Editor’s Note: This guest post looking at Week 6 GPP pivot plays on Fantasy Aces was written by Steve Repsold. Follow him on Twitter @SteveRepsold. …
This was a tough piece to write this week. My head cold notwithstanding, ownership is either widely distributed (like at quarterback) or the chalk plays are strong (like at RB). I’m terrified by the thought of fading guys like DeMarco Murray vs. Indianapolis and Jacquizz Rodgers at San Francisco. You should be, too. It may be a week to ride the chalk a little more closely. But that makes our chosen pivots even more crucial and there are still places where we can exploit ownership information to get a leg up on the field.
Let’s take a more cautious than usual approach to examining this week’s best pivots.
Highest owned: Matt Ryan $7,400 vs. SD (22%)
I understand the love for Matt Ryan. Like most chalk plays, he looks great at a glance: over 300 yards passing in four-of-six games (extra valuable on Fantasy Aces at 0.05 per yard), multiple touchdown passes in all but one game (we can forgive him that game at Denver, right?), only three picks thrown so far this season, and the Falcons have the highest implied team total per Vegas. Now he gets to face a Chargers’ defense surrendering more than 30 points in half their games.
So why fade? Well, there are some key factors most seem to be overlooking. First, consider his price. At $7,400 he is the third-highest priced QB overall. With a salary that steep we need him to have a 300-yard game with a couple scores to make him worthwhile. Then there’s San Diego’s defense. While they’ve given up an average of 24.5 points per game, a lot of that has been on the ground. They’re only giving up 277 passing yards on average and only 1.4 passing touchdowns.
Meanwhile they’re giving up an above average 1.2 rushing touchdowns per game (at a league-leading 4.8% rate) and a healthy 4.4 yards per carry. This has translated into average to below average numbers of fantasy points allowed – only 17.8 average to quarterbacks, while running backs have an above average mark of nearly 25 allowed. They allow a high rushing success rate of over 46 percent, which is a metric that measures the value of a rush to the team situationally. The Vegas implied point total may be high, but they’re also heavy favorites (-6). This indicates they’re likely to be ahead for much of the game, which sets up the game script to be more run-heavy. Teams facing the Chargers have passed the ball only 46.8 percent of the time when leading, below the league average.
If I’m playing the highest owned quarterback on the slate at a very expensive salary I want there to be fewer question marks.
Pivots: Phillip Rivers $6,800 @ ATL (11%)
At half the ownership and a small but significant discount, I’ll take Phillip Rivers on the other side of this matchup. As I mentioned above, the Chargers are projected by Vegas to be trailing in this game, which should lead to increased pass attempts for Rivers. That’s not always a good thing and there is reason for skepticism. Atlanta’s corners have been excellent this year, all receiving grades in the 70s from Pro Football Focus (PFF), which is reflected in the very low 26.71 fantasy points per game average they’re allowing to wide receivers.
That’s actually not so bad for Rivers. The Chargers only manage an average of 28.39 wide receiver fantasy points per game anyway. But the Chargers do use their tight ends frequently in the passing game. The Falcons allow nearly 16 fantasy points/game to the tight end position, one of the highest marks in the NFL. Now they must contend with Hunter Henry and Antonio Gates, both of whom have serious touchdown-scoring potential in this matchup. This is the matchup the Chargers need to exploit. I think they will, leading to a big fantasy day for Phillip Rivers.
Highest Owned: Jacquizz Rodgers $4,000 @ SF (55%), Mike Gillislee $4,950 @ MIA (38%)
It’s insane how bad the 49ers defense has been against the run. The speed of Chip Kelly’s offense means more plays for their opponent, too, and teams have wisely been using those to attack them on the ground. They’re pacing the league with 34 rush attempts for over 150 yards and 1.5 rushing touchdowns allowed per game. That’s no surprise if you factor in their 48 percent rushing success rate allowed.
Two weeks ago, before the TB bye week, Jacquizz got 36 touches. Thirty-six. He came into the game with 17 total touches in the previous three games. Then he rode 30 carries and six targets to 129 scrimmage yards. Now he gets that San Francisco defense. This is a tough fade and given that you can roster up to four RBs, I’m not sure you should.
Similarly, LeSean McCoy’s status is crucial for Mike Gillislee and his actual ownership numbers on Sunday. Like Rodgers, he’s a tough fade, too. If you just look at the box score, you’ll see that Gillislee only got six carries and journeyman Jonathan Williams got five. You might think it will be more of an even split, but I doubt it. Gillislee was the only running back to get meaningful touches before McCoy went down. Williams only came in the game for garbage time in the fourth quarter.
Pivot: Jay Ajayi $4600 vs. BUF (3%)
If you are fading one of the two above, I’d pick Gillislee (and pat you on the back for being braver than me). I think there’s more uncertainty there, whereas with Jacquizz we’ve seen what TB is going to do with him in a full game without Martin. If you’re going to go out on a limb and fade Gillislee, you might as well take the leverage play of Jay Ajayi. I’m a little surprised recency bias didn’t bump his ownership up a little bit, given his 200-yard game last week (the only one from a running back so far this season). I guess all the cheap RB ownership was claimed by Rodgers and Gillislee.
It’s anyone’s guess what Miami will do with their RB situation, but my money is on them giving the ball to the guy coming off a huge game. Often. Ryan Tannehill has struggled mightily this season and nothing would help him out more than having a solid run game to take some pressure off him. It’s also worth noting last week was the first time offensive lineman Brandon Albert, Laremy Tunsil, and Mike Pouncey had played together all season. The Bills run defense is average in terms of fantasy points allowed to RBs (20.5), but their success rate allowed of 46.7 percent hints that could increase. The most worrisome stat is that they’ve allowed less than one rushing touchdown per game, but touchdowns are fluky, and if I’m playing Ajayi, I know I’m shooting for the moon – which includes a decent chance of falling short.
Highest Owned: Julio Jones $6,650 vs. SD (36%)
The corollary to Matt Ryan’s high ownership is Julio Jones’, which to me seems overly inflated. It feels weird to say it, but Julio might be the most over-owned player on the slate. I talked about a lot of this in Matt Ryan’s section, namely that the Chargers defense, while bad, is significantly more vulnerable to the run than the pass. Combined with a Vegas point spread of ATL -6 (meaning they expect Atlanta to win by six points), it indicates a high probability of unfavorable game script for Julio and Ryan. I think it’s likely they lean heavily on their duo of Freeman and Coleman after gaining a lead early.
Then there’s the cornerback matchup. Granted, Julio Jones is a “matchup proof” player, by which I mean he can produce no matter what matchup he faces. But we’re playing probabilities here and Julio will match up most of the time against Casey Hayward, PFF’s 12th-best rated cornerback on this slate (roughly in between Patrick Peterson and Marcus Peters, for comparison). It’s still a slightly plus matchup for Julio, but you’re paying an absurd price he is unlikely to pay off.
Pivots: Antonio Brown $6,400 vs. NE (1%)
This will likely be the lowest ownership we’ll see on Antonio Brown all season. I’m not going to tell you that Big Ben being out is not a downgrade to Antonio Brown – it clearly is. But Landry Jones was still looking for him often, targeting Brown an average of eight times per game in the two games he’s started. It remains to be seen if Jones has progressed any from there (being thrown in last Sunday hardly counts), but even if he’s exactly the same, Antonio can make the very most of eight targets.
The Patriots are well-known for taking away their opponent’s number one weapon. However, it’s not clear who they would perceive as the number between Brown and Bell. My guess is they will do everything in their power and sell out to stop Le’Veon Bell. With Roethlisberger out, I think the Patriots are going to dare Landry Jones to beat them with his arm – and that is possible, at least enough for Antonio Brown’s fantasy purposes. The Patriots are expected to shadow Antonio with Logan Ryan. It’s a plus matchup for him despite Logan Ryan’s overall decent PFF grade. Of note, Ryan has given up the most receptions of any CB in the NFL this season with 35. That’s helpful for Brown, who has the second-most receptions in the NFL with 41, trailing AJ Green by one catch. Assuming Landry Jones can get him the football, I think Brown beats Logan Ryan and has a good chance to outscore Julio Jones.
Highest Owned: Hunter Henry $4,450 @ ATL (20%)
This is another spot where the chalk is very compelling. Hunter Henry is having an incredible season for a rookie tight end, a position at which we don’t often see rookie breakouts. When discussing Phillip Rivers, I highlighted that Atlanta’s weak spot in their pass defense is against the TE position. I don’t have much negative to say about Henry. If you’re playing the chalk in only one spot, let this be it (but also don’t do that). However, there is one guy for whom I’d strongly considering fading Henry.
Pivot: Antonio Gates $3,800 @ ATL (2%)
Yes, Gates is old and clearly running out of steam. But he’s also one of the greatest to ever play the position and his “nearly out of steam” is better than a lot of guys entering the league. Plus, for fantasy purposes, opportunity is king. Over the last two games since his return from injury, Gates has seen 11 targets while Henry has seen 12. They’re deadlocked at three Red Zone targets apiece. I’m expecting the Chargers to do their damage through the air and via the tight ends. At one tenth the ownership, there’s a strong case for fading Henry for Gates. It’s an especially helpful fade because Gates also offers a leverage play over Henry owners. It’s unlikely both have big games, so it becomes a zero-sum game where Gates’ gain is Henry’s loss.
Highest Owned: DEN D/ST $3,200 vs. HOU (28%)
I’m honestly a little puzzled by how popular the Broncos defense is this week. They’re at home and Houston is not the most threatening offense, but we’ve got a Ravens team facing Geno Smith, a Roethlisberger-less Steelers facing the Patriots, a Browns team potentially without their offense aka Terrelle Pryor facing the Bengals, and even a Jets team facing the Ravens, who could be without Joe Flacco. My best guess is the large number of value plays left too much spare salary, so everyone spent up at defense. The Broncos at home are rarely a bad play, but defense is a highly volatile position and therefore one of my favorite spots to fade heavy chalk.
Pivot: CIN D/ST $3,000 vs. CLE (8%)
Houston may have the lowest Vegas-implied team total at 16.5, but not far behind are the Browns at 17. The spread is significantly wider in the Bengals vs. Browns game, as well. The Broncos are “only” 7.5 point favorites, while the Bengals are 10.5 point favorites. In other words, Vegas thinks the Bengals are going to blow out the Browns. It probably also hints they don’t expect Pryor to play, leaving the Browns with… well, practically no one. Andrew Hawkins would lead their receiving “corps,” as it were, while Duke Johnson might be Cleveland’s best player left standing. They should be in desperation catch-up mode very quickly. This could get ugly in a hurry and Cleveland’s propensity for turning over the ball (2.73% turnover rate, among the highest) gives the Bengals a good shot at a defensive touchdown.
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