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 Saint Louis
Number to Remember (NTR) – 15
For all the flack this passing offense gets, the Rams do protect their quarterback(s), leading the league with just 15 sacks allowed. For those thinking it is a result of the low pass rate of the Rams, they are fourth with a 3.9% sack rate on pass plays. The Lions are seventh with 33 sacks this year so it will be a stern test to see if the Rams can maintain this protection.
A sixth round pick in 2014, second year receiver T.J. Jones saw his most action of the season against Green Bay last week. The former Notre Dame alum was a 1000 yard receiver in college, so he did have some success. He caught two of three targets for 37 yards while playing nearly half (46%) of the offensive snaps. The top two receivers are established, but Jones could be the third option they have struggled to find all season.
A player with six catches in the last two weeks, I will admit I was not paying much attention to Bradley Marquez. The rookie was part of the high-octane Texas Tech offense, but is being used underneath by the Rams as a safety valve. With how conservative this offense is, a safety valve could be the most valuable option.
San Francisco at Cleveland
NTR – 300
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This is the magical number the 49ers defense has struggled to hold opposing offenses to, having just one effort of under 300 yards of offense against (week one versus Minnesota). Cleveland has been good on offense (250+ yards in every game but one) and playing San Francisco gives them a pretty safe floor, even with all the injuries.
With Vance McDonald out, Blake Bell looks to be the next man up at tight end. After seeing just five targets in his first eight games, he has six in the past two weeks. The former quarterback is raw, but is a bull with the ball in his hands and among the fastest tight ends in this draft class. Bell should be stashed on all rosters for 2016.
With every Cleveland receiver injured, Brian Hartline has emerged to the tune of 10.5 targets over the past four weeks. As of this writing, he is questionable to play, but the team needs him down the stretch and he should be a nice option for teams struggling to field a healthy starting lineup.
Seattle at Baltimore
NTR – 104
Baltimore has failed to surpass 104 rushing yards as a team in the last seven games. Meanwhile, Seattle has allowed just 49 rushing yards per game the last three weeks, including just 31 versus Adrian Peterson and Minnesota. The Ravens could quickly become one-dimensional for the eighth straight week.
The rich get richer as Seattle continues to breed defensive dynamos. This time, it is second round pick Frank Clark, the defensive end from Michigan has three sacks in the past two weeks. Clark is up to 50% of the defensive snaps and could become a big part of this defense heading into 2016.
The tight end position in Baltimore has seen nothing but injuries, leaving just rookie Maxx Williams to carry the load. Williams has alternated good and bad games, having three games of multiple receptions in his past five. The other two? Zero targets. Now is his chance to see a full workload.
Indianapolis at Jacksonville
NTR – 58.5 and 57.6
These are two league average pass offenses, but it is taking volume to get there. Indianapolis (58.5%) and Jacksonville (57.6%) are in the bottom five for completion rate but are in the top ten in passing attempts. Expect plenty of bad passes in this one along with some spectacular plays to make up for it.
The season is winding down and we are seeing no clarity with the tight end position in Indianapolis. Both Coby Fleener and Dwayne Allen are seeing over 40% of the offensive snaps, but Fleener is targeted nearly three times as often. Both are free agents and I suspect the team will seek to extend one at most.
While Allen Hurns is expected to return from his concussion, it was Marqise Lee who took much of the work in the interim. While Lee only caught one of his four targets, he did participate in 77% of the offensive snaps last week. The former second round pick is still in the good graces of the coaching staff, even if he is a clear backup.
Pittsburgh at Cincinnati
NTR – 1645
The Steelers have thrown for 1645 passing yards in the last four games, just 500 less than the Rams have managed in 2015. Now they face the Bengals, a team who has allowed just three games over 300 yards, only one of those after week four. In week eight, the Steelers had 240 passing yards. Let’s see what happens this time.
With Heath Miller out last week, it was rookie Jesse James who saw the snaps at tight end (91%). He saw season highs in catches (three), targets (five), and yards (30). The 6’7” tight end from Penn State looks to be the heir apparent to Miller and could become a nice red zone target in this offense.
Another team with an injured tight end and rookie backup, Tyler Kroft filled in for Tyler Eifert, playing nearly 75% of the offensive snaps. While he only had one target, he did catch it for 17 yards. With both Marvin Jones and Mohamed Sanu heading to free agency, the team could expand Kroft’s role in 2016.
Buffalo at Philadelphia
NTR – 2:26 and 2:05
Do you like speed? The Eagles manage the quickest average drive time (2:05) while the Bills get opposing offenses off the field at the sixth fastest rate (2:26). Philadelphia has not been successful offensively this year and sustaining a drive will continue to elude them in week 14.
With Karlos Williams hobbled, Mike Gillislee filled in with seven carries for 41 yards last week. A restricted free agent after the season, the 25 year old could find his way onto a backup role in 2016. Deep league owners should take note.
While the Eagles play hot potato at running back, Kenjon Barner has quietly emerged as a reliable option. Over the past three games, he has seen at least seven carries in each and over four yards per carry. The third year back from Oregon had two seasons of over 1000 yards and progressively improved during his college career. Barner should be a player to note heading into 2016.
New Orleans at Tampa Bay
NTR – 77.4%
With the losses of Khiry Robinson and Mark Ingram, the Saints has lost 77.4% of their rushing volume. This is unfortunate considering Tampa Bay has been run on the sixth most by opposing running backs. Whether the Saints take advantage of this is dependent on their trust in the remaining backfield options.
Tim Hightower gets his second chance at significant playing time with the first instance yielding over four yards per carry on 11 attempts. He should see the goal line looks along with the short yardage and other running situations. Hightower has been successful in the past and while his 2015 has been quiet, he is capable of giving a serviceable performance against a mediocre run defense.
As the NFL regular season ends, Austin Seferian-Jenkins has a chance to make an impression going into 2016. What better way than to do it against the only defense who has allowed over 1000 yards to tight ends and one of just three who have given up ten or more touchdowns? ASJ should have a field day here and make owners in the playoffs very happy.
San Diego at Kansas City
NTR – 5
Fantasy owners of opposing running backs of these two defenses should look at five very differently. For San Diego, they are allowing the fifth most fantasy points to the position (28.2) while Kansas City is the fifth stingiest (19.3). Both offensive backfields are in different forms of a timeshare, but one is looking a little more enticing than the other.
With the success of other rookie runners, Melvin Gordon’s improvement throughout the season has gone unnoticed. Over the last five weeks, Gordon has averaged three receptions per game (after seeing less than two in his first seven games) and has seen his carries increase from 12 to just over 14 per contest. The increased usage is showing the team’s trust in Gordon and all he needs now are those first few touchdowns.
While Charcandrick West is seeing the lion’s share of the snaps (67%), Spencer Ware was getting the short yardage and red zone work. West should continue to get more overall touches but his value will get hindered by Ware. Love the matchup this week but it is hard to trust either one.
Tennessee at New York Jets
NTR – 3
In a battle of the running game, the number three plays a large role over the last eight weeks. Both have allowed just three teams to surpass 100 yards rushing in that time and they have also managed just three such efforts on offense as well. Given that both run defenses are in the top three in fantasy points allowed to the position, it is going to be hard to trust anyone in either backfield.
Kendall Wright being out this week could lead to a Tre McBride extended audition. Over the past three games, McBride has been limited to special teams as a returner. McBride is known for elite body control and solid hands, but separation has been an issue in the past. Let’s see if he has learned a few tricks on the practice squad.
While Bilal Powell has been known for his hands, this season has been his best on the receiving end yet. Last week, he managed eight catches for the first time in his career (on 13 targets) and it is just the second time he has over five in a single contest (both in 2015). Just six receptions from tying his career high in a season, Powell has an outside shot of getting there in this contest. Oh, he’s a free agent after the season.
Dallas at Green Bay
NTR – 16.5 and 6.4
Turnovers play out much differently for these two teams on a per possession basis. The Cowboys lead the league with turnovers on 16.5% of their offensive drives. The Packers, on the other hand, are second lowest with only 6.4% of drives ending with a turnover. Guess which team should see a few extra opportunities?
Darren McFadden is firmly entrenched as the starting running back, but there is an interesting battle for number two. Robert Turbin has the experience and has ability in all phases involved with the position. Lucky Whitehead, meanwhile, has shown a more explosive element that no one will accuse Turbin of possessing. Their snap share has been even (roughly 25% for each), but I think Whitehead could see more looks as they assess what they have for 2016.
Highlighted here in the past, Richard Rodgers put up his best day in the NFL last week. He caught all eight of his targets for a career high 146 yards, including a 61 yard touchdown as time expired to win the game for the Packers. Rodgers has multiple receptions in every game this year and has clearly become a reliable underneath option for Aaron Rodgers.
Oakland at Denver
NTR – 161 and 86
Denver has transformed their offense since Brock Osweiler has taken over behind center. That is most evident when looking at their run offense, which has increased their output from 86 yards per game up to 161, which would lead the NFL. Even with injuries at the position, I suspect they continue to play conservatively.
He lost running mate Aldon Smith to stupidity, but Khalil Mack has managed to up his game in year two. Already with nine sacks (he had four last year), Mack is becoming more effective in pressuring quarterbacks while still maintaining a similar tackle rate. He is a foundational piece for this defense and makes everyone around him better.
With Ronnie Hillman and C.J. Anderson hobbled, Juwan Thompson could see some extended play in this game. Last week, he was largely ineffective against a soft Chargers run defense (eight for 27 yards), but this is a guy who averaged over five yards per carry in his rookie year. Monitor the game time decisions, Thompson could be a nice play.
Sunday Night Game
New England at Houston
NTR – 5.2
One way to stop the Patriots is to keep them off the field. Houston is very good at stopping drives, averaging a league low 5.2 plays per possession on defense. Given the Patriots’ issues with offensive injuries, they are already going to be at a disadvantage sustaining their drives.
Who is healthy on offense right now? One guy is Keshawn Martin, who saw a season high eight targets and could once again be a factor, especially if he gets 97% of the snaps again. This is a long shot, but if you are desperate, there is enough upside to take the gamble.
Houston has been reluctant in using tight ends, but Ryan Griffin has had multiple receptions in his last four games and touchdowns in the last two. That said, if he can come close to this against a New England defense who is second best against fantasy tight ends (9.4 per game), I will be extremely surprised and impressed.
Monday Night Game
New York Giants at Miami
NTR – 36.6 and 27.3
The sift-like nature of the Giants defense is evident by their league high of 36.6 yards per drive allowed. That ineptitude will be tested by the Miami offense, who is averaging just 27.3 yards per possession, third worst in the NFL. For those who think the coaching change has helped, the Dolphins have had their two worst offensive outputs in the last three weeks.
The game of Russian roulette at running back continues as none of their four options saw over 30% of the offensive snaps last week. I hate them all so much, I don’t want to even name them. None have upside, none have hope.
The abomination that Ryan Tannehill put up last week (9-19, 86 yards, one touchdown) is a reminder that he is still difficult to trust. This was against the tenth most generous defense to quarterbacks. Another juicy matchup against the Giants (fourth) is not necessarily a guarantee of strong returns.
*All numbers courtesy of Pro-Football-Reference