Game Flowbotics A to Z – Week 7
I’ve heard and read a lot of analysts complain that Week 7 is a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad slate of football. Really? I don’t see how last week (or any other week, really) was somehow better than the schedule of games we’re facing this week. A handful of the over/under lines are low this week, but that sort of thing doesn’t bother me. Deciphering each week for fantasy purposes is a new and exciting challenge, and this slate has plenty of interesting matchups. Our analysis of those contests begins, as it always does, with the Game Flowbotics spreadsheet:
Now let’s dive in, A to Z, for Week 7 of the 2017 NFL season.
A is for Adrian Peterson’s Escape from New Orleans.
Snake Plisskin would be proud. Peterson was called in at the 11th hour, tasked with saving the Cardinals’ running game, and he did just that in Week 6. But as JJ Zachariason has noted across his various platforms, game flow could not have been more ideal for AP against the Buccaneers. Arizona jumped out to a 7-0 lead with over 11 minutes left in the first quarter. They didn’t stop building their lead until there was 8:27 remaining in the third quarter, when Tampa cut the lead from 31-0 to 31-6 with a DeSean Jackson touchdown. The Rams’ third-ranked pass rush by Adjusted Sack Rate is substantially better than the Bucs’ 31st-ranked unit, so Carson Palmer won’t have the same freedom and safety in the pocket this week, and his offense could sputter as a result. Meanwhile, the Los Angeles offense actually rates better than Tampa Bays’, so another first-half shutout by the Cardinals defense seems implausible. With all this in mind, temper your expectations for Peterson after his Week 6 explosion. He’s more RB2 than RB1.
B is for Brice Butler.
I started to foster high hopes for Butler during the brief period when it seemed like Ezekiel Elliott would begin serving his delayed suspension this week. Alas, Zeke’s lawyers came to the rescue once again, and he’s set for a big workload as a 6-point favorite in San Francisco. So where does that leave Butler? He’s still a sneaky play in DFS and deeper leagues. Dak Prescott has shown faith in Butler over a small sample of targets, and the 49ers have notoriously bad defensive backs, rating 29th in DVOA against #2 wideouts and 27th against #3 receivers.
C is for Can Cutler Cut It?
Smokin’ Jay should have plenty of time to throw against the Jets’ NFL-worst pass rush, but DeVante Parker figures to miss his second game in a row. The Jets rate well in DVOA against secondary and tertiary receivers, so losing their top option from the wide receiver depth chart could set up Kenny Stills and Leonte Carroo to be overmatched. I expect Cutler to lock in on Jarvis Landry, perhaps to a fault. If his passing tendencies become too predictable, the Jets could capitalize and add to their current total of six interceptions.
D is for Doubting Dalton.
Coming off a bye is typically a good thing in fantasy. Coaches and players have twice as much time as normal to prepare for post-bye opponents, but I’m not sure if extra prep will matter for Andy Dalton against the Pittsburgh defense. In six games, the Steelers have allowed the second-fewest points per game to opposing passers, and only two quarterbacks have finished higher than QB25 against them (DeShone Kizer in Week 1 and Alex Smith last week). Cincinnati’s offensive line has been a disaster, ranking 28th in Adjusted Sack Rate, while Pittsburgh has the NFL’s second-best pass rush by the same metric. Dalton has always struggled when under pressure, and he’ll probably be running for his life in this matchup. I’d look elsewhere for a quarterback this week.
E is for Expand.
That’s what Washington coach Jay Gruden supposedly wants to do to Josh Doctson’s role. Given the failings of Terrelle Pryor and Jamison Crowder, Doctson is a great speculative add this week. If you’re at all desperate for a receiver, he’s worth considering against a beatable Eagles’ secondary.
F is for Free Marlon Mack.
Please, Rob Chudzinski, we beg you.
G is for Get it to Graham.
Playing tight ends against the Giant in fantasy is a no-brainer. When the tight end facing them is a high-level talent like Jimmy Graham, that’s a typically a recipe for extremely high ownership in DFS. This week, however, there are a lot of appealing tight end plays, so Graham might not be as chalk as you might expect.
H is for Hundley’s Half-Glass.
Is it half empty or half full? Green Bay’s DVOA matchups point toward an advantage running the ball. I ranted about the Packers screwing up the Aaron Jones vs. Ty Montgomery timeshare on this week’s 2QB Experience podcast, and Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel fanned the flames on Wednesday. If they do commit to running the ball against New Orleans, I agree it would help Hundley. If he’s forced into making a lot of throws, either by game plan or game flow, I worry Hundley will make too many mistakes and limit his offense’s ceiling. But if they can control the game with Aaron Jones and Hundley’s own rushing ability, I like the QB as a floor play, along the lines of the Tyrod Taylor Archetype.
I is for Ivory.
Leonard Fournette didn’t practice through Thursday, setting up Chris Ivory as a potential spot-start RB1. Run, don’t walk, to your waiver wire and scoop up Ivory if he’s available. Even if you won’t use him over better rushers already on your roster, try to block your leaguemates from poaching Ivory for themselves.
J is for Javon.
As in Cortrelle Javon Anderson. The Broncos took a lot of heat for not running the ball enough against the Giants in Week 6, so look for C.J. to get fed this week in a prime matchup. The Chargers’ defense ranks dead last in Adjusted Line Yards, and running backs have gashed them for 5.9 yards per carry this season.
K is for King of Quarterbacks.
DeShaun Watson is on bye, so unless someone behind him in the standings has an absolutely huge game, Alex Smith will sit atop the fantasy throne as the overall QB1 with 157.26 total points through Week 7.
L is for Losing Streak.
The Chicago Bears will keep theirs going unless they take the training wheels off of Mitchell Trubisky. They want to run the ball ad nauseum, which plays directly into the strength of the Carolina defense. The Panthers rank sixth in rushing defense DVOA and ninth in Adjusted Line Yards. Trubisky is raw and a good bet to make mistakes, but he’ll need to step up and make some plays with his arm for the Bears to have a chance. I worry they’ll stubbornly stick to ground-and-pound with Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen, and that plan has more merit if Luke Kuechly can’t play, but I’d like to see Chicago’s rookie QB get more reps.
M is for Move on from Maclin
That’s what I did in one of my shallower leagues this week. Between Maclin’s health concerns and Joe Flacco’s quest to be the worst 16-game starter of all time, Maclin’s upside has evaporated into thin air. He’s a cut candidate if you need a roster spot.
N is for No Idea.
As in, “I have no idea how the Seahawks will split their running back usage.”
O is for O’Leary
The Buffalo Bills’ will run out Nick O’Leary at tight end in Charles Clay’s absence, and he’s in a decent spot against Tampa Bay if you need to plug in a cheap option. The stats don’t look promising — TB ranks 9th in DVOA vs. TEs, and they’ve allowed below average targets and yardage to the position — but that’s likely because the Bucs have faced mostly lackluster tight ends to this point in the season. Yes, O’Leary is as lackluster as they come, but he could see volume anyway, thanks to Buffalo’s lack of quality receivers.
P is for Punting.
Tune in to Ravens-Vikings if you’re a fan of it.
Q is for Quit Trying to Make O.J. Howard Happen.
R is for Ready for Derrick Henry.
The fantasy world and the Titans offense are ready for him to be featured. When will Mike Mularkey be ready?
S is for Stand By.
That’s what Elijah McGuire had to do last week while Matt Forte reestablished himself in the wake of Bilal Powell’s injury. Powell should return against Miami, and their defense ranks 2nd in DVOA against the run. Steer clear of this messy backfield.
T is for Thomas Times Two.
Michael Thomas faces a Green Bay defense ranked 22nd against #1 wideouts. Julio Jones and A.J. Green both went for over 100 yards in their matchups against the Packers. Demaryius Thomas faces a Chargers defense ranked 21st against #1 wideouts, and he won’t have to with Emmanuel Sanders for targets.
U is for Unproven Receivers.
That’s what the Browns are rolling out each week since Corey Coleman’s injury and Kenny Britt’s relegation to inactive status. Being unproven doesn’t rob Ricardo Louis and Kasen Williams of fantasy value, though, especially against the Titans’ woeful secondary. Tennessee has allowed the 10th-most fantasy points per game to wideouts, and they rank 25th in pass defense DVOA. Louis profiles as Cleveland’s top pass-catcher, leading the team in targets each of the past three weeks. He draws the statistically tougher matchup compared to Williams. Tennessee ranks 10th in DVOA against #1 WRs, but note that they allow relatively average targets yardage to top guys. Williams faces the NFL’s worst defense against #2 WRs, with above average yardage on average targets. We’re faced with a classic case of volume (Louis) versus efficiency (Williams). In his always excellent Stealing Signals series, Ben Gretch helps break the tie with the following data on Louis:
Ricardo Louis was the only skill position player over a 70 percent snap rate for the second straight week. He led the team in targets with seven but caught just three for 25. He’s at least getting Air Yards. He’s 10th in the NFL over the last four weeks and has risen each week from 86 in Week 3 to 129 in Week 6.
Ben goes on to note how poor Louis has been at converting his air yards into production, and that we should expect an efficiency bounce-back moving forward. In this particular matchup, he’s a fine option for PPR lineups. Williams is a decent dart-throw, but nothing more. Cleveland’s receiving corps behind Louis has been fairly fluid from week to week.
V is for Very Bad Matchup.
Sammy Watkins appears to have one this week against Patrick Peterson, but Arizona’s shutdown corner has been limited in practice this week as he works through a quad injury. If you own Watkins, keep an eye on this situation leading up to Sunday.
W is for Who Cares?
When it comes to who’s starting at QB against the Titans, I don’t, I’ll stream anyone. Welcome back to my good graces for at least one week, DeShone Kizer.
X is for X-factor.
Someone needs to be one for Atlanta in what promises to be a high-scoring tilt against New England’s porous defense. Mohamed Sanu has been limited in practice, and I don’t trust him to deliver a big game, even if he plays. That leaves Taylor Gabriel, Austin Hooper, and Tevin Coleman as the leading candidates. I will have exposure to all three this week, but Coleman is the most intriguing option to me. He’s out-targeted Devonta Freeman 20 to 13 and the Patriots rank 28th on defense against running backs as receivers, allowing 75.2 yards per game on 8.8 passes per game.
Y is for YOLO Balls.
Expect a steady dose of them to both Mike Evans and DeSean Jackson if Ryan Fitzpatrick starts in place of Jameis Winston this week. You can steer into Fitzmagic’s gunslinging habits by investing in either his primary receivers or the Buffalo Bills defense.
Z is for Zay Jones.
If he’s ever going to put it together, this should be the week. By DVOA, Tampa Bay ranks 26th against WR1s, allowing them 11.8 passes and 112.3 yards per game. Even if Jordan Matthews suits up and assumes the #1 role, the Bucs’ defense against other receivers isn’t much better. They rank 22nd against WR2s and 32nd against WR3s. Jones has no excuse if he doesn’t perform well in Week 7.