2017 STATS Fantasy Football: Week 7 Tiers

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It was a year ago today I started doing my Tiers piece in order to offer some free content mid-week that could help everyone make smarter lineup decisions. I have started to tailor my articles to focus on my overall thought process, showing how I create my projections.

In the long run, explaining how/why I arrive at decisions is going to be more beneficial to you than answering one-off questions such as, “Do I start Jermaine Kearse or Robby Anderson this week?” or, “Is D’Onta Foreman droppable right now?” I will use this platform to do a much deeper dive into my process and shed some light on it, rather than telling you Tom Brady is good at football or that players facing the Saints or Patriots get a boost. Just know that ALL factors are taken into account in the projections that will be reflected in the rankings below.

One last thing to point out is that the projections evolve and increase in accuracy throughout the week as I spend more time digging deeper into data, news, etc. Therefore, you have to keep in mind that these articles are where my projections are at on Tuesday night. There are five whole days after that during which I fine tune everything, so some players may jump up/down considerably in the rankings. I will attempt to be a bit more transparent on how/why that is for certain cases with tweets later in the week that summarize big movements.

Last week I touched on how volume is often overlooked when it comes to short-term value in RBs, and how talent alone is typically over-valued. The examples I used were Adrian Peterson and Marlon Mack, who were ranked 38 and 41 last week by experts on FantasyPros, respectively. I had them much further apart at 32 and 42, due to a big difference in expected volume. Sure enough, Marlon Mack busted for a 22-yard run on his very first attempt and then finished the game with two rushes for 18 yards and zero receptions.

Highlight-reel plays don’t always translate into a ton of points that can help you win. On the flip side, AP carried the rock 26 times for 134 yards and two TDs. He clearly blew away even my expectations, but there is a lesson to be had here. The more times a RB touches the ball, the more likely they are to add yardage stats that can actually help you win. Red zone touches increase a player’s TD chances, no matter what their SPARQ score was when they were drafted. This might all sound pretty silly and obvious, but I really feel like it’s overlooked, based on the questions I get.

Where do we go from here now with AP? Again, I would like to emphasize that spending three paragraphs breaking down AP isn’t worth the time. It’s important, though, to discuss the process of how I will handle a situation like his.

First off, I’m already getting tweets asking if I like AP even more now; whether or not he’s a RB1 all of a sudden; or if he still sucks and this was all a fluke. Before I can even justify saying something like, “Yes, he’s a no-brainer RB1 now,” or, “No, it was all just a fluke and he’s still a low-end RB4,” I first have to update my priors on him in order to create a Week 7 projection. Once I do that and project all other players, I will have a better sense on where I have him ranked going forward.

Each week, I go into it with a projection for every single player/stat, even if it’s projecting a fullback for 0.2 carries for 1 yard. After all of the games are played I can then see exactly where I went wrong and where I went right. Not only does this help update my beliefs on certain players who I might have missed on, but I also have to carefully figure out why I missed on those players. There is a lot of volatility in week-to-week predictions vs. actual outcomes in football. That’s just how it is, so you have to embrace that. I have to be extremely careful not to over- or under-react, walking the fine line between acknowledging my own error vs. blaming random chance. The fantastic book Superforecasting: The Art and Science of Prediction is very informative and really does hit on a lot of the practices I seem to have built into my projection system. One of the topics it addresses is finding the right balance between under- and over-rating of evidence through belief updating. In other words, the act of updating projections for Week 7, based on new information we learned from Week 6.

“Belief updating is to good forecasting as brushing and flossing are to good dental hygiene. It can be boring, occasionally uncomfortable, but it pays off in the long term. That said, don’t supposed that belief updating is always easy because it sometimes is. Skillful updating requires teasing subtle signals from noisy news flows, all the while resisting the lure of wishful thinking.

Savvy forecasters learn to ferret out telltale clues before the rest of us. They snoop for nonobvious lead indicators, about what would have to happen before X could.”

I majored in psychology and statistics in college. My background is a blend of being able to spot trends in data while also making sense of it. I enjoy going a bit deeper and really finding the indicators that could lead to new data trends in the future – hence projections! Keep in mind, I do not just have some algorithmic model that does everything for me, nor am I a robot. I have my own opinions, beliefs, sense of humor and complaints, of which you’ll note from my tweets during a daily fantasy slate. While I do channel my own personal expertise in tweaking my projections, I am extremely careful to not hold any sort of bias – to the best of my ability –  that could seep into the projections and make them less accurate.

*Deep breath*

Ok, now that my mini-novel of an introduction is out of the way: let’s look at Adrian Peterson’s Week 6 as a case study! I had mentioned that Andre Ellington’s usage was potentially going to see a decent hit in Week 6. My reasoning was that the Cardinals were using dump-offs to him as their proxy of a run game. This, in turn, gave Carson Palmer a huge boost in passing yards as well. With AP, however, they have a more traditional running back who can handle a 15-20 carry workload. There are a finite number of snaps a team can run each way, so even a subtle shift in their game plan could have a big fantasy impact. This is my version of “snooping for non-obvious lead indicators” from my years of doing this at a high level.

It turns out I was right, but to a much greater degree than I was willing to predict. We saw AP play 73 percent of the snaps to Ellington’s 20 percent. In turn, Ellington didn’t gain a single yard and saw one target. We can certainly take away from this single game that Ellington’s value took a massive blow due to AP’s presence. On the flip side, AP went off. It’s also safe to say his stock is way up after Week 6.

Before we move on to Week 7 and potentially overvalue the Week 6 results, though, we need to play Devil’s Advocate a bit. Could it be that this particular game’s flow led to unique results? As a matter of fact, I think it did. The Cardinals ended up winning 38-33, but the game was nowhere near this close. They were up 24-0 at halftime, and Jameis Winston had to leave the game due to injury. In the second half there was no real need to force the issue downfield, so they kept feeding AP in order to help run the clock out. Given this, we have to attribute some of this result to game flow, and thus these two backs will likely have their usage altered a bit based on that going forward.

Looking to Week 7, I would be willing to bet my mortgage that Ellington will have at least one reception and that Peterson will not match his Week 6 stats. In finding that right balance, I currently have AP projected for 17.5 carries, 71 yards and about a 46 percent chance of scoring a TD. In Ellington’s case, I have him set at 3.8 catches for 32 yards and a 9 percent chance of a TD. This makes AP a solid RB2 and Ellington a low-end PPR Flex.

Thanks for reading that lengthy intro. It’s now time for the actual Tiers! And don’t forget, these tiers reflect non-PPR scoring. The number in parentheses next to the player’s matchup indicates how many tiers they’d move up or down in PPR scoring. Without further ado, here are the Week 7 tiers.

Quarterbacks

Marcus Mariota is a prime example of someone whose projection/rank could go up or down quite a bit this week depending on reports concerning his hamstring. We saw Monday night that he can’t supply his usual rushing stats with the injury. If managed correctly, he should be able to have a bit more mobility as the year goes on, something I will monitor closely when updating his outlook.

Pro tip: If you check out his player page on FantasyPros you can see my exact updated rank on him later in the week (as with everyone else).

Yes, Brett Hundley really is in Tier 6. The combination of his dual-threat capabilities and great matchup gives him a fairly high ceiling, which makes him a great daily fantasy tournament play. However, his basement-low floor means he is less enticing in a traditional H2H league, since you only need to beat one person in your league each week (not necessarily put up the highest score of the week in your league – huge difference). Even if he puts up sneaky QB2 numbers most weeks, having him under center instead of Aaron Rodgers is still a significant downgrade to the entire Packers offense.

Tier 1

Tom Brady (vs ATL)

Tier 2

Drew Brees (@ GB)
Russell Wilson (@ NYG)
Carson Wentz (vs WAS)
Matt Ryan (@ NE)
Dak Prescott (@ SF)
Kirk Cousins (@ PHI)

Tier 3

Cam Newton (@ CHI)
Alex Smith (@ OAK)

Tier 4

Marcus Mariota (@ CLE)

Tier 5

Tyrod Taylor (vs TB)
Jameis Winston (@ BUF)
Carson Palmer (@ LAR)
Jared Goff (vs ARI)
Ben Roethlisberger (vs CIN)
Philip Rivers (vs DEN)

Tier 6

Brett Hundley (vs NO)
Case Keenum (vs BAL)
Kevin Hogan (vs TEN)
Blake Bortles (@ IND)

Tier 7

Andy Dalton (@ PIT)
Derek Carr (vs KC)
Trevor Siemian (@ LAC)
C.J. Beathard (vs DAL)
Jay Cutler (vs NYJ)
Jacoby Brissett (vs JAX)
Josh McCown (@ MIA)
Mitchell Trubisky (vs CAR)

Tier 8

Eli Manning (vs SEA)
Joe Flacco (@ MIN)

Running Backs

Aaron Jones was a player last week that fell 10+ spots in my rankings come Sunday. You have to keep in mind that, for someone in a situation like his, we can’t simply rank him on talent alone or what he did the previous week. The availability of Ty Montgomery has a significant impact on his outlook, no matter if you think GB should just use Jones as a workhorse back. I’m in the business of trying to figure out what the Packers will do in the upcoming week (aka “understanding McCarthyism”), not what I think they should do.

Once they had announced Montgomery was wearing a flak jacket and would have no limitations or some specific snap count, I made them a 56/44 rush attempt percentage RBBC, making both very weak fantasy options for Week 6. That turned out to be exactly what happened, and I would imagine Montgomery’s increased health this week means that split will be even closer to even this week. That’s just one example of a player(s) whose rank on Tuesday night could swing quite a bit with five whole days of news/updates.

Tier 1

Kareem Hunt (@ OAK)
Le’Veon Bell (vs CIN)

Tier 2

Ezekiel Elliott (@ SF)
Leonard Fournette (@ IND)

Tier 3

Todd Gurley (vs ARI)

Tier 4

Melvin Gordon (vs DEN)
LeSean McCoy (vs TB)
Jay Ajayi (vs NYJ)
Devonta Freeman (@ NE)
Mark Ingram (@ GB)

Tier 5

Jordan Howard (vs CAR)
Carlos Hyde (vs DAL)
Jerick McKinnon (vs BAL)
Adrian Peterson (-2, @ LAR)
C.J. Anderson (@ LAC)

Tier 6

DeMarco Murray (@ CLE)

Tier 7

Doug Martin (@ BUF)
Christian McCaffrey (+2, @ CHI)
Chris Thompson (+1, @ PHI)
Alvin Kamara (+1, @ GB)
Marshawn Lynch (-1, vs KC)
Tevin Coleman (@ NE)
Joe Mixon (@ PIT)
Derrick Henry (-1, @ CLE)
Javorius Allen (+1, @ MIN)
Isaiah Crowell (vs TEN)
LeGarrette Blount (-1, vs WAS)
Aaron Jones (vs NO)

Tier 8

Frank Gore (vs JAX)
Jonathan Stewart (@ CHI)
Mike Gillislee (-1, vs ATL)
Orleans Darkwa (vs SEA)
Ty Montgomery (vs NO)
Alex Collins (@ MIN)
Duke Johnson Jr. (+1, vs TEN)
Marlon Mack (vs JAX)

Tier 9

Latavius Murray (vs BAL)
Tarik Cohen (+2, vs CAR)
James White (+2, vs ATL)
Chris Ivory (+1, @ IND)
Matt Forte (@ MIA)

Wide Receivers

The availability of Stefon Diggs and DeVante Parker greatly influences the outlooks of their teammates in the passing game, and to a certain extent can impact their QBs’ outlook. If Diggs is ruled out again, expect Thielen to jump up to the top of Teir 4 or higher. If Parker is ruled out again, nearly the same can be said for Jarvis Landry. I also mentioned on ESPN Radio last Friday that Kenny Stills was a sneaky WR3 play with Parker out. That would apply to Week 7 as well.

Tier 1

Antonio Brown (vs CIN)

Tier 2

A.J. Green (@ PIT)
Julio Jones (@ NE)

Tier 3

Michael Thomas (@ GB)
Dez Bryant (@ SF)
Mike Evans (@ BUF)
Larry Fitzgerald (@ LAR)
Chris Hogan (vs ATL)
Brandin Cooks (vs ATL)

Tier 4

Demaryius Thomas (@ LAC)
Michael Crabtree (vs KC)
Doug Baldwin (@ NYG)
Tyreek Hill (@ OAK)
Alshon Jeffery (vs WAS)
Adam Thielen (vs BAL)
Kelvin Benjamin (@ CHI)
Jarvis Landry (+1, vs NYJ)
Jordy Nelson (vs NO)
Keenan Allen (vs DEN)
Pierre Garcon (vs DAL)
Rishard Matthews (@ CLE)
T.Y. Hilton (vs JAX)
Stefon Diggs (vs BAL)
Devin Funchess (@ CHI)

Tier 5

DeVante Parker (vs NYJ)
Amari Cooper (vs KC)
Marqise Lee (@ IND)
Nelson Agholor (vs WAS)
John Brown (@ LAR)
Danny Amendola (vs ATL)
Robby Anderson (@ MIA)
DeSean Jackson (@ BUF)
Davante Adams (vs NO)
Ted Ginn Jr. (@ GB)
Terrelle Pryor Sr. (@ PHI)
Eric Decker (@ CLE)
Cooper Kupp (vs ARI)
Sammy Watkins (vs ARI)
Jermaine Kearse (@ MIA)
Robert Woods (vs ARI)
Allen Hurns (@ IND)

Tier 6

Martavis Bryant (vs CIN)
Roger Lewis (vs SEA)
Mohamed Sanu (@ NE)
Ricardo Louis (vs TEN)
Jeremy Maclin (@ MIN)
Kenny Stills (vs NYJ)
Bennie Fowler (@ LAC)
Paul Richardson (@ NYG)
Tyler Lockett (@ NYG)
Taylor Gabriel (@ NE)
Randall Cobb (vs NO)
Juju Smith-Schuster (vs CIN)
Willie Snead (@ GB)
Tyrell Williams (vs DEN)
Kendall Wright (vs CAR)

Tight Ends

Austin Hooper would jump up to Tier 4 if Sanu were to miss another game. It’s important to know when a WR who typically covers the middle of the field is out because it can give the TE a decent boost. To no surprise, Hooper racked up seven receptions on nine targets in Week 6. Even if Sanu plays, the matchup warrants a look for Hooper as a streaming TE play.

Tier 1

Rob Gronkowski (vs ATL)

Tier 2

Zach Ertz (vs WAS)
Travis Kelce (@ OAK)

Tier 3

Evan Engram (vs SEA)
Delanie Walker (@ CLE)

Tier 4

Jimmy Graham (@ NYG)
Jason Witten (@ SF)
Jordan Reed (@ PHI)
Austin Seferian-Jenkins (@ MIA)
Hunter Henry (vs DEN)
Kyle Rudolph (vs BAL)
Cameron Brate (@ BUF)

Tier 5

Austin Hooper (@ NE)
Jared Cook (vs KC)
George Kittle (vs DAL)
Ed Dickson (@ CHI)
Martellus Bennett (vs NO)
Zach Miller (vs CAR)
Jack Doyle (vs JAX)
Tyler Kroft (@ PIT)
Benjamin Watson (@ MIN)

Kickers

Tier 1

Stephen Gostkowski (vs ATL)

Tier 2

Dan Bailey (@ SF)
Matt Bryant (@ NE)
Harrison Butker (@ OAK)
Jake Elliott (vs WAS)
Wil Lutz (@ GB)
Greg Zuerlein (vs ARI)
Josh Lambo (@ IND)

Tier 3

Ryan Succop (@ CLE)
Kai Forbath (vs BAL)
Nick Novak (vs DEN)
Adam Vinatieri (vs JAX)
Giorgio Tavecchio (vs KC)
Blair Walsh (@ NYG)
Justin Tucker (@ MIN)
Nick Rose (@ PHI)
Brandon McManus (@ LAC)
Phil Dawson (@ LAR)
Graham Gano (@ CHI)
Robbie Gould (vs DAL)
Stephen Hauschka (vs TB)

Tier 4

Mason Crosby (vs NO)
Cody Parkey (vs NYJ)
Chris Boswell (vs CIN)
Zane Gonzalez (vs TEN)
Chandler Catanzaro (@ MIA)
Connor Barth (vs CAR)
Randy Bullock (@ PIT)
Patrick Murray (@ BUF)
Aldrick Rosas (vs SEA)

Defense/Special Teams

Tier 1

Jacksonville Jaguars (@ IND)
Pittsburgh Steelers (vs CIN)
Minnesota Vikings (vs BAL)
Tennessee Titans (@ CLE)

Tier 2

Dallas Cowboys (@ SF)
Buffalo Bills (vs TB)
Los Angeles Chargers (vs DEN)
Miami Dolphins (vs NYJ)
New Orleans Saints (@ GB)
Carolina Panthers (@ CHI)
Seattle Seahawks (@ NYG)
Los Angeles Rams (vs ARI)
Denver Broncos (@ LAC)

Tier 3

Cincinnati Bengals (@ PIT)
Chicago Bears (vs CAR)
New York Jets (@ MIA)
New York Giants (vs SEA)
Kansas City Chiefs (@ OAK)
Indianapolis Colts (vs JAX)
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (@ BUF)

Tier 4

Philadelphia Eagles (vs WAS)
Baltimore Ravens (@ MIN)
New England Patriots (vs ATL)
Washington Redskins (@ PHI)
Arizona Cardinals (@ LAR)
Cleveland Browns (vs TEN)
San Francisco 49ers (vs DAL)
Oakland Raiders (vs KC)
Green Bay Packers (vs NO)
Atlanta Falcons (@ NE)

STATS’ Favorite Fantasy Football Plays: Week 6

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As always, please be aware that I’m not intending to touch on every player, but rather a few unique or pivotal opinions. If I don’t touch on some of your guys, by all means, reach out on twitter (@cshcwartz18) and perhaps I’ll get back to you.

Before I begin, I want to hit on some general themes. First – Detroit in the Superdome at the Saints. In season-long leagues, of course the Lions’ best offensive players are must-starts. Matthew Stafford is a mid-range QB1, Ameer Abdullah is a fine RB2, Golden Tate is a borderline WR1, and Marvin Jones is a startable flex option. Just know I won’t be mentioning these guys below because everybody else agrees. So it’s not exactly controversial or unique.

In fact, these players are actually largely overpriced in DFS. Stafford is priced like the overall QB3 or so (although admittedly cheaper and better value on DK). My overall feeling on these guys in DFS is they are sub-optimal in cash games, but fine GPP stacks if you want to try to guess the correct combos.

Second, I’ve been getting lots of questions about Amari Cooper trades after three consecutive bad games. Last game was a 1/8/0 mess, but that was with EJ Manuel at QB. The game before that was a 2/9/0, but that was against a Broncos defense that does this to plenty of WRs. That leaves just one bad game against Washington in Week 3. Cooper’s been through similar 2-3 week stretches before (end of 2015, for one example), and has not proven to be consistent yet in his career. But he is still mega-talented with a lot invested in him, and he has positive things going, including the return of Derek Carr, a healthy Michael Crabtree to take away defensive attention, and a sneaky easy fantasy playoff schedule (vs. Dallas, at Philadelphia). So no, don’t trade Cooper for the latest, greatest Kenny Golladay hype-train, and if you don’t own Coop, maybe try to buy low.

Now onto some of this week’s calls.

High-End QB Play: DeShaun Watson, HOU (vs. CLE) 

Cleveland has held a lead for approximately two seconds this season. Remarkably, that hasn’t stopped them from allowing the 13th-most passing yards. This is because their pass defense is dreadful – bottom five in yards per attempt allowed, and dead last in opponents’ QB rating. Houston is a double-digit favorite against Cleveland, but along the way, they’ll get there via Watson throws. Add in some rushing stats, and he has a particularly high-floor, high-ceiling outlook, which is unique for such a high-spread game. He’s a great cash game option, and in season-long, I’d only be comfortable starting hall of famers Brady, Rodgers, and Brees over him.

Stack Partner: DeAndre Hopkins – Welcome back to elite WR1 territory, Nuk! Watson loves him, and he’s a PPR beast. He’s not yet priced like it on DFS sites.

High-End QB Play: Kirk Cousins, WAS (vs. SF) 

It’s TIGHT for me between Watson and Cousins. I like Watson a bit more, as Cleveland is a more favorable opponent than San Francisco, but not by much. This is a secondary that Jared Goff tore up on a Thursday. Cousins should throw a lot early in the game, especially with Rob Kelley likely to miss, so he has a nice high floor and is a definite QB1.

Stack Partner: Jamison Crowder – It’s tough to guess Cousins’ beneficiaries from week to week, so you may as well go with the cheapest (realistic) one. Besides, they said they’d like to get him more involved, now that he’s perhaps healthier. Since he’s been so dreadful, his ownership will be low.

Sleeper QB: Case Keenum, MIN (vs. GB)

Unlike most bad QBs, he has proven he has some fantasy upside with an eruption against Tampa in Week 3. He may need to chase some points against Green Bay in a game with sneaky scoring potential, so it’s conceivable another big game could happen for him. He’s dirt cheap on DFS, so he makes for a fine GPP dart-throw, while being an option to start in two-QB leagues.

QB Fade: Matt Ryan, ATL (vs. MIA)

He’s one of the QBs favored to win by double-digits this week, so he has a lower ceiling than usual. Unlike a guy like Watson, he comes with higher weekly expectations and therefore a higher DFS price. Also, conditions aren’t so favorable for him, with his top two WRs banged up (and Mohamed Sanu likely out). I just don’t see why you’d use him in cash this week unless you use him every week. In GPPs, I suppose he’s a nice contrarian option, as these negative factors are likely baked into several people’s lineup decisions, and his ownership will be lower than usual.

High-End RB Play: Kareem Hunt, KC (vs. PIT)

It’s simple – no Ezekiel Elliot this week, and Le’Veon Bell has a worse matchup being on the other sideline against the Chiefs. So Hunt is our overall RB1 yet again, in a tier by himself, and a must-play in DFS cash games. 

High-End RB Play: Mark Ingram, NO (vs. DET)

Sure Adrian Peterson stunk, but he took 30 touches away, or seven per game. If Ingram conservatively eats three of those, then he goes from a 14-touch to 17-touch guy. For perspective, that’s the difference between LeGarrette Blount and Carlos Hyde. With that volume he has enough talent to be a borderline RB1, just like Hyde. Even against a very solid run D like Detroit, the volume is enough to vault Ingram, and he’s not priced like it, as the AP trade happened mid-week.

High-End RB Play: Javorius Allen, BAL (vs. CHI)

Allen was more involved last week, and lo and behold, Baltimore’s offense looked better. The positive team results when Allen gets touches makes for a good indicator they’ll continue to give him touches. In general, Baltimore may take a page out of Jacksonville’s book and go extremely run heavy to beat mediocre offensive teams, and this week’s opponent qualifies. With Terrance West out, that should mean 15+ touches for Allen, making him a solid RB2 and PPR must-start.

RB Sleeper: Semaje Perine, WAS (vs. SF)

This is just a note that many expert rankings don’t yet reflect that Kelley is unlikely to suit up for Washington. In a game in which they’re heavily favored, they may run a lot, and small Chris Thompson will still be limited to 5-10 carries. Perine gets the rest. He makes for a great bye-week fill-in and also a cheap DFS dart throw.

RB Sleeper: Wayne Gallman, NYG (@ DEN) 

Giants play on SNF and aren’t part of the main DFS slate (thank god), so this is more of a deep season-long play. Denver’s been historically good against the run this year, but they’re also that good against the pass. The Giants will need to give somebody some touches, and it may as well be their rookie RB averaging 4.5 YPC (which is like 10 YPC on this Giants team). He’s also looked good in the passing game, catching all 7 of his targets and picking up some blitzes nicely. Even if he averages 3 yards per carry, he could still produce flex value with 15 touches.

RB Fade: Melvin Gordon, LAC (@ OAK)

It was tough for me to find a RB fade, with expectations so low of guys around the league. I settled on Gordon, who I see as more of a mid-range RB1 rather than an elite one. I’m still not convinced he’s 100 percent after knee surgery. Sure, he broke out against a Giants D that was missing Olivier Vernon and that funnels throws to RBs/TEs, but he should face a slightly tougher test against Oakland. He’ll be hard-pressed to repeat last week’s two-TD performance with a low team total of 20. I prefer the equally priced Todd Gurley and Devonta Freeman types, and the cheaper Lamar Miller and CJ Anderson, in DFS. Obviously if you have Gordon in season-long, start him with confidence still.

High-End WR Play: Michael Crabtree, OAK (vs. LAC)

Hopkins is my favorite elite WR this week, and I also like Michael Thomas, whom Darius Slay will not be able to stop. Beyond those guys, and into the WR2 range, I see a lot working in Crabtree’s favor. His value has never been lower, so his ownership should be low, and A) he’s working back to full strength, B) Carr is back, and C) Cooper is banged up and in a funk. It adds up to a nice combo of QB/WR talent and volume against a mediocre Chargers D allowing 7.1 yards per throw.

High-End WR Play: Adam Thielen, MIN (vs. GB) 

He’s my preferred stack partner for Keenum, but I wanted to give him his own section since he’s worthy of rostering with any QB. He has been remarkably consistent, getting exactly eight targets and five receptions in each of the last three games, mostly with Keenum at the helm. He has yet to get a TD, which keeps his perceived value down, but regression should be coming (he had five TDs with less volume last year). I want to get out in front and say that TD regression will happen this week, with Stefon Diggs banged up and against Green Bay. Even without that TD, Thielen gets enough PPR volume to be a great DFS cash game play, especially as he’s much cheaper than Diggs.

High-End WR Play: Jarvis Landry, MIA (@ ATL)

Here’s a lesson in how to utilize Vegas lines. Miami has a low implied team total around 14 points, which is bad news for their TD dependent guys (Jay Cutler, Jay Ajayi). They also are large underdogs, which could be good news for their heavy pass volume guy – Jarvis Landry (especially with DeVante Parker out). If Miami loses 25-14 like Vegas implies, Landry will most likely pick up double digit targets and a ton of receptions along the way, as Miami plays catch-up. That makes him a PPR stud and great cash game play.

WR Sleeper: Taylor Gabriel, ATL (vs. MIA)

nlike Matt Ryan and Julio Jones, he’s not priced like an elite player, so if you want to target a Falcon against the bad Miami defense, he’s the guy. He also may have higher floor than usual with other WRs banged up, making him less of a boom-or-bust big-play threat, and more of your standard No. 2 WR. He’s a nice GPP play and flex option in season-long.

WR Fade: Jordy Nelson, GB (@ MIN) 

Aaron Rodgers’ floor is so high that he’s never a fade, but when he has negative matchups, it could impact his receivers’ projections, since there are so many mouths to feed. That’s especially true when they’re all actually healthy, like they are this week. It all adds up to Nelson being more like a mid-range WR1 instead of a top-tier guy, and he’s priced/ranked like a top-tier guy on DFS sites. I prefer Hopkins, Michael Thomas, and (given price) Golden Tate this week.

WR Fade: Danny Amendola, NE (@ NYJ) 

Amendola gets the poor man’s version of Nelson’s write-up. Like Rodgers, Brady is not in a great spot to put up a massive game. Like Green Bay, New England’s receivers should all suit up for the first time in a while, meaning Amendola is back to a part-time guy, one whom New England may treat with kid gloves. That’s bad news in a potentially run-heavy game script. You can do better with your WR3/Flex this week (I like Gabriel, DeSean Jackson, John Brown, and Marvin Jones more).

High-End TE Play: Evan Engram, NYG (@ DEN)

His value isn’t as high as it should be, coming off a 0/0/0. The fact of the matter is he’s the Giants’ new No. 1 weapon, and they have a full week to game plan him in more, instead of last week when the injuries happened mid-game. Even before those injuries, he was a 4/40 guy, and now he has upside above that. In a week where Kelce is banged up and Ertz already played on TNF, Engram is up there as the next best thing behind Gronk. Giants play on SNF, so this is a season-long call – don’t bench Engram after last week’s dud, and try to buy him low.

High-End TE Play: Jared Cook, OAK (vs. LAC)

 Engram isn’t part of the main DFS slate, so the next best thing is Cook. Like Engram, he put up a stinker last week (although 3/25/0 is par for the course for TEs in 2017). Encouraging, though, is that Carr is back. In 4 games with Carr, Cook put up 40+ yards and/or 4+ receptions in each game. With Cooper a little banged up, he could see a slight spike in targets. By default, he’s a mid-range TE1 this week.

TE Sleeper: Ryan Griffin, HOU (vs. CLE) 

If you’re looking for a Watson stack partner or a sneaky season-long fill-in, I like former the UConn Husky this week. As poor as Cleveland is at covering anybody, they’re particularly bad at covering TEs. Griffin had two bad games in a row, but showed he can produce three weeks ago against New England (5/61/1). If he had only good games, he’d be an elite TE1. As is, he’s a TE2 in a nice matchup, with some proven upside, who you should start over guys like Julius Thomas and Jack Doyle.

TE Fade: NOBODY!

TE is so bad this year, and expectations are so low, that there is nobody to “fade”. Beyond the top five or so, they are simply all lottery tickets to score a TD. In DFS, you should simply make your decisions based on price – for example, on FD, Cameron Brate is the fifth-most expensive TE, so he’s the smart fade there. On DK, ASJ is the fifth-most expensive, so he’s the guy to perhaps avoid. At the end of the day, though, these guys are all relatively equivalent in likelihood of scoring either 0 or 12 points, so monitor little pieces of news that could give any of them a slight edge.

Week 6 NFL Spreads: STATS vs. Las Vegas

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Using STATS X-Info metrics and roster rankings to project favorites vs. the Vegas standard odds

STATS and Vegas differed on six favorites last week, and STATS ended up going 4-2 in those games straight up. The misses? Tampa Bay, which had a shot to beat New England on the final play, and the Bears, who got beat on a field goal in the final minute.

STATS uses proprietary data to project spreads for each NFL game. STATS X-Info calculates roster rankings based on injuries, statistical data and depth at each position, then compares that to an opponent and arrives at a conclusion – the projected spread.

None of these spread projections mean you should empty your account and follow the STATS model to riches. X-Info simply takes into account factors Vegas may not, hence some differing views. And if you’re looking for fantasy advice, you’re still best suited to follow best-in-the-business Sean Koerner and his weekly tiers.

Have a look at how STATS projects the spreads in Week 6 against those coming out of Las Vegas as of Thursday afternoon. Note that the Indianapolis at Tennessee game is not listed because of Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota’s uncertain injury status.

Group 1: Occasionally, STATS and Vegas agree – for the most part:

Philadelphia at Carolina

STATS: Panthers -2.28
Vegas: Panthers -3

It’s kind of a shame this battle of 4-1 teams happens when both are coming off a short week.

San Francisco at Washington

STATS: Redskins -9.54
Vegas: Redskins -10

Kirk Cousins faces his former offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan, who’s now the head coach of a rebuilding 49ers team off to a 0-5 start.

Detroit at New Orleans

STATS: Saints -7.55
Vegas: Saints -5

Matthew Stafford is hurting, but he could play through it. Either way, it figures that smart money is on the Saints.

Miami at Atlanta

STATS: Falcons -13.25
Vegas: Falcons -11.5

This is the highest spread of the week for STATS and second-highest for Vegas. Who knows if the Dolphins even score.

Cleveland at Houston

STATS: Texans -9.54
Vegas: Texans -9.5

DeShaun Watson padded his stats during garbage time in last week’s loss to Kansas City, but he’s still becoming a quality QB beyond the fantasy points.

New England at New York Jets

STATS: Patriots -7.57
Vegas: Patriots -9.5

The matchup we’ve all been waiting for – Tom Brady vs. Josh McCown.

Tampa Bay at Arizona

STATS: Buccaneers -2.37
Vegas: Buccaneers -1.5

Adrian Peterson makes his Cardinals debut as they try to turn around their running game, but that’s not enough to keep them from being home underdogs.

Los Angeles Chargers at Oakland

STATS: Raiders -1.86
Vegas: Raiders -3

Derek Carr could be back from the Raiders, who hope to end their struggles against a Chargers team coming off their first win.

New York Giants at Denver

STATS: Broncos -10.27
Vegas: Broncos -12

The Giants are 0-5 and have lost Odell Beckham for the season. These spreads might be underestimating the beating Denver is about to give them.

Group 2: STATS and Vegas agree on the favorite, but the spreads are pretty far apart:

Chicago at Baltimore

STATS: Ravens -10.33
Vegas: Ravens -6.5

Mitch Trubisky had a so-so debut that he looks to make up for in what could be an even tougher matchup.

Green Bay at Minnesota

STATS: Packers -8.77
Vegas: Packers -3

Aaron Rodgers slayed Dallas again in last week’s comeback victory, so going into Minnesota with the Vikings uncertain QB situation shouldn’t be too difficult.

Group 3: Then there are games were STATS and Vegas don’t agree at all:

Los Angeles Rams at Jacksonville Jaguars

STATS: Rams -1.23
Vegas: Jaguars -2.5

This is one of the week’s most intriguing games between surprise 3-2 teams. The Rams and their rather fun offense will get a tough challenge from the Jaguars’ tough D.

Pittsburgh at Kansas City

STATS: Steelers -0.46
Vegas: Chiefs -4.5

STATS’ model still gives the edge to the Steelers despite Ben Roethlisberger’s five picks last week. And let’s not forget the Chiefs are undefeated, largely because of Alex Smith’s and Kareem Hunt’s unlikely emergence.

2017 STATS Fantasy Football: Week 6 Tiers

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We’re heading into Week 6 of the NFL season, and already we have a rookie quarterback jumping into the top tier. That’s pretty fitting when another rookie has the running backs’ No. 1 tier all to himself.

I would like to point out the projections below aren’t meant to be gospel. There is assumed to be a certain level of error/uncertainty in even the most accurate projection systems. What I use for my weekly rankings are “median projections” and these are essential for choosing which player is more likely to score more points. When playing season-long head-to-head fantasy football, your goal every week is to score more points than one other team in your league – your opponent. This is why I always stress to go with the “safer” play and prefer volume over talent alone. When it comes to playing daily fantasy, specifically large tournaments that have top-heavy payouts, that is when you need to shift your strategy to going with the higher “upside,” more talented back, even if it means taking on added risk.

Keep this in mind when using the rankings below and how to react to news that may come out later in the week. If someone like Ty Montgomery is ruled out, you better believe Aaron Jones will shoot up a tier or two, based on those extra touches being up for grabs.

And don’t forget, these tiers reflect non-PPR scoring. The number in parenthesis next to the player’s matchup indicates how many tiers they’d move up or down in PPR scoring. Without further ado, here are the Week 6 tiers.

Quarterbacks

Drew Brees and rookie Deshaun Watson join Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers in the tier that they live in – Tier 1. Watson has exploded into a QB1 over the past couple weeks, which is why I emphasized in preseason that he was an ideal backup to take late because of his sky-high ceiling. This week seems almost too easy with a dream matchup at home against the Browns. I almost feel like he could be a bit of a letdown simply due to having lofty expectations, but he’s still a top QB1 for the week.

This week particularly, we have to be a bit careful of QBs who could be in blowout games. You ideally want a QB that is playing in a tight game or trailing in order to keep them in a game script that requires throwing the ball. Of course, in order to get into a blowout situation, the team needs to score several TDs. In these cases, you need the QB to have a large TD share early on. If they get up early off rushing TDs or defensive/special teams TDs, that QB could be in line for a below-average week despite their team putting up 30+ points.

The QBs that could fall into this group in Week 6 are Brady, Watson, Matt Ryan, Kirk Cousins and Trevor Siemian. This makes them all higher-floor/lower-ceiling plays in a sense, which is fine for season long H2H formats. If you are trying to win a large DFS tournament, you might want to go with QBs in matchups where they will be required to throw for all four quarters.

Marcus Mariota’s status needs to be monitored carefully. Tennessee doesn’t play until Monday night, so if he’s still a game-time decision heading into the weekend I’m saying to bench him. Since he is dealing with a hamstring injury, it could limit his rushing stats considerably even if he plays, which crushes his value. Right now I’m projecting him to be about 80 percent healthy come game time in a great matchup, but just know I don’t think the risk is worth it, especially considering an in-game tweak is very possible – just like we saw with Sam Bradford in Week 5.

Mariota’s M.A.S.H. unit pal, Derek Carr, is also expected to return from injury this week. He is in a “prove it” spot where I am not starting him with confidence this week. His return is more of a boost to his teammates, especially Amari Cooper.

Eli Manning gets the bottom tier all to himself. He lost three WRs for the season last week including his top target Odell Beckham Jr., and there’s still no indication of Sterling Shepard playing this week. On top of that, he has to play at Denver, which is still one of the worst draws you can get for a QB. You also have to wonder if we will see Geno Smith start games or at least see the Giants eye the No. 1 pick next year in an attempt to get Sam Darnold and develop him with Beckham.

Tier 1

Aaron Rodgers (@ MIN)
Tom Brady (@ NYJ)
Drew Brees (vs DET)
Deshaun Watson (vs CLE)

Tier 2

Kirk Cousins (vs SF)

Tier 3

Cam Newton (vs PHI)
Jameis Winston (@ ARI)
Matt Ryan (vs MIA)
Matthew Stafford (@ NO)

Tier 4

Alex Smith (vs PIT)
Marcus Mariota (vs IND)
Philip Rivers (@ OAK)
Carson Palmer (vs TB)

Tier 5

Carson Wentz (@ CAR)
Jacoby Brissett (@ TEN)
Trevor Siemian (vs NYG)
Derek Carr (vs LAC)

Tier 6

Case Keenum (vs GB)
Ben Roethlisberger (@ KC)
Kevin Hogan (@ HOU)

Tier 7

Josh McCown (vs NE)
Blake Bortles (vs LAR)
Joe Flacco (vs CHI)
Brian Hoyer (@ WAS)
Jared Goff (@ JAX)

Tier 8

Mitchell Trubisky (@ BAL)
Jay Cutler (@ ATL)

Tier 9

Eli Manning (@ DEN)

Running Backs

Running back is the most volatile position in fantasy football. In order to best approach the position, you need to embrace that volatility and understand how value works at the position. Far too often I see people get way too excited over the “talent” aspect of a running back. The most important factor when forecasting the immediate value of a RB is expected workload. Talent can help maximize the potential of that workload and often times can lead to a compelling case for a coach to increase that workload. But basing decisions on talent alone can backfire.

Let’s take the Colts for example. Marlon Mack is the most talented back on their roster and I think we can all agree on that at this point. He also proved in college that he is capable of handling a full workload, and his 5-foot-11, 210-pound frame is nearly optimal for that as well. However, we have to temper our expectations on someone like him. Frank Gore and Robert Turbin, whether we agree with it or not, are going to take up roughly 55-60 percent of the available touches this week. Until we start seeing one or both of them missing any time or the coaching staff outright sitting them, we have to realize that Mack will be extremely volatile since he has to produce with limited touches to hit value.

Meanwhile, the values of Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara go up immediately this week after the Saints traded away Adrian Peterson to Arizona. In my model, that is nearly 6-10 touches freed up and distributed among these two backs. From a projections standpoint, that is a fairly big spike. Not to mention, the threat of a possible AP “vulture” TD is wiped out, increasing their TD odds.

On the flip side, Peterson now gets to be the feature back in Arizona until David Johnson is able to return. I think those of us who are savvy fantasy football players realize “All Day” is a shell of his former self and is probably not going to light up the box score in the high desert. Having said that, we will likely get volume and goal-line chances from AP. To put things into perspective, if you are in a tight matchup and need to decide whether or not to play Adrian Peterson or Marlon Mack, it would be a no-brainer, on raw talent alone, to start Mack. But let’s use a hypothetical projection set to illustrate why expected volume should always be the first factor considered:

Player A: the old/washed up workhorse back: 16-18 carries with a 3.7 yards per rush + 40 percent chance for a TD

Player B: the young/talented flashy back in a 2-3 man RBBC: 6-10 carries with a 5.5 yards per rush+ 30 percent chance for a TD

Assuming both receiving projections are nearly identical, I would be projecting the bad workhorse player to rush for about 20 more yards, or two more projected fantasy points. Once you factor in the higher TD odds as well, Player A will be nearly three projected points higher than Player B.

Tier 1

Kareem Hunt (vs PIT)

Tier 2

Leonard Fournette (vs LAR)
Le’Veon Bell (@ KC)
Todd Gurley (@ JAX)

Tier 3

Devonta Freeman (vs MIA)

Tier 4

C.J. Anderson (vs NYG)
Lamar Miller (vs CLE)
Melvin Gordon (@ OAK)

Tier 5

Mark Ingram (vs DET)
Jordan Howard (-1, @ BAL)
Jay Ajayi (-2, @ ATL)

Tier 6

DeMarco Murray (-1, vs IND)
Javorius Allen (+1, vs CHI)
Marshawn Lynch (-1, vs LAC)
Jerick McKinnon (vs GB)

Tier 7

Carlos Hyde (@ WAS)
Ameer Abdullah (+1, @ NO)
Doug Martin (@ ARI)
Alvin Kamara (vs DET)
Mike Gillislee (-1, @ NYJ)
Aaron Jones (@ MIN)
Chris Thompson (vs SF)
Tevin Coleman (vs MIA)
Elijah McGuire (vs NE)
Christian McCaffrey (+2, vs PHI)
Jonathan Stewart (vs PHI)

Tier 8

Rob Kelley (-1, vs SF)
Duke Johnson Jr. (+1, @ HOU)
LeGarrette Blount (-1, @ CAR)
Isaiah Crowell (@ HOU)
Wayne Gallman (@ DEN)
Alex Collins (vs CHI)

Tier 9

Andre Ellington (+2, vs TB)
Frank Gore (@ TEN)
Derrick Henry (vs IND)
Adrian Peterson (vs TB)

Tier 10

Jamaal Charles (vs NYG)
James White (+3, @ NYJ)
Latavius Murray (vs GB)
Tarik Cohen (+2, @ BAL)

Wide Receivers

Instead of simply talking about how a player has a “good” matchup or is a “bad” play this week, I wanted to touch on some more advanced thought processes that I go through at each position when it comes to making projections. I’m talking about some of the decision-making that I feel some may not perceive the correct way based on a lot of the questions I get asked every week.

When it comes to WR, I am seeing people start to overreact to CB matchups alone. As always, there is literally no stone left unturned when it comes to what I base my projections off of. You better believe the WR/CB matchup is important, but I find too often people over-weigh it. The fact is, most teams have a fairly good No. 1 CB. Therefore, if we shy away from a WR simply because he is facing a decent CB, we won’t have many WR left to choose from. Also, any sort of ratings/stats on CB coverage usually regresses towards the average when doing a split-half reliability type analysis. In layman’s terms, much of the perceived greatness of a CB can be chalked up to simple randomness, or is short-lived. Having said that, we certainly need to be cautious of a boundary WR being shadowed by a Patrick Peterson or a slot WR being matched up against Chris Harris. I’m well aware of these high-end talents, and they are always factored into my projections.

Mike Evans will likely get the Peterson shadow treatment this week. This is why he isn’t a top-3 type play at the position this week, but he should see enough volume to be a WR1 still. Winston typically doesn’t care who is on Evans and will force him the ball if needed, since he trusts Evans to win most battles. On the flip side, we may see DeSean Jackson getting matched up with burnable Justin Bethel, making him a solid WR2 this week, which is much higher then he normally is in my rankings due to his often high risk/reward weekly outlook. This means he will very likely be part of some sit/start decisions, but I better NOT be getting any sit/start questions involving Evans unless your other WRs are Antonio Brown, Julio Jones, and Michael Thomas.

Tier 1

Antonio Brown (@ KC)

Tier 2

Julio Jones (vs MIA)
DeAndre Hopkins (vs CLE)
Michael Thomas (vs DET)
Mike Evans (@ ARI)
Jordy Nelson (@ MIN)

Tier 3

Keenan Allen (@ OAK)
Brandin Cooks (@ NYJ)
Chris Hogan (@ NYJ)

Tier 4

T.Y. Hilton (@ TEN)
Tyreek Hill (vs PIT)
Michael Crabtree (vs LAC)
Larry Fitzgerald (vs TB)
Golden Tate (@ NO)
Stefon Diggs (vs GB)
Kelvin Benjamin (vs PHI)
Adam Thielen (vs GB)
Pierre Garcon (@ WAS)
Davante Adams (@ MIN)
Amari Cooper (vs LAC)
Demaryius Thomas (vs NYG)

Tier 5

Jarvis Landry (@ ATL)
Devin Funchess (vs PHI)
Emmanuel Sanders (vs NYG)
DeSean Jackson (@ ARI)
Rishard Matthews (vs IND)
DeVante Parker (@ ATL)|
Alshon Jeffery (@ CAR)
Terrelle Pryor Sr. (vs SF)
Randall Cobb (@ MIN)

Tier 6

Taylor Gabriel (vs MIA)
John Brown (vs TB)
Jermaine Kearse (vs NE)
Jeremy Maclin (vs CHI)
Sterling Shepard (@ DEN)
Marvin Jones Jr. (@ NO)

Tier 7

Eric Decker (vs IND)
Martavis Bryant (@ KC)
Danny Amendola (@ NYJ)
Will Fuller V (vs CLE)
Allen Hurns (vs LAR)
Robby Anderson (vs NE)
Cooper Kupp (@ JAX)

Tier 8

Jamison Crowder (vs SF)
Mike Wallace (vs CHI)
Tyrell Williams (@ OAK)
Willie Snead (vs DET)
Jaron Brown (vs TB)
Nelson Agholor (@ CAR)
J.J. Nelson (vs TB)
Marqise Lee (vs LAR)
Sammy Watkins (@ JAX)
Ted Ginn Jr. (vs DET)
Ricardo Louis (@ HOU)
Albert Wilson (vs PIT)

Tight Ends

I keep trying to hammer home that the TE position is a bit of a disaster this year. This should be no surprise considering the position relies on TDs more than yardage output. Touchdowns are much less reliable/predictable than expected yardage and volume. The early season value MVP has to be Zach Ertz. He was drafted much later than Gronk/Kelce and has been a reliable play at a very volatile position all season, with either 80+ yards or a TD in all five games so far. The preseason sub-elite tier of Jordan Reed, Jimmy Graham, and Delaine Walker have been rather disappointing, which has given the elite TEs a boost.

For those of us who don’t own any of the TEs mentioned above, it has been a tough weekly decision as to which TE we should roll out.  When living the life of streaming a TE each week, you need to accept the risk that if they do not score a TD you are very likely going to see an unsightly fantasy point total in your starting lineup. Most TEs can’t give you 50-60 yards in the event they fail to hit pay dirt. Last week I, like many others, got burned by Dwayne Allen’s 0-point performance when Gronk was ruled out for TNF. While it’s unsettling seeing a zero locked into your starting lineup as early as Thursday, I urged people to remember that there will be plenty of TE busts to go around. Sure enough, Delanie Walker, Jared Cook and Evan Engram combined for three standard fantasy points. There is a chance you rolled with Allen against a team that had any one of these sure fire TE1’s, and you didn’t lose any ground.

It’s important to use the entire week to decide which TE to stream since any sort of news involving that player or teammates can help give them a bit of a boost. One solid streamer this week would be Ryan Griffin against the Browns, who have been gashed by TEs for over a year now. Those desperate for a streamer play could certainly do worse than him. Another sneaky play may be Austin Hooper, who I feel could see an increase in targets with Mohamed Sanu likely missing Week 6, which would free up some looks over the middle.

Tier 1

Rob Gronkowski (@ NYJ)

Tier 2

Zach Ertz (@ CAR)
Travis Kelce (vs PIT)

Tier 3

Delanie Walker (vs IND)

Tier 4

Jordan Reed (vs SF)
Cameron Brate (@ ARI)
Austin Seferian-Jenkins (vs NE)
Evan Engram (@ DEN)
Jared Cook (vs LAC)

Tier 5

Martellus Bennett (@ MIN)
Ed Dickson (vs PHI)
Kyle Rudolph (vs GB)
Hunter Henry (@ OAK)
Coby Fleener (vs DET)
Benjamin Watson (vs CHI)
Ryan Griffin (vs CLE)
Zach Miller (@ BAL)

Tier 6

Jack Doyle (@ TEN)
Austin Hooper (vs MIA)
Jesse James (@ KC)
George Kittle (@ WAS)
Eric Ebron (@ NO)
David Njoku (@ HOU)
Julius Thomas (@ ATL)

Kickers

Tier 1

Matt Bryant (vs MIA)
Ka’imi Fairbairn (vs CLE)
Dustin Hopkins (vs SF)
Stephen Gostkowski (@ NYJ)

Tier 2

Wil Lutz (vs DET)
Brandon McManus (vs NYG)
Justin Tucker (vs CHI)
Harrison Butker (vs PIT)
Giorgio Tavecchio (vs LAC)
Mason Crosby (@ MIN)
Ryan Succop (vs IND)
Matt Prater (@ NO)
Graham Gano (vs PHI)

Tier 3

Nick Novak (@ OAK)
Jason Myers (vs LAR)
Kai Forbath (vs GB)
Adam Vinatieri (@ TEN)
Patrick Murray (@ ARI)
Jake Elliott (@ CAR)
Phil Dawson (vs TB)

Tier 4

Greg Zuerlein (@ JAX)
Chandler Catanzaro (vs NE)
Robbie Gould (@ WAS)
Zane Gonzalez (@ HOU)
Chris Boswell (@ KC)
Cody Parkey (@ ATL)
Connor Barth (@ BAL)

Tier 5

Aldrick Rosas (@ DEN)

Defense/Special Teams

Tier 1

Denver Broncos (vs NYG)

Tier 2

Houston Texans (vs CLE)
Baltimore Ravens (vs CHI)
Atlanta Falcons (vs MIA)
Washington Redskins (vs SF)

Tier 3

New England Patriots (@ NYJ)
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (@ ARI)
Kansas City Chiefs (vs PIT)
Tennessee Titans (vs IND)
Jacksonville Jaguars (vs LAR)
Carolina Panthers (vs PHI)
Oakland Raiders (vs LAC)
Green Bay Packers (@ MIN)
Los Angeles Rams (@ JAX)
New Orleans Saints (vs DET)
Arizona Cardinals (vs TB)

Tier 4

Philadelphia Eagles (@ CAR)
Chicago Bears (@ BAL)
Minnesota Vikings (vs GB)
New York Giants (@ DEN)
Pittsburgh Steelers (@ KC)
Los Angeles Chargers (@ OAK)
Cleveland Browns (@ HOU)
Indianapolis Colts (@ TEN)

Tier 5

San Francisco 49ers (@ WAS)
Detroit Lions (@ NO)
Miami Dolphins (@ ATL)
New York Jets (vs NE)

Week 5 NFL Spreads: STATS vs. Las Vegas

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Using STATS X-Info metrics and roster rankings to project favorites vs. the Vegas standard odds

Things got back to normal in Week 4 after underdogs helped Vegas get paid handsomely the previous week. STATS favored 10 of the 16 winners, with New England’s loss to Carolina and Jacksonville’s loss to the Jets being the most surprising defeats.

STATS uses proprietary data to project spreads for each NFL game. STATS X-Info calculates roster rankings based on injuries, statistical data and depth at each position, then compares that to an opponent and arrives at a conclusion – the projected spread.

None of these spread projections mean you should empty your account and follow the STATS model to riches. X-Info simply takes into account factors Vegas may not, hence some differing views. And if you’re looking for fantasy advice, you’re still best suited to follow best-in-the-business Sean Koerner and his weekly tiers.

Have a look at how STATS projects the spreads in Week 5 against those coming out of Las Vegas as of Thursday afternoon. Usually the games break down into three groups, but it’s down to two this week after STATS and Vegas came very close on favorites/spreads for an unusual amount of games.

Group 1: Occasionally, STATS and Vegas agree – for the most part – as noted in the games below:

San Francisco at Indianapolis

STATS: 49ers -3.44
Vegas: 49ers -1.5

San Francisco is one of four winless teams remaining, but there’s so little confidence in the Colts that the Niners are rare road favorites.

Jacksonville at Pittsburgh

STATS: Steelers -10.45
Vegas: Steelers -8.5

The spreads seem pretty reasonable considering the Jaguars are coming off a loss to the, uh, Jets.

Buffalo at Cincinnati

STATS: Bengals -3.19
Vegas: Bengals -3

Not much confidence in the 3-1, AFC East-leading Bills, eh? Cincinnati won its first game last week, but maybe it should only be half of a win because it was Cleveland.

Los Angeles Chargers at New York Giants

STATS: Giants -5.37
Vegas: Giants -3.5

Get your popcorn ready for the thrilling, exciting, captivating battle between 0-4 teams! No wonder the draft-night Eli Manning-for-Philip Rivers trade from 2004 is still a narrative.

Tennessee at Miami

STATS: Titans -2.41
Vegas: Titans -3

The Jay Cutler-led Dolphins have been outscored 40-6 in their last two games, but Tennessee might have to play without Marcus Mariota.

Arizona at Philadelphia

STATS: Eagles -4.84
Vegas: Eagles -6.5

The STATS model has loved the Eagles all season, and they’ve backed it up with a 3-1 start.

Seattle at Los Angeles Rams

STATS: Rams -2.65
Vegas: Rams -1

So what if the Coliseum will be half empty? The Rams have scored the most points in the league and are downright fun. They’ll get a tough test from Seattle’s defense in what could be the best game of the week.

Kansas City at Houston

STATS: Chiefs -1.34
Vegas: Chiefs -1

Kareem Hunt, meet J.J. Watt, an X-Info favorite.

Group 2: Then there are games where STATS and Vegas don’t agree at all:

New England at Tampa Bay

STATS: Buccaneers -1.38
Vegas: Patriots -5.5

The Patriots won’t really fall to 2-3, or will they?

New York Jets at Cleveland

STATS: Jets -2.83
Vegas: Browns -1

[Insert eye-roll emoji here]

Carolina at Detroit

STATS: Panthers -4.46
Vegas: Lions -2.5

Carolina shocked the Patriots last week, which is part of the reason STATS believes it can win on the road again.

Baltimore at Oakland

STATS: Ravens -4.96
Vegas: Raiders -2.5

Oakland won’t have Derek Carr, and that played into the STATS predictive model.

Green Bay at Dallas

STATS: Packers -1.43
Vegas: Cowboys -2.5

The Packers return to the sight of their thrilling Divisional Playoff victory back in January.

Minnesota at Chicago

STATS: Bears -0.06
Vegas:
Vikings -3

It’s Mitch Trubisky time in Chicago, as the No. 2 overall pick in this year’s draft makes his NFL debut.

2017 STATS Fantasy Football: Week 5 Tiers

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Before I dive into the Week 5 tiers, I want to quickly touch on a few things I get asked quite a bit after posting each week.

These rankings/tiers specifically reflect the projections I create. One of the reasons I feel my rankings are so accurate is due to the fact that I am not simply hand-ranking players off the top of my head or gut. All of my energy is put into making our projections while leaving no stone unturned. Therefore, they are factoring in the player’s talent, matchup, potential game plan/script, recent form, any injuries that player or teammate(s) are dealing with, impacts to workload, weather, etc.

Basically – everything!

This process itself reveals where I have players ranked for that week. I try to focus on general strategy and the landscape of the upcoming week as opposed to quickly saying I have Dak Prescott ranked fourth because he’s “good.” If I don’t discuss a specific player, it does not mean any less time/effort was put into his projection.

Lastly, this article is posted every Wednesday and reflects where my projections were on Tuesday night. With my intense projections process, I am using the entire week to get them right. Therefore, if you check on FantasyPros and notice the rank of a player has changed quite a bit, the most recent rank is always going to be the one to use. Players can sometimes go up/down quite a bit even if their projection doesn’t change much, and it can even be from other players around them moving around. That’s why it’s important to view players more as tiered groups, where there can be quite a bit of turnover in an eight-player set if there is only 0.5 projected points separating them all. The slightest change in projection can shuffle the order some, which is why I don’t give you exact rankings on Wednesdays.

Now on to the Week 5 tiers!

Quarterbacks

Week 5 brings us the first batch of byes, not counting the impromptu Miami-Tampa Bay Week 1 re-schedule). This means that Matt Ryan, Drew Brees, Kirk Cousins, and Trevor Siemian are unavailable, opening up the QB position considerably.

This also means we don’t have the Saints defense to pick on either. Jameis Winston gets the biggest matchup boost this week against an exposed Patriots pass defense. He should be locked in as an elite QB1 and started with confidence.

Deshaun Watson makes his debut as a QB1. I had touted his dual-threat abilities before the season started, which made him the perfect high-upside backup to roster heading into the season. He has exploded onto the scene even quicker than I had anticipated, though. The return of Will Fuller raises his ceiling even more, as we saw last week.

It’s also worth mentioning that we are without Derek Carr and potentially Marcus Mariota. This projections set is assuming Mariota plays, but with his rushing stats curbed a bit due to the hamstring injury.

A potential QB1 fill-in is Jacoby Brissett. He is not going to blow you away with his passing stats, but he has tremendous upside with his legs, as we’ve seen the past couple weeks. His matchup couldn’t be any better with a home game against the 49ers.

Big Ben is in a tricky spot since he faces the stingy Jaguars defense, but he’s at home where he is borderline matchup-proof. I’m cancelling the two out and he’s a low-end QB1 for me.

Jared Goff has been one of the biggest surprises in 2017, but don’t let the much-deserved hype lead you to plug him in against the Seahawks. I think his real-life value is much higher than his fantasy value, leading me to think people will overvalue him in fantasy going forward. You have to realize that he will rarely if ever get you rushing stats, and with Todd Gurley as his back he will have to compete for TD shares. I’m simply urging people to be cautious with him going forward, since he’s still a low-ceiling type of player with a 180 passing yard/0 TD/0 rush yards type of floor.

We get the highly anticipated Mitch Trubisky debut this week. He is of course not in play for fantasy purposes, but we will need to monitor his target distribution this week in order to evaluate his teammates’ rest-of-season prospects with him under center. I know rookie QBs with his playing style typically lean on safety valves like their RB or TE to dump it off once they quickly see their first read is covered. Tarik Cohen’s massive target share could stay intact or even rise as a result. I am viewing Zach Miller the same way – it’s the WRs that are all “avoids” for me this week until we see how this shakes out.

Tier 1

Tom Brady (@ TB)
Aaron Rodgers (@ DAL)

Tier 2

Jameis Winston (vs NE)
Dak Prescott (vs GB)
Russell Wilson (@ LAR)

Tier 3

Matthew Stafford (vs CAR)
Carson Wentz (vs ARI)
Deshaun Watson (vs KC)
Eli Manning (vs LAC)
Cam Newton (@ DET)

Tier 4

Ben Roethlisberger (vs JAX)
Jacoby Brissett (vs SF)

Tier 5

Alex Smith (@ HOU)
Philip Rivers (@ NYG)
Carson Palmer (@ PHI)
Case Keenum (@ CHI)
DeShone Kizer (vs NYJ)
Tyrod Taylor (@ CIN)
Andy Dalton (vs BUF)
Jared Goff (vs SEA)
Marcus Mariota (@ MIA)

Tier 6

Jay Cutler (vs TEN)
Josh McCown (@ CLE)
Brian Hoyer (@ IND)
EJ Manuel (vs BAL)
Blake Bortles (@ PIT)

Tier 7

Mitchell Trubisky (vs MIN)
Joe Flacco (@ OAK)

Running Backs

We lost two more RB1/2 last week as Dalvin Cook and Chris Carson suffered major injuries. The first batch of bye weeks leaves us without Devonta Freeman/Tevin Coleman, CJ Anderson, and all members of the New Orleans and Washington RBBC situations. This opens up RB2/3 considerably this week, so I am going to focus on them since we have a rock-solid RB1 group this week.

Starting with the main beneficiary of the Dalvin Cook season-ending ACL tear: Latavius Murray. He’s going to be thrusted into an every-down workhorse-type roll. His ankle is nearing 100 percent so the Vikings should be able to throw him in the fire right away – not to mention, he signed a huge contract with them before they decided to draft Cook. Jerick McKinnon is going to be more of a change-of-pace/third-down back who I don’t see as much of a threat. I’m treating Murray as a strong RB2 this week.

With Derek Carr out, I can see the Raiders leaning on Marshawn Lynch a bit more. The stout Ravens run defense is never an ideal matchup, but the volume should be there for Lynch as well as any goal-line opportunities, as I don’t think they’ll try to get cute with EJ Manuel in the red zone.

The other wide-open RB situation this week is a result of Chris Carson being on the shelf. Seattle could employ a three-headed RBBC this week if C.J. Prosise is active. This is a scenario where people may go out of their way to start Eddie Lacy simply because he is listed as their starting RB on paper. I think this is very dangerous if you are starting him over, say, a Jonathan Stewart or Frank Gore. You have to realize his floor is still very low due to the uncertainty of the situation. Yes, he could very well have a good game if he happens to get going early and they ride the hot hand. When it comes to just having to beat one other team in your fantasy league, it’s much more about avoiding duds verses trying to hit the lottery with every play.

Tier 1

Le’Veon Bell (vs JAX)

Tier 2

Ezekiel Elliott (vs GB)
Todd Gurley (vs SEA)
Kareem Hunt (@ HOU)

Tier 3

Carlos Hyde (@ IND)
Leonard Fournette (@ PIT)
LeSean McCoy (@ CIN)

Tier 4

Melvin Gordon (@ NYG)
Jay Ajayi (-1, vs TEN)
Jordan Howard (vs MIN)

Tier 5

Lamar Miller (vs KC)
Bilal Powell (@ CLE)
Joe Mixon (vs BUF)

Tier 6

Ameer Abdullah (vs CAR)
Latavius Murray (@ CHI)
Marshawn Lynch (-1, vs BAL)
Mike Gillislee (-1, @ TB)
DeMarco Murray (@ MIA)
Christian McCaffrey (+2, @ DET)
Frank Gore (vs SF)

Tier 7

Isaiah Crowell (-1, vs NYJ)
Jonathan Stewart (-2, @ DET)
Doug Martin (-1, vs NE)
LeGarrette Blount (-2, vs ARI)

Tier 8

Tarik Cohen (+2, vs MIN)
Ty Montgomery (@ DAL)
Alex Collins (-1, @ OAK)
Javorius Allen (+1, @ OAK)
Derrick Henry (-1, @ MIA)

Tier 9

Wendell Smallwood (vs ARI)
Duke Johnson Jr. (+2, vs NYJ)
Chris Johnson (@ PHI)
Jerick McKinnon (@ CHI)
James White (+2, @ TB)
Andre Ellington (+2, @ PHI)
Wayne Gallman (vs LAC)

Tier 10

Theo Riddick (+1, vs CAR)
Eddie Lacy (@ LAR)
Elijah McGuire (@ CLE)
D’Onta Foreman (vs KC)
Matt Breida (@ IND)

Wide Receivers

The WR position will be without Julio Jones, Emmanuel Sanders/Demaryius Thomas, Michael Thomas, and Terrell Pryor this week. Carr being out knocks Amari Cooper/Michael Crabtree out of even WR2 discussion this week. Having said this, we can’t be too shocked about some bizarre WR1’s this week in T.Y. Hilton (despite Jacoby Brissett under center) and Chris Hogan. Other than that, we still have our usual suspects locked in as WR2 plays that I don’t anticipate getting too many sit/start questions about.

It should be noted that Devin Funchess is in fact part of this group now. I think the Greg Olsen injury really opened the door for him considering his massive build really makes him more of a WR/TE hybrid who will continue to dominate red zone targets going forward.

The sneaky plays this week are Jets WRs Jermaine Kearse and Robby Anderson. They get the Browns in what should be a very tight contest. Both WRs are guaranteed a handful of targets and have sneaky big-play/TDs odds this week. You could certainly do worse than either.

Another matchup to exploit this year has been big-play WRs against the Eagles. Unfortunately, we have the Cardinals drawing that matchup this week when all four of their WRs are in play. If any one of them happened to be out it would have made it easier to key in on one of them (outside of Larry Fitz). I’m too scared to roll them out in season-long, but JJ Nelson makes for a fantastic DFS tournament option this week since his skill set/matchup gives him a sky-high ceiling in Week 5.

Tier 1

Antonio Brown (vs JAX)
Mike Evans (vs NE)
Odell Beckham Jr. (vs LAC)
A.J. Green (vs BUF)
DeAndre Hopkins (vs KC)
Jordy Nelson (@ DAL)

Tier 2

Dez Bryant (vs GB)
Stefon Diggs (@ CHI)
Tyreek Hill (@ HOU)

Tier 3

Brandin Cooks (@ TB)
T.Y. Hilton (vs SF)
Keenan Allen (+1, @ NYG)
Chris Hogan (@ TB)
Larry Fitzgerald (@ PHI)
Golden Tate (vs CAR)
DeVante Parker (vs TEN)
Adam Thielen (@ CHI)
Rishard Matthews (@ MIA)
Alshon Jeffery (vs ARI)
Doug Baldwin (@ LAR)
Jarvis Landry (vs TEN)

Tier 4

Devin Funchess (@ DET)
Pierre Garcon (@ IND)
Randall Cobb (@ DAL)
DeSean Jackson (vs NE)
Kelvin Benjamin (@ DET)
Davante Adams (@ DAL)
Amari Cooper (vs BAL)
Sammy Watkins (vs SEA)
Martavis Bryant (vs JAX)

Tier 5

Tyrell Williams (@ NYG)
Allen Hurns (@ PIT)
Jeremy Maclin (@ OAK)
Jermaine Kearse (@ CLE)
Robby Anderson (-1, @ CLE)
Will Fuller V (vs KC)

Tier 6

Sterling Shepard (vs LAC)
Danny Amendola (@ TB)
Brandon Marshall (vs LAC)
Marqise Lee (@ PIT)
Eric Decker (@ MIA)|
Robert Woods (vs SEA)
Cooper Kupp (vs SEA)
J.J. Nelson (@ PHI)
Kenny Stills (vs TEN)
Jaron Brown (@ PHI)
Paul Richardson (@ LAR)
Marvin Jones Jr. (-1, vs CAR)
Donte Moncrief (vs SF)
John Brown (@ PHI)
Tyler Lockett (@ LAR)
Nelson Agholor (vs ARI)
Kenny Britt (vs NYJ)
Kendall Wright (vs MIN)
Adam Humphries (vs NE)

Tight Ends

Tight end has been a dumpster fire in ’17. The reason why is simply due to it being a largely TD dependent position. Anyone past Tier 3 can put up a goose egg any week they don’t score, since we can’t bank on yardage totals from anyone. I have put a ridiculous amount of time and energy into these projections, so feel free to trust my raw rankings, and just know that Tiers 4 and on consists of basically betting on a TD. This also means you shouldn’t simply be looking at their past few games of data. Regression tends to be ignored all too often, which causes people to play whack-a-mole at TE all year. Do not be one of these people!

Tier 1

Rob Gronkowski (@ TB)

Tier 2

Zach Ertz (vs ARI)
Travis Kelce (@ HOU)

Tier 3

Charles Clay (@ CIN)
Delanie Walker (@ MIA)
Evan Engram (vs LAC)
Jimmy Graham (@ LAR)

Tier 4

Cameron Brate (vs NE)
Jason Witten (vs GB)
Martellus Bennett (@ DAL)
Jared Cook (vs BAL)
Jack Doyle (vs SF)
Kyle Rudolph (@ CHI)
Austin Seferian-Jenkins (@ CLE)

Tier 5

Tyler Kroft (vs BUF)
Jesse James (vs JAX)
Benjamin Watson (@ OAK)
Eric Ebron (vs CAR)
Zach Miller (vs MIN)
Hunter Henry (@ NYG)

Tier 6

Julius Thomas (vs TEN)
Ryan Griffin (vs KC)
Ed Dickson (@ DET)
George Kittle (@ IND)
Antonio Gates (@ NYG)
Jermaine Gresham (@ PHI)
O.J. Howard (vs NE)
David Njoku (vs NYJ)
Seth Devalve (vs NYJ)

Kickers

Tier 1

Stephen Gostkowski (@ TB)
Dan Bailey (vs GB)

Tier 2

Matt Prater (vs CAR)
Jake Elliott (vs ARI)
Mason Crosby (@ DAL)
Harrison Butker (@ HOU)
Adam Vinatieri (vs SF)
Greg Zuerlein (vs SEA)
Chris Boswell (vs JAX)
Nick Folk (vs NE)
Kai Forbath (@ CHI)
Ka’imi Fairbairn (vs KC)

Tier 3

Blair Walsh (@ LAR)
Aldrick Rosas (vs LAC)
Robbie Gould (@ IND)
Giorgio Tavecchio (vs BAL)
Ryan Succop (@ MIA)

Tier 4

Graham Gano (@ DET)
Justin Tucker (@ OAK)
Randy Bullock (vs BUF)
Younghoe Koo (@ NYG)
Cody Parkey (vs TEN)
Connor Barth (vs MIN)

Tier 5

Phil Dawson (@ PHI)
Chandler Catanzaro (@ CLE)
Zane Gonzalez (vs NYJ)
Stephen Hauschka (@ CIN)
Jason Myers (@ PIT)

Defenses

Tier 1

Pittsburgh Steelers (vs JAX)
Philadelphia Eagles (vs ARI)

Tier 2

New York Jets (@ CLE)
Oakland Raiders (vs BAL)
Cincinnati Bengals (vs BUF)
Minnesota Vikings (@ CHI)
Buffalo Bills (@ CIN)

Tier 3

Kansas City Chiefs (@ HOU)
Detroit Lions (vs CAR)
New York Giants (vs LAC)
Tennessee Titans (@ MIA)
Cleveland Browns (vs NYJ)
Indianapolis Colts (vs SF)

Tier 4

Baltimore Ravens (@ OAK)
Los Angeles Rams (vs SEA)
San Francisco 49ers (@ IND)
Jacksonville Jaguars (@ PIT)
Los Angeles Chargers (@ NYG)
Miami Dolphins (vs TEN)
Houston Texans (vs KC)
Carolina Panthers (@ DET)
Seattle Seahawks (@ LAR)
New England Patriots (@ TB)
Dallas Cowboys (vs GB)
Arizona Cardinals (@ PHI)
Chicago Bears (vs MIN)

Tier 5

Green Bay Packers (@ DAL)
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (vs NE)

STATS’ Favorite Fantasy Football Plays: Week 4

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I told you last week was going to be nuts! We had tons of home underdogs, and lots of “good player in bad matchup” vs. “bad player in good matchup” decisions – a recipe for chaos. If the Packers’ romp over Chicago on Thursday night – which featured four Aaron Rodgers TDs and a Ty Montgomery injury – is any indication, some normalcy will be restored this week.

That’s good news for prognosticators like us. As always, please know that I can’t touch on every player, so feel free to ask me your sit/start questions on Twitter (@cschwartz18).

High-End QB Play: Russell Wilson, SEA (vs. IND)

The Indy defense may have looked competent against the DJ-less Cardinals and the Browns, but they have a much bigger test this weekend. Seattle, meanwhile, is looking to silence doubters by making a statement on national TV at home. I think this could get ugly for Indy. If so, Wilson will provide more of the same as last week, when he threw for almost 400 yards. It helps that Indy has been competent against the run, meaning Wilson may have to make plays himself in order to get out in front. He’s a consensus elite QB play this week, especially with Rodgers having played Thursday.

Stack Partner: Paul Richardson. Doug Baldwin is a game-time decision but most likely playing. Either way, he won’t be 100 percent and is one hit or tweak away from “not returning.” Richardson is talented, a big-play threat, in a great spot, and cheap in DFS.

High-End QB Play: Trevor Siemian, DEN (vs. OAK)

People have already soured on Siemian after his first bad game of 2017. By no means is he a matchup-proof QB1 – there are maybe 8 or 10 of those guys – but he still seems like a competent QB in a decent offense, and worth using in plus matchups. That is what he has this week against an Oakland team that got shredded by Kirk Cousins last week. Denver’s team total will rarely be higher than the 24.5 they’re getting this week. Most importantly, borderline QB1s like Jameis Winston, Cousins, Matt Stafford, Marcus Mariota and Big Ben all have tough matchups this week, so Siemian slides into our top 10 by default. He’s a great DFS play, especially on DraftKings, where Russell Wilson will not be part of the main slate.

Stack Partner:  It depends – at this point you can’t project much separation between Emmanuel Sanders and Demaryius Thomas. On FanDuel, they are priced the same, so I’d roll with Thomas, who has the higher floor and is due for some TD regression (very, very due). On DK, it’s a tougher call as Thomas is a bit pricier. Both are great plays. Hey, why not play both?

QB Sleeper: Eli Manning, NYG (@ TB)

Gulp – this is a GPP play only, not a guy to start in one-QB leagues or in your cash lineup. Manning seemed to get better in every second half, and also better each game, so perhaps he’s just taking a while to warm up. More logically, Odell Beckham is getting healthier, the O-Line is improving from WOAT to merely just “bad,” and Eli is getting more chemistry on quick throws to new teammates like Brandon Marshall and Evan Engram. In a week where many typical QB1s have poor matchups, I like Eli as a GPP play against a TB defense that got lit up by Case Keenum. Most of TB’s studs are banged up too (Lavonte David, Kwon Alexander, Gerald McCoy, Brent Grimes), so the defense overall isn’t as scary as usual.

QB Fade: Marcus Mariota, TEN (@ HOU)

We tend to receive push-back whenever we rank Mariota outside the top 10 or 12 QBs. The fact of the matter is he has been a high-floor/low-ceiling guy who hasn’t punished those who fade him in tough spots. He has three passing TDs in three games and is always around 200 passing yards. This week, he has a tough matchup at Houston, which has a defense looking pretty good with J.J. Watt starting to look like himself. I’d start a guy like Dak Prescott over Mariota for sure this week, and I’d strongly consider benching him for QB2s with better matchups, like Siemian or Alex Smith.

High-End RB Play: Kareem Hunt, KC (vs. WAS)

Even with some regression, Hunt’s talent, usage, volume, and team situation add up to an elite RB going forward. This week, he’s the consensus No. 1 guy and a must-play in cash games, if you happen to be playing a MNF slate.

High-End RB Play: Ezekiel Elliott, DAL (vs. LAR)

Dallas knows the only way to contain the unstoppable Jared Goff is by running the clock and keeping him off the field (kidding). In all seriousness, if you are playing the main slate (so no MNF), Zeke is the top RB and must-cash guy. The Rams allowed 84 yards and two TDs to Carlos Hyde, 78 yards to Rob Kelley, and 67 yards to Semaje Perine. Elliott is quite better at football than those guys.

Stack Partner: Cowboys Defense. Goff’s strong recent play will lower ownership here, but they’re still a sneaky play if they can create turnovers against a second-year QB. If Demarcus Lawrence keeps up his Pro Bowl play, the sacks are an added dimension as well.

RB Sleeper: Jacquizz Rodgers, TB (vs. NYG)

The Giants’ pass defense looked pretty stout last week with Janoris Jenkins back, so Philly used the run game to move the ball. Yes, they succeeded in doing so with LeGarrette Blount and Wendell Smallwood leading the way. This gives another marginal RB – like Rodgers – hope this week. The Giants’ run defense has looked less elite this year without Johnathan Hankins at DT, and they looked even worse with Olivier Vernon banged up. People may jump to declare this a bad matchup for Rodgers, but I see him as more of a RB2/Flex option this week. With Doug Martin returning next week, Tampa shouldn’t hesitate to use Rodgers a bunch this week.

RB Fade, but also High End RB Play: Le’Veon Bell, PIT (@ BAL)

We have a unique situation here that I must point out. Bell is clearly not a top 2 RB this week in a brutal matchup on the road against a top 5 run D (according to our rating system). Still priced as the overall RB1, this makes him a bad value in cash games. I’d fade him there. On the other hand, you cannot fully fade him in GPPs, as he always possesses perhaps the highest ceiling of any RB, in any matchup. It’s baked into expectations that he has a bad matchup, which should lower his ownership. This makes him a weirdly sneaky GPP play in DFS. Gotta love it.

RB Fade: Chris Thompson, WAS (@ KC)

Thompson has gotten so “good” that it’s time to fade. Last week, with Kelley out, Perine in and out of the locker room, and Washington nursing a lead most of the game, he still only received eight handoffs. He has sustained his value by producing TDs every week, but that cannot keep up without him getting goal-line looks. Nobody has ever scored 15-20 long TDs in a season. He’s still an RB2 in PPR, but this week is a good opportunity to get out in front and fade him against a KC defense projected to hold Washington to just 21 points.

High-End WR Play: Michael Thomas, NO (vs. MIA in London)

Miami just looked plain bad last week, so hopefully you took Sean’s advice and tried to buy low on Thomas. We rate Miami as the No. 6-worst defense against WRs (for fantasy purposes), so this is a plus matchup to say the least. Don’t worry too much about Will Snead’s return. Thomas was a WR1-type last year with Snead and Brandin Cooks on the field, and Snead is more likely to take targets from Colby Fleener and Coleman. With guys like Mike Evans and Tyreek Hill in poor matchups, Thomas is back into high-end WR1 territory this week.

High-End WR Play: Larry Fitzgerald, ARI (vs. SF)

If you own Fitz in season-long, you know to start him every week by now. If you play DFS, hopefully you know Fitz is money in cash games. For some reason, he’s still priced too low for such a target hog and PPR god. He should destroy a SF secondary that got lit up by Sammy Watkins last week.

WR Sleeper: Pierre Garcon, SF (@ ARI)

The other No. 1 WR in that matchup is also a good play, albeit a sneakier one. The Patrick Peterson narrative will scare people away, but the fact of the matter is that Brian Hoyer locks onto his favorite target and forces it. It probably won’t be efficient, but I can see Garcon catching five or six of his 12 targets and having a nice fantasy day, justifying starting him at WR2/3/Flex in season-long leagues. He’s a nice DFS value in GPPs as well.

WR Sleeper: Tyrell Williams, LAC (vs. PHI)

The secondary seems to be the weakness of Philly’s game, as they possess a good offense and stout front 7. Philip Rivers will have to throw, for many reasons. This appears to be baked into expectations for Rivers and Keenan Allen, both ranked in the top 10 by consensus. People are sleeping on Williams, though. Despite Allen’s return, Williams is getting six targets per game, and simply hasn’t generated any big plays yet. This is a great week to bet on a big play against a Philly D that allowed just that to Sterling Shepard last week.

WR Fade: Martavis Bryant, PIT (@ BAL)

Antonio Brown will still get his, as always, and is a tough guy to fully fade in GPPs even in a tough matchup. Bryant, on the other hand, has been big-play and TD dependent. He has only seven receptions on the season, and has put up two stinkers in three weeks – the two weeks he didn’t score a long TD. Bet against the big play this week, and bench him in season-long leagues if you have WR2 and WR3 types with better matchups (Pryor, Tyrell, Landry, Thielen).

High-End TE Play: Zach Ertz, PHI (@ LAC)

I’m just pointing out that he’s here to stay as an elite, top 3 TE. What separates the elite TE from the rest of the pack is the lack of TD dependence. Ertz is a PPR stud who puts up WR2 production in all matchups, so he has arrived at that point. He isn’t priced like it yet in DFS. He may be an even better play than Travis Kelce this week in DFS and season-long PPR formats.

High-End TE Play: Jason Witten, DAL (vs. LAR)

This is another more long-term commentary – Witten is a TE1 by default this year. Reed, Graham, Eifert are banged up, Henry has disappointed, and the list goes on. Meanwhile, 50-year-old Witten keeps chugging along, getting targets and production. He put up a stinker last week – that low floor is what keeps him from the elite. If you don’t have an elite guy, though, he’s basically the next best thing, especially in cash games and head-to-head matchups.

High-End TE Play: Evan Engram, NYG (@ TB)

One of the lone bright spots for the Giants, Engram has been remarkably consistent for a rookie TE (4/44, 4/49, 5/45). He’s been one of the few high-floor TE this year, which by default puts him in the TE1 conversation. This week, he has a suddenly attractive matchup against a TB defense that will probably be without stud LB’s Lavonte David and Kwon Alexander. With Reed banged up and guys like Cook and Ebron in tough matchups, Engram looks like a top 10 TE this week.

TE Sleeper: Julius Thomas, MIA (vs. NO in London)

It’s typically wise to target the Saints defense, but Miami may be too bad and therefore risky to go all-in on. They almost got shut out by the Jets. Because of his low expectations and low price, though, Thomas may be the least risky guy to target on Miami. Three receptions each game so far isn’t terrible for a TE2, providing somewhat of a floor in PPR and DFS, and he is a better-than-usual bet for a TD against a bad Saints D. In fact, he has about the same chance of scoring a TD this week as guys like Witten, Graham, and Walker. He’s not quite at their level in terms of yardage projection, but he’s still a sneaky TE2 this week.

TE Fade: Cameron Brate, TB (vs. NYG)

The “target TE against NYG” narrative is strong right now, and Ertz’s TD last week further fueled it. Looking closely, the Giants have played two of the better TE in the league in their three games (Witten and Ertz), and they actually did a pretty good job bottling up Ertz (just 55 yards on his 10 targets). Cameron Brate splits snaps with O.J. Howard and targets with Evans and DeSean Jackson, among others. If he doesn’t score a TD, he likely won’t provide enough volume to help you. In the TE2 / TE punt range, I like guys like Thomas, Griffin, and ASJ more this week.

Week 4 NFL Spreads: STATS vs. Las Vegas

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Using STATS X-Info metrics and roster rankings to project favorites vs. the Vegas standard odds.

The true parity of the NFL came out in all its frustrating glory last week, helping Vegas casinos walk away millions of dollars ahead. Jacksonville, Buffalo, Chicago and the New York Jets threw wrinkles in the betting process with unexpected victories. But even with all those surprises, STATS went 9-7 when it came to picking the correct favorite.

STATS uses proprietary data to project spreads for each NFL game. STATS X-Info calculates roster rankings based on injuries, statistical data and depth at each position, then compares that to an opponent and arrives at a conclusion – the projected spread.

None of these spread projections mean you should empty your account and follow the STATS model to riches. X-Info simply takes into account factors Vegas may not, hence some differing views. And if you’re looking for fantasy advice, you’re still best suited to follow best-in-the-business Sean Koerner and his weekly tiers.

Have a look at how STATS projects the spreads in Week 4 against those coming out of Las Vegas as of Thursday afternoon.

Group 1: Occasionally, STATS and Vegas agree – for the most part – as noted in the games below:

Detroit at Minnesota

STATS: Vikings -2
Vegas: Vikings -1.5

Jacksonville at New York Jets

STATS: Jaguars -3.5
Vegas: Jaguars -3

Indianapolis at Seattle

STATS: Seahawks -13.4
Vegas: Seahawks -13

STATS thinks the Colts stink. Vegas thinks the Colts stink. Everyone thinks the Colts stink.

Cincinnati at Cleveland

STATS: Bengals -2.5
Vegas: Bengals -3

Pittsburgh at Baltimore

STATS: Steelers -1.8
Vegas: Steelers -3

Both teams are coming off losses that shouldn’t have happened, but turnovers doomed them.

Washington at Kansas City

STATS: Chiefs -5.4
Vegas: Chiefs -7

This is one of the more intriguing matchups of the week and gets the Monday Night Football spotlight. There’s some surprise that the Chiefs are such big favorites, but the home advantage is what’s helping bring the spread up.

San Francisco at Arizona

STATS: Cardinals -4.4
Vegas: Cardinals -7

Oakland at Denver

STATS: Broncos -0.8
Vegas: Broncos -3

Group 2: There are games in which STATS and Vegas at least agree on the favorite, but there is a pretty decent margin between the STATS spread and the Vegas spread:

Chicago at Green Bay

STATS: Packers -17.9
Vegas: Packers -7

No love for the Bears after their upset of the Steelers last week, but Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen hope to flip the script again while Mike Glennon watches Aaron Rodgers and tries to learn how to throw a pass beyond the line of scrimmage.

New Orleans at Miami

STATS: Saints -8.4
Vegas: Saints -3

Carolina at New England

STATS: Patriots -1.1
Vegas: Patriots -9

New England had a close call with a mediocre Texans team last week, and Vegas is more confident it’ll get back to its dominating ways.

Los Angeles Rams at Dallas

STATS: Cowboys -2.8
Vegas: Cowboys -6.5

Tennessee at Houston

STATS: Titans -8.3
Vegas: Titans -1.5

Buffalo at Atlanta

STATS: Falcons -13.9
Vegas: Falcons -8

New York Giants at Tampa Bay

STATS: Buccaneers -9.8
Vegas: Buccaneers -3

Group 3: Then there are games where STATS and Vegas don’t agree at all:

Philadelphia at Los Angeles Chargers

STATS: Eagles -6.8
Vegas: Chargers -1.5

This is the only game this week that STATS’ model and Las Vegas don’t agree on the favorite. It’s the first time this season there haven’t been multiple games in this section.

2017 STATS Fantasy Football: Week 4 Tiers

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Back at it for Week 4. Remember, things can change between now and the full Sunday slate of games, so keep up with me on Twitter (@The_Oddsmaker) and I’ll help out the best I can with any major shakeups.

Also, please note these tiers are for standard scoring. The numbers in parentheses are how many tiers a player moves up or down in PPR, where applicable.

Quarterbacks

Tier 1

Aaron Rodgers (vs CHI)
Tom Brady (vs CAR)

When it comes to two of the greatest fantasy/real-life quarterbacks we have ever seen, you will rarely have a decision to make. This week is no exception.

Tier 2

Russell Wilson (vs IND)
Matt Ryan (vs BUF)
Drew Brees (@ MIA, in London)

We finally had our Russell Wilson Blow-Up Game last week with a massive 373/4/0 and 26 rush yards chipped in. It couldn’t have come at a better time with a home matchup against the lowly Colts up next. This is certainly a somewhat risky spot considering blowout potential. Wilson typically posts stinkers in blowouts. He’s still a must-play nonetheless.

Ryan/Brees are great plays this week and have a bit of an added edge since other top 10 QBs have tough draws.

Tier 3

Matthew Stafford (@ MIN)
Trevor Siemian (vs OAK)
Carson Palmer (vs SF)
Kirk Cousins (@ KC)
Dak Prescott (vs LAR)
Jameis Winston (vs NYG)
Alex Smith (vs WAS)
Philip Rivers (vs PHI)

Stafford doesn’t have the best draw on the road against a fairly stout Vikings defense. When it comes to Stafford, though, one stat that gets overlooked is just how much of his team’s TD shares he accounts for. He never has a true goal-line vulture to contend with. As a matter of fact, he often finds himself in that role too. Last season, Stafford was involved in 78.8 percent of his team’s offensive TDs, and this year it has been all seven so far.

Tier 4

Jay Cutler (vs NO)
Marcus Mariota (@ HOU)

Jay Cutler flopped in what was supposed to be a great matchup against the Jets. If it wasn’t for a typical garbage-time 3-yard TD toss to DeVante Parker, we would have a lot more people refusing to play him this week. Despite the ideal matchup against the Saints, Cutler is still a middling QB2 option.

Tier 5

Ben Roethlisberger (@ BAL)
Cam Newton (@ NE)
Tyrod Taylor (@ ATL)
Carson Wentz (@ LAC)
Deshaun Watson (vs TEN)
Case Keenum (vs DET)
Derek Carr (@ DEN)
DeShone Kizer (vs CIN)
Andy Dalton (@ CLE)
Eli Manning (@ TB)

One of the biggest flops of Week 3 was Cam Newton’s abysmal game at home against the infamous Saints defense. Abysmal is an understatement, actually, as he failed to clear 170 passing yards while throwing no TDs with three INTs. He did manage to rush for a TD, but it was hardly enough. Some of Newton’s struggles certainly had to do with Kelvin Benjamin suffering what appeared to be a serious leg injury in the first quarter and being forced to leave the game. Not to mention, he was already without his trusty TE in Greg Olsen. His rotator cuff is not quite 100 percent as he’s still working on getting full range of motion back and trying to regain his form. He is completely off my radar for all these reasons, which hasn’t happened in quite some time.

Derek Carr has a brutal matchup at Denver. He certainly needs Michael Crabtree to be active in order to make me look bad for ranking him this low. Crabtree is shaping up to be questionable with the chest injury he suffered Sunday night.

Tier 6

Blake Bortles (@ NYJ)
Jared Goff (@ DAL)

The general public can’t seem to make up its mind on these two. We were led to believe these two flat-out stink and to never even utter their names when recommending good plays. Last week we had both QBs generate offenses that put up 40+ real-life points. I’m finding people all of a sudden trying to figure out just how “good” these QBs are.

When it comes to Bortles, I think we need to still treat him as a low-end QB2 despite the good matchup. You have to remember that the Jags are going to try their best to hide him by running the ball with Fournette/Ivory as much as they can. Bortles offers upside with his legs, but I think the four passing TDs will be his high-water mark for the season.

Goff has progressed a ton in his second season and certainly made us remember that coaching can make a huge difference in the NFL. I think we still need to pump the breaks on him just a bit, considering the two defenses he picked apart were the Colts and 49ers. This week against the Cowboys, I think we have to worry about his play volume being a bit too low to generate huge numbers.

One thing that needs to be addressed on Goff before I move on is that he does NOT run the ball – ever. In order to justify playing a guy with zero rushing stats to offer, you need to be fairly certain he at least has a shot at 300 yards and two TD in a game, something Goff has yet to accomplish in the NFL.

Tier 7

Joe Flacco (vs PIT)
Jacoby Brissett (@ SEA)
Josh McCown (vs JAX)
Mike Glennon (@ GB)
Brian Hoyer (@ ARI)

After Flacco managed to throw for a laughable 28 yards before getting pulled in the beatdown by the Jaguars, he gets to join the bottom tier this week. Congrats Joe.

Jacoby Brissett erupted in Week 3 with a 259-yard three-TD game (one passing, two rushing). Now he gets to face Seattle on the road and is not even in play in two-QB leagues. I’ve always been a fan of his rushing potential, so it should be noted that he faces the 49ers next week at home. It may be worth going out of your way to add him in advance if you have any of the QBs on BYE next week (Brees, Cousins, Siemian) and have a fairly thin waiver wire.

Running Backs

Tier 1

Kareem Hunt (vs WAS)
Ezekiel Elliott (vs LAR)

It took three weeks, but I think it’s time to seriously consider Hunt as a top-3 fantasy RB – and quite possibly the No. 1. However, he simply cannot maintain the current pace he is on, so I’m sure expectations on a week-to-week basis are going to be unreasonable for a few weeks. That said, he has a favorable draw this week against the Redskins on Monday Night Football. If you are down 17 going into MNF – with only Hunt remaining – you will have about a 50 percent chance of winning your matchup.

Tier 2

Le’Veon Bell (@ BAL)
Todd Gurley (@ DAL)

Bell has yet to really have a huge game this year, and I think we may have to wait at least another week before he does. An average game for Bell is still usually a top-10 weekly RB finish, so I’ll never rank him outside the top 5.

Gurley has certainly taken advantage of his early season schedule against poor run defenses. The Cowboys currently rank 22nd in my own personal rush DEF vs. RB rankings, so this isn’t a fantastic spot, but he is a must-play until further notice with his bankable workload. His pass-game usage has certainly boosted his value in PPR as well as standard.

Tier 3

Devonta Freeman (vs BUF)
Leonard Fournette (@ NYJ)
LeSean McCoy (@ ATL)

All three RBs in Tier 2 are volume monsters and thus unlikely to bust. McCoy’s matchup is especially good considering the Falcons have struggled against pass-catching backs so far this season, surrendering 35+ receiving yards to four different RBs in just three games.

Tier 4

Melvin Gordon (vs PHI)
Jay Ajayi (-1, vs NO)
Dalvin Cook (vs DET)
Carlos Hyde (@ ARI)

Ajayi was a huge disappointment in what should have been a great matchup against the Jets. You have to think it was due to a mixture of his injured knee and the negative game script. He now gets the Saints in the London game, and even though we’d like him to have more momentum than he does, he is a must-play this week. Just to magnify the lack of consistency Ajayi seems to have in his young career, he currently has more 200+ rushing yard games (3) than he does 100-199 yard games (2).

Tier 5

Ty Montgomery (+1, vs CHI)
C.J. Anderson (vs OAK)
Jordan Howard (@ GB)

This tier is a bit too volatile for the comfort you crave out of RB1 plays. I always treat Montgomery with caution and still wonder if he can maintain this sort of volume going forward. He is a bonafide PPR stud, and you need to roll him out with confidence every week in those formats. I’m a bit worried he’s a bit too TD dependent in standard formats, though, and would have probably tried to sell high after his Weeks 1-2 explosion.

Jordan Howard is a reminder that it’s not wise to write people off after starting the season slowly. It’s fair to think his shoulder injury is still a major concern as he seemed to be in pain on almost every play. He’s a bit risky given he’s on a short week, but I feel he’s back into the high-end RB2 mix again.

Tier 6

Chris Carson (-1, vs IND)
Christian McCaffrey (+1, @ NE)
Joe Mixon (@ CLE)

We finally have a prime opportunity to see just what Carson can do in a game the Seahawks will control enough to give him a huge workload. Wilson can keep the Colts defense honest enough to not sell out to stop Carson.

There is also just as much excitement that we will likely get to see the rookie leash removed from Joe Mixon against the Browns. Bengals offensive coordinator Bill Lazor wisely gave him 20+ touches last week against Green Bay, and we can safely say he is going to be their lead back going forward. Time to buckle up and enjoy the ride.

Tier 7

Mike Gillislee (-1, vs CAR)
DeMarco Murray (@ HOU)
Mark Ingram (@ MIA)
Jacquizz Rodgers (vs NYG)
Lamar Miller (vs TEN)
Tarik Cohen (+1, @ GB)
Marshawn Lynch (@ DEN)
Jonathan Stewart (@ NE)
Javorius Allen (vs PIT)
Ameer Abdullah (@ MIN)
Chris Thompson (+1, @ KC)
Tevin Coleman (vs BUF)
Isaiah Crowell (vs CIN)

Cohen had a 77-yard TD called back in Week 3 that eventually led to another Jordan Howard TD. While this did not help his cause last week, I think it allows him to be overlooked quite a bit in a matchup with the Packers that could be the perfect game flow for him to get touches. We also have to be aware that a Howard in-game aggravation of his shoulder is still possible, which would blow the lid off Cohen’s involvement. I

f I own Chris Thompson in a standard league, I am selling high. There is no way he can keep this up with his playing style. He is rarely going to see more than 10-15 touches so he pretty much has to score a TD to hit value. Even his early season TD production is surely to regress. He only had five total TDs last year in a nearly identical role. PPR is a much different story and he should continue to be started there until further notice.

Tier 8

Frank Gore (@ SEA)
Chris Johnson (vs SF)
Derrick Henry (@ HOU)

Hard to really trust any of these backs heading into Week 4, but we can at least assume they will see the majority of their team’s touches out of the backfield, and with Henry we have such a talented player he doesn’t need to see many carries to hit value.

Tier 9

LeGarrette Blount (-1, @ LAC)
Duke Johnson Jr. (+2, vs CIN)
Bilal Powell (vs JAX)
Andre Ellington (+1, vs SF)
Wendell Smallwood (@ LAC)
Jamaal Charles (vs OAK)
Theo Riddick (+3, @ MIN)
James White (+3, vs CAR)

This tier is mostly PPR heroes and Eagles RBs. Blount will always be a pesky TD vulture that is more likely to infuriate newly-minted Smallwood owners. Speaking of Smallwood, I think it’s safe to say that with Darren Sproles placed on IR, it is now time for him to see possibly 15+ touches a game. He appeared ready for the task during Week 3 and put up 71 yards on just 12 carries. It seems as if any time we think we will see him breakout he predictably flops. RB is a position that is so scarce that I would be willing to bet on him yet again. I just would set my expectations fairly low.

Wide Receivers

Tier 1

Antonio Brown (@ BAL)
Julio Jones (vs BUF)
A.J. Green (@ CLE)

Let Week 3 be a reminder that A.J. Green is one of the top WR in the league. Lazor seems to have the right idea getting the ball into the hands of his playmakers in Green/Mixon. They get the Browns this week.

Tier 2

Odell Beckham Jr. (@ TB)
Michael Thomas (@ MIA)
Mike Evans (vs NYG)
Jordy Nelson (vs CHI)

OBJ is back into the mix as an elite WR1 and so is Michael Thomas! I promised you that last week was the last time for a while that you will see Thomas ranked so low. His brutal stretch of matchups has passed and things should open up for him even more this week in London as they face the Dolphins.

Tier 3

Tyreek Hill (vs WAS)
DeAndre Hopkins (vs TEN)
Stefon Diggs (vs DET)
Demaryius Thomas (vs OAK)
Dez Bryant (vs LAR)
Larry Fitzgerald (vs SF)
Keenan Allen (vs PHI)
Emmanuel Sanders (vs OAK)
DeVante Parker (vs NO)
Doug Baldwin (vs IND)
Brandin Cooks (vs CAR)

Parker just sneaks in as a high-[end WR2 play based on the fact he gets the juicy Saints draw this week. The preseason hype seems to finally be real this year as Jay Cutler is forcing the issue with 19 total targets through 2 games.

Baldwin is considered questionable with a groin injury so you’ll want to monitor that closely this week. They don’t play until Sunday night so it would be wise have some sort of back up in place.

Tier 4

Golden Tate (+1, @ MIN)
Amari Cooper (@ DEN)
Adam Thielen (vs DET)
Alshon Jeffery (@ LAC)
Jarvis Landry (+1, vs NO)
Pierre Garcon (@ ARI)
Davante Adams (vs CHI)
Sammy Watkins (@ DAL)
Michael Crabtree (@ DEN)
T.Y. Hilton (@ SEA)
Rishard Matthews (@ HOU)
Chris Hogan (vs CAR)

Both Raiders stud WRs in Cooper/Crabtree suffer the worst draw for a WR. They are so good that they are still squarely in play as solid WR2/3 types, though. Crabtree is questionable with a chest injury so Cooper could bump up a tier if Crabtree is out.

Davante Adams will be involved in quite a few sit/start decisions ahead of Thursday night’s game. He’s currently ranked as if Cobb is active. He would likely move up to the top of this tier if Cobb ends up missing Week 4.

Tier 5

Terrelle Pryor Sr. (@ KC)
Kelvin Benjamin (@ NE)
Sterling Shepard (@ TB)
DeSean Jackson (vs NYG)
Tyrell Williams (vs PHI)

Kelvin Benjamin seems to have avoided a significant injury after having his knee buckle under him, which forced him to leave the game early. He’s now in a spot where the Panthers should be forced to throw as they attempt to outscore the Patriots. If he ends up getting in a full practice before Sunday and is active, I think you have to roll him out with confidence.

Tyrell Williams could be in an eruption spot against a leaky Eagles defense that has been getting lit up lately. I also think that may make Travis Benjamin a deep TD threat as well.

Tier 6

Allen Hurns (@ NYJ)
Jamison Crowder (@ KC)
Marqise Lee (@ NYJ)
Martavis Bryant (@ BAL)
J.J. Nelson (vs SF)
Jeremy Maclin (vs PIT)
Kenny Stills (vs NO)
Devin Funchess (@ NE)
Taylor Gabriel (-1, vs BUF)
Willie Snead (@ MIA)
Paul Richardson (vs IND)
Mohamed Sanu (vs BUF)
Eric Decker (@ HOU)

Martavis Bryant, J.J. Nelson, and Kenny Stills make for extreme high risk/reward plays this week I’m afraid. In traditional H2H season-long leagues, I tend to go with safer/high-floor plays. They are certainly still in play in DFS tournaments that actually reward such plays and in H2H matchups where you might find yourself as a fairly big underdog this week. You can use high-ceiling players to give yourself a better chance of an upset, in theory.

Tight End

Tier 1

Rob Gronkowski (vs CAR)

Tier 2

Travis Kelce (vs WAS)
Zach Ertz (@ LAC)

The time has come to seriously consider Ertz a permanent top-3 TE ever week. Guys like Jimmy Graham and Jordan Reed battling nagging injuries have seriously opened the door for Ertz. He hasn’t disappointed, with at least 90+ yards or a TD in all three of his games.

Tier 3

Jimmy Graham (vs IND)
Jason Witten (vs LAR)
Delanie Walker (@ HOU)
Kyle Rudolph (vs DET)
Charles Clay (@ ATL)
Jared Cook (@ DEN)
Evan Engram (@ TB)
Jordan Reed (@ KC)

At this point, it seems like Reed is going to have to play through his nagging foot injury for the rest of the season. I highly doubt he plays in every game the rest of the way. Whenever he in fact misses a game we should be trained enough by now to upgrade Vernon Davis to a borderline TE1.

Tier 4

Eric Ebron (@ MIN)
Jack Doyle (@ SEA)
Coby Fleener (@ MIA)
Martellus Bennett (vs CHI)
Benjamin Watson (vs PIT)

I keep reiterating that the TE positions is extremely TD dependent. This means that nearly every TE has basement level floors and could put up close to 0 any given week. We saw this with Ebron and Doyle last week, even in great matchups on paper. It also sets up for major mistakes of playing Whack-a-Mole where you tend to start a guy each week who is coming off of a good game the week before. I urged this caution with Jesse James and Austin Hooper after they exploded Week 1. This is the last tier of TE I would be comfortable rolling out in a 12-team league.

Tier 5

Jesse James (@ BAL)
Julius Thomas (vs NO)
Hunter Henry (vs PHI)
Austin Seferian-Jenkins (vs JAX)
Zach Miller (@ GB)
Ryan Griffin (vs TEN)
Cameron Brate (vs NYG)
Austin Hooper (vs BUF)
Marcedes Lewis (@ NYJ)
Antonio Gates (vs PHI)
Jermaine Gresham (vs SF)
Vernon Davis (@ KC)

This is the desperation-only, or DFS, tier. As I mentioned earlier, Vernon Davis would shoot up to Tier 3 or 4 if Reed were to miss Week 4. He is a rare TE handcuff that I think all Reed owners should keep, given the high correlation between the two that would put you in a safer position week-to-week.

Kickers

Tier 1

Matt Bryant (vs BUF)
Stephen Gostkowski (vs CAR)
Dan Bailey (vs LAR)
Blair Walsh (vs IND)

Tier 2

Wil Lutz (@ MIA)
Harrison Butker (vs WAS)
Phil Dawson (vs SF)
Brandon McManus (vs OAK)
Mason Crosby (vs CHI)

Tier 3

Jake Elliott (@ LAC)
Younghoe Koo (vs PHI)
Kai Forbath (vs DET)
Nick Folk (vs NYG)
Cody Parkey (vs NO)|
Ryan Succop (@ HOU)

Tier 4

Ka’imi Fairbairn (vs TEN)
Dustin Hopkins (@ KC)
Matt Prater (@ MIN)
Chris Boswell (@ BAL)
Jason Myers (@ NYJ)
Randy Bullock (@ CLE)
Justin Tucker (vs PIT)
Giorgio Tavecchio (@ DEN)

Tier 5

Stephen Hauschka (@ ATL)
Graham Gano (@ NE)
Aldrick Rosas (@ TB)
Robbie Gould (@ ARI)
Greg Zuerlein (@ DAL)
Chandler Catanzaro (vs JAX)
Connor Barth (@ GB)
Zane Gonzalez (vs CIN)

Tier 6

Adam Vinatieri (@ SEA)

Defenses/Special Teams

Tier 1

Cincinnati Bengals (@ CLE)
Jacksonville Jaguars (@ NYJ)
Seattle Seahawks (vs IND)

Tier 2

Green Bay Packers (vs CHI)
Arizona Cardinals (vs SF)
Atlanta Falcons (vs BUF)
Tennessee Titans (@ HOU)
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (vs NYG)

Tier 3

New York Jets (vs JAX)
New England Patriots (vs CAR)
Pittsburgh Steelers (@ BAL)
Philadelphia Eagles (@ LAC)
Kansas City Chiefs (vs WAS)
Dallas Cowboys (vs LAR)
Cleveland Browns (vs CIN)
Houston Texans (vs TEN)

Tier 4

Minnesota Vikings (vs DET)
New York Giants (@ TB)
Los Angeles Chargers (vs PHI)
Denver Broncos (vs OAK)
Baltimore Ravens (vs PIT)
Detroit Lions (@ MIN)

Tier 5

New Orleans Saints (@ MIA)
San Francisco 49ers (@ ARI)
Indianapolis Colts (@ SEA)
Chicago Bears (@ GB)
Los Angeles Rams (@ DAL)
Oakland Raiders (@ DEN)
Washington Redskins (@ KC)
Miami Dolphins (vs NO)

Tier 6

Buffalo Bills (@ ATL)
Carolina Panthers (@ NE)

The Clippers Run Through It: Rivers May Be Best Option to Take CP3’s PG Reins

By:

Most believe the Clippers’ days of contending in the Western Conference went away the second Chris Paul headed to Houston. Adding Danilo Gallinari to the frontcourt with Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan while putting Patrick Beverley at the point doesn’t come close to making up for Paul’s departure.

Not only is Paul a Rocket, but longtime starting backcourt mate J.J. Redick left for Philadelphia. No one in their right mind thinks Beverley can do what Paul did for L.A. on a nightly basis, but some intriguing advanced data shows the guy taking over Redick’s spot is vital to the Clippers’ attempt to remain relevant.

That player also happens to be the coach’s son. Seeing Austin Rivers take over as Los Angeles’ starting shooting guard may appear to be nepotism, but Doc Rivers may ultimately be doing what’s best to alleviate the huge void Paul has left. Additionally, the coach needs to make sure Gallinari and Griffin play the right way offensively – not just hold the ball and shoot long jumpers – for the Clippers to have any hope.

Still, there’s no making up for everything CP3 brought. He was among the league’s top five in assists and steals in all six seasons he played for the Clippers besides being in the top 10 in plus-minus, finishing only behind the Warriors’ four All-Stars last season. His 13.5 adjusted assists per 36 minutes were second-best in the league behind James Harden, while Beverley and Rivers didn’t average 11 combined.

Though Beverley takes over at the point after being acquired in the Paul deal, the offense could more frequently run through the younger Rivers, and some stats bear out why that should often be the case.

Paul played a huge role in DeAndre Jordan contributing anything offensively considering his shooting range hardly spreads beyond the rim. Last season, that duo combined for 753 screens and produced 1.23 team points per play, third-best in the league among the 66 combos with at least 300 screens. When Rivers was the ball-handler on screens with Jordan, the production didn’t drop off. It actually increased slightly to 1.25 team PPP on 311 screens. Rivers was in some pretty heady company among the ball-handlers in the top 10 in that category – Paul, Kyle Lowry, Stephen Curry, James Harden, Isaiah Thomas and LeBron James.

One of Paul’s biggest strengths is driving the lane and finding the open man. Among 119 players who had at least 200 drives last season, Paul ranked sixth with 1.36 team points per play. Individually, Paul rarely looked to finish himself, producing 0.48 points per drive – 107th of that group and nine spots ahead of Beverley (0.43). Rivers was much more effective scoring in such situations at 0.79 points per drive to rank 20th in the league.

Player Individual PPD Team PPD Individual FG% Assist-to-turnover rate
Chris Paul 0.48 1.36 53.3 2.80
Austin Rivers 0.79 1.21 49.5 0.93
Patrick Beverley 0.43 1.12 43.9 2.84

One player who strangely enough was better than any of them – Gallinari. He produced 0.95 points per drive last season – only Kevin Durant and Anthony Davis were better – and his 1.49 team PPP on drives was second-best to Durant. Griffin was also proficient in that category at 1.35, ranking one spot behind Paul.

Both Griffin and Gallinari were also very effective when playing on an island. Both averaged 1.15 team points per isolation to rank among the league’s top 15, but that’s because they were creating good shots for teammates or getting good ones for themselves. When one of those things doesn’t happen, both big men all too often fail to produce anything positive – and so will the Clippers this season if those two are taking misguided outside shots.

Gallinari hit just 28.6 percent of his contested jump shots last season, which ranked 113th of 120 players to attempt at least 100. On pull-up jumpers, he ranked 142nd in effective field goal percentage while Griffin was 125th – both were under 40 percent.

So when Beverley or Rivers finds one of those big men and they don’t have an open look, Griffin and Gallinari are much better off driving the lane or passing back to a guard. Sure, that’s the case with most frontcourt players, but the stats show this to be especially true of the Clippers’ best bigs. As for the smalls, the Clippers might want to let Rivers have more control of the offense than Beverley – even if neither option can fill CP3’s enormous shoes.