When I’m running through notes and practice reports for my first pass through weekly rankings and the Game Flowbotics spreadsheet, I often lament the roles injuries play in the careers of football’s many exciting players. We put up with the week-to-week swings of players missing time. In fact, it’s part of what makes fantasy challenging and fun. Like a lot of football fans, my real discouragement stems from the long-term effects these injuries have, particularly concussions.
The specter of brain trauma visited me again while watching Game 7 of the World Series, as the announcers discussed catcher David Ross and how his history of concussions has at least in part led to his imminent retirement. I was tinkering with my Week 9 rankings while I watched the game, and my brain drifted back to a podcast I had listened to on my commute home. On Living the Stream, hosts JJ and Denny were diplomatically examining the NFL’s leadership and speculating about an alternate reality’s 7-on-7 non-contact football league led by commissioner Adam Silver.
Now the gears in my head are turning. Perhaps instead of a full gravitational shift in how football is played, we could add a parallel league to the mix. The new format could eliminate brain-destroying hits, allowing players to change the rhythm of their careers, but not the tune. What better way to give concussion-prone and older players a different way to play football? Imagine a stripped-down football lovechild between the NBA’s D-League and the PGA’s Champions Tour. Keep it serious and developmental, or have some fun with it. Could a 7-on-7 flag football league feature publicity-grabbing exhibitions with Brett Favre and Tim Tebow? Absolutely. Could it extend or vitalize the football lives of former players like Chris Borland and Austin Collie before they flame out? Maybe, and that’s why new variations of the sport are worth consideration.
Admittedly, this hair-brained idea has little to do with my weekly rankings. For now, injuries remain an important factor in fantasy football, and we need to wade through their murky depths each week for the clearest possible picture of depth charts. Understanding the slate of likely starters in only half the battle. In-game opportunities depend on defensive match-ups and the abilities of surrounding teammates. Every week, my Game Flowbotics page offers snapshots of how teams and individual players stack up against opponents according to DVOA and gambling lines. Here’s the spreadsheet for Week 9:
As always, my ranks are a couple mouse-scrolls away, but for the space between, here are a couple interesting Week 9 rankings situations…
The Expected Return of Corey Coleman
We have no idea how much he’ll actually play on Sunday against Dallas, and I wouldn’t use him for that reason. I’m more interested in how Terrelle Pryor and Gary Barnidge will be affected. Their respective market shares should decrease by default, but the addition of another talented receiver could make them more efficient. The Browns’ quarterback situation is anything but stable, which only makes this situation tougher to evaluate. Josh McCown and Cody Kessler have differing pros and cons, but I don’t believe either will skew the various receivers’ values from the starting quarterback role. Barnidge, in particular, has a nice match-up this week. He and Pryor remain starter-level fantasy commodities for at least one more game.
The Narrative Roller Coaster of Streaming Defenses
Hello, my name is Greg, and I’m a degenerate streamer of fantasy defenses. Most folks view the Miami Dolphins and Green Bay Packers as this slate’s top streaming options. I’m more in on the Pack, simply for their ability to rush the passer and their opponent’s inability to pass protect. Andrew Luck should see plenty of pressure and history has shown his susceptibility to turnovers.
The Jets are a fine offense to target with a streaming defense, but their infamous points-allowed numbers to D/ST units are primarily schedule-driven. The Jets happen to have faced a lot of strong defenses to this point in the season. Call me crazy, but Miami’s 13th-ranked defense by DVOA doesn’t hold that same distinction. I expect four to eight fantasy points, don’t get me wrong, but there are other streaming options I like more. Give me the Dallas defense against Cleveland, the Giants off a bye facing Philly’s rookie quarterback, and the improved Chargers versus a traveling Titans team.
I was especially high on the Chargers defense on my first pass through the rankings, but I’ve since cooled on them a bit. Their fantasy game log shows promise, but this specific match-up against Tennessee doesn’t line up well for San Diego. It’s essentially the opposite of the Colts-Packers contest. The Chargers’ middling front-seven should struggle to disrupt the Titans’ stout offensive line. Injuries to San Diego defenders won’t help, as three of their linebackers and two safeties began Week 9 on the injury report. I still have hope for the Chargers defense in spite of these warning signs, but I’m glad I dug a little deeper into the numbers to temper my initially overboard expectations.