• Opportunity: Optimal running backs for Week 6

    Editor's note: This season-long series looks to find the best opportunity to score fantasy points at the running back position. It factors targets, goal line and red zone carries, and rushing attempts. This volume probability is predicated on game script, snap counts, and overall talent of the individual player.

    This is Week 6 of this list. You can expect more data as the season goes along and trends emerge. Also, be sure to check out our weekly rankings for complete rankings at every position for Week 6.


    As we head into Week 6 and the 2017 NFL season, the fantasy running back picture becomes more and more clear. Backs like Leonard Fournette, Todd Gurley, Melvin Gordon, Devonta Freeman, Le'Veon Bell have all established themselves as clear RB1's.

    This is also the time of year when injuries crop up and younger backs get their chance. We saw that with Aaron Jones in Green Bay, Elijah McGuire in New York and Matt Breida in San Francisco. This is the time where managing your waiver wire is crucial, as the changing of the guard between starters and second-string running backs can often lead to a new fantasy front runner for the remainder of the season.

    Here's every fantasy relevant running back for Week 6.

    Cleveland at Houston

    Total points expected: 44 (Houston favored by 12)

    Cleveland RB's: Over the past two weeks, Duke Johnson has more fantasy points (26) than Kareem Hunt (24). The Houston Texans are still a strong defense, even without JJ Watt, but Johnson's versatility keeps him on the RB1 radar this week. While Johnson saw just three targets last week, he turned them into three catches for 63 yards and a score. The Browns are switching quarterbacks, starting Kevin Hogan in replacement of DeShone Kizer. Hogan is a game manager quarterback, which could lead to more check-down throws to Johnson especially with Houston's pass rush forcing his hand. Last week, Isaiah Crowell saw his biggest volume total since Week 1 with 16 carries, but Houston's defense is only allowing 21 points to running backs this year. Best to throw Johnson in as a flex option and bench Crowell.

    Houston RB's: Lamar Miller has completely dominated the snap count as of late and is benefiting from a white-hot Deshaun Watson. Over the past two games, Miller saw nine looks in the red zone and is averaging 75 rush yards per game. He's not a prolific receiver at the RB spot, but he's averaging close to three targets per game. If Houston jumps out to an early lead, this could be a game where Miller cracks 20 carries. The Browns have been a very good run defense, not allowing a running back to rush for over 70 yards all season. Miller has some appeal because of volume, but that's about it. He hasn't established himself as a big play back, with just 52 yards coming on runs of 15 yards or more.

    New England at New York Jets

    Total points expected: 47 (New England favored by 9.5)

    New England RB's: The New England running back narrative of 'you can't trust anybody' was dashed last season with LeGarrette Blount's 18 scores. But this season it looks like it's difficult to trust anybody. Last week, four Patriot running backs saw 13+ snaps. Dion Lewis saw a season-high seven carries, which took away some of Mike Gillislee's value. The one constant seems to be James White in the passing game. White has 21 targets in the last two games and 17 catches total. The Jets have struggled against the run overall, but have bottled up top backs Jay Ajayi and Leonard Fournette. Gillislee is a risky start in that regard and Lewis should see more snaps going forward.

    New York Jets RB's: Matt Forte returns this week, Bilal Powell is likely sidelined and Elijah McGuire should see time as the second back. The matchup is a great one, with New England giving up a league-worst 38 points per game to running backs. This game has sneaky shootout potential, and both backs have dark horse RB1 upside due to their versatility in the pass game.

    Miami at Atlanta

    Total points expected: 47 (Atlanta favored by 9.5)

    Miami RB's: It's been a rough start for Jay Ajayi, who's yet to score a touchdown despite 76 carries. Only LeSean McCoy and Jonathan Stewart have more carries without a touchdown. Ajay's offensive line hasn't helped much, as the Dolphins rank in the bottom 6 in yards blocked per contact according to Pro Football Focus. The Falcons have been solid against the run this season, not allowing a 100-yard rusher. They've been weak against pass-catching backs though, giving up at least three catches to every RB1 this season. Ajayi isn't a prolific receiver, but he could find himself getting more receiving yards in this one. He's still an RB1 given his high volume of carries per game.

    Atlanta RB's: The Falcons come off the bye week at home where they will face one of the toughest run defenses in the league. The Dolphins have only allowed one running back to crack 50+ yards and that was DeMarco Murray last week. Expect Atlanta to favor the pass in this one, which could make Tevin Coleman the better back to go with. Coleman is averaging close to five targets per game and the Falcons receiving core is banged up. Mohamed Sanu is out and Miami will devote a lot of attention to Julio Jones.

    Detroit at New Orleans

    Total points expected: 51 (New Orleans favored by 4)

    Detroit RB's: The Detroit backfield remains dicey with three running backs getting valuable snaps. Ameer Abdullah is the clear No. 1 in terms of carries, but Theo Riddick continues to see plenty of targets and Zach Zenner is also getting looks in the red zone. New Orleans has been solid against the run this season, only allowing one 100-yard rusher and that was back in Week 1. They've been vulnerable to pass-catching backs though, as they were gashed by Christian McCaffrey and James White 17 catches and 186 yards combined. The game script in this game favors Riddick among all Detroit backs.

    New Orleans RB's: it will be New Orleans first game without Adrian Peterson, who was traded to the Arizona Cardinals earlier this week. This is great news for Mark Ingram owners, as Peterson was taking away about seven carries per game from Marky Mark. Ingram saw a season-high 46 snaps last week and that number could creep into the 50's with Peterson gone. Expect anywhere from 15-to-20 carries this week for Ingram. Alvin Kamara has been one of the most prolific rookie pass catchers this season with 26 grabs so far. Only Christian McCaffrey and Tarik Cohen have more. The Lions have been decent against the run this season, only giving up one 100-yard game this season. Still, New Orleans is a different team at home and should fare well in potentially high-scoring game.

    Green Bay at Minnesota

    Total points expected: 47 (Green Bay favored by 3.5)

    Green Bay RB's: Ty Montgomery practiced this week and is listed as 'questionable.' He'll have his work cut out for him against a Minnesota defense that's one of the best against the run. The Vikings have held Jordan Howard, Mark Ingram and Le'Veon Bell all in check this season, and this could be a game where passing ends up being the way to go for Green Bay. Aaron Jones was fantastic in replacement of Montgomery last week, rushing for 125 yards and score. Obviously, his value is curbed if Montgomery plays. Both runners are risky options given the strength of Minnesota's defense.

    Minnesota RB's: Jerick McKinnon was dominant last Monday against Chicago, and might be the lead back going forward after out-snapping Latavius Murray 47-to-22. McKinnon was also very efficient in the pass game, catching all six of his targets for 51 yards. Murray struggled to gain yards after contact and finished with just 31 yards on 12 carries. The Packers struggled against Ezekiel Elliott last week, but they've been a solid run defense overall. Still, McKinnon's versatility and volume gives him RB1 potential each week.

    Chicago at Baltimore

    Total points expected: 41.5 (Baltimore favored by 7)

    Chicago RB's: Jordan Howard has reasserted himself as the team's lead back after Tarik Cohen's hot start lead many to believe this would be a split backfield. Howard fared well on Monday night against a tough Vikings defense, rushing for 76 yards on 19 carries. He gets another test this week against a Baltimore group that held Leonard Fournette to just 59 yards and completely shutdown Marshawn Lynch last week. Howard is an RB1 in redraft given his volume and role as an every-down back.

    Baltimore RB's: The Bears have given up a rushing touchdown to every RB1 they've faced this season. This is good news for Javorius Allen, who's coming off a solid outing against Oakland where rushed for 73 yards and a score while catching four of five targets. Allen is a solid RB2 with RB1 upside in this one. Expect Alex Collins to be in the mix as well, as he saw 12 carries last week and nine in each of the past two games. Still, Collins upside is limited since he doesn't see many targets.

    San Francisco at Washington

    Total points expected: 46.5 (Washington favored by 9)

    San Francisco RB's: After a solid start where he rushed for over 250 yards in his first three games, Carlos Hyde is starting to see less usage in San Francisco. He saw just eight carries against Indianapolis while backup Matt Breida had 10 and looked much more efficient with 49 rush yards. Washington has become very good defense overall this season. Against the run, they're giving up just 22 points per game to running backs. Perhaps even more impressive is the Redskins have put up those numbers after facing both Kareem Hunt and Todd Gurley this season. This is a tough week to start any San Francisco running back.

    Washington RB's: The Washington offensive line has been a Top 5 unit this season, getting 2.26 yards of contact blocked according to Pro Football Focus. It's just too bad they haven't found a clear lead running back to make the most of those yards. Rookie Samaje Perine hasn't rushed for more than 67 yards despite two games of 19+ carries. Rob Kelley haven't rushed for more than 78 yards and he's struggled to stay healthy this season. Speaking of his health, Kelley likely won't play this week as he's listed as doubtful with a ankle injury. San Francisco isn't as bad a run defense as they were last season thanks to some promising rookie play for DeForest Buckner. Still, they're giving up over 35 points to the running back position this year. Perine is risky but there is some upside to this matchup.

    Los Angeles Rams at Jacksonville

    Total points expected: 43.5 (Jacksonville favored by 2.5)

    Los Angeles Rams RB's: Todd Gurley is coming off his worst performance of the year, rushing for 43 yards on 14 carries against Seattle. He should be in for a bounce back game against a Jacksonville defense that's giving up 30 points per game to running backs. The Jaguars are a bit of a Jekyll and Hyde team this year. They gave up 250+ yards to Bilal Powell and Elijah McGuire, then they held Le'Veon Bell to just 47 yards and DeMarco Murray to just 25 yards. Expect Gurley to have be better than last week, but this Jaguars team might be sneaky good. They seem to get up for the big-name backs and Gurley is a big name.

    Jacksonville RB's: The Jaguars are living up to the identity of a run-first team. Leonard Fournette is the league leader in carries with 109. His five touchdowns are tied with Devonta Freeman for the most in the league. The Rams are giving up 35 points per game to running backs this season, but have been better in recent weeks after holding Seattle's backfield to just 39 rush yards. Still, this is a great matchup for Fournette and his volume makes him one of the most reliable rushers so far this season.

    Tampa Bay at Arizona

    Total points expected: 44.5 (Arizona favored by 1)

    Tampa Bay RB's: Doug Martin burst back onto the scene following his four game suspension, finishing as an RB7 with 74 yards and a touchdown against a struggling Patriots defense. He'll get a tougher test against the Arizona Cardinals this week, a team that hasn't allowed a 100-yard rusher and has only surrendered two rushing touchdowns this season. Still, the Cardinals offense has struggled to score points which wears on a defense as the season goes along. The Cardinals rank 26th in points per game and will have to hope Adrian Peterson breathes some life into one of the worst rushing offenses in the league. If they continue to struggle on offense, it means a more favorable game script for Martin.

    Arizona RB's: Peterson will get his first start against a Tampa Bay defense that's giving up 30 points per game to running backs. It's difficult to say how he'll fare, especially since Tampa Bay has struggled more against passing backs than every-down rushers. The Bucs have given up at least five catches to pass-catching backs in three of their four games, making this a solid matchup for Arizona's Andre Ellington. Ellington has 24 targets over the last two games and the Cardinals will continue to pass due to injuries on their offensive line.

    Pittsburgh at Kansas City

    Total points expected: 47 (Kansas City favored by 3)

    Pittsburgh RB's: Le'Veon Bell saw a season-high 73 snaps last week to go along with 10 catches on 10 targets. There isn't a back in the league with more opportunity than Bell right now, and Pittsburgh will lean on him once again to take down an undefeated Kansas City team. Kansas City is giving up only 23.4 points per game to running backs this season, so this could be a tougher matchup for Bell. But of course, you're starting him each week barring injury. 

    Kansas City RB's: Kareem Hunt rushed for over 100 yards in his third straight game last week, but Charcandrick West sniped two receiving touchdowns from him. Still, you shouldn't worry much if you have Hunt, as he'll see plenty of volume against a Pittsburgh defense that's sneaky bad against the run. The Steelers have gotten smoked by RB1's so far this year, giving up 100+ yards to Jordan Howard, Leonard Fournette. Both running backs also had multiple touchdowns in those games. Hunt is a great play this week in all formats.

    Los Angeles Chargers at Oakland

    Los Angeles Chargers RB's: Melvin Gordon is coming off his best performance of the season against the Giants, where he rushed for over 100 yards and had two receiving touchdowns. His 65 snaps were also a season-high for him that season. The Raiders are average against the run and this should be another solid game for the third-year running back.

    Oakland RB's: Marshawn Lynch's status as an RB1 might be over if he can't dominate this matchup. The Chargers have allowed three running backs to rush for over 100 yards against them so far this season. They've also given up over 100 yards to every backfield they've faced this year. Jalen Richard is also a good sneaky play in deeper leagues as he only saw two less snaps and three less carries than Lynch.

    N.Y. Giants at Denver (Monday Night)

    Total points expected: 40.5 (Denver favored by 9.5)

    New York Giants RB's: Wayne Gallman looks like the best option for New York at this point. But this is a terrible matchup for New York and injuries at the wide receiver position will likely cost them in the run game. The Broncos have shut down RB1's this season and they've faced some studs, some of which include LeSean McCoy and Ezekiel Elliott. 

    Denver RB's: C.J. Anderson is the clear No. 1 back in this offense and has seen three games of 20+ carries. The Giants have given up at least 80 yards to every RB1 they've faced this season, and game script could help Anderson's cause if New York can't score. Jamaal Charles is a sneaky good start as well if Denver jumps out to a big halftime lead.


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  • Opportunity: The most optimal running backs for Week 5

    Editor's note: This season-long series looks to find the best opportunity to score fantasy points at the running back position. It factors targets, goal line and red zone carries, and rushing attempts. This volume probability is predicated on game script, snap counts, and overall talent of the individual player.

    This is Week 5 of this list. You can expect more data as the season goes along and trends emerge. Also, be sure to check out our weekly rankings for complete rankings at every position for Week 5.


    Each of the top six running backs from Week 4 had at least four receptions. That should tell you all you need to know about the hybrid running back's potency in fantasy football.

    It was also a quiet week scoring wise, with only Le'Veon Bell rushing for more than one touchdown. With the exception of Green Bay and Dallas, we could be seeing low numbers once again in Week 5 as high-powered offenses such as Atlanta, New Orleans, and Washington are on a bye.

    Here's a look at every fantasy relevant running back for Week 5.

    Los Angeles Chargers at New York Giants

    Total points expected: 44 (Giants favored by 4)

    Los Angeles Chargers RB's: Knee problems continue to bother Melvin Gordon despite him seeing the highest volume of any Charger running back. Gordon finished as an RB49 in Week 4 and his reduced role in the receiving game has been a big part of that. In the first two weeks, Gordon caught 12 passes for 90 yards. He has just one catch for seven yards since. The matchup is a good one though, as the Giants are giving up 23 points to running backs per game. Still, Gordon is risky at best due to injuries. Branden Oliver is not startable at this time.

    New York Giants RB's: Wayne Gallman popped onto the fantasy radar in his first performance, going for 42 yards on 11 carries and a touchdown reception. His 31 snaps led all players and he was the best back, but Paul Perkins and Shane Vereen still saw 14 carries between them. It's tough to start Gallman, but it's encouraging that the Giants are working him in more. The matchup is also a fantastic one, as the Chargers have given up over 100 yards to three running backs in three weeks. Gallman's ceiling is curbed, but he's not a terrible darkhorse option in really 14-16+ leagues this week.

    Buffalo at Cincinnati

    Total points expected: 39 (Cleveland favored by 2)

    Buffalo RB's: LeSean McCoy has been good volume consistently but he hasn't made the most of it so far. Through four weeks, he's finished as an RB5, RB37, RB33, and RB21 with zero rushing touchdowns. Not exactly top numbers for a player drafted in the late first/early second round in most leagues. The Bengals are tough against the run, giving up 20.5 fantasy points per game. It's best to keep starting McCoy in standard leagues and PPR leagues because of his volume, but he's worth fading this week in Daily Fantasy.

    Cincinnati RB's: Joe Mixon continues to play well, but his offensive line is hurting him. Per Pro Football Focus, the Bengals rank dead last in yards blocked per contact at 1.31. The Bills are a solid run defense, giving up 20 fantasy points per game at the position and haven't allowed a 100-rusher yet. While he has some variables going against him, Mixon still isn't a bad play given his opportunity. He's carried the ball 35 times over the last two games and has the most targets (7) for Bengals running backs over the last two weeks. He's slowly becoming the bellcow back.

    New York Jets at Cleveland

    Total points expected: 39 (Cleveland favored by 2.5)

    New York Jets RB's: Bilal Powell and Elijah McGuire combined for over 250 yards and two scores last week. Powell now has a score in each of his last two games and is averaging RB1 numbers. Last week, Powell's five targets tied for second most among all Jets and his 21 carries were a season high. With Matt Forte still out, Powell and McGuire are the top two backs in New York going forward. The Browns are average against the run, making this matchup a decent one.

    Cleveland RB's: Incoming Duke Johnson Jr. The third-year running back out-snapped Isaiah Crowell for 36-22 last week, by far his largest separation from Crowell. While Crowell had more touches, Johnson still only had three less carries and his 9 catches for 47 yards make his ceiling very high going forward. Johnson should also have plenty of favorable game scripts for receiving backs, as the Browns defense is one of the worst in the league vs. quarterbacks. The Browns have given up 31 points in each of the last two games, which should help Johnson get more yards in the second half as the Browns play catch up.

    Jacksonville at Pittsburgh

    Total points expected: 44.5 (Pittsburgh favored by 9)

    Jacksonville RB's: In one of the potentially higher scoring games this week, rookie Leonard Fournette is once again center stage. The former LSU star continues to get better as the season goes along. He finished with a season-high four catches for 59 yards and a touchdown last week and has led all Jacksonville running backs in targets every week. His 81 total carries ranks third behind Todd Gurley and Le'Veon Bell. Pittsburgh's Ben Roethlisberger tends to play better at home, so the gamescript might not lend itself to as much rushing volume for Fournette. Still, Pittsburgh hasn't been great against the run after allowing Jordan Howard and Alex Collins to rush for a combined 220 yards over the last two weeks. Fournette is a no-brainer RB1.

    Pittsburgh RB's: This is another dream matchup for Le'Veon Bell. The Jaguars have given up over 100 yards to running backs in three of the last four games. Pittsburgh's offensive line ranks ninth in yards blocked per contact with 2.06. Bell's 87 rush attempts leads the league and he, Todd Gurley and LeSean McCoy lead all bellcow backs with 22 targets. The one worry for Bell could be gamescript in this one, as the Steelers might get out to a quick lead and fail to throw Bell's way for the touchdown. That's just a risk you have to take.

    Tennessee at Miami

    Total points expected: 43.5 (Tennessee favored by 2.5)

    Tennessee RB's: Miami hasn't allowed a single running back to rush for more than 45 yards this season. They have been susceptible to pass-catching backs though, giving up 10 catches to Alvin Kamara last week and seven to Melvin Gordon in Week 1. The Jets RB's were the only group they held in check, but that was likely due to gamesflow that allowed all three Jets running backs to play conservative and simply waste clock. Only six fantasy points separates DeMarco Murray from Derrick Henry through four weeks. Aside from a monster Week 3 performance where he finished as an RB8,  Murray has only 101 rush yards combined in the other three games. Henry hasn't fared much better, with his best performance coming in Week 2 with an RB9 finish. Both backs are risky in this matchup.

    Miami RB's: Jay Ajayi hasn't finished higher than RB12 since Week 2 and is currently nursing a knee injury. The Miami offensive line also ranks in the bottom 6 in yards blocked per contact, per Pro Football Focus. Tennessee is giving up 25 points to running backs, so there's so upside to the matchup for Ajayi. Still, he's risky given his health and although he's a tough player, it's best to fade him in Daily Fantasy and only start him in redraft.

    San Francisco at Indianapolis

    Total points expected: 43 (Indianapolis by 2)

    San Francisco RB's: With two RB1 finishes through four weeks, Carlos Hyde has been a great value so far in redraft and PPR leagues. He has hybrid potential each week, averaging near six targets per game. His 65 carries rank 12th highest among running backs and he has a plus matchup against a Colts rushing defense that's allowed 25 points to running backs this season. No other running back in San Francisco is startable at this point.

    Indianapolis RB's: Marlon Mack is back. It's the return of the Mack. Sorry, had to. Indy remains a run-oriented team with Andrew Luck still out, as they've opted to pass just 52 percent of the time which ranks 27th overall. Frank Gore has two RB2 finishes through four weeks, but he hasn't been very effective with just 3.1 yards per carry on 61 attempts. It's likely the Colts could try and use Mack more, but Gore is still the feature back going forward until Mack makes the most of his opportunity. In the two games he played, Mack finished with just 27 total rushing yards. 

    Arizona at Philadelphia

    Total points expected: 45 (Philadelphia favored by 6.5)

    Arizona RB's: Chris Johnson is the higher volume running back in terms of rush yards, but Andre Ellington is the most fantasy potent. Ellington's caught 14 passes for 145 yards on 22 targets over the last two weeks. Those numbers helped him rank 15th in PPR leagues, making him a boarderline RB1 in that format. Ellington is startable due to his role in the passing game, though Philadelphia has been solid against the run, giving up only 19.3 points per game.

    Philadelphia RB's: The Eagles have really gotten their run game going over the last few weeks. LeGarrette Blount has posted RB1 numbers in both weeks, totaling 203 yards and a score despite seeing less snaps than fellow back Wendell Smallwood. Speaking of Smallwood, he's averaged out to be a solid RB2 option over the last two weeks in both standard league and PPR leagues. The Cardinals run defense is one of their strongest areas, so this will be a test for Philadelphia. Still, they're run game is in sync right now and should still produce decent fantasy numbers.

    Carolina at Detroit

    Total points expected: 43 (Detroit favored by 3)

    Carolina RB's: Christian McCaffrey is currently RB20 in PPR leagues and hasn't cracked 20+ rushing yards since Week 1. He's really been struggling running between the tackles and that makes him a tough start in standard leagues. Jonathan Stewart is an RB27 in standard leagues and has yet to score a touchdown. The Lions are a middle-of-the-road rushing defense which makes matchup blander than non-salted potatoes. Keep

    Detroit RB's: Ameer Abdullah recorded his first RB1 finish last week, ranking 9th among all running backs in fantasy points with 17. His volume has been solid, as his 66 carries rank him 19th overall among RB's. He's starting to distance himself from Theo Riddick in the snap count, but Zach Zenner is also in the mix and could steal goal line touches. The Panthers have been solid in the run defense department, but they've given up 35 catches to running backs over a four game span. Abdullah could be in for a decent outing if he sees the most targets among Detroit running backs, which he did last week.

    Seattle at Los Angeles Rams

    Total points expected: 46

    Seattle RB's: This backfield might be the messiest in the NFL right now, with six running backs all seeing snaps. Converted wideout J.D. McKissic was the guy last week, finishing as an RB7 with 17 fantasy points, including a receiving touchdown. It's likely McKissic remains the top receiving back as C.J. Prosise sat out Thursday's practice. Thomas Rawls and Eddie Lacy are likely to split carries in some fashion, but nobody can be certain of how that will shake out. The uncertainty is frustrating because the Rams have been absolutely gashed by running backs so far this season, giving up a league-worst 31 point per game at the position. This might be the one time it makes sense to roll the dice with a Seattle back.

    Los Angeles Rams RB's: It's the Todd Gurley show once again. Gurley has cracked 20+ carries and 100+ yards in each of his last two games. He's the No. 1 running back in fantasy points through four games in standard and PPR. You start him in all leagues. If you're splitting hairs in Daily Fantasy, he's playing a Seattle team that's given up two 100-yard games to RB1's so far this season.

    Baltimore at Oakland

    Total points expected: 40 (Oakland favored by 4)

    Baltimore RB's: Alex Collins has emerged as the top back in this offense with Javorius Allen struggling. Alex Collins has been very efficient in his last two starts, rushing for over 160 yards on just 18 carries. He's only a flex option as of now, but could morph into an RB2 if he starts finding the end zone and sees more volume. With 18 targets over the last three games, Allen is still the favorite in the passing game. However, Collins did see two targets last week and could see more going forward. Oakland has been hit-or-miss against the run this year, making Collins risky but still worth a shot as a flex in deeper leagues.

    Oakland RB's: Oakland's backfield has steadily become more atrocious each week. Oakland's offensive line is getting  2.24 yards blocked per contact, so they're not the problem. Veteran Marshawn Lynch hasn't cracked 20+ rushing yards since Week 2 and looks washed after sitting out the last season. Jalen Richard and DeAndre Washington are talented but haven't been utilized fully yet. That could change with Lynch's recent struggles, and Richard might see more carries since he's more of an insider runner than the pass-catching Washington. Still, it's a tough matchup against a Ravens defense that struggled against Le'Veon Bell but has been dominant against all the other backs they've played.

    Green Bay at Dallas

    Total points expected: 53 (Dallas favored by 2)

    Green Bay RB's: With Ty Montgomery listed as doubtful for Week 5, so expect the Packers to use Aaron Jones and pass a lot against Dallas. Since Jones is a rookie and is still earning the trust of coaches, he likely won't see the volume Montgomery has been getting. Dallas is struggling against the run, giving up 27 points to the running back which is 4th worst in the league. Still, the Packers have several ways to beat teams, and will likely use Aaron Rodgers and the pass more which will curb any value to the running back minus a touchdown reception out of the backfield. Best to steer clear of these running backs this week.

    Dallas RB's: Minus the one dud against Denver, Ezekiell Elliott has been as consistent as they come for fantasy backs this season. He has 20+ carries in three games and a rushing touchdown in his last two. He's averaging five targets per game and has finished as an RB8, RB50, RB11, and RB3. This game has great gamescript potential for Elliott, as he's scored 42 of his 57.5 fantasy points when the Cowboys have a close lead or are tied. With plenty of high-scoring potential here, Elliott is a must-start in cash games for DFS and an obvious start in all other formats.

    Kansas City at Houston

    Total points expected: 47 (Kansas City favored by 1.5)

    Kansas City RB's: Kareem Hunt's volume keeps growing, as he saw a season-high 50 snaps in Week 4. You have to wonder when Hunt's role will start to wear him down though. He looked exhausted at times during the team's close win over Washington but still recorded his third 100-yard performance in four games. Hunt's been an absolute stud but Houston's defense has been locked in these past three games, holding each team's RB1 to under 40 rush yards. Hunt's nearly matchup proof given his role in the receiving game with 13 targets over four games. Still, this will be his toughest test yet on an undefeated Kansas City team that's getting a bigger target on its back each week. It's best to fade Hunt this week in DFS.

    Houston RB's: It's weird to think Lamar Miller is actually an RB1 this year but he is. He's finished as an RB17, RB21, RB35 and RB4 through four games, averaging out to an RB12. His volume has been consistent, hovering around 16 rushing attempts per game. The Texans rank third in plays per game with 69 which has also helped Miller stay on the field. He also benefited from rookie DeShaun Watson's blowup game last week, as he caught four of five targets for 56 yards and a touchdown. Kansas City is a very good run defense, allowing just one rushing score over their last three games. Miller has a low ceiling this week, but his floor is very reliable.

    Minnesota at Chicago

    Total points expected: 40 (Minnesota favored by 3)

    Minnesota RB's: Rookie Dalvin Cook saw his promising rookie year come to an end last week, so now it's up to Latavius Murray and Jerrick McKinnon to pick up the slack. Murray will have the benefit of playing behind an offensive line that's getting 1.94 yards per contact blocked per game, but he's playing against a Bears front seven that hasn't allowed a 100-yard rusher all season. Murray's health is also in flux as he's still dealing with the same ankle injury that kept him from starting Week 1. McKinnon should inherit more targets with Cook out, making him a good add in PPR leagues. Still, this is a backfield you should stay away from starting until the picture comes into focus.

    Chicago RB's: Tarik Cohen was a dominant pass catcher in the first two weeks but he's since been out-targeted by Jordan Howard 9:8. Howard has rushed for over 190 yards and three touchdowns over his last two starts. He's the clear top option while Cohen's value is dropping off a little bit. Minnesota is one of the best run defenses in the league right now, allowing just 15 points to the running back position. Best to start Howard and fade Cohen.


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  • Opportunity: The most optimal running backs for Week 4

    Stop guessing and start winning. Numberfire.com. Use the promo code 'FFHelpers' and receive your first month subscription for $9.99.

    Editor's note: This season-long series looks to find the best opportunity to score fantasy points at the running back position. It factors targets, goal line and red zone carries, and rushing attempts. This volume probability is predicated on game script, snap counts, and overall talent of the individual player.

    This is Week 4 of this list. You can expect more data as the season goes along and trends emerge. Also, be sure to check out our weekly rankings for complete rankings at every position for Week 4.


    Week 3 was weird. Several surefire players ended up tanking, including Jay Ajayi and Marshawn Lynch. But while the NFL may seem unpredictable right now, keep in mind these are the often the times when things swing back to reality.

    For example, Ajayi is still going to get a ton of volume and be a menace going forward. Marshawn Lynch might lack a high ceiling but he's just being preserved so Oakland can use him when they need to cement a playoff spot down the stretch. LeSean McCoy should still be fired up this week, as he plays the running-back-friendly New Orleans Saints in Week 4.

    Overall, we're all tested when it comes to questioning our previously held fantasy football beliefs as the new season wears on. All the data we've accumulated in the offseason starts to become useless by about Week 4-5. So prepare to have your previous notions eradicated. But for now, hang on to them for at least another week or so.

    Here's a look at every fantasy relevant running back for Week 4.

    New Orleans at Miami

    Total points expected: 50

    Game script: Pass heavy if New Orleans gets out to early lead.

    New Orleans RB's: It's looking more and like Mark Ingram is the back to own in this offense and Alvin Kamara is the PPR guy. Adrian Peterson continues to make a minimal impact with just 8 fantasy points through 3 games, with Ingram and Kamara scoring 23 and 19, respectively. The biggest surprise is that Ingram and Peterson's carry totals are similar, but Peterson hasn't made the most of his touches with just 3.3 yards per carry.

    Miami is an above average run defense, allowing just 19.3 fantasy points per game. Still, Melvin Gordon caught seven passes against them and the Ingram/Kamara combo has been good for about ten targets between the two. They're both solid starts this week with the high over/under.

    Miami RB's: Per Rich Hribar on Rotoworld, the Saints are one of two teams (Seattle) to allow a Top-12 scoring running back in each week of the season so far. This means Jay Ajayi should be in play as a rebound candidate after he struggled against The New York Jets in Week 3.

    There are elements of Ajayi's dud performance you just can't predict — sometimes one team shows up and the other doesn't. However, his lack of volume in the second half can be blamed on the game script. Not all coaches opt to go pass-heavy when their team is down, but Adam Gase does. Overall, the Dolphins threw the ball over 70 percent of the time and New York dominated the time of possession 36:23.

    Ajayi should see better volume against New Orleans in Week 4 given the Saints rank worst against running backs, allowing 33 points per game.

    Jacksonville at New York Jets

    Total points expected: 39.5 (Jacksonville favored by 4)

    Jacksonville RB's: Leonard Fournette has scored a touchdown in each game so far this season and ranks sixth in standard scoring. The gamescript was funky last week with Baltimore's stellar defense coming out flat in London, so don't worry much about Tommy Bahanon and Corey Grant taking snaps away or anything. Fournette is also averaging four targets per game. Game script should favor Fournette seeing heavy volume as long as the Jets don't get completely blown out. The Jets turned Jay Ajayi into Jay Acai berries last week, but they were dominated by LeSean McCoy and the Oakland's committee backfield in the first two weeks. Fournette is still a solid play this week.

    New York Jets RB's: People love Bilal Powell this week but I'm in the minority. Josh McCown hasn't thrown past 250 yards in a game this season which limits receiving upside in the backfield. Powell is averaging just 3.2 yards per carry. Jacksonville is a dominant run defense, allowing just 16 points per game against running backs this season. Elijah McGuire has seen increased snaps each week as well, and is expected to be 'involved' this week.

    Cincinnati at Cleveland

    Total points expected: 40 (Cincinnati favored by 3)

    Cincinnati RB's: The Bengals appear ready to feature Mixon as their true lead back going forward. After seeing just 16 snaps a week ago, Mixon saw 34 against Green Bay. He finished with a season-high 18 carries for 62 yards to along with three catches for 39 yards on three targets. Cleveland is an average run defense, but will have No. 1 pick Myles Garrett in the lineup for the first time. Still, we don't know how much they'll use Garrett and even if he'll be effective in his first game. The Bengals offensive line is struggling already, averaging just .71 yards before contact to running backs per Pro Football Focus. Despite that, Mixon should get enough volume to at least have a shot at decent numbers.

    Cleveland RB's: Vontaze Burfict has been activated for Week 4 and should help in an already decent run defense. Duke Johnson is starting to see a bigger role in the Cleveland backfield. His target numbers have increased each week. He also has two more total snaps than Isaiah Crowell, a back who's yet to score a touchdown or run for more than 45 yards in a game. Johnson ranks third in reception yards with 160 and is fourth in snaps per route with Le'Veon Bell. He's recorded at least 50 receiving yards in his last two games and could be a great darkhorse play if Cleveland starts giving him more volume in the run game. He's also a great PPR option each week as always.

    Pittsburgh at Baltimore

    Total points expected: 45 (Pittsburgh favored by 1)

    Pittsburgh RB's: Le'Veon Bell is still the clear starter. Bell hasn't created yardage by himself like he has in the past, as he just ranks 23rd in elusive rating among running backs according to Pro Football Focus. He continues to be effective none the less, ranking 15th in standard scoring among running backs even though he hasn't really had a dominant performance. Baltimore handled the Bengals and Browns running backs during their first two games, but will be without one of their best run stoppers in Brandon Williams. This could be a breakout game for bell, as his target totals have been steady each game (6,4,7) and so have his reception totals (3, 4, 6). He might finally pop in Week 4.

    Baltimore RB's: Javorius Allen has been the top snap guy as of late. He also has 10 catches in his last two games. The gamescript could favor a pass-friendly day as the Steelers rank 11th in passing plays per game which will increase Allen's opportunity. The Steelers are also giving up 27 points to running backs per game, sixth worst in the league. Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen put up big numbers in Week 3 and Allen could have a favorable gamescript if Pittsburgh gets out to an early lead.

    Carolina at New England

    Total points expected: 47.5 (New England favored by 9.5)

    Game script: High-scoring. Pass heavy.

    Carolina RB's: Jonathan Stewart remains the feature back in the offense, but his rush attempts have dwindled from 18 to 12 from Weeks 1 to 3. New England is coming in averaging 33 points per game, second most behind the Los Angeles Rams. It's hard to see Stewart seeing significant volume in this game. Christian McCaffrey has become Cam Newton's favorite check down guy, as he leads all Panthers in targets with 23. New England has also been soft against quarterbacks so far, so this could be a good game to start Newton and McCaffrey as a stack in DFS and avoid Stewart.

    New England RB's: Mike Gillislee remains the best volume back, averaging 15 attempts per game but has been out-snapped by James White in every contest but Week 2 where they each had 30. It's looking like Gillislee's fantasy value will be touchdown dependent at times, but that's no problem since the Patriots are scoring so much. The Panthers are above average across the board in terms of fantasy points allowed per game, and have been especially good against tight ends and quarterbacks. Still, they've given up 22 catches to running backs over three games. Gillislee and White are startable, but gameflow will likely hurt one of them.

    Los Angeles Rams at Dallas

    Total points expected: 45.5 (Dallas favored by 9.5)

    Los Angeles Rams RB's: Not a single back took a snap other than Todd Gurley last week and for good reason. Gurley is now the second highest scoring fantasy back through 3 weeks, trailing only Kareem Hunt. The Rams offense has also been potent, scoring 40+ in two of three games. What a difference Sean McVay has made already. The Cowboys haven't played a running back of Gurley's caliber yet this season aside from maybe C.J. Anderson of the Broncos in Week 2. Anderson finished that game with over 100 yards rushing and two total touchdowns.

    Dallas RB's: Ezekiel Elliott and the running game rebounded after getting throttled by Denver in Week 2. Elliott is one of the best volume backs in the league, ranking fourth in carries with 55. With just one rushing touchdown so far, you have to worry about Dak Prescott's read-option taking away scoring opportunities as teams key in on Elliott. Still, this is another great matchup for Elliott as the Rams are giving up 29 fantasy points per game to running backs, fourth worst in the league. Elliott continues to see a receiving role as well, averaging four catches per game.

    Detroit at Minnesota

    Detroit RB's: Ameer Abdullah and Theo Riddick are seeing an equal amount of snaps from week to week but Abdullah has a sizeable advantage in the touches category. Still, Riddick has out-targeted Abdullah 19-7 through three games. It's frustrating because Abdullah could easily be the receiving and rushing back, but Detroit continues to use Riddick. Minnesota is the best team against opposing running backs so far this season, allowing just 13.2 points per game.

    Minnesota RB's: Dalvin Cook's volume so far is surprising considering the Vikings spent money on Latavius Murray in the offseason and Jerrick McKinnon was supposedly the passing down back. Cook ranks second in the league in carries with 61, trailing only Gurley. While McKinnon is still getting targets, last week he saw his fewest of the season (2) and Cook saw five. There's a chance Cook could be used more in the passing game going forward. Detroit is also not a great rushing defense, allowing 25.7 fantasy points to running backs per game.

    Tennessee at Houston

    Total points expected: 44 (Tennessee favored by 1)

    Tennessee RB's: Don't be fooled by DeMarco Murray's 100-plus yard stat line, Derrick Henry is still a valuable piece in this offense. Murray ended up with 14 carries for 115 yards but Henry also saw 13 touches of his own. This is a tough matchup for both running backs, as Houston is giving up 16.7 points per game to running backs, which is 23rd worst.

    Houston RB's: Lamar Miller is still the every-down back but D'Onta Foreman is slowly entering the picture. Foreman's three targets led all running backs last week, and turned two of them into 65 receiving yards. Foreman is worth monitoring going forward, but he's still a risky start as of now since the volume isn't quite there. Unless you see coaches clamoring to get him more involved, avoid him in this matchup.

    Buffalo at Atlanta

    Total points expected: 49 (Atlanta favored by 9.5)

    Game script: High-scoring. Atlanta ranks fifth in touchdowns per game, meaning Buffalo might have to play catch up. This game will really come down to how well Buffalo's defense plays. Atlanta has had their way on offense with every defense so far, but they haven't played a group as good as Buffalo yet. 

    Buffalo RB's: Buffalo is a run heavy team, rushing 32 times per game on average, which ranks fourth in the league. LeSean McCoy slogged through tough matchups with Denver and Carolina, scoring just 11 fantasy points in that time. He gets a dream matchup this week against Atlanta, a team that's given up 30.6 points to running backs, third worst in the league. While McCoy is the back to start this week, Mike Tolbert is also seeing decent volume as well. Tolbert has seen 10+ carries in two of three games and is known to snag a goal line touchdown from time to time. He's a risky play in DFS tournaments, but not a bad option considering how good the matchup is. If he gets a touchdown and 40 rushing yards (a feat he accomplished last week), he'll 3x his draft value.

    Atlanta RB's: Devonta Freeman continues to see plenty of carries and has at least one rushing touchdown in each game. People really want to be contrarian and take Tevin Coleman for a better value, and this might be the matchup to do it. Buffalo is giving up just just 15.7 points to running backs, good for 31st in the league. Buffalo has the speed on defense to keep Freeman in check on a consistent basis, making it likely Coleman might have to break the game open with a big run. If you think Buffalo will dominant this game on defense and Atlanta opts for a change of pace, then go with Coleman. Coleman also leads all running backs in targets with 13.

    New York Giants at Tampa Bay

    Total points expected: 44 (Tampa Bay favored by 4.5)

    Game script: Mid-level scoring. Favors Tampa Bay defense.

    New York RB's: Shane Vereen is an intriguing option this week, mainly because Tampa has struggled against pass-catching running backs. They surrendered eight catches to Tarik Cohen and five catches to Dalvin Cook. Plus, this is a desperation game for New York being 0-3, they'll be playing hard.
    Overall, the running game continues to be the Achilles Heel of New York's offense. Rookie Wayne Gallman has yet to suit up for a game, but it may be time to at least give him a shot. Paul Perkins has been anemic with just 8 fantasy points through three games and hasn't even played a stout run defense yet. Orleans Darkwa has been slightly more efficient with 7 carries for 22 yards last week but the Giants are just trying to make something work by giving him more snaps. The only thing you can hope for is a few goal line touchdowns at this point. Shane Vereen remains

    Tampa Bay RB's: Jacquizz Rodgers gets his last go-around before Doug Martin returns from suspension. He and Charles Sims split snaps last week, and neither made a huge fantasy impact against a tough group in Minnesota. The Giants are better against the pass than the run at this point, but starting Rodgers is a risk considering he lacks a role in the pass game (zero targets through two games).

    Philadelphia at Los Angeles Chargers

    Total points expected: 46.5

    Philadelphia RB's: LeGarrette Blount ran with purpose for the first time all season and finished as an RB14 with 13 fantasy points. He's dealt a tough matchup against San Diego, a team that ranks near the Top 5 in fantasy points allowed for running backs. The opportunity is still there though, as Philadelphia is tied for first in plays run per game with 69. Wendall Smallwood is an intriguing option as well this week. Taking over for Darren Sproles, Smallwood saw 43 snaps last week and should inherit anywhere between 4-8 targets and 5-10 carries.

    Los Angeles Chargers RB's: Melvin Gordon and Branden Oliver both saw 33 snaps last week. Gordon is dealing with a bone bruise but all reports indicate he will play against Philadelphia. He's still the clear-cut No. 1 back, but Oliver saw six targets last week and turned them into four receptions for 18 yards. It's not out of the question could see a similar workload in Week 4. Plus, with Pro Bowl defensive tackle Fletcher Cox battling a calf injury, we could see an easier matchup for Gordon and Oliver.

    San Francisco at Arizona

    Total points expected: 45.5 (Arizona favored by 7.5)

    Game script: Run-heavy, defensive game.

    San Francisco RB's: Carlos Hyde is one of the top fantasy running backs in the NFL right now. He's a bit banged up with a hip injury and is 50/50 to play on Sunday, but he's still very valuable if he does suit up. Matt Breida would be the next guy up, and has only carried the ball 11 times through three games. At 5'11, 190 lbs, the rookie Breida was a standout runner at Georgia Southern but a poor 2016 season hurt his draft stock. Still, he could be an impact player given his straight-line speed (4.3 40-yard dash) and he's one of the more interesting backup running backs in the league overall. He's made a small dent in the passing game, ranking second among San Francisco RB's in targets with 6. Arizona has given up a rushing touchdown to RB1's in each of the last two games. Keep an eye on Hyde's status heading into Sunday.

    Arizona RB's: The news that guard Mike Iupati would play Sunday were dashed late Friday as four-time Pro Bowler was sent to injured reserve, likely ending his season. The matchup is still decent for Chris Johnson though, as the 49ers are surrendering 27 points per game to running backs so far. Johnson's ceiling is curbed by Andre Ellington's role in the receiving game, as Ellington saw eight targets to Johnson's two. Ellington's receiving role was heavily influenced by gamescript against Dallas and although the 49ers are still a bad team overall, their offense put up 39 points a week ago. It's tough to start either of these backs this week.

    Oakland at Denver

    Total points expected: 47

    Oakland RB's: Oakland's running backs managed a measly 22 yards rushing last week against Washington. Their matchup doesn't get much easier as they play a Denver team giving up just 16 points to running backs. They have nowhere to go but up though, and Marshawn Lynch should continue to see the most volume with Jalen Richard also mixed in. DeAndre Washington saw a season-high six targets last week due to gamescript, and it's tough to trust him or any other Oakland back in this matchup.

    Denver RB's: C.J. Anderson and Jamaal Charles are now the one-two punch in this offense. Charles outscored Anderson for the first time last week with 12 fantasy points and finished as an RB15. Anderson still out-snapped Charles 49-21, but the veteran back isn't going away anytime soon as he continues to make the most of his carries. Oakland is middle of the road against the run, making this a bland matchup with modest potential for both Bronco running backs.

    Indianapolis at Seattle

    Total points expected: 41 (Seattle favored by 13.5)

    Game script: Low scoring. Favors Seattle defense

    Indianapolis RB's: Seattle isn't the dominant run-stopping defense it once was. They've allowed at least a 100 yards or a touchdown to RB1's in the first three weeks of the season. With Marlon Mack out this week, Frank Gore has some dark horse potential coming off a 57-yard performance with a touchdown last week against Cleveland. Only issue is it took Gore 25 carries to do it, and he'll need that kind of volume again if he's expected to turn in a similar performance. Overall, Gore is a better option for cash DFS tournaments or deep redraft leagues due to a low ceiling.

    Seattle RB's: Chris Carson is now the feature back in Seattle and C.J. Prosise the pass catcher. Prosise is doubtful this week, making Carson an interesting RB2 with upside. If Carson was going to go over 100 yards this season, this would be the matchup to do it.

    Washington at Kansas City (Monday night)

    Total points expected: 49 (Kansas City favored by 9)

    Washington RB's: Chris Thompson's six-catch, 150-yard performance last week was sensational, but Kansas City will be his toughest task yet if he's expecting to continue his crazy efficiency numbers. Robert Kelley has been practicing this week and could assume the inside runner role due to rookie Samaje Perine's struggles. Overall, Thompson is the only fantasy relevant back in this offense as of now, and his efficiency numbers are bound to fall off at some point. Kansas City is surrendering 23 points per game to running backs this season.

    Kansas City RB's: Kareem Hunt is the best running back in fantasy by a wide margin, and gets a Washington defense that's surrendered 18 receptions to running backs over three games. Although Washington showed up against Oakland last week, Kansas City's offensive line is on another level and Hunt is locked in as an RB1 once again.


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  • Opportunity: The most optimal running backs for Week 3

    Editor's note: This season-long series looks to find the best opportunity to score fantasy points at the running back position. It factors targets, goal line and red zone carries, and rushing attempts. This volume probability is predicated on game script, snap counts, and overall talent of the individual player.

    This is Week 3 of this list. You can expect more data as the season goes along and trends emerge. Also, be sure to check out our weekly rankings for complete rankings at every position for Week 3.


    Week 2 has come and gone and while the overall picture is still cloudy, some small trends are starting to emerge in the fantasy football world.

    For one, Kansas City running back Kareem Hunt has been on a whole different level than any other running back. Hunt's 71 fantasy points through two weeks dwarfs the next highest running back, which is Ty Montgomery at 48.3. To put it in perspective, the highest fantasy scoring running back through two weeks in 2016 was DeAngelo Williams with 48.

    Todd Gurley continues to look more like the rookie who dominated for over 1,000 rush yards during his rookie season. Through two weeks, Gurley has finished as an RB6 and RB2.

    The Oakland Raider backfield remains messy. Marshawn Lynch is getting considerable volume and goal line work but lacking in the receiving category. DeAndre Washington and Jalen Richard have combined for eight targets. Each back curbs the others ceiling from week to week.

    Los Angeles Rams at San Francisco 49ers (Thursday game recap)

    Total team scoring expectation: 42 points

    Actual points scored: 80

    Game script: Run heavy, defense-based game with high likelihood of turnovers.

    Los Angeles RB's: Well everyone was wrong on this one in terms of the game script. Todd Gurley was nothing short of amazing, rushing for 113 yards and two scores and catching 5 passes for 36 yards and another score. He's been incredible through 3 weeks and is currently the top scoring fantasy running back until the Sunday games.

    San Francisco RB's: Carlos Hyde saw his highest carry total yet with 25 rushing attempts for 84 yards and two touchdowns. He's a great shot to continue producing as the 49ers coaching staff keep increasing his volume. Rookie Matt Breida didn't do much in the run game, but he did have three catches on four targets for 20 yards in this one. He's not worth a stash unless you're in a 16-team points per reception league at this point, but he's worth monitoring going forward.

    Baltimore at Jacksonville (London game)

    Total points expected: 40 (Baltimore favored by 4.5)

    Game script: Run heavy, defense.

    Baltimore RB's: Javorius Allen was the volume guy in Week 2 with 42 snaps to Terrance West's 15. Allen also received six looks in the red zone but it was West that got the lone carry inside the five and scored a touchdown on it. West did not practice this week and is dealing with a thigh injury, making Allen a primary RB1 candidate for this week against Jacksonville. Through two games, the Ravens have the second most rushing attempts in the league with 37. 

    Jacksonville RB's: Rookie Leonard Fournette ranks second in rush attempts through two weeks. He's also been sprinkled into the pass game with five receptions on eight targets. If T.J. Yeldon is active in Week 3, expect him to steal targets from Fournette. Either way, Fournette is still the primary back and should see his usual volume. Fournette is an RB8 through two weeks this season.

    Cleveland at Indianapolis

    Total points expected: 40 (Cleveland favored by 2)

    Game script: Low-scoring. Grind game.

    Cleveland RB's: Isaiah Crowell hasn't gone off yet through the first two weeks, ranking as an RB18 through two weeks. But he's had decent volume with 27 carries through two games. The Colts have been stout against the run, holding both Todd Gurley and Chris Johnson to under 50 rushing yards. The Browns should keep Indy's quarterbacks in check, as the Colts QB's have yet to throw a passing touchdown this season. This could lead to Crowell's best volume of the young season.

    Indianapolis RB's: Both Frank Gore and Marlon Mack have struggled through two weeks. But Frank Gore is still a solid RB2 option thanks to his volume. Worth noting that Robert Turbin increased his snap count from 14 to 28 in Week 2, but didn't do much with it as he finished with just three carries for 11 yards. Cleveland has been decent against the run so far, making Indy's backfield more risky in Week 3.

    Pittsburgh at Chicago

    Total points expected: 45.5 (Pittsburgh favored by 7.5)

    Game script: Potential high-scoring with Pittsburgh's offense getting considerable upside.

    Pittsburgh RB's: Le'Veon Bell is due for a big game here. His volume was crazy in Week 2, as he saw 68 snaps to James Conner's 4. The Bears surrendered over 110 yards to Jacquizz Rodgers and Peyton Barber in Week 2. Bell's role in the receiving game also makes him game script proof in case this game favors more passing. The only worry is the unfavorable road splits for quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, but a good matchup should buck that trend. Bell is a great option in all formats this week and in DFS lineups.

    Chicago RB's: Tarik Cohen is the guy you want to start for Chicago going forward until Jordan Howard shows some of the effectiveness he had as a rookie. Howard is dealing with a shoulder injury, as he was reportedly wearing a sling in practice this week. The Steelers kept the Browns and Vikings run games in check which makes Howard a risky play. Cohen, meanwhile, leads all Bears offensive players in targets with 21 and is a strong start with so many injuries at wide receiver. Cohen also ranks fourth in yards per route run (2) trailing only Shane Vereen, James White and Melvin Gordon.

    Miami at New York Jets

    Total points expected: 41 (Miami favored by 6.5)

    Game script: Miami defense favored heavily. Run-heavy for Miami, pass-heavy for New York.

    Miami RB's: Jay Ajayi is the clear bell cow running back in this offense. His 28 carries in Week 2 should be replicated in Week 3 against a bad New York Jets run defense. The Jets have been lit up by LeSean McCoy and the Oakland Raider backfield in Weeks 1 and 2. With points hard to come by for New York, you might have to worry about Miami getting out to an early lead and taking Ajayi out. But Ajayi's floor is probably 70-80 yards in this one and he has significant touchdown upside.

    New York Jets RB's: Matt Forte took on a slightly larger role, out-touching Bilal Powell 13 to 6 and he's clearly the back to start in deeper leagues. Rookie Elijah McGuire also got into the mix for the first time, receiving six touches of his own for 29 yards and adding one catch for seven yards. Though this backfield is messy, there's some value at the position as the Jets will likely be playing from behind a lot and all of these backs are decent pass catchers. Good garbage time points are a very real possibility. This is a game to steer clear of the backfield for now, but keep an eye out for McGuire on waiver wires in deeper leagues. There's potential for him to see more opportunity in the future.

    Denver at Buffalo

    Total points expected: 41 (Denver favored by 2)

    Game script: Lots of running, low-scoring.

    Denver RB's: C.J. Anderson leads the league in rushing attempts and finished as the top fantasy running back in Week 2 with 27 points. Anderson is looking like a good option due to an improved line, strong defense and quarterback. The Bills have been stout against the run so far this season, so this is far from a dream matchup. Still, Anderson should see around 20 touches in this game and add a few catches in as well.

    Buffalo RB's: Carolina stifled LeSean McCoy last week. The Broncos come into this matchup riding a wave of confidence after holding Ezekiel Elliott to just eight rushing yards. It's hard to like McCoy this week, even though he's averaging close to seven targets per game. He's a running back to avoid this week.

    Houston at New England

    Total points expected: 43.5 (New England favored by 13)

    Game script: Defensive battle. Low-scoring.

    Houston RB's: Lamar Miller ranks among the top 5 in attempts with 35. He also has five catches on five targets through two weeks. Still, he hasn't been effective with just 3.6 yards per carry and zero touchdowns. Rookie D'onta Foreman saw his snap count jump from 2 to 17 last week. He also received 12 touches to Miller's 20. New England is also giving up just 20 points per game, which ranks among the Top 5. Both backs are good fade options this week.

    New England RB's: It's been about as down the middle as it can get with the Patriots running backs. Last week, James White and Mike Gillislee each saw 30 snaps last week. Rex Burkhead's snap count slightly decreased from 10 to 8 but he was efficient with 3 catches for 41 yards and a score. Whatever, it doesn't matter. Overall, the volume belongs to Gillislee and White for right now, with White being the primary receiving back and Gillislee getting the goal line carries.

    New Orleans at Carolina

    Total points expected: 49 (Carolina favored by 6)

    Game script: High scoring. Pass heavy game.

    New Orleans RB's: Mark Ingram is the lead back in this offense. He also has some receiving upside with five targets per game through two weeks. Alvin Kamara also has some upside in a game that could be pass-heavy, but there's still some risk with Adrian Peterson seeing more snaps in Week 2. This is a muddy backfield. Even more frustrating is the fact that Drew Brees is still passing at an elite level. There could be more scoring opportunities but the crowded backfield limits upside. Carolina has also been stout against the run this season. Best to steer clear of this backfield in Week 3.

    Carolina RB's: Cam Newton could hit Christian McCaffrey quite a bit more in this game. James White caught 8 passes for 85 yards against New Orleans and the Saints are giving up close to 30 points to running backs this season. Jonathan Stewart could also be a good start, but his receiving upside is limited and he's yet to find the end zone on the ground. McCaffrey actually has more upside in both standard and PPR leagues this week.

    Tampa Bay at Minnesota

    Total points expected: 41 (Minnesota favored by 2)

    Game script: Lower scoring.

    Tampa Bay RB's: With 34 snaps last week, Jacquizz Rodgers is the main back until Doug Martin returns. Charles Sims saw all of the passing-down work with three targets. Both aren't great options this week as Minnesota kept the Saints in check and held Le'Veon Bell to just 87 yards on 27 carries. The interior has been strong for Minnesota, as they're allowing just 6.9 fantasy points per game according to Pro Football Focus. Rodgers is a risky play this week.

    Minnesota RB's: Dalvin Cook had a favorable game script in Week 1 thanks to Sam Bradford's dominating performance. Week 2 was a different story, as Pittsburgh got out to the early lead and Minnesota passed the ball 66 percent of the time. It didn't help that Case Keenum struggled mightily at quarterback either. Bradford was ruled out on Friday, tough matchup for the Vikings running backs. Tampa is a solid defense against both the run and pass, but they've only played Chicago and Cook is a more complete back than Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen. There's dark horse potential for Cook in this matchup, but if Keenum struggles again, expect Tampa to focus on Cook.

    Atlanta at Detroit

    Total points expected: 49 (Atlanta favored by 3.5)

    Game script: Potential high scoring with a lot of passing.

    Atlanta RB's: In case you haven't noticed, there's not a clear-cut high fantasy scoring game this week. However, this game could be one of those higher scoring games. Devonta Freeman flourished last week against Green Bay has double the amount of snaps as Tevin Coleman through two weeks. Even though the Lions have been strong against the run, they haven't really played against a decent running back yet. They got David Johnson in Week 1 who excited early with an injury and the New York Giants inept backfield last Monday night. Freeman has some intrigue this week in a potential high scoring matchup.

    Detroit RB's: This backfield is messy but the matchup is dripping with opportunity Theo Riddick and Ameer Abdullah split snaps last week with Abdullah seeing 28 to Riddick's 27. Riddick finished as an RB20 in Week 1, which is the highest finish of any Lions back so far. The Lions have a long history of not having a true feature back, and this year is looking no different so far. Still, the Falcons have been getting lit up by pass catching backs this year. Tarik Cohen and Ty Montgomery both caught touchdown passes and combined for 14 catches and over 120 receiving yards.

    New York Giants at Philadelphia

    Total points expected: 43.5 (Philadelphia favored by 3.5)

    Game script: Lower scoring. Turnover potential on Philadelphia's side.

    New York RB's: The Giants have looked awful through two weeks. Second-year back Paul Perkins is averaging 1.9 yards per carry and no Giant running back has scored a touchdown through two weeks. Orleans Darkwa saw a slight uptick in snaps and saw four touches to Perkins and Vereen's nine. Still, he's not a back you can rely on this week against a Philadelphia team that's fared well against the run so far. Vereen has slight upside because of his volume in the passing game with 13 targets through two games. This is also a desperation game for New York, as losing would put them at 0-2 in the division and 0-3 overall.

    Philadelphia RB's: The Eagles have been equally poor in the run game, with no running back over 50 total yards through two games. Darren Sproles remains the dominant PPR back, and the Giants have been susceptible to pass catching backs so far. They gave up five catches on five targets to Ezekiel Elliott in Week 1. Sproles is a good streaming option in deeper PPR leagues and has upside in DFS tournaments as well. No other Philadelphia back is worth starting as of now.

    Seattle at Tennessee

    Total points expected: 43.5 (Tennessee favored by 1)

    Seattle RB's: The Titans are a good run-stopping unit, holding both Marshawn Lynch and Leonard Fournette to under 100 yards. Chris Carson remains the high-volume guy and rushed for 93 yards and a score on 20 attempts against San Francisco in Week 2. This will be a tougher matchup for the Seattle backfield though, and the Titans have struggled more against the pass than the run so far.

    Tennessee RB's: DeMarco Murray is banged up and all signs point to Derrick Henry getting more volume this week. Henry strung 92 yards and a score together in last week's outing against Jacksonville, a tough defense. Seattle is another difficult challenge, but the volume potential makes Henry a good RB2 play in standard leagues. Probably best to avoid him DFS since there's high bust potential with the matchup and there are better options out there at similar prices. For example, Henry's price tag is $5,300 on DraftKings and Ameer Abdullah has similar upside at $4,700.

    Kansas City at Los Angeles Chargers

    Total points expected: 45.5 (Kansas City favored by 3)

    Game script: Potential high-scoring. Both teams can throw and run the ball.

    Kansas City RB's: Kareem Hunt saw his workload explode in Week 2 and he's the only startable KC back going forward barring a severe slump or injury. He's a great Daily Fantasy play as well since some might be scared off by his expensive price. You should still have some exposure to him in your lineups this week regardless. The Chargers have been soft against the run, surrendering over 100 yards to Denver running backs C.J. Anderson and Jamaal Charles in Week 1. They also gave up 122 yards to Jay Ajayi last week.

    Los Angeles Chargers RB's: Melvin Gordon struggled on the ground last week against a tough Miami front. Still, his hybrid status makes him close to matchup proof this season. He's averaging seven targets a game and saw good volume against Denver in Week 1 with 18 carries. Expect him to see a similar opportunity in Week 3 against Kansas City. Branden Oliver is nothing more than a change of pace back at this point and hasn't seen much work in the receiving game with just one target on the year.

    Cincinnati at Green Bay

    Total points expected: 45.5 (Green Bay favored by 10)

    Game script: Balanced with equal amount of running and passing.

    Cincinnati RB's: Cincinnati's backfield remains the most puzzling and perhaps frustrating this season. The numbers tell all really. Through two games, the rushing attempts have been Joe Mixon (17), Giovani Bernard (12), and Jeremy Hill (12). Mixon has been the most effective as of late, rushing for 36 yards on nine carries last week. Still, it's hard to get excited about him until the Bengals let him loose, which may or may not happen anytime soon.

    Green Bay RB's: Ty Montgomery continues to be a force and has a solid matchup against Cincinnati, an average run defense so far. He's slowly stepping into that hybrid role and received seven targets last week, catching six of them for 75 yards and a touchdown. Montgomery's 65 snaps last week dwarfed all other Packer backs and Jamaal Williams is no threat to overtake him right now. He should also see more rushing attempts unless Andy Dalton and A.J. Green really go off in this one and force Green Bay to play from behind.

    Oakland at Washington

    Total points expected: 54 (Oakland favored by 3)

    Game script: High scoring. Defense optional.

    Oakland RB's: Marshawn Lynch is a good option in this one since Washington has fared poorly against the run but I worry about the game script in this one. If Oakland comes out throwing, DeAndre Washington and Jalen Richard could see an increased role. Never much of a receiver, Lynch might see the majority of his work around the goal line if Washington and Kirk Cousins get off to a hot start. Jordan Reed is 50/50 right now but Vernon Davis is still a strong backup and Oakland struggles against tight ends. They also gave up two scores to Jermaine Kearse and Josh McCown of the Jets last week. There's a chance the Redskins put up a lot of points on them which would take Lynch out of the equation somewhat.

    Washington RB's: Samaje Perine saw his first action in Week 2 and rushed 21 times for 67 yards. While the numbers aren't eye-popping, he's the clear No. 1 back going forward. Chris Thompson continues to be ruthlessly efficient, rushing for 77 yards and two scores on just three attempts and is averaging six targets per game. Despite his performance, it's not looking like the Redskins will increase his touches anytime soon for fear of injuring his slight frame. Perine is a risky play this week but definitely worth an add in deeper leagues.

    Dallas at Arizona (Monday night)

    Total points expected: 47 (Dallas favored by 3.5)

    Game script: Above average scoring.

    Dallas RB's: Ezekiel Elliott struggled mightily against Denver after a 100-yard performance against the New York Giants in Week 1. Still, he's yet to record a touchdown this year and Arizona has been strong against the run, granted they've only played Detroit and Indianapolis so far. Elliott is an elite back and has a chance to rebound in this game, and with Arizona's offense playing so poorly, it's unlikely we see a Trevor Siemien passing game script like last week.

    Arizona RB's: Chris Johnson and Kerwynn Williams siphoned production from each other in Arizona's first outing without David Johnson. Andre Ellington led them in snaps with 30.


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  • Opportunity: The most optimal running backs for Week 2

    Editor's note: This season-long series looks to find the best opportunity to score fantasy points at the running back position. It factors targets, goal line and red zone carries, and rushing attempts. This volume probability is predicated on game script, snap counts, and overall talent of the individual player.

    This is Week 1 of this list. You can expect more data as the season goes along and trends emerge. Also, be sure to check out our weekly rankings for complete rankings at every position for Week 2.

    Week 1 saw a bunch of rushers see over 20+ carries, which is the first big indicator of consistency from week to week. We saw Ezekiel Elliott rush 24 times, and rookie Leonard Fournette was the top rusher with 26 total carries. Both backs finished with over 100 yards against good defenses in New York and Houston.

    We got our first glimpse of the identity these coaches might be establishing for their teams in Week 1. Fournette has a lot of potential as a rookie in Jacksonville, as the Jaugars look to favor a conservative, defense-first approach. Will that happen every week? Nobody knows. But it worked well in Week 1. The defense forced unproven quarterback Tom Savage into tough throws and Bortles threw just 21 times, which ranked 28th overall for that week.

    If you're looking at receiving running backs, Tarik Cohen and Shane Vereen dominated the target category with 11 and 10 respectively. Cohen finished with 25 PPR points after catching 8 passes for 47 yards and a touchdown. With his price on Draftkings being so low, it's no surprise Cohen was the true contrarian play and was featured in several top Daily Fantasy lineups. Vereen didn't find the end zone, but finished 14 PPR points on a respectable 9 catches for 51 yards.

    As you can see, it was an interesting week with a lot of surprises. Here's how we can break that down in Week 2.

    Houston at Cincinnati (Thursday game recap)

    Total team scoring expectation: 38 points

    Actual points scored: 22

    Game script: Run heavy, defense-based game with high likelihood of turnovers

    Houston RB's: Lamar Miller had the highest volume in Week 1 for Houston with 17 carries. Miller saw 29 total snaps in the last game, leading all Houston rushers. But it was rookie D'Onta Foreman who stood out in Week 2. The former Longhorn rushed for 40 yards, gaining 32 of them after contact. Miller still saw the bulk of the carries, but Foreman is starting to creep into the picture. Look to add Foreman to your waiver wire list.

    Cincinnati RB's: Cincy's backfield is coming into focus. Rookie Joe Mixon lead backs with nine carries and Giovani Bernard assume the receiving back role. Bernard led all Bengals runners with 4 targets, catching two of them for 16 yards. Bernard will have some value in high-scoring game scripts or when the Bengals find themselves down at half, which is something that might happen more often as the Bengals lost their first two home games so far.

    Green Bay at Atlanta (Sunday Night)

    Total points expected: 53

    Game script: Pass heavy from both offenses. The obvious high-scoring matchup of the Week.

    Green Bay RB's: Green Bay's Ty Montgomery played 74 snaps while rookie backup Jamaal Williams played just six. Montgomery also led the team in targets with four. This is the week to start Montgomery in all leagues including PPR and Daily Fantasy. The Falcons recently surrendered eight catches and a touchdown to Bears backup running back Tarik Cohen in Week 1. Montgomery has a real shot to have one of his best weeks of the year.

    Atlanta RB's: Both Freeman and Coleman are risky options right now. Freeman was the clear leader in snaps with 36, but Coleman wasn't far behind with 24 and also out-targeted Freeman 6:2. There's a lot to like in this matchup, but you don't know which back will put up points. It's safe to steer clear of this backfield for the time being.

    Tennessee at Jacksonville

    Total points expected: 43 (Tennessee favored by 1)

    Game script: High volume for Jacksonville running backs. Low-scoring. Grind game.

    Tennessee RB's:  Tennessee got down early and passed a lot more in Week 1, which hurt DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry's value. Murray out-touched Henry 12-6 but Henry got more bang per carry with 4.2 yards. Henry also created more yards with 2.8 after contact. With no backs receiving any goal line touches, this is a backfield that has some uncertainty heading into Week 2 even with a favorable game script.

    Jacksonville RB's: Leonard Fournette saw a league-high 29 touches, a feat that could occur again as the Jaguars establish a defensive identity. T.J. Yeldon expects to return for Week 2 which could limit Fournette's targets, as the rookie saw three in Week 1. But the volume should still be there for Fournette and he's a reliable start in redraft and cash games for DFS.

    Cleveland at Baltimore

    Total points expected: 41 (Baltimore favored by 7.5)

    Game script: Favors defense of Baltimore. Low-scoring. High turnover probability with rookie DeShone Kizer playing for Cleveland.

    Cleveland RB's: Trust the Hue Jackson touch. The Browns are sneakily becoming a competitive team thanks to an improved defense. However, both running backs aren't a great bet to do damage this week. Kizer's rushing upside limits touchdown probability for Isaiah Crowell. Duke Johnson was used exclusively as a receiver last week and didn't line up in the backfield once according to Pro Football Focus.

    Baltimore RB's: There's definitely some upside to giving Javorius Allen a start this week. Allen led Baltimore with 21 carries and outsnapped Terrance West 33 to 27. Plus, Allen could see more targets with Danny Woodhead expected out until Week 10. If Baltimore can control the pace of this game, it's not out of the question Allen could see over 100 yards and a couple catches. Throw in a touchdown and he'll greatly exceed his Daily Fantasy value. 

    Buffalo at Carolina

    Total points expected: 42 (Carolina favored by 7.5)

    Game script: Favors defense of Carolina. Low-scoring.

    Buffalo RB's: LeSean McCoy rushed 22 times for 110 yards in a run-heavy game against the offensively pedestrian New York Jets. He also added 5 catches on 6 targets for 49 yards. Mike Tolbert was also effective with 12 rushes of his own for 42 yards and continued his reputation as a touchdown sniper with a short score. Per Pro Football Focus, McCoy did receive one carry inside the five-yard line, so it's not like the Bills used Tolbert exclusively around the end zone. The volume will still be there for McCoy, although this is a tougher matchup for him.

    Carolina RB's: Jonathan Stewart remains the top back in this offense with 18 rushes to Christian McCaffrey's 13. McCaffrey saw 47 snaps to Stewart's 29 and saw 7 targets which led to 5 catches for 30+ yards. This is a decent matchup for Carolina's running backs, but low value hurts their chances for a huge day. It's unlikely Stewart goes over 100 yards with McCaffrey taking touches. It's also unlikely McCaffrey scores touchdowns unless he scores on a big play since he's not getting the goal line work.

    New England at New Orleans

    Total points expected: 53 (New England favored by 6)

    Game script: Lots of passing. Favorable for wide receivers and quarterbacks

    New England RB's: This is a good game to give James White a start in redraft and Daily Fantasy. White is the receiving back in New England, led them in targets with 5 in Week 1, and New England is likely to score a ton to keep up with New Orleans. The Saints have historically been a high-scoring team at home, so New England will have their hands full, especially with a banged up defense that will put more pressure on Tom Brady to put up points.

    New Orleans RB's: Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram are both good starts this week. Kamara led all Saints running backs in targets with six and caught four of them for 20 yards. Ingram wasn't far behind with five targets. Both backs struggled on the ground, but a lot of that had to do with Minnesota's stifling defense. It's unlikely New England puts up the same fight, especially if Donta Hightower is still hurt. Adrian Peterson, who was never a prolific receiver, may be the odd man out in this backfield as the season goes along.

    Arizona at Indianapolis

    Total points expected: 44 (Arizona favored by 7.5)

    Game script: Could be pass heavy for first half, run heavy in second if Arizona gets ahead.

    Arizona RB's: Kerwynn Williams is the current starting back for Arizona, a team that also signed Chris Johnson earlier this week. Williams has rushed for over 100 yards in the past, but his receiving upside will likely be curbed with Andre Ellington expected to fill that role. This backfield is cloudy, but Williams is an interesting dart throw if not for the fact that he'll be so cheap and the Indianapolis defense has struggled early on.

    Indianapolis RB's: Both rookie Marlon Mack and Frank Gore split carries with 10, with Mack getting the touchdown and the better fantasy day. It's difficult to see who will be the best option in this backfield as of now. Both running backs also saw a similar role in the receiving game, with each catching one pass on one target. There's not much to like about Indianapolis on offense right now in general, and the running back situation is no different. 

    Philadelphia at Kansas City

    Total points expected: 47.5 (Kansas City favored by 4.5)

    Game script: Some scoring potential. Both teams create a good pass rush so sacks are likely. Kansas City will likely favor pass with injuries in Philadelphia secondary.

    Philadelphia RB's: LeGarrette Blount wasn't very effective in Week 1 with just 46 yards on 14 rushes. He saved his fantasy day with a one-yard reception score. Darren Sproles tied Zach Ertz for most targets among all Philly players with eight. Neither player is worth more than a dart throw in Daily Fantasy lineups this week.

    Kansas City RB's: Kareem Hunt was incredible in Week 1. He gets another plus matchup against a Philadelphia team that surrendered four catches, 52 yards and a score to Redskins running back Chris Thompson in Week 1. Though Charcandrick West saw a lot of snaps in Week 1, expect that to diminish due to Hunt's dominance. It's likely Hunt cracks the 20+ rush attempts and sees at least five targets in Week 2.

    Minnesota at Pittsburgh

    Total points expected: 45 (Pittsburgh favored by 7)

    Game script: Potentially high-scoring. Lots of passing.

    Minnesota RB's: Forget the notion that Latavius Murray would take away touches from rookie Dalvin Cook early on after Week 1. Cook is firmly entrenched in the feature back role and should see plenty of carries in this one. Coming off a 127-yard performance where he rushed 22 times, Cook also had more targets than Jerick McKinnon with five. Cook also had four looks in the red zone which led all Viking running backs. Pittsburgh gave up several 100-yard rushing games last season, including over 200 yards to Jay Ajayi.

    Pittsburgh RB's: Recency bias might keep people from drafting Le'Veon Bell this week in DFS, but don't let that happen to you. Bell is likely to rebound in Week 2. Pittsburgh is a different offense at home, as evidenced by Ben Roethlisberger's 59 touchdowns in his last 20 home games. Bell has been on the receiving end of some of those touchdowns, and it's not a bad idea to stack him with Roethlisberger in DFS tournaments since he'll be owned less than Matt Ryan, Tom Brady, Drew Brees and Aaron Rodgers.

    Chicago at Tampa Bay

    Total points expected: 43 (Tampa favored by 6)

    Game script: High volume for running backs. Clock moves fast. Lower play counts.

    Chicago RB's: Tarik Cohen is still going to see targets in this offense with injuries to so many of their wide receivers. However, it's best to remain cautious with him in ppr leagues until he repeats his Week 1 feat. Even if he does do damage again in Week 2, more people will own him in Daily Fantasy than last week which will diminish his value in tournaments.

    Tampa Bay RB's: Jacquizz Rodgers gets the start. Not crazy to think he could see 20-plus rushing attempts with just Charles Sims and Peyton Barber playing behind him. If Tampa Bay favors a conservative approach due to Chicago's poor offense, then Rodgers could come close to 100-yard effort. 

    Miami at Los Angeles Chargers

    Total points expected: 44 (Los Angeles favored by 4)

    Game script: Weak Miami secondary could lead to several pass touchdowns for Philip Rivers. Dolphins might be forced to play catch up early.

    Miami RB's: Jay Ajayi is fresh after not playing in Week 1 and gets a solid matchup against a Chargers defense that's worse against the run than the pass. Game script might hurt him a bit if Rivers takes advantage of Miami's vulnerable defensive backs. Miami surrendered over 32 fantasy points per game to wide receivers last year. There's also a bit of risk with Jay Cutler potentially turning the ball over and costing Ajayi possessions. Still, Ajayi is the clear No. 1 and also has modest points per reception value. He's a great play in all leagues and in cash DFS games.

    Los Angeles RB's: It's another green-light week for Melvin Gordon. With 45 snaps, 18 touches last week and 5 catches for 25 yards and a touchdown, he's the man in Los Angeles. Miami's run defense isn't terrible, but the volume potential for Gordon is among the best in the NFL. He also received all of the red zone looks for Los Angeles in Week 1, and the Chargers will likely have an easier time scoring against Miami than they did against Denver.

    New York Jets at Oakland

    Total points expected: 43 (Oakland favored by 14)

    New York RB's: Matt Forte and Bilal Powell had a similar snap count in Week 1 and each had a similar amount of targets and rush attempts. Powell has a slight edge as he looks to be the preferred running back in the red zone, but this is a cloudy backfield where both running backs are risky plays. It's not a terrible idea to avoid this group. Oakland is middle of the road against running backs, ranking 14th overall and giving up around 22.5 points per game.

    Oakland RB's: In a game where the Raiders could be up multiple scores by halftime, Marshawn Lynch is a great start this week. He had three looks in the red zone and no other running back had one in Week 1. His 18 attempts for 76 yards showed good volume and it's hard to see him not getting in the end zone at least once this week. Though he lacks major upside, he's a must-start in cash DFS games. DeAndre Washington and Jalen Richard are cancelling each other out but Washington still holds value in PPR leagues as he tied for most targets among running backs with two in Week 1.

    Washington at Los Angeles Rams

    Total points expected: 46 (Rams favored by 2)

    Game script: Medium range for scoring. Rams have potential to go to ground game a lot with weak Washington run defense. Washington also poor against tight ends. Washington has good passing opportunities against weak secondary.

    Los Angeles Rams RB's: Todd Gurley is a solid start this week even though he wasn't the most efficient back in Week 1 (just over 2 yards per carry on 19 rush attempts). His five catches give him some versatility though, and Washington struggled to contain Darren Sproles last week in the receiving game as well. There's enough volume here to start Gurley is every league, and he's a good upside guy in DFS tournaments. 

    Washington RB's: Though Rob Kelley is the starting running back for Washington, scat back Chris Thompson was the fantasy stud in Week 1 after catching four passes for 52 yards and a score. This matchup will be tougher on Thompson though, as the Rams are stout against running backs in the receiving last week against the Colts. Overall, they held Marlon Mack and Frank Gore to just one catch each in a game that had the kind of game script that favors running backs catching passes.

    Dallas at Denver

    Total points expected: 43 (Dallas favored by 1)

    Game script: Run heavy game with minimal scoring on both sides

    Dallas RB's: Ezekiel Elliott is a no-brainer this week. The Broncos match up worse against the run than the pass. Elliott rushed over 24 times last week and should cross the 20-rush barrier again. His five catches for 36 yards gives him PPR upside and if the Dallas defense keeps Trevor Siemian in check, there's a good chance they lean on Elliott for most of the game.

    Denver RB's: C.J. Anderson is a good start this week but this is a tough matchup. Dallas looked menacing on defense with Sean Lee and rookie Jaylon Smith running amuck. Still, the volume is there for the Denver RB. Anderson dominated the snap count with 48 to backup Jamaal Charles 21. The Broncos gave him the ball three times inside the five yard-line, but they also gave Charles two goal line touches as well. In a game that could be low scoring, Anderson might see a healthy amount of carries and also saw some modest work in the receiving game.

    San Francisco at Seattle

    Total points expected: 43 (Seattle favored by 13)

    Game script: Favors Seattle defense heavily. Low-scoring, run-heavy game.

    San Francisco RB's: Carlos Hyde has tremendous upside week-to-week due to his role in the receiving game (six catches on six targets in Week 1). His rushing volume was low but that was because the 49ers got down early. It's tough to see that not happening again in Week 2 with Seattle's stout run defense, a unit that's giving up just under 20 fantasy points per game to running backs which ranks among the Top 5.

    Seattle RB's: Thomas Rawls looks like he's going to start in this one. He's a great upside play against a very bad San Francisco rush defense that led Christian McCaffrey and Jonathan Stewart run effectively in Week 1. Still, you're taking a major risk given that we don't know how much volume Rawls will get with Eddie Lacy and Chris Carson still in the fold. He's still a great dart throw in DFS tournaments since Eddie Lacy looked sluggish in Week 1 and Carson is still developing as a rookie. He might also completely destroy your DFS lineup, but taking those risks is often how you win big money tournaments.

    Detroit at New York Giants (Monday night)

    Total points expected: 43 (New York Giants favored by 4.5)

    Game script: Shootout potential. Both teams like to run hurry up offense and pass.

    Detroit RB's: Ameer Abdullah is the lead back with 36 snaps in Week 1. Still, Theo Riddick and Dwayne Washington combined for 35 snaps of their own, further muddying this backfield. New York has a stout run defense and only gave up 100 yards to Elliott because their offense was inept. They should fare better against Detroit and keep the Lions running backs in check.

    New York Giants RB's: Another struggling backfield, Shane Vereen led all backs in snaps with 31 to Paul Perkins 17. Perkins was expected to be the go-to run option and his two red zone looks suggest he'll be the goal line guy. Aside from some touchdown upside though, it's best to fade Perkins and Veren this week. No back has established a heavy-volume role and the Lions fare better against the run than in any other category.

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  • Opportunity: Finding fantasy value in Andy Reid's offense

    One of the more predictable ways to determine opportunity is to look at coaching habits. By looking at how a coach decides which plays to run, you develop an understanding of what players will be valuable in an offense. This is especially true if a coach has been on a team for a long period of time and large sample sizes exist.

    In this piece, we take a look at play calling and game script for the Kansas City Chiefs in the 2016 season and how those numbers might translate to 2017.

    By looking at the overall number of plays ran and pass/run ratio, we should be able to come up with a reasonable projection for how players on the team might fare in the fantasy category this season.

    How the Chiefs started in 2016

    Kansas City was a little shaky coming out of the gate, starting off 2-2 with bad losses to Houston and Pittsburgh. They also needed one of the largest comebacks ever to put away the San Diego Chargers in Week 1.

    During that four-game stretch, quarterback Alex Smith's arm served as the primary source of offense for KC. Smith passed on 69 percent of the team's snaps.

    Smith's passing workload had a lot to do with the Chiefs playing two high-powered offenses in San Diego and Pittsburgh. The Chiefs were also playing from behind in 3 out of 4 of those games.

    Overall, Smith finished as a QB3 in Week 1, QB32 in Week 2, and QB18 in Week 3. Not very consistent overall.

    As for the running back spot, starter Spencer Ware recorded his highest carry total in Week 3 with 20 attempts against the Jets. Game script had a lot to do with Ware's volume in that game, as the Chiefs nursed a 17-3 advantage in the second half.

    Spencer Ware finished as an RB3, RB21 and RB34 in that span.

    Chiefs pick up steam

    After the 2-2 start, the Chiefs rattled off five straight victories. Their success stemmed from a change in offensive philosophy and a softer schedule. Smith threw the ball less with 22, 24, 19, 38 and 31 pass attempts in that stretch. Smith also only recorded one game with 250 passing yards.

    The Chiefs offense also played weaker defenses, scoring close to 30 points against Oakland, New Orleans and Indianapolis.

    In the run game, Ware became the team's go-to option. He out-snapped Charcandrick West 40-8, 36-14, 26-42, 0-45, and 41-20 in that stretch. The only outlier games were when Ware sustained a concussion Week 8 and missed the second half followed by missing all of Week 9.

    Rookie wide receiver Tyreek Hill also emerged as a key factor, doubling his snap count from 18 to 36 by Week 8 and contributing on special teams in a big way with two punt return touchdowns and one kickoff return for a score.

    Closing out strong

    The Chiefs were fantastic down the stretch, winning five of their last six games including tough victories against Atlanta, Oakland and Denver twice. Smith's throws per game hovered around the 25-28 mark with one or two outlier games. The passing attempts were similar to his Week 5-8 numbers.

    Smith's passing yard totals were very close to the same almost every week and he averaged 238 yards per game during the stretch. He had no games deviating 30 yards + or - from that average, aside from one outlier game against Tennessee where he only threw for 163 yards.

    Ware continued to assert himself as the lead back, out-snapping West 42-33, 38-11, 40-13, 36-21, 37-29 and he didn't play in the final game. His best finish came as an RB10 in Week 13 before he dropped off and failed to crack the Top 30 for the rest of the season.

    Go for running backs and tight ends?

    Andy Reid offenses in Kansas City haven't lent themselves to high value for the quarterback spot. He has consistently ranked low in pass plays per game and it hasn't impacted the Chiefs success at all. He's yet to record a losing season with this philosophy.

    Year Team  Pass plays/game  Rank Chiefs record
    2013 KC 34.8 20 11-5
    2014 KC 30.8 28 9-7
    2015 KC 30.3 29 11-5
    2016 KC 34.1 25 12-4

     

    This conservative passing approach has affected the wide receivers ability to have fantasy value. Here's how value shakes out at each position. Hint: This should give you pause if you're thinking about drafting Tyreek Hill.

    Year QB fantasy finish Highest RB finish Highest WR finish Highest TE finish
    2013 QB13 RB1 WR45 TE40
    2014 QB19 RB7 None in top 50 TE8
    2015 QB16 RB32 WR17 TE8
    2016 QB22 RB16 WR15 TE1

     

    It would appear running backs and tight ends have the most value in Andy Reid's offense. There hasn't been a wide receiver inside the Top 15 range since Reid got to Kansas City.

    Tight ends are a different story. Kelce ranked third in targets last season and sixth in 2015. Keep in mind, Brent Celek also had a Pro Bowl caliber season under Reid in 2009 and ranked 7th in targets that year. L.J. Smith was 11th in targets in 2006. So Reid has shown a tendency to get tight ends involved.

    Year Team Run plays/game  Rank 
    2013 KC 27.8 14
    2014 KC 26.2 15
    2015 KC 28.1 9
    2016 KC 25.1 20

     

    You'd think Reid's teams would be more run heavy but they aren't. Over the course of Reid's stint in Kansas City, the Chiefs ranked near the bottom in plays run per game among the 32 NFL teams. To put that in perspective, New Orleans ran 69 plays per game in 2016 to lead all teams. So Kansas City ran over 120 less plays than New Orleans did last season.

    Despite that, running backs are still valuable because of the passing game. Reid likes to use running backs as receivers, as evidenced by the 82 targets doled out last season to running backs. In 2015, there were 75 between three running backs. Jamaal Charles was lethal in 2013 because of this alone.

    Year Team Plays run per game Rank
    2013 KC 65.2 13
    2014 KC 60.1 29
    2015 KC 61.1 25
    2016 KC 61.1 28

     

    So how do you apply this to your fantasy team?

    Glad you asked. That answer lies in drafting for value at running back and valuing Travis Kelce as a TE1. Spencer Ware finished as an RB2 in standard scoring leagues (RB16) and was also an RB2 in PPR (RB16).

    Look for Ware to be the top back out of the gate. Expect some solid RB2 weeks out of him, but don't draft him too high. According to Fantasy Football Calculator, Ware is being drafted as an RB20.

    Ware's ADP is a little high with Hunt lurking but there are plenty of question marks regarding the RB's being drafted around him like C.J. Anderson, Adrian Peterson and Doug Martin. Still, his team has a strong defensive foundation and a coach that likes to get RB's involved. He's safe. 

    As for rookie backup Kareem Hunt, you'd be wise to draft him at his RB38 ADP. Hunt's elusiveness and ability to create yards after contact could land him the starter role at some point during the season.

    Tough road in 2017

    The Chiefs have a brutal schedule in 2017 and trail only Denver for the toughest slate in the league.

    When it comes to game scripts, the Chiefs get New England Week 1, Philadelphia Week 2 and the improved Los Angeles Chargers Week 3. Three defenses with good pass rushers and potent offenses.

    The Chiefs might have to throw more out of the gate and may struggle out of the gate like last year. Smith just isn't wired to throw for a ton of passing yards and is at his best when his attempts hover around 25-30.

    Ware will also have his work cutout for him, but there is some passing upside due to Reid's style of getting running backs involved in the receiving game. 

    Summing up Kansas City's approach

    Kansas City plays a conservative style of offense and looks to grind games out with defense. Their only true playmaker is tight end Travis Kelce due to his size and speed after the catch. Tyreek Hill has potential, but wide receivers have been stifled in Reid's offense due to low passing volume.

    Not much changed in the offseason for Kansas City to change this approach. Smith is still the quarterback, and their defense remains one of the best in the league on paper. With a now-healthy Justin Houston rushing the passer and safety Eric Berry at the helm, Kansas City should remain true to its identity.

    Cornerback Marcus Peters is also coming off a solid season, and graded out the 11th best corner in the league according to Pro Football Focus.

    Kelce, Ware and Hunt are the players you should be looking to draft. Ware isn't a great option given his ADP, but he will have good PPR value as a receiver. Hunt is a tremendous value.

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Podcasts

Episode 193: Buy low/sell high

Saturday, 14 October 2017 00:00
On Saturday's Week 6 preview pod, the Helpers discuss the why DeShaun Watson is a good sell high candidate down the stretch. They also preview some of the Week 6 slate and wonder how Willie Snead V will fare in his best game
Read more...

Episode 192: PPR backs produce

Tuesday, 03 October 2017 00:00
On Tuesday's Week 4 recap pod, the Helpers discuss the great receiving backs and why you should consider starting a few of them. They also talk about Ben Roethlisberger's road woes and why Jacksonville's defense is vulnerable
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Episode 191: We know nothing part II

Tuesday, 26 September 2017 00:00
On Tuesday's Week 3 recap pod, the Helpers discuss the protests in response to Donald Trump's twitter comments. They discuss the weird week that was with many 0-2 teams winning in surprise fashion. They also talk about trends
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Episode 190: Hunt's catch up

Monday, 18 September 2017 00:00
On Tuesday's podcast, the Helpers recap Week 2. They discuss Alex Smith's emergence as a consistent QB1, why Kareem Hunt is who he is, the weirdness at the fantasy running back position, increased snap count for players and b
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Episode 189: We know nothing

Tuesday, 12 September 2017 00:00
On the first episode with a few games to analyze, the Helpers discuss who the high-volume players were and if those players stand a chance to repeat those performances or not. They also talk injuries, including who's the best
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Episode 188: Week 1 predictions

Saturday, 09 September 2017 00:00
The 2017 NFL season has begun. It's time for us to start helping you win in Fantasy Football. Here, we discuss all the matchups this week with the highest scoring potential. We tell you which players we're high and low on. We
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Waiver Wire

Upside vs. efficiency: Should you draft John Brown or Randall Cobb?

Wednesday, 30 August 2017 00:00
Giana Pacinelli of the the Huffington Post and 2QBs.com joins George Banko of Fantasyfootballhelpers.com to debate which receiver to draft, Randall Cobb or John Brown? Opening statements George: Randall Cobb is coming off a
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Jordan Matthews: Boring, predictable, but will exceed ADP value

Monday, 10 July 2017 00:00
In this article, we take a look at a player's potential to outperform their current ADP (average draft position) and assess the risks and potential rewards of drafting them. We look at opportunity stats including target share
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How Samaje Perine Will Help Your Fantasy Team In 2017

Wednesday, 24 May 2017 00:00
Samaje Perine proved his worth at the University of Oklahoma. In 2014 he had a stellar year. In 2015 and 2016 the stat line would suggest a decline in his performance, but that is due in part to sharing snaps with Joe Mixon.
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Why San Francisco 49ers running back Joe Williams is a perfect Zero RB candidate

Tuesday, 09 May 2017 00:00
When we look to draft a player to our fantasy team, we often seek the most talented players we can find. However, looking at the coaches offensive philosophy and which players best fit their system can be very telling in term
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Fantasy Film Projector: Alvin Kamara

Monday, 24 April 2017 00:00
When it comes to identifying traits in running backs that produce immediate fantasy value, proficiency in pass blocking, ball security, route running and receiving ability are often most important. These traits are valuable b
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Fantasy Film Projector: James Conner

Thursday, 13 April 2017 00:00
Editor's note: The Fantasy Film Projector is a process that identifies player traits correlated with fantasy football success. Those traits include receiving ability, route running, (points per reception leagues), play streng
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Thursday, 21 May 2015 00:00

Episode 69: Derek Carr trending downward

On Thursday's Treatment podcast, the Helpers discuss fantasy football quarterbacks and dissect their ADP. They talk about QBs they feel are undervalued in Tony Romo, Joe Flacco and Derek Carr. They also voice excitement for guys like Matt Ryan and Eli Manning.

Published in Podcasts

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Now, before you all go and gather your pitchforks, hear me out... I know that many fantasy owners have been burned by Eli in the past, and it's impossible to ignore the fact that just two seasons ago, Manning threw for just a mere 18 TDs and a pathetic 27 INTs and finished as the 21st QB overall.  A lot of people like to hate on Manning because of these numbers but if you watch the film, a large chunk of those interceptions were on passes that bounced off of his receivers' hands.  Additionally, Manning was stuck behind an abysmal offensive line and in the system of mediocre offensive coordinator, Kevin Gilbride.  Manning turned those numbers around in 2014, throwing for over 4400 yards, 30 TDs and a respectable 14 INTs, finishing as the #10 QB in standard scoring.  What's even more impressive than his turnaround was his ability to post these numbers in the first year of a completely different offensive system that was orchestrated by ex-Packers QB coach Ben McAdoo. Going into 2015, Manning has more potential than ever to be a top Fantasy QB.  Why, you ask?  Let's take a look.

X's and O's: Gaining familiarity with the McAdoo offense

When Ben McAdoo became the Giants offensive coordinator last year, fans were ecstatic that they were finally free from the Kevin "Shotgun Draw on 3rd and 20" Gilbride system.  Hopes were high that Eli would immediately become a stud.  However, as any quarterback can tell you,  learning a new offensive system always involves a learning curve. Always.  For Manning, it took the entire preseason and the first three weeks of the regular season until he finally began to adjust to the new system, throwing for 300 yards and 4 TDs in Week 4, finishing with 32.1 points as the #1 QB that week.  About half way through the season, Manning looked like he finally had acclimated to McAdoo's offense.  A lot of people wonder why it took him so long. I mean he was just learning a new playbook, right?  Wrong.  From changing his drop back, to his reads and his release, Manning completely changed the way he played the quarterback position.  With an entire season and another off-season of experience under his belt, Eli's knowledge and execution of the Giants' new offensive system will only improve.

Bodyguards: An improved offensive line

When free agency rolled around a couple of weeks ago, many analysts and Giants fans had figured that due to their offensive line troubles, the G-Men would target at least one of the top offensive linemen available in Mike Iupati, Orlando Franklin or Bryan Beluga.  Nope.  Instead, the Giants picked up former Bengal, Marshall Newhouse (an average offensive lineman at best).  Additionally, the Giants went outside the box to improve ther line situation by turning to our neighbors to the north.  This off-season, the Giants picked up the Canadian Football League's best offensive lineman in Brett Jones.  Jones, 23, was voted the CFL's top rookie in 2013 and will add some much needed depth to the Giants offensive line.  Aside from free agency, we cannot forget about this year's NFL draft.  Many NFL analysts believe the Giants will take an offensive lineman (Brandon Scherff or Andrus Peat) with the ninth pick of the draft.  Regardless of whether they decide to take a lineman in the first round or not, it is an absolute certainty that the Giants will look to bolster their pass protection at some point in the draft, and it will most likely be earlier rather than later.  Finally, with Geoff Schwartz returning from injured reserve (along with 19 other Giants), Eli Manning will undoubtedly have more time in the pocket next year.

Weapons Galore: A bolstered receiving corps

Last year Manning had one of the most productive seasons of his career, completing 63.1% of his passes (highest completion percentage of his career) for 4410 yards, 30 TDs and only 15 INTs.  What makes these stats even more impressive is that Eli was able to accomplish these numbers in a new offensive system, missing his favorite receiver in Victor Cruz since week 6.  Before being injured, Cruz was on pace for another 1000+ yard season.  Fortunately, the loss set the stage for rookie receiver Odell Beckham Jr. to have a record breaking rookie season, solidifying him as one of the most elite receivers in the NFL.  Eli will look forward to having Cruz, his favorite receiver, back in 2015 and if all goes according to plan, he will return 100% healthy.  However, things rarely go according to plan after such a major injury (torn patellar tendon).  The top concern entering 2015 is that Cruz won't be able to regain his elite speed and route running ability.  However, a sigh of relief may be in store for the Giants entering the draft.  Recently, more and more buzz has been revolving around the idea that if Amari Cooper falls to the Giants in the draft, he may become the newest member of Big Blue.  Now, while many people argue that the Giants don't need to take a receiver in the first round, GM Jerry Reese is notoriously known for picking the best available player on the board, regardless of team need.  Either way, expect the Giants to have a better wide receiver corps in 2015.

Additionally, the Giants gave Eli another weapon through free agency in the form of pass-catching specialist running back, Shane Vereen.  In 2014, Manning completed 379 passes on 601 attempts (63.1%).  Of his 379 completions, only 62 (16.5%) were caught by running backs.  Enter Shane Vereen.  In 2014, Vereen hauled in 52 passes from former teammate Tom Brady for 447 yards and 3 TDs.  The year before, he caught 47 passes for 427 yards and 3 TDs.  Without a doubt, Vereen has solidified himself as one of the most reliable pass catching backs in the NFL.  In fact, last year only a handful of RBs had more receptions than Vereen, most of them being workhorse backs (Matt Forte, Le'veon Bell, Demarco Murray, and Fred Jackson).  Expect Vereen's numbers to increase even further in 2015 under McAdoo's quick pass system, becoming Manning's number one check down option.  Additionally with TE Larry Donnell proving that he is an unrefined but talented pass catcher and WR Rueben Randle finally showing flashes of greatness at the end of the season, it is easy to say that the Giants will have one of the most dangerous receiving corps in the NFL.

Conclusion: What to expect from Manning in 2015

Coming off one of the best seasons of his career (1st in completion percentage, 2nd in yards, 2nd in TDs, and 2nd in INTs), in a brand new system, missing his favorite receiver, Manning's fantasy potential has never been higher than it is entering 2015.  A bolstered offensive line, the return of all-pro wideout Victor Cruz, and the addition of Shane Vereen means that the Giants look to be a pass first team next year under McAdoo's quick pass offense.  Add all of those with the fact that Manning will finally have a full season of experience in McAdoo's system and you're left with a top 5 QB.  What makes Eli even more enticing for 2015 is the fact that his name is Eli "27 Interceptions" Manning.  This means that Manning will outlast most other QB1s in the draft, further increasing his value.

2015 Projection: #4 QB Overall Standard Scoring

-4900 yards

-38 TDs

-14 INTs

Like the pic? Check out AJ Guel's flickr page for more!

Published in Fantasy Coverage
Saturday, 22 November 2014 00:00

Sleepers and busts for Week 12

We’re past the bye week storm and fantasy skies are clear. There will be no more talk of storms and if you’re still here reading along then congratulations my friend, you’ve surviving the fantasy-life threatening catastrophe that has been the last three weeks. With only a mini bye week (Pittsburgh/Carolina) owners should be at or near full strength this week and throughout the rest of the season. There are still owners of Big Ben, Antonio Brown, Martavis Bryant, Cam Newton, Kelvin Benjamin and Greg Olsen that could be left scrambling but after this week we’re all officially done with these bye week inconveniences.

We’ve now reached that point in the season that we will all remember quite well, and that point we will use to define our season as a success or failure. For some reason, the memory of fantasy owners improves ten-fold at about this time of the year.  We all have our stories about how we got to this point but we sum it up by saying something like “well, earlier this season my team was great led by those couple of big games that (fill in QB/RB/WR/TE) had but then (QB/RB/WR/TE) struggled and I find myself here in week 12 fighting for my playoff life”.  For those of us still alive, weeks 1-11 tend to be muddled into one group of games and performances.  Then week 12 gets here and the part of the season that we will remember vividly begins and our memories become very specific: “I remember it like it was yesterday.  Ryan Mathews was my hero in weeks 14-16 when he plowed through the Giants, Broncos and Raiders racking up 382 yards and a 3 TDs, one in each game.  His TDs were from 1, 9, and 23 yards out…ahhhhh the memories.”  This is not my memory.  I will admit I looked this up, but someone out there does have this clear and fond memory of Ryan Mathews 2013 fantasy playoff performance.  The team playing against these performances will remember these things just as vividly.  Which brings me to one of my many clear and precise memories….in Week 14 2008 I played against Santana Moss vs. Baltimore on Monday Night Football.  Right before halftime on 3rd and 15 from their own 5 yard line, the Redskins’ Jason Campbell threw a WR screen to Moss who broke a tackle and ran up the sideline for 25 yards. From that moment on, I led by .74 points all the way up until the Redskins’ last offensive play of their last drive…a meaningless Santana Moss 4 yard catch…I lost my playoff matchup by .16. Since then I’ve had hypnotists and psychiatrists do their best to repress this memory but it isn’t going anywhere. But now I don’t want them to make me forget. That loss is a part of me.  It motivates me every year and the memories that this time of the year brings, both good and bad is what fantasy football is all about.

Although I’ve listed two examples of playoff heroics, the memories begin with how we made the playoffs or how we were eliminated.  For the teams still battling for playoff position, it’s time for you to determine what your first real fantasy football memory of 2014 will be, and you should use the following sleepers and busts advice for Week 12 to help you succeed in creating happy memories. 

Without further ado, your week 12 Sleepers and Busts: 

DISCLAIMER:  A sleeper is not a must start and a bust is not a must bench, they are merely indications that a player will have a better or worse game this week than they normally do. It all really depends on your alternatives. I will give an example of a few players for whom I personally would start the sleeper over or bench the bust for. These players are simply there as an indication of how good or bad I think the sleepers/busts will perform so you have a comparison in mind when applying it to your actual lineup. For example if I am comparing a QB to a stud like Andrew Luck, I am not necessarily saying you need to start him over Luck (even if I would) but it will imply that I feel really good about him. 

 Sleeper QB:

·         Eli Manning vs. Dallas.  Eli Manning is coming off one of the worst games of his life, a game in which he threw 5 INTs, so obviously those in the fantasy world will be down on him.  The 49ers returned Pro Bowl defensive lineman Aldon Smith to the lineup last week and their pass rush was predictably much improved.  The Giants have huge holes on the offensive line and a team with that kind of pass rush is going to give Eli and the Giants major problems.  Dallas comes into New York off a London vacation where they also got to play a football game against the Jaguars.  The Cowboys only have 16 sacks on the season and only have one player with more than 2 sacks.  They came into the Jaguars game on a two-game slide and they took a step back defensively with the loss of LB Justin Durant and DT Tyrone Crawford.  In these two games, they allowed Colt McCoy to throw for nearly 300 yards and they allowed a 249 yard, 3 TD game to Carson Palmer.  The Giants should be able to protect Manning enough to free Odell Beckham, Reuben Randle and Larry Donnell who all match up well with the Cowboys who will attempt to cover them (Brandon Carr, Orlando Scandrick, Rolondo McClain/Barry Church).  In Eli’s last three matchups against the Cowboys, he’s had multiple TDs in each game, a total of 9 TDs vs. 4 INTs. Prior to last week Manning had been a low end QB1. In fantasy football sometimes, we have to let a week like last week against the 49ers go, and not let it sway our opinions too much.  I see a shootout in a matchup where neither team will be playing effective defense.         

I’d Start Eli Manning over:  Russell Wilson, Andy Dalton, Ryan Tannehill, Josh McCown, Matthew Stafford

Bust QB:

·         Josh McCown at Chicago.  Former Bears QB Josh McCown comes into week 12 having thrown 4 TD in his last two games. The experts are ready to anoint him as a QB1 in his return to Chicago.  I think it’s a nice story, but anyone giving McCown QB1 status on the road is just over reacting.  McCown comes off back to back games against two of the worst defenses in the NFL, the Falcons and Redskins.  The Bears are another of the league’s worst, ranking 31st against fantasy QBs, but much of that ranking is due to the 11 TD assault put on them by Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers in weeks 8 and 10.  Head Coach, Mark Trestman, and Bears defensive coordinator, Mel Tucker, know what McCown has in his arsenal and should be able to develop a game plan to limit breakout WR Mike Evans and veteran WR Vincent Jackson. If the coaches’ familiarity with McCown were the only issue I wouldn’t list him here. The forecast in Chicago calls for 100% chance of steady rain with winds up to 20 MPH.  A combination of the Bears’ coaching staff and mother nature will ensure that McCown’s return to Chicago will come in a sloppy game, not a shootout between two poor defenses.  Keep him benched.   

I’d Start the following players over Josh McCown:   Mark Sanchez, Matt Ryan, Eli Manning, Ryan Tannehill, Russell Wilson

Sleeper RB:

·         Bishop Sankey at Philadelphia. Until last week most of what we’ve heard from Ken Whisenhunt about Bishop Sankey is that his footwork hasn’t been right. Sankey owners were left frustrated by this for weeks as he was losing touches to Shonn Greene and Dexter McCluster. Finally, this week we heard Whisenhunt say something normal and complementary about his 1st round running back. His exact words were,  "I thought he was physical, I thought he was decisive, he was better with his reads…Those are things where you’ve seen improvement." Sankey only had 45 total yards, but he did score a TD and more importantly his coach came away impressed. Zach Mettenberger has provided a spark to this offense and they should be able to move the ball against an opportunistic yet poor Eagles defense. Sankey is the featured back and the Eagles have allowed RBs to hit pay dirt at least once in four straight weeks (Ellington, Foster, Stewart, Lacy).  It's no coincidence that this stretch coincides with the season ending injury to starting LB DeMeco Ryans. Sankey has finally caught the coach’s eye, he’ll get redzone opportunities and he’ll continue to dominate snaps and touches in the backfield. He’s being listed as a mid RB3 but in this matchup I see him as a mid-low RB2 or at worst a flex.   

I’d start Bishop Sankey over:  Joique Bell, Chris Ivory, Tre Mason, Shane Vereen, Lamar Miller

Bust RB:             

·         Alfred Morris at San Francisco.  This may be an obvious choice but Alfred Morris is still being listed being listed in the RB2 realm, too high for my liking this week. The 49ers are at home and on the season are the second best team against fantasy RBs. The Redskins, coming off a home game against TB where they couldn’t move the ball, will have a hard time sustaining drives on the road in San Francisco. If Colin Kaepernick doesn’t screw it up, the 49ers should be able to jump out to a lead early and we’ll be seeing a lot of Roy Helu in the backfield (Helu is a nice flex option this week). In addition, we’re coming off a week where RG3 threw his team under the bus while talking to the media.  His act has grown tired to his coaches and I wouldn’t be shocked to see an uninspired Redskins team who won’t fully have the back of their over-rated outspoken QB, leading to a disastrous overall offensive performance from the Skins.  It’s going to be a tough go this week and from here on out for Alfred Morris. 

I’d start the following players over Alfred Morris:  Tre Mason, Isaiah Crowell, Bishop Sankey, Ryan Mathews

Sleeper WR:

·         Marques Colston v. Baltimore.  Brandin Cooks is lost for the season with a broken thumb.  The immediate reaction is to assume that his targets will go to Kenny Stills, the young big play WR oozing with upside. We talked a little bit about the Cooks injury and Kenny Stills on our podcast earlier this week.  However, while I do see Stills getting more targets, I think the biggest beneficiary could be the old reliable Marques Colston.  Cooks did provide some big plays on deep balls, but he had been mostly running a lot of short to intermediate routes, routes that Colston had run in the past.  Colston (34 receptions) had moved down to 3A or 3B in the pecking order behind Jimmy Graham and Cooks, and was even with Stills (31 receptions). It’s weird to say, but the Saints are having a tough year offensively and they may want to simplify things by going with what they know has worked in the past, short and intermediate routes to Colston. This week they’ll host a Baltimore team starting a secondary that has played exactly one game together.  They played just fine at home against Zach Mettenberger and the Titans, but playing in the Superdome against Drew Brees with his back against the wall is a totally different story. Expect the Saints to have a bounce back game and be led by Drew Brees’s main men for the last few years, Jimmy Graham and Marques Colston.  I see Colston as a solid WR3 moving forward in PPR leagues.      

I’d Start Marques Colston over:  Malcolm Floyd, John Brown, Eric Decker, Jarvis Landry, Cecil Shorts

Bust WR:

·         Golden Tate at New England.  Golden Tate enjoyed his first game with Megatron in the lineup, but last week in Arizona we witnessed what can happen when a struggling offense (yes Detroit has been struggling despite winning games) goes on the road against a top defense.  Tate only received two targets in the midst of Matthew Stafford’s putrid day.  This week the Lions once again go on the road to face a pass defense that just shut down Andrew Luck. Word is that Tate will take a trip to Revis island, while Calvin Johnson gets double teamed by Brandon Browner and a safety.  New England is the best team in the NFL and they sport the 2nd best ranking against opposing WRs in .5 PPR leagues. Matthew Stafford will have trouble getting anything going and if he does, it will be to his main man Calvin. Tate’s trip to his island destination will not be enjoyable.   I’d remove him from all 2 WR lineups and most 3 WR lineups.

I’d start the following players over Golden Tate:  Vincent Jackson, DeSean Jackson, Mike Wallace, Steve Smith, Reggie Wayne

Sleeper TE:

·         Marcedes Lewis at Indianapolis.  Many fantasy players forget that Marcedes Lewis began the season in kind of a big way with 8 catches, 106 yards, and a TD in his first two weeks.  Lewis may be rusty in his first week back but he couldn’t be returning for a much better matchup.  Indianapolis ranks 29th against opposing TEs in .5 PPR leagues.  The Colts should be leading throughout the game which could result in a high volume of throws from Blake Bortles and ample opportunities for Lewis to catch passes. Lewis is also returning at the same time that news was revealed that possession WR, Allen Robinson, would not be returning this season.  Robinson was used a security blanket and racked up targets and receptions.  Lewis should be able to take over the security blanket role.  Look for Lewis to receive 7+ targets and get 5+ receptions.  He's a fine streaming TE for Greg Olsen owners or teams who are just looking to play the matchups.    

I’d start Marcedes Lewis over:  Owen Daniels, Kyle Rudolph, Eric Ebron, Vernon Davis, Jacob Tamme

Bust TE:

·         Jacob Tamme/Julius Thomas vs. Miami.  Julius Thomas has been reported as a game time decision but John Fox admitted that he wasn’t able to do much on the practice field.  If Thomas is out, many fantasy owners will salivate at the thought of being able to pick up Jacob Tamme, the man who would be the Broncos starting TE.  I’m warning you against doing so.  Miami is the 3rd ranked team against TEs and has been especially stingy since their week 5 bye.  Since then they have shut down each and every TE they have faced including every week fantasy starters, Martellus Bennett and Antonio Gates.   I’d choose other streaming TEs if Tamme is on your radar. 

 If Julius Thomas does play, you have to start him, but I’d expect him to play a limited role and to struggle like we’ve seen him do a few times earlier this season in between monster performances.  I won’t list any replacements for him since he’ll need to be in your lineup.

I’d start the following players over Jacob Tamme:  Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Antonio Gates, Marcedes Lewis, Niles Paul

That’ll do it for week 12.  I hope this week is the beginning of a memory that will last a lifetime and not one that will haunt you for years to come.  Good Luck!   

Puzzled on who to start for you team this week? Check out our weekly rankings here.

View Keith Allison's Flickr page here.

Published in Fantasy Coverage
Friday, 14 November 2014 00:00

Week 11 bullet points for QBs/DEFs

Start of the week:

QB – Phillip Rivers v. Oakland Raiders - #6 in Weekly Rankings 

The Chargers bye week could not have come at a better time for Philip Rivers. He's coming off arguably the worst game of his career, a game in which he threw 3 INTs in a 37-0 thrashing at the hands of the Miami Dolphins. The bye week allowed Rivers, who had been having his second consecutive great season to push the reset button and forget about the previous week.

There may be no better way to re-start a season after a reset, then to play at home against the Oakland Raiders. The Raiders are ranked 21st against opposing fantasy QBs, but this ranking does not tell the story about what to expect on Sunday. The Raiders, an already porous defense, will be without CB Carlos Rogers (knee) in the secondary and could be without CB D.J. Hayden (groin) and CB Travis Carrie (ankle). Rivers could have limited, below average players or even practice squad talent lining up opposite Keenan Allen, Malcolm Floyd and Eddie Royal as he looks to repeat the 300+ yard 3 TDs performance he had against these very Raiders in week 6.

DEF – Denver Broncos v. St. Louis Rams - #4 in Weekly Rankings

When NFL and fantasy football fans are discussing the Broncos, they’re almost always talking about the offense. Their offense is absolutely incredible and deserves every bit of attention it gets, but the Broncos defense is vastly under rated. The team has won five out of their last six games. In the wins during this stretch they have caused 8 turnovers and have sacked the QB 15 times. The Broncos jump out to big leads and Von Miller, DeMarcus Ware, Aqib Talib and company do not lose their intensity in blowouts. The Broncos travel to St. Louis where Shaun Hill will be throwing his first pass in a game since week 1. The Broncos should be able to win big and rack up the sacks and turnovers that come from a shaky QB having to play comeback football.  

Start Em:

QB – Eli Manning v. San Francisco - #11 in Weekly Rankings

It has been a disappointing season for the New York Giants and their fans, but not for Eli Manning fantasy owners.  The younger Manning, the 11th ranked QB in standard leagues, is in the midst of a fantasy resurrection and is on pace for 30 TDs and 11 INTs. This is an incredible development one year after Manning threw 18 TD and 27 INTs.  The loss of Victor Cruz has not been an issue since the emergence of a superior talent, Odell Beckham Jr., occurred in the same week.

This week Manning’s matchup is not an easy one with San Francisco (Ranked 8th vs. QBs) coming to New Jersey, but the Giants welcome back a key piece of the receiving (and running) game in Rashad Jennings. Jennings absence in the passing game and in pass protection could not be filled by rookie, Andre Williams or over the hill, Peyton Hillis. Jennings' return should improve the Giants offense, an offense in which Eli had already been thriving as a fantasy QB just about every week. Keep him active if you have bye week issues or if you are playing matchups at QB.

DEF – New Orleans Saints v. Cincinnati - #6 in Weekly Rankings   

In four games since their Week 6 bye, the New Orleans Saints defense has caused 8 turnovers and has had 15 sacks. Sure sometimes a great matchup or two can lead to a bunch of sacks and turnovers, but these specific weeks happened to be played against some of the league’s best quarterbacks. The 8 turnovers and 15 sacks were against teams led by Matthew Stafford, Aaron Rodgers, Cam Newton and Colin Kaepernick.  Week 11 presents a home game against a lesser talent, Andy Dalton. Dalton is coming off the worst game by a QB this season (86 yards passing, 3 INTs) and has had only 2 TDs vs. 6 INTs in his last four games. The Saints will smell blood in the water early and will inevitably feast on more of Dalton’s mistakes. 

Owners Beware:

QB – Russell Wilson at Kansas City - #15 in Weekly Rankings

Fantasy football is a funny game. When the Seahawks were struggling to win games, Russell Wilson was thriving as a top 3 fantasy QB. Now the Seahawks have won three in a row and Wilson is in the midst of a slump.  In the last three weeks, Wilson has failed to reach 200 yards passing and has combined for only 2 TDs vs. 3 INTs. His 107 rushing yards against the Giants in Week 10 helped salvage a putrid fantasy performance but I would not expect another 100+ rushing yards on the road against the Chiefs, a team who actually will realize that Russell Wilson is a threat to run.

The Chiefs rank 1st in passing yards against and have not allowed a QB to score 20 fantasy points since week 2 against Denver.  This stretch includes games against Tom Brady, Colin Kaepernick, and Philip Rivers.  Their defense has five legitimate stars in Tamba Hali, Justin Houston and Dontari Poe, guys who get after the QB and stuff the run. In the secondary, Eric Berry and Sean Smith prevent big plays from occurring. This should be a tight low scoring game, a game where you would be smart to stay away from Russell Wilson.

Defense – Washington v. Tampa Bay - #11 in Weekly Rankings

When judging the Week 11 fantasy defenses, after the top 8 or so defenses, there is a large group bunched together all who are poor teams with good matchups, or good teams with poor matchups. It's tough to figure out what to do with these teams.  One team in particular is the Washington Redskins who have an ideal matchup on paper at home against Tampa Bay.  Tampa is ranked 30th against opposing fantasy defenses, while Washington is ranked 30th overall as a fantasy defense on the season. However there are encouraging signs that one of these teams may not be as poor as their ranking. Tampa Bay made the move at QB back to Josh McCown. 

Rookie Mike Evans has begun his ascent to becoming Tampa Bay’s top wideout.  Charles Sims is an exciting rookie RB who will be getting a chance to shine from here on out. Lastly, TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins is starting to come into his own having caught TDs in two out of his last three games.  I do not nearly have as many good things about the Washington Redskins defense.

They have had one week of relevance against the Cowboys and have been otherwise awful.  If one of these 30th ranked units has the ability to be better it is definitely Tampa Bay.  I do have the Redskins ranked 11th, but if one of the top 10 in the rankings is available in your league do not hesitate to grab them on the waiver wire because this matchup makes me nervous.

 

Published in Fantasy Coverage
Saturday, 08 November 2014 00:00

QB/DEF bullet points for Week 10

Start of the Week:

QB - Ben Roethlisberger at New York Jets - #4 in Weekly Rankings

Why not go with the guy who has thrown 12 TDs in the last two weeks as the start of the week?  Big Ben set all kinds of records in the past two weeks and his matchup against the Jets is a lot better than his matchups the past 2 weeks against Indianapolis and Baltimore.  Maybe he’ll throw 8 TDs this week!  Just kidding but I really do not see a way he throws less than 3.  The Jets rank dead last in fantasy points against QBs and have allowed an insane ratio of 24 TDs vs. 1 INT.  I’d only start Aaron Rodgers, Peyton Manning and Russell Wilson over him this week.  Enjoy the ride.

D/ST – Dallas Cowboys vs. Jacksonville in London - #4 in Weekly Rankings

They’re playing Jacksonville…..case closed.  No seriously, that’s most of it.  Jacksonville has allowed opposing defenses to score a whopping 2.6 more fantasy points per week than the 2nd worst defense.  Blake Bortles at this stage of his career is a turnover machine and many of his INTs are taken to the house.  The game in London is on a sloppy field, and the weather is projected to be lousy.  Look for a low scoring game where the Jaguars fall behind quickly, forcing Bortles to throw.   The more he throws, the more points the Cowboys D/ST will score via sacks and turnovers. 

Start em:

QB – Matt Ryan at Tampa Bay - #7 in Weekly Rankings

It’s been a while since I’ve recommended starting Matt Ryan, but the matchup this week is too tasty.  Tampa Bay has waved the white flag on the season.  Their personnel in the secondary aren’t NFL caliber players, especially after trading safety Mark Barron two weeks ago.  Ryan has an inept offensive line protecting him and he could face some pressure from a formidable front seven, however, the bye week has given the Falcons two weeks to fix their offensive line woes.  It’s been a disappointing season overall for Ryan owners, but big points are in store for this week’s cake walk of a matchup.   

D/ST – Green Bay vs. Chicago - #9 in Weekly Rankings

Sometimes historical stats don’t matter all that much but in this case I think they absolutely do.  Jay Cutler has a win/loss record of 1-9 and 19 INTs all time against the Green Bay Packers.  These numbers are jaw dropping.  I say the stats do matter here because basically the same coaching staff has been in place in Green Bay during Cutler’s entire career.  The Packers know how to attack Cutler and make him a walking breathing turnover.  When that many turnovers are bound to happen big points become possible for a fantasy defense.  Look for more of the same in Lambeau this week.    


Owners Beware:

QB – Eli Manning at Seattle - #18 in Weekly Rankings

The Giants have been playing football from behind a lot lately and it’s actually led to Eli Manning being one of the better fantasy plays.  Eli has been forced to throw for the entire 2nd half and has been able to convert on some late TDs while keeping his turnovers down.  The same thing could very well happen in Seattle, but sometimes when you fall behind big too often, the other team starts generating a massive pass rush forcing sacks and turnovers.  This is what happened three weeks ago in Philadelphia, and it’s what I see happening this week in Seattle.  Seattle hasn’t looked exactly right defensively but the cure could very well be the Giants, who lack the weapons to hang around in this game. The Seahawks allowed the Raiders to make last week’s game close and I’m sure Pete Carroll will remind his team that they have looked absolutely terrible defensively. I expect the Seahawks turnaround to greatness to start this week.  A tough day from start to finish is on the horizon for Eli Manning.

D/ST – San Francisco at New Orleans - #17 in Weekly Rankings

The 49ers are always one of the first fantasy defenses off the board.  Owners drafted them thinking they can just plug them in every week and the 49ers would at worst be mediocre and at best elite.  This year’s defense has not had that type of success.  They rank as the #17 fantasy defense this season.  Navarro Bowman and Aldon Smith have been out all year and the loss of Patrick Willis has been tremendous.  They have not been awful in terms of yardage as they rank 3rd and 5th in rushing yards and passing yards against respectively.  However, there are just not enough big plays being made.  They’re only on pace for 26 sacks after posting 38 sacks a year ago. The Saints are playing incredible football and are coming off back to back dominant wins at home against Green Bay and at Carolina.  They’re mixing up the run and pass enough to keep Drew Brees upright and they’re keeping defenses guessing.  The game is in New Orleans where Brees and the offense plays its best football and San Francisco could struggle to get stops if they’re not able to dial up a pass rush.  Look elsewhere with a streaming defense this week.

Published in Fantasy Coverage
Saturday, 18 October 2014 00:00

Sleepers and busts for Week 7

Week 7 Sleepers and Busts

Week 6 is in the books and the playoff picture is starting to take shape.  The sample size is becoming significant and win/loss records are becoming meaningful. There are still seven weeks for teams to jockey for position and nobody has clinched anything at this point but we all know how we fantasy owners tend to over react based on our place in the standings around this time of year.  In honor of our crazy fantasy football imaginations, I’d like to do things a little differently this week and go into the mindsets of many insane fantasy owners around the country by record. 

The 0-6 team:  “……..”  Silence. This owner has 137 unanswered text messages, 58 voicemails and thousands of opened emails from league members all with the same general message “Hey Johnny/Jenny, your team STINKS”. The messages will usually be more graphic in nature like “How do you take that kind of pounding week after week and still be able to walk the next day?”  But you get the gist. This owner will not be changing his lineup from here on out. He/She never wants to see his/her friends seemingly ever again and the single, non-married owner may move and change his/her name without telling anybody just to end the daily abuse. However, on the positive side the 0-6 married male owner will suddenly be nominated for National Husband of the year after taking the Mrs. for picnics, ice skating, apple picking, flea markets, opera, and ballet on Sundays, Thursday nights and Monday nights from now until January. These owners can be positively identified by a tattoo of this quote “Screw you AP/Calvin/Montee”.   

The 1-5 team:   “If I give you my password you can change my lineup but I’m not paying for any pickups.” This owner has slightly less text messages and slightly less voicemails than the 0-6 team and their season and mental well-being are both hanging by a thread. He/she is willing to compete for now but can’t bear to look at the names on the computer/tablet/cell phone screen. He/She has unsuccessfully reached out to the 0-6 team to see if they can hang out on Sunday since he/she really can’t bear to see anybody else.

The 2-4 team:   “I’m in a must win situation.”  His/her friends will hear about this all day every day over the next several weeks but especially this week.  This team will make 25 pickups/drops and 5-10 trades even trading away and trading for the same players before Sunday.

The 3-3 team:   “Am I a contender or a pretender?  I’m not sure.”  This team is neither confident nor pessimistic.  He/she is fired up to potentially be above .500 but going below .500 would be the end of the world.

The 4-2 team:   “Nobody is talking about my team.  I’ll show them.”  These owners hate how everyone loves the talent on the two teams that have better records, but totally disregard their team discussing the cream of the crop.  Somehow they talk even more trash than the 5-1/6-0 owners but it’s really just a cover up for their insecurity.

The 5-1 team: “Ahhhh 1 more win and we can punch that playoff ticket”.  These owners are quietly confident to a point where they look and sound downright smug.  Their quiet confidence annoys everybody including the 6-0 owner.

The 6-0 owner:   “First place pays $1000 right?….I’ll make you a deal, if you agree to pay me $990 right now we can just end the league today.”  This owner is not quietly confident.  He’s responsible for 130 of the text messages and 53 of the voicemails to the 0-6 team.  He sends out group texts and reply-all emails 50 times/day talking smack.  We all want to conspire against this team to ensure they don’t win the league.

My advice to you….don’t over react like these owners.  It’s only week 7.  We have seven more weeks in the regular season to decide our fate.  We shouldn't turn into these people until at least week 8. 

Now let me help you advance in the standings with some sleepers and busts.  It’s an easy week schedule wise with only the Eagles and Buccaneers on byes so be smart with these recommendations and apply them to your league depending on your league format.

Without further ado, your week 7 Sleepers and Busts: 

DISCLAIMER:  A sleeper is not a must start and a bust is not a must bench, they are merely indications that a player will have a better or worse game this week than they normally do. It all really depends on your alternatives. I will give an example of a few players for whom I personally would start the sleeper over or bench the bust for. These players are simply there as an indication of how good or bad I think the sleepers/busts will perform so you have a comparison in mind when applying it to your actual lineup. For example if I am comparing a QB to a stud like Andrew Luck, I am not necessarily saying you need to start him over Luck (even if I would) but it will imply that I feel really good about him. 

Sleeper QB:

·         Kirk Cousins vs. Tennessee.  Luck, Manning, Rodgers, Rivers, Cutler, Wilson, Ryan, Kaepernick. Those are the names of the QBs that average more fantasy points per game than Kirk Cousins.  Since taking over the starting job in week 2, Cousins is averaging over 300 yards passing and 2 TDs per game.  The Redskins struggle to stop anybody on defense so Cousins is often forced to throw the ball and with weapons like DeSean Jackson, Pierre Garcon, Jordan Reed, Niles Paul, and Andre Roberts, which gives Cousins the chance to be fantasy gold.  Sure the high volume of passes has forced Cousins into 8 INT on the season, but ignore that and look at those names above again to realize what you have here. Tennessee’s pass defense has struggled of late with Brian Hoyer and Blake Bortles averaging 314 yds and 2 TDs over the last 2 weeks. This matchup is oozing with upside so get Cousins in the lineup in all 2 QB leagues and in leagues where you are playing the matchups at QB or have any of the below players as a starter. He’s #14 in my QB rankings so refer to the rankings for other start/sit decisions.

I’d Start Kirk Cousins over: Russell Wilson, Ben Roethlisberger, Matt Ryan, Brian Hoyer

Bust QB:

·         Eli Manning at Dallas.  The Giants come into Dallas having allowed 8 sacks last week so I think it’s safe to say there are some offensive line issues. They’re now minus their best RB and best WR with Rashad Jennings and Victor Cruz out.  The loss of Rashad Jennings has impacted them in a bigger way than one would think. Jennings is a dual threat back that always does a great job making himself available as a safety valve when Eli is under duress.  Andre Williams is a violent runner but he brings so much less to the table than Jennings as an all-around back.  The Giants top skill position players are now comprised of RB Andre Williams, WRs Reuben Randle and Odell Beckham Jr. and TE Larry Donnell. With the offensive line struggling, and the youth and inexperience at all of the skill positions, expect the Cowboys fans to rock the stadium and cause miscommunications between Eli and his young supporting cast. This will result in multiple sacks and turnovers much like you saw last week in Philadelphia.  The Cowboys rank 3rd against fantasy QBs despite having faced Colin Kaepernick, Drew Brees and Russell Wilson.  Stay away, even in 2 QB leagues. 

I’d Start the following players over Eli Manning:   Ryan Tannehill, Blake Bortles, Charlie Whitehurst, Kyle Orton

Sleeper RB:

·         Ronnie Hillman vs. San Francisco.  Ronnie Hillman broke off big run after big run en route to a 100+ yard performance against the Jets, a team that ranks 8th in rushing yards against. The yardage was great but the stat that surprised me the most was his snap count.  Hillman played 74% of the snaps and was only spelled on a couple of drives. In other words, Hillman is currently the featured back in the Peyton Manning led, most explosive offense in football.  That to me alone makes him a RB1 every week until Montee Ball returns regardless of matchup.  But the icing on the cake is that Patrick Willis looks like he’ll be inactive with a bad toe. This defense is simply not the same without their leader and All-Pro in the lineup. Look for another 100 yard performance and maybe a TD from Hillman and make sure he’s in your lineup.

I’d start Ronnie Hillman over:  Alfred Morris, Eddie Lacy, Lamar Miller, Fred Jackson, Joique Bell

Bust RB:             

·         Joique Bell vs. New Orleans. Last week in Minnesota, fantasy owners finally got to see the Joique Bell they thought they were drafting in the early rounds this season when he totaled 97 yards and a TD. While he looked really good and it was an encouraging performance, Reggie Bush is making is return and will once again steal touches. Bush will be playing with a chip on his shoulder against his old buddies, the Saints, and will lead the team in snaps, touches and yards. The Saints rank 15th in rushing yards against as opposed to 25th in passing yards against so look for the Lions to attack them through the air benefiting the better receiving back in Reggie Bush. Bell is ranked as a solid RB2 around the internet but I see him as a flex option at best this week.

I’d start the following players over Joique Bell: Ronnie Hillman, Frank Gore, Reggie Bush, Pierre Thomas, Bishop Sankey, Isaiah Crowell

Sleeper WR:

·         James Jones vs. Arizona.  I’m not sure what James Jones has to do in order to get some respect.  Maybe he’s not getting noticed because he plays for the Raiders, but he’s having a great season under the radar. Jones is on pace for 83 receptions, 1050 yards and 10 TDs. He's the number 18 WR in .5 PPR leagues and has been consistent along the way with 4 games out of 5 that every fantasy owner would want in their lineup. The emergence and presence of Andre Holmes is leaving Jones in 1 on 1 situations. He’s being targeted regularly in the redzone and despite playing with a rookie QB in Derek Carr I don’t see many better QB/WR combos when it comes to executing the 15 yard back shoulder catch and throw down the sideline.  He’s being ranked in the 40th WR range in most rankings but I see him no worse than a top 25 WR.  The matchup at home against Arizona is actually favorable as the Cardinals shockingly rank dead last in passing yards against (309 yds/g).  Make sure James Jones is in your lineup this week and basically every week in leagues that start 3 WR.

I’d Start James Jones over:  Mohamed Sanu, Michael Crabtree, Brian Quick, Percy Harvin, Brandon Cooks, Roddy White

Bust WR:

·         Marques Colston at Detroit. It's unclear to me why Marques Colston, fantasy football's 60th ranked WR in .5PPR leagues continues to be ranked as a WR3 or a top 36 WR. The matchup is as poor as can be as the Saints travel to Detroit, fantasy's number 1 ranked team against WRs. Brandon Cooks emergence onto the scene has bumped Colston to the Saints 4th option in the passing game behind Jimmy Graham (who looks like he may play), Cooks, and running back Pierre Thomas.  Furthermore, Colston has had major problems with ball security and drops in the early part of the season. He will remain a threat in the redzone because of his size, but gambling for a score against the NFL's top defense is too risky whether Graham is playing or not.  Keep him stashed in case he does have a second half resurgence like he did last season but leave him out of lineups in all formats for the time being.    

I’d start the following players over Marques Colston:  Anquan Boldin, Allen Robinson, Cecil Shorts, Kendall Wright, Davante Adams, Robert Woods

Sleeper TE:

·         Jason Witten vs. New York Giants.  It seems crazy that I am allowed to list Jason Witten as a sleeper TE.  He’s been one of the most consistently great TEs during his 12-year career, but the fact is that he’s struggled to put up stats this season.  However, when I see the film I see the same guy with the same hands and the same knack for getting open. The Cowboys have become a run first team and Witten, as an elite blocker, has been a big part of that. That being said, look for him to get in the endzone in this matchup.  Last season in 2 games he scored a whopping 4 TDs against the Giants and in 2012 he had a single game of 18 catches for 167 yards against them so it’s apparent that the Cowboys like to take advantage of the matchup of Witten vs. a Giants LB/Safety. It’s been a frustrating year for Witten owners but plug and play him and you’ll finally get vintage Witten stats.

I’d start Jason Witten over:  Antonio Gates, Jordan Reed, Jordan Cameron, Vernon Davis, Travis Kelce, Larry Donnell.

Bust TE:

·         Antonio Gates vs. Kansas City.  Yardage totals of TEs against KC in 2014: Delanie Walker 37 yds, Julius Thomas 39 yds, Charles Clay 21 yds, Rob Gronkowski 31 yds.  A few of these guys did get in the endzone but it’s become clear that TEs are completely TD dependent against Kansas City.  If you want to start Antonio Gates knowing he’ll most likely be held under 50 yards and sit there all game praying for a redzone TD then be my guest.  I’d rather look elsewhere this week for a higher upside option.   

I’d start the following players over Antonio Gates:  Jason Witten, Travis Kelce, Delanie Walker, Jordan Cameron, Dwayne Allen

That’ll do it for this week everyone. Feel free to comment, criticize and ask any questions you may have on our Facebook page. Listen to our podcast to hear George and I talk more about Week 7.

Good luck in week 7. Except you 6-0 teams.  We all hope you finally lose. 

View Mark Runyon's Flickr page here.

Published in Fantasy Coverage
Tuesday, 07 October 2014 00:00

Week 6 pickups: part II

Top Additions

3.    Eli Manning QB/New York Giants (57% Owned)

After posting a dismal 3:4 touchdown to interception ratio in the first two weeks of the season, Manning has looked like a completely different quarterback during the last three weeks. Manning has thrown for at least 200 yards and two touchdowns in each of the past three weeks, and finally looks comfortable in Ben McAdoo’s west coast offense.

The Giants offense is finally starting to produce like I thought they would at the start of season. With rookie wide receiver O’dell Beckham finally healthy after battling hamstring issues most of the offseason, the Giants suddenly have one of the deeper groups of receiver in the league. With Victor Cruz drawing double teams on a regular basis there will be opportunities for Beckham, Donell, and the rest of the Giants receivers to make plays against single-coverage. 

Manning draws another friendly matchup against an Eagles secondary that is allowing the fourth-most passing yards per game, as well as giving up a league-high 13 passing touchdowns to opposing quarterbacks. If you're an owner dealing with a bye week, or you stream quarterbacks based on the matchups, I highly recommend adding Manning for this owner-friendly matchup.

4.    Dwayne Allen TE/Indianapolis Colts (72% Owned)

After producing double-digit fantasy points in four of the first five weeks of the season, the time is now to finally take Dwayne Allen as a legitimate TE1 in fantasy football. Aside from the dud performance in week two, Allen has had at least three receptions and a touchdown in every game.

When the Colts drafted college teammates Andrew Luck and Coby Fleener in the same draft class, many thought their chemistry from college would carry over to the pro game. However, it is Allen that has been the more reliable target thus far, totaling more catches (15-11), and touchdowns (4-2).

While Allen has yet to top 60 receiving yards in a game is a little bit concerning, with the lack of depth at the tight end position this season, and quarterback Andrew Luck coming into his own as one of the premier quarterbacks in the NFL, I will take my chances with Allen on a weekly basis.

Recommendation: Add Immediately

Value: Lower TE1

5.    Andre Williams RB/New York Giants (56% Owned)

With Rashad Jennings possibly out for week 6, rookie Andre Williams has a chance to build a role for himself within the Giants offense. Williams did not show much big play ability on Sunday after finishing with a mediocre 65 yards on 20 carries (3.1 YPC) and one touchdown.

If Williams is going to make an impact for the Giants it will have to be running the football as he offers nothing in the passing game. It will be interesting to see how the Giants will split up snaps with Williams and third-string running back Peyton Hillis when it gets to obvious passing situations.

If Jennings is forced to miss week 6, Williams has a chance to explode against an Eagles rush defense that is giving up the seventh most rushing yards per game so far this season. Even though Williams will likely return to a reserve role once Jennings is healthy, he should be able to carve out a productive afternoon is Jennings is ruled out.

Recommendation: Stash and See

Value: RB4 with Potential

6.    Brian Quick WR/St. Louis Rams (66% Owned)

I have to admit I have been late to the Brian Quick party this year, not because I was not aware of his production, but because I wanted to see if Austin Davis would be able to handle the pressure of being an NFL quarterback.

Quick has been a stud so far this season, having at least 7 catches or a touchdown in every game this season. The trend did not change this weekend against he putrid Eagles secondary, as Quick reeled in 5 of his team-high 9 targets for 87 yards and two touchdowns.

Going forward Quick is going to have a chance to prove if his early-season success is a trend or mirage, having some tough matchups in the coming weeks. In a five-week span, the Rams to play San Francisco twice, Seattle once, and Arizona once. Quick has shown a great rapport with quarterback Austin Davis so far this season, which is makes him an intriguing fantasy option going forward since Davis will be the starting quarterback for the remainder of the season.

Recommendation: Add Immediately

Value: Low WR2/High WR3

Players to Monitor

1.    Justin Hunter WR/Tennessee Titans

Hunter finally showed a pulse in week 5, connecting on a 76-yard touchdown from Charlie Whitehurst. Hunter finished the day with three receptions for 99 yards and the previously mentioned touchdown. Hunter has the most potential of any of the Titans receivers, but with Charlie Whitehurst under center Hunter’s potential will be limited.

2.    Antone Smith RB/Atlanta Falcons

In limited time this season, third-year running back Antone Smith has given some much-needed big play ability to the Falcons running game. Scoring in double-digits in three of the first five weeks of the season, Smith is making a case to become more involved in the offense. However with veteran Steven Jackson still around it will take an injury for Smith to be a reliable fantasy option, but he should be on the radar of all fantasy owners going forward.

3.    Bobby Rainey RB/Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Rainey continues to show why some believe he will ultimately replace Doug Martin as the teams starting running back. It will take an injury, or the common sense of the Bucs coaching staff to get Rainey more involved in the offense. Keep him on your radar, as I have a feeling he will be called upon sooner rather than later to carry a heavier workload.

4.    Benny Cunningham RB/St. Louis Rams

Zac Stacy was forced from Sunday’s game with a calf injury, giving Cunningham an opportunity to take hold of the starting running back job in St. Louis. Stacy’s availability for this weekend is still cloudy, so monitor this situation as the week progresses.

5.    Tim Wright TE/New England Patriots

Finally the Patriots offense looked like what most people expected it to when they acquired Timothy Wright in a trade this offseason. Using two tight end sets most of the night, Wright was a total mismatch for Bengals linebackers in coverage, finishing with 5 receptions for 85 yards and a touchdown. While I am not ready to say the Patriots found their new Aaron Hernandez quite yet, he is worth putting on your radar as he has some favorable matchups with the Jets, Bears, and Colts in the near future.

View Keith Allison's Flickr page here

6.

 

Published in Waiver Wire
Monday, 06 October 2014 00:00

Episode 18: First Aid (Week 5)

George and Scott do their usual fantasy breakdown of two matchups this week, and assess the damage of the week that was in the NFL. Plus, they hand out weekly awards and discuss things to do in Wyoming.

Matchup No. 1 (Atlanta vs. New York Giants)

Two rookies came out of the woodwork in this one and are must owns in all leagues going forward. Andre Williams and Odell Beckham Jr. both shined in New York's victory over Atlanta. Filling in for an injured Rashad Jennings, Williams put his violent running style on full display, trucking defenders on his way to 65 yards and one touchdown on 20 carries.

It was a solid day for Williams considering this was the first time he has been thrust into the starting role as a rookie. The offensive line of the Giants provided good blocking at times (especially the tight ends who helped seal the outside on a lot of off tackle plays) and Williams made the most out of it. Depending on Jennings' status going forward, we could see Williams take on a more substantial role within the offense.

In the receiving game, rookie first-round pick Odell Beckham Jr. (owned in just 9% of Yahoo! Leagues) scored a touchdown on a crucial play in his first NFL start. He saw five targets, which was third behind Reuben Randle (10) and Victor Cruz (6) but he made the most out of them. He caught four passes for 44 yards, and already clued spectators in as to how efficient he could be. Factor in his return yards and this is a natural receiver you want to get your hands on if you're high on the waiver wire. The Giants play the Philadelphia Eagles this week, a team that's been susceptible to the pass (they allowed 3 touchdowns from Austin Davis this week and let Kirk Cousins throw for more than 400 yards on them.) Eagles linebacker DeMaco Ryans also left the game and if he's hurt, then Week 6 could be a big day for the Giants offense.

Matchup No. 2 (Detroit vs. Buffalo)

This game was all about two things — Golden Tate and Calvin Johnson. Already not 100 percent coming in, Johnson aggravated the same ankle that was bothering him after he took a hit from Bills CB Leodis McKelvin. He left the game after recording just one catch for seven yards. His status for Week 6 will be monitored closely no doubt.

Tate flourished in Johnson's absence, finishing with 7 catches for 134 yards and a touchdown on a team-high 9 targets. Tate now has put together back-to-back 100-yard performances and is on pace for 1,014 yards and 3 touchdowns. He's a WR2 with WR1 upside in a high-powered offense riddled with injuries to receivers and running backs.

The rushing game was non-existent for both teams, with both teams combining for a little over 100 yards rushing. Fred Jackson was the top rusher for Buffalo, finishing with 10 carries for 49 yards while George Winn led Detroit with 11 carries for 48 yards. Expect starter Joique Bell to return as the Lions top rusher in Week 6 after being sidelined with a concussion for Week 5. Jackson remains a solid flex play due to his versatility (he caught 7 passes for 58 yards as well).

Rookie Sammy Watkins continued to impress for Buffalo, catching 7 passes for 87 yards on a team-high 12 targets. He's a WR2/3 going forward but will likely be hampered by the Bills' situation at quarterback. Speaking of, Kyle Orton finished 30-of-43 for 308 yards, one touchdown and one interception.

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