Sunday Morning Huddle: Week Seven

George Kritikos


Let’s face it, there’s an enormous amount of information out there on Sunday mornings. We’re not going to waste your time by repeating the news and notes about who’s in or out this week, since that’s really not what you visit us for. We’re also not going to do another article on starts or sits this week – we already have the personalized lineup advice for you on the premium content. Again, there are 100 places you can go for that, so no reason to repeat ourselves or others.

The Sunday Morning Huddle goes through each game and states what we’re looking to see from a dynasty perspective. We’ll pick one player from each team who we have our eye on and describe why their weekend performance is a key one for them in relation to their dynasty value.

Early Games

Minnesota at Buffalo

The carousel at running back in Minnesota has made many dynasty owners dizzy. After Matt Asiata became the NFL’s lamest starting running back, the drums were going for Jerick McKinnon. Last week’s game finally featured McKinnon (who had 18 touches to Asiata’s three) including a stellar six catches. The coaching staff claims they want Asiata to get more work this week but McKinnon is the better option. Let’s find out if they come to their senses.

Remember C.J. Spiller? Well the Bills sure have forgotten him. They gave him six carries last week (to Fred Jackson’s ten) but the game was a blowout. The surprise was Spiller having no receptions in the come from behind effort. Many owners are losing faith in Spiller but he is young and a buy low. That makes him a weekly watch.

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Cleveland at Jacksonville

Against a defense that has allowed 12 touchdowns and only one interception, Brian Hoyer is a player of interest. He has been efficient this year and has managed to quiet the Johnny Manziel talk for the time being. The receivers should benefit in this game and Hoyer is likely tightening his grip on the job after this week.

No storm puns this week as Storm Johnson was a natural disaster for dynasty owners last week (ok, maybe one pun). Denard Robinson surprisingly outsnapped Johnson and it was later revealed that Johnson was on a ten carry count. This offense is not producing any startable backs, but desperation and bye weeks breeds optimism – that alone is worth the show.

Miami at Chicago

This is it! Call the 2013 preseason hype machine because Lamar Miller has only Daniel Thomas as a threat to his starting role. This time, however, he looks much improved and poised to take on the job. However, he has yet to surpass 15 carries, even when Knowshon Moreno was first injured. Against a still susceptible Bears run defense, the running back deployment will be telling.

Did you know Martellus Bennett is second on the Bears in receptions with 36 (first is Matt Forte who leads the NFL with 46)? However, after securing five or more catches in each of the first four weeks, the Black Unicorn has been held under that number in the last two. Mythical and beautiful, Bennett may be at his sell high point as the wide receivers are healthy and Forte is the underneath target of choice.

New Orleans at Detroit

With Jimmy Graham out, who does Drew Brees turn to at tight end? Josh Hill has flashed the athleticism, but Ben Watson has been a larger part of this offense based on snap count and targets. As a dynasty owner, I would be stashing the upside of Hill, but would not be surprised if Watson is the primary tight end while Graham is out. In a game that is likely to feature frequent scoring, this may be a good example of where each of these players are viewed in the offensive game plan.

For the fourth game in a row, Eric Ebron has seen an increase in snap count. Also, for the third game in a row, Ebron has had four targets (his season high). While his production is still less than starter quality, I expect that to change in short order, particularly as Matt Stafford operates without Calvin Johnson. The prediction is shootout and Ebron will set new highs in targets and receptions.

Tennessee at Washington

Last week, not only did Bishop Sankey lead the team in carries (18), but no other running back had more than two. While he wasn’t very successful (3.4 yards per carry), Sankey is asserting himself as the lead back for the Titans. Washington does not present an easy running back matchup so it will test the Titans’ commitment to the rookie.

Remember Ryan Clark? The former Pittsburgh Steeler is now plying his trade as a Redskin. Among the leaders at safety in total tackles and playing some of the best coverage of his career, Clark has become a good option for IDP owners needing to employ a secondary specific player. Clark also has the second highest assisted tackles, a product of bad luck, so he may convert some of those into solos and be a solid start this week.

Atlanta at Baltimore

Most people are unaware that the NFL leader in dropped passes is Levine Toilolo with six, including three last week. While Atlanta is shallow at the tight end position, they are deep at the wide receiver position. Do Harry Douglas and Devin Hester get additional snaps (or at least additional targets) in an effort to minimize Toilolo’s influence on the passing game?

After a large disparity in targets after the first four weeks, Torrey Smith and Steve Smith have seen an equal number of targets in the last two weeks (13 each). The more recent development is closer to what dynasty owners were expecting coming into the regular season. This game will be an intriguing matchup to see if Atlanta’s high scoring offense forces Baltimore to spread the ball around or ride the hot hand at wide receiver.

Carolina at Green Bay

Through six weeks, Antoine Cason is leading the NFL in total (and solo) tackles from the cornerback position. He is also the sixth most targeted corner, and with an 80% catch rate against, Cason has plenty of opportunities to tackle a receiver. Against Green Bay, he should see a lot of passes thrown his way and makes for a good IDP option.

In the last two weeks, Davante Adams actually has had more targets and catches than Randall Cobb. The time to buy low has passed and a game against Carolina (tied for second in touchdowns allowed to wide receivers) will only raise his stock even more. Adams has officially arrived.

Cincinnati at Indianapolis

For a second straight week, Mohamed Sanu will be the lead receiver for the Bengals. Last week led to 15 targets resulting in 11 catches for 132 yards. In week seven, Sanu will likely see a lot of Vontae Davis, a cornerback who is second in the NFL in opposing quarterback rating. How he responds to the challenge will determine if Sanu is more than an injury fill-in (and a sell high).

The continued trend of alternating running back performances has continued as both Trent Richardson and Ahmad Bradshaw have failed to seize the lead role. Bradshaw has established himself as the primary receiving back while maintaining a roughly even split with Richardson on carries. While Bradshaw’s five receiving touchdowns are an aberration, he remains the preferred running back to own and should see ample work in this matchup.

Seattle at St. Louis

The news of Percy Harvin’s trade to the Jets changes little to the wide receiver pecking order. Doug Baldwin and Jermaine Kearse have led the team in wide receiver snaps this season. Both receivers will see incremental benefit in the form of a few more targets per game but neither is capable of being a true number one receiver. I would bet on Baldwin being the leading guy starting this week.

Despite being third in snaps last week (just nine), rookie Tre Mason led the team in rushing with 40 yards on just five carries. While the coaching staff claims they will “ride the hot hand,” Mason is the most talented runner on this team and will slowly take this role over. The brutal matchup against Seattle may delay it, but if he is able to find success here, the team is more likely to commit to him sooner.

Afternoon Games

New York Giants at Dallas

The season ending injury to Victor Cruz opens up opportunity for young receivers Reuben Randle and Odell Beckham, Jr. While Randle has averaged over nine targets a game for the last four weeks, Beckham has failed to top five targets since his return two weeks ago – this tells me Beckham will be the one seeing the additional volume and should become a weekly option with a more efficient Eli Manning at the helm.

Last week was the first time Gavin Escobar had more snaps than blocking specialist James Hanna. While it only resulted in one catch, it was for a touchdown and demonstrated his potential in this offense. The hope is that Escobar continues to see increased playing time and earn a shot at more receiving work.

Kansas City at San Diego

With multiple touchdowns in his last three games, Alex Smith may have a tough time extending the streak to four. San Diego boasts two of the best cover corners in Brandon Flowers and rookie Jason Verrett. Add in a stinginess against opposing tight ends and Smith will find his options extremely limited this week. I expect a run heavy game so this may be an instance to bench Travis Kelce as well.

Malcom Floyd could be a great play this week against the Kansas City defense. While they are an elite run defense (zero rushing touchdowns allowed), they have trouble in pass defense outside of top corner Sean Smith. Since Smith will likely be busy with Keenan Allen, Floyd could see some additional targets, including a few deep pass attempts.

Arizona at Oakland

While Alex Smith will struggle, Carson Palmer has a matchup where he can thrive. Oakland is one of only two defenses that allows greater than a 70% pass rate. Much of this is due to their inability to defend the slot, which should be exploited by John Brown and Larry Fitzgerald. With Palmer’s continued improvement, this is a great streaming option or bye week fill-in.

Since the season ending injury to Tyvon Branch, Usama Young has played admirably in his absence. With my prediction of a good day by Palmer, Young will have opportunity to extend his streak of two starts with six or more total tackles. He should have playable numbers in this one and represents a buy low (or pickup) opportunity for IDP owners desperate for secondary help.

Sunday Night Game

San Francisco at Denver

For some people, high altitude can be nauseating. Watching Carlos Hyde manage just 14 yards on 11 carries gave me a similar nauseous feeling. He was frequently hit behind the line (evident by 2.0 yards after contact and just 1.3 yards per rush) and just could not get started. Denver is another tough battle as they allow the fewest rushing yards to running backs and actually allow more receiving yards to them at this point. Hyde may see a reduction in snaps as the team turns to Frank Gore and his superior receiving ability in an effort to gain yardage.

While I think Peyton Manning will be fine in this game, I wouldn’t be surprised if he turns to options outside of Demaryius Thomas. Thomas has had a resurgence in the last couple of weeks but will be facing Perrish Cox who is tied for the league lead in interceptions (three) and has not allowed a touchdown this year. I am more confident in Emmanuel Sanders and Julius Thomas here.

Monday Night Game

Houston at Pittsburgh

I am feeling lucky here, so let’s go with C.J. Fiedorowicz against a defense susceptible to tight ends. Garrett Graham has been a disappointment and is steadily losing snaps to the rookie. It will be interesting to see if Fiedorowicz gains more playing time and if that results in a few more targets.

When Houston does pass to the wide receivers, I expect them to pick on The Citadel’s own Cortez Allen. There is a reason he has four straight games of six or more solo tackles and it is because he is fourth in the league in targets against (46). The number will rise and while he will give up big plays, IDP owners won’t care as long as he racks up the tackles.