Fantasy Football is all about the matchups. Even though you drafted your team with certain hopes and intentions, your weekly lineup decisions shouldn’t be determined by the order you picked your players in. You need to check who your players play and make sure you’ve got the right guys in — and the wrong guys out.
It’s too early to be absolutely sure on which matchups will be easy and which ones will be tough, but we can take some educated guesses based on healthy personnel, defensive schemes, track records and key details of offenses. The things we know can help us minimize the impact of the things we don’t know. This should lead to better decisions being made.
We’ll go through every game and highlight the players who aren’t obvious starts and sits (because you don’t need to be told to start Christian McCaffrey). You should feel more comfortable starting or sitting players based on the information given, and feeling comfortable with your Fantasy lineup before the games start is the best feeling in the world.
It’s also important to have a keen eye for matchups dictated by the remaining schedule. I am now updating my projected Strength of Schedule rankings broken down by position available on SportsLine. My objective is to break down how the schedule affects every Fantasy relevant player for the upcoming four weeks, the playoff stretch and the entire season. You’ll also be able to find my key takeaways on which players you should buy low, sell high and more trade advice. If you’d like to try out SportsLine, use the promo code RICHARD at checkout and you’ll pay just a dollar for the first month. Easy peasy!
Both teams had a week of rest, so don’t treat this like a typical Thursday game. But do expect the Cowboys defense to keep the pressure on Geno Smith and a Seattle offense that’s struggled to gain consistency over the last month. Smith actually did OK completing passes last week when pressured (60% completion rate) but not at an efficient level (5.4 yards per attempt). Just two QBs have exceeded 250 yards and four QBs have thrown multiple touchdowns against Dallas this year; I don’t like Smith’s chances to do either, which hurts any upside case for any Seahawks receiver. By the way, Curtis Samuel was the first receiver to get 100 yards on the Cowboys this year, and it took him 12 targets and 9 catches to get there. No one else has had more than 86.
- STARTS: Dak Prescott, CeeDee Lamb, Tony Pollard, DK Metcalf (low-end WR2), Jake Ferguson, Cowboys DST
- SITS: Tyler Lockett (flex at best), Geno Smith, Jaxon Smith-Njigba, Zach Charbonnet, Michael Gallup, Seahawks DST
- SLEEPERS: Brandin Cooks
Flex Starter (Lineup Decisions)
Seven straight quarterbacks to face the Broncos have failed to get to 20 Fantasy points, including Josh Allen once and Patrick Mahomes twice! Denver’s forced at least one turnover from a quarterback in eight straight games and kept quarterbacks to under 7.0 yards per attempt in five straight. Denver also seems to be playing a lot of heavy zone coverage to deter quarterbacks from throwing deep, mostly Cover-3, and they’re also starting to blitz more over the last month than they did before. Stroud’s Houdini act has helped him beat most of the defenses he’s faced, and this one isn’t worthy of being feared, but there is some worry Stroud have a monster game without some massive yards after the catch (YAC) from his receivers. Fortunately he ranks ninth-best on the season among qualifying QBs in YAC per completion (5.37).
- STARTS: C.J. Stroud, Tank Dell, Nico Collins, Courtland Sutton, Dalton Schultz, Javonte Williams, Devin Singletary, Russell Wilson
- SITS: Jerry Jeudy, both DSTs
The Patriots have seemingly backed off of being blitz-heavy over their past three games, perhaps because they realized they can get similar payoffs without it (only three of their past nine sacks have come on blitzes). They also have an inflated sack total because they recorded six against the Giants — they have no more than three in any other game this year including zero against the Colts in Week 10. They haven’t stopped playing a lot of man coverage lately, which shouldn’t bother Justin Herbert because he’s efficient against all coverages (and a little bit better against man-to-man). L.A. hasn’t put up more than 20 points in two straight, but 20 points should be more than enough to beat a Patriots offense that’s scored 17 or fewer points in 9 of its past 10 games.
- STARTS: Justin Herbert, Keenan Allen, Austin Ekeler, Rhamondre Stevenson,
- SITS: Hunter Henry, Quentin Johnston, all Patriots WRs
- SLEEPERS: Demario Douglas (if he plays and preferably in PPR only), Gerald Everett, Jalen Guyton
The Lions need an answer for their ugly pass defense — since their Week 9 bye they’ve been mostly great against the run (3.1 yards per carry allowed, one RB to get 15-plus PPR points) but they rank bottom-six in completion rate allowed (68.4%), yards per attempt allowed (8.0), passing ADOT against (8.84 yards) and defensive Expected Points Added (EPA) per dropback (-0.40, which is league-worst). And of their second-most eight passing touchdowns given up in three games, five have come on passes of 15-plus Air Yards, which is tied for most in the league. They should catch a break with reliable field stretchers Chris Olave (concussion) and Rashid Shaheed (thigh) missing the matchup for New Orleans. After both were hurt last week, rookie A.T. Perry and gadget receiver Lynn Bowden led the way in routes run with 100% and 94% rates respectively, but it was Alvin Kamara who predictably led the way in targets per routes run (30.8%). Kamara gets a boost both in the pass game and run game with Lions linebacker Alex Anzalone missing action with a hand injury. Perry would be the sleeper I would trust to get some downfield targets against this susceptible pass defense.
- STARTS: Jared Goff, Amon-Ra St. Brown, Jahmyr Gibbs, Alvin Kamara, David Montgomery, Sam LaPorta, Taysom Hill
- SITS: Derek Carr, both DSTs
- SLEEPERS: Juwan Johnson, A.T. Perry
The Falcons defense finally had a strong showing against the Saints last week, but they got a little lucky because so many players from New Orleans left with injuries. In the three games prior their defense had a knack for making mediocre offenses look amazing (Will Levis’ breakout game, Josh Dobbs’ first game with the Vikings, Kyler Murray’s first game with the Cardinals). I’m pretty certain they’re not bad enough to make Tim Boyle look like Tim Tebow or even Tim Hasselbeck, but I do wonder if they’re juuust bad enough to give better-than-normal numbers to Garrett Wilson and Breece Hall. Reinforcements along the O-line should help the Jets’ cause against a Falcons defense that’s blitzed at a league-average rate, is eighth-lowest in pass rush pressure rate and is fifth-lowest in sacks (28).
- STARTS: Bijan Robinson, Garrett Wilson, Breece Hall, Drake London, Jets DST, Falcons DST
- SITS: Kyle Pitts, Tyler Conklin, Tyler Allgeier, both QBs
Pittsburgh’s biggest change in offensive scheme last week involved Kenny Pickett throwing over the middle much more than before (Pat Freiermuth benefitted). But they also ran the ball effectively at Cincinnati — Najee Harris had one of his best games this year. Expect more of the same against the Cardinals this week. Arizona has allowed five touchdowns to tight ends over its past five games but actually has been relatively efficient defending them otherwise. Can’t say the same against the run as the Redbirds rank in the bottom five in pretty much every single run defense metric except yards after contact per rush (where they’re league average). A running back has scored 17 or more PPR points in four of their past five against the Cardinals, and eight in 12 games have hit at least 15 PPR points. With Pickett nursing an ankle injury we could see the Steelers run the ball aplenty.
- STARTS: Najee Harris, Kyler Murray, Trey McBride, Marquise Brown, Pat Freiermuth, Diontae Johnson (PPR flex), Jaylen Warren (PPR only), Steelers DST
- SITS: Kenny Pickett, James Conner, Rondale Moore, Cardinals DST
- SLEEPERS: Greg Dortch (PPR only), George Pickens
Expect plenty of rushing. Losing Jonathan Taylor stings for the Colts but Zack Moss was unreal in his efficiency between Weeks 2 through 5 when Taylor was either out or barely played (5.0 yards per carry is a generic example), and he’s only been a little bit worse (4.4 yards per carry) since Taylor took a larger chunk of the workload starting in Week 6. Meanwhile, Derrick Henry was back in a familiar spot of handling plenty of carries against an inferior opponent, scoring twice and tallying 76 rush yards. Anytime he’s in a close game or a Titans win, he tends to do well. The Colts rank in the bottom-five in Fantasy points allowed per game this season while the Titans are closer to league-average, but both are in the top-six in RB rush attempts per game against (at least 24.0 each) in their past four games.
- STARTS: Michael Pittman, Derrick Henry, Zack Moss
- SITS: DeAndre Hopkins (PPR flex at best), Josh Downs (PPR flex at best), Will Levis, Titans DST
- SLEEPERS: Colts DST, Gardner Minshew
With edge rusher Jaelan Phillips, the Dolphins ranked third in sacks (38) and sixth in pass rush pressure rate (39.9%). Both those numbers were boosted by the defense’s effort against a sagging Jets offense last Friday. Adding veteran Jason Pierre-Paul isn’t a cure-all, but he will help the Dolphins from being forced to blitz a ton week in and week out. The Commanders offensive line has had some ugly showings lately against the Cowboys (four sacks, 49% pass rush pressure rate allowed), the Giants (four sacks, 32.7% pressure rate allowed) and the Seahawks (three sacks, 46.8% pressure rate allowed). Somehow these results are better than what they were allowing through much of the first two months of the year. Sam Howell getting the ball out faster has been a positive in this regard but a negative for his numbers in three of his past four games (the one game he did really well in was sort of fluky). The matchup is a good test for the Dolphins pass rush post-Phillips, one that it should pass without giving up much in the way of deep completions.
- STARTS: Tyreek Hill, Jaylen Waddle, Raheem Mostert, Tua Tagovailoa, Terry McLaurin (low-end WR2), Brian Robinson (low-end RB2), Dolphins DST
- SITS: Sam Howell (low-end starter at best), Logan Thomas (PPR bye-week replacement), Antonio Gibson (PPR bye-week replacement), Commanders DST
- SLEEPERS: Curtis Samuel (especially PPR), Jahan Dotson (non-PPR only), Jeff Wilson
When Thomas Brown took over the Panthers playcalling for three games earlier this year, the Panthers averaged a 64% pass rate, Chuba Hubbard dominated touches (two games with 17-plus touches, none with more than 10 PPR points) and Adam Thielen had a large target share (26.5%) with a tiny ADOT (4.33). In the two games since, the Panthers pass rate dipped below 60%, Hubbard shared more regularly and Thielen’s ADOT nearly doubled. Hubbard had a good game last week, Thielen hasn’t seen monster numbers since before the Week 7 bye. The uncertainty of how the Panthers will operate moving forward with Brown basically calling the offense without any oversight keeps these players are risky Fantasy propositions, though it helps a lot that the Buccaneers are dealing with injuries that hurt their run defense (Lavonte David could miss the game) and keep their pass defense from improving (Jamel Dean could miss the game).
- STARTS: Rachaad White, Mike Evans, Adam Thielen, Baker Mayfield (low-end QB1)
- SITS: Chris Godwin (PPR flex), Chuba Hubbard (bye-week replacement), Cade Otton (PPR bye-week replacement), Bryce Young, Panthers DST
- SLEEPERS: Buccaneers DST
I wouldn’t expect the Rams offensive line to handle the Browns’ defensive front like they did the Cardinals’ last week, but it must be mentioned that the Browns run defense isn’t anywhere near as dominant as it was earlier this year. In their past three games, they gave up 4.1 yards per rush to the Ravens (just 6.3% of their runs went 10-plus yards), 7.8 yards per rush to the Steelers thanks to a long TD run by Jaylen Warren (23.8% of their runs went 10-plus yards) and 4.6 yards per rush to the Broncos (18.5% of their runs went 10-plus yards). Playing more snaps because the Browns offense has been inept isn’t the reason for it either because they struggled with the run in the first half against all three teams (over 5.3 yards per carry allowed against each). It’s silly to say the Rams passing game is struggling when Matthew Stafford just threw four touchdowns, but Cooper Kupp looked like he played hurt last week and Puka Nacua didn’t look that much better. If they’re ailing, the Rams would be smart to try and use the run game early and often. Expect a low-scoring game.
- STARTS: Kyren Williams, Amari Cooper, Puka Nacua, David Njoku, Jerome Ford,
- SITS: Cooper Kupp (flex at best), Kareem Hunt, Tutu Atwell, Tyler Higbee, Royce Freeman, both QBs, both DSTs (low-end options)
- SLEEPERS: Elijah Moore (PPR flex)
In three games since getting Chase Young, the Niners have allowed 30 points total, yielded just 3.3 yards per rush to RBs, 5.9 yards per attempt to QBs, pressured quarterbacks at a 43.2% rate (without blitzing much!), accumulated 15 sacks and picked off four interceptions. As many problems as the Eagles present with their offense, the Niners figure to be just as menacing with their collective defense. That will make things tough for the Eagles, whose defense played over 90 snaps last Sunday and could be without a couple of starters in the front seven, and whose offense could be forced into an uncomfortable game script if the Niners build a lead. Even concepts like utilizing Jalen Hurts’ mobility on downfield throws and targets to D’Andre Swift are things the Niners have dealt with successfully this season. Not that you’ll sit any of your usual Eagles starters in Fantasy, but some might underwhelm given the circumstances. P.S.: They play at Dallas next week.
- STARTS: Jalen Hurts, Christian McCaffrey, A.J. Brown, DeVonta Smith, Brock Purdy, Brandon Aiyuk, Deebo Samuel, George Kittle, D’Andre Swift, 49ers DST
- SITS: Eagles DST
Jordan Love has posted 20-plus Fantasy points in three straight games, but it’s his past two where there’s been some real improvement in his play including a low 8.3% off-target rate to go with a 68.1% completion rate and 8.2 yards per attempt. The step-up in competition to the Chiefs will clearly impact him and his offensive line, which played better in their games against the Chargers and Lions. Steve Spagnuolo’s defense has been blitzing its tails off over the past two weeks (nearly 50% of their snaps against the Eagles and Raiders), so the hunch is they’ll apply maximum pressure to that O-line in an effort to make Love more off-target than he’s been and, hopefully, get some turnovers. Only one receiver has had more than 15 PPR points against the Chiefs in their past four games (Jakobi Meyers last week), making it tough to expect grand games from Love’s favorite targets. I’d expect shutdown cornerback L’Jarius Sneed to line up across from Christian Watson the most — and Jayden Reed the least.
- STARTS: Patrick Mahomes, Travis Kelce, Isiah Pacheco, Rashee Rice (worth a look as a WR2), Jayden Reed (low-end WR2/high-end PPR flex), Chiefs DST
- SITS: Jordan Love (low-end QB1 at best), Christian Watson (bye-week replacement at best), A.J. Dillon (flex at best), Romeo Doubs, Packers DST
Jacksonville’s ability to slam on the run, pressure C.J. Stroud (four sacks) and ultimately hold the Texans to 21 points should help you accept their defense as a legit unit. Now they’ll take on a Bengals offense that was borderline lucky to even score 10 points last week against the Steelers. Two of Ja’Marr Chase’s four receptions were tipped by Steelers first, then the Bengals’ longest pass play was on a designed dump-off pass to Joe Mixon for 39 yards. Jake Browning had his moments evading the pass rush but his arm strength is just not very good. Expect the Jaguars to bring plenty of heat to Browning, then lean into Travis Etienne on the ground to bring home a win.
- STARTS: Trevor Lawrence, Travis Etienne, Calvin Ridley, Ja’Marr Chase, Christian Kirk, Evan Engram, Joe Mixon (low-end RB2), Jaguars DST
- SITS: Tyler Boyd, Jake Browning, Bengals DST