Welcome to my weekly column, giving you all the advice you will need to decide if a weekly performance is here to stay or whether it is a one-time anomaly. In Envisions Fantasy Football Casino, we will be looking at some players and whether or not you should try to pick them up, get out on them when you can, or be patient with them and see what happens in coming weeks. In the final segment of the article The Blind Spot, we will take a look at the positions of kicker and D/ST. The forgotten positions on your team, but also positions who could help you win a week with good performances or lose a week in bad matchups. Now, Let’s get down to business.
Marvin Jones Jr.- While people may see the game he put up this week as a mirage having seven catches for 107 yards and two TD, it is, in fact, more of the norm recently for Jones Jr. In his last four games including this week, he has at least six catches in every game while getting double-digit targets. Against the second-ranked Steelers pass defense in Week 8, he came down with six catches for 128 yards showing his ability to be relevant in tough games as well as in less difficult games such as the Packers this past week. While the two TD a week will not be there the floor of six receptions and 60 yards is easily attainable making him a solid wide receiver two or flex play moving forward. With Golden Tate on the other side playing the slot and looking seemingly healthy Matthew Stafford should continue to sling the ball like he has no running game to count on. Wait, he doesn’t, this is the Lions we are talking about. The last time they had a running back who was worth talking about I had eyesight. If you are somehow in a league where Jones Jr. is on waivers make sure to go get him for the playoff push.
DeAndre Hopkins– While six receptions for 85 yards and one TD are good stats for Hopkins, especially with Tom Savage at quarterback, the fact it came against the Colts and also took 16 targets to get those six receptions has to be concerning. While it was good to see Savage look for him so often, with a game this week against the Rams as well as games left against the top three defenses against fantasy wide receivers in the Jaguars, Steelers, and Ravens still on the schedule he is not bound to have a good second half. Hopkins still has to be a weekly start, but he is going to better fit as the number two receiver on your team and not a number one. Coming off of a lackluster season in 2016, there is a good chance he was drafted to your team as the number two, so if this is the case, great. But for those of you who saw the season he was having and decided to upgrade another position by trading away other pieces, may I suggest you try to find some waiver moves to solidify the wide receiver position. Perhaps Marquise Goodwin or Corey Davis are available?
Theo Riddick– Although only having five rushes for 11 yards to go along with four receptions for 62 yards against the Packers on Monday night, he does have a few things going for him. First is Amir Abdullah fumbled twice in the red zone including once on the goal line meaning Riddick should start getting more and more of the running back work whether it be in the red zone or in the middle of the field. The other key factor is remaining games left against the same Packers he played this week and a game against the Browns, and really, I could have just left it at the Cleveland Browns. With Matthew Stafford dissecting opposing defenses right now they will be forced to play nickel and dime packages even more than they do now leaving Theo Riddick open to feast on them through screen passes and dump offs. As John Gruden stated over and over and over on Monday, Riddick is a great receiving back, so once he is on the field he will not have to come off meaning ample opportunity for big games moving forward in the season.
This week is going to be slightly different in the casino as I am going to stick to talking about quarterbacks to buy, sell or hold exclusively. With the Rash of injuries to hit the league, it is getting harder and harder to find reliable plays, so let’s find them together.
Jared Goff: (Buy)- While earlier in the season his play could have been thought of as a fluke it has gotten to the point in the season to take Goff seriously as a number one starting option. With the Rams offense being the highest scoring offense in the league and the team also having the highest point differential thus far it is not a fluke anymore. If one is dumb luck and two is possible, what is 9? At this point much like the next player, I am going to talk about you can not just overlook the production coming out of the Los Angeles team. With solid receiving weapons in Cooper Kupp, Robert Woods and finally Sammy Watkins to go along with the running and receiving resurgence this season of Todd Gurley the offense is here to stay and with a defense which is rounding in to form only giving up 12.5 points/game in the last four weeks, look for the Rams to be there in January as they bring a playoff game to the Coliseum. And no, I do not mean the Rose Bowl.
As said above with Jared Goff, it is no longer possible to call what Alex Smith has done this season a fluke. While he was a game manager in the past he has shown a whole new level of ability this season as he is being pushed to perform by the coaching staff as well as the quarterback-in-waiting Patrick Mahomes. While the Chiefs are currently on a slide, which is not good, they still have games left against the other three teams in their own division who have all been extremely underachieving as well as a game against the Giants meaning it is likely they get back on track moving on after their current bye week. While Kareem hunt has slowed a bit since his lights out start he is still the fifth-ranked running back since week three and with the injury concerns with Gronkowski and now Ertz, Kelsey could be the number one tight end in the league for the rest of the season. The Kansas City defense which was tops in 2016 has fallen off in 2017 due to injuries and with it has gone the ability to hold opponents to low scoring games. While this is not good for the job security of the defensive coordinator, it is heaven for Alex Smith owners who can expect him to be a top-five quarterback for the rest of the fantasy season.
Ben Roethlisberger: (Buy)- We all know about the home/road splits for Big Ben as it has been well documented, so I will not rehash them here. Saying this what I will say is coming out of the bye for the rest of the season, the Steelers play six of their last eight games at home. With the weapons at his disposal, with Antonio Brown and Le’veon Bell being arguably the best in the league at their respective positions they make without a doubt the best combination of wide receiver and running back on one team. With the top weapons obviously in place, the supporting cast is also great between JuJu Smith-Schuster as the new wide receiver two and James Connor being a competent backup to Bell. All of these factors along with a top offensive line and a stout defense make for good things to come for the Steelers but especially for Big Ben as he should finally break the streak of non- top 10 finishes at the quarterback position.
Andy Dalton: (Sell)- A.J. Green as a great number one receiver? Check. Jon Ross as a down field threat? Check. Joe Mixon to help out the running game? Check. All the ingredients were there for Andy Dalton to have a good season, except for two. First, the offensive line sucks and if you can’t even get a pass off it does not matter who the receivers. The other thing working against him is, well, himself. We were all wondering if Andy Dalton was the player we saw in 2015 where he was a top-five quarterback before his thumb injury, or whether he was the player we saw every other year of his career. Well, we have seen the answer so far, this season he is who we thought he was and we can’t let him off the hook. While analysts, including myself, gave him another chance this year, even though based on track record he did not deserve it, we were proven wrong yet again. A lesson we should have learned based on other players is simple, one extraordinary season is not a changing of the guard in a person’s career, it is simply that, one extraordinary year in an otherwise similarly mediocre career. If Dalton is still on your team at this point, drop him for someone with some upside whether it be a quarterback or a position player. We have heard it all too many times, there are always streaming possibilities and this is the perfect reason to not overreact to one game or one season. While you may find a Dak Prescott, you will find a lot more Robert Griffin III.
Cam Newton: (Sell)- Although touting this move for weeks, even through his two good games, I am going to say it again as Newton is a boom or bust player with a lot more bust than Boom. While a boom or bust player is alright in a position like wide receiver where there are other players to pick up if one of your receivers does not play to potential, this is not able to be done in a single position like quarterback. While he will get you some rushing yards and an opportunity for a rushing TD the deficiencies in the actual quarterback ability is still a massive issue. If Newton rushes for 45 yards and a TD, we all think it is awesome as he got you 10.5 points. But what if, like many times he then passes for 200 yards with no TD and three INT? well, your 10.5 points just got washed away by only getting two points from the passing game. Who wants a quarterback who is only going to get you 12 points. Cam Newton is a mid-level quarterback at best and just as stated with Andy Dalton when you have one extraordinary season like Newton did in 2015, you have to expect a return to the norm and in this case, the saying is true. The bigger they are the harder they fall. Oh, and don’t forget the Panthers Part-time GM just traded their best player away to a team who knows what they are getting as they were with him in Carolina for the past number of seasons. Not a good sign of things going forward if you ask me.
Carson Wentz: (Buy)- No, the toy will not be able to get him from the current owner, so this buy is more for the person who already has him. Wentz is a monster. He has been super-efficient throwing for at least two TD in the last four games while not throwing for more than 270 yards in any of those games, including this past week against one of the best pass defenses in the league where he threw for four on only 199 yards passing. While his efficiency number are going to have to come down, the real key is he does not have to be this efficient to be successful. We have seen running ability from him, which unlike Cam Newton, you are not counting on for any value, but looking to as an added bonus. With Alshon Jeffery staying healthy all season, the emergence finally of Nelson Agholor in his third season and Zach Ertz finally having the type of season he was known to be capable of, Wentz has massive weapons to go along with the weapons in the Rush game. Jay Ajayi comes in and in his first game behind a real offensive line has a 46-yard TD run which is both his longest run and first TD of the season. If this is not enough the Eagles still have LeGarrette Blount to spell Ajayi when needed having the same bulldozer running style. While this would be enough, Corey Clemente can also have value on third downs as he rushed for two TD against Denver on Sunday to add to his receiving TD out of the backfield. The Eagles, as loaded as they are on offense while also having the number one ranked rush defense, are the most complete team in the NFL and when they finally get Ronald Darby back at cornerback they will be scary good in pass defense also. Wentz is the engine that drives the train in Philadelphia so hop aboard and get comfortable as he finishes as a top three quarterback.
Jacoby Brissett: (Buy)- Now that Andrew Luck has FINALLY been ruled out for the season Jacoby Brissett is a full buy. While he is not a plug and play starter, he is a great streaming play for week-to -week matchups. With negative game scripts in play for the Colts going forward the chances for him to have padded stats looks good, not to mention his rushing ability to add to those numbers. Unlike Cam Newton who has designed runs, Brissett runs to get out of trouble, which behind the offensive line in Indy is quite often. But because he runs to get out of trouble and not by design this limits his chances of the INT you find with Newton or others of the same ilk. His Rapport with T.Y. Hilton and especially Jack Doyle is continually evolving and with the rush game of Frank Gore and Marlon Mack being par at best, the passing game will be key in the rest of 2017. Brissett is not a high ceiling guy and if you can find better, get them, but in a streaming situation, or in DFS he is a High Floor option.
Greg Zuerlein– Yes, I am going with him again this week. And why not, he is the best kicker in the league this season along with Jake Elliott, so ride the hot leg. The Rams will be playing a very depleted Texans defense as well as a much worse Texans offense with the devastating injury to Deshaun Watson making this a juicy matchup on many fronts for the Rams. While TD’s will be aplenty in this game for the number one offense in the league, yes, the Rams, not all drives can end in the end zone meaning chances are, Zuerlein will have ample opportunity to pad his stats also.
Matt Bryant– Ahh, the friendly confines of Mercedes-Benz Stadium. After being miserable over the past three games away from the climate-controlled stadium in Atlanta, Matt Bryant returns home against a suddenly rejuvenated Cowboys’ team coming off three solid wins against the 49ers, Redskins and Chiefs. The Falcons will have to deal with a Dallas defense which is playing over their heads and an offense which has Dak Prescott who is playing at an even higher level this season than he did in his R.O.Y. campaign last season along with Ezekiel Elliott, who’s lucky streak of avoiding suspension makes the luck of the Irish seem minuscule by comparison. With this said the Dallas defense should be able to hold the Falcons offense somewhat in check making the likelihood of stalled drives leading to FG attempts instead of TD passes. As Sarkisian tries to prove not only can college basketball players be one and done but so can NFL coaches, I look for a dominant performance with only Matt Bryant able to avoid a total shutout.
Adam Vinatieri– Just as Adam Vinatieri is lucky to have been born (you can look up the story of his ancestry as it is quite interesting) the Colts are going to be happy to have the oldest player in the NFL kicking for them this week against the Steelers. Although the Brissett to Hilton and Doyle connection has been strong over the past two weeks, the Steelers second ranked pass defense coming off of a bye is not a good matchup for this to continue. With the Running game of Frank Gore and Marlon Mack not getting things going to a great extent, the best chance for any fantasy gravy for the Colts is through the other ageless wonder on the team Vinatieri. Much like the previous choice Matt Bryant, after two road games in this case the Colts return home to the climate controlled confines of Lucas Oil Stadium where points will be hard to find in terms of TD’s meaning many kicking opportunities in this game.
Los Angeles Rams- Yes, there is a lot of talk about the Rams this week. But there is a very good reason and the reason is the Rams are very good. The have had a seemingly dominant offense all season and in the past four weeks their defense has improved to match. While holding the Giants to 17 points this week was nothing special, holding the Jaguars to 17 was more impressive as well as shutting out the Cardinals in London. While you may say, it was only the Cardinals without Carson Palmer for most of the game, how many teams get shut out even in the worst of losses? Exactly. The secondary is playing well and the front seven is getting pressure on quarterbacks which does not mean good things for a statue like Tom Savage on Sunday. With the Offense firing on all cylinders, the defense is along for the ride, so enjoy every minute of the ride with them.
Seattle Seahawks- While the Legion of Boom is not the same as it once was, it does not have to be when you have a few things working for you such as what the Seahawks have this week. The first of those is the play of Bobby Wagner, Michael Bennett and the specimen which is Dwight Freeney getting pressure on opposing quarterbacks and causing havoc. The other thing going for them this week is the fact they get to face Drew Stanton this week and not Carson Palmer. Although Adrian Peterson got 37 rushes last week for 159 yards, this is not going to happen this week as, despite the two rushing TD from “Fat” Rob Kelly, Seattle shut down the Washington running game. This week when this happens it is not Kirk Cousins who the team can fall back on, it is the aforementioned Drew Stanton and when it comes to Stanton versus the Legion of Boom, even a depleted one, I will take Seattle.
New York Jets- Are the Jets an elite defense? No. But, are the Buccaneers an elite offense? The answer to that question is also no. While this choice seemed less chalk an hour ago when I started writing this segment of the article, the fact Jameis Winston has now been ruled out for a few weeks and Mike Evans is suspended for being a douche does nothing but make this an even better play. The simple fact is the Jets defense is getting better as the season goes on including shutting down LeSean McCoy last week and the Buccaneers offense is getting worse especially the running game which saw Doug Martin have eight rushes for seven yards last week. Add these two factors together with the absence of Evans and you have a recipe for a massive explosion of fantasy points for the Jets defense in Week 10 heading into their bye week.
Dominick Petrillo Lead Fantasy Analyst