This week, we'll discuss the following topics:
Beyond the Box Score
Arizona receiver John Brown had a relatively slow day in Week 2 with just five receptions for 45 yards. Brown did, however, draw pass interference penalties of 42 and 38 yards. Provide a similar example of a player making big play(s) that didn’t show up in the box score but might be indicative of big things to come in Week 3.
Dan Hindery: This type of content is covered in-depth in the game recaps that Sigmund and the team do each week. [Moderator's Note: one the things I am most proud of as a Footballguys Staffer is that we don't regurgitate box scores to our readers. Game Recaps is how I got on staff and how I cut my teeth my first two years. Anyone can read box scores. These recaps tell the actual story.]
I wrote up the Baltimore-Oakland game, and I know Steve Smith, Sr. should have caught a touchdown near the end, but a terrible throw from Joe Flacco forced him to leap and rotate his body and only get one foot down in bounds. Michael Crabtree drew a pair of pass interference penalties, one in the end zone. Both had huge days that could have been even bigger.
Justin Howe: I know Steve Johnson has a huge game coming. I'm thinking it will be something similar to Keenan Allen's Week 1. The Chargers are using him all over the short and intermediate zones and putting the ball in his hands, so he's often a block or a spin away from a chunk play. The fact that they're throwing to him like this in the red zone is just awesome. The great thing about guys like Johnson is that what they give up in end zone dominance, they can make up in open-field ability. Full-time receivers who see action in the screen and slant games have big weekly upsides in PPR formats, but come much cheaper than beloved, occasional dominators like Calvin Johnson and A.J. Green.
Johnson is still a serious DFS bargain, and his salary upside is capped; with so many other sporadic options in San Diego, he'll never be a high-salaried guy. But Johnson has an acceptable floor, with the potential to provide matchup-proof value with his team's most stable, predictable role, a la Julian Edelman or Jarvis Landry.
Hindery: If we don’t mind taking this a slightly different direction [Moderator's Note: of course not, speak freely!], I’m really intrigued with the Denver Broncos passing game matchup with Detroit. We saw San Diego in Week 1 complete 35/42 passes against that defense with a ton of shorter passes to Steve Johnson and Keenan Allen. Other teams used that same tactic against the Lions starting about the halfway point of last season (the Patriots destroyed them with that game plan and everyone else started trying to copycat).
It seems like the Lions still haven’t figured out how to stop that kind of high-percentage short passing attack. A dink and dunk passing game is where Peyton Manning really excels and watching the end of that KC-Denver game, it seemed like things finally started to click for the Broncos offense. I could see them coming out and throwing 40+ times and both Emmanuel Sanders and Demaryius Thomas having really big days. There are better cash game options out there, but I love the idea of stacking Manning with one or both of Sanders/Thomas this week in a GPP. The price on Manning has finally come down to the point where he’s not a top 5 QB. And ownership of both Thomas and Sanders is likely to be super low, considering they are close in price to Julio Jones and Antonio Brown.
John Mamula: An under the radar player for Week 3 is Kyle Rudolph vs. the Chargers. Looking at his first two weeks, he has been a consistent target in the passing game. In Week 1 at San Francisco, he had seven targets and five receptions for 53 yards. In Week 2 vs Detroit, he had seven targets and five receptions for 30 yards. The rushing game featuring Adrian Peterson was their focus in Week 2, or Rudolph may have received more targets. The Chargers have allowed a touchdown to a tight end in each of the first two weeks, Eric Ebron in Week 1 and Tyler Eifert in Week 2. I think Rudolph gets in the end zone this weekend.
Dallas has only allowed 106 rushing yards total through two games. Their Week 3 opponent – Atlanta – just lost its best-performing running back for a couple of weeks. On a scale of 1-10 (with 10 being a “must-play”), how much do you want Matt Ryan and Julio Jones in your Week 3 lineups?
Justin Howe: For me, it's about a "5." I'm all about Ryan and Jones, as I always am, but they don't strike me as a no-brainer this week. I'd actually rather roster Ben Roethlisberger-Antonio Brown or Tom Brady-Julian Edelman as far as stacks go. I project a solid game for Jones, but the narratives that are making folks salivate this week don't mesh with my expectations. Dallas seems unlikely to push the pace with Brandon Weeden under center, and I figure this game scores much lower than Vegas predicts. Ryan and Jones should hook up voluminously, but not to the otherworldly degree that DFS players are expecting. As a result, I think Jones is a great play but a bit weaker than the narratives suggest.
Dan Hindery: While the Dallas run defense has been very good, so has the passing defense. Eli Manning was held to 193 yards, no touchdowns and only 5.36 yards per attempt. Sam Bradford was held to 224 yards, one touchdown, two interceptions, and a 6.05 yards per attempt average. The conclusion here may just be that the Dallas defense is developing into a unit that we should avoid in daily fantasy matchups. If we assume that Atlanta won’t have much success on the ground, then we also have to assume that Dallas will be able to pin their ears back and rush Matt Ryan (who plays behind a suspect offensive line). You can never go wrong throwing Julio Jones into a GPP, but he still wouldn’t be my first choice this week if I had the ability to pay up. I’d be looking at Antonio Brown, Odell Beckham and maybe even Demaryius Thomas ahead of Jones.
So at nearly the same price, it sounds like you guys would much rather pair Pittsburgh's dynamic passing game duo than Atlanta's?
Howe: The Rams have faced Russell Wilson and Kirk Cousins, neither a prolific passer and neither with a downfield weapon like Brown. The Rams "boast" an awful group of cornerbacks, so I expect a few big connections through man coverage. (This would be a fantastic Martavis Bryant matchup.) They allowed Wilson to complete 32 of 41 passes, including 19 completions to the underwhelming trio of Jermaine Kearse, Doug Baldwin, and Tyler Lockett. Washington didn't test them much downfield, but Cousins completed 22 of 27 throws and left plenty of yardage on the field. The fact that speed-deficient Ryan Grant torched the secondary for a painfully wide-open deep ball could be a harbinger.
Besides, Roethlisberger-Brown has become a nearly matchup-proof stack. Brown is borderline dominant on all levels of the field and in the red zone; even a matchup with a shutdown cornerback would set him up with a low-end WR1 floor.
BJ VanderWoude: Antonio Brown is match up proof. I don't think there is a scenario (opposition wise) where I would be worried enough to sit him. Perhaps he would be a fade if he went against Darrelle Revis, but even then Julio Jones and/or Odell Beckham Jr would need to have incredible match ups to sway me.
I don't think his overall production goes down much, if any at all, with the return of LeVeon Bell. There may be a small reduction in targets, but that should equal out with defenses forced to respect the run and Brown having some more room to operate down the field. Roethlisberger gets a small but meaningful boost in value, while Brown stays level with where he is now. With a great run game to take the pressure off, Roethlisberger is now my QB4 behind Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, and Andrew Luck. I will lower my otherwise high exposure to Roethlisberger this week with other plus match-ups on the slate, but he will be an every week play going forward for me.
Brown is by far the most consistent receiver in the league, possessing the highest floor. This past week, Brown scored in double digits for the 40th consecutive game, while also scoring 20+ points in nine consecutive games and averaging 24.5 points over his last 18 games.
Looking over his game logs, his output does regress slightly on average when facing top defensive units, but I think that is more of a function of him absolutely destroying weak defenses. I would start him with confidence. Roethlisberger is locked in on him.
Jeff Pasquino: I think we covered this pretty well, but I'll still echo the thoughts here that I would certainly take Antonio Brown over Julio Jones (though both are solid plays). I think the floor is higher for Brown this week (and possibly most weeks), but I think Jones has a better shot at scoring this week because Ryan knows that Jones was just inches away from scoring against the Giants.
Howe: I always give Brown a small bump over Jones due to their red zone roles. Jones isn't a dominator near the goal line, always checking in with subpar red zone usage and efficiency. On any given week he's the chalk pick to lead the league in catches and yards, but touchdowns swing a contest like nothing else, so a guy like Jones with (relative) TD deficiencies usually tempers his value a bit behind the rest of the tier.
Hindery: The point about touchdowns Justin made is an interesting one and I think if you look at the history of the X-receiver in Kyle Shanahan’s offense, he has always averaged 10+ targets per game, but never been a big touchdown scorer. Pierre Garcon saw 184 targets under Shanahan in Washington back in 2013, but only scored five times. Andre Johnson had back-to-back seasons of 170 targets with Shanahan as OC and never scored double-digit touchdowns. I think that history combined with Jones’ personal history lends credence to what Justin was saying. That two touchdown performance in Week 1 might have skewed perception a bit in terms of Jones’ week-to-week touchdown projections.
John Mamula: I agree with the discussion on this topic. On a scale of 1-10, I would give a Matt Ryan-Julio Jones stack a "4" this week and a Ben Roethlisberger/Antonio Brown stack a "7." The Dallas defense is better than most give them credit for. While some offenses have adopted the fast pace offense system, it seems that Dallas has done the opposite. They have dominated time of possession through the first two games with 37 minutes in Week 1 and 40 minutes Week 2. Dallas takes their time on offense and strives to keep moving the chains. This keeps their defense off the field and rested. They held Odell Beckham to 5 receptions for 44 yards week 1. I would not rush to get Matt Ryan and Julio Jones into my lineups this week.
Antonio Brown and the Steelers offense are matchup proof. Brown is uncoverable even in double coverage. 21 points Week 1 in New England may be their lowest scoring week of the season. This offense has the potential to hang 30+ points on the scoreboard every week. Barring injury, Roethlisberger will end up a top 5 QB and Antonio Brown will end up a top 2 WR this season.
So is there anyone in the Atlanta-Dallas game that's an interesting play?
Pasquino: That game could go a number of ways, including several ugly game scripts much like Dallas-Philadelphia last week. I wouldn't bank on either team, although Lance Dunbar will be a strong consideration for me with PPR value, especially if Jason Witten is out.
The most interesting thing for me for Atlanta this week will be to see how much Leonard Hankerson is involved against Dallas. If he sees comparable targets to Roddy White, Hankerson will be a sneaky option going forward.
Pittsburgh allowed 335 passing yards and two touchdowns in Week 2 and 288 passing yards and four touchdowns in Week 1. Nick Foles is the next quarterback to get a crack at one of the NFL’s worst secondaries. Are you confident enough to play Foles in cash games and load up elsewhere?
Justin Howe: Foles is more of a GPP play to me, as he's not especially good and lacks consistent playmakers in his offense. But he could be in line for the best stat line of his 2015 against a truly sorry pass defense. The Steelers lack both a pass rush and formidable cornerback play, and the safeties are stretched far too thin when asked to provide over-the-top coverage. We've seen some truly mediocre passing games light up the sky in this matchup, so any opposing QB projects to at least a moderate efficiency and scoring bump.
John Mamula: Foles is strictly a GPP option. I do not trust Foles or any of the Rams receiving options in my cash games. The Steelers weakness is in the secondary but I would not dismiss their front seven in this matchup. The Rams offensive line has been their main weakness through the first two games. Foles looked panicked under pressure in the Washington game. On multiple plays, he did not have time to set his feet to get the ball downfield. The Steelers have the potential to put similar pressure on Foles. However, I was surprised to see the over-under at 47.5 for this game. I expected it to be around 44-45 points. This tells me that Vegas expects this to be a high scoring game.
BJ VanderWoude: As John mentioned, Foles is strictly a GPP option for me. His floor has not yet been established, making him a very unstable option for cash games. Furthermore, the Rams will at least have Tre Mason (and most likely Tre Mason and Todd Gurley) this weekend, and every week that goes by they become more and more of a running team.
Dan Hindery: I think we have to take a closer look at how those stats were put up against the Steelers defense to provide some context here. The Steelers held San Francisco to 103 yards and only three points in the first half and cruised into halftime with a 29-3 lead. The entire second half was essentially garbage time and Colin Kaepernick was able to have some success. But the big passing totals against the Steelers in Week 2 were more a result of game script than poor play. When the game was close, the Steelers defense shut down the 49ers passing offense. Similarly, the Week 1 defensive performance that gave up 288 passing yards in New England is not particularly surprising or disappointing from the Steelers’ perspective. The Patriots look like they are going to have one of the league’s best passing offenses and will probably average more than 300 yards passing per game at home. So the Steelers’ performance was basically average or better in Week 1 against that high-powered offense.
Jeff Pasquino: I tend to agree with Dan. Are these numbers built upon a team playing catch-up on the scoreboard, and Pittsburgh playing off? I think so, at least against San Francisco as Dan points out. I'm not at all confident in Nick Foles. I think the game script that most likely leads to a big (or even good) day for Foles involves a big lead for the Steelers early in the contest, and I would not bank my roster on that.
Howe: I'm not necessarily playing Foles or any other lower-tier opponent just for the sake of it. But I do expect most quarterbacks to have one of their better games of the season when facing the Steelers. Dan, you bring up some great points about context/perspective, but that defense is working on a pretty strong sample size of high yardage. Down the 2014 stretch, they allowed big yardage games to the likes of Mike Glennon, Zack Mettenberger, Alex Smith, Andy Dalton, and Cam Newton. Since the start of last season, only the Eagles have allowed more pass plays of 40+ yards. The secondary has only gotten worse as there's still no real talent at cornerback, early pick Senquez Golson is on Injured Reserve, and Troy Polamalu's departure hasn't been filled one bit by the wildly overpaid Mike Mitchell. The pass rush still looks pretty anemic. And the improvement of the run defense all but guarantees a pass-heavy game script from their opponents.
It's not that Foles is a recommended play, just that he's likely to produce at his maximum value this week by torching a bad secondary, either by a losing game script or just from start to finish. If Foles is a weekly 15-pt QB, then it might be fair to expect a scoring range of 18-20 in really, really sexy matchups. That makes him intriguing for GPP players who want to punt the QB slot and roster an extra stud. I'd at least consider rostering Foles and Julio Jones rather than, say, Tom Brady and Sammy Watkins.
With the matchup and his price, Foles seems like a nice GPP option, particularly in the two-quarterback format at FantasyAces. If you use him, which of his pass-catcher(s) would stack with him?
Howe: Foles' receivers rotate frequently with their best all-around threat, Brian Quick, still rounding into game shape and inactive the first two weeks. No receiver has topped 13 targets through two games, and no wideout has see more than eight. The most sensible stack here is target leader Jared Cook, the type of athletic tight end that roasts the Steelers (particularly Lawrence Timmons) down the seams and near the goal line. Kenny Britt would also make for a decent GPP dart throw as the primary deep threat against those poor safeties and the Steelers' lack of ball skills.
Hindery: Looking at Week 3 against the the Rams, I see few similarities to the previous contests. First, the Rams passing offense is not close to as powerful as the Patriots. The Rams want to be a run-first team, and Foles is nowhere near the quarterback that Tom Brady is. The Rams WR/TE talent is below average as well. With a Vegas point spread under two, the game projects to be very close too. So it’s unlikely we see the Steelers get out to a huge four-touchdown lead that allows the Rams to rack up a bunch of cheap garbage time stats like the 49ers did. The odds suggest that this game is fairly close the entire way through. In short, I am avoiding the Rams passing game, and I think looking at the Steelers’ defensive performances in context makes the matchup much less attractive.
Mamula: The Rams main two offensive weapons are Tavon Austin and Cook. They have made an effort get the ball in Austin hands this season as he has lined up in the backfield on multiple occasions. Austin is boom/bust player on this team. Cook has been the steadier target. When Foles is under pressure, his first look is to Cook. For GPPs, I prefer a Foles/Cook stack to have multi-touchdown upside.
VanderWoude: Much like Cam Newton this week, I most likely won't be stacking any players with Foles. Their receiving core is a sum of its parts, so it becomes very difficult to predict where a meaningful amount of volume will be spread amongst them. Stacking is a hedge against two players reaching value, but considering Foles is offering quite a bit of salary relief on his own, I feel less inclined to take the risk. The risk/reward proposition doesn't make much sense to me, as their receiving core has a limited ceiling. If I were to stack Foles with another player, it would likely be Cook.
Injuries played a big role in Week 2. Brandon Weeden will start Week 3 for Dallas; Jimmy Clausen will start for Chicago; Devonta Freeman should have the Atlanta backfield most to himself. Which player with an expanded role offers the most value in Week 3?
Justin Howe: LeVeon Bell will certainly have an expanded role as he returns from suspension, but it's hard to value there. Bell is a fine play in terms of expected scoring but is already priced at his upside projection for an in-season return. I'm just as likely to roster Freeman this week, who's not a special runner but should be flushed with opportunity in a fairly volume-happy offense. Nondescript rookie Terron Ward is the new backup and doesn't present a real threat, so I've got Freeman seeing more than 80% of Falcons rushes and catching a handful of passes.
In Dallas, red zone specialist Gavin Escobar could step into a real offensive role this week. Backup tight end James Hanna is already injured, and Jason Witten is dealing with a spate of injuries, making Escobar a possible starter. He's turned a whopping seven of his 22 career catches into touchdowns and brings upside at his near-minimum salary.
Dan Hindery: The player who intrigues me the most this weekend as a beneficiary of injuries is Dallas running back Joseph Randle. He received so much hype over the offseason that his quiet start seems to have soured everyone on him completely. But he has received exactly 19 touches in each of the Cowboys' first two games. With both Tony Romo and Dez Bryant out , I think the Cowboys are going to try to lean heavily upon Randle and their offensive line instead of putting the game on the shoulders of Brandon Weeden. Randle should see an increase in touches from 19 up to 25 or so and is due for a breakout game against a relatively soft Atlanta defense. I like Randle’s chances of rushing for 100 yards and finding the end zone at least once this weekend.
James Starks is a second really intriguing option this weekend if Eddie Lacy is unable to play. The Chiefs have one of the league’s tougher run defenses, so the matchup is daunting. But the Packers offense at home always produces, and Starks’ involvement in the passing game should allow him to rack up some decent yardage totals even if he finds tough sledding trying to pound it between the tackles on the Chiefs loaded front seven. At only $4,650, he is almost a must play if Lacy is indeed held out for Week 3.
Justin mentioned Bell and said he was a stay-away at his price. Are the rest of you treating Bell as such? Or is he a no-brainer RB1 suitable for cash games? Something in-between? If you're not using Bell this week, is it due to matchup, salary, or because you feel you need to see him in action first?
Hindery: I think Bell hits the ground running in Week 3, but it’s a mediocre matchup at best for him in St. Louis. If I am paying up for a top runner, it is either Marshawn Lynch or Adrian Peterson. Lynch has always been a strong bet when the Seahawks are big home favorites like they are this weekend. Peterson looked great in Week 2 and faces a Chargers defense that was gashed by Giovani Bernard last week. Both look like better plays than Bell.
BJ VanderWoude: I am likely to let this week go by before I have any sort of meaningful exposure to Bell. I just want to make sure he is in football shape and doesn't have any mid-game injuries pop up.
With that said, I am looking forward to deploying him in my lineups. The top group of wide receivers is priced $1,300 more, and for that you are getting a small increase in floor, and no increase in ceiling.
Bell scored 14 or more points in every game last year, and 20+ points in seven different games. His ceiling topped out at 30, 31, 39 and 47 points last season. I don't think its fair to see he isn't the focal point of the offense, because his usage ratio is on par with any other top running back (not named DeMarco Murray in a 390 carry year). In 29 career games, he has averaged 18.4 carries and 4.4 receptions.
The top tier is so thin this year, with only Jamaal Charles and Matt Forte catching enough passes to completely offset their poor rushing and no touchdown games. Bell is a welcomed addition to the that tier and will immediately become the most consistent option for me -- one that I will have high exposure to going forward.
Howe: BJ hit the nail on the head there in regards to what Bell can bring. Right now, the safest cash lineups all involve 1-2 of the top wide receiver salaries. I really only cashed last week because I used both Brown and Julio Jones in one lineup and Brown and Odell Beckham Jr in another, while getting just enough fill-in-the-gaps help from Jordan Reed and Steve Johnson. I can't wait to roster Bell and his similar ceilings/floors to those guys and using the savings to chase better mid-level wideouts.
Jeff Pasquino: I agree with Justin and BJ. Whenever you pay up, that floor needs to elevate substantially. For me, that's what I am paying for -- not the top end. I can get guys with high top end potential at lower prices, but if I want to have a "safe" lineup for a cash game, I want consistent production. Right now, that means wideouts seeing 10+ targets a week than can get 100+ yards on those chances. That is Brown and Jones for certain, and then it starts to fall off very quickly.
John Mamula: I am taking a wait and see approach with Bell this week. I want to make sure that he is still receiving the majority of the running back touches (85%+) in the Steelers offense. With most teams in league going to a two or three back committee, it would not surprise me to see DeAngelo Williams get a larger amount of touches than many expect. Williams' performance the first two weeks may have earned him significant amount of touches on a weekly basis. I don't want to pay a premium price for Bell if he is not receiving the majority of the work.
I agree with BJ, Justin, and Jeff. As far as lineup construction, in the past I always believed the need to pay up for QB and one high end RB. I have changed my stance and now think it is safest to pay up for a top tier WR1 especially in cash games. Depending on weekly matchups and salary, I am looking to find a way to get Antonio Brown, Julio Jones, or Odell Beckham into my cash lineup every week. The top WRs have more opportunity to provide a high floor as compared to a top RB.
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Ryan Hester - Moderator