Daily Fantasy Football: Sannes' Situations to Monitor in Week 8
Samuel L. Jackson would not be a fan of Week 8's daily fantasy football slate.
As he tells Marsellus Wallace in Pulp Fiction, "I don't wanna hear no about no mother(lovin') ifs."
Throughout this entire piece today, there may not be a word used more frequently than "if," so shield your eyes now, Mr. Jackson. It's gonna be a bumpy ride.
If Drew Brees plays.
If Alvin Kamara sits.
If David Johnson is "healthy."
We've still got a lot of questions left to be answered, and they should be all set by around 11:30 am Eastern on Sunday when inactives come out. But you're reading this now, and it would suck if I just left you with an, "I don't know; ask me later." So bring on the hypotheticals, y'all. There are about to be a boatload of ifs on this motherlovin' plane.
We're going to sort through all the moving parts on Sunday's main slate and discuss how we should handle various players in DFS depending on how the situation winds up playing out. Thankfully, not everything is up in the air now as we do have a couple of definitives we can discuss. Let's start with those before we transition into the situations that are a bit murkier.
Touches for the Taking in Detroit
Having things set in stone already is good, and we should cherish it. The downside is that it comes at the expense of Kerryon Johnson, who is now on injured reserve. Sad faces abound.
With Kerryon out, it seems like Ty Johnson should be in line for a bigger workload this weekend. But we also don't necessarily want to assume that if we're going to load up on a guy in daly fantasy, even if they are just $5,200 on FanDuel. So it's worthwhile to dive deeper into how things went after Kerryon left the game to see if we can project what to expect here.
Johnson left late in the first quarter, giving us more than three quarters of usage to look at. In those three quarters, Ty Johnson doubled up J.D. McKissic in both carries and targets, netting eight and four, respectively. That's encouraging given that McKissic had out-snapped Johnson the previous week.
That would be good by itself, specifically the target number. But there are other factors also working in Johnson's favor.
It's pretty noteworthy that even before Kerryon got hurt, Ty got a pair of carries. That means he figured into the gameplan for the week, which indicates the team wanted to get him involved. That should bode well for how they view him as a player.
Ty Johnson also out-snapped McKissic, logging 64.5% of the snaps compared to 25.0% for McKissic. McKissic got work on third downs whereas Johnson didn't have either a carry or a target there, but it was Johnson who dominated the early-down work.
Finally, as Malcolm Brown showed two weeks ago, in order for a value play to pay off, we do need them to get work in the passing game. Johnson getting four targets last week should tell us that's less of a concern. What's even better, though, is that Johnson ran 33 routes, according to Pro Football Focus, while McKissic ran 11. That's a bingo.
Basically, across the board, Johnson had a two-to-one edge over McKissic. If we give him two-thirds of the snaps, carries, and running-back targets on Sunday against a leaky New York Giants defense, he'll be an elite value play at $5,200.
That's why we should be in on Johnson for cash games. Cheap volume in good situations is super desirable. It's also why we should be actively looking to go overweight on Johnson in tournaments, even while knowing that he will be a very popular option.
We don't need to lock Johnson into every tournament lineup. There is a chance that guys like Tra Carson and Paul Perkins -- who weren't on the roster last week -- could eat into the work a bit, and we don't know that Johnson will stay on the field if the Lions trail as the team could favor McKissic. So you should leave yourself some wiggle room there. But overall, Johnson's arguably the best option on the slate, depending on who winds up playing elsewhere.
In those lineups where you're not using Johnson, it's not a bad idea to dabble in the Lions' passing offense. Matthew Stafford ranks sixth in Passing Net Expected Points (NEP) per drop back, meaning he has added the sixth-most expected points on a per-drop back basis once you take out expected points lost on events such as sacks, incompletions, and interceptions. This has arguably been Stafford's best season, and you're getting him at home against a Giants defense that ranks 24th against the pass, according to numberFire's schedule-adjusted metrics. That's a pretty fun pivot off of Johnson.
You could also stack Stafford with Johnson given Johnson's work in the passing game, so don't count that out. Kenny Golladay is in an attractive bounce-back spot, as well, given that he has 37.5% of the targets at least 16 yards downfield on a team that loves to let 'er rip. So make sure you get enough Johnson to be overweight relative to the field, but in the lineups where you don't have him, it's still wise to give other pieces in this offense a long look.
The Sterling Shepard Waiting Game
On the other side of this game, one of the lower-level "ifs" on this slate is whether Sterling Shepard will be able to give it a go. Ralph Vacchiano of SNY said on Twitter that Shepard likely would not be able to play, so let's discuss the Giants quickly without Shepard before moving onto other games.
We've got just one game of sample on the Giants with all their weapons outside of Shepard. Here's how the targets were divvied there with a "deep" target being one at least 16 yards downfield.
|In Week 7||Overall Targets||Deep Targets||RZ Targets|
There were no red-zone targets because the Giants ran only two plays in the red zone the entire game. That's notable because Daniel Jones lost 10.54 Passing NEP for the game, meaning he was pretty hideously inefficient. Patrick Peterson was back in the fold for the Arizona Cardinals, but with the Lions sitting 10th in schedule-adjusted pass defense, it's not going to get any easier this weekend. The Lions' defense is a top-tier option at $4,500.
But let us not forget that this is a Golden Tate revenge game. There are no other data points necessary to sell this one, obviously.
On a more serious note, Tate will have a difficult matchup with Justin Coleman this week, and Coleman has been a baller in 2019. But with Shepard out, Tate figures to get a good target load, and at $6,100, we can certainly buy into that.
With Jones' recent inefficiencies, it's hard to expect Saquon Barkley to be killing clock late in this game. With that said, he has at least five targets in every game he has played this year, and the Lions' defense ranks 27th in Rushing Success Rate allowed to opposing running backs, according to numberFire's Brandon Gdula. Barkley had 18 carries and 5 targets in his return and is just $8,600. He -- like Johnson -- is a cash-game consideration and a great tournament play, as well.
As for Evan Engram, the volume last week was disappointing for sure. But Engram also got something in his eye at one point in that game, and his vision was limited for parts of the second half. He has 22.3% of the team's targets in the games he has played with Jones, so Engram is an option at tight end, though he's likely below both Barkley and Tate in the pecking order there.
Sanders joins a 49ers pass-catcher group that lacks a clear target monster and has been rotating snaps all year. That probably won't change with Sanders entering a new offense, so we can likely ignore everybody here in Week 8. It will be an upgrade for Jimmy Garoppolo's efficiency down the line, but for now, Tevin Coleman and George Kittle are the only reliable fantasy pieces in that offense.
As for the Denver Broncos, Sanders vacates a 19.8% target share in the offense, which is a large number. It further solidifies Courtland Sutton's standing as someone who's going to get plenty of volume, and a lot of it will be of the high-leverage variety.
While playing alongside Sanders, Sutton had 25.4% of the team's targets this year with 42.9% of the deep targets and 32.3% of the red-zone targets. He was already getting massive volume; it was just hard to notice because of how bad the offense has been.
That issue is going to persist, and it's a reason we should be interested in the Indianapolis Colts' defense at $4,800. But Sutton's volume is going to be about as steady as you can ask for at $6,000, and that should offset some of the concerns around touchdown upside and his likely receiving extra coverage.
As far as where the other targets could go, Noah Fant and DaeSean Hamilton have both been running plenty of routes this year, but the targets and production haven't always been there. You could take a look at one of them as a value play. But the better route likely seems to go with the guy we know will get steady and desirable volume, and that's Sutton.
The New-Look Patriot Pass-Catchers
Sanu's new team also put Josh Gordon on injured reserve, which means -- yet again -- this offense is wildly different than it looked just last week. So any target numbers we're projecting are merely educated guesses.
It would seem a bit optimistic to project Sanu to play a full complement of snaps in Week 8. Even Antonio Brown played just 34% of the snaps in his Patriots debut, and Sanu is a step or seven below Brown as a receiver. We should probably expect something akin to what the Patriots had on the field in Week 7 as a result.
In that one -- their only game with Phillip Dorsett and without Gordon -- Julian Edelman had 28.6% of the targets, and James White had 19.1%. Nobody else was higher than 11.9%. Dorsett and Benjamin Watson both had limited roles in the offense but are in play this week because we know they'll be on the field. They're viable tournament targets. But it really does seem like the offense will mainly run through Edelman.
Edelman is known for his work as a short-yardage guy, but he actually does have 11 targets at least 16 yards downfield this year. Two of those came last week, and with Dorsett likely dealing with the speed of Denzel Ward on the outside, it wouldn't be a shock to see Edelman get some deep looks this week, as well. Edelman's only $6,600, and the floor and upside combo is attractive at that salary.
As for White, he has played four games since sitting due to the birth of his child, and he has had at least eight targets in each. What's more impressive is the work he has gotten close to the end zone.
In total, White leads the team with 12 red-zone targets for the full season, and eight have come within the past three games. He's tied with Edelman with four targets inside the 10-yard line this year, making it a bit of a surprise that he has scored just one total touchdown.
White is $6,000, and that's a great salary for someone with his passing-game workload. The problem -- as we've discussed before -- is it means you're sacrificing one of your running-back slots for a guy who's probably not going to have a multi-touchdown day. With Ty Johnson at $5,200 and a couple other guys in Chase Edmonds and Latavius Murray potentially available in expanded workloads, White loses some of his luster. He's not completely out of play, but it's hard to prioritize him with the other values on the slate.
As for Tom Brady, despite a favorable schedule, he ranks just 13th in Passing NEP per drop back among 36 quarterbacks with at least 75 drop backs. Once you adjust for that schedule, the Patriots' passing offense ranks 17th in the league, per numberFire's metrics. We likely haven't seen the effects of the injuries to the offensive line and pass-catchers yet because the opposing schedule has been so soft.
This may not be the week to change that, though. The Cleveland Browns will get Ward and Greedy Williams back, but Myles Garrett was added to Thursday's injury report with a knee injury. They're ranked 20th against the pass right now, meaning they're not a defense we need to avoid, but they're also not the easiest task the Patriots have faced this year. As a result, Brady is still an option for DFS, but like White, he's not on the level of being a priority.
Uncertainty in Atlanta
As for Sanu's old team, there's volume for the taking here with Sanu vacating 15.0% of the targets. But it may not wind up mattering.
As he continues to nurse his ailing sprained ankle, #Falcons QB Matt Ryan is not expected to practice today. As they get Matt Schaub ready to go...
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) October 24, 2019
If Ryan can't go, then Matt Schaub steps into the fold. Although Schaub would step into a good situation, it would be hard for a guy in his age-38 season who hasn't thrown 100 passes in a season since 2013 to keep an offense afloat. Schaub starting would likely take Julio Jones, Calvin Ridley, Austin Hooper, and Devonta Freeman all off the map.
The same is true (to an extent) for the other side of this game. The Seattle Seahawks adore pounding that rock when they're out front. If they aren't pressed, it's likely going to lead to massive volume for Chris Carson and almost none for the passing game. As such, if Schaub is the starter, Carson and the Seahawks' defense are likely the only high-upside fantasy options on the table.
But that's where we get back to our friend, Samuel L., and start to talk about the ifs. If Ryan plays, this game looks a whole lot tastier.
Ryan ranks 12th in Passing NEP per drop back this year, and he'd be facing the league's 23rd-ranked pass defense. The Falcons would put up points in this spot, inflating the value of their skill guys, and it'd prevent the Seahawks from getting a three-point lead and completely ignoring the forward pass. It's not hyperbolic to say the complexion of this entire slate changes if Ryan is unable to play.
Let's discuss what goes on here if Ryan does play because that's a lot rosier than the alternative, and it seems like there's still a chance that happens.
Ryan playing would be huge for Ridley. For the full season, Ridley has 15.7% of the team's targets while playing 71.8% of the snaps. Both of those numbers are likely to go up with Sanu gone, and that could smooth out the one issue with Ridley's game.
Ridley has been used largely as a deep threat this year with 15 of his 44 targets being at least 16 yards downfield. That's great for his upside, and Ridley has shown off the ceiling it gives him a couple of times this year.
But that downfield workload also gives him a lower floor because deep work isn't associated with a catch rate as high as intermediate and short throws. If Ridley gets more of those gimme targets while still getting work down the field, his floor would go up without sacrificing his ceiling. That'd be a major shift for a player whose upside is already better than his salary indicates. If Ryan goes, Ridley is a great tournament option once again.
Sanu's departure would also open up some targets for Jones and Hooper, who are currently at 22.1% and 19.6% of the targets this year, respectively. Even with a muted target share, Jones has still had 93 or more receiving yards in four of seven games, and his salary is down to $7,800. He'd also very much be in play if Ryan can give it a go.
The other bit of news with the Falcons is that Ito Smith has already been ruled out, which opens up some additional looks for Freeman. If those looks were tied to Schaub, it'd be hard to get too jazzed up. But if they're tied to Ryan, it's a different story given that Freeman has had work in the passing game this year. Freeman would likely grade out below some of the other values we'll get to in the next section, but he'd certainly be in play when stacking this game.
And if Ryan's able to go, stacking will be a fully viable strategy.
As mentioned, the Seahawks' defense hasn't been good this year, though they have recently added Jarran Reed and Quandre Diggs into the fold. Regardless, the Falcons could put up points and force the Seahawks to keep their foot on the gas, which would be good for the Seahawks' passing game.
Last week was the first game we've seen the Seahawks play without Will Dissly, meaning it is our best sample of what to expect going forward. Interestingly, DK Metcalf led the team with nine targets while Tyler Lockett was second with seven. However, that could have been influenced by Lockett seeing coverage from Marlon Humphrey, who is a difference-maker in the secondary. That could allow the pendulum to swing back toward Lockett this week.
The problem is that you're not getting either of these guys at a discount. Lockett is $7,200 on FanDuel, and Metcalf is $6,600. They're located near guys whose target projections are much higher than their own, especially if the Seahawks don't have to throw all that much during the game. As such, we probably shouldn't go too heavy on either guy despite the matchup, but they are players we'll want to use when stacking this game.
The one guy who is viable regardless of the script is Carson. He's expensive at $8,000, but he gets work both as a rusher and a receiver, giving him a high floor and a high ceiling in this matchup.
Because of Carson's workload, he might actually be the best stacking partner with Russell Wilson. If you stack those two together, you're likely getting access to every offensive touchdown they score, and last week, it would have gotten you access to all but 14 yards for the offense. The floor is higher with this stacking combo than with any of the pass-catchers, and the ceiling is likely equal. So if we get full-throttle Russ in this spot, feel free to target him in tournaments and pair him often with Carson.
The Saints' Fluidity
You thought having just Matt Ryan be in question was fun; wait until we have a stud quarterback and a stud running back on the same team both in flux. Now we're talkin'.
That's what we have with the Saints as both Brees and Kamara are up in the air right now after getting in limited practices on Thursday. It sounds like both plan on playing, but Kamara said the same last week, and that didn't happen. So let's plan for all four combinations of how this thing could play out.
Combo one is we assume that we get the same offense as last week with both guys sitting. In that case, Latavius Murray is arguably the best value on the slate, even ahead of Ty Johnson.
Murray finished last week's game against the Chicago Bears with 27 carries and 6 targets while playing 83.3% of the snaps. He was basically Carson with a better offensive line in front of him, and we'd be getting that for just $6,200.
The other value with Murray is that we've already seen what he'd do in the absence of Kamara, whereas we haven't seen that with Johnson. As such, if we get Murray as the bellcow again, we should shove him to the top of our list at running back.
Teddy Bridgewater would be interesting here, as well. He attempted seven deep passes in last week's game, his most in a game this year. You need deep passes to unlock upside at quarterback, and Bridgewater showed some of that last week.
Bridgewater is $7,500 and facing a team that likes to operate quickly. The Cardinals' defense played well with Peterson back in the fold last week, but Bridgewater would at least be a tournament option if he were to start here.
The same could be true for Michael Thomas, largely due to Bridgewater's loosened leash. Thomas had three deep targets against Chicago after getting four deep targets total across Bridgewater's first four starts. Thomas has double-digit targets in three straight and catches everything within a country mile, so we can dig him at $8,500 even if Brees can't claw his way back.
The tertiary pieces within the offense, though, would still lack appeal if Bridgewater were the starter simply because the Saints don't throw as much. Because of this, we can love Murray while considering Bridgewater and Thomas in this scenario, but we likely shouldn't go too much further.
Combo two is where we get Kamara back while Brees continues to idle. There, Bridgewater and Thomas would still be in play, and they might actually be even a bit more tasty given that the defense would have an extra weapon for which to account. Obviously, Murray would be tough to stomach there.
Kamara himself would be difficult to diagnose. We know he's talented, but he's also coming off of an ankle injury with his salary at $8,100. That's only $500 less than Barkley, and it's right above Carson and Leonard Fournette. Especially with how well Murray played last week, the Saints don't need to push Kamara right away, so it might be wise to hold off on firing him out there just yet.
Combo three involves Brees getting the ball with Kamara sitting. Clearly, we're going to love Murray there, as well, but we could potentially even consider Brees.
Whereas Kamara is fresh off an ankle injury, Brees had surgery right after Week 2. If he's able to play, it likely indicates that there isn't a risk of re-injury, and we shouldn't have many limitations on him. Both are coming back from the rehab group, but the situations are different enough where we have to handle them individually.
Brees is only $7,200 facing a pace-up team at home. If we're willing to consider Bridgewater at $300 more, then we had better be into Brees, as well. He'd be a really tempting tournament play if he were to go, though the questions about how they'll run the offense should keep Brees off the cash-game radar.
Ginn has been getting deep work even with Bridgewater at the helm. He has 10 deep targets over the past four games, and seven have come in the past two alone. Ginn popped off for 101 yards with Brees in the opener, and he's just $5,300. It wouldn't be a terrible idea to slide right back to him here.
As for Hill, this is assuming Jared Cook sits again after missing practice Wednesday and Thursday. Hill was playing snaps even when Cook was healthy, but he played 68.0% of the snaps last week while running a season-high 19 routes, according to Pro Football Focus. Hill's target total is unlikely to exceed five, but he's $5,000 and in one of the better game environments on the slate. You could certainly do worse for a value tight end. He'd be on a similar plane to his former teammate, Ben Watson, if Brees were to go.
The fourth and final combo is where both Brees and Kamara lace 'em up, in which case we mesh the past two combos together: we can dabble in the secondary passing-game options, but the running backs get major downgrades. This has the potential to be a great game for fantasy, but there are tons of moving parts. However, no matter who winds up playing, it should be obvious we're going to want to get at least some exposure to this team.
David Johnson Looking Doubtful
The other side of that game could also feature a value running back, and the odds of that happening seem more and more likely as the week goes along.
Cardinals running back David Johnson was not on the field for the open portion of practice today. He didn't practice yesterday. Injury report comes out later this afternoon.
— Josh Weinfuss (@joshweinfuss) October 24, 2019
Johnson officially did not practice, meaning he's already behind last week's schedule where he was limited both Thursday and Friday. It seems pretty clear by this point that he re-aggravated his ankle injury on the first drive of that Giants game, and that makes it look as if he'll sit this one out.
Assuming that's the case, we're clearly going to be into Chase Edmonds at $6,100. But where would he grade out among the value plays?
With Johnson chilling on the sidelines, Edmonds played 93.9% of the snaps, getting 27 carries and 4 targets. Ignore the production; the value in that workload alone is enough to make him an elite DFS option. He just happened to beast out within that work, too.
Edmonds ran a route on 18 of 23 drop backs, meaning he was a full-blown workhorse there. They did add Zach Zenner and Alfred Morris to the fold this week, and Edmonds was the only back other than Johnson healthy last week, but there is very little reason to scale him back here.
Basically, with Edmonds, we can expect a similar workload to what David Johnson was getting before he got hurt. And if Johnson were $6,100 in this game, we'd load up on him for sure.
As far as where Edmonds grades out relative to Latavius Murray and Ty Johnson, Edmonds projects to have a workload similar to Murray's, but his matchup is far worse than both of those guys. As such, if Kamara sits, Murray would still sit atop our list among the value running backs. Edmonds would likely have to be second ahead of Johnson, though, just because we have a better idea of what his workload will look like. You could potentially go with Johnson given that his salary is lower and his situation better as a home favorite, but the certainty around Edmonds' workload is super valuable.
On the off chance David Johnson is able to go, you could still talk yourself into some shares of Edmonds just in case Johnson remains limited. However, that would easily be enough to shove Edmonds off the cash-game radar, and it would make Ty Johnson once again the superior choice between the two.
Kenny Thrills Back
The consolation is that we get to watch Kenny Stills ball out again, and there are very few things in this world sweeter than that.
This is Stills' seventh season in the NFL, and he has always been a secondary piece within his offenses, but he's a key piece none-the-less. We've seen the effects that DeSean Jackson's absence has had on the Philadelphia Eagles without that deep threat in the fold; those guys carry value even when they're not getting targets given what defenses have to do to account for them.
When Fuller has missed time in the past, Watson's offenses have lacked that component. It's likely why the Houston Texans wanted Stills in the Laremy Tunsil trade before the season. We can question the long-term viability of that trade, but for 2019 specifically, tossing in Stills is paying off.
That's why we shouldn't worry about Watson's splits with and without Fuller for this weekend. This is the first time he has still had a deep threat even when Fuller has been out, meaning his efficiency may not dip too much this time around. Aaron Rodgers lit up the Oakland Raiders last week while throwing to dudes he found at the local YMCA, so Watson is one of the better quarterback options available at $8,400.
As for Stills in fantasy, we're going to want to use him even while acknowledging that his workload is going to be volatile. Despite playing 93.9% of the snaps last week, he finished with just five targets, so the floor here is going to be low. The ceiling, though, will be high enough to compensate.
Stills was the intended receiver on two of Watson's four deep attempts last week. He had just five total targets, but because those looks were downfield, Stills still managed to rack up 105 receiving yards, his second time this year topping the 89-yard mark.
The general rule of thumb at wide receiver is that in order to make a perfect lineup, you need to be able to get 85 receiving yards or score two touchdowns. Stills has hit that yardage threshold twice this year, and one of them came as a role player. He's also playing at home and indoors, which will increase the odds that those deep balls hit. The floor for Stills is absolutely low, but at $5,700, we still need to have him in a healthy number of lineups.
As for DeAndre Hopkins, he got 12 targets last week with Fuller going down, amounting to 38.7%. It still didn't include a ton of deep work, but he added two targets in the red zone. Once we adjust for his target depth decreasing, Hopkins shapes up to be similar to Michael Thomas except in a slightly higher-upside offense. That makes Hopkins abundantly tasty here at $8,200.
The final piece to discuss is Keke Coutee, who played 69.2% of the snaps with Fuller out last week. He finished with five targets, one of which was deep and two of which were in the red zone. Coutee had a fairly major role close to the end zone last year when healthy, too, so a touchdown seems firmly within his range of outcomes. And he's going to have a higher catch rate than Stills given the area of the field in which his targets come. The one issue is that Coutee's odds of hitting our 85-yard barrier are much lower than Stills', so the upside discussion is different here. There's only $600 difference between Stills and Coutee, and with the gap in their respective ceilings, we should have a strong lean toward Stills when choosing between the two.
Tyrell Williams Up, Josh Jacobs (Potentially) Down
As we've discussed on our DFS recap podcasts a couple of times recently, Josh Jacobs' stock has been on the rise. He's finally getting work in the passing game, and his role in negative game scripts is no longer a black hole. So of course he's injured now.
Jon Gruden on Josh Jacobs missing practice: "He’s got a legitimate shoulder (injury). He got hurt in the Green Bay game, had it shot up. He’s still very sore and we’ll list him as questionable for the game.”
— Scott Bair (@BairNBCS) October 23, 2019
Williams has missed the past two games with a foot injury, but he's in line to return thanks to a pair of limited practices to start the week. How does this impact the rest of the offense?
Even though it adds another viable pass-catcher into the offense, Darren Waller is still a great option. He had 30.1% of the team's targets in the games that Williams played, a number that has actually gone down in Williams' absence. Thanks to the value running backs available, we're going to be able to afford Waller at $6,800, and he's a great option both for game stacks and as a standalone play.
Williams himself is a bit harder to trust. He's dealing with plantar fasciitis, which is not an injury that just skitters into the shadows all at once. He's probably going to have to play banged up for a bit. When you consider that Williams never had more than seven targets in the four games he did play, it's pretty easy to avoid him as a DFS option. But his return is still a plus for Waller, which is the bigger note here.
As for Jacobs, his salary is up to $7,200, and we've got plenty of value options available at running back this week. We don't need to force it with a guy who might not get a full workload. Additionally, they'd likely shift into a committee approach if Jacobs were to sit, and we don't have that issue with other value plays. So this backfield seems like an easy one to avoid in this spot, making Waller the one shining play on this side of the game.
Hey, the Chargers Are Hurt Again
This week, the Los Angeles Chargers get left tackle Russell Okung back, meaning they were finally in line to have all their good offensive players outside of Mike Pouncey on the field together for the first time since Lyndon B. Johnson's presidency.
You knew this wouldn't last.
Keenan Allen did not practice today because of a hamstring injury.
Full Thursday injury report for #Chargers and Bears: pic.twitter.com/U37s8GWj7w
— Daniel Popper (@danielrpopper) October 24, 2019
Keenan Allen could be fine. But missing practice completely after being a full participant on Wednesday is about as red-flag-y as you can possibly get.
In two games with Hunter Henry back, Allen had 21.5% of the targets, tied with Henry for the team lead. Mike Williams was third with 20.3%, and Austin Ekeler was fourth at 15.2%. This would be a major absence, and it would open up a lot of volume.
Henry's salary at $6,700 accounts for his expanded role, but Williams' at $5,700 does not. He was in play for DFS at that salary even before Allen got hurt. If Allen were to sit, sure, Williams would see tougher coverage, but he'd also be in line to get peppered with targets. Given how many deep looks and red-zone targets Williams has gotten, we should probably be in on him regardless, and we can up that exposure if Allen can't play.
Ekeler isn't cheap at $6,800, but an injury for Allen would also increase the allure in him. Ekeler lined up in the slot or out wide on 20 snaps in Week 7, according to Pro Football Focus; his previous high for the season was 13 snaps, and he had done so more than six times only once. They could just keep him on the field the entire game, whether as a receiver or a running back, and let this dude flash his talents. It'd be a risk, and Ekeler would rank below guys like Le'Veon Bell in this same range, but it would certainly make him interesting.
The other side of this game isn't completely out of play, either. The Chargers' defense let Ryan Tannehill gut it last week, and they now rank 29th against the pass, according to numberFire's metrics. It may not be enough to get you to use Mitchell Trubisky given his sudden absence of rush attempts, but Allen Robinson -- even as he lines up across from Casey Hayward -- is someone we should consider at $7,100.
A Pace-Up Spot Across the Pond
London games tend to carry a bit of a stench because they are often sloppy games that include such exciting teams as the Tennessee Titans and Jacksonville Jaguars. So, when we get an actual good game there, some people may be wary about diving in.
The main appeal here is that both teams run at a blistering pace. The Rams have the league's fastest situation-neutral pace, according to Football Outsiders; the Bengals are third. That means we're going to see a bunch of plays here, and that's valuable.
There is no wind or rain in the forecast, which can sometimes be a concern. Although the under has hit in the past four games at Wembley Stadium, the over hit the five games before that. London isn't the boogeyman it's made out to be, so it probably shouldn't even worry us that 89% of the money at FanDuel Sportsbook is on the under, according to oddsFire. This game sets up well for DFS.
That means all the usual pieces are in play here. Jared Goff is facing the 28th-ranked pass defense and isn't likely to face a ton of pressure in the pocket. At $8,000, he's another top-notch tournament option, and it wouldn't be outrageous to consider him in cash games.
This game also sets up well for a bounce-back out of Cooper Kupp. Kupp has been held to fewer than 10 FanDuel points in consecutive games, but he still has 27.2% of the Rams' total targets and 30.3% of their red-zone targets. We can definitely dabble in Robert Woods and Brandin Cooks, but Kupp is the one guy on the cash-game radar at $7,700.
You might not want to side with Gerald Everett in cash games, but his role of late is tremendous even with his salary up to $6,100. In four games since Tyler Higbee came back from injury, Everett has 19.0% of the Rams' targets and 27.6% of the deep targets. He and Goff haven't been connecting on those deep looks, but they give Everett much more yardage upside than most tight ends. He's firmly on the map at $6,100.
Based on his current role, Todd Gurley is overpriced at $7,400. Eventually, he's going to hit some negative touchdown regression, and the flaws in his workload will come to light. This may not be the week for that, though.
The Rams have the highest implied total on the main slate, meaning they're going to generate touchdown chances. With Malcolm Brown out last week (as he will be in Week 8, as well), Gurley handled all five running-back carries inside the 10 and scored on a target from 13 yards out. His touchdown upside here is still significant.
The reason we can't side with Gurley in cash games is that the touchdown was his lone target of the day, and we need more passing-game involvement from a back at $7,400. We can definitely go here in tournaments and stack Gurley with the Rams' defense, but Gurley's not the biggest slam dunk on this team.
The pace-up nature of the game also helps inflate play volume for the Bengals. We just shouldn't expect too much efficiency within that volume given how poorly they've played since John Ross' injury.
We've got a two-game sample on them since Alex Erickson's snap rate spiked in Week 6. Here's how the targets have been divvied in those two games.
|Past 2 Games||Overall Targets||Deep Targets||RZ Targets|
If you're wondering why Tyler Boyd has disappointed the past two weeks, it's likely because all the high-leverage looks are going elsewhere. It's hard to smash even on heavy volume when that's the case, especially when your offense isn't moving the ball.
You could make a case for any of these guys given that they could all easily project for eight or so targets. But it's hard to know who will be the one who actually comes through on the volume they get. Because of this, you don't have to run it back with anybody on the Bengals when stacking the Rams. If you do, it should be one of these three receivers. Boyd is likely still the best option, but Erickson is also at least in play at $5,500.
The Jets' Pace With Sam Darnold
The polar opposite of Rams-Bengals from a pace perspective is down in Florida where the Jaguars are hosting the New York Jets. Those two teams are 28th and 30th, respectively, in situation-neutral pace, so it's easy to understand why the total slid down to 40.5 overnight, according to oddsFire. But this isn't as grim of a game from a pace perspective as it seems at first glance.
The main reason for that is that Sam Darnold -- sans a toenail -- will be at quarterback for the Jets. Even after a haunting Monday night thrashing by the Patriots, that makes this game more appealing.
When Darnold was out, Adam Gase wanted to reduce the sample of having Luke Falk on the field. That's what we would all do if the alternative was more Luke Falk. But when Darnold has played, the Jets have operated at a more rapid pace. Here's a comparison of the two splits along with where each mark would rank if it were the Jets' full-season mark, according to Football Outsiders.
|Jets in 2019||Seconds Per Play||Full-Season Rank|
|With Sam Darnold||28.3||17th|
|Without Sam Darnold||31.4||32nd|
Not only are the Jets last when Darnold doesn't play, but they're last by a full 1.5 seconds. Instead of that, they're more in the middle of the pack. You can poo-poo this by citing that they were down huge against the Patriots, necessitating a faster tempo, but they also had second-half leads in the other two games Darnold played. Projecting them as more of a middling-pace team seems to be the play with Darnold active.
Neither defense here is all that threatening, and both are likely to be without key pieces. C.J. Mosley is (once again) dealing with a groin injury, the Jaguars traded Jalen Ramsey, and Marcell Dareus is out with a core injury. Even with the total coming down, the over here may be the play.
That bodes well for several pieces in the game, but the biggest no-brainer on the board even if this game does creep along is Leonard Fournette. Over the past three weeks, he has more adjusted opportunities (carries plus two-times the player's targets to account for the value discrepancy between a carry and a target in half-PPR scoring settings) per game than any running back in the league. That includes Christian McCaffrey, though McCaffrey's sample is just two games rather than three for Fournette. With this massive workload, Fournette is a cash-game play and a top-end target for tournaments.
The Jaguars' pass-catchers are a bit tougher to project with Chris Conley's role spiking back up last week and Marqise Lee potentially returning from injury. Dede Westbrook is dealing with a shoulder injury, which could open up some targets, but things are a bit spread out here. D.J. Chark is still viable and clearly the top option here given how many high-leverage looks he gets, but he doesn't carry the same appeal he had just a few weeks ago.
On the other side, the Jets' up-tempo nature is a plus for their fantasy pieces. Le'Veon Bell has averaged just 14.5 carries and 2.5 targets per game since Darnold came back, but we also have to remember that he had nine targets in Week 1 while playing with Darnold. Bell's workload should spring back up soon. Additionally, with Jamison Crowder potentially getting banged up during Thursday's practice, there may be extra targets on the table. Bell is not as great of a play as Fournette, but he's definitely underpriced at $7,000.
If Crowder does miss, that could help inflate the target total for Robby Anderson a bit, as well. Anderson has been in the trade rumor mill, but in the three games Darnold has played, Anderson has 22.6% of the overall targets and 11 total deep targets. That's one less deep target in three games than DeAndre Hopkins has in seven.
Anderson is $6,200 and will still have a tough matchup even with Ramsey out, but he's always able to pop off a long play and pay off in a hurry. If his floor gets a boost with Crowder out, that makes him even more enticing. This means that all of Fournette, Bell, and Anderson bring significant levels of appeal even in a game that looks pretty ugly before you dive in, and we certainly shouldn't overlook it.
A Resurgence in Tennessee?
Last week made it seem pretty clear that Ryan Tannehill is an upgrade for the Titans over Marcus Mariota. He was able to move the ball efficiently, and he helped them pick up a tight win.
In that game, both Corey Davis and A.J. Brown topped 64 receiving yards, and they're set to face a horrific Tampa Bay Buccaneers secondary this weekend. This should mean we're good to lock them in this week, right?
It may. But there are still some pretty major concerns here.
Namely, the Titans' play-calling did not change with Tannehill at the helm. On first and second down in the first half (when coaches can call the game as they please without considering game flow and other factors), the Titans threw just 47% of the time, according to Sharp Football Stats. In the six games that Mariota started, it was 53%.
In other words, the Titans were still a run-first offense. As the Seahawks and Minnesota Vikings have shown, that can work if your offense is efficient enough, but Tannehill ain't Russell Wilson or Kirk Cousins, no matter how good he looked last week.
The other factor that played into the increased targets for Davis and Brown was that Delanie Walker left after just five snaps, narrowing the target tree a bit. Walker has missed the first two practices this week and could very well sit. But if he plays, the targets would likely diffuse once again.
The run-first nature of the Titans makes it difficult to love Tannehill regardless of his salary or matchup. He's also shaping up as a potentially popular option, but there are plenty of paths to a disappointing output here.
As for the receivers, you can certainly go here if Walker can't play. Both Davis and Brown are $5,500, which is fairly cheap, and they do have a good matchup again. But they're also in the same range as Stills and Mike Williams, both of whom will likely get better quarterback play and a good number of high-leverage targets. They're not the worst options in the world, but they're not out of the woods within what is still an archaic offense.
Wind Extinguishing Smokey in Buffalo
Given how terrible the Philadelphia Eagles' secondary has been this year, we should want to load up on John Brown this weekend. There is one potential problem there, though, and it's not even Brown's overthrow-happy quarterback. It's the weather.
Right now, wind speeds are projected to be at 15 miles per hour in Buffalo, the highest winds on the slate. And wind matters a lot for wide receivers, especially ones who project to be popular.
Last year, there were 23 wide receivers who wound up among the eight most popular options in the FanDuel Sunday Million who were playing in wind speeds of 10 miles per hour or higher. Those players hit their salary-implied expected point total just 39.1% of the time. The receivers playing in wind speeds lower than five miles per hour hit value 56.9% of the time. Chalky wide receivers are hard to trust in general, but it's even worse when the winds get nasty.
We know that Josh Allen has the arm strength to cut through that wind. Additionally, the wind projection could come down prior to kickoff on Sunday. As such, it's wise to check back on the weather on the numberFire games and lineups page when finalizing lineups. If the wind comes down, then there aren't many great reasons to avoid Brown. But if it stays where it's currently projected, it may be wise to start to pedal back on our exposure levels.