Fantasy football matchups: Jags’ Thomas faces the TE-friendly Lions

Last week, we noted here that Cardinals RB David Johnson “might be the best matchup-based start in the history of fantasy football.” Johnson responded to the praise with 101 yards from scrimmage, two touchdowns and an RB5 ranking for the week. D.J. didn’t live up to the hype, and we won’t forgive him for a long time.

We’ll keep plugging away, but remember that you’ll rarely see recommendations here to start guys like Johnson, because you should always start players like him. Most of the suggestions below aren’t for must-start or must-sit types.

Note: The fantasy points per game allowed (FPPG) referenced below are from standard leagues.

Week 11 byes: Falcons, Broncos, Jets, Chargers

Thursday game: Saints at Panthers


Stay away: Carson Palmer, Cardinals (@ Vikings)

Palmer has averaged 360 passing yards over his last three starts, but the guess here is that he’s due for a speed bump against a Vikings’ defense that ranks third with 13.2 FPPG allowed to opposing quarterbacks. Also, it’s a well-known fact that teams flying from west to east for 1 p.m. starts lose 99 percent of their games. (OK, maybe it’s not 99 percent, but historically they’ve struggled.)

The FPPG numbers don’t scream for any borderline quarterback options, but Taylor fits the bill against a Bengals’ squad that ranks 28th with 19.8 FPPG allowed to opposing passers. We considered Blake Bortles for his visit to 31st-ranked Detroit, but to paraphrase the great philosopher Crash Davis, Bortles couldn’t hit water if he fell out of a ****ing boat.

Running backs

Stay away: Tim Hightower, Saints (@ Panthers)

Remember a week ago, when the Saints appeared to have a two-headed monster in the backfield? Hightower was on the field for 14 snaps to Mark Ingram’s 22 in Sunday’s crushing loss to the Broncos, running eight times for just 21 yards. Things don’t get any easier for Hightower on Thursday, as he’ll face a Panthers’ D that ranks third with 13.6 FPPG allowed to opposing running backs, and has allowed just 3.4 yards per carry.


Rashad Jennings (15 carries, 87 yards) ran better than usual on Monday night, but the Giants have struggled on the ground all season, and will host a Bears’ defense that ranks fourth with 13.9 FPPG allowed to opposing backs. In Sunday’s blowout loss at Tampa, the Bears’ silver lining was giving up just 78 yards on 30 carries.

Yes, we know. Crowell’s workload has diminished, and he’s run for more than 30 yards just once over the last five weeks. However, the four bad games over that time were against teams among the top eight in rushing yards allowed (Titans, Jets, Cowboys, Ravens).

This week, the Browns host a Steeler squad that ranks 31st with 24.4 FPPG allowed to opposing running backs, and a mediocre 15th in overall rushing defense. I’ve got Crow at RB20 in this friendly spot.

Wide receivers

Stay away: Jordan Matthews, Eagles (@ Seahawks)

Matthews didn’t practice Wednesday due to back spasms, but he’s expected to play Sunday at Seattle. He might not want to, as the Seahawks rank sixth with 20.8 FPPG allowed to opposing wide receivers, and have given up just six touchdowns through the air in nine games. Pete Carroll’s crew seems to be hitting its stride, making Sunday’s matchup a tough one for Matthews and his teammates.

With Markus Wheaton and Darrius Heyward-Bey both out and Sammie Coates dealing with a couple of broken fingers, Rogers has stepped up recently, catching 14 passes for 180 yards and a score over his last three games. Not only do the Browns rank 31st with 27.4 FPPG allowed to opposing wideouts, but Steve Smith went for 5-60-1 against them from the slot last week, and Cole Beasley tagged them for 6-56-1 the week before. Rogers is far from a superstar, but he couldn’t be in a better spot.

Tight ends

Stay away: Kyle Rudolph, Vikings (vs. Cardinals)

Two games with new OC Pat Shurmur have been inconsistent for Rudolph. He caught one pass for a one-yard TD against the Lions in Week 9, and went 5-69-1 at Washington in Week 10. This week, the Vikings host a Cardinals’ D that has excelled against tight ends, allowing a league-low 2.6 FPPG. Rudolph is normally ranked among the top 12 at his position, but this week he’s just a bit outside thanks to his stingy opponent.

Were last week’s 10 targets a fluke for Thomas? Maybe, but tight ends have pummeled the Lions for 12.7 FPPG and an average of a touchdown per game. If you’re looking to stream at this position, Thomas remains available in 42.6 percent of leagues.


Ladarius Green was in for 12 snaps during his 2016 debut in Week 10, and caught three passes for 30 yards. Green will be fantasy-relevant if he gets busier, and he’s about to face a Browns’ D that ranks 31st with 12.3 FPPG allowed to opposing tight ends. If you find the other streaming options too boring, consider a swing for the fences with Green.


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