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.
Jacksonville at Baltimore
Number to Remember (NTR) – 11
Combined, these two teams have forced just 11 turnovers on the year with Baltimore (four) and Jacksonville (seven) among the three lowest in the NFL. The offenses, on the other hand, have 25 total turnovers including 18 interceptions. It is likely these teams maintain more of their drives than give them away.
Although Allen Hurns seems likely to play, Bryan Walters could once again be a major part of the passing game. In the last three weeks, he has snagged 14 of 20 targets and has become the underneath target for the team with Rashad Greene and Marqise Lee injured. A free agent in the off-season, the 28 year old could be an interesting hold in dynasty leagues.
It appears Chris Givens will become a starter with Steve Smith injured, and the deep threat for Joe Flacco to find. The former Rams receiver has averaged over 16 yards per reception, but a 48% catch rate for his career means he will need to break a big play given his inefficiencies. Jacksonville has allowed the third fewest 20+ pass plays, providing a stern first test for the speedster.
Carolina at Tennessee
NTR – 9.2
The Titans’ struggles on offense can be highlighted by the 9.2% sack rate allowed, fifth worst in the NFL. The inability to keep their quarterbacks clean will be tested by a Carolina defense who have already piled up 25 sacks (3.1 per game), fourth most. The offense will need to be creative so Marcus Mariota avoids too many negative plays.
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He has been highlighted before, but rookie Devin Funchess set a career high in catches (three) and scored his first touchdown of the season against Green Bay a week ago. With Jonathan Stewart hurting, the team may be forced to go to the air more often. Funchess logged just 18 snaps (27%), but expect that number to increase, and perhaps see a few red zone opportunities against a pass defense who is fourth worst in pass touchdown percentage (6.3%).
Kendall Wright is expected to miss another week of action, making another rookie wide receiver an intriguing option. Dorial Green-Beckham led the Titans receivers in catches (five) and yards (77) while leading the team in total targets (nine). The coaching staff might complain about his run blocking, but he remains their most talented receiver and will be needed against the vaunted Carolina pass defense.
Dallas at Tampa Bay
NTR – 260.3
Expect this game to take place primarily on the ground, with these teams combining for 260.3 yards per game running the football. Tampa Bay (131.9) and Dallas (128.4) reside at seventh and eighth in rushing, with both teams averaging 4.5 yards per carry. Considering these are bottom ten pass offenses, there is only one way to offensive success.
With the return of Dez Bryant, the skill positions are fairly set. Perpetual disappointment Terrance Williams failed yet again when asked to step up with Bryant injured, relegating himself to a tertiary option at best. If you like 45 catch, 700 yard receivers, keep him on your roster.
In what can only be considered a surprise, Tampa Bay has two running backs on pace for 1,000 total yards. Charles Sims, of the two, is definitely the less likely. He has nearly as many receiving yards (238) as he does rushing yards (284) and remains the running back used when the team is trailing. Given the team construction, that will be quite frequent.
Miami at Philadelphia
NTR – 22.3
The Eagles enjoy keeping a quick pace, as evident by their 22.3 seconds per offensive play, fastest in the league. Since they are just middle of the road with 5.6 plays per drive, that means their offense is barely on the field for two minutes per drive (2:05). Miami is seventh worst in scoring per possession so they will appreciate the extra time given in this game.
In the “race” for tight end, Dion Sims is seeing more snaps than Jordan Cameron lately. Last week, that even led to more targets (three to one), although neither has managed much this season. Ryan Tannehill has utilized his receivers well, leaving little optimism for a productive option at tight end.
From one tight end situation to another, Zach Ertz continues to see 80%+ of the positional snaps. The feeling long has been that Ertz was underutilized as a receiving tight end, forced to the sideline for Brent Celek. Ertz has had multiple receptions in every game this season including 4+ in his last four contests. The floor is becoming safer.
Cleveland at Pittsburgh
NTR – 191.6
The Browns are generous to opposing running backs, giving up 191.6 total yards per game, 18 more than the next team (Chargers). In three starts this season, DeAngelo Williams has managed 150 total yards per game including last week’s 225 yards against Oakland. He should have another one in him.
With a banged up receiving unit, Taylor Gabriel was given extended playing time (91% of offensive snaps) last week, but did little with the extra attention (he caught just one of six targets). If Brian Hartline and Andrew Hawkins fail to make it back, Gabriel could once again be a focal point against a subpar secondary.
It looks like Landry Jones is once again in line to start for the Steelers as of this writing. As the numbers suggest, they will lean on Williams and the run game, but Jones is capable of launching a few deep passes. In his only start of the season, Antonio Brown surpassed 100 yards and Martavis Bryant scored a touchdown. He should keep the key fantasy options afloat in this game.
Chicago at Saint Louis
NTR – 102.7
The impact of Todd Gurley has been massive, leading to an increase in team rushing yards of 102.7 (71.3 to 174). Chicago is the ninth stingiest fantasy defense to opposing running backs (20.9 points per game), allowing over 109 total rushing yards to just one team, the Packers, in week one. Gurley is going to test their resolve.
Most likely, the Bears will be short-handed with several receivers and Matt Forte hobbled, making Jeremy Langford a likely centerpiece for the offense. Last week, Langford had over 140 yards of offense on 21 touches including several big catches. The former wide receiver is capable of filling in for Forte until he recovers.
Stedman Bailey is out on suspension, leaving a hole at wide receiver. While the Nick Foles “under 200 yards passing” count is now at seven straight games, even he needs a few options. With Tavon Austin established, I imagine Brian Quick and Kenny Britt will be the primary beneficiaries of the unclaimed targets. Quick and Britt are both seeing around 30 snaps per game recently and can thrive together in three receiver sets.
Detroit at Green Bay
NTR – 59.9
As usual, the Packers offense remains efficient, recording just 59.9 offensive plays per game, second fewest in the NFL. They are also avoiding turnovers, having one roughly every 80 plays, first in the league. Given the Lions allow six yards per play, fifth most in the league, the Packers could have a nice week.
If the Lions are to move the ball, Theo Riddick needs to be involved once again. He is on pace for 84 receptions, already having five games with 5+ catches in the first half of 2015. Green Bay allows the fifth fewest catches to running backs (32), so Riddick will be tested here.
A preseason darling, Davante Adams has watched his targets fluctuate between two and eleven in his five starts. Last week represented his best game (seven catches, 93 yards) but has still failed to score a touchdown in five starts. Adams will continue to get featured outside, but he needs to reduce the miscues for Aaron Rodgers to trust him in the red zone.
New Orleans at Washington
NTR – 80.6
The Saints have been scrutinized for their pass defense and the 80.6 yards allowed to tight ends is worst in the NFL. Now, they get Jordan Reed, who has had at least five catches in all but one contest and over 60 yards in four of those. Reed should feast in this contest as the team tries desperately to keep up.
Josh Hill was a big sleeper heading into the season, but has been a disappointment. He did manage two receptions, including one for a touchdown in last week’s game. While he is third on the tight end depth chart, Hill appears to be the primary backup to Ben Watson. He is still worth a stash, especially given Watson’s age.
Lost in the Washington offense has been Jamison Crowder, the rookie receiver has had at least four receptions in each of the last six games. He is on pace for 76 catches and has caught nearly 80% of his targets, the former could lead the team at season’s end. Crowder has the looks of a reliable PPR option but with limited touchdown upside.
Minnesota at Oakland
NTR – 30.2 and 29.2
Two of the better teams at starting offensive field position, the Vikings (30.2, fifth) and Raiders (29.2, seventh) average among the highest in the league. It helps the two teams rank in the top half in percentage of drives resulting in a score. Expect a strategic game where each team is trying to win the positional battle.
A disappointment this year, Mike Wallace led the team in targets (six) against the Rams last week, but only managed one catch for four yards. He is averaging the lowest yards per reception (11.0) of his career and is on pace for lows in catches (58) and yards (692) as well. Wallace’s usage through the season will be telling as to the team’s decision on keeping him past 2015.
I am going to take a moment to highlight Charles Woodson, the 39 year old safety who is leading the NFL in interceptions. The offense is full of youngsters that have been highlighted here before, but to see the 18 year veteran still competing at a high level is nothing short of incredible. He is on pace to have another 80+ tackle season along with a career high in picks (ten). Enjoy.
New England at New York Giants
NTR – 59
Since highlighting Rob Gronkowski is a fool’s errand, I will just point out the 59 catches the Giants have allowed to opposing tight ends (most in football). That includes nine catch games to both Ben Watson and Charles Clay, good tight ends but a stratosphere below Gronk. Expect him to party on Sunday.
Breakout player Dion Lewis is out for the year and I expect Danny Amendola, not another running back, to benefit most. The veteran receiver did have four catches last week, the fourth time he has done that this year. He should operate underneath and at least match the 40 snaps he had against Washington.
Larry Donnell is out once again, with Will Tye and Jerome Cunningham fighting for targets and snaps. Last week, Tye saw 67% of the snaps compared to 28% for Cunningham, with Tye second on the team in targets with six. Tye should once again be in the driver’s seat, but I would merely keep an eye on the situation. Please, start anyone else!
Kansas City at Denver
NTR – 69
To call the Broncos run offense anemic would be too kind. They have five games with 69 total rushing yards or fewer this year. Now, they face the Chiefs, who allow just over 100 rushing yards per game but are seventh best in fantasy against opposing running backs. Even if the Broncos defense is dominant, the offense will be passing frequently to move the ball down the field.
With James O’Shaughnessy out this week, Demetrius Harris will get his first opportunity to log some meaningful time. The former basketball player ran in the mid 4.5’s and was among the most athletic tight ends from the 2013 draft despite being 6’7”and 230 lbs. Can Harris be the next basketball star turned tight end success story?
Well, Owen Daniels heard the message from the Vernon Davis trade. He had his season high in catches (six) and the first 100 yard receiving game of the year in a losing effort against the Colts. Daniels had a 37 yard catch, which was impressive considering no defense would expect him to be able to run that far on one play.
Sunday Night Game
Arizona at Seattle
NTR – 133 and 136
Both defenses excel at limiting first downs with the Seahawks (133) and the Cardinals (136) the two best in the NFL. This indicates a premium on sustaining drives, which could make the teams conservative in taking shots down the field.
Before the bye week, rookie J.J. Nelson had his first extended play with John Brown hurt. He excelled working down the field with three catches for 70 yards. Nelson has the speed, but his size (5’10”, 156 lbs) leaves much to be desired. With Brown questionable and at the very least limited, Nelson could get another shot to prove himself beyond special teams.
The Seattle offense is pretty set but rookie Tyler Lockett remains their best receiving weapon, even with limited snaps. He routinely hovers around 50% of the team snaps as his run blocking is questionable at best. He finally scored his first offensive touchdown in week seven and has two more on special teams. Lockett could see a huge step forward in year two. I am buying.
Monday Night Game
Houston at Cincinnati
NTR – 1.25
Despite being just 21st in yards per carry (4.0), the Bengals lead the league in rushing touchdowns at 1.25 per game. Jeremy Hill and Giovani Bernard account for seven of those, and with the Houston defense having given up seven of their own in eight games this year, there could be a few opportunities for the ground game in the red zone.
The Texans have had a chance to heal their wide receivers during the bye week, Nate Washington and Cecil Shorts should return for this game. They have combined for 8.6 targets per game, representing the second and third most total targets despite missing five games between them. It shouldn’t impact DeAndre Hopkins, but there may be little else to go around even though they are the highest volume pass offense.
Mohamed Sanu is firmly entrenched as the third receiver and managed his first touchdown of the year (albeit a rushing touchdown) against Cleveland last week. While he has multiple catches in all but one game this year, he is only involved in about 50% of the team snaps. Without an injury, Sanu will be a desperation play at best, but better served as a depth player with upside.
*All numbers courtesy of Pro-Football-Reference