I absolutely whiffed on Drew Brees this week.
Now that I am looking back on the play, there was a clear warning sign and I thought it warranted sharing. I was quick to write off the fact the Lions had allowed the fewest fantasy points to opposing QBs over the course of the last few weeks because of the lack of formidable opponents. However, a team can only play those on their schedule, so total domination of opponents is the best a team can do…regardless of who they are. When all said and done, the largest contributing factor to the Saints’ loss was the fact they were dominated in terms of time of possession. The Lions came into Week 13 ranking 26th in the league in average time of possession (28:53) and yet they held the ball for a whopping 36:52 in this game. One of the Lions announcers said it best when he suggested the best way to beat Brees and company is to try and keep the ball away from them as much as possible. If a few things broke his way, Brees easily could have finished respectable, considering Coby Fleener dropped a TD pass and Brandin Cooks very nearly scored a nine yard TD. The moral of the story is variance continues to play a huge part in NFL DFS so expanding your portfolio amongst many lineups instead of investing in just one player at a certain position continues to be the safest way to avoid a total disaster week. This week was a complete calamity for me as I had 100-percent Brees and did not even consider a scenario where the Lions would dominate the time of possession, and that was a huge mistake.
Here are some more of my observations from last night’s NFL action:
Matthew Stafford, Lions – Of course, one man’s garbage is another man’s treasure as they say, so Brees’ flop led to Matthew Stafford clearly emerging as the superior QB option from the same game. Despite the difference in time their teams possessed the ball, Stafford actually attempted two less passes but still finished with 341 yards and two TDs. Neither team’s running game dominated but the Lions averaged a measly 3.7 yards per carry (YPC) so the offense had no choice but to rely on the right arm of their QB. When playing in a dome against a bad opposing defense, Stafford can still be deadly even though the Lions are averaging a mediocre 248.7 passing yards per game (16th in the NFL) and 35.5 passing attempts per game (21st in the NFL). Both of those statistics are very un-Stafford-like and this week amazingly was only the first time since Week 3 that Stafford had eclipsed 300 yards. Although Stafford is amidst a down season, the setup of the offense is still ideal for his success other than the fact Calvin Johnson is no longer a part of the weaponry. The running game is weak, especially with the newest injury to Dwayne Washington, so Stafford has resorted to throwing 40-plus times in back-to-back games once again. Next week, the team will draw a matchup against the Bears at home and that is yet again another game in which they should dominate time of possession. Despite a bad run to begin the year, Stafford can still prove to be a true QB1 down the stretch and help users win the DFS bucks.
Jordan Howard, Bears – At this point, the fantasy world should recognize the talent level of Jordan Howard so the reason to review his outing is more due to weather. Despite the weather report that showed 3-4 inches of snow and winds gusting up to 15mph, snow does not completely hamper a player’s ability to perform, especially on offense. Footing is tough in the snow but even more so for defensive players because they are not sure where the ball is going. Meanwhile, the offense is aware of the plays and knows where they are going to be running on a given play. According to sportsbettingstats.com, snow does not usually affect a team’s game plan but wet conditions will create fewer passing TDs in the long run. Therefore, a bad weather game could lead to avoiding certain receivers but it should not cause you to abandon ship on RBs. In this case, Howard was facing arguably the league’s worst run defense and ending up scoring three TDs, which was about the ceiling to expect had the game been played in warm weather as well. With bad weather on the horizon all throughout the country since winter is coming, do not be afraid to roster RBs in less than ideal conditions.
Brandon LaFell, Bengals – Sans A.J. Green, the Bengals’ receiving core has transformed into an “option 1A and 1B” situation instead of featuring an above and beyond top target. After both Tyler Boyd and Brandon LaFell were targeted exactly nine times last week, Boyd only saw six targets compared to LaFell’s seven in Week 13. LaFell’s seven targets led to five receptions (RECs), 95 yards and a TD. He averaged a hefty 13.6 yards per target (YPT) after no receiver on the team eclipsed 6.9 YPT last week. Both LaFell and Boyd’s target shares increased this week from exactly 19.1-percent last week to 25.0 and 21.9-percent respectively. As of earlier this week, A.J. Green’s injury has been classified as a Grade 2 hamstring chair which leaves him unlikely to play for at least a few more weeks. Therefore, fantasy owners need to accept the reality of this situation moving forward and so far LaFell has out-produced and out-snapped Boyd. Playing out of the slot should enhance Boyd’s matchup next week against a brutal Browns secondary whereas LaFell will have to face Joe Haden more often.
Jarvis Landry, Dolphins – Volume led to Jarvis Landry’s breakout season last year as he caught 110 of 166 total targets. Through 11 games this year, Landry was on pace for just 129 targets and 93 RECs, which for him is a disappointment. The downtick in volume seemed to directly correlate with Jay Ajayi’s emergence and the fact DeVante Parker has been balling has not helped his cause either. Leading up to this game, Parker was unsure whether or not he would play and the team was set to square off against the league’s top rushing defense according to Football Outsiders’ defense-adjusted value over average (DVOA) metric. In other words, the set up was perfect for Landry to finally prove to be the offensive focal point for the first time since at least Week 4 (the last time he saw double-digit targets). At last, Landry was targeted 14 times, caught 11 of them and gained 87 yards from scrimmage. Is this sustainable? Assuming Tyrann Mathieu remains out, Landry draws the most favorable individual matchup against the Cardinals next week and they too rank as an above-average rushing defense. In other words, this uptick in volume looks to be more than just a one week anomaly.
Ladarius Green, Steelers – Ladarius Green is long been a favorite of mine as I actually drafted him in all seasonal leagues this season. The long layoff caused me to drop him but I have never given up on the talent of this 6’6”, 240 beast. Although he is gigantic in stature, he ran a 4.53 40-yard dash at the combine which ranked second in his draft class (2012) at his position (behind only James Hanna). If he ever proved to be healthy in this Steelers offense, he seemed to provide Ben Roethlisberger with yet another special weapon. After his monstrous Week 13 performance, it appears he has arrived in that role. Roethlisberger has long had an affinity for his TE as Heath Miller caught at least 42 passes in each of his final nine seasons alongside him including 60-plus RECs in three of his final four years. Even in his final season, Roethlisberger targeted Miller 81 times in just 15 games. Essentially, there is a role available for Green and he already appears to have run away with it. Jesse James is simply a mediocre talent and is best suited for a backup role in the NFL whereas Green is oozing with the ability to be a difference maker. This breakout is no fluke as Green is a true TE1 moving forward in an offense conducive to his skill set. Now teams have to worry about a third option beyond Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell. Good luck.