By: Brian McDonald (@sackedbybmac)
Patience was rewarded last week for fantasy owners who have Lamar Miller on their team and kept him in their starting lineup. As I hope you recall, it was this article that predicted Miller would end his touchdown drought against the Colts; let’s hope that momentum keeps going.
DeAndre Hopkins also had 9 receptions and his second highest receiving yard total of the season, but without a touchdown he failed to live up to my “start in all formats with confidence” prediction, unless you’re in a PPR league.
This week the opposing defense will be much tougher, so as you might expect there are more sit recommendations than recommended starts.
Keep reading to find out the who and why.
While the late turnaround Brock Osweiler made last week against the Indianapolis Colts was enough for his team to pull out a victory, that effort wasn’t enough to salvage his fantasy performance. Osweiler finished 15th among all quarterbacks last week in fantasy points—behind guys like Cody Kessler and Colin Kaepernick—which doesn’t meet starting standards for most leagues.
That performance last week where he rallied from a disaster to finish 15th best was at home against a bottom-three pass defense, whereas his opponent this week is tied for sixth in fewest fantasy points allowed to opposing quarterbacks at just 12.3 per game.
You also have to factor in how poor Osweiler has played in the Texans two road games this season. In those two road games, Osweiler is averaging 190 passing yards, is completing only 51% of his passes, and has just one touchdown to two interceptions.
The Denver Broncos defense ranks second in completion percentage allowed, first in passing yards per game allowed, third in opponent QB rating, is tied for second in passing touchdowns allowed, and rank first in sacks this season.
If you even consider starting Osweiler for a fraction of a second, you should seek immediate medical help.
Verdict: Sit in all formats.
The big concern with starting Lamar Miller this week isn’t the matchup like with Osweiler, but instead it’s the possibility that the Texans fall behind early on the road against a good team like they’ve done so many times before, and that situation causes them to abandon the run.
Denver has a great defense, but they’ve been easier to run on than you might guess. The Broncos rank 22nd in rushing yards allowed per game, they’re tied for 20th in rushing touchdowns allowed, tied for 14th in yards per rush attempt allowed, and rank 21st in fantasy points allowed per game to opposing running backs.
For his part in this, Miller this season ranks second in rushing attempts and fifth in rushing yards, so his high-volume work load makes him semi-matchup proof. If the Texans are able to stay close and stick with the running game, then Miller will get his numbers.
If they fall behind 24-0 in the second quarter again like they did at Minnesota, then Miller’s fantasy performance will suffer.
Verdict: Start in standard leagues as a RB2, but avoid in daily fantasy.
OK, so I may have to back off my “always start your studs” strategy for this week’s game against Denver.
DeAndre Hopkins is a special talent and one of the top five receivers in the league, but you remember those daunting pass defense numbers by Denver that I posted in the section about Osweiler? Well, those obviously apply to his receivers as well.
How good have they been? This season the Broncos rank first in fantasy points allowed to opposing receivers at just 8.5 per game; they’re the only defense holding receivers to single-digit fantasy points.
The stat lines for No. 1 targets against the Broncos pass defense should make every player who has Hopkins on their roster pretty nervous.
- Week 1: Kelvin Benjamin – 6 receptions, 91 yards, 1 touchdown
- Week 2: T.Y. Hilton – 4 receptions, 41 yards, 0 touchdowns
- Week 3: A.J. Green – 8 receptions, 77 yards, 0 touchdowns
- Week 4: Mike Evans – 5 receptions, 59 yards, 0 touchdowns
- Week 5: Julio Jones – 2 receptions, 29 yards, 0 touchdowns
- Week 6: Tyrell Williams/Travis Benjamin combined – 6 receptions, 45 yards, 0 touchdowns
After Week 1, the Broncos have made every top receiver they’ve faced a fantasy dud. With the exception of the Chargers duo, the names on the list above are all Pro-Bowl caliber receivers too, so the possibility that they do the same thing to Hopkins shouldn’t be dismissed or taken lightly.
Verdict: Sit in standard leagues if you have another viable option, and avoid in all daily fantasy leagues.
The injury that caused some confusion last week on whether or not Will Fuller would play is pretty much irrelevant to the decision to start or sit him this week.
From last week’s article, Fuller is averaging just 2 receptions for 17.5 yards and doesn’t have a touchdown yet in the Texans two road games this season. Fuller has been a drastically better player at home than on the road so far, and those stats from the sections on Osweiler and Hopkins earlier in this article also apply to the rookie wide receiver.
Verdict: Sit in all formats.
The breakout games by C.J. Fiedorowicz shouldn’t be ignored or dismissed by fantasy owners any longer.
It’s not a coincidence that the increased production from Fiedorowicz started the same week Bill O’Brien took over play-calling duties on offense. His offense has been tight end friendly in the past, so as long as Coach O’Brien is calling plays Fiedorowicz should receive a healthy number of targets.
Over their last three games, Fiedorowicz has caught 14 passes for 194 yards, and has two touchdowns. Those numbers averaged out over a full 16 game season work out to 74 receptions, 1,034 yards, and 10 touchdowns.
Not saying he will, but if Fiedorowicz hit those full-season numbers, his fantasy production would be right up there with the top guys like Rob Gronkowski and Greg Olsen.
The Broncos defense has been great, but it’s been less stingy to tight ends than wide receivers. Denver ranks 18th in fantasy points per game allowed to opposing tight ends and allowed 7 receptions for 73 yards to the aforementioned Greg Olsen in their Week 1 game.
He’s not a safe play this week since it’s not a great matchup and Fiedorowicz is still touchdown dependent, but he’s been targeted 15 times the last two weeks—trailing only Hopkins—so you could do a lot worse.
Verdict: Start Fiedorowicz as a bye week replacement in standard leagues. He’s also a nice value play/cap-saver option for daily fantasy leagues.
The big concern is an obvious one: Will the Texans move the ball enough for Nick Novak to get enough scoring opportunities to produce a good fantasy performance?
In his favor this week, Novak ranks 10th among all kickers in fantasy points scored, the Broncos rank 21st in fantasy points allowed to opposing kickers, and of course the game will be played in the thin air of Denver, Colorado. That last part is important because it will give Novak more opportunities at 50-yard field goals that some leagues score as five points, than he would be afforded in any other city.
Similar to the Fiedorowicz recommendation, Novak isn’t a great start this week, but you could do a lot worse.
Verdict: Start in standard 10 or 12 team leagues. Only play in daily fantasy if his price tag is middle of the pack or lower; not worth a premium.
Their best pass rusher is out, their best coverage guy is out, and several other defensive players are banged up; not an ideal situation for a fantasy defense.
The Texans have been great against the pass this year, but with their top three cornerbacks either out or banged up, matching up with Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders could be a big problem.
Broncos running back C.J. Anderson isn’t having a great year, but against a Texans defense that ranks 29th in rushing yards per game allowed, 19th in rushing yards per attempt allowed, and 28th in rushing touchdowns allowed, this could be the week the veteran back gets healthy on the stat sheet.
If you own the Texans defense in a standard league, I’d look for a one-week replacement.
Verdict: Sit in standard leagues if you can find a replacement. Avoid in daily fantasy.
Top Five Starts of the Week:
- Tom Brady (at Pittsburgh)
- Matt Ryan (vs San Diego)
- Phillip Rivers (at Atlanta)
- Andy Dalton (vs Cleveland)
- Aaron Rodgers (vs Chicago)
- DeMarco Murray (vs Indianapolis)
- LeSean McCoy (at Miami)
- Devonta Freeman (vs San Diego)
- Spencer Ware (vs New Orleans)
- David Johnson (vs Seattle)
- Julio Jones (vs San Diego)
- A.J. Green (vs Cleveland)
- Allen Robinson (vs Oakland)
- Odell Beckham Jr. (at LA)
- Jordy Nelson (vs Chicago)
- Rob Gronkowski (at Pittsburgh)
- Jordan Reed (at Detroit)*
- Travis Kelce (vs New Orleans)
- Hunter Henry (at Atlanta)
- Delanie Walker (vs Indianapolis)
*Watch his status as he goes through the concussion protocol.
- Denver (vs Houston)
- New England (at Pittsburgh)
- Cincinnati (vs Cleveland)
- Minnesota (at Philadelphia)
- Baltimore (at New York Jets)