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.
1. Ryan Hester's trendspotting
In the Now #Trending section of Ryan's popular feature, he compares "how teams have performed on a raw 'fantasy points against' basis over the past five weeks vs. how they performed prior to that [five-week period].
Ryan does this for each position looking ahead to Week 15's contest. I share my thoughts about his analysis at the end of this section.
In this section, we're comparing how teams have performed on a 'raw fantasy points against' basis over the past five weeks vs. how they performed prior to that.
|San Francisco 49ers||31||2||-29||Atlanta Falcons|
|Denver Broncos||28||3||-25||Kansas City Chiefs|
|Dallas Cowboys||27||5||-22||Los Angeles Rams|
|Jacksonville Jaguars||30||15||-15||Oakland Raiders|
|Indianapolis Colts||23||10||-13||New Orleans Saints|
"Last 5" = Fantasy Points per Game ranking to the position in the last 5 weeks
"Prior" = Fantasy Points per Game ranking to the position prior to that
"Delta" = Prior-Last 5 (negative numbers imply a defense getting worse; positive imply a defense improving)
Commentary and Action Items
Don't be scared of Patrick Mahomes II just because of the Denver matchup. The Broncos have yielded 265 or more passing yards in four of their last five games after doing so zero times prior. And Denver has allowed 39.0 rushing yards per game to the last four mobile quarterbacks they have faced (not counting games against Philip Rivers and Kirk Cousins).
|vs. Running Backs|
|New Orleans Saints||25||4||-21||Indianapolis Colts|
|Jacksonville Jaguars||32||16||-16||Oakland Raiders|
|Houston Texans||31||15||-16||Tennessee Titans|
|Minnesota Vikings||20||5||-15||Los Angeles Chargers|
|Seattle Seahawks||21||12||-9||Carolina Panthers|
Commentary and Action Items
If the Oakland running back situation provides clarity prior to Sunday, either Josh Jacobs or DeAndre Washington are solid plays. If Jacobs starts or if Washington starts with Jacobs inactive, either would be an RB2 play in season-long leagues. Washington would garner cash game consideration in DFS if Jacobs sits.
Houston's recent troubles align with Derrick Henry's surge.
Derrick Henry over the last month:— Graham Barfield (@GrahamBarfield) December 9, 2019
That’s 6.97 (!!) yards per carry in this beast-mode span.
Henry is on fire and can't be ignored as the main touchdown scorer in what has been an elite offense over the past seven weeks. Henry is a no-doubt RB1 in season-long leagues but more of a GPP play in DFS due to his big-ticket price and some similarly-projected players (such as Carson, for example) at lower prices.
Both Chargers' backs are in play vs. Minnesota. The Vikings slide includes last week's game against a lowly Detroit team, meaning their "Last 5" number could be worse had they played an average opponent last week.
|vs. Wide Receivers|
|Denver Broncos||23||3||-20||Kansas City Chiefs|
|Indianapolis Colts||30||10||-20||New Orleans Saints|
|Dallas Cowboys||19||2||-17||Los Angeles Rams|
|Chicago Bears||20||6||-14||Green Bay Packers|
|Miami Dolphins||27||15||-12||New York Giants|
Commentary and Action Items
Davante Adams could be an intriguing play this week. He's coming off a stinker where he was "cash game safe," and he's facing a Chicago team that appears difficult but is trending down lately.
The Rams receivers look attractive against Dallas. Note that Cooper Kupp only played 20 snaps (29%) last week, while Woods played 69 of 70.
The Giants have a promising matchup as they host Miami this week. The return of Sterling Shepard was supposed to relegate Darius Slayton to afterthought status, but the Giants have been employing many three-receiver sets in the past three weeks.
In addition to the solid usage shown below, Slayton has outproduced his veteran teammates. Here are the trio's stats in the last three games, shown on a per-game basis to account for Tate's missed Week 13.
- Shepard - 4.0 receptions, 27.7 yards, 0.3 touchdowns
- Tate - 2.0 receptions, 22.0 yards, 0.5 touchdowns
- Slayton - 5.0 receptions, 83.3 yards, 0.7 touchdowns
|Week 12||Week 13||Week 14||Total|
|Player||Snap %||Tgt %||AirYd%||Snap %||Tgt %||AirYd%||Snap %||Tgt %||AirYd%||Snap %||Tgt %||Yds %|
"Snap %" = percentage of team snaps played
"Tgt %" = percentage of team targets thrown to that player
"AirYd%" = percentage of team air yards thrown to that player
|vs. Tight Ends|
|New England Patriots||28||2||-26||Cincinnati Bengals|
|Houston Texans||31||9||-22||Tennessee Titans|
|San Francisco 49ers||24||3||-21||Atlanta Falcons|
|New York Giants||26||5||-21||Miami Dolphins|
|Buffalo Bills||18||1||-17||Pittsburgh Steelers|
Commentary and Action Items
The table above is an illustration of how unpredictable tight end production is. Each of these teams started as elite defenses in limiting tight end production, but each has slipped dramatically in five weeks since. While tight end DvP shouldn't be our guiding light to make a decision, San Francisco would be the preferred team to attack this week of the five listed above.
Austin Hooper returned last week but only played 65% of the snaps (far below his pre-injury average) but saw six targets. If his snaps rise this week, his targets should too. And beating San Francisco on the perimeter is more difficult than up the middle. It's also worth noting the "How Will They Score" section above. Atlanta scores 50.0% of its total points via passing touchdowns, the third-highest ratio in the NFL.
Matt's Thoughts: Von Miller has been dealing with an MCL injury most of the year and may need surgery at year's end. Although he has played most of the year, he only has six sacks, by far the lowest pass-rushing output of his career. Miller remains dangerous but he's not lethal, which lends credence to the generosity of the Broncos against quarterbacks and why you shouldn't be afraid to start Patrick Mahomes II.
Barring injury issues you have to note with Jacobs, he, Marlon Mack, Derrick Henry, Austin Ekeler, Melvin Gordon III, and Christian McCaffrey are all obvious plays. If you need a desperation pick from the waiver wire, C.J. Prosise could give you some semblance of PPR production with Rashaad Penny on injured reserve. The Panthers allow the most fantasy points to the opposing running backs in the NFL and there are two on-field reasons that match the data:
- The Panthers lost Kawann Short and Dontari Poe and didn't replace them with similar talent.
- Carolina switched to a 3-4 defense which relies heavily on defensive linemen to keep its linebackers clean so they can make tackles. This isn't happening.
Carson will earn the majority of the carries but don't count out Prosise when it comes to earning much of Penny's touches because he's a third-string back. Prosise was a second-round pick who has shown off his versatility as a big-play runner and downfield receiver over the years. Seattle essentially gave up on Prosise because he couldn't stay healthy.
This summer, Prosise performed his way back onto the roster after the team anticipating that it would cut him. If you need a desperation play because all of the obvious plays every other fantasy writer is talking about isn't available, Prosise has the ability and, potentially the situation, to earn at least a moderate amount of points to prevent a goose egg while having the upside to do much more.
Continue rolling with Darius Slayton ahead of Shepard and Tate, but don't be surprised if Shepard has one of his few strong weeks that somehow keeps hope alive for his minimal upside that a lot of people seem enamored with year after year. Cooper Kupp's production has been down as of late, but the Cowboys are vulnerable in areas of the field where Kupp is productive. Tre'Quan Smith may also be worth consideration now that he's healthy. Drew Brees told the FOX broadcast crew last week that he has a high degree of trust in Smith as a route runner.
As for the tight ends, Mike Gesicki is a boom-bust deep seam option against the Giants. Ryan's thoughts on Hooper make complete sense and Hooper looked good in limited time last week. He's bending well as a route runner, which is a sign he's had a successful recovery from his injury.
2. The Gut Check: Fantasy Playoff Scratch-Offs
In this week's Gut Check, I share players who are likely at the bottom of your waiver wire barrel who might help you if your team is desperate for a starter. Boston Scott is the most obvious selection of the players in the article and in the highest demand.
Falcons receiver Olamide Zaccheaus is a low-odds play that most Footballguys staffers will say is a crazy selection for playing time. However desperate times call for desperate measures—and making calls on these longshots is a challenge I relish because many of you still play in leagues where you need these calls.
A rookie UDFA from Virginia, Zaccheaus had the reputation among draftniks as Tavon Austin with a case of the drops. When studying Zaccheaus for the 2019 Rookie Scouting Portfolio, his hands weren't a rampant problem with his game. He was one of my underrated receivers in this class because he not only thrilled in open space but he also displayed surprising skill one-on-one as an outside vertical threat in ways that Austin never did—including this summer in Atlanta.
Fast-forward to the second half of the Atlanta-Panthers game this weekend, and here's Zaccheaus filling in for Calvin Ridley who was carted off the field after he collapsed on the sideline with an abdominal injury that will sideline him for the rest of the year.
Although Russell Gage and Christian Blake are ahead of Zaccheaus on the depth chart, both are used as inside receivers more often than perimeter deep threats. I believe Zaccheaus will see enough playing time against the 49ers and Jaguars to earn targets on vertical routes, screen passes, and crossing routes that could generate at least one chunk play each week.
When examining the Jaguars and 49ers defensive game logs, there are numerous players with similar roles I expect from Zaccheaus based on his skills—chunk plays on short routes in space and vertical targets—that delivered moderate to strong fantasy outputs.
The Jaguars have given up solid-to-strong PPR production players that include Sammy Watkins, Adam Humphries, A.J. Brown, Emmanuel Sanders, D.J. Moore, Courtland Sutton, Tyler Boyd, Demaryius Thomas, Kenny Stills, Beshad Perriman, Mike Williams, and Keenan Allen.
Zaccheaus is probably one of those players who earned 3-4 targets, 1-3 catches, and the variation of his yardage and scoring potential is wider than a front desk employee's smile when he or she would like to butcher you but can't afford to get fired today. If you're desperate for big-play potential and playing to win rather than not-to-lose, Zaccheaus is worth your consideration.
Additional Thoughts: Check out the rest of the article for thoughts on players with higher floors if Zaccheaus is too risky for you. I've seen enough of Zaccheaus this summer to believe he's comfortable on the big stage making big plays downfield. I think he could surprise.
3. Sigmund Bloom's Rent-A-Defense
Don't get lazy about your team defense during these weeks. Bloom's feature will help you maximize your points potential at this position.
Here are two candidates for Week 15 with some Week 16 potential from Bloom's Rent-A-Center. One Bloom likes and one he doesn't, but I do:
Seattle (at Carolina)
A Look Ahead: Arizona - Maybe the best reason to play Seattle this week is to save a spot and still get them at home against Kyler Murray next week if you advance
Kansas City (vs Denver)
The Chiefs defense has actually leveled off almost a year into Steve Spagnuolo’s tenure. Drew Lock is actually a little scary to face and didn’t look at all vulnerable and Patrick Mahomes II II is banged up, so this one is much less attractive than it looked a few weeks ago.
A Look Ahead: @CHI - Mitchell Trubisky playing better is taking the luster off of this one too...
Matt Thoughts: I agree with Bloom about Seattle and there Seahawks have just enough of a pass rush to induce mistakes from Kyle Allen. I'm bullish about the Chiefs. I've studied Lock in-depth as a collegian as well as his first two NFL starts. Although Lock has played well, he hasn't faced a lot of interior pressure that Chris Jones will surely deliver this weekend—and it's interior pressure that induces the greatest number of errors from a quarterback like Lock, who still exhibits a tendency to throw from off-balanced positions that lead to inaccuracies.
If you're wondering, in this week's Top 10, I explain the difference between off-balance (which is an additional behavior within off-platform throwing) and throws that are simply off-platform. Lock got away with some bad throws the past two weeks that could have reshaped some of the perspectives that the public has of him.
Even if those plays went poorly, I'd still say Lock has shown a lot of promise. This weekend, the Chiefs can supply the interior pressure and coverage disguises to fluster Lock and Trubisky.
4. SIGMUND BLOOM'S Buy Low, Sell High: Dynasty Receivers
Yes, I'm giving you a Bloom twofer this week. Any complaints can be directed to Matt Waldman, File 13...
I like this week's piece that has dynasty implications. Here are some of the quick-hitting outlooks I find compelling:
Byron Pringle, KC - Pringle flashed this year and should be around as the fourth or even third receiver next year for Patrick Mahomes II II. He’s being underestimated in deep dynasty leagues and is on many waiver wires.
Deon Cain, PIT - Chris Ballard made a rare mistake by exposing Cain on the practice squad. He still projects as a potential future starter with tremendous athleticism and skills at the catch point.
Allen Lazard, GB - He should be rostered everywhere, but if he isn’t make sure this ascending talent is on your roster. He has soared past other young receivers given large opportunities to open the season.
Hakeem Butler, Andy Isabella, Keesean Johnson, ARI - Just make sure they are rostered. Both were in over their heads this year but possess rare abilities and they’re in an offense that is still embryonic but with a very promising quarterback and approach.
Kelvin Harmon, WAS - Harmon’s fall in the draft was surprising to some and he has proven that he belongs in the NFL. Washington isn’t exactly fertile soil for a second wide receiver’s fantasy value to grow in, but Harmon could have that role soon. Paul Richardson Jr Jr might not be worth the 3.5 million that becomes guaranteed on the fifth day of the league year in 2020.
Keelan Cole, JAX - Cole once flashed developing greatness as an undrafted rookie and seemed to carry that over through his second camp, but his development has stalled out in Jacksonville. He could benefit from a new coaching regime, or a new team in 2021.
Juwann Winfree, DEN - I’m interested in any receiver that a top corner like Chris Harris Jr Jr gushes about in his first game and Drew Lock might just be able to foster some wide receiver value here beyond Courtland Sutton.
Matt's Thoughts: The funniest thing about this piece for me personally, is that Bloom mentions about a dozen of my favorites but the least favorite of them is tagged as a Matt Waldman Favorite (Isaiah Ford). The players mentioned above, Cain, Butler, Pringle, and Reynolds have the highest priority. Harmon, Cole, and Winfree are intriguing at the end of rosters with Cole the one I want to like the most but I am skeptical about how a new NFL will receive him.
5. Jeff Pasquino's 'What Teams ARe PLaying For'
I love the intent of this special feature:
This is a topic that Footballguys has covered in year's past, and it is highly useful for the final few weeks of the regular season.
This year is wacky with how the NFC conference playoffs are going, so I thought I'd get the ball rolling on this, with a focus on which teams are most incentivized to play hard this weekend.
To be clear - there is TEAM motivation (such as a team must win to stay relevant for the playoffs), then there is INDIVIDUAL motivation (such as getting to a season- or career-long milestone).
Note - Here are a few helpful links to evaluate playoff possibilities:
Something to consider: Five teams have their final home game of 2019 in Week 15: Green Bay, Arizona, Oakland, Pittsburgh, and New Orleans.
Here's are some observations going into Week 15 from a TEAM motivation perspective.
Here are the teams I find most compelling from Jeff's article:
Dallas and Philadelphia - Both teams' playoff hopes are intertwined, as the Eagles and Cowboys are both 6-7 and one of these two franchises will make the postseason as the NFC East champion. The key game is in Week 16 as Dallas visits Philadelphia, with the winner likely the division winner. If the Eagles (at Washington) win this week and Dallas loses (hosting the Rams), the Eagles could secure the playoff spot before their season finale with the Giants, which would give Philadelphia a virtual bye before the Wild Card round. The Eagles have suffered a lot of injuries this year, so resting starters in Week 17 seems likely if they win their next two games and Dallas loses to Los Angeles this week. Dallas can also lock up the division with two wins in a row (Rams, at Eagles), giving the Cowboys the chance to rest starters Week 17 when they host Washington in what would be a meaningless contest.
Matt's Thoughts: Boston Scott seems like a strong play based on his skills, last week's performance, and the motivation Jeff outlined for the Eagles. Jordan Howard still isn't participating in practices with any contact involved.
San Francisco and Seattle - The playoff picture is combined for the 49ers and Seahawks, as one of these two teams will win the NFC West this year, which is the only similarity that Seattle and San Francisco share with the Cowboys and Eagles. The 49ers and Seahawks are two of the best teams in the NFC, with last week's impressive win in New Orleans elevating San Francisco to 11-2 and into the top seed slot in the NFC after 14 weeks. Seattle is hot on their heels at 10-3, and the Seahawks have an easier road in Weeks 15 and 16 (at Carolina, Arizona) than the 49ers (Atlanta, Los Angeles Rams). Both teams are expected to win out to force an epic Week 17 clash that is likely to be on Sunday Night Football to wrap up the regular season. The winner has a strong likelihood of being the top overall seed in the NFC, while the loser would fall all the way to the fifth seed and have to travel to the aforementioned NFC East champion (Dallas or Philadelphia) in the Wild Card round. There is no question that both teams have strong motivation to play hard and win out over the next three weeks.
Matt's Thoughts: Raheem Mostert is the likely starter in San Francisco's backfield but do not rule out Matt Breida for significant touches for as long as he remains healthy. Breida's upside is still worth your consideration if desperate for a back and he's dropped.
Josh Gordon has done little during recent weeks with the Seahawks but Pete Carroll has spead some sunshine about Gordon this week, claiming he's going to be a big part of the gameplan moving forward. This could just be typical Petey Sunshine up your hindparts or it could be that Gordon's knee has been enough of a hindrance to slow him down. If you have the luxury to add one player with massive upside, why not take Gordon to see what happens this weekend so you can start him against Arizona in Week 16?
Kansas City - The Chiefs' greatly improved their playoff odds and position overall with an upset win in Foxboro last week, topping the tumbling New England Patriots 23-16. If you are looking to see how motivated Kansas City will be down the stretch, just know that they must go 3-0 the rest of the way else their chances for a week off drop to 5% or lower. Consider all Chiefs' players strong fantasy starts against Denver this week, and also for the trip to Chicago in Week 16. Even with a 3-0 finish to move to 12-4, Kansas City needs another loss by New England either this week in Cincinnati or against Buffalo next Sunday. Those are the two most likely scenarios to put the Chiefs into the second spot in the AFC - else Kansas City may be locked into the third or fourth spot for the AFC entering the season finale with the Chargers. If that happens, Andy Reid may rest key starters in Week 17, so if that concerns your fantasy team's hopes, root for the Bills in Week 16.
Matt's Thoughts: While I would love my playoff teams to have Mahomes in Week 16, let's take this from another perspective—those seeking a back, receiver, and/or tight end from the waiver wire if the Chiefs rest its starters. Spencer Ware, Darwin Thompson, Byron Pringle, and Deon Yelder all become considerations in deeper leagues where the known producers are all taken. You know about the first three. As for Yelder, he's a fluid pass catcher with skill to work the seam and win after the catch at the tight end position. There are usually a lot of worthwhile one-week starts at tight end in fantasy leagues but if you're in a 1.5 PPR league where teams hoard the position, Yelder has potential value.
Good luck in your hunt for a fantasy championship appearance this weekend! See you on the other side.