Welcome to the Fantasy Football Forecast! My goal with this weekly column is to get you actionable information as quickly as possible, regardless if you're playing season-long fantasy, DFS, or are grinding player props. If you're just looking for fantasy football rankings and only have 10 minutes to skim through for your sit/start decisions, then head over to the "Forecast" sections below where I project each player's PPR finish based on a 12-team league. But if you want to get your research on, then I have full player breakdowns. As always, hit me up on Twitter @HaydenWinks if you have questions.
Before we get into the usual Forecast, I’m sharing some Next Gen Stats data with you folks. The heat map below shows where NFL defenses are allowing completions in 2019 with the dark red meaning more passes are being completed to that area of the field. Each team’s map is pretty similar, but there are differences. It helps me to pay attention to the 10-yard line to see if defenses are more vulnerable underneath or to the intermediate part of the field. There are also defenses that are more vulnerable to screens, which you’ll be able to tell by looking below the 0-yard line. Lastly, there are not many completions that happen beyond 20 yards, so most of the teams don’t have white or red spots downfield. I have just 20-yard completions in another graph later in the column.
Teams are listed in order of their implied points.
Page 1: BAL, KC, LAR, ATL, DAL, GB, HOU, CAR, ARI
Page 2: LAC, SEA, MIN, SF, TB, JAX, CLE, WAS, DEN
Page 3: NO, DET, PHI, TEN, MIA, NYJ, CIN, PIT
TNF: NE, NYG
Byes: BUF, CHI, IND, OAK
1. Ravens (29.75, -12) vs. CIN
Update: Marquise Brown (ankle) didn't practice this week and is a game-time decision. If Brown plays, he's a risky WR3. If Brown misses, Willie Snead and Miles Boykin will see more opportunities. Mark Andrews and the running backs could also see increased usage.
Lamar Jackson is fantasy’s QB1 overall despite a few slower weeks recently. This is a bounceback spot against the DVOA’s second-worst pass defense. There’s certainly an argument to be made for LJ over Mahomes this week since the reigning MVP is a little banged up. … Mark Ingram has the best individual matchup and game script on the slate. The Ravens are 12-point home favorites, and the Bengals have allowed the most fantasy points to running backs this season. Ingram is an RB1 with touchdown equity.
Marquise Brown has been slowed down by an ankle injury -- that foot injury is also still in my mind as something to be cautious with -- but he still offers insane weekly upside. The Bengals are in the bottom 25th percentile at preventing 20+ yard plays and have been specifically bad at defending downfield passes. Brown is a classic boom-or-bust WR3 right now. … Willie Snead benefits from Brown’s injury, but he’s still a low-volume, short-area target. … Mark Andrews is also playing through an injury, which lowers his floor and might even lower his ceiling, but he’s still seeing TE1 usage and has plenty of touchdown equity with the Ravens’ weekly-high 29.75 team total.
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2. Chiefs (29.5, -4) vs. HOU
Patrick Mahomes becomes human when he’s playing through an ankle sprain. Mahomes was able to get in full practices this week, so he should be fine for Sunday. The Texans Defense is in the bottom 25th percentile at stopping fantasy quarterbacks. Mahomes is obviously a top-three QB. … Damien Williams saw 100% of the Chiefs’ running back rush attempts (9) and ran twice as many routes (22) than LeSean McCoy last week. Williams was the clear-cut No. 1 option, and he gets a friendly home matchup in what should be one of the highest-scoring games of the week. Williams is a high-upside RB2, while McCoy is a boom-or-bust RB3. Darrel Williams is off the radar for now.
Medical experts don’t believe Tyreek Hill (shoulder) will be rushed back this week, and Sammy Watkins (knee) is looking on the doubtful side of “questionable” after not practicing Thursday. That means Mecole Hardman, Demarcus Robinson, and Byron Pringle are heading towards being the top receivers of the week. Hardman and Robinson have shown their elite ceilings -- Pringle can absolutely smash this week, too -- and the Texans Defense is in the bottom 20th percentile at stopping fantasy receivers this season. All three are, at least, on the upside WR3 map right now as receivers perfectly made for DFS tournaments. I’ll update this when more info is obtained. … Travis Kelce has elite usage (see chart above) and is overdue for an eruption week since he only has one touchdown this season. Kelce is the highest-ceiling TE in fantasy, especially if Hill and Watkins are out.
3. Rams (27, -3.5) vs. SF
Update: Todd Gurley is doubtful, so Malcolm Brown is in line for a start with Darrell Henderson coming in to help with pass-catching work. Brown is an RB2. Henderson is an upside RB4. I'd add Henderson if I had a bench spot available.
The Rams’ weakness (Jared Goff’s struggles against pressure) and the 49ers’ strength (pass rush) make this a tough matchup. Vegas believes it won’t slow down the Rams too much given their 27 team total, however, and Goff could be tasked to throw a lot if Gurley were to miss this week. I’m also confident in Sean McVay, so Goff is still a decent QB1/2. … Todd Gurley (quad) is questionable, and this is what Sean McVay said about the situation if Gurley were to miss: "Fortunately for us, we’ve got some depth at that position. The confidence we have in Malcolm (Brown). There’s also going to be a time that we’re going to rely on Darrell Henderson, it might end up being this week." Brown figures to be the favorite to lead the backfield in rushes and goal-line opportunities, while Henderson could chip in with pass-catching work and the occasional carry. I’d confidently fire up Brown as an upside RB2 if Gurley’s out. Henderson would be a wait-and-see RB4, though he does have upside others in that range don’t have. If Gurley is active, then he’s an RB2 with plenty of touchdown equity.
Brandin Cooks is trending towards playing despite suffering a concussion last week. Cooks has operated as the team’s No. 2 receiver and field stretcher, while Cooper Kupp has emerged as the clear-cut No. 1 target for Goff. Kupp is leading the NFL with 63 targets and is third in PPR points. He’s a strong WR1 whenever at home, while Cooks carries a WR2/3 label and more inconsistent production. … Robert Woods is the third passing-game option this season when everyone is healthy, but the Rams have thrown enough passes to give him at least WR2/3 usage in four of five games. … Gerald Everett has TE1 usage in each of the last two games (see chart above) and is beginning to show the “Jordan Reed upside” he had when he was selected in Round 2 of the 2017 NFL Draft. Everett is a low-end TE1 at this point.
4. Falcons (26.75, -2.5) @ ARI
Marry Ryan has 300+ yards in all five games. The Falcons’ non-existent rushing offense and bottom-shelf defense are so bad that Ryan is being forced to pass the ball 40+ times more often than not. His floor and ceiling are really high, especially against the Cardinals who are in the bottom 10th percentile at stopping fantasy quarterbacks. Ryan is a strong second-tier QB1. … Devonta Freeman continues to nothing with his carries (3.2 YPC) and is losing snaps and touches to Ito Smith. The Falcons want to give Freeman the benefit of the doubt, but he needs to produce to keep whatever role he has left. The matchup is quite ideal here and there is touchdown equity with a 26.75 team total, but Freeman is barely on the RB2/3 borderline given his recent production and workload.
Julio Jones is second in air yards and the Cardinals’ secondary sucks. Julio is in a smash spot. … Calvin Ridley is top-20 in air yards among receivers, and the matchup is obviously perfect. The Cardinals have been particularly weak 20+ yards downfield, and Ridley’s Week 6 is very similar to Will Fuller’s Week 5 spot. Ridley has a lot of upside as a WR2/3. … Mohamed Sanu’s usage came back down to earth after a wild Week 4. His norm is 5-8 targets, so he’s a fine WR4 if you’re looking for a bye-week filler. … Austin Hooper has the most PPR fantasy points among tight ends. He’s benefiting greatly from the Falcons’ non-existent rush attack and poor offensive line. Hooper’s TE1 usage is likely here to stay. Oh, and the Cardinals have allowed 16.4 PPR points per game to tight ends this season. He’s a top-five TE this week.
5. Cowboys (26.25, -7.5) @ NYJ
Dak Prescott has absolutely balled out in 4-of-5 games, and the Jets Defense is amongst the worst in the NFL. This is a very easy situation to evaluate. Prescott will have his chances to win downfield (see chart above) and offers upside with his legs. He’s a strong QB1. … Ezekiel Elliott might not have his 2018 workload, but it’s still a role (15-25 touches) that gives him DFS tournament-winning upside, especially since the Cowboys are 7.5-point favorites with a 26.25 team total. Elliott is a no-brainer RB1. The Jets are still without LB C.J. Mosley.
Amari Cooper is seeing elite usage and his efficiency with Prescott is off the charts (10.4 YPT in 14 games). Cooper is a strong WR1. … Michael Gallup has WR1/2 usage in the three games he’s played. Gallup also has been very efficient (11.7 YPT in 2019) and will be taking advantage of the Jets’ league-worst defense at stopping 20+ yard pass plays. Gallup is more of a WR2 than a WR3. … Randall Cobb has reached the “10 PPR Expected” threshold in back-to-back weeks, so he’s in the mix as a WR5 here. … Jason Witten is a touchdown-dependent TE2 on a team with the fifth-highest team total (26.25).
6. Packers (25.75, -4.5) vs. DET
It’s now been 16 games since Aaron Rodgers has a three-passing-touchdown performance. Not great and neither is the matchup. Both offenses are below-average in offensive pace and Rodgers is likely without his top receiver again. Rodgers is barely on the QB1/2 borderline. … Aaron Jones deserves a three-down role -- just look at his Week 5 stat line -- but Jamaal Williams is practicing again after missing last week. That may be nothing since it’s nearly impossible to take Jones off the field after a four-touchdown game, but I will not that Williams out-touched and out-snapped Jones in their last healthy game. With that said, Jones has three-down plus goal-line upside in an offense that should be running the ball a decent amount, so he has a ton of upside as an RB1/2.
Davante Adams has been ruled out, so Marquez Valdes-Scantling and Geronimo Allison will be the primary pass-catchers. MVS has had WR3 usage for the last three weeks, and the Lions’ defense is in the bottom 10th percentile at preventing 20+ yard passes. Valdes-Scantling has upside as a WR3. … Geronimo Allison’s usage isn’t near Valdes-Scantling and Rodgers isn’t firing as many touchdowns as he once was. Allison is a WR4 at best. … Jimmy Graham had three receptions last week after seeing nine targets in Week 4. Graham’s usage is undoubtedly better without Adams and is a candidate for a red zone target or two this week as a TE1/2.
7. Texans (25.5, +4) @ KC
Deshaun Watson has an elite ceiling, especially when playing against good offenses. If the Texans are trailing, then Watson gets his legs more involved, so there are few paths to failure. This week’s matchup is awesome in what should be the highest-scoring game of the week. He’s an obvious top-3 QB. … The Colts laid out the blueprint last week with their run-heavy approach -- the Chiefs Defense is in the bottom 10th percentile in run defense DVOA -- so Carlos Hyde could be in for 15+ carries this week, especially since Chiefs DT Chris Jones (groin) is out for Week 6. Hyde has been the clear-cut back over Duke Johnson (73 carries to 32) and deserves some low-end RB2 love this week with the Texans’ 25.5-point team total.
DeAndre Hopkins has moved on from the elite CB gauntlet that slowed him down early in the season, and he should begin to hit his stride. This potential shootout gives Hopkins elite upside as a strong WR1. Don’t sweat the slow start. … Will Fuller went nuclear last week, which wasn’t a surprise given his WR2/3 usage all season long. Fuller’s high aDOT and chemistry with Watson give him elite upside as a WR2/3. Chiefs DL Chris Jones being out should give Watson time to take his shots downfield. … Kenny Stills has practiced in limited fashion this week, so he’s tentatively on track to play in Week 6. Stills can pop off a big play, but he’s too thin with Hopkins and Fuller leading the way. Stills and Keke Coutee will likely cancel each other out as a zero-floor WR5s. … Jordan Akins has touchdown equity in this offense, but he only has 15 targets this season. He’s a touchdown-dependent TE2.
8. Panthers (24.5, -2) @ TB
The Bucs’ defense has been a major pass funnel this season (see pass efficiency and run efficiency stats above), so Kyle Allen should get his shots as a passer this week and Vegas believes they’ll be moderately productive (24.5 team total). Allen is a decent QB2 and one of the better streamers of the week. … Christian McCaffrey is going to get his regardless, but it is a tough matchup on paper. The good news is he’s an elite pass-catching back even if runs up the middle aren’t working. If his back is cleared, then McCaffrey is as elite of an RB play as we have this season.
The Bucs’ major pass funnel defense is fantastic news for D.J. Moore and Curtis Samuel. As you’ll see below, the Bucs’ defense has been extremely vulnerable right in the middle of the field and that’s where Moore does most of his damage. This should be a week where Moore sees WR2/3 usage. … Curtis Samuel can still get his downfield, as the Panthers’ defense is in the bottom 20th percentile at preventing 20+ yard pass attempts this season. Samuel’s usage has also fluctuated, but he has two weeks of WR1 usage. Samuel is a boom-or-bust WR3. … Greg Olsen will also take advantage of the Bucs’ vulnerabilities over the middle of the field. Olsen’s usage has been lower the last two weeks, but he’s a bounceback candidate as a low-end TE1.
9. Cardinals (24.25, +2.5) vs. ATL
Update: David Johnson is expected to play, but he'll still be testing it out before the game to make sure. My read is Johnson will have his huge workload decreased just a bit this week. The matchup is still good enough to call him a top-10 RB option. Chase Edmonds would draw the start in the event of a setback, but that's less likely than it looked at the beginning of the week.
Kyler Murray is fantasy’s QB7 overall despite a 6.6 yards per attempt and averaging 0.8 passing touchdowns per game. The Falcons’ defense has allowed the second-most fantasy points to quarterbacks, so I won’t be surprised to see a ceiling game from Murray here. He’s a no-brainer QB1. … David Johnson (back) is very questionable after not practicing early this week. Chase Edmonds would be a direct fill-in for D.J. if he can’t suit up by Sunday. The Falcons have been sturdier against the run than against the pass, but there’s enough play volume to overcome any inefficiencies on the ground. Johnson or Edmonds will be an RB1, depending on the extent of the back injury. I’m confident in Edmonds’ on-field abilities.
Christian Kirk (ankle) is back to practicing and looks on track to play Week 6. The Kliff Kingsbury Air Raid filters through its slot receivers, so Kirk and Larry Fitzgerald will see plenty of volume whenever the Cardinals can move the ball with any sort of efficiency. The Falcons’ porous defense should allow that to happen at home this week, so Fitzgerald and Kirk are fine WR2s as long as they are healthy. If you scroll back up to the heat map, you’ll notice the Falcons’ defense has been more prone to the left side of the field, where Fitzgerald lines up most often. … Damiere Byrd is also on track to return from his injury, so outside targets and snaps are muddied once again. Byrd and KeeSean Johnson will be the best for targets, though they remain zero-floor WR5 options at best. The Cardinals aren’t taking downfield shots right now. Maybe that changes later in the season once Murray gets a better feel.