I’m going to take this moment to point out that the Rams and Chiefs are putting up bonkers-level offensive stats by throwing early and often, aggressively utilizing #AirRaid principles to get big plays on any down. It’s beautiful to watch. Meanwhile, the Raiders have committed $100 million guaranteed to a coach who laments the death of the fullback and is publically willing to talk about how he enjoys watching Wisconsin smash-mouth football (I’m not kidding – “I sit down and watch Wisconsin, and I feel like I’m breathing fresh air again”). Jared Goff and Patrick Mahomes are shattering records and he wants to watch Wisconsin pound some 220 pound Ron Dayne wannabee up the middle for 4 yards a carry, 40 times a game.
Ben Roethlisburger, $8,400 – The Steelers are playing at home and have an insanely high total in an insanely high over game that should be competitive, which means Roethlisburger should be throwing a lot, especially since James Conner has yet to earn the Mike Tomlin Squeaky Wheel Award where he will just feed whichever one of his stars the ball to the detriment of the team (unless it’s Antonio Brown) so that they stop complaining and Tomlin can go back to doing exactly what he wants to do regardless of matchup. Everyone knows the Steelers home/road splits, and in addition to those, Roethlisburger almost never duds at home, giving you a solid floor along with that massive ceiling. He’s facing an Atlanta team that has lost most of its defense to the bubonic plague and has been an abomination so far this year, ranking 30th in DVOA (thank you KC and Tampa for being worse), including 27th vs the pass. One last stat that I like to use for predicting offensive performance is adjusted sack rate. If you can protect your QB, you are going to have a big day. Atlanta cannot generate pressure against the QB, ranking 27th in adjusted sack rate and Pittsburgh has the 10th best offensive line. In other words, they should be able to protect Ben, and thu they should have a big day. Rudy has him as the top QB of the day and he seems like a no brainer.
Matt Ryan, $8,300 – On the other side of the game, we have Matt Ryan and the Falcons who are an underdog with a 27.5 Vegas implied total. And outside of the Week 1 Browns game (complete with horrific weather), the Steelers haven’t presented themselves as an obstacle to opposing offenses. And with the Falcons offense humming right now, ranking 7th in DVOA, but more importantly 5th in passing and 29th in rushing (you have Julio Jones, seriously, #NeverRun), you have a game that everyone expects to shoot out. While “Julio doesn’t catch touchdown passes” may or may not be a thing, Matt Ryan still throws ‘em, and he’s going to throw them here.
Blake Bortles, $7,000 – The argument for Bortles is twofold. First, on the defensive side of the ball, KC has injuries, they are below average at getting pressure and simply put are a straight up bad defense. They are ranked 30th in the league at passing DVOA and 32nd in rushing (the reason they aren’t ranked 32nd overall is because being that bad at running defense doesn’t matter, #NeverRun). Second, Leonard Fournette is out, and the Jags actually run (by not running) a somewhat efficient offense when Fournette is out. Bortles without Fournette has a median passing yards of 326 (though average is 289.2 with a mega dud of 155 yards in there) and a TD. Bortles also brings some running equity averaging 23.4 yards per game over his career (and that number is up to 33 yards per game this year). Rudy’s 2nd best value QB has the advantage of playing the game’s 2nd best offense, meaning the Jags will likely have to score some points.
Also viable: Philip Rivers, $8,200, Cam Newton, $8,400
GPP Recommendation – Russell Wilson, $7,200 – Wilson hasn’t been good this year but part of that is just the Seahawks haven’t needed to put up points, even in the games they have lost. They have given up 27, 24, 13 and 17 points on the season and none of these teams (Broncos, Bears, Cowboys, Cardinals) are going to make you pass the ball to catch up, so the Seahawks have run the ball and Russell Wilson has thrown the ball 33, 36, 26, 26 times in those 4 games. Russell Wilson ranks 22nd in passes thrown, thus, his price is depressed. The Rams are going to put up points in this game, probably a lot as they have the 3rd highest implied total and get to face the Seahawks without Earl Thomas, which will force the Seahawks to pass to catch up and give Wilson ample opportunity to be part of a GPP winning lineup.
Todd Gurley, $9,100 – I don’t love playing RBs on the road, but the Rams and Gurley are so good that it probably doesn’t matter. Gurley is pretty much a lock to get 17-20 carries and 5-6 targets out of the backfield and all the goal line work. The work is rock solid and they are facing the Seattle Seahawks who have been a hit or miss defense so far. But without Earl Thomas their projection gets a pretty big downgrade and it’s a team that has given up 136 yards to Zeek and 112 to David Johnson and neither of those teams have the offensive line the Rams have (the Rams rank 2nd in FO Adjusted Line Yards, Dallas ranks 6 and Arizona ranks 29th). The combination of volume and the Rams just being an awesome offense, giving him only a little bit of TD equity means Gurley is always going to be at the top of projections.
Melvin Gordon, $8,700 – Melvin Gordon gets to face the Oakland Raiders, who think the way to win football games is to run and stop the run and when that fails, spend the entire post game press conference spewing coach-speak about how “we just didn’t execute today, particularly on 3rd downs”. Unfortunately for the Raiders and fortunately for us, the Raiders don’t stop the run, or the pass. The Raiders rank 26th in defensive DVOA (24th in pass and 28th in rush) and there’s nothing that really suggests they will improve. Gordon has maxed out at 15 carries this year, but his usage in the passing game sets him apart. His 24% market share is 4th in the league for RBs and even if he only gets 15 carries, given his TD equity, he’s still an elite play given the price. In fact, Rudy has him as the top play of the day and one of the top values.
T.J. Yeldon, $6,500 – Yeldon is the value play of the day at RB. He’s facing a dumpster fire of a defense in KC and he’s a part of their passing game even without Fournette. He’s got 15% market share, which is pretty high for a RB and one of the reasons why the Chiefs are so bad at passing defense is because they straight up can’t stop RBs from catching passes and getting yards (giving up 395 to the position, worst in the league). Yeldon isn’t the most efficient RB out there when running, but he also hasn’t gotten to face the dumpster fire that is the Chiefs defense (ranked 32nd vs the run).
James Conner, $7,800 – The Falcons are terrible at defense right now and now they’re going to be missing DT Grady Jarrett. The Falcons were already 30th in rush defense before Jarrett’s injury and they were allowing a schedule adjusted 12.1 catches and 78.1 yards to the RB position. Conner is 3rd in market share on the Steelers and this game should be pretty high scoring so he should get plenty of opportunities to make something happen.
Also Viable – Christian McCaffrey, $8,100
GPP Play – Saquon Barkley, $7,900 – Barkley just gets massive volume, he averages 14 carries per game, 8.75 targets per game and 6.75 catches per game (and that’s with the inexplicably low target volume in his debut). His 23% market share is also very good, he’s essentially Jarvis Landry from last year only with 14 carries a game tacked on. Carolina has the 24th ranked defense and the game should see both teams moving the ball pretty efficiently giving Barkley nice TD equity as well.
Juju Smith-Schuster, $8,000 – Whether or not you play Brown or Juju is going to come down to roster construction and whether or not you want to pay up at QB and RB since the Falcons defense is trash (as we’ve gone over above). The argument for Juju is that since his breakout game last year in week 8, his median performance is 8 targets, 6 catches for 114 yards (his averages are 9.2/6.5/100) and this year his market share is a strong 26%. The quick case for Antonio Brown is that he’s Antonio Brown and is 5th in air yards in the entire league and he’s Antonio Brown.
Taywan Taylor, $5,000 – Rudy’s top value WR, Taylor last week had 7 catches on 9 targets for 77 yards. The Titans basically have only 2 WRs left after releasing Rishard Matthews (seriously – Tajae Sharpe is their #3 WR, and Darius Jennings and Nick Williams are listed as the 4th and 5th WRs but I’m fairly confident those are two randomly created video game players for a future draft class in Madden Franchise Mode). Simply put, Taywan is the #2 guy now with a 20.9% market share. That sort of volume shouldn’t be $5,000.
Quincy Enunwa, $6,100 – His market share is 28%, Rudy has him as the 2nd best value WR and Josh Hermsmeyer buy low air yards model has him as one of the top buys this week. Denver’s defense is no longer elite and they are ranked 17th in DVOA and 16th in passing DVOA by Football Outsiders. I get there’s some queasiness in rostering someone who catches passes from Sam Darnold, but even he can throw WR screens and the Jets seem to believe the “fake-screen-one-way-throw-screen-the-other-way” is the next revolution in football. Hey, it’s still better than running.
Also Viable: Adam Thielen, $8,300, Antonio Brown, $9,000, Julio Jones, $8,800
GPP Recommendation – Odell Beckham, $8,300 – The top air yards buy low model recommendation by Josh Hermsmeyer is one Odell Beckham. We know he’s the best receiver in the NFL (don’t @ me, he is, it’s not his fault he’s stuck with derp-face at QB) and the Giants pepper him with targets (29% market share) and with Evan Engram out, that number should be higher. Odell can break one at any time and we’re just waiting for the breakout game. Considering that the Panthers have the 24th ranked passing defense according to Football Outsiders, that game could be today.
Vance McDonald, $4,600 – This one’s the rare one sentence breakdown – he’s a TE who runs routes and is in the highest Vegas implied total of the game for $4,600
Jared Cook, $5,900 – Cook has a very nice 21% market share for a team that should be throwing a lot (although not because they want to, as the Raiders are firmly in the #runtowin category, but rather simply because they will be down) He leads the team in market share and with Amari going up against Casey Heyward, Cook should be able to get open against the remainder of the Chargers defense (which is pretty bad, especially without Bossa).
Zach Ertz, $7,500 – Ertz volume for a TE is a massive. He’s got a 28% market share, which [checks notes]…is good. That 28% is tied with Travis Kelce for tops in the league for a TE. Ertz hasn’t scored a TD yet, but that’s coming, and it might come in this game since the Vikings defense hasn’t played particularly well and is banged up right now with Everson Griffen missing the game.
Also viable: George Kittle, $6,400
GPP Viable – Jesse James, $5,200 – This is a straight up leverage play. James and McDonald are the two main Steelers TEs with McDonald getting the targets share and James does the blocking. While I’d never put anything past Mike Tomlin, James does sometimes pop up in the passing game. In Week 2, James got as many targets as McDonald did (the only time this season that’s happened), and James took his 5 targets and ended up with the almost perfect 5-138-1 line. Given that he’s inexplicably $600 more than Vance, no one is going to roster him, and McDonald is going to be heavy chalk. It doesn’t even need to be a game like Week 2 for this to pay out – all we need is James to get the random red zone TD and have a line like 3-30-1 and Vance to end up at 5-50 for you to get leverage on the field’s heavy McDonald chalk. Just don’t even think about clicking his name for cash. Or at least play in my contests if you do.
Tennessee Titans, $3,900 – Defense in fantasy is stupid and the Titans are playing the Bills who don’t have an NFL QB on the roster. The Titans also generate pressure on their own, ranking 10th in adjusted sack rate and the Bills oline is dead last in adjusted sack rate, but again, most of that is because they don’t have an NFL QB on their roster.
Cleveland Browns, $3,300 – Defense in fantasy is stupid, so sometimes you just want to spend down. The are cheap and Rudy’s 2nd best value defense. Cleveland is top 10 in adjusted sack rate and are 4th in pass defense DVOA and 7th in rush defense. Plus, you get to root for Larry Ogunjobi, who is a legit monster at DT.
San Francisco 49ers, $3,800 – This game is going to be rough. Arizona offense is really bad, 31st in the league, and the offense doesn’t seem to want to try, with their first half, early down pass rate of 44%. That tells me they aren’t trying to score points and the defense will do some work early and if the 49ers can score some points, forcing rookie Josh Rosen to throw, there should be some defensive fantasy goodness. Oh, and defense in fantasy is stupid.
Also Viable: Cincinnati Bengals, $3,900
Not So Random Other GPP Thoughts
I will include this section every week as long as these two are healthy – if you’re a multi-entry GPP guy, always include multiple Patrick Mahomes ($8,600) and Tyreek Hill ($7,800) lineups. There is always a significant chance they’re the high scores of the slate, regardless of matchup.
Best of luck to everyone on Sunday!