Game Flowbotics A-to-Z – Week 15
It’s semifinals weekend in the fantasy football playoffs. No time for messing around. Here’s this week’s Game Flowbotics matchups spreadsheet:
Now let’s dive in, A to Z, for Week 15 of the 2018 NFL season.
A-B is for Aaron vs. Bears.
In case you missed the trailer, the Revenant II comes out this week. It figures to go over the top like most sequels (Sidebar to Sly: Once Creed is played out, please give us a sequel to Over the Top). Aaron Rodgers isn’t going to battle one bear, but a whole team of them. He has teammates of his own, but they’re out in the wilderness. By DVOA, Chicago’s defense ranks first overall, against the pass, against the run, and against No. 1 receivers. Rodgers, Davante Adams, and Randall Cobb proved to be matchup-beaters way back in Week 1, but we saw against the Rams how much the season has toughened this Bears defense.
C-D-E is for Carefully Doled Eligibility.
Sue me, but I think it would be cool if more players had eligibility at multiple positions.
If Mike Williams had WR/TE eligibility next season, what round would you target him in drafts?
Related: I am available for leagues with more liberal positional eligibility. https://t.co/dDXt0SE016
— Greg Smith (@gregsauce) December 14, 2018
Yes, when players like Jaylen Samuels get eligibility at multiple spots, it unnaturally inflates their values, but that’s interesting to me. Let’s play in that sandbox more often. Make Mike Williams a WR/TE, Taysom Hill a QB/RB, David Johnson a RB/WR, etc., and let’s see if we can price their fantasy values appropriately. In most leagues, we already allow for the comparison of positions using flex spots, so why not narrow the focus and make flexibility player-specific instead of lineup-specific? The game design and resulting strategy would be fascinating.
F is for Finding Flacco.
What would it take for Joe Flacco to retake his role as the primary quarterback for Baltimore? As automatic as Lamar Jackson has been for a floor (Editor’s Note: ▲,▲,▼,▼,◄,►,◄,►,B,A,Start), his passing still leaves a lot to be desired. So if Tampa Bay can jump out to a lead, that could create the game flow recipe for John Harbaugh to turn back to Flacco for more aerial punch on offense. That’s a legitimate risk Jackson’s fantasy faithful have to grapple with, but I see others ranking him inside their top-six at quarterback. That’s too rich for me in a week with so many true passing studs in potential shootouts.
G is for Grinders Grinding.
That’s what they do against the New York Giants. Since Week 8, Adrian Peterson, Peyton Barber, Josh Adams, and Jordan Howard have all topped 15 carries versus the Giants. And of the four, only Howard failed to post 16-plus fantasy points against New York. So while it may seem wise to fade recency bias with Derrick Henry, I’m okay with buying back in against the G-men. You shouldn’t expect another 40-point game, but he still feels like a top-20 running back.
H is for Herndon’s Hibernation.
With Sam Darnold presumably a week healthier, let’s hope Chris Herndon can wake up against Houston. The Texans rank 27th in DVOA against tight ends, allowing 7.5 adjusted targets and 68.1 adjusted yards per game to the position.
I is for Iffy.
I want to cut ties with Tre’Quan Smith in fantasy football, but I can’t shake the lingering feeling that this could finally be the week he bounces back. Smith has done literally nothing since his nuclear event in Week 11 against Philadelphia, but his snap share has been fine when active, always second to Michael Thomas among Saints wideouts in that span. And this week’s matchup has a lot in common with that game against the Eagles. Opponents have been roasting the Panthers through the air. Unfortunately for Smith, the associated wide receiver volume against Carolina in recent weeks has largely gone to top targets like Jarvis Landry, Doug Baldwin, and Kenny Golladay. As usual, Thomas is the play for New Orleans. Meanwhile, I’ve been content to drop Smith in most of my leagues, but I’ll probably throw a couple darts at him in DFS tournaments because of his “what if” potential.
J is for Josh Johnson.
I’ll cover a team that excels against rushing quarterbacks later, but the Jaguars are on the opposite end of the spectrum. They’ve struggled to bottle up mobile signal-callers. Marcus Mariota hung 51 yards on Jacksonville, Dak Prescott went for 82 and a score, and Josh Allen tallied 99 yards plus a touchdown of his own. That might make Josh Johnson seem like a sneaky good option in Week 15 against the Jags. Using him in fantasy is certainly sneaky, I’m just not sure how good it is. Jamison Crowder and Chris Thompson are back for Washington, but they just lost Jordan Reed, and the rest of their receivers are mediocre at best. Meanwhile, Jacksonville will likely lean on Leonard Fournette and try to dominate time of possession, which could hurt Washington’s overall volume on offense. I don’t hate Johnson as a deep streaming option, but there are 20-plus quarterbacks I’d rather start.
K is for Keke, KO’d.
It’s a shame Keke Coutee won’t suit up this week, because the matchup for No. 3 receivers against the Jets is juicy as a tangerine. Against slot guys, New York allows 9.2 adjusted targets per game (league average is 6.2) and 75.0 adjusted yards per game (league average is 48.7). The Texans don’t have anyone deeper on the wide receiver depth chart to step up in Coutee’s place, so look for inflated target numbers to No. 2 wide receiver Demaryius Thomas, as well as Houston’s tight ends, Ryan Griffin and Jordan Thomas.
L-M is for Lindsay MVP.
There are plenty of viable candidates because what’s “most valuable” is subjective, but Phillip Lindsay is my fantasy MVP. He helped me tunnel out of bad running back prison like the pin-up of Raquel Welch on Andy’s wall in Shawshank, covering my escape. On Sept. 12th, I claimed him in four of my six redraft leagues for the low prices of a third-priority waiver claim and FAAB percentages of 38, 31, and 27. And unlike most other patchwork players from the waiver wire, I’m excited to use Lindsay in the three of those leagues where I made the playoffs. I love how game script rarely hurts him, thanks to rushing and receiving production, and this week’s matchup against Cleveland looks good. The Browns rank 26th in run defense DVOA, while the Broncos are top-five in both run offense DVOA and Adjusted Line Yards.
N is for Nick? No.
With no NFL teams on bye and most fantasy teams eliminated at this point in the season, there’s no real reason to start Nick Mullens against Seattle. Supply at the quarterback position is too deep. I’ve talked up the positive effects of Kyle Shanahan before, but why risk it? Mullens’ production against the Seahawks in Week 13 came mostly in garbage time. The repeatability of such production is shaky at best. And with the Bears on deck in Week 16, you’re better off cutting Mullens for help elsewhere and hoping some else is foolish enough to scoop and start him, even in a two-quarterback league.
O-P is for Overrated: Prince.
I did a really stupid thing on Thursday and replied when I saw Karl Safchick tweeting about Prince and Taylor Swift.
Both are overrated tbh.
— Greg Smith (@gregsauce) December 13, 2018
I didn’t say I disliked either, only that they were both overrated. And to be specific, I like Prince. But his music doesn’t connect with me in a profound way like it does other people. Yes, he’s an amazing musician, but something about the regionality of his popularity (RIP all our web traffic from Minnesota) and his glammy aesthetic clashes with my musical sensibilities. People worship him, but Prince isn’t on the short list of artists I’d be okay limiting myself to for the rest of my life. This is all about me. I think he’s overrated. If you think he’s properly rated or underrated, feel free to join the Prince convention in my mentions (@gregsauce).
Know who else is overrated? Gus Edwards, and more so in a Taylor Swift way. I don’t see what the big deal is. In my Week 15 rankings, Edwards is behind his perceived backup, Kenneth Dixon. Dixon leapfrogged Ty Montgomery in snap share last week, up to 32 percent, and Dixon is primed to overtake Edwards going forward based on his combination of rushing and receiving chops.
Q-R-S is for Quarterback Rushing Stymied.
I’ve championed Sigmund Bloom’s “On The Couch” podcast in other A-to-Zs, and the show gave me another great insight this week when guest Paul Charchian pointed out how Detroit has shut down rushing quarterbacks. They only allow 4.8 yards per game on the ground to signal-callers. And it’s not as if they’ve faced a schedule full of statuesque passers. Mitchell Trubisky managed 18 rushing yards against the Lions, and no other quarterback had done better. Not Rodgers, not Prescott, and not Russell Wilson. Detroit held Cam Newton to his lowest rushing total of the season, only 2 yards. Enter Josh Allen, whose newfound fantasy relevance is almost wholly based around his rushing production. He’ll need to do more with his arm this week, considering the matchup. But Allen hasn’t consistently shown the passing skills to prove he can exploit Detroit’s 31st-ranked passing defense. I’m fading him relative to consensus.
T is for Targeting Tigers.
The season has taken a grim turn for the Bengals. With Andy Dalton, A.J. Green, and Tyler Eifert sidelined, Jeff Driskel is left to point targets in the direction of Tyler Boyd, Joe Mixon, and not much else. But what’s that subtle shimmer in the Week 15 reeds? It could be nothing, or maybe it’s C.J. Uzomah using his stripes to hide in plain sight. He hasn’t done much lately, declining steadily in usage since his season-high 12 targets in Week 12, but the Raiders do a good job of propping up tight ends. Oakland ranks last in DVOA against them, allowing by far the most adjusted yards per target to the position (11.7).
U is for UnColtventional.
Yeah, I’m just making up words now. It’s Week 15 of grinding A-to-Zs, and I haven’t gone completely bonkers yet. I deserve a little leeway. And seriously, what about the Colts is conventional? On defense, they allow the second-fewest yards per game to wide receivers (as if we needed a reason to play Ezekiel Elliott against them). On offense, they make a living throwing to T.Y. Hilton plus a petting zoo of cast-offs and nobodies. Against Dallas in particular, Andrew Luck’s arsenal of misfit toys matches up in interesting ways. All receiver types produce below-average adjusted yardage against the Cowboys except tight ends, who earn 8.4 adjusted yards per game above the NFL average when facing Jerry’s team. Eric Ebron locked in as a top-five fantasy tight end is the definition of uncoltventional.
V-W is for Valediction to Wentz.
As we bid injury-related adieu to Carson Wentz once again, we must consider how Nick Foles will perform in relief, especially in 2QB and Superflex. This game against the Rams features a big 52.5-point over/under, so some of you might be hoping for contrarian value with Foles in a potential shootout, but the Eagles are 12.5-point underdogs. Furthermore, Philly’s backup isn’t on the level of quarterbacks like Patrick Mahomes, Drew Brees, and Wilson, who were previously able to challenge L.A.’s imposing defense (ranked 12th overall and sixth against the pass according to DVOA). Foles has more in common with Trubisky and Matthew Stafford, who the Rams had no trouble dismantling over their past two games, holding both quarterbacks to under 12 fantasy points.
X is for Xavien.
I’m looking forward to see how Minnesota’s replacement play-caller, Kevin Stefanski, attacks a Miami defense missing cornerback Xavien Howard. DVOA shows Miami’s pass defense being worse than their run defense, but the Viking’s lack of rushing has come up in the chatter about why old offensive coordinator John DiFillippo was fired. I’m okay with a reasonable number of rush attempts to keep the opposing defense honest, but I’d rather see Stefanski steer into the stats with Kirk Cousins and continue throwing the ball at a high clip. Maybe I’m projecting, though. My only roster with Dalvin Cook died last week in the quarterfinals.
Y is for Ynos.
That’s “Sony” backwards. It might feel a little backwards to use Sony Michel against Pittsburgh’s seventh-best run defense by DVOA, but 2018 has tried to teach us that defense doesn’t matter, or at least not as much as we might think. More than ever, it’s important to chase volume in fantasy football, and Michel is delivering on that front. He’s averaging over 19 carries per game since New England’s Week 11 bye. If James Develin takes a game off from hogging the Patriots’ goal line work, Michel could be in store for a big week despite a seemingly tough opponent.
Z is for Zag Away from Zay.
I already touched on Buffalo’s likely need to pass more than usual against Detroit, and Zay Jones would figure to benefit the most after leading the team with nine targets in each of his past two games. But he’ll primarily draw Darius Slay in coverage, and the lockdown corner has helped limit No. 1 receivers to only 6.0 adjusted targets for 54.5 adjusted yards per game against the Lions. This deep into the article, maybe you’re a little delirious and contemplating some loose DFS stacks with Allen and his receivers. It’s not advisable, but if you want to go there, I recommend Robert Foster and Isaiah McKenzie over Jones.
Editor’s Note: DVOA, Adjusted Line Yards, Adjusted Sack Rate, and Versus-Receiver statistics from FootballOutsiders.com. Fantasy Scoring and Red Zone statistics from FantasyData.com. Air Yards and snap data from airyards.com.