals): Wait, what? Did I put Hollywood on the wrong list? He’s playing the Bengals, isn’t he? Yes and obviously he’s the kind of guy who only needs one big play. But Cincy allows the most rushing yards this season, and the Ravens may not need to push the envelope. So far this season, Cincy has schemed away coverage from its opponent’s top playmaker. Tyler Lockett, George Kittle, John Brown and JuJu Smith-Schuster all had their season low or tied their season low in targets, receptions and receiving yards against the Bengals. None of them topped 60 yards and only one scored a touchdown. He’s a little banged-up as well, so I prefer the Marks (Ingram and Andrews) in the non-Lamar stars I want from Baltimore this week.
Jared Cook, Saints (at Jaguars): Don’t get sucked in by last week. There are 32 TEs with a game of 42-plus receiving yards this season. Cook is not one of them. I’m not expecting four touchdowns from Teddy Bridgewater this week, and it’s a tough matchup. Opponents are completing just 58.1% of their passes when targeting the TE position vs. Jacksonville this season (third lowest).
Geronimo Allison, Packers (vs. Lions): See Rodgers, Aaron. You already know I’m down on A-Rod in this one, but remember the Lions create pressure at an above-average rate (27.2%) despite ranking last in blitz percentage. Allison has seen just a 2.6% target share this season when Aaron Rodgers is pressured. With Davante Adams expected back, and Marquez Valdes-Scantling‘s and Aaron Jones‘ increased passing-game work, Allison is at best the fourth passing option on a run-first team in a tough matchup. No thanks.
Matthew Berry — the Talented Mr. Roto — is pretty sure he’s no longer invited to any Redskins parties. He’s OK with that.