This week, we'll discuss the following topics:
Mariota in Play?
Oakland has allowed a top-12 QB performance in all but two games this season. Do you think Marcus Mariota continues that trend? What kind of exposure will you have to Mariota this week? What players would a move down from the $7,000 range allow you to spend up for with the $1,500 savings to Mariota's $5,500 price?
Phil Alexander: I have to admit, Mariota wasn't really on my radar until I started researching some data points to answer this question. He just hadn't done enough as a passer in his last two games to move the needle for me. But Mariota has flashed upside this season, going over 20 fantasy points in three out of eight starts, and he has averaged five rush attempts per game since Mike Mularkey took over as head coach (compared to 1.8 per game in his first six games), which raises his floor a bit. Mariota's great matchup with the Raiders can't be ignored either. Oakland allows 290 passing yards per game (third-most in the league) and also ranks near the bottom-third in opponent yards per pass attempt and pass defense DVOA (Football Outsiders).
I haven't chosen a cash game quarterback yet, but Mariota's target score is an achievable 16.5, so he certainly warrants consideration there. It's more likely I end up creating a few GPP lineups where I mix in a Mariota-Delanie Walker stack around my core players. The resulting savings will likely be spent getting up to guys like DeAndre Hopkins (this week's mega-chalk) and Julio Jones.
Justin Howe: The Raiders defense is seriously leaky, as you pointed out. I think Mariota has thrown with enough volume that he needs to be considered a near-lock for 3x cash value (16.5) and one of the week's better bets for 4x (22.0). Kendall Wright should return this week, too. Besides, the fact is that Mariota's fantasy production can really only go up as he runs the ball more (and he can't run the ball any less than he did under Ken Whisenhunt.)
In tinkering with early lineup combinations, Mariota is really providing helpful salary relief. He carries a similar scoring outlook to guys like Drew Brees and Matt Ryan, but at a much lower tag. With those savings, I was able to fulfill two cash game objectives: roster two of Jones, Hopkins, and Antonio Brown, while staying in the middle tiers (Rawls, Blount, etc.) at the RB position.
Scott Bishcoff: I am in agreement with Phil and Justin on Mariota's value this week. Mariota has finished as a top-five quarterback for the week in Week 1 and Week 9, and the matchup versus Oakland certainly provides him the chance to do so again this week -- and at a dramatically reduced price than other quarterback options. He should get to value this week, but he is still a rookie quarterback, and for that reason I will avoid being over-exposed to him in Week 12. He'll be in around 25 percent of my cash lineups, and I'll definitely do what Phil has suggested and throw Mariota and Walker in a stack together.
Saving $1,500 on the quarerback side allows for me to get one high-end receiver (Jones, Hopkins, Odell Beckham Jr, or Larry Fitzgerald) and Adrian Peterson. I like the upside of that from a roster construction perspective.
Which running back do you think will score the most raw points this week and why?
Phil Alexander: I'll go with Adrian Peterson to score the most raw points this week because he's a generational talent, guaranteed a monster workload, and has a great matchup. Peterson has handled 47.6% of the Vikings' offensive touches this season, easily the highest workload share in the league. Atlanta has given up the sixth-most fantasy points to opposing running backs this season, and only Detroit allows a higher opponent rushing touchdown percentage than the Falcons. There's no way Peterson should cost $1,000 less than Devonta Freeman (even if Freeman were healthy), but thankfully last week's down game against Green Bay helped keep Peterson's cost relatively reasonable.
Justin Howe: Like Phil, I also have Peterson as the week's top RB projection. He's running exceptionally well, and while the matchup with an underrated Atlanta defense isn't great, game flow could make up for that; the Falcons are a collapsing team.
BJ VanderWoude: In an effort of diversity, I will nominate Doug Martin as the running back who will finish with the highest raw score. I similarly have Peterson projected high, but Martin is close enough in my mind that the difference is negligible. Martin is coming off his highest rushing total of the year, a 235 yard gashing of the Eagles in which he reminded me of the rookie running back who took the NFL by storm in 2012. This was the second 200-yard rushing game of Martin's career (Week 12, 2012 season, 272 total yards, four touchdowns), and the only thing missing was Martin hitting pay dirt, which he nearly did on an 84 yard scamper that set up a Tampa touchdown.
This week, he gets a Colts rush defense ranked 22nd in the league, allowing 113.4 yards per game and nine rushing touchdowns (tied for sixth-worst in the NFL). More specifically, Indy has had trouble stopping the big play, giving up runs of 36 yards (T.J. Yeldon), 38 yards (LeGarrette Blount), 44 yards (Mark Ingram II), and 40 yards (Freeman). This fits Martin's skill set very well, as he proved last week he is capable of handling a big workload (27 carries) while still providing game breaking plays (runs of 27, 58 and 84 yards). His lack of total touchdowns (3) is worrying, but considering he has games of 28.3 points, 39.8 points, 23.1 points and 26.5 points this year, he is more than capable of pacing all running backs in any given week.
Scott Bischoff: I'll also attempt to diversify and I'll make an argument for Rams running back Todd Gurley. Gurley is realistically the Rams only true offensive weapon (apologies to Tavon Austin), and this week he gets the Bengals on the road. The Bengals boast the 13th-ranked rushing defense, but the statistics are more than a little deceptive. The Bengals are allowing 4.5 yards per carry, and only five teams are allowing more yards per carry in the NFL through 11 weeks. Also, the Bengals have given up eight carries of more than 20 yards, and only six defenses have surrendered more 20+ yards carries this year. Again, the Bengals are the 13th-ranked rushing unit, but a major reason in that ranking is that opposing offenses are only averaging 18.6 carries per game against them. There are three defenses in the NFL that have had the ball run on them less than the Bengals.
After considering the yards per carry Cincinnati allows, the big plays they give up, and the Rams desire for Gurley to carry the ball 20-25 times in this game, and I see Gurley having a big game this week. His value gets boosted in the passing game as he'll catch a few passes and add around four points to his rushing line at a minimum. One of the rushing issues facing other teams is that the Bengals have gotten out to big leads causing opposing offenses to go away from the run, but I don't think that happens this week. The Rams have a dominant front-four and they should pressure Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton enough to force him to throw early in Week 12. I don't see the Bengals running away from the Rams in this game, and that means that Gurley stays involved in the offense through the entire game. Clearly we've established that he'll need 25+ touches in this game to be the top scoring back, and I think he'll get that.
Since we can't simply choose the highest-projected player at each position, let's factor in the price tags. Which running back is the best points-per-dollar play in your mind?
Howe: In terms of low-budget value, aside from Rawls I've got two names in mind: Chris Johnson and Shaun Draughn. Johnson hasn't received any salary or ownership love all year, which does make sense as he's not a special touchdown scorer or receiving option. But he's also a volume blue-chipper, with 18+ touches in seven of his 10 games. His matchup with the 49ers, a defense that looks like it's pieced together from Southern California JV teams and local labor unions, is juicy. He's likely to maximize his yardage and touchdown potential as a heavy favorite. On the opposite sideline, Draughn has (some) sneaky appeal as a GPP punt. He'll only need around 15 points to hold tournament value, and he's been a notable part of the passing game with Carlos Hyde out (12 receptions in two games). If he's able to catch six balls Sunday, he'd likely only need 30-40 rushing yards to reach his mark.
Alexander: In terms of points per dollar, there's no shortage of inexpensive running backs due for large workloads. Thomas Rawls at $4,500 is the chalk play (assuming Marshawn Lynch sits), but cases can be made for Spencer Ware (if Charcandrick West is out), Ronnie Hillman, Tevin Coleman (if Freeman is out), Alfred Blue (high volume/great matchup), Johnson, and Javorious Allen.
Ultimately, I'm going with Rawls for cash simply because he projects for the most touches and has looked great in limited opportunities this season. In GPP, I like Hillman, who lacks the shiny new toy appeal of the other backs I mentioned and should come much lower-owned. LeSean McCoy reminded us last Monday night that New England can be run on, and Hillman is the clear 1A option in a Gary Kubiak run scheme that got back on track with Brock Osweiler leading the offense.
VanderWoude: Javorious Allen is my pick for the best points-per-dollar play at running back. The Ravens have been completely decimated on offense, and I do not envy the Baltimore coaches who have to install a game plan that features Matt Schaub at quarterback. It won't take them long to figure out that their best chance of winning involves feeding the ball to Allen early and often against a Cleveland rush defense that is worst in the league, allowing (138.8) yards per game. The first time these teams played, Allen ripped off eight carries for 58 yards (7.3 ypc), his best yards per carry average on the season. With Schaub under center, Allen should also be heavily targeted in the passing game, making him a very attractive option at ($4,600).
Bischoff: From a points-per-dollar perspective, I'm going to take a total flier and go way out on a limb for Cardinals running back Andre Ellington. Ellington's price is $3,500, and there is potential for the Cardinals to get into garbage time early in this game. I see him getting more work in Week 12 in the second half than Johnson, and I can see him putting up very nice numbers.
Who are your best "punt plays" at tight end and defense?
Phil Alexander: My favorite tight end punt is Heath Miller ($3,100) against the Seahawks. After allowing touchdowns to fantasy afterthoughts Jermaine Gresham and Vance McDonald in back to back weeks, Seattle has now let up the third-most fantasy points to opposing tight ends this season. The crowd should be off Miller, who hasn't done much lately and is coming off a bye week, which makes him a nice GPP play. Since Ben Roethlisberger returned from injury in Week 8, Miller has seen between six and 13 targets in every game, including 18% of Pittsburgh's red zone targets. I see something in the neighborhood of a 5-50-1 receiving line as close to Miller's baseline projection in this matchup, which makes him a screaming value.
On the defensive side, though I'd prefer them to be playing at home, I don't mind the Giants ($2,400) as a D/ST punt play. New York has a bottom-third pass defense (DVOA) and struggles to pressure the quarterback (league-low 2.84% sack percentage), but much like when these two teams met in Week 3, Kirk Cousins could lead Washington to three touchdowns, while also mixing in multiple turnovers.
Justin Howe: I like Jacob Tamme at $3,300, but for a $3,000 or under punt play, I'll bring up Coby Fleener. He's been a bitter disappointment for me thus far (he was a middle-round pick in many of my MFL10 drafts) but had a huge game (9-83-1) with Matt Hasselbeck at the helm in Week 4. And the Buccaneers have allowed two 10+ catch games to TEs over the last month. If he's truly snatched any real role in the offense, he's a fine bet to reach tourney value at his tiny salary.
On defense, I could see Jacksonville springing up to provide value. The Chargers once-prolific passing game is missing its engine (Keenan Allen) and trotting out a clearly injured Antonio Gates, and as a result their dynamism has evaporated. They've scored just 22 points over the last two games, and are always a turnover time bomb - they've coughed up two or more giveaways six times this year.
Scott Bischoff: I also Fleener at $3,000 this week at home against Tampa Bay. I am sensing that he'll be owned at a low precentage because of Hasselbeck filling in for injured quarterback Andrew Luck. However, Hasselbeck is actually providing a boost for Fleener as Fleener has seen 20 targets in the three games that Hasselbeck has started in 2015. I'd expect a four or five catch game for 60 yards and if Fleener gets into the endzone, he represents great value.
The defense I am looking at the Cleveland Browns to get to GPP value this week as they take on the Baltimore Ravens at home Monday night. The Ravens are without just about everyone, and I can see a scenario where backup quarterback Matt Schaub looks very rusty and turns the ball over multiple times to the Browns defense. At a price of $2,000, I can see the Browns easily gettting to value this week.
Fun with Numbers
Blow us away with one stat that you are utilizing for building your lineups this week.
Phil Alexander: The Saints have allowed 63% more fantasy points per game to the quarterback position than the league average over the last five weeks. Brian Hoyer is available for the quarterback minimum. He has achieved at least 3x value at that price in five out of the six games he's finished this season, and at least 4x value three times. As strange as it seems, Hoyer is as safe as they come for cash games and his ceiling is plenty high for GPPs.
Scott Bischoff: I'll hit the Saints here too. Looking at weekly scoring to determine which defenses are consistently performing poorly, New Orleans has surrendered a top-five overall performance six times in 10 games total. The Saints rank 31st in the NFL in pass defenswe and have given up 28 touchdowns via the pass. They are also dead last in the NFL as opposing quarterbacks are throwing for a 116.6 QB rating on them.
This week, Hoyer and the Houston Texans get the Saints at home. Hoyer had strung together five solid games in a row (12 touchdown passes) before he was injured in Week 10 against Cincinnati. I'm in agreement with Phil here because of the matchup and Hoyer's faith in getting the ball to DeAndre Hopkins. I see Hoyer as a player I want in the majority of my cash games and certainly a Hoyer-Hopkins stack will happen this week.
Justin Howe: I'm all about the red zone, so here's something to give even more comfort in stacking Texans this week: over their last four games, New Orleans has allowed a stunning 12 touchdown passes from inside the 20. But let's move on from the Saints as everyone is already aware of how poor their defense is.
I was also stunned by how high my model projected the Steelers offense in Seattle. They're averaging 44 attempts over their last three, so Ben Roethlisberger and his top two wideouts have a nice solid floor in the event of a dominant defensive performance. But that defense hasn't been as dominant of late as we're used to. Their allowed yards-per-attempt has risen to 7.99; teams are having some success throwing short on Richard Sherman and hoping for yardage after the catch. It should be noted that they haven't been getting much, but receptions are still happening. It makes sense to hesitate on paying so huge for Antonio Brown, whose ceiling is notably limited when in Sherman's coverage. But his PPR floor remains acceptable, and the shift works wonders for Martavis Bryant's value. Sherman's teammates, Cary Williams and DeShawn Shead, are thoroughly burnable.
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