Fantasy 5: Todd Gurley vaults back atop fantasy lists
(The Fantasy 5 is a quick-hit wrap-up of some of the biggest news topics of the day for fantasy football players, giving you advice you need to set your lineup or pick your DFS roster.)
With a blink of an eye we’re already into the meat of the NFL schedule. 2016 data can start being phased out for 2017 info. We’re in the midst of bye weeks. We’re learning what coaching tendencies and play calling we can expect in a given week. We have enough data now that we can somewhat decipher what is noise through the first four weeks and what is actionable data.
Here’s a look at the some of the key pieces of fantasy news to know heading into the weekend games.
1. Todd Gurley has moved to the top tier
Four weeks into the season, Gurley is averaging 21.5 carries and 5.0 receptions per game. That pace has only been hit by two players in NFL history — James Wilder (1984) and Steven Jackson (2006). Even last year’s wild fantasy seasons by Le’Veon Bell and David Johnson failed to hit those benchmarks in volume. Wunderkind Sean McVay is finding ways to utilize his best player week-after-week as both a rusher and receiver, starring as the focal point around their offense. He’s subsequently turned Gurley into a must-start every week given the volume he’s seeing.
2. Home bouncebacks for Jay Cutler and Ben Roethlisberger?
I empathize for this Miami squad. Their Week 1 matchup against the Buccaneers was moved to Week 11 due to Hurricane Irma. They subsequently burned their valuable bye week during what should’ve been the season opener. They then traveled across the country to play the Rams in Week 2. Traveled back to the east side of the country to play the Jets. Then flew back down to Miami to see their families for a day or two before flying to London. They finally get a chance to relax without travel arrangements in a Week 5 home matchup against the Titans. Vegas currently has them 3-point home underdogs, but a lot of that will hinge on Marcus Mariota’s health.
The Steelers offense has struggled to get going this year. After averaging 372.6 yards per game and 24.9 points last year, those numbers have fallen to 322.0 and 22.5, respectively. Luckily for them, they’ve got a home matchup against the Jaguars next on the docket. We can expect a ton of Le’Veon Bell in this matchup against the most egregious “reverse funnel” defense in the league. PIT is currently a massive 8.5-point home favorite and should find a way to get their offense back on track in this one.
3. Fade backup quarterbacks in Week 5
The aforementioned status of Mariota remains questionable as of the time of this writing, and it could lead to Matt Cassel starting for the Titans in Week 5. Cassel has a career completion percentage of 58.8 percent while averaging just a 6.0-yard average depth of target, not invoking much confidence heading into what looks like a rather challenging matchup with Miami. All Tennessee skill players should be downgraded if Mariota is ruled out.
EJ Manuel looks like he’ll be taking the reins over in Oakland. Playing as 2.5-point home favorites, Vegas believes there’s enough playmakers in Oakland for him to prevail. The Ravens are currently missing their stud defensive lineman Brandon Williams and we should expect some heavy Marshawn Lynch as the team prioritizes running the ball. Manuel should be off your fantasy radar this week.
4. Fireworks in Dallas due to added protection
The projected highest-scoring game this Sunday by Vegas is currently the matchup between the Packers and Cowboys. Both teams have potent offenses and leaky secondaries, a combination that is sure to brew a ton of fantasy points. Big news for the Packers in that they could be getting back both of their tackles in David Bakhtiari and Bryan Bulaga. Bakhtiari and Bulaga were both inside our top-five tackles as far as pass protection in 2016. The Cowboys are also expected to get back LT Tyron Smith, who didn’t finish far behind them ranking 15th overall in pass protection last year. Clean pockets for both Aaron Rodgers and Dak Prescott means more time for their receivers to gain separation and create big plays on Sunday afternoon.
5. Fading Philly?
I don’t know how, but the Eagles are currently implied for 25.75 points. Only the Cowboys are expected to score more according to Vegas. I’m failing to see how this team can accomplish that against a Cardinals defense that lines up perfectly to defend what they’re best at doing. Patrick Peterson’s shadow coverage of Alshon Jeffery should make him a near non-factor. Tyvon Branch and Tyrann Mathieu should be able to hold Zach Ertz in check and prevent a big outing. Arizona is allowing the third-fewest fantasy points to opposing tight ends to start the year, including holding Eric Ebron to a 2-9-0 stat line and Jason Witten to just 1-3-0. The Cardinals rank fifth in FootballOutsiders’ Run DVOA, ranking top-10 in fewest rushing yards allowed this season. They held Ezekiel Elliott to 80 rushing yards and Carlos Hyde to 67. Arizona’s defense also ranks top-10 in lowest third-down conversion rate (37.1 percent) allowed to opposing offenses. It doesn’t add up to a strong outing for the Philadelphia offense and is one of the most intriguing games on the slate from an X’s and O’s perspective.