Maybe you were hoping for a little clarity after three weeks. I mean, the byes are starting up, we’re only a week from being 25% of the way through the schedule for most teams, and we would like to believe this now means we know what we’re doing. And when it comes to building those daily fantasy football rosters, when we have so many choices, it’s nice to have some set of facts and opinions you can fall back on to either narrow down your options or justify your decisions, whichever mood you’re in.
This week, for me, provided very little clarity, except in one metric. If you want me to predict how C.J. Spiller is going to do one week, or whether T.Y Hilton or Reggie Wayne is going to have the better game, or if Nick Foles is going to be good enough to support more than one receiver, or what cheap option at tight end is going to score in week 4, there is one piece of information I need more than any other: is the guy in question playing the Seahawks or the Bengals?
Preseason, judging one player’s schedule vs. someone else’s is basically impossible – we don’t know enough about how good every team is going to be just yet. And you can look at matchups in a lot of different ways, judging minutiae however you want – team x is good against the pass, but not against the run, for example. Or, team x is good against tight ends, and team y is better against slot receivers, taking it a step further. Or further still, team x is solid against pass-catching running backs, but susceptible between the tackles.
All of that might be true, and it might even be helpful, but it is also not – at all – foolproof. For one thing, you can’t always predict gameplans – who is the defense going to concentrate on, where is that wide receiver going to line up, are they going to use two tight ends? And for another, certain players are just good – good enough that they will shred a defense that has previously been solid against others at their position. In other words, the flow of a particular game can have a huge effect on the opportunities your guys get to produce. Lots of defenses can be good against the run, for example, but if they are playing all day in the nickel because they’re getting torn apart up the seams, all of a sudden that run d gets exposed.
The defenses that really scare me? They’re the ones that just suppress everything. They seem to slow the game down. The other team never seems to even have the ball, never mind have a chance to score. They just make everything difficult, for quarterbacks, receivers, running backs, coaches, you name it. In other words, the defenses who aren’t “good run defenses” but, in today’s game, those who excel at pass defense, which is much more rare. And obviously, the Seahawks qualify. Especially at home. As physical and tough as they are, their prowess begins and ends with stifling the pass. If they stop the pass, they get big leads and thereby suppress the run too… it all rolls downhill. Yesterday, the Broncos had more than half of their total yards in the fourth quarter – which means that for three quarters, the Seahawks held the most prolific offense in football to under 170 total yards. It was easy to forget watching it just how simple Peyton makes it look most weeks – because yesterday was anything but.
Don’t start your guys against the Seahawks at home if you can help it – even your studs. But I am not breaking new ground here – we all already know this. What we don’t necessarily all “know” is that this same thing is starting to apply to the Bengals. We need to stop underestimating how good this defense really is, because until now, with the Bengals you think, “well, it’s a divisional game, they’re usually close. You think, yeah, the Bengals are good, but this guy is my stud – he can break through against them. It’s the Bengals.” Chances are, though, increasingly, he can’t.
And much like the Seahawks, if you are going to have success against Cincy, it is probably going to be on the ground. That, again, is by design. These teams know the NFL revolves around it’s passing attacks, and that the deadliest offenses are those with the cannon arms and stud wideouts, and they built their defenses to protect against exactly that. As difficult a task as it may seem to try to slow down the Manning’s and Demaryius’ of the world, they knew it had to be done, and so far, they look good doing it.
The Titans yesterday scored seven points against Cincy, in the fourth quarter, when the game was already decided. They were getting demolished, despite rushing for over 140 yards. Forget the rushing – it’s too hard to win that way. What is more important, the Titans averaged only 4.9 yards per pass attempt (not bad for a per rush average), and they had a couple of turnovers and a couple of sacks.
Last week, the Bengals played the Falcons. So far, Atlanta’s points scored per game looks like this: Game 1: 37. Game 2: 10. Game 3: 56. Guess which week they were facing off against the Bengals? Matt Ryan averaged only 5.25 yards per pass against Cincy – even including that game, his average yards per pass is 8.69.
In Week 1, Joe Flacco did a little better, throwing for 345 yards, but it took him 62 attempts to do it. SIXTY-TWO. If you don’t feel like doing the math, that’s about 5.5 yards per attempt. The top twelve QBs in the league are all averaging more than 7.5 yards per attempt.
Everyone has a hard time going up against this squad. Like we said at the top, they suppress EVERYTHING. It makes you wonder how Andy Dalton keeps his head up, having to practice against these guys every day. And it is time that we, as fantasy owners, start respecting them the same way we do the Seahawks. They are another team stopping the pass to completely stifle fantasy production, and they are doing it to everyone. I’m not even getting into the stats from last year, but it is enough to simply say, this is not a fluke, this is the continuation of a trend. These guys are good. REALLY good.
So as you are scrolling through your options, looking for those guys playing up in Seattle so you can avoid them like the plague, hoping someone else takes the chance, there is a team in Cincinnati you’re going to want to keep your eyes open for as well. Thankfully, they are off in week 4. Your receivers can breathe again. And the week off might be just enough time for less savvy owners to forget come week 5. Don’t be one of them.