1. Rob Gronkowski vs. WAS
Rob Gronkowski now leads every single valuable tight end receiving metric. No other tight end has more targets, receptions, yards, or touchdowns. Washington has allowed only one tight end touchdown. However prior to Week 6, the Redskins had allowed an average of 5.4-62 to the position. They also have not faced a tight end close to Gronkowski’s level of talent. It also will not help Washington if they cannot get back their top three cornerbacks: DeAngelo Hall, Chris Culliver, and Bashaud Breeland. All three are in various stages of disrepair as of this posting.
2. Tyler Eifert vs. CLE
Tyler Eifert failed to take advantage of a stellar matchup last week, but he still has scored at least once in more than half of his starts this season. Only three teams have allowed more touchdowns to the position than Cleveland. That includes a pair by something called Troy Niklas last week. The Browns will be without their top two defensive secondary pieces in Joe Haden and Donte Whitner. They may also have to turn to third-string rookie, Ibraheim Campbell at safety with reserve, Jordan Poyer questionable with a shoulder injury. All of these absences will surely free up space for Eifert.
3. Martellus Bennett @ SD
Eric Weddle wasn’t traded but he remains hurt. Marking just one more tick on the Chargers’ injury report, which is currently four pages shorter than War and Peace. Their offensive line is completely different than at the start of the year. Their top WR is out for the season and their other starting WR has been hurt and/or ineffective for the better part of the last month. These injuries aside, the Chargers’ secondary has been their biggest decimation. Last week, three of their four secondary starters were at least partially injured. Add to that, that three of their reserve secondary members were also injured. Plus they were without their starting MLB and their best pass-rushing DE left the game with a foot injury. In case you needed any other reason to start Martellus Bennett (and for that matter all of the passing elements in the Bears’ offense), San Diego has allowed tight end touchdowns in five of eight games.
4. Heath Miller vs. OAK
A lot of attention was put forward in regards to how grateful Antonio Brown was to have Ben Roethlisberger back. Perhaps some of that attention should’ve been shaded towards Heath Miller. He actually received more targets last week than even Brown did. In fact he received as many targets last week as he had received total since the second week of the season. With the absence of LeVeon Bell, Miller became Checkdown-Charley for Big Ben. That isn’t likely to change going forward. On their side of the ball, Oakland has been the laughingstock of the league when it comes to covering tight ends this year. Even never-used backup tight end, Kellen Davis, scored against them last week. That put them at eight tight end touchdowns allowed through seven games.
5. Greg Olsen vs. GB
The Packers have allowed only two tight end touchdowns this year. That said they have been victimized by the position the last two weeks allowing an average of 9-118 to their opposition. Greg Olsen currently has just one fewer target than Gronkowski and his 518 yards ranks fourth amongst all tight ends. He even fights through “weather terrorism” as he posted a studly 6-79-1 in the driving rain this past Monday night.
6. Gary Barnidge @ CIN
I’m still waiting for my residual checks from Gary Barnidge after prognosticating his ascension a few weeks back against Oakland. Since then he has gone from being an afterthought that wasn’t even owned by his own family into one of the top tight ends in all of football. Since that game he has scored and/or topped 100 yards in every contest. Meanwhile the Bengals have given up over 100 yards to three different teams’ tight end crews this year. This includes allowing an unconscionable 25-225 to the position over the last two weeks.
7. Ben Watson vs. TEN
Over the last four weeks, Ben Watson has outperformed Jimmy Graham 26-369-3 versus 20-275-0. I guess New Orleans got the better end of that deal. Tennessee should have their whole secondary back this week, but Jason McCourty, Perrish Cox, and Michael Griffin have all missed time recently with injuries. Assuming they all play, Tennessee might be able to shut down some of Drew Brees’ weapons. That is where the problem comes in; they can’t stop all of the weapons. Tennessee has given up big fantasy performances by tight ends in the three games where they also had to shut down two or more solid wide receivers. With Willie Snead and Brandin Cooks tying up their top cover options Watson could perform similarly to how Tampa, Miami, and the Colts’ tight ends did against them. Those three teams averaged 6.3-85-1.3.
8. Jordan Reed @ NEP
Hold the presses! Jordan Reed is healthy this week! In the five games he has suited up for this season, Reed has actually produced fantasy-relevant stats averaging 7-70. He also has three scores, two of which came in his last start against Tampa. The Patriots are bound to jump out to an early lead so expect Kirk Cousins to be throwing it a lot this week. Despite missing two games already, Reed ranks second on the Redskins in targets. The return of DeSean Jackson may draw a few passes away from him, but it should also open up the middle of the field which could help free him up.
9. Delanie Walker @ NOS
Delanie Walker hasn’t scored a touchdown since Week 1. Fortunately for his owners, Walker has topped five receptions and/or 50 yards in four of five games started since that first week. This includes averaging 7-71 over the last three weeks. The Saints have allowed the sixth-most receptions to the tight end position as well as the second-most yardage. They have held only two teams’ tight ends under 50 yards this season. I doubt they start now.
10. Austin Seferian-Jenkins vs. NYG
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers will once again be without Vincent Jackson opening the door for Austin Seferian-Jenkins to have a solid game. This of course will require him to actually suit up though. Several fantasy owners thought we might see his return last week. It was delayed a week, but he seems like a strong bet to be back in the lineup for this contest. You might remember ASJ from his dominance back in Week 1 against the Titans. He played briefly in Week 2 before sustaining the injury that has kept him out ever since. The Giants have given up far-and-away the most receptions and yardage to the tight end position. They are also tied for fourth-most tight end touchdowns allowed, so Jenkins could be poised for a revival of sorts.
11. Antonio Gates vs. CHI
Chicago has allowed the second-fewest receptions and the fewest yards to the tight end position this year. Of course, they also have faced only two legitimate TE1. Those two tight ends (Jimmy Graham and Travis Kelce) have nearly half of the total stats accrued by opposing tight ends against them. Antonio Gates definitely falls in that quality range. He just needs to be fully healthy. Gates played last week, and he is averaging 7-81 over his three games since his return but he is also still not 100%.
12. Jason Witten vs. PHI
I’ve made a point previously regarding Philadelphia’s dominance keeping opposing tight ends out of the end zone. That said with so many teams on bye, it’s hard to pass up this future hall-of-famer. Jason Witten caught 7-56 against Philly Week 2 with Tony Romo at the helm. If you dig back a little further you’ll find that dating back to 2013, Witten has faced the Eagles five times averaging 6-57. Talk about consistency. That is right around his season average, despite the revolving door at quarterback. Last week was the first time this season that Witten failed to catch more than four passes. This is probably because this was the first time all season that he was targeted fewer than six times. If Matt Cassel can rein in some of his wobbling ducks, Witten might have another solid but definitely not spectacular game this week.
13. Jacob Tamme @ SF
Jacob Tamme had his second big week out of his last four contests as he continues to rack up targets with Leonard Hankerson out. Meanwhile, San Francisco has held the last three teams’ tight ends that they have faced out of the end zone, but prior to that they had allowed tight end touchdowns in three of four. Eric Reid, Ahmad Brooks, and Navarro Bowman all played last week through various maladies. If any of them are limited it will only further open up the underneath passing game for Atlanta. That’s a scary thought seeing as how Julio Jones will already be spreading the field vertically against them.
14. Charles Clay vs. MIA
Charles Clay posted a very solid 5-82-1 against his former team back in Week 3. This was just one of three very solid games among his last five. If you believe in patterns, you might not like this one if you are a Clay owner. The Dolphins have alternated absurdly awful games against tight ends (averaging 8-93 with 3 touchdowns) with complete shutouts against tight ends (literally 0-0-0). Under this trend, Clay would be slated to get skunked. Fortunately we live in the real world where patterns do not trends, make.
15. Richard Rodgers @ CAR
Carolina has struggled the last three weeks at covering opposing tight ends. They have found themselves giving up an average of 8-92 to the position over that stretch. Richard Rodgers saw fewer targets last week with the return of Davante Adams, but he did get thrown at when Aaron Rodgers was under duress. Aaron might find some more pass rush issues this week against a defense that has 11 sacks over the last three weeks. If Rodgers continues to hear footsteps, his namesake should continue to get enough looks to be fantasy relevant at least as a bye-week replacement.
Vernon Davis @ IND
Why can’t I quit you? How many times do you have to break my heart, before I finally say I’m done? It pains me in the cockles to recommend this human-waste-of-space, but you cannot argue with what Peyton Manning has accomplished with worse tight ends historically. Further tempting me to facilitate another hookup, the Colts have allowed the fourth-most tight end receptions and the fifth-most yards to the position. This includes their current streak of three straight where they have given up a touchdown to go along with an average of 7-86.