Since Week 1, Andrew Luck has finished as QB26, QB14, QB12, and QB6 prior to the matchup against Houston. For a signal caller touted as top option, he has sure been difficult to trust so far this season. While the Texans had only surrendered the fifth fewest fantasy points to opposing QBs heading into Sunday Night Football, he finished as QB10 despite being priced as QB5 once again this week. As if that were not enough, Phillip Dorsett left with a hamstring injury so Luck will be without two of his top three targets moving forward. His yards per attempt rank 21st amongst all QBs with at least 50 passing attempts (7.26) whereas his career total sits at 7.6. Something is wrong with the mojo in Indianapolis and it is time to admit he just is not a top five QB.
Here are some of my other DFS-relevant observations from Week 6 of the 2016 NFL season beginning with someone who may be replacing Luck in the nearly elite tier of QBs:
Matt Ryan, Falcons – Heading into Sunday, no defense had allowed fewer total yards per game than the Seahawks. In fact, only two teams (Texans, Broncos) had allowed fewer yards passing than the Seahawks’ 183.8. Matt Ryan cared not for the statistics because he once again lit up his opponent for 355 yards and two TDs. This performance marked the second straight game Ryan eclipsed a 260 yards passing and a 98.0 QB rating against a top three overall passing defense. At this point, there is no doubt Ryan is matchup-proof with the Falcons offense running the crispest it ever has with Ryan under center. Right now, Ryan is on pace for a ridiculous 5,533 passing yards and 40 TDs despite playing in some of the most difficult possible matchups to this point. There is no longer a way to deny Ryan is a true QB1 moving forward with the running game providing nice balance to this offensive machine. Both Aaron Rodgers and he will likely be priced at similar levels moving forward and Ryan is actually the more attractive fantasy option. Who expected to be saying such a thing by Week 6? (Answer: no one)
Jay Ajayi, Dolphins – The Dolphins’ running game has been putrid all season so to say Jay Ayaji torching the Steelers for 200-plus rushing yards was a surprise would be an understatement…especially with Arian Foster active. Due to emerging as the hot hand, Ajayi played 48 snaps to Damien Williams’ 12 and Foster’s 11. Unsurprisingly, his monster day led to the most yards per carry (YPC) for any RB in any game so far in 2015 and the two rushing TDs top the list as well. The Steelers ranked 11th in fantasy points allowed to opposing backs so it is not like they were a complete pushover. Hell, only four teams had allowed fewer rushing yardage outputs per game (Packers, Jets, Eagles and Ravens). Since Foster is an aging back and was still battling through hamstring issues (which have bugged him for his entire career), Ajayi quite clearly earned himself additional carries moving forward as well. He is the back to roster on this team moving forward but he will face another test in Week 7 at home against the Bills. While Pittsburgh had been allowing 4.1 YPC to opposing backs, the Bills had only allowed 3.5 heading into this past week. Many will look to Ajayi following the monster week but the Dolphins offensive line needs to prove this game was not a fluke considering none of their personnel grades in the top 35 at their respective position, per Pro Football Focus. The Bills’ front seven is tough, but Ajayi got it done this week, so there should be some mixed opinions and solid debates on him in the upcoming days. Depending on his price, he will probably not factor into cash game consideration next week for me despite the big day.
Kenny Britt, Rams – Is it possible Case Keenum is a decent NFL QB? Probably not but he continues to develop a rapport with Kenny Britt on a weekly basis so he is the preferred QB for Britt truthers. Sunday’s game in Detroit marked the fifth six-plus target game for Britt this season and he continued his streak of catching at least four passes in every game thus far. The outcome was different this week as Britt finally found the end zone….not once but twice! Amongst players who have been targeted at least 20 times, Britt’s 8.9 yards per target ranks 17th best in the NFL (tied with his teammate Brian Quick). While Quick, Tavon Austin and the other pass-catchers’ roles drastically change from week-to-week, Britt remains the one stable contributor. Despite the perceived poor situation, Britt and Cole Beasley have posted pretty similar numbers to this point if looking for a comparison in usage. Somehow, someway Britt has emerged as a reliable cash option on this team and he clearly possesses the upside for much more (especially at 6’3”, 223 lbs. Consider him a high floor WR3 moving forward with high-end WR2 upside in upper-echelon matchups.
Jeremy Maclin/Travis Kelce – Alex Smith is going to Alex Smith pretty much regardless of matchup. Once again, fantasy owners learned the hard way Coach Andy Reid just does not want to let his QB loose even in the most favorable of matchups on paper. Only two teams had allowed more fantasy points to opposing QBs heading into this week than the Raiders and Smith dropped a measly 224 yards and zero TDs on them. Most notably, the Raiders had allowed the most fantasy points to opposing WRs and Jeremy Maclin was somehow only targeted three times total (caught all three for 49 yards). Meanwhile, the Raiders had ranked in the bottom six to opposing TEs as well and Travis Kelce was only targeted three times as well (and he caught all three of his targets). The receivers on this team are beyond frustrating due to the conservative nature of the play-calling. Neither Maclin nor Kelce appear to have a shot at even giving their 2015 numbers in this offense a run for their money. After 1,088 yards and eight TDs in this very offense last year, Maclin is now only on pace for 781 yards and three TDs. No member of this passing offense is worth using in cash games moving forward other than the backs who tend to compete for the team lead in receptions on a weekly basis.
Packers Defense – In the tournament plays article this week, I touched on the two ways to look at Ezekiel Elliott’s matchup this week: either the Packers’ league-best 2.0 YPC were for real or their lack of imposing opponents skewed the numbers and Elliott and the dominant Cowboys offensive line would eat. It turned out to be the latter because Elliott ran for a career-high 157 yards on 28 carries and his long was only 29 yards so it is not like a majority came on a single rush. Altogether, the Cowboys gashed the Packers for a whopping 5.8 YPC and Dak Prescott added 247 passing yards and three TDs through the air as icing on the cake. Now the question needs to be asked: are the Packers closer to the unit that only allowed 2.0 YPC in Weeks 1-5 or are they closer to the bunch that was lit up by the Cowboys in Week 6? All of the offensive lines the Packers had faced up to this point ranked in the bottom 10 of Football Outsiders’ defense-adjusted value over average (DVOA) statistic so they were not truly prepared. In my opinion, the Packers are a good but not great rushing defense and the Cowboys just finally exposed them this week. If facing a weak rushing unit (especially offensive line), they will likely shut them down. Against upper-echelon lines, they will be easily fade-able in all formats which is not really a knock on them…just this week we found out they were not invincible.