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.
Detroit at Kansas City (London)
Number to Remember (NTR) – 6.5
The Chiefs have had injuries and inconsistency on both sides of the ball but they have excelled in stifling tight ends, allowing just 6.5 fantasy points per game, fewest in the NFL. In Eric Ebron, they face a tight end who has finished in the top 12 every week he has played this year. Something has to give.
There are few surprises with the Lions offense, but Ameer Abdullah remains an unknown quantity. The rookie was hyped up in the preseason but has yet to take control of the starting running back role. Last week marked just the second time he surpassed 3.5 yards per carry. The Chiefs are a league average run defense so it will be a fair test of his maturation.
Jeremy Maclin should be back this week, but it is Chris Conley who I will be watching. The rookie held his own without Maclin last week, catching six of seven targets for 63 yards and a touchdown. This is the third time in the last four games he had seven targets, entrenching him as the second receiver in this offense.
Arizona at Cleveland
NTR – 31 and 29
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Carson Palmer leads the league with 31 pass plays exceeding 20 yards. The Ravens are third worst in that category, allowing 29 to opposing quarterbacks. Even if John Brown is out, there should be plenty of deep field to explore.
The hand injury appears to be a thing of the past for Michael Floyd. He has six catches of 15+ yards in the last four weeks, showing his ability down the field, which may be even more necessary if Brown misses time. Brown, by the way, is third in the NFL in 15+ yard catches in that timeframe with ten.
If you are wondering who is ahead of Brown in the aforementioned stat, Gary Barnidge is one of them. He has more yardage this year than his last five seasons combined. It is time to accept him as a top tier tight end with a matchup against a defense who has struggled with athletic tight ends.
Cincinnati at Pittsburgh
NTR – 3.0%
The Bengals have kept Andy Dalton clean, only allowing six sacks on the year or 3.0% of pass plays (third best). Pittsburgh prides itself on pressuring the quarterback (6.7% sack rate, 12th) so they will need to generate a real threat to get Dalton out of his comfort zone and mask a suspect secondary.
Another team with a clear offensive depth chart, there is one interesting battle for the second tight end position. Right now, Ryan Hewitt is out-snapping rookie Tyler Kroft, although it is close. Hewitt has only managed four targets (one catch) this year, but the fact that Kroft is largely relegated to special teams is an indication he is struggling to become part of an elite offense.
While the word is not yet final as of writing, it appears Ben Roethlisberger will be back on Sunday. No one is happier than Antonio Brown, who averages nearly 15 fantasy points per game when Big Ben starts (compared to fewer than eight when he is out). The entire offense should see a boost if he is active this weekend.
New York Giants at New Orleans
NTR – 564
If you are looking for ample passing, this will be your game. The Giants (288.3, third) and Saints (275.7, seventh) rank among the ten most generous pass defenses in yards per game allowed. They are both also among the top half passing offenses so they are used to heaving the ball.
While the passing game should be front and center, Orleans Darkwa has just entered the running back picture. He led the team with eight of the 25 carries in last week’s game and was largely effective despite playing just 14 snaps. His Tulane career suggests a player who can catch passes (77 career receptions) and a player who has not handled a full workload (never above 210 carries in a season).
A player who is seeing increased offensive attention is Michael Hoomanawanui, the team’s second tight end. He caught a career high five passes last week (on five targets) and surpassed 50% of the team’s snaps for the first time this season. Given all the weapons, he is a secondary option at best, but should still be monitored as he is Ben Watson’s primary backup.
Tampa Bay at Atlanta
NTR – 23.3
Tampa Bay’s pass defense is not good, allowing 23.3 fantasy points per game to quarterbacks, the worst in the league. Atlanta has surprisingly only managed 1.3 pass touchdowns per game, but luckily the Buccaneers allow a league high 2.7, an average of one every 12.5 pass plays.
Tampa Bay is losing receivers to injury, giving Donteea Dye another opportunity of meaningful playing time after seeing 76% of the team’s offensive snaps last week. He is fast (4.45 forty yard dash) and had 57 catches for 1022 yards and 14 touchdowns in his senior season, albeit in Division III. Dye was a Division I talent, but a knee injury submarined that opportunity. Here is his chance to prove himself.
Leonard Hankerson will be out this week, clearing the way for Nick Williams to play an increased role. Before last week, Williams had exactly one catch in every game this year, but set a career high with three catches on five targets. The former Huskie was primarily a special teams threat in college, but he can stretch the field against a mediocre pass defense.
San Diego at Baltimore
NTR – 5.3
While the Chargers have a great pass defense, they are allowing a league worst 5.3 yards per carry. After a rough opening three weeks, Justin Forsett has turned things around, averaging nearly five yards per carry on a 1500 yard rushing pace. His hot hand should get played frequently.
Danny Woodhead and Branden Oliver combined for 17 catches on 19 targets last week, with Oliver accounting for six of those receptions. With Melvin Gordon questionable, Oliver could lead the team again in rush attempts while remaining a threat underneath against a bad pass defense.
As San Diego struggles defending the run, Kyle Juszczyk will be catching passes underneath and trying to be known for more than a difficult last name to spell. He has multiple catches in all but two games this year and has a pair of receiving touchdowns. This may be a desperation play for needy RB owners, but he could manage some points in a decent matchup.
Minnesota at Chicago
NTR – 0.8
The Vikings are the only team averaging fewer than one passing touchdown per game with just five in six games (0.8). The Bears, on the other hand, allow 2.5 pass touchdowns per game and on a league worst 8.3% of pass plays. I suspect Teddy Bridgewater tries to pad his stats in this game.
All the talk of Stefon Diggs has muted the return of Jarius Wright to the offense. Last week, he was second behind Diggs in targets (six) as Bridgewater spread the ball around. The failures of Charles Johnson and Mike Wallace has the entire receiving hierarchy in flux. Wright could position himself well with a solid outing here.
Inconsistent playing time has been the hallmark of Jeremy Langford’s rookie season. He is consistently below 20% of the offensive snaps and has not surpassed six touches in a game this year. The positive is that Langford is the primary backup and he could see more playing time as the season is further out of hand.
Tennessee at Houston
NTR – 14
The Titans, whether by luck or skill, have allowed just 14 receptions to running backs, lowest in the NFL (next closest is 21 by Chicago). Houston has accounted for 26% of their completions by throwing to the running back position. With Cecil Shorts out another week, the Texans will need to find other sources to target underneath.
Zach Mettenberger is behind center again for Tennessee, and he has a tendency to lock onto a few options. One of them is Justin Hunter, who inexplicably saw 94% of the offensive snaps in the loss to Atlanta. With Dorial Green-Beckham still learning the offense, Hunter could see another week of unwarranted playing time.
The question of which running back emerges was not answered the first time Arian Foster was injured. Now, it is up for debate again with Alfred Blue the likely choice and Chris Polk being Twitter’s choice. Blue leads the team in most running back categories and is the most complete back remaining.
San Francisco at Saint Louis
NTR – 32.7
Rather than find complicated numbers to illustrate the ineptness of these offenses, how about their combined 32.7 points scored per game? For comparison, the Cardinals alone are also scoring 32.7 points per game this season. If you live in those markets, I hope you have League Pass.
Carlos Hyde has been ruled out this week and while Reggie Bush is the primary backup, rookie Mike Davis should see work as well. The Rams have been inconsistent against the run, but if either of these runners can get some traction here, they could improve their standing when Hyde makes it back.
While his season has had its share of highs and lows, Tavon Austin is on pace for a career year. The former first round pick has been a safety valve for Nick Foles, with multiple receptions in all but one game. It is still hard to rely on Austin on a weekly basis, but this could be either a sell “high” opportunity or the start of a positive trend.
Seattle at Dallas
NTR – 3:08
Despite all the issues with the Dallas offense, they have sustained the longest drives, managing to be the only team logging over three minutes per drive. When you are missing your franchise quarterback and have a running back carousel, limiting an opposing offense from scoring opportunities is a great way to limit the pressure on your defense.
The two special teams touchdowns are nice, but Tyler Lockett finally scored his first offensive touchdown of his career. His role is increasing too, with five targets in the three of the last four weeks. The window to buy is closing fast as Lockett’s ability is being transferred to the offensive side of the ball.
I promised myself I would not talk about Christine Michael, so let’s talk about the potential return of Dez Bryant. If this is indeed Bryant’s first game back, facing Richard Sherman and the Seattle secondary is a rough return. Still, his presence will help the run game get a little less attention and allow other receivers a chance to work more freely.
New York Jets at Oakland
NTR – 37.3% and 44.1%
This space has been used to talk about the Jets defense, but their offense is tenth in scoring rate at 37.3%. Whereas, Oakland is third worst in stopping opponents from scoring with 44.1% of drives ending in a score. Even with a few injuries at wide receiver, the Jets should have little trouble piling up the points.
The Jets are hurting, but I suspect Jeremy Kerley could see another week of targets. Kerley has two games with multiple targets and receptions while he has none in the others, making him the most volatile type of receiver. He plays the slot well and with no tight end threat from the Jets, he could expose the Raiders lack of depth in the secondary.
A rookie I liked coming into the draft, Clive Walford, is starting to see more snaps, accounting for 45% of the offensive plays last week. He is the most explosive of the options, managing over 70 yards on his last three catches alone. The Jets are tough everywhere on defense but Derek Carr could look to spread the ball more to players like Walford in an effort to sustain a drive.
Sunday Night Football
Green Bay at Denver
NTR – 1
The Broncos have only allowed one touchdown to a wide receiver all season, tied with Seattle for the fewest. Aaron Rodgers likes his receivers, scoring 12 of his 15 pass touchdowns by way of wide receiver. If anyone can figure out this defense, it will be Rodgers.
Tough coverage against the receivers means Richard Rodgers could see some additional targets this week. Rodgers has multiple catches in every game this year while accounting for two of the three non-wide receiver passing touchdowns mentioned earlier. Rodgers has already surpassed his reception total from last year (20) and has become a trusted option for his quarterback.
Relegated to a blocker, Virgil Green could be needed here. Green Bay struggles against the tight end position (10th most fantasy points per game allowed) and Green is the type of athletic option who can test their capabilities. Owen Daniels is the likelier option but he is nothing more than a fallback pass.
Monday Night Footbal
Indianapolis at Carolina
NTR – 32.2 and 14.4
Since returning from injury two weeks ago, Andrew Luck has averaged 32.2 fantasy points per game. Carolina, however, is second in the league against quarterbacks, allowing just 14.4 fantasy points per game this season. Luck may need a third week of 40+ pass attempts to finish as a top 12 option yet again.
Eugene T.Y. Hilton is happy Luck is back. He has 10 catches for 224 yards and three touchdowns during the two weeks Luck has returned to the lineup. Carolina is allowing just three 20+ yard pass plays per game, among the top ten teams in defending the long pass. Hilton will be a stern test, but with the way he is playing lately, even Carolina might have a hard time.
Jonathan Stewart is running hard these past two games, making Cameron Artis-Payne an afterthought. The rookie bruiser is clearly behind Mike Tolbert for short yardage work, but with Stewart’s advancing age and noted durability issues, this should be a time to buy low. Against the Colts, he could see some work as the team tries to run heavily in an effort to keep Luck off the field.
*All numbers courtesy of Pro-Football-Reference