The NFL Handbook – Week 14

I missed the playoffs by four points in one of my fantasy leagues, and there are two things to be gleaned from this fact:

  1. My homeboys are pretty good at fantasy football, and
  2. You should listen to my advice.

“You just told me you failed to make the playoffs. Soooo, why would I listen to your advice, loser?”

Great question, and the answer is simple. Because I didn’t listen to myself.

I’ve been known to be beyond over-analytical, and as a result, I went against myself on countless occasions this season (not sticking with Tyler Kroft in Week 4 when he put up 2 TDs might still be the deepest cut, though swapping Alex Smith for Case Keenum on Sunday morning burns quite a bit as well). Now, we all do this; I’m not claiming to be some form of pariah. But, the fact still remains, follow my advice and you’ll increase your odds at winning.

Modesty is one of my stronger traits.

I’ve analyzed each of the games on tap this week, and provided an overview of each team’s outlook from the fantasy football perspective. There’s also some statistical “analysis”, and my betting picks for each game as well.

For the fantasy portion, I’ve broken each team’s fantasy relevant players into four categories:

  1. Ballers –  Either the guys you just aren’t benching, or the ones with favorable match-ups. Either way, they should be in your lineups.
  2. Under the Radar – Guys who you may not start typically, or have what appear to be tough matchups, but have a good opportunity to produce. Good for dfs (DraftKings, Fanduel, etc.) as they should have low(er) ownership.
  3. Temper Expectations – Proceed with caution. May be players you’d normally start, or guys who’ve been playing well in recent weeks/have a plus matchup, but might not put up the numbers needed to justify a start this week.
  4. Bums – It’s a good idea to just avoid these guys in your lineups.

Complete Week 14 Fantasy Football Rankings

For the betting side, I used the opening spread and over/under totals from sportsinsights.com. A lot of the lines have moved in reaction to the money, injury updates, etc., but picking and choosing which current odds to use felt a bit too arbitrary.

Best of luck this week!

New Orleans Saints (9-3, 8-4 ATS) at Atlanta Falcons (7-5, 5-7 ATS)

Spread: ATL -2

O/U: 55

FANTASY POINTS ALLOWED BY POSITION
QB RB WR TE DST K
NO 16.43 (13th) 17.47 (11th) 19.63 (17th) 6.28 (10th) 1.25 (2nd) 7.25 (13th)
ATL 16.80 (18th) 17.49 (12th) 17.02 (5th) 6.66 (12th) 4.25 (9th) 8.67 (19th)

If these two teams played this game wearing all black uniforms – with no names or numbers – there would be very little to tell them apart. I mean, Willie Snead’s blonde curls would clue us in on the Saints offensive possessions, likewise for 6’4″ Matt Ryan vs. 6’0″ Drew Brees. But, the point here is that outside of the acute details (like counting which side has the fewest players with dreads), these two teams are very much alike.

Here’s how they’ve looked offensively…

Saints: 266 pass yds/gm, 142.6 rush yds/gm, 29.4 points/gm

Falcons: 249.6 pass yds/gm, 115.6 rush yds/gm, 22.8 points/gm

And, defensively…

Saints: 217.3 pass yds/gm, 112.8 rush yds/gm, 20.3 points/gm

Falcons: 207.8 pass yds/gm, 113.2 rush yds/gm, 20.3 points/gm

Not much differentiation.

Long gone are the 400+ yard, 4 TD, video game performances from Drew Brees. Not that he can’t still ball out, New Orleans just doesn’t need him to (or possess the weapons they did in his prime). The Alvin Kamara/Mark Ingram duo has carried the Saints to the 3rd most rushing yards of any team, and the Saints are pacing the league at 5 yards per carry.

Well, despite facing six of the league’s Top-12 rushing offenses, Atlanta has held opposing backs to just 86.8 rushing yards per game (11th) while allowing an average of 3.96 yards per carry to the position (14th). In fact, only four backs have exceeded 75 rushing yards against the Falcons with just one going over 100.

On the flip side, after averaging over 300 passing yards per game in his MVP campaign a season ago, Matt Ryan has also seen a dip in his passing numbers – his 254.8 per game rank 11th. The Devonta Freeman/Tevin Coleman duo has carried the Falcons to the 11th most rushing yards of any team, and the Falcons rank 8th in the league at 4.4 yards per carry.

… New Orleans has held opposing backs to just 86.3 rushing yards per game (9th), and like the Falcons, just four backs have managed to go over 75 yards against this defense.

Both teams have also allowed just five rushing TDs on the ground – 3rd fewest.

Tell me is this deja vu?

Yes.

And, while both teams have done a solid job in containing backs on the ground, they’ve both been susceptible to them through the air. The 48.4 receiving yards allowed to RBs per game by the Saints are the 6th most, while Atlanta’s 46.5 are the 11th most.

At the end of the day, Coleman, Ingram, and Kamara all rank among the Top-20 PPR scoring fantasy RBs (Freeman missed two games and ranks 21st) but you can’t ignore the fact that both teams have been pretty stout against the run. That said, don’t be surprised to see a few (if not all) of them land outside the Top-10 this week; Alvin Kamara is the only one I’d recommend starting without weighing your other options.

Now, because the similarities haven’t been enough to this point, both teams are hoping to have their top CBs back this week (Desmond Trufant and Marshon Lattimore).

On the season, Atlanta has held opposing receivers to the 5th fewest yards per game (128.4) with quarterbacks averaging an uninspiring 229.2 yards per (9th) and only two QBs finishing with more than 20 fantasy points – Cam Newton and Russell Wilson. Thing is, both Newton and Wilson rushed for more than 80 yards in their respective games, and added a TD on the ground.

Brees is in his 17th season, he has a total of 18 rushing TDs over his career. Oh, and on the season he has a total of 13 rushing yards this season. He’s not likely to give you those additional 14 points, and if we remove them from the equation, QBs have averaged 15 fantasy points per game against Atlanta – which would rank 12th in the league. They’ve also allowed just one TD pass to a WR over their last five games…

Needless to say, if you have viable alternatives for Brees and/or Michael Thomas, you might want to look in to giving them some added consideration this week.

On the flip, New Orleans has held limited their opposition to the 12th fewest passing yards per game (236.1) with just two receivers going over 100 yards on the season. I swear this is like looking into a mirror, or that Spiderman meme no one seems to find quite as funny as I do.

You know the meme.

Now, as with all division foes, these two square off twice a year. Interestingly, the Falcons swept the season series a season ago, the Saints swept the 2015 season, Atlanta swept the ’14 series, and guess what happened back in 2013? The Saints swept the season series.

Coincidence? Probably, and with Atlanta possessing the talent to contain the pass while remaining committed to stopping the run, don’t be surprised to see a slightly less prolific Saints offense this week.

Meanwhile, Julio Jones has averaged 83 yards in his 11 career games vs. NO – going over 100 yards in four of those games. And, while the Lattimore’s impending return is good news, he’s not Xavier Rhodes.

Oh, and the Falcons are at home so I’ll give them the slightest of edges.

Ever hear someone talk about a new movie or album like it’s the greatest thing since the invention of the automobile, like your existence is meaningless until you’ve seen/heard it, like you’ll never want to see or listen to anything again once you see or listen to this? If so, you were probably disappointed when you checked it out and discovered it was merely aight…

Well, that’s the Falcons. And, I have zero confidence in this pick.

Saints 23 – Falcons 24

Ballers: Alvin Kamara, Julio Jones

Under the Radar: Tevin Coleman

Temper Expectations: Drew Brees, Mark Ingram, Michael Thomas, Ted Ginn, Matt Ryan, Devonta Freeman, Mohamed Sanu

Bums: Brandon Coleman, Willie Snead, Josh Hill, Marvin Hall, Taylor Gabriel, Austin Hooper

Indianapolis Colts (3-9, 6-6 ATS) at Buffalo Bills (6-6, 6-5-1 ATS)

Spread:

O/U:

FANTASY POINTS ALLOWED BY POSITION
QB RB WR TE DST K
IND 17.89 (24th) 20.22 (28th) 23.17 (27th) 8.46 (23rd) 11.42 (30th) 9.50 (28th)
BUF 13.15 (5th) 22.47 (31st) 18.15 (8th) 6.94 (15th) 8.00 (20th) 9.42 (27th)

 

Like most popular songs that find a way to transcend genre, Pharrell’s “Happy” was played about 100,000 times too many. No matter where you went, and no matter how hard you may have tried, there was just no way of denying the song from entering your ear canal – outside of relocating to a desolate cave in the mountains – and whether you loved the song or despised every second, you likely came to the point where enough was enough.

I mean, shit. The guy is happy, and wants us to clap. We get it.

Well, since trading Marcell Dareus to the Jaguars, the Bills have been terrible against the run. And, every week since trading Dareus to the Jaguars, I’ve mentioned that the Bills have been terrible against the run since the trade.

We’re closing in on the point of happiness, but I still had to find a discreet way to slip in the fact that the Bills stink against the run. 108.9 rushing yards per game to RBs (3rd most), 4.5 yards per carry (5th highest), 15 rushing TDs (most).

Quietly, Frank Gore is tied with Carlos Hyde for the 11th most carries on the season and ranks 16th among RBs in yards.

Now, Gore has exactly zero 100 yard days this season. As a matter of fact, he has just one game where he’s exceeded 62 yards (82 in Week 8). Thing is, he also has just one game which he’s rushed for less than 40 yards (34 in Week 7). So, while his numbers aren’t overly impressive, his consistency is. Given his relatively high floor – Gore is averaging 52.7 rushing yards per game (18th) – and the plus matchup, you’ll want to have him in your lineups this week.

Especially, considering the odds are pretty high that we’ll see someone not named Tyrod Taylor under center for the Bills, and we all saw how that worked out last time (the Chargers won by 6,000,000 points and had more rushing attempts than any other game this season).

Meanwhile, only 10 teams have allowed more than the 250.5 passing yards given up per game by these Bills, but they’ve also managed to allow the 5th fewest fantasy points to QBs because, well, they don’t allow passing TDs. In fact, the 10 passing TDs they’ve allowed this season are tied with Jacksonville for the fewest. Teams figure, why pass and risk and interception, when they’ll just let us run it in?

All the more reason to like Gore.

It is, however, a knock on T.Y. Hilton and Jack Doyle… Kinda.

Buffalo has allowed just seven TDs to WRs (3rd fewest) and a measly two TDs to tight ends (only Kansas City has allowed fewer). In fact, both of the TDs allowed by the Bills came in the same game, to the same player. Evidently, someone on the Bills D had O.J. Howard on their fantasy team. In any case, the 61.1 yards per game they’ve allowed the TE position are the 5th most this season; Doyle currently sits 6th in yards at the position and 12th in fantasy points despite just two TDs on the season (standard scoring).

And, with regard to Hilton? Well, it is a knock on T.Y. Hilton. The Bills pass D has been largely impressive this season while Jacoby Brissett has been largely underwhelming. Hilton has found a way to remain productive – despite the less than ideal circumstances – and the Bills will be without Leonard Johnson and possibly Tre’Davious White. But, it’s going to be COLD and there’s a chance of snow…

Why risk it?

Hell, why risk anyone from this game besides Frank Gore, and LeSean McCoy? Why am I even still writing this?

Colts 17 – Bills 20

Ballers: Frank Gore, LeSean McCoy, Charles Clay

Under the Radar: Marlon Mack, Tavaris Cadet

Temper Expectations: Jacoby Brissett, T.Y. Hilton, Jack Doyle, Kelvin Benjamin, Zay Jones

Bums: Donte Moncrief, Chester Rogers, Deonte Thompson

Chicago Bears (3-9, 5-6-1 ATS) at Cincinnati Bengals (5-7, 7-5 ATS)

Spread: CIN -5.5

O/U: 37

FANTASY POINTS ALLOWED BY POSITION
QB RB WR TE DST K
CHI 14.04 (9th) 17.59 (13th) 20.78 (19th) 6.60 (11th) 10.00 (27th) 9.58 (30th)
CIN 15.37 (12th) 18.43 (21st) 16.88 (4th) 6.26 (9th) 7.92 (19th) 9.08 (24th)

The youth of both Bengal tigers and bears are commonly known as cubs – very fitting considering how these two teams have looked this season.

The Bengals looked a lot less like cubs on Monday night against Pittsburgh, but not only did they lose what was a “must-win” game, they also added Vontaze Burfict, Adam Jones, Dre Kirkpatrick, and Joe Mixon to their already lengthy injury report.

Meanwhile, the Bears just continue to look like cubs.

Unfortunately, neither is in reference to the Chicago Cubs – who are actually good – but rather a literal description of their infantile state. Now, don’t get me wrong, both of these teams boast pretty solid defenses. But, offensively? Well, Cincinnati ranks 24th – averaging 18.3 points per game – while Chicago ranks 30th – at 15.9. Add it all up, and it’d probably be more entertaining to watch these two teams play futbol.

Oh, and by the way, I was wrong on Jordan Howard last week. His streak of alternating 100+ yard rushing games with wack games came to an end, and he’s now averaging just 22 yards over the Bears last two games.

My apologies.

The good news? Just seven teams have allowed more rushing yards per game to the RB position than Cincinnati who will likely again be without at least two of their top LBs. The bad news? The 49ers are one of those seven teams, and Howard just put up 2.9 yards per carry en route to just 38 yards against them.

Even more damning is the fact that the Bengals have allowed backs to pick up just 3.9 yards per carry (13th), and the abnormally high rushing totals come as a result of facing more rushing attempts than all but one team. That said, I wouldn’t advise rolling with Howard this week. Even with the injuries the Bengals are facing.

… He’ll likely now rush for 150 yards.

For what it’s worth, Cincy has allowed backs an average of 73.7 receiving yards per game over their last three, and Tarik Cohen ranks 12th among RBs with 306 receiving yards. With an injury-ravaged LB corps, Cohen makes a risky, but cheap DFS play this week.

Meanwhile, Mitch Trubisky has thrown for less than 200 yards in 7 of his 8 starts, compiling 5 TDs and 4 INTs. But, he does rank 12th among QBs in rushing yards despite starting just 8 games, and Cincinnati has allowed more rushing yards to QBs than all but four teams.

Obligatory Trubisky stat. Just in case, you wanted to start him this week for some odd reason.

For the rest of us sane human beings, the only players likely receiving consideration are Andy Dalton, the resurrected Giovani Bernard, A.J. Green, and possibly Tyler Kroft. If your list includes anyone outside of these players, again, my apologies.

Since Week 1, no QB has thrown for 300 yards against this Bears defense, the 14 passing TDs they’ve allowed on the season put them tied for the 6th fewest, and Carson Wentz, Aaron Rodgers, and Matthew Stafford are the only QBs to put up over 18 fantasy points against them (standard scoring).

You can go ahead and cross Dalton off the list.

The player formally known Gio Bernard gave us a blast from the past on Monday night – rushing for 77 yards on just 13 carries and picking up an additional 19 yards through the air. However, while it was great to see the former Tarheel look somewhat like his former self, the Bears have yet to allow a 100 yard rusher this season, and haven’t allowed a back to find the end zone on the ground in three-straight games.

Chicago has also held backs to just 34.3 receiving yards (5th fewest) while allowing just one receiving TD to the position. In fact, over their last seven games Alvin Kamara, Mark Ingram, and Ty Montgomery are the only backs to put up double-digit fantasy points against them (standard scoring – Theo Riddick and Christian McCaffrey also did so in PPR formats).

I’m gonna go ahead and say we cross Bernard off the list too.

Tyler Kroft! Come on down!

The Bears have allowed just three TDs to the TE position (tied for the 6th fewest), and outside of Austin Hooper’s 128 yard performance in Week 1 (where he caught that fluky 88-yard TD pass) and Zach Ertz’s 103 yard performance in Week 12, the Bears have allowed an average of just 38 receiving yards to TEs – which would rank 2nd in the league.

Kroft has averaged just 31.5 yards per game. It’s a no for him too.

And, we’re now left with A.J. Green.

You’re starting A.J. Green.

If you haven’t noticed, there doesn’t figure to be many points scored in Cincinnati on Sunday afternoon. The Bearcats average 86.4 points per game and rank 17th in the AP Poll, but unfortunately, they won’t be in action Sunday. They do take on #5 Florida on Saturday though, and that’s about as exciting as it gets for Cincinnati this weekend.

Given the injuries, the defense, and the fact that Chicago has a tendency to lose close, I’ll take the points with the Bears. Truth be told, I won’t be surprised if they win outright. I also wouldn’t be surprised if they lost by 20.

Bears 16 – Bengals 19

Ballers: A.J. Green

Under the Radar: Tarik Cohen

Temper Expectations: Jordan Howard, Dontrelle Inman, Andy Dalton, Giovani Bernard, Brandon LaFell, Tyler Kroft

Bums: Mitch Trubisky, Tarik Cohen, Kendall Wright, Josh Bellamy, Daniel Brown, Dion Sims, Tyler Boyd, Josh Malone

Green Bay Packers (6-6, 6-6 ATS) at Cleveland Browns (0-12, 3-9 ATS)

Spread: GB -4

O/U: 39.5

FANTASY POINTS ALLOWED BY POSITION
QB RB WR TE DST K
GB 16.40 (14th) 19.15 (24th) 23.75 (29th) 5.48 (3rd) 8.33 (22nd) 9.33 (26th)
CLE 18.05 (26th) 17.05 (10th) 19.13 (12th) 10.57 (30th) 12.67 (32nd) 8.92 (22nd)

I vote to change the overly used “Any given Sunday” to “Any given Sunday for everyone except the Browns”. Thing is, the statement might actually apply this week. And, if the Browns are going to avoid going 0-for this season, this game presents one of the two remaining (realistic) opportunities to pick up a W.

Ok, so Cleveland has lost their last five games by an average of 13.2 points. However, considering they faced four of the league’s top defenses – Jacksonville, Minnesota, LA Chargers, Cincinnati – I can’t help but be a little impressed by that margin being as low as it is. Especially considering DeShone Kizer completes passes to cats wearing a different color jersey than his about as often as he does to the ones donning the same.

That said, the 14.7 points Cleveland has averaged this season rank dead last. So, for them to stand a chance, their defense – which has looked great at times – will need to show up in a major way.

Problem is, since losing LB Jamie Collins for the year, their once dominant run D has allowed backs to pick up 119 yards per game on the ground and over four yards per carry. Since taking over as the Packers primary ball carrier in Week 10, Jamaal Williams has averaged 75.8 yards per game on the ground with 3 TDs to his name. He’s also averaged 20 carries over those four games, making the fact that the Browns have done a good job containing WRs nearly irrelevant.

Speaking of, Keenan Allen’s 105 yards are the most Cleveland has allowed a receiver since T.Y. Hilton’s 153 back in Week 3. Last week, I touched on how Allen was still likely in for a good game (despite what appeared to be a tough matchup) due to the Browns struggles with slot receivers (I know, Allen isn’t a slot receiver, but he runs the highest percentage of routes from the slot of the Chargers receivers).

Green Bay, however, has a true slot receiver in Randall Cobb – who oddly didn’t see a single target a week ago. I have a feeling we won’t see a repeat. For starters, in the four games prior, Cobb saw 19 targets, catching 15 passes for 202 yards and a TD. And secondly, the Browns have a tendency to struggle with slot receivers.

Davante Adams is clearly Brett Hundley’s #MCE, but Cobb is the most likely to put up decent numbers on Sunday. By no means is the Browns secondary comparable to the Jags, but take a look at these numbers…

A.J. Green – 5 catches for 63 yards and a TD, Robby Anderson – 2 catches 16 yards, DeAndre Hopkins – 2 catches for 19 yards and a TD, Rishard Matthews – 3 for 40, Stefon Diggs – 4 for 27, Marvin Jones – 1 for 22, Marqise Lee – 5 catches 45 yards, A.J. Green (again) – just 66 yards on 9 catches…

You’d think the Browns still had Joe Haden.

Prior to last week, the only receivers to find success over Cleveland’s last eight games were Adam Thielen, and Golden Tate. Both lineup in the slot on over 45% of their snaps. Randall Cobb is at 53.3%.

Not to mention, since parting ways with Martellus Bennett, Lance Kendricks’ two catches in Week 9 mark the most receptions from a Packers TE. In fact, since that Week 9 game, neither Kendricks nor Richard Rodgers has managed to catch more than one pass in a single game and they’ve combined to average just 16.3 yards per. Oh, and Kendricks’ TD in Week 3? Yeah, that’s the only TD pass to a Packers TE all season.

At the same time, the biggest area of concern with Cleveland’s D has been their inability to defend TEs. Not only have the Browns allowed more passing TDs than every team but the Giants, but the average of 62.2 yards a game they’ve allowed to the position is good for the 4th highest rate in the league. So, on one hand, you have to figure Kendricks and Rodgers are in for some of their best numbers this season Sunday. On the other, it’s hard to imagine Green Bay suddenly becoming TE dependent.

All the more reason to like the Browns chances (and Randall Cobb).

While we’re on receivers, Josh Gordon saw 11 targets in his return last week, catching four passes for 84 yards against a pretty damn good Chargers secondary. Sure, you’d like to see him bring in more than 36% of the passes which headed his direction, but given his QB situation and the matchup (and the fact he hasn’t played a NFL down since 2014), imagine how amazing his career numbers would be if either (a) he didn’t smoke weed, or (b) weed was legal.

It only seems logical that his rapport with Kizer will improve as time passes, and they could be in for an expedited process as the Packers have allowed four receivers to put up over 100 yards in their last six games. On the season, just four teams have allowed more receiving yards to WRs and the 13 TDs they’ve allowed to the position are the 5th most in the league.

If you’re looking to start a Brown this week, Gordon is your guy. Duke Johnson isn’t the worst play either as Green Bay has allowed more receiving yards to RBs than 27 of the remaining 31 NFL teams.

… I think I’ve just convinced myself that the Browns win this game. I’m always good for one off the wall pick.

Packers 21 – Browns 23

Ballers: Jamaal Williams

Under the Radar: Randall Cobb, Duke Johnson, Josh Gordon

Temper Expectations: Brett Hundley, Davante Adams, Lance Kendricks, DeShone Kizer, Isaiah Crowell, Corey Coleman

Bums: Jordy Nelson, Richard Rodgers, Kenny Britt, David Njoku, Seth Devalve

Oakland Raiders (6-6, 4-7-1 ATS) at Kansas City Chiefs (6-6, 6-6 ATS)

Spread: KC -4.5

O/U: 47.5

FANTASY POINTS ALLOWED BY POSITION
QB RB WR TE DST K
OAK 17.34 (22nd) 18.18 (20th) 19.60 (16th) 9.08 (25th) 5.67 (13th) 9.58 (31st)
KC 18.80 (28th) 18.08 (17th) 25.21 (31st) 5.98 (7th) 2.67 (6th) 6.75 (8th)

Remember that computer game/game show “Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego”? If not, don’t worry about it. You’re not missing out on anything. But, if so, I’m thinking Jared Cook is with one of Carmen’s henchmen…

Someone needs to find him.

The Raiders faced the league’s two worst teams at defending the tight end position over the past two weeks, and all we have to show for it is 2 receptions for 10 yards. How? For a little perspective, despite averaging just 15.3 yards per game over the Raiders last three, Cook still ranks 7th in yards at the TE position. In fact, he still leads the Raiders in receiving yards. Yet, he went from averaging over 55 yards per game to just 15 in the blink of an eye. And, one of those games was played without Amari Cooper, with Michael Crabtree missing about 99% of one and all of the other.

Wherever Cook is, it hasn’t been with the rest of the team (though he has seen at least five targets in six-straight games).

… I’m thinking they’ll find him this week. On the season, the Chiefs have allowed the 7th fewest fantasy points to opposing TEs. However, that’s largely due to them allowing just one TD to the position all season. Well, that doesn’t mean much when you consider Cook’s production has been largely the result of his yardage – he also has just one TD this season.

The Chiefs have allowed more yards to TEs than all but nine teams, and when these two teams gave us one of the more memorable regular season games in recent memory back in Week 7, Cook had 6 receptions for 107 yards.

Don’t give up on him yet.

Don’t give up on Derek Carr either. Now I know, Carr has thrown multiple TD passes in just 4 of his 11 starts, his 248.3 yards per game rank 13th, and he’s already thrown more interceptions this season than he did in 2016. I get it. However, Kansas City is allowing QBs to put up about 263 yards per game (5th most), and the Chiefs have also allowed six 20+ fantasy point performances to QBs this season (one of which was a 30.2 from Carr). Oh, and did I mention KC will be without their top corner Marcus Peters?

No Rick Ross, but it’s Triple-C’s this week: Carr, Crabtree, and Cook.

And, we definitely can’t forget about Marshawn Lynch. I mean, Lynch does have a c in it, so he kinda counts. But, ignoring the fact that he doesn’t completely fit into the Triple-C’s clique, you’ll still want him in your lineups.

Now, true. Kansas City has allowed just one 100+ yard rusher this season (Le’Veon Bell – 179), and Lynch did run for just 9 yards in the 1st meeting. But, that was the game where he ran on the field for no reason and had that little skirmish with the ref, and despite holding every back but Bell under 100, KC has allowed a total 106.2 yards per game to RBs (5th most). They’ve also allowed a rushing TD in six of their last seven.

Needless to say, you can expect the Raiders offense to look a bit more like the Raiders offense this week.

Now, when it comes to bad defensive teams, there aren’t many in the conversation with the Chiefs in terms of overall ineptitude. But, the Raiders are definitely one of them. Oakland’s 22 sacks rank 26th, they have just one interception on the season (you can assume where that ranks – rhymes with past), they’ve allowed Qbs to put up a 108.2 passer rating (highest), and they’re giving up about 350 yards of total offense every time they step on the field.

Wowzers.

Bad news for the Raider Nation is that the Chiefs finally woke up from their slumber last Sunday – putting up 474 yards to go with 31 points. And, prior to Sunday, the last time KC had put up 30 points and/or over 400 yards of offense? Week 7 vs. Oakland.

So, yeah. You’ll definitely want to start your Chiefs this week as well. But the thing is, Kareem Hunt is still somewhere chillin’ with Jared Cook. Despite the Chiefs offensive explosion a week ago, Hunt managed just 40 yards rushing, 23 yards through the air, and his touchdown-less streak has now been extended to nine games.

He’s like a ticking time bomb; at some point you know he’s going to go off.

Oakland has been middle of the pack against the run yardage wise, but have allowed backs to pick up 4.1 yards per carry and have been rather generous to backs through the air… They’ve also allowed just four rushing TDs on the season (tied for 3rd). So, yeah, the matchup is there for Hunt to be alright. But, he just hasn’t looked good lately and now that we’ve reached fantasy playoff time, it’s just too risky of a play.

Unless, of course, he’s your best option.

And the best option for taking this game in is to just sit back and enjoy the two rivals go at it. I wonder if that guy with the Raiders sweater made it out of his girlfriend/wife’s house alive?

In any case, if I had to choose, I’m taking the +4.5 with Oakland. Despite the offense returning to form last week against the Jets, KC still lost… To the Jets – their 6th L in their last seven games. I do have a feeling they’ll get the W here, but odds are, it’ll again come down to the wire.

Raiders 27 – Chiefs 30

Ballers: Derek Carr, Marshawn Lynch, Michael Crabtree, Jared Cook, Alex Smith, Tyreek Hill, Travis Kelce

Under the Radar: Cordarrelle Patterson, Johnny Holton, Albert Wilson

Temper Expectations: Seth Roberts, Tyreek Hill

Bums: DeAndre Washington, Jalen Richard, Akeem Hunt, Demarcus Robinson

Dallas Cowboys (6-6, 6-6 ATS) at New York Giants (2-10, 5-7 ATS)

Spread: DAL -6

O/U: 41

FANTASY POINTS ALLOWED BY POSITION
QB RB WR TE DST K
DAL 17.72 (23rd) 18.04 (16th) 24.55 (30th) 7.29 (18th) 6.67 (15th) 6.42 (5th)
NYG 18.87 (29th) 18.87 (23rd) 21.94 (22nd) 11.73 (32nd) 8.17 (21st) 8.67 (20th)

Remember when the Giants were the trendy preseason pick to win the NFC East?

Yeah, me neither.

Man, what a season it’s been. And now, it’s back to Eli Manning. Straight disaster.

But, on the bright side, the Cowboys secondary has been quite disastrous itself. Only the Jets and Broncos have allowed more passing TDs than the 23 given up by Dallas – who’ve surrendered at least two in five-straight games – and just eight teams have allowed more passing yards per game than the 256.8 allowed by the Cowboys.

Problem is, while I feel for Eli (and the entire situation), he just doesn’t have the talent around him to succeed. The Giants offensive line is average at best, their run game is hot garbage, and their receiving corps is comprised of guys you literally have to Google to figure out who the hell they are.

Not to mention, Manning is in the twilight of his career.

None of which figures to change this week. Although, you have to figure there will be an extra bounce to their step on Sunday with the firing of HC Ben McAdoo (and to a lesser extent GM Jerry Reese).

With that in mind, Dallas has allowed 55 receiving yards per game to tight ends over their last five with 3 TDs to the position over that stretch, and the one player who’s managed to remain consistent for this offense this season has been TE Evan Engram. Not only is he responsible for 5 of Manning’s 14 passing TDs, but his 569 yards rank 5th in the league among TEs.

Another positive lies in the fact that New York should have WR Sterling Shepard on the field for a second-straight game. While he’s battled injuries all season – appearing in just eight games – his 531 yards rank 2nd on the team. And, by a sizable gap I must add. The Giants’ 3rd leading receiver this season is Odell Beckham Jr.

He hasn’t played since Week 5.

Since losing Beckham in Week 5, Eli has had his top two targets in Engram and Shepard on the field together just twice – he averaged 246.5 passing yards in those two games with 4 TDs and just 1 INT… One of those games came against the Rams, and their Top-10 passing defense. For a little perspective, “MVP” candidate Carson Wentz, is averaging 250.4 passing yards per.

The man can still play; he just needs some help. Don’t be surprised when you see some of his best numbers of the season come Sunday.

Meanwhile, it’s now been four Ezekiel Elliott-less games for the Cowboys (crazy how quickly time passes). Unfortunately for Dak Prescott, the time can’t pass quickly enough. Prescott has averaged just 150.5 passing yards per game over those four with with just 2 TDs to 5 INTs – he averaged 227.3 and had 16 TDs to 4 INTs in the 8 games with Zeke.

Without one of the best backs in the game to draw additional attention, teams can obviously shift their focus to Dak and his receivers. The drop off in production was to be expected. However, before we get all bent out of shape, let’s shift our focus to the fact that the Falcons, Eagles, Chargers, and Redskins present four of the better pass defenses this league has to offer.

It’s not like they played the Giants in all four games.

Any time the best response to criticism regarding a team’s passing defense begins with, “They haven’t allowed a QB to go over 300 yards in four-straight games, though…” odds are, that defense isn’t very good. And, while that statement does hold true, the Giants have allowed an average of 261.8 over those four while giving up 5 TDs – including 288 and 2 TDs to C.J. Beathard. On the season, just three teams have allowed more passing yards than this Giants D, and just two have allowed more passing TDs.

They also lost CB Janoris Jenkins for the year.

And against the run? Well, backs have put up 105.9 yards per game against the G-Men (6th highest average) while racking up over four yards per carry. Like I said last week, Alfred Morris is not as sexy as Elliott, but don’t let that fool you in to thinking he hasn’t been productive. Morris has averaged 4.8 yards per carry in Zeke’s absence, and on the season he’s at 5.4 – which trails only Alvin Kamara.

The Cowboys offense should be just fine week.

While still decimated by injuries, New York is about as healthy as they’ve been all season. They’re at home, have some motivation for the 1st time in a while, and face a Cowboys team without their most dangerous weapon. Now, I don’t know whether that translates to a W, but I do know that this won’t be a blowout.

Cowboys 27 – Giants 21

Ballers: Dak Prescott, Alfred Morris, Dez Bryant, Jason Witten, Sterling Shepard, Evan Engram

Under the Radar: Eli Manning

Temper Expectations: Rod Smith, Terrance Williams, Orleans Darkwa

Bums: Cole Beasley, Brice Butler, Wayne Gallman, Paul Perkins, Shane Vereen, Tavarres King, Roger Lewis

Detroit Lions (6-6, 5-6-1 ATS) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-8, 3-8-1 ATS)

Spread:

O/U:

FANTASY POINTS ALLOWED BY POSITION
QB RB WR TE DST K
DET 16.40 (13th) 20.66 (29th) 19.52 (15th) 8.63 (24th) 8.42 (23rd) 7.25 (14th)
TB 17.07 (21st) 19.38 (26th) 26.68 (32nd) 5.43 (2nd) 5.92 (12th) 7.83 (16th)

It looks like Matthew Stafford will be good to go in this one after exiting last week’s game with an injury to his throwing hand. And, while the injury is concerning, he could probably put up 200+ yards against this Bucs defense left-handed.

While blindfolded.

Tampa has allowed QBs an average of 271 yards per game (3rd most) while allowing 1.5 TDs per contest, and no team has allowed more yards per game to the receiver position than the 195 that the Bucs have given up. Last week, Brett Hundley became the 1st QB this season to not throw a TD pass against TB, and Davante Adams/Jordy Nelson became just the 3rd group of receivers to not produce a single TD.

The Bucs are not very good.

Stafford has been one of the most prolific passers the league has seen over the past decade, and his 3,302 passing yards and 22 passing TDs rank 5th this season. Marvin Jones’ 821 receiving yards rank 12th at the WR position, and Golden Tate’s 767 rank 15th. Jones also ranks 3rd in the league with 8 TDs, and combined, the duo is responsible for 50% of Stafford’s TD passes this season.

Meanwhile, the Bucs have surrendered four rushing TDs over their last two games – allowing 132.5 yards per game and over 5.5 yards per carry to backs over that stretch. On the season, just two teams have allowed more rushing TDs to RBs than the 11 given up by Tampa, and at 4.19 yards per carry they’re allowing the 11th highest rate.

Detroit might drop 50 on these boys.

PS – Be sure to check Ameer Abdullah and Dwayne Washington’s status prior to kick-off. If neither plays, Tion Green figures to be busy again and Theo Riddick gets a boost.

Tampa’s offense shouldn’t find themselves struggling often either, though.

Since losing Haloti Ngata, the Lions run D has been dreadful. I feel like a broken record, so I won’t dive into the numbers as I detailed them here and here. But, suffice it to say, that over the past four weeks every back who’s received at least 15 carries against Detroit has ran for at least 75 yards and a TD. In fact, they’ve given up a total of six rushing TDs and 526 yards to backs in just those four games.

Seventeen teams have allowed six or fewer rushing TDs to backs all season.

Now, yes, this Buccaneers’ rushing attack ranks among the league’s worst. But, Peyton Barber did give them their 1st 100 yard rusher of the season last week against Green Bay. Doug Martin should be back this week, but considering he’s been largely ineffective, it’s hard to imagine him seeing an overwhelming majority of the carries. Still, he’s a safe play given the matchup, and Barber makes a high-risk/high-reward DFS type play.

Speaking of returns, Jameis Winston came back last week and went 21-32 for 270 yards with 2 TDs and 0 INTs. It was like he never left, and statistically, the Lions’ defense has been nearly identical to that of the Packers who Winston faced last week.

Now, Winston was sacked an alarming seven times in his return, and while I haven’t had a chance to watch the tape to determine the cause, I do know the Bucs were without starting C Ali Marpet and RT Demar Dotson – both are out for the season. So, while Winston didn’t throw an INT – he did lose a fumble – given his propensity to turn the ball over (he has been better this season), it’s not the safest bet to assume he’ll come out of this one unscathed.

Detroit is tied for 9th with 19 takeaways on the season.

Oh, and while the Lions have allowed the 11th most yards to the receiver position, Darius Slay has been one of the better corners in the league. Mike Evans has yet to record a 100 yard game this season and his four TDs are tied for 28th among receivers. Sure, talent tends to win out – and Evans has an abundance – but with him likely to see a lot of Slay (and his less than spectacular production this season) Evans is anything but a safe bet this week.

Cameron Brate, though? Jameis Winston loves him like he loves crab legs.

Through Week 8, Brate had the 4th most receiving yards of any TE (405), and his four passing TDs put him tied for the 3rd most at that point. Over the next four games – with Fitzpatrick taking over in one and starting three – Brate went from averaging 57.9 yards per game to a measly 9.3 yards per game and caught all of zero TDs.

Well, Winston is back, and so is Brate. Despite facing one of the toughest matchups to be had for a TE this season, Brate put up 39 yards and 2 TDs in Winston’s return. And, while the 39 receiving yards aren’t likely to put him in the Hall of Fame discussion, they are more than the 37 receiving yards he combined to put up in the four games prior.

This week, the Bucs get a Lions D which has allowed four TDs to the TE position over their last three games, and 57.9 yards per game (9th most).

Stay woke.

Needless to say, if you enjoy offense, set some time aside on Sunday to take this one in. The odds have yet to be released, but I imagine TB will be a slight favorite at home. However, one thing is for sure, I like the over.

Lions 27 – Bucs 24

Ballers: Matthew Stafford, Ameer Abdullah (questionable), Marvin Jones, Golden Tate, Jameis Winston, Cameron Brate

Under the Radar: Tion Green, Theo Riddick, Doug Martin, Peyton Barber, DeSean Jackson

Temper Expectations: Kenny Golladay, Adam Humphries, O.J. Howard

Bums: Eric Ebron, Charles Sims, Jacquizz Rodgers

Minnesota Vikings (10-2, 9-3 ATS) at Carolina Panthers (8-4, 7-5 ATS)

Spread: MIN -1

O/U: 42

FANTASY POINTS ALLOWED BY POSITION
QB RB WR TE DST K
MIN 13.18 (6th) 12.19 (1st) 19.19 (14th) 5.87 (6th) 1.83 (3rd) 8.33 (17th)
CAR 14.35 (10th) 16.01 (5th) 21.13 (21st) 5.77 (4th) 7.00 (17th) 7.00 (11th)

You ever stay out so late on Saturday night that you just hit a gargle of the Listerine, and head straight from the club to church?

… Yeah, me neither.

In any case, we just went from one extreme – two of the worst defenses – to the opposite end of the spectrum – two of the league’s best defenses this season – and that was a terrible analogy on my part.

Sounded a lot better in my head.

Anyway, the Panthers allowed the Saints to rush for over 100 yards last Sunday, and that game marked only the 3rd time that’s happened this season. Now, yes, the Saints are responsible for two of those three games. And, yes, the Saints have more rushing yards than every team but Jacksonville. However, it’d be shortsighted to say that the Saints are just that good.

The matchup isn’t as daunting as it may seem.

For starters, Carolina’s front seven isn’t at full strength. Carolina will be without DE Charles Johnson for two more games, and LB Shaq Thompson has been ruled out due to a foot injury. So on one hand, the Panthers still have Thomas Davis and Luke Kuechly – two of the top linebackers in the game. On the other, prior to last week’s game Carolina had allowed backs to pick up just four rushing TDs all season; Ingram and Kamara combined for three on Sunday – Johnson missed that game, and Thompson was limited.

Then, there’s the fact that Vikings RBs Latavius Murray and Jerick McKinnon have helped lead Minnesota to the 7th most rushing yards this season and 12 rushing TDs (tied 12th). If the Saints backs are Future, the Vikings duo is Desiigner. And, while Panda isn’t quite as hot as Mask Off, it still dominated the chars for a while. In other words, both McKinnon and Murray should be decent plays this week.

Too bad the same can’t be said for either Jonathan Stewart or Christian McCaffrey because they’ve been on a nice run these past five games. Over that stretch, Run CMC has four TDs to his name with Stewart finding the endzone twice. The duo has also combined to average 81.2 rushing yards per game over their last five after putting up just 57.6 through the 1st seven. So, given their recent play, I could definitely understand some optimism in playing them this week despite the tough matchup.

Try your luck if you choose, but my advice would be to just risk the bench points.

The Vikings have allowed just four backs to find the endzone this season, and they weren’t exactly the usual suspects – Ameer Abdullah, Benny Cunningham, Isaiah Crowell, and Todd Gurley. Ok, so Gurley isn’t much of a surprise, but the reset of the list is. Especially, considering that list doesn’t include Mark Ingram, Alvin Kamara, Le’Veon Bell, or Devonta Freeman. Point being, I have a feeling the Vikes will be ready for Stewart and McCaffrey.

Making matters worse for this Carolina offense, Devin Funchess is dealing with a shoulder injury and will see Xavier Rhodes lined up in front of him for the majority of the afternoon. If you haven’t heard by now, Rhodes is pretty damn good. Not only did he practically shut down Michael Thomas, Antonio Brown, Mike Evans, and Julio Jones – holding them to a combined 198 yards – but just six teams have allowed fewer passing yards per game than the Vikings with just two allowing fewer passing TDs.

Oh, and they rank in the Top-10 vs. tight ends too. Limiting Cam’s only other legitimate threat – Greg Olsen – who himself is still limited by his foot injury. So, while this Panthers offense has seen an uptick in production in recent weeks, it’s hard to imagine them continuing their success in this one.

Meanwhile, the Panthers have allowed six receiving TDs to WRs over their last four games with three receivers going over 100 yards during that four game period. Adam Thielen has more receiving yards than every receiver not named Antonio Brown or Julio Jones, and Case Keenum has been one of the hottest QBs in the league.

It doesn’t look good for the Panthers.

Carolina is in decent shape to make the playoffs this season, and a win here will go a long way in solidifying their hopes. It’s just a tough ask.

Vikings 20 – Panthers 13

Ballers: Case Keenum, Latavius Murray, Adam Thielen, Stefon Diggs

Under the Radar: Russell Shepard

Temper Expectations: Jerick McKinnon, Kyle Rudolph, Cam Newton, Christian McCaffrey, Jonathan Stewart, Devin Funchess, Greg Olsen

Bums: Michael Floyd, Jarius Wright, Laquon Treadwell

San Francisco 49ers (2-10, 6-6 ATS) at Houston Texans (4-8, 7-5 ATS)

Spread: HOU -1

O/U: 43

FANTASY POINTS ALLOWED BY POSITION
QB RB WR TE DST K
SF 18.94 (30th) 22.79 (32nd) 20.08 (18th) 6.91 (14th) 8.67 (24th) 8.92 (21st)
HOU 19.08 (31st) 14.94 (4th) 22.98 (26th) 9.52 (27th) 8.92 (26th) 9.50 (28th)

Yawn.

On the real though, the 49ers have won two of three, and their D has been surprisingly not terrible over that stretch. It helps when your offense can move the ball… It also helps to play the Giants and Bears.

Now, the Texans secondary has been suspect this season, and I like what I saw from Jimmy Garropolo (at times). But, Houston held Joe Flacco to just 141 yards passing two weeks ago, and last week saw Marcus Mariota throw for just 150 with a TD. They also have a vicious front seven, and have been one of the best teams in defending the run.

… And the 49ers are still the 49ers.

Obviously, you’re starting DeAndre Hopkins, and Lamar Miller should be ok. But, outside of them? You’re reaching.

Garrett Celek should be aite – the Texans haven’t been very good against the TE position. And, while Houston hasn’t allowed a receiver to catch a TD in two-straight, Marquise Goodwin is tied for the league lead in yards per reception, and the Texans have allowed WRs to pick up 14.6 yards per catch – the 2nd highest rate in the league- making Goodwin an interesting flier. And, for the Texans? Stephen Anderson. But, outside of that, no thanks.

Not Carlos Hyde, not Jimmy G, not Lamar Miller. No thanks. Will Fuller should be back for Houston. He had four catches for 47 yards in two games with Tom Savage under center. No thanks, I need to see it first.

The Texans have now lost four of five since Deshaun Watson tore his ACL, but they’re at home, and are still the more talented team. I’m not going to overthink this one.

49ers 16 – Texans 21

Ballers: Lamar Miller, DeAndre Hopkins

Under the Radar: Marquise Goodwin, Garrett Celek, Stephen Anderson

Temper Expectations: Jimmy Garropolo, Carlos Hyde, Trent Taylor, Andre Ellington, Will Fuller

Bums: Matt Breida, Louis Murphy, George Kittle

 

 

 

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