Cardinals at Jets (+7)
Raise your hand if you remembered that Joe Flacco is on the Jets. Anyone? Didn’t think so. With Sam Darnold sidelined, Flacco will get the start in this one. After a 2-0 start, the Cardinals’ offense has struggled. Arizona ranks 25th in offensive efficiency. Aside from Kyler Murray scrambles and quick throws to DeAndre Hopkins, the Cardinals haven’t found much that works. The Jets are 0-4 against the spread this season. I know that’s going to turn at some point, but given the Adam Gase/Flacco combination, I can’t take the points and still look at myself in the mirror.
The pick: Cardinals (-7)
From: The Athletic
Arizona Cardinals at New York Jets
Line: ARI by 6.5
Kyler Murray: Despite not taking many risks (has thrown into one-yard windows on just 9.0 percent of his throws, which ranks as the third-lowest in the NFL), Murray has thrown five interceptions through four games. The worst part of it is that he’s averaged just 6.4 yards per attempt. I said it last year and I’ll say it again: His rushing totals are covering up some serious inefficiencies in the passing game. For fantasy managers, you don’t really care how he gets the points, but understand that his current 16-game pace of 1,060 yards and 16 rushing touchdowns is not going to keep up. He needs to start being more efficient through the air. The Jets are a team that presents an opportunity for him to do just that, as they’ve allowed a healthy 72.1 percent completion-rate while allowing 7.67 yards per attempt against the combination of Josh Allen, Jimmy Garoppolo/Nick Mullens, Philip Rivers, and Brett Rypien. The unfortunate part is that only Allen has finished as a top-20 quarterback against them due to lack of competition in the games. Since that Week 1 game against Allen, no team has thrown the ball more than 31 times against them. They have allowed six rushing touchdowns (5 running back, 1 quarterback) through four games, which bodes well for Murray’s rushing prospects, though the 2.46 yards per carry they’ve allowed to quarterbacks is one of the lowest marks in the league. The fact that the Jets have allowed the sixth-fewest fantasy points to quarterbacks doesn’t tell the whole story, as they are a team that can be thrown on, but the question is: Will the Cardinals take advantage? Knowing their run-game is really struggling, I think they have to, so plug Murray in as a stable QB1 this week. *Update* After a Jets player tested positive for COVID on Friday, this game’s status is up in the air right now. Make sure you pay attention to updates.
Sam Darnold and Joe Flacco: All it took was 84 rushing yards and a touchdown to make Darnold fantasy relevant, eh? That won’t happen again, and now, you have to worry about his throwing ability after suffering a sprained AC joint in last Thursday night’s game. This is a matchup that’s a positive for quarterbacks, as it was only a matter of time before the Cardinals lack of pressure caught up with them. They pressured Teddy Bridgewater just 12.5 percent of the time last week, and they paid the consequences because of that. It was the second-lowest percentage of any team in the league this season. They’ve now allowed three of four quarterbacks to throw for at least 259 yards and two touchdowns against them. The only exception to that was Dwayne Haskins. Unfortunately, we have to put Darnold in similar territory. In fact, it might not even be Darnold under center this week if that shoulder doesn’t feel right, as this team has nothing to play for. It doesn’t matter if it’s Darnold or Joe Flacco; you aren’t streaming a Jets quarterback. *Update* Darnold has already been ruled out for this game, so it’ll be Flacco under center. *Update* After a Jets player tested positive for COVID on Friday, this game’s status is up in the air right now. Make sure you pay attention to updates.
Kenyan Drake and Chase Edmonds: Based on where he’s been contacted at/near the line of scrimmage and how many stacked boxes he’s seen, Drake has averaged 0.58 fewer yards per carry than he should’ve, according to NFL’s NextGenStats. Play-calling has certainly been an issue, but so has his play. It’s to the point where you wonder if that injury that had him in a walking boot during training camp is lingering, as he’s just not the same running back as he was last year when he averaged 0.22 more yards per carry than he was expected. He’s also received 72 percent of the team’s running back touches, so the process was good, but the play has not been. Whatever the case, this timeshare could start to move back towards a 50/50 split, though I’m still expecting Drake to lead the team in touches. The Jets have allowed a healthy 4.57 yards per carry on the season, though removing one run from Raheem Mostert knocks them down to 3.77 yards per carry on the year. The reason fantasy running backs have so much appeal against them is due to volume, as they’ve faced 31.0 running back touches per week, which is volume that even with less-than-stellar efficiency offers results. They’ve now allowed seven different running backs to finish as the RB31 or better, though just one of them finished higher than the RB16. Drake is still the recommended play, but the expectations need to be lowered into low-end RB2/high-end RB3 territory. Edmonds is receiving most of the work through the air, though teams haven’t felt it necessary to target running backs a whole lot against the Jets, as just two running backs have recorded more than three receptions. Edmonds is gaining steam but should be considered a mediocre flex option who comes with risk. *Update* After a Jets player tested positive for COVID on Friday, this game’s status is up in the air right now. Make sure you pay attention to updates.
Le’Veon Bell: It seems like we should be expecting Bell back on the field this week after his three-week stint on the injured reserve which should’ve been more than enough time to heal his hamstring injury. He returns to a plus matchup against the Cardinals, who’ve already allowed four top-24 running back performances, while allowing another two running backs to finish as the RB28 and RB29. The 2.24 yards per target the Cardinals have allowed to running backs ranks as the highest mark in the NFL and is a large part of the reason they’ve allowed the third-most points through the air to running backs. With the lack of receiving options for the Jets, you must assume that he’s getting five-plus targets in this game. It’s not just through the air, either, as they’ve allowed 691 total yards to running backs through four weeks, which ranks as the fourth-most in the league. The lone concern here is Adam Gase, who is certainly a coach who’s held grudges before. He said that he should’ve never let Bell out there when he had his hamstring injury coming into Week 1, so there could be some animosity between the two. Still, it’s hard to see a scenario where he doesn’t see 15-plus touches. With the lack of guaranteed running backs who get into that range, Bell should be started as a low-end RB2 this week. *Update* After a Jets player tested positive for COVID on Friday, this game’s status is up in the air right now. Make sure you pay attention to updates.
DeAndre Hopkins: It was clear that Hopkins was not himself last week, as he was targeted at/near the line of scrimmage on nearly all his targets. He did seemingly make it through that game setback free, so he should be out there this week closer to 100 percent. The Jets secondary is one that can certainly be beat, as they’ve allowed a 71.4 percent completion-rate and 9.47 yards per target to wide receivers. They’ve allowed just three touchdowns to this point, keeping their overall numbers down, but that has more to do with teams punching it in via the run, something the Cardinals have struggled with. The cornerback he was slated to see was Blessuan Austin, who had to leave last week’s game with a calf injury. His replacement was rookie Lamar Jackson (no, not the quarterback), an undrafted free agent who hadn’t played any snaps the first three weeks. The combination of Austin and Jackson have allowed 12-of-18 passing for 151 yards in their coverage, so again, there’s absolutely nothing to worry about here. If Hopkins is close to full health and gets double-digit targets, he should finish as a top-three wide receiver this week. I’ll come back and update his practice participation later in the week. *Update* After a Jets player tested positive for COVID on Friday, this game’s status is up in the air right now. Make sure you pay attention to updates.
Christian Kirk: Has he been cast in the wrong role of this offense? 46 percent of his targets have been 20-plus yards down the field. He was a 4.46-second guy coming into the league, so not someone who’s got blazing speed. He’s now seen 14 targets in three games, which isn’t a lot, but it’s enough to at least consider him in great matchups. The matchup against Pierre Desirshould be considered one of the best matchups a wide receiver can have. Through four games with the Colts, he’s allowed 12-of-14 passing for 177 yards and four touchdowns in his coverage. The touchdowns are more than anyone else in the league. Even with his three interceptions, he’s surrendered a 118.8 QB Rating when targeted in coverage. Looking over his numbers the last four years, he’s allowed at least 13.1 yards per receptions in each of them, so he’s someone who’s continually looking for the interception and might bite on a double-move. Kirk is far from a lock, but the matchup is a good one. He should be considered a big-play hopeful WR4/5 option in a great matchup. *Update* After a Jets player tested positive for COVID on Friday, this game’s status is up in the air right now. Make sure you pay attention to updates.
Jamison Crowder: He’s only played two games so far, but Crowder has racked up a lot of yards after the catch. His 8.3 yards after the catch ranks fifth among receivers with at least 10 receptions, though based on his separation, we should expect that number to be closer to 4.4 yards after the catch. With Le’Veon Bell coming back, it’ll surely eat into his target share as well. The Cardinals have second-year cornerback Byron Murphy covering the slot this year, which has gone better than it did on the perimeter. To this point, he’s allowed 9-of-14 passing for 131 scoreless yards, so it’s not a must-avoid matchup or anything. There have been two receivers who’ve totaled more than seven targets against the Cardinals (Terry McLaurin, Robby Anderson), and both have finished as top-24 receivers. The issue, of course, is that neither of them are slot-heavy receivers like Crowder and play a different role. As a whole, the Cardinals have allowed the third-fewest fantasy points to wide receivers. This was a matchup to target in the slot last year, but that hasn’t been the case so far this year. Still, when you have a receiver who’s seen 23 targets in two games, you have to at least consider him a low-end WR3 with a decent floor, especially in PPR formats, though the move to Flacco could be more detrimental than anything. *Update* After a Jets player tested positive for COVID on Friday, this game’s status is up in the air right now. Make sure you pay attention to updates.
Dan Arnold: Despite injuries to both Christian Kirk and DeAndre Hopkins that had them playing at less than 100 percent at times (Kirk missed a full game), and despite Larry Fitzgerald not being involved, Arnold has still seen just 12 targets through four games. The tight end is simply not utilized in Kliff Kingsbury’s offense, even though it would probably help Murray’s efficiency if they did start involving them. The Jets have allowed the seventh-most points per target to tight ends this year, but if you’re not getting targets, it doesn’t matter. *Update* After a Jets player tested positive for COVID on Friday, this game’s status is up in the air right now. Make sure you pay attention to updates.
Chris Herndon: If you were to say Herndon has totaled 19 targets through four games before the season started, I would’ve said “he’ll probably be a streamer from time to time.” I would’ve been wrong. He’s now seen 21 targets in Adam Gase’s offense, and they’ve led to 77 scoreless yards. That amounts to just 3.8 yards per target. Yikes. The Cardinals have done a much better job against tight ends this year, allowing just 187 yards and two touchdowns on 34 targets. That amounts to just 1.52 PPR points per target, which is the 10th-lowest mark in the league. No tight end has totaled more than 53 yards through four weeks, so it’s no longer a must-attack matchup. Feel free to let someone else play Herndon. *Update* After a Jets player tested positive for COVID on Friday, this game’s status is up in the air right now. Make sure you pay attention to updates.
From: Fantasy Pros
Dolphins at 49ers (-9)
Let me throw this conspiracy theory at you. In Week 3, without Jimmy Garoppolo, the 49ers scored on seven of eight possessions with Nick Mullens and blew out the Giants. In the days after the win, Kyle Shanahan was asked whether the quarterback job would definitely be Garoppolo’s when he got healthy. So he decided to sabotage Mullens in a Week 4 loss to the Eagles, thus boosting Garoppolo’s confidence back up for the rest of the year. One loss for long-term gains from a next-level thinker in Shanahan. Who’s with me? Anyone? Hello? OK, I’ll move on. As of this writing, we have no idea who’s going to start at quarterback for the 49ers. But San Francisco needs its offensive line to perform better than it did last week, and it goes into this game banged-up at corner. Miami keeps it close.
The pick: Dolphins (+9)
From: The Athletic
Miami Dolphins at San Francisco 49ers
Line: SF by 8.5
Ryan Fitzpatrick: We’re getting close to the point where the Dolphins will go to Tua Tagovailoa, as Brian Flores waited until Tuesday to announce the starter for this game, though it never would’ve made sense for the rookie to make his first start on the road against a 49ers defense that has still been very good despite all the injuries they’ve dealt with. They have allowed just 5.92 yards per attempt through four games, which is the best mark in the league, and that’s despite missing their top cornerback and top two pass rushers. It’s not just that, either. The 2.27 percent touchdown-rate they’ve allowed ranks as the second-best in the league. The lone benefit for Fitzpatrick playing the 49ers is that they’ve allowed a league-high 32.5 fantasy points on the ground to quarterbacks. Despite getting up there in age, Fitzpatrick is willing to put his body on the line, as evidenced by his 115 yards and two touchdowns on the ground, which is more than all but Kyler Murray, Lamar Jackson, Cam Newton, Daniel Jones, and Sam Darnold. Even then, you’re not going to trust Fitzpatrick against a team that’s held 18 of the last 20 quarterbacks they’ve played to 7.4 yards per attempt or less. When streaming a quarterback, you have to know he’ll play the whole game, which is something we can’t say about Fitzpatrick anymore.
Jimmy Garoppolo or Nick Mullens: We have no idea if Garoppolo will be back this week, as he did get in a limited practice on Wednesday. Based on how quick they moved on from Mullens last week, I’m guessing Garoppolo will be rushed back for the 2-2 49ers team. It’s a good game to return to, as the Dolphins have allowed the sixth-most fantasy points to quarterbacks, despite seeing the 11th-fewest pass attempts against them. Remember when they made those moves in free agency/NFL Draft to make their secondary better? Well, the league-leading 9.27 yards per attempt they’ve allowed says the moves didn’t work. No other team in the league has allowed more than 8.63 yards per attempt. One of those moves was acquiring Byron Jones, who has missed the last two weeks due to a groin/Achilles injury, but he’s expected to return this week. Either way, it’s unlikely he’s 100 percent. If Garoppolo returns, this has the feeling of a 250-yard, two-touchdown game for him, which is enough to be considered a middle-of-the-road QB2. There is risk of reaggravation, which is why you may want to lean with the other guy if you’re torn between two players. If Garoppolo sits, Mullens isn’t far off that pace, though they’ll likely leave the game in their running backs’ hands a bit more in that case, making him a low-end QB2. *Update* Garoppolo will be under center this week.
Myles Gaskin: It’s clear there’s only one running back you can even think about starting out of the Dolphins backfield. Gaskin has now totaled 55 opportunities over the last three games, while Breida has 18, and Howard has 11. That’s a 65 percent opportunity share for Gaskin, though he’s still not getting the touches that matter the most, as he has one carry inside the five-yard line compared to eight of them for Howard. Despite all the injuries the 49ers have suffered on defense, they’ve still allowed a league-low 0.57 PPR points per opportunity to running backs. That means even if Gaskin somehow managed to get to 15 touches, you’re looking at an average of just 8.55 PPR points. Not great for someone who doesn’t get goal-line work, as touchdowns aren’t even there to save him. No running back has finished with more than 15.0 PPR points against the 49ers without a touchdown in their last 20 games. There hasn’t been a single running back who posted more than 14.5 PPR points against them this year, period. Gaskin is playable due to his touch share, but he’s just a low-upside RB3.
Raheem Mostert, Jerick McKinnon, and Jeff Wilson: It seems like we may be waiting another week for Mostert, though we have to pay attention to the injury report later in the week (I’ll update the bottom of the notes). For now, we must assume it’s McKinnon’s backfield after he tallied 67 snaps compared to just six for Wilson. It’s not like McKinnon did anything to lose the job, either, as he racked up 97 total yards and a touchdown against a tough Eagles defense. The Dolphins have only faced 103 running back touches through four weeks (25.8 per game) which ranks as the ninth-fewest, but they’ve allowed the seventh-most fantasy points to them. They’ve allowed a massive 1.16 PPR points per opportunity, which ranks third, only behind the Raiders and the Packers. The only running backs to total more than 12 touches against them were James Robinson and Chris Carson, who both scored 25-plus PPR points. I won’t pretend that McKinnon may share the workload in a projected blowout, but he’s a solid RB2 start this week as long as Mostert is held out. Wilson should get more work than he got last week, though that’s not saying much. If you start him as anything more than a last-minute RB4, you’re asking for disappointment.
DeVante Parker: When Parker left the game in the first quarter, fantasy managers started to get PTSD from the previous years of Parker’s career where he left them high-and-dry. Fortunately, Parker has made it a point to play through aches and pains this year, and it allowed him to rack up 12 targets, 10 receptions, and 110 yards last week against the league’s worst pass defense. Unfortunately, he goes from that matchup to one against one of the better pass defenses in the league. The 49ers have allowed just 10.75 yards per reception to wide receivers, which is the third-lowest mark in the league, and that’s despite tons of injuries. If Parker has a good game, it won’t be due to big splash plays but rather a lot of little ones. On top of that, they are slated to get back Richard Sherman back this week, who’s coming off a three-week absence for his calf injury. If for whatever reason he couldn’t return, that would be an upgrade for Parker against the combination of Jason Verrett and Dontae Johnson who’ve combined to allow 8-of-13 passing for 104 yards and a touchdown this season. If Sherman can’t go, Parker would stay on the radar as a low-end WR2/high-end WR3 play. If Sherman practices and plays, I’d put Parker in the middling WR3 territory.
Preston Williams: He’s not even playing all the snaps anymore, as he’s sharing them with Jakeem Grant on the perimeter, while Isaiah Ford is taking most of the slot reps. After seeing seven targets in the season opener, Williams has seen just 10 targets over the last three games combined and hasn’t caught more than two balls or recorded more than 26 yards. He’s someone who doesn’t even need to be rostered at this point. If you can’t trust him against the Seahawks, you’re not going to be able to trust him against anybody.
Isaiah Ford: When you have a receiver who’s seen at least nine targets in two of the last three games, he should probably be mentioned in The Primer. It hasn’t been a fruitful 21 targets over the last three weeks, as Ford has turned them into 13 receptions for 138 scoreless yards, so it’s not like you’re excited to play him. On top of that, he had a few plus-matchups during that time. He’s coming on the field in three-wide receiver sets to play in the slot, which would have been a brutal matchup in the slot against K’Waun Williams, but he sprained his ACL last week and is out for a few weeks. The 49ers are going to have Jamar Taylor fill that role, a cornerback who’s been below average throughout his career, allowing a 112.0 QB Rating in his coverage. He is playing in a much better scheme than ever before that’s had cornerbacks looking better than ever. Ford could have a bigger role than some think this week, though I wouldn’t want to trust him as anything more than a WR5 with minimal upside.
Brandon Aiyuk: The matchup wasn’t ideal last week but Aiyuk found a way to make his touches count. He scored one of the most acrobatic touchdowns you’ll see all year when he hurdled a defender at the goal line. Similar to the way Deebo Samuel was used last year, Aiyuk has received four carries over the last two weeks that have netted 69 yards and two touchdowns. Speaking of Samuel, he ran just 16 routes last week while Aiyuk ran 48 of them, so they’re clearly easing him back into the lineup, making Aiyuk the top play on the team. Wide receivers have averaged a league-high 10.41 yards per target against the Dolphins to this point, as the cornerback upgrades haven’t exactly panned out for them. He’s playing most of his snaps at LWR, though the Dolphins have mixed up their cornerback sides with Xavien Howard and Noah Igbinoghene, so we can’t say which one he’ll see more of. But with Kittle back in full swing, and Samuel’s snaps only increasing by the week, we can’t confidently say Aiyuk sees more than five targets in any given week, making him a high-end WR4 rather than a locked-and-loaded every-week starter.
Deebo Samuel: He returned to the lineup last week but only ran 16-of-50 possible routes, so they’re clearly easing him back into the lineup. He looked good on the four touches he did get, catching all three targets for 35 yards and rushing for 10 yards on his one carry. Expect his routes to double this week as he gets more confident in his surgically-repaired foot. As expected, he moved all over the field, so there’s not one particular matchup he’ll have against the Dolphins. As a whole, they’ve already allowed eight wide receivers to rack up four-plus receptions, including 70-plus yards to five of them. That’s due to the league-leading 10.41 yards per target they’ve allowed to receivers. If Samuel were 100 percent and playing all the snaps, he’d be a must-start in this matchup, but with the uncertainties, he’s a risk/reward WR4/5-type option.
Mike Gesicki: What in the world happened to Gesicki last week? Despite a lack of involvement from Preston Williams, Gesicki saw just three targets against the Seahawks. In fact, his teammate Durham Smythe caught one more pass and finished with twice the yards. Gesicki ran 36 routes (sixth among tight ends last week), so it wasn’t that, but it’s clear there needs to be more volatility built into his ranking. The 49ers have not allowed more than 22 yards to a tight end this season, and that includes games against Zach Ertz and Evan Engram. There were just four tight ends who scored double-digit PPR points against them last year, too, and two of those tight ends saw double-digit targets. But adding the years together, the 49ers have allowed just four tight ends to eclipse 32 yards in their last 20 games. Coming off the game he just had, it’s tough recommending Gesicki as anything more than a middling TE2.
George Kittle: It clearly doesn’t matter who the 49ers quarterback is; they know where the money is made. Throw it to Kittle should probably be 50 percent of the playbook after he caught 15-of-15 targets in his return for 183 yards and a touchdown. If you’re one of the “how many fantasy points have they allowed?” crowd, you’d probably be worried about Kittle this week, as the Dolphins have allowed the fourth-fewest fantasy points to the tight end position. But what if I told you they’ve seen just 21 targets and that those targets came from Ryan Izzo, Dawson Knox, James O’Shaughnessy/Tyler Eifert, and Greg Olsen? Despite that group, they have allowed 7.19 yards per target to tight ends, which ranks as the 14th-most in the league. The lack of pass attempts is the only concern in this game for Kittle, as it’s been for most tight ends against them. Because of that, the Dolphins haven’t allowed a tight end more than 66 yards since Week 1 of last year. But let’s be real, you’re playing him every week as a locked-and-loaded TE1.