This week, we'll discuss the following topics:
Among the top-10 scoring quarterbacks for Week 7 were Kirk Cousins, Derek Carr, Teddy Bridgewater, Brian Hoyer, Ryan Fitzpatrick, and EJ Manuel. There have been similar instances of non-household names ranking high every week.
Looking at Week 8, which quarterbacks priced outside the top-15 do you think have the best chance to finish top-10?
John Lee: Of the lower-salary quarterbacks this week, I think Ryan Fitzpatrick stands out at $6,000 on FantasyAces. Fitzpatrick should have no trouble reaching cash game value against this Raiders secondary that is allowing a league-high 303.8 passing yards per game through six games. Opposing quarterbacks are averaging 20.9 fantasy points against this unit, and the only quarterback to log fewer than 18 fantasy points against the Raiders was Peyton Manning in Week 5. Furthermore, the Raiders have been stout against the run this season; they are allowing a paltry 84.3 rushing yards per game, which is the third-best rush defense in the NFL. So, while Chris Ivory has been nothing short of spectacular in 2015, this appears to be a spot where we should be looking at Ryan Fitzpatrick, Brandon Marshall, and Eric Decker as fantasy options because the Raiders cornerbacks (D.J. Hayden and Neiko Thorpe) have been beaten by lesser talent quite often this season.
Chris Feery: I’ll second John’s call for Ryan Fitzpatrick. He has a great shot to finish in the Top 10 while facing off with the Raiders secondary. To add another name to the mix, Jay Cutler looks like an intriguing option at the same salary of $6,000. He played pretty well over the Bears last three games heading into the bye week, completing at least 57.8% of his passes and throwing five touchdowns against two picks. The Vikings have allowed multiple passing touchdowns in three games this season. This game just screams letdown to me after their strong showing in last week’s victory over the Lions. Cutler should also have a pretty low ownership percentage, making him a contrarian option with pretty good upside. We saw some great examples last week of teams coming in off their bye week and putting forth a solid offensive performance. The Bears and Cutler could be next in line to make that happen.
Justin Howe: John and Chris nailed Ryan Fitzpatrick, for whom anything less than a top-eight finish would be an upset. I'm still all for Brian Hoyer as well. That run game is no longer one that can be relied upon, and no one has thrown more than Houston all year, so Hoyer will have volume on his side in just about any matchup. Against the Titans, he won't have the same three-touchdowns-in-the-second-half game script as last week's slaughter, but it's not out of the question; the Texans are no great shakes whatsoever and could fall behind to anyone. The bottom line is that Hoyer needs only 17 points to reach cash value or 23 points for a tourney, and he hasn't scored below 23 in any of his last three starts. And with Ryan Mallett gone, his leash is longer, so the low floor he always carried with the threat of a benching is greatly mitigated.
John Mamula: I agree with the analysis of Ryan Fitzpatrick. He is in a good spot playing the Raiders this week. Another low end quarterback that I would target is Alex Smith who has a FantasyAces price of $5,600. The Kansas City-Detroit matchup reminds me of a shoot-out Week 6 game when Detroit beat Chicago in overtime 37-34. Detroit has allowed the second-most total points and the seventh-most passing yards in the league this season. Kansas City pass defense has been awful as well. This game has the potential to be high-scoring with a low ownership percentage for many players. That is the recipe for GPP success. I do not trust Alex Smith for cash games, but he makes an excellent GPP target this week.
Choose one game and describe how you see it playing out. Which players will benefit the most from such a script?
John Lee: Every Tuesday, I put together the Vegas Value Chart (VVC) for our subscribers to help answer this very question. The VVC is a fairly simple but key component of my weekly process because it loosely identifies how the smart folks in Las Vegas see each game playing out. If a team is heavily-favored in a game with a high total, that team's running back would be expected to see additional looks in the backfield in the second half. Likewise, if their opponent is expected to be trailing, you might want to consider that team's passing game. This week, the most obvious gamescript play has to be the rookie sensation, Todd Gurley. Since becoming the bellcow running back in St. Louis three weeks ago, Gurley has not touched the ball fewer than 21 times and has looked incredible in the process. This Sunday, Gurley and the Rams will host the San Francisco 49ers as lofty 8.5-point favorites, which should mean that we will see Gurley toting the ball quite often once again. The matchup is also attractive, as the Niners have given up 18+ fantasy point performances to opposing running backs in over half their games this season. If we take into account the fact that no team has thrown for less yardage than the Rams this season, Todd Gurley looks like a must-play again this week at $6,300 on FantasyAces.
Chris Feery: Atlanta is a seven-point favorite at home against Tampa Bay in a game with a projected total of 48.5 points. The game script calls for the Falcons to be up pretty big and looking to control the clock in the second half. That seems like a pretty safe bet for how this game will play out. The Buccaneers have allowed some big days to opposing quarterbacks this season, including last week when Kirk Cousins threw for 317 yards and three touchdowns. Matt Ryan and Julio Jones, at $6,700 and $6,450 respectively, look to be very strong plays this week and could do plenty of damage. The game sets up very well for Devonta Freeman, who cooled off a little last week but still produced 120 combined yards. Freeman should have a hand in building up the lead and will also get the nod when it’s time to run some clock. For $6,000, he provides great value with tremendous upside.
Justin Howe: Vegas likes Steelers-Bengals to explode offensively (its total has crept up to 48 points) and I tend to agree. These are two potent offenses facing leaky, familiar defenses. The Bengals are 6-0, but have allowed 19+ points in five of those games and 350+ passing yards twice; they're a reminder that even great teams surrender yardage and touchdowns in garbage time. So, with a great offense on the other side of the ball, pretty much any game script favors plenty of scoring both ways.
Quite frankly, I'm open to rostering anyone in this game. Ben Roethlisberger's return obviously bumps everyone's value in that offense, even that of LeVeon Bell. He desperately needs some attention pulled off the line of scrimmage to get back to that 4x ceiling he always has. Antonio Brown, of course, will soar back to WR1 value; he averaged a 8-123-0.5 line against the Bengals last year and looks like the value play of the week. On the other side, I see value in any Bengals player. The Steelers' relative success on defense thus far has sprung from a sporadically productive pass rush, which likely won't rattle the quick-armed Andy Dalton. A.J. Green and Marvin Jones look strong enough to hold value against weak Steelers cornerbacks, while at least one running back should find some outside success and/or the end zone; they're both decent GPP plays.
John Mamula: San Diego travels to Baltimore as a 3.5-point underdog with a game total of 50 points. Both of these teams struggle on defense. San Diego has allowed the second-most rushing yards and is ranked fourth in total points allowed. Justin Forsett should feast on this defense. Baltimore's defense has allowed the fourth-most passing yards and the fifth-most total points. This sets up perfectly for the NFL's passing leader, Philip Rivers, who is 398 yards ahead of the next ranked quarterback, Tom Brady. Rivers has multiple touchdowns in six out of seven games this season. Rivers is a great cash game quarterback at a FantasyAces price of $7,000.
Detail between one and three "Punt Plays" that you like this week who will produce but also provide salary relief in order to allow you to fit some high-dollar players in your lineup as well.
Chris Feery: Each week, there is plenty of value to be found to help round out your rosters. This week is no different, and we can find an intriguing option at each of the skill positions. At running back, we have Darren McFadden at a price of $4,500. Joseph Randle is expected to be out, and Christine Michael has yet to see much time with the Cowboys. McFadden was phenomenal last week with 162 combined yards and a touchdown. There is some risk due to the matchup with the Seahawks, but McFadden still has a solid chance to provide a 3x return on his salary.
Willie Snead is second on the Saints in targets for the season and comes in at a price of $4,200. The Saints matchup with the Giants has one of the highest projected totals of the week at 49 points, calling for a pretty strong chance that we will see both offenses airing the ball out a bit. Snead leads the Saints in receiving yardage but has only found the end zone once this season. For a price of $4,200, we can buy a highly targeted receiver in a potentially high-scoring game. If Antonio Gates is out this week as expected, Ladarius Green will be a tremendous value play at $4,100. Green has found the end zone in consecutive games and been targeted 13 times over the past two weeks.
Justin Howe: I agree that Snead remains a fine bargain at $4,200. He's been a top punt option all year and has responded by drawing the second-most targets in New Orleans. He lacks a great touchdown outlook, but is a downfield-adept youngster with the volume to give him a true WR3 floor.
Brian Hoyer is becoming a garbage-time king. Last week, he maximized the game flow of a 41-0 deficit and threw three second-half TDs. 41-0 doesn't look likely against the floundering Titans, but with Arian Foster gone and an uninspiring cast of replacement backs, Hoyer retains an awesome volume outlook that'll be made even sexier with any second-half deficit at all.
John Lee: Sometimes, the answer to the question is "There is no answer."
To their credit, Trent and the guys at FantasyAces nailed the pricing algorithm this week; there is very little in the way of punt plays that could be used to spend up elsewhere. I constructed a cash game lineup, and the cheapest player I could find that I was somewhat comfortable putting into that game was Michael Floyd at $4,500. Floyd should be the Arizona WR2 this week because John Brown is still nursing his hamstring issue; the Cardinals have a bye next week and come back in mid-November against the Seahawks, which leads me to believe they will give him an extra week of rest this week, as they probably do not need him to beat the lowly Browns.
That should open up additional opportunity for Floyd, but it does not mean that he is a bargain at $4,500. It just means that he is an acceptable punt play to allow you to try to get a more expensive player like Devonta Freeman into your lineup. The other player I would consider at the lower level of pricing is Stefon Diggs at $4,550; he has been enjoying significant volume in the Vikings passing attack and will get a prime matchup against a Bears secondary that has yielded the second most receiving touchdowns this season. But to be clear, with both Floyd and Diggs, their pricing is 'fair' and not necessarily a 'bargain.'
BJ VanderWoude: John nailed it; the pricing is getting tighter each week as more data points become available to analyze. With that said, here are a couple of plays I am considering for Week 8:
Antonio Andrews ($4,100)
Dexter McCluster ($3,800)
Lamar Miller gashed the Texans for 236 total yards in last weeks game, exposing a defense that has struggled to stop opposing running backs in passing situations. Houston has allowed three different running backs to score on receptions. Andrews and McCluster are seeing the bulk of the passing downs and will see a steady volume of work with Zach Mettenberger slated to start his second consecutive game.
Travis Benjamin ($4,450)
Benjamin continues to be underpriced given his production through the first seven games. He's averaging five catches for 82 yards per game, with four touchdowns on the year. Arizona has had trouble stopping deep threat receivers with skill sets similar to Benjamin, giving up 6/137/2 to Martavis Bryant, 6/96/2 to Tavon Austin and 5/78 to Steve Smith. Benjamin already has five games of 75+ yards receiving and has a great chance of earning his sixth with the game script looking like it will force Cleveland to pass for much of the game.
John Mamula: I agree with John and BJ. The FantasyAces pricing has gotten tighter, and value plays are not jumping off the page as they did in previous weeks. Here are a couple of plays that I am targeting for Week 8:
Stefon Diggs ($4,550)
Diggs has emerged as the go-to receiver in the Vikings offense over the past three weeks with at least nine targets per game. He has delivered with at least six receptions per game and should see similar opportunity this week. The Bears defense has allowed a league leading 29.8 points per game. Diggs is a solid cash game play this week on FantasyAces.
Chris Johnson ($4,950)
Johnson is the second leading rusher in the league with 567 yards. Johnson has three 100+ yard games and three touchdowns on the season. He has been doing quite well for a player that wasn't even on the team until mid-August. Johnson has a prime matchup with the league's worst rush defense. Cleveland has allowed 151 rushing yards per game this season. Johnson makes a great RB2 or flex start this week on FantasyAces.
Returning From Bye Weeks
In Week 7, every team coming off of a bye week had an above average-to-great offensive performance. Dallas ran well with Darren McFadden; Oakland crushed San Diego; St. Louis ran all over Cleveland; and Tampa Bay got Jameis Winston and Mike Evans on track.
Which team returning from a Week 7 bye week (Chicago, Cincinnati, Denver, or Green Bay) will have the best offensive showing in Week 8? Which players from those teams will shine?
John Lee: The Broncos and Packers will actually play one another in Denver on Sunday night, and I expect the Broncos to control the flow of this game with their stifling defense. With Peyton Manning laboring with every pass, the Broncos do not want to get into a shootout with Aaron Rodgers and company; fortunately, the Broncos' strength has been their defense, and I fully expect them to keep the Packers' powerful offense somewhat contained. To expect the Broncos to come out firing would be laughable, as every aspect of their offense has looked pedestrian to this point in the season.
The Bears could exit the bye week and exhibit some offensive success against the Vikings, but their offense will be erratic most of the year and this particular matchup does not appear to be overly enticing; Vegas tends to agree with that sentiment, setting the team total for the Bears at only 21 points.
For me, the standout offense that could hit the ground rolling after their bye week is Cincinnati. The Bengals have been clicking on all cylinders since September and entered their bye week with a perfect 6-0 record. Coming out of the bye, they will take the short trip to Pittsburgh, where they have registered an embarrassing 1-4 record over the previous five years. This year's Bengals offense has matured, however, and it is difficult to envision a scenario where the Steelers can contain the the diverse skill sets that man this offense; Giovani Bernard and Jeremy Hill are both capable of performing bellcow duties and could be the RB1 for many teams, whereas the receiving corps has speed, size, and great hands. The Steelers have put a "bend but don't break" defense on the field this season and they have allowed a respectable 18.7 points per game to opposing offenses (seventh in NFL), despite allowing 376.6 total yards of offense per game, which is 24th in the league. In other words, the Steelers have been able to slow down their opponents inside the redzone, but this Bengals offense might prove to be too talented to slow down.
Justin Howe: I do think we could see an unexpectedly lively Packers-Broncos matchup as both teams come fresh out of a week off. But out of those teams returning from their bye weeks, I expect a big offensive performance most strongly from the Bengals. As John points out, they're a diverse offense that maximizes Andy Dalton's strengths, with dynamic wideouts and backs that simply win matchups. The Steelers pass defense hasn't been quite as targetable as we'd expected this offseason, but it's still a pretty talent-deprived unit that likely can't keep pace with A.J. Green and Marvin Jones. I also second what John brought up about the red zone. The Bengals are getting there a ton and having serious success at breaking the plane, in both facets of offense.
All told, I prefer their pass-game options a bit to their backs. That'll cover any success they have in a negative game script, as well as the big plays they've produced all season in building a positive one. The running back situation remains muddy, and although both guys have standalone GPP value, investing there in a cash game only looks likely to benefit from one specific type of game.
John Mamula: The two offenses that are coming off a bye that stand out to me are Chicago and Cincinnati. Both have good matchups and should be able to light up the scoreboard. As I mentioned in Question 1, the Chicago-Kansas City game has the potential to be a shootout with low ownership percentages for both quarterbacks. I am targeting a Jay Cutler-Alshon Jeffrey stack for GPPs. Andy Dalton has turned the corner this season with a 67.4 completion percentage and 293 passing yards per game. Dalton has multiple touchdowns in five out of six games this season. A healthy Tyler Eifert has helped to open up the entire offense. I am a Steelers fan, but I am also a realist. This is a different Cincinnati team coming into Pittsburgh this Sunday. Pittsburgh has allowed the fifth most passing yards (1,938) in the league this season. Dalton should be able to rack up the passing yards in this matchup.
Chris Feery: As John mentioned, I think the Broncos and Packers game will see the two teams offset one another, and I don’t see much in the way of offensive fireworks from either side. The Bears are intriguing coming in off of their bye week. Jay Cutler has actually played pretty well in the three weeks leading onto the bye, including a 353-yard, one touchdown outing against the Lions in Week 6. The Vikings are coming in off of their finest performance of the season in Week 7’s victory over the Lions. Look for Cutler and the Bears to come in rejuvenated off of the bye while the Vikings may be due for a classic letdown game. The Bengals could be another offense that shines this week. Andy Dalton is playing at another level this season, and the Steelers have had their fair share of struggles against opposing quarterbacks. This should be a fun game to tune into, especially if Ben Roethlisberger is able to play.
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