Start: Desmond Ridder, Falcons
The Titans rank 11th in rush EPA per play allowed and 28th in EPA per dropback allowed. They were a basement-dweller secondary before trading former All-Pro safety Kevin Byard to the Eagles. They are a strikingly obvious pass-funnel unit. Ridder, for all of his faults, ranks ninth in EPA per play and seventh in CPOE over the past three weeks.
Sit: Russell Wilson, Broncos
Wilson is starting to fall apart and it’s coming at the worst time. Over the past three weeks, Wilson ranks 30th in EPA per dropback and 27th in success rate. He heads into Arrowhead to face the No. 3 defense by EPA per dropback allowed.
Sit: Matthew Stafford, Rams
The Rams are road dogs of nearly a touchdown versus the Cowboys this week. Vegas has them with a 19.5-point implied team total. That is lower than the Jets and Panthers, among many other teams. Stafford has been a middling quarterback by EPA this year, ranking 17th in the metric. He fares far worse in CPOE, ranking 36th.
Start: Gus Edwards, Ravens
The Ravens are favored by 9.5 points and have a 26.5 implied team total. Over the past four weeks, Edwards has seen 54 percent of the Ravens’ carries, good for 14 carries per game. He faces an Arizona defense that is allowing 131 rushing yards per game.
Start: Jonathan Taylor, Colts
Taylor’s snap share and route rate have both risen in every one of his games this season. He has out-carried and out-targeted Zack Moss over the past two weeks. Taylor ranks 15th in yards after contact per carry and first in yards per route run among running backs this year. He may never truly shut Moss out of the lineup, but he is closing in on an RB1-caliber role.
Sit: Rhamondre Stevenson, Patriots
Unlike Taylor, Stevenson’s role is slowly trending in the wrong direction. Through the first four weeks, Stevenson accounted for 59 percent of the Patriots’ carries and ran a route on 59 percent of his team’s passing plays. In his past three games, those numbers have fallen to 46 and 53 percent. His share of the goal line carries has also fallen. As a committee back on a flailing team, Stevenson will rank well outside of the top 24 backs this week.
Sit: Alexander Mattison, Vikings
Mattison’s role fell to a season-low in Week 7. He earned 38 percent of the Vikings’ carries and ran a route on less than half of Kirk Cousins’ dropbacks. Cam Akers out-carried him 10-8 and held him to a target standstill at three a piece.
Start: Josh Downs, Colts
The Josh Downs with Gardner Minshew splits remained undefeated in Week 7. Downs caught five balls for 125 yards and a score.
Josh Downs when Gardner Minshew plays the majority of the snaps:
7.4 targets for 5.6 receptions, 67.4 yards, and 0.4 touchdowns (14.7 PPR points)
Josh Downs when Anthony Richardson plays the majority of the snaps:
5 targets for 2.5 receptions, 32 yards, 0 scores (5.7 PPR points)
— Kyle Dvorchak (@kyletweetshere) October 23, 2023
Downs has a 23 percent target share and a 29 percent air yards share over the past three weeks. Downs and Pittman are both strong PPR options with Minshew at the helm.
Start: Christian Watson, Packers
Watson tweaked his knee late in Green Bay’s Week 7 loss but got in a full practice on Wednesday, so it doesn’t appear as though it will limit him this week. Over his past two games, Watson has run a route on 85 percent of Jordan Love’s dropbacks. He has seen half of the Packers’ end zone targets and 46 percent of their air yards in those two games.
Sit: Jayden Reed, Packers
Watson’s return has coincided with Reed running fewer routes and earning fewer targets. Reed has run a route on just over half of Love’s dropbacks over the past two weeks. His target share, which sat at 20 percent before Watson returned to the lineup, has plummeted to 12 percent with Watson back in action.
Sit: Jameson Williams, Lions
Williams’ route rate improved to 45 percent in Week 7, but that still ranked fourth among the Detroit receivers. Rookie receiver Antoine Green ran more routes than him. Williams was targeted on 12 percent of Jared Goff’s attempts. He is earning targets at a high clip per route, but Williams will remain on the fantasy bench until the Lions start putting him on the field more.
Start: Trey McBride, Cardinals
Zach Ertz went down with a quad injury in Week 7 that ultimately landed him on injured reserve. He will miss at least four games. That puts McBride in line to handle the majority of snaps. McBride was been far better at earning targets this year compared to his rookie campaign. He has been targeted on 22 percent of his routes this season compared to seven percent in 2022. Now with a full complement of snaps, McBride could put up TE1 numbers.
Start: Kyle Pitts, Falcons
I want to bench Kyle Pitts as much as the next guy (that’s a lie), but we simply don’t have better options. Pitts is eighth in the NFL in targets and first in air yards. Desmond Ridder has also played better recently, allowing Pitts more opportunities to come down with his targets. Over his first three games, Pro Football Focus deemed 57 percent of Pitts’ targets as catchable. That number has skyrocketed to 83 percent in his previous four appearances.
Sit: Cole Kmet, Bears
Despite coming away with 30 points and a win last week, we want nothing to do with the secondary options on this version of the Bears’ offense. Tyson Bagent averaged two air yards per throw and the offense had a -6 percent pass rate over expected.
Kmet wasn’t even targeted by Bagent. Fantasy managers need to parlay so many outcomes when playing Kmet—team passing volume, a real aDOT, and a target share above zero—that it’s better to look to the wire in Week 8.
Sit: David Njoku, Browns
Like in Chicago, I’m taking a full fade approach to all Browns’ pass-catchers save for their No.1 receiver and even that is a risky bet. Njoku has a six percent air yards share and one end zone target on the year. He has topped 50 receiving yards once. He just isn’t involved in an already lacking offense.