This week, we'll discuss the following topics:
Teams Returning From Byes
In Week 10, some defenses performed well against opponents that looked to have a significant matchup advantage. This included Baltimore holding Jacksonville's passing game relatively in check, Detroit keeping Green Bay to a modest performance, and Kansas City shutting down Denver. Is using a D/ST coming off a bye week a viable strategy?
Chris Feery: While I wouldn’t call defenses coming off their bye week an automatic play or avoid, I definitely think it’s a factor to be cognizant of – especially if there are other factors that may have affected the respective team heading into or during the bye week. For example, the Chiefs went into their bye week on a high note after absolutely thrashing the Lions in London. They came out of the bye week to face the Broncos, a team that had pulled of an improbable comeback victory over the Chiefs back in Week 2. In hindsight, the Chiefs were an outstanding contrarian play at defense last week as we had a pumped-up Chiefs squad facing a struggling Broncos offense with an aging, banged-up quarterback behind center.
Looking ahead to this week, we have the Falcons, Colts, Chargers, and 49ers coming in off of their bye weeks. Of these four teams, the Falcons look like they could be one of those defenses we may want to avoid. They went into their bye week after losing two close games to the Buccaneers and 49ers, taking their record from an impressive 6-1 to 6-3. They will welcome a Colts team to town that will be starting their backup quarterback, which has to be slightly deflating as they finally looked like they were putting things together in their Week 9 victory over the Broncos right before their bye. The Falcons defense has two big fantasy performances under their belts in 2015 – Week 4 versus the Texans and Week 5 against Washington – both of which came at home. In short, the Colts may be a team to avoid this week while the Falcons defense should be kept on the radar as an interesting play for this week.
Justin Howe: Chris nailed the Falcons defense, an underrated squad that's limited some good offenses. So I'll go contrarian and point out that the 49ers defense is rested and coming off of a thoroughly impressive showing against Devonta Freeman (12 carries, 12 yards) and the Falcons. Marshawn Lynch is hobbled, while Seattle's passing game is relatively anemic and not producing points. The Seahawks may control the flow of that game, but with the front line stacked by a rested defense, it's hard to expect them to match the 411 yards or 20 points they posted three weeks ago.
Scott Bishchoff: I see the defense coming off of the bye as a small picece of the puzzle, perhaps a tiebreaker of sorts if that makes sense. I've never given much consideration to a team coming off of a bye unless there is another factor there. For example, if a vital part of the defense has been missing and is returning after the bye, then yes, it is something I definitely consider.
My thinking is that we've seen these defenses for nine weeks now, and they are what they are.
John Lee: This is an interesting observation over the past week or two and merits further discussion, for sure. It certainly is not surprising that defenses improve coming out of a bye week; the added rest and preparation time surely make a major difference for those teams. That said, no amount of rest and/or extra preparation will make certain defenses legitimate in a week's time. For instance, when the Saints return in Week 12 (next week), I will be looking to target them and their new defensive coordinator with the Texans offense because the talent is just not there on the Saints' side of the ball beyond Delvin Breaux).
This week, the Chargers, Falcons, Colts, and 49ers return from their bye weeks, and none of them are attractive DFS options. The Chargers will host the Chiefs, who just embarrassed the Broncos by running Charcandrick West all over their very good defense; San Diego's defensive front pales in comparison to Denver, so it is difficult to imagine them shutting down the volume-laden West. The Colts will travel to Atlanta to play the Falcons, who have the second highest implied team total (26.5) on the entire slate. Vontae Davis might be able to slow down Julio Jones, but the Colts have no answer for Freeman. The 49ers are not an option against the Seahawks at home. Seattle's team total is just a notch below the Falcons at 26.25 and this game, on paper, appears to be a complete blowout. If you are going to consider a defense off the Week 10 bye, I guess the Falcons are a potential GPP play because they will be playing at home against a backup quarterback (Matt Hasselbeck); the Falcons are averaging 9.8 fantasy points per game at home versus only 4.4 fantasy points as the visiting team. If we are buying into the premise that the week off helps a defense, this would appear to be a spot to exploit.
Volume Meets Volume
Mike Evans has 12, 9 ,19, and 13 targets in his last four games. Does Evans' volume plus the volume that generally comes as a result of Philadelphia's fast-paced style make Evans a value play?
Justin Howe: Evans is no longer a value play at $7,300, but it's time to treat him as the target hog and the absurd physical specimen he is. Evans' target dominance isn't just due to Vincent Jackson's absence, as he drew 25 targets in Weeks 3 and 4. He's the offensive focal point, and progression toward the mean is likely. While I'm worried about his touchdown potential at the moment -- Jameis Winston is struggling mightily in the red zone -- that's a very gifted pairing there. In a high-volume game that'll likely be script-neutral, they have plenty of chances to hit on big plays. And what's great is that those big plays wouldn't be necessarily needed, considering the monster floor Evans carries with these huge target expectations.
Chris Feery: I agree with Justin: Evans is no longer a value play after crossing the $7,000 threshold. However, the expected pace of the game and the fact that he will receive a heavy amount of targets makes him an intriguing target for this week. As Justin mentioned, the Buccaneers red zone struggles are a bit concerning, as are the amount of balls that Evans has dropped of late. That being said, the Buccaneers should be able to put some points on the board for what could be a relatively high-scoring game. If Evans can haul in at least half of what comes his way, he should be able to pay off his salary of $7,300.
Scott Bischoff: It's tough to consider any player priced at $7,300 a value, but Evans is one of the players I am rostering because of the points Justin brings up. I do consider him to be a value. I'm in agreement with Justin in relation to Evans' floor, target volume, and his ability to physically dominate the opposition. I think it's a matter of time before the levee breaks and Evans goes off for a multiple score game.
Evans scored 12 touchdowns last year as a rookie, but 10 of them came in his last nine games. He is a streaky player to be sure, but it's hard not to see him as a value with the kind of targets that he's seeing. I'm rostering him because of his ability to score in bunches combined with the number of targets he'll be seeing. He's due for a huge game, and I see this game versus Philadelphia as a very positive matchup for him. Evans is the kind of player that could win games for fantasy owners in Week 11.
John Lee: It seems unanimous. "Value play" may not be the appropriate term for Evans at a $7,300 salary, but he is getting too much volume in the Buccaneers offense to ignore. Over the past month, Evans has 53 targets and 100+ receiving yards in three out of four games; the only game he did not post triple digit yardage was against the league's second rated (by ProFootballFocus) coverage cornerback, Desmond Trufant. In Week 11, Evans will line up across from average defenders in Nolan Carroll and Byron Maxwell, while avoiding the Eagles best coverage man in the slot, Malcolm Jenkins. Furthermore, neither Austin Seferian-Jenkins nor Jackson have yet to practice leading into Week 11; if neither receiver practices by Friday, look for Evans to see another 15 targets, which should result in yet another 100-yard performance.
Sanchez in Play?
Prior to shutting down Matt Cassel in Week 10, Tampa Bay had allowed multiple passing touchdowns in five straight games. At the quarterback site minimum of $5,000, is Mark Sanchez worth a start against Tampa Bay this week? If so, in which format(s) will use him?
Justin Howe: Sanchez is on the GPP table, sure, mixed in with about five other minimum-salaried QBs for my consideration. He's not a demonstrably better option than the likes of Alex Smith, Teddy Bridgewater, or Jameis Winston, and he's no lead-pipe lock for even a competent start. But where Sanchez stands out is in his projected volume. Based on his and Sam Bradford's numbers over the last four weeks, I project Sanchez to throw 40.6 passes; only two guys (Philip Rivers and Matt Ryan) project for more. That volume gives him a solid floor, and while I question his real upside - he's not very good, and his receivers aren't particularly explosive - I'm even comfortable with a cash game Sanchez play, assuming it lands desirable value elsewhere.
Chris Feery: Yes, I think Sanchez is definitely in play this week and may even provide a spark for the Eagles offense. For $5,000, I’m comfortable playing him as either a cash game or GPP target, with a slight preference towards rolling with him in a GPP. Sanchez performed admirably in 2014 when thrust into the starting role and delivered seven games with multiple touchdowns and four 300+ yard passing performances. I’m not sure that we see 300 yards from him this week, but 250 yards and a couple of scores puts him at 18 points – certainly doable and a nice return for a $5,000 salary.
Scott Bischoff: These are good points made here by Justin and Chris. There are three reasons why I'd consider playing Sanchez in either format. The first is because of the flexibility his low price gives to the other aspects of your roster. The second is because of the offense the Eagles run; and the third is simply because they draw the Buccaneers at home.
In 2014, Sanchez played in nine games for the Eagles and had six multi-touchdown games. He passed for 14 touchdowns and threw for 2,418 yards to go with 87 yards rushing and a score. I agree that it's tough to see a huge game coming from Sanchez, but because of his floor in the Eagles passing game combined with this matchup, I can see a reason to start him this week in either format.
John Lee: Scott nailed it. Sanchez had a decent, if not solid, 2014 campaign with largely the same offense. If he was able to score multiple touchdowns in nearly 70% of Eagles' games last year, there really is not a good reason to think he cannot repeat that kind of performance in 2015, particularly with the addition of DeMarco Murray to the backfield. At $5,000, I will definitely be considering Sanchez for my cash games because he needs only 15 points to reach cash game value -- a paltry 250 passing yards and a single touchdown will do it. Truthfully, I expect more out of Sanchez this weekend against the league's 31st-ranked pass coverage unit (per ProFootballFocus) that has allowed the third-most receiving touchdowns in the NFL. I suspect Sanchez will easily reach cash game value, and I would not be surprised if he turns out to be a strong GPP play at low ownership after throwing a key interception at the end of the fourth quarter last Sunday. If his ownership numbers are, indeed, low enough, I will not hesitate to get some Sanchez-Zach Ertz stacks into my GPP lineups in Week 11.
West Goes West
San Diego has allowed five performances of 20 or more fantasy points (half-PPR scoring) to running backs this season. Charcandrick West is seventh in gross fantasy scoring among running backs since he took over for Jamaal Charles in Week 6, and four of the six players ahead of him have played five games to his four. At just $4,500 seems like a lock for any type of lineup.
What exposure will you have to West this week?
Justin Howe: All the exposure, that's how much. Rostering West in cash contests will be a blast, as he's the real deal, a SPARQ-y dual threat who could be more productive than Jamaal Charles in the big chair. Note that the team relied heavily on Knile Davis to spell Charles for varying stretches, but has all but cut ties with Davis since West seized the bellcow role. He excels in both facets of the position and carries strong volume and red zone outlooks, regardless of matchup.
But with West, you'll also have the benefit of chalk, as you'll sink or swim with a hefty chunk of players in your contest. That tends to mitigate the risk, though that "sink" option seems far-fetched against this pathetic defense. Anything less than 100 scrimmage yards and a few cracks at a touchdown would surprise me.
I've learned a few lessons this season on overexposing to even the sexiest matchups, so I'll refrain from using West in a few of my lineups. But he'll likely land in 75% of them.
Scott Bischoff: I agree with Justin on West this week, and the flexibility he gives to the rest of your roster because of his price is too much to pass on. At his price, he needs 100 total yards, a few catches and a score, and he'll get to value. Against the Chargers, I'd say that he's pretty likely to get there.
Justin makes a very good point about overexposing a roster even when a player loookis to be a certainty, and I'd consider his advice to be wise. At the end of the day, West will be in most of my cash lineups, and he'll be in 50% of my lineups for GPP play.
Chris Feery: I will have a lot of exposure to West this week. For those playing a single lineup, I think he makes for a solid staple and building block for that lineup. For those rolling with multiple lineups, I think Justin is in the right ballpark of 75% exposure. West has seized control of the Chiefs backfield and seems fully comfortable in the role of bell cow back. For $4,500, we have a back who will carry the ball 20+ times and be targeted a few times on pass plays. Facing off against a Chargers team that has had their struggles against opposing backs, West looks to be a fantastic play at a low price.
John Lee: I can't envision a scenario where I will not have West in a cash game roster on DraftKings this week. At $4,500, he is grossly underpriced for the type of volume that he has been enjoying in the Chiefs offense. West has 24 or more touches in three consecutive games and will face a rush defense that is allowing the second-most rushing yards per carry on the season (4.9). Our Footballguys projections have West finishing the weekend with approximately 110 all-purpose yards and multiple receptions, which is enough to have him reach cash game value without necessitating the three-point bonus for 100-yards rushing or assuming he will score a touchdown. West will be the most popular owned player on the entire site in cash games. Just put him into your lineups, whether you like him or not. If he does not score the 13 fantasy points needed to reach cash game value, you lose no ground on the 70% of people who will have him with you, but if you fade him and he scores 20 points (entirely possible), it will be difficult to cash in those games.
For GPPs, I will still have about 60-70% exposure to West because I suspect he will be 40-50% owned; I always want to roster players I like at a rate higher than the masses while getting less exposure to players I dislike (when compared to global ownership percentages). If I am entering just one GPP lineup, I think you have to roster West and try to beat the field elsewhere because of his upside and likely ownership.
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