Moral of week 13: target quarterbacks (QBs) against bottom-tier defenses.
These are the teams that allow the most fantasy points to opposing QBs in descending order (meaning the team that ranks dead last is listed first): New Orleans Saints, Baltimore Ravens, Jacksonville Jaguars, New York Giants and Philadelphia Eagles. Obviously five QBs squared off against this defenses considering there were no byes on the NFL schedule this week; Of the five that drew these elite matchups, four produced top seven fantasy point outputs in week 13…four. The only one who missed the cut was Ryan Tannehill and I have a lot to say about him so I’ll reserve a whole section dedicated to him later. Marcus Mariota, Cam Newton, Tom Brady and Ryan Fitzpatrick all came through in a big way and this just goes to show how matchup driven fantasy football truly is. Sure rostering names like Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees are enticing every week but the matchups truly dictate which player is worth starting. Very talented humans on defense are more likely to shut down talented humans on offense than mediocre talents on defense would be…it’s simple logic. For those who went ultra-contrarian this week, it may be worth rethinking your strategy next week. Bad defenses will be bad defenses and by now the sample size is more than large enough to clearly evaluate the data.
Here are other observations I had watching an eventful week number 13:
Drew Brees, Saints – Just as I go on a rant about how important matchups are, I’m going to speak out of both sides of my mouth here; sometimes environments are just as important as matchups. Drew Brees loves playing at home and it is blatantly clear at this point he can succeed against any opponent in the Super Dome. In prior episodes of this article, I’ve eluded to Brees’ drastic career splits and in week 13 he proved they prevail regardless of opponent. There’s something about playing on their home turf that gives the Saints a consistent advantage (maybe the familiarity?). Heading into this game, Carolina was allowing the third least fantasy points per game to opposing QBs and Brees still dropped 282 passing yards and three touchdowns (TDs). Continue to evaluate Brees in a similar manner with home games promoting more confidence while road games are completely case-by-case bases as to whether or not you roster him.
Ryan Tannehill, Dolphins – A report surfaced earlier in the week indicating the Miami Dolphins view Ryan Tannehill as a game manager as opposed to a franchise QB. Let’s just say he did nothing to disprove that theory in week 13 as he threw for 86 measly yards in a matchup against the second most favorable matchup a QB can draw in terms of fantasy points allowed. He played flat-out terrible football as he only completed 47 percent of his 19 pass attempts. The team certainly called plays as if they had no faith in their QB because Lamar Miller alone rushed for more attempts (20) than Tannehill attempted passes. The typically reliable Jarvis Landry couldn’t get going because the team’s leading receiver had three receptions (RECs). It’s clear Coach Dan Campbell is attempting to win football games by limiting the amount of mistakes his QB can make so Tannehill should be eliminated as a DFS option moving forward. If you like a matchup for the Dolphins passing game, focus on rostering one of their receivers as opposed to Tannehill’s limited upside at a position full of studs.
Javorius Allen, Ravens – On the other side of the field in the Dolphins/Ravens game, Javorius “Buck” Allen enjoyed a monster DFS day. Since Justin Forsett was lost for the season due to a broken arm, Allen has emerged as the lead back for a team on their second string QB (Matt Schaub) as well. For that reason, it has been difficult to judge just how productive their offense may be and why my Quick Picks have reserved Ravens mostly for tournament play. It’s time Allen draw consideration in all formats if only for one aspect of his game: contributing in the passing game. In Allen’s previous two starts, he racked up a combined nine RECs but took the niche to a whole new level versus the Dolphins; he caught 12 passes and served as Schaub’s safety valve throughout the whole game. When he felt the heat, he dumped it off to Allen and by the time it was all said and done Allen had registered 38 fantasy points (most at the running back (RB) position). The schedule makes a full 180 next week as the second ranked rushing defense will head to M&T Bank Stadium. Against a top rushing defense, Allen still possesses enough upside to roster in both cash and GPP due to the ability to catch passes and rack up points in a hurry. He’s a top-end RB2 moving forward with RB1 potential (similar to last year’s Forsett).
James White, Patriots – The correct answer to the Danny Amendola/Scott Chandler dilemma turned out to be James White. The RB hauled in a team-high 10 RECs for 115 yards and a TD while Amendola and Chandler combined for 11 RECs. Sans Rob Gronkowski and Julian Edelman, Tom Brady needed creativity to move the offense and he very nearly creatively led the Patriots to a come-from-behind victory. His targets should decrease slightly when Gronkowski returns but as long as Edelman remains out he should continue to carve out a consistent role. Now it appears he’s starting to morph into that Shane Vereen role which seems to finish as a top 25-30 fantasy RB every single season. Feeling great about rostering a Belichick-coached RB is an oxymoron but White versus Houston next week is a borderline must-start (especially if Gronkowski sits).
David Johnson, Cardinals – Twitter surprised me on Sunday as I saw many people complaining about Coach Bruce Arians awarding David Johnson a workload resembling that of a “bellcow.” I was shocked that some seem shocked this was the case. Arians was quoted this week saying Johnson could receive “up to 25 touches” and apparently many did not believe him. He does have a history of delving out touches in a committee fashion but, to me, he felt like the clear top option with both Andre Ellington and Chris Johnson sidelined. All Johnson did was scored his eighth TD in 12 games with 99 yards rushing and 21 yards receiving. As long as the top two on the depth chart remain in street clothes, Johnson should remain a boom-or-bust RB2 with GPP winning upside every single week. He has shown the ability to take any carry to the house and therefore can take advantage of even difficult matchups. His price would have to balloon to the mid-$10,000s in order to promote a full-out fade in upcoming weeks.
Allen Robinson, Jagaurs – The winner of the “how would Allen Robinson adjust to the absence of Allen Hurns?” argument was he apparently would step his game up. The Titans are no walk in the park in terms of matchup and Robinson absolutely torched them for 10 RECs, 153 yards and three TDs in week 13. Every single week he continues to improve my opinion of him and Robinson is now firmly supplanted as a top six WR moving forward…and he may even be top five. Stardom, welcome Mr. Robinson because he’s legit and he’s here to stay as he and QB Blake Bortles will only continue to get better as they grow together. They could be scary good in upcoming years, and hell, it may not even take that long (Bortles threw five TD in week 13 as well).
Ted Ginn Jr., Panthers – In all seriousness, Ted Ginn Jr. may be one of the worst receivers in football. In terms of foot speed, he is as fast as anyone in the league but his hands are subpar by NFL standards. Cam Newton and Ginn both produced more than respectable fantasy point totals but both could have been week-leading totals if Ginn hung out to not one but two bombs. Twice Ginn beat the defense deep, Newton launched a perfect pass 40-plus yards downfield and Ginn simply dropped the passes. Either of them would have been easy TDs had he held on and we could easily be talking about Newton with 400-plus yards and six TDs if Ginn had league-average hands let alone anywhere near those of Antonio Brown. No matter how scrumptious the opponent looks, Ginn can never be trusted in cash games. Ever.
Zach Ertz, Eagles – Congratulations Zach Ertz who held the title of most targets without a receiving TD (60) heading into this week’s matchup with Patriots…and broke it. Now Mark Ingram holds that unfortunately title (52 targets) with Jared Cook right on his tail (49). As for Ertz, nothing in this game really promoted any drastic change in outlook for him. Eagles’ tight ends (TEs) are targeted by committee with Ertz leading the committee as long as he is healthy. He’s a matchup play only and most of the team is an afterthought in fantasy.