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OFFSIDES: Mini NFL Edge

by JM Tohline
Updated On: December 3, 2018, 6:02 pm ET

You’ve probably noticed by now. I probably don’t need to tell you.

 

I’ll tell you anyway:

 

I like to change things up in my articles. The basis of each article is a bit different from the article(s) that came before; my approach to each article is based more off how I am feeling at the moment than off “what I have done in the past.”

 

Why am I bringing this up? Because “how I’m feeling at the moment” is…I want to get a “big picture” jump on Week 9.

 

Week 8 may have been my first truly bad DFS weekend of the season (I say “may have been” because I am typing this during Sunday Night Football, and there is still a chance for me to slip into profit), and as such, I want to put myself in position where I really feel great about where I am heading this next week.

 

Every week, I like to treat my week of preparation like a funnel. I start with a broad view, then I narrow things down more…and more…and more, until I arrive at my list of the handful of players at each position I like the most.

 

Usually, my “narrowing down” begins on Tuesday, as I use Tuesday and Wednesday each week to write my NFL Edge article over on RotoGrinders. If you are familiar with my writing, you know that my NFL Edge is the most important thing I write each week, in my own preparation; in the NFL Edge, I break down each game from top to bottom, determining how I see each team attacking the other, how I see each game playing out, and how I see DFS plays shaping up as a result.

 

This week, I want to start even broader than that. This week, I am going to use this article to write a “Mini NFL Edge.”

 

While it takes me a good 15 (or more) hours to write the NFL Edge - digging into all the stats I need to dig into in order to be able to predict how things are likeliest to play out in every single game - I am going to go “off the top of my head” for this article.

 

This will accomplish two important things:

 

1) It will give me (and you) a reference point for some of the things we already “know,” even before research - which will hopefully give us some things we can reference throughout the week in order to prevent ourselves from overthinking things as we move into late-week roster construction.

 

2) This enables us to start even broader than I normally start - making sure we are not missing anything as we begin our week with a “big picture” view.

 

You ready?

 

Let’s go!

 

 

Browns at Bengals

 

Two words: Jeremy Hill.

 

Sure, the Browns have been far worse against the pass this year than expected, and the Bengals certainly have a high-powered passing attack. But Hue Jackson is one of the smartest offensive coordinators in the NFL, and when he watches film this week and sees just how easily he can run on the Browns, he is going to take those free chunks of yards by allowing Hill to gash this defense.

 

As for the Browns: If Josh McCown is able to rally and play this week, we may see the return to high-level effectiveness of Travis Benjamin, as he comes off tough matchups against the Cardinals, Rams, and Broncos. If Josh McCown does not start: lean even more heavily on Jeremy Hill in your FanDuel lineups, as that is exactly what the Bengals will do in their play-calling as their lead over the Browns grows bigger and bigger and bigger.

 

 

Raiders at Steelers

 

Have we figured out yet that the Raiders can score points? If their demolition of the Jets’ defense were not enough of an indication, I’ll tell you plain as I can: the Raiders have a really good offense. Oh, they also have a really good run defense.

 

So do the Steelers.

 

A pair of really good run defenses and a pair of teams that are really good at throwing the ball adds up to…

 

…lots of passing. Lots of effective passing, no less! Let’s plan to lean heavily this week on each of these pass offenses.

 

 

Jaguars at Jets

 

I saw lots of people recommending Chris Ivory last week and I could not quite figure out why. The Raiders are really good at stopping the run. We have not even started Week 9, and I’ve already seen a couple people mention that Ivory has a much easier matchup this next week. Does he? The Jaguars allow 3.5 yards-per-carry - the second-best mark in the NFL. Just because these are the “Raiders” and the “Jaguars” does not mean we can automatically assume they are an easy matchup in every aspect of the game.

 

The 18 targets Brandon Marshall received this last week with Geno Smith playing most of the game at quarterback bodes well for Marshall’s value moving forward if Geno is healthy enough to start Week 9. But we have to think the Jags won’t do a whole lot on offense against the Jets…and we have to think the Jets would love to limit the amount they put on Geno’s shoulders…and we have to think this will leave the Jets trying to mostly (and ineffectively) keep the ball on the ground, and maybe there just won’t be much fantasy goodness to be found in this game at all.

 

 

Rams at Vikings

 

One of these teams will make the playoffs this year. One of them probably will not. This game is huge for each team, and what we have are two good defenses each facing an offense that prefers to keep the ball on the ground when they can. The advantage there goes to the Rams, as they should have a slightly easier time moving the ball on the ground than the Vikings. But the fact that this game is in Minnesota provides a small edge to the Vikings. Ultimately, the game should be hard-fought, low-scoring, and not particularly full of fantasy goodness.

 

 

Dolphins at Bills

 

We may not know how good the Bills actually are at stopping the run. They have faced the Colts, Patriots, and Dolphins (none of which chose to run on them), the Giants and Titans (each of which has an ineffective backfield committee), the Bengals, and the Jaguars. They are allowing only 3.8 yards per carry, but they are also ranked in the bottom-third of the NFL against the run according to Football Outsiders’ (opponent-adjusted) DVOA ratings. Just something to think about as the Dolphins and their newfound commitment to the run travel to Buffalo.

 

We don’t know a whole lot about this game until we know how things are shaping up for Tyrod Taylor and Sammy Watkins (as far as whether or not they are healthy enough to play), but we do know that the Dolphins will have a much harder time creating a pass rush without Cameron Wake, and we know they are not great in coverage.

 

 

Titans at Saints

 

Marcus Mariota may very well have a chance to shine in this one. Let’s take what the Saints did against the Giants and even cut it in half in another home game. This could leave the Titans having to play catch-up, which could mean a lot of passes against a talented Saints secondary that consistently performs FAR below its talent level.

 

Then again, Mariota may be without Kendall Wright. Sure, Delanie Walker will soak up targets, but who else is there for Mariota to throw to? You cannot roster Justin Hunter or Dorial Green-Beckham, can you? And if the Titans can’t score points, how long will the Saints continue to pass against a solid secondary when they can instead just “ground and pound” against one of the NFL’s lesser run defenses? Maybe “through the air” is not the place to look at all; maybe, instead, we should look to the ground…

 

 

Redskins at Patriots

 

Oh, no. Poor Redskins…

 

The Patriots should absolutely annihilate this defense, which is bottom-seven in both yards-per-carry allowed and yards allowed per pass attempt. The only questions are:

 

1) Can the Redskins keep the game close enough for long enough that the Patriots will have to keep putting up points?

 

2) Where will the fantasy goodness come from? With Patriots players generally priced so high, and with us having no idea if Julian Edelman, Rob Gronkowski, Brandon LaFell, Dion Lewis, or LeGarrette Blount is the way to go, will we be just be left guessing on whom we should ultimately roster?

 

 

Packers at Panthers

 

The Panthers’ pass defense is not the Broncos’ pass defense…but they’re close. I’m typing this with five minutes remaining in the third quarter of the Packers-Broncos game, and - 40 minutes into the game - Aaron Rodgers has 50 passing yards. This brings to mind two things I said last week in my NFL Edge: firstly, it brings to mind that I mentioned that this Packers passing offense is not the same without Jordy Nelson, and secondly, it brings to mind that I (erroneously) said that Ben Roethlisberger should be considered a Top 5 QB every week, and the only time I would not consider him a Top 5 guy would be if he were facing the Broncos or Panthers. That’s a long way of saying: I don’t expect things to be a whole lot easier for the Packers against the Panthers than they were against the Broncos.

 

The Panthers, optimally, wish to play low-scoring games - holding their opponent to a low score, and doing enough to win. In other words: there probably won’t be a ton of fantasy goodness on the Panthers’ side either. Dig around this week. See what you are finding. But it may simply be that there is not a whole lot to grab from this game at all.

 

 

Falcons at 49ers

 

The 49ers have played better defense at home this year. But then…

 

The 49ers have been SO bad, it’s tough to just rely on the fact that they’ve “been better at home” and use this as a defense for fading the Falcons’ offense. We’ll see lots of targets for Julio Jones; we’ll see lots of carries (and targets) for Devonta Freeman. They’ll produce. The only real question is whether or not they will produce in a way that justifies their price.

 

The 49ers, meanwhile, will probably have to find a new running back this week. Whoever that running back is, they probably won’t be valuable in DFS, even at a dirt-cheap price. Same goes for Jerome Simpson and Vernon Davis and Torrey Smith. Perhaps Anquan Boldin could have some value as a guy who sees some stats as the game begins to get out of hand, but there won’t be much to love in this game even from a potential “garbage time” perspective. After all, banking on garbage time does not always work; just ask those who rostered Mike Evans this last week.

 

 

Giants at Buccaneers

 

It’s too bad the Giants ripped the Saints’ secondary the way they did in Week 8, because now people will be paying attention to them. This is a phenomenal matchup for the Giants’ passing offense, but these guys should also have high ownership in tournaments now. That’s something to think of throughout the week.

 

The Buccaneers should also be able to do damage against the Giants’ secondary. Don’t be angry at Mike Evans; instead, choose to benefit off low ownership Evans is likely to see. Same goes for Doug Martin. Heck, the same might even go for our old friend Jameis Winston.

 

 

Broncos at Colts

 

So…Peyton Manning looks a whole lot better.

 

Last year, Vontae Davis strictly played sides. This year, he has shadowed from time to time. With the Broncos having two “top wide receivers” in Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders, the Colts may choose to stick to sides; if they do shadow, though, we can assume they will look to shut down Demaryius with Vontae. Keep an eye out for reports this week to see if you can decipher where Vontae will be. Load up on fantasy goodness away from him.

 

As for the Colts…remember how I said above that thing about “except against the Broncos or Panthers”? Yeah. However Andrew Luck does on Monday Night Football against the Panthers (I’m expecting him to do okay - probably not awful, but certainly not good), expect him to do a little bit worse against the Broncos. No thanks.

 

 

Eagles at Cowboys

 

Fast-paced, meet slow-paced.

 

The Eagles’ defense should give Matt Cassel fits, honestly. I don’t think he’ll be able to do much at all.

 

The Eagles, on the other hand, should be able to do a decent job in this game on the ground and through the air. My concern, however, would be this: because the Eagles will see far fewer plays than normal, this means they are priced higher than they should be for this matchup. Consider that as you set your NFL lineups this week.

 

 

Bears at Chargers

 

If this game were being played on Sunday at 1:00 Eastern Standard Time, it would be one of the best games of the week for us to target. Since this game is on Monday night, and since we have some injury questions to deal with, we may have a tough time rostering many players at all. Hopefully we get some clarity throughout the week on the injuries to Matt Forte and Ladarius Green and Keenan Allen. The more you know about this game, the more you will be able to load up on players from it, and the more you will be able to benefit from a pair of high-quality offenses playing against questionable defenses. You cannot ask for a whole lot more than that.

 

 

That’s the start of the “funnel,” my friends. Things are broad at the moment; start narrowing things down, now - pulling things deeper into the funnel until you have your week of preparation narrowed down to your small list of “favorite plays at each position.” Then go out, profit…enjoy it, and get back to work so you can start all over again!

JM Tohline
JM “JMToWin” Tohline is a novelist in his spare time (no, really). The rest of the time, he studies and plays DFS. He began playing DFS at the beginning of the 2014 MLB season; by the end of that year, he had won three qualifiers into million-dollar tourneys and had won two separate trips to the Bahamas. His tendency to type a lot of words leads to a corresponding tendency to divulge all his DFS thoughts, strategies, and secrets…which is exactly what he does in his RotoGrinders and Rotoworld articles. You can find JM on Twitter @JMToWin.