Fantasy Football Intelligence: Life During Wartime

The fantasy regular season is about 60% over.

Over the next four weeks, we have at least four with a maximum of six teams (week 10) on a bye each week. FFI recommends planning bye week subs two weeks in advance, so this week we’ll focus on week 10, the most difficult of the weeks with six teams inactive. If you are living in the moment, you can review week nine recommendations here. Week 10 will be discussed below.

Many outlets stress the week-to-week nature of fantasy football. If you are fighting for a playoff spot, you may not have a choice, but if you have drafted well and made good pickups, you may be in position to look ahead. Fantasy Football Intelligence differs from conventional fantasy wisdom in two ways:

1. We see football as interconnected actions between 22 specific people at a given time. We look at Next Gen stats like air yards, average separation, etc. but we don’t hang our predictions on them because every game is like a snowflake – it is unique. The best indication of future performance is past performance, as long as you are looking at the right things. We focus on the game at a macro level, analyzing game specific unit matchups and their likely impact on game flow and distill player performance from there. Watching or reading many fantasy experts you will hear far too much about how one side of the matchup or the other has performed against a variety of opponents and circumstances, many of which are not at all relevant to the current game.

2. We do not view fantasy football as a week to week game. when battling injuries or tough luck with opponents of course it is advisable to play a week to week strategy for survival. But we aspire to championships, and if we’ve done our homework, and are comfortably in playoff position, we press the advantage by planning multiple weeks out, particularly for the playoff matchups. More and more, this will be a theme of the blog as we march toward the playoff weeks. There is higher risk to a long term strategy and there is greater variance in predictions, but done right, you will give your team the its best chance to win it all.

Sh*t’s about to get real. This ain’t no party, this ain’t no disco, this ain’t no foolin’ around.

Week 9 Byes: Cincinnati, L.A. Rams, Atlanta New Orleans

See last week for sub recommendations. On the heels of last night’s game, if Mahomes sits another week, the Chiefs’ Matt Moore will be startable at home against Minnesota as well. Remember, these are not long term strategy plays; they are designed to help you find replacement points for a given week if you are missing a starter.

Denver will not be playing Joe Flacco in week 9 @ DEN. Stream the Browns defense confidently.

Key Status Change: James Conner is back on the good list. it has taken a while and it certainly isn’t what we planned, but Pittsburgh looks comfortable with a run focused offense. Conner’s volume uptick offsets the weaker overall offense than what Big Ben would have provided. I expect he will produce RB7-10 numbers the rest of the way. That said, he went to the locker room early at the end of the game, hopefully the injury is minor.

Similarly, aren’t we glad we gave Rodgers through the Oakland game before making a change? Depending on the rules of your league, he will be roughly QB5 after this week.

Week 10 Byes: New England, Denver, Philadelphia, Washington, Jacksonville, Houston

Key Players Out: Brady, Michel, J. White, Edelman, Pats Defense, Lindsay, Sutton, Wentz, Ertz, Jeffrey, McLaurin, Fournette, Chark, Jax D, Watson, Hyde, Hopkins

QB: The following players (under 75% owned in Yahoo leagues) are likely to give you 2+ scores:

Brissett (65%) vs Miami

D. Jones (23%) @ NYJ

Carr (26%) vs. LAC

Garoppolo (57%) vs. SEA

Tannehill (30%) vs. KC

Moore (8%) @ TEN (if Mahomes is out)

RB: Slim pickings here at the position with the most scarcity.

J. Williams (62%) vs. CAR

Gore (57%) @ CLE

Singletary (68%) @ CLE

Drake (60%) @TB (Just traded – need to monitor Johnson and Edmonds injuries. Don’t use if either is healthy.)

R. Jones (46%) vs. AZ

Barber (38%) vs. AZ

WR: M. Brown has by far the best long term value.

M. Brown (71%) @ CIN

T. Williams (65%) vs. LAC

Samuel (74%) @ GB

Metcalf (67%) @ SF (tough matchup, but won’t draw Sherman in coverage)

Slayton (4%) @NYJ (If Shepard is still out, he is a WR2/3 over the last month.)

A. Tate (28%) @ BAL

R. Anderson (68%) vs. NYG (may be traded)

Hardman (33%) @ TEN (A bit of a flyer, but doing more each week and only needs one play to pay off.)

Valdes-Scantling (72%) vs. CAR (Do not use if Adams is back. Only 18 targets in the last month.)

Parker (27%) @ IND

TE (If you need an Ertz replacement)

Ebron (71%) vs. Miami

D. Walker (52%)/J. Smith (19%) vs. KC (Walker is the pick if healthy)

J. Cook (49%) vs. ATL (if healthy)

Herndon (28%) vs. NYG (if healthy)

Hockenson (65%) @ CHI

K: None of the bye kickers are worth holding a roster spot for. If you like your kicker you can probably get him back, or just keep one of these:

Gonzalez (46%) @ TB

Slye (54%) @ GB

Maher (28%) vs. MIN

Bailey (32%) @ DAL

Note: Prater and Crosby are both 75% owned and perfectly fine to pick up as well.

DEF – Unless you own NE or SF, you should be looking for weekly matchups to exploit. If you need week 9, look here. These are the week 10 picks.

IND (47%) vs. MIA

BAL (43%) @ CIN

KC (27%) @ TEN

GB (37%) @ CAR

Playoff Prep Part 1

Fantasy playoffs generally run weeks 14-16. Some leagues include week 17. It is crucial that you evaluate your league’s schedule, your playoff scenarios (Can you get a bye?) as well as your remaining bye week roster exposure before beginning playoff preparation.

Begin with defense. If you own the Patriots, you have already enjoyed 31 sacks, 25 turnovers and 6 TDs. To lend some perspective, only the Bears exceeded the 117 fantasy points in those categories for the ENTIRE SEASON last year. The next stretch of games will be their toughest, culminating with an AFC Championship rematch with the Chiefs in Foxboro in week 14. While their production will likely slow down, it will ramp up again when they finish the season @ CIN, vs. BUF, vs. MIA. If the defense shows some cracks and you expect to play in week 14, WAS visits Green Bay. Tennessee (currently a top 5 D but only 47% owned) visits Oakland and Pittsburgh takes a good pass rush to AZ. Like a home team?  Philadelphia plays NYG in a game they will likely need to win. If you have a roster spot for one of these teams instead of a WR you will never use or can easily replace if needed, grab one.

The 49ers have been great too, but they visit New Orleans in week 14. Consider some of the same options above.

Have you been streaming defenses? Cleveland has Cincinnati in weeks 14 & 17 and @ AZ in week 15. You will likely want another option in week 16, but if you can roster Cleveland, you have a good start to your playoff lineup.

Philadelphia’s week 14-17 schedule is vs. NYG, @ WAS, vs. DAL and @ NYG. Again, a good building block for the playoffs.

Look for good teams who will be playing for something, particularly if they are at home, facing teams that are playing out the string. We know who we are targeting now: Miami, Cincinnati, WAS, NYJ and NYG. More teams will join this list as their seasons go south. Denver is joining the list with Chicago, Tampa and possibly Atlanta not far behind. Point is, think ahead about who you want playing defense for you in the playoffs.

This week the Browns lost to the Patriots before they got on the plane. They were ill-prepared and undisciplined. The biggest enemy they had on the field was themselves. Freddie Kitchens was once again guilty of coaching malpractice. Don’t be the Freddie Kitchens of your league. Plan ahead and use the insights of Fantasy Football Intelligence to keep the action on the field in front of you.