Game Flowbotics A to Z – Week 5
Last week’s A-to-Z experiment worked so well that it’s back again for Week 5. I plan to continue the series through the end of the regular season, effectively replacing the “Notes” sections on the Game Flowbotics page. This weekly rundown will become my official depository of random fantasy findings for the Sunday & Monday games, presented in a friendly, kindergartner-approved framework. For Week 5, we begin again with a link to my primary point of reference for fantasy matchup data, the Game Flowbotics spreadsheet:
Now let’s dive in, A to Z, for Week 5 of the 2017 NFL season.
A is for Alex Smith.
He’s the QB2 overall entering Week 5. This is your regularly scheduled Alex Smith alert, courtesy of TwoQBs.com, where it’s all Alex, all the time.
B is for Brandon Marshall.
He’s the Giants receiver with worst theoretical matchup against the Chargers. I’d rather start both Evan Engram and Sterling Shepard over Marshall this week.
C is for Carlos Hyde.
San Francisco’s 21.5-point implied total is (sadly) the highest one they’ve had all season. On the bright side, it indicates Carlos Hyde should continue to eat, and our matchup stats back that up. By DVOA, the Colts rank 23rd against the run and 24th against running backs as receivers. Excluding their Week 2 matchup against the punchless Cardinals rushing attack, Indianapolis has allowed 20+ fantasy points to running backs in every game this season.
D is for Damned if you Doyle.
Say what you will about the lowly 49ers, but they are DVOA’s best team at defending the tight end position. And while DVOA’s versus-receiver measures don’t always line up with fantasy production, they do in this case. The Niners have allowed a paltry 1.9 fantasy points to opposing TEs through four weeks, with a schedule that included Greg Olsen & Jimmy Graham. San Francisco’s linebackers are legit, making Week 5 a good time to quit Jack Doyle.
E is for Everything.
That’s approximately what I’d give to go back in time to draft season and warn myself not to draft Tyler Eifert, injury savant.
F is for Frenetic Pace.
According to Anthony Staggs (@PyroStag), Arizona and Philadelphia are the two fastest-paced NFL teams through four weeks, and they square off against each other in Week 5. The Eagles might look better against the pass if Corey Graham (and Fletcher Cox) can get back on the field, as detailed by Sean Slavin in his Superflex decisions article this week. Regardless, this contest figures to showcase a lot of passing from both teams, simply because both are good at stopping the run and, let’s be honest, the Cardinals don’t have an NFL-caliber rusher anyway. All receiving options for both teams are in play this week.
G is for Griffin.
Ryan Griffin burned me last week. I identified the upside for scoring from Houston, but I didn’t account for Will Fuller returning to form so quickly. This week, Fuller faces a Chiefs defense ranked 1st by DVOA at defending #2 wideouts. The matchup stats skew better for Griffin and Bruce Ellington, but their scoring upside is much less promising than it was last week against Tennessee’s soft defense.
H is for Home Run.
My favorite closed-eyes swing options this week are Deonte Thompson and Josh Bellamy of the Bears. They face a Vikings team allowing 78.4 yards per game to secondary receivers and 66.9 yards to tertiary receivers. We know Mitchell Trubisky likes to push the ball downfield. He posted a 9.1 average yards per attempt as a starter in college, one of the higher marks set by a 2017 rookie QB according to the Armchair Scouting Report on Trubisky by Anthony Amico (@amicsta). His receivers’ fantasy viability will depend on how he fares in the pocket against Minnesota’s 8th-ranked pass rush by Adjusted Sack Rate. As Derrik Klassen (@QBKlass) noted in his Trubisky deep dive over the offseason, the rookie tends to wilt under pressure. Don’t invest a ton, but toss a chip or two this weekend at Thompson and/or Bellamy for the chance at a splash score.
I is for I am out on Matt Forte.
Not just for this week, either. I’m all the way out. The Jets have no incentive to continue playing Forte unless they know he’s washed and they’re actively tanking. In that case, you shouldn’t want to roster a worn and torn rusher on a bad team. This is Bilal Powell’s & Elijah McGuire’s backfield moving forward.
J is for Javorius Allen.
Allen should go buck wild in the passing game against Oakland’s last-ranked defense against running backs as receivers. The Raiders have allowed 5.9 passes per game to RBs, below league average of 6.9. Why is that good? Because on those limited targets, they’ve allowed 60.1 yards per game, well above the league average of 44.7. That’s the sort of efficiency you want in your PPR fantasy team’s backfield.
K is for Kearse.
Jermaine Kearse has led the Jets in targets in three of four games this season, but his production dipped in Weeks 3 and 4. Look for Kearse to break the curse against Cleveland’s 32nd-ranked defense against #1 wide receivers. They’ve allowed 116.5 yards per game to top targets in 2017, and Kearse still profiles as Josh McCown’s go-to receiver.
L is for Leave Kupp on the Shelf.
Cooper Kupp’s usage roller coaster should drop again this week. The Seahawks rank second in DVOA against #3 receivers, holding those wideouts to nearly 17 yards fewer per game (29.2) than league average (45.9) on a number of targets equal to the league average (6.2 per game).
M is for Marshawn & Manuel.
The Raiders take on a tough Ravens defense with EJ Manuel under center. Derek Carr threw 109 passes this season before exiting last week’s contest with a transverse process fracture. Manuel averaged only 80 passes per season between 2014 and 2016. After Le’Veon Bell tore up the Ravens last week, I expect Oakland to try to establish Marshawn Lynch on the ground and hide Manuel as much as possible.
N is for Next in Line.
Now that Mitchell Trubisky is starting for Chicago, C.J. Beathard, Matt Moore, Chad Henne, and Drew Stanton seem like the next quarterbacks in queue to become starters. Based on their tough matchups, Henne & Stanton feel like the best bets for a backup appearance in Week 5.
O is for Old Man Game.
Look for Antonio Gates to show his off against a Giants defense that has allowed at least nine fantasy points to five different tight ends in only four weeks.
P is for PPR.
I’m looking for a bounceback in PPR formats this week from Theo Riddick. Ameer Abdullah was the more targeted Detroit back in Week 4, but Riddick owns a 21-to-11 target advantage over Abdullah on the season. The Lions draw a Panthers defense allowing the second-most passes per game to opposing running backs.
Q is for Questionable.
That’s the tag Davante Adams carried through Thursday, when he logged a limited practice. I won’t count on him to start this week, and others of the same mind will look to Geronimo Allison as the beneficiary if Adams does sit. There’s appeal to Allison’s game, but Cooper Kupp’s big Week 4 against Dallas points me toward Randall Cobb as the Packer pass-catcher to pursue.
R is for Rishard, Restrained.
By his team’s second string quarterback, potentially. Everything lines up well for Rishard Matthews against Miami. Corey Davis is already ruled out, Miami’s strong run defense should funnel Tennessee toward passing, and the Dolphins rank 30th in DVOA against #1 wide receivers. Oh, did I leave out the part about Matt Cassel being the Titans’ expected starter? Ugh.
S is for Start Seferian-Jenkins.
We’ll keep “S” in the same spirit as last week with another tight end recommendation (Charles Clay worked out well). Austin Seferian-Jenkins faces a Cleveland defense allowing 9.4 passes per game to tight ends, tied for most in the NFL with Atlanta.
T is for Tough on Tight Ends.
The Bengals have been exactly that, limiting all TEs they’ve faced to a combined 10 receptions for 96 yards and only one touchdown through their first four games. Cincinnati has faced Baltimore, Houston, Green Bay and Cleveland, though, not exactly a murderers’ row of tight end talent. We’re left with a tough decision to make on Charles Clay. Do we avoid the matchup that looks difficult on paper, or do we count on the production and chemistry we’ve seen from the combo of Clay and Tyrod Taylor? What really worries me is the Bengals’ success against the pass in general, not just against tight ends. By DVOA, they rank 9th in overall passing defense, 6th against #1 wide receivers, 7th against #2 wide receivers, and 3rd against running backs as receivers. By comparison, their 13th-ranked defense against tight ends makes Clay’s prospects look good, but we can’t isolate his particular matchup in a vacuum. The sum of all these factors equals a lot of potential for a bad game from Tyrod, and that notion is backed up by Buffalo’s implied total of 18.25 points. The tight end position is a mess, so Clay remains a fine start based on assumed target volume, but we probably won’t see as much efficiency from him as in weeks past.
U is for Underdog.
The Jaguars are this week’s biggest underdogs, but their defense should still stifle parts of the Pittsburgh offense. Keep in mind the Steelers are a public team, meaning the point spread usually leans in their favor because their fan base is large, and fans tend to view their favorite teams optimistically when betting. The oddsmakers therefore have incentive to skew the lines towards Pittsburgh in an effort to get equal action on both sides of the line. With that in mind, this feels like a “fade the public” line to me. I’m not sure I’d bet on Jacksonville to cover (feels like a stay-away), but I’m not the type of fantasy player who looks at betting lines and translates them directly to fantasy production. Offense is important, but I try to also consider the implications of defense and special teams on the lines. That bigger picture is what game flow is all about.
V is for Very Long Blurb.
Continuing the discussion from “U,” this matchups between Jacksonville and Pittsburgh feel like one with a lot of potential scoring by kickers and defenses. These ground-and-pound type contests usually favor only one team’s running backs at most, and the DVOA rankings point strongly toward Le’Veon Bell as the play over Leonard Fournette. On the other hand, because both defenses are good, that opens up opportunity for turnovers leading to short-field game flow anomalies. We also know the Jags will grind with Fournette independent of game script to some extent, so he’s a fine contrarian option if you want to chase touchdowns. Ultimately, this feels like a game with a wide range of outcomes (like I said, stay away), and that means any particular player can have a good game, but be careful where you pick your spots. I like Bell to return value, and I don’t know how you bench Antonio Brown, but the other fantasy-relevant players in this matchup all feel risky.
W is for Where’s Wallace?
Mike Wallace might be found in the end zone on Sunday against Oakland. The Raiders haven’t given up a lot of fantasy points to receivers, but they rank 26th in DVOA against #2 guys, we’ve already seen Josh Doctson burn them deep, and Wallace has equaled or exceeded Jeremy Maclin’s target count for two weeks running.
X is for X-Rays
I assume they were used to diagnose Ty Montgomery’s broken ribs. “S” could have been for “Super Shady,” because that’s what Montgomery’s practice reports were through Thursday. I’m assuming he won’t suit up, and while Jamaal Williams has shaken off his knee injury and returned to full practices, I can’t envision a scenario where Aaron Jones isn’t Green Bay’s most-used running back against Dallas. Jones doesn’t have health concerns, and he simply looked like the Packers’ best runner in Week 4. We’ll see if he can keep the gig long term, but I’m starting Jones where I own him in Week 5. According to DVOA, Dallas ranks 28th in both rushing defense and defense against RBs as receivers.
Y is for Yogurt.
Kudos to Dannon, who dropped Cam Newton’s endorsement after his sexist comments on Wednesday. I hope the NFL and its owners will start approaching this sort of behavior with more serious consequences someday.
Z is for Zach Ertz.
In fitting Pennsylvania fashion, Ertz will be the keystone of the Eagles’ offense this week. Alshon Jeffery figures to be swallowed up by the coverage black hole that is Patrick Peterson, and Ertz faces an Arizona defense known for limiting fantasy output to tight ends. The position has only seen 4.9 passes per game and 38.7 yards per game against the Cardinals. Both numbers are well below league average (6.6 passes per game & 52.1 yards per game), but the matchup versus Arizona isn’t as tough as it seems on the surface. The desert birds rank 22nd in DVOA against TEs, and their stingy volume stats against probably have more to do with the lackluster competition they’ve faced to this point in the season — Eric Ebron, Jack Doyle, Jason Witten, and George Kittle. Ertz is a different beast altogether, and I’m interested in how much the Cardinals scheme for him specifically. If they can take out Ertz and Alshon simultaneously, that leaves Carson Wentz with Torrey Smith and Nelson Agholor to throw to. Woof.