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 take a flamethrower to 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.
Bengals RB Gio Bernard vs Giants (-5.5)
Total: o/u 43 | 53% Started
Despite winning just two games this season, numerous Bengals have been locked into fantasy lineups partially due to incredible passing volume and claiming the third highest plays per game. Over the last four weeks Tyler Boyd has been the WR18, Tee Higgins the WR24 and, for the purpose of this column, Gio Bernard the RB16.
I mentioned volume as a vehicle for this production, but only the right driver could steer it in the right direction due to a poor offensive line setup that prevented any “easy” matchups on offense from a game to game perspective. That driver, Joe Burrow, is now gone for the season and the replacement might not possess NFL caliber-skills.
Bernard produced a negative fantasy score in the two quarters after Burrow exited on Sunday, despite the Bengals leading 9-7 at the time. Perhaps Zac Taylor shifts to a more balanced, run oriented approach after propelling Burrow to the most passing attempts in the NFL through 11 weeks, but Bernard simply is not good enough to overcome bad quarterback play and bottom five offensive line play, unless he receives 25 touches. Even with Burrow, the Bengals were last in the league in average yards gained on first down. Tough sledding is ahead for Bernard and this offense in second/third and long scenarios, especially against the Giants who are far better against the run than the pass.
Prediction: 11 carries for 29 yards, 5 catches for 21 yards
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Titans QB Ryan Tannehill at Colts (-3.5)
Total: o/u 51.5 | 27% Started
Ryan Tannehill contributed at least two touchdowns in 9-of-10 games this season. The only exception? Week 10 against the Colts, where Tannehill completed just 15 of 27 attempts for 147 yards and one score. In fact, 40% of his passing yardage on the day and the lone passing touchdown occurred on the Titans’ first drive. Tannehill was practically shut out after that, and Tennessee failed to score a single point in the second half.
Looking into that Week 10 game, the glaring weakness I found was the Titans’ third down conversion rate dropping from 46% in all other contests to just 3-of-10 successful attempts against Indianapolis. What do you expect to change when the Colts host this game at home? Perhaps Arthur Smith self scouts and runs less on first downs where the Colts’ defense has been outstanding, theoretically improving Tannehill’s output for this game. But I trust in the No. 6 ranked pass defense and No. 5 ranked run defense (according to DVOA) to win out again and keep Tannehill under his season average of 20.21 fantasy points per game (QB11).
Prediction: 19 of 29 attempts for 190 yards and one touchdown
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Broncos WR Jerry Jeudy vs Saints (-5.5)
Total: o/u 43.5 | 38% Started
Drew Lock’s production has been abysmal the last two weeks, combining for one passing touchdown compared to five interceptions. Yet despite those performances, Jerry Jeudy has been a fairly steady force by averaging 10 targets, 4.5 catches and 76 yards over his last four games. His 40 targets are the third most in the NFL in that span and he is the league’s leader in air yards. I know I just used those averages as evidence, but last week’s matchup against the Dolphins was easily the most difficult for Jeudy from an individual standpoint and the results were easily the lowest of the sample (just 37 yards on three catches). Sunday’s game against the Saints’ surging defense is comparably tough.
Per Sharp Football’s Rich Hribar, the Saints have allowed a touchdown on just 1-of-32 opponent possessions over the past three weeks. Janoris Jenkins stepped up in a big way last Sunday against the Falcons with Marshon Lattimore hurt, and the consistent disruption of Cameron Jordan, David Onyemata and many others will give Drew Lock nightmares. So while the advanced numbers suggest Jeudy has untapped production on the field, consider his quarterback remains Drew Lock - the real root of why Jeudy’s production each week is more “potential” than practical, due to a ridiculously high percentage of uncatchable targets.
Prediction: 8 targets, 4 receptions for 52 yards
Bills RBs Zack Moss and Devin Singletary vs Chargers (+5.5)
Total: o/u 53.5 | 25% Started
Throughout the last 11 weeks, Brian Daboll has displayed a willingness to attack defenses at their weakest point. Against the Patriots, Zack Moss handled 14 carries for 81 yards and two touchdowns and Devin Singletary commanded 14 carries for 86 yards - not to mention Singletary seeing 23 opportunities against the Raiders and 17 against the Rams. However, those backfield-based approaches seem to be in the past. Over the last two games against Seahawks and Cardinals, two explosive offenses, the Bills trusted Josh Allen and the passing game as the core of their identity - leading Moss and Singletary to combine for 54 total rushing yards on 22 attempts and seven total receptions. Justin Herbert and the Chargers’ offense easily can be classified as “explosive.”
Daboll is smart to continue this approach. It is the logical path to victory when you roster Stefon Diggs, John Brown, Cole Beasley and Gabriel Davis. Put the ball in your playmakers’ hands. The total of 53.5 indicates both passing offenses will have plenty of success. If you are forced to start one, go with Moss who is more likely to score a touchdown in the red zone, but it would be surprising if either qualify as top 24 options at the position.
Prediction: Combine for 13 carries for 44 yards, 5 catches for 21 yards