Game Flowbotics A to Z – Week 4
One of my weekly regrets is not writing notes for 100% of the matchups in the Game Flowbotics spreadsheet. I take it game by game, and life’s other commitments typically don’t afford me enough time to get to everything before the games start on Sunday mornings. For those other commitments that happen to be fantasy-related, however, I’m constantly referring back to the Flowbotics page. It informs my rankings adjustments, waiver claims, and lineup decisions. So while I might not have the time to blurb every game, I notice a lot of interesting little angles through the week.
This is my dumping ground for those random findings, presented in a friendly, kindergartner-approved framework. For starters, here’s a link to the Game Flowbotics spreadsheet:
Let’s dive in, A to Z, for Week 4 of the 2017 NFL season.
A is for All the Touchdowns.
Leonard Fournette will score them against the Jets. That’s a lie. The Jacksonville defense might score one or two of their own.
B is for Backup Quarterbacks.
One who’s already starting, Case Keenum, should stay usable against Detroit for degenerate bargain basement shoppers like yours truly in #SFB7. Dalvin Cook must continue to do the heavy lifting, but that’s a reasonable expectation against the Lions’ middling run defense. Regardless, Keenum probably won’t touch the ceiling he showed in Week 3 again this season. The second backup QB keeps us on the “B” theme. C.J. Beathard should remain on two-quarterback radars everywhere. Brian Hoyer has played poorly this season, and every bad matchup, like this week’s in Arizona, could break the seal on full-blown tanking for San Francisco with the unproven rookie under center. I don’t think it happens this week, but Beathard’s a fine dart-throw if your 2QB benches are deep enough to speculate on future starters.
C is for Contradiction.
Check out Pierre Garcon’s matchup this week against Arizona. The Cardinals rank dead last in DVOA against #1 wide receivers, but they only allow 3.5 passes and 32.7 receiving yards per game to the position. This is the Patrick Patterson effect. Buyer beware with Pierre Garcon this week.
D is for Doyle.
I know the matchup isn’t ideal (Seattle ranks 8th in defensive DVOA against TEs), but Jack Doyle could be a garbage time PPR hero this week. The Colts don’t have a ton of pass-catching options. If they’re playing catch-up most of the game, and Seattle is focused on T.Y. Hilton, Doyle could build a floor on low-value receptions and even find a ceiling in the TD lottery.
E is for Eagles Backfield.
How will Wendell Smallwood and LeGarrette Blount split time against the Chargers, who rate poorly against the run in DVOA and Adjusted Line Yards. Smallwood & Blount had the same number of carries in Week 3 for similar yardage totals, but Blount and Corey Clement scored the team’s two rushing touchdowns. This week, Blount might seem like the best fantasy play from a distance. He’s the first option for short yardage scores, and the Eagles may not use backs as receivers as much, considering LA’s second-ranked defense by DVOA against the position. Still, those defensive numbers feel skewed by the types of running backs and offensive game plans the Chargers have faced so far. I don’t think the Eagles will let these statistical trends dictate their RB usage too much. Based on the RBs’ season-long opportunity split, Blount is the favorite to lead the team in touches, but Smallwood should take over more of Sproles opportunity moving forward. Game flow will be the great differentiator between the two. There’s shootout potential in this contest, which could set up multiple scoring chances for Blount near the goal line, lots of up-tempo PPR action for Smallwood, or perhaps both.
F is for Fun.
Fun is when the highest-scoring fantasy quarterback in the AFC West is Alex Smith.
G is for Golladay.
Figuring out Football Outsiders’ classification of wide receivers is a tricky task. Kenny Golladay is the Lions’ WR3 in my eyes, but if the designation is determined by where a guy lines up three-receiver sets, he might be considered the WR2. Either way, the Vikings have shown weakness against second and third options, allowing yards per game marks well above league averages. Because target volume doesn’t translate directly to where the Detroit’s receivers line up, they should all eat to some extent in this matchup. Golladay hasn’t practiced for the game as of this writing, though, so I expect adequate volume for each of Golden Tate, Marvin Jones, and Eric Ebron.
H is for Home Run.
If you need to hit one with a low-ownership wide receiver, consider Josh Doctson. He caught one of only two passes thrown his way in Week 3, high-pointing a 52-yard bomb for a touchdown. The Chiefs are without star safety Eric Berry, and they’ve allowed the second-most yards per game to “other” wide receivers (i.e., not #1 or #2 guys).
I is for I am still in on Tyrell Williams.
The Eagles are banged up on defense and Melvin Gordon is banged up for the Chargers. Rivers should come out slinging it, and Keenan Allen can’t be the target of every pass (I’m only 95% sure about that, though).
J is for JuJu Smith-Schuster.
He’s likely the forgotten man in Baltimore’s coverage schemes. Of course, it isn’t safe to assume anyone gets forgotten. The Ravens defense should be on point at home after getting spanked by the Jaguars in London. Anyway, the DVOA is terrible for third receivers facing Baltimore, but the #3 guys they’ve faced so far are Tyler Boyd, Riccardo Lewis, and Keelan Cole. And while Smith-Schuster only has 10 targets through three games, he has just as many red zone targets (4) as Jordy Nelson, Michael Thomas, A.J. Green, Doug Baldwin, Davante Adams, Rishard Matthews, and Eric Decker. If the Steelers can get anything going against the Ravens on Sunday, look for JuJu to score another sneaky touchdown.
K is for Kroft.
The other Tyler at tight end in Cincinnati, Tyler Kroft, faces a Cleveland team allowing 8.9 passes and 63.7 yards per game to the position (compared to NFL averages of 6.5 passes and 49.1 yards per game).
L is for Low Scoring.
The Indianapolis Colts sport this week’s lowest implied total (14.25 as of 9/28). For that reason, I think Frank Gore is the only Indy player even close to startability in standard scoring. He’s outside my top-30 RBs, though, because the odds of him returning value with a touchdown are slim considering his team’s expected total.
M is for Movement.
Like the 1.5-point movement of the over/under for the Cincinnati-Cleveland game since Tuesday. It only moved from 40 to 41.5, but I agree with the betting public. This game should have more scoring than expected. I’m in on the Bengals’ offensive skill players, and I like the Browns’ tight ends as desperation options.
N is for Nine Route.
Look for DeSean Jackson to run his fair share this week. The Giants rank 28th in DVOA against second-banana wideouts.
O is for Over.
As in “Take the over in Tennessee vs. Houston.” Deshaun Watson’s limitations in the passing game shouldn’t be as much of a liability against the Titans’ woeful pass defense. On the other side of the ball, the Tennessee offense is good enough to move the ball and score on Houston’s defense. This is a nice spot for most of each team’s offensive personnel. I like Ryan Griffin and Bruce Ellington as deeper plays.
P is for Pump the Brakes on Marshawn Lynch.
Beast Mode has the toughest running back matchup possible.
Q is for Questionable.
That’s the injury tag Doug Baldwin will likely carry until Sunday, and he plays the night game, so you might not know his status before the early games begin. Paul Richardson and Tyler Lockett are direct pivots at wide receiver, but Chris Carson should also see more volume if Baldwin sits.
R is for Red Zone.
Through three weeks in the red zone, Carson Palmer has the most pass attempts, Drew Brees has the most completions, Larry Fitzgerald has the most targets, Stefon Diggs & Allen Hurns are tied for the most receptions, and Mike Gillislee & Carlos Hyde are tied for the most rush attempts. Assuming these players all stay healthy, only Hurns and Hyde’s red zone prominence feels unsustainable. The Jags and Niners probably won’t visit that area of the field often enough. At least with Hyde, you know he’ll get fed when the Niners are inside the 20 because he gets fed everywhere on the field. Hurns, on the other hand, only has 12 targets total on the season, and we know the Jags want to break the plane with rookie battering game Leonard Fournette.
S is for Start Charles Clay.
The Falcons have allowed the second-most passes to tight ends (10.2, trailing Miami’s 10.7), and Clay is clearly Tyrod Taylor’s most trusted receiver this season.
T is for Trainwreck.
Like the New York Giants’ backfield. They draw a tough task on the ground against Tampa Bay (4th in rush defense DVOA and 6th in Adjusted Line Yards on defense), but backs have burned the Bucs (should this have been B?) through the air for 69 yards per game on only 6.3 passes per game. Unfortunately this information only helps us in Week 4 if Shane Vereen can get back to practice and play Sunday. Still, keep this matchup in mind for future weeks with healthier satellite backs.
U is for Underdog.
The Patriots are spotting the Panthers nine points, and Cam Newton has fashioned himself the fantasy underdog with poor performance through three weeks. I’m reluctant to fully fade Cam, regardless of his struggles. This matchup looks so favorable, but we said that last week against New Orleans. My other fear is that Kelvin Benjamin, despite a “full” practice on Thursday (per Rotoworld), will be hobbled or used as a decoy. We’re already in danger of Newton not having enough weapons with Greg Olsen out for the year. If Benjamin can’t contribute due to injury, that might be the fork in Newtons back.
V is for Vernon Davis.
He draws a difficult matchup versus Kansas City’s 7th-ranked defense against tight ends, but I think Jordan Reed’s return to practice actually helps VD’s value this week. Washington’s injury-riddled star should deflect defensive game-planning away from Davis. Meanwhile, Reed’s state of decay should limit his snap count, and that means more routes for Davis.
W is for Watkins and Woods.
If Sammy Watkins can pass concussion protocol and suit up on Sunday, Robert Woods could have a nice game against the Cowboys’ 22nd-ranked defense against #2 wide receivers. With Watkins commanding most of the defensive attention this season, Woods actually leads the Rams in targets.
X is for Dez Bryant. (C’mon, sort of!)
Dez is the most recent victim of Patrick Patterson, but he did find the endzone in Week 3, and he totaled 25 targets in Weeks 1 & 2. The Rams in Week 4 are a tough matchup by DVOA, but #1 wideouts have still averaged 80.7 yards receiving per game against them. I’m starting Bryant with confidence, perhaps too much.
Y is for You.
As in, “You shouldn’t be happy starting Derek Carr or Ben Roethlisberger.” Also, thank *you* for reading this far.
Z is for Zziuqcaj.
That’s Jacquizz backwards. The Giants have allowed at least 12 fantasy points to running backs in every game this season, and they rank 29th in rushing defense DVOA. Look for Tampa Bay to get back to Jacquizz Rodgers in more of a ball-control style on Sunday, with their 4th-ranked offensive line in Adjusted Line Yards knocking defenders backwards.