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.
As one with a contrarian streak, it's natural that an article like Chris Feery's The Contrarian appeals to me. In one of his "Match Ups You'll Want To Take a Closer Look At", Feery recommends Blake Bortles against the Kansas City Chiefs:
This one seems awfully outside the box, but it makes a lot more sense when you dig into the game script and some underlying numbers. The Chiefs are widely expected to crush the Jaguars, but that’s ok from a game script perspective. That would lead to the Jaguars airing it out in a bid to catch up, and airing it out can equate to fantasy points in a hurry. The downside is that Bortles has been dreadful this season. That’s somewhat offset by the fact that the Chiefs have allowed five passing TDs over the past two weeks, but we’ll still consider this a risky selection—but one worth considering for the multi-lineup folks.
Ari Ingel concurs with Feery, adding a notable statistical layer in support of Feery's theory:
- Blake Bortles – Bortles is a horrible real life quarterback. Don’t look at stat lines, look at the tape. These two guys are horrible. Yet, for Fantasy, Bortles is actually a usable QB as the king of garbage time, throwing for over 300 yards and 3 TDs last week. While he won’t do anything until the 4th quarter again this week, the Chiefs are giving up over 26 FPG to opposing QBs, so he is viable for those that can stomach starting a horrible QB.
Both of these takes fly in the face of Sigmund Bloom's QB Tiers that rates Bortles as a Desperation Start and is in line with Mark Wimer and Joe Bryant's Passing Matchups:
The Chiefs' defense did a fine job containing Andrew Luck and company last weekend, allowing 19/35 for 172 net yards passing, two TDs and one interception thrown, with six sacks for -38 yards. They bounced back from Drew Brees' 37/48 for 359 net yards passing, three TDs and one interception thrown, with one sack taken for -8 yards from two games ago.
From Week Five to Week Eight of the 2016 season...K.C. has averaged 22.6 fantasy points allowed per game to opposing quarterbacks ( 10th-most in the NFL); and 26.6 fantasy points per game allowed to wide receivers (12th-most); with 5.2 fantasy points given up per game to tight ends (10th-least). So far this season, K.C. averages 244.9 net passing yards allowed per game (14th in the NFL), with 13 passing scores allowed balanced by a league-high 11 interceptions - K.C. has 14 sacks to date (tied for 21st in the NFL).
The duo rate this a tough draw for the Jaguars passing game. Not so, says Maurile Tremblay, who rates Bortles as his No.8 passer for Week 9.
My Advice: It's easy to overlook the possibility that there are games that should be rated as tough match-ups and at the same time, yield productive fantasy game scripts. This is one of them.
Containing Andrew Luck and company is not that impressive to me because that company surrounding Luck is not that good beyond T.Y. Hilton. I'd take Hilton over any receiver on the Jaguars roster, but the rest of the Colts' options don't hold a candle to the duo of Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns.
The two main issues with the Jaguars offense is the quality of protection that the offensive line provides and Blake Bortles' lack of application to his craft. During the summer of 2015, Bortles worked with QB coach Tom House to improve his throwing motion and overall game. This summer, I was told that he not only discontinued this regimen, but he also spent a lot of time on the town.
Broaching this with a veteran scout, he said are, have been, and will be quarterbacks who can party and still successfully "wing it" on the job, but Bortles is not one of them. And I understand why: Bortles' ability to recognize and beat defensive schemes from the pocket was below average at Central Florida and he was having difficulty reading simple Cover 2 looks early in the year.
It's not a coincidence that Bortles is better when he works outside the structure of the pocket: It's playground ball and he doesn't have to stay within the structure of an offense and set defense that confuses him. Simply put, Bortles has regressed this year.
I was told years ago that after Ryan Mathews didn't meet lofty expectations as a rookie to replace LaDainian Tomlinson, he worked his tail off during the offseason and earned 1546 total yards and 6 scores the next year. The following offseason, Norv Turner told the media that Mathews would be a high volume centerpiece that summer.
What he didn't know was that Mathews had stopped training and spent his spring and summer partying. The running back failed his conditioning test and undertook some emergency conditioning with the same trainer after realizing his overconfident belief that "he had figured out the NFL" proved disastrously false. He couldn't stay healthy or consistent and earned 707 yards and a 3.8 ypc that year.
He rebounded after working hard again, earning 1255 yards in 2013, but he had already proven to the Chargers that he didn't have the emotional makeup for them to count on him. This is why work ethic and emotional resilience are often more important that great physical and positional talent.
Bortles screwed up like Mathews. But unlike Mathews, Bortles plays a position that favors production when the game is out of hand. Aesthetically, he's a bad quarterback and the Chiefs are a good defense. But fantasy football doesn't care if you're a football aesthete.
The Chiefs will get at least a 10-point lead by the third quarter and as alluded to in this week's Roundtable, Bortles will score roughly 70 percent of his points in the second half of most contests. His 103.35 fantasy points earned during the second half of games is among the five-best totals at the position and it accounts for two-thirds of his season output.
In fantasy football, I'll take winning ugly over losing pretty, how about you?
Donte's Dark Zone: A Funnel Effect
Justin Howe's DFS Short Yardage Outlooks begins with Donte Moncrief at the top of his list as a must-start against the Packers.
You’re already targeting him for cash game purposes, but Moncrief carries strong 4x appeal as well – much of it on the back of his touchdown outlook. The Packers have only faced nine passes from the dark zone thus far, but they’ve allowed TD success on six of them – a rate that sits second-worst in football. Obviously, that means the Colts shouldn’t need much volume to give us confidence they’ll come through.
The clear beneficiary would be Moncrief; he’s deeply and profoundly gifted, and he’s been quite productive near the stripe. Dating back to last year, Moncrief has turned 5 of his 7 targets from inside the 10 into touchdowns – a rate that few elite dark zone guys could approach. That outlook would only magnify if T.Y. Hilton misses Sunday’s game or is limited. Luck will almost certainly find himself in a high-paced, high-scoring game, and it would be an upset if Moncrief didn’t see at least one opportunity.
Howe's assertion matches Ryan Hester's look at "funnel" defenses in his weekly feature, Trendspotting:
A "funnel" defense is one with a stout run defense but a suspect (or worse) pass defense. These units "funnel" production to the exterior and deep parts of the field (places where passing games focus) and away from the short middle (where the running game typically occurs). The following table should help illustrate funnel defenses.
- Top 1/3 in the NFL in Yards per Rush Attempt allowed
- Bottom 1/3 in the NFL in Net Yards per Pass Attempt allowed
- Top 1/3 in Percentage of Yards Allowed via Rush (looking for low percentage figures here)
- Bottom 1/3 in Percentage of Yards Allowed via Pass (looking for high percentage figures here)
TEAM PAYD/GM RUYD/GM NYD/ATT YD/RUSH % PASSYD % RUSHYD New York Jets 290.9 74.0 7.3 3.3 79.7% 20.3% Carolina Panthers 286.9 80.1 7.4 3.3 78.2% 21.8% Green Bay Packers 247.1 74.4 6.8 3.3 76.9% 23.1%
These three teams continue to allow plenty of passing game production and little on the ground. This week is interesting because the beneficiaries of playing against these defenses may not actually be able to benefit too much. Miami hosts New York, and Los Angeles hosts Carolina. Neither have very high-octane passing games. Green Bay hosts Indianapolis, who between the funnel effect and game script should be throwing early and often.
Nick Foles as Napoleon Dynamite
Talk about twins separated at birth, the Chiefs' backup bears an uncanny resemblance. He's also adept at targeting tight ends in the passing game. Foles was aggressive downfield to Kelce when he was in the game:
This target fell victim to the insidious Calvin Johnson Rule that has made officiating an unintuitive mess. The larger point of this play is Foles' willingness to go downfield with Kelce. It's also something that Ryan Hester noticed in Trendspotting:
That said, Hester doesn't see Foles or Kelce as good plays against the Jaguars defense:
KANSAS CITY CHIEFS
- Jacksonville has allowed at least 3x value to just two quarterbacks.
- Jacksonville has allowed six touchdowns to running backs in its last four games (all rushing).
- Jacksonville has allowed 80+ yards to six wide receivers in its last six games.
- Notable wide receiver performances against Jacksonville, starting with most recent: TEN - Matthews (4-38-1), Wright (4-84-1); OAK - Cooper (4-29-0), Crabtree (8-96-1); CHI - Jeffery (7-93-0), Meredith (11-113-0); BAL - Wallace (3-34-0), Smith (8-87-0)
- Chris Conley snap percentages and target percentages over the last three weeks: snaps - 59%-58%-73%; targets - 18%-9%-12%
- Tyreek Hill snap percentages and target percentages over the last three weeks: snaps - 28%-35%-28%; targets - 9%-4%-15%
With Jalen Ramsey about the only thing going as planned in Jacksonville this season, WR1s are struggling to perform against the Jaguars.Tight ends have also struggled, leaving complimentary WR2s to do the bulk of the damage. Hill has been electric, but he's doing it with smoke, mirrors, and very limited volume (as you read above). One week samples are difficult to use, but I would be more likely to recommend Hill as a GPP play had his snaps from last week been over 50% to accompany his production.
Nick Foles came in last week and was bold with his throws and used Travis Kelce and Jeremy Maclin as they should be used. However, for just $400 more, another low-priced quarterback is more attractive this week (more on him later). Game script and anticipate volume leaves Charcandrick West as the only must-play here.
My Advice: Once again, have tight ends struggled against the Jaguars as Hester mentioned or are we looking at a defense that hasn't faced many tight ends the caliber of Kelce as a versatile target?
Tight Ends vs. Jacksonville Jaguars
The only target remotely on Kelce's athletic level is Delanie Walker and he had a solid fantasy outing last Thursday. In fact, I recall a play where one Jalen Ramsey royally screwed up his zone assignment and gave Walker a big play:
Why yes, I believe that's the one.
Moreover, the idea that Foles is the catalyst for the vertical passing game in Kansas City compared to Alex Smith isn't accurate. According to Andrew Carroll at Arrowhead Pride, "The deep attack started a few weeks ago."
The idea that we suddenly started stretching the field when Nick Foles came in, is wrong. Foles threw 22 percent of his passes deep (which pro-football-reference defines as anything beyond 15 yards) and was wonderfully efficient at it, to-boot. He was 3-of-5 for 120 yards and a touchdown.
Here are the past three games for Smith:
- Against the Colts, Smith was 0-for-4 on deep throws, for 0 yards. He threw deep on 21 percent of his attempts.
- Against the Saints, Smith was 2-of-6 on deep throws, for 56 yards and a touchdown. He threw deep on 25 percent of his attempts.
- Against the Raiders, Smith was 2-of-3 on deep throws, for 64 yards. He threw deep on 14 percent of his attempts.
Since the bye week, Smith is throwing deep on 20 percent of his attempts. He is 4-for-13 for 120 yards, with one touchdown. A 30 percent completion rate might not sound like much, but that's what you expect from all quarterbacks in the league on deep balls. If anyone is consistently completing more than 40 percent, you get suspicious.
Keep in mind, too, that even the gun-slingiest teams in the league only throw deep around 15 percent of the time (and here's a second source for that from further back). Both hyperlinks come from Pro Football Focus, which defines deep throws as anything over 20 yards.
There is a slight discrepancy in the PFR and PFF deep ball definition. But for our purposes, this is negligible. Because the point is that the Chiefs did not start dialing it up more, or throwing it more, just because Foles was in the game. The game-plan was: let's challenge deep and focus on Kelce. Both Smith and Foles did just that. And both did it at a rate-per-attempt that would be among the most aggressive units in the league, if PFF's numbers are any indication...
Now Foles' throw that Kelce recovered with a beautiful neck-turning, over-the-shoulder grab should have been a catch. But my point here, as with the deep game, is that it is irrelevant which quarterback played better in one random game. The point is that there is no sense in saying Foles opened up the deep game, because he's attempting just as many deep passes per attempt as Smith is over the last three weeks. And there is no sense in saying Foles brought Kelce back to life, because Smith was targeting Kelce just as frequently per dropback and was doing so efficiently. That was the game-plan. Reid drew it up. The quarterbacks executed. Foles executed better this game. Can't deny that. He looked great.
There is another point there, which is very encouraging. Nick Foles came in and executed the game-plan very, very well. Yes, he missed some throws. All quarterbacks miss throws. And he had to suffer through some questionable red zone play calling. But he drove the team down the field and put them in a spot to get points on the board and win the game. A game like this from Foles should make us all more comfortable, not less, with him as our back-up, and it looks like a good, low-risk signing.
While I love Hester's trends on the Packers defense marrying with the trends found in Howe's dark zone measurements on Moncrief, I don't see context matching the trend with the Jaguars defense and quality performers at tight end. I like Kelce as a player about to rebound to the top 5 at his position and this weekend will be a continuation of my forecasted trend.
Faith, Reason, or insanity: FBG's Steadfast optimism for Russell Wilson
I'm the resident Wilson and Seahawks fan of this bunch and even I've been losing patience as a fantasy owner—especially after posting 12.75 fantasy points against the Saints (No.24 among QBs last week). But this week against the Bills, Tremblay, Dodds, and Bloom have the Seahawks quarterback projected as a QB1.
One guy decidedly leaving the bandwagon is Ari Ingel:
- Russell Wilson – He didn’t get it done against the Saints Defense, so he’s officially not trustworthy until he is fully healed, especially against a solid Bills D. He’s averaging just 16.5 FPG and hasn’t had more than 16 yards rushing all season, and that was week one. Hopefully, you have a better option by now. If not, keep trotting him out in season-long and hope he finally starts picking up some yards with his feet.
- Doug Baldwin – He squares off against solid slot CB Nickell Robey-Coleman, PFF’s #31 rated corner. While it is a tougher matchup, the real issue is Wilson’s passing. In season-long he’s still a must-start as your WR2/3 with upside, but I’m off the Seattle train in DFS, even at home.
- Jimmy Graham – The Bills play the tight end tough, but despite his flop last week, he should have a decent game back at home. Is he a DFS play cash game play? No. But he’s fine for season long and a sneaky DFS tournament option that nobody will be on.
While the Bills defense looks tough, I'm beginning to think they are a paper champion. Let's begin with John Norton's Eyes of the Guru on the Bills defense. The venerable IDP writer drops some a few important facts worth further investigation:
The Bills placed Aaron Williams on IR this week so Robert Blanton will be the starting safety going forward. He played full time against the Patriots finishing with a solid 7-3-0 on the day. Blanton is more of a physical run support safety than Williams so it will be no surprise if he proves to be more fantasy friendly in the same role. There is also a chance the coaching staff will elect to shift Corey Graham into more of a free safety role and have Blanton play in the box more than Williams had previously. There is not a lot of big play potential here but Blanton could prove to be a good late season addition for those of us in need of a defensive back that will consistently give us 5 or more solo tackles.
This change could mean that the Bills won't be so stout against tight ends—if they ever really were. Take a look at the Bills Defensive Game Logs for more context:
Tight Ends vs. Buffalo Bills
I don't know about you but the only tight ends that are a pivotal part of their team's passing games are Dennis Pitta and the Patriots' tight ends. The Bills faced Pitta in Week 1 when the Ravens were cautious about using him after his long absence due to injury. Bennett and Gronkowski each at a 5-109 output in one of the two games this year.
Tight ends that can stretch the field and beat man coverage or do good work split from the formation perform well against the Bills. It's something I profiled for the past three weeks in The Top 10.
- Buffalo (Week 8): Technically, the Bills play a lot of Cover 4 zone but its style of zone converts to man against "inside" routes often run by tight ends. It also plays its share of press coverage.
One thing the Seahawks do well is move Graham around the formation and Graham is also a tough player to cover man-to-man. With changes to the secondary, a zone defense that converts to man against inside routes run by move tight ends, and a Bills defense will wind up on the field a lot due to its sputtering offense, and I'm optimistic that Graham has a strong outing.
So do Dodds (No.2), Tremblay (No.2), and Bloom (No.3) in their projections, which bucks the notion that the Bills' 6.3 fantasy points allowed per game to the position (17th in the NFL according to Mark Wimer and Joe Bryant's Matchups) has viable context when examining the quality of the competition Buffalo limited.
But Wimer believes, "This is one of the best pass defenses in the NFL despite what Brady accomplished last weekend (it's an outlier compared to the rest of Buffalo's season). This looks like a tough matchup for the struggling Wilson and company."
It appears our trio of projection makers believe the opposite: the middling-to-poor schedule of struggling offenses is artificially inflating the Bills' stats. The Week 8 Game Recap also indicates that Wilson's athletic ability is returning to pre-injury form:
The Saints controlled the ball for most of the game, and by the time the Seahawks found their groove on offense - around mid-4th quarter - it was a case of too little, too late. A flurry of offensive line penalties killed their chances early on, limiting the Seahawks to only two three-and-out drives in the first quarter...
Russell Wilson looked not only nimble on his feet in this one, but also more confident than he has since before his lingering ankle injury. The Saints pressured him often, and for the most part he was able to make plays despite the pressure.
My Advice: I watched this game and I didn't see the pre-injury Russell Wilson, but the recapper is correct that Wilson's mobility has improved. The problem is Seahawks' line relies on Wilson's magic and the quarterback isn't ready to create at this elite level.
If the Seahawks can avoid early penalties, Wilson is healthy enough to maneuver the pocket and avoid one defender. If that's all he needs to do, the Seahawks can exploit this Bills secondary.
I'm starting Wilson in formats where I have nothing to lose because I like the boom-bust upside of Seattle at home and facing an opponent in disarray. Otherwise, roll with Graham, take a gamble on Baldwin and leave Wilson on your bench.
Let's lead off once again with our Contrarian friend, Feery. He likes Matt Forte this week against the Dolphins.
Matt Forte, $6,500. We mentioned Forte’s recent resurgence earlier, and we’ll jump on board and ride it until the wheels fall off. On the other hand, there’s plenty of risk here, as Forte pulled a disappearing act after two monster outings in Week 1 and 2. The Jets-Dolphins tilt appears to be a pretty close one on paper, and we’ll look for both teams to lean heavily on their respective running games.
David Dodds and Maurile Tremblay agree, projecting Forte as their No.7 fantasy runner this weekend. Jeff Tefertiller sees Forte as one of the prime Value Plays this week:
- Top 200 ranking: 16
- Weekly ranking: 6
- Difference: +10
The veteran ball carrier has enjoyed two consecutive big fantasy weeks and looks to extend the streak against the Dolphins. Miami has given up some big games to opposing running backs. Also, as the Jets are a mess on offense, Forte’s workload gets larger and larger. In a week where there are several quality fantasy backs on bye, Forte is a strong option with a high floor.
Matt Bitonti and his offensive line rankings also have a sunnier outlook for the Jets now that the line is getting healthier, but it's not all good news:
Going into their crucial divisional contest at Miami this weekend, the Jets' offensive line is still without starting center Nick Mangold. Mangold is out of his walking boot, which is good news, but it's not clear that he will play this week. Nonetheless, the line gets a boost due to the return of Breno Giacomini from the PUP list.
Giacomini has been the starting right tackle for two seasons but his back was not healthy enough until this week for him to play. Giacomini rotated with Ben Ijalana last week but the line, even without Mangold, produced 171 yards rushing last week at Cleveland. Fans are down on this player due to his salary and perceived problems with penalties last season, but getting a starter back is always good news. After a brief stay in the low-tier, the Jets' offensive line again grade out as a mid-tier unit.
Despite a healthier line, Bitonti has Miami's front rated 8th overall. It's one of the reasons why Ari Ingel's Dockett takes a neutral view and only considers Forte a mid-level RB2.
The Dolphins are actually playing better against the run, especially at home, giving up around 17 FPG to RBs the past five weeks. While the Jets have committed to Forte on the ground the past two weeks, seeing 30 and 25 carries respectively, his passing game usage has been erratic this season, often times just seeing two a game, which depresses his PPR floor. However in a game that should be close, and one that I actually think has a good chance to go over, he should return mid-level RB2 numbers.
Jeff Hasley's Beyond the Stats has two diverging notes on the Jets' back: Forte is tied with Melvin Gordon III and David Johnson as the players with the most games (3) with multiple touchdowns. At the same time, Forte's 2.9 yards per carry once he crosses the opponents' 50 is among the 8 worst of backs in the league.
My Advice: If you took this week's Gut Check literally, you should avoid Forte at all costs...
Compare Forte with Bilal Powell and it should become obvious that you want to avoid the former Bear. Watch Powell find wide-open green grass on the first run. His legs are springier and his mind is obviously sharper because he never encounters a defender until the end of the run.
Not so for Forte. His must be failing him because he misses the green grass and he's immediately dealing with a Browns defender. Moreover, he has to run into the line of scrimmage. It's a clear sign that his faculties have left him.
(Ignore the voiceovers in these Instagrams, they are the ravings of an old man who hasn't received his daily ration of Ensure for the past eight weeks.)
It's tough to watch, but I need to show you these things because you're all in denial about his declining skills. Look at how slow he is deciding where to go when handed the ball below.
I know, it's almost cruel to see Forte unable to generate highlights worthy of FOX, CBS, ESPN, and NFLN on every play like all the running backs in the prime of their careers still do with every carry. All good things go to crap when they get older. That wisdom thing is a wives' tale.
Here's another play where Forte has lost his ability to make at least six defenders miss before he reaches the line of scrimmage—a minimum requirement for all running backs whose careers haven't fallen off the age cliff into the realm of dragons and sea monsters.
Ignore the fact that Forte gained positive yards here, the Browns defense is bad on every single play without exception according to the stats. When he gets a first down against Cleveland, it's only because these defenders are spending more time dodging a minefield of 31s—its league rank against the run—littering the field and impeding them from touching the old man.
Every stats geek in existence knows it's easier to avoid single-digit numbers that lay on the field of highly ranked units. This is first-grade stuff, people, and we all know that the most important lessons are learned before the age of eight. The further one is from that age, the more they forget.
Case in point, this narrator talking about Forte's run below.
It shouldn't take a young smart guy to see that Forte lacks the speed to break away on this run. He's old. Bilal Powell is young. He instantly finds open grass then the Jets find him the ball. He doesn't have to work for it.
Work? C'mon that's old man talk. It's what happens after 29. I'm telling you for your own good, stay away from Forte. The No.6 ranking among backs after 8 weeks is an illusion because he's going to slow down or fall apart any week now.
Plus, he had two really bad weeks against Seattle and Arizona in Weeks 4 and 6. It must have been due to the 52 carries he had during the first two weeks.
I don't care if he gets the middling-to-bad defenses like the Colts, 49ers, Dolphins (twice), and Patriots (twice). He's old, old, old, old, old, old, old.
If that's not a compelling argument for you, then you must be over 30 and there's no reasoning with you.
If you read between the lines, you know I'm a believer and have been one since June. In fact, I traded away Christine Michael this week for Micheal Crabtree in a PPR league and will be leaning more on Forte down the stretch. While the Dolphins have played better, let's remember that the low rushing yardage output for Le'Veon Bell (10-53) remained an efficient day and it doesn't factor in the 108 total yards from scrimmage that he earned.
The Bills offense is lifeless with a hurting McCoy and Justin Hunter as its primary receiver. To me, saying that the Dolphins have been better the past couple weeks against the run is like saying I had more energy this week because my wife didn't tie me to the back of her car and force me to run five miles a day.
The line is getting better, Forte is still displaying skill to create yards on his own, and the Dolphins' defensive front is a paper champion. Start Forte as at least an RB2. I'm starting him with confidence as an RB1.