Sunday Morning Huddle: Week Four

Ryan McDowell

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 – players at a pivot point where their value could increase or decrease based on opportunity and performance.

Early Games

Cincinnati at Atlanta

Through three games, the Bengals have seemingly found a great way to balance the usage of tight end Tyler Eifert, who has routinely dealt with injuries throughout his career. Eifert’s snap percentage has increased in each game this season, moving from 40% in the opener to 64.6% last week. His routes run are also climbing, doubling up his initial 18 from week one to 36 in week three. Eifert will always be an injury risk, but as the Bengals continue to maximize his role, he becomes more of an appealing fantasy option.

Running back Devonta Freeman has already been ruled out for this game although he did get in some practice this week. That means he is likely to return in week five and this game against the Bengals struggling defense will be the last “bell cow” work for running back Tevin Coleman. Coleman has impressed during his two-game stint as the starter, totaling 172 yards and a touchdown. As a home favorite, this could be a prime opportunity for Coleman to claim a full split backfield moving forward.

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Tampa Bay at Chicago

With rookie receiver Anthony Miller out of the lineup, quarterback Mitchell Trubisky will be forced to reassess his targets. Of course, wideout Allen Robinson will remain his first look but tight end Trey Burton should see his role continue to grow. Last week, Burton led the team in receiving and should be able to continue that pace, locking him in as a TE1 moving forward for the remainder of the season.

I’m now officially on watch for a pair of Buccaneers to see the field. It might not happen this week against the Bears (and maybe I don’t want it to, considering their defensive prowess) but it will happen eventually. Quarterback Jameis Winston’s suspension is over and he is back with the team, though veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick is still expected to draw the start this week. If he struggles, as he did in the first half last week, Winston could take over. Also, the Buccaneers running game has been atrocious, led by Peyton Barber. Rookie Ronald Jones has been a healthy scratch in each of the first three weeks but at some point, you have to see what your second-rounder can do.

Detroit at Dallas

Let’s face it, we can’t expect much from the Dallas passing game. That leaves us with running back Ezekiel Elliott. Despite a regressing offensive line and stacked boxes, Elliott has managed to gain a tie for the league lead in rushing entering week four. Elliott should have another huge game today but I am beginning to wonder how long he can hold up to this workload.

It’s not only Elliott who could have a big game on the ground. Last week, the Lions finally broke their nearly four-year-long streak of failing to produce a 100-yard rusher. Rookie Kerryon Johnson ended the string, showing he could do a little bit of everything. He ran inside and out and even got somewhat involved in the passing game. Johnson’s role should continue to increase in what is expected to be a close game.

Buffalo at Green Bay

After their shocking upset victory a week ago, the Bills face another challenge as they travel to Green Bay to face the Packers. It is difficult to find any long-term upside on this Buffalo roster. One player who caught my eye in week three was tight end Jason Croom. A converted college receiver, the big-bodied Croom caught his first career touchdown against the Vikings and with veteran starter Charles Clay banged up with a shoulder injury, Croom could see his role grow.

After popping up on the injury report late in the week and then missing Saturday’s run through, we shouldn’t expect to see receiver Randall Cobb on the field today. While Davante Adams and Geronimo Allison will serve as the top two options at receiver, I am interested to see who mans the slot with Cobb on the sidelines. The favorite has to be rookie Marquez Valdes-Scantling. There was much discussion about the three rookie receivers added by the Packers this year, but MVS is the only one to see the field, though that’s only included eight total snaps so far this year.

Houston at Indianapolis

Unfortunately, the Texans lost slot receiver Bruce Ellington to a hamstring injury that landed him on the injured reserve list. If there is any good news, it comes in the timing. Rookie receiver Keke Coutee is now fully healthy and ready to make his debut this week. The Texans are obviously set with their top two wideouts DeAndre Hopkins and Will Fuller, but I am anxious to see if Coutee’s speed will make a quick impact on this offense.

The Colts host the Texans in this AFC South battle, but they will once again be without tight end Jack Doyle and running back Marlon Mack. With Mack missing his third game of the season already, rookie pass-catching back Nyheim Hines should once again see his share of targets. Hines is averaging seven targets per game in the two Mack sat, which is enough to make him relevant in PPR leagues.

New York Jets at Jacksonville

The Jets offense is struggling and their coach is on the hot seat. This trip to Jacksonville suddenly feels like a must-win, which is not a good place to be when facing the Jaguars defense. The Jets haven’t used their tight end much at all over the past several years with the exception of veteran Austin Seferian-Jenkins a year ago. I am hoping underrated rookie Chris Herndon can change that. After sitting out week one, Herndon has led the team with nearly 60% of the snaps in the past two contests. Although he has just a modest four receptions on six targets on the season, that is enough to lead his team.

Jaguars starting running back Leonard Fournette should return for this matchup after missing two games with a hamstring injury. Facing the Jets defense as a home favorite is a juicy spot for Fournette. Backups T.J. Yeldon and Corey Grant had their moments but did not likely earn additional playing time beyond Fournette’s return. The injury must have dynasty owners worried. As we collect our latest set of dynasty ADP data, it is surprising to see Fournette has been able to maintain his early second-round draft value despite the lingering injuries that have now bothered him for three consecutive seasons dating back to his final season at LSU.

Miami at New England

The dynasty community had high hopes for Dolphins running back Kenyan Drake entering this season, especially after he ended the 2017 campaign as the RB8 over the final six weeks. Drake’s 2018 effort is off to a disappointing start as his carries have decreased each week. Maybe we should’ve seen this coming when Drake and veteran back Frank Gore were listed as co-starters. The duo has been sharing carries, but Drake has the big advantage as a pass-catcher, with 12 targets to just one for Gore. Drake tore up the Patriots for 193 total yards but the Dolphins will have to hang with New England for the running back to repeat that box score.

The Patriots have now lost back-to-back games and are trying to avoid their first three-game losing streak since 2002. Perhaps the difference-maker for the suddenly struggling Patriots offense will be their newest receiver, Josh Gordon. After trading for Gordon nearly two weeks ago, they sat him last week, a loss to the Lions. We still have no idea what to expect from the Tom Brady/Gordon combination but it will be exciting to find out.

Philadelphia at Tennessee

It is not easy to get excited about any player on this Titans offense given their early-season struggles. We have to keep in mind they still have some very strong dynasty assets though, including second-year receiver Taywan Taylor. The Titans surprisingly parted ways with veteran receiver Rishard Matthews this week, upon his request. Matthews has been the team’s top receiver the past two years but it had become obvious that he was now third in line for looks behind Taylor and Corey Davis. With Matthews now gone, expect Taylor’s role to continue to increase.

With quarterback Carson Wentz back in the lineup, the Eagles offense should show quick signs of improvement, even with a depleted receiving corp. Because the Eagles are still without receiver Alshon Jeffery and Mike Wallace, as well as Mack Hollins, who is on injured reserve, expect Wentz to favor his tight ends. We already know starter Zach Ertz serves as the go-to option in this passing offense but rookie tight end Dallas Goedert also got involved last week, leading the team with seven receptions, good for 73 yards and a score. It will only take one more game like that before dynasty owners are considering Goedert a top ten option at his position.

Late Games

Seattle at Arizona

Veteran receiver Doug Baldwin is another player expected to return to the field this week. After missing the past two games, Baldwin will likely quickly reclaim his role as the favorite target for quarterback Russell Wilson. I’m not ready to trust Baldwin in my lineup yet, especially in a game that could be controlled by the running game of Chris Carson.

Late last week, the Cardinals finally made a change at quarterback, replacing the pitiful veteran Sam Bradford with rookie Josh Rosen and asking him to win the game. As you might expect, that didn’t go well. This week, Rosen gets his first start with a full week to prepare and playing at home against a beatable Seattle defense. This is not an ideal spot for Rosen, though I still expect him to make a marked difference in this offense.

Cleveland at Oakland

While the story of this game be rookie quarterback Baker Mayfield making his first career start, I’m more interested to see how Mayfield’s addition to the lineup impacts his pass-catchers, namely rookie receiver Antonio Callaway. The former University of Florida star is one of the top rookie talents but is still being undervalued after off-field issues threatened his career and hurt his draft stock. Callaway has flashed big-play ability but for the most part, veteran quarterback Tyrod Taylor simply couldn’t take advantage of Callaway’s talents. That shouldn’t be an issue for Mayfield.

The Raiders have been a frustrating team already this season. They are seemingly wasting their presumed top option receiver Amari Cooper. After catching all ten of his targets two weeks ago, quarterback Derek Carr looked his way just five times in the Miami game, tied for fourth-most on the team. That’s not enough no matter who Cooper is matched up against.

San Francisco at Los Angeles Chargers

Second-year receiver Mike Williams started slowly, not only last season as a rookie but this year as well. Over the past two games though, Williams has three touchdowns, setting himself apart from the pack as the second wide receiver behind Keenan Allen. With Tyrell Williams still fighting for a significant role and deep threat Travis Benjamin possibly returning to the lineup, I want to see if Williams can continue his recent ascension.

The 49ers will play without starting quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, whose season was ended by a torn ACL last week, but I am not ashamed to admit I am not eager for the C.J. Beathard era. Instead, I’ll focus on a player who could benefit from the change at quarterback. Running back Kyle Juszczyk is on the field nearly every play, usually serving as a blocking back but he can also catch passes. Considering the Niners will now be routinely playing from behind, we could see Juszczyk being targeted early and often, racking up PPR points along the way.

New Orleans at New York Giants

The Giants will be without starting tight end Evan Engram for this game and likely a few more. That should leave an opportunity for others to claim a larger share of the targets. I expect the prime beneficiary to be slot receiver Sterling Shepard who was the team’s go-to option last season when superstar Odell Beckham went down. Shepard has been somewhat forgotten as OBJ returned and the team added running back Saquon Barkley, but that could change after this game.

Let’s not get cute with this one. The Saints offense is all about three players right now – quarterback Drew Brees, running back Alvin Kamara and wide receiver Michael Thomas. After their ridiculous game a week ago, both Kamara and Thomas are now on pace to break the single-season reception record held by Marvin Harrison. Both players have now moved into the top five of our brand-new dynasty ADP and are viewed as elite assets. I just want to see them keep this up as it makes watching football even more fun.

Sunday Night

Baltimore at Pittsburgh

The Ravens have surprisingly started the season as one of the league’s top-scoring teams. Quarterback Joe Flacco has spread the ball around to his new weapons, including receivers John Brown, Michael Crabtree, and Willie Snead. In this Sunday night battle, he should have a new option to funnel targets to as rookie tight end Hayden Hurst is expected to make his debut. Hurst has missed the first three games of the season with a foot injury but the first-rounder practiced this week and is reportedly set to go.

Obviously, the Steelers offense has a huge collection of weapons for both fans and defenders to focus on, but I’ll be watching to see if tight end Vance McDonald can pick up where he left off last week. McDonald, playing extensively for the first time all season, caught a 75-yard score on his way to an overall TE1 performance last week. McDonald has flashed this ability before but has never consistently performed as a fantasy starter. Now’s his chance!

Monday Night

Kansas City at Denver

If local word around Denver is to be believed, veteran quarterback Case Keenum might be in danger of losing his job. The Broncos paid Keenum generously this off-season but haven’t seen much return yet. The Broncos are 2-1 but have not been as consistent as expected offensively. The good news for Keenum is he is in the ideal spot to put up huge numbers against one of the league’s most forgiving defenses. There is a chance we eventually see second-year quarterback Chad Kelly this season.

The Chiefs high-powered offense has been one of the top stories of the early season. Maybe we shouldn’t ask any more of quarterback Patrick Mahomes, who is on pace to shatter the single-season touchdown record but I will try. He’s already shown he can support multiple weapons including Tyreek Hill, Sammy Watkins, and Travis Kelce. His clear target as a third wide receiver has been Chris Conley, the NFL Combine freak from 2015. Yeah, I’m just being greedy expecting him to become a relevant weekly fantasy threat. It sure would be fun though.

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ryan mcdowell