On Friday's edition of Diagnosis, the Helpers discuss a few playoff sleeper options at each position for Week 15. Week 15 is often considered the divisional round of the fantasy playoffs, so the competition is likely to get even tougher from here on out. Also, they go over their hits and misses from Week 14.
Week 8 bullet points for QB/DEFs
Tony Romo v. Washington - #6 in Weekly Rankings
Four weeks ago Tony Romo threw for 262 yds and 3 TD against a poor Saints defense in a dominating 38-17 home win. Romo hadn’t broken out prior to that week 4 performance and with three difficult pass defenses on the horizon in Houston, Seattle and the Giants, he still had plenty of doubters in the fantasy world.
Fast forward to week 8 and Romo has certainly caught the attention of football fans and fantasy owners worldwide. His three “difficult” matchups resulted in a per game average of 284 yds and a 7/2 TD to INT ratio. Outside of the top 5 QBs (P. Manning, Luck, Wilson, Rodgers, Rivers) there may not be a hotter and better QB to own at the moment. Washington, the 31st ranked team against fantasy QBs, comes to Dallas in week 8 for a nationally televised Monday Night Football matchup.
The Redskins just lost arguably their best defensive player and pass rusher in Brian Orakpo for the season and their downward spiral against the pass will certainly be on display for the world to see. The calendar still reads October, so look for Romo and the Cowboys to continue their dominance. The floor is awfully high, as is the ceiling in this cake walk of a matchup.
Dallas Cowboys - #2 in Weekly Rankings
I can’t help but to continue to pile on the Redskins here. Newly appointed starting QB Colt McCoy is somewhat of a hero in Texas, but I don’t think he’ll be treated too kindly in Dallas. McCoy will be forced to try to make big plays in a game that Washington should be trailing from the get go.
McCoy is a dink and dunk type of QB and when he’s forced to try to make big plays, big plays will happen…..for the defense. In 2010-2011 as a starting QB, McCoy was sacked 55 times in 21 games and threw only 20 TD vs. 20 INT. With RG III being close to a return, look for the Cowboys to end the Colt McCoy era in Washington by racking up sacks and turnovers in bunches along the way.
Ryan Tannehill @ Jacksonville - #12 in Weekly Rankings
Ryan Tannehill is in the midst of his coming out party in his 3rd season in the league. He’s on pace for about 3800 yards passing, 27 TD and 13 INT, a fine season for a top 15 QB in any year. However, his last three weeks have may have gone under the radar to the average fantasy owner but the mindful owner, should have been able to see potential for greatness. His 6/3 TD ratio in these 3 weeks is nice and he’s been consistent throwing 2 TD in each week.
That's all fine and good but the potential for greatness theory does not kick in until you check out his rushing totals. The man has 132 yards rushing in the last three weeks! Now this is exciting stuff. These rushing yards have not come as a result of some fluky scrambles either. Tannehill has been lining up in the pistol and is getting 3-6 designed runs called for him, ala Russell Wilson and Colin Kaepernick.
He’s turned these runs into huge gains including a 40 yard run and a 30 yard run. This trend is not going anywhere. Miami goes to Jacksonville to take on the 25th ranked defense against fantasy QBs. Jacksonville, an already putrid defense lost 2 of their better players in linebacker Paul Posluszny and defensive lineman Andre Branch to injury in week 7. Look for Tannehill continue to his hot streak and his running ways in this matchup. Start him as a bye week option or matchup play and hold onto him since he may provide huge value the rest of the season.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers v. Minnesota - #11 in Weekly Rankings
If you’re streaming defenses, and many of us are, this is one defense that should be available in most leagues.Tampa has had some real disasters, including the week 6 debacle against Baltimore, that have skewed their statistics in the wrong direction.
The numbers are not lying. This defense is really not a good one, and there might only be 1 or 2 matchups where I would recommend playing them. Well this week presents one of those matchups with a home game against Teddy Bridgewater and Minnesota. Bridgewater in 4 games this season has only 1 passing TD vs. 5 INT.
That is not a typo. Again, he has 1 passing TD in 4 games. And also not a typo, he’s been sacked 15 times in four games including 13 in the past 2 weeks. Tampa Bay has some talented defensive players in LBs Lavonte David and Mason Foster and defensive lineman Gerald McCoy and Michael Johnson, that should be able to force Bridgewater, a QB with 0 success outside of a home game against Atlanta, into several more sacks and turnovers. By going with Tampa you’re taking a leap of faith but the upside of this matchup is just too high to not give it a try.
Jay Cutler at New England - #13 in Weekly Rankings
After starting the season with 8 TD and only 2 INT in the first three weeks of the season it seemed like Jay Cutler had turned the corner in becoming an elite NFL and fantasy QB. He won back to back road games in weeks 2 and 3 despite his 2 best playmakers in Alshon Jeffery and Brandon Marshall playing injured. In the last few weeks, his wide receivers have gotten healthy, but Cutler has regressed to the quarterback we’ve been accustomed to seeing in Chicago.
His last 4 performances have been underwhelming to say the least with only 6 TD and 5 INT including games against poor pass defenses (Carolina, Atlanta). The Bears’ many injuries to their starting defense have limited Cutler’s time on the field and therefore his upside. He has not been given great field position and the offensive opportunities in total have been few and far between.
Week 8 brings a matchup in Foxboro with the Patriots, who have some problems of their own with their best defensive player and pass rusher Chandler Jones out. However, the Bears’ decimated defense won’t be able to stop the Patriots. As a result, Cutler will be held off the field and Cutler even when he is on the field, is looking too much like the old Cutler to justify starting him.
Denver is the 8th ranked fantasy defense headed into week 8. They’ve been fairly consistent throughout the season despite matchups against potent offenses such as Indianapolis, Kansas City, Seattle, Arizona and San Francisco. Normally at home, I’d recommend them against just about anyone but not against San Diego.
Since taking over as head coach of the Chargers in 2013, Mike McCoy has found a way to play the Broncos in high scoring tough games, with his offense scoring 27 and 20 points in 2 matchups against the Broncos.
Phillip Rivers is not going to make many mistakes and even if the Broncos do win the game easily, the Chargers will put up too many points and there won’t be enough turnovers for the Broncos to be worth a start. If you own them, check out our rankings and stream one of the defenses ranked above them.
Running back is the one position that’s usually a safe bet. But so far, many first-round fantasy running backs have been complete busts. From Adrian Peterson’s off-field trouble to the presence of Darren Sproles hurting LeSean McCoy to Jamaal Charles’ inability to stay healthy, the top three running backs have all been disappointments compared to their pre-draft hype.
Let’s start with the obvious: AP. We all can agree that his domestic abuse allegations against his child are heinous. In many circles, unforgivable. I’ll keep my own opinions out of it and stick strictly to the football side of the equation.
Peterson’s absence—which could very well be for the entire season—is an obvious blow to fantasy owners who banked on All Day with their top pick. It just so happens I took AP with the first overall pick in my ESPN league, so I’m right there with you. Even before the controversial news broke, Peterson wasn’t exactly dominant. Sure, it was only one week, but he managed just 75 yards on 21 carries against the Rams.
Combine his massive $15.4 million cap hit in 2015 and it’s very likely we’ve seen the last of AP in a Vikings uniform. What a sad turn of events for both NFL fans, fantasy owners and the nation. To see the best running back of this generation fall from grace in such a short span simply shows that no one is invincible.
The other common No. 1 overall pick, LeSean McCoy, hasn’t exactly lit things up like he did in 2013, either. McCoy’s 26 points through two games is solid, but by no means a No. 1 overall pick type of performance.
Is this necessarily a reflection of McCoy's talent dissipating? I think not.
The Eagles offensive line has been hit by injuries, and the unit is still playing without 2013 first-round pick Lane Johnson, who is serving a four-game suspension. Philly is starting Dennis Kelly at left guard and Andrew Gardner at right tackle. That’s a massive downgrade from Evan Mathis and Johnson.
Secondly, the presence of Sproles—the No. 1 RB in most fantasy leagues—certainly hasn’t worked in McCoy’s favor. From a real-life standpoint, having a capable back to spell him should keep Shady healthy. But for fantasy owners, Sproles is eating into McCoy’s touches, and his continued success should only provide for more opportunities.
At the end of the day, McCoy is still a phenomenal talent and he should get back on track. But for now, he hasn’t lived up to his pre-draft billing as a No. 1 overall pick.
Finally, we travel to Kansas City, where the Chiefs are off to a rough 0-2 start. We all knew the Chiefs lacked weapons, but K.C. is tied with Jacksonville for the second-fewest points scored in the NFL. Not good at all.
Again, the offensive line is a major issue, as the Chiefs lost Branden Albert and Jon Asamoah from the left side. With Eric Fisher still struggling, Charles simply hasn’t had the same holes in front of him as he did in years prior.
Facing a new-look Titans 3-4 defense, Charles carried the ball just seven times for 19 yards in Week 1 and failed to find the end zone. He received two carries last week before going down with a high ankle sprain.
Projecting a player’s health is always a slippery slope, but even before the injury, Charles wasn’t lighting it up. And with the Chiefs offense lacking firepower, it just doesn’t feel like a special year for a guy with special speed. And as every good fantasy owner knows, sometimes it’s just good to go with your gut.
Luckily, there has been some solid value at the running back position with guys like DeMarco Murray, Le’Veon Bell and Gio Bernard racking up points early. But for those who spent high picks on the likes of AP, McCoy and Charles, the early results have not been promising.
That said, let’s take a look at a few of the best and worst plays for Week 3.
Players I’m Banking On
Jay Cutler, QB, Bears: Did you see what Aaron Rodgers just did to New York a week ago? Even with Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery at less than 100 percent, that duo dominated against San Francisco. Cutler had 25 points despite throwing for just 176 yards against the 49ers. Expect closer to 300 against a horrible Jets secondary.
DeMarco Murray, RB, Cowboys: Scott Linehan has done a complete 180 and become a run-first playcaller. That’s good news for Murray owners. He’s already carried the ball 51 times in two games, turning that into 285 yards and two touchdowns. Facing a Rams defense that just got shredded for 144 yards by Bobby Rainey, the arrow is only pointing up on Murray.
Cordarrelle Patterson, WR, Vikings: The absence of AP could hurt Patterson in some people’s eyes, but it only increases his importance in mine. The dynamic playmaker hasn’t gotten enough touches. You and I know both know that. At this point, Norv Turner has to know that. I see Patterson getting at least 8-10 targets and a few touches out of the backfield. That’s promising considering he’s going up against a Saints defense that’s allowed the second-most fantasy points to opposing wide receivers.
Players to Be Cautious With
Tony Romo, QB, Cowboys: Annually a very solid fantasy QB, Romo simply hasn’t looked right coming off his back surgeries. Perhaps he needs to shake off some rust. Or maybe he just isn’t that good anymore. Either way, Linehan has taken the ball out of Romo’s hands and is placing the responsibility on his strong running game. Facing a Rams defense without Chris Long, I expect Dallas to continue to run the football and minimize Romo’s chances of making mistakes.
Toby Gerhart, RB, Jaguars: It’s almost fun for me to make fun of the Jags. Many of my friends are Jags fans. And many of them were excited about the prospect of the great Gerhart in the backfield. Let’s be serious. This guy is nothing more than a plodding No. 2 back. Fantasy owners who spent a mid-round pick on the guy have to be kicking themselves after the goose egg he laid last week. I fully expect Andrew Luck to shred this defense, putting the Jags in the unenviable position of having to abandon the “running game.”
Larry Fitzgerald, WR, Cardinals: Even after his dad called out the Cardinals for not feeding Larry the ball, the results weren’t much better in Week 2. Fitzgerald recorded just five points, failing to find the end zone again. With Carson Palmer likely out and the 49ers defense motivated to get back on track, I’m not going to put my money on Fitzgerald suddenly breaking out of his early-season slump.