Rishard Knocks: Is Matthews For Real?

Wow, Week 9 was one of the craziest of the season so far. With the Colts/Packers game projected as the highest total of the weekend, Titans/Chargers finished with 78 total points and the Saints/49ers game finished with 1,057 total yards gained from scrimmage. Stacking a QB with either a WR or TE is a DFS basic for tournaments but not enough people utilize the full game stack. When two teams participate in a shootout, there is inevitably going to be production on both sides of the ball. In this past weekend’s set of games, some profitable game stacks included:

Aaron Rodgers/Jordy Nelson/Frank Gore (70.68 total points)

Marcus Mariota/Melvin Gordon/Rishard Matthews (95.32 total points)

Colin Kaepernick/DuJuan Harris/Michael Thomas (75.72 total points)

As you can see, the simple QB-WR combinations were productive but the way to win tournaments by rostering players from those specific games was to load up. The key is choosing which games to target as occasionally games like the Cowboys/Browns turn into utter blowouts. If you are able to master the concept of the true game stack, the GPP dollars will come flowing in…and this was a great weekend to start.

Here are some of my other DFS-relevant observations from Week 9 of the 2016 NFL season:

Colin Kaepernick, 49ers – Heading into Sunday, Colin Kaepernick’s season-high in passing yardage was 187 yards and he had not rushed for fewer than 66 yards as a starter. This week turned into a bizarre world where Kaepernick threw for 398 yards passing and only rushed for 23 yards. Before analyzing whether or not this outburst was sustainable, putting the matchup into perspective is first on the docket. Only five teams had allowed more yards per game than the Saints’ 397.4 through the first eight weeks of the season. Still, Kaepernick’s completion percentage heading into this game was a measly 46.0-percent and he completed 61.5-percent against New Orleans. Something out of the ordinary happened here and it was either an improvement by Kaepernick or a mediocre QB taking advantage of a favorable matchup. The leading receivers (Quinton Patton, Vance McDonald and DuJuan Harris) promote confidence in the “Kaepernick polishing his game” narrative but there is simply too much evidence to the contrary. The only reason Kaepernick did not rush much in this game is because the secondary was so incredibly soft and he was able to exploit it from the get-go. With that being said, Kaepernick’s 5.2 yards per target (YPT) heading into the game would easily finish as the worst of his career (previous worst was 6.6). In other words, Kaepernick is somewhere in between his numbers prior to this breakout Week 9 performance and his career numbers so value him in such against the Cardinals next week. If he surpasses 200 yards passing in that contest, then there is an actual reason to change an opinion on him.

Melvin Gordon, Chargers – I will always admit I am wrong and disliking Melvin Gordon this week was a grave mistake. According to Pro Football Focus’ defense-adjusted value over average (DVOA) statistic, the Titans ranked ninth best in terms of rushing defense heading into the week and Gordon absolutely shredded them. My worry heading into the matchup was Gordon’s declining efficiency considering he had only rushed for more than 4.0 yards per carry (YPC) four times over the past six weeks. In epic fashion, Gordon proved that though process wrong as he rumbled, bumbled and stumbled for 196 yards rushing and 6.1 YPC against a reasonably stout Titans front seven. This marked the second consecutive game he managed 4.8 YPC or better so apparently my concerns were way overblown. Instead of being classified as a TD-dependent RB2, Gordon has displayed over the past few weeks that he is nothing less than a true RB1 in this Danny Woodhead-less offense. Coach Mike McCoy is determined to establish the run on a weekly basis so the team continues to ride their former first round pick workhorse. I was wrong about you Mr. Gordon and I will never make that mistake on you again.

Mark Ingram/Tim Hightower, Saints – One situation that did not fully clarify itself in Week 9 was the Saints backfield. CBS’ Jason La Canfora reported the backfield would be a split against the 49ers but they would “not be averse to ride the hot hand.” Tim Hightower started out hot and eventually finished with 102 total yards but Mark Ingram broke out for 158 yards rushing including an awfully impressive 75 yard TD run where he looked like he was shot out of a cannon. It is amazing how the NFL works from one week to another as Ingram was benched last week for fumbles and comes back and looks like Jim Brown in his prime the following game. It is difficult to imagine this performance did not earn Ingram more work moving forward; especially considering the two TDs and the fact the team assured he would still have a “key” role heading into this week. With that being said, Hightower seems to have worked his way into the committee with his solid showings in the last two games (and his respectable work last year when filling in for an injured Ingram). Although this backfield proved incredibly fantasy friendly this week, it is certain this situation reverts back to a frustrating situation before long. Now there are two mouths to feed instead of one and Ingram was already having vulturing issues as evident by his red zone rush percentage outside the top 25 (37.5-percent) at the position. Instead of going crazy deeming Ingram playable once again because of a solid game against the 30th ranked rushing defense in terms of DVOA, be wary of the fact he did not simply earn his role all the way back. This situation is going to get messy moving forward and those rostering Ingram for sure have some tilt-filled days ahead.

Rishard Matthews, Titans – Very quietly, Rishard Matthews had scored three TDs in his previous four games heading into Week 9 and he added to that total by finding pay dirt twice more against the Chargers. Crazily, this was only his first week eclipsing 40 yards receiving since Week 6 so it is no wonder he has flown under the radar. Before this multiple TD explosion, Matthews sneakily had averaged the 14th most fantasy points per game of any receiver over the past four weeks and the 10th most over the past two weeks. His numbers sort of resemble James Jones’ in an Aaron Rodgers offense because he is TD dependent and yet he seems to be finding the end zone on a weekly basis. The weird part is Matthews has only been targeted on 14.3-percent of the team’s red zone targets or nearly the identical amount to the likes of Dorial Green-Beckham, Will Fuller and Tajae Sharpe (who have caught a combined three TDs). Matthews has simply converted (including Sunday) five of his six red zone targets into TDs. While it can be construed that he and Mariota are simply on the same page, that sort of efficiency simply is not sustainable.  At this point, Matthews is firmly on the WR2 radar but he still is completely TD dependent and the TDs are likely to slow down. Similarly to the recommendation on Ingram, now is the time to pump the breaks on Matthews instead of going full speed ahead.

Antonio Gates, Chargers – Okay so maybe Antonio Gates had a little bit more left in the tank than his numbers implied as he caught seven passes for 75 yards and a TD. In fact, he averaged more yards per reception this week (15.0) than his longest previous reception of the season. Apparently, the absence of Hunter Henry combined with his improving health makes all the difference in the world. If Gates still possesses the burst to get open 10-plus yards down the field regularly, then Philip Rivers is going to find him. The question was whether or not he still had anything left in the tank and he answered those doubts against the Titans. Assuming Henry remains out, Gates should be considered a low-end TE1 by default.

Ricky Sanders

Ricky Sanders

Ricky Sanders is a fantasy sports expert with over 15 years of playing experience. After starting several freelance fantasy sports blogs, Ricky moved up in the fantasy industry when he joined Going9 Baseball. He wrote fantasy baseball content and had a weekly radio spot on the site’s SiriusXM Satellite Radio show. Shortly thereafter, in early 2013, Ricky joined RotoExperts as a three-sport fantasy contributor, eventually becoming one of the site’s lead basketball writers. While writing for RotoExperts, Ricky was introduced to daily fantasy sports and immediately fell in love. With help from some of his mentors, some of the best DFS players in the world, he honed his skills and became the daily fantasy expert he is today. When RotoExperts created a daily-focused website called DailyRoto.com, Ricky was brought on as one of the main contributors. He still makes frequent appearances on the RotoExperts SiriusXM Radio show and on the FNTSY Sports Television Network, talking daily fantasy sports. He also continues to write for a few DFS content sites: RotoCurve and The Fantasy Fix. Ricky is a proud and active member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association. He has agreed to be a writer and representative for the FantasyDraft brand and serves as an ambassador to the site. He has no more access to the site than the typical user. Don’t hesitate to contact Ricky with questions on Twitter @RSandersDFS.

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