Hopefully by now you've read one of these columns in the past and understand our new approach. If not, head back to last week's article and read the intro there. In the interest of saving us all some time, I'll be cutting out the long explanation moving forward.
Week 6 showed us some potential turning points in backfields around the league, including a troubling sign in Chicago for Jordan Howard owners. I also try to highlight a few deeper names to consider on waivers, as the first four-team bye week of the season comes in Week 7 when the Packers, Steelers, Seahawks, and Raiders all take a break. I touch on all of that and more below.
percent TS = percentage of total team passing targets player received
percent AY = percentage of total team air yards player received
Philadelphia Eagles at New York Giants
Barkley was a revelation with over 200 total yards. It's truly amazing what he's able to accomplish given the offensive line and quarterback he plays alongside.
Barkley led the team in targets, receptions, and receiving yards. But, tell me again why the Giants didn't need to take a quarterback at No. 2 overall?
Los Angeles Chargers at Cleveland Browns
We know what to expect from this backfield. Philip Rivers only threw 20 passes, taking away some opportunities from this duo, though that really only impacted Ekeler.
With Rivers throwing just 20 passes, it was tough for anyone to really get going. Tyrell Williams popped for a couple of nice touchdowns, but his role is up and down week-to-week. Don't chase this performance.
Johnson was finally more involved in the passing game, catching four passes for 73 yards. Perhaps they'll remember what a good weapon they have there. Or, they will just keep doing the same thing.
Make moves for Njoku, whether he's on waivers (unlikely) or via trade. He's become one of Baker Mayfield's favorite targets and actually leads the Browns in targets over the last three weeks (30). Callaway continues to get targeted downfield frequently. The Browns play the Buccaneers next week, who are on pace to be one of the worst passing defenses in NFL history. If there were ever a game for Callaway to catch fire, that'd be the one.
Buffalo Bills at Houston Texans
McCoy is dominating this backfield now that he's healthier. The Bills offense is bad though, so starting him comes with a very limited ceiling.
Miller returned to the lineup and gutted out an OK performance against a deceptively stout Buffalo front seven. Blue playing 40 percent of the snaps is noteworthy, though.
Even when the Houston passing offense struggles, Nuk can still get his. This group should bounce back against lesser defenses.
Pittsburgh Steelers at Cincinnati Bengals
McDonald is emerging as a streaming option at tight end. He's had games of 7-68 and 5-52 in two of the last three weeks. That's not amazing production, but at tight end this year, beggars can't be choosers in fantasy.
Joe Mixon, RB - 15 touches (Wk 5: 25, Wk 4: n/a, Wk 3: n/a, Wk 2: 21), 67 percent snap share
With Boyd and Green locked into such consistent target shares and air yards profiles there's never a reason to take them out of your lineups. Green is a locked-in WR1 while Boyd is an incredibly consistent high-end WR2.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Atlanta Falcons
Peyton Barber, RB - 17 touches (Wk 5: 10, Wk 4: n/a, Wk 3: 8, Wk 2: 8), 63 percent snap share
Barber put together a nice performance, with over 100 total yards and a touchdown. It's tough to put too much stock in this since it came against a Falcons defense decimated by injuries, but Barber is worth monitoring. Ronald Jones handled just 18 percent of team snaps and four touches in Week 6. You can move on.
Jameis Winston spread the ball around quite evenly in his first game back, with six different receivers getting four-plus targets. The depth of targets in this offense is great for Winston, but frustrating for fantasy owners.
The Falcons were in catch-up mode for much of this game, limiting the opportunities on the ground for this group. Smith plunged into the end zone on a goal-line carry, furthering ruining the day of anyone who started Coleman.
Chicago Bears at Miami Dolphins
Through the first three weeks, Howard out-targeted Cohen and had 10 catches. In the two games since? Cohen has seen 17 targets to Howard's two. It's a worrisome trend, especially since Howard hasn't been electric on the ground either.
I guess Matt Nagy finally realized what a weapon Cohen can be out of the backfield. In the Bears' last two games Cohen leads the team in targets (17), catches (14), is second in receiving yards (211), and third in air yards (106). If Cohen somehow landed on waivers during the Bears' bye week, definitely add him.
Gore went for over 100 yards on the ground, while Drake hauled in four passes, giving him 11 receptions over the last two games. This is a full-blown committee, but Drake's passing game work makes him a bit more palatable in PPR as a deeper flex option.
Ryan Tannehill was a last-minute scratch before this game, which put Brock Osweiler under center. Osweiler finished with a career-high in passing yards thanks to some epic catch-and-run plays from his teammates. It might be time to cut Kenny Stills loose. He's had three or fewer catches in five straight games, and his season high for targets is just six. He's an excellent deep threat in an offense that refuses to throw deep.
Carolina Panthers at Washington Redskins
Christian McCaffrey, RB - 15 touches (Wk 5: 22, Wk 4: BYE, Wk 3: 17), 100 percent snap share
McCaffrey's involvement in the passing game gives him one of the safest weekly floors in fantasy. He only rushed the ball eight times with the Panthers falling behind early but hauled in seven passes for 46 yards.
It should be no surprise to see a healthy Olsen getting targeted by Cam Newton immediately upon his return to action. He's a name to check for on waivers in case people forgot about him while he was on the shelf with a foot injury.
Chris Thompson (knee, ribs) missed this game, but the team considers him day-to-day. Washington jumped out to an early lead which allowed Peterson to remain involved in the offense for the full 60 minutes, as has been the case all year.
Seattle Seahawks at Oakland Raiders
Just when we thought we were getting clarity in the Seattle backfield, they go and muddy it up by bringing Penny back into the mix. It's possible his role spiked because the Seahawks dominated the Raiders. Eight of Penny's 11 touches did come in the fourth quarter. Still, we'll need to keep an eye on this moving forward.
Over the last two weeks Russell Wilson has thrown six touchdown passes on just 44 attempts (13.6 percent touchdown rate) to go along with only 420 passing yards. That's insane efficiency likely to regress to the mean soon. I recommended trading the Seattle passing attack last week after a similar game. Now that they've put two in a row together it might be a wise idea to shop players like Wilson, Lockett, and Baldwin. There is just not a ton of raw volume to go around here.
Arizona Cardinals at Minnesota Vikings
David Johnson, RB - 20 touches (Wk 5: 20, Wk 4: 25, Wk 3: 16, Wk 2: 14), 95 percent snap share
It breaks my heart to see an electric player like Johnson trapped in an offense like this. Johnson's six touchdowns are keeping his fantasy value afloat, but he's averaging 3.2 yards per carry and 7.9 yards per reception after averaging 4.4 yards per carry and 11.5 yards per reception during his last two healthy seasons.
Last week I mentioned in this space how the Vikings ground game had been stuck in neutral since Dalvin Cook's hamstring injury in Week 2. Well, Murray shifted gears and turned on the NOS, rushing for 155 yards on 24 carries (6.5 YPC) and a touchdown. Cook could return next week, so be cautious and watch the injury reports before setting and forgetting Murray into your lineup next week.
Thielen has opened up the season with six straight 100-plus yard games, and has four touchdowns to boot. That's amazing. I get more and more mad every day that I took Gronk instead of Thielen in the third round of my main fantasy league.
Indianapolis Colts at New York Jets
Mack's return from a hamstring injury certainly dampens any excitement around Hines. Mack immediately took over the featured duties on the ground and performed well, taking his 12 carries for 89 yards. Jordan Wilkins appears even more droppable now than he was before.
Neither back really got going in this one. With Crowell and Powell splitting playing time and touches so evenly, it spells lackluster fantasy days all around.
Quincy Enunwa suffered a high ankle sprain and could miss the next few weeks at least. That makes Pryor and Jermaine Kearse interesting darts off waivers. The Jets next three games are against Minnesota, Chicago and Miami, three good defenses, but with bye weeks ramping up a big-play threat like Pryor might be among your best options, depending on the size of your league.
Los Angeles Rams at Denver Broncos
Gurley rushed for 208 yards on 28 carries, averaging 7.8 yards per rush and added two touchdowns for good measure.
Cooper Kupp is likely to miss Week 7 against the 49ers, which could put Josh Reynolds on the deep waiver-wire list. He didn't do much in this game, but he's a name to circle at the very least. Kupp's absence could just mean more work for Cooks and Woods, giving them more upside than usual when all three are on the field.
Royce Freeman, RB - 8 touches (Wk 5: 8, Wk 4: 8, Wk 3: 14), 38 percent snap share
Philip Lindsay, RB - 15 touches (Wk 5: 15, Wk 4: 14, Wk 3: 4), 30 percent snap share
Freeman is looking more and more like a touchdown-dependent fantasy asset, which is hard to trust on a low-scoring outfit like the Broncos. Lindsay's work in the passing game at least gives him a usable floor. He caught six passes for 48 yards here.
This was Thomas' second game in a row where he scored in garbage time, which is great if you started him in those weeks. It's also really tough to trust moving forward. Sanders looks like Case Keenum's No. 1 target by a pretty wide margin at this point.
Jacksonville Jaguars at Dallas Cowboys
Injuries in this backfield forced the team to sign and play street free agent (and fantasy legend) Jamaal Charles. He looked OK, but the Jags fell behind by a lot immediately and that forced them to the air and off their preferred script.
The Jaguars could really benefit from a true No. 1 wide receiver. They have a diverse, talented group here that can pop up in random games. But, when the script turns pass-heavy like it has the last two games, Blake Bortles does not have a go-to option. That creates messy fantasy situations like the one above.
Elliott crossed the century mark on the ground and found the end zone. That's a perfect day from your first-round fantasy pick.
This will go down in history as the Cole Beasley Game. That's a bit of hyperbole, but Beasley put up an impressive 9-101-2 game against the league's best secondary. I'm honestly not sure what to make of this performance. Beasley is a good player, but there's no way he replicates this. However, if he starts being more heavily featured he could make for a nice PPR asset. Odds are he's on waivers in your league.
Baltimore Ravens at Tennessee Titans
Collins became more of a featured back this week as Baltimore was in control of this game from pretty much the kick off until the final whistle. This is revealing, though, for how these backs are viewed in the offense. It's further evidence that Allen is the preferred pass-catching back while Collins is the grinder and clock-killer. This is information to possibly exploit in DFS or deeper leagues when Baltimore figures to be in more competitive games.
The Titans might be the best example for Matt Harmon's assertion that running back talent does not matter in fantasy. On the surface, Lewis and Henry should be one of the league's most talented running back duos. Yet week after week they struggle to get any sort of reliable production going. They're hamstrung by a mediocre passing attack, a befuddled quarterback, and an offensive scheme rarely creating mismatches for them.
Davis has had some bright spots (this wasn't one of them), but it's starting to look like this isn't a passing attack we want any part of in our regular fantasy lineups. Mariota has only thrown for more than 130 yards in ONE game this year. Granted, he's been injured for part of one of them, but that is a depressing stat.
Kansas City Chiefs at New England Patriots
Whew, 185 total yards and a touchdown for Hunt. His 67-yard receiving touchdown was an absolute beauty. If his passing game work keeps up (six targets here), his fantasy stock will rise back to 2017 levels.
Gronk is closing in on a career-high slump for games without a touchdown, but they will come eventually. It's nice to see Gordon lead the team in targets and be looked at deep. The Patriots passing offense isn't quite firing on all cylinders, but the pieces are finally in place for an explosion soon.
San Francisco 49ers at Green Bay Packers
It's tough to get a read on Breida, because almost every week it looks like he suffers some sort of multi-week injury, but then he's back out there gashing defenses the following week. Mostert looked really good against the Packers and makes for a nice speculative add off waivers. Maybe this was a matchup-based start. Or maybe he's usurped Alfred Morris as the No. 2 back here. Only time will tell.
The 49ers absolutely wrecked the Packers with play-action passes in the first half. It's nice to see Goodwin back out there at 100 percent, because I'm not sure there's a player in the NFL who could beat him in a foot race outside of Tyreek Hill. The 49ers play the Rams next week, so Goodwin might be a nice upside play there as well given the injuries in the Rams secondary.
What a fantasy nightmare this backfield is.