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  • Rams WR Robert Woods may be facing one of the NFL’s toughest defenses, but that's not a reason to bench him in your fantasy football lineup this weekend.
By Michael Beller
November 16, 2017

Nelson Agholor, Paul Richardon and Ted Ginn are all top-30 receivers this season. Devin Funchess is at WR12 in standard-scoring leagues. Of all the unexpected turns this particular NFL season has taken (remember, they all take unexpected turns, that’s what happens), the one I least foresaw was the assault on the receiver ranks by the also-rans.

So, with that in mind, are you really going to bench Robert Woods because of a bad matchup?

The Rams visit the Vikings this week in a clash of surprise titans. Both teams are 7–2, meaning this game could have significant tie-breaking implications at the top of the NFC side of the playoff bracket. Minnesota features one of the best defenses in the league, paired with an efficient offense. The Rams, meanwhile, lead the NFL in points scored thanks to an explosive offense. Whichever team’s best unit shines most brightly in Minneapolis on Sunday will likely come away victorious.

I ask again: Are you really going to bench Robert Woods because of a bad matchup?

Woods was quietly effective over the Rams first seven games of the season, putting up 27 catches for 381 yards in that timeframe. He has exploded over the last two weeks, hauling in 12 passes for 241 yards and four touchdowns, two scores in both games. That has him up at 39 catches for 622 yards and four trips to the end zone this season, making him the No. 9 receiver in standard-scoring leagues, and the No. 15 receiver in PPR formats.

Look beyond Woods’s recent hot streak, though, and you’ll see he built foundation for it all season. It started way back in Week 1, when he caught three of five targets for 53 yards. Woods has had fewer than five targets in just once this season, and has had at least seven targets in five games. He leads the Rams in receptions, yards and targets, and that was true before his two-week outburst.

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What’s more, Woods makes the most of his targets. His 39 receptions have come on 57 targets, a catch rate of 68.4%. By comparison, Antonio Brown, who leads the league in yards, has caught 63.2% of his targets. Adam Thielen, another efficient receiver who has broken though to another level this season and ranks third in the league in yards, has pulled down 67.4% of his targets. Woods has placed himself among the elite at turning targets into catches.

Woods is also among the best at turning those targets into yards. His 10.91 yards per target have him ahead of Brown (9.28), Julio Jones (9.66), Thielen (9.55), and A.J. Green (10.04) on that leaderboard. His 2.26 yards per route run are good for seventh in the league, according to Pro Football Focus. Jared Goff has an even 128 quarterback rating when targeting Woods. That’s the top rating for any specific quarterback-receiver pairing in the league.

The Vikings rank 12th against wide receivers and 11th against quarterbacks in 4for4’s schedule-adjusted fantasy points allowed metric (aFPA). Countering that is Woods’s hot streak, the foundation for said hot streak and his status as the No. 1 receiver on the highest-scoring offense in the league. That should be enough to get him into your starting lineup in Week 11.

Quarterbacks

Start

Jared Goff, Rams (at Vikings)

Goff is having a banner campaign, throwing for 2,385 yards, 8.49 yards per attempt, and 16 touchdowns against four interceptions in nine games. It’s a tough game on the road, but Goff individually, and the Rams offense collectively, deserves your trust.

Matt Ryan, Falcons (at Seahawks)

There’s nothing easy about going into Seattle as a quarterback and coming out with a positive fantasy performance. The task, however, should be a little easier for Ryan this is typically expected. The Seahawks will be playing their first game this season without Richard Sherman, who tore his Achilles last week. Earl Thomas is expected to return after missing the last two games with a hamstring injury, but Kam Chancellor may be out because of a stinger. When one of those three is off the field, the Seattle secondary is totally different. If two of them are out, it’s a below-average unit. If I’m a Ryan owner, I’m not expecting top-five quarterback numbers, but I do feel good about him giving me a low-end QB1 game.

Kirk Cousins, Redskins (at Saints)

Despite getting next to nothing from his receivers all season, Cousins finds a way almost every week. He wasn’t terribly efficient last week, but he threw for 327 yards and a touchdown, and ran for two more scores, giving his fantasy owners a big game. The Saints defense has surprisingly placed it self among the best in the league and ranks 10th in quarterback aFPA. Still, like Goff, Cousins has earned our trust. There’s no way I’m reaching down to someone like Eli Manning, Philip Rivers or Blake Bortles because of what’s perceived as a better matchup.

Superflex Special

Eli Manning, Giants (vs. Chiefs)

I will start Manning in superflex and two-quarterback leagues, though. The Giants season hit rock bottom in a loss to the 49ers last week, yet Manning threw for 273 yards, 7.38 YPA and two touchdowns. That translates to 18.92 points in standard-scoring leagues. With Sterling Shepard and Evan Engram, Manning has a reliable pair of pass-catchers with enormous upside, and that makes him viable in all but the worst matchups. For all the Chiefs charms this season, they’re no longer a defense to fear, ranking 20th in quarterback aFPA.

Sit

Andy Dalton, Bengals (at Broncos)

The Broncos defense has been exposed the last two weeks, but the Bengals aren’t the Eagles or Patriots, and Dalton isn’t Carson Wentz or Tom Brady. I don’t think Dalton will be a disaster because I believe the Bengals can find a way to win this game, but it’s unlikely to be a high-scoring affair. Dalton is an uninspired, bland choice at quarterback this week. He’s fine if you have no other option outside of the literally unstartable bottom-quarter of the league, but you should be able to do much better.

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Blake Bortles, Jaguars (at Browns)

This is usually too obvious a sit call to include, but Bortles has a FantasyPros consensus ranking of 15th among quarterbacks this week. This is driven entirely by his matchup with a Browns defense that is ranked 32nd in quarterback aFPA. Maybe I’m old-fashioned, but I don’t want to make my quarterback decision based solely on matchup. Bortles hasn’t been the disaster he was last season, but that doesn’t mean he has been good. He has more than one touchdown pass in exactly one game this season, a four-touchdown effort against the Ravens in Week 3. He has thrown for at least as many interceptions as touchdowns in five of his other eight games. On top of all that, the forecast in Cleveland this Sunday calls for sustained winds of 25 mph, with gusts up to 35 mph. That's about as bad as it gets for passing the football. I’m not betting on Bortles just because he’s playing the Browns.

Ryan Fitzpatrick, Buccaneers (at Dolphins)

Fitzpatrick gets Mike Evans back this week, and that does make him more palatable against a Dolphins defense ranked 26th in quarterback aFPA. This is similar to the Bortles situation, though. Do you really want to make your quarterback play based entirely on matchup? This is not a bad bye week for quarterbacks. The only ones out are Cam Newton, Jacoby Brissett, Josh McCown and C.J. Beathard. If Newton is only quarterback on your roster, or if you’ve been playing the stream game since losing Aaron Rodgers or Deshaun Watson, then I could see taking a shot on Fitzpatrick. Everyone else should have a better option.

Running Backs

Start

Jamaal Williams, Packers (vs. Ravens)

Ty Montgomery is doubtful to play this week because of a rib injury. The doubtful designation is as good as being ruled out, meaning Williams should be in for a heavy workload on Sunday. The rookie out of BYU ran for 67 yards on 20 carries last week after injuries knocked Aaron Jones and Montgomery out of the Packers win over the Bears. The Ravens are awfully similar in style and substance to the Bears, though their run defense has improved since Brandon Williams returned in Week 8. Still, I think the Packers should be able to handle the Ravens back at Lambeau on Sunday. Williams could be looking at another 20-carry game, and even if the efficiency isn't off the charts, all that volume should help him to an RB2 performance.

Alex Collins, Ravens (at Packers)

I know no one is all that excited about starting Collins. Do me a favor, though. Go and check out the running back rankings for a second. You back? OK, now find me 20 backs who should definitely start over Collins. Even if Danny Woodhead returns this week, Collins will handle the bulk of the carries for the Ravens. While I like the Packers to win, I do not think they will run away with it. I expect this game to be played within a one-score window for most, if not all, of the afternoon. If that’s the case, Collins can expect plenty of work.

Ameer Abdullah, Lions (at Bears)

Just like Collins, Abdullah does not demand a starting spot. And yet, his expected volume makes him a safe floor play this week. He got 11 carries against the Browns last week, turning them into 52 yards and a touchdown. The Browns are about league average against the run, so it was encouraging to see Abdullah post such an efficient line, especially when you consider that the game was close for nearly all four quarters. The Bears have a better overall defense than the Browns, but the Lions are favored by three points and have an implied total of 22 points. The environment should be decent for Abdullah.

Dion Lewis, Patriots (vs. Raiders in Mexico City)

Over New England’s last five games, Lewis has 277 yards and two touchdowns on 60 carries. That comes out to 7.94 points per game, despite never getting more than 15 carries. He has a solid enough role in the offense to bet on him handling the ball double-digit times, and in an offense like New England’s that typically leads to reliable fantasy production. The Patriots are favored by a touchdown and have an implied total of 30.5 points, the most of any team this week.

Sit

Samaje Perine, Redskins (at Saints)

Perine will step into the role vacated by the injured Rob Kelley, but that doesn’t make him a fantasy starter. Put simply, Perine has been bad when given an opportunity this year. He has 210 yards on 66 carries, which comes out to 3.18 yards per rush. He got 21 carries in Week 2 and 19 carries in Week 3, and turned all that work in 67 yards and 49 yards, respectively. He got nine carries after Kelley left last week’s game, which he turned into 35 yards. Perine has had enough of a chance that he’s not a totally unknown commodity, and what we’ve seen doesn’t inspire any confidence. The Saints, meanwhile, rank 12th in running back aFPA this season.

Javorius Allen, Ravens (at Packers)

Danny Woodhead may return from his hamstring injury this week, though there’s a good chance we won’t know his playing status until Sunday. If he does return, there is no possible way to start Allen with any confidence. Even if he doesn’t, Allen belongs on your bench. It’s hard to count on backs who have to do all their damage through the air. Allen gets a bit more work on the ground than someone like Theo Riddick, but he’s on the fantasy radar because of his work as a receiver. The Packers aFPA against running backs is slightly better in PPR than standard leagues, which suggests they do a better job clamping down on pass-catching backs than traditional runners.

C.J. Anderson, Broncos (vs. Bengals)

The last time Anderson scored a touchdown, there was two weeks left in the MLB regular season. The last time he scored double-digit fantasy points, in standard or PPR leagues, was the final day of the MLB regular season. So maybe Anderson needs baseball back in his life to play well? Maybe he has become a huge Rockies fan, and is depressed over their quick exit from the postseason? Or, more plausibly, it might just be that his downturn coincided with the end of Trevor Siemian’s fluky hot start to the season. Anderson hasn’t run for more than 78 yards in any of his last five games, and that was the only time he topped 60 yards. He’s a total non-factor in the passing game. He may still have a name brand, but he’s an easy sit this week.

Rex Burkhead, Patriots (vs. Raiders in Mexico City)

Burkhead was a popular add off waivers this week after he totaled 63 yards from scrimmage and a touchdown in the Patriots 41-16 win over the Broncos. He’s more versatile than Dion Lewis, but it’s not like we’re talking about Le’Veon Bell 2.0 here. The bottom line is that Lewis is a far superior runner, and that more than counterbalances whatever versatility gap Burkhead creates. That might not be the case if the Patriots didn’t have a pass-catching back they trust and love, but they do in the form of James White. I’m skeptical that Burkhead, will be able to take away enough of Lewis’s rushing volume and White’s receiving volume to be a worthy fantasy play.

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Wide Receivers

Start

Jamison Crowder, Redskins (at Saints)

After topping out at seven targets over his first six games of the season, Crowder has 13 and 11 targets in his last two games. Washington is clearly making a concerted effort to get him the ball, and the tactic is paying dividends. Crowder has hauled in 13 of those targets for 199 yards. Jordan Reed and Terrelle Pryor are both out this week, making Crowder a clear top-three option in the passing game, alongside Chris Thompson and Vernon Davis. All three are strong plays in a game with an over/under of 51 points.

Ted Ginn, Saints (vs. Redskins)

Ginn has run 30.3% of his routes from the slot this season, and that bodes well for his matchup with the Washington secondary this week. Slot receivers have torched the Redskins all season. It started with Nelson Agholor going for 86 yards and a touchdown on six catches in Week 1. Doug Baldwin rung up seven catches for 108 yards and a score in Week 9. Last week, Adam Thielen caught eight passes for 166 yards and a touchdown. Agholor got them a second time, going for four catches, 45 yards and another touchdown in Week 7. Basically, if you’re a good to great slot receiver, and you’ve played the Redskins this season, you’ve played well in that game. Ginn should follow that pattern.

Dontrelle Inman, Bears (vs. Lions)

Inman made his Bears debut last week, catching six of eight targets for 88 yards. He’s easily the best receiver on the team, so the opportunities should continue to flow in his direction. If you’ve read any of our fantasy coverage this week you’ve already seen the stat I’m about to drop. I don’t mean to belabor the point, but it bears repeating. Inman caught 58 passes for 810 yards and four touchdowns with the Chargers last season, but found himself squeezed for playing time this year. Given the opportunity, he can still put up WR3 numbers on a regular basis.

Sit

Marqise Lee, Jaguars (at Browns)

Lee has at least 70 yards or a touchdown in all of his last four games, and hit both of those marks two weeks ago in a win over the Bengals. He has asserted himself as the top receiver in Jacksonville, catching 38 passes for 493 yards and two scores. The Browns aren’t terrible against wide receivers, ranking 15th in positional aFPA, but Lee has played his way onto the weekly WR2 radar. And yet, the expected weather in Cleveland for Sunday makes it impossible to trust him. In case you missed it in the capsule on Blake Bortles earlier, the forecast calls for sustained winds of 25 mph, with gusts up to 35 mph. Those are nightmare conditions for passing the football.

Kelvin Benjamin, Bills (at Chargers)

The move to Nathan Peterman doesn’t change the fact that it’s hard to have a ton of confidence in Benjamin this week. Peterman is more of a traditional pocket passer, which does play more to Benjamin’s skill set, but it’ll be shocking if Peterman is an actual upgrade from the forever underappreciated Tyrod Taylor. I wouldn’t be surprised to see this offense struggle mightily in Los Angeles this week. Outside of LeSean McCoy, I don’t want any part of it.

Jordy Nelson, Packers (vs. Ravens)

In four games with Brett Hundley under center, including the game in which Aaron Rodgers broke his collarbone, Nelson has 14 catches for 118 yards. In Hundley’s three starts, he has eight grabs for 68 yards. That’s a paltry 2.27 points per game in standard-scoring leagues, and 4.93 points per game in PPR formats. Davante Adams, meanwhile, has been able to sustain his value, and put up a 90-yard game last week with a touchdown. Nelson, however, is on the outs.

Sammy Watkins, Rams (at Vikings)

Watkins scored for the second straight game last week, but he did so with just two receptions and three targets. He now has fewer than three targets in five of the Rams nine games this season, and more than five targets in just one contest. He’s running behind Todd Gurley and two receivers, Robert Woods and Cooper Kupp, in the offense. There just isn’t enough work to believe in him, even though he has scored the last two weeks.

Tight Ends

Start

Vernon Davis, Redskins (at Saints)

Jordan Reed has missed all or most of four games this season. In those four games, Davis has 20 catches for 295 yards and a score. If he had those per-game numbers over the full season, he’d be the TE4 in both standard and PPR leagues right now. Davis is an easy play, regardless of matchup, whenever Reed is on the sidelines. He’s expected to miss his third straight game this week because of a hamstring injury.

Jared Cook, Raiders (vs. Patriots in Mexico City)

Cook has surged to prominence over the last three weeks, posting two 100-yards games and a total of 18 catches for 290 yards. He hasn’t found the end zone since Week 3, but he has clearly forced himself into a larger role in the last month. The Raiders haven’t gotten as much as expected out of Marshawn Lynch, putting most of the offense on the shoulders of the passing game. Even with Michael Crabtree and Amari Cooper commanding plenty of targets from Derek Carr, Cook gets enough work to trust in a plus-matchup with the Patriots, the No. 20 defense by tight end aFPA.

Jason Witten, Cowboys (vs. Eagles)

Witten got seven targets in the Cowboys first game without Ezekiel Elliott, the most targets he had in a contest since reeling in all 10 of his looks against the Cowboys in Week 4. Witten caught all seven of those targets for 59 yards in the 27-7 loss to the Falcons. The volume suggests that he’ll play a larger role in the offense without quite as reliable a running game. Even without Elliott, the over/under for the Cowboys-Eagles game on Sunday night is 48.5, and the Cowboys have an implied total of 22.25 points. That’s a good environment for a player who should get as many targets as Witten.

Sit

Charles Clay, Bills (at Chargers)

Clay made his return from a knee injury last week, catching two passes for 13 yards. He became a semi-reliable low-end TE1 thanks to his status as Tyrod Taylor’s favorite weapon in the red zone. That may change now that Nathan Peterman is under center. Clay doesn’t tumble that far in the overall tight end rankings, but there’s no reason to trust any Bills skill player, other than LeSean McCoy, after the quarterback change. It’s too much of an unknown situation to feel good about the investment.

Austin Hooper, Falcons (at Seahawks)

Hooper has proved himself capable of being a streaming tight end in the right matchup. Last week, for example, he caught six passes for 49 yards and a touchdown against the Cowboys. The Falcons, however, were favored in that game, and followed through with a 27-7 win. This week, they’re three-point underdogs in Seattle. This game could have a much different script, and with Richard Sherman and possibly Kam Chancellor out, it’s likely Matt Ryan will want to force the issue with Julio Jones and Mohamed Sanu.

Hunter Henry, Chargers (vs. Bills)

After seemingly running away with the tight end job in the second quarter of the season, Henry’s snap rate has regressed back into mid-60s% range the last two weeks. Given how diffuse the Chargers usage tree is, Henry isn’t likely to get enough looks from Philip Rivers if he’s only on the field for 6.5 out of every 10 plays. He has just two targets in both of the team’s last two games, and there’s no reason to have any confidence that’s going to change this week. Henry’s floor is an actual zero, which makes him far too risky to play in Week 11.

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