This week, we'll discuss the following topics:
Pick a game on the slate this week and tell us how you think it will play out. Which player(s) will benefit from this script? Which become values?
Scott Bischoff: The Denver Broncos travel to Oakland on Sunday to take on an AFC West divisional opponent. This matchup is intriguing as the Broncos defense should really have its way with the Raiders and second-year quarterback Derek Carr. I can't see the Raiders offense doing much through the passing game in this one with pass rushers DeMarcus Ware and Von Miller screaming in off the edge. One of Carr's biggest weaknesses coming out of college was his inability to deal with pressure, and he'll see plenty of it Sunday. However, it's not just pressure that will be a problem for the Raiders passing game. Cornerbacks Aqib Talib and Chris Harris are the best pair in the game and they should be able to reel in rookie wide receiver Amari Cooper and veteran Michael Crabtree.
On the other side of the ball, I see the Broncos being able to sustain drives via the short passing game by getting the ball into the middle of the field into Emmanuel Sanders' hands. He should have a very big day from a volume perspective. Peyton Manning will take shots down the field to Demaryius Thomas, and he has a chance to have a nice game, as does tight end Owen Daniels. Daniels is entrenched as a primary red zone target for this Broncos team, and the Raiders have been awful versus tight ends in 2015. Expect a score and 60+ yards for Daniels. I'd expect the Broncos to try and get the running game jump started, but in the end, Manning will be exploiting the middle of the field where the Raiders defense is weak.
Justin Howe: New Orleans-Philadelphia seems pretty cut and dried in terms of prognosis: two fast-paced teams will look to outscore each other through the air. Why wouldn't they? Neither running game has been on track, and neither offensive line looks strong. And both defenses "boast" very burnable secondaries with question marks among their top cover men. (Keenan Lewis remains out for the Saints, and Byron Maxwell looks questionable at best across the field.)
Vegas likes these two teams combining for 49 points, the highest projection in two weeks. It's probably not a stretch as these teams look poised to do battle in the air. It may be hard to pinpoint the top receiving production, as both quarterbacks have spread the ball around underneath. But both quarterbacks look like sound cash-game options, and Sam Bradford's price point and sneaky upside make him a solid GPP target as well.
Jeff Pasquino: I like both prime time games this week for a lot of points. San Francisco has a terrible secondary, which will allow Eli Manning and Odell Beckham Jr to attack down the field early and often against the 49ers. On the flip side, the Giants are last in yards against through the air, and while I struggle to endorse Colin Kaepernick, Vernon Davis could have a big performance as the Giants have not stopped tight ends at all year. Charles Clay had over 100 yards last week and a touchdown called back, and Jason Witten, Jordan Reed, and even Jacob Tamme had good numbers against the Giants in the first four weeks. I see the Giants leading 21-14 by the end of the third and then running the ball and clock out in the fourth quarter.
Pittsburgh-San Diego will also be very interesting, as I don't see either team stopping anyone. Pick any skill position starter, and a strong case can be made for them to put up big numbers against a weak defense. Phillip Rivers, Antonio Gates, Keenan Allen, and both Melvin Gordon and Danny Woodhead should have good games. But there is just one ball in this game, so it is hard to say all of them will exceed value with so many mouths to feed. Pittsburgh should give the ball to LeVeon Bell and Antonio Brown all game long, but Darrius Heyward-Bey and even Michael Vick could be solid GPP plays in a game with a high total (45-46 points) and a field goal margin.
BJ VanderWoude: I am intrigued by the Chicago-Kansas City matchup. Both teams are 1-3 on the season, yet Kansas City is a 10 point favorite at home with Vegas setting the over/under at 45. This is a game where I want action on both sides, and what better option than two of the best pass catching backs in the league? This is a matchup where there are several game scripts in play, but all of them favor Jamaal Charles and Matt Forte. If the game is close, both will be heavily involved in the rush/pass game. If the Chiefs happen to go up by 14+ points, Charles will be depended on to control the tempo, and Forte will see a high volume of short targets through the air. The fact that Kansas City and Chicago are both 1-3 cannot be discounted. A win will breathe new life into their respective teams, while a loss would make the road to the playoffs next to impossible. These are the type of games where you lean on your star players, and there is no doubt who the focal point of the offense is on each side. There are rumors circulating that Matt Forte is on the block, which if true, would point to a showcase game with lots of touches for him.
Kansas City has the fifth-worst pass defense in the league, allowing 295.5 yards per game to opposing quarterbacks. Chicago is actually the fourth-best pass defense by yards allowed (189.8), but that is heavily skewed by their offensive troubles and costly turnovers deep in their own territory. This is evidenced by the fact that they have let up the second-most passing touchdowns (10), trailing only Kansas City's defense, which has let up 11 passing touchdowns. Kansas City is third-worst in the league in 20+ yard plays allowed with (17). The Chicago passing defense has their own woes, allowing first downs on 41.8% of opposing pass plays.
On top of all of that, these teams share the dubious distinction of allowing the most points in the NFL through four weeks, (125 points, 31.25 points per game). No other team is within seven points.
Vegas has projected total scoring to be down below average for the second straight week, making it paramount that you choose studs who can maximize their production. I will have quite a bit of exposure to Charles/Forte stacks throughout my lineups.
Oakland vs. Tight Ends
Oakland’s troubles covering tight ends continued in Week 4 as Martellus Bennett’s 11 receptions, 83 yards, and one touchdown actually decreased Oakland’s average Fantasy Points Allowed to the position.
With Denver up next, does this make Owen Daniels a must-play? Or will someone like Emmanuel Sanders, who has been working the middle and seams like tight ends generally do, get a boost from Oakland’s poor coverage?
Justin Howe: Yes, this trend has become a “Real Thing” and deserves our attention. But note that only one of their opponents – Cincinnati in Week 1 – boasted a dynamic number one wideout. Steve Smith remains a fine receiver, but he alone isn't enough to keep his starting tight end from a big day on 45 pass attempts. Not to insult the likes of Crockett Gilmore and Gary Barnidge, but I strongly doubt they would have posted elite TE1 numbers with better competition for targets. And Martellus Bennett's week wasn't exactly game-breaking; the catch total was outstanding, but he did little with them (just 7.5 yards per catch), meaning the Bears were forced to funnel low-volume dump-offs to Bennett all day. That worked great in a talent-deprived Bears lineup missing Alshon Jeffery, but the Broncos don't lack for dynamic receivers. With two target-hog wideouts capable of winning matchups, it's hard to see the Broncos shifting their offense Daniels' way.
So I'm not expecting a monstrous role or reliable production from Daniels. But what's more important to me, and what makes Daniels a real GPP consideration at his low price point, is that he's as entrenched as anyone in the team's red zone plans. He has seen four red zone targets over the past two weeks, scoring twice. The Raiders defense against tight ends has not only hemorrhaged catches and yards but touchdowns as well. As a prime threat near the goal line, facing a defense allowing 1.5 touchdowns per game to some pretty average guys, Daniels looks like the cream of the low-salaried crop at the TE position. He's just far more of a dice roll than Bennett was last week.
Scott Bischoff: I believe that Justin has this one spot on. He has done a nice job of detailing out how Denver will use Daniels in this game and why he shouldn't be looked at to blow the doors off this Sunday. I agree with the sentiment that Daniels is very red zone reliant, and scoring touchdowns is the way Daniels gets to value. At his price though, he should be a fairly good option to get to value in tournament play.
BJ VanderWoude: I agree with both Scott and Justin, as they nailed what can be expected of Daniels based on salary and floor/ceiling.
My immediate thought was that Daniels makes an excellent point-per-dollar play at $2,700. He has scored in consecutive games, so it is more than fair to expect another touchdown based on Oakland's failure to defend the tight end position. With that said, I was not over-enthusiastic about having high exposure to Daniels this week. The talent around him at the skill positions demand a high volume of targets, which severely limits Daniels’ ceiling. With that in mind, I wanted to research target volume for the tight ends who preceded him. I was definitely surprised at the results. The average targets for each tight end excludes their matchup against Oakland.
Martellus Bennett: vs Oakland: 13 targets; Average vs. non-Oakland opponents: 6 targets
Tyler Eifert: vs Oakland: 12 targets; Average vs. non-Oakland opponents: 4 targets
Gary Barnidge: vs Oakland: 10 targets; Average vs. non-Oakland opponents: 4 targets
Owen Daniels: Average: 5 targets
I was limiting Daniels’ upside by assuming his target volume was much lower than his counterparts, but in reality he is higher than Eifert/Barnidge and not far off from Bennett. While Daniels doesn't have the skill set/speed/athleticism of Bennett or Eifert, nor the lack of competition for targets like Barnidge, he does play in a high powered offense with a quarterback who knows how to pick apart the soft spots of a defense. He has multi-touchdown upside this week, and a line of six receptions for 65 yards and two touchdowns would not surprise me.
John Lee: I agree with everything that BJ stated regarding volume of tight ends and how we should be seeking it out for our cash games. However, there may be more to those targets than meets the eye. First, Martellus Bennett's targets seem to be directly proportional to his quarterback (Jay Cutler versus Jimmy Clausen) and the presence/absence of Alshon Jeffery. In this case, I think the stars aligned for a big game against Oakland. I recommended Gary Barnidge in my Tips and Picks article the week that the Browns played the Raiders because of the plus matchup, but more so due to the fact that the Browns did not have a big redzone receiver or even a possession receiver, while his salary was at site-minimum across the industry.
Of the tight ends that have played against the Raiders this year, I think Tyler Eifert is the one whose situation most closely mimics Owen Daniels' opportunity this Sunday. Eifert is on a team that has a slew of weapons and whose offense can move the ball through the air and the ground. On certain Sundays, he will see 10+ targets due to matchup, gamescript, opportunity, etc, but on other Sundays, he is prone to putting up a bad game because guys like Jeremy Hill, Giovani Bernard, and A.J. Green steal his thunder. The Broncos are a similar team in that they are loaded with offensive talent and distribute the ball across that talent. They have two talented running backs in Ronnie Hillman and C.J. Anderson, who will see at least 20-25 combined touches against a team like Oakland; meanwhile, both Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders are target monsters (91 through four games), who will also steal a lot of Daniels' opportunities. Lastly, if I am the defensive coordinator in Oakland, there is no way I am allowing another touchdown to a tight end this week. For these reasons, it might be prudent to look elsewhere for your tight end on Sunday.
Difficult RB Matchups
Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, and Philadelphia have allowed zero rushing touchdowns to running backs this season. Which of those teams (if any) will be the one(s) to yield a rushing touchdown this week? Cincinnati hosts Seattle, Pittsburgh is at San Diego, and Philadelphia hosts New Orleans.
BJ VanderWoude: Of the three, I think Pittsburgh is the most likely to let up a rushing touchdown. The matchup is projected as one of the higher scoring games of the week, and San Diego is operating very efficiently in the red zone. While they may not have an elite red zone option at running back, Danny Woodhead is underrated in that respect, and Melvin Gordon scored 29 touchdowns his senior year at Wisconsin to lead the NCAA in that category. On opportunity alone, I would project them scoring at least one touchdown (combined).
Houston had not allowed a rushing touchdown prior to their matchup against Atlanta this past week. By the time the game was over, they had surrendered three rushing touchdowns to Devonta Freeman. While Freeman is on a touchdown-heater right now, no one would confuse him with Ladainian Tomlinson in his prime. Preventing rushing touchdowns is a combination of defensive discipline, good coaching and luck. Eventually, that luck will run out though, no matter how good your defense is. I expect Pittsburgh's luck to run out when they face the Chargers on Monday Night Football.
Scott Bischoff: I also like the Chargers to score on Pittsburgh at home this week, and I think being at home matters more here than most think. Tight end Antonio Gates returns this week, and he is just another red zone weapon for the Chargers. BJ has pointed out effectively that they have been very efficient this year in this area. I agree with BJ when he says "on opportunity alone" that they're likely to score a rushing touchdown at home against Pittsburgh this week.
Jeff Pasquino: There is no way Seattle is scoring a touchdown on the ground unless Russell Wilson scrambles it in himself. That offensive line looked abysmal against Detroit on Monday Night Football, and even a healthy Marshawn Lynch couldn't fix that.
San Diego does need to get the ground game going, and they have lots of options to do it with now that Gordon is starting to get in the mix with Danny Woodhead. Pittsburgh is the "beaded curtain" this year, and they gave Justin Forsett 150 yards last week. That's my pick.
Justin Howe: When projecting touchdowns, it's essential we first look at red zone trends. Long touchdown runs are relatively rare, so if we're aiming for touchdowns, we need to aim for short runs from guys we project to see plenty of opportunity.
So by elimination, I'll take the Eagles-Saints matchup. Mark Ingram and company have the best outlook to (a) run a lot of plays, (b) find themselves inside the 10 a lot, and (c) feed the ball to Ingram there. The Chargers just don't run the ball near the goal line, and when they do, they use scatback Danny Woodhead. He's a fine role player, but I don't expect a guy like him to buck trends and muscle his way into the end zone. And the Seahawks just don't project well to score on the ground without Marshawn Lynch. Thomas Rawls is a likable young prospect, but he's yet to receive a carry or target within the 10-yard line.
John Lee: Both Cincinnati and Philadelphia enter Week 5 ranking in the top ten in redzone defense, allowing a touchdown only 44.44% and 45.45% of the time, respectively. The Bengals have effectively eliminated their opponents' running backs by building leads early and forcing them to throw the ball (Bengals have led 238 out of 240 minutes); the Eagles, though, have just extended their 2014 domination against the run, where they allowed only 3.7 yards per carry over the course of the season.
The Steelers are probably the worst unit of these three, having allowed 4.0 yards per carry and 113.2 rushing yards per game. In two of those games, they faced the 49ers and Rams, neither of which boasted a strong running back when they played the Steelers. This week, the Steelers face the Chargers and their running back combo of Melvin Gordon and Danny Woodhead. The implied Vegas team total for the Chargers is 24.5 points, the eighth-highest on the board. With injuries to Stevie Johnson and Malcolm Floyd, the Chargers will likely look to the running game more than usual, which could end the Steelers' streak against opposing running backs.
In the two-quarterback spirit of FantasyAces, provide your favorite QB-WR stack and your favorite QB-TE stack this week.
Scott Bischoff: In terms of a QB-WR stack, I'm looking at Eagles quarterback Sam Bradford ($6,300) this week as he takes on the New Orleans Saints at home. Last week I saw Bradford and the offense getting their rhythm and tempo going with Bradford throwing three touchdowns in the second half. He also took a few shots down the field, and this week he gets a team that has surrendered a passer rating of 116.3, highest in the NFL through four weeks.
I like the idea of stacking Bradford with wide receiver Jordan Matthews ($4,850) as I think the Eagles will keep Matthews in the slot and get him into favorable matchups against the Saints secondary. In this half-PPR format, Matthews can get to value in this matchup because the Saints will have their hands full with outside receivers Nelson Agholor and Riley Cooper, tight ends Zach Ertz and Brent Celek and running backs Darren Sproles and Ryan Mathews (assuming DeMarco Murray doesn't play). We can see that the Saints are struggling to defend the pass looking at that passer rating, and this looks like a juicy matchup to me.
For the QB-TE side, the Chicago Bears have given up 10 touchdown passes to opposing quarterbacks in 2015. In Week 5, they travel to take on the Kansas City Chiefs. Quarterback Alex Smith ($5,950) and tight end Travis Kelce ($4,950) are a great stacking option this week at their prices, and they could easily reach value. We've seen the Chiefs struggle to get the ball into the end zone via their wide receivers, and it is fairly obvious that Kelce is a huge weapon in the Chiefs passing offense. This matchup is a juicy one for these two players, and Smith comes into this game with back-to-back weeks of 20+ points in this scoring format. At their prices, I can see each getting to 4x value for fantasy owners in Week 5.
Jeff Pasquino: My favorite QB/WR stack this week is Eli Manning ($6,850) and Odell Beckham Jr ($6,350). San Francisco has the worst secondary in the league, and the Giants are giving up a lot through the air as well this year (32nd overall), so this one could turn into a pass-happy game. I know that Colin Kaepernick is a train wreck right now, but I am still thinking Manning / Beckham for $13,200 combined can stack up to give you 300 yards for Manning and 150 yards and two touchdowns for Beckham.
BJ VanderWoude: I am leaning towards Philip Rivers and Keenan Allen as my preferred stack. The Chargers play the Steelers on Monday Night in what should prove to be a juicy matchup for San Diego. They are playing at home against a defense that is allowing opposing quarterbacks to complete 69% of their passes (3rd-worst in the league). They have also yielded seven passing touchdowns (7th-worst in the league). Rivers is leading the league in passing yards (1,248) and is second in yards per attempt (8.9). Keenan Allen is tied for third in the league with 33 receptions on the strength of 15 and 12 reception games in Weeks 1 and 3.
Rivers and Allen, combined, are averaging 408 yards and 2.75 touchdowns per week, providing a solid base with a top end ceiling. They are a volume play, which should have no problem reaching value against a defense that is allowing opposing offenses to be very efficient.
Justin Howe: The sexiest stack, of course, is Tom Brady-Julian Edelman, but there's not a ton of GPP value there; they're expensive and I'm sure highly owned. Looking down the ladder, I can see myself getting involved in a Jay Cutler-Alshon Jeffery pairing. The bottom line here is a fairly cheap, gunslinging quarterback in a pass-happy offense facing a beleaguered secondary in a game he's likely to trail throughout. Jeffery, who's still considered questionable for Sunday, will be widely ignored by our fellow DFSers. But here's a guy who drew 11 targets in their only full game together, while the rest of the passing game has wheezed along without him; Cutler is a sure bet to pepper his top wideout with targets. Most importantly, Cutler looked his way three times in the red zone in their game together.
I'm still pretty fond of a Tyrod Taylor-Charles Clay stack. Clay is the NFL's highest-paid tight end for 2015, and while there was plenty of offseason concern that he wouldn't be used as such, Taylor seems to be a fan. Clay has drawn 24.2% of Buffalo’s targets – a higher rate than that of Rob Gronkowski, Tyler Eifert, or Jordan Reed – and is being utilized up and down the field. He's clearly Taylor's security blanket but also a dynamic fantasy scorer; he's already found the end zone three times (though one was negated by a chop block penalty). Pricing has caught up with these two, but they present similar outlooks (and less risk) as some even costlier options.
Pasquino: I'm going to build on BJ's list here and go with a sneaky QB-TE option with San Diego – Rivers and the returning-from-suspension Antonio Gates ($4,350). The Steelers have given up the fifth most points to tight ends this year. With the defense focusing on Allen outside but the Chargers possibly without both Stevie Johnson (hamstring) and Malcom Floyd (concussion, but making progress), Gates could have a very strong return to action. If he gets a respectable five catches for 65 yards and a score, that's easily over 3x and close to GPP value for Gates.
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