Week 7 Rankings & Game Flowbotics
Between a fresh crop of injuries and some generally unpredictable results, Week 6 was a tough hang. My TwoQBs teammate Sal Stefanile decided not to play any fantasy football this season, but he unexpectedly backed into one draft due to a scheduling snafu where the commissioner wasn’t aware of Sal’s intention to step away from the game. There was no time for anyone else to take over, and being the stand-up dude that he is, Sal saved the other owners from the terrors of autodraft and picked some players. After the draft, he recruited me to manage the team so he could stay true to his exile from fantasy.
He and I have kept in touch about the state of the roster, though, and in our Slack conversations leading up to his guest spot on the 2QB Experience podcast last week, we lamented our losses of Odell Beckham Jr., Tyler Eifert, and Ty Montgomery. I’m an engineer with a nerdy streak, so my mind started wandering, and I haphazardly began to construct a speculative fiction where NFL players might one day be replaced by Westworld-style androids to combat the feel-bads associated with concussions and other injuries. These imaginary automatons could be modeled after real human beings, each with a unique combination of physical abilities and on-field style. Some amount of in-game damage would probably need to be allowed. But if a player sustained a critical injury, he or she (yeah, I said it) could be repaired, or the same specifications could be uploaded into a fresh android shell, and the reborn player could retake the field no worse for wear.
You could take all sorts of approaches with the rules and regulations for building and using robot players, but the primary goal would be to take human beings out of harm’s way. If this were somehow possible, removing injuries from the equation would drastically change fantasy football. I’m not convinced our fantasy games would be better, to be honest. Variance, from injuries or otherwise, is part of what makes fake football interesting and challenging. Nevertheless, I can’t help but wonder how some of my leagues would have turned out if key contributors like Beckham, David Johnson, Aaron Rodgers, and others hadn’t disappeared from the football landscape.
Until the NFL’s artificially intelligent saviors arrive, though, we have to take the injuries in stride. Replacing cornerstone players isn’t simple. You may need to get creative with roster moves, use riskier lineups to raise your team’s weekly ceiling, or both. Hopefully, my Game Flowbotics spreadsheets can help you piece together closer-to-optimal game plans for each slate. Here’s the link for this week’s installment:
The Week 7 rankings are a quick mouse-scroll away. For the space between, let’s focus on the Thursday Night Football matchup between Kansas City and Oakland.
Predicting Game Flow
Before last week’s loss to the Steelers, the Chiefs did a great job of keeping games close or just outright winning them. Defense was their key to success last season, but it’s been all about the offense in 2017. Alex Smith has drastically outperformed expectations (for everyone except Sal, that is), and Kansas City’s ability to put up points has helped them hide their 30th-ranked rushing defense by DVOA. Pittsburgh exploited that weakness on Sunday, feeding Le’Veon Bell 32 carries and dominating time of possession (36:39).
The Steelers were only able to leverage their running game because of their defense, though. Oakland isn’t nearly as good as Pittsburgh on the defensive side of the ball, so Kansas City should get back to business as usual on offense. The Raiders allow the eighth-most fantasy points to opposing rushers and rank third-worst in DVOA against running backs as receivers. Kareem Hunt should feast, which will open up play-action opportunities for Alex Smith and his pass-catchers.
These mismatches are reflected in the betting spread. The Chiefs are three-point favorites on the road with an implied team total of almost 25 points. Oakland’s offense will want to attack Kansas City’s rush defense, but they’ll need to keep pace if their offense can’t stop Hunt & Smith. Derek Carr figures to see plenty of volume, but volume hasn’t led to success in his past four games against the Chiefs, per the Rotoviz Game Splits App.
It bears repeating that the KC defense isn’t quite as imposing this season as it was in preceding seasons, but concern for Carr’s Week 7 prospects are certainly warranted, especially if his transverse process fracture injury continues to bother him. Amari Cooper is risky by association with Carr, but also because of Kansas City’s fifth-ranked defense against #2 wideouts. (Yes, Michael Crabtree is the #1. Come at me.) Second fiddle receivers only see five passes and 23.4 yards per game against the Chiefs. Both marks are well below NFL averages.
On the other hand, there is anecdotal evidence that Cooper could bounce back in a big way this week. Other pass-catchers fitting Cooper’s burner archetype have found success against Kansas City. The Chiefs have allowed the second-most fantasy points to opposing receivers, and their defense ranks seventh-worst in passing yards per attempt allowed (7.8). Speedy receivers to exploit KC’s defensive deficiencies include Brandin Cooks (3 catches for 88 yards), Torrey Smith (4 for 66), Travis Benjamin (5 for 105), Terrelle Pryor (3 for 70 and a TD), and Will Fuller (2 for 57 and two TDs). So while I consider Crabtree the Raiders’ top receiver, these numbers seem to indicate Football Outsiders’ designations still consider him the second banana. Regardless, there’s hope for Cooper this week if Derek Carr can avoid implosion, so don’t be afraid to use the maligned receiver, especially in daily fantasy tournaments, where recency bias should keep his ownership low.
I’m ranking both Cooper and Carr a little optimistically in Week 7, but I’m flying in the face of multiple historical and statistical indicators for this particular matchup. Dive in below to find out where they land relative to everyone else.