It's the simplest hack in the fantasy football matchup game. Go where the points are. Go where the fun is. Go where volume is likely, go where passing is abundant.
Go where the carnival is.
The Detroit Lions and Tampa Bay Buccaneers aren't going anywhere in 2019. But if you have shares of their offenses — and if you regularly attack those defenses — you can make fantasy hay. Detroit and Tampa Bay have opened up two of our favorite 2019 carnivals.
Week 9 provided another case in point. The amazing Russell Wilson riddled the Bucs for 378 passing yards and five touchdowns in a 40-34 overtime victory — he's the QB1 for this week. Matthew Stafford chucked for 406 yards and three scores, not enough to get Detroit a victory at Oakland but more than enough for fantasy managers. Stafford sits at QB3 this segment. Jameis Winston stands at QB8 (335 yards, two touchdowns) and Derek Carr crept into the Top 10 (289 yards, two scores). Grab a ticket and ride all the rides.
Detroit fits our blueprint perfectly. The Lions are leaky on the back end, and don't have a pass rush. The Detroit running game is a mix of injuries and ineffectiveness. In many weeks, the Lions simply junk the running game and try to outscore teams. It doesn't always work in real life, but it makes for a tasty fantasy stew.
It helps that Detroit has a narrow passing tree and in particular, two star wideouts. Kenny Golladay (4-132-1, seven targets) and Marvin Jones (8-126-1, 10 targets) are likely to break through in any week, sooner or later. Stafford knows where his bread is buttered, and where the ball needs to go. Occasionally, rookie tight end T.J. Hockenson (when healthy) and slot receiver Danny Amendola will join the fun.
Winston might be playing for his future in Tampa Bay; he’s in a contract year. In the eyes of many, he's just good enough to lose with. It's hard to fault Winston for losing after his offense scored 34 points, though Winston also had a costly fumble in the second half. Ronald Jones and Peyton Barber have proven to be mediocre backs, forcing Winston to chuck-and-duck most weeks.
It's an easier script when Mike Evans (12-180-1) and Chris Godwin (7-61-0) are absorbing most of your downfield strikes. There's no third option of note, in part because the team can't keep O.J. Howard healthy or engaged. The Buccaneers defense (good against the run, a giveaway against the pass, an ordinary pass rush) will force Tampa Bay into passing volume. The Buccaneers are usually on their way, but they seldom arrive.
Tampa Bay's schedule is better than Detroit's going forward — we'll enjoy the Bucs against the Falcons in three weeks, and a Week 16 date against Houston. But the Tampa Bay at Detroit game in Week 15 could be the event of the fantasy playoffs. Grab a calculator, grab a holiday drink, sit back and enjoy.
• There was some snickering when the Patriots paid up for Mohamed Sanu, but give the team credit for recognizing someone who fit their scheme and their needs. New England has respected Sanu for a while, and tried to trade for him before the 2019 draft.
• It’s nice that N’Keal Harry is off injured reserve, but I’ll need a prove-it game or two before I consider Circle of Trust privileges. A lost season, basically a redshirt year, is the most likely result. It’s a position all about timing, cohesion, and trust, and Harry has simply missed too much practice time.
• Lamar Jackson is a human highlight film, and the Ravens are a formidable bunch. Baltimore plays with intelligence and swagger; I’d give them a puncher’s chance against anyone, anywhere. That said, I think this team really needs more production from its wideouts if it’s going to be a threat to win it all in January.
• When there’s any kind of a quarterback controversy, teams like play on the field to settle things, take the guesswork out. Gardner Minshew’s step backwards in Week 9 makes it easy for the team to shift back to Nick Foles.
• Minnesota is starting to look like a paper tiger. Ask these guys to beat someone good on the road, it’s an uphill climb. And now Adam Thielen is likely to miss multiple weeks.
• Say this for the Chargers, they got the running game going for the first time since Melvin Gordon returned.
• Would anyone care if Chicago canceled the season? Mitch Trubisky has clearly regressed. The 2017 Draft is going to haunt the Bears.
• Philly has two good tight ends and an emerging stud in back Miles Sanders, but if DeSean Jackson can’t get back, the wideout group is a bunch of red ink. Alshon Jeffery looks like he’s 42 years old.
• No one thinks Ryan Tannehill is a long-term solution, but at least he’s better than Marcus Mariota. And I’m sure no one missed Joe Flacco today. I can’t wait until Courtland Sutton and Noah Fant link up with a bona fide quarterback.
• As boring as the Titans are, Derrick Henry is a fantasy horse, a physical grinder who has one of the highest floors for touches in the league.
• I feel like I say this every week —Ryan Fitzpatrick gives Miami’s offense some credibility. He gives the Dolphins a chance to move the ball. Preston Williams is a useful guy (if healthy), especially during Week 10’s destructive bye week. DeVante Parker has found something. Mark Walton didn’t pop in Week 9, but he has a very high floor for touches. And Miami’s schedule going forward is remarkably soft.
• I’m all for picking up Zach Pascal if you can, but after T.Y. Hilton was ruled out, you needed to proactively look at a possible beneficiary in the Indianapolis offense — before Sunday’s game. When possible, you want to buy at the bottom of the bucket, not at the top. Try to be a week ahead of the curve, before things are obvious.
• I hope you enjoyed the opportunity to fade Freddie Kitchens as a road favorite. Maybe we’ll see it again Week 17 in Cincinnati. After that, we might not see Kitchens again.
• I’ve run out of adjectives for Russell Wilson. He’s ridiculous, and the clear MVP front-runner. It’s nice to see Tyler Lockett finally get the avalanche of targets he deserves. Why make it easy for the defense? You have a cheat code, use it liberally.