The goal of any fantasy season is to make as many good decisions as possible, hoping that the accumulation of good decisions will get you where you need to go. I am not saying everyone listed in this article needs to be automatically benched on your roster — your team depth and context will determine how you play that. Perhaps you’ll use this column more for a DFS slant, or as a springboard to player props.
Like anything else, I advise you to consider any reasonable argument you come across but ultimately make your own measured decision.
I welcome your own fades (and music reccos, and dog photos); join me on Twitter: @scott_pianowski.
Josh Jacobs at Colts
I understand the pickings are generally thin at running back. You might be forced to play Jacobs. And given how productive he was last week (129 rushing yards, 28 touches), you might be reluctant to sit him.
The problem is, the Colts rushing defense has been nasty of late. Chase Edmonds, Rhamondre Stevenson and Rex Burkhead (I know) were all held under four yards a carry the last three weeks. The Indianapolis defense is getting healthier, too.
And then there’s the problem of game script. The Colts are a touchdown favorite in this game, and Jacobs is generally a bad fantasy option when the Raiders don’t win. Mind you, we’d prefer any running back operate in a game his team is expected to control, but here’s the split skinny on Jacobs for his career:
• In Raiders wins (19 games): 85.6 rushing yards per start, 22 touchdowns
• In Raiders losses (22 games): 57.5 rushing yards per start, four touchdowns
And no, receiving work hasn’t bailed Jacobs out in losses. He’s actually averaged fewer receiving yards in the defeats.
Marquise Brown versus Packers
Hollywood has continued to collect targets in recent weeks, even with Lamar Jackson’s frequent inability. It’s been 38 looks over the past four weeks. But Brown’s working on seven weeks without a touchdown, and the deep ball has disappeared. His last 39 catches have gone for just 271 yards, a shocking 6.95 YPC.
Maybe Jackson plays this week — far from a sure thing — and makes a sad song better. But if Jackson does start, he’s unlikely to be 100 percent. And if Jackson doesn’t start, we’re looking at a backup quarterback start again — backup quarterbacks who have clicked with TE Mark Andrews but show no chemistry with Brown.
The industry still considers Brown inside the WR2 cutline, but I push him back a tier and view him as a reactive play, not a proactive one.
Saquon Barkley at Bears
The Elizabeth Wurtzel memoir Prozac Nation started with a quote that was cribbed from Marguerite Duras’ The Lover:
"Very early in my life, it was too late."
It’s a tidy but powerful line. And I can’t help but think of it when I consider the shape of Barkley’s career. He’s been in the league four seasons, ranking as such in standard fantasy formats:
• RB122 (played just two games)
You can blame all sorts of things for Barkley’s collapse. Start with injuries, consider New York’s shoddy blocking, the failure of Daniel Jones to develop, the inconsistent and injury-riddled receiver group. And then consider the shape of running back careers in the current NFL, where so many backs feel used up before they even start their second contract. It's a cruel, meat grinder position.
The Giants aren’t merely a bad offense this year, they’re the worst. They’ve failed to top 316 yards of offense since Week 5, and last week they collapsed to 192 yards against an Eagles defense that’s league average. The Chicago defense is a step down from Philly, but it doesn’t matter.
You don’t have to stop the Giants in 2021 — they’ll stop themselves.
Maybe the Giants will put together a drive and Barkley will get lucky with a goal-line carry or two, but that’s a tricky needle to thread when the team has just 16 points the last two weeks. Fantasy football is about going where the points are. There’s nothing to see here. Barkley’s outside my top 30 at the running back position again. I wouldn’t want my playoff chances depending on him.
Mike Gesicki at Titans
I assure you this isn’t a Penn State smear campaign, putting Barkley and Gesicki in the same column. I didn’t think my TE17 tag was controversial for Gesicki this week, but his industry rank is a tier higher. Maybe they see something I’m missing.
What’s missing lately with Gesicki is touchdowns — he hasn’t had one since Week 7. You might remember the seven-target, zero-catch game he had against Baltimore in Week 10. If you blinked, you missed Gesicki last week — three catches, 22 yards at New Orleans. He’s averaged 35 yards over his last eight games.
Miami’s offense is an ordinary group, and when it wants to pass Jaylen Waddle is the overwhelming first option. DeVante Parker is probably in front of Gesicki now too, even if that didn’t show Monday. Gesicki is still sitting at TE11 for the year, a nod towards survivor bias. But given his lukewarm form of the past two months, I can’t use him in this money week.