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.
Cincinnati at Buffalo
Number to Remember (NTR) – 44
Do not expect much running in this game as these two teams combine for just 44 rush attempts per outing. Buffalo ranks first with 108 total rushes against and Cincinnati is tied for second at 112. If one of these teams is able to establish a run game, it would be both surprising and a major advantage.
There are very few surprises with the Bengals so given the Number to Remember, Jeremy Hill could see another light day of work. Last week, he played on just 22% of offensive snaps to 78% for Giovani Bernard. The Bills rank third in rushing yards allowed and have the fewest attempts against, making the opportunities and chance for success minimal.
Sammy Watkins should be back this week and is vocal on his need to be targeted. The sophomore receiver is slipping in the dynasty rankings with injuries and ineffectiveness being the main culprits. Now playing a Bengals defense who allows 69% of passes to be completed, this is a chance for Watkins to emerge from 2015 dormancy.
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Chicago at Detroit
NTR – 173 and 233
In what should be a predictable game script, Chicago is seeing the second most pass attempts (173) while Detroit is attempting the second most passes (233). The only concern? Detroit has already thrown nine interceptions this year. Lucky for them, the Bears are not competent at creating turnovers (just two of four from interceptions).
With no certainty that either Alshon Jeffery or Eddie Royal are going to play this week, Cameron Meredith could see another week of attention. The former quarterback at Illinois State is gaining the trust of the team and learning the position quickly. He could see an uptick in snaps (just 29% last week) and even targets (four) in a game where the team will look to test the Detroit pass defense.
If Theo Riddick misses this week, Lance Moore is capable of another strong week. He scored his first touchdown of the season and had eight targets last week, the latter third on the team after Golden Tate (18) and Riddick (13). He should be a primary target underneath when the team stretches the field.
Kansas City at Minnesota
NTR – 1
One is the difference in the number of plays Kansas City averages per drive (5.4, 27th in the NFL) and the number allowed by Minnesota (6.4, tied for the most). Without Jamaal Charles, the Chiefs will need to find new ways to sustain drives, even as the old ways were unsuccessful. If they cannot do that this week, it will be a real struggle going forward.
The injury to Charles has Charcandrick West as the guy to watch. He, along with Knile Davis, will attempt to lead a backfield that is eighth in yards per carry (4.4). West has looked better than Davis between the preseason and in small doses during the regular season, but this could easy become a full committee.
With a bye week and a chance to heal, the Vikings receiving group may finally be back to full strength. Mike Wallace is expected to play and Charles Johnson could see the field as well. Perhaps this is what is needed for Teddy Bridgewater to test the deep part of the field.
Washington at New York Jets
NTR – 24.5%
The Jets are unsurprisingly a top defense in 2015 and their 24.5% turnover rate is tops in the league. This week, they get to pick on a Washington offense that turns the ball over on 16.7% of drives, third worst in the NFL. I do not always play team defense, but when I do, the Jets would be my first choice.
With Jordan Reed doubtful to participate this week, Derek Carrier looks to be in line for another start. While he was only targeted three times, the former wide receiver played the highest percentage of snaps (95%) among skill players. Given the tough Jets secondary, Carrier may see an uptick in targets as wide receivers struggle to get open.
The offense is crippled with offensive injuries, but that could benefit Zac Stacy. Coming over from St. Louis in the offseason, Stacy can do a little of everything, which is needed if Bilal Powell is out. He did manage his first touchdown in 2015 against Miami prior to the bye but will be more of a receiving back to complement Chris Ivory.
Denver at Cleveland
NTR – 1.1%
Coming into the season, few would have expected the Browns to have a 1.1% interception rate on the season, third best in 2015. Best way to test that number? Play the team who is leading the league in sacks (22) and have a 3:7 touchdown to interception ratio on the year.
DeMarcus Ware is inactive this week so it looks like rookie Shane Ray will be needed to create quarterback pressure. He already has two sacks in limited time, and while he is not a volume tackler, he could provide points for owners looking to their own benches for help.
In the last three weeks, Josh McCown has averaged over 380 passing yards with two passing touchdowns in each game. No one is claiming they accurately predicted this effort, but now he gets a Denver defense who is in the top five in most passing categories. Can he pass (yep, another pun) this test?
Houston at Jacksonville
NTR – 14
The Jaguars combination of Allen Hurns (six) and Allen Robinson (eight) are tied for the league lead in most 20+ yard passing plays by a receiving duo. Houston has allowed 16 such plays this season and have struggled to contain as their 12.4 yards per completion is seventh worst in the NFL. There will be ample opportunity for the downfield pass.
The quarterback carousel in Houston is making me nauseous so let’s focus our attention elsewhere. How about the debut of Jaelen Strong? Two catches, two touchdowns, with the latter number being more than all other non-Hopkins wide receivers combined on the season. With Nate Washington likely out one more week, Strong and Keith Mumphery will be vying for snaps once again on the perimeter.
Recovering from injury, Julius Thomas is slowly being worked back into the offense. He was outsnapped by Marcedes Lewis (37 to 30) last week, but the team seems willing to use multiple tight end sets. As Hurns and Robinson stretch the field, Thomas could start utilizing the space underneath and exceed his two targets from a week ago.
Miami at Tennessee
There are only two teams who have failed to record a rushing touchdown this year. Miami happens to be one of them. Now there is a new coaching staff and against a bottom ten run defense in Tennessee, it will be worth monitoring how the Dolphins handle their scoring chances in this game.
Everyone is a watch in this game but Lamar Miller has the most to gain. Three players have exceeded 30 carries in a game this season. Miller has 37 carries on the total season and the usage has declined from 13 in week one to just seven against the Jets in week four. He may not be a bellcow runner but Miller deserves better than garbage time runs.
From one running back mess to another, the Titans already have four running backs with at least 15 carries on the season. The team appears committed to finding a hot hand each week rather than anointing a primary ball carrier, with only Antonio Andrews given a defined role (at the goal line). Another week to watch this carnival show unfold.
Arizona at Pittsburgh
NTR – 70.4% and 10.3
Pittsburgh’s pass defense gets a bad reputation, but it is more of a mixed bag when digging deeper. They are one of four teams allowing a completion rate over 70 (70.4%), but they also have the fourth lowest yards per completion (10.3), the latter buoyed by a league low nine 20+ yard plays allowed. Arizona should complete passes, but do they get the big plays they have enjoyed thus far?
The Cardinals account for 3 of the 9 games where an offense has scored 40+ points. In those games, Larry Fitzgerald is averaging 7 catches on 9 targets for 101 yards and two touchdowns. He has not scored in the other weeks. Arizona will need Fitz to turn it on once again (he leads the league with 11 catches of 20+ yards) to put the Steelers on their heels.
Finally, Martavis Bryant is back. The flanker speedster is a downfield dynamo but has Michael Vick to deliver those passes in this game. While Vick has completed four deep passes in two starts, they have been to four different players, questioning his willingness to lock onto one field stretching option.
Carolina at Seattle
NTR – 5.0
The Panthers have had their issues on offense, evidenced by a 5.0 yards per play figure (fifth worst in the NFL). The Seahawks are not the generous types either with just 5.2 yards allowed per play, which is sixth best. If this is to be a competitive matchup, Carolina will have to consistently create yards.
With four defensive linemen already out for the year, the Panthers are running low on options to pressure the quarterback. While seven different players have accounted for the nine team sacks, Kony Ealy is not one of them. He was an elite pass rusher coming out of college two years ago and faces Russell Wilson, a quarterback sacked on nearly 13% of his dropbacks (12.8%), worst in the league.
All signs point to Marshawn Lynch returning for this game. Thomas Rawls has thrived this season with 5.6 yards per carry and two 100 yard rushing performances. Lynch’s workload could be monitored early knowing they have a highly capable complement in Rawls.
San Diego at Green Bay
NTR – 318.2 and 186.2
In a battle against evil (Green Bay), the Chargers put their 318.2 pass yards per game (second) against the staunch pass defense of the Packers (186.2, fourth fewest). Considering 78% of the Chargers’ yards come via the pass, they will need to figure out how to navigate the coverage schemes Green Bay throws at them (pun intended).
With Stevie Johnson still hobbled, Dontrelle Inman could be the de facto third receiver once again. The return of Antonio Gates and emergence of Ladarius Green makes this role limited, but Inman has been successful even with limited work (see his three catch, 88 yard game this year). Malcom Floyd will not be around forever, right?
The Packers wide receiver ranks are still dealing with lingering injuries, forcing the team to use Jared Abbrederis last week…for one snap! What makes this significant is the team relegated Jeff Janis to special teams. Both are buried on the depth chart, but there is talent here in an offense that will only be able to rely on James Jones for so long. Let’s make mountains out of molehills!
Baltimore at San Francisco
NTR –39.9 and 3:02
The 49ers defense is just bad, with their league worst 39.9 yards allowed per drive and 3:02 average drive time (also worst) driving the point home. The Ravens are an average offense by most standards but there is a good chance they control this game with sustained drives.
While the Ravens deal with injuries to their receivers (five tight ends and wide receivers out, four more questionable to play), Nick Boyle has managed three straight games of multiple receptions. The 7.3 yards per catch indicate a player who is anything but explosive with the ball, however, he has caught eight of nine targets during that stretch and is playing ahead of rookie Maxx Williams.
The 49ers are in upheaval and are looking for bright spots anywhere. They seem to have one in second year man and former fifth-round draft pick Aaron Lynch. He is already halfway to the six sacks he recorded in 2014 and has seen an increase in snaps, surpassing 90% of defensive plays for the first time in 2015. Lynch would be of interest in deep IDP leagues, but seems like more of a watch for the majority of IDP owners.
Sunday Night Game
New England at Indianapolis
NTR – 12.8% and 14.7%
When playing the Patriots, it can be difficult to stymie their offense. Case in point is their 12.8% rate of plays that end in zero or negative yards, among the best in the league. The Colts have created 50 of those plays (14.7%), in the top 10 for defenses. This will be critical for the Colts to have any chance in this game.
With Brandon LaFell’s return imminent, Keshawn Martin has one more chance to carve out a role. The veteran from Houston managed to play over 80% of the snaps in last week’s game, second among wide receivers, but only saw two targets (both caught for 23 yards). He will need to fair better, especially if Vontae Davis is successful in neutralizing one of Tom Brady’s other options.
The first sighting of vintage Andre Johnson is nice, but the Ahmad Bradshaw signing may be bigger. The veteran runner is currently a threat to the ineffective backups behind starter Frank Gore. That said, he did manage eight touchdowns in just 10 games last year and could create a veteran committee with Gore to keep both fresh as they navigate the regular season.
Monday Night Game
New York Giants at Philadelphia
NTR – 21.0
The Giants have pinned teams back to start drives, forcing teams to begin at their own 21 yard line, best in the NFL. The Eagles, meanwhile, average just 26 yards per drive (third worst) on offense. The Philadelphia offense of the last two weeks needs to show up to put them into scoring position or they will put their defense in many short field situations.
As of Saturday, Rueben Randle appears unlikely to play this week, giving several receivers an opportunity to strut. One of those is rookie Geremy Davis; the 6’2”, 220 lb UConn receiver was a sixth round pick and was primary on special teams prior to the Randle injury. While he saw just one target during his 23 offensive plays last week, Davis could allow Dwayne Harris or Shane Vereen to operate in the slot where they are more effective.
Ryan Mathews is not on the injury report, but he is dealing with a groin injury. This should give DeMarco Murray another chance at 20+ carries with Darren Sproles having a chance to surpass the 25 snaps he was given last week. The running game had its best week last Sunday (186 rushing yards) and relies on its success to propel the rest of the offense.
*All numbers courtesy of Pro-Football-Reference