The Lineup Cheat Sheet combines Fantasy analysis and game-flow predictions with a confidence scale to give you a definitive answer on who to start in your leagues.
The higher the number next to a player’s name, the more confident you should be to start him.
If a player isn’t listed, don’t start him.
Numbers are based on non-PPR scoring but are typically applicable to PPR formats.
To find a specific player, use your search function — CTRL-F on PCs and Command-F on Macs. If neither of those are options, or if you’re on a mobile device, you can search by game.
If you’re still unsure, just send a note on Twitter (@daverichard) using #CBSFLCS and I’ll give it a look, time permitting.
Jaguars at Titans
We’re at the point in the season where these Thursday night games take a toll on players. But the teams that can run the ball effectively typically come up big, and that’s perfect for the Titans. Jacksonville’s run defense has played well, holding four straight teams to under 4.0 yards per rush, but it’s going to have a hard time keeping DeMarco Murray out of the end zone.
The Jaguars have all but given up on running the ball, averaging a league-worst 20.5 attempts per game. The matchup is better for them through the air, anyway, and Antwon Blake looks like the guy taking over for Perrish Cox at left corner. That means the Jaguars can shuffle through their receivers and line up their guys opposite him all game long.
This should not only help the matchup for Allen Robinson, who should bounce back, but it also keeps Marqise Lee relevant as he’s been playing outside receiver more than Allen Hurns. Lee has reeled in 17 of 20 targets for 196 yards in his past three games, including a 100-yard game last week against the Raiders. He’s a high-upside bye-week receiver and an even better roster stash since he has some potential to develop.
Redskins vs. Bengals in London
Marvin Lewis beat one of his former offensive coordinators last week, and he’ll have the chance to do the same this week against Jay Gruden’s Redskins. But defensively, Cincy has been lousy for much of the season, giving up 24.2 points per game before holding the Browns to 17 last week. They’ve particularly fallen off against running backs as that position has totaled 5.3 yards per rush, 7.4 yards per catch and six total scores over the last three weeks. Figuring out which Washington running back will do what is tricky, but don’t be surprised to see Gruden utilize his running backs more than usual.
Stats will tell you Washington has tightened up against the run because only one rusher has scored on its defense the past three weeks. But the reality is Washington has played the Ravens, Eagles and Lions, three of the least efficient rushing squads in the league. The Bengals rank 10th in rush yards per game (115.7) and 14th in rush attempts per game (26.3). While Hill’s best bet for Fantasy success involves the end zone, Fantasy owners should be delighted with Bernard’s 16.0 carry average over the last two weeks. Gio has also had at least eight Fantasy points in three straight. Both should work as No. 2 options.
Chiefs at Colts
The game script for Indy is the same game after game, but there’s no doubt this is the toughest defensive challenge it has faced in five weeks. But the Chiefs aren’t impossible to score on. Since they got routed at Pittsburgh, they have allowed three scores and two 120-yard games to receivers in two games. The culprits in the Chiefs defense haven’t been their outside corners either, meaning the Colts will have to manipulate the matchups and put T.Y. Hilton in the slot and/or run routes in the middle of the field to make a play. Those will be the areas Luck will have the most success too, not down the sideline.
For the past few weeks, the Chiefs have been winning on the strength of Spencer Ware’s running. He and the Chiefs O-line have looked great and Alex Smith hasn’t had to attempt any more than 24 passes per game. That’s how the Chiefs would probably like it, but every quarterback to take on Indy this year has attempted at least 33 passes, and each of the past four have thrown multiple touchdowns and found at least 20 Fantasy points. That includes Blake Bortles, Brock Osweiler and Brian Hoyer. Smith is a candidate to do the same, and Travis Kelce should help him get there.
Cardinals at Panthers
This is a tough spot for the Cardinals. They’re coming across the country for a 1 p.m. kickoff after playing five quarters against a tough Seahawks team Sunday night. Oh, and the team they’re playing was on bye last week. That’s not a death knell for the Cards. In fact, the Panthers are 1-4 all-time with Cam Newton and Ron Rivers coming off of a bye. But the Panthers are desperate for a win and should bring a physical style on both sides of the ball to wear down a tired Cardinals defense.
The stats and the matchup suggest starting Palmer, but the eyeball test just doesn’t match up. Carolina’s secondary has played poorly amid injuries, and its pass rush isn’t that strong. Two of the past three quarterbacks to play the Panthers have thrown four touchdowns and Rivera’s defense has given up 395.7 yards through the air in those three games. But Palmer’s arm just doesn’t seem as strong now and the Panthers should seem content blitzing him and not defending the deep ball very often. It’s a risk to sit Palmer given the matchup but with 14 or fewer Fantasy points in each of his last four, he’s done nothing to evoke confidence.
Raiders at Buccaneers
This is a trap game for the Raiders — the first one for the franchise in a while. They host the Broncos next week in a huge AFC West battle. It doesn’t help that they’ve been living and practicing in Florida all week either. Tack on an Oakland defense that isn’t as good as the Jaguars made it look last week and an improving Buccaneers defense that is as good as it looked last week and we could assume trouble ahead for the silver and black.
The Buccaneers run defense is tougher with Gerald McCoy on that defensive line, but it didn’t matter last week when the 49ers’ backs punched in two total touchdowns and averaged 4.0 yards per carry. Murray’s value is tied to his touchdown production. If he doesn’t score, he’s going to leave you feeling sad. But he has found the end zone in every game he’s finished, and last week got a season-high 20 touches. The Raiders coaches now know what we’ve known for a while — Murray is their best running back. Expect him to get a nice dose of work including goal-line carries this Sunday.
Seahawks at Saints
Being on the road for the second week in a row, especially after playing five quarters at Arizona on Sunday night, leaves the Seahawks in a tough situation. The plus side is that Wilson and the offense aren’t playing the Cardinals anymore. They’re playing the Saints, who rank 23rd against the run and 30th against the pass. Four straight quarterbacks have scored twice on New Orleans and five of six passers have found 20 Fantasy points. With the expectation of a high-scoring game on the horizon, look for Wilson to take more control through the air and give the Seahawks a reasonable chance at victory.
The hunch is the Seahawks will let Richard Sherman play to his right side and DeShawn Shead to the left side. It will mean the Seahawks will probably opt to tilt coverage in Cooks’ direction, even in zone coverage, leaving Thomas and Snead with lighter coverage on underneath routes. This would mean Snead picks up the most appealing matchup based on expected targets, and that would also be the case if the Seahawks decided to try man coverage and put slot corner Jeremy Lane on Snead. Clearly close to full health after last week, this is a good time to take a chance on Snead as a No. 2 receiver.
Lions at Texans
It took Bill O’Brien just a couple of minutes after last week’s loss at Denver to mention how the Texans need to improve their passing game. Well, the perfect matchup comes to town this week as the Lions have given up good numbers (at least 20 Fantasy points) to every quarterback they’ve faced. Moreover, talented cornerback Darius Slay is in jeopardy of missing the game with a hamstring injury. That opens the floodgates for the Texans. Expect Brock Osweiler to make a statement and lean heavily on DeAndre Hopkins, Will Fuller and even C.J. Fiedorowicz as the Texans get their passing mojo back.
It seems risky to start Fuller, but he has come through in every home game he’s actually played, and last week he probably kicked off whatever rust was left on him following his hamstring injury. Getting the Lions at his place should cure all ills as Detroit has allowed seven touchdowns to receivers over its past five, with slot corner Quandre Diggs particularly problematic in coverage. Look for Osweiler to target Fuller deep several times.
Patriots at Bills
Only once in the Bill Belichick Era have the Patriots lost to the Bills in their second divisional meeting. It was 2014, a Week 17 throwaway where the Pats had nothing to play for. There is no doubting who wins this game as the Pats typically clean up their mistakes from their first meeting with Buffalo and clean their clocks the second time around. With LeSean McCoy, Sammy Watkins, Robert Woods and potentially Marquise Goodwin all sidelined, there’s not a whole lot the Bills will be able to do to pull out a win.
Bennett’s production, like everyone else’s, will be based on how the Bills play the Patriots and the flow of the game. Pro Football Focus says Bennett ran just 19 and 12 pass routes in his past two games, and his snap counts are down from earlier in the year. It suggests he’s not nearly as involved because of the dominant nature of the Pats’ last two wins as opposed to helping in a blowout win like he did against the Browns in Week 5. The Bills’ tendency to play man-to-man coverage might open the door for Bennett to come through with a touchdown, but it’s not like Fantasy owners should expect a ton of yardage. Besides, Gronk is typically the guy who sticks it to his hometown Bills.
Jets at Browns
If the Jets were able to upend a depleted Ravens defense last week, they should roll against a really bad Browns defense. Every team to play the Browns has run the ball at least 22 times and all but one had a rusher score on them. Do the Jets want to play it safe and not let Ryan Fitzpatrick sling it, or do they want to try and get FitzMagic back in the saddle by letting him throw it around? This would be the matchup to “get right” — every quarterback to play the Browns has thrown multiple touchdowns, and all but Kirk Cousins had over 275 passing yards.
Thanks to a steady diet of touches, Crowell has 13-plus Fantasy points in four of seven games. That’s pretty good for a No. 2 Fantasy running back, particularly considering his depleted offensive line. This week will be a big challenge as the Jets should have Muhammad Wilkerson back on their beefy D-line. Only the Cardinals have steamrolled Gang Green on the ground this season, so this would be a tall order for Crowell to deliver another game with 70 total yards and a touchdown.
Chargers at Broncos
Expect the Broncos to stay committed to their run-first approach even with C.J. Anderson sidelined. The team really likes Devontae Booker and probably has confidence in third-stringer Kapri Bibbs too after he beat out Ronnie Hillman in training camp. So with a run game this deep and a healthy offensive line, why chuck it around?
Since he got hurt, Siemian has completed 58.7 percent of his passes for 5.16 yards per attempt and one touchdown per game. And if you take out his big game at Cincy (it sure looks like an outlier), his season-long stats improve to a 63.1 completion percentage and 6.37 yards per attempt with one or no passing scores per game. Yep, this doesn’t help the outlook for the Broncos receivers, but the Chargers pass defense has been playing better than expected lately anyway.
So here’s a weird trend: Rivers has thrown two touchdowns in each of his past four games at Denver, but has found 20 or more Fantasy points in just one of the games. Speaking of rare 20-point Fantasy games, the Broncos have allowed one all season and it came on the strength of Cam Newton rushing for 54 yards and a score. No quarterback to play the Broncos, including Rivers two weeks ago, has thrown two touchdowns.
This feels like the kind of spot where Rivers goes off, be it playing from behind or in a closer game, but with his receivers banged up and his own track record against the Broncos spotty, Fantasy owners are safer to pass on him. But don’t trade him away — the rest of the schedule is real nice for the Chargers.
Packers at Falcons
This should be a heck of a matchup. The Packers are loaded with receivers and the Falcons have enough defensive backs to give them a chance in coverage, while the Falcons are a little thin on receivers (outside of Julio Jones, of course) and the Packers secondary is beat to h-e-double-hockey-sticks. It’s going to come down to just how much Matt Ryan can get out of Jones. This could end up being his second-best game of the season with Green Bay’s pass defense missing too much talent.
The biggest problem defenses face when they play this receiver-heavy version of the Packers is having enough defensive backs to match up. This isn’t as big of a problem for the Falcons, who will likely trust Desmond Trufant to lock up Jordy Nelson. That should mean winnable matchups across the field for other Packers receivers, but not Nelson. Trufant has given up two touchdowns on the year but has held receivers in his coverage to less than 75 yards per game. Quarterbacks are completing just 53.7 percent of their passes against him. He also took down speedster Travis Benjamin for much of Week 7. This could be another slow week for Nelson as Rodgers picks on other Falcons defenders.
Eagles at Cowboys
This game might get dictated by how effective the Cowboys run offense is. Philadelphia has had some struggles with good O-lines and run games already this season, and this will be a huge test for it. Only two teams — the Redskins and the Vikings with Matt Asiata — attempted even 20 runs against Philly. You better believe Ezekiel Elliott’s going to get a lot of work, creating a balanced approach for the Dallas offense and potentially forcing Carson Wentz to throw into what’s become a very good pass defense.
Based on the Cowboys’ track record, and based on my gut, Matthews has a chance to help you out in Week 8. Of the seven touchdowns caught by receivers, five have been from the slot. Mind you, no No. 1 receivers have caught a score on the Cowboys yet this year, but his role as an inside receiver could open him up for a bunch of targets. It has been weeks since he’s been a major factor in the passing game, and the Eagles should aim to get him more involved. It doesn’t hurt that he has scored and had 50-plus yards in three career games against the Cowboys when he’s had at least two targets.
Vikings at Bears
Poor Jay Cutler. I know no one feels sorry for him, but as soon as he gets a chance to play, his offensive line gets banged up. Josh Sitton and Kyle Long — meaningful starting guards on that line — are out. That’s going to rush Cutler’s time to drop back and throw against the Vikings’ No. 4 ranked pass defense. And if he’s struggling, his receivers are bound to struggle, too. Though Cutler’s return should eventually mark some improvement for Alshon Jeffery, this is such a tough matchup to count on anyone in Chicago for Fantasy.
This isn’t the perfect opportunity for the Vikings running backs to “get right,” but it’ll do. Chicago’s offense figures to have a lot of trouble with the Minnesota defense, giving the Vikings offense flexibility to do what it wants. I mean, the Packers were able to accumulate over 100 yards on the ground against the Bears last week and that was with receivers running the ball! The Vikings offensive line is a legit liability but the workload and opportunities in the passing game should give McKinnon and Asiata a shot at 70 yards or more total. Touchdowns could also factor in, especially Asiata at the goal line. Asiata’s the better back in PPR formats, too.