This article is part of our ADP Analysis series.
The NFL is, of course, a week-to-week league. Once we think we know something, a market correction is usually right around the corner. Some players and teams remain somewhat constant, but we also had plenty of surprising performances Sunday.
- It was beginning to seem like the public was slightly overlooking the Buffalo offense entering Sunday's game against the Dolphins. The Bills have been excellent all year and came up with a massive performance against the Dolphins. They actually didn't have incredible play volume but got a number of explosive plays. Stefon Diggs, Gabe Davis and James Cook each had plays of at least 34 yards. Diggs played well in the first three games but had yet to post a huge performance. That changed quickly! He was clearly the star of the game while showing doubters that their concerns were misguided. And we shouldn't overlook Josh Allen. He threw for more than 300 yards while accounting for five touchdowns.
- We saw a legendary performance from the Dolphins offense last week. Obviously, this week's opponent was much more difficult. Miami lost this one 48-20. Not only is Buffalo a well-coached defense, it has a lot of veteran talent on that side of the ball. As a result, Miami was unable to generate many explosive plays. For the first time this year, Tua Tagovailoa was under pressure. The one positive came from De'Von Achane. He found the end zone twice in the first half. However, his big run of 55 yards came in the fourth quarter when the game was well out of hand. Despite a mere mortal performance by the Miami offense, it will be just fine. This was a tough divisional opponent on the road. Expect the Dolphins to light up the scoreboard all season.
- It's difficult to take much away from the Jaguars' offense against the Falcons. The Jags ran out to an early lead and controlled the game. The offense then became predictably conservative, which was smart. Even though Calvin Ridley had just three targets, at least he caught an early 30-yard touchdown to salvage his fantasy day. Christian Kirk and Evan Engram continue to see significant targets, and they continue to be strong fantasy performers. As a team, the fantasy numbers have not been what many hoped for. Regardless, the Jaguars are right on the cusp of breaking out. I don't believe it's a matter of if, it's just a matter of when. Hopefully, that happens in the next week or two.
- I think the Atlanta offense is in trouble. Not only was Desmond Ridder ineffective, as he often is, but he threw two interceptions in the first half. He also had another that was dropped. Aside from Bijan Robinson, who is clearly a superstar, there is no player on this offense that we can count on each week.
- Similar to last year, Justin Fields had a horrible start to the season, but just like last year, he came out of nowhere with a monster fantasy performance. The beauty of his big game is that he did not do much as a runner. He ended up passing for more than 300 yards and four touchdowns. He relied heavily on his three top receivers, and DJ Moore and Cole Kmet had big fantasy performances. And, as we assumed, when the game is close, it's Khalil Herbert who gets the majority of the running back work. Due to the positive game script, Herbert rushed for more than 100 yards and caught a touchdown pass. Chicago is miles away from being trustworthy for fantasy, but this performance was definitely encouraging.
- The Broncos were probably fortunate that they fell behind by multiple touchdowns to the Bears. As a result, Russell Wilson was compiled three TD passes. His overall fantasy numbers this season have been decent, though it's mostly due to bad game script. But we can't argue about how we get our fantasy points. Denver is terrible, so Wilson and his top receivers can provide fantasy managers with solid floor performances as they should throw often in the second half. Also, if Javonte Williams misses time, Jaleel McLaughlin will be part of the running back committee, and he'll have appeal in PPR leagues.
- With Deshaun Watson out with a shoulder injury, the Cleveland offense had no chance against the Ravens. The only player with a useful stat line was David Njoku, who caught six passes for 46 yards. Until Watson returns, this is an offense to avoid for fantasy. Hopefully, his absence is short-term.
- The Ravens were without two starting receivers and an offensive lineman against an incredible Cleveland defense. Lamar Jackson deserves a ton of credit. He completed 15 of 19 passes with a pair of scores to Mark Andrews. Jackson also chipped in a pair of TDs on the ground. Jackson's passing numbers this season have not looked great. But his fantasy production has improved since the first two weeks of the season. Zay Flowers did come up with a big play on a deep pass to salvage his fantasy day, But he hasn't looked as good as he did in the season opener. Jackson and Andrews are obviously must-start players. Flowers is a solid option in PPR leagues.
- The Steelers are a mess. Their passing game is barely functional. They're unable to get in manageable down-and-distance situations to give Najee Harris a chance to help them sustain offense. Jaylen Warren has been a solid fantasy option because the team is always in obvious passing situations. That leads to him catching a bunch of dump-off passes in addition to some runs against light boxes. George Pickens' vast talent is wasted in this offense. Pickens is difficult to trust in fantasy lineups.
- I was already a believer in C.J. Stroud after the first couple games of the season. But I was concerned that without most of his offensive line missing, he would struggle this week. The Pittsburgh pass rush is usually lights out; I thought it would overwhelm the young quarterback. Stroud has proven to be almost matchup proof. He put up another 300-yard game with multiple touchdown passes. And after his only down game of the year last week, Nico Collins completely went off for 168 yards and two touchdowns. Stroud and Collins are automatic weekly starters. However, for those already rostering an elite quarterback, Stroud would obviously be a backup in those situations.
- The Vikings finally found themselves in a game that wasn't a shootout. Kirk Cousins wasn't sharp, but fortunately the team didn't need him to be. The only player with a strong fantasy performance was Justin Jefferson. Although this was the first time he didn't post a ton of yardage, he found the end zone twice, and he continues to be an unstoppable fantasy force. Although Alexander Mattison remained the clear lead back, his 17 carries for 95 yards wasn't as impressive as the 40 yards on five carries that Cam Akers recorded. I'm not sure how this backfield will shake out, but I know that Mattison only had good games against two weak opponents while he struggled against the better ones. I have to think that Akers will have an increased role as the weeks go on.
- The only positive take away from the Panthers is that Adam Thielen continues to get it done. The veteran has at least 15 PPR points in each of his last three games. Based on volume and production, he has to be considered a top-36 receiver until further notice. He's been productive with both Bryce Young and Andy Dalton at quarterback.
- We never know what we'll get in divisional matchups. After the Washington offense looked as if it would crumble under pressure, we weren't overly excited about it playing at Philadelphia. Somehow, Sam Howell flirted with 300 yards and helped the team put 31 points on the board. And one of these years, we'll learn to never bench Terry McLaurin. Regardless of matchup, he is a player who is always capable of putting up a solid performance. Not only is he matchup proof, he's proven to be quarterback proof as well. I wish he had played his career with a great quarterback. We could have been looking at a player everybody views as a superstar.
- Although the Commanders have a good pass rush, this was not expected to be a difficult matchup for the Eagles' offense. Philadelphia couldn't get the running game going at a high level, but the passing game was on point. Jalen Hurts threw for more than 300 yards, and for the second week in a row, A.J. Brown showed his ability to take over games. The superstar dominated targets on his way to a 175-yard and two-touchdown performance. The offense might not be back to its 2022 efficiency just yet, but it could be on the verge.
- The last couple weeks, Derrick Henry didn't look very good. His snap share was slashed. His performances were shaky. And with that came whispers of his demise. But as he seems to show us every time that happens, the man can never be counted out. He shredded the Bengals for 122 yards and a touchdown on the ground while also throwing a goal-line TD pass. The team needed little else from its offense as it blew out Cincinnati. The re-emergence of Henry could lead to the entire offense playing better.
- Things aren't going well for the Bengals. After a solid showing last Monday, they could not have been any worse in their matchup at Tennessee. Aside from a first-quarter field goal, they didn't score. And even while trailing by 21 points at halftime, there was no tangible garbage-time production. Ja'Marr Chase continues to see targets while giving us a floor performance, but there was nothing else. Until we know that Burrow is back to 100 percent healthy, it's going to be difficult to trust him in fantasy lineups. Chase is the only player we can put our confidence in now.
- For those who needed to count on Baker Mayfield in superflex leagues, he has been much more than we could have expected. Even though his yardage was merely adequate, he threw three more touchdown passes Sunday. With Mike Evans leaving the game early with a hamstring injury, Chris Godwin was targeted 11 times and cashed in as the lead receiver with his first 100-yard game of the season. Otherwise, Rachaad White had volume, which allowed him to have a reasonable fantasy performance. White will be very dependent upon matchups to be useful for fantasy, but Mayfield will be in the weekly mix in leagues that require two starting QBs. If Evans misses time, Godwin will see his fantasy value increase drastically.
- I'm not sure how healthy Derek Carr was in this game. There was little good about the way the Saints' offense played at home against a Buccaneers defense dealing with injuries. Even though he had less than three yards per touch, Alvin Kamara had an excellent season debut for fantasy. He caught an incredible 13 passes. With 43 total yards, he still ended up with 17.3 PPR points. Although Chris Olave had just one catch for four yards, he was slightly overthrown for a potential long touchdown pass. Even the superstars have an occasional bad game. Once we establish that Carr is fully healed from his shoulder injury, the Saints will usually be a solid fantasy unit when they're at home. On the road, they are much more matchup dependent.
- The Rams' high-usage players had strong fantasy performances against the Colts. In what could be the last game that the Rams are without Cooper Kupp, Puka Nacua continued his assault on the league. He caught nine of 10 targets for 163 yards and a touchdown. The TD was the game-winner in overtime. Matthew Stafford surpassed 300 yards and fortunately the extra session allowed him to get his only TD pass. Finally, Kyren Williams had a rare effort of at least four yards per carry, leading him to top 100 yards with two scores. Williams needs to remain in fantasy lineups due to volume until further notice. I wish I could say what Nacua's role will be once Kupp returns, but I have to assume he continues to see at least five targets per game. Meanwhile, Stafford is probably best used as a matchup option each week.
- It was good news for the Colts that Anthony Richardson finished a game for the first time in three tries. Not only did he throw for a pair of TDs, but he also ran another one in. It helped that the Colts trailed by 20 points at the half. That made sure that Indianapolis would be in chase mode the rest of the way. Zack Moss continued to be involved, and even though he rushed for just 70 yards, he was missing multiple offensive linemen and still got it done. Unless Jonathan Taylor comes back, Moss will continue to be a strong weekly starting option, and it's reasonable to consider him a top-15 running back. With his rushing ability along with reasonable yardage in the passing game, Richardson is definitely in play as a top-12 QB each week.
- The Cardinals might not be scoring a ton of points, but Marquise Brown and James Conner have had reasonable scoring floors this season. Even though the team has a fairly low-volume offense, they are the clear top options in the offense. Arizona has been better than most expected and each of its games have been competitive. The statistics the Cardinals are compiling are not a product of garbage time. It was also good to see Michael Wilson score the first two touchdowns of his career. However, until his target share goes up, he will be tough to trust in fantasy lineups. Brown and Conner, though, are players who definitely should be in weekly fantasy lineups.
- The 49ers were in a close game through three quarters against the Cardinals, and they put the game in the hands of Christian McCaffrey. As usual, he was nearly unstoppable, posting more than 170 scrimmage yards and four touchdowns. Also, Brandon Aiyuk made the most of his targets, as he easily sailed past 140 yards. As often happens, George Kittle had one of those games where he was rarely used as a receiver. Finally, Deebo Samuel hadn't practiced all week, and was mostly a decoy when he was on the field. Obviously, each of these players are in starting lineups every week, but aside from McCaffrey, the volatility is the one frustration of rostering the pass catchers.
- When the Patriots have a favorable matchup, they definitely have players who can come through for fantasy. Facing the Cowboys wasn't one of those situations. Mac Jones was under pressure, the defensive coverage was tight and the Patriots' playmakers simply are not good enough to win against great defenses. The one concern that may not go away is an offensive line that is not good at run blocking. As a result, Rhamondre Stevenson hasn't gotten on track. And unless the team figures something out, it will be difficult for the running backs to have consistent success in this offense.
- Normally, Bill Belichick would have a very good game plan that could slow an offense like Dallas. But the Patriots are thin in their secondary — and lost Christian Gonzalez early in the game — which kept them from showing some of the versatile looks that create confusion for offenses. In a game that was never in question, the Cowboys got most of their offensive players involved. For the third time in four games, Jake Ferguson was targeted seven times. that resulted in his first big yardage game of the season. Based on volume, he has an excellent chance to finish as a top-12 tight end.
- Josh Jacobs still isn't anywhere near sniffing four yards per carry, but his usage in the passing game has made him a viable fantasy option. He ended up the team leader in receiving yardage while also scoring a short touchdown to make the game close late in the fourth quarter. It's still possible that Jacobs improves as the season goes on from a performance standpoint. But in terms of fantasy, you're definitely using him, as his volume ensures weekly success. Rookie Aidan O'Connell had to start at QB with Jimmy Garoppolo recovering from a concussion. He was smart to force targets to Jacobs and Davante Adams. Despite getting sacked frequently, O'Connell kept the Raiders competitive. The offense should be a bit better when it gets Garoppolo back.
- If I lived three lifetimes, I don't think I'd ever figure out the Los Angeles Chargers. I understand that it was a divisional matchup. but I also understand that having a franchise quarterback like Justin Herbert against a vastly inferior defense should result in significantly more production than we saw in this game. Justin Herbert threw for 167 yards and one TD. Keenan Allen caught three passes for 32 yards, though he did score. Yes, they only threw 24 passes, playing as if this would be an easy win, and they were lucky to get that. You would think this team would have learned that there is never an easy win. Anyway, continue to start Herbert and Allen with confidence. The other players are matchup-based options. Finally, it would be great if Austin Ekeler returns to action soon.
The following players did not return from injuries:
- Mike Evans suffered a hamstring injury. Trey Palmer and Devin Tompkins saw increased work during his absence.
- Tee Higgins fractured his ribs and could miss some time. Tyler Boyd is likely to find himself in a more prominent role in his expected absence.
- Javonte Williams sustained a hip injury. Jaleel McLaughlin shared the running back work with Samaje Perine in his absence.
- Pat Freiermuth injured his hamstring. Connor Heyward would be the likely recipient of pass-catching work if Freiermuth is sidelined.
- Juwan Johnson injured his calf. It's likely the three primary wide receivers will see a slight bump in targets if Johnson can't make it back for the next game.
- Kenny Pickett was quickly ruled out after suffering a knee injury. Mitch Trubisky took over in his absence. Pickett will undergo an MRI.