Well, we made it further than we thought we would. The cracks are starting to show just as the NFL seemed to be on the brink of pulling off a non-bubble season. It started with the Titans following last week’s game, and has now spread to the Patriots and the Chiefs (practice squad only so far). With one game fully postponed into the future and another on the brink, let’s try to uncover some gems to help your hurting lineup.
It should be pointed out at this point, that we knew this was coming. We all launched into this endeavor of a season knowing we would be dealing with untimely postponements, inactive players, etc. It was part of the deal for playing this season and now it is time to adjust. I maintain that those who were best prepared will be the ones to succeed. There will be a lot of circumstantial luck driven by schedule of who you are missing on short notice and who your opponent is missing (and further if a team misses more than one game), but the thing to remember is no one wants to listen to you complain and make excuses. We knew what we were getting into. It will truly be a season like no other from this point forward.
Further, there is almost no way the season will ever be cancelled. Simply, there is way too much money on the line. There is a possibility (however small) that more players may choose to opt-out, but that seems unlikely. Just like with the MLB, the league will figure it out on the fly and the majority of games will be played. I think the Titans will play as scheduled in week five and if 15-20 players have tested positive before then they will be starting guys off the street and will probably not play very well because of it. I see almost no scenario where the season is delayed, postponed or cancelled. After all, billionaires are gonna billion.
Over Easy matchups of the week
(fertile fantasy soil)
Scoring has been up on the season so far. This is likely due to diminished practice time for defenses (saw a similar bump to start 2011 lockout season) and the advancement of teams going for it on fourth down. We can be sure the second thing will hold, while defenses will start to play better eventually.
Atlanta/Green Bay (56.5 point total): Atlanta figures to have all three WR’s healthy (although Ridley/Julio are still Questionable). GB may look to risk it with Adams after losing Lazard to IR. With Adams limited I am boosting MVS and Robert Tonyan for Packers pass catchers. Atlanta’s defense has been abysmal and doesn’t figure to be any better in this matchup.
Cleveland/Dallas (56 point total): This game is actually my favorite of the bunch to be top scoring. I’m firing up everyone with confidence and if you need a QB replacement with the losses of Big Ben/Tannehill/Cam and maybe Mahomes, then I am starting Baker with confidence. The only piece I’m worried about in this matchup is Chubb as he could be eliminated by game script if the Browns run Hunt out there for their passing O. Still, the Browns figure to try to contain Dallas’s O by playing ball control, Chubb would be a huge part of that plan. Side note: when I said all pieces are a go I did not mean Austin Hooper. He should be dropped. Don’t play him. If he goes 3/2/17/1 and scores you 9.7 points, I will not eat my words.
Seattle/Miami (54.5 point total): Runner-up for my favorite high scoring game. Miami has looked #good this season and Fitzpatrick is my leading QB streamer. Parker/Williams and Gesicki all have plus draws. The only Dolphins RB I want to play remains Gaskin. If you are desperate at WR, Isiah Ford figures to have opportunity. We know who we are playing on the Seahawks, no need to get cute. Carson seems like he is going to play, but Hyde has the most to gain if he sits.
New Orleans/Detroit (54 point total): Michael Thomas could be back, but even if he isn’t this game figures to impress more than we may have thought at the beginning of the year. The Saints D is playing below their talent level and that could allow this Detroit offense the chance to succeed. Golladay is a full go after playing the majority of snaps last week. Golladay back in the offense raises the ceiling for all players as they have seemed relatively stuck without him. Stafford could turn into what we saw last year and what many had hoped he could be when he was a borderline top ten QB in drafts. Peterson remains getting the bulk of rushing work, but Swift could see his breakout this week with the Lions assumed to be passing a lot.
Deviled Egg matchups of the week
(low total games where we want to limit exposure)
LAC/TB (42.5 points): The Chargers offense has looked a lot better in two games with rookie Herbert than it did in the opener with Tyrod. It is difficult to know if that is normal variance or something more to it. All I know is that it is great to be able to start Ekeler/Allen/Henry with confidence. I am staying away from Kelley, as TB covers the run well (although not pass catching RB’s). For TB with Godwin and Fournette out I am fine to roll out Evans and RoJo, but I am staying away from the other pass catchers. If you are truly desperate with all the inactive players, then I would lean Miller over Watson, but it is a coin flip.
Ind/Chi (43 points): Can Nick Foles’s emergence as the starter raise the floor of this game? Maybe. Indy has lost a lot of pass catchers this season. Hilton hasn’t looked like himself (the story of his grandmother calling him out is adorable, but reinforces that assessment). Allie-Cox got it done last week on diminished playing time with Doyle back, I am not starting him again and expecting a third straight top ten TE performance. The Colts figure to lead most of the game which should play into Jonathon Taylor’s hands, but Hines could be schemed up as he was last week. With so many injuries and a low total I am going to this game as a last resort only.
Soft Boiled plays of the week
(Teams heavily favored where we want to target RB’s/DST’s)
Baltimore (-14): This means Baltimore is favored to win by two TD’s, which is insane. Now if only we knew which of the RB’s to play. I think Baltimore uses this as a “get right” game after Monday’s embarrassment. I expect Ingram to do well early and Edwards to ice the game in the fourth.
Los Angeles Ram (-13.5): The Rams get the Giants. Henderson is the man and should be a RB1 this week. If DFS is your thing then I would load up on rosters with Henderson.
San Fran, Green Bay, Tampa Bay are all TD favorites. Mostert has been ruled out again so start McKinnon and maybe Wilson with confidence. Aaron Jones is going to be fed. RoJo has no competition for touches. This should be a big week for some of my biggest preseason faves.
Sunny-Side Up plays of the week
(Fringe starters that you should start)
I expanded this section with more names thanks to the Covid uncertainty potentially crushing four teams.
Quarterbacks: Ryan Fitzpatrick Mia: I think Seattle has a better chance to lose this game outright than Fitz does of busting in this gimme matchup. Seattle lacks any sort of pass rush and will be playing without Jamaal Adams. I think this could be one of our last true Fitz-magic games ever, as Tua will be starting before season’s end (I still think after the bye). Start Fitzpatrick with confidence in this game against a west coast team flying 3,300 miles for 1am ET start.
Baker Mayfield Cle: We will continue picking on defenses that struggle against everyone by jumping on the Cowboys. Baker has been tolerable in weeks two and three, I see a nice explosion coming against the Cowboys this week. The only worry is that Cowboys can rush the passer (they can’t cover anyone is their problem) and Baker can struggle when he is constantly besieged. He still remains a strong option in this plus-draw.
Matthew Stafford Det: An over easy matchup with a returning Golladay. If there was ever a time for Stafford to return to his form from early last season it will be against the Saints who are struggling out of the blocks.
Nick Mullens SF: If you need to go deeeeeep due to Covid, then I love Mullens matchup against the Eagles with Samuel, Aiyuk and Kittle all playing and McKinnon out of the backfield. Mullens has proven capable as a starter and drew interest from other teams in the offseason. He figures to be available in about any league format and I would bet he finishes in the top half of scoring this week.
Ronald Jones TB: My guy. Has the job mostly to himself even if it is just for the week (McCoy will get some snaps). If you listened to me and drafted him, then this is the time to start him. Favored by 7, at home, against a beat-up west coast team coming east for a 1pm start. He’s currently RB34 on the season while splitting time. Fearless forecasts aren’t my thing, but 125+ yards and a TD seems very doable with a ceiling quite a bit higher.
Darrell Henderson LAR: Absolute smash spot against a bad Giants team. Henderson has looked #awesome this season and has another game without Akers and only the plodding Brown for competition. He should easily finish top fifteen this week, even without a TD. We are starting to see the guy we thought we were getting last season.
David Montgomery Chi: Montgomery could have the backfield to himself with Cohen’s injury. Cordarelle Patterson will assume some of Cohen’s old role, but Montgomery should garner a few more passing game looks as well. This game has an ugly total, but the usage should be there for Montgomery to succeed. Patterson is still a super interesting flier if you can add him before this week’s games. He’s super talented and has the second highest yards per carry in NFL history.
Miles Gaskin Mia: Ownership and start% are both climbing up. Gaskin will be on the field a lot in a shoot out with the Seahawks. Yards and receptions galore with a chance for a TD as he wrestled a few red zone/goal line carries away from Howard in week three.
McKinnon/Wilson SF: Both McKinnon and Jeff Wilson were usable last week and under similar circumstances both should be playable this week against Philly. I expect SF to win big and run the clock out, which should lead to lots of split attempts amongst the two healthy RB’s.
Zack Moss Buf: After missing last week, Moss is questionable this week. If he goes, then I love him in a smash spot against the Raiders putrid rushing defense. This would be if you are relatively desperate for a play, but he was splitting work evenly with Singletary before missing week three. If Moss doesn’t go, then as much as it pains me to say this, Singletary would be a top five play.
Brian Hill Atl: Trying to dig super deep for some of you who may be in a tough spot with injuries and Covid. Hill saw increased usage last week and with a track meet in Green Bay on the horizon I would expect to see quite a bit more of him spelling Gurley. Hill should be added in most formats at this point.
JD McKissic Was: The ultimate in desperation plays. This is if you had CMC, Barkley or Henry plus Conner with Tarik Cohen, James White and Fournette as your backups. McKissic has been playing passing downs and should see a lot of dump-offs with the Football Teamers set to get destroyed by the Ravens.
Keenan Allen LAC: A lot of people probably drafted Allen as their third to fifth WR. He’s a borderline RB1 with Herbert funneling targets his way.
Davante Parker/ Preston Williams MIa: This Seattle matchup is tasty. I think Parker will have the better day, but Williams should be usable. I’ll reiterate the advice from above, if you’re desperate then look for Isiah Ford.
DJ Chark Jax: Back healthy and set to play. Cincy has not been good against opposing wide receivers and Chark should be able to work his magic with Minshew like they did last year.
Jarvis Landry Cle: Landry hasn’t been great thus far in the season. A lot of that has been due to game script, but it also calls his health into question. I believe this is his best spot of the year against the Cowboys and he should have a vintage performance in a high scoring affair. More than five receptions with greater than 75 yards seem easily doable after what Lockett did to them out of the slot last week.
Brandin Cooks Hou: Houston has played the three best teams in the AFC to start the year and their fantasy players are worse for wear because of it. Look for this offense to start to right the ship against the Vikings who are definitely not one of the best teams in the league the way they have been playing this season. No pass rush and no healthy corners means Cooks should see his best game of the year. I don’t have any hesitation on starting Fuller either. All the Texans pass catchers figure to do well here.
Hunter Renfrow LV: With Ruggs and Edwards both out for this game, I expect a lot of Renfrow and Waller. Buffalo has been phenomenal this season and Oakland will need to throw to have any chance of keeping up. The Raiders have scored 34 in back to back weeks, so this isn’t your offense of a few years ago. There is actually a ceiling here and it is quite high. Feel good about Renfrow, the desperation names are coming.
Marquez Valdes-Scantling GB: Hereby and forever to be known as MVS in this column. With Lazard out and Adams beat up, it is MVS who has the best rapport with Rodgers. MVS usually runs a boom/bust route tree, but I think he’ll see some higher percentage targets which will allow him to boost his receptions and floor in the week’s highest total game on the slate.
Brandon Aiyuk SF: Looked great in week three. Kittle and Samuel are both back, but I expect Samuel’s usage to be significantly reduced this week. The Eagles have not been good at any facet of the game and I like Aiyuk to make it two big games in a row.
Greg Ward Phi: Getting into the desperation territory now. Ward is the only healthy wideout for the Eagles it seems with no one else practicing this week. He did well at the end of last season in a similar role and SF is not the pillar of health on defense. If you need someone, you could do a lot worse than a player who projects to be second on his team in targets.
Anthony Miller Chi: A preseason favorite who was left for dead thanks to Trubisky’s QB play. Miller now gets Big Dick Nick. So let’s get him back on our team and watch him go to work. Jimmy Graham is not going to be second banana to Allen Robinson for long and Cohen is out for the season. Miller is set to excel from this week forward.
Tre’Quan Smith NO: Only if Michael Thomas misses the game. Smith has become the top producing WR on the Saints offense and I have more interest in him without MT then I do Emmanuel Sanders.
Randall Cobb Hou: He’s third on his team in the pecking order, but the Vikings are real bad. If Fuller doesn’t play I would feel even better about him. But there is a real chance that you have a hole at WR and you can do a lot worse than Cobb.
Andy Isabella Ari: On the off chance that both Kirk and Hopkins miss this game, then Isabella would jump really high up this list. I think he is playable even if both guys go. He has shown his ability at the NFL level on reduced snaps and could see more snaps against the Panthers with two hurt receivers ahead of him. He’s the most desperate of everyone, but he is available almost everywhere.
I said up above that I am not a believe in Mo Allie-Cox, so if you have enjoyed his last two weeks I would get him out of your lineup (he only ran seven routes last week).
Mike Gesicki Mia: Gesicki runs the majority of routes out of the slot and Seattle is very bad against the slot in addition to outside wide receivers. He’s much safer this week than he would normally be.
Logan Thomas Was: LT3 continues to see some of the best usage of any TE in the league. One of these weeks he is going to put a super awesome total on the board. The question out of Washington is just if Haskins will be the QB to provide it. Assuming it is safe, I would love to see Alex Smith command this offense with Gibson/McLaurin/Thomas.
Jimmy Graham Chi: Graham has dialed back the hands of time, excelling in a goal line role for the Bears. Foles at QB raises this offense’s ceiling and things are bleak at TE. I don’t expect a lot of points in this game, but when times are rough look for someone who is scoring. Graham is currently TE7 on the season.
Robert Tonyan GB: Mentioned briefly up above. Tonyan has seen his opportunity increase each week this season. He could take some of Lazard’s high efficiency work over the middle. If Adams doesn’t play, then I would bump Tonyan up above Graham.
Jordan Akins Hou: Leading the desperation candidates is another Houston pass catcher. The Vikings are bad guys. I don’t know what else to say at this point.
Rob Gronkowski TB: Seeing an uptick in usage. It was foolish for anyone to expect Gronk to come in and dominate from day one, but he has had almost a month to reacclimate to the NFL. Gronk will start to look better and better. TB is heavily favored and without Godwin this week. If you really need someone I would rather roll this die than the Allie-Cox, Hooper, Herndon, Sample ones.
Eggs Benedict Players of the week
(Top players set to betray your lineup)
None! We have potentially four teams on unexpected byes mixed with a rash of injuries to some of the games best players. I’m lower on some players than consensus, but I am not ruling any healthy players out of my lineup in this chaotic week.
(Kicker/DST weekly recommendations)
DST: Identified seven top 12 options in first three weeks. Top performing option has a VORP of 36.
K: Identified three top 12 options in first two weeks. Top performing option has a VORP of 2.
The Rams would have lead this space had I written the article before waivers, but they have since been added in 63% of leagues with their matchup with the Giants looming. If you previously added the Colts or Bucs when you were told then good by you, because their ownership has also soared in recent weeks. That leaves us with:
Dallas Cowboys: I expect this game to be a shootout, but we aren’t chasing the lowest scoring team on the slate. We know the Cowboys can pressure opposing QB’s and we know Baker can struggle under pressure. I like the defense to get multiple sacks and at least one turnover with the chance for two or three.
I don’t see a super strong second candidate currently available in more than 50% of leagues (especially with four teams removed) so I think the Packers and Texans make compelling cases as teams with decent pass rushes who should be playing with a lead against QB’s who have been slightly turnover prone to start the year.
Sam Sloman LAR: At home in a dome and favored by 13.5 points! My only real worry is the Rams score all TD’s, but even then he has a super high floor.
Kaimi Fairbairn Hou: Playing in the dome at home to Minnesota and favored by 3.5 points.
Daniel Carlson LV: Slight underdog, but still playing at home in a dome in a game with a decent point total (52.5).
(Random thoughts for the week)
Four weeks is the marker where current season performance becomes just as indicative as future success as ADP, and then every week forward it becomes more indicative. That means at the end of this week we should have a good idea of who teams want to be and how they want to operate. There will be no more assumption of rational coaching, we will just be able to see how players are being used and who we should buy/sell based on that usage and future outlook. This will be the landmine we look to target on Monday/Tuesday in our recap article.
Good luck everyone. It has been a crazy week and I fear the crisis is just beginning. There are a lot of headaches on the horizon and I hope to be able to help you through them. One week and 3500 words at a time. :)