You guys have a ton of articles.
This statement about Footballguys is a blessing but it can feel like a curse. Our staff delivers insights that change seasons for the better yet realistically, no fantasy owner has the time to read everything we publish in a week.
If this describes you, let me be your scout. Here are five insights from Footballguys articles that I find compelling for the weekend ahead. I'll share what should help you this week, touch on the long-term outlook, and sometimes offer a counterargument.
Normally, The Best Of focuses on mainstream plays. But if you've made it to Week 15, you're among the best in your league and many of you have been writing me about players who weren't headliners on draft day, but you're hoping can take you to Week 16. We'll look at a few of those, plus a player and a team that our staff feels strong about this weekend.
Dixon's fantasy delivery now open for business?
We've waited all year for this and to my surprise, many of you who were patient with Dixon are still alive in the playoffs and wonder if it's time to break the seal, if you already haven't. Dixon's 19-carry, 81-yard, 1-TD performance in New England was the positive his fantasy teams were seeking.
Despite two dropped passes and less than four yards per carry, Dixon's box score doesn't reflect that New England needed multiple attempts to bring the rookie to the ground with the majority of his carries and that some of his attempts were short-yardage situations—including an ill-advised running play from Baltimore's own goal line resulting in a safety.
Does our staff believe Dixon's Fantasy Delivery Service will be open and productive in Philly? Ryan Hester believes things are pointing upward for Dixon in this week's Trendspotting.
- Philadelphia has allowed 2+ passing touchdowns in its last three games and five of its last seven.
- Notable quarterback perfomances against Philadelphia, from most recent to least: Cousins (234-2-1), Dalton (332-2-0), Rodgers (313-2-0 / 6-26-0), Wilson (272-1-0 / 8-19-0), Ryan (267-1-0), Manning (257-4-0), Prescott (287-2-1 / 7-38-1).
- Philadelphia has allowed at least 2.9x value to four running backs in its last four games.
- Philadelphia has allowed 5 rushing touchdowns to running backs in its last four games.
- Baltimore running back snaps and touches from last week: Kenneth Dixon - 42/19; Terrance West - 14/6.
- Philadelphia is allowing 191.8 yards per game to wide receivers, third-most in the NFL.
- Philadelphia is allowing 12.3 receptions per game to wide receivers, 19th-most in the NFL.
- Philadelphia has allowed 90+ yards to seven wide receivers in its last five games.
The Eagles' rush defense averages 101.4 yards given out per game (15th in the NFL) with nine rushing scores given up over 13 games. Last week, Washington threw down for 23/107/2 rushing at Philadelphia; Cincinnati was held to 33/80/1 rushing two games ago. From Week 12-14 of regular season (the last three weeks, includes two teams on bye during Week 13 (CLE, TEN) - the other 30 teams have three games played in that span), Philadelphia averages 18.8 fantasy points allowed to opposing running backs per game (12th-most in the NFL)
welcome to Carolina, DeSean
Just so you know, there is another recent article with the same player pictured. Do what you think is best, but you might want to give some consideration to changing the pictured player.
This is the message our staffers see when we pick the feature photo for our articles if someone else is using the same picture during the week. For a writer like me who often covers a lot of players in a column, I try to be mindful and change the photo when possible.
Unless the article I'm writing is the first one likely to see the light of day during that week. Then it's tough luck for the rest those guys...Shotgun!
I'm giving you a glance behind the Footballguys editorial curtain because this message appeared when I was writing the Top 10 on Monday and I had featured Desean Jackson.
4. oddly underrated: DeSean Jackson
Most will disagree with me, but if given the choice of Alshon Jeffery or Desean Jackson in free agency, I'd give serious consideration to Jackson. He does a better job of playing with injuries because the injuries he has aren't usually to his legs despite the fact that he's a speed demon. Although you wouldn't want to throw him rebounder-type passes on a regular basis, he's tough at the catch point.
His game is also superior to Jeffery in multiple areas I value from wide receiver play: The vertical game, tracking the football, and boundary awareness.
This is not a one-dimensional receiver, but I think fantasy owners characterize him as such way too often. His early career antics near the end zone and the much-publicized and ugly departure from Philadelphia give him a bad image, but he's a fine receiver.
As I'm studying receivers for the 2017 NFL Draft, I've read some analysts making comparisons between Jackson and a particularly explosive college option. While I like the college option, I think some of them need to watch more of Jackson's Cal tape before going there.
With Carolina and Chicago up next, look for Jackson to finish this season strong. I'm not a Washington fan, but I think he helps this offense a lot. If the organization can't keep Jackson and Cousins—which is likely the case—Philadelphia, Carolina, Tennessee, and Tampa Bay would all be locations where I'd love to see Jackson land.
Cian Fahey, who I often see is compelled about the same players as I am in a given week, also honed in on Jackson in his film analysis column Pushing the Pocket.
DeSean Jackson has caught 42 passes for 746 yards and four touchdowns so far this season. Over the past four games, Jackson has caught 12 passes for 330 yards and three touchdowns. Jackson's output over the course of the season, and for much of his career, has been limited by the offenses he has played in.
Jackson is often painted as just a deep threat. He is an outrageously good deep threat but he's also a well-rounded receiver. Jackson doesn't thrive in the Washington offense because he spends most of his time clearing out space as a deep option that is regularly ignored. In a more aggressive offense with a quarterback more capable of throwing accurately downfield, Jackson's numbers would multiply. Not only that, Jackson is such a good deep threat that he makes his quarterback's numbers on deep throws better by consistently getting so wide open and consistently making difficult adjustments at the catch point.
These are important notes about Jackson entering the offseason because he is likely to hit the free agent market...
If Jackson was paired with a quarterback such as Cam Newton in the offseason the far sideline and deep routes would open up for him. Jackson would immediately be Newton's number one receiver because he is more versatile and more reliable than Ted Ginn. The Panthers are the ideal landing spot but most teams would set Jackson up better than Washington does for his individual production. That doesn't mean Jackson is guaranteed to leave Washington because his value in pulling coverage away from other receivers is huge for how Jay Gruden's offense functions.
Even though he just turned 30, Jackson has shown no signs of slowing down. He should be a prioritized free agent in the offseason and, if he leaves Washington for a better situation, should become a more highly-coveted fantasy option
I'm feeling you, Cian, Carolina was one of my first thoughts as well—especially since Ted Ginn's contract is up this year and Jackson would also be the best route runner on the Panthers upon his arrival. With Jackson playing Carolina this weekend, I'm wondering if we'll look back on this game as a big reason he winds up in Charlotte next season.
Ari Ingel notes in The Dockett that the Panthers secondary is giving up nearly 350 yards to receivers a game on the road and he likes Jackson as a "high upside WR3."
Scott Bischoff sees this as one of the safest of his Starting Stacks in DFS, which translating to re-draft, makes it a strong start with upside:
The Redskins passing attack will face the league’s No. 30 ranked passing defense which is giving up 272.4 yards per game through the air. The Panthers yield 7.6 yards per attempt which is seventh-worst throughout the league and they have given up a passer rating of 92.5 which is ranked No. 20 in the NFL.
The Panthers have given up 330 completions to date which is third-worst in the NFL. They’ve also surrendered 24 touchdowns through the air and only four teams league-wide have allowed more. They’ve have allowed a touchdown-to-completion ratio of 7.2 percent which is ranked No. 20 in the NFL.
The Panthers have allowed 42 passing plays that have gone for 20+ yards which puts them in the middle of the pack league-wide at No. 19 overall. They’ve allowed 11 passing plays that have gone for 40 or more yards and this is where Cousins and Jackson can do damage in this game. They are ranked No. 28 in this category and this is where they are vulnerable.
The Panthers defense is vulnerable vertically and that’s exactly where Jackson is going to challenge them. Jackson doesn’t need a lot of volume to score points as he is capable of making big plays in a flash and the numbers show that the Panthers are getting beaten by big plays.
Jackson is far and away the No. 1 vertical option in the Redskins passing attack. In four games that Jackson has played since the Week 9 bye, he has been targeted 22 times and caught 12 passes for 330 yards and three scores.
This game could turn into a shootout as both teams play can score and that is what Vegas is forecasting in this contest with such a high total. Carolina is stout versus the run as they are the league’s No. 5 run defense and it will fall upon Cousins to make plays in this game.
My Advice: You know what I think already. So let's bring in the ringer of this crew, John Lee. His Vegas Value Chart highlights strong matchups based on implied point totals from the Vegas Team Totals. When a team has a positive matchup he labels it with a plus sign. This week, there are only two games with three plusses for passing.
|TEAM||OPPONENT||ODDS||GAME TOTAL||TEAM TOTAL||PASSING||RUNNING||TEAM DEFENSE|
There were at least three feature photos of Jackson this week on Footballguys—one for every plus sign on John Lee's chart. For the past four weeks, his two bad games were 50-yard affairs two good games were 100-yard offerings. He's scored three of the past four weeks and his worst game was a 1-59-0 effort against Patrick Peterson.
As much as they wish it to be the case, Patrick Peterson won't be on the field for Carolina. I'd roll with Jackson as a WR2.
jones-less in Atlanta
While we're looking at Lee's Vegas Value Chart, let's look at Atlanta. Lee gives Devonta Freeman, Tevin Coleman, and the potential combo of Julio Jones, Mohamed Sanu, and Taylor Gabriel three stars. Sorry, I got literal on the plus signs, imagine stars unless you're an engineer. In that case, you can remain literal.
I don't want your head to explode.
Lee does a great job of getting this feature out earlier in the week, so the receiver recommendations aren't based on the latest injury info. That's why we have Jene Bramel and his Thursday Injury Expectations.
***By this time last week I was pushing Julio Jones well to the doubtful side of questionable despite some continued positivity coming out of Atlanta. I'm feeling the same way this week. Dan Quinn would have us believe that Jones doesn't have a significant toe sprain and that there's a chance Jones will return to something close to a full Friday practice. But the facts suggest otherwise. Jones hasn't practiced in two weeks and is rarely productive without a very reassuring Friday workout. Prepare for another week of rest this week. At best, Jones will see a limited workload.
Bramel also documented Sanu's two practices as "limited" and he's still waiting on more information to determine the receiver's status. It means there's a good push for Taylor Gabriel to continue his WR2-WR3 production since Week 11. Ryan Hester is all over it in Trendspotting:
- San Francisco is allowing 58.9% of its yardage via the pass, the lowest ratio in the NFL.
- San Francisco is allowing 23.7 rushing fantasy points per game to running backs, most in the NFL (second-most is 19.1).
- San Francisco is allowing 170.8 rushing yards per game, most in the NFL (second-most is 146.2).
- San Francisco is allowing 1.54 touchdowns per game to wide receivers, tied for most in the NFL (with Baltimore).
- San Francisco has allowed at least 4.5x value to a wide receiver in its last three games; they've played the wide receiver machines of Miami, Chicago, and New York (Jets) in those games.
And yes, engineers, that was sarcasm about the wide receiver machines of Miami, Chicago, and New York. Glad to be your guide.
Jeff Haseley found that Ryan leads the NFL with 43 percent of his passes going for first downs. There are two things to note about this Beyond The Stats nugget: 1) This number is a reflection of Ryan finding receivers in the intermediate and deep zones of the field with success and 2) The Falcons offense features a lot of routes that suit athletic receivers with skill and opportunity to run after the catch.
And this includes the running backs, the most frequent question I've been asked this week about Atlanta after "should I start Taylor Gabriel?" Hasley notes that Devonta Freeman is tied for 8th in the league with 25 attempts with gains of at least 10 yards.
RUSHES OF 10 YARDS OR MORE
So you know, the only back that didn't play the 49ers that have as many gains of at least 10 yards is Murray. The rest have already faced the 49ers. Many on our staff think Freeman is about to climb this list a spot or three. Justin Howe studies the Dark Zone—plays inside the opponent's 1-yard line. Howe likes both players, but for DFS purposes, likes the value of Coleman, which translates to a good flex play with upside in re-draft formats.
This is one potent offense, and they’re projected by Vegas to easily top 30 points. And while their scoring outlook is strong, it’s relatively predictable – they run the ball 56% of the time in the dark zone, and their 42 rushes sit third in the league. We know they’ll be in scoring position for much of their matchup with San Francisco, and we know they’ll be running once there. The tricky part, of course, is parsing the opportunity between Freeman and Coleman. Across their 10 shared games, Freeman holds an 18-9 lead in dark zone rushes and 5-3 in targets. But that’s a trend that could be shifting; Coleman took both the team’s short-yardage rushes last week, as well as a target. His explosiveness is highly valued by Kyle Shanahan, who clearly wants to create space for Coleman regardless of field position. And considering the wide disparity in their salaries, Coleman represents the shrewder GPP play in terms of both value and ownership.
My Advice: Gabriel is a strong WR3 and if a good risk as a WR2. I cover the Falcons every week and Howe's discussion about Coleman is worthwhile.
Coleman is developing as an inside runner. His patience and efficiency with pressing a lane and cutting downhill through it has improved in recent weeks. His feet look sharper and his decisions have been mature.
Coleman has been earning red zone looks even in games where Atlanta isn't blowing out the competition so the potential for Coleman to usurp opportunities that often to Freeman exists. Even so, expect Freeman to have a strong enough game that he delivers at least high-end RB2 numbers before this game gets out of hand and Coleman earns a few more carries before the Falcons bring in Terron Ward.
Translation: Freeman has a high-end RB2 floor and Coleman is a high upside RB3 floor.
THE CROW AND THE BUFFALO
One of Lee's three-star matchups in his Vegas Value Chart (before he refines the raw data with his analysis) are the ground games for the Bills-Browns matchup. LeSean McCoy is an obvious start against a Browns defense that allows drives that can accumulate up to 20 plays and eat up most of a quarter. The Steelers, the Ravens, and the Bengals all did it to Cleveland.
But what about Buffalo's defense? Sigmund Bloom sees a glimmer of hope for Isaiah Crowell.
Crowell regained the form that made him one of the league’s leading rushers through the first four weeks of the season despite playing on the winless Browns. The return of Robert Griffin III presenting a running threat next to him in the backfield had to help, and Griffin will be under center again this week. Crowell gets the Bills run defense that seemed very reluctant to tackle LeVeon Bell last week on the way to his 236 yard game. Bell also notched the fourth multi-touchdown game by a running back against the Bills this season. Crowell has a high ceiling as long as the Browns can hang in the game, as he showed he has snow tires in the game against the Bengals last week.
And then there's this little gem that all readers should consider about Buffalo's unit, thanks to a gentle reminder for Ari Ingel:
HC Hue Jackson wants the run game to be the foundation of this offense, so they should go back to Crowell after a solid game last week, especially since there are call of snow flurries, with 15 MPH winds and a real feel of 17 degrees. He makes for a decent play against a Bills defense that is getting gashed on the ground lately giving up 31 FPG over last four weeks to opposing RBs and are without DE Kyle Williams, which hurts big time. Sneaky play in all formats.
But we also have to remember that Crowell earned a modest 10 carries and Lee still gives the Bills Defense a three-star matchup thanks to the ineptitude of this passing offense that has sunk to new depths with Robert Griffin's return. Something I shared this week as I performed an autopsy on the Browns' passing game:
Many of your fantasy hopes died this weekend. For those with iron guts, let's do some mini post-mortems on key matchups that led to your fantasy flat-lining.
- Case No.11C
- Subject: Terrelle Pryor
- Time of Fantasy Death: Sunday, 3:52 pm EST
- Location: Cleveland, Ohio
- Cause of Death: Homicide by force feeding
- Assailant: Robert Griffin III
Dreams of Griffin feeding Pryor rainbows with a straight path to the Cleveland end zone turned into a sickening display of forcing the ball down Pryor's throat in traffic.
It didn't help that Griffin had difficulty with shallow zone routes and wide-open seam routes. One such seam route was a wide-open Gary Barnidge that Griffin hit on the inside shoulder because Barnidge had no idea the pass was coming. To be fair, I though Griffin made the right read and Barnidge's frustration was unwarranted.
But this kind of thing is difficult to excuse...
I believe these two examples will be short-lived errors for Griffin. Where I'm not so optimistic is his connection with Pryor. Forcing the ball downfield with this much regularity without an existing intermediate came is the death knell for Pryor's fantasy prospects this year. I won't be starting Pryor until I see evidence of a resuscitation.
Advice: Crowell is a high-risk start as a low-end RB2. The Defensive Game Logs at Footballguys give a solid profile as to why. Get a back between 9-12 carries on the Bills and you're looking at 40-60 yards. Get to 19 and above, and that back is staring at substantial starter production.
The past three weeks have been productive for running backs. The Jaguars mash-up of a backfield combined for 28 carries, 100 yards, and a TD. The Browns are essentially the Jaguars with healthier backs (and fewer of them see the field). The Raiders combined for 29 carries, 135 yards, and 2 scores. Just like the Jags, the big back of the depth chart was the most productive.
Then there was LeVeon Bell's epic afternoon. There's decent chance that the Bills build enough of an early lead that Crowell can't earn more than 15 carries in this game. That risk drops Crowell to low-end RB2 despite his ability and the matchup without Kyle Williams.
Crowell has only had four games with at least 15 carries—he earned no worse than 79 yards in 3 of them and over 120 yards and a touchdown in the other 2. It's all about the touches and getting those touches with Robert Griffin III—or to be fair, any quarterback in Cleveland—has only happened 4 times in 14 weeks.
Those three good outings were against Baltimore, Washington, and Cincinnati. Despite all three teams earning multiple passing touchdowns against the Browns, Baltimore was the only team of the three that threw for over 200 yards against Cleveland and it was due to the Browns building a lead in the first half. Until the Steelers game last week, Taylor hadn't delivered a 200-yard passing game in three straight weeks despite facing Jacksonville and Oakland in two of these games.
The weakness of the Browns' passing game is the middle of the field and Tyrod Taylor's weakness is targeting receivers who cross this part of the field. The cornerbacks are good enough in Cleveland that I think this game could remain close enough for Crowell to earn the requisite touches. I'd put the odds of Crowell hitting that 20-touch mark at 55 percent—not super-high, but enough that you might have to gamble on him. Good luck everyone (me, too...)
Robby Anderson a must-start?
Quite a statement—even as a question. The Upgrade/Downgrade report on Anderson tells you why...
Anderson was the No.1 target for Bryce Petty for the second straight week. He came through with a strong game against the vulnerable 49ers pass defense and should be considered a WR3/Flex against the Dolphins in Week 15.
Anderson has 12 catches for 204 yards and a touchdown since Week 12. If you examine his targets in that span, it's a noteworthy development that Petty is in the lineup.
|Odell Beckham Jr||NYG||11||16||9||36||12.0||12.0||20||290||14.5||3||55.6|
Anderson is 18th in targets among all players during this period and he's fourth overall since Petty took the controls during the Colts game.
|Odell Beckham Jr||NYG||16||9||25||12.5||12.5||14||194||13.9||1||56.0|
Best yet, he's earning 16 yards per reception. These aren't dink-and-dunk plays. Petty likes throwing down the field and Anderson is making plays against coverage.
Bloom notes that the Dolphins defense may have gotten the best of Carson Palmer, but the unit still allowed three touchdowns to Cardinals wide receivers last week. Scott Bischoff notes that only seven teams in the league have given up more passing scores than the Dolphins.
Ingel gives a balanced view of Anderson's potential in The Docket:
The backup QB to backup WR connection is really, especially if that backup WR is actually talented. Anderson stands 6’3” and ran a 4.36 at his pro day coming out of college last year. He’s seeing an insane number of targets, occupying over 31% of Petty’s passes last week, going 6/99 on 11 targets, after seeing 12 targets and going 4/61/1 the week prior. While the catch rate isn’t amazing, volume is king and he is seeing a ton of it against a Dolphins secondary giving up nearly 40 FPG to opposing WRs over last 5 games. One word of caution, now that Petty has been practicing with Marshall and Enunwa for three full weeks, this backup-to-backup could come to an end at any time. But I say keep riding it against this suspect secondary.
My Advice: The Dolphins secondary has issues when quarterbacks buy time and these weaker corners and substitute safety Bacarri Rambo have to communicate and adjust. Petty and Anderson do well on these plays. Even if Marshall and Enunwa have earned more practice time with Petty, rapport usually doesn't come that fast.
If it does, keep in mind that Anderson isn't some out-of-nowhere pick. He's earned 6 targets a game with the previous Jets starters in 5 of the 9 weeks that he's seen at least double-digit snaps.
Anderson is not a must-start, but he's a good risk as a WR3 with WR2 upside. He's only scored once so the bet is on volume and a big play that isn't a touchdown. Player's I'd start him ahead of include: Allen Robinson, Terrelle Pryor, Michael Crabtree, Rishard Matthews, an injured Michael Thomas, Dontrelle Inman, Sammy Watkins, and Julian Edelman.
Maurile Tremblay has Anderson as his No.24 receiver. David Dodds and Sigmund Bloom are rating Anderson a WR4 and WR3, respectively. Put me higher than Bloom, but lower than Tremblay in regards to Anderson.
Good luck this weekend and may I see you all on the other side of Week 15 for the final installment of 2016's The Best Of.