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.
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Indianapolis at Miami
Number to Remember (NTR) –34.1
Quite simply, Miami does not run the ball and all of you know that. Their 34.1 percent run play rate is second worst in the league. That would be fine if their net yards per pass attempt (includes sack yards lost) were better than bottom five in the NFL. What a dumb offense.
With Donte Moncrief ailing, there is opportunity for Andre Johnson to give one more memorable performance in 2015. Those memories have been few, but he does have multiple receptions in each of the last three weeks despite playing less than half the snaps. I’m rooting for the old guy one more time.
If DeVante Parker fails to play, along with Rishard Matthews, Kenny Stills could see a spike in play by default. Calling him inconsistent is being nice as four games of 50+ receiving yards are easily offset by four games of zero receiving yards. He is strictly a deep threat, but Stills is a guy to monitor this offseason as Matthews hits free agency.
Cleveland at Kansas City
The Browns are a bad defense and the 14.4 second half points they allow per game exemplifies that. It makes them third worst in the league, which should help a Kansas City who is league average (12.1) in second half scoring offense.
Another injury to the receivers has the Browns even thinner on talent. Diminutive Taylor Gabriel looks to be the beneficiary as he saw 84 percent of the offensive snaps last week. If that continues, the 5-foot-8 pass catcher will work underneath and could see a good share of Brian Hartline’s recent targets.
Betting on the Chiefs pass offense is tough past the top two options, but Albert Wilson does have at least three catches in four of the last five games. The second year player still has value in deep leagues and has even been given a few carries as the Chiefs look for ways to ignite their run offense.
Dallas at Buffalo
This season, Buffalo is third in the league in rush attempts per game at 30.4 with the last three games being even higher (33.0). Now, with LeSean McCoy out again, the team will rely on other options to maintain their run heavy lifestyle.
Even though the Cowboys are on their fourth quarterback, there is some optimism to see what they have in Kellen Moore. The former Boise State passer is in his fourth season but saw his first significant action last week and to call his performance mixed is a compliment. He is signed through 2017 so Moore will stick around, making him a person of interest behind Tony Romo.
Both Karlos Williams and Mike Gillislee have been featured here before and now they will form the one-two punch for the Bills at running back. While Williams had a few big games early, Gillislee has shown himself a capable complement, meaning the cap is lower on Williams. Both are intriguing players, but both could be on the lower end of useful as opposed to one being dominant.
San Francisco at Detroit
The 49ers are bad at many things, and keeping a game close on the road is not one of them. The -16.1 scoring differential on 2015 road games is worst in the league and a far cry from the -9.8 for all 2015 games (also worst in the NFL). Do not expect this to be close…or fun.
San Francisco has a shortage of running backs, but if you are desperate, give Kendall Gaskins a try. He has shown an ability to catch passes (six of seven for 52 yards last week) and has the size (6-foot-1, 238 pounds) to cause some damage. Do not mistake my attempt at optimism for belief. This team is flaming hot garbage.
Calling me a hater of Matt Stafford is absolutely fair. He has gotten by with excessive volume for the last four years, but I will tip my hat to this year’s improvements in efficiency. He has failed to throw an interception in the red zone and his 69 percent completion rate there is 17 points higher than his career average. Is this a case of “about time” or purely an aberration for the 27-year-old?
Pittsburgh at Baltimore
NTR – 68.5%
Do not expect Baltimore to see the ball on offense much in the first quarter. The Steelers lead the NFL with a 68.5 percent possession share during that time on the road, with only one other team above 60 percent. Their 58.1 percent overall also leads the league, making it difficult for opposing teams to get off to an early start.
While I do not expect the Steelers offense to click like this, Markus Wheaton has been relevant for the last four weeks. A 201 yard game fuels the numbers, but he still has nearly 100 yards per game and 3 touchdowns (on 5.5 catches per game) during that span. Wheaton had a nine game streak of two or fewer receptions before this explosion but he is more talented than that. Find a spot in the middle.
Kamar Aiken has an outside shot at 1,000 yards this year (198 needed in the next two weeks) and has five or more receptions in seven straight weeks despite three different quarterbacks. Aiken is a restricted free agent and with Breshad Perriman on the horizon, his role is unclear. Regardless, he has positioned himself as a 2016 starter in what should be a vastly improved offense.
Chicago at Tampa Bay
NTR – 13.5
For every point scored against either team, there are an average of 13.5 yards gained, tied for fifth lowest in the NFL. This means that teams are successful scoring on these teams frequently without as many wasted yards. Expect these teams to give up plenty of points, even if the yards are not there.
While he will help few this week, Rob Housler with Chicago is interesting considering the injuries at wide receiver and tight end. He did manage a reception for nine yards last week and the team could opt to employ more two-TE sets. Hope burns eternal.
Tampa Bay has seen some success filling in their wide receiver injuries (Adam Humphries) but Donteea Dye is not one of them. Even though he operates down field, a 30 percent catch rate is just plain bad. Dye is only a rookie and Jameis Winston has thrown multiple targets his way on five different occasions, so I would not bail completely. Just consider me watching rather than buying.
New England at New York Jets
NTR – 66.7
When these two teams reach the red zone, a touchdown is usually not far behind. They are tied for second with a 66.7 percent conversion rate of red-zone visits into touchdowns. The Jets also have the league low of just 32.4 percent converted against them, so the Patriots will struggle to see the success that has defined their season.
Any time you think the running back situation in New England is stable, you are wrong. It was Joey Iosefa’s turn to disrupt the homeostasis at the position, leading the team last week with 14 carries and 51 yards. These were the rookie’s first touches of the season and never saw over 162 touches in a season during his college career. Consider him a nuisance, not a solution.
While Leonard Williams has had a quiet rookie year (in my opinion), it is easy to forget that he is still just 21. He does have 2.5 sacks in the last three games (just 0.5 before that) and is playing in over 80 percent of the defensive snaps. A 3-4 lineman is usually an uninspired IDP choice, but I believe he is talented enough to become a legitimate option as he gains experience.
Carolina at Atlanta
NTR – 66.3
Despite the Panthers reputation (rightfully so) as an elite pass defense, teams still test them. Their 66.3 percent pass play percentage against is highest in the league, with a part of that a result of game script. Atlanta is sixth in pass attempts per game by the way…
The buzz last week was in regards to Fozzy Whitaker, but Cameron Artis-Payne silenced that quickly. The rookie from Auburn had 93 yards of offense on 16 touches (to Whitaker’s two) against the Giants and although he sustained a foot injury, he should be leading the run game again. The Falcons give up the fourth most fantasy points per game to running backs. Cool.
Over the last five games, Devonta Freeman has 66 carries for 198 yards (3.0 yards per carry). His saving fantasy grace has been three games during that span of 7+ receptions. It has brought back into question his rushing ability as his first half run is starting to look more like the exception compared to his other 1.5 seasons.
Houston at Tennessee
NTR – 7.1 and 7.8
A commonality between these two teams: getting to the quarterback. Houston (7.1 percent) and Tennessee (7.8) are fourth and third respectively in sack percentage. While Houston is league average in protecting their own quarterback, the Titans are second worst (9.4 percent).
Please let Brian Hoyer play. I can’t handle more Brandon Weeden. The latter came in relief last week after T.J. Yates was injured (out for the year) and brought his usual conservative pass nature. Do not subject yourself to this.
Another chance for Zach Mettenberger to prove himself. After Marcus Mariota was injured, Mettenberger leaned heavily on Dorial Green-Beckham, who now has two 100-yard games in the last three weeks. Expect a similar reliance in this one as Mettenberger’s big arm should create downfield chances.
St. Louis at Seattle
The Rams do not score often, but when they do, it is usually via the run. They lead the league in rush touchdown percentage (51.9 percent) due to a combination of great running and terrible quarterback play. The Seahawks have not seen a rushing touchdown in four weeks.
After another two touchdown performance last week, Tavon Austin has 10 touchdowns (one on a punt return) for the season. Austin is averaging over 58 yards per game with nearly 28 of those coming from running plays. While I would like to think the team is becoming more creative with Austin, I would use this chance to trade him away at what I believe is the highest point.
Fine, I was wrong last week about the “other guy” at running back. Christine Michael had a solid game (16 carries for 84 yards). He cannot catch and I fear his success running the ball was more a result of a good scheme and a scorching hot Russell Wilson taking all pressure off the run game. Even if Michael has a nice end of the season, could he supplant rookie runner Thomas Rawls?
Jacksonville at New Orleans
NTR –46.9 percent
The Jaguars offense has taken steps forward, but they still struggle with maintaining possession. At a 46.9 percent offensive possession rate, they are fifth lowest in the league relative to their opponents. At 51.7%, the Saints are tenth but that could change if Drew Brees is out, although he seems adamant on playing.
The seven reception week one seems like years ago for rookie Rashad Greene, even though he only gained 28 yards in that game. He was injured the next week and missed roughly half the season. In that time, Marqise Lee became healthy and surpassed him for the slot role in the high volume offense. Greene is averaging just 5.1 yards per reception (6.3 average depth of target via PFF) so he is operating in that Wes Welker role in an offense that prefers to work down the field.
An injured Marques Colston (questionable) could put Brandon Coleman in a red zone role this week. Coleman is impossible to rely on consistently as he has two zero catch games sandwiching two of his more productive games this year. He should be monitored as a 23-year-old receiver with red zone capabilities in a high scoring offense.
Green Bay at Arizona
Keeping a drive going is something the Cardinals do well, as evident by their 24.1 first downs per game, tops in the NFL. That number has looked even better over the last three weeks (26.3). Arizona is also third best limiting opponents to create first downs (17.6), something that could keep the Packers offense on the bench.
When looking back at 2015, Eddie Lacy will go down as one of the bigger disappointments not due to long-term injury. He has four games of 10 rushing yards or less along with career lows in touches and yards per game. Lacy could be a buy low this offseason depending on the direction the Packers go with the position.
Likely the guy who led many teams to fantasy championships, David Johnson is proving the explosiveness he is capable of continues despite a heavy workload. Over the last three weeks, he has averaged at least 4.5 yards per carry in each contest despite seeing 20+ touches per game. I suspect the question this offseason will revolve around his ability to repeat the feat, but dynasty owners should remember he is already 24-years-old, or three months older than Le’Veon Bell.
Sunday Night Game
New York Giants at Minnesota
NTR –41.1 and 29.3
When numbers collide. The Vikings are lowest in pass attempts per game (29.3) while the Giants allow the most (41.1). Considering the Vikings are even more conservative at home (26.6), the Giants may avoid seeing their secondary tested yet again.
The most cursed name in fantasy will be Odell Beckham Jr., who we have been exhaustively told is serving his suspension this Sunday. While he has been hobbled by a knee injury, I foresee Dwayne Harris as the primary beneficiary with upticks to Rueben Randle, Shane Vereen, and Will Tye. Harris has four games of 5+ receptions and is mostly a possession option, making it likely Randle plays more down the field in this contest.
It is hard not to paint Teddy Bridgewater’s numbers as a disappointment but there are reasons for optimism. He decreased his interception rate (from 3.0 percent to 2.0 percent), is seeing a higher completion rate (64.4 percent to 66.3), and has maintained his yards per attempt (7.3 to 7.4). His splits also suggest Bridgewater is not struggling, but given the conservative nature of the offense, he will not have the counting stats until Adrian Peterson is out of the picture.
Monday Night Game
Cincinnati at Denver
NTR –6.2 and 5.6
Watching backup quarterbacks play is never fun but watching them play against two difficult pass defenses is just miserable. Denver (5.6) and Cincinnati (6.2) are among the four best at limiting an opposing quarterbacks yards per attempt. The Bengals are in even more trouble considering Denver does an even better job of this at home (4.7).
Where to begin with Jeremy Hill? The NFL leading 10 rushing touchdowns has salvaged an otherwise miserable season. All of those touchdowns have occurred in the red zone and any burst he showed last year has not come with him into year two. He has struggled regardless of the down, distance, or game situation. Which version of him are we to believe?
The feast or famine nature of Emmanuel Sanders in 2015 has been unfortunate to watch. While part of that has been the struggles at the quarterback position, it also speaks to the unrealistic expectations that 2014 created. He will reach the 1,000 yard plateau for the second-straight season, but he has alternated great performances (like last week’s 10-catch, 181-yard game) with some rough spots (combined five catches, 36 yards the two weeks prior). It could be a good selling window based on the aggregate numbers.
*All numbers courtesy of Pro-Football-Reference