Game Flowbotics A-to-Z – Week 4
Hey, gang! It’s been an active, bustling, chaotic, demanding, extracurricular, fast-paced, grindy, haphazard, intense, jumbled, kinetic, laborious, messy, neverending, overwhelming, productive, quick, relentless, swamped, trying, unremitting, vigorous, wonky, (e)xasperating, yieldless, and zany week for the ol’ Mr. Sauce.
I took my dog to the vet today and I'm singing two songs at a wedding this weekend, AMA.
— Greg Smith (@gregsauce) September 27, 2018
So you’ll have to forgive me for leaning more heavily on the fine work of others in this installment of A-to-Z, not to mention delayed publication. Before we get to my favorite Week 4 nuggets from around the fantasy community (plus my own analysis), let’s start, as we always do, with a link to the Game Flowbotics matchups spreadsheet:
Now let’s dive in, A to Z, for Week 4 of the 2018 NFL season.
A-B-C-D is for Add Backups, Cellar Dweller.
Say you’re winless through three weeks. Things are looking grim. Maybe you’re a hard-luck case with plenty of points who just happened to catch opponents having huge weeks. You’ll probably be fine. But if your roster is falling apart at the seams due to injuries and such, it’s time to start throwing up the occasional Hail Mary. You’ll need luck to get back on track, and one of the easiest ways to get lucky in fantasy football is to prey on your opponents’ misfortune. Start stashing backups to key players from other teams. Pick up Spencer Ware, Ronald Jones, Rod Smith, or Malcolm Brown/John Kelly, and do it before the Week 4 slate begins (to get ahead of a potential waiver wire feeding frenzy). These types of players have limited value in the short-term, but injuries to the starters in front of them could turn your season around.
E-F is for Extremely Forgiving.
That’s what Oakland’s pass rush has been.
Oakland's defense has gotten pressure to an opposing quarterback only 19 times this season. Not only does that rank last in the league but that's fewer than some individual players! Khalil Mack, for instance, has 20.
— Scott Barrett (@ScottBarrettDFB) September 28, 2018
Starting Baker Mayfield in The Black Hole is a bit daunting, but the Raiders’ defensive line ranks last in Adjusted Sack Rate. Meanwhile, they have allowed the 12th-most fantasy points to quarterbacks, and not necessarily to great players, either. Ryan Tannehill and Case Keenum were two of the three passers to pick Oakland apart. Cleveland’s passing game is primed for success this week, even with a rookie quarterback.
G is for Graham Get-Right.
I play in a league with the groom of the wedding mentioned above, and he dropped Jimmy Graham this week to pick up Vance McDonald. Saturday will be one of the happiest days of his life, so I’m hoping those amazing memories will nullify those of me throwing him under the bus in this blurb, but dropping Graham ahead of Week 4 was a terrible move. McDonald had a nice Week 3 in a cupcake matchup, but the OG Jimmy G has 19 targets through three games, more than Rob Gronkowski, David Njoku, and Trey Burton (and almost double what McDonald has to this point). This week, Graham faces a Buffalo team ranked 23rd in DVOA against tight ends. The Bills have allowed 1.6 adjusted targets and 13.7 adjusted yards above average to the position, so look for Graham to quench his touchdown drought on Sunday.
H-I-J is for Hundred Is Justifiable.
If you’re wondering what percentage of your lineups should use Sterling Shepard, 100 makes sense. The Saints are missing cornerback Patrick Robinson, and the Giants are missing both Evan Engram and Cody Latimer. Funnel all those targets to Shepard and his discounted DFS price tag, please. One-hundred percent ownership might also be justified for Shep’s teammate Saquon Barkley. Despite a prolific Saints offense on the other side of the ball, Barkley is at little risk of being game-scripted out of touches because he’s so prolific in the passing game. He’s seen 27 targets through three weeks, second-most in the league behind Alvin Kamara, and Barkley’s target numbers should climb even higher as a result of the aforementioned injuries to Engram and Latimer.
K-L is for Keke Liftoff?
Bruce Ellington has returned home to Injured Reserve, but Keke Coutee is shaking off his own injury woes just in time. Coutee should debut this week as Houston’s slot receiver, in what Pat Thorman speculates could be a shootout. You can’t use the rookie in seasonal leagues, but he’s an interesting tournament option in DFS.
M-N is for Miller Nonexistent.
Anthony Miller will sit out this week’s game against the soft Tampa Bay defense, making this an obvious smash spot for Allen Robinson. Going deeper, Taylor Gabriel, Trey Burton, and Tarik Cohen could also see upticks in targets. Who knows, Kevin White might even make an appearance in the box score. But the specter of Mitchell Trubisky looms over all receivers in Chicago’s offense. Robinson is the only one I’m comfortably starting in seasonal leagues, while the others should only be started in desperate situations or infrequently in GPP lineups.
O-P is for Overzet Peacockin’.
Don’t miss Peter Overzet showing off his fantasy tailfeathers every week on The Turnover. Great stuff.
Q-R is for Quincy’s Reckoning.
Quincy Enunwa faces the Jaguars this week, who rank 12th in pass defense DVOA. Against No. 1 receivers, specifically, they rank 26th and allow 83.0 adjusted yards per game (10.6 adjusted yards above average). Enunwa doesn’t profile as a traditional No. 1, though. He primarily operates from the slot, and the Jags’ volume allowed to top wideouts likely corresponds more to the outside threats they’ve seen to date, namely Odell Beckham Jr., Chris Hogan/Phillip Dorsett, and Corey Davis. Jacksonville’s defense against No. 3 type receivers has been dominant through three games, but the Giants, Patriots, and Titans hardly challenged from that angle. Furthermore, Jags slot corner D.J. Hayden is week-to-week with a sprained toe. Despite overall perception of a tough matchup, Enunwa should maintain a strong target share against Jacksonville and return reasonable fantasy value.
S is for Semi-Solo Sony.
Rex Burkhead hit Injured Reserve this week, which opens the door to the workhorse stable for Sony Michel. Will he walk through it against Miami? DVOA says no. The Patriots rank 23rd in rushing offense, and the Dolphins’ defense ranks sixth against the run. Nevertheless, New England is favored by 6.5 points, which indicates a positive game script could be in store for them. While he must still contend with James White, Michel’s opportunity for raw volume of carries makes him an intriguing fantasy option.
T-U is for TE Upside.
Tight end is a mess, but chaos is a ladder (Editor’s Note: NSFW), and there are still a number of readily available players at the position with weekly touchdown upside. Sigmund Bloom talked up Dallas Goedert this week On the Couch, as Goedert fills the void Alshon Jeffery has left in Philly’s red zone offense. In JJ Zachariason’s matchups podcast for Week 4, he stumped for Austin Hooper, who has already three red zone targets this season (tied for sixth among tight ends). Other deep plays I like include Antonio Gates facing a soft 49ers defense, as well as Nick Boyle, Mark Andrews, and Maxx Williams on Baltimore, going against a Pittsburgh defense allowing 9.2 adjusted targets per game (third-most in the NFL) and 80.0 adjusted yards per game (sixth-most) to tight ends.
V-W is for Volume Wins.
It took Chris Carson 32 carries to hit 102 yards in Week 3 (an average of 3.2 yards per carry—woof!), but fantasy owners don’t care about inefficiency if the volume is there. That Dallas defense he faced ranks similarly in run defense DVOA (13th) to the Arizona defense he’ll face this week (11th). And with the Cardinals set to trot out rookie Josh Rosen at quarterback, game script for Seattle could be favorable for the second week in a row. Carson is begrudgingly playable yet again, thanks to the ugly state of the running back position.
X is for Xavien Howard.
The Dolphins’ alpha cornerback has been a destructive force on defense. After locking down Amari Cooper in Week 3, I’m curious about which New England wideout will draw Xavien Howard’s attention in Week 4. Strangely enough, according to Mike Woellert at 4for4, it figures to be Phillip Dorsett. On the other hand, it could be Josh Gordon, assuming he makes his debut for the Pats. Much maligned Chris Hogan is the wild card in this shuffle-up, and he should draw rookie Minkah Fitzpatrick for the most part in the slot. From what I can gather anecdotally, Football Outsiders tends to tab slot receivers as third options, and DVOA rates Miami as the best team in the NFL at defending No. 3 wide receivers. No matter how you slice it, Rob Gronkowski and James White can both dodge Miami’s strengths in pass defense and remain strong plays thanks to New England’s 27-point implied total.
Y-Z is for Young Zeus.
Also known as Travis Kelce. The burgeoning tight end god will tilt against a Denver defense allowing 17.5 adjusted yards per target to his position, which is by far the most in the NFL. To put their deficiency against tight ends in context, the Broncos allow 21.4 more adjusted yards per game than the NFL average on 2.6 fewer targets per game than the NFL average. This trend of allowing more production on less volume makes Kelce an even safer play than normal, making him worth paying up for in DFS.
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. Snap data from airyards.com.