From a fantasy lens, dozens and dozens of players being sidelined is already greatly impacting the depth of your league and roster. Starting stars is as justifiable as ever, but I am still here to dump cold water on your optimism on a weekly basis, highlighting a handful of upcoming fantasy busts for the forthcoming slate of games. Let me be clear — I like fun, I prefer to focus on positives and, most of all, do not hate any of these players. I simply believe they will perform below their normal output.
Washington RB Antonio Gibson at Lions (-4)
Total: o/u 46.6 | Started 72%
All summer I advocated for listeners and readers to draft Antonio Gibson. Why? Scott (and Norv) Turner’s offense in Carolina featured a RB who led the NFL in targets for three straight seasons, and an offensive identity like that simply does not disappear. So naively, I assumed the Day 2 rookie selection, who spent 70 percent of his collegiate snaps at WR, would seamlessly fit that role in Turner’s offense. Logical reasoning, right?
In reality, Gibson’s entire rookie usage is based on RUSHING instead of that receiving background. And for an added left hook, J.D. McKissic is fourth in the NFL among all RBs in targets (47) despite playing just 54% of the team’s snaps through eight games. He is the trusted player on passing downs for Washington. Comparatively, Gibson has 26 targets, but only one single touch on third downs all season. One! Silly me. With Kyle Allen out for the season and signs pointing to Alex Smith as the team’s starting quarterback, the expectation is for Washington to see even more negative gamescripts, and as of now Gibson is considered by the staff as a back that is best featured in neutral and positive gamescripts. This led to McKissic playing 83% of the team’s snaps last weekend, easily a season-high.
Perhaps Matthew Stafford misses the game with the head injury he sustained last weekend — unfortunately this column must be posted before that information arrives — and if so Washington certainly could be competitive against a Chase Daniel-led Lions team, opening the door for more Gibson opportunities. But once Washington finds itself behind on the scoreboard, their tendency is to rely on McKissic as an outlet in the receiving game and in pass protection.
Prediction: 9 carries for 49 yards, 3 receptions for 21 yards
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Patriots QB Cam Newton vs Ravens (-7)
Total: o/u 43.5 | Started 34%
I unabashedly support Cam Newton. (Almost) always have, always will. He gutted out a QB8 performance last week without registering a passing touchdown, but was extremely efficient while throwing to the likes of Jacobi Meyers and Damiere Byrd. The No. 1 conclusion we can make for Newton in a Patriots jersey is that rushing production is required in order to hit fantasy value. Cam is tied for third in the NFL with eight rushing scores, only behind Dalvin Cook and Todd Gurley. Only two of the seven contests saw him exceed 175 passing yards. While the rest of the league is able to manufacture yards and easy completions, practically every dropback looks like a struggle for this offense, dating back to Newton’s third start against the Raiders.
Unfortunately, Cam should now be viewed as a matchup-based play, which is an uncommon statement for a quarterback with his rushing production. The reason? The growing potential of the passing floor turning into lava and burning us along the way. So while Week 9’s matchup against the 27th ranked Jets Defense was a positive environment we could identify from a mile away, this weekend’s game against the Ravens is one we want to avoid. There are levels to NFL defenses, and the Ravens stand near the top. Their pressure packages should give the Patriots plenty of issues with New England lacking trustworthy outlets. The only path to escape I could predict for Cam is if Calais Campbell’s absence tanks the Ravens’ defense, but it is rare for one player to possess that level of importance.
Prediction: 17 of 28 attempts for 175 yards, 1 INT… 39 rushing yards and 1 TD
Bills RB Devin Singletary at Cardinals (-1)
Total: o/u 55.5 | Started 54%
Weeks 3 and 4 are well in the rearview mirror for Singletary, who has seen RB44 usage over the last four weeks and turned it into RB55 production. Despite playing 57% of the team’s snaps over the last five weeks, Singletary is averaging just 5.1 fantasy points per contest, including a cratered performance of just two carries and three catches for a combined 34 yards in Week 9.
Expect more of the same in Week 10, as Zack Moss is now out-snapping Singletary in this offense. The Bills and OC Brian Daboll tend to tailor their gameplan around the weakness of their opposition. Against the Jets, Titans and Seahawks’ porous secondaries, Josh Allen averaged 42 passing attempts, seven more than his season-long average. Against the Raiders and Patriots, the bottom two rushing defensive units in the NFL, Singletary claimed 38 touches. We’ve seen Daboll put entire gameplans on Allen’s shoulder, trotting out four receiver sets to unabashedly ride his quarterback’s decision making roller coaster. When considering Week 10, the Cardinals are league average in both categories, but the Bills are a much better passing team than traditional running juggernaut. Allen should again hover near 40 passing attempts in an effort to match Kyler Murray’s explosiveness on the other sideline.
Prediction: 9 carries for 34 yards, 2 receptions for 18 yards
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Raiders WR Henry Ruggs vs Broncos (+5)
Total: o/u 50.5 | Started 13%
I am at a loss. After five targets and two carries in the opening two quarters of action against the Panthers in Week 1, Henry Ruggs has collected just 16 targets and three carries since. While playing 75% of the team's snaps over the last three games, Ruggs has a combined seven touches. The Raiders are using their No. 12 overall selection to manufacture space for others rather than making it a priority to get the explosive playmaker the football. Granted, in the win-loss columns it is working with the Raiders at 5-3, thus making it unlikely for them to change their approach despite a -11 point differential. That is not meant to come off as overly negative. In reality, Jon Gruden has been an impressive playcaller and is maximizing an offense with a narrow opportunity distribution. If only their priority draft pick could carve out a slice of the pie. Ruggs is fully reliant on vertical shots despite possessing the skills to make magic with the ball in his hands.
Prediction: 4 targets, 2 catches for 35 yards