Game Flowbotics A-to-Z – Week 6
I’m going off the reservation with a long theoretical blurb to start this article, so kiss any notions of a proper intro goodbye. Here’s this week’s Game Flowbotics matchups spreadsheet:
Now let’s dive in, A to Z, for Week 6 of the 2018 NFL season.
A-B-C-D is for Always Been a Cousins Doubter.
But I’m coming around. I’ll admit up front this blurb doesn’t have much to do with his Week 6 matchup, but Kirk Cousins has become a fascinating case in the chicken-vs-egg interplay between quarterback and offensive line. In Washington, Cousins had me convinced he was the product of a cushy situation that included a quality offensive scheme and sturdy offensive line. He had a lot of clean pockets, open receivers to target, and success ensued.
That doesn’t mean Cousins isn’t talented, clearly he is (and always has been), but would he have developed into the player he’s become without good blocking up front early in his Washington tenure? What’s more important, the quarterback’s inherent talent or the surrounding infrastructure necessary to hone the quarterback? Yes, both are important, but if you can only have the chicken or the egg to start a franchise, which would you choose?
More and more, it seems like infrastructure matters most when a quarterback is fresh out of college because all quarterbacks play better from a clean pocket. To properly self-scout the position, it benefits teams to strive for perpetually clean pockets in the early part of a passer’s development. And if such structure is achieved, quarterbacks are thereby set up to develop more quickly, eventually learning enough to succeed when the pocket collapses, if only because their clean-pocket fundamentals have been properly married to their talent.
This has been a long-winded way of saying that I now believe Kirk Cousins is #good and that he can succeed even while Vikings’ offensive line falls apart in front of him. But I don’t think he would have succeeded in a similar situation three or four years ago. It takes time with quarterbacks, and that’s why what Patrick Mahomes has done is so impressive. It’s also why we shouldn’t be too quick write off players like Mitchell Trubisky. Anyway, thanks for letting me speculate about quarterback development from this comfy internet armchair. Let’s get to fantasy analysis.
E is for Eric & Erik.
Before 2017, Eric Ebron had never played a full 16-game season in the NFL. After missing practice on Wednesday and Thursday with various dings and dents, I thought we were in for the same ol’ song and dance, but then Ebron practiced in full on Friday. At this point, we have to assume his days off were precautionary or maintenance-related and that he’ll play a full workload against the Jets. Whether or not Ebron meets those expectations, Erik Swoope remains an intriguing punt play at tight end. As long as T.Y. Hilton remains sidelined (more on him below), it’s all hands on deck for the Colts’ receiving corps, and Andrew Luck is simply going to seek out the open man. And Swoope is always open because he is enormous and knows how to jump because he #PlayedBasketballInCollege. The Jets have held opposing tight ends to 31.8 adjusted yards less per game than the league average, but they haven’t really faced any tight ends of consequence so far, so don’t hold that against Indy’s Killer Es.
F-G is for Favorite Ground-pounder.
My favorite dart throw at running back this week is Aaron Jones. Again. Please don’t screw this up, Mike McCarthy.
H is for Hilton’s Hamstring.
I touched on the Colts’ tight ends related to an injured T.Y. Hilton above, but what about their other wide receivers? Ryan Grant and Chester Rogers are only separated by one target, they have the same number of receptions, and, over the past two weeks, both have played roughly 80 percent of the team’s snaps. In DFS, the play is to spread ownership between both, but should we weight heavier toward one player or the other? And in seasonal leagues, who should Hilton owners look to for fill-in help? This week, I want Rogers. He gets more use in the slot than Grant, and slot/No. 3 receivers have garnered more adjusted targets per game than all other receiver types against the Jets.
I is for Insane.
You’d have to be loco to miss Sunday night’s game between the Chiefs and Patriots. I can’t wait.
J-K is for Juszczyk, Kyle.
The 49ers fullback is actually so much more. He might be the most #ZeroRB player in the very #ZeroRB season we’re experiencing. The Juice was targeted seven times last week, and should continue to see work while Matt Breida is nicked up. Desperate PPR owners should take note.
L-M is for Lindsay Maybe?
Case Keenum is playing poorly, and if the Broncos commit to a run-heavy plan like Seattle did last week, Phillip Lindsay might be the Broncos’ best weapon to upset the Rams. Los Angeles ranks 28th in DVOA against the run, and game script could very likely take Royce Freeman out of the game for his lack of receiving chops.
N is for Not Niles.
A river of targets could flow to Niles Paul now that Austin Seferian-Jenkins is hurt. But despite tight-end premium scoring in the Scott Fish Bowl, I’m starting Tyrell Williams ahead of Paul in one of my flex spots. In a large tournament setting like SFB8, I’d rather have the upside of a deep threat receiver. Play to your format.
O is for Overrated.
Yup, Calvin Ridley fits the bill.
P-Q is for ¿Por Qué?
Oh, you want to know why Ridley is overrated? I’m not going to lay out the case in Spanish, but it’s mostly because he’s regarded as Atlanta’s No. 2 receiver when he’s actually their No. 3 according to snap share (60 percent to Mohamed Sanu’s 81) and target share (14 percent compared to Sanu’s 16). To be fair, Ridley is second on the team in air yards behind Julio Jones and leads the team in touchdown receptions, but we know scoring plays are subject to high variance. And yeah, I get that Tampa Bay is an appealing matchup based on the passing volume they’ve allowed. But if Jones and Sanu are playing more snaps than him, and Devonta Freeman is one week healthier against the Bucs’ 30th-ranked pass defense versus running backs, high volume for Ridley doesn’t seem as bankable to me as it does most other analysts.
R is for Red Rifle Revisionist.
Next week, I worry we’ll look back at the consensus projections for Andy Dalton against the Steelers and wonder what the hell went wrong. I teased this idea on Episode 96 of the 2QBXP podcast, but Pittsburgh’s defense could very well be coming around. They been getting pressure up front all season, evidenced by their fourth-ranked pass rush according to Adjusted Sack Rate, so it was curious to see how much passing production they allowed before tightening up against Atlanta. The Falcons are dealing with a lot of injuries, including some to their offensive linemen, but perhaps we should also give some credit to Joe Haden. In the modern NFL, the season’s early weeks effectively act as an extension of the preseason, and Haden was slowed through those games by a hamstring injury. He seemed back to full health in Week 5, limiting Julio Jones to 5-62-0 on nine targets. Now Haden is set to face A.J. Green, which has historically been a one-sided battle:
A.J. Green in 8 career matchups vs. Joe Haden:
1 reception-41 yards-1 TD (4 targets)
— Ian Hartitz (@Ihartitz) October 10, 2018
And it doesn’t help that Dalton has his own history of struggles against common opponents like Pittsburgh. Add it all up, and I’m wary of a let-down week from the Red Rifle and the Bengals.
S is for Squeaky.
The squeaky wheel gets the grease, and Doug Baldwin is making his gripes audible just in time to match up with an Oakland team allowing by far the most adjusted yards per target to third receivers. And before you start squeaking about how Baldwin is Seattle’s No. 1 guy, note that he plays primarily from the slot, and FootballOutsiders tends to peg slot receivers as third bananas with their statistics. Baldwin’s injury was dismissed as the reason for his lack of Week 5 targets, so stay tuned for new excuses if he doesn’t perform this week in a solid matchup.
T is for Temporary TE.
I’m not sure how much you can trust Greg Olsen returning so soon with a broken foot. He was dropped in one of my leagues, and tight end is a trainwreck, so I claimed him because I’m willing to accept any amount of upside at that position, but my expectations are low. Olsen will be at severe risk of reinjury every week for the rest of the season, so if he makes it through this week against Washington unscathed, look to sell.
U-V is for Unlikely Value.
With the Browns likely to be in catch-up mode against the Chargers’ powerful offense, value in the receiving game could come from an unlikely source for Cleveland. Rashard Higgins and Derek Willies are out, so someone needs to step up behind Jarvis Landry. The easy money is on David Njoku and Antonio Callaway, but what is this is the week Duke Johnson finally gets going? Or should we dig deep into the bargain bin for Rod Streater, Darren Fells, or Seth DeValve? Nah, probably not… but what if?
W is for Waiver Wire.
I let Lamar Miller hit it this week to pick up Corey Clement. No ragrets.
X is for 10.
Like the Roman numeral (RIP cryptic Super Bowl titles). Here are the defenses allowing 10-plus adjusted targets to specific receiver types, plus the opposing players for this week at those positions:
- WR1 vs. CLE (12.7 per game): Keenan Allen.
- WR1 vs. PHI (12.6): Odell Beckham Jr.
- WR1 vs. TB (10.5): Julio Jones
- RB vs. ATL (10.6): Jacquizz Rodgers?
- RB vs. SF (10.1): Jamaal Williams, Ty Montgomery, and/or Aaron Jones
- TE vs. PIT (10.7): C.J. Uzomah
Beckham’s Thursday Night Football performance adds salt to this statistic’s predictive value, but he’s in a worse offense than all the other players listed. No-brainer plays aside, Uzomah is particularly interesting now that Tyler Kroft is injured, and I’m curious to see if any of Tampa’s rushers can take advantage of Atlanta’s failings against running backs as receivers.
Y is for Yelnoc.
That’s “Conley” backwards. And while it might seem backwards to use Chris Conley over his teammates in your daily lineups, tying a player to the games 59.5-point over/under with lower ownership could be what you need to differentiate in a GPP. If you want to spin around a few times and still end up backwards, consider Demarcus Robinson.
Z is for Zero.
That’s how much exposure I want to this week’s game between Jacksonville and Dallas. Okay, I lied, maybe I’ll use their team defenses.
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.