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. One player will be picked from each team who has dynasty value tied to the game. Also, a “Number to Remember” will be provided that will center on a key statistic that will influence the game and your dynasty team.
Buffalo at Tennessee
Number to Remember (NTR) – 11%
Marcus Mariota has been sacked on 11% of pass attempts this season, third worst in the league. Now, he gets a Buffalo defense featuring Mario Williams and Jerry Hughes, two players who helped the team reach 54 sacks in 2014, tops in the league. This could get rough for the rookie.
Whether it is Anthony “Boobie” Dixon or Daniel “Boom” Herron, a running back with a fun nickname will be featured here. The Titans are allowing 4.3 yards per carry, ninth worst in the NFL, and are in the bottom half for nearly every rush defense statistic. The Bills average just over 30 rush attempts per game so there will be opportunity for the back who seizes the lion’s share in this matchup.
This feels like a Kendall Wright week to me. The Buffalo run defense is strong but teams are passing on the secondary frequently (most in the NFL) and are also bottom three in pass yards and touchdowns allowed. Wright is their best receiver and if the team has any chance to win, he needs to be featured once again.
Chicago at Kansas City
NTR – 21
Kansas City (11) and Chicago (10) are the two worst teams in pass touchdowns allowed so far this season. This is interesting as their offenses have managed just eight combined. I suspect upticks in the latter stat courtesy of the former.
Alshon Jeffery may be out again so the team will need a receiver to step up. Marquess Wilson had a six catch, 80 yard game last week as Jay Cutler returned and is the type of physical receiver capable of abusing the suspect Kansas City red zone defense. He could lead all wide receivers in targets this week and get his first 2015 touchdown.
Already highlighted once this season, rookie Chris Conley notably saw 93% of the wide receiver snaps last week. With Albert Wilson becoming an afterthought, Conley could be called upon in a bigger role, particularly in the red zone. The Bears have fared poorly against large receivers this season (see: Fitzgerald, Larry).
Saint Louis at Green Bay
NTR – 55
When you play against the Packers, you want to sustain offensive drives to keep Aaron Rodgers off the field. Unfortunately, the Rams are last in first downs generated with just 55, 14 less than the next worst team. Rodgers could see more drives than usual to ply his trade here.
Todd Gurley really showed up last week, accumulating over 100 rushing yards in the second half of last week’s game. Now he gets Green Bay, who has surrendered 4.8 yards per carry this season, third worst in the league. If the Rams intend to put themselves in position to make first downs, Gurley will have to be involved.
Last week, Richard Rodgers set career highs in targets (six) and yards (45) while tying his reception mark (five). With Randall Cobb and James Jones ailing, Rodgers may be the healthiest red zone threat against a team who has only allowed three touchdown passes (two inside the 20).
New Orleans at Philadelphia
NTR – 294 and 271
Philadelphia’s defense has faced a league worst 294 plays (prior to Thursday’s game). The Saints offense is fourth with 271 plays as they manage 6.5 plays per drive. The Eagles offense will need the defense to make some stops if they want to control the clock.
Hau’oli Kikaha has seen some interested shifts. While his snap share has gone down (from 98% in week one to 69% last week), there is consistency in his defensive statistics. Kikaha has three straight games with a sack and has had at least four solo tackles in every game so far. Kikaha’s disruptive abilities will be needed to keep the Eagles offense off balance.
A stud just a year ago, DeMarco Murray is averaging just 1.6 yards per carry and clamoring for more touches. The Saints are bottom five in rush attempts and yards allowed, key statistics given the need for the Eagles to control possession. If Murray expects to get back on track, he needs to start here.
Cleveland at Baltimore
NTR – 406
The Browns have allowed the most offensive yards per game with 406. This is buoyed by a defense who has struggled to stop running backs as three of four games featured over 150 rushing yards. The Ravens may be hurting on offense, but this is the week to be short-handed.
With 15 catches in the last two weeks, Duke Johnson is shaping up to be the premier receiving back the Browns suggested with the draft pick. Add in the fact that he is seeing over 50% of the running back snaps in the last two weeks and Duke is more than just a gadget player, he is the primary runner. Expect the usage to continue as Isaiah Crowell remains extremely inconsistent.
It looks like Steve Smith will be unavailable, making personal favorite Kamar Aiken the lead receiver. He has alternated poor weeks with strong performances (two games with five catches, two with one or zero), but this will be his first game where he is the primary option. The Browns have allowed nine passing touchdowns in 2015, Aiken could add to the total this week.
Seattle at Cincinnati
The Bengals start their average drive at their own 33.6 yard line, best in the NFL. It is a result of winning the field position game (opponents start at the 22.9) and creating turnovers (seven, 10th in the NFL). The Seahawks will need to curb this trend to keep the Bengals from scoring.
The Seahawks are hurting in the backfield with both Marshawn Lynch and Fred Jackson expected to miss this week’s game. Thomas Rawls will face an average run defense in the Bengals, although they have yet to allow a rushing touchdown. This will be a good game to test Rawls’ ability to carry a full workload.
Just when I thought Mohamed Sanu was a non-factor, he manages four catches for 84 yards in last week’s win versus Kansas City. A tough Seattle secondary is weak on depth, making Sanu integral to any attempt by the Bengals to establish the passing game. Expect the team to employ spread formations to force Seattle to make undesirable defensive substitutions.
Jacksonville at Tampa Bay
NTR – 5.3%
The Buccaneers have a 5.3% interception rate, worst in the NFL. Jameis Winston‘s inaccuracy woes have been documented, but will they be exploited against a Jaguars defense who has a 0.6% interception rate (4th lowest in the NFL)?
Reticent to use their depth at running back, T.J. Yeldon accounted for 94% of the team snaps at the position. It also led to his first 100-yard rushing game. Now, he gets a team who has allowed the second most rushing attempts and the third most rushing yards this year. Yeldon has a great chance to be the first rookie running back with multiple 100-yard rushing efforts.
There is little we do not know about the Buccaneers’ hierarchy, but Winston is the biggest unknown. As mentioned above, his erratic nature has been troubling, but the Jaguars pass defense is bottom ten in most categories. Normally, Tampa Bay passes on 55% of plays, but the porous secondary could shift those numbers slightly higher.
Washington at Atlanta
NTR – 77
Much is made of Washington’s league leading rushing attack, with three different runners averaging at least four yards per carry. Not sure if they get to utilize the rush considering Atlanta’s game script has caused teams to run just 77 times, lowest in the league (excluding the Patriots who have played one less game).
Injuries plague the Washington receiving core and rookie Jamison Crowder could see another double digit target game like last week (twelve). He lives underneath, averaging less than eight yards per catch, but does have a 75% catch rate. Crowder could be a safety line for Kirk Cousins all game long.
Another body emerged in the Atlanta backfield as Terron Ward rumbled to 72 yards on 19 carries last week, outperforming Devonta Freeman. Ward will be relegated to the bench when Tevin Coleman is fully healthy, but he could see a few snaps and create a much more confusing timeshare going forward.
Arizona at Detroit
NTR – 78.1%
A top ten passing attack led by Carson Palmer gets to face a Detroit defense allowing a league worst 78.1% completion rate. The Cardinals are one of two teams who have already managed double digit passing touchdowns and that number should rise as everything thrown will be caught.
While the passing game will continue to hum, the running game is faced with new questions. Namely, if Andre Ellington is indeed back this week, where does he fit in? Rookie David Johnson is reportedly in the doghouse so Ellington could become the receiving back as early as this Sunday.
With Eric Ebron out and Brandon Pettigrew still recovering from injury, Tim Wright should see an increase in playing time. The Cardinals have excelled against the pass, scoring in the top ten for most categories, but tight ends have found some success. Wright had over 50 catches his rookie year and is capable of big plays, the latter will be needed to keep up with Arizona.
Denver at Oakland
NTR –18 and 5
The Broncos defense has been ferocious, accumulating 18 sacks in the first four weeks. Now, they get the Raiders, who have surprisingly given up just five sacks, fourth best in the NFL. Keeping Derek Carr clean will be key for the Raiders to have any chance in this game.
While Ronnie Hillman managed 100 yards rushing, keep in mind 72 of those came on one run (11 total carries). This is looking like a timeshare with C.J. Anderson, but Hillman’s limitations in the pass game will keep him on the short-end of the snap share, similar to week four (44% to C.J.’s 51%).
Here’s a surprising stat: the leader in tight end snaps for Oakland last week was Lee Smith. The mountain man (6’6”, 270 lbs) is still growing in the passing game with just four targets so far, but his majority share of the tight end snaps makes him a man of interest in deep leagues.
New England at Dallas
NTR – 61.8%
The Patriots lead the league in scoring drives, producing a touchdown or field goal on 61.8% of their drives. Dallas is fifth worst with 40.9% of opposing offense’s drives ending in a score. Betting the over is looking tempting in this game.
[inlinead]The Patriots love their small receivers and fourth-year man Keshawn Martin is no exception. Primarily a special teams maven, Martin saw time in the blowout against Jacksonville, managing three catches including a touchdown. He will likely be buried on this roster but could be useful if injury befalls the position.
Lance Dunbar is sadly out for the year after a nice start to the season, securing 21 catches in just four games. Now, the team will look for a new underneath threat and it may not come out of the backfield. I foresee Cole Beasley getting a bump with Joseph Randle provided a few more targets as well.
Sunday Night Game
San Francisco at New York Giants
NTR – 1.15
If you like one-sided games, this is the one for you. The 49ers are averaging just 1.15 points per drive, last in the NFL. The Giants defense is 7th best in points per drive allowed (1.64) so there will be no relief for San Francisco this week.
Vernon Davis’ lingering injury could put Garrett Celek on track to start another game. Celek has had multiple receptions in each game this season but has not surpassed three in any of them. There could be an increase in pass volume overall if the Giants leap out ahead, making Celek a potential beneficiary of garbage time.
Tied for the team lead in catches last week with five, Dwayne Harris benefitted from the high amount of three receiver sets (played over 70% of the time). Harris is mostly a special teams player but with Victor Cruz injured and Shane Vereen underperforming, he could see his number called again in week five.
Monday Night Game
Pittsburgh at San Diego
NTR – 10.2 and 5.1
The Steelers are unsurprisingly seeing a decline in yards per attempt, going from 10.2 with Ben Roethlisberger to 5.1 with Michael Vick. Considering Vick’s long pass is currently 20 yards, calling him conservative is an understatement.
Despite Vick’s presence, I am anxious to see if Martavis Bryant is deployed this week or if the team stays cautious and lets Darrius Heyward-Bey retain the deep ball role. DHB has a 75% catch rate this year, pretty significant considering it was 47% coming into the season. The Chargers secondary is difficult, but there could be a downfield play or two in the cards.
Antonio Gates could not be coming back at a better time. Stevie Johnson and Malcom Floyd look like they could both sit this game out against a ripe Steelers secondary. Gates will not be eased back into this matchup and could see multiple red zone targets from the number two passing offense.
*All numbers courtesy of Pro-Football-Reference