NY Jets at New England – THU, OCT 16
Over/Under: 44.5 Points
Spread: NE -9.5
After an impressive win in Buffalo last weekend the Patriots had very little time to celebrate as the two biggest focuses were prepping a short week vs. the division rival Jets and finding ways to replace the season-ending injuries to Jerod Mayo and Stevan Ridley. We’ll talk about Ridley first, along with the Patriots offense. He was never a wholly reliable option but when New England went into ‘run-mode’ he was capable of throwing 100+ rushing yards on the board with a TD. His loss likely means more touches for Brandon Bolden and Shane Vereen with James White and Jonas Gray getting potential looks as well. Belichick has always deployed a hot-hand approach so don’t expect Bolden to be a safe play despite his reasonable price point. The other challenge for all of these backs this week is the matchup. The Jets have given up 100 or more rushing yards in each of the past two weeks but their front seven is still one of the most feared in football and the Patriots offensive line failed to create any type of push for their RBs in the Week 6 win against the Bills. I don’t see New England having a ton of success tonight rushing down NY’s throat, although the 9.5 point spread certainly implies that they’ll have ample opportunities to run in garbage time. Still, the concern with the matchup paired with the split of touches in Ridley’s absence makes it hard to rely on any of the pure runners in this scheme. The one guy you could look to is Shane Vereen who will see an uptick in snaps and is usually heavily involved in the passing game. Vereen hasn’t been as involved lately, but does have three games this season with 5 or more targets and given just how good the Jets front seven is, the Patriots might be better served to getting him involved in the screen game early on to create some balance on their offensive approach.
As far as Tom Brady and this passing game goes, it’s quite possible they’re able to put up enough value early on before this game potentially turns ugly (at least according to the spread). The Jets secondary is flat out bad and to make matters worse they lost Dee Milliner, who had been battling injuries already this year, for the season in Week 6. The Patriots offense has become a bit more predictable for targets as well, although Brady’s resurgence over the last two weeks have increased the number of viable receiving options. We’ll start with Julian Edelman who quietly saw 13 targets again last week. He’ll mix time between the slot and the right wide receiver role, meaning he’ll get a heavy dose of Darrin Walls (#129 ranked corner on PFF) and Kyle Wilson (#93 ranked corner on PFF). That’s a terrific matchup for Edelman who continues to be one of the most targeted receivers in all of football. Next up is Brandon Lafell who actually tallied 4 catches for 97 yards and 2 TDs on 6 targets last week. Expect to see a lot of Lafell lined up on the left side of Brady against Philip Adams who has allowed 9 catches for 130 yards and a TD on 14 targets this season, ranking below both Walls and Wilson on PFF. That’s a terrific matchup for Lafell as well but he still seems like a tournament play who’s value will be highly dependent on big plays and red zone opportunities. I’ll also mention Brian Tyms as a potential tournament play. He had one catch for 43 yards and a TD last week and another target of 40+ yards that fell just a bit outside of his range. Tyms is going to come in and play a decent amount of snaps at LWR with LaFell moving over to the right side of Brady and Edelman playing the slot. This is a package the Patriots should be especially dangerous in and Tyms has that ‘Kenny Stills’ type upside. THe last variable is of course Rob Gronkowski. The Jets are allowing the 8th most FPPG to opposing tight ends. Dating back two years, Gronk has 14 catches for 192 yards and 2 TDs against the Jets in two games against (his injuries have made him miss 2 games vs. NYJ). Martellus Bennett, Antonio Gates and Julius Thomas (all top-5 to 8 tight ends in the NFL) have posted 2 TD performances against this defense which clearly struggles in the red zone against the big bodied TEs. Look for Gronk to be a safe bet to find pay dirt on Thursday night at least once.
For the Jets offense, there’s really not much to say. Geno Smith has been abysmal but to be fair to him his offensive line has done close to nothing to protect him. He’s been hurried 88 times this season and has only even gotten passes off on 69 of those (78.8%). Compare that number with the best QB in football in terms of completion percentage under pressure, Jay Cutler, who has completed 61% of passes under pressure. Geno Smith just manages to throw the ball near a receiver on about 17% more snaps under pressure than Cutler completes. When you add in that Smith only completes 35% of passes under pressure, you shouldn’t be surprised to see his horrific numbers this season. The road doesn’t get much easier this week against a Patriots secondary that is getting more cohesive and has been terrific so far this year, allowing the fifth fewest passing yards per game to opposing QBs. On the outside, look for Darrelle Revis to do less shadowing this week although there will be situations where he chases Eric Decker around the field, especially if Decker starts tearing apart some of the Patriots secondary corners. We could also see the first game with Brandon Browner for the Patriots. There are a few ways the Patriots could use him, and some concerns to whether or not he’s able to move around the field and not just take a side like he did with the Seahawks. Personally, I see him having a ton of value as a hybrid safety/small linebacker in coverage against the tight end position. Jerod Mayo, the Patriots defensive captain, went down last week and while he wasn’t terrific in coverage he was vital in getting the linebacking corps into the right positions. Before he went down last week, he tipped Jamie Collins off to something on the line that led to the Collins INT. Point being, with Mayo down, the Patriots struggles against tight ends could get even worse. Their linebackers are slow-footed and struggle stopping the pass. Look at how successful tight ends have been against them recently:
- Week 4 – Travis Kelce (KC) – 9 targets, 8 receptions, 93 yards, 1 TD
- Week 6 – Scott Chandler (BUF) – 9 targets, 6 receptions, 105 yards, 0 TD
Even in Week 5 where Jermaine Gresham mustered just 2 catches for 15 yards he still dropped a wide open touchdown that would have bolstered his fantasy total. Browner could be a good option in special packages (red zone specifically) to slow down some of the success tight ends have had against them. That also brings us to Jace Amaro who broke out last week and turned 12 targets into 10 catches for 68 yards and a TD. The biggest thing to take away were the 12 targets and 3 red zone looks he received. With his workload being that high and the strong matchup, Amaro looks to be a strong play again this week.
On the ground, the Jets have really failed to get anything going but this is one of those games where we could see the Jets rushing attack put together a solid effort. The Patriots have had issues stopping RBs (Davis and Charles killed them in Week 4) and the weather in New England for tonight has it pouring rain throughout this game. Passing could be at a premium and that might open up some space for the power running style of Chris Ivory. Ivory was used sparingly last week with 8 carries for 7 yards but last season Rex Ryan had success using Ivory against the Patriots defense with 34 carries for 100+ rushing yards. CJ2K is being phased out of the offense so the time share on Ivory seems a little less risky. The biggest concern is if this game goes according to the Vegas script and Ivory’s touches aren’t there as the Jets try and play catch up.
NY Jets Targets
- Chris Ivory – $4300
- Jace Amaro – $3300
New England Targets
- Tom Brady – $7600
- Julian Edelman – $6000
- Shane Vereen – $6500
- Brandon LaFell – $4300
- Rob Gronkowski – $6700
Minnesota at Buffalo – SUN, OCT 19
Over/Under: 43 Points
Spread: BUF -6
This game has ugly written all over it as the Vikings head to Buffalo to take on the Bills. Buffalo is coming off a tough loss to the Patriots where a number of their players/coaches are openly admitting that it was the game they were all looking forward to. This could be a prime let down spot for the Vikings to sneak a win out, and regardless I think it’s played a lot closer than the 6 point spread indicates. For Minnesota, they’re a young team relying on rookies and young talent to continue growing and the rookie who stood out the most last weekend was Jerrick McKinnon. McKinnon got 11 carries for 60 yards and had 6 receptions for 42 yards last week to help him overachieve value against the Lions. He also played 47 of the Vikings 69 offensive snaps for his highest usage percentage of the season. He’s a big play threat, not unlike a Darren Sproles, but that also makes him high risk in any sort of daily fantasy action. His matchup this week is against a Buffalo defense that is allowing the 3rd fewest fantasy points per game to opposing running backs. They are however allowing the 8th most receiving yards per game to opposing RBs at 48 yards per contest and McKinnon showed in Week 6 how valuable he can be in the screen game. The Vikings are going to continue using a lot of check downs to running backs with Kyle Rudolph out for the year and a rookie QB at the helm, so if we’re expecting McKinnon to post big numbers this week it’s likely going to be in that regard.
In the air, Bridgewater really looked like a rookie last weekend, throwing for just 188 yards with no TDs and 3 INTs. Here’s the one thing to remember though, the Lions defense has been excellent this season. They’ve been shutting down QBs far better than Bridgewater so watching Teddy drop a dud against Detroit shouldn’t have you running for the hills. This week he gets the Bills who were just torched by Tom Brady and the Patriots offense, struggling most against the deep ball. Brady completed a 40 yarder to Brian Tyms and another long pass to Brandon Lafell, with a 3rd deep touchdown pass to Julian Edelman being broken up by one of the most blatant pass interference attempts in the history of football. That weakness over the top is something the Vikings will want to exploit. Matchup wise, none of the Bills corners have stood out this season and all of the Minnesota receivers could be in good spots. Greg Jennings stands out the most coming out of the slot on 77% of downs against Nickell Roby. Roby has allowed 14 receptions for 221 yards on 18 targets this season while ranking #165 in coverage on PFF. Cordarrelle Patterson could find himself back in the mix as well and the 8 targets he saw last week make him more intriguing. He’ll draw Stephon Gilmore or Leodis McKelvin in coverage anytime he lines up out wide, and the two rank #153 and #164 in coverage respectively on PFF. Last is Jarius Wright. Wright has had 16 targets thrown his way in the two games both he and Bridgewater were on the field together. He’s also seen 20.7% of his targets at distances of 20 yards or more, making him the biggest deep threat the Vikings have. As I mentioned above, Buffalo struggled mightily with the long ball last weekend and I actually think you could roll a mixture of any of these receivers out in Week 7 tournament play. At least one of them should be in line for a big game. Also worth mentioning, a lot of the Vikings are really cheap this week which is why you see so many listed below.
For the Bills offense, the best bet for success should be on the ground against this Minnesota defense. The Vikings are allowing the 3rd fewest fantasy points per game to opposing QBs but are allowing the 4th most FPPG to opposing running backs. Both Eddie Lacy and Stevan Ridley have 100+ yard rushing performances against the Vikings front seven this season and while it’s unlikely that any of the Bills backs top 100 yards, due to the nature of their time share, they both have reasonable upside. Jackson is the one I’ll most often target because of his usage in the passing game which skyrockets his DraftKings value. The Vikings are allowing 5.5 receptions for 44.5 yards per game to opposing backs and Jackson is not only the third down back, he’s also the primary red zone back. He’s seen 19 red zone touches or targets this season compared to just 5 for Spiller.
In the air, we should see Kyle Orton drop back a fair amount this week despite the 6 point spread favoring Buffalo at home. Minnesota has performed well vs. QBs in terms of the fantasy points allowed, but some of their corners have struggled which makes for interesting matchups for the Bills wideouts. We can start with Sammy Watkins who was shadowed by Revis last weekend but also was wasted by the Bills coaching staff. In weeks prior, Watkins had been used in fake reverses, actual reverses and a number of innovative ways just to get him the ball in space because of his incredible speed. Last week it was amazing to see how often he just lined up straight against Revis and tried to beat him 1 on 1. That strategy was horrific so expect Buffalo to be a bit more creative about their Watkins usage this weekend. Watkins moves around a lot but he’ll see a mixture of Xavier Rhodes (#47 in coverage on PFF) and Josh Robinson (#19 in coverage on PFF this year). Perhaps the best matchup goes to Robert Woods who takes 80% of his snaps out of the slot and is coming off a 7 catch, 78 yard, 1 TD game against the Patriots. He draws Captain Munnerlyn who has struggled in the red zone specifically this season, allowing 3 TDs and 146 yards over 12 receptions (17 targets).
- Jerick McKinnon – $4700
- Teddy Bridgewater – $5200
- Jarius Wright – $3400
- Cordarrelle Patterson – $4100
- Greg Jennings – $3500
- Fred Jackson – $5500
- Sammy Watkins – $4800
- Robert Woods – $4300
Miami at Chicago – SUN, OCT 19
Over/Under: 48 Points
Spread: CHI -3
This game looks pretty similar to the one between the Packers and Dolphins last weekend down in Miami, where two teams that know little about each other will face off in an inter-conference battle. The Dolphins are reeling after their late defeat at the hands of the Aaron Rodgers fake-spike and need to bounce back quickly to avoid falling too far behind in the AFC East. The Bears on the other hand are coming off a game where they dominated the Falcons on both sides of the ball in Atlanta. We’ll start with Chicago since they have the flashy fantasy options. The biggest story has to be Matt Forte who has at least 150 net yards in 3 consecutive games. He also has double-digit catches each of the last two weeks and now has at least 5 receptions in every game this season. He’s so incredibly valuable on DraftKings because of his usage in the passing game and his 22 red zone opportunities this season. The matchup here looks pretty good as the Dolphins rank 19th in terms of FPPG allowed to opposing running backs and are middle of the pack in receiving yards vs. RBs. They don’t give up a ton of yardage on the ground but they are susceptible to wearing down over the course of the game and Forte is a near lock to get 20 touches, whether through the air or in the rushing game. I wouldn’t upgrade Forte with this matchup but I would call it a relatively neutral opponent.
In the passing game the two big weapons are Alshon Jeffery and Brandon Marshall. Marshall has been banged up but he did lead Bears receivers with 9 Week 6 targets. That turned into 6 catches for 113 yards. Jeffery had a similarly impressive day, totaling 5 grabs for 136 yards. The Dolphins have struggled most against WR1′s on the outside and while their outside corners, Cortland Finnegan and Brent Grimes, have been solid there’s some reason to expect a big day from Jeffery. Look at these numbers vs. WR1′s this season:
- Week 1: Julian Edelman – 6 Rec, 95 RecYd
- Week 2: Sammy Watkins – 8 Rec, 117 RecYd, 1 RecTD
- Week 4: James Jones – 6 Rec, 83 RecYd
- Week 6: Jordy Nelson – 9 Rec, 107 RecYd, 1 RecTD
Four WR1′s have had at least 14 fantasy points against the Dolphins and while it’s not a clear cut WR1/WR2 thing in Chicago, you can draw a lot of similarities with the Bears and Packers passing games. By that I mean that Jordy Nelson plays a lot on the outside (similar to Alshon Jeffery) with Randall Cobb playing the slot (similar to Brandon Marshall). These roles change throughout the game but those are the primary positions for each. The Dolphins have struggled more with the guys on the outside so I’d give a slight edge to Jeffery, although based on PFF coverage ratings Marshall has a better matchup in the slot against the unproven Jimmy Wilson. The last variable in this passing game is Martellus Bennett who has quieted down a lot over the last couple of weeks. He has just 7 catches for 69 yards in that span and it looks like having a healthy Marshall and Jeffery on the field (along with the slew of targets going to Forte) is hurting his value. The Dolphins rank 11th against TE’s this season in FPPG allowed, so the matchup isn’t ideal either.
For the Dolphins offense, news that Knowshon Moreno will be out for the season is a tough blow for them as a team but it at least brings clarity to the rushing situation for daily fantasy purposes. Lamar Miller may never be the type of guy who sees 20+ touches per game, but he’ll get the bulk of snaps and can be involved in both the rushing and passing game for the Dolphins. Last week he took 13 carries for 53 yards and a TD while tacking on 40 receiving yards. He’s not a high-volume receiver like Forte, but he should see 3-5 targets each week. The difficult part of pulling the trigger on Miller here is the matchup. Chicago broke records last season for having a historically bad rush defense, but they’ve turned it around in 2014. After a terrible Week 1 where they allowed 50+ rushing yards to C.J. Spiller, Fred Jackson and Anthony Dixon, they’ve held all of their opponents to under 100 yards rushing. This may be smoke in mirrors though since the only back to get over 15 carries in a single game against them was Eddie Lacy who hasn’t looked like himself all season. Miller isn’t likely to get the workload to post monster numbers, but I’m not completely sold on this Bears defense as being a rush-stopping force. They’re improved from a year ago but Miller still looks to be in line for a nice day on Sunday.
In the passing game Ryan Tannehill and company will have to battle the rookie sensation Kyle Fuller. Fuller is the 19th ranked CB on ProFootballFocus and followed Julio Jones for the bulk of snaps a week ago. Julio was targeted 12 times and caught just 4 of those for 68 yards. Fuller will likely draw Mike Wallace this week. Wallace is very similar to Jones in a lot of ways and it’s possible we’re watching a future stud CB emerge in front of our eyes. Wallace does have a touchdown in four of the Dolphins 5 games this season, including one against Darrelle Revis, but I think this matchup may foil him a bit. The area where Tannehill would be better served targeting is wherever Brian Hartline lines up – likely against Tim Jennings. Jennings has allowed 283 yards receiving and 20 receptions on 32 targets this season. He’s also ranked #129 among corners in coverage ratings on PFF.
- Lamar Miller – $5300
- Jay Cutler – $7900
- Matt Forte – $9400
- Brandon Marshall – $6300
- Alshon Jeffery – $6600
New Orleans at Detroit – SUN, OCT 19
Over/Under: 48.5 Points
Spread: DET -2.5
The Saints come out of their bye week in a tough spot against a Lions defense that has been really impressive this season. As a unit, PFF has their team defense ranked 4th in the NFL right now with their rush defense ranked 3rd and their pass coverage at 7th best. For a Saints offense that has struggled at times against the Cowboys, Buccaneers, Browns and Vikings it’s not going to be a cakewalk. New Orleans did have last week off and that’s been great for Brees’ production over the last couple of seasons:
- Drew Brees Post-Bye – 2013: 332 PaYd, 5 PaTD, 36.28 FP
- Drew Brees Post-Bye – 2012: 377 PaYd, 4 PaTD, 1 INT, 33.08 FP
- Drew Brees Post-Bye – 2011: 363 PaYd, 4 PaTD, 33.52 FP
While you can attribute some of that to randomness, since Brees has a ton of games with similar stat lines over the past couple of years, it’s clear that the added rest and prep-time makes Brees a significantly better player. This season, despite the perceived struggles, he’s still had 3 300+ passing yard games and multiple PaTDs in all but one game. In this game, I don’t worry about Brees’ ability to perform but instead am staring at the matchup. Detroit is allowing the fewest FPPG to opposing QBs this season, and it’s a full 3 points less than the 2nd fewest allowed (Pittsburgh). All three of their primary corners are in the top-50 in coverage this season as well, making it difficult to find real points of weakness. That brings us to potential coverage matchups and a huge question mark will be whether Jimmy Graham is good to go come Sunday. I’m leaning towards a situation similar to last season where he plays on key downs and in the red zone, which detracts from his overall value but helps keep Brees more relevant. Beyond Graham, Brandin Cooks and Kenny Stills will have their hands full on the outside against the likes of Darius Slay and Rashean Mathis who are ranked 22nd and 11th in coverage ratings on PFF respectively. Cooks moves around a lot, including time in the slot, where he may be able to exploit the relatively unproven Danny Gorrer who is the 3rd slot corner the Lions have used this season. Marques Colston also takes the majority of his snaps out of the slot and should see Gorrer as well.
On the ground, the return of Mark Ingram muddles a backfield that was already pretty confusing. Pierre Thomas is the primary pass catching back and always has value in DraftKings tournaments because of his upside and PPR-ability. Khiry Robinson likely takes a back seat and Ingram becomes the lead back for the Saints, and he performed extremely well early this year before getting injured. The issue with Ingram, specifically in this matchup, is that I don’t see him racking up a ton of yards which makes him extremely touchdown dependent. He had 3 TDs through the first two weeks but the Lions have only allowed 3 rushing touchdowns all season and only one rusher has had more than 50 RuYd’s against. Detroit is 10th in terms of fantasy points per game allowed to opposing running backs but might be even better than that number indicates with a few dominant players in their front seven. Between the time share and the matchup I’d wait to see how Ingram looks this weekend before returning him to my lineups.
For the Lions, this looks like a terrific chance for their offense to really get going. Megatron is very unlikely to play this weekend and while Jim Caldwell hasn’t shut the door completely, we’ll go on the assumption that he’s going to be unavailable. Calvin has only truly sat out one week but he hasn’t been a factor in any of the last three weeks so let’s look at the target breakdown in that three game span:
- Golden Tate: 10, 9, 12 (31 targets)
- Jeremy Ross: 2, 2, 3 (7 targets)
- Corey Fuller: 1, 4, 5 (10 targets)
- Reggie Bush: 6, 5, DNP (11 targets)
- Eric Ebron: 4, 4, 4 (12 targets)
The Lions haven’t thrown a ton with Megatron either decoying or sitting out, but Golden Tate is getting the lions share of looks. He disappointed last weekend but still has 22 catches for 194 yards and 1 RecTD over the last three weeks. He’ll likely come out of the slot against Patrick Robinson on the majority of snaps (Tate runs about 60% of his routes from the SLWR role). Patrick Robinson has been a sieve defensively and was demoted to nickel duty only earlier this season. It’s likely the Saints can slide some of their outside corners into the slot to help out due to the Lions lack of depth at receiver, but Corey White and Keenan Lewis have both been equally terrible this season. White has allowed 23 catches, 246 yards and 2 TDs on 30 targets and Lewis has allowed 238 yards and 2 TDs on 38 targets this season – both rank outside the top 150 in coverage ratings. It’s a shame Megatron is so unlikely to play since it looks like he would’ve torn apart this secondary, but we can settle for targeting a lot of Golden Tate on Sunday in what appears to be one of the higher scoring games of the weekend. One last note on the Lions passing game, Eric Ebron is expected to miss this game as well which means 4-ish targets can be dispersed elsewhere.
On the ground, look for Reggie Bush to return this week and recreate one of the most frustrating time shares in football with Joique Bell. The two have played the entire game together 3 times this season and here were the touches breakdowns:
Week 1 RB Touches vs. NYG – Bush 15 (9 rush, 6 rec), Bell 16 (15 rush, 1 rec)
Week 2 RB Touches vs. CAR – Bush 8 (6 rush, 2 rec), Bell 16 (10 rush, 6 rec)
Week 3 RB Touches vs. GB – Bush 18 (12 rush, 6 rec), Bell 10 (8 rush, 2 rec)
Basically, neither get a ton of looks when both are healthy but Bell does seem a bit more consistent. Both are used in passing situations and I actually think you could see a fair amount of both on the field at the same time against the Saints with Calvin and Ebron out. The loss of those two also opens up a ton of red zone opportunities, an area where Bell has 11 looks this year compared to 10 for Reggie Bush. The Saints defense is allowing 100.2 yards per game against opposing RBs this season and sits at 21st in terms of fantasy points allowed to rushers. Further, the 47 receiving yards they allow per game to RBs is in the bottom 10 in the NFL as well. The matchup is pretty good and I’d lean Bell as the safer play with Bush having reasonable upside because of his big play-ability.
New Orleans Targets
- Drew Brees – $8100
- Brandin Cooks – $5800
- Pierre Thomas – $5700
- Matthew Stafford – $7000
- Joique Bell – $4800
- Golden Tate – $5900
Carolina at Green Bay – SUN, OCT 19
Over/Under: 49 Points
Spread: GB -7
Both of these teams ended their Week 6 contests in strange situations. The Panthers settled for a tie against the Bengals while Aaron Rodgers and the Packers scored in the waning seconds after a fake spike play just before the winning touchdown pass. Now they meet in Green Bay where the Packers have only played twice this season but are averaging over 35 points per game at Lambeau. For the Packers, we’ll start on the ground since Eddie Lacy continues to be a confusing target. Last week he managed just 40 yards on 14 carries and his stretch of limited touches goes on. A season ago, Lacy had 8 games with at least 20 rush attempts. This season he hasn’t topped 17 rush attempts in a single game. The Packers are throwing more and also utilizing RB2 James Starks (who has 20 carries over the last 2 weeks) a lot more as well. What does this all mean? Well we need to lower our expectation for Lacy week-to-week. He goes from being a relatively safe play like he was in 2013 to being a riskier option with somewhat limited upside. His matchup is pretty solid here against a Panthers front 7 allowing the 2nd most FPPG to opposing backs this season. Not only are they allowing RBs to 124 rushing yards per game but they’re allowing nearly 7 receptions and 45.33 receiving yards per game to backs. They’ve had their share of struggles as the Bengals were the 3rd team in the last four weeks to top 100 rushing yards from their backs against CAR. Most of this damage has come since Greg Hardy was suspended and it continues to look like they’ll struggle with rush-stopping as long as he’s on the sideline. Lacy is a nice tournament thought this week because of the matchup but his limited touches make it difficult to trust him in any head to head or 50/50 game types.
The passing game is the real bread and butter for the Packers with Aaron Rodgers looking locked in. He threw for 264 and 3 TDs last week while continuing to target Jordy Nelson heavily. Nelson saw 16 targets in Week 6, which marked the 4th time this season he’s had double digit targets. On the outside, look for Nelson to line up against either Melvin White or Antoine Cason, dependent on which side of the field he takes. It doesn’t really make a huge difference either way since both have been really bad in coverage this season:
Melvin White – 30 Tgt, 20 Rec, 353 RecYd, 3 RecTD, 1 INT
Antoine Cason – 45 Tgt, 36 Rec, 382 RecYd, 4 RecTD, 2 INT
Nelson should see a bit more Cason than White but, as referenced above, neither have stood out in 2014. The other side will pit DaVante Adams against Cason/White and he looks to be in a good spot this weekend as well. Last up is the Packers primary slot receiver, Randall Cobb. Cobb will see a good amount of coverage from the safety Charles Godfrey who is mediocre at best in coverage. Again, this is another matchup that Rodgers will be able to exploit and he could have a monster game this weekend – as long as the Panthers keep it somewhat close. Rodgers is arguably the safest QB play this weekend because of both his consistency and the consistent struggles of the Panthers defense vs. QBs over the last three weeks:
- Week 4 vs. BAL (Flacco) – 327 PaYd, 3 PaTD, 0 INT
- Week 5 vs. CHI (Cutler) – 289 PaYd, 2 PaTD, 2 INT
- Week 6 vs. CIN (Dalton) – 323 PaYd, 2 PaTD, 2 INT
Moving over to the Panthers, it was refreshing to see Cam Newton break out last week as he exploded for 284 yards passing with two touchdowns plus another 107 yards on the ground and a rushing TD. The rush yards stand out since injuries had been seemingly slowing him down in the rushing game this season. His matchup could be significantly better this week than it looks on paper with a couple of key injuries to the Packers secondary. Sam Shields has already been ruled out and Tramon Williams is very questionable right now with an ankle injury. Shields was the 6th rated coverage corner on PFF this season and was a good candidate to shadow Kelvin Benjamin (who is also questionable but looks likely to play). With Shields down, Davon House is the next best corner and he’s been solid this season and should play right corner. If Williams sits as well then Casey Hayward will be forced into a starting role on the outside. If Williams plays then expect him to move outside and Hayward to cover the slot. What does all of this mean? Well Kelvin Benjamin gets a slight upgrade in what would have otherwise been a really tough matchup with Sam Shields. Newton also gets a boost as he’ll be able to spread the ball around a bit. Last week Jerricho Cotchery actually led all receivers with 10 targets and Jason Avant was thrown at 7 times as well. Given the 7 point spread favoring the Packers, don’t be surprised if Newton is forced to throw significantly once again. Cotchery may actually get the biggest boost out of this since he plays out of the slot and the Packers will be using a non-starter there regardless of Williams’ status. Pairing Newton with Benjamin or Cotchery in tournaments seems viable this weekend, as well as using Newton without a handcuff because of his ability to contribute in the rushing game.
- Cam Newton – $8200
- Kelvin Benjamin – $5600
- Jerricho Cotchery – $4100
- Greg Olsen – $5400
Green Bay Targets
- Aaron Rodgers – $8800
- Jordy Nelson – $8200
- Randall Cobb – $6700
- Eddie Lacy – $4700
Cincinnati at Indianapolis – SUN, OCT 19
Over/Under: 49.5 Points
Spread: IND -3
This game might sneakily have the most fantasy value as two AFC playoff teams from a season ago meet in Indianapolis. Vegas had the line set to 49.5 and it’s moved up to 50 points with a tight 3 point spread. The Bengals have bungled their last two games by getting blown out on SNF in New England then missing a late kick in OT vs. CAR – leading to one of those elusive ties. Their offense was great last week though despite not having A.J. Green or Marvin Jones in the receiving corps. Mohamed Sanu stepped up and took 15 targets for 11 catches, 120 yards and a TD. Sanu will continue to see the bulk of the Cincy targets as long as Green remains out but this week he will see a lot of Vontae Davis – a matchup that hasn’t been kind to receivers all season. Davis sits as the 9th best coverage corner on PFF while allowing just 153 yards and 12 catches on 23 targets against (with 2 INTs). Davis has been as close to shut down as you get and while he is unlikely to shadow Sanu, he should be on him for the majority of snaps. That means the other Bengals receivers may need to step up, specifically Brandon Tate who lines up opposite Sanu on the outside. Tate will get a lot of Greg Toler who is #169 on PFF and is a HUGE drop off from Vontae Davis. If Sanu is heavily covered, we could see Brandon Tate forced into a more significant role. Last week he did have 4 grabs for 38 yards and a TD on 5 targets. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him closer to double digit targets in what should be a high scoring, back and forth type matchup. Also worth noting, the Colts are 7th this season in FPPG allowed to QBs despite facing the likes of Peyton Manning, Nick Foles and Joe Flacco. They’ve also drawn some dude (Bortles, Whitehurst and Fitzpatrick) but for the most part they’ve done a good job of restricting the fantasy points allowed to opposing QBs.
Running the ball could serve the Bengals well in this game for two reasons. First, they’ll want to keep Andrew Luck off the field. Second, the Colts have struggled against the run in 2014. Indy is allowing the 9th most FPPG to opposing backs including a 100+ yard, 2 TD effort to Arian Foster last week vs. Houston. Gio Bernard on the other hand is coming off a monster 137 RuYd, 1 RuTD, 4 Rec, 20 RecYd game against the Panthers. He could have gone even bigger had he not missed a few series with an injury. What always interests me with Bernard is his ability to bring PPR-value to the table and this matchup with the Colts seems prime for that. Indianaplois has struggled in that area a few times this season, which is a direct result of how thin they are at linebacker:
- Week 2 vs. Darren Sproles: 7 Rec, 152 RecYd
- Week 5 vs. Justin Forsett: 7 Rec, 55 RecYd
- Week 6 vs. Arian Foster: 3 Rec, 32 RecYd
Overall, the 59.67 receiving yards per game allowed to opposing running backs is the 4th most in the NFL this season. Gio Bernard is 11th in receptions, 7th in targets and 10th in receiving yards among all running backs. He’s that pass catching threat that can do a lot of damage against the Colts defense and that’s where I see the majority of his value coming in Week 7.
For the Colts offense, Andrew Luck has been the model of consistency at the QB position this season. He’s thrown for at least 300 yards in 5 of IND’s 6 games this season with multiple touchdown passes in 5 of 6 as well. The Bengals on the other hand are allowing the 7th most FPPG to opposing QBs this season. They’ve really looked bad in the past couple of weeks (since their bye) as well:
- Week 5 vs. NE (Brady) – 292 PaYd, 2 PaTD
- Week 6 vs. CAR (Newton) – 284 PaYd, 2 PaTD, 1 INT, 107 RuYd, 1 RuTD
Compare that to Luck who has 682 PaYd, 4 PaTD and 3 INTs in that span and it’s easy to see why Luck will be one of the most popular QB plays this weekend. For Luck’s receivers, the matchups are certainly intriguing. It looks like Reggie Wayne will see a lot of Leon Hall, which means we’ll see Wayne taken out of the picture in this one. Hilton will move around but should get a decent amount of Adam Jones who has been far and away the worst corner for the Bengals this year. He’s allowed 239 yards and a TD on 30 targets against and Hilton is coming off a monster game where he tallied 223 yards over 9 catches with a TD on Thursday Night Football. Hilton will also see Terrance Newman if he lines up wide right. Newman is an above average corner but it doesn’t downgrade the matchup for Hilton too much. Last is Reggie Wayne who should come out of the slot on about 60% of snaps and will see a mixture of coverages and is a mediocre option this weekend.
- Giovani Bernard – $7800
- Brandon Tate – $3600
- Andrew Luck – $9700
- T.Y. Hilton – $7000
- Reggie Wayne – $4900
- Dwayne Allen – $3700
Seattle at St. Louis – SUN, OCT 19
Over/Under: 43.5 Points
Spread: SEA -7
Thankfully I got so backed up this week I had to push the article until now since news of the Percy Harvin to the Jets trade is shaking the news landscape. The loss of Harvin might be overblown though, as he really hadn’t been overly involved in the Seahawks attack to this point in the season. He had three touchdowns called back vs. the Redskins but other than that he really hasn’t been a factor since Week 1:
- Week 2 vs. SD – 2 RuAtt, 45 RuYd, 1 RuTD, 1 Rec, 5 RecYd
- Week 3 vs. DEN – 7 Rec, 42 RecYd
- Week 5 vs. WAS – 2 RuAtt, 7 RuYd, 4 Rec, 27 RecYd
- Week 6 vs. DAL – 3 RuAtt, -1 RuYd, 3 Rec, 0 RecYd
Harvin was used primarily in the short passing game and a lot of his targets came at or behind the line of scrimmage. His biggest value was getting him the ball in space but he had been relatively unproductive for the Seahawwks this season so if you’re looking for a huge beneficiary in his absence – don’t look to the passing game. Ricardo Lockette, Doug Baldwin and Jermaine Kearse could see a couple extra targets but they’ll be spread out so evenly that it won’t have a major impact on any one of them.
The player who will benefit is Marshawn Lynch. Lynch had seen his touches dwindle as Pete Carroll tried to find innovative ways to get Harvin involved. Last week against a poor Cowboys rush D, Lynch had just 10 carries (which he took for 61 yards). With Harvin out of the picture, Lynch is in an even better spot against the Rams rush defense. St. Louis has allowed at least 75 yards on the ground to four of the five RB1s they’ve faced this season including 100+ yard efforts to DeMarco Murray and Bobby Rainey. Their best performance came last week against Frank Gore and the 49ers but keep in mind that STL got ahead early and the 49ers were forced to throw a lot. Lynch should get back to his 20 touch range and when you include how involved he’s been in the passing game, it’s hard not to like him as one of the top three running backs of the weekend.
For the Rams, the matchup certainly won’t be as challenging as it looked at the beginning of the year but it’s hard to imagine the Seahawks defense being embarrassed in back to back weeks. There are however some frightening trends for the Seattle secondary that could be a sign that the ‘Legion of Boom’ isn’t a must-avoid situation anymore. We’ll start with their performance against QBs since Week 1 where they held Aaron Rodgers to just 189 PaYd, 1 TD and an INT:
- Week 2 vs. Philip Rivers – 284 PaYd, 3 PaTD, 0 INT
- Week 3 vs. Peyton Manning – 303 PaYd, 2 PaTD, 1 INT
- Week 5 vs. Kirk Cousins – 283 PaYd, 2 PaTD, 0 INT
- Week 6 vs. Tony Romo – 250 PaYd, 2 PaTD, 0 INT
Overall they have just 2 INTs this season and beyond the QB position they’ve allowed 7 different receivers to have at least 60 receiving yards against them. Last season only 9 WRs had 60+ yards receiving against them for the entire regular season. The biggest issue has been Byron Maxwell who will actually miss this game with an injury, moving Marcus Burley into the role opposite Richard Sherman as the RCB. Burley has allowed 23 receptions for 243 yards and a TD this season and should be a decent matchup for Brian Quick who takes the majority of his snaps as the LWR. Cook was quiet last week but could bounce back in a game where the Seahawks are heavy favorites and the Rams could be forced to throw a lot. The other intriguing play here is Jared Cook who put together a solid Monday Night Football performance against the 49ers and gets a Seahawks defense allowing the 5th most FPPG to opposing TE’s this season. On the year, the Seahawks are averaging 42.8 yards and 1.4 receiving TDs allowed to tight ends per game. This problem could be exacerbated by the absence of Bobby Wagner, arguably their top linebacker. Look for Quick and Cook to put together decent efforts but it’s still the Seahawks, so I’d leave any Rams targets to tournament plays only.
- Marshawn Lynch – $7100
St. Louis Targets
- Brian Quick – $6000
- Jared Cook – $3600
Tennessee at Washington – SUN, OCT 19
Over/Under: 46 Points
Spread: WAS -5.5
These AFC South/NFC East matchups have been interesting all season and this week we have another intriguing game between the Titans and Redskins. The Titans head to Washington and will likely be led by Charlie Whitehurst once again as Jake Locker looks doubtful to play on Sunday. Whitehurst heads into a really juicy matchup with a Redskins defense allowing the most FPPG to opposing QBs on the season. The Washington secondary is in shambles and the Titans receivers should be looking at good matchups across the board. We’ll get to that, but first let’s look at the Whitehurst target distribution in his starts this year (Whitehurst has played all or most of the last three weeks):
- Kendall Wright – 8, 8, 1 (17 total targets)
- Justin Hunter – 5, 5, 5 (15 total targets)
- Nate Washington – 4, 7, 2 (13 total targets)
- Delanie Walker – 7, 4, 8 (19 total targets)
- Dexter McCluster – 1, 2, 6 (9 total targets)
The ball is getting spread around pretty evenly among these five targets and the most frustrating thing is that no one has had a single 10+ target game. With Jake Locker, Delanie Walker and Kendall Wright each had a game with double digit targets. Whitehurst is an equal opportunity thrower so rolling any of the Titans options means picking out the right matchup and trying to exploit this weekend. Here are the expected WR/CB matchups (for most snaps – won’t be uniform) and my rankings for them:
1) Justin Hunter vs. David Amerson (#140 CB on PFF) – Hunter has the most upside of any of the Titan receivers and has a juicy matchup (like all the WRs on TEN do). I’ll put him here because he can make the big play and although he’ll only see about 5-6 targets, he has the best chance of turning those into a 100 yard day.
2) Kendall Wright vs. E.J. Biggers (#157 CB on PFF) – Wright takes a lot of snaps out of the slot and his ability to catch a ton of passes usually make him a threat on DraftKings. That PPR value has declined this season but he did have a huge game a couple weeks back and with the Redskins sitting as such heavy favorites, we could see Whitehurst being forced to throw more which could return Wright to that PPR prowess.
I didn’t rank Delanie Walker above but he’s another very strong option against the poor linebacking corps of the Redskins. Washington is allowing the 11th most FPPG to opposing TE’s on the year. The last factor in the Titans offense is Bishop Sankey and the rushing game. Sankey struggled last week while getting 18 carries, turning it into 61 yards with no touchdowns. The number of touches for Sankey was exciting but this Redskins front 7 has actually been pretty good this season against the run and with the Titans as heavy underdogs, I don’t know if we’ll see Sankey get to that 18 carry range again. He should see closer to 15 rushing attempts and will have to find pay dirt to hit value – making him a tournament play at best.
Moving over to the Redskins, they’ll be able to find room in both the rushing and passing game this week in a game they should win pretty easily. We’ll start on the ground since the Titans front 7 is relatively soft. Tennessee has given up monster games to DeMarco Murray and Ben Tate this season with some smaller games against lesser backs. They rank in the middle of the pack against RBs in terms of FPPG allowed but with the Redskins as sizeable home favorites we should see 20 carries out of Morris this weekend. Morris has at least 75 yards rushing in both of the games this season where he’s gotten 20+ carries and had at least 88 yards rushing every time he had 20 or more carries in 2013. He’s tremendously consistent when he gets the touches and his floor seems pretty high this week, making him a solid cash game play. He’s not heavily involved in the passing game so his ceiling isn’t quite as high but he has a good chance at finding the end zone once or twice.
In the passing game, Kirk Cousins is sporting a 4.7% INT rate which is worse than guys like Geno Smith and other notable struggling QBs. That’s terrible for the Washington offense but it doesn’t have a huge impact on his fantasy value. He’s still been able to put together some pretty decent games as a total gunslinger. Last week he had 3 INTs but still threw for 354 and 2 TDs. Efficiency is great but in fantasy the final numbers are all that really matter and he’s been great with that. His receivers should have some good matchups this week against a couple of struggling corners for the Titans as well. I’m about ready to jump of the Jason McCourty train as he’s dropped to the #145 rated corner on PFF and will see a lot of DeSean Jackson in coverage. McCourty has allowed 38 receptions for 543 yards this season (14.28 yards per reception) which doesn’t bode well against the deep threat of Jackson. DeSean should be able to get over the top for at least one big play here. The Redskins also noted how they need to get Pierre Garcon more involved and he’ll see a lot of Blidi Wreh-Wilson in coverage – a terrific matchup for Garcon. Wreh-Wilson has allowed 3 TDs and 283 yards while ranking outside the top 170 in coverage on PFF in 2014. He’s young and vulnerable to getting lost in coverage – making Garcon a prime option this weekend. The other receiving option is Jordan Reed who looked good in his return to the Washington offense last week, albeit against the Cardinals and their horrible D vs. TE’s. He only played 37/65 snaps but still managed 8 catches for 92 yards. His snaps should go up this week and the Titans have notoriously struggled vs. TE’s as well. Last week, Clay Harbor had 91 yards and a TD and on the season they’re allowing the 8th most FPPG to opposing tight ends.
- Justin Hunter – $3700
- Bishop Sankey – $3900
- Kendall Wright – $4400
- Delanie Walker – $5600
- Kirk Cousins – $7400
- Alfred Morris – $4700
- Pierre Garcon – $5000
- Jordan Reed – $5000
Cleveland at Jacksonville – SUN, OCT 19
Over/Under: 45 Points
Spread: CLE -5.5
The red hot Browns head to Jacksonville to take on a winless Jaguars team that has been a sieve defensively all season. Cleveland will be a hot team to target this weekend, so we’ll start with their offensive matchups. The most popular play is likely to be Ben Tate who has been force fed touches since returning from an injury a couple weeks back. In that span, Tate has seen 47 carries and totaled 201 yards and 2 TDs. The Jags rush defense isn’t great and given the guaranteed looks coming Tate’s way and the 5.5 point spread favoring the Browns, it’s hard to argue using a lot of Tate this weekend. I will say that you can get away with fading him in tournaments this weekend because the Jags rush defense might not be as terrible as some expect. Since Week 2 they’ve only allowed one opposing RB to find the end zone and they have yet to allow a 100 yard rusher all season despite losing all six of their games. They’re not good – as their #30 ranking vs. running backs would indicate – but they haven’t been torched by a really big game to date. The other variable here is the loss of Pro Bowl Center Alex Mack. Mack has been the 6th best Center for rush blocking this season on ProFootballFocus and the third highest rated Center overall. It’s a huge blow to their offensive line and Tate’s potential. This basically means that Tate looks to be a safe play but his upside is somewhat limited, especially since Tate doesn’t get involved in the passing game (only 2 targets through 2.5ish games played this season).
The receivers might be the better route for upside with the Browns as Brian Hoyer continues to play really well as Cleveland’s starter. The biggest plus for Hoyer is that he has only 1 INT this season, but this fantasy stats haven’t really come around. His biggest game came in the comeback against the Titans where he had 292 PaYd and 3 PaTD’s but the Browns play a more ball-control style and don’t necessarily let Hoyer sling it very often. That brings us to the wide receiving corps (including Jordan Cameron) that appear to be in really good spots this weekend. We can expect the Browns leading WR for targets, Andrew Hawkins, to play a lot out of the slot and lineup against Will Blackmon in that role. Blackmon has allowed 18 catches on 25 targets for 236 yards in slot coverage specifically this season and ranks #173 overall in coverage on ProFootballFocus. Hawkins is coming off a game where he was thrown to only twice (no CLE receiver had over 5 targets) but keep in mind it was also in a route of the Steelers. The Browns could very well run over the Jags this weekend but I think this game stays relatively close throughout and we see Hawkins targets return to the 7-10 range. The other options for Hoyer are Miles Austin and Taylor Gabriel, whose targets have both fluctuated throughout the season. Both have good matchups against the likes of Alan Ball and Demetrius McCray but neither have been consistent enough in overall looks to give you the ceiling you’d like out of a player to roster. And then there’s Jordan Cameron who turned 5 targets in Week 6 into 3 catches for 102 yards and a TD. You’d like to see his opportunities go up, especially with Josh Gordon still out, but the production last week was encouraging. The Jags are allowing the 3rd most FPPG to opposing tight ends in 2014 while allowing 5 receiving TDs to that position. Cameron is a good bet to find the end zone this week and looks like one of the top tight end targets of Week 7.
For the Jaguars offense, there really isn’t much going in the right direction but Blake Bortles did throw for 336 yards last week against the Titans secondary with a TD and an INT. The biggest beneficiary of that was PPR-monster Cecil Shorts who was thrown at 16 times. Shorts turned in a 10 catch, 103 yard gem after surprising a few people and playing last weekend. He’s been productive when healthy and going into this game he could be in a pretty decent spot for another good game. I don’t think the Browns will use Joe Haden in true shadow coverage since the Jags don’t have one elite receiver, but Haden plays about 50% of snaps as the LCB and Shorts takes a similar percentage as the RWR so we’ll probably see a decent amount of that matchup. Haden, a corner you used to avoid like the plague, has been a shell of his former self this season and allowed 89 yards and 5 receptions on 7 targets last week while in coverage. Granted much of that was in passive coverage as the Steelers played from well behind, but Haden’s overall numbers this season have been concerning as well. Shorts isn’t elite, but with the way Haden is playing it’s hard to rule him out just because of the CB/WR matchup. Other receiving options for the Jags are Marqise Lee and Allen Robinson as Allen Hurns has been demoted since his hot start. Lee played only 16 snaps last week but the Jags coaches downplayed that as something related to how little he was able to practice. I’d expect him to pass Hurns this week as the Jags #3 receiver and he still has the most talent of any of their wideouts, but there are some major concerns about his snaps this weekend. That brings us to Allen Robinson who could have a field day against Buster Skrine. Robinson lines up wide left, where Skrine has moved since Justin Gilbert was taken out of his starting role. On the season Skrine has allowed 24 catches for 367 yards and 4 TDs while rating out as the #155 corner in coverage on ProFootballFocus. If the Jags get behind and are forced to throw a lot, this is a match up that Bortles and Robinson can eat up.
For the Jags rushing attack, we saw the inaugural Storm Johnson show last week and it was really ugly. The Jags coaches later admitted he was on a rush attempts limit but he took 10 carries for just 21 total yards against a poor Titans defense. He salvaged his day by scoring on one of those carries but still looked pretty bad overall. I don’t see the Jags using him much more this week despite a matchup with the Browns who have allowed the 7th most FPPG to opposing RBs. Jacksonville tends to fall behind so the bulk of the action will be in Bortles’ hands and best case scenario you’re hoping Johnson breaks a long run and finds pay dirt.
- Brian Hoyer – $5600
- Ben Tate – $5300
- Andrew Hawkins – $3700
- Jordan Cameron – $4600
- Cecil Shorts III – $5400
- Allen Robinson – $4600
Atlanta at Baltimore – SUN, OCT 19
Over/Under: 49.5 Points
Spread: BAL -7
This game has slowly crept up to one of the highest over/unders of the week which is intriguing considering how good Joe Flacco was in Week 6. He had five touchdowns in the first half and finally got Torrey Smith going a bit with 2 touchdowns and 35 yards on 4 receptions. The game got out of hand early so the rushing game took over for most of the 2nd half, but Flacco still had one of the top QB scores of the weekend. He’ll draw a Falcons defense that has allowed 300+ yards passing 3 different times this season along with four different 100+ yard receivers. It’s not that the Falcons have terrible corners, it’s that they can’t seem to generate any type of pass rush which leads to breakdowns in coverage. That could bode well for the deep threat, Torrey Smith. Torrey really hasn’t done a lot this season but he’ll get Robert Alford in coverage on most snaps and Alford has allowed 16 receptions for 274 yards and 4 TDs this season – including a number of big touchdown plays. That seems to be the matchup to go after but it’s far from the only hole the Ravens can exploit. Steve Smith Sr. continues his renaissance season after having 5 grabs for 110 yards and a TD last weekend. He now has at least 5 catches in every game and 4 100+ yard games through the first six weeks of 2014. He’s been the possession receiver for the Ravens, similar to how Anquan Boldin was used during the Ravens impressive Super Bowl run a couple years back. He’s also been featured heavily because of how Gary Kubiak uses the “X” receiver in this offense. He’ll see a lot of Desmond Trufant, who has been solid this season but again falls victim to the inability of the defensive line to get pressure and can be beaten.
The rushing attack is another area you’ll want to target for the Ravens this weekend, especially as a 7 point home favorite in a game with an over/under approaching 50 points. Justin Forsett continues to be incredible after taking 14 carries for 111 yards in Week 6. He’s also 8th in targets among running backs, sky rocketing his upside. This week, he’ll get a Falcons defense allowing the most fantasy points per game to opposing running backs and one that was just absolutely embarrassed by Matt Forte in Week 7. They’ve struggled with pass catching backs all season though, which is why they’ve allowed the 3rd most receiving yards per game to RBs at 62.5:
- Week 1 vs. Pierre Thomas: 6 Rec, 56 RecYd
- Week 2 vs. Giovani Bernard: 5 Rec, 79 RecYd
- Week 3 vs. Bobby Rainey: 7 Rec, 64 RecYd
- Week 6 vs. Matt Forte: 10 Rec, 77 RecYd
That’s four running backs with double digit fantasy points in the receiving game alone, without a single receiving touchdown. Add in the 127 rushing yards per game allowed by the Falcons to opposing RBs and the matchup for Forsett starts to look even better. The one risk with Forsett is the time share with Bernard Pierce and Lorenzo Taliaferro since the Ravens look to use a hot hand approach. Forsett is the safest of the group but I wouldn’t knock you for taking Pierce in a large field tournament. He did have 15 carries last week and while he mustered just 32 rushing yards, he should continue to see decent volume. And as a final note, the Ravens will be without two starting offensive linemen this week (Eugene Monroe and Kelechi Osemele) which does temper by Baltimore RB expectations a bit, but I don’t think it’ll hurt too much in this specific matchup.
Moving over to the Falcons, they’ll hope to bounce back after a disappointing offensive performance in Week 6 at home against the Bears. Ryan still managed to throw for 271 and a TD but the Falcons were down big and a lot of that came in garbage time. Julio Jones joined him on the disappointment train as he was only able to haul in 4 of his 12 targets in Week 6. This week it doesn’t look like it’ll get any easier as he’ll see a lot of Jimmy Smith in coverage. Smith is ProFootballFocus’s 4th highest rated corner and has only allowed 18 receptions and 135 yards on 35 targets against. This is still Julio Jones we’re talking about and I’d be shocked to see him dip below 8 targets, but he’s certainly not in an ideal situation. With that said, there are a few things still working in Jones’ favor this week. Vegas has the total here really high and the Falcons are heavy underdogs, so expecting Ryan and company to throw a lot late is not out of the question. It’s not always about efficiency in fantasy football as much as it is about opportunity, so don’t expect Jones’ targets to dip this week despite the challenging matchup. He also will be low owned after his struggles in Week 6 and a perceived difficult matchup in Week 7. That’s always great for tournament play with a guy as talented as Jones who has 100 yard, 2 TD upside every time he takes the field. On the other side of the field, Roddy White could be in a decent spot against Dominique Franks. Franks has played a limited role this year but has allowed 5 receptions on 6 targets for 93 yards. With Asa Jackson being out and Lardarius Webb playing a lot in the slot, White could feast on Franks – especially if the a fore mentioned ‘catch up mode’ happens for the Falcons offense.
- Matt Ryan – $6500
- Julio Jones – $7800
- Roddy White – $4100
- Justin Forsett – $5600
- Bernard Pierce – $3200
- Torrey Smith – $4400
- Steve Smith Sr. – $6700
- Joe Flacco – $7700
Kansas City at San Diego – SUN, OCT 19
Over/Under: 45 Points
Spread: SD -4
The Chargers snuck out of Oakland with a win last week and while it wasn’t the most satisfying victory for San Diego, a win on the road against a divisional opponent is always impressive. Fantasy-wise, most of the Chargers main guys had decent days and Branden Oliver continued to impress with 101 yards and a TD on 26 carries. Oliver will be the featured back again this week but don’t expect him to see the same running lanes that opened up against the Raiders in Week 6. Kansas City has been devastated by injuries to their front seven, but their defense is still allowing the 8th fewest FPPG to opposing running backs. With that said, they may be running with a ‘better to be lucky than good’ stretch as they’ve allowed two 100+ yard rushers and the 5th most yards per game to opposing backs at 116 per contest. Their biggest strength has been that they’ve yet to allow a rushing touchdown. Given the slew of injuries, the spread and the recent success of Oliver I don’t think I’d downgrade him at all just because of the Kansas City defense.
The Chargers should also be able to exploit Kansas City through the air as Eric Berry will continue to miss action this week and that leaves the Chiefs extremely vulnerable over the top. They are allowing the 11th fewest FPPG to opposing QBs but Rivers and company are red hot right now and the Chiefs might struggle at stopping the slew of weapons Rivers has been utilizing. One guy you can expect to be in a tough spot though is Keenan Allen against Sean Smith on the outside. Smith is ProFootballFocus’s #8 rated corner this season and Allen has really only had one truly productive game this season, for fantasy purposes. Given his struggles and the talented Smith in coverage, that’s the one guy I’d be avoiding. Malcom Floyd on the other hand is coming off a huge 101 yard, 1 TD game and should see a heavy dose of Marcus Cooper in coverage. That instantly puts Floyd in an incredible position as Cooper has been torched in 2014. He’s ranked #174 on ProFootballFocus in coverage while allowing 23 receptions, 391 yards and 5 TDs on 36 targets against. His 2.56 fantasy points allowed per target is one of the worst in football. Floyd’s targets haven’t been consistent but he’s been extremely efficient in using them and if Smith keeps Allen quiet on the other side of the field, Floyd could again see 7+ looks from Rivers here. The last receiver at Rivers’ disposal is Eddie Royal who is a TD machine. He found pay dirt again last week despite just two total targets. He comes out of the slot on the majority of snaps and should see Chris Owens in coverage, who has rated out as the #114 corner on PFF and has been far from consistent. Again, I’d guess that Smith keeps Allen quiet and that leads to a nice uptick in opportunities for Royal and Floyd in significantly better matchups.
For the Chiefs offense, they come off their bye week looking to bounce back from a loss in San Francisco. If they want to win this game in San Diego though they’ll need to establish the run early. San Diego’s team pass coverage rating in 2014 is the 2nd highest on PFF and their rush defense has been below average comparatively. Obviously this means a heavy dose of Jamaal Charles, who should be fresh after the week off, could come early. Charles saw 18 and 15 carries in the two weeks before the bye, and I’d expect his carries to hit that 20 range in a crucial divisional game for the Chiefs. He’ll also get involved in the passing game which is where San Diego’s defense has struggled the most this season. The 51.5 receiving yards per game they’ve allowed to opposing running backs is the 7th most in the NFL. It also doesn’t hurt that in the one game Charles played vs. SD last year, he absolutely torched them for 14 carries, 115 yards and 2 TDs (in the whacky high-scoring game in Kansas City). He’s fallen off the radar coming off the bye week and could make for an intriguing tournament play.
Through the air, I don’t really trust Alex Smith to provide the value you need in most matchups – so when he draws the 2nd highest rated secondary in the NFL I’ll most likely turn my back to him. The one player worth mentioning is Travis Kelce. Kelce still doesn’t get the snaps he deserves because he’s not a great run blocker but if the Chiefs are forced to throw a lot he could be in for a big game. Clay Harbor and Scott Chandler both have 70+ yard receiving games against this defense and Kelce also gets involved in the bubble screen game, an area where the Chiefs have thrived in 2014. Coming into this week he has a touchdown in three consecutive games, the biggest question mark is just how much volume he’ll get beyond a potential score. One last note on the Chargers secondary, Brandon Flowers is questionable to play right now with a groin injury. Even if he does go, groin injuries are usually absolute killers for corner backs (see Talib, Aqib). Flowers is the #1 rated corner on PFF this season and would be dearly missed. Luckily the Chargers are pretty deep in their secondary and Shareece Wright is the most likely candidate to replace him if he misses this contest.
Kansas City Targets
- Jamaal Charles – $6700
- Travis Kelce – $4800
San Diego Targets
- Philip Rivers – $8600
- Branden Oliver – $6300
- Malcom Floyd – $4800
- Eddie Royal – $4700
NY Giants at Dallas – SUN, OCT 19
Over/Under: 47.5 Points
Spread: DAL -7
NFC East battles are always entertaining and the Giants and Cowboys always seem to put on some sort of a show when they meet. I don’t usually reference a lot of historical stats, but with these two teams I’m always interested to see how some of the studs who have been around awhile perform against each other – especially considering that the head coaches of each team have been there for awhile respectively and the game plans don’t change too much game to game. We’ll get to that though, let’s instead start with the Giants offense since they face the biggest number of question marks coming off getting shut out by the Eagles defense in Week 6. They’ll be without Victor Cruz this week as well after he was lost for the season during that game. It started with Eli who had full-blown stupid face for most of that game despite not throwing an interception. He had just 151 passing yards with 0 TDs. After having multiple TDs in four consecutive games, Manning failed to throw even one against a suspect Eagles secondary. That’s hugely concerning especially heading into a game without his (arguably) best WR against a secondary that is flying high right now. Dallas is 5th in the NFL in fantasy points per game allowed to opposing QBs and hasn’t allowed a passing touchdown in either of the last two weeks. Matchup-wise, look for Reuben Randle to see a lot of Sterling Moore on the outside. Moore has been a revelation for the Cowboys this season and while Randle has a lot of red zone value, he could struggle against the 13th ranked corner on PFF. On the other side of the ball, Eli should have a much better matchup between Odell Beckham Jr. and Brandon Carr. Carr has allowed 249 yards, 17 receptions and a TD on 31 targets against this season and ranks #134 on PFF – by far the worst of the primary corners for Dallas. Beckham went from playing a little over half the snaps to almost all of them in Week 6 and is going to continue to be thrown into the fire with Victor Cruz out. He could also be the next receiver to continue the trend of WR2′s having success against Dallas:
- Week 1 vs. SF (Boldin) – 8 Rec, 99 RecYd
- Week 3 vs. STL (Britt) – 5 Rec, 69 RecYd
- Week 5 vs. HOU (Hopkins) – 6 Rec, 63 RecYd
The numbers aren’t staggering but Hopkins and Britt posted their numbers on 12 combined targets. Beckham is a big receiver who has a ton of upside and could play a huge role, especially if the Giants are down late and throwing a lot to catch up with the Cowboys.
The other option for New York is to try and establish the run this week with Andre Williams. Williams isn’t going to be involved in the passing game and he’s not a great pass-blocking back but he can run straight and the Cowboys defense is extremely thin up front. They’re allowing the 9th fewest FPPG to opposing running backs this season but that seems like an absolute joke to me. Every RB1 for the last 5 weeks has averaged at least 5 YPC against this front seven. The Cowboys are winning games so opponents don’t rush as much, but Arian Foster had 23 carries for 157 yards and 2 TDs in a close one against the Texans so there’s hope for Williams as long as the Giants are able to keep this game within reach – which I actually see them doing despite the spread.
For the Cowboys offense, the most intriguing matchup here is Dez Bryant against this secondary. The Giants lost Trumaine McBride last week and are also expected to be without (or have a somewhat limited version of) Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. That likely forces Zackary Bowman into a starting role on the outside opposite Prince Amukamara. Amukamara has been terrific (#19 on PFF) and will see a lot of Dez in coverage but the Cowboys may want to move Dez over to the other side at times if Bowman is there to feast on. But this matchup is interesting to me because of how the Giants have fared against Bryant in the past. Dez has struggled to dominate NYG because they throw a Cover-2 shell over the top and prevent him from really having the explosive play. Look at his last few games vs. Coughlin and the Giants:
- Week 1 – 2013 – 8 Tgt, 4 Rec, 22 RecYd
- Week 12 – 2013 – 16 Tgt, 9 Rec, 86 RecYd
- Week 1 – 2012 – 5 Tgt, 4 Rec, 85 RecYd
- Week 8 – 2012 – 11 Tgt, 5 Rec, 110 RecYd
It’s not that the numbers are bad but he’s failed to find the end zone in any of those games and he’s managed just 22 receptions on 40 targets. For a guy who has 4 receiving touchdowns this season, I worry that him not finding the end zone could deplete some of his overall value. That’s not to say he’s not a good option, I’d just avoid him in head to head or 50/50 games and go with someone a bit safer.
And then we have DeMarco Murray, who has been having one ridiculous season so far and has enjoyed a decent amount of success against the Giants in three games over the past couple of years:
- Week 1 – 2013: 20 RuAtt, 86 RuYd, 0 RuTD, 8 Rec, 39 RecYd, 20.5 FP
- Week 12 – 2013: 14 RuAtt, 86 RuYd, 0 RuTD, 3 Rec, 40 RecYd, 15.6 FP
- Week 1 – 2012: 20 RuAtt, 131 RuYd, 0 RuTD, 2 Rec, 9 RecYd, 19 FP
Murray has at least 15 fantasy points in his last three meetings against the Giants and has 100+ rushing yards in every game this season. As far as the Giants go defensively in 2014, they showed some signs of weakness last week against LeSean McCoy and are allowing the 5th most FPPG to opposing RBs. The 104.33 rush yards per game aren’t ideal but the 66+ receiving yards per game allowed to running backs is the worst in all of football so far. Murray has 12 receptions over the last two weeks and his ability to get involved in the passing game could be most important to his value/upside for use outside of cash games in Week 7.
NY Giants Targets
- Eli Manning – $6200
- Odell Beckham Jr. – $3800
- Andre Williams – $4400
- Tony Romo – $7200
- DeMarco Murray – $9600
- Dez Bryant – $7500
- Terrance Williams – $5200
Arizona at Oakland – SUN, OCT 19
Over/Under: 44.5 Points
Spread: ARI -3.5
Carson Palmer and the Cardinals head to Oakland to take on a Raiders team that actually showed up in Week 6 for Tony Sparano. Starting with the Cardinals offense, Palmer had a nice game in his return to the field and didn’t show too many signs of the nerve injury in his shoulder that kept him out since Week 1. He threw for 250 yards and 2 TDs against a porous Washington secondary. In Week 7 he’ll see a Raiders secondary that has been so-so this year but just allowed 313 yards and 3 TDs to Philip Rivers. Overall, the Raiders rank 15th in FPPG allowed to QBs and 12th in FPPG allowed to opposing WRs. The Wide Receivers they’ll contend with in Week 7 are Larry Fitzgerald and Michael Floyd – one of the better duos in football. Floyd plays mostly on the outside and will contend with Tarell Brown and T.J. Carrie – who are #61 and #28 on PFF in coverage respectively. Brown has struggled more but neither have allowed a TD this season which is concerning since Floyd was only targeted 6 times last week so seeing him be a huge value based on raw receptions is unlikely. The best matchup, and it seems to be like this a lot recently, is for Larry Fitzgerald out of the slot. He’ll get Carlos Rogers mostly who is ranked #154 on PFF and who just allowed a 2 Rec, 49 RecYd, 1 TD game to Eddie Royal. Fitz has looked a lot better in recent weeks and had his first big game of the 2014 season against Washington while hauling in 6 balls for 98 yards and a TD.
Where the Raiders really struggle is against the run as Branden Oliver was the latest back to gash them for a big day. Oliver was the third back to tally 100+ rushing yards against Oakland and in comes Andre Ellington fresh off a pair of good games over the last two weeks. He had 16 carries for 32 yards and a TD plus 4 catches for 112 and a score against Denver followed by 25 total touches for just under 100 net yards against Washington in Week 6. The touches and opportunities are again the thing to focus on most here as Ellington struggled to be the workhorse a year ago and finally has the reigns in 2014. He’s also hugely value in the full point per reception scoring system at DraftKings as he’s been targeted the 5th most among all running backs in football. Given the matchup, his involvement in the passing game and the overall upside it’s hard not to imagine Ellington finishing this week as one of the top 5 highest scoring running backs.
For the Raiders offense, they showed some impressive signs against the Chargers and Derek Carr led the way while connecting for big plays with Andre Holmes and James Jones. Holmes has been absolutely red hot lately and has been targeted 20 times over the past two weeks. Last week he had just 4 receptions but made the most of them with 121 yards and 2 scores. This week he’ll see a lot of Antonio Cromartie and Patrick Peterson – both of whom have been somewhat disappointing this year. Cro has actually graded out better on PFF but has still struggled with the big play – allowing 12 catches for 255 yards and 2 TDs. That big play-ability is what led me to targeting DeSean Jackson in Week 6 and makes Holmes look intriguing again in Week 7. As for James Jones, he’ll come out of the slot or lineup out wide, depending on the set the Raiders use. In the slot he’ll have to deal with Jerraud Powers a lot, who has been excellent this season and is #15 on PFF among corners. Wide he could see a decent amount of Patrick Peterson who hasn’t been the shut down corner we expected in 2014. He’s #161 on PFF and has allowed 248 yards and 4 TDs over 17 receptions and 27 targets against. If the Raiders fall behind in this one, and we should expect that to be the case in most Raider games, Jones could be extremely valuable against Peterson especially with his ability to rack up catches. He has three games with at least 5 receptions already this season.
- Carson Palmer – $7300
- Larry Fitzgerald – $4800
- Andre Ellington – $6500
- James Jones – $5100
- Andre Holmes – $4800
San Francisco at Denver – SUN, OCT 19
Over/Under: 49.5 Points
Spread: DEN -7
The Narrative Street could be strong here as Peyton Manning is three touchdowns shy of breaking Brett Favre’s all-time record for a quarterback. The Broncos are always strong at home and they sit as 7 point favorites against the 49ers with a pretty high over/under. Last week, Manning looked fatigued at times while struggling a bit against the Jets secondary. He didn’t have a bad game, he just didn’t do nearly as much as you would have hoped against that New York defense. He’ll have a much more difficult matchup this week against a San Francisco defense that has allowed the 4th fewest FPPG to opposing quarterbacks this season. They’ve forced four interceptions over the last three weeks and ProFootballFocus has their pass coverage rating, as a team, as the highest in all of football. It means that Manning is likely to face one of the tougher challenges he’ll draw all season and the touchdown record might not be a lock (even though he’s thrown at least 2 TDs in every game since Week 11 last season). He’s always an option but don’t get swept up in the TD record hysteria since this secondary is the real deal. As far as matchups for the receivers, Emmanuel Sanders and Demaryius Thomas both take turns lining up to the left/right of Manning and should see either Chris Culliver or Dontae Johnson. Perrish Cox, the #4 rated corner on PFF this season, will likely slide into slot coverage with the absence of Jimmie Ward which forces Johnson into action. It means both DThomas and Sanders get huge boosts with Cox likely playing inside and Wes Welker, coming out of the slot most often (but he’s played sparingly of late) will have to contend with Cox when he’s in the game. The other weapon that the Broncos will need to utilize is Julius Thomas because the Niners will be without stud linebacker Patrick Willis. Willis is the 7th rated inside linebacker in pass coverage this season and is a huge loss to a defense already sitting middle-of-the-pack against the tight end position. The one last note on Orange Julius’ matchup is that Cox may slide into coverage against him when Welker isn’t on the field – which could be a challenge.
For the rushing attack, the Niners have again been difficult to run against but Ronnie Hillman did muster 100 yards against the Jets last weekend and the Broncos are big favorites in this game so chances to pound the ball late should be there. Most encouraging for Hillman were the 15 carries he saw two weeks back followed by the 25 touches he got with the rock in Week 6. He looks to be a safe bet for around 20 carries and while the 49ers are 3rd in FPPG allowed to running backs, they have allowed a couple of backs to top the 80 yard mark in 2014 already. Hillman is in play and he does get involved in the passing game (5 targets last week) but I would taper the upside expectation here a bit.
The 49ers will be playing on short rest this week after a nice MNF comeback and will have to put points on the board in Week 7 to keep this game competitive. Luckily, Colin Kaepernick is coming off his best game of the season where he threw for 343 and 3 touchdowns against the Rams secondary. An area where Kaepernick also excels is in the running game and the Broncos have struggled a bit against rushing QBs this season:
- Andrew Luck – 5 Rush, 19 RuYd, 1 RuTD
- Alex Smith – 5 Rush, 42 RuYd
- Russell Wilson – 9 Rush, 40 RuYd
Overall, they’ve yielded 22.4 yards per game on the ground to opposing QBs which is the 4th most in the NFL. Kaepernick may have to rely on that since the Broncos have held the last two QBs they’ve faced to under 200 yards passing total. The Broncos corners all rank in the top 60 in coverage on PFF, with Chris Harris Jr. the best of the group as the #2 rated corner overall. He’ll see a lot of Brandon Lloyd on the outside in 3 WR sets and Michael Crabtree should see Aqib Talib. Talib is a physical corner, but he’s struggled at times against speedier receivers like Crabtree. Talib is very good, but if the 49ers are forced to throw a lot we could be looking at a pretty good game out of Crabtree on the outside who has been extremely quiet lately. Crabtree found the end zone in Week 6 but he doesn’t have 50+ receiving yards in three consecutive games. The promising news is that he’s seen 8 targets in two of those three games so the looks are there. I don’t think a 6 catch, 80 yard, 1 TD game is out of the question there at all. The last receiver for Kaep is Anquan Boldin who played really well out of the slot last week with 7 catches for 94 yards and a TD. He gets to square off against Bradley Roby if he comes out of the slot in Week 7 and Roby has been the weakest link of the Broncos corners. He’s allowed 198 yards on 16 catches over 26 targets in 2014 which isn’t bad, he’s just the lowest rated primary corner on a really good defense. The other variable to mention, specifically against the running game (which I won’t dive into too much since Frank Gore never carries enough upside for me to roster) is the loss of Danny Trevathan in the linebacking group for the Broncos. It’s a big loss for a really good front seven and could exacerbate some of the issues I mentioned above with stopping the rushing quarterbacks.
San Francisco Targets
- Colin Kaepernick – $6500
- Michael Crabtree – $4900
- Peyton Manning – $9000
- Demaryius Thomas – $8000
- Emmanuel Sanders – $5900
- Ronnie Hillman – $4800
Houston at Pittsburgh – MON, OCT 20
Over/Under: 44.5 Points
Spread: PIT -3
Monday Night Football somehow drew Houston and Pittsburgh this week and this game has all the looks of being somewhat ugly. The Steelers are coming off an embarrassing road loss to the Browns and need to bounce back quickly against a team they should beat. Houston’s defense is middle of the pack this year but accounting for J.J. Watt is always a concern. Luckily, PIT has the 4th best rated pass blocking unit in the NFL this season on ProFootballFocus and they should be able to at least temper Watt while he tries to get after Big Ben. The Texans MIGHT also get JaDeveon Clowney back this weekend, which would really test just how good this offensive line is in pass protection.
In terms of DvP, the Texans rank middle of the pack in FPPG allowed to QBs on the season but are 21st over the last three weeks after struggling against E.J. Manuel, Tony Romo and Andrew Luck:
- Week 4 vs. EJ Manuel – 225 PaYd, 2 PaTD, 15.3 FP
- Week 5 vs. Tony Romo – 324 PaYd, 2 PaTD, 19.96 FP
- Week 6 vs. Andrew Luck – 370 PaYd, 3 PaTD, 27.6 FP
That bodes well for Roethlisberger who had a big day against the Buccaneers but since then has been somewhat disappointing with just 2 TDs and 1 INT over the last two weeks combined. On the outside, Antonio Brown is the guy to watch as he continues to be one of the most consistent receivers each week in DraftKings’ full point PPR scoring system. He’ll see a mixture of A.J. Bouye and Johnathan Joseph on the outside with the Texans not using a ‘one-side per corner’ mentality that’s been popular in the NFL this season. Joseph could shadow Brown, but he’s ranked #98 in coverage on PFF this season and that’s a matchup that might actually benefit Antonio. Overall, WR1′s have dominated the Texans secondary this season:
- Week 1 vs. Pierre Garcon – 12 Tgt, 10 Rec, 77 RecYd, 0 RecTD, 17.7 FP
- Week 2 vs. James Jones – 14 Tgt, 9 Rec, 112 RecYd, 1 RecTD, 26.2 FP
- Week 3 vs. Victor Cruz – 6 Tgt, 5 Rec, 107 RecYd, 1 RecTD, 21.7 FP
- Week 5 vs. Dez Bryant – 14 Tgt, 9 Rec, 85 RecYd, 1 RecTD, 23.5 FP
- Week 6 vs. T.Y. Hilton – 9 Tgt, 9 Rec, 223 RecYd, 1 RecTD, 37.3 FP
- AVERAGE – 11 Tgt, 8.4 Rec, 120.8 RecYd, 0.8 RecTD, 25.28 FP
Those are some staggering numbers and Brown should be locked and loaded as a top receiver option again this week. Beyond Brown, it was interesting to see that Markus Wheaton actually had more targets against the Browns while the Steelers desperately tried to climb back into that game. He was only able to turn 11 targets into 4 catches for 33 yards but the double-digit targets are encouraging along with the pair of red zone targets he had. His targets had been dwindling before last week but given the Texans struggles vs. WRs (3rd most FPPG allowed overall over the last 5 weeks) and the opportunities he could be an intriguing tournament play on Sunday.
The rushing attack for the Steelers should also be able to establish itself this week as the Steelers are slight home favorites. Le’Veon Bell has been consistently putting up 80ish rushing yards or more but he hasn’t found the end zone since Week 1 which is concerning. His involvement in the passing game keeps him fantasy relevant (Top-5 among RBs in targets) but you need him to find pay dirt to pay off his high price point. Houston’s defense is 18th in FPPG allowed to opposing running backs this season but have been annihilated in two of their three road games this year. Rashad Jennings had 176 RuYd and a TD in one and DeMarco Murray had 136 rushing yards in the other. Bell appears to be in a great spot this weekend as well.
- Arian Foster – $8300
- Andre Johnson – $5200
- Ben Roethlisberger – $5700
- Antonio Brown – $7900
- Markus Wheaton – $3700
- Le’Veon Bell – $6600