Week Five is here and as a Patriots fan I need to focus on something other than the misery of watching my favorite team fall apart at the seams. There are 15 games on the schedule and come Monday night, someone will be $1 Million wealthier thanks to the Millionaire Maker tournament on DraftKings.
Minnesota at Green Bay – THU, OCT 2
Over/Under: 47.5 Points
Spread: GB -8.5
The Packers and Vikings will play in a Thursday night battle that could be another in a line of Prime Time games that have gotten out of hand recently. With Teddy Bridgewater extremely questionable and likely headed for a game-time decision, Christian Ponder may be at the helm for the Vikings on TNF. I’m going to go under the assumption that Bridgewater plays since that interests me far more than the Ponder scenario. Taking a look at how Bridgewater’s targets went around in his first official start, Jarius Wright saw 10 targets to just 4 for both Cordarrelle Patterson and Greg Jennings. That appeared to be more of a matchup thing against the Falcons though, as it looked like Patterson was in for tough sledding in Week 4 and Wright had by far the best matchup against the Atlanta secondary. This week the best matchup may be for Cordarrelle against Sam Shields, who has struggled so far this season. Shields has allowed 284 yards on 15 catches over 23 targets (with 3 touchdowns allowed as well). Shields usually draws opponents top receivers, which isn’t always an easy task against the likes of Brandon Marshall and Calvin Johnson, but his struggles remain. Beyond Patterson, you can expect last week’s star Jarius Wright (8 catches for 132 yards) to have a decent matchup as well across from Davon House. House hasn’t played much but he’s been a middle of the pack corner allowing 1.33 fantasy points per target this season. If Wright really proves to be one of Bridgewater’s favorite targets, using him in large field tournaments could be a difference maker at his dirt cheap price point. Last, Greg Jennings is expected to see Tramon Williams in coverage on the majority of snaps. Jennings has been relatively insignificant all season and despite the “Narrative Street” of his 2nd return to Green Bay, he could struggle against Williams. Tramon has only allowed 13 catches for 105 yards on 24 targets so far this season (0.94 fantasy points per target).
On the ground, Matt Asiata continues to be an intriguing fantasy value with Adrian Peterson suspended. But much like last year, I still see him as a guy who entirely relies on his ability to find the end zone. Obviously most players are in a similar boat, but Asiata’s rushing talent doesn’t jump off the page and decent rush defenses are able to hold him consistently under 3 yards per carry. Last week he had a cupcake matchup against the Falcons and still failed to hit 100 yards rushing on 20 total carries. The 3 touchdowns again made him viable and his 13 red zone touches over the last two weeks are intriguing, but I’d be wary of using him in a game where Green Bay is heavily favored at home. If the Vikings fall behind, Jerome McKinnon could see more action as the home run hitter with huge upside for this Vikings offense. McKinnon had three red zone looks of his own last week and managed 135 yards rushing on just 18 carries. The Packers have struggled against RBs, so McKinnon should be able to post decent numbers in limited touches (again assuming the Vikings fall behind in this game).
For the Packers offense, it’s all about Aaron Rodgers and his wideouts right now as the running game has been a nightmare. Even against the Bears, Lacy managed just 48 yards rushing on 17 carries with a touchdown. We’re now four games into the season and Lacy has failed to top 50 yards rushing even once. At this point in the season, you need to wait until something changes for Lacy before plugging him into your lineups. Minnesota is allowing the 12th most rushing yards per game to opposing backs, but again there are some major concerns with both the offensive line’s ability to create space and his health. Rolling Lacy out there right now just doesn’t make sense.
Now to the exciting part of Green Bay’s offense, the passing game. Rodgers was brilliant again as he continues to torment the Bears over his career, throwing for 302 yards and 4 TDs in Week 4. His top weapons should have reasonably good matchups this week, starting with Randall Cobb from the slot. I had been touting Captain Munnerlyn through the first few weeks of the season but he’s had a miserable start in Minnesota as their primary slot corner. Cobb is playing 93% of snaps from the slot and Munnerlyn takes 63% of his coverage snaps out of the slot. So far this season, allowing 12 catches on 14 targets for 157 yards and 2 TDs. He’s done a decent job of sealing off his receivers on the majority of snaps (14 targets on 272 snaps) but has struggled in the red zone, as evidenced by the pair of touchdowns allowed and the 2.84 fantasy points per target allowed. Cobb has done a terrific job of making the most of his targets this season, reeling 7 of his 9 targets in last weekend for 113 yards and 2 TDs. Jordy Nelson is another premiere target for Rodgers and will likely see a mixture of Josh Robinson and Xavier Rhodes depending on where he lines up. Both have been above average this season but neither is likely to shadow Jordy, so expect him to move around a lot based on whichever matchup he seems to be having the most success against. The last receiver is Davante Adams, who should play the opposite WR spot of Nelson and will likely see a nice uptick in snaps with Jarrett Boykin unlikely to play in this game. Adams hasn’t played more than 37 offensive snaps all season, and with a full workload he could have some decent upside as a cheap value. In Week 2, Adams saw 7 targets in just 37 snaps.
- Matt Asiata – $4700
- Jarius Wright – $3000
Green Bay Targets
- Aaron Rodgers – $9000
- Randall Cobb – $6900
- Jordy Nelson – $7900
Houston at Dallas – SUN, OCT 5
Over/Under: 46.5 Points
Spread: DAL -6
The Cowboys have been impressive all season long and it almost seems like the perfect time for a classic bad loss for Romo and company. There are a few reasons to believe that will likely happen at some point, as well as some indications that this team may indeed be different. Let’s start with the good from Dallas so far. They are committing to running the football. They’re operating at a near 50/50 split run to pass so far in 2014 (49.22% pass, 50.78% rush). The Dallas Cowboys of 2013 threw the ball on the 4th highest percentage of downs at over 64% to just 36% rushing plays. That patience has opened up DeMarco Murray’s game as he leads the NFL in rushing yards. He’s as locked into 22+ carries as any back in football right now, making his floor extremely high and his ceiling high as well. He’s the only back to see at least 20 carries through each of the first four weeks. He draws another struggling rush defense this week as the Texans are 14th vs. Running Backs and allowing 117 rush yards per game. Last week they fell 7 yards short of allowing their 3rd 100+ yard rushing game of the season against the Bills, who only attempted 22 total carries. The Houston front seven is strong, but they’re much better in pass rush than they are at run-stopping. Look for Murray to continue his monster season on Sunday.
In the passing game, the balanced offensive attack has slightly hurt the overall value of Tony Romo. Romo has yet to throw for over 300 yards this season, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he fails to reach that mark again on Sunday in this matchup where they’re 6 point home favorites. As far as matchups go on the outside, look for the Texans to shadow Dez Bryant with Johnathan Joseph on the outside. Joseph has been an above average corner again this season, allowing 247 yards receiving on 28 targets with 19 receptions and 1 TD. He’s rated out as the 14th best coverage corner on ProFootballFocus as well. It’s not an impossible matchup for Dez, who has the talent to go up against most corners, but I would downgrade his overall upside in this matchup. The other outside threat is Terrance Williams who hauled in 6 of his 7 targets last weekend for 77 yards and 2 touchdowns. If Joseph indeed shadows Dez, Williams will see Darryl Morris in coverage on the majority of snaps. Morris has allowed 10 catches and 74 yards on 19 targets with 2 touchdowns and 1 INT. Those numbers have him as the 33rd rated corner in the NFL on PFF, and while he’s been reasonably effective there’s not too much concern with this matchup and if the Cowboys fall behind for any reason Williams could be the player to exploit.
The Texans offense could be one to exploit in large field tournaments this weekend and this is where I see the potential for the Cowboys to revert to their old ways. Everyone saw Dallas keep Drew Brees and the Saints offense relatively quiet in Week 4. But what seems to be forgotten is that the Cowboys also allowed 327 yards passing to Austin Davis and the no-name Rams receiving corps in Week 3. Also consider that injuries to Bruce Carter, Morris Claiborne and Henry Melton last weekend continue to make this defense a much thinner unit. They came into the season with major depth concerns and have continued to drop key pieces like flies. They’re holding up for now, but at some point the levy will break down and opponents will start pouring yards on them. So what does that mean for the Texans offense? Well I think you’ll see them try and establish the rush early with Arian Foster. Foster had just 8 carries last week (7 receptions as well) but they never really got it going against the Bills front seven. I’d be shocked if Foster saw less than 18 carries in this game, and last weekend Khiry Robinson was able to average over 10 yards per carry on 8 touches against this front seven (most of which came on a long 50+ yard rush). Still, the holes are there for some big rushes and I really like Foster’s ability to break one or two in this game. If he can find the end zone, he could offer some serious value.
In the passing game, the return of Orlando Scandrick has brought some validity to the Boys defensive back unit but there are still spaces that can be exploited. For coverage, you can probably assume Sterling Moore shadows Andre Johnson for the majority of this game. Moore has rated out as the 4th best coverage corner on PFF through the first month of action and I think Johnson might be best left avoided. Johnson has seen double digit targets just once all season and his upside has disappeared with Fitzpatrick and his relatively weak arm at the helm. Where Fitz has had success is with DeAndre Hopkins who has 11 catches for 180 yards and 1 TD over the last two games. He also has three touchdowns on the season. Hopkins will likely lineup across from Brandon Carr, who has been a whole different story in coverage. Carr has allowed 10 catches on 20 targets for 206 yards and a TD. Those numbers tell me that Carr has really struggled on some deeper routes and Hopkins, a speedster, should be able to outrun his coverage on a few plays. If he can get free, he only needs a few big plays to reach value week to week.
- Arian Foster – $7400
- DeAndre Hopkins – $4800
- DeMarco Murray – $7500
- Tony Romo – $7000
- Terrance Williams – $4400
Buffalo at Detroit – SUN, OCT 5
Over/Under: 43.5 Points
Spread: DET -7
The biggest storyline heading into this matchup for the Lions is the status of Joique Bell and Calvin Johnson. Johnson is much more likely to play while at this point, Bell would be a surprise if he suited up. The absence of Bell means a backfield owned mostly by Reggie Bush as both Montell Owens and Theo Riddick are also out at the RB slot for the Lions. Anytime Bush is expected to get the majority of touches, I feel really good about his upside. He’s a versatile back who can catch the ball in the passing game and break an occasional long run, making his tournament potential on DraftKings really high. The biggest concern is the Bills defense which is currently 8th against the rush and recently held Arian Foster to under 10 total rushing yards on 8 carries. Still, last week Foster showcased a potential hole in the Bills defense that Bush may be able to exploit as well. Foster had 7 catches for 55 yards and in Week 1 Matt Forte had 8 catches for 87 yards. Premiere pass catching backs are able to get involved in the screen game and with the full point per reception scoring on DraftKings you could see Bush surpass his relative value in the passing game alone. Add in 15 or so carries and he should have a much higher floor than you’d typically expect from him.
Through the air, the true health of Calvin Johnson raises the biggest concern. Although he’s likely to play, there are some major risks in using him if he again serves as a decoy like he did against the Jets last weekend. He was physically on the field but was only targeted two times all game. Not only does his true health impact whether or not you can use him this weekend, but it affects the decision on using Golden Tate or not. Tate saw his first double digit target game as a Lion in Week 4, with 10 targets from Stafford. He made the most of those targets, hauling in 8 for 116 receiving yards. I think Johnson should be a little more incorporated in the offense this week and I’d expect Tate to drop to about 8 targets in Week 5. Matchup-wise, the Bills will likely throw Stephon Gilmore at Johnson. Gilmore has had a terrible season so far, allowing 10 catches on 12 targets for 155 yards and 2 TDs. I wish Johnson was at 100% health right now since this seems like a prime matchup to incorporate him in your tournament lineups. The other juicy matchup goes to the a fore mentioned Tate against Nickell Roby out of the slot. Roby has been a train wreck all season, allowing 9 catches for 145 yards on 10 total targets. The young slot corner for the Bills could have some major issues stopping Tate who takes 63% of his snaps out of that slot position.
For the Bills offense, the big news this was was that EJ Manuel will ride the pine as Kyle Orton takes over as the starting quarterback. The move to Orton is likely driven by a coaching staff that could be out of a job this season with new ownership at the helm. The Bills are desperate to show their owners that they’re just a QB away from having an extremely talented team and it will be Orton’s job to try and expose that fact. Orton is a solid backup who could struggle in his inaugural game against a Lions defense that has ranked #1 vs. QBs through the first three weeks. This Lions secondary hasn’t had easy matchups either, slowing down Eli Manning, Cam Newton and Aaron Rodgers in three of their four games. Sammy Watkins is the Bills best receiver and he should lineup across from Rashean Mathis on the majority of snaps. Mathis has allowed just 8 receptions on 17 targets for 82 yards and a TD. He has also rated out as the 12th best corner in coverage so far in 2014 according to PFF. On the other side, Mike Williams will probably see Darius Slay in coverage the most. Slay has also been terrific – rating out as the 14th best coverage corner on PFF in 2014. The only +EV matchup goes to Robert Woods out of the slot against Danny Gorrer. Gorrer hasn’t had much time on the field but injuries have forced him into more playing time. In 7 targets against he’s allowed 5 receptions for 55 yards and has rated out as the 113th ranked coverage corner on PFF through the first month of the year. Woods has been a bit of a non factor this year but his 12 targets last weekend were promising and if he sees double digit targets again he could be a high value sleeper pick for Week 5 tournament plays.
- Robert Woods – $3100
- Reggie Bush – $6200
- Golden Tate – $4900
Cleveland at Tennessee – SUN, OCT 5
Over/Under: 44.5 Points
Spread: TEN -1
In a matchup of likely AFC bottom dwellers it’s going to be hard to find a whole lot of value. Let’s start by getting the running games out of the way for both of these teams. The Titans are expected to get some more touches to Bishop Sankey but until he proves to be a reliable play I don’t think he’s worth rostering, even as a deep tournament risk play. The Browns front seven is vulnerable (134 rush yards per game so far this season) but the concern is that the Titans coaching staff gets frustrated with ‘his footwork’ in the early going and he’s hung out to dry after 8 or so carries. For Cleveland, the worry is also platoon related. With Ben Tate coming back from an injury, he’s expected to be the starter while sharing the workload with both Isaiah Crowell and Terrance West. This situation looks extremely similar to the one in Baltimore and the typical situation (when all guys are healthy) in Carolina. Three headed running back monsters kill relative value for each of the heads. Avoid this situation unless a clear cut #1 emerges, despite a decent matchup against the Tennessee front 7.
In the air, there are some intriguing matchups for the Titans that Jake Locker can exploit. Locker returns this weekend after sitting out Week 4 with an injury. Locker has been hit or miss all season so anytime you consider him or any of the Titans receivers, keep that in mind. For coverage, expect Nate Washington and Justin Hunter to see a mixture of Joe Haden and Justin Gilbert in coverage. Haden has actually struggled so far this season, allowing 13 catches on 17 targets for 205 yards and 2 TDs – leaving him as the 152nd ranked coverage corner in football. Gilbert too has struggled, allowing 11 catches for 151 yards on 15 targets and ranking 146th in pass coverage. Hunter is the higher upside play here and as Jon Bales will attest, it seems like a matter of time until he has a monster game. I wish I was able to guarantee that would come this week since I still think Haden is an elite corner and he should see at least half of his snaps against him, but at the very least the potential is there. The final WR matchup might be the juiciest considering the PPR scoring on DraftKings. Kendall Wright takes the majority of his snaps out of the slot and will likely see Buster Skrine in coverage. Skrine has rated out as the 128th ranked coverage corner so far this season while taking 61% of his snaps from the slot. Wright has a ton of PPR value and could have a big game against CLE, especially if Joe Haden of old returns and is able to limit the options for Locker on the outside. And the last member of the Titans passing game as a whole has had the most success of anyone this year in Delanie Walker. Walker reeled in his 3rd touchdown of the season last weekend while tallying his 3rd 12+ fantasy point effort of 2014. Over the last three weeks he’s been thrown at 28 times and faces a Cleveland defense ranked 25th against TEs while allowing 6.33 receptions, 55.67 yards and .67 TDs per game to opposing TEs.
For the Browns passing game, it will continue to be a group of unknowns for Brian Hoyer to throw at in a relatively difficult matchup. The Titans are ranked 6th against quarterbacks in terms of DvP this season even after their debacle against Andrew Luck in Week 4 where Luck had 393 passing yards and 4 TDs. The one intriguing option has been Andrew Hawkins who has yet to have a single game without at least 10 targets. Hawkins has been coming out of the slot on 52% of snaps and will likely get Coty Sensabaugh in coverage on those downs. Sensabaugh has been the 84th rated coverage corner on PFF while allowing 9 receptions for 77 yards on 11 targets in 2014. It would seem that Cleveland should keep Hawkins in that matchup rather than pushing him to the outside against the likes of Jason McCourty. McCourty, one of the premiere corners in football, should see Miles Austin in coverage when he’s on the outside. In the other wide matchup, Taylor Gabriel will line up across from Blidi Wreh-Wilson. The former General McLane high school stand out has not had much success at the professional level. In 28 targets he’s allowed 16 receptions for 215 yards and 3 TDs, rating as the 161st ranked coverage corner. Gabriel has talent and hauled in both of his targets in Week 3 for 81 receiving yards. If he gets more looks, he could present value but he needs to be on the field more consistently for that to happen. Last up for Cleveland is the tight end, Jordan Cameron. The Titans have notoriously struggled against TEs over the past couple of seasons and this year has been no different. They rank 22nd vs. TEs while allowing 48.5 receiving yards per game on just over 5 catches with 0.67 TDs. Cameron is reportedly as healthy as he’s been all season and that could mean we finally see him reach that double digit target number in a potentially huge game for the rising star
- Andrew Hawkins – $3500
- Jordan Cameron – $4400
- Kendall Wright – $5500
- Justin Hunter – $3700
- Delanie Walker – $4300
Baltimore at Indianapolis – SUN, OCT 5
Over/Under: 48.5 Points
Spread: IND -3.5
The Ravens head to Indy to try and slow down a red hot Colts offense. Andrew Luck has been sensational, at least for fantasy purposes, all season long. He has multiple touchdown passes in every game so far this season and has 370+ yards passing in three of his four games. This should pose quite the challenge for a Ravens defense that has allowed at least 250 yards passing in three of their four games this season. Despite allowing an average of 270 passing yards per game to opposing QBs, the Ravens still rank 4th in terms of defense vs. QBs because they’ve been able to hold opposing QBs to under 1 TD per game. So what gives first here? Well I think you have to give the advantage to the home team to be able to establish their offensive gameplan a little easier than the defense will. I wouldn’t expect Luck’s numbers to explode once again, but the upside is always there and his plethora of receiving weapons have made him more dangerous than ever. Speaking of those receivers, there matchups this week are interesting. You can expect Reggie Wayne to come out of the slot most often and he’ll draw Matt Elam in coverage. Elam hasn’t been terrific this year allowing 95 yards receiving and 7 catches on 9 targets against in limited field time. You could be looking at the 2nd consecutive big game from Wayne. Out wide, look for T.Y. Hilton to tangle with Asa Jackson or Jimmy Smith depending on where he lines up. Hilton moves around a lot so I wouldn’t expect him to be consistently against any one corner, and it’s also worth considering that Lardarius Webb is expected to see more snaps this weekend. Webb is arguably the Ravens best corner and could make life for Hilton difficult on the outside. His big play ability doesn’t change, but his floor is a little lower than what it would normally be this weekend. The key to the Colts success this weekend could be targeting the a fore mentioned Asa Jackson though, as Jackson had allowed 15 receptions on 19 targets so far this season for 142 yards and a TD (1.85 fantasy points per target allowed). Nicks could see the most of Jackson and may find himself the beneficiary of a few extra targets on Sunday.
For the Ravens offense, Joe Flacco was sensational last weekend and could be in a good spot again come Sunday, especially if he’s forced to throw more often from behind. The Colts are slight home favorites here and I wouldn’t be surprised if Flacco threw the ball 40+ times. Even in a game where the Ravens ran away with it last weekend, Flacco threw the ball 30 times. In Week 1 Flacco attempted 62 passes. The upside is there purely because of potential opportunities to throw the ball. The Colts are 24th against QBs so far this season, allowing over 260 yards passing to opposing QBs. For receiver matchups, the big target has been Steve Smith so far this year. After his ‘narrative street’ matchup in Week 4, he’ll draw Greg Toler in coverage on the majority of snaps this weekend. Toler hasn’t been great, rating as the 117th corner on PFF in coverage and allowing 170 yards receiving and a TD with 14 receptions on 30 targets. I actually think that ranking might be lower than his actual talent (2 INTs overall this year) but still he shouldn’t be able to keep Smith too quiet if Flacco continues to pump targets his way. The other Smith, Torrey, will likely again serve as a decoy against Vontae Davis on the outside. Davis is a near-elite corner and while it’s possible the Colts shadow him towards Steve Smith, I’d expect him to lineup in his natural RCB spot (95% of snpas there this season) and see Torrey or Steve based on who lines up across from him. Torrey has played 46% of snaps from LWR. Davis has allowed just 54 yards receiving on 15 targets (6 receptions) this season.
The last piece of this game’s puzzle are the rushing attacks for each team. Both teams have at least somewhat of a timeshare in their backfield and both are difficult to predict. Ahmad Bradshaw continues to be a productive back but I could easily see his numbers dropping off in this matchup against a strong front seven of Baltimore. Trent Richardson has proven incapable of breaking any tackles since coming to Indy, so don’t expect him to suddenly provide the winning formula to rushing for major yardage against the Ravens. For Baltimore. the three headed beast of Taliaferro, Pierce and Forsett was baffling again in Week 3 with the expectation that Pierce would shoulder the load being thwarted by Pierce not playing and Forsett/Taliaferro finding pay dirt. I honestly have no idea what to expect from these backs and using them seems to be like a game of Russian Roulette right now where you have a 2 bullets in the chamber and one blank, or a 66% chance of losing.
- Steve Smith Sr. – $6000
- Owen Daniels – $3300
- Joe Flacco – $7000
- Reggie Wayne – $5700
- Andrew Luck – $8700
Tampa Bay at New Orleans – SUN, OCT 5
Over/Under: 48 Points
Spread: NO -10
The Saints return home after a really disappointing loss against the Cowboys on SNF last weekend. Still, there’s enough talent here to see the potential and they are again heavy favorites in the Super Dome against the Buccaneers. As 10 point favorites, you should expect Brees and company to get their action in early before taking the 2nd half to work the clock courtesy of the running game. That is why I once again LOVE Khiry Robinson this weekend. Robinson had 81 yards on just 8 carries in Week 4. Robinson continues to be productive despite not getting a ton of love from Payton and the Saints offense. This weekend the Saints should be running away with this game and Robinson could see 15 or so carries, with a great chance of finding pay dirt. The Bucs are allowing 99.75 yards per game on the ground this season and while they’re certainly much stronger with Gerald McCoy healthy (as showcased last week vs. Le’Veon Bell), there are enough other major concerns to expect Robinson to have success in this matchup. If you’re really feeling frisky, Travaris Cadet was a Top-30 fantasy point running back in Week 4 and had 6 catches for 59 yards while Pierre Thomas seemingly disappeared.
In the passing game, there should be some decent matchups for NO to exploit in the early going. Again the major concern is opportunities in a game that could be out of hand early. If Tampa keeps it close, the upside here is really high. The three main corners for the Bucs are all ranked 131st or lower in terms of coverage for corners. Brandin Cooks should move around and see a mixture of Johnthan Banks and Alterraun Verner. Banks has allowed 17 catches on 21 targets for 207 yards and a TD. Verner has allowed 16 catches on 20 targets for 269 yards and 2 TDs. Kenny Stills will draw the corner opposite Cooks (similar matchups) and both look to have high ceilings for this tilt. In the slot, look for Marques Colston (72% of snaps from the slot) to see a heavy dose of Leonard Johnson. Johnson has allowed 10 catches for 119 yards on 13 targets. Like I mentioned earlier, none of the Tampa corners have been very good this season and all of the receivers for the Saints should be able to have success in this matchup, including the beast that is Jimmy Graham. Sure, it’s easy to jump off the Graham bandwagon after his disappointing Week 4 performance (not that he was bad, but he was still disappointing). Still, the Bucs have now allowed two 80+ receiving yard, 1 TD tight ends this season with Heath Miller posting some monster numbers against them last weekend. The Saints have so much talent on the offensive side of the ball that there’s no way the Bucs can sell out on stopping Graham, and they don’t have any one player who can hang with him in coverage.
For the Tampa offense, there should be some interesting options available here as well. I really like the potential for Doug Martin after watching the Cowboys O-line push the Saints around in any direction they pleased in Week 4. The risk here is that the Bucs are forced to throw a lot late and Martin’s touches are reduced, accompanied by the injury concerns. Still, Martin saw 14 carries in Week 4 despite having a sizeable deficit for the majority of that game against the Steelers. He found pay dirt and averaged under 3 YPC. So why do I think he could do better against the Saints? Well because Logan Mankins is healthy (he played last week as well) and he’s one of the premiere rush blocking O-linemen in football. Martin should be able to find holes in this matchup (NO is 22nd vs. RBs this season) and the offensive line should continue to become more cohesive as the year goes along.
In the air, the one story that stood out to me in Week 4 was that Austin Seferian-Jenkins played every single snap. ASJ has a ton of potential and it looks like the Bucs are finally willing to unleash that potential. Sure he had just 3 catches for 44 yards, but he was targeted 7 times and he’s minimum priced on DraftKings. The Saints haven’t been particularly soft against TE’s this season but there are holes there and ASJ could fall under the radar with the focus being on VJax on the outside. ASJ also sees an uptick because of the injury to Mike Evans which will hold him out this week. Speaking of VJax and Evans, look for Jackson to be the primary option in the passing game without Evans on the field and to be a lock for double digit targets. Jackson will lineup across from a struggling Keenan Lewis and should be able to have a big day. Lewis has allowed 15 catches for 184 yards and 2 TDs on 26 targets this season while ranking as the 155th corner in coverage on PFF. Beyond Jackson, look for Russell Shephard to see an uptick in targets with Evans out and to line up across from Corey White. White has allowed 19 catches for 170 yards and a TD on 25 targets this season. Shephard might be an under the radar sleeper but I think you’d have to see the Saints pull way ahead early and have the Bucs throwing on nearly every down against prevent for him to become overly relevant.
Tampa Bay Targets
- Mike Glennon – $5500
- Doug Martin – $6100
- Vincent Jackson – $5900
- Austin Seferian-Jenkins – $3000
New Orleans Targets
- Drew Brees – $8900
- Khiry Robinson – $3000
- Brandin Cooks – $4700
- Jimmy Graham – $7600
Atlanta at NY Giants – SUN, OCT 5
Over/Under: 50.5 Points
Spread: NYG -4.5
The Falcons are coming off an ugly loss in Minnesota and will have to bounce back quickly against Eli and the G-men. The Giants are on a bit of a burner right now, with Eli Manning throwing 8 TDs over the last 3 games – including a 4 TD effort on TNF last weekend. The Falcons defense on the other hand has allowed 270 yards per game through the air so far this season. There should be some juicy matchups for the Giants, but let’s start in the red zone where Larry Donnell might as well have his name painted in the end zone at Met Life. Donnell saw 5 red zone targets in Week 4 and hauled in three of them for touchdowns. Donnell now has 4 TDs on the season and no fewer than 40 receiving yards in any game this year. He’s quickly emerged as one of the most reliable cash game plays at the TE position. Against an Atlanta defense that has a bad front seven, don’t expect Donnell to drop off too much this week (although another 3 TDs is a bit of a pipe dream). Beyond Donnell, look for Victor Cruz to matchup in the slot against Robert McClain. Cruz has taken 91% of his snaps from the slot this year, where McClain has taken 98% of his snaps. McClain is vulnerable and is the lowest ranked of all the Falcons corners. In 18 targets, he’s allowed 11 catches for 123 yards and is ranked #122 in coverage on PFF. On the outside, both Rueben Randle and Preston Parker will have their hands full. Robert Alford and Desmond Trufant have ranked 12th and 14th respectively in terms of coverage ratings on PFF this season. I’d be very wary of using either of those guys, but both Cruz and Donnell should have no issues picking up yards.
Perhaps the juiciest matchup goes to Rashad Jennings against an ATL front seven that has allowed the most FPPG to opposing backs this season. They’re allowing 135.25 rush yards per game with 2 rush TDs per game, 6.75 receptions and 65.75 receiving yards. That has lead to a margin of 3 fantasy points separating the Falcons defense and ANY other defense against running backs this season. Enter Rashad Jennings who gets involved in both the passing and rushing games. He’s coming off a disappointing effort against a strong Redskins front seven. Andre Williams also saw the bulk of the touches in that game as the G-men had a sizeable lead and were playing on short rest. Look for Jennings to get the majority of snaps and looks in this game and if he sees 20 total touches, I don’t think 25-30 fantasy points is out of the question. He seems to have a really high floor for Sunday accompanied by a high ceiling. He’ll likely be high owned, so I don’t know if I’d use him in a single bullet entry to the Millionaire Maker but if I had multiple lineups, I’d make sure he found his way onto at least one or two.
For the Falcons passing game, look for some tough matchups on the outside and for Ryan to throw the ball a lot as a road underdog. His best weapon, Julio Jones, should see Prince Amukamara who has been spectacular for the G-men in 2014. Amukamara has allowed just 8 catches for 140 yards on 17 targets with 2 INTs. Those numbers have vaulted him up as the 7th best coverage corner according to ProFootballFocus. On the other side, Roddy White should see Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie the most in coverage. Again, this isn’t a great matchup as DRC is an above average corner and has ranked the 20th best coverage corner in all of football this season. He’s allowed just 13 catches on 27 targets for 179 yards and 1 TD/1 INT. Last up is Harry Douglas who gets the ‘easiest’ matchup against the 29th ranked coverage corner, Trumaine McBride, out of the slot. McBride has allowed 6 catches for 77 yards and 1 TD/1 INT on 8 targets. McBride has allowed 2.34 fantasy points per target though and is likely the most vulnerable of this group of corners. Overall, the Giants secondary looks to be one of the better in football and I’m definitely concerned about the upside on both Jones and White as Ryan’s primary weapons.
NY Giants Targets
- Eli Manning – $7500
- Victor Cruz – $5800
- Rashad Jennings – $5500
- Larry Donnell – $5700
St. Louis at Philadelphia – SUN, OCT 5
Over/Under: 47.5 Points
Spread: PHI -7
The Rams will head to Philadelphia coming off of a bye to face the Eagles, who lost their first game of the season in Week 4. Everything went wrong offensively with the Eagles in that game and as I mentioned in last week’s column, it’s really hard to trust LeSean McCoy right now. Something isn’t right with him and the Eagles have lost so many key pieces to their offensive line that it really doesn’t seem like things are going to change soon. Now without Jason Kelce, Evan Mathis and Allen Barbre the Eagles offensive line isn’t able to create the same openings for Shady and even when he’s had openings, he’s been unable to hit them. After averaging a shade under 75 yards per game on the ground in Weeks 1 and 2, McCoy has plummeted to under 20 yards per game on the ground over the last two weeks. In that span he’s had 30 total carries go for 39 yards. When you see someone under 2 YPC, you probably shouldn’t be rostering a guy. With ALL of that said, I still won’t totally rule him out in the Millionaire Maker this weekend. The Eagles are heavy home favorites and if they get a lead it wouldn’t surprise me to see Chip Kelly pound McCoy to get his numbers up a little bit. It’s more of a hunch and I definitely don’t trust him but if I had 100 lineups, I’d consider using him in 1 or 2.
In the air, the Eagles receivers should be able to find some space against the Rams as long as they can keep Nick Foles upright. Foles has taken some huge hits over the last couple of weeks and has been under pressure on 32.2% of snaps so far this season. The Rams have lost some of their pass-rushing ability with Chris Long out for awhile, but they still have talented players such as William Hayes and Robert Quinn who can get after Foles. They also won’t likely need to dial up the blitz to get past the 2nd string offensive lineman that the Eagles are rolling onto the field right now. Again, this is a major concern for the Eagles offense as Foles has just a 57.3 QBR when under pressure so far this season. On plays where Foles is able to get some time, his receivers should have good matchups on the outside. Jeremy Maclin will see a bit of both Janoris Jenkins and EJ Gainer on the outside for the Rams. Jenkins has allowed 12 catches for 140 yards and a TD on 17 targets this season for 1.82 fantasy points per target. EJ Gaines is slightly worse and lines up on Maclin’s most common side of the field, allowing 1.93 fantasy points per target. Beyond Maclin, look for Jordan Matthews to be in a good spot this weekend out of the slot receiver position against LaMarcus Joyner. Joyner is #128 in coverage ratings on PFF so far this season and Matthews should continue to be a solid red zone threat because of his size and strength, something none of the other Eagles receivers (non tight end) really have.
For the Rams, they should be throwing a lot coming out of their bye week assuming that Philly is able to take a lead on home turf. Austin Davis was spectacular in Week 3, throwing for 300+ against the Cowboys in St. Louis. Him and his receivers should be able to find some breathing room in this matchup against the Eagles secondary as well. The Eagles are 31st in terms of fantasy points allowed to opposing QBs this season, ranking behind only Jacksonville. A lot of that has to do with the pace of play the Eagles force their opponents into, which leads to a high number of pass attempts for opposing QBs. Whatever the reason, the 270 passing yards and 2.5 pass TDs they’re averaging against this year is enticing. For matchups, the go-to-guy for the Rams has been Brian Quick. He might be forgotten a little bit this week coming off the bye, so here’s a quick reminder of his game log this season:
- Week 1: 9-7-99-0 (16.9 FP)
- Week 2: 9-7-74-0 (14.4 FP)
- Week 3: 4-2-62-1 (14.2 FP)
Those aren’t off the charts numbers but there also aren’t many receivers who have at least 14 fantasy points in every game so far this season. On the outside he’ll match up most often with Cary Williams, who has been a sieve in coverage this year. Williams has allowed 19 catches for 266 yards and 2 TDs on 29 targets this season and ranks #148 in PFF’s coverage ratings for CBs. The other item of note for the Rams passing game is that Brandon Boykin is very questionable for this game. If he sits, the slot corner situation is very shaky for the Eagles and Tavon Austin has monstrous upside out of that position. I don’t love using him, but he did have a couple of really huge games last season and could be in a good spot on Sunday. The biggest risk with him is if he gets enough opportunities to create that big value.
St. Louis Targets
- Brian Quick – $5900
- Tavon Austin – $4000
- Zac Stacy – $5900
- Jeremy Maclin – $5600
- Jordan Matthews – $3500
- Zach Ertz – $3800
Chicago at Carolina – SUN, OCT 5
Over/Under: 45.5 Points
Spread: CAR -2.5
In an NFC battle of two teams looking to bounce back from losses, the Bears and Panthers will play it out in Carolina on Sunday. The Bears have been up and down all season while remaining difficult to predict, fantasy-wise, because of the fluctuating health of their receivers. Brandon Marshall has been a full participant in practice so far this week so it appears that he’s good to go and might be back to full health. Having a healthy Jeffery and Marshall is great news against a Carolina defense that has surrendered huge, multi-TD games to both Antonio Brown and Steve Smith Sr. over the last two weeks. Both Jeffery and Marshall move around a lot on offense, so they’ll see mixtures in coverage throughout the game but we can take a general look at who might find themselves against the two stud receivers. When Marshall lines up in the slot he should see Bene Benwikere in coverage. Benwikere has allowed 99 yards on 9 catches (14 targets) so far this year and has been the highest rated of the Panthers corners. Still, he’s giving up 4 inches to Brandon Marshall and could struggle with a slot receiver unlike anyone he’s matched up with this year. Alshon Jeffery will likely find his matchups against Antoine Cason, who has been tormented over the past couple of weeks. On the year, Cason has allowed 21 catches for 212 and 2 TDs on 26 targets. Both of the touchdowns he’s allowed have come over the last two weeks as well. The other variable in this Bears passing game is Martellus Bennett who has been quietly (kind of) having a really impressive season. He’s had no fewer than 8 targets in any game this season and has two multi-digit target games (Weeks 1 and 4). The ‘bad’ news is he didn’t find the end zone for the first time all year in Week 4, except he still had 9 grabs for 134 yards. The Panthers do rank 11th in terms of fantasy points allowed per game against the TE position, but that should only decrease the ceiling on Bennett for this game and I’d still be surprised if he had under 12 fantasy points.
On the ground, Matt Forte broke out in Week 4 and will have another chance to prove himself against a front seven that has struggled since Greg Hardy was suspended by the team. They also may be missing Charles Johnson this week, one of the league’s best pass rushers and an overall really solid defensive lineman. Over the last two weeks, they allowed both Le’Veon Bell and LeGarrette Blount to top 100 yards rushing and allowed 114 yards and 2 TDs to the duo of Lorenzo Taliaferro and Justin Forsett. Last week, Forte had 120+ rushing yards and another 49 yards on 5 receptions through the air. He’s yet to find the end zone this week and I strongly believe that changes this weekend against the Panthers. On the road, the Bears will likely try to establish the run and take the crowd out of this game, meaning a huge workload for Forte. Also working in Forte’s favor is his involvement in the passing game. He has 30 targets through four games this season and this Panthers defense allowed the most receptions and receiving yards per game to opposing backs all of last season. He should be involved in all facets of this game and makes for a tremendous play in any format on Sunday.
For the Panthers offense, it should be interesting to see how they move forward with their running back trio of Williams/Stewart/Tolbert all being injured. I think I wrote back in Week 2 about how nice it would be if one of them went down so we could see someone get the bulk of the carries – well now all of them are down and the ‘next man up’ is Darrin Reaves. So who is Darrin Reaves? Well he had just 26 yards rushing on 12 carries last week after DeAngelo Williams went out (with 3 receptions as well). He’ll likely see around 20 total touches in this game which makes him an intriguing option despite the lackluster performance against the Ravens. This Chicago front 7 is nowhere near as strong as Baltimore’s so his YPC should be higher than where it was last week as well. Chicago is 15th vs. RBs in terms of fantasy points allowed this season, but I’d expect those numbers to dip a bit as the season goes on. Reaves isn’t likely the answer to have a monstrous week, but he should be serviceable and could provide some nice salary relief in large field tournaments this weekend.
In the passing game, it’s really all about one guy right now and that’s Kelvin Benjamin. Benjamin hauled in his 3rd touchdown of the season last week while going for 5 catches and 76 yards. That’s his third game this year with at least 18 fantasy points and he’s proving to be the most talented weapon in this offense. He’ll draw a mixture of Tim Jennings and Kyle Fuller in coverage while I’m sure the Bears will also shade some safety help his way. Fuller has been terrific this year, ranking 9th on PFF in coverage ratings and allowing 12 catches for 153 yards on 19 targets with 3 INTs. He was recently named defensive rookie of the month and should be serviceable against his rookie counterpart. The problem with Fuller is that he’s only 6’0″ and Benjamin is a 6’5″ bohemoth. He has a size advantage against almost any corner he faces and for as well as Fuller has played, he might struggle stopping Benjamin in the red zone. The other corner Benjamin will see at times, Tim Jennings, has been significantly worse in coverage this season. Jennings has allowed 13 catches on 20 targets for 188 yards and a touchdown with 1.89 fantasy points per target allowed as well. Also worth noting, Jerricho Cotchery has a great matchup out of the slot against Isaiah Frey. In limited time Frey has allowed 6 catches on 9 targets for 72 yards and 2 TDs. Cotchery had 5 catches for 80 yards on 7 targets last week and could prove a useful option for Cam Newton if the Bears are able to shut down Kelvin Benjamin on the outside. And last but not least is Greg Olsen in a potential deep-seeded revenge game (he left Chicago awhile ago). The Bears have been impressive against the TE position this season (4 Rec/G, 47 RecYd/G) and I don’t love the matchup, but he might be worth considering if you want to handcuff someone to Cam Newton.
- Alshon Jeffery – $6700
- Martellus Bennett – $6000
- Matt Forte – $7800
- Kelvin Benjamin – $4800
- Darrin Reaves – $3000
- Jerricho Cotchery – $3000
Pittsburgh at Jacksonville – SUN, OCT 5
Over/Under: 47 Points
Spread: PIT -6
Many will be licking their chops to target the Steelers against the Jaguars this weekend, and for VERY good reason. The Jaguars defense, which I admittedly expected to improve this year, has been abysmal. The Steelers just played down to their competition at home vs. TB and were forced to use their studs throughout the entire game. The 6 point spread for PIT isn’t all to daunting. All of these reasons make the Steelers skill position players extremely viable options. I mean, just look at quarterbacks against the Jags this season:
- Nick Foles – 322 PaYd, 2 PaTD, 1 INT, 22.88 FP
- Kirk Cousins – 250 PaYd, 2 PaTD, 0 INT, 17.9 FP
- Andrew Luck – 370 PaYd, 4 PaTD, 0 INT, 35.3 FP
- Philip Rivers – 377 PaYd, 3 PaTD, 0 INT, 30.08 FP
1 – Does not include backup stats for Matt Hasselbeck or the first quarter from Robert Griffin III
They are allowing 344.25 passing yards per game to opposing QBs. That is 50 more yards per game allowed than ANY other defense in football right now. Both Keenan Allen and Eddie Royal had 100+ yards receiving last week against this secondary. There are a million reasons to like the Steelers this weekend and I don’t think I need to outline all of the matchups because the Jaguars are plain bad. What I will say is consider how you approach them for tournament strategy. Le’Veon Bell and Antonio Brown will be highly owned in the Millionaire Maker on Sunday. They might be good plays to fade because of their high ownership. You can try finding potential value on this offense from other contributors. Heath Miller just had a monstrous game against the Buccaneers and is still really cheap. LeGarrette Blount had 100+ yards rushing two weeks back against the Panthers and showed last year that he can contribute heavily to an offense. And Markus Wheaton has been slowly improving this season and could finally break out in a matchup against this Jacksonville secondary. I love the usual suspects on Pittsburgh for non-tournament play, but if you want to win the million you may have to think outside the box and guys like Wheaton/Blount/Miller are all viable candidates for low ownership on Sunday.
Moving over to the Jaguars, as bad as they’ve been they should still be able to score some points against Pittsburgh. Allen Hurns continues to surprise and is one of the top receivers this season for fantasy purposes. After 5 catches for 68 yards against the Chargers, he’s slowly drawn more interest from me as a daily fantasy option. He’ll match up this week out of the slot against Brice McCain, PFFs #89 ranked coverage corner. Beyond Hurns, Allen Robinson could be in a good spot as he lines up across from either William Gay or Cortez Allen. Gay has been solid, ranking 34th on PFF and allowing receptions on just 50% of his targets. Allen has been a different story, allowing 16 receptions for 188 yards and 2 TDs while rating as the 153rd ranked corner on PFF. Robinson takes the majority of his snaps as the left wide receiver (61% of snaps), which would mean more matchups against Gay but I’d expect the Jaguars to move him around more with Cecil Shorts and Marqise Lee unlikely to play this week. They should be able to get him in the right matchups and exploit this Pittsburgh secondary which allowed Mike Evans and Louis Murphy to be the top receiving options (#2 and #3 for TB) in Week 4. Last, consider Clay Harbor after his 8 catch, 69 yard performance in Week 4. The Jags are using a rookie QB and they tend to rely more on check downs than other quarterbacks. We saw that in Week 4 against San Diego with Bortles targeting Harbor 8 times. Marcedes Lewis should remain out and I’ll personally wait and see on Harbor, but he might be a guy that Bortles feels comfortable with, especially considering all of the injuries to Jags receivers.
- Ben Roethlisberger – $7400
- Le’Veon Bell – $7300
- Antonio Brown – $8100
- Markus Wheaton – $3300
- Heath Miller – $4000
- LeGarrette Blount – $3000
- Allen Hurns – $4500
- Allen Robinson – $3000
- Clay Harbor – $3000
Arizona at Denver – SUN, OCT 5
Over/Under: 49 Points
Spread: DEN -7
Much like the match up between the Seahawks and Broncos, this game should be a challenge to predict. You have the league’s best offense in Denver facing one of the premiere defenses in the Cardinals. A big question mark for Arizona this week will be the health of Antonio Cromartie. Cromartie across from Patrick Peterson makes for an impressive duo of corners to stifle this Broncos passing attack. It looks like Cromartie will play, but if he is a late scratch be sure to adjust accordingly. Assuming he plays, Cro will likely see Emmanuel Sanders in coverage as Peterson is a good candidate to stalk Demaryius Thomas around the field. Cromartie has been solid this year, allowing just 4 catches for 30 yards on 10 targets against and is the 5th rated corner on PFF in coverage. Peterson has had some red zone struggles but has remained solid, allowing 8 catches for 71 yards and 2 TDs on 15 targets. I’m not as worried about him ranking 115th in coverage on PFF because of both his talent and the fact that his opposing catch percentage is barely over 50%. Both of these are tough matchups for the Broncos talented wideouts and I would probably rule out using them in cash games. In tournaments, I can see the merit of using Sanders who had 11 catches for 149 yards against the Seahawks. My worry with Thomas is health related as he hasn’t appeared himself all season. Similar to guys like Eddie Lacy and LeSean McCoy, I need to see Thomas put together a big performance before I pay a premium price on him, especially in a difficult matchup.
The X Factor in this game is extremely clear in my mind, and that’s Julius Thomas. The Cardinals struggles against TEs have been well documented. They were dead last vs. the TE position last season and they’ve continued to struggle into this year. They slowed Derek Carrier of the 49ers in Week 3 but allowed 80+ receiving yards to both Larry Donnell and Antonio Gates. Thomas is a top-3 tight end in football right now and there’s no reason to expect him not to have a field day in this game. He has a touchdown in every game this year and the only real worry about him is the 9 total targets he’s seen over the last two games. Still, coming out of the bye I expect the Broncos to be well prepared for this game and to take advantage of this elite matchup.
For the Cardinals offense, keeping pace with the Broncos could be a challenge. Much of how their value plays out will depend on how their defense holds up, but I’d expect them to need to throw a lot to at least stay close to the Broncos high-powered offense. That means relying heavily on their backup QB, Drew Stanton. Stanton has now started two games and his target breakdown has been – Fitzgerald (17), Floyd (15), Brown (10), Ellington (7), Carlson (6). What’s most interesting there is the 17 targets allotted to the struggling Larry Fitzgerald. In those two games, Fitz has just 9 catches for 85 yards. He hasn’t had a true Fitz game yet, even after we expected him to pick on the 49ers in Week 3. This week he may have to come up big as he has far and away the best matchup out of the slot for the Cards. When Fitz lines up in the slot (he’s done so on 46% of his snaps this year) he’ll get Bradley Roby. Roby has allowed 13 catches on 17 targets for 149 yards this season and is #117 in coverage on PFF. Compare that to the matchup for Michael Floyd, who has been much better this season, with Chris Harris Jr. or Aqib Talib. Harris has been the #16 rated corner in coverage (and could slide to the slot at times to help on Fitzgerald) and Talib has been the #18 rated corner in coverage. Bruce Arians needs to find ways to get Fitzgerald involved out of the slot against Roby, and if he sustains that matchup he could be in for a big day.
On the ground, Andre Ellington has been relatively successful while finally getting the touches we want to see out of him. He had 18 carries for 62 yards against the Niners and 15 carries for 91 yards against the Giants. He’s yet to find pay dirt, but that shouldn’t be long off. The Broncos are 26th in terms of fantasy points per game allowed to opposing backs so look for him to be a key piece in keeping this Denver offense off the field. The Broncos have most notably struggled stopping pass catching backs, allowing 6 receptions per game for over 60 receiving yards to RBs on the year. Ellington isn’t overly involved in the passing game but could do a good amount with his 4-5 targets per game in this one.
- Larry Fitzgerald – $5400
- Andre Ellington – $5600
- Julius Thomas – $6900
- Emmanuel Sanders – $5100
- Peyton Manning – $9200
NY Jets at San Diego – SUN, OCT 5
Over/Under: 43.5 Points
Spread: SD -6.5
The Jets head to San Diego to take on one of the most impressive teams in football, the Chargers. San Diego has rallied behind the excellent play of Philip Rivers who now has multiple touchdowns in three consecutive games. It’s also thrived behind Eddie Royal who has multiple touchdowns in each of his last two games. Last week, almost everything clicked with Rivers getting Keenan Allen involved for 100+ yards as well. The only downside was the rushing attack led by Donald Brown, and I think it’s safe to ignore that aspect again this week with the Jets front seven being one of the most impressive in football. Through the air though, the Chargers should be able to have success once again. The Jets are 29th in terms of fantasy points per game allowed to QBs and it looks like Rivers could be in for another field day. NYJ is allowing 253 passing yards and 2.5 PaTDs per game this year. As far as where Rivers can go, I really like the potential on Eddie Royal again this week. Out of the slot, he should lineup across from Kyle Wilson on the majority of snaps. Wilson has allowed 8 catches for 76 yards and a TD this year on 10 targets and while PFF has him in the top-50 for coverage corners, I definitely haven’t seen anything out of him that would lead me to believe Royal can’t have another big game. Keenan Allen will likely see a mixture of Dee Milliner and Antonio Allen, depending on where he lines up. Allen has allowed 23 catches on 37 targets for 283 yards and a TD (1.55 FP per target) and ranks #113 on PFF. Milliner has been injured but when on the field he’s allowed 5 catches for 136 yards on 8 targets. Milliner is talented but is still developing and has struggled in the early going of his career. Look for Allen and even Malcom Floyd to have exploitable matchups on the outside for the Chargers.
For the Jets offense, getting away from MetLife could be a breath of fresh air as they’ll be able to avoid the boos of the New York faithful for at least one week. Geno has been horrific of late and his play has led to a lot of push for Mike Vick to take over. Rex Ryan is holding steady with using Smith, but if this game gets ugly you could see him pulled. I actually like Geno’s upside here though, and before you get your pitch fork hear me out. Geno was a risk-reward play all of last season. He had some really big games because of his ability to run the ball and of course they were accompanied by some really bad games. The Chargers are nearly 7 point home favorites, so you can expect the Jets to have to throw the ball a lot in this game. San Diego is 21st in terms of fantasy points per game allowed to opposing QBs and have allowed at least one passing touchdown in every game this season. Those are the “Pros” for Geno Smith, now let’s get to the “Cons”. Eric Decker did not practice on Thursday and even if he suits up for this game it’s abundantly clear he’s not fully healthy, leaving Geno with Jeremy Kerley as his premiere receiving weapon. Kerley takes the majority of his snaps from the slot, meaning he’ll see a lot of Marcus Gilchrist in coverage. Gilchrist has held opposing receivers to just 5 catches for 35 yards on 8 targets this season. If Decker does play, he’ll have to face Brandon Flowers who has been the top coverage corner according to PFF this season. The only other receiver worth mentioning is David Nelson, who will likely see Shareece Wright in coverage. This is a solid matchup as Wright ranks #105 in coverage on PFF, allowing 8 catches for 137 yards on 14 targets this year.
In the rushing game, it again looked like Chris Ivory was going to get his fair share of touches last week before the rug was pulled out from under us. He did have 17 carries for 84 yards and the Jets were playing catch up, but still you’d like to see him get around 20 carries per game especially considering how he’s sparingly used in the passing attack. Coincidentally, it’s that passing game where the Chargers defense struggles the most vs. RBs. They are allowing an average of 61.25 rushing yards per game to opposing backs compared to 8.75 catches for 69.75 receiving yards to RBs. Most notably, Fred Jackson hauled in 8 catches for 78 yards and a TD against them. So while Ivory has been the much more successful back, it might be a decent week for the Jets to try and implement CJ2K. Despite the fact that Ivory has out-targeted Johnson each of the last two games, I still think Johnson is the best weapon the Jets have right now to beat this Chargers defense. He’s always high-risk, high-reward but in this game the potential for a big outing could be a little higher.
NY Jets Targets
- Chris Johnson – $4800
San Diego Targets
- Philip Rivers – $7000
- Keenan Allen – $5800
- Eddie Royal – $4400
- Malcom Floyd – $3000
Kansas City at San Francisco – SUN, OCT 5
Over/Under: 44.5 Points
Spread: SF -6
The Chiefs and Niners will play an old-school game in San Francisco in a potential revenge game for Chiefs QB Alex Smith. Smith has had a ton of success in KC as a game-manager and the 49ers haven’t exactly struggled with Kaepernick at the helm, but Kaep hasn’t been nearly as good as some expected him to be. Still both teams are built off of their defense, so the 44.5 over/under isn’t all that surprising for this one. In terms of expected outcome in this game, I tend to believe that teams coming off emotional primetime wins are more vulnerable to dropping a dud, and that could be the case this weekend as the Chiefs have to travel to San Francisco on short rest. It’s also probably why the 49ers are 6 point home favorites here despite the Chiefs looking extremely impressive over the past three games.
Onto the matchups though, the 49ers are coming off of a game where Frank Gore had a field day – rushing for 119 yards on 24 carries against Philadelphia. The 24 carries were far and away the most we’ve seen out of Gore this season and were a bit of a surprise considering how Harbaugh and the coaching staff have wanted to keep his workload down this year. I’d expect those numbers to drop in Week 5 to around 18 carries at the most, with Carlos Hyde contributing more than the 10 carries he saw last weekend. This is a matchup where I think the Chiefs look a little better on paper than they might truly be. Last week they silenced the Patriots running game but New England played most of that game from behind. In Week 1, Shonn Greene averaged nearly 5 yards per carry while totaling 71 yards on 15 rushes. Montee Ball averaged 5 YPC while getting 60 yards on just 12 carries. And Lamar Miller had a whopping 108 yards on 15 rushes. The Chiefs have sustained major losses with Derrick Johnson and Mike Devito and their front seven is much softer because of it.
In the passing game, Kansas City has had some issues as well. They’re 11th in FPPG allowed to opposing QBs but Emmanuel Sanders, Brandon Lafell, Justin Hunter and Mike Wallace all have 60+ receiving yard games against them. For the 49ers wideouts, the best matchup should be for Anquan Boldin coming out of the slot like he’s done on 66% of offensive snaps this season. Boldin will draw Chris Owens on the majority of downs and Owens is the #127 ranked corner in coverage on PFF this season. He’s allowed 114 yards and a TD on 11 receptions over 16 targets in 2014. The other matchup to exploit will be if they can get Michael Crabtree in coverage against Marcus Cooper. It’s likely the Chiefs try and shadow Crabtree with Sean Smith (#5 rated corner on PFF this season) but if the Niners can get Crabtree, or any of their receivers, near Cooper, it’s a slam dunk. Cooper has allowed 310 yards receiving and 4 TDs with 19 receptions on 27 targets this year. Those totals work out to 2.74 fantasy points allowed per target when Cooper is in coverage.
For the Chiefs offense, it was nice to see Jamaal Charles bounce back and be heavily involved in Week 4 but he could be in for a struggle against the 49ers this weekend. San Fran is allowing the 2nd fewest fantasy points per game to opposing backs on the year despite facing DeMarco Murray, Matt Forte and LeSean McCoy in three of their four games. They’ve seen the premiere backs and those guys haven’t had all that much success (with the exception of Murray). The potential is there for Charles, but I think the Chiefs are committing to getting Knile Davis more touches as well so with a reduced workload and difficult matchup, I won’t be heavily targeting Charles in tournaments or cash games this weekend.
Through the air the story last weekend was Travis Kelce. Kelce had 6 grabs for 93 yards and a TD, marking his 2nd consecutive game with a touchdown. The Chiefs were able to get him involved on a number of bubble screens and he was the beneficiary of some poor tackling by the Patriots linebackers. Again this comes down to matchup and the Patriots slow-footed linebackers don’t measure up to the talent that San Fran has in their linebacking corps. The 49ers have three outside linebackers who are positively rated in pass coverage on PFF. They’ve allowed the 4th fewest fantasy points per game to opposing tight ends. I love the $3K price point on Kelce this week, but he’s still only playing about half of the offensive snaps and the matchup is really difficult here. He’s going to be highly owned on Sunday at just $3K but I’d prefer to fade him and find value elsewhere.
Kansas City Targets
- Travis Kelce – $3000
San Francisco Targets
- Frank Gore – $5200
- Anquan Boldin – $4400
Cincinnati at New England – SUN, OCT 5
Over/Under: 46 Points
Spread: CIN -1
There’s no way to justify the effort that New England put out on Monday Night Football last week. The Patriots played arguably the worst game they’ve played in 11 years. I can’t remember a beating that bad since the Bills handed them a 31-0 defeat in 2002 in the opening weekend. There are a million issues to address on the offensive side of the ball, and they now have to host a Bengals defense that is coming off a bye. The offensive line has been terrible. The Patriots are shuffling linemen in and out of the game like most teams use skill position players and it’s created this void of cohesiveness. Brady is constantly under pressure and the worst part is that the offense seems to now be game-planning under the assumption that Brady will have 0 time to throw the ball. The only glimmer of hope for this game is that the Bengals are currently dead last on PFF in terms of pass rush ratings. That’s hard to believe considering their strong front seven and their 2.3 sacks per game this year, but their strength has really been in slowing down opposing receivers and giving the defensive line added time to get after the quarterback. In coverage, expect Julian Edelman to find Terrance Newman across the line on the majority of plays. Newman is the 24th rated corner on PFF, allowing 14 catches on 23 targets for 133 yards so far this season. That’s going to be a tough matchup for Edelman and while they’ll move him around to try and find better matchups, there aren’t a whole lot of holes in this secondary. The Bengals do tend to keep their corners on one side of the field though, so expect Edelman to slide over and match up with Pacman Jones as the RCB on a lot of downs. If Edelman isn’t there, Brandon Lafell who had a big Week 4 could be working to exploit that matchup. Jones has allowed 208 receiving yards, 13 catches and a TD on 17 targets this season and is outside the top 100 corners in coverage on PFF. If Brady and company want to find a hole, this could be it. Don’t get too excited though, the Bengals are deep in their secondary and have Leon Hall to help out in coverage as well. The last piece of the passing game puzzle for the Patriots is Rob Gronkowski who was pretty much invisible in Week 4. I’d be surprised if he was really pronounced again this weekend as the Bengals have some really good coverage linebackers and safeties. Both Reggie Nelson and George Iloka have graded out extremely well in coverage this season from the safety positions and Emmanuel Lamur and Vontaze Burflict (if healthy) have been tremendous in coverage as well.
For the Bengals offense, a lot of how their passing game value plays out depends on whether or not Bill Belichick unleashes Darrelle Revis in shadow coverage on A.J. Green. In Week 1, Revis didn’t shadow Mike Wallace and was used mostly in zone or man-to-man coverage off the line of scrimmage. In Week 2, Revis chased Greg Jennings and locked him down with ease. In Week 3, Revis was again in passive zone coverage where he’s not nearly as effective. This is one of the matchups where you have to use your elite corner against a top tier receiver, and I fully expect the Patriots to put Green on Revis Island on Sunday Night Football. That matchup is going to be extremely interesting to watch and both should win a few battles throughout the game. Andy Dalton is going to get Green his targets but I do think this New England secondary is still one of the better in football and Dalton could struggle to pass the ball overall. If Revis does shadow Green, it likely puts Kyle Arrington in coverage on the majority of snaps against Mohamed Sanu (keep in mind Marvin Jones is unlikely to play this week still). Arrington has been one of the best coverage corners for the Patriots in terms of raw numbers, allowing just 1 catch for 13 yards on 4 targets this season. Sanu could also see some Logan Ryan and Alfonzo Dennard. Last, Brandon Browner is expected to return this week. It’s unclear how he’ll be used as he comes off of his suspension, but he’s another talented corner who can play physical defense and should be able to help out with Jermaine Gresham, Sanu and Brandon Tate.
Where the Bengals should be able to have a lot of success is up front against the Patriots defensive line. The Chiefs made one thing clear on Monday Night Football – run the ball at Chandler Jones. Jones constantly overran the Chiefs backs and allowed for gaping holes on the left side of the offensive line. He’s an above average pass rusher who has been inept at staying home against the run. The Chiefs also had the most success with their more physical back, Knile Davis. Charles had the three touchdowns, but Davis had 107 yards on the ground over 16 carries. The Chiefs also have a very similar rushing attack to what the Bengals bring. Gio Bernard is the quicker back who can do a lot out of the backfield. The Patriots linebackers are slow and heavy-footed, meaning pass-catching backs can have a ton of success against them. Bernard should be able to get involved in the screen game and New England has allowed 4 receiving touchdowns to opposing RBs this season. The other element is the ‘thunder’ as the Bengals like to call it – Jeremy Hill. Hill is one of my favorite plays this week. He’s found the end zone in each of his last two games and he has the physical running style that can pick up 6-7 yards per carry against this defense easily. If Hill can get 12-15 carries he could be in for a really big day.
- Giovani Bernard – $6700
- Jeremy Hill – $3000
New England Targets
Seattle at Washington – MON, OCT 6
Over/Under: 45 Points
Spread: SEA -7.5
Seattle comes off their bye week as nearly 8 point road favorites in Washington. After watching Kirk Cousins throw 4 INTs against the Giants last weekend, it’s hard to imagine a situation in which he thrives against the Seahawks secondary. With that said, Seattle hasn’t been quite as impressive as they were a season ago. They’re allowing the 9th most FPPG to opposing QBs on the year (yes they’ve faced Rodgers, Rivers and Manning). But the bigger concern has been the play of Byron Maxwell. It’s well-documented that Richard Sherman shuts down the left side of the field but the right corner, Maxwell, hasn’t been holding up his end of the bargain. Look how he’s done individually in coverage through the first three games of the year:
- Week 1 vs. GB – 11 Targets, 9 Rec, 79 RecYd, 0 RecTD
- Week 2 vs. SD – 2 Targets, 1 Rec, 14 RecYd, 0 RecTD
- Week 3 vs. DEN – 12 Targets, 10 Rec, 152 RecYd, 1 RecTD
Those numbers aren’t great and it will be interesting to see who gets to play out of that direction for the Redskins. My guess is that Pierre Garcon is playing that LWR slot on the majority of snaps, since he’s done so on 54% of plays this season. Garcon also makes more sense since using DeSean Jackson as a decoy against Sherman could bring Sherman further out of the thick of the action. I also think DJax wants that matchup with Sherman – the two grew up near each other and have been playing together for a long time. Sure on the field they might actually murder each other but that could be entertaining too. Point being, look for Garcon to see a lot of Maxwell which has been a positive thing for his opponents so far this season.
For the Seahawks offense, they had an extra week to prepare for this Redskins defense that has been night and day in terms of their ability to stop the run vs. the pass. They are 3rd in FPPG allowed to opposing running backs this season compared to 28th against opposing QBs. That means our focus will be on the passing game and Russell Wilson. I tend to think this game could be closer than the line expects it to be, so Wilson may be forced to throw a bit. A couple weeks back I discussed how much better he is in games where he’s forced to throw over 30 times and sure enough he threw 34 times against the Broncos for 258 yards and 2 TDs. I don’t know if he’ll be needed that much this week, his pass attempts should be closer to 28, but still the chances should be there against this secondary. Out of the slot, Percy Harvin should see a lot of EJ Biggers who has been filling in since DeAngelo Hall went down (David Amerson moved to the outside). Biggers has been ok, allowing 6 catches for 63 yards on 11 targets. PFF has him rated as the 125th ranked coverage corner though so it seems to be an exploitable match up for Harvin. Doug Baldwin could get the best matchup of all though, facing David Amerson. On 33 targets, Amerson has allowed 24 catches for 244 yards this season – bad enough to land him at #131 in the coverage ratings. The problem with Baldwin is the target totals, as he’s seen 6-5-6 over the first three weeks of the season. That range seems to be the norm so I don’t think he has enough upside in 5 or 6 targets to provide reasonable value.
- Russell Wilson – $7600
- Percy Harvin – $6100
- Pierre Garcon – $5600