Roundtable #7

Eavesdrop as various staff members share their views on a range of topics.

This week we discuss the following:

Game scripts

The flow of a football game, whether it's a blowout, a shootout, or a defensive struggle, has a great deal of impact players' fantasy production.

New Orleans at Indianapolis is expected to be one of the higher-scoring games of the week. Daniel, can you tell us how you see that game unfolding?

Daniel Simpkins: Vegas is predicting a high scoring contest and I concur. Both defenses are particularly weak against the run, so look for Frank Gore and Mark Ingram II to have big days. It’s going to be interesting to see how the Colts' poor offensive line holds up to a Saints pass rush that is starting to come to life. We could see Luck get sacked more than a few times in this game. Ultimately, I think the Saints' pass defense is going to continue to let them down and Andrew Luck will have a nice statistical outing. Continue to play Donte Moncrief, who was targeted nearly twice as much as Andre Johnson this past Sunday. I still don’t see things coming together for Brandin Cooks, partially because Drew Brees still isn’t throwing a crisp ball and because I believe he’ll draw Vontae Davis in coverage for most of the game. Willie Snead IV will continue to be the play in this passing attack. Snead will be busy if the Saints have any hope of topping the Colts.

Baltimore at Arizona might be more lopsided. Do you agree, Chad?

Chad Parsons: The more time passes, the more I look for teams with positive scenarios like coming off a bye week, especially with a home game or after a tough loss. Arizona had two field goals over the final three and a half quarters in their 12-point loss in Pittsburgh last week. Carson Palmer piled up 421 passing yards but two interceptions and a bevy of team fumbles marred their day.

This week is a true ‘get well’ game as Arizona returns to their comfort zone in the desert and Baltimore is the one traveling across the country (bringing their questionable-at-best defense). The Ravens gave up a highly efficient game to Colin Kaepernick, who looks lost in most of his games. I see Carson Palmer, Larry Fitzgerald, John Brown, and even Michael Floyd all quality options this week.

In an AFC West matchup, Oakland at San Diego could provide some fireworks. Justin, can you take us through what you're expecting there?

Justin Howe: I'd argue that at the moment no team shows a more predictable weekly script expectation than the Chargers. With 15 more pass attempts than any other team, this offense is surviving almost exclusively through the air. Philip Rivers carries four impressive intermediate targets and a limited run game yet to assert itself whatsoever, That gives him a weekly outlook over 40 attempts and as strong a shot at the 300-yard bonus as anyone. He's not just a QB1 no-brainer this week—Rivers is the week's top play in cash or GPP contests, and all of his primary targets are fully rosterable in their own formats.

On the other side, we may see a popular narrative—the Chargers' cringe-inducing run defense—fail to pan out. That's something you want to get in on, so give some consideration to the Raiders pass game based on volume and a frantic game script, Latavius Murray should dominate the ball, but I'm prepping for a fairly pass-heavy Raiders script. San Diego is running more offensive plays than every team but Houston, so Derek Carr and the Oakland offense can expect to be on the field as much this week as they can handle. That quick pace indicates Carr will be airing it out a minimum of 35 times or so, likely enough opportunity for Carr to join the QB1 conversation as well.

Philadelphia at Carolina could be a close one. Chris, how do you see that game going?

Chris Feery: The Panthers are favored by a field goal coming off of their huge win over Seattle. A projected total of 46 points leads us to two teams that are projected to score in the low 20s, which sounds about right for their primetime matchup. Sam Bradford’s turnovers are becoming a big concern. He’s facing a team that can pressure the quarterback which points to the possibility of some more issues this week. Add in the fact that the Panthers can successfully remove a team’s top receiving threat and we have a situation we may want to avoid in the Eagles passing attack. For the Eagles to have some success on Sunday Night, DeMarco Murray will need to continue to build on his strong performances from the past two weeks.

As for the Panthers, the opposite scenario applies. The Eagles have been pretty stout against the run but have allowed some solid production from opposing team’s passing attacks. Cam Newton had a shaky first half against the Seahawks but turned it around for a really solid second half. He’s playing at a pretty high-level this season and there’s no reason to believe that will change this week. The Eagles have been strong against opposing tight ends which may lead to a dip in production for Greg Olsen. Ted Ginn Jr Jr. should be the biggest beneficiary as the number two option in the passing game.

How about the Jets at New England? Is the Patriots offense going to put up a lot of points?

Stephen Holloway: The Patriots remain undefeated (5-0) following their victory over Indianapolis a week ago. This week's match against the rival Jets has the Patriots a 9-1/2 point home favorite. The game could be much closer as the Jets feature the NFL's number one defense overall and against the pass. Darrel Revis, one of the Patriot's team leaders a year ago has moved to the Jets and along with Cromartie really strengthened their passing defense.

The latest news on Tom Brady is that he is planning to play for ten more years or until he is 48 years old. That sounds like crazy talk and could possibly inspire the Jets defenders even more. This season, Brady has been outstanding and he's completing 70.6% of his passing attempts for 1,699 yards and 14 touchdowns against one interception. The match-up between the Jets outstanding defense and Tom Brady will be great to watch.

Another factor that makes me think the Jets can keep the game close is the success of Chris Ivory and the Jets running game. Ivory is third in the NFL in rushing and has averaged 5.54 yards per carry. The Jets offense is capable of controlling the clock on offense and limiting New England's offensive opportunities.

Look for the Jets to control the clock and the game coming down to whether Brady can have close to his typical success in the passing game. Patriots win in a slightly lower scoring game than expected 20-17, but the Jets cover the spread.

Let's do one more. Minnesota at Detroit. Jeff, what do you make of this division rivalry?

Jeff Haseley: I look at this game and see Minnesota taking advantage of a bad Detroit defense. Where to start with Detroit? They are the only team that has allowed double-digit rushing and receiving touchdowns. They are among the bottom five in rushing defense (yards) and they have the highest QB rating against at 110.2. On offense they have given up a league-high 18 turnovers, resulting in a turnover in 23% of their drives. They can't win if that persists. The only thing going for them is that this is a home game. The home crowd advantage won't help much if/when the team plays poorly. This could be the get-right game that Adrian Peterson is looking for to propel him back into the talk among the league's best running backs. Detroit has struggled to run the ball, which makes them a one-dimensional offense that is easier to defend. Minnesota is only favored by three points in this game with an over-under of 44.5. This leads me to believe that Detroit will be able to keep pace with Minnesota or they will score a lot of second half points to make it respectable. Put me on record saying this will be 24-20 Minnesota with Peterson scoring two touchdowns with over 100 total yards. Matthew Stafford will do enough to throw two touchdown passes in a losing effort. This might come down to a late game-winning drive by Minnesota giving Detroit another close loss that slipped away.

Who will score more points?

Who will average more fantasy points per game for the rest of this season?

Philip Rivers or Andy Dalton?

Daniel Simpkins: It’s a tough call, but I’m taking Rivers here. The Bengals have a more robust offensive line, ground game, and defense on which to rely. The line is getting healthier, but even so, the San Diego rushing attack is not having much of an impact. Rivers is also playing well and making good decisions with the football, so it makes sense to keep letting him sling it.

Justin Howe: It's sad to say, because I've ridden the early-season Dalton train to some success thus far, but Rivers has the better outlook going forward. His running game has yet to provide any meaningful help, while Dalton boasts a far better complementary cast on offense, with two startable RBs and a run-obsessed offensive coordinator. It's very likely that run game takes more and more of the pie as the season progresses, especially in the red zone. On the other side, the Chargers' rushing "attack" is designed to situationally prop up an exhausted Rivers, not take over and dominate games, giving Rivers an absurd amount of volume. More importantly, Rivers' value looks to be boosted more by game script than Dalton's. The 2-4 Chargers are the clearly inferior team and still have all six divisional matchups left on their docket; they won't be grinding out many wins in second halves.

Stephen Holloway: This one is an easy call for me. Rivers is on a record pace for attempts, completions, and yardage and he will easily outpace Dalton for the rest of the season. I agree with Daniel that the Bengals have a much better defense and a much better running game to support Dalton, while Rivers is the total focus of the Chargers' offense. In addition, even with the outstanding play by Dalton thus far, I am conscious of the possible fade as the season wears on.

Chad Parsons: This is a close call as I love what San Diego is doing in the pass game and Rivers is a highly-efficient option with his use of check down options. Dalton is the pick here. The Cincinnati offense is absolutely loaded with skill position options. Tyler Eifert and Giovani Bernard missed significant time last year and they are fully back into the mix. You can make the argument Marvin Jones Jr and Mohamed Sanu are the best No. 4 and No. 5 options in a passing game in the entire NFL. Other than Dalton going ‘full Dalton’ in terms of a meltdown, he gets the edge here.

Chris Feery: While Dalton is playing at an extremely high level, the sheer amount of volume from the Chargers passing game shows no signs of slowing down and points to Rivers being the more productive fantasy option. As Stephen mentioned, Rivers is on a record-setting pace in several categories. Dalton’s strong play will lead to more victories while Rivers will continue to air it out as the Chargers battle for every win they can get.

James Brimacombe: The Chargers are allowing Philip Rivers to sling the ball over the field and he looks like a lock to hit 300 passing yards almost every game with the pace he is on. With Dalton he is playing on a winning team and has great targets to help him score touchdowns. Dalton might be the safe play each week but no one likes to play it safe in fantasy so I am all in with Rivers out of this pair of quarterbacks.

Jeff Haseley: I'm going to take Philip Rivers here, by sheer volume of their passing offense. The Chargers are on pace for over 700 pass attempts and 470 completions. Even with a regression that's still over 400 completions. Rivers is the type of quarterback who can thrive in this offense where the running game isn't firing on all cylinders. We've seen a similar result in years past with the Lions and Matthew Stafford throwing well over 600 pass attempts. I don't see the Chargers running game correcting itself anytime soon, and even if it does, the run will set up the pass—advantage Rivers.

Christine Michael or Joseph Randle?

Daniel Simpkins: I’m predicting it’s going to be Michael. We’re seeing the little hints that the team is getting put out with Randle doing so little behind such a great O-line. Though Michael hasn’t gotten multiple touches in a game yet, this could change very quickly coming out of the bye.

Justin Howe: This one remains too close to call for me. I'm tentatively expecting them to split touches pretty evenly down the stretch, though Michael holds by far the lower floor. Call me a purist or a skeptic, but to be an athletic marvel like Michael and never even sniff the Seahawks' plans—a franchise that fawns over SPARQ-y athleticism—is a tremendous red flag. This is a guy who never dominated his college backfield, either, and apparently has yet to develop whatsoever in the passing game. I could certainly see him wrestling the majority of early-down work from Randle and Darren McFadden, but not any kind of stranglehold on the backfield.

Stephen Holloway: I witnessed Michael's outstanding athleticism in person as he ran all over the Arkansas Razorbacks, but that was four years ago and he still has not made an impact in the NFL. My thinking is that he will be added to the mix following the Cowboys' bye week, but the end result is that all three, Randle, McFadden and Michael will see the field and none of them will be worthy of fantasy starts. To this point, Randle has garnered the majority of the carries and he would be my favorite to maintain a larger role, but less than he has had thus far.

Chad Parsons: The more volume Randle gets, the more pedestrian he looks. In sparse relief of DeMarco Murray last year behind a dominant performing offensive line, Randle’s burst was enough to produce. With more touches, his flaws have been on display. He rarely breaks a tackle and has little innate feel for making yards on his own on interior runs. Michael has the ability to make yards against defenders in one-on-one situations and break tackles at the second level. While Michael is largely an unknown due to his minimal sample size in the NFL to-date, we know Randle is a limited ceiling option doing fantasy owners little to no good the rest of the season. Dallas is moving on and we should too.

Chris Feery: We’re all intrigued by Michael’s potential and athleticism, but that has yet to translate into production. Even with more opportunity, I don’t see him breaking that far away from what Randle is capable of. If anything, we’re looking at a RBBC situation. I’ll give the nod to Randle to outpace Michael due to familiarity with the offense and the belief that he’ll still have the largest role of the Cowboys running backs.

James Brimacombe: Christine Michael always seems to be drawing praise and in the news wire ever since he entered the league but in reality he has done very little to warrant that praise. I am happy to just plug in Randle in the flex spot here and there when I need him as an option, but as far as Michael goes I will not be looking to put him on a single team's roster.

Jeff Haseley: Put me in the camp that believes Christine Michael will not only get his chance to stake his claim as the Cowboys primary back, but I believe he'll perform well when he does. Losing Lance Dunbar was a big loss for the Cowboys and their offensive game plan. He was going to be a key piece to their offense, which has struggled since his injury. The opportunity is ripe for the taking for Michael. If he performs well when given the chance, he will likely supplant Joseph Randle as the team's leading back and be a weekly fantasy start in the process. My gut says he's going to do well and could very well be a key piece to your team's Championship run.

James Starks or Ronnie Hillman?

Daniel Simpkins: I’m going to go with Hillman. Whether it be injury, ineffectiveness, or both, C.J. Anderson is losing his grip on the starting job. With Manning playing so poorly, Kubiak will want to get that ground game going to support his stellar defense. We saw this formula work in the Cleveland contest and I think you’ll see it again when the Broncos come out of the bye. I think Starks is underrated, but I believe Lacy will eventually be able to heal up and take his touches back, especially with the bye week upcoming.

Justin Howe: I don't love either, as Starks is a strict backup talent and Hillman a mistake-prone underwhelmer. But I'll take the latter because, as Daniel points out, he has less competing talent waiting to take the reins. C.J. Anderson just doesn't have much juice at this point, but Eddie Lacy is a genuine, proven feature back. A healthy Lacy has a far better chance of reclaiming the lead role than Anderson.

Stephen Holloway: I am going to go with James Starks on this one. I think that something is more serious with Eddie Lacy and Starks will maintain the lead role going forward for the Packers. He looked a lot quicker and I was surprised that he had the speed to go all the way in last week's action. Hillman has played well, but the stubbornness in me expects to see more from C. J. Anderson down the stretch. It is a close call and if Lacy can recover quicker than I expect, he could regain the upper hand, but I don't expect that to happen down the stretch.

Chad Parsons: I have railed on Eddie Lacy this entire season as being closer to Trent Richardson on tape than any Lacy supporter wants to admit. Starks has a burst perfect for the Green Bay offense which keeps safeties back and provides opportunities for big plays. On Starks’ long touchdown in Week 6, I could not help wonder if Eddie Lacy would have gained even half of those yards with his lack of burst and speed. The Broncos offense is constricting by the week and I would not bet on any of the backs being a consistent or high-upside play going forward. Red zone opportunities, which were a dime a dozen in years past in Denver, are now rare commodities. I will take Starks here.

Chris Feery: A rejuvenated Starks in a strong Packers offense should outpace Hillman in a struggling Broncos offense. Hillman clearly showed this past week that he brings more to the table than C.J. Anderson at this point. That should lead to more opportunities, but I’m just not sold on the Broncos offensive outlook for the rest of the way. Starks is clearly the better option for the Packers over Eddie Lacy. While the team is looking at a ‘hot hand’ approach to running back, the eye test and stat sheet point to Starks receiving more opportunity as the season moves along.

James Brimacombe: James Starks looked fantastic last game showing speed and a nice burst but he still is always going to have Eddie Lacy in front of him. In the Denver situation C.J. Anderson has got his shot a couple of times this year and failed to deliver, as it has been Ronnie Hillman making the most of the opportunity. I would buy Ronnie Hillman out of these pair of running backs.

Jeff Haseley: I'll take James Starks here, because the Broncos offensive line and their offensive efficiency is not at the same level as the Packers. Starks is worth a flex option at least until Eddie Lacy returns to form, if he does at all. Starks is running with good burst and he has indicated that he can be relied upon to handle the load in Lacy's absence. At this time we can't count on any of the Broncos backs to be a consistent fantasy threat. Not only is there a committee approach in Denver, but there are big question marks surrounding the effectiveness of the offense and offensive line. I'll gladly take Starks over that uncertainty, especially with Eddie Lacy underperforming.

Martavis Bryant or Alshon Jeffery?

Daniel Simpkins: Give me Jeffery. Neither is a bad option, however. The Bears wisely let him recover and he had a strong return on Sunday as a result. He’s also in his contract year, so the motivation will be there, even if he’s on a team going nowhere. Landry Jones and Bryant showed a nice connection on the deep ball in Week 6. Ben Roethlisberger seems like he’s close to returning, and we know there’s rapport there.

Justin Howe: I have to say Jeffery, who's developed into the red zone threat his size and athleticism have hinted at, the one he was at South Carolina. That makes him a strong weekly bet for touchdowns—but unlike Bryant, he'll never be a dice roll. Jeffery will be the Bears' weekly offensive focal point, while Bryant, uniquely talented as he is, will spend much of his time schemed as a situational threat based on matchup. That means that on some weeks, Bryant's (realistic) ceiling will be close to Jeffery's floor. Bryant's quest for WR1 value will have to rely largely upon manufactured scoring opportunities, rather than the organic volume and dominance Jeffery shows.

Stephen Holloway: Bryant could outpace Jeffery for the next few games, but when Ben Roethlisberger returns, I fully expect Antonio Brown to remain Roethlisberger's go-to guy. Jeffery meanwhile will be the leading receiver by far for the Bears for the remainder of the season. Jeffery's production will lead Bryant. Justin's point was solid and I agree completely.

Chad Parsons: Jeffery has limited competition for targets and a higher red zone usage floor. While Bryant is the perfect high-upside WR3 in fantasy terms, this is easily Jeffery for the rest of the season.

Chris Feery: As the top option in the Bears passing game, Jeffery is the better choice. Bryant again showed his tremendous potential this past week, but I agree with Stephen – Antonio Brown will continue to be the lead dog when Ben Roethlisberger returns.

James Brimacombe: This is an interesting one and one that I don't think you can lose either direction that you go as both Bryant and Jeffery have so much upside every time they are healthy and on the field. Jeffery probably has the better shot at giving you steady numbers each week but Bryant can get you a 50+ yard touchdown in an instance.

Jeff Haseley: I'm leaning Martavis Bryant over Alshon Jeffery, despite him (Bryant) being the second wide receiver on the team. The Steelers offense is expected to be one of the best in the league when Ben Roethlisberger returns, which should lead to more scoring opportunities than what Jeffery will receive in Chicago. In my opinion, Bryant is playing at or better than Jeffery right now and when you include the Steelers offensive expectations, it puts him over the top. Jeffery should see a nice bump in production as the Bears main receiving threat, but Bryant looks to be a gem on a high-scoring offense. I'll take the receiver on the better offense in most cases.

Brandon LaFell or John Brown?

Daniel Simpkins: I’ll take John Brown, but it’s close. Brown does have more competition for targets, but I’m thinking that the team has finally woken up to the fact that good things happen when you make a point of getting the ball to Brown. The nature of Brandon LaFell’s foot injury is still unknown, but was serious enough that I believe he may not be able to move to the active roster immediately.

Justin Howe: I'll take Brown here. He's underwhelmed on the stat sheet, but there are strong, strong indicators that Brown will erupt at any moment and serve as a weekly WR2 down the stretch. He's lost out on a handful of deep balls thanks to near-misses and pass interferences, happenings that could generally go either way and tend to progress toward the mean. And Brown is catching an absurd 73.3% of his targets, a far better rate than most diminutive deep threats. It certainly seems as though we've already seen his floor, and that the best is yet to come.

Stephen Holloway: I'll also take Brown as we have not yet seen LaFell and just don't know how quickly he will be worked into the Patriot's plans. Brady also has Gronkowski (perhaps the league's best), along with Edelman and Amendola that are both capable receivers. Brown is almost 1B to Fitzgerald's 1A and they should continue their pace down the stretch. It's Brown for me.

Chad Parsons: Brown broke out in Week 6, but has been simmering the entire season. There have been multiple near-big plays for Brown each week and they will start to convert as the season progresses. LaFell is a wild card and we know how the Patriots receivers, outside of Julian Edelman, oscillate wildly on a week-to-week basis. Give me Brown here.

Chris Feery: Brown is easily the better choice over LaFell. Brown is a key cog in the Cardinals passing attack while LaFell’s role with the Patriots resembles a question mark. As Chad mentioned, production from Patriots receivers is wildly unpredictable outside of Julian Edelman. Brown can be counted on for consistent production and has potential for a big game in any given week.

James Brimacombe: Easy one here as John Brown looks the part this season and has been healthy. Brandon LaFell has Tom Brady at QB but he still might get lost in the New England offense shuffle.

Jeff Haseley: New England doesn't seem like a team that will modify their offense to cater to a particular player. Even if Brandon LaFell returns completely healthy, I don't see him automatically being a force on offense. He'll see his share of opportunities and touchdowns, but volume-wise it's still dominated by Julian Edelman, Rob Gronkowski and Dion Lewis. John Brown has been playing well, especially recently where his targets have spiked over the last three games leading him to exceed Larry Fitzgerald as the primary Cardinals receiver in that span. LaFell may have more scores than Brown from here on out, but I believe Brown will be the more consistent threat with more total points and better yardage going forward.

Julius Thomas or Gary Barnidge?

Daniel Simpkins: I never thought I would say this, but give me Barnidge over Thomas. Barnidge is fulfilling a vital role in an offense that is depleted of receiving talent outside of Travis Benjamin. I also don’t believe in Thomas’ ability to stay healthy. He’s now questionable to play this week after suffering a rib contusion in Week 6.

Justin Howe: Barnidge. But then, I'd wager on just about anyone's success over the prospect of Thomas being healthy for more than ten minutes.

Stephen Holloway: I'm taking Julius Thomas. I agree with Justin about his history of missing games due to injury, but I'm counting on the fact that he has already missed those games for this year. In the pre-season, Thomas was talked up as the Jaguars most dynamic player and their passing game has been impressive and I think Bortles continues his success.

Chad Parsons: Thomas is back on the field and this is no longer the laughing stock Jacksonville offense from years ago. Other than Allen Robinson, the Jaguars have few red zone options, Thomas’ forte. The Browns are playing over their heads and I expect this career hot streak by Barnidge to slow in the coming weeks. Thomas is the higher percentage play at a position where touchdowns drive fantasy production with lower volume than wide receivers.

Chris Feery: The clock has not struck twelve for Barnidge as of yet and I don’t believe it will. He has clear chemistry with Josh McCown and should continue to be his go-to guy. While Thomas outshines him in ability and potential, Barnidge seems to playing better and better with each passing week. Barnidge’s hot streak may cool down as Chad alluded to, but I expect him to continue to be highly targeted. Thomas needs to stay on the field to start, but also needs to compete with more talented receivers than the Browns have at their disposal for attention.

James Brimacombe: It is hard to argue what Barnidge is doing currently but I loved what I saw and read about Julius Thomas in the offseason and it has showed in glimpses over the first couple of weeks he has been back from injury. The Jaguars offense still remains under the radar and Thomas should benefit from Blake Bortles passing the ball over the place.

Jeff Haseley: I don't see Gary Barnidge keeping up with his break-neck pace. Teams will eventually learn that he's a key piece of the offense and will scheme to keep him from beating them. Barnidge is not athletic enough to make plays if coverage is tighter. I see a regression coming, which should bring him back to earth. On the flip side, Julius Thomas is quickly becoming more involved in the Jaguars passing offense and should be seeing a spike in volume in the coming weeks. I'd take Thomas over Barnidge going forward, plus the Jaguars passing game is performing well, which will definitely help Thomas' numbers.

That will do it for this edition of the Footballguys Roundtable. Please join us again next week.

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