The NFL Handbook – Week 4

The Rams and 49ers kicked off Week 3 with one of the more memorable, and surprising, games of the season thus far. Then, I wake up Sunday morning to the previously undefeated Ravens down 44 to the Jags. The Bills upset the Broncos, Bears upset the Steelers, the hopeless Jets thumped Miami, rookie Deshaun Watson went in Foxborough and damn near came away with a W…

The NFL is wildly unpredictable.

Sometimes I wonder if the hours upon hours I spend analyzing statistics would be better served I don’t know knitting, reading, hell who knows, maybe even spending time with my family?!

Nah.

I’ve analyzed the data for each of the 16 NFL games on tap in Week 4, and have compiled this handbook to help you identify which match-ups to target in your fantasy leagues, and the best plays should you find yourself in Vegas this weekend.

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

  1. Ballers –  Either the guys you drafted early, and aren’t benching. Or, the ones with favorable match-ups.
  2. Under the Radar – Guys who may not be hyped, or haven’t performed up to par, but have a good opportunity to produce. Good for dfs (DraftKings, Fanduel, etc.) as they should have low ownership.
  3. Temper Expectations – Proceed with caution. May be players you’d normally start, or the overly hyped “breakouts”, 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 4 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, injuries, etc., but picking and choosing which current odds to use felt a bit too arbitrary. If you have any questions regarding the updated odds, feel free to comment, shoot me an email: leonard@maximizeyourodds.com, or hit me up on Twitter: @maxingyourodds

Chicago Bears at Green Bay Packers

Spread: GB -7.5

O/U: 45.5

Coming into the season, the Bears figured to be the laughing stock of this NFC North division – the “doormat” if you will. However, 3 weeks in, and they find themselves in the mix at 1-2.

Although, no one truly believes they have a legitimate shot at this division; players and coaches included.

That could all change Thursday night as they head to Lambeau to face a divisional rival in the Packers who’ve struggled a bit to open the 2017 season.

Both of these squads have faced a season’s worth of injuries in a matter of weeks, and on a short week, health could be a major concern. On the Bears side, S Quintin Demps, LB Jerrell Freeman, and WR Kevin White are out indefinitely, while G Josh Sitton is listed as questionable for this one. Meanwhile, every one on the Packers injury report has practiced at least on a limited basis this week, with the exception of CB Davon House.

Not a good look for the prospects of a Bears upset.

Here are the fantasy points allowed per game by position for both of these teams:

QB RB WR TE DST K
Chicago 14.07 (12th) 16.03 (14th) 19.27 (13th) 8.47 (23rd) 9.67 (25th) 10.00 (24th)
Green Bay 13.16 (10th) 20.57 (25th) 18.23 (9th) 1.77 (1st) 10.67 (27th) 10.00 (24th)

Sans Nick Perry in Week 3, the Packers surrendered 57 receiving yards and a TD to the Bengals RBs, but just 29 yards and a TD in Weeks 1 and 2 combined with him. If Perry misses this one, Cohen could have some value in PPR formats, but as expected, his usage has been trending downward following his absurd 12 target Week 1 – he saw 9 in Week 2, and 5 in Week 3. He has seen a decent amount of work on the ground though, so his situation isn’t utterly bleak, but if Perry plays Howard may be the only back worth starting.

Offensively, the Packers have allowed the 5th most fantasy points to opposing DSTs. Quite the surprise from an Aaron Rodgers led group, but is it really? I mean, when you consider the injuries they’ve faced to their offensive line, and the 13 sacks given up (2nd most in the NFL), it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise, but their somewhat mundane offensive numbers have been.

However, seeing that this game is being played in Green Bay, and in prime time, I wouldn’t suggest streaming the Bears defense. It is worth noting though, and if Bryan Bulaga and/or David Bakhtiari can’t go Thursday night, Rodgers could be in for another long night at the office.

Now, it’s also worth noting that 24% of Rodgers pass attempts this season have targeted his TEs, and while the Bears have allowed the 10th most fantasy points per game to the position (and seem like a cake matchup) that’s not truly the case. If we take away Austin Hooper‘s 88 yard TD in Week 1, the Bears have allowed just 7 receptions for 106 yards to the TE position.

Not exactly a favorable match-up.

Still, Chicago has allowed a rushing TD in each of its 3 games, Ty Montgomery is the 7th ranked fantasy RB through 3 weeks, and frankly Ryan, Winston, and Roethlisberger aren’t Rodgers. Then, there’s the Packers defense, who given the dearth of weapons offensively for Chicago and the short week of preparation, make the case as a formidable streamer this week.

All told, the Bears just don’t have the firepower to keep up with the Packers 15th ranked scoring offense, but their defense should do enough to keep it respectable.

Bears 16 – Packers 23

Ballers: Jordan Howard, Aaron Rodgers, Ty Montgomery, Jordy Nelson, Davante Adams

Under the Radar: Kendall Wright, Packers DST

Temper Expectations: Martellus Bennett, Tarik Cohen (PPR), Markus Wheaton, Randall Cobb

Bums: Mike Glennon, Deonte Thompson, Zach Miller

New Orleans Saints at Miami Dolphins

Spread: NO -2

O/U: 50

Who are the Miami Dolphins?

No, this isn’t Jeopardy, but this team has no recognizable identity at this point. In Week 2, a 19-17 win over the Chargers, they looked like a sound defensive team who’d lean on the run game and grind games out. In Week 3, a 20-6 loss to the Jets… It really doesn’t even matter, loss to the Jets is the only thing of importance.

How?!

Contrarily, we know exactly who the Saints are, and they just told all of the critics to pipe all the way down. Not only did they go into Carolina and hang 34 on the board, but they held the Panthers offense to just 13 points while doing so.

This defense showed signs of promise through the 1st 2 weeks, but you wouldn’t know it by looking at the box scores. Well, it came together in Week 3 and if they can consistently perform at that level, this team will be even tougher to beat than they already are.

Here are the fantasy points allowed per game by position for both of these teams:

QB RB WR TE DST K
New Orleans 21.76 (31st) 24.03 (30th) 25.00 (26th) 9.17 (24th) -0.67 (2nd) 10.67 (29th)
Miami 15.95 (15th) 15.25 (13th) 21.40 (18th) 9.60 (25th) 7.50 (20th) 6.00 (7th)

Like I said, you wouldn’t know this Saints defense has shown any signs of promise, and honestly, it’s probably best to let them prove they’re capable of a repeat before benching your Dolphins.

Offensively, the Saints rank 11th in points per game at 24.3, and will add another weapon this week as WR Willie Snead returns from suspension. Bad news for a Dolphins defense which has allowed receivers to average 184 yards, and has yet to record an interception.

Drew Brees should be in for another monster day, but there is a silver lining for this Dolphins d as they should have LB Lawrence Timmons for the 1st time this season.

Cutler should be in for a decent game as well, seeing how the Saints have allowed an average of 311 passing yards and 2 TDs per game to opposing QBs. However, I think we all expected not what we saw last week from Jay, so while the matchup is enticing, it might be best to avoid the risk.

Considering that this is another one of those England games, it might not go quite as expected (like I mentioned for last week’s Ravens/Jags). However, I believe Ajayi will be too much for this Saints defense which has allowed 4.51 yards per carry to opposing RBs. And, it’s hard to get torched by Brees when he’s standing on the sideline.

Saints 24 – Dolphins 31

Ballers: Drew Brees, Michael Thomas, Jay Ajayi, Jarvis Landry (PPR), DeVante Parker

Under the Radar: Kenny Stills, Julius Thomas

Temper Expectations: Alvin Kamara, Mark Ingram, Adrian Peterson, Ted Ginn, Coby Fleener, Jay Cutler

Bums: Saints DST, Dolphins DST

Buffalo Bills at Atlanta Falcons

Spread: ATL -8

O/U: 49

The Bills are 2-1, just knocked off one of the favorites in the AFC, and have allowed the fewest points per game of any team. Yet, they opened as 8 point underdogs; tied for the 2nd highest number of the week.

Talk about being slept on.

I get it, though. And, I think we’re all in disbelief, just waiting for the real Bills to stand up. I mean, they can’t really be this good – can they?! Well, yeah. They can, and it starts defensively where they were tested last week, and passed with flying colors.

Now comes their dissertation.

Here are the fantasy points allowed per game by position for both of these teams:

QB RB WR TE DST K
Buffalo 9.62 (2nd) 10.73 (3rd) 15.90 (6th) 3.77 (6th) 5.67 (12th) 9.33 (20th)
Atlanta 15.83 (14th) 21.33 (28th) 19.13 (12th) 5.20 (9th) 4.00 (9th) 10.33 (27th)

Three things here:

  1. That’s a lot of red
  2. Start your kickers
  3. Atlanta has been mighty generous towards opposing RBs

Only two teams have more rushing attempts than the 98 put up by the Bills through 3 weeks, and though held to just 21 yards last week, McCoy has the 17th most fantasy points at the running back position. Now sometimes, fantasy points per game can be a bit deceiving. Say a team gives up little yardage, but several TDs on the ground. They may look like a poor run defense based on their fantasy points allowed, but in reality, they’re solid.

The Falcons aren’t solid against the run.

They’ve allowed 4.54 yards per carry, and 61 yards receiving per game to opposing RBs. The only saving grace has been their offense, which puts up points with the quickness forcing the opposition to play catch up. In fact, Ameer Abdullah‘s 14 carries on Sunday mark the most any opposing back has had against them this season.

McCoy might wind up doubling that number by the time this one wraps up.

Defensively, the Bills have yet to allow a passing TD on the season, and Matt Ryan hasn’t been quite himself as he sits tied for 15th with 4 TD on the season. Obviously, the Bills haven’t faced a QB of Ryan’s pedigree, or a passing attack with this level of potency, but I’m expecting about what we saw in Week 2 from Matty Ice – around 250 yards, and a TD.

These Falcons won a tough battle last week, and given the Bills defense/run game, I’m thinking they’ll be in store for another one here.

PS – The Bills are one of just 2 teams with a 3-0 record against the spread.

Bills 20 – Falcons 23

Ballers: Tyrod Taylor, LeSean McCoy, Julio Jones

Under the Radar: Jordan Matthews, Zay Jones, Bills DST

Temper Expectations: Charles Clay, Matt Ryan, Devonta Freeman, Tevin Coleman, Mohamed Sanu

Bums: Taylor Gabriel, Austin Hooper, Andre Holmes

Cincinnati Bengals at Cleveland Browns

Spread: CIN -4

O/U: 40

I’m really not sure if it was shame, pride, matchup, new OC, or chance, but whatever the cause, the Bengals offense finally put a TD on the board. Actually, they put up 2, and even added a defensive TD for good measure!

Make your peace now, the end is near.

Of course, they’re still the Bengals, and blew a 21-7 lead. Nonetheless, they finally scored a TD in 2017 – everything else is trivial.

And, the Browns? Well, they’re still the Browns. Just a younger, more exciting version.

Here’s how these two look based on fantasy points allowed per game by position:

QB RB WR TE DST K
Cincinnati 16.45 (17th) 14.90 (9th) 18.93 (11th) 4.77 (8th) 12.33 (29th) 8.33 (16th)
Cleveland 19.35 (27th) 16.20 (15th) 19.93 (17th) 9.77 (26th) 13.33 (31st) 5.00 (4th)

Just 5 QBs have been sacked more times than Cleveland’s DeShone Kizer, and his league leading 7 interceptions are nearly double those of runner up Eli Manning et al. with 4. Meanwhile, the Bengals defense ranks 9th in total yards allowed, 6th in sacks, and have allowed the 9th fewest points per game.

They’ll also have Vontaze Burfict back this week.

I like Kizer, and think he has a bright future in the NFL, but this isn’t the week to roll with any Browns in your fantasy lineups.

Meanwhile, Dalton put up one of the better QB performances of the week Sunday at Green Bay completing nearly 78% of his passes for 212 yards and 2 TDs. With time in the pocket, Dalton has proven he’s not a bad QB. He’s just not great under pressure, and his offensive line hasn’t done him many favors. However, facing a Browns defense who has just 6 sacks on the season and is allowing a 70% completion rate to opposing QBs, Dalton has a good opportunity to make it 2 straight solid performances.

We should pump the breaks before proclaiming this offense legit, however. Yes, Dalton should have a good game, but the Browns have allowed just 233 passing yards per game (they’re by no means a pushover), Eifert is also still out, the Browns run d has been respectable, and the Bengals run game has been lackluster.

The Bengals should be able to come away their 1st win of the season here, but it might not come as easily as you’d expect.

Bengals 21 – Browns 13

Ballers: A.J. Green, Bengals DST

Under the Radar: Andy Dalton, Tyler Kroft

Temper Expectations: DeShone Kizer, Joe Mixon

Bums: Giovani Bernard, Jeremy Hill, Isaiah Crowell, Duke Johnson, Kenny Britt, Seth Devalve, David Njoku

Los Angeles Rams at Dallas Cowboys

Spread: DAL -7.5

O/U: 46

Yes, they’re 2-1, but this is not the same Cowboys team which dominated the league a season ago. And, I can’t quite figure out why. Defensively, they’re still largely marginal, and outside of a couple of offensive lineman, their starting offense is unchanged. Yet, last season’s rushing champion – Ezekiel Elliott – is averaging just 64 yards per game, and has just 1 rushing TD to his name.

Now sure, the schedule makers did the Boys no favors, and they’ve faced 3 tough defenses out the gates. But, this is the NFL – it’s not like he rushed for 1,600 yards last season against the Big 10. Even considering the match-ups, in watching this offense it’s pretty obvious that something just isn’t right.

Same can be said for this Rams team, but in the opposite light.

Last season, the Rams averaged 14 points per game – fewest in the NFL – and through 3 weeks of 2017, they’re averaging 35.7 – most in the NFL. Yes, 2 of their 3 games were against cake defenses. But, again, this is the NFL. We can downplay their 2-1 start all we want, but this is a vastly improved football team.

Here’s how these two look based on fantasy points allowed per game by position:

QB RB WR TE DST K
LA Rams 13.80 (11th) 25.80 (31st) 18.63 (10th) 5.70 (11th) 0.33 (4th) 7.00 (11th)
Dallas 17.01 (21st) 17.33 (19th) 24.07 (22nd) 6.53 (15th) 5.67 (12th) 4.00 (1st)

Despite the red, neither offense should struggle to move the football in this one.

For the Cowboys, the aforementioned Elliott should be able to find success against this Rams d which has allowed 5 rushing TDs through 3 games and 4.43 yards per carry to opposing RBs. And, while Trumaine Johnson, Nickell Robey-Coleman, and Kayvon Webster are all solid corners, they’ll be welcomed by Dez Bryant since this week marks the 1st which he won’t see coverage from an All-Pro.

Meanwhile, the Cowboys have allowed just 1 rushing TD on the season and an average of 78.7 rushing yards per game to opposing RBs. Yes, Gurley appears matchup proof at this point, but it’ll be interesting to see if he can continue his multi-TD game streak. Even if not, the attention he commands at this point should open up the field for Joe Monta… Jared Goff, and visa versa.

The Rams have enough weapons to exploit this banged up Cowboys defense, but I don’t think we’ll see anywhere near the 41 points we saw them put up on Thursday.

This should be a fun watch, but given how the Cowboys have looked to start the season, they shouldn’t be favored by 7.5 points against anyone. Typically, when the line doesn’t make sense, you should take it (which means the Cowboys will probably win this by 10). But, I’m buying this Rams team, so I’ll take the 7.5 and I believe it’ll go over the total.

Rams 24 – Cowboys 31

Ballers: Todd Gurley, Sammy Watkins – Q, Dak Prescott, Ezekiel Elliott, Dez Bryant

Under the Radar: Jared Goff, Robert Woods, Gerald Everett, Terrance Williams

Temper Expectations: Cole Beasley, Jason Witten

Bums: Rams DST, Cowboys DST

Detroit Lions at Minnesota Vikings

Spread: MIN -1

O/U: 43.5

I feel bad for the Lions.

They’re like the little brother who’s more inclined to read than throw a ball and always gets slighted by his brothers/pops, or the skinny kid who always got picked on but gets swole in college yet still deals with his insecurities and never truly claims his greatness, or the dude who always has bomb ass ideas in meetings but struggles to convey them properly so someone else always gets the credit and the promotions.

They just always get the raw end of the deal.

Sam Bradford better hurry back before he faces a similar fate with how Case Keenum looked last week. Granted, it was just one game and as I mentioned last week, Keenum has killed the Bucs in his career. He’s now 3-0 with 793 yards, 7 TDs, and a 128.9 QB rate against them – easily his best numbers against any team.

The Lions aren’t the Buccaneers, however, and he’ll likely find it a lot tougher to replicate that success against this defense which just picked off Matt Ryan 3 times Sunday, has a total of 7 interceptions on the season, and continues to impress week after week.

Here’s how these two look based on fantasy points allowed per game by position:

QB RB WR TE DST K
Detroit 11.39 (6th) 18.73 (22nd) 21.50 (19th) 6.40 (13th) 4.67 (10th) 7.33 (14th)
Minnesota 16.23 (16th) 8.60 (1st) 27.97 (31st) 8.20 (22nd) -0.67 (2nd) 12.00 (32nd)

Having faced the Saints, Steelers, and Bucs it’s no surprise that the Vikings defensive passing numbers (5 passing TDs, and an average of 277.7 yards through the air) rank among the bottom of the league. However, they’ve been pretty damn good in defending the pass when you consider they held Michael Thomas, Antonio Brown, and Mike Evans to a combined 174 yards on 17 catches with no TDs, have yet to allow a 100 yard receiver, and have held 3 of 4 TEs to 33 yards or less.

The overall numbers are somewhat deceiving.

Thing is, their run defense has been impenetrable, so teams opt to try their luck through the air. And, seeing how opposing backs have fared against Minnesota, I can’t say that I blame them.

Team Car Yds Yds/Car TD Rec Yds Yds/Rec TD Tar Fantasy Pts PPR
Mark Ingram NO 6 17 2.8 5 54 10.8 5 7.1 12.1
Alvin Kamara NO 7 18 2.6 4 20 5 6 3.8 7.8
Adrian Peterson NO 6 18 3.0 1 1.8 1.8
John Kuhn NO 1 2 2.0 0.2 0.2
Le’Veon Bell PIT 27 87 3.22 4 4 1.00 4 9.1 13.1
James Conner PIT 1 9 9.00 0.9 0.9
Terrell Watson PIT 1 1 1.00 0.1 0.1
Jacquizz Rodgers TB 5 15 3.00 1.5 1.5
Charles Sims TB 2 4 2.00 1 9 9.00 1 1.3 2.3

Not exactly a good look.

Meanwhile, Detroit’s run d is nowhere to be found. Probably hanging out with Donald Trump’s apology. They’ve allowed RBs to kill them on the ground, through the air, and everywhere in between to the tune of 4.1 yards per carry and an average of 74 receiving yards per game.

Although the Lions have struggled against the run, they’ve allowed the 4th lowest QB rating, and have been mostly solid against the pass. It’s not likely we’ll see another Houston Cougar-esque college flashback from Keenum; Cook should be Wal-Mart on Black Friday busy in this one.

This game has “Game of the Week” written all over it, and could go a long way in settling the division come January – the Lions suffer heartbreak once again, though.

Lions 19 – Vikings 23

Ballers: Golden Tate, Dalvin Cook

Under the Radar: Kenny Golladay, Kyle Rudolph

Temper Expectations: Matthew Stafford, Marvin Jones, Eric Ebron, Lions DST, Adam Thielen, Stefon Diggs, Vikings DST

Bums: Ameer Abdullah, Theo Riddick, Case Keenum

Carolina Panthers at New England Patriots

Spread: NE -8

O/U: 47

Alright, so it’s been 3 weeks, and there’s still plenty of time left in the season. But, I think it’s safe to say that this Patriots defense is not as good as we’d thought they’d be. The Panthers offense has also been rather pedestrian.

Something has to give, and you have to favor the former considering Carolina was just held to 13 points by the Saints woeful defense, and will be without TE Greg Olsen, possibly C Ryan Kalil, and what you figure has to be a limited WR Kelvin Benjamin.

When the schedule released a few months back, this was a game likely highlighted by NFL fans across the world. Now?

Blah.

Here’s how both teams have looked by position on a fantasy points allowed per game basis:

QB RB WR TE DST K
Carolina 11.51 (7th) 12.67 (5th) 18.10 (8th) 2.47 (4th) 10.67 (28th) 6.33 (10th)
New England 24.47 (32nd) 26.93 (32nd) 27.83 (30th) 12.33 (31st) 1.00 (5th) 10.00 (24th)

Seeing how the Panthers just had a favorable matchup against the Saints, but found a way to make them look like the ’00 Baltimore Ravens, I wouldn’t advise targeting this game (or any of theirs for that matter) as a “favorable” matchup.

Outside of McCaffrey, and Gano, you don’t want any part of this offense until further notice.

And, the Panthers defense? The one one we thought was dominant less than a week ago? Well, they just allowed Brees to finish as a Top-12 fantasy QB – throwing for 220 yards, and 3 TDs. I wouldn’t advise avoiding this game as “unfavorable” from the Pats side either.

Both teams are 2-1, but whatever. They’re both overrated at this point.

Panthers 16 – Patriots 24

Ballers: Christian McCaffrey, Tom Brady, Brandin Cooks

Under the Radar: Danny Amendola, Patriots DST

Temper Expectations: Cam Newton, Jonathan Stewart, Devin Funchess, Kelvin Benjamin, Mike Gillislee, Chris Hogan, Rob Gronkowski

Bums: Ed Dickson, Panthers DST

Jacksonville Jaguars at New York Jets

Spread: JAX -3.5

O/U: 40

Go ahead and mark Sunday September 24, 2017 on your calendars, or add an event in your phone, because it’ll be the last time we can mention the Jacksonville Jaguars, New York Jets and use the word dominant (positively) on the same day for a very long time.

If we’re basing this game on last week alone, it’ll be a classic, as both teams were among the biggest surprises of the week.

We’re not, though. And, it probably won’t be a classic. But, it was cool to see the other New York football team get a win, and Blake Bortles look like a competent QB.

For the Jets, I think their performance Sunday was more of an indictment on the Dolphins than anything notable on their part. And, the Jaguars? Well, they have more experience than any other team in London, and are 3-2 across the pond.

I don’t think that game has nearly the same result if it’s played in the States.

Anyway, begrudgingly, I’ll attempt to provide some analysis on this garbage disguised as a game.

QB RB WR TE DST K
Jacksonville 8.57 (1st) 14.67 (8th) 9.60 (2nd) 11.93 (30th) 1.33 (6th) 5.67 (6th)
NY Jets 16.55 (19th) 20.97 (27th) 26.87 (27th) 6.40 (14th) 8.00 (21st) 4.00 (1st)

The Jaguars defense is legit, and the Jets offense is not legit.

However, Jacksonville is allowing 4.79 yards per carry to opposing RBs, so while they look stout against the running back position (they’ve given up just 1 rushing TD), they’ve allowed about 112 rushing yards per game to backs. The Jets have employed a 3-headed committee these past 2 weeks, but Forte is currently listed as doubtful, so McGuire and Powell should be in line for additional work; making them justifiable DFS plays.

Also, opposing TEs have an average of 59 receiving yards per game, and have found the end zone in 2 straight games vs. the Jags. Austin Seferian-Jenkins saw 6 targets in his Jets debut, bringing 5 for 31. He’s an interesting TE streamer this week.

For the Jags, don’t buy into last week. No, Bortles and Lewis won’t light up the boards again, but Bortles will be serviceable in a deep/2-QB league and Lewis will be aite. Yes, Leonard Fournette is a monster; you’re starting him. And, if you have to start Lee, or Hurns? Well, I’m sorry, but they should be ok.

And, there you have it, folks.

Jaguars 21 – Jets 10

Ballers: Leonard Fournette, Marqise Lee, Jaguars DST

Under the Radar: Bilal Powell, Elijah McGuire, Austin Seferian-Jenkins

Temper Expectations: Blake Bortles, Allen Hurns, Marcedes Lewis, Jermaine Kearse, Robby Anderson

Bums: Josh McCown

Pittsburgh Steelers at Baltimore Ravens

Spread: PIT -2

O/U: 45

Although, the Ravens have come out on top in 6 of the last 10 against the Steelers, and haven’t lost at home to them since 2012, these 2 division rivals always battle. The last 4 matchups have been decided by an average of 4.3 points, so it makes sense that the oddsmakers opened this one at 2.

What doesn’t make sense, is the total of 45. Neither offense has looked explosive, both defenses rank in the top-5 in points allowed per game, and of those last 10 matchups, only 3 have seen at least 45 points on the scoreboard.

Maybe Vegas knows something I don’t?

Surely, Vegas knows a lot of things I don’t, but you get the point. Here’s the breakdown on a fantasy points per game allowed basis:

QB RB WR TE DST K
Pittsburgh 10.57 (3rd) 20.80 (26th) 8.80 (1st) 6.20 (12th) 6.33 (17th) 4.00 (2nd)
Baltimore 11.12 (5th) 17.30 (18th) 13.47 (5th) 14.37 (32nd) 8.33 (23rd) 6.33 (8th)

It’s no surprise that both of these defenses rank among the league’s best, but what is surprising is that despite giving up 4 passing TDs to Bortles on Sunday, the Ravens have still allowed the 5th fewest fantasy points per game to opposing QBs.

True, they faced Dalton and the hapless Bengals in Week 1 followed by the Browns in Week 2, but in 19 career starts against the Ravens Big Ben has thrown for more than 275 yards in just 4 games, and has a 1.45 TD:INT ratio. In fact, over his last 5 games at Baltimore he’s thrown 4 TDs, 7 INTs, and is averaging about 248 yards per game. I think the Ravens pass d will be just fine here, even in a “tougher” matchup.

Antonio Brown does have at least 85 yards and a TD in 3 of the last 5 contests between these 2, though.

The final B, Mr. Bell, has the 6th most carries through 3 weeks, but his 180 yards rank 12th, and his 3.5 yards per carry rank among the likes of Jeremy Hill, and Jacquizz Rodgers. For comparison’s sake, he averaged 4.9 yards per carry a season ago.

Now, if you drafted Bell #1 or 2 overall, you probably hit the panic button back in Week 1. But, there is reason for optimism here as the Ravens have allowed 4.4 yards per carry to opposing backs to go with an additional 58.3 yards through the air – Bell has seen 6 or more tagets in 2 of the Steelers 3 games this season, and you have to figure they’ll do everything they can to get him going on Sunday.

On the Ravens side, Alex Collins has been the best of this backfield, putting up 124 yards over the past 2 weeks while averaging a little more than 7 yards per carry. In fact, he has just 5 fewer rushing yards than Allen and West combined over the past 2 despite just 18 offensive snaps – Allen had 77 over that same timeframe.

*Disclaimer* I have no affiliation to the Ravens, or their coaching staff. But, you have to figure if I noticed, someone within the organization has too, and he should see more touches. He’s a high risk/high reward play this week against Pittsburgh’s suspect run d.

Oh, and Flacco has an interception in 4 straight vs. the Steelers. Not that you were starting him anyway.

Overall, this should be a defensive struggle which likely comes down to who wins the field position battle, and commits the fewest mistakes. And, given the recent history at home in this series, I’d side with the Ravens. Even though I have about .3% confidence in betting this spread.

Steelers 16 – Ravens 17

Ballers: Le’Veon Bell, Antonio Brown, Steelers DST, Terrance West, Ravens DST

Under the Radar: Jesse James, Alex Collins

Temper Expectations: Martavis Bryant, Javorius Allen

Bums: Ben Roethlisberger, Joe Flacco, Jeremy Maclin, Mike Wallace

Tennessee Titans at Houston Texans

Spread: TEN -1

O/U: 44

I really wish Houston would bring back the Oilers. Besides being one of the few monikers that actually fits the city, their uniforms were amazing, they were fun to watch, and I miss my childhood.

Every time these two play, I feel like they should each get a tie in the standings, and the Oilers should get the W because the Titans name doesn’t even make sense (“Athens of the South” – foh), they ruined the unis, and Houston Texans is painfully unoriginal. The NFL should either combine these two, and make a super Oilers team. Or, disregard both of these former Oilers imposters.

Nonsensical rant complete.

Now that I’ve relieved myself of my daily hate, low key, this game will be fun to watch. And, from the looks of it, Mariota and Watson will be battling for years to come.

Here’s a look at the Oilers/Oilers breakdown of fantasy points allowed per game, by position:

QB RB WR TE DST K
Tennessee 20.51 (30th) 17.00 (17th) 26.90 (28th) 8.03 (20th) -1.33 (1st) 9.00 (19th)
Houston 17.83 (24th) 15.33 (12th) 23.63 (21st) 7.60 (18th) 13.00 (30th) 8.00 (15th)

It took 3 effing weeks, but this Texans secondary was finally exposed! I thought I was losing it for a second there, but thankfully, I was right. All is good in the world.

Now, putting my Finance degree to good use, I’ve come up with some very loosely estimated point totals by taking the average of the points per game scored of each team, then adding the average of the points they’ve allowed per game. I then halved the total, and added the resulting number to the opposition’s results (makes no sense I know). Anyway, only the Rams/Cowboys (51.3), and Raiders/Broncos (48.3) produced a higher loosely estimated point total than the 47 of this matchup.

In other words, this should be a high scoring affair.

Two dynamic QBs, porous secondaries, solid run games… You’re starting everyone in fantasy with a justifiable level of confidence, and in real life, the Oilers win.

Titans 23 – Texans 24

Ballers: Marcus Mariota, Rishard Matthews, Delanie Walker, Deshaun Watson, DeAndre Hopkins

Under the Radar: Eric Decker, Bruce Ellington, Ryan Griffin

Temper Expectations: DeMarco Murray, Derrick Henry, Lamar Miller, D’Onta Foreman

Bums: Texans DST

New York Giants at Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Spread: TB -4

O/U: 43.5

The Bucs were without several starters on Sunday, and it showed. They could be without quite a few again for this one, and the Giants need all the help they can get.

The Giants offense came to life in the 4th quarter against Philly, but I can’t lie, I turned it off after the 1st drive so I’m not sure if it was due to the Eagles going conservative, or the Giants actually playing well. But, the 24 points they put up in the 4th are 11 more than they put up in the 1st 2 weeks combined.

So, does the cause really even matter?

On the Bucs side, Jameis Winston threw just 12 incompletions on Sunday. Problem is, 25% of them landed in the hands of Vikings defenders. Thankfully for Jameis, the Giants have exactly zero interceptions through their 1st 3 games, so his turnover prone antics might catch a reprieve this week.

The Bucs will also get Dou… Oh, wait. They didn’t play in Week 1 so Doug Martin is still suspended, and it’s a shame because the Giants have been rather liberal towards opposing RBs.

QB RB WR TE DST K
NY Giants 14.51 (13th) 19.10 (23rd) 13.27 (4th) 10.87 (29th) 10.00 (26th) 11.33 (31st)
Tampa Bay 19.30 (26th) 14.65 (7th) 36.30 (32nd) 2.30 (3rd) 6.00 (15th) 5.50 (5th)

On paper, the Bucs defense is an ideal matchup for the Giants.

They defend the run well, having allowed opposing RBs just 2.7 yards per carry, and the Giants have the 2nd fewest rushing attempts in the NFL. So, there’s no temptation to even run. Also, Tampa just allowed Stefon Diggs to catch 8 passes for 173 yards and 2 TDs, while his teammate Adam Thielen caught 5 for 98, and guess where the Giants strength lies?

Now, if you’ve owned Eli in fantasy at any point over the past few years, you know you can’t always bank on him; regardless of the matchup. However, the Bucs have just 1 sack through 2 games, and with time, Eli and co. should be able to find plenty of success against this secondary.

It’s hard to imagine the Giants offense struggling in this one, and if they do, heads will roll. This is a proverbial “must win”.

On paper, the Giants defense will be problematic for the Bucs. However… Well, there isn’t one. Without Martin, the Buccaneers strength offensively lies with their receiving corps – the Giants have yet to allow a receiver reach 70 yards.

Giants get off the schneid.

Giants 31 – Buccaneers 21

Ballers: Eli Manning, Odell Beckham, Giants DST, Jacquizz Rodgers, Cameron Brate

Under the Radar: Shane Vereen – Q, Brandon Marshall, Sterling Shepard, O.J. Howard

Temper Expectations: Mike Evans, DeSean Jackson

Bums: Jameis Winston, Bucs DST, Evan Engram

San Francisco 49ers at Arizona Cardinals

Spread: ARI -7

O/U: 44.5

Yes, the ‘9ers are 0-3, but they’re trending upwards – new staff, young talent, and hope for the future. Meanwhile, the Cardinals just feel decrepit, and there isn’t much to suggest they’ll turn things around.

I’m really excited about this one.

Hopefully you picked up on my sarcasm because I’m not the least bit excited, and this game could be brutally painful to watch; especially if Carlos Hyde can’t go.

QB RB WR TE DST K
San Francisco 17.35 (23rd) 22.10 (29th) 23.00 (20th) 2.17 (2nd) 8.33 (22nd) 9.67 (22nd)
Arizona 19.61 (28th) 14.53 (6th) 27.30 (29th) 3.70 (5th) 9.33 (24th) 6.33 (9th)

The Cardinals have won 5 of the last 6 against the 49ers, and though they’ve been beyond underwhelming, odds are they’ll make it 6 of 7. But, the Cardinals are 0-3 against the spread thus far, while the ‘9ers have covered 2 of 3. So, spread-wise, my money is on San Fran.

I’ve spent entirely too much time on this game already. “Next” would’ve sufficed.

Random stat: the Cardinals have allowed a point per 11.9 yards gained (worst in the NFL), and a 1st down is granted at 10 yards gained. San Francisco has 49 1st downs on the season; about 16 per game. So, based on some loose math they should score about 14 points in this game.

I’ll give them an extra TD for the hell of it.

49ers 21 – Cardinals 27

Ballers: Chris Johnson, Larry Fitzgerald

Under the Radar: Brian Hoyer, Marquise Goodwin, Trent Taylor

Temper Expectations: Carlos Hyde – Q, Pierre Garcon, Carson Palmer, Andre Ellington, JJ Nelson – Q, John Brown – Q, Cardinals DST

Bums: George Kittle, Garrett Celek, Jermaine Gresham

Philadelphia Eagles at Los Angeles Chargers

Spread: LAC -1

O/U: 46.5

Coincidence:

noun
  1. a remarkable concurrence of events or circumstances without apparent causal connection.
    “it’s no coincidence that this new burst of innovation has occurred in the free nations”

I was so bored after that 49ers/Cardinals “preview” that I decided to jump on Twitter real quick, and the first thing that showed up on my feed was this picture of the Chargers girls, courtey of @ArashMarkazi

Charger-girls-300x211 The NFL Handbook - Week 4

Sorry, that really served no purpose other than me finding the timing random, and in need of a low-quality intro for this game.

Moving on.

QB RB WR TE DST K
Philadelphia 16.46 (18th) 15.37 (13th) 24.20 (23rd) 8.13 (21st) 7.00 (18th) 7.00 (13th)
LA Chargers 16.95 (20th) 16.23 (16th) 24.47 (25th) 4.17 (7th) 6.33 (16th) 8.67 (17th)

New city, new coach, but after 2 losses by 3 points or less and a bevvy of injuries, it’s the same tough luck Chargers.

The injury bug has bitten the Eagles too, and that could be the break these Chargers need to pick up their 1st W of the season. Both Eagles starting safeties are questionable, their best corner Ronald Darby is likely out another couple of weeks, and a depleted secondary is the last thing you need against this potent Chargers passing attack.

Eagles run d has been solid, however.

Philly held Kareem Hunt to 81 yards and 2 TDs in Week 2, and given his wizardry to this point, that’s the closest thing to an act of God. But, excluding the walking video game, the Eagles haven’t allowed a RB to exceed 30 yards on the ground while holding them to 2.77 yards per carry and 0 rushing TDs.

Through 3 weeks, Gordon has put up 13.9, 13.8, and 13.9 fantasy points respectively, so he’s definitely been consistent. But, if you’ve been waiting on a monster game, you’ll probably have to wait it out at least another week.

Despite their own laundry list of injuries on the defensive side of the ball, the Chargers have allowed a respectable 22.3 points per game, and have yet to see a QB put up over 230 yards passing. They’ve also shut down virtually every TE they’ve faced, including Travis Kelce.

Sell your stock in the Wentz Wagon, and invest in the Wendell Wagon as the Chargers run d has not been quite as solid.

After giving up 81 yards to C.J. Anderson in Week 1, Jay Ajayi dropped 122 on them, and then last week the aforementioned Mr. Hunt went for a modest 172. If this was one of those “what number comes next in the sequence?” tests, the answer would be 231.

Great news if you own LeGarrette Blount or Wendell Smallwood (don’t bank on them even combining for 231).

Coincidentally, after winning their 1st road game of 2016, the Eagles went on to drop 7 straight road games. Well, they won their 1st road game of 2017, and are 0-1 on the road since. They say history repeats itself, and the Chargers will send them one loss closer to repeating.

Eagles 19 – Chargers 24

Ballers: LeGarrette Blount, Alshon Jeffery, Philip Rivers, Keenan Allen, Antonio Gates

Under the Radar: Wendell Smallwood, Travis Benjamin, Hunter Henry, Chargers DST

Temper Expectations: Nelson Agholor, Eagles DST, Melvin Gordon

Bums: Carson Wentz, Torrey Smith, Zach Ertz, Tyrell Williams

Oakland Raiders at Denver Broncos

Spread: DEN -2.5

O/U: 47

Both of these squads took their 1st L of the season on Sunday, and both looked pretty wack in doing so. Now, not often do we see games with playoff implications this early in the season, but with the Chiefs sitting at 3-0 and showing no signs of slowing down, we might just look back to this game come December.

These two have split the season series in 2 straight seasons, and it’s likely we’ll see them make it 3 straight this season. Though on paper, it looks like a pretty one-sided matchup (in Denver’s favor).

Fantasy points allowed per game by position:

QB RB WR TE DST K
Oakland 20.46 (29th) 17.83 (20th) 19.47 (14th) 6.87 (17th) 3.67 (8th) 9.67 (22nd)
Denver 17.14 (22nd) 10.23 (2nd) 19.80 (16th) 10.13 (27th) 5.67 (14th) 9.33 (21st)

Now, I’ll say it again just in case you missed the 1st 2, looking at matchups based strictly on fantasy points is a bit like finding “the one” in a dark club after a few drinks. When you wake up in the morning and sober up, you might not like the results.

Fantasy points by themselves have a tendency to provide a distorted reality.

We’ll take the Broncos for this example – who have allowed the 11th most fantasy points to opposing QBs despite not allowing a single QB to reach the 250 yard mark. In fact, the 203.3 yards they’ve allowed per game through the air is better than all but 9 teams, and of the 10 receivers they’ve faced this season only 3 have exceeded 50 receiving yards and not a one has surpassed 70.

And, the ground game? Well, I’m sorry Marshawn, but that distorted reality thing doesn’t apply to their numbers against opposing running backs. Denver has allowed just 2.45 yards per carry to RBs, and have yet to allow a rushing TD despite facing 3 of the league’s top rushers in Gordon, Elliott, and McCoy.

Oakland’s d is a bit deceiving as well.

Sure, Cousins bent them over his knee and spanked them, but their 21 points per game ranks 14th, the 17.7 yards they’ve given up per point ranks 7th (fittingly), they’ve yet to allow a RB to rush for more than 55 yards, and haven’t allowed a receiver to put up more than 71.

Both teams have inflated fantasy numbers which are TD contingent, and predicting who scores the TDs each week is a crap shoot.

Broncos win, though.

Raiders 23 – Broncos 27

Ballers: Jared Cook, C.J. Anderson

Under the Radar: Virgil Green

Temper Expectations: Damn near everyone with fantasy relevance

Indianapolis Colts at Seattle Seahwaks

Spread: SEA -13

O/U: 41

I like Jacoby Brissett, but he’s about to be baptized by fire.

Colts 10 – Seahawks 23

Ballers: Russell Wilson, Doug Baldwin – Q, Jimmy Graham, Seahawks DST

Under the Radar: Frank Gore, Paul Richardson

Temper Expectations: T.Y. Hilton, Jack Doyle, Chris Carson

Bums: Jacoby Brissett, Donte Moncrief, Thomas Rawls

Washington Redskins at Kansas City Chiefs

Spread: KC -7

O/U: 49

The Redksins just handed the Chiefs AFC West rival their 1st L of 2017; could they make it 2 straight vs. the West? I mean, I guess technically they could, but it’s not very likely.

It’s only been 3 weeks, the injuries are starting to pile up in Kansas City, and if last week taught us anything, it’s that any team can win on any given Sunday.

Just not against the Chiefs at Arrowhead, where they’ve won 15 of their last 20.

KC hasn’t had a losing season since Andy Reid took over in 2013, and I think we all expected them to be good this season.

Just, not this good.

When you go into Foxborough, and knock of the champs (in convincing fashion), there really isn’t much between you and the Super Bowl; besides yourself.

… And, the Redskins.

… And, the 12 other teams remaining on their schedule.

QB RB WR TE DST K
Washington 11.05 (4th) 15.03 (10th) 11.53 (3rd) 10.33 (28th) 7.33 (19th) 8.67 (17th)
Kansas City 12.99 (9th) 18.57 (21st) 19.77 (15th) 5.67 (10th) 1.67 (7th) 7.00 (11th)

The Redskins defense came out last week and commanded some respeck on their name, and we all took notice.

Another thing I noticed was how they’ve allowed the 5th most fantasy points to opposing TEs thus far, and every #1 TE they’ve faced has at least 90 yards receiving, or a TD against them. I also noticed that Travis Kelce had just 1 catch for 1 yard last week.

A.k.a. he’s about to bounce back in a major way.

I then noticed that while Washington has been good in defending the RB/WR position, no team has had an answer for Kareem Hunt, and to a much lesser degree, Tyreek Hill this season.

Yes, the Eagles, Rams, and Raiders all have weapons offensively, and the ‘Skins held up just fine against them. But, based on what we’ve seen those teams are a taser and the Chiefs are an AK-47 (though the Rams are averaging more points per game – there’s that deception again).

Defensively, it’s the same opportunistic unit for the Chiefs that we’ve grown to know – they rank 2nd in sacks, and 3rd in interceptions. And, even at less than full strength, they present the toughest test this Washington offense has seen to this point.

It’s also worth noting that while Kansas City has faced the 2nd most pass attempts (logic suggests that’s why they’ve allowed the 10th most passing yards per game at 257.3) they held Brady and Rivers to 0 TDs. That pretty much speaks for itself if you were considering starting Kirk Cousins.

If Washington has a chance in this one, it’ll likely come at the hands of Chris Thompson. Thing is, the Chiefs know that too.

Redskins 13 – Chiefs 31

Ballers: Chris Thompson, Alex Smith, Kareem Hunt, Tyreek Hill, Travis Kelce, Chiefs DST

Under the Radar: Vernon Davis

Temper Expectations: Kirk Cousins, Samaje Perine, Jamison Crowder, Terrelle Pryor

Bums: Redskins DST, Albert Wilson, Chris Conley

As always, thanks for reading! Be sure subscribe, and follow me on Twitter @maxingyourodds for additional fantasy advice, statistical analysis, and betting tips.

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