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The Best of Week 6

Matt Waldman scouts our in-season content and shares five must-knows and his takes on each.

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.  

This week, we cover a trio rushing matchups; a duo of tight ends; one traded running back; and 

1. A Trio of Superb Rushing matchups

I often like to explore thornier fantasy situations in the Best Of, but sometimes it's a good idea to share a process with readers so they can do good exploration on their own. This week's trio of great rushing matchups is a good way to do that.

Now that we have nearly six weeks of data, one of my first weekly trips at the Footballguys content page is David Dodd's Game Predictor. It's an effective way to set baseline expectations based on recent past history for each team. 

The Game Predictor is our primary tool to establish how each team will attempt to play their game (rush/pass) that week. It factors in the opponent, YTD data, recent games, critical injury information, home/away situations and more. I believe it to be one of the best simulation tools available on the internet and has been refined since its birth on the mrfootball.com website 17 years ago.

If there are no significant changes to the units the Game Predictor is projecting, I lean on this information as a sound indicator of what to expect. If an injury, suspension, promotion/demotion, or coaching change occurs, Game Predictor data serves as a baseline for my analysis. 

The three obvious standouts this week are C.J. Anderson and the Broncos ground game at home against the Giants; Leonard Fournette and the Jaguars hosting the Rams, and Kareem Hunt and the Chiefs hosting the Steelers. 

TeamsRush
Att
Rush
Yds
Rush
TDs
(Projected Final) Score
Los Angeles Rams 27 122 0.9 21.1
at Jacksonville Jaguars 34 159 1.2 23.1
Pittsburgh Steelers 25 103 0.6 20.4
at Kansas City Chiefs 27 145 1.2 26.8
New York Giants 22 72 0.3 14.6
at Denver Broncos 34 153 1.0 25.7

For a little more qualitative background, Justin Howe, Devin Knotts, and Keith Roberts do a good job of supplying it with their Rushing and Passing Match Ups feature:

DENVER BRONCOS RUSHING OFFENSE VS NEW YORK GIANTS RUSHING DEFENSE (GREAT MATCHUP)

This unit has rounded nicely into shape. With a variable rotation of C.J. Anderson, Jamaal Charles, and Devontae Booker, the Broncos are setting each game’s tone on the ground. They’ve averaged 143.0 yards per game, and those runners have notched an elite 4.76 per carry. The offensive line looks stout, creating huge holes and routinely escorting the backs onto the second level. Facing off against the Giants’ underachieving front line and horrid linebacker play, this is truly one of the week’s elite matchups to target. Both Anderson and Charles should find plenty of success. 

Last year’s Giants were among the league’s elite in shutting down the run, but this unit is a whole new animal. They’ve allowed at least 111 ground yards in each game so far – including dates with the mediocre running games of Detroit, Philadelphia, and pre-Doug Martin Tampa Bay. Strong runners Ezekiel Elliott (24 carries for 104 yards) and Melvin Gordon (20 for 105) have had virtually no trouble racking up production. The Giants remain stout along the defensive line, but their linebacker play has been atrocious. The second level has been unable to work off of its blocking, and missed tackles have been rampant. Middle linebacker B.J. Goodson has underwhelmed majorly, and the rest of the group is a who’s who of shaky options. Until further notice, this is a unit to target enthusiastically with opposing rushers.

JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS RUSHING OFFENSE VS LOS ANGELES RAMS RUSHING DEFENSE (GREAT MATCHUP)

Leonard Fournette last week showed why he was taken as the fourth overall selection in the 2017 NFL Draft as the rookie had a tremendous game against the Steelers last week rushing for 181 yards and two touchdowns. This Jaguars team is committed to giving the ball to Fournette at a significant volume as he is now averaging 26 carries per game over his last two games and averaging 5.1 yards per carry doing it. The offensive line looked much better last week after being a question for most of the season it appears that it is starting to come together as second-round rookie Cam Robinson has played much better recently and left guard Patrick Omameh is playing much better after getting off to a slow start after missing the end of the 2016 season with a foot injury.

The Rams run defense has been one of the worst in the NFL so far this season as they are 27th in the NFL currently as they are allowing 133.6 yards rushing per game. The good news is that after a horrible game against the Redskins in week 3, the defense has looked better over the last few weeks holding Ezekiel Elliott to just 81 yards on 20 carries in week 4 and holding the Seattle Seahawks to just 2.5 yards per carry last week. The biggest issue for the Rams so far this season is holding contain on runs outside the tackle box as both outside linebackers Connor Barwin and Robert Quinn have really struggled against the run this season and it was shown most clearly in week 3 against Carlos Hyde who had most of his big runs outside and Chris Thompson in week two getting outside on this defense.

KANSAS CITY CHIEFS RUSHING OFFENSE VS PITTSBURGH STEELERS RUSHING DEFENSE (GREAT MATCHUP)

Kareem Hunt looks like nothing short of a superstar. Through 5 NFL games he’s averaging 6.28 yards per rush and a league-leading 121.8 per game, and it was impressive to see him find holes and produce (29 rushes for 107 yards, including two 23-yard gains) against the Texans’ elite run defense. He’s been a slow starter – only 25% of his rushing yardage has come in the first half, and his per-carry average has jumped from 4.19 to 7.57 in the second as Kansas City has nursed leads. There’s indeed a little concern over Hunt’s productivity when opposing defenses aren’t gassed and trailing big. But with a stranglehold on a successful backfield and an offensive line that’s winning even with two starters out, Hunt is as predictable and as dynamic as they come right now.

This is getting ugly for the Steelers: twice in 3 weeks, opponents have gashed them with power and stretch running games for 222+ yards. Jordan Howard snapped out of a mini-slump with 140 yards and 2 touchdowns in Week 3, with third-down back Tarik Cohen chipping in 78 more. And last week, Leonard Fournette steamrolled to 181 yards – including a textbook 90-yard run through a perfect crease that iced the game. This unit, which is actually fully healthy, is in severe disarray at the moment. Holes are being opened consistently, and the linebackers, often stunting and gobbled up at the line, are leaving the second level wide open. Fournette in particular spent the second half running free into the secondary for 5-10 yards at a time and punishing the secondary tacklers. This is a talented unit, one that held 9 of its 13 pre-Bears opponents under 80 ground yards and could unkink itself at any moment. But right now, they look close to a green-light matchup for run-happy opponents and bell cow backs.

Once I get a feel for recent history, I look to Jene Bramel's Thursday Injury Expectations. The good doctor supplies information at every position, which is a huge help for astute fantasy managers who understand that the 16 players who aren't quarterbacks, running backs, tight ends, and wide receivers actually influence the game as much, if not more. 

Along the offensive line, Kansas City will likely be working without starting linemen Mitch Morse and Laurent Duvernay-Tardif. However, they also lacked this duo against the Texans on Sunday night and Hunt still produced (see above). Jacksonville's Brandon Linder (illness) missed Wednesday and Thursday practices, and Patrick Omameh (hip) was limited for both sessions.  However, Linder was absent last week and the duo of Fournette and Chris Ivory went off in Pittsburgh. Denver's line is healthy. 

On the defensive line, Olivier Vernon hasn't practiced this week due to an ankle injury which could aid the Broncos outside zone plays. Linebacker Johnathan Casillas has also missed this week's sessions with a neck injury and we've seen how weak this crew has been. Pittsburgh's Ryan Shazier will play with a quad injury that limited him on Wednesday but he practiced fully on Thursday. Rams linebacker Mark Barron (knee) hasn't practiced this week but will likely play. The same is true of safety Lamarcus Joyner who has missed multiple weeks with a hamstring injury but should return to the lineup. 

My Take: The common problem with all three defenses is weak linebacker play. The Giants' unit is the weakest but despite athletic linebackers with street cred in Pittsburgh and L.A., they are too aggressive and undisciplined. I have highlighted this about Pittsburgh's Shazier multiple times last year and this in my Top 10 feature on Mondays. 

As the game remained close, the Jaguars turned the aggressive mentality of the Steelers defense into a weakness with trips to the corner after successful runs inside that caught Shazier and Bud Dupree attacking the wrong gaps or losing discipline. 

 

B Dupree too aggressive and Fournette runs thru him or a Red Bull at the corner

A post shared by Matt Waldman (@mattwaldmanrsp) onOct 8, 2017 at 12:30pm PDT

 

Chris Ivory is no slouch, either. When he gets into the lineup as Fournette's sub, he can bulldoze or reach that mini-mart. 

 

C Ivory went for some jerky that Fournette forgot on trip to corner. Shazier caught looking inside

A post shared by Matt Waldman (@mattwaldmanrsp) onOct 8, 2017 at 12:33pm PDT

 

The Rams have a similar problem. They are vulnerable to immature decisions from athletic defenders who lean too much on their legs and not enough on their brains. Washington ran through L.A. during the first half of their matchup with the help of the counter play, a staple of gap play that uses misdirection to force linebackers to abandon their responsibilities too soon. Don't be surprised if the Jaguars incorporate misdirection into its ground game this weekend and earn a few big plays from it. 

This will be necessary because the Rams' defensive line is a fantastic unit with Aaron Donald and Michael Brockers. Matt Bitonti and Justis Mosqueda explain in their feature, In The Trenches, that a downhill mentality without incorporating misdirection to work away from Donald and Brockers can lead to a painful rushing weekend. 

JM: Jacksonville doesn't get tackled in the backfield often because Leonard Fournette doesn't stop his feet at first contact. Aaron Donald doesn't stop. Something has to give in this head-to-head matchup, and the Jaguars love to run inside. Expect the blitz-heavy team to meet Fournette in the hole and backfield often. From there, all bets are off. While Robert Quinn and Connor Barwin aren't great pass-rusher at the moment, they can set the edge perfectly fine. Michael Brockers eating space in the middle should help clog up some inside runs too.

BIT: The Jaguars' offensive line made a statement last week at Pittsburgh. They just kept running and it worked, especially late in the contest. That's a good way to help young players like left tackle Cam Robinson, who has been very good starting in his rookie season. Offensive linemen usually like to go foward rather than backward. But the Jaguars (as a whole) have a problem with consistency. They blow out the Ravens in London one week and lose to the Jets the next. The team is on a huge emotional high this week and are favored hosting a West Coast team coming to the East Coast. Aaron Donald and the Rams will be a stern test this week at home.   

Expect another trio of strong weeks for Fournette, Hunt, and Anderson with Hunt and Anderson the best bets. However, the Rams offense could have trouble with the Jaguars pass rush and zone defense, which could keep the game close enough for Fournette to remain a second-half factor.

If you're in a league with 1-3 flex plays and injuries are leaving you desperate, it also wouldn't hurt to consider Chris Ivory, Charcandrick West, and Jamaal Charles as three options who could deliver in the red zone or earn enough volume to keep your squads in the game. Remember, weak rushing units often give up quality gains to multiple running backs during the week. West and Charles often saw red zone duty and work on passing downs because of their skills in these roles. Ivory could easily be a full-time starter in 25-30 percent of the offenses in this league. 

2. don't sleep on this pair of tight ends

A sound example of Game Predictor offering a solid baseline of exploration, especially in light of injuries or personnel changes, are the Atlanta-Miami and Cleveland-Houston matchups. Mohamed Sanu and Julio Jones missed the second half of their Week 4 contests. Sanu will miss this weekend and Jones has been limited during practice, but Bramel reports that Jones says he's healthy and only earning precautionary rest.  Cleveland benched quarterback Deshone Kizer for second-year option Kevin Hogan. These kinds of changes can alter the volume and usage patterns of a receiving corps. 

Based on past production and allowances factored into Game Predictor, Dodds still projects good results for Atlanta's passing offense (23-of-34 for 275 yards and 1.7 pass touchdowns). Dodds only has five units with more passing yards and six with more touchdown potential. Naturally, the question is who benefits from Sanu's absence? 

Sigmund Bloom's Sleepers feature examines under-the-radar choices with upside for the week and Falcons tight end Austin Hooper is among his choices:

Austin Hooper, ATL (vs MIA) - Hooper has a chance to play a much bigger role this week with Mohamed Sanu out. He had 5-50 against Buffalo as the wide receiver injuries piled up, and this week he gets a Miami defense that gave up ten catches to Titans tight ends last week, including a score plus another long score to Delanie Walker that was called by a questionable penalty. Hunter Henry also had 7-80 against them earlier this year, taking advantage of the Dolphins ragtag linebacker corps

Doug Drinen's statistical work is the underpinning of Footballguys' offerings. Every week, Drinen delivers a Target Summary for every team available on this page and broken down by season, the past three weeks, the red zone, the goal line, and third down. 

Even with a healthy Jones and Sanu, the Falcons' leaders in red zone targets are Taylor Gabriel (5) and Hooper (4). Hooper is tied with Devonta Freeman for the team lead with three receptions in the red zone. 

Jeff Tefertiller's Outliers feature isn't bullish on the Falcons passing game this week:

Ryan and the Falcons are coming off a bye week and host the Dolphins.  Miami has played well on defense this season and is not yielding many fantasy points to opposing passers.  They are the ninth-best fantasy defense versus quarterbacks.  Atlanta will look to establish the running game and throw sparingly, especially if taking a lead early in the contest. 

My Take: Tefertiller's argument also plays into something Bloom alludes to in Sleepers. Miami has not performed well against teams with good running backs/ground games and the ground game often sets up play-action passing to tight ends. Austin Hooper is often a recipient in the play-action game. I would consider Hooper this week if you don't have a top starter and your low-tier TE1 has a bad matchup. 

The rookie Njoku is the other intriguing choice in Bloom's Sleepers: 

David Njoku, CLE (at HOU) - Kevin Hogan has only played a little over a full game this year, and Njoku has already caught two scores from him. All of Njoku’s 3-48-1 line last week came in the second half when Hogan was in. The Browns are likely to have to pass a lot this week against Deshaun Watson and the Texans, putting Njoku in the middle of the bullseye for a season high in targets and hopefully catches and receiving yards.

Examining Njoku's 3-Week Target Summary,  he's sixth on the team with nine targets, but he leads the offense during that span with two touchdowns. Njoku also converted seven of those chances, the best percentage of the receivers on the team with at least six targets during this span. It means Njoku is earning high-leverage opportunities and the trust of Hogan, who often trusted Austin Hooper's athletic ability above the rim on intermediate and vertical throws when they were teammates at Stanford. 

Another Drinen Production that our staff peruses weekly that readers should, too, are the Team Pages. I love examining the Defensive Game Logs that show the stats given up to every player that has faced them and sorted by position. 

Here's what Houston's Defensive Game Logs look like for opposing tight ends before it lost J.J. Watt and Whitney Mercilus:

Tight Ends vs. Houston Texans

NAMEWKTARGRECYDTD
James OShaughnessy 1 1 1 18 0
Tyler Eifert 2 4 3 42 0
Rob Gronkowski 3 10 8 89 1
Jacob Hollister 3 1 1 19 0
Delanie Walker 4 7 3 51 0
Travis Kelce 5 11 8 98 0
Ross Travis 5 2 2 26 0
Demetrius Harris 5 3 3 21 0

My Take: Other than the tenuously healthy Tyler Eifert and Jacksonville's Tight End's Anonymous organization, the Texans have given up at least 50 yards to healthy and athletic tight ends. Njoku isn't a slam-dunk choice but given Kenny Britt's knee and groin ills (and hands) and the inconsistency of Ricardo Louis, Njoku is a good choice for a team seeking a big-play option with TE1 upside. 

The Passing Matchup Crew disagrees: 

Rookie DeShone Kizer was benched at halftime last week, and that was hard to argue with. Kizer has hemorrhaged sacks (7.1% sack rate) and giveaways (9 interceptions, 3 fumbles) all year, while simultaneously failing to move the offense (a Tebow-esque 50.9% completion rate). He doesn’t deserve all of the blame, throwing to a receiving corps that’s been decimated by injury (Corey Coleman), ineptitude (Kenny Britt), and raw inexperience everywhere. Kevin Hogan will be under center Sunday, and he’s on a high after completing 16 of 19 passes for 194 yards and 2 touchdowns (with 1 interception) in relief Sunday. Hogan can also run, and coach Hue Jackson likes to utilize him and Isaiah Crowell on read-option plays. But the passing game will likely remain toothless and somewhat turnover-prone under Hogan. Hogan is a raw run-first quarterback, and his receiving corps is badly undermanned.

The Texans defense, ravaged already by injuries to the secondary, took what may be a death blow last Sunday night. With top cornerback Kevin Johnson already sidelined in the short term, the team’s two best pass rushers, all-world J.J. Watt and dynamic edge man Whitney Mercilus, both went down for the year. At this point, it’s hard to see where the pass rush needed to protect the shaky secondary will come from. Jadeveon Clowney has developed into a true force, but he’ll have little support on the edges, so we may see opponents post, even more, success against this unit than we already have. Through 5 games, the Texans have faced the second-fewest pass attempts, yet somehow also the sixth-most net yards per attempt and 9 touchdowns.

However, I'm more optimistic about Hogan than many on staff because I scouted him for my annual draft publication, The Rookie Scouting Portfolio, and discovered that while most analysts focus on his running ability, he's an effective vertical passer with an intelligent and aggressive mindset. In fact, quarterback coach Will Hewlett, who coaches quarterbacks of all levels—including professionals—told me that Hogan might be one of the most conceptually talented young minds at the position that he's observed in several years. 

The greatest hindrance for Hogan's draft stock has been his mechanics. He had an elongated windup with his release motion and ungainly footwork. So far, I've seen better mechanics from the small sample size and knowing that I liked his decision-making, aggression, and accuracy at Stanford, I believe some of the analysis downplaying his performance in relief of Kizer may be overly cautious tropes. 

It's still a risk to think Hogan will support a rich passing environment in Cleveland, but I thought he was the Ugly Duckling of the 2016 QB Class. Even if he doesn't manifest into a fantasy swan, I think there's enough reason to think he can continue finding Njoku. 

3. the Adrian Peterson trade

Footballguys' Upgrade/Downgrade Report is an excellent snap-take analysis available Monday nights and based on a team of writers delivering Sunday assessments of each offensive position during its Weekly Recaps. These two reports are great for the "give me the answers" fantasy owner and the manager who wants a starting point to do more digging. 

The most successful "give me the answers" owners operate from a philosophy that "lets other people screw up while I play it safe." It means this assessment of the Adrian Peterson deal is likely all that needs to be considered to leave him alone: 

Peterson will get more opportunity after his trade to Arizona, but it is low quality opportunity. The Cardinals running game hasn't gotten a lead runner over 13 carries in a game this year, and the three starters have combined for about two yards per carry. Peterson is worth an add, but he has to overcome a bad situation to have consistent value.

However, we like to go beyond the general narrative at Footballguys. The contrarian view often leads to league-winning decisions. We aren't being contrarian to get attention, but to give a subject its due diligence as an exercise of good analysis—even if the compelling arguments we may generate from it don't work out.  

I usually add my analysis in this feature as a sidebar or ending take to work from our great staff that is showcased here. However, this week's Gut Check is the most in-depth analysis of the Peterson deal that you will find on the site (and likely anywhere).   

The premise is that the football community has based their analysis on Peterson on the wrong question: "Is he still young and talented enough to be a fantasy factor?" Even those who have intelligently pinpointed the Cardinals weak ground game haven't looked beyond the surface-level context of stats that one step up from a box score can deliver. 

Peterson and David Johnson are old-school power runners despite the fact that Johnson has a dynamic receiving component that Peterson never had during his best seasons. However, examine their last seasons as starters from end-to-end (2015 and 2016 respectively) and there are stunning similarities to their carry-by-carry production, which underscores an age-old point about old-school rushing schemes: Offenses must commit to a high volume of carries on the ground to win in this fashion.

Can Adrian Peterson be productive? It's not as much about Adrian Peterson's ability as you think.  It is about philosophy and surrounding talent.

Consider the pattern of these series of numbers. For simplicity's sake, anything number with the value four and above is positive. Any value below four is negative.

At the end of each series of numbers, I've tallied the number of positive and negative in the string: 

  • 0, 11, 2, 25, 5, 2, 0, -2, 7, 9, 6, 3, 2, 0, 4, -4, 2, 4, 8, 4, 4, 3, -1, 0, 4, 9, 3, 19  (14 positive/14 negative)
  • 2, 2, 5, 5, 21, 2, -1, -2, 6, 1, 3, 2, 4, 43, 2, 4, 10, 1, 5, 11 (10 positive/10 negative)
  • 3, 8, -1, 3, 4, 3, -1, 2, 4, 3, 1, -1, 6, 1, -2, 48, 7, -1 (6 positive/12 negative)
  • 3, 2, -3, 2, 12, 0, -4, 1, 1, 2, -2, 75, -3, 15, -2, -5, -2, 0, 0, 1 (3 positive/17 negative)
  • 6, 8, 3, 1, 3, 1, 3, 11, 9, 12, 12, 3, 5, -2, 3, 5, 7, 0, 4, 1, 9 (11 positive/10 negative)
  • 0, 7, 1, 6, 9, 6, -1, 11, 2, 2, 15, 2, 4, 12, -1, 2, 2, -1, 4, -2, 12, 13, 3, 4, 2, -1, 3, 11, 6, 1 (13 positive/16 negative)

These numbers were the play-by-play yardage outcomes of Adrian Peterson's carries for the following games in 2015 (fantasy points from rushing yards in parenthesis):

  • Week 2 vs. Detroit:  29 carries, 134 yards (13.4 fantasy points)
  • Week 3 vs. San Diego: 20 carries, 126 yards, 2 Touchdowns (24.6 fantasy points)
  • Week 4. vs. Denver: 16 carries, 81 yards, 1 Touchdown (14 fantasy points)
  • Week 7 vs. Detroit: 19 carries, 98 yards, 3 touchdowns (27.8 fantasy points)
  • Week 8 vs. Chicago: 20 carries, 103 yards (10.3 fantasy points)

I didn't even include Peterson's two best games from this five-game snapshot of his 327-carry, 1485-yard, 11-touchdown season. What you should glean from this exercise is that Peterson's style of play requires a committment to the ground game in the same manner that the Jaguars committed to kicking the Steelers rear ends all over Heinz Field last Sunday.

Committing to the run is an ugly process for football fans who think good football is highlight-worthy outcomes on every touch. It's also nonsensical to those who don't look at statistics in the correct context. What they see is a highly inefficient process where Peterson and his teammates generate as many (if not more) negative outcomes than positive outcomes. 

What they must understand is the macro effect of physical plays that often aren't individually impactful at least 50 percent of the game. The more an offensive line can attack a defense (and the running game is the form of offensive football where linemen are on the attack), the more energy it costs the defense to thwart it. As the defense tires physically, it gets pushed around easier.

This cumulative effect doesn't just happen in the fourth quarter. It can also happen at the end of a physical series or even a couple of plays—snaps that force the defensive front to expend maximum explosion in an unexpected fashion that robs them of their stamina short-term and then eventually long-term. 

So when you look at Adrian Peterson in 2016-17, it's short-sighted to judge him solely by box score stats that are 6-18-0, 8-26-0, 9,-33-0, and 4-4-0. You have to examine his decision-making, the line play, his fit with an offense, and his athletic ability...

Speaking of Johnson, let's look at some of his carries on a per-play basis last year: 

  • 2,-2,3,1,7,6,8,3,3,0,3,5,3,1,45,1 (5 positive/11 negative)
  • 0,10,8,5,1,0,1,0,4,10,2,4 (6 positive/6 negative)
  • 2,2,-3,5,5,1,11,6,4,3,6,1,4,3,-1,13,4,0,0,22 (10 positive/10 negative)
  • -2,3,10,8,6,3,2,6, 31,-3,0,6,3,11,3,1,1,1 (7 positive/11 negative)
  • 17,1,7,6,4,6,12,1,4,3,1,4,2,4,-2,1,7,4,5,23,11,2, 18,5,-2,9,6,3,2 (18 positive/11 negative)
  • 3,58,2,1,1,0,1,4,2,2,-5,-1,14,0,6,5,1,2,4,7,2,2 (7 positive/15 negative)

Other than one week, Johnson's individual strings of carries from his 293-1239-16 campiang last year look similar to Peterson's 2015 season. 

Here are the play-by-play yardage outcomes of Johnson's carries for those games from 2016 (fantasy points from rushing yards in parenthesis). In fact, you could take a six-carry string from the series of touches from the games listed above and generate similar box scores for Johnson as Peterson's 2017 opener (see bold and italicized figures): :

  • Week 1 vs. New England:  16 carries, 89 yards, 1 touchdown (14.9 fantasy points) (6 carries, 17 yards)
  • Week 2 vs. Tampa Bay: 12 carries, 45 yards (4.5 fantasy points) (6 carries, 24 yards)
  • Week 3. vs. Buffalo: 19 carries, 83 yards, 2 touchdowns (20.3 fantasy points) (6 carries, 12 yards)
  • Week 4 vs. LA Rams: 17 carries, 83 yards (8.3 fantasy points) (6 carries, 28 yards)
  • Week 5 vs. San Francisco: 27 carries, 157 yards, 2 touchdowns (27.7 fantasy points) (6 carries, 15 yards)
  • Week 6 vs. New York Jets: 22 carries, 111 yards, 3 touchdowns (29.1 fantasy points) (6 carries, 9 yards)
Several of these six-carry samples came within his first 10-12 touches. Again, I did not pick the smallest gains from different points in the game and add them together; I simply choose six consecutive touches to arrive at the samples.  
 
While Johnson is a superior receiver to Peterson and we won't see a rate of production from Peterson that looks like Johnson's 879-yard, and 4-touchdown pace last year, the possibility of Peterson upgrading the Cardinals to fit what it wanted to do all along on the ground isn't as desperate as it appears. 
 
It's also notable that the Cardinals were committed to the run in the red zone. Although Johnson had 4 receiving touchdowns, 17 of his 20 total TDs came in the red zone last year, and he scored 16 times as a runner. 
The Gut Check also delivers video clips of Peterson and Johnson, their similarities, the scheme match, and a fantasy outlook for the veteran. A conservative rest-of-the-year outlook for Peterson is RB3 production based on his two-down role and the Cardinals offensive line. Based on my analysis, I believe the reason that the Cardinals haven't committed to the run is that it lacked confidence in any of the running backs trying to replace Johnson. None are strong inside runners who can punish a defense and that's what Johnson offered that Peterson still can. 
 

If the Cardinals can remain in the game for at least three full quarters against the Buccaneers, this weeks' contest could provide a good window into Peterson's potential for the rest of the year, especially based on the Rushing Matchup analysis from Howe, Knotts, and Roberts for the contest: 

The Cardinals have really tried to shake up their rushing attack this week with the trade of Adrian Peterson to help bolster their backfield. Peterson did not show us much in his limited opportunities in New Orleans this season, but a Cardinals backfield with only 259 total rushing yards through five games this season (worst in the league by over 20 yards per game) can use all the help it can get. Their offensive line remains banged up, which will still create matchup issues with nearly any defensive line they face up against. In addition, the Cardinals will likely remain a pass-first team, making opportunities hard to come by opportunities for any running back on this squad.

The Buccaneers have done a great job against the run this season, limiting opposing rushing offenses to only 87.3 yards per game—eight best in the league. Gerald McCoy continues to be a dominant force on the interior as he looks to be one of the best run-defending defensive tackles in the league. The only issue with the Buccaneers’ impressive run-defense statistics is that they have yet to face a decent rushing offense outside of the Vikings, where Dalvin Cook ran for nearly 100 yards and a touchdown against them. The Cardinals offensive line and running backs are not scaring anyone though, as this will be a matchup to avoid despite their flashy addition of Peterson this week.

My Take: The Buccaneers have faced Chicago, Minnesota, and the Giants. It was the Giants game where Wayne Gallman actually showed signs of fantasy life. The crew already mentioned Cooks' totals, and the Bears fell behind early due to turnovers and lost any shot at a meaninful game script for running the football. The Patriots' Lewis and Gillislee combined for 105 yards on 19 attempts. 

This tells me that the Buccaneers have real potential to be a paper champion of rushing matchups and that, in this case, the stats of Game Predictor and Rushing Matchups don't deliver the necessary context to trust them at face value for this particular matchup or any matchup over the next 3-4 weeks.

If you're a risk-taker, buy Peterson now at a low price. Demand a low price and pose it as if you're just desperate for a body or a bye-week option. Talk up the horrific and injured Cardinals line, his age, and his injury. Just say you're looking for a guy with reasonable volume and modest numbers that can keep you in the game during bye weeks with the possibility of a lottery hit on a big run every few weeks.

At the very least, this tactic should mitigate the price-gouging that will come with him. Bloom tried to extra a second-round pick from me in a dynasty league after I discussed Peterson on the air. That's too expensive for that league we're in and I wasn't desperate for a back. He then tried to get Chris Godwin from me.

Both are good attempts to take advantage of an owner who is high on Peterson's upside and he should try to exploit my view to see if I act on emotion. However, my context for the Peterson analysis is the re-draft format. If you get someone trying to gouge you, use these thoughts as ways to mitigate the attempt so there's some middle ground and a fairer deal. At worst, you may leave with a player who you can both agree is worth a modest offer that you made for Peterson. 

4.  Normalized STrength of Schedule

Austin Lee's creation is a popular DFS analysis that also offers quality information for year-long formats. Last year, Phil Alexander wrote an article about how to use it. Here's an excerpt: 

All fantasy points are not created equal.

It’s a simple concept, yet it still gets lost on the majority of DFS players, who look only at fantasy points allowed to determine the quality of  a player’s matchup. Don’t get me wrong -- looking at raw fantasy points allowed to each position has its merits. Defenses that give up the most fantasy points to a particular position often do so for good reason.

But raw fantasy points allowed summaries -- which you can find here on Footballguys -- have limitations. Last week, I showed you how to use the Game Log Dominator to get a detailed look at how each position grouping has performed against a particular defense. The Dominator is an excellent tool for analyzing matchups and spotting outlier performances (see Odell Beckham Jr. and Lamar Miller last week), but Footballguys’ Austin Lee has automated the grunt work usually required to analyze offensive and defensive games logs for each position and team, and wrapped it up into one neat, easy-to-use summary.

Normalized Strength of Schedule (NSOS) adjusts past (and even future) matchup statistics to better represent each team’s true offensive and defensive performances. Austin’s interactive chart is incredibly easy to use, but since it’s not listed on our DFS landing page, I want to make sure you know exactly where to find it and show you how to use it. Watch the video below for a brief tutorial and a look at which chalky QB it would be a bad idea to fade, regardless of projected ownership this week. 

Hopefully, you're now better equipped to get the most out of Normalized SOS and use it to draw your own conclusions. 

My Take: Teams/units that look particularly strong for the next three weeks include: 

  • Atlanta and Chicago's ground games.
  • Green Bay and Pittsburgh's wide receiver corps.
  • Tennessee, Kansas City, and Philadelphia's tight ends.

For the rest of the year, these units stand out: 

  • Kansas City and Washington's offenses with the exception of its receivers. 
  • Every phase of New England's offense.
  • Tampa Bay and New Orleans have potential to trend upward.
  • Denver could be trending downward.

Check out the video and play around with. You'll find worthwhile data points to aid your overall analysis of a player, unit, or team for a game, three weeks, the playoffs, or the rest of the year. 

5. Cutting the Cord

Sometimes you just need someone to give you the bad news straight, no chaser. Chad Parson's Cutting The Cord is a weekly look at players he recommends dropping or trading. Here are some of his notable takes this week: 

Zay Jones (Shop)

Why: Jones has seen strong snap counts the entire season and looks miscast and overwhelmed as the No.2 and now No.1 receiver in Buffalo. Seek stacking Jones on to another player for a marginal upgrade, otherwise seek higher upside options for the bye week gauntlet.

Eric Decker

Why: In shallow formats, Decker is not on the starting radar for strong teams. Corey Davis is near his return and Decker has not be viable even in Davis' absence.

Last week the big recommendations included:

Shop Ben RoethlisbergerKareem Hunt

Both had their worst fantasy games of the season in Week 5. The Steelers pass efficiency schedule stays brutal in Weeks 6-8, followed by a Week 9 bye. For Hunt, Oakland is a neutral matchup in Week 7, followed by the stingy Denver rush defense in Week 8.

Many of Parson's suggestions are players that fantasy owners keep on rosters as hopeful injury substitutions, but he believes clog a roster: Peyton Barber, Kerwynn Williams, Bruce Ellington, and Tavon Austin are among his candidates that qualify. 

My Take: I think Parson's is a little nutty to suggest unloading Hunt after the Chiefs have proven A) It will sustain its commitment to the run even when Hunt goes 2-3 quarters with stats that could be confused with Adrian Peterson's small workloads and B) Hunt and the Kansas City ground game have produced despite injuries to two starters along its line against decent opponents. 

Frankly, I can't even see why I'd trade Hunt unless I'm getting Devonta Freeman, LeVeon Bell, Fournette, or Gurley PLUS a real starter at receiver, quarterback, or tight end. The scheudle is not that hard after Denver and Denver isn't invulnerable. 

That said, many of this suggestions are sensible and, like the Upgrades/Downgrades, a good quick-and-dirty look early in the week to base further research. 

Good luck this weekend!