Week 5 2017
The Thursday night game last week was the first night that I have felt really guilty watching football this year. Adams took a dirty hit to the head by Bears’ LB Trevathan. As anyone who saw it can attest, it was brutal with Adams’ helmet flexing in a way that I have never seen before and his mouth guard flying (a little piece from a helmet also went flying). It was clearly a frustrated player targeting the head of a defenseless receiver, and this ended with Adams getting carted off the field and taken to the local hospital for extensive testing.
Apparently, after all of this, Adams will return this week. Players put their faith in the doctors and coaches to make the best decisions for both the player and the team – if he ends up suiting up this week, this really feels like a betrayal of that trust to me. To add insult to literal injury, Danny Trevathan just got his ban cut in half from 2 games to 1 (the original ban seemed far too short to me anyway). I understand that everyone responds to concussions differently, but I have a lot of trouble believing that Adams is fine after what we saw.
Last week, I had a lot of very solid picks (e.g. Powell, Bell, TyWill, Rivers, etc.), but some stinkers that ended up just sinking most of my lines. I want to take a look at some of the bad picks in particular to see what kinds of lessons can be learned here:
- My TE picks sucked: Neither Ebron or Cook really did anything, but for different reasons. Stafford didn’t have to do much in general here for the Lions to get the W as he only threw for 209 yards and 0 TDs (this gets dropped to 154 yards once you account for the sacks). It is also worth noting that Fells out-targeted him 5-4, so this could be an aberration due to small sample size, or Ebron’s drops could finally have caught up with him. For Cook, he started fine, but then Carr went down, and EJ Manuel had to step in for him.
- Trevor Siemian, wtf: Out of all of the cheap QBs, I liked Siemian the most due to his match-up, how he has been playing, etc. (I also had a smattering of TyRod) and I completely discounted Watson. Everyone knows how he almost won in NE during Week 3, but I figured that this was a fluke against one of the worst defenses in the league. He actually seems legit and he had a monster day. He was also more highly owned than Siemian, which crushed me. I’m definitely not going to make the mistake of overlooking him again
- Mixon it up with a resurgent Gio: This is the pick that I don’t regret and would make again in a heartbeat. You got the 20+ touches you are looking for against a terrible defense. It just sucks that Gio is the one that had a long catch-and-run for a TD.
- Marquise Goodwin, sigh: This might have been my most egregious error on the week, but I can’t really be sure since Goodwin left in the 1st quarter with a concussion. I went with a lot of stars-and-scrubs lines this past week, because I felt that most people would go balanced and that this would differentiate my lines. I also thought that I had a couple of very good salary-saver options in TyWill, Powell, Siemian and Goodwin. Sadly, only 2 of those 4 worked out. I also mostly went high-priced WRs as I figured that they would be low-owned in regards to the chalky, high-priced RBs. Also sad story, all of the chalky RBs went off, and none of the elite WRs did (OBJ and Julio also both got injured). Regardless, I should have split my ownership between Goodwin and Fuller as I liked the latter almost as much and he has a more proven track record in the NFL. I’m fine with staking a lot of ownership to a low-priced guy, but only if he is in a great spot and has shown that he can produce before.
NE (30) @ TB (25)
Vegas has the over/under at 55.5 for this game right now, and I won’t be surprised if it goes even higher before kickoff. This just feels like a shootout to me, so I will most likely avoid the Thurs-Mon slate this week (I usually only play this one if I can completely fade it or take a very specific piece from it – you will get more people game-stacking it than normal, so you don’t gain an edge by doing that either). You might ask why this will be a shootout at the TBay Corral, and I’m glad that you brought this up. So far this year, the Bucs spanked the Bears, got blown out by the Case Keenum-led Vikes, and then won a close one against the Giants. If Keenum can pick apart their secondary, you better believe that Brady plans to leave behind only scorched earth, especially after a bad home loss. For the Pats, the fewest points they have given up so far this year is 20, with the Chiefs, Texans, and Panthers all putting up 33+ on them (even more shocking is that all 3 of these games happened in NE). Finally, TB has the 24th-overall D while NE is dead last in the league – that’s right, they are behind the Dolphins, Saints, and Browns right now.
Just in case you have any doubt about where NE is vulnerable – hint, it’s everywhere – here is an awesome graphic that PFF’s Zoltan Buday put together about what has happened so far this year when passing on them:
As you can probably guess from all of the blue dots, NE has given up multiple receiving TDs in every game so far this year and seem especially susceptible to WR2s and TEs (hell, even Olsen’s back-up, Ed Dickson, put up 3-62-0 on them last week). They aren’t exactly strong against WR1s either – they have given up 4-104-0 to K-Benj and 7-133-1 to Tyreek so far this year – but they have been able to limit the damage that some have done as they stopped both Hopkins and Thomas from going over 90 yards or scoring. Between this modest track record and Winston’s proclivity to look towards Evans regardless of who is covering him – just look at last weekend against Jenkins – I’m not that concerned with this week’s match-up against the Pats’ top-rated CB, Butler. Long story short, feel free to fire up D-Jax, Brate, or Evans here as I’m predicting that they all score at least 14 DK points with one of them probably putting up 25+ (my guess is that DJax and Evans both go over 20 and Brate hits around 16).
Doug Martin isn’t sure of his role in this game yet, so we need to keep an ear to the ground on how we should proceed. Personally, I doubt that he will be in football shape and will probably be on some kind of snap count. We should all remember the glowing reports that we heard about him in the offseason, however, and they might try to get him more involved than we would first assume, but this is all speculation anyway. Also worrying is what NE has given up on the ground so far this year as, outside of Kareem Hunt’s monster game, the Pats haven’t given up more than 68 rushing yards to a single back. I feel like this is only because they are so damn generous through the air though, and not something we should actually worry about. Either way, I don’t really love Martin here especially since we don’t know what his usage will be. If Sims saw any kind of reliable volume, he would be an option since the Pats are giving up 6-80-0.75 per game to receiving backs, but he has only seen 5 targets all year so far.
As I noted last week, the Bucs are hurting defensively, and we need to keep an eye on the health of SS TJ Ward, WLB, Lavonte David, MLB Kwon Alexander, and DT Gerald McCoy. I haven’t heard updates on any of them yet, but fully expect McCoy to play again and he is a difference maker. It will be really, really interesting to see what happens with Gillislee here. The Pats defense is so bad, it won’t facilitate the 18ish carries/game that Blount had last year and, much like Blount, Gill is completely uninvolved in the passing game (0 targets through 4 games). It was also bad for his prospects to see Lewis vulture one from him last week. TB is also a funnel defense in that they are 3rd in DVOA against the run, but a lackluster 27th against the pass. All-in-all, I’m very concerned about his outlook in this game unless the Pats find themselves on the goal line multiple times, which is always a possibility.
This does setup well for James White who is seeing good volume with 6.5 targets per game, and this should be higher as it is skewed lower by the odd 1 target game against HOU. White has also seen a healthy 3 RZ targets so far this year, and I won’t be surprised if this is higher by a couple this time next week. TB is also ranked a lowly 30th against receiving backs as evidenced with how they let Wayne Gallman (who?) score a receiving TD on them last week, so I definitely like White in PPR.
Outside of White, since we know the Pats will want to attack them through the air anyway (and will probably be forced to anyway because of their own sorry defense), let’s dive in to their other options. While Grimes has graded out as the best TB CB, we know that Cooks does well against slower CBs per Scott Barrett, and Grimes only ran a 4.57 from what I have found (the split between Cooks doing well and not doing well is right around 4.45, so this speed is much slower than that). On the other side, we have Hogan lining up against Hargreaves, who grades out as the 93rd-worst CB per PFF (out of 111). Surprisingly, he is not the worst starting CB on the team. That dubious honor goes to Robert McClain in the slot, who is second to last per PFF and will square off against Amendola here. While TB does show as a much stronger 4th in DVOA against TEs, they have faced a rookie (Engram), a Bradford-less Rudolph, and Zach Miller so far. Gronk will most likely smash here and I doubt anyone on TB can cover him. You really cannot go wrong with any of these options, but I probably like Amendola the least even with his match-up as both Hogan and Gronk have out-targeted him in the RZ (9 and 7 respectively to 4). While all 3 of these options have out-targeted Cooks in the RZ, I think that the Pats use him in favorable speed match-ups, and this certainly appears to be one of those.
Friday morning update – boy did I get that game wrong, sorry everybody.
ARI (19.25) @ PHI (25.75)
While I’m a Philly fan, I still cannot for sure say that they are all that good this year. Yes, they are 3-1 currently with their only loss coming to KC in Arrowhead, but they could fairly easily by 1-3 right now as well. In their last two wins against the Giants and Chargers, they won by a combined 5 points with 3 of those points coming from an improbable, 61-yard FG as time expired. Oh yeah, and both of these teams that we beat are 0-4 currently. Great teams take the lead and then bury the opponent, especially against bad opponents, but the Eagles have not done this at all. They also had a 10-6 lead in the 3rd quarter that they squandered in their one loss.
We know that PP will shut down Jeffery. This isn’t a knock on Jeffery, it’s just what Peterson does. The ARI defense actually really helps us narrow down who we like here, as we generally want to roll with the WR2, WR3, or TE – not only are they strong against WR1s, they are also 5th in DVOA against the run (plus, I don’t care what Blount did last game as I think that is an outlier, Philly wants to throw the ball). Just as a quick graphic on this, here are the top WR/TE scorers each week against the Cardinals so far:
|Rec TDs||DK Points|
With this being said, I like having some exposure to either Torrey Smith or Agholor here, but don’t go overboard with either. Smith parallels closely with Goodwin/Robinson last week, and you get 4-70-0 when you combine the two (remember, Goodwin left in the 1st quarter with a concussion, so I think combining their production is fine here). That was an overall miserable game unless you were a kicker, but a similar line will 3x Smith this week. It also helps him that he will go against Bethel, who is the 83rd-ranked CB in the league. The issue with Smith, however, is that he is a bottom-10 graded WR in the league right now and just can’t seem to get it going. He has also seen his targets decrease in 3 consecutive weeks from 8 to 5 to 3. Mathieu has also not returned to form out of the slot, and he is an even weaker 100th-best CB, which is why I like Agholor. The problem with him is that he is only seeing 3-4 targets per game over the last 3, and he is unlikely to return value with that volume. I would love to hear something about him getting more involved here, but I doubt that we will get that.
Ertz is clearly the best option here between the Cardinals weakness against TEs and his role in this offense. He is averaging 9 targets/game on the season, and his low score is 13.1 points so far. His price is a hefty $6200, which is by far the highest for any TE on this slate, but you should get him at low ownership in a pretty good match-up.
Cardinals OLB Markus Golden is done for the season with a torn ACL, so the Cardinals figure that they will have to move Hassan Reddick around to be a DE, but he will match-up against Lane Johnson. LJ is a top-5 tackle right now and shouldn’t have any issues with the poorly-graded rookie here. Smallwood has now missed back-to-back practices with a knee injury, and this has been an unfortunate hallmark of his throughout his short NFL career (i.e. hampered with injuries). I think that he will miss, and this means that Clement gets more involved this week, but I still don’t love any of the backfield options here. As I mentioned earlier, ARI grades out pretty well against the run and they haven’t allowed any RB to go over 80 yards on them yet, so I’m not terribly interested in this backfield unless we hear a definitive, “guy X will get 20+ touches.”
ARI has already allowed a league-high 17 sacks (tied with HOU), and Palmer has thrown the 3rd-most INTs (also tied with a bunch of other teams) with 5. Things aren’t going to get any better this week as DJ Humphries, their starting LT, will miss another game, and the Eagles are clearly one of the best defensive options this week. They are favored at home and should be able to get a ton of pressure on Palmer (they will probably give up some points through the air though).
Ellington is the James White of the Cardinals in that he is Palmer’s safety valve. He has seen his targets increase every game so far this year, 3<5<8<14, and the Eagles rank 22nd in DVOA against receiving backs. With that being said, the only substantial line they have given up through the air so far is 4-52-1 to Thompson, but they managed to hold Hunt to 3-28-0 through the air. These are really the only two that have tested them in any way, so I don’t hate Ellington here in a volume role as they project to trail.
We absolutely want a piece of the Cardinals’ WRs here as the Eagles have given up four 100-yard games over their last 3, and have allowed 6 receiving TDs already this year. The problem is that ARI moves their WRs around a lot – I assume partly due to injuries – so it is tough to say exactly how they will lineup here. My guess is that Jaron goes to the left side as he has played there more than John Brown and Fitz combined, with JB getting the right side and Jalen Mills. With that assumption, I’m going to heavily target JB as everyone who reads me knows that I love taking whoever goes up against Jalen. It was also reassuring to see Palmer go Brown’s way 7 times last week in Smokey’s first game back. Fitz hypothetically has the toughest match-up against Patrick Robinson in the slot as Robinson has so far graded out as the 4th-best CB in the league per PFF. I’m not exactly sure how this gets calculated though, as Keenan Allen just put up 5-138-0 from the slot last week, and Sterling Shepard abused them to the tune of 7-133-1 from there the week before. While Fitz always does have multi-TD upside, I highly doubt he puts up 100 yards here, and $6800 feels too steep for me. It also hurts his outlook that Ellington seems to have started to eat into his market share.
CAR (20) @ DET (22.5)
There is smart money on the Panthers here as the line has swung their way by 0.5 points with only 31% of the bets. The sharps are also on the under here as the line has gone down by 1.0 points while receiving 35% of the bets.
The last game by the Lions just feels fluky to me – it was a divisional game and they really didn’t have to do much to win (as evidenced by Stafford’s miserable line). In general, we do know that they are the 7th-fastest paced team in one score games and the 6th-most pass heavy, so I expect this week’s game to have more scoring. The sharps taking the under does worry me some, and I feel like Cam will struggle here as the Lions are much better than the Pats defensively, so Stafford again might not have to do much.
It looks like Kenny Golladay will miss another game here, so we can expect TJ Jones to fill in for him again. He saw 5 targets last week as Stafford spread it around quite a bit, so I feel like we can expect more of the same this week. He does get a good match-up against James Bradberry, but due to the likely low volume and being the 3rd option at best in this passing game, I’m not going to go there. Tate gets an ideal match-up in the slot as Munnerlyn is the Panthers’ lowest graded CB currently, and the Panthers have allowed passing TDs to go there in back-to-back weeks now, so I think he is definitely in play here. MJ is another interesting option as he continues to get deep targets (he currently ranks 6th-best with an aDoT of 16.3 yards), has an ideal match-up against Seymour who will start in only his second game, and continuously goes overlooked by everyone. The only problem with both Tate and MJ, however, is what I alluded to earlier – Stafford might not have to throw all that much here.
Starting FS Kurt Coleman will miss about a month with a sprained MCL, but this probably won’t be a huge hit for the Panthers as he graded out 65th out of 79 safeties. Regardless, I’m not very interested in any piece of the DET running game here, but let’s quickly touch on them anyway. Ameer Abdullah left last week’s game with a low ankle sprain and said he could have returned if needed, so he should be fine to play here. Even though Lions figure to lead, Abdullah just doesn’t have tournament winning upside. Riddick has scary low usage and CAR is 9th in DVOA against receiving back (hint, Kuechly is good).
I think Cam will probably see slightly elevated ownership after what he did last week, but I think it’s a trap. Here he goes from NE, who is dead last in the league against the pass, to DET who is 5th-best. In his other 3 games this year, he put up 11.28 against the Saints, 11.82 against the Bills, and 14.14 against the 49ers. I do like DET as a low-owned DST option in this spot due to Cam’s poor performance. Regardless of Cam, Slay should shadow K-Benj here, which takes out Benjamin for me. This would then put the combination of Nevin Lawson and DJ Hayden on Funchess. And neither of those two CBs are any good. To make this even better, over the past two weeks, Funchess has seen 19 targets with 3 of these coming in the RZ. Thus, I highly prefer Funchess here assuming that Slay does end up shadowing Benjamin. If you hear anything about him not shadowing K-Benj, however, that will mean he lines up across from Funchess more frequently, which would not be good. I don’t think I can play Benjamin regardless of what happens though, as he has only seen 6 targets over the past two weeks.
DET is slightly weaker against the run, 14th in DVOA, but are 1st against receiving backs. Between this and CMC consistently not producing, I don’t really have any interest in paying $5700 for him here. Stewart is intriguing at only $3900, but he will be in a negative game script and doesn’t possess tournament-winning upside in my opinion. He will still net you around 15 carries with another 1-2 targets though, and is clearly a favorite RZ option (he has seen 2 RZ rushes per game).
JAX (17) @ PIT (25.5)
As I touched on last week, the Jags are really, really bad against the run, and this was shown again as they gave up long TDs to both Bilal Powell and Elijah McGuire. This firmly cements JAX as the top runnel – run funnel D – in the NFL as they are literally best against the pass and worst against the run. Next up for the Jags is Le’Veon Bell in a positive game script. Good luck.
We all saw AB’s little fit of pique on the sidelines last week, but I’m not sure if that will translate into more targets for him this game or not. He does get the weaker of the Jags elite CB duo, Bouye, but he is still very, very good in his own right (the Jags haven’t allowed a WR to go over 60 yards on them on the season so far). I think that best we can hope for from Brown is similar to what Hopkins did to them in Week 1 with a line of 7-55-1 (18.5 points). Bryant draws the tougher match-up of Jalen Ramsey who has allowed the fewest points per route run on the season so far per Scott Barrett. One of these weeks Bryant will go off as he leads the league with an aDoT of 23.2 yards, but I don’t think this is the one.
Marqise Lee only got in a limited practice on Friday with a rib injury, so we need to monitor this as, if he sits, Hurns will be the only available NFL-grade WR here and will see massive volume. The one knock on him is that he will see Mike Hilton in the slot, who has graded out well so far this year. Either way, if Lee sits, I will definitely have exposure here as Hurns is priced at only $4700 in a negative game script and will see miniscule ownership. You could also think about Lewis at only $2800, but PIT is 8th against TEs, and Lewis has been held without a catch in 3 out of his 4 games this year.
While PIT does grade out as 10th in DVOA against the run, we know that Fournette will probably see around 5 targets and probably 15-20 carries. I do worry that this will be on the low end though as they only had him run 14 times in that big loss to the Titans, so if PIT gets up big here, I think that Fournette might not see his normal complement of touches. On the bright side, we did see Howard run for 23-138-2 on them, so they are certainly not a complete brick wall.
One final thing to think about here is that this will be the Jags third game in a row on the road, and they must be tired at this point. They faced BAL in London for a “home” game, then traveled to the Jets, and are now going to PIT.
BUF (18) @ CIN (21.5)
Apparently the sharps like the Bengals here as the line has shifted 0.5 points their way while they have received only 39% of the bets. I’m not sure how I feel about this as the sharp money is called “sharp” for a reason, but I think BUF looks really good.
Shady and Clay continue to go back and forth as TyRod’s WR1, and this only figures to continue with Matthews going down for about a month with his thumb injury. While McCoy did get 20 carries this past game, Trollbert seemed to get a lot of touches while BUF was up (kudos to Brandon for coming up with that one). Shady did total 108 yards, but this wasn’t good enough to get a scoring bonus as only 76 came on the ground, and he still didn’t score any TDs. I’m sure that he will have a big week one of these weeks, but I don’t think that this will be the one. CIN ranks 11th against the rush and 3rd against receiving backs, and they haven’t been particularly generous – they have given up 0 receiving TDs and 2 rushing TDs to backs all year.
I don’t really love any of the BUF receiving options here either. CIN is ranked 8th against the pass in general and 13th against TEs. Outside of the game against GB, CIN has only given up 1 receiving TD on the year, and Taylor definitely doesn’t have the weapons around him that Rodgers does.
As I mentioned earlier, Gio got the long TD last week and Mixon was horribly inefficient, so I’m steering well clear of this backfield moving forward. BUF also hasn’t allowed a RB to go over 80 rushing yards so far, so this further makes me not want to take any Bengal here. BUF has allowed rushing TDs in back-to-back weeks FWIW, but it’s hard to say that another is coming with the Bills being 9th in DVOA against the run.
BUF is even stronger against the pass, however, as they rank 3rd in that regard. It is worth noting that Green figures to go up against EJ Gaines for the majority of his routes, and Gaines has been limited all week with a shoulder injury. Regardless of whether Gaines plays or not, Green will probably be the best option for them to move the ball, and he is seeing huge volume (he only saw 7 targets last game, but that is mostly because they destroyed the Browns). You could think about Kroft if you want as he has seen his targets increase from 4 to 7 over the previous two weeks, but BUF is not CLE, so I would not expect another multi-TD game here. In general, CIN better figure something out fast, as they are tied for 4th-most sacks allowed with 14 and their o-line looks outclassed here.
NYJ (20) @ CLE (20)
I’m pretty sure after the whole, “There will be light” thing, there was something about, “The Browns shall forever be smote by the TE.” They were terrible against TEs all of last year, and nothing has changed this year. Just look at back-up TE Kroft putting up 6-68-2 against them last week (and Ben Watson 8-91-0 in Week 2 and Jesse James with 6-41-2 in Week 1…). This week we get ASJ who just happens to be the Jets best receiver. I’m going to be heavy on him and he is only $3500. The other receiving options are also attractive here as the Browns have been giving in general – Green put up 5-63-1 without trying, Hilton went for 7-153-1, and AB dropped 11-182-0 on them. Jason McCourty has actually graded out fairly well, and he figures to line up against Kearse the most, so this puts the abysmal Jamar Taylor – 95th-graded CB – on Robby Anderson. Anderson has averaged 6 targets/game and clocks in at only $4000, so I think we need to consider him as well here. Between Kearse’s tougher match-up, higher price tag, and erratic usage (his targets fluctuate from 3 to 9), I’m inclined to ignore him out of the two, but he does grade out as the better WR than Anderson per PFF.
No matter how you cut it, McCown at only $4500 looks very interesting here. The Browns have given up at least 15.58 points to each QB so far this year, and this would 3x him, but they have given up 27.76 and 29.34 to Brissett and Dalton respectively over the past two weeks. Assuming Myles Garrett doesn’t snap McCown in half, I think you have to have exposure to McCown at this price and in this match-up (it also helps that you will probably get him at <5% ownership).
Surprisingly, CLE is a heavy funnel defense in that they rank 30th against the pass and 6th against the run. With that being said, I don’t think that they have faced a great running team yet since they have squared off against the Bengals (terrible o-line), Indy (just a mess in general), BAL (also a mess of a committee), and the Steelers (with a very rusty Bell due to his holdout). Even with the quality of opponent in doubt, they have held a lot of people to inefficient lines, so there is some reason for caution here. They do rank 25th against receiving backs, however, and have given up receiving TDs to Gio and Buck Allen. All-in-all, I’m fine with rostering Powell here as we know that he will be heavily involved – he saw 25 total touches last week – and he is still reasonably priced at $6200.
I honestly don’t know why the Browns won’t start Kessler. He had flashes where he looked solid last year when he was healthy. Fine, he might be a game manager, but you usually don’t need or want someone who just slings it downfield. You also cannot legitimately tell me that he might not be better than Kizer who just got benched after 118 scoreless yards this past week. The Browns also lead the league by far with 9 interceptions already – having someone who takes care of the ball might be the best thing for you.
Due to how bad Kizer and the offense is in general, no one here will have many opportunities to score. If you must have a speculative pick from this offense, I would go with Ricardo Louis as he has seen 15 targets over the last two weeks. Britt will also miss this game, but I doubt his replacement, Kasen Williams, will be all that involved. Don’t get me wrong though, I probably won’t be rostering any Louis here.
The one bright spot for the Browns offense is DJ-lite, and the Jets rank 20th against receiving backs. His target share has increased every week so far – 10>7>6>5 – but his price is starting to creep up as he clocks in at $4900. I still think that his upside is capped in this offense, but he is a fine start season-long.
TEN (23.25) @ MIA (20.25)
Anyone want to tell me that Miami shouldn’t sign Kaep immediately right now? No? Ok, that’s what I thought. The Dolphins really cannot get anything going right now, Cutler looks impotent, and Ajayi looks injured. He did come off the injury report this week, so maybe he is back to “normal,” but we know his cartilage isn’t going to spontaneously regrow (he had several fine games even with this issue last year though). Regardless, MIA clearly wants to manage his touches as he has only seen an average of 11.5 carries over the past two weeks. His price of $6600 is tough to stomach with that volume, so I won’t have any of him unless we hear reports that they want to get the ball into his hands 20 times here.
TEN is a little weaker against the pass than the run – 29th versus 21st – but they look like a train wreck in general. Between their bad defense and MIA finally returning home after going from LA to NY to London (props to Dan for pointing that out), I think that this might be a get-right spot for the Dolphins. With 76% of his routes on the outside and the majority of those coming against the Titans worst CB, Adoree’ Jackson, Parker should feast here. He has averaged 8.25 targets/game on the season so far and I feel like his ownership will be depressed in this spot with how bad Cutler has looked. I also think that if Ajayi is limited at all, that will force them to move the ball through the air, which also happens to be the weakest part of the Titans’ D. I’m going back to the well on this one, so feel free to join me if you think Smokin’ Jay can get him the rock. Landry gets the tougher match-up against Logan Ryan in the slot and you are paying $5800 for a possession receiver, so I probably won’t be going here. Stills grades out as one of the worst receivers in the NFL, but he also gets a weak match-up on the outside, so do with that what you will.
On the other side of the ball, TEN signed Brandon Weeden as insurance in case Mariota cannot play here. Mariota has a hamstring strain, and I feel like it would be in the Titans best long-term interest to not push him to play here, but he did practice in limited fashion and has said that he is optimistic about playing (it will come down to a game-time decision). Corey Davis has already been ruled out for this game. If Mariota can play, this definitely opens up both Delanie and Matthews as plays since the Dolphins are terrible against the pass (31st). In particular, I really like Matthews here as he will line up across from the horrific Xavien Howard (94th-worst CB per PFF) on 44% of his routes. He has also had 8 or more targets in 3 out of his 4 games so far, with the outlier coming against the elite Jags, and he is priced at a reasonable $5400. If Mariota cannot go, then I’m hands off here.
Rey Maualuga is set to make his season debut for the Dolphins here, but it might be better for them if he stays on the bench. Last year, he was brutal and ranked 55th out of 59 LBs per PFF. Currently, the Dolphins rank 2nd in DVOA against the run, but we will see if that regresses with Maualuga back. Either way, I don’t want to go to either Henry or Murray with how this timeshare looks (if Mariota cannot play I could see both of them getting heavy usage, but I’m not sure how that will play out).
LAC (21) @ NYG (24)
Ah, the battle of the very beatables, who will emerge with their first win of the season here? OBJ said he is a little banged up, but should be fine moving forward.
As I pointed out last week, the Giants are very bad against TEs, and I’m just updating this handy chart with what happened last week:
|Rec TDs||DK Points|
The Chargers haven’t utilized Henry well or consistently at all as they haven’t even targeted him in 2 games, while Gates has averaged 4+ targets every game. I really want to like Henry here because he is clearly the more dangerous option, but this usage really scares me.
Both Olivier Vernon and JPP look doubtful for this one as the former is dealing with an ankle injury and the latter has injuries to both his shoulder and his knee, so Rivers should get more time to throw here. I’m not sure how the Giants will use Jenkins, however, which will influence the Chargers passing game quite a bit. I assume they will put him on Tyrell for the majority, and Rivers will probably just continue to pepper Allen with targets (he averages 10 a game). Allen gets a decent match-up against DRC here, but he is a little pricey at $7200. Overall, he is my preferred option, but I’m not going to go crazy with him.
Melvin Gordon expressed frustrating with his lack of touches, so this definitely seems like a squeaky wheel situation to me. While he has been wildly inefficient, the Giants rank an abysmal 31st against the run. Even with this low ranking, they have only allowed Zeke to score more than 13 points on them, so it is tough for me to really like Gordon here in a negative game script especially with how he has seen 10 or fewer carries in half of his games so far this year. I will probably have a little exposure as $6000 isn’t that steep for his skillset, but I don’t see myself going over 10%.
It sounds like Wayne Gallman might lead the backfield here, and he did put up 3.8 ypc against the strong Bucs D. I would like to hear something other than “he could end up with the majority of carries” before I go all in, but I definitely think that this warrants some exposure. Outside of CJA in Week 1, the Chargers have given up at least 122 yards to single back in each week since (Ajayi, Hunt, and Blount). The biggest problem presented here is the Giants horrific offensive line, which will prove an impediment for any RB.
The Chargers have given up 6 receiving TDs throughout the year already and the Giants offense clearly works through OBJ. He will get the toughest match-up against Hayward, however, and the hamstring does worry me. Shepard has the easiest match-up against King in the slot, but King hasn’t been horrible. Shepard’s targets also seem to vary without much rhyme or reason as he has seen as many as 10 or as few as 4 this year. I don’t think I’ll end up with any Shepard, but I might have a smattering of OBJ.
BAL (18.25) @ OAK (20.75)
Alex Collins is the lead back here and looks damn good, at least when he can hold onto the rock. Harbaugh put him on notice after this week’s game and threatened him with an indefinite benching if he fumbled again. It’s tough for me to go anywhere in this backfield with all of the ambiguity, but if you are feeling risky, I would roll the dice with Collins at $4000. He won’t break your budget, but he also hasn’t seen double-digit carries yet and could get benched at any time.
Flacco has looked pretty bad so far this year, but the Raiders have been equally as unimpressive against the pass. Wallace and Maclin draw the toughest matchups against Conley and Carrie, so this puts the Ravens’ worst WR, Perriman, against the Raiders worst CB, Amerson. Gross. If I had to pick an option, I would probably actually go with Watson as the Raiders rank 24th against TEs, and they have given up receiving TDs and 50+ yards to Davis and Derby in back-to-back weeks.
Derek Carr has a fracture in his back and was initially diagnosed to be out for 2-6 weeks, but it sounds like he can probably make it back after just 1. If he ends up being out longer, this is obviously awful news for the Raiders. I wish I could say that EJ Manuel is an option here at $4900, but I can’t as BAL is runnel defense. Cooper was limited at practice on Wednesday with a knee issue, so perhaps this is partially what is ailing him this year? I doubt we can just blame it on this especially since this seems new, but maybe it has been something he has been dealing with throughout the year so far. He did return to full participation by Friday, but either way, I can’t go with any of the passing options here.
Ravens DT Brandon Williams will be out indefinitely with his foot injury. As we saw last week, he is a huge run-stopper for them, and they are a different team without him. The problem with the Raiders is that no RB is seeing the volume we need, but maybe that will change with Carr being out? If we don’t hear anything, I can’t consider Lynch at $5100 even though I want to like him.
SEA (23.25) @ LAR (24.75)
Just when I was poised for Chris Carson to rain down fire and brimstone against the Colts, he broke his leg, which is a damn shame. Carroll has already hinted that Rawls will replace him, but Rawls was a healthy scratch last week, Lacy was decent as his replacement, and McKissic had a couple of TDs while looking explosive. All-in-all, I won’t be surprised if Lacy and Rawls end up splitting carries, but I would love to get some clarity around this as the Rams have just bled fantasy points to RBs and have given up 6 rushing TDs on the season so far. Zeke, Hyde, and Thompson have all scored 24+ points on them over the previous 3 weeks. Both Lacy and Rawls are stupidly cheap – $3400 and $3700 respectively – so I will probably have at least some exposure to both.
The Rams are better against the pass than the run, and Baldwin gets the toughest match-up in the slot against Robey-Coleman. I’m going to continue targeting Lockett here as he gets a weak Trumaine Johnson on the outside and he has seen a steady 5 targets/week since he has fully returned. He also only costs $4500 here. Richardson has clearly taken a backseat in this offense with only 3 targets each in back-to-back weeks. Another very intriguing option in this pass game is Jimmy Graham. He hasn’t looked great at points throughout the year, but the Rams are 30th in DVOA against TEs and he has seen 17 targets over the past two weeks with 3 of those coming in the RZ. I will definitely have some exposure here.
Lane pulled his groin and is out for Week 5, so Justin Coleman will replace him. I also doubt DE Cliff Avril will go due to a “serious stinger.” Woods will run against Sherman, so this will put Watkins on the average Shaq Griffin (we saw Rishard Matthews put up 6-87-1 on him two weeks ago). He has only averaged 4 targets a game, so this is a very high-risk play, but I don’t hate taking a flyer on him as you will definitely get him at low ownership.
The Seahawks are surprisingly weak against the run as they are 30th in DVOA, and are a top runnel to target every week. Outside of the Colts last week, the lead back for each of the other 3 teams they faced ended up with at least 19.3 points against them. Gurley is getting huge usage as he has had 23+ carries in each of his last two and he has also seen at least 7 targets in each of them as well. He has the 3rd most RZ rushes in the league with 16 and has also out-targeted both Woods and Watkins in the RZ with 5 to their 3 apiece. I assume Gurley will be fairly popular here, but I plan on being overweight.
Overall, this game has sneaky shootout potential and there are a lot of pieces to like.
GB (25.25) @ DAL (27.75)
DeMarcus Lawrence will have a field day here if Rodgers’ starting tackles are out again – GB has given up the 3rd-most sacks in the league already with 15. Adams will probably miss this one, so I assume that they will have Allison fill in for him, but it is worth noting that Allison played a lot in the slot earlier in the year when Cobb went down, so this injury is a different dynamic. The Pack will probably also be without TyMont as he has a couple of broken ribs, but he has said that he might be able to play. His back-up, Jamal Williams, also originally looked like he would miss this one with either a hamstring pull or LCL sprain, but he said that he will be good to go. If both of them were to site, this would make Aaron Jones the lead back. Whoever gets to be up for the Packers will have a better match-up than normal as Sean Lee figures to miss this one.
I have been a little unclear as to why the Packers were playing Williams over Jones so far, and JJ Zachariason put together this handy little chart comparing the two from their college production:
The Cowboys have been ritualistically abused out of the slot as they have given up 5-60-1 to Kupp, 13-149-1 to Fitz, and 6-62-2 to Sanders in back-to-back-to-back weeks. While Cobb did only see 4 targets last week against the Bears, that was mostly a product of game flow, and he should see much higher volume here. Rodgers has also expressed a keen desire to get Bennett more involved in the pass game, and we have seen him get an average of 7+ targets/game over his last 3, with 3 RZ targets going his way last week. While all receiving options are on the table here, Bennett and Cobb are my preferred targets.
Tyron Smith stat out on Thursday and Friday with a back injury, so we need to monitor this as he also missed a couple of games last year with a back issue. If he ends up sitting out, this is obviously a big hit to Dak’s pass protection as he currently grades out as a top-15 tackle per PFF. Dez just missed 100 yards last week, and he is gonna eat here. He will line up across the 101st-worst CB, Damarious Randall, and we have seen big receivers repeatedly abuse the GB secondary this year with Green putting up 10-111-1 and Julio going for 5-108-0. Dez is a clear misprice at only $6500 and I will have heavy exposure. Over the last two weeks, we have seen Butler’s routes rise from 3 to 16, but unfortunately Williams continues to play over him with 20 and 38 routes in those two weeks as well. I don’t hate the idea of having some exposure to Williams here as he lines up against an almost equally bad Kevin King and he only costs $3600 here.
GB isn’t great against the run as they rank 19th in DVOA and 31st against receiving backs. This is evidenced by the 3 rushing TDs and 2 receiving TDs already allowed by them this year. They still haven’t allowed a rusher to put up 85+ yards on them, but they haven’t exactly faced the murderer’s row of RBs (Freeman was in the best situation and put up 24 points on them). Zeke is going to see his normal 20+ carries with another 5ish targets, but he is expensive at $8800 and will be highly owned. I don’t really have any knocks on him other than that the Cowboys have thrown a disproportionate amount in the RZ so far this year, so I’m more inclined to roll with Dez and take the price discount.
KC (23.25) @ HOU (21.25)
Miller definitely got some touches last week, but I’m still not sold that this isn’t because the Texans had a huge lead for the most part of the day. He also only out-carried Foreman 19 to 13, so it’s not like the Texans used him exclusively. Either way, it would be great to know exactly how they will be used here as KC is much weaker against the run than the pass (25th versus 9th respectively). I’m not sure if their run D is quite this good, but it is tough to tell as they haven’t’ allowed more than 14 points outside of the fluky, 3 TD game they allowed to Gillislee in Week 1. In that time period, however, they haven’t really faced a challenge between WAS, PHI, and LAC.
Between Hopkins and Fuller, Fuller will get covered by Marcus Peters for the majority of the day, which will open up Hopkins quite a bit as he draws Mitchell on the other side. We have seen the Chiefs repeatedly get torched from that side as T-Benj, Jeffery, and Cooks all run the majority of their routes from there, and they have all put up at least 88 yards. Scott Barrett also pointed out that mobile QBs do better against man D as the defenders generally have their backs turned more of the time to them, so Watson should definitely be able to put up some points here. He was my biggest miss last week, and I will learn from my mistakes here.
HOU has been fairly stout against the run so far this year, 7th in DVOA, but their schedule has also not been the toughest as they faced the Titans in a blowout, the Pats in a shootout, the Bengals before Lazor, and then Fournette put up 100 yards on them in Week 1. Between KC’s aerial weapons that stop opponents from stacking the box and Hunt’s natural ability, he will clearly put up points here.
Much like their run D, we haven’t seen HOU get tested all that much through the air. In that game against the Pats, 3 receivers went for 22+ points against them – Hogan, Gronk, and Cooks. I fully expect Kelce to be able to put up a similar line to Gronk (8-89-1) even though HOU ranks 3rd against TEs. In regards to the other WRs, the Chiefs move Hill around the formation quite a bit, so he will line up against all of the HOU CBs at some point with about 70% of his time against their weakest two, Johnthan Banks and Kareem Jackson. I’m fine firing him up with confidence here.
MIN (21.25) @ CHI (18.25)
This season continues to get worse for Minnesota (and my dynasty team as I have Bradford, Diggs, and Rudolph there). Dalvin Cook is now out for the rest of the season with an ACL tear. It will be really interesting to see how the Vikings proceed from here as Murray is still bothered with an ankle injury, and McKinnon is clearly not a lead back. As Kent Weyrauch pointed out though, during Pat Shurmur’s 7 games last year and with the nominal lead back down, McKinnon averaged 4.5-29 receiving per game with another 9.7-32 rushing, so McKinnon does have some appeal in PPR (I believe that Diggs was mostly limited during these splits though, so I can’t guarantee how they will play out this year when he is fully healthy).
The good news for them is that Bradford is trending in the right direction to play this week. I’m not sure if this will actually come to fruition since it seemed like he was still a couple of weeks away at this point and they probably don’t need him to beat the Bears here. If he can play, this is obviously a huge boost to the MIN receivers, and I will roll out some full Vikings stacks on the small slates. The Bears are 22nd against the pass and 18th against TEs, and have allowed at least 1 receiving TD every week so far this year (Rodgers just lit them up for 4 last week). The only knock on the pass game is game script as the Vikings won’t have to throw much.
As Warren Sharp pointed out, the Bears only ran one play this past week where they were within 8 points of the Packers. How did this happen? I remember it being grim for CHI, but surely it couldn’t have been that bad? Oh, why yes it was – that one play was a sack/fumble that led to more points on the board for their opponents. This might be part of the reason that Trubisky is now going to start for the Bears this week. We shall see how this works out for them, but I assume not very well. While Glennon did look terrible for the most part, the center, who he hypothetically has the most chemistry with, certainly did him no favors either. We should see even less chemistry between the new QB and C this week. I also have to question his chemistry with his WRs (even though he has had 12 days to prepare for this), but they will have to throw due to game script. One of the Bears WRs will probably win the small slate GPP for you, but damned if I know which one it will be. If you put a gun to my head, I would say take Thompson as Rhodes should be on Bellamy’s side the most and probably won’t shadow anyone here.
I also feel the need to call John Fox out here for his play calling. While this might be low hanging fruit, his usage of Howard in the pass game when he has Cohen is egregious. Over the past two weeks, Howard has run 30 (?!?) pass routes to Cohen’s 16. We also saw Howard’s butterhands on full display this past week with another several drops on easily catchable balls. With this usage, even though game script will be against him and the Vikings are stronger against the run, Howard is really the only Bears play that I can justify here due to guaranteed usage.
Quick Hits for Bye Teams
NO – Just placed RT Zach Strief on IR with the knee injury he sustained this past week
ATL – Julio will be back after their bye, but Sanu will probably take another week or two
WAS – Continues to get destroyed by TEs, and they will also be without Josh Norman for at least a week or two after their bye