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Fantasy mailbag: Tap the brakes on Christine Michael hopes

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Fantasy advice: Keep riding Gary Barnidge bandwagon (1:12)

NFL Nation's Mike Triplett shares this week's Insider fantasy advice, including why you should stick with Browns TE Gary Barnidge and be wary of Ravens WR Steve Smith. (1:12)

Thanks for submitting your questions for this week's NFL Nation fantasy mailbag. Send them anytime @MikeTriplett and I'll share insight every week from our 32 team reporters around the league.



@MikeTriplett: That depends on how big of an impact you're looking for.

The Dallas Cowboys do plan to "take the reins off" Christine Michael this week, as running-backs coach Gary Brown put it. But Cowboys reporter Todd Archer cautioned that people need to "tap the brakes a little bit" when it comes to lofty expectations.

"The Cowboys have said he will be in the mix more. But all he needs to do to be involved 'more' is get two carries in a game," Archer said of Michael, who has a total of two carries for five yards since being traded from the Seattle Seahawks last month.

"While I certainly believe he will get more than that, Joseph Randle will continue as the lead ball carrier," said Archer, who pointed to this quote from Dallas offensive coordinator Scott Linehan:

"[Randle] is certainly going to take a good bulk of our reps," Linehan said. "Start the game or not, we have great expectations for Joe to be there. But I wouldn't anticipate there to be big, huge changes for us at this point at the running back position."

So if you took a flier on Michael, this is a positive step in the right direction. And if he takes advantage, it could lead to a bigger role. But don't expect too much right away.



@MikeTriplett: I chose this question because these guys are about as close as it gets, and they're both right on that border between a WR2 and flex play. Jacksonville Jaguars receiver Allen Hurns is averaging 11 fantasy points per game this year, while New York Jets receiver Eric Decker is averaging 10.75, according to ESPN's scoring.

They have both scored exactly one touchdown in each of their past four games. And the ESPN fantasy analysts have Decker ranked 19th among receivers this week, with Hurns at No. 21.

I would lean slightly toward Hurns for a couple of reasons. He has two games of 116 receiving yards in the past three weeks, which suggests a little more upside. And Jaguars reporter Mike DiRocco offered some evidence that Hurns' development into Jacksonville's No. 2 receiver role is no fluke.

"The most important thing about Hurns is his consistency with his work ethic, route-running and production," DiRocco said. "In addition, QB Blake Bortles trusts him, especially on third down. Of Hurns' 460 yards receiving this season, 200 have come on third down. That's 43.5 percent and that ranks fourth in the league among receivers. Hurns also has caught 10 touchdown passes in 22 career games, and he has caught at least one pass in every game he has played."

Decker is no slouch, though, and Jets reporter Rich Cimini said he wouldn't be a bad No. 3 fantasy receiver this week. He's facing the New England Patriots, who are thin at cornerback. Cimini said he expects New England to roll coverage to Brandon Marshall, while the Jets will try to match Decker against a No. 3 corner in the slot.

"I think there's a 50 percent chance he scores one touchdown," Cimini said of Decker. "But I don't see multiple TDs or 100-plus yards."



@MikeTriplett: I'll field this one myself since I cover the New Orleans Saints. I readily admit that I already underestimated Willie Snead this summer, so you can take my advice with a grain of salt. An undrafted receiver out of Ball State in 2014, Snead got cut by the Cleveland Browns and was released from the Carolina Panthers' practice squad last year before winding up in New Orleans. Now, he's on pace to lead the Saints with 1,163 receiving yards.

I'm still not ready to label Snead as the Saints' top receiver option, though. That's still Brandin Cooks. The problem with Cooks, however, is that he draws the most attention from opposing defenses every week. For example, I expect a heavy dose of the Indianapolis Colts' top cornerback Vontae Davis on Cooks this week.

The Saints spread the ball around quite a bit, which makes it hard to expect consistency from anyone. But Snead has emerged as their No. 2 target this season, even ahead of veteran Marques Colston.

Snead and Cooks are tied for the team lead with 25 catches apiece since Week 2. And Snead has especially been a go-to guy on third downs, where he leads the Saints with 12 receptions, 166 yards and 10 first downs.

Clearly, Snead has earned the trust of quarterback Drew Brees and coach Sean Payton, despite the fact that he doesn't have standout size or speed at 5-foot-11, 195 pounds. He's just a reliable, smart, sure-handed, crisp route-runner. He's very reminiscent of former Saints standout Lance Moore, who also emerged as an undrafted receiver to become one of New Orleans' all-time receiving leaders.