I need to keep reminding myself to love every moment of football, because whether I want to believe it or not, we’re almost a quarter of the way through the NFL season.
I always like this time of the year. For me, October 1st marks the official start of fall. Yes, yes, I know about the Fall Solstice, or whatever it is called nowadays, and I understand that in most parts of the country it is starting to feel a little chilly, but you have to remember, I live in Tampa! It’s 96 degrees and sunny! Meanwhile, I am forced to eat cinnamon cookies, listen to Charlie Brown songs, and surf through NFLShop.com’s pink selections for BCA month. I can only do this for so long before I go hit some tennis in situations where if I do not drink water, I would not be writing this intro. You know what I mean?
Here we have the first game of the month of October. It’s time to crank up some “Autumn Wind” NFL Films music, and get ourselves in prime positioning to make an impact in our leagues and get to 4-0. Or at least 3-1. For any of you guys that are 0-3 thus far, remember that it is a marathon, not a sprint.
We start this week in a situation like Tampa, in beautiful San Diego, where the only weather is either hot or mildly hot. I think that’s right, but a pretty hasty generalization at that. I’ve never been to San Diego, but I hear good things! *Author’s Note* – I have never once heard anything about San Diego. Oh well.
A bad thing about football are the injuries of the game and its impact on the given team it affects. Good thing for us, regardless of their current record, the Chargers have had a very high-paced and prolific offensive attack despite their injuries to Danny Woodhead and Keenan Allen, thanks in large part to their second-year breakout back.
Start of the Week: Melvin Gordon, HB, San Diego
I’ve been a pretty big Wisconsin fan over the years, and I couldn’t help but be amazed by the talent the Badgers had produced at the running back position since 2011, when Russell Wilson was under center. Since that point, Wisconsin has produced Montee Ball, James White, and Melvin Gordon. Regardless of White’s and Ball’s production in the NFL thus far, their college careers were simply fantastic.
Melvin Gordon’s rookie campaign was a very forgettable one, and after many had praised him over the 2015 offseason, he posted no TD’s and only 45 rushing yards per game. Well, attribute to an increased opportunity due to the injury of Danny Woodhead and fantastic O-Line play by the Chargers to start the 2016 season, as Gordon has come firing on all cylinders, and through 4 games, he has posted an average of 64 rushing yards per game, and with 4 TD’s to his name.
This week he’ll get to face off against a Saints front seven that just yielding anything and everything against Tevin Coleman and Devonta Freeman last week on national TV. Through 4 games, the Saints rush defense has ranked as the 31st-best according to Football Outsiders, yielding 137 yards and 2 TD’s per game on average in 2016.
Melvin Gordon is a little TD dependent, but the game script is in his favor. As much as I like Drew Brees and the Saints in general like any sports fan, I don’t see a way for them to stop from going 0-4 to begin the year. I see the Chargers offense attacking them through the air often an early against a very vulnerable secondary, and sitting on a comfortable lead in most of the 2nd half, pounding the rock and dictating game tempo.
Which sounds like music to the ear’s of the Melvin Gordon owners.
Fire ’em up with confidence.
*Note* – I will be more than happy to answer specific lineup questions below, but I won’t be selecting the “obvious” plays unless I don’t think they are so obvious. Regardless of a great matchup, you won’t see names like Aaron Rodgers, Todd Gurley, Antonio Brown or Rob Gronkowski. Those are no-brainers. Fire ’em up with confidence.
*Note*- All projections are from the Razzball Pigskinonator and the DFSBot (at the bottom only)
Cousins has had an iffy-at-best start to his 2016 season, but there is reason to be optimistic. First, he had a very decent showing against the Giants last week, posting a 35/296/2 stat line. Second, we’ve been targeting QB’s against this Cleveland secondary that gives up close to 300 yards and 2.3 TD’s per game to start the year. Like many have said before, we aren’t targeting Cousins because he is a below-average QB against a decent matchup, we are targeting, and ultimately rostering Cousins because is a decent QB in an above-average situation, and that is critical for what we can define a “streamer option” nowadays. Cousins also has the weapons and talent around him, with guys like Reed, Jackson, and even Jamison Crowder has added some depth to this receiving corps. Cousins is a great play against Cleveland this week.
I hate to say it, but the injury of Adrian Peterson in Week 2 may have helped the Vikings offense as a whole under OC Norv Turner. With no obligation to feed the future HOFer, the Vikings have looked as a more balanced attack, with some of the best defensive play you will see this year thanks to their pass rush that made last Sunday a long one at that for one Cameron Newtown. Bradford has looked pretty viable to start his 2016 year thus far, and draws a very good matchup against the Giants. We were all under the conclusion, including myself, that the Giants’ main focal point of their defensive unit was their cornerback play, but this is a secondary that ranks 22nd in the NFL according to Football Outsiders, and they have just got off a game in which they surrendered 296 and 2 TD’s to Kirk Cousins. Bradford has had some help with great play recently from the likes of Stefon Diggs and Kyle Rudolph, and a more balanced rushing attack in which to choose from. Bradford has not shown to us that he is an elite fantasy QB thus far, but, he is more than in play in some deeper league formats as a streaming option, especially for those Brady owners that have to wait one more week.
Bortles has had a very disappointing start to his 2016 campaign. However, there is reason to be optimistic for this game across the pond. Historically, these London games have been pretty one sided, with the production coming from rushers in the last few years. I don’t see that happening Sunday morning. First off, yes, Frank Gore is a viable back, however, this Jags defense’s main speaking point is their rush defense, ranking 12th in the NFL against the run according to Football Outsiders, compared to the fact that their secondary ranks as the 24th best. On the other side of the ball, we have a Jacksonville run game that has been nonexistent to start the year, and even with a good matchup on paper, I don’t see an outcome where Yeldon or Ivory take away from this passing game. Meanwhile, we have Blake Bortles and Andrew Luck, where this game is looking like a throw-as-many-TD’s-as-you-can type of outcome. Bortles will have Robinson, Hurns, and the emerging Marqise Lee against a very vulnerable Colts secondary that ranks 29th in the NFL against the pass according to Football Outsiders.
The good thing about Manning is that he is on track to finish as a Top-10 QB on the season, immediately paying back his value and ADP back in early September. With a stacked WR corps that features Odell, Victor Cruz, and rising rookie Sterling Shepard. Another note on his season value, I would try your level best to acquire Manning, as with a depleted running back corps due to injuries to Rashad Jennings and Shane Vereen, Manning might pick up the slack by throwing more, if that makes sense. However, I don’t feel very confident about Manning posting good numbers against a very good Minnesota defense whose secondary ranks 4th in the NFL against the pass, according to Football Outsiders. On the road at Minnesota, there are better options with which to attack, and I am not comfortable starting him this week.
Yes, they have had some improved offensive line play, but regardless, this situation does not bode well for Jameis Winston at all. You should already know that this is a secondary that ranks 6th in the NFL according to Football Outsiders, and I really don’t see a point or a reason why anyone would want to start Jameis in this matchup. Yes, it is at home, but the Broncos did a really good job against the Bengals at Cincinnati last week, and Jameis looked inconsistent against the Rams last week as well. Simply put, there are just better options.
Going into the year, I was really excited about the upside Mariota could bring into his second year in the league. However, I did not know about the “Exotic Smashmouth” offense that Tennessee would employ, which dumbed down, pretty much means a more aggressive version of the Denver Broncos offense, which caps Mariota’s upside greatly each and every week. On paper, he was supposed to pick apart a weak Raiders defense, but instead, they wanted to win the game with their defense and behind the play of DeMarco Murray. Murray did very well, but they ended up losing. The matchup doesn’t get any better this week against a Texans secondary that has looked very good thus far, ranking 7th in the NFL against the pass according to Football Outsiders. It is safe to say I would look for other options.
Isaiah Crowell has a 6.1 YPC so far heading into Week 4. 6.1!!!!! Crowell has turned a spotty offseason into a viable production workload and it has paid dividens to start the year. Now we turn to this week against a Washington rush defense that ranks as the worst in the NFL according to Football Outsiders; a front seven that gives up on average close to 125 yards and 2 TD’s on the ground per game. The only thing that works against Crowell is the chance that the game gets away from Cleveland, but even still, I highly doubt that Hue Jackson will let Cody Kessler sling the ball at free will, so Crowell will get his carries.
As long as Tom Brady is out and with the possibility (still) of Jimmy Garoppolo or even Jacoby Brissett missing Sunday, even if they are playing, I see this game regardless of who is leading and by how much, it being a Blount game. We’ve gotten to a point where the Patriots defense is really good, and the Patriots are not interested in throwing the ball 30+ times, instead, choosing to dictate tempo. We might see things change once Brady is back, but until then, fire up Blount against a defense that ranks 21st in the NFL against the run according to Football Outsiders.
With the absence of Jeremy Langford, in steps Jordan Howard. Quick mention: I want anyone and everyone who hasn’t read Stan Son’s fantastic piece on Howard back in early August about what Howard’s relevance could be in 2016, and what he could mean for this offense. Anywho, in steps Howard against a Detroit front seven that will be without Ziggy Ansah once again, and this year according to Football Outsiders, the Lions rank 27th against the run this year. The great thing about Howard is that unlike Langford, this is John Fox’s back, and a predicitable workload is a big factor whenever dealing with rookies or unproven talent. If you have other options, ask me down below, but I don’t have any issues with Howard as a high end FLEX, low end RB2 for this week in a great matchup.
Making the shift from the West Coast to the East is never a good thing for our starting running backs, and it won’t get much better against a rush defense that is the strong suit of their team thus far, and ranks as the 2nd-best in the entire NFL according to Football Outsiders. With Russell Wilson’s mobility being extremely limited, I see more passes directed towards a vulnerable secondary for the time being. Also, as my father once briefly stated to me one Saturday afternoon a while back, “Zach, Christine Michael turtles like I’ve never seen before.” Well what does “turtling” mean, exactly? Picture a turtle when danger nears. Exactly.
Latavius is one of the most TD-depended backs I’ve seen in a while, and I can’t see him scoring Sunday. This Baltimore defense’s strength is their run stuffing, and they rank 3rd in the NFL in doing so according to Football Outsiders. Speaking of the Balitmore defense, this game also does not set up well for Latavius game-script wise, as I don’t see a way their offense gets rolling through the air against a secondary that ranks 8th in the NFL against the pass according to Football Outsiders. Sure, they have played some soft opponents, but their unit as a whole has gotten a whole lot better since last year. I don’t see a way Latavius gets any production this week.
The reason why I am putting both of these guys in here is because of how well they have worked together as a RBBC through the first couple of weeks of the season. However, this production has been against Tampa Bay, New Orleans and the Oakland Raiders, which is safe to say that all of whom are not nearly as good as the Panthers are. Carolina ranks as the 5th-best defense against the rush, and with Matt Ryan more likely to air it out with a bad defense behind him, this game could easily turn into a Panthers win, but by 15 because of garbage time production. I would look for better options, and just hope that Coleman and Freeman can show some adversity against tough opponents.
Here’s how I look at this game going for the Seahawks. All of their offensive receiving weapons are in play, and at the forefront of this all is Doug Baldwin. No more are the days of a TD-dependent wideout, we are seeing Baldwin gain crucial fantasy production on catches and yards alone. However, I think that Baldwin is due for a multi-TD performance against a Jets secondary that has seen some better days, Revis included, and rank 30th in the NFL against the pass, and 14th against opposing #1’s. With Russell Wilson’s mobility being severely limited, I see him throwing more passes as a “pocket passer” rather than his old self, which benefits all aspects of the Seattle aerial assault Sunday.
Jeffery has definitely had a disappointing start to his 2016 campaign thus far, but he’s bound for a great performance this week against a very bad Detroit secondary. The Lions rank dead last in the NFL against the pass, and 20th in the NFL against opposing #1. On average through the first three weeks, the Lions have surrender 157 yards and 1.7 TD’s per game. Brian Hoyer should not be the best of QB’s to receive the ball from, be we’ve seen how it honestly does not matter who throws the ball, as long as the receivers can get it. Have patience with Jeffery, and you’ll get games like this.
Jackson is one of the more dependent big-play receivers I have seen in a while, and he has continued to play very well with Kirk Cousins, as the two have built one of the best relationships in the entire NFL. Like I mentioned with Cousins above, he had a very decent showing against the Giants last week, posting a 35/296/2 stat line. Also, we’ve been targeting QB’s against this Cleveland secondary that gives up close to 300 yards and 2.3 TD’s per game to start the year. Jackson should not have any issue separating himself from the secondary and burning them for a TD, much like what we saw with DeVante Parker last week.
If you have better options to work from, I would work with that option over Marshall. With Eric Decker out this week and more with a torn rotator cuff, the Seahawks should not have any issues identifying Marshall and shutting him down, taking their chances with Forte/Powell out of the backfield and Quincy Enunwa as the other options. This is a secondary that regardless of Decker or no Decker, still ranks 2nd in the NFL against the pass. I would stay away.
Like I mentioned with Winston above, this is not a good spot, and like I just got done mentioning with Brandon Marshall, if you have better options to work with, I would choose that route. You should already know that this is a secondary that ranks 6th in the NFL according to Football Outsiders, and I really don’t see a point or a reason why anyone would want to start Mike Evans in this matchup. Yes, it is at home, but the Broncos did a really good job against the Bengals at Cincinnati last week, also shutting down A.J. Green, and Jameis looked inconsistent against the Rams last week as well. Simply put, there are just better options.
Some of you may start to have the urge to start Beasley in wake of Dez’s injury. Don’t. If anything, I would look towards Brice Butler as a deep “What-the-Heck Flex”. Yes, the Cowboys will definitely run more plays against Chip Kelly’s high-paced offenses, but Beasley is very TD-depended in standard leagues, and this is still a San Francisco 49ers secondary that ranks 9th in the NFL against the pass. I would stay away from the hype building because Dez is out.
Miller is coming off of a very nice Week 3 in which he totaled 8/78/2 against the Cowboys on national TV. He draws an even better matchup against a Detroit Lions team that ranks 27th in the NFL against the TE’s according to Football Outsiders, and on average, gives up 6.3 receptions for 72.0 yards and 1.7 TD’s per game. Miller is a fantastic streaming option for those that need it, and has the very likely possibility that he can become a weekly option.
On the other side of the ball we have Ebron, who is quickly becoming one of Stafford’s favorite targets under this very effective Jim Bob Cooter offense. With Ebron, we have a very similar outlook that we do with Miller. Ebron is a talented and physical athlete and he’ll be facing a defense that ranks 28th in the NFL against TE’s according to Football Outsiders. You do the math.
Yes, Walker should be healthy now, and yes, this is a defense without J.J. Watt. However, this is still a team that ranks 2nd in the NFL against TE’s according to Football Outsiders, and, they’ll have LB Brian Cushing back from injury. Yeah, that’s a big cup of NOPE. Like I mentioned with Mariota before, the Titans will rarely throw the ball this year, especially when they need to in order to succeed, and I can’t find a scenario in which Walker would do well in this matchup.
Josh Lambo (vs. NO) – Proj: 8.58 pts.
In what is likely to be a high-scoring affair between the Saints and Chargers, and a game dubbed by Vegas as a total O/U at an impressive 52 total points, this is an ideal situation to select our kickers from. I would look here or possibly Will Lutz, if Lambo isn’t available to stream (can you stream Kickers? I guess).
Nick Novak (vs. TEN) – Proj: 7.91 pts.
In what is likely to be a low-scoring affair, and a game dubbed by Vegas as a total O/U at only 39 total points, this is not an ideal situation to select our kickers from. I would look elsewhere.
Defense & Special Teams
Even without J.J. Watt, this is a team that ranks 7th against the pass according to Football Outsiders, against a largely inconsistent Titans offense. Also, they might very well get LB Brian Cushing back, which is also a good sign. This is a very good Houston defense rest of season, and they get another good opportunity this week as well.
I’m going to be as non-bias as I can while I give my thoughts about this selection. I was amazed by reading last week about how some thought the Texans defense was a great selection against the Patriots. Why? Because of Jacoby Brissett of course! Inexperience! First off, I would stay away as far I could for the Bills, mostly because of how much I believe in Josh McDaniels and Bill Belichick. I won’t go too far into detail, but the Patriots’ offense since Week 1 has looked good including Blount, and like I mentioned, this is a beatable front seven. I personally don’t care about last week when they were at home. There aren’t too many D/ST’s that are usually “bad” plays aside from the obvious ones that are in shootouts or simply bad, but I don’t feel good about the Bills at all.
The DFS Plays of the Week
*Note*- Below I will give three good DFS plays according to my beliefs and the projections of the DFSBot for Fanduel, DraftKings and Yahoo!
Fanduel Play of the Week
LeGarrette Blount ($7.5k) – Proj: 17.4 pts
DraftKings Play of the Week
T.Y. Hilton ($7k) – Proj: 17.1 pts
Yahoo! Play of the Week
Lamar Miller ($33) – Proj: 18.6 pts
Thanks for sticking around to the end for what is shaping up to be a great second week of the NFL season. As always, if you agree or disagree with a player above, or have a general question or comment about your team, please do not hesitate to leave one below.
Best of luck, and I’ll talk to you guys next week as we try to get your team to 5-0 on the season.
You Can Follow Zach on Twitter @ohuhave12.