Week 3 2017
Last week was another interesting week to be sure. Unfortunately, most of the games that everyone took players from went off. The one big outlier to the chalk here is the Broncos, and kudos to them for demolishing the Cowboys.
Especially after it being so chalky, I want to talk a little bit about being contrarian this week. While going contrarian doesn’t always work out, and is definitely not for the faint of heart, it can lead to huge weeks whenever the chalk doesn’t hit. Also, I’m not trying to argue that you need to go contrarian at every spot – sometimes you just need to eat the chalk with a given player and differentiate elsewhere. Also, there are a couple of positions that I don’t think you need to be as concerned with ownership, specifically QB and DST. In general, there are a few main ways to be contrarian:
- Pivoting to someone in the same price bracket. The simplest pivot is to go from one player who will see a lot of ownership to someone priced very closely to them, but in a less than ideal match-up. This especially works best for the elite players in the league since they all have huge ceilings. For example, this past week we could have gone from Julio to AB. This didn’t work out here, but they do have similar ceilings on any given week and when you can get one at half the ownership of the other, you need to seriously consider it.
- Pivoting to another player on the same team. Again using this past week as an example, Amari had an ideal match-up against the talent-deficient Jets. A much lower-owned option here with about the same TD-equity was Michael Crabtree and he rewarded with 3 TDs.
- Going against the grain with roster construction. In Week 1, we saw great match-ups for both Bell and DJ, so a lot of people did everything they could to jam them in with cheap WRs. Like I said at the time, a great way to differentiate that week was to go high-priced WRs instead of high-priced RBs. Another way to do this is to put a TE in your Flex spot. No one really likes doing this because TEs are very high variance and most of them don’t have the type of ceiling that WRs and RBs do. If you decided to put Gronk and Kelce in your TE and Flex positions this past week, however, each would have rewarded you with over 20 DK points. Going with Ebron and Engram also took down the $3 Primetime tourney this week.
- Leaving money on the table. Most entries are within $300 of the cap just because better players are generally more expensive (duh) and leaving money on the table makes people uncomfortable. This past week, there were a lot of really cheap, but solid options. Usually all of the lower-priced good plays will see high ownership as everyone is looking for a way to cram another stud into a lineup. No one wants to roster all of these plays and leave $2000 on the table though. I did just that and it would have worked out great if Fitz didn’t have a horrific game.
LAR (21.75) @ SF (18.75)
Smart money seems to be on SF here. While they have only received 29% of the bets, the spread has stayed the same or even gone in their favor by 0.5 points (Labs contradicts itself here). While it does still have the Rams winning, I feel like SF might get their first win of the season here at home.
Great, another crappy Thursday game to start off the week. Both of these offenses are within the top half of pass play-calling when it’s a one score game – something that it will probably be for the most of the night here – but they both operate at a super slow pace, so I don’t have my hopes up for anything exciting. Chip Kelly should take notes on this pace thing though – when you have a talent-deficient team, don’t give the opposing offense a ton of time to work with. Duh.
One of these weeks Goodwin is going to have himself a night. Per NextGenStats, he currently sits as the 4th-highest receiver in regards to his team’s intended air yards with 41.1% and is averaging 6 targets per game. The air yards is just below players like AB and Hopkins, and just above Dez (Parker is also higher than him, but in half the sample size). The problem is that the Rams are much more susceptible to the run than the pass as they rank 20th and 3rd in DVOAs respectively. After digging into this a little further, I actually think that Goodwin makes a ton of sense as a flyer here as LAR is 1st against WR1s, but 22nd against WR2s. Their short and long targets also reflect a split that sets up well for Goodwin – they are 2nd against short passes (i.e. bad for Garcon) and 28th against the deep ball. Unfortunately, we don’t have a ton of receiver data yet to really see what’s the signal and what’s the noise here, but I certainly find this intriguing. The most DK points a receiver has put up on the Rams so far is 8.7 (Crowder last week), but obviously this will change at some point and soon.
Part of the reason that WRs haven’t put up big numbers is that the Rams have faced Scott Tolzien so far and then WAS ran it all over them last week. Hyde looks very good so far this year and just put up an impressive 15-124-0 against Seattle last week for a huge 8.3 ypc. The Rams also rank 22nd against receiving backs, so Hyde should eat again here regardless of how Shanahan uses him this game.
Todd Gurley made me eat my words last week as he put up 25.1 DK points and actually managed 5.5 ypc. He will absolutely be a chalky pick for any slate with the Thursday game on it, and I’m going to continue to stay away as he has been ridiculously inefficient outside of the last game. I also still think that Navarro Bowman and Buckner are great run-stoppers for the 49ers, and continue to be underrated (they are only allowing 3.7 ypc so far this year). Finally, SF’s DVOAs suggest that they are slightly weaker against the pass, 23rd, than the run 18th. Granted, neither of these numbers are stellar, but I’m still going to avoid the chalk Gurley here. Feel free to disagree with me if you think he has suddenly become more efficient, but I am an obstinate bastard, so I’m not going back (at least yet). Quick caveat on this for full transparency – I might have some exposure on my Mon-Thurs teams, but that will be it.
Out of the Rams’ WRs, I don’t really love either Watkins or Woods as they are seeing fairly low volume in a slow offense. Side note – apparently Watkins thinks that the Earth is flat. WTF is wrong with people. You can take a flyer on Kupp here in the smaller slates if you want, as he will go against K’Waun Williams who has just been atrocious so far this year (90th out of 106 CBs). Kupp did see a slightly smaller snap count last week and I’m not sure why, but he has seen 6 targets in each game so far (which outpaces both Watkins and Woods), and 1 of these has come in the red zone each game.
BAL (21.5) @ JAX (18)
There is some sharp money on JAX here as they have received only 33% of the money, but have seen the line swing their direction by a full point.
We are three weeks in and the NFL is already shipping JAX over to London for a game. I honestly feel kind of bad for them as, not only are they getting screwed out of a home game, they have to travel across the freaking Atlantic. And this happens to them every year.
Yanda went down with a fracture in his left leg and got placed on the IR, so this obviously hurts the BAL o-line. So far, BAL has been the most run-heavy offense in the league overall, so I’m not sure if Yanda’s injury will change this or not. They get dramatically more pass-heavy in one-score games though. West also has a soft-tissue injury in his leg and was out-snapped by Allen again, so I think that Buck has a real chance to become a lead back moving forward. Keep an ear to the ground about West’s status for this game, but I don’t mind going Allen on small slates. On larger ones, I really don’t like running into JAX as I feel like they are still really solid on D and, if they can stay off the field even for a little, that will help them immensely. I know that TEN put up 37 against them last week, but 31 of these points came in the second half, which suggests that the JAX D is just on the field for far too long and getting tuckered out.
Per Rich Hribar, just about 40% of the receiving yardage versus the Jags has come to the TE position, which is they highest rate in the league to start the year. Ben “Old Man” Watson also put up 8-91-0 last week, so Flacco trusts him and I think that he is the most guaranteed part of this offense for this game. I really don’t want to test Bouye and Ramsey outside as I think that they can shut down Perriman and Wallace easily. I do think that Maclin makes for an interesting play here against Colvin in the slot since he is clearly the weakest of their corners, but he is dealing with an injury and I still prefer Watson over him regardless.
As we know, JAX just wants to run the ball all day. They are the 2nd-most run heavy offense in the league overall and the heaviest in one-score games (i.e. expect both teams to run quite a bit). While it is only a one game sample, it is concerning that Ivory saw 6 carries to Fournette’s 14 last week. With opponents expecting the run, you need Fournette to have massive volume if he will have a shot at reaching value, so Ivory eating into this is no bueno.
Hurns had the TD last week and saw 7 targets, but Lee dwarfed this with his 12. Lee played only 11 snaps out of the slot last week to Hurns 39, which actually means that Hurns should be the play here if he can go as Webb is the weakest part of the Ravens’ secondary and he mans the nickel position. I say if he can go as Hurns was limited at Wednesday’s practice due to a shoulder injury, but he did return to practice in full by the end of the week so he should be fine.
NO (20.5) @ CAR (26)
Greg Olsen broke his foot and will be out 8-12 weeks. While the existing timetable that you will see most places is 6-8 weeks, most players that come back from this injury at the week 8 mark are fairly limited for another several weeks. Depending on where the Panthers are in the standings at that point, I won’t be surprised if they end up shutting him down for the year. Yikes.
With Olsen out, that should free up more targets for the other receivers, but it might make the offense less effective as a whole. Regardless, let’s see what we have here. Russell Shepard runs most of his routes out of the slot as he saw 19 from there last week compared to Funchess’s 10. He has seen only 2 targets in back-to-back weeks, however, so I don’t think I can roster him here. Funchess also saw 2 targets Week 1, but this ballooned up to 7 last week, which was only 1 less than K-Benj’s 8. We have seen the Saints get destroyed by receivers out of the slot in multiple weeks now, starting with Thielen and then Hogan and Burkhead last week, and we have seen them also be very vulnerable on the right side of the formation (I believe that Diggs caught both of his TDs in Week 1 on the right side). From this, we know that we want to target these areas. The Saints are also ranked dead-last in DVOA against the pass currently, and they are uniformly bad everywhere with their “best” rank being against TEs where they clock in at 25. Their starting LCB, the one Funchess should run most of his routes against, also currently ranks dead last among corners per PFF. K-Benj originally projected to go up against NO’s top CB, Marshon Lattimore, but Lattimore has a concussion and just got ruled out. This puts second-year man, Ken Crawley, on K-Benj. Crawley hasn’t played a snap yet this year, but did start 5 games last year for the Saints as an undrafted rookie. Feel free to fire up either or both of the CAR WRs with confidence.
The Saints are only marginally better against the run as they rank 17th in that regard. As the Panthers project to lead in this one, we should definitely take a look at their run game as well. CMC continues to see a decent number of targets, but his carries remain worrying as Stewart paced him 15 to 8 last week and 18 to 13 in Week 1 (the downswing is concerning especially since Rivera alluded to this happening). J-Stew also has 3 carries within the opponent’s 5-yard line to CMC’s 0. Stewart clocks in at only $4700 here, while CMC is a hefty $6100, and the latter should see double the former’s ownership. While CMC is the more dynamic player and could easily break a TD or two, I prefer going with the known quantity in this scenario especially because that option is cheaper and lower-owned. Most concerning here is that starting C, Ryan Kalil, might end up missing this game, which could prove disastrous for the entire offense (in my opinion, C is probably the second-most important position behind QB).
Good news for Fleener here – per Scott Barrett, Thomas Davis has allowed the 2nd-most TE points per target out of any linebacker or safety while in coverage with a whopping 2.43. The Saints again project to be down in this one per Vegas, so they should have to air it out, further brightening Fleener’s outlook. With that being said, even though Davis is giving up a lot of ppt so far, this could just stem from a small sample size as Clay had 3 targets last week and Kittle had 6 in Week 1 (and I assume not all of these went against Davis). Fleener should see around 5 targets again this week and should go at least somewhat overlooked after being relatively chalky last week. In regards to the Saints’ other receivers, Thomas and Ginn have fairly difficult match-ups on the outside versus Bradberry and Worley. One of these weeks, Thomas will have a big game and he is currently averaging 9 targets/game, but I’m probably going to stay away this week. Coleman has the best match-up on paper against Captain Munnerlyn in the slot (one of the best names in the league IMO), but Munnerlyn has been a quality CB in years past, so I won’t be surprised if he rounds into form this year as well. All-in-all, Fleener is really the only option that I’m comfortable with here, but I understand the logic if you want to roll with Thomas.
The backfield continues to seem far from settled as Kamara saw his carries dip drastically this past week, as Ingram and AP both out-carried him 8-1. He did continue to pace them in targets with 7, however, to Ingram’s 5 and AP’s 0. AP in particular continues to be the one back that I refuse to touch with his woeful 3.14 ypc on the year and dearth of targets. Both Ingram and Kamara are cheap, but with their inconsistent usages, it is hard to really like either of them as you are basically counting on either a long TD or a multi-TD game. It is also hard for me to really consider either of them since they split targets and the Saints figure to trail again here.
TB (21) @ MIN (18.5)
Not good news for Bradford – he apparently has a bone bruise and maybe a cartilage issue, and both of these can linger for a while. He did get in a limited practice on Wednesday, but his knee did not respond well to this, and he has already been ruled out this week. You can’t really like any of the MIN pass catchers here with Keenum at the helm as he averaged only 4.5 yards per completion last week, and I fully expect that to continue. You also cannot rely on high volume from anyone as Rudolph, Diggs, Thielen, and Treadwell all saw 6 targets.
Dalvin Cook also saw his carries plummet dramatically to 12 in the negative game script they faced last week against the Steelers. Even though they have only played one game, which has resulted in a woefully small sample size, TB is currently ranked 1st in DVOA against the run. I don’t think this is horribly off though, as they were also very strong against the run last year while Gerald McCoy was healthy (the big games they gave up last year all came when he was out of the lineup or limited).
One thing that I would really like to get some clarity on before this game is whether MIN intends to have Xavier Rhodes shadow Evans or not. They had him shadow AB last week and he performed very well in that capacity, but they didn’t have him on Michael Thomas all that much in Week 1. I’m assuming that Rhodes does shadow Evans, which would then put Trae Waynes on D-Jax. This does not bode well for MIN. As we saw last week, outside of Rhodes, their secondary is vulnerable to the big play as Martavis dusted them for a couple of long catches (one of which went for a TD on an impressive catch-and-run). I think that D-Jax makes a ton of sense here and is definitely worth a gamble at only $4600. My major concern with him is game script as TB won’t have to chuck it around after they get out to a lead. He could easily do his damage before they get up too much though.
MIN continues to be stout against the run as they limited Bell to 87 rushing yards on 27 carries last week and the Saints’ committee to 55 combined rush yards the week before, but I do think that they will eventually tire. (I believe we saw this happen around Week 5 of last season.) As I predicted, TB was content to lean heavily on Quizz last week as he saw 19 carries, but he was unfortunately not very efficient with these touches. He did score a TD that salvaged his fantasy day, but TB mostly played Barber in the second half with the lead clearly in hand. In that role, Barber looked strong as the back-up and saw 10 carries of his own. I would love to know what the plan is here as I’m afraid that this might approach a 50-50 split until Martin returns. Unless we are getting another 18-20 touches from one of them, I don’t want to touch them against this run defense. If we do here that one or the other will be the lead back, however, I think that they will make for an excellent cheap, volume-based option.
DEN (21.5) @ BUF (18.5)
Sanders and D-Thom continue to completely dominate WR snaps and targets. D-Thom was limited in Wednesday’s practice with a hamstring issue, but was taken off of the injury report by week’s end. Sanders leads all players in the NFL with 5 red zone targets. BUF definitely seems more vulnerable through the air even though they haven’t given up a passing TD yet, so both Sanders and D-Thom are in play here and will go relatively overlooked again.
CJA had an excellent performance last week, but gets a tough test against the Bills here as they haven’t allowed an opposing rusher to top 9 DK points all year so far. This will clearly change, and I bet CJA does it this week especially since he should be playing with the lead. CJA continues to be too cheap for a bellcow at only $5800, and I like playing him again here at that price.
I liked McCoy last week due to his volume and how overlooked he would be, but he only managed 9 yards on 12 carries. Thankfully, he did still pace the team with 7 targets, but the Bills seem to be limiting him already, so I would really like more volume here. Also, DEN does seem much improved against the run versus how they looked last year and they still have an extremely strong pass defense as well. I’m really not sure how the Bills will score here, but I think we can avoid Buffalo’s offense entirely.
PIT (25.75) @ CHI (18.25)
Smart money has kept the line for this game as the Steelers favored by 7.5 points, even though CHI has only seen 23% of the bets (i.e. you would normally expect a shift in favor of the Steelers).
I like to play the “what if” game a lot, but I also always try to construct my scenarios to be very close to what actually happened. This obviously doesn’t always work out – *cough* Fitz *cough* – but I think that they are a good exercise regardless. This week’s “what if” for me centers around Le’Veon. I got on Bell a lot late last week due to Bradford being out and PIT probably being able to control the game throughout, while also assuming Bell would return to his workhorse role after an outside the norm Week 1. All of this happened. Bell just missed the 100 yard rushing bonus by 13 yards, however, and Smith-Schuster took a shovel pass up the middle for a very short TD. What if Bell had hit the 100 yard mark and got that TD? He would have had a 23ish point day and he would get a lot more attention this week.
His price has now dropped $1000 and I think he makes for an excellent play again here. We saw the Steelers have complete control of the last game and, in that one, they had him carry for a whopping 27 times. We can expect similar usage here as I fully expect the Steelers to dominate this one, and remember that the Bears best LB, Jerrell Freeman, is still on the IR. The rest of the Bears’ D looks iffy at best especially since they just gave up 114 rushing yards on 3.93 ypc to Peyton Barber and Quizz last week. I believe that Bell was around 8% owned last week in the Milly Maker, which is just a travesty. Labs has him up at 17-20% this week, but with where he was last week, I assume that he will be around 12-15%.
Vance McDonald continues to be a non-factor as a Steeler as he still hasn’t caught a pass, and I’m also going to continue to ignore Jesse James. Both Brown and Bryant will see their shots here, and we can project Brown to see his usual 11ish targets. As I discussed last week, however, the Bears Cover 6 usually does a decent job of eliminating the opponents WR1 as we saw in Week 1. It also took a spectacular throw and good catch by Evans to get him that TD last week, which was only possible due to a costly punt fumble by Cohen. AB can absolutely make those toe-tapping catches as well, so don’t discount him, but I think I prefer to just pay for Bell here. Bryant is in play, but I assume that he will see enhanced ownership this week after a couple of long plays last week. It was concerning that he only saw 4 targets in that game, and I’m hoping to see that improve especially if I’m going to pay $5700 for him.
Tuitt plans to be back this week, so that’s not great for the Bears offense in general, and I’m not sure how they are going to score here. Glennon did have over 301 yards passing last week, but that was mostly in second half garbage time against a prevent defense. Long story short, he did not look good. Wheaton also looks to return to the pass-catching fold this week, which adds just one more unappealing option. You know there will be volume here due to the negative game script, so if you want to roster someone, go for it, but this will be a strictly volume-based play without a good ceiling.
Jordan Howard came off the injury report, but the PIT run D is strong and game script is not good for him. I also expect PIT to do everything possible to shut down Cohen, and I’m not going to pay $5600 for him.
MIA (24.5) @ NYJ (18.5)
Smart money has also kept this line steady at 6 in favor of MIA while the NYJ have only received 27% of the bets.
We all knew coming into the year that the Jets were going to be epically bad. So far, they haven’t disappointed. Last week, per NextGenStats, we saw Jarvis Landry average 3.9 air yards per target (ay/t). Parker clocked in at 21.1 ay/t and owns 47.7% of his team’s intended air yards. Parker also skied Hayward in the last game for a long catch, which was great to see since the latter is one of the premier CBs in the league. Things aren’t all rosy for Parker though as Landry actually saw 3-of-5 red zone targets and had a 44% target share in general, so he figures to continue to be heavily involved. Both have superb match-ups with Landry going against Buster Skrine and Parker against Juston Burris. I don’t really want to pay the $6800 for a glorified possession receiver, so I much prefer Parker at a $500 discount here. The only potential negative for both of them is game script.
I knew that Jay Ajayi’s splits with and without Pouncey were severe, but I’m glad that Graham Barfield actually ran the numbers:
Either way you slice it, Ajayi has an ideal match-up this week, which is made even sweeter since Pouncey is healthy this year. It is mildly concerning that Ajayi did miss several practices this week and when he did return on Friday, he apparently “seemed to have a slight hitch when running.” If he can get fully healthy for this one, he is clearly one of the premier plays on this slate. If he were to miss any part of this or if the coaches would rest him with a big lead, that would put Damien Williams and Kenyan Drake as his replacements. Neither have looked great so far this year, so I won’t play either unless we specifically here that X is getting 15-20 carries this game.
Timmons has been suspended indefinitely from MIA, but he is apparently the one guy on defense that they don’t have an adequate back-up for, so I’m expecting this to only last a game or two. I’m not really sure how we can take advantage of this, however, as the Jets’ backfield continues to be an ineffective mess.
At season start, I really liked the thought of rostering ASJ here as he looked dominant in the preseason and I finally hoped that he got his act together. We know that he is the best athlete out of the Jets’ WRs, we know that McCown can really riff with a TE (look at what he and Barnidge did 2 years ago), and we know that the game script will force them to be very pass heavy all year. ASJ is so out of shape at this point, however, the team originally thought about keeping him out of this game, so he just seems like a massive screw-up to me. This is such a shame as the Dolphins were vulnerable to TEs last year, and this continued last week with Henry and Gates hanging a combined 9-91-1 on them. Kearse continued to pace the other pass-catchers with 5 targets last week, but McCown spread out the ball much more. I’m going to ignore all of them here again.
NYG (18.5) @ PHI (24.5)
There is a lot of discontent within the Giants right now. At halftime of the MNF game, apparently OBJ pushed Flowers and punches were thrown in the Giants’ locker room. After the game, McAdoo called out Eli in the press conference for the delay of game penalty on the 4th-and-2 play. Can they actually get it together after all of that? Maybe, but with the all-around poor play that we have seen so far, I’m much more inclined to think that they are going to tear each other apart at the seams. Even while that is happening, there will definitely be some times that OBJ will be fantasy relevant (especially once he gets fully healthy).
OBJ makes a ton of sense here assuming that he is actually fully healthy – he was taken off of the injured list this week, so hopefully he is back to 100%. The Eagles secondary is quite frankly a mess right now. Their top CB, Darby, is still out with his ankle injury, and their starting FS, McLeod, is also looking doubtful here along with several other members of the group as well. A nice surprise for the Eagles last week was the play of rookie Rasul Douglas who had some strong tackles and a couple of pass break-ups. Like I mentioned in last week’s article, it is very hard for a rookie to step right in as a CB and make an impact, so I still expect growing pains at some point, but I’m definitely hoping that he can keep it up. Regardless, he will not be able to contain OBJ, and the Giants move him around a lot anyway, so they will get him favorably matched up against Mills on multiple occasions throughout the game. Marshall continues to look like his ship is sailed, which is very sad as I always like him as a player, and Shepard seems to have passed him on the depth chart with 55 to the latter’s 47 snaps. Engram is quickly looking like a favored option for Eli as he is averaging 5.5 targets/game so far. Like I mentioned last week, however, the Eagles are very good against TEs. Kelce did put up a 100+ yard game on them last week, but they seemed to line him up as a WR instead of a TE quite a bit. So far, the Giants have not shown that they plan to do the same with Engram as his pass routes dominantly come from TE positions as he has seen 42 routes from there so far this year compared to 3 as a standard WR (he has seen 23 out of the slot, however). Either way, game script should favor the Giants’ pass catchers this week.
Starting RT, Bobby Hart, was hurt on the 2nd play in Week 2, and he has already been ruled out for this one and LT, Ereck Flowers, has looked abysmal. There have been rumblings that Orleans Darkwa will take over the starting RB job, but are you excited to roster anyone in this backfield in a bad game script against a very strong run defense? Speaking of that D, PHI is going to be a chalky play here, but I’m going heavy on them as well.
Ertz is not sneaky at all this week and for good reason. So far, the Giants have given up 7-59-1 and 5-42-1 lines to Witten and Ebron respectively. These have been good enough to lead each of their teams’ receivers in DK points. They now get Ertz who is averaging a line of 6.5-95-0 and 9 targets for the year after 2 games. Ertz is definitely a chalky play here, but he has a beautiful match-up and is finally playing up to his potential early in the year. The Giants will not be able to stop him here. My only concern for him is game script as Vegas has the Eagles by 6, so I’m not sure how much they will really need to throw it after they get a lead, but their ground game has looked horrendous. Janoris Jenkins’ status for this game is currently up in the air, and it will be a huge hit to Jeffrey if Jenkins can indeed suit up. If Jenkins can’t go, however, then Jeffrey makes for an excellent pivot off of Ertz. It was very reassuring to see him look a lot more comfortable in the offense last week , and he saw a massive 13 targets, but obviously part of this was game script driven.
I’m still avoiding the Eagles’ ground game even though they should have a lead in this one.
ATL (27) @ DET (24)
Here is another smart money alert as the Lions have only received 32% of the bets, but have seen the line shift in their favor by 0.5 points.
Vic Beasley, last year’s sack leader, suffered a “slight hamstring tear” in Week 2 that will keep him out for at least a month. This is obviously good news for Stafford, and I have a lot of love for him this week where they should have to air it out a decent amount. Alford has looked like the Falcons’ weakest CB by far, and both Jones and Golladay should line up against him a fair amount this week. Golladay seemed to take a step back last week, I assume because Ebron got healthier, but Stafford still spread it out a fair amount. It’s hard for me to gauge Atlanta’s defense against TEs so far as they have faced the lowly Bears and the Packers, who obviously spread it around quite a bit. I do think that Ebron will continue to be a red zone threat throughout the year. Tate is obviously a trusted target here as Stafford went his way on several important plays last week, but I don’t love his match-up against Poole. If I had to take one, I would probably go back to MJ, but we all know that I probably have way too much love for him. I think that it is also worth noting that MJ led the lions with 56 snaps to Tate’s 44 and Golladay’s 33 (out of 62).
.Abdullah had the best game of his career last week, but I believe that I saw him come up limping after an awkward tackle in the 4th quarter. He also did not play again after that point. There has been no news about him so far this week, but I won’t be surprised if the Lions plan for a heavy dose of Riddick here. Not only would that make sense if Abdullah is injured, but ATL has been destroyed by pass-catching backs ever since last year. So far, in just the receiving department, they have given up 8-47-1 to Cohen and 6-75-1 to TyMont. I think that Stafford-Riddick is a super sneaky stack here, and might be my preferred Lions stack this week.
I don’t know how strong the Lions are against the run as they have so far played the Cards who lost DJ in the game and the lackluster Giants. I think Freeman will probably be more popular than he should be with the volume that he gets, but we saw last week how he can get a couple of TDs in any given game. The positive game script also bodes well for the ATL run game in general.
Matt Ryan has also spread the ball out quite a bit this year with Sanu surprisingly out-targeting Julio on the year so far, 15 to 14. Sanu does get Diggs in the slot, however, and Diggs has looked like a completely different CB so far. While he was a liability last year, he currently grades out as PFF’s best CB this year. Take from this what you will since obviously we are only two games in. Other than Julio, the other option I’m looking at here is Hooper. Eli effectively hooked up with Engram for a 4-49-1 line, and Atlanta looked most vulnerable to me across the middle. We know that the Falcons will put up some points here, so pick your poison as you will want exposure to this game.
HOU (15) @ NE (29)
The Pats are running awfully thin on the offensive side of the ball at this point. Gronk went down with a groin injury (says he is fine and just day-to-day), Chris Hogan came off with a knee injury (he will also be back this week), and Burkhead also went down with a rib injury (he has already been ruled out). I’m also not sure what NE is doing with Burkhead’s usage – he has only played 18 snaps, but has seen 12 touches on those snaps, and 9 of these touches have come in the first quarter. This has to be due to small sample size because I cannot imagine Belichick would let one of his guys get keyed on by opposing defenses like this (i.e. if he is in the game, he is probably getting the ball). Anyway, back to the players who are actually playing this week. Gronk can obviously put up a monster stat line on a partial game, and he should absolutely have his way with the Texans. With how the Pats should lead in this one, however, I don’t expect them to deploy him for a full 60 minutes. With Amendola back, I think that that limits Hogan here, and I don’t truly love either here. One of them will probably have a good game, but I can’t predict which one it will be. Cooks still looks out of place in this offense, but feel free to take a flyer if you want to.
White continues to be heavily involved in the passing game, but he has very limited carries in a positive game script (2 last week, but 8 targets). While they were ahead last week, Gillislee got a lot of carries, and that should happen again here. He clearly has huge upside since he is their go-to goal line option.
Will Fuller returned to the practice field on Monday, but he has been ruled out for this week. I really wanted him to play here to open things up for Hopkins (and I thought that he was a great play in his own right). While Hopkins has seen almost 59% of his team’s intended air yards so far per NextGenStats, he hasn’t managed to put up a huge game. The Pats are clearly going to key on him here, so he should have a bunch of catches, but probably won’t put up a huge line. If there was a TE on HOU that we could trust, I would be very interested as the Pats have given up an average line of 7-62.5-1 to the position in each of their games so far this year. With this being said, it sounds like Griffin will be able to play this week as he is out of the concussion protocol, and I think that he makes for an excellent punt option.
CLE (22) @ IND (20.5)
Whoa, the Browns are favored on the road. The times, they are a-changin’. There is slight sharp money on them actually, as they have seen the line move 0.5 points in their favor, while they have received a middling 42% of the bets.
Corey Coleman broke his hand and will be placed on IR. On the unofficial Browns’ depth chart, they have Rashard Higgins listed as the new nominal starter, and he played 12 more snaps than Britt did last week. He also put up 7-95-0 and averaged 2.9 yards of separation on his routes per NextGenStats, which is above the NFL average of 2.7. Kizer did leave the game for several of drives with a migraine, but he did eventually return. Brandon dived into this and found that only 2-12 of this line came from Hogan, so it definitely seems like he and Kizer have a connection (thanks for scoping this out, Brandon!). The only other concern I have about Higgins is where Hue will line him up. So far this year, he has played 89% of his plays from the slot, and I’m a little worried that they try to move him outside with CC going down as receivers sometimes have issues with that transition. Scott Petrak, one of the CLE beat writers, assuaged my fears as he said that he expects Higgins to stay in the slot. Higgins will probably be one of the highest ownerships on the slate as there aren’t a ton of value options, so you could differentiate with Britt if you feel like he can turn things around here and he is only $4100. I don’t love his match-up against Melvin, however, as he is the Colts best CB.
Coming into the year, I thought IND would be terrible against opposing RBs, and they definitely still have time to become as bad as I expected. Through the first two games, however, they have not let their opponents’ lead rusher go over 44 rushing yards (this will obviously change at some point). Crowell has looked #notgood so far and he is averaging less than 4 ypc. This week he admitted that all he is thinking about is his contract extension, even in game, so I’m sure that this isn’t helping his concentration or his standing with the coaches. With the lead, we should see Hue give him a lot of volume again, and the game script should be in his favor, but be careful here.
Andrew Luck has already been ruled out for Week 3, and with how awful Indy has looked, I assume they won’t rush him back. This means that Brissett will start another game, and I assume that he will be a little more comfortable out there with a full game under his belt. Let me talk to you about my love for Jack Doyle here. Per Warren Sharp, IND currently ranks #1 in the NFL with an 83% success rate when passing to their TEs. We know that IND game plans around their TEs regardless of who is starting at QB. We know that CLE gave up the 2nd-most PPR points to TEs last year. We know that this has continued this year as they have given up lines of 6-41-2 and 8-91-0 to Jesse James and Ben Watson respectively (their per game average to the position in general so far is 8.5-81-1). We know that Christian Kirksey is a huge part of the problem for CLE as he allowes 2.1 PPT (again, thanks Scott Barrett). We know that in this first full game with Brissett, Doyle saw 8 targets. We know that Doyle clocks in at only $3600. We can put all this together to infer that Doyle is a great play this week.
Outside of Doyle and maybe stacking him with Brissett if you really, really need the salary relief, I don’t truly love any other pieces of the Colts. The Browns’ outside CBs have looked very strong so far and, while they are most vulnerable out of the slot, Aiken really isn’t that great. Gore will get 15ish touches at a very reasonable salary, so I don’t hate the play, but he doesn’t possess the ceiling that I like in a play.
SEA (19.25) @ TEN (21.75)
Smart money has also kept this line at its original peg of TEN as 2.5 point favorites even though they have received 39% of the bets.
Davis and DeMarco both have hamstring issues for the Titans right now. I assume that this is some kind of re-aggravation for both as they had hammy issues for most of the preseason. Davis is day-to-day per Mularkey, but I think that that is malarkey with what happened in the preseason. My take seems validated as he has already been ruled out for Week 3, and I won’t be surprised if Davis is out for a month at this point.
Per Cameron Wolf, the ESPN Titans reporter, Henry will get a “significant workload” regardless of whether Murray can play, which puts Henry firmly in play at only $5300. I’m actually kind of hoping that Murray can suit up, which will lower Henry’s ownership even further. Coming into this year, I really thought that the SEA d-line would be the best in the business with the addition of Richardson. They can definitely still pull it together and we do only have a two game sample size, but I’m less optimistic at this point. With how bad their offense has been, they have just gotten worn down each game and have not been the force that I assumed they would be. After two weeks, they have given up 19.3 points to TyMont and 20.3 to Hyde while also allowing an average of 111 rush yards per game.
Matthews should see the most of Sherman, so I don’t particularly have any interest there. It’s hard to really evaluate how the Seahawk’s look this year as they have faced the exact opposite of pass offenses so far this year – they got pasted by Rodgers Week 1, but then faced Hoyer to make themselves feel better last week. Mariota is clearly in between somewhere, but I’m not really sure that he will need to pass all that much here. Cobb did burn Lane out of the slot Week 1 for 9-85-0, but I’m not sure if you want to count on Decker doing the same and I’m fine staying away.
The Seahawks line has looked predictably awful, and they are benching their starting RG for back-up Oday Aboushi. We will see how this works out for them, but it will be hard for them to be worse. TEN has been middling to poor against the run as they rank 21st in DVOA in that area, and they rank 18th against receiving backs. Carson seemed to become the lead back last year as he carried a dominant 20 times and saw an additional 2 targets. Rawls might have just been getting up to speed, but I assume that this will be Carson’s gig to lose going forward. He is still very cheap at only $4900 this week and I’m happy to have some shares of him – just don’t go overboard just in case Pete goes back to Rawls.
Graham went down last week with an ankle injury, but Pete Carroll said he should be fine for Week 3. So far, the Titans have performed pretty well against TEs, so I don’t want to roster Graham here until the offense starts looking a little better. Lockett has now surpassed Richardson, which is what I assumed would happen, as the former played 60 snaps to the latter’s 39 and out-targets him 9 to 5. Between the outside CBs, Lockett will have the tougher match-up against Sims while Richardson will primarily go against Logan Ryan, who hasn’t looked as good this year. Baldwin will go mainly against Jackson, who has been the Titans’ weakest CB so far in the slo, but it is also worth noting that Lockett spends a good chunk of time in this area as well. I do have a tough time spending $6400 on Baldwin with how dysfunctional this offense has looked, but I am intrigued by Lockett at $4300 due to the negative game script, usage, and his match-up in the slot.
KC (25.25) @ SD (22.25)
Per Matt Harmon, the Chiefs have allowed the 5th-most yards to slot receivers so far this year, and I believe that this is mostly because Phillip Gaines is terrible. In each of the 2 games so far, KC has allowed either 100 yards or a TD out of the slot, so Keenan Allen come on down. He gets another superb match-up this week as he runs 63% of his routes from the slot and is seeing 10 targets a game. His price has risen all the way up to $7200 at this point, but the dude looks good and the game script will be in his favor. He will also almost entirely miss Peters because he only goes out wide right on 12% of his routes. Unfortunately, TyWill will not be so lucky. I’m also not considering T-Benj as he seems to be an afterthought in this offense. Henry did see 7 targets that he converted into 7-80-0 last week, and KC did just allow Ertz to put up 5-97-0, but I do have a major asterisk to add to this. Out of these 97 yards, 53 came on one late play, which was completely fluky in that it bounced out of the defenders waiting hands right to Ertz, so his line would look far less impressive without this gaff.
Gordon is also seeing a decent chunk of work in the passing game as Rivers went to him 8 times last week, which he turned into 7-65-0. Unfortunately, he wasn’t as effective on the ground, but he did pound one in, which saved his day for a 9-13-1 rushing line. He did miss practice several times this week with knee soreness, so I’m fine staying away between that, the negative game script, and his generally inefficient rushing year so far.
Oh Chargers, why does everyone get hurt on your team year-after-year and you still don’t fire your entire training staff? Jason Verrett just got put on IR, which is obviously a big blow to their secondary. Outside of TyFluke Hill, however, I’m not really interested in any of the KC wideouts, and Hill will run into Hayward a decent bit. The good news for Hill is that he does line up in the slot quite a bit as well, and we saw Landry get open time and again last week for 13 (!) catches. No one will be on Hill after he disappointed in a great match-up against the Eagles last week, but he should see decent volume again and always has some of the best odds in the league to take a short pass a long way. Kelce continues to be a monster and lines up everywhere, but he is very expensive for a TE @ $6000. I still like him as a play especially because SD ranks a league-worst 32nd in DVOA against the position.
The Chargers have allowed at least 119 yards on the ground in each game so far this year, and we should see another heavy dose of Hunt. He is starting to get pricey, but he is in another good situation here and I won’t be surprised if he puts up another 20+ points. PS – I was really hoping that he wouldn’t have a great game last week so that his ownership would be even lower this week.
CIN (19.5) @ GB (27)
There is huge sharp money on the Bengals here. They have seen an enormous swing of the line in their favor – 2.5 points worth – with just 32% of the bets.
Jordy Nelson went down with a quad injury, but expects to be back this coming week. Adam Schefter reported that he was only “50-50” early in the week, but it seems that he has rebounded nicely and fully expects to play. Randall Cobb is considered “day-to-day” after an MRI on his shoulder came back negative, but he is currently trending downwards for this week as he has the dreaded ‘Doubtful’ label affixed to him. If one or both are out for this one, has Jeff Janis week come early this year?
Unfortunately, it seems like Geronimo Allison might pick up the slack instead as he was second to only Adams in the snap count last week (side note – he also has a fun name). Assuming that Cobb is out, this should move Jordy to the slot based upon how they used him last year and he was great in that role there. Either way, he should avoid Pacman Jones for the majority of the day – he will be on Adams for the most part – and Jordy will go under-owned because of the Q next to his name. He makes for an ideal, high-ceiling leverage play against Adams who will see much higher ownership. Also worth noting, Bryan Bulaga will finally be back, which will help Rodgers immensely with pass protection.
The Milwaukee beat writer, Michael Cohen, expects the Packers to lighten TyMont’s workload moving forward, which is not great. Mike McCarthy noted as well that they have not been able to really implement rhythm with different personnel groups and have been forced into specific looks so far this year. I’m also really not sure what this will entail as it is a pretty vague assessment of things – does this mean he will see fewer snaps or fewer touches as well? If the latter, are we talking about 5 fewer touches per game? 10? I assume that these touches would have to go to another running back as GB is already a top-5 pass-heavy team in one-score games, so I don’t expect his carries to turn into more throws. Either way, I’m really not sure what McCarthy is looking for to implement his “other groups” as GB dominated SEA Week 1 and then were wildly behind last week, so I feel like we pretty much ran the gamut. Until we see this in action, TyMont should remain a workhorse back and the game script sets up very favorably for him again this week.
Eifert has both back and knee injuries and, with his extensive history of injuries, I’m completely hands off here. If he is out, that will provide Kroft with a big bump in playing time, but I expect Green would pick up the most quality opportunities. Oh yeah, the Bengals also have a new OC, which will hopefully help. While their offensive line is still terrible, Bill Lazor had a similar issue at his previous posts, so he has dealt with this by running a spread offense focusing on a quick release of the ball. While in MIA in 2014 and 2015, per Scott Barrett, they had the worst and 7th-worst pass-blocking lines in those two years respectively, but went 8th-most pass heavy in 2014 and 3rd in 2015. Joe Goodberry, a Cincy beat writer, also pointed out that he uses shotgun formation to give his QB a little extra time due to o-line woes. Because of this quick-paced offense with exotic formations, it should also open things for the RBs. At this point though, I’m not sure whether Lazor will favor Mixon or Gio, and I feel like he could easily change things up from what we saw over the first two weeks. It is worth noting though, that 3 of GB’s top run defenders (Perry, Guion, and Daniels) are either already declared out or looking doubtful for this game.
Anyway, back to the passing game. Green will find himself lined up across from either Damarious Randall or Quinten Rollins for most of this game, and here’s a quick summary of both of them – they are horrible. Green will be chalky this week, but rightfully so as he could literally put up 150 yards on this group (or more) and he is also the cheapest he has been in recent memory. If you feel like differentiating yourself, feel free to pair him with Dalton and pray that he can pull it together under Lazor. Everyone is talking up Green, but no one wants to roll with Dalton, which makes absolutely no sense to me.
OAK (29) @ WAS (26)
There is a decent amount of sharp money on WAS here as they have seen a 0.5 point swing in their favor while receiving only 24% of the bets.
Chris Thompson will regress. He has 3 electrifying touchdowns so far this year, but that is only on 13 total touches and this pace clearly cannot continue. Gruden has already warned that they don’t want to wear him out with too many touches since he is a smaller back. Rob Kelley did go down with an injury to his rib cartilage and this type of injury is very difficult to play through, but he has been able to practice during the week, so we will need to monitor this situation closely. Even if he cannot play, I see Perine as the main beneficiary and wouldn’t expect Thompson’s role to really change. With all of this being said, out of this committee here, Thompson would be my pick this week since WAS figures to trail, but I probably won’t go here.
Jordan Reed says the pain in his shoulder is now “manageable,” but Gruden said that he will be a game-time decision with all of his ailments (he also has that ongoing toe issue as well as a chest issue). If he cannot go, Davis makes for an excellent play as OAK continues to play up to their proud tradition of being weak against TEs (Walker put up 7-76-0 on them Week 1 and the Jets don’t count Week 2). Sean Smith does plan on returning this week, so I’m not sure how that will change up Oakland’s secondary and we should keep an eye on this. Currently, Amerson is set to square off mainly against Pryor on the right side of the formation, and that is definitely the weakest part of this secondary. Because Conley did perform well in Smith’s absence, however, I’m not sure if they will kick him over to cover Amerson’s normal side or if they will just demote him back to the rotation. While Pryor’s price continues to drop slightly, we also saw his targets dip dramatically between the two weeks from 11 to 4. This might just be because he was going up against the Rams’ secondary and WAS was winning, but this doesn’t instill a lot of confidence in me. Since they should trail by a decent margin though, feel free to go back to the well, but don’t go overboard.
Cooper is tied for the league-lead in red zone targets with 5, but it was Crabtree who reeled in 3 TDs last week. This has finally made Crabtree more expensive than Cooper and even with being priced more, he should see higher ownership. All I can say is wow. Josh Norman plays a whopping 94% of his snaps on the left side, so he will face off against Crabtree for the majority of the time (the Crab scuttles for 41% of his routes from his right while Cooper lines up there for 25% of his routes – remember RWR lines up against LCB). Give me a lot of Cooper in this spot
Another great receiving option is Cook. He is averaging 5.5 targets per game so far, in a great offense, and he only costs $3100. Yes, game flow is a concern for all receivers, but if WAS can keep it close, Carr will have to continue airing it out at least a little. Through two games, WAS has given up the lines of 3-95-0 to Gerald Everett and 8-93-0 to Ertz. WAS is extremely vulnerable to TEs, so I won’t be surprised to see him more involved here.
DAL (24.75) @ ARI (21.75)
ARI has seen similar money that WAS has as they have received only 28% of the bets, but the line has gone in their favor by 0.5 points.
Jerry Jones confirmed that Dak will be good to go for this game. I assume his ankle will be heavily wrapped, however, and he probably won’t have his normal mobility. As Warren Sharp pointed out, so far Garrett has gone 93% pass inside the opponent’s 15-yard line, while they went 52% within this same area all of last year. At this point, I assume that this has to normalize. Per PFF, Patrick Peterson is on track to only allow 176 receiving yards this season, and there is already another CB who has given up more through 2 games. This does not bode well for Dez. This does, however, put both Beasley and Williams in play as they will see Bethel and Mathieu, both of whom have not been good so far this year. I’m going to mostly discount last week since ARI played a Brissett-led Colts team where Jacoby probably only knew half of the playbook, but going back to Week 1, Mathieu gave up 10-107-0 out of the slot to Tate. Tate is obviously better than Beasley, but I do like Beasley here quite a bit.
In regards to Zeke, the big question for me is, will he be punished for lack of effort at all? So far, RBs have not fared well against the Cardinals, but the quality they have faced has been poor. We have also seen Elliott perform admirably against a tough D in the Giants, Week 1, where he put up 104 rushing yards. With the lead, I think it makes sense to go back to him here as we know the Cowboys will rely on him heavily.
Like I mentioned last week, with John Brown out, JJ Nelson made for an excellent salary saving option. He didn’t disappoint as he put up 5-120-1 on 7 targets. His salary jumped all the way up to $5300 this week and he will likely see fairly high ownership on this slate. Thus, I think pivoting to Jaron Brown here makes a ton of sense. Two weeks ago, he actually started over Nelson to begin with, and then last week he out-targeted him 11 to 7. He put up only 4-73-0 here, which Nelson’s line clearly overshadowed, but if he can get even a little more efficient this week, he makes for an excellent option at $3700. After doing some more research on this, it sounds like Jaron hyperextended his knee last week, but he avoided further damage. Keep your ear to the ground on this one, but if he is good to go, I like him as a contrarian option. Nelson also gets the tougher CB match-up against Anthony Brown this week, and Brown is currently ranked as #8 by PFF.
Last week, I did get things wrong with Fitz though. He has had a couple of good matchups so far and has disappointed in both of them. I also saw him pull up at the end of one of his routes late last week, so I think that there is some kind of injury here that no one is letting on to. He has seen 19 targets over his two games so far, so feel free to roster him and bank on him being fine if you want to, but I really don’t want to go here. I’m already preparing for the tilt as I’m sure that once I fail to roster him he will put up 2+ TDs.
For the ARI running game, just stay away from this hot mess.