Fantasy Football Intelligence: Quick Hits Around the Quarter Pole

After week one we preached patience. In week two we tried to determine what is real and what is not. We are now through three weeks and rounding the quarter pole of the fantasy regular season. If you are 0-3 or 1-2 and your point total is in the bottom half of the league, this is a time of decision making and action.  If you are 2-1 or 3-0, that is great, but you should still be looking at your players and determining whether your success is sustainable. Is your overall point total in the top 1/3 of the league? If not, you probably have work to do. Are you relying on a few hot players or are you getting balanced contributions from most of your team? Let’s look at some realities that will help you determine whether your team is a mirage or an oasis.

Send your camel to bed.

(couldn’t resist)

The bullets below are intended to help you with waiver moves or trade strategy. With good managers now having enough data to start making moves to save their season or set up a playoff run, action should be picking up. In smaller roster leagues, or if you are battling through injury issues, the bye weeks (NYJ and SF off this week) will force moves as well.

• Tom Brady, Sony Michel (standard leagues) and the Patriots defense look reliable going forward. Edelman has a rib injury, but looks like a WR3. James White has PPR value, but will have quiet weeks, as will Josh Gordon. The team could be 8-0 when they go to Baltimore in week nine, unless I just jinxed them. They are covering up some o-line injuries that may bite them at some point, but LT Isaiah Wynn and WR N’Keal Harry return around week nine too.

• Dak Prescott looks like a QB1, accruing benefit to his receivers as well. With the Eagles stumbling, they could lock up the division early and contend for a bye.

• The Packers are 3-0 with an offense that still appears out of sync. This is either a glass half-full or half-empty situation. we see it as half full based on Aaron Rodgers’ history of high performance; The Pack will get better as long as Matt LaFleur is smart enough to adapt the offense to his personnel.

• It is almost time to think about benching James Conner. If he does not do well in a make or break game with Cincinnati on Monday night, I will recommend benching him and/or finding another owner who believes in him more than we do. JuJu’s TD covered some warts, but he is not getting open often enough and not seeing enough targets as a result. He is a WR2 at best for the moment.

• We can hold off on booking Lamar Jackson’s flight to Canton. He made some great plays in KC yesterday and looks like he will outperform his draft position, but his throwing was inconsistent and the offense isn’t ideal for a comeback or shootout. If you like him, give that speech to his owner because there are only a couple of matchups on the schedule that will put him in that position and he looks valuable going forward. If you had Brees or Big Ben and a Jackson owner has two QBs consider a trade if you can deal from a position of excess at another spot. I still would not give up a RB1 or WR1 for him. Mark Andrews played hurt, so he gets a pass this week. Mark Ingram is either a sell high candidate or the league leader in rushing TDs. I’m thinking he is the latter.

• Buffalo is a soft 3-0 team. They barely beat the Jets and Bengals. The Patriots visit this week. Don’t be talked into Josh Allen until we see how he does against a winning team. They still don’t pass frequently or well enough to make any of the receivers reliable as any more than a bye week fill-in. I like Devin Singletary as the year goes on as a RB2/3 and the defense has talent and a number of good matchups.

• Ravaged by injuries, Le’Veon Bell will give you some volume, but steer clear of everyone else on the Jets until further notice. Even Bell won’t see much of the red zone until Darnold is back. My early optimism for the Jets went down with C.J. Mosley and Sam Darnold.

• As a rookie, Dalvin Cook tore his ACL and last year he missed five games with a hamstring injury. If the Bears slow him down next week, use that rationale with his owner and make a robust offer for him. He is a fantasy MVP candidate as long as he stays healthy.

• The 49ers are 3-0, one win away from last year’s total and well on the way to .500 or better as we predicted, but outside of George Kittle, no real money in the bank for fantasy owners. Kittle hasn’t scored yet, but he’s had two TDs called back by penalties and is still seeing plenty of targets. They have been winning ugly, but I expect Garoppolo to get better. Don’t panic on Kittle.

• New coach, new offense, same Bengals. Things are not going well and they will face a desperate Steelers team on the road next Monday. Joe Mixon has been banged up but is still a volume play. Tyler Boyd is also getting volume but has not scored. They would both be worthwhile buy low candidates. If you are 3-0, maybe the A.J. Green owner can’t afford to stash him. Can you? The Bengals have a week 16 matchup with Miami that could determine fantasy championships.

• It is possible that the Patriots broke the Rams. Maybe not; the starters didn’t play in the preseason and Gurley is on a pitch count, but the offense has not looked the same since the Super Bowl, especially Jared Goff. Other than Cooper Kupp, everyone else is under-delivering. At this point they are a hold or trade – I wouldn’t pursue any of these players unless it is an obvious bargain. I’ll take this moment to point out that the FFI draft board had Kupp (ADP: 51) two spots ahead of Woods (ADP: 42) in our WR ranks. So far, so good, unless I just jinxed him too.

• At 1-2 it doesn’t take a genius to say that the Eagles may not be as good as we thought. Even before the injuries, they had a bad half against Washington and might have lost to a better team. There is plenty of time for them to get better before the end of the year, but three of their next four are at Green Bay, Minnesota and Dallas so it isn’t getting any easier. They could easily be three games behind the Cowboys before they visit Dallas. Nobody is living up to their fantasy value and the backfield is a mess. They have not looked right and there was a play on Sunday where the o-line just gave up. Something bad is going on there.

• We are on the verge of a QB controversy in Carolina. Get your popcorn ready and by all means don’t take Cam Newton in any trade. Kyle Allen has not hurt the value of any Panthers, though Houston will be a tougher challenge than Arizona was.

• Daniel Jones…hmm…the Giants have at most five wins left in their last 13 games, maybe less with Barkley out for 4-8 weeks. The kid looked good against Tampa and has a home game with Washington next week and another with Arizona on 10/20. He isn’t an every week starter, but while Barkley is out (4-8 weeks), he will probably throw or run 40+ times/week. There will be garbage time opportunities too, though I don’t think I’d play him in Foxborough or against Minnesota in the next few weeks. If you need a sub for Mayfield on 10/20, consider Jones.

• As discussed, the retirement of Luck has not debilitated the Colts. They have some key players dealing with injuries (Darius Leonard missed the game, T.Y. Hilton left with a nagging quad injury and Marlon Mack is not 100%) but they have rallied behind Jacoby Brissett and they are competitive every week. The team may be underrated at this point and the players, if healthy, will produce better than expected results. After four red zone TDs all of last year, he has already matched that total in three games. Similarly, the Saints look fine with Teddy Bridgewater for the next few weeks.

• Derrick Henry is off to a good start, but Mariota is not and the team is 1-2. If you can buy Henry at a reasonable price they should get better when Taylor Lewan returns in week five.

• If Cleveland GM John Dorsey can’t stand the heat, he shouldn’t have promoted Freddie Kitchens. As we have been preaching here since August, Cleveland’s first half schedule is brutal and Freddie Kitchens is unproven at best. On balance, the defense has been pretty good, but the offense has been misfiring. The offensive line has lived up to it’s bad billing and the play calling brings back memories of Joe Walton’s Jets in the 80’s (you can look it up or trust me, it sucked). That said, unless they unravel psychologically (maybe a 25% chance at this point), they will run it up in the second half, particularly if they go 2-6 in the first half and the playoff talk subsides. Baker Mayfield has not taken the next step, but he will produce in the second half.

• D.J. Chark is scoring TDs, but Dede Westbrook still leads the team in targets. He could be a buy-low candidate. Gardner Minshew is keeping the train on the tracks such as it is, though Jalen Ramsey is doing all he can to derail it, not unlike the climactic scene with Armie Hammer, Johnny Depp and Michael Fichtner in the crappy Lone Ranger movie that was so bad I won’t bother to link to it, which is kind of how I felt about the Titans/Jags game.

• This week Kyler Murray did not pay dividends. He may have more upside and a higher floor than I gave him credit for, but I am still not seeing a QB1.

• The Lions are undefeated at 2-0-1. They should have closed out Arizona. Kenny Golladay and Kerryon Johnson are weekly starters and Matt Stafford works as a bye week fill-in. The defense will have some streamable matchups. They are in a tough division, but they are not a doormat on either side of the ball. Plan your matchups accordingly.

• The Chiefs are managing through some injuries, but they have not missed a beat. Demarcus Robinson and Mecole Hardman are both boom/bust flyers at least until Tyreek Hill returns. Keep an eye on the RB situation, if Damien Williams and LeSean McCoy are out this week, someone should stream Darrel Williams.

• The Skins are terrible as expected, but I’m lovin me some McLovin (Terry McLaurin) who we talked about here and our followers hopefully grabbed for week two to fill in for Tyreek Hill. The Dwayne Haskins (coming) and Jay Gruden (going) watches are on. Not sure if McLaurin’s production is sustainable, but ride it while you can. Most of the Skins’ season will be garbage time.

• The Bears defense is a weapon against bad teams and a difference maker against good ones. The offense may let them down in probably the deepest division in the NFL. The free David Montgomery cries may start soon, but he still interests me at a decent price if his owner can’t wait. Allen Robinson is serviceable, but the offense has a deep target pool. Don’t chase the fool’s gold of Taylor Gabriel’s three TDs on MNF.

• The Falcons, Bucs and Chargers are more or less who we thought they were, no pithy thoughts to add at the moment.

• The Raiders are also who we thought they were. Jacobs, Waller and Ty Williams have some yardage value, but this is a four win team that won’t spend a lot of time in the red zone. If you fell for any of that Hard Knocks b.s., shame on you. Knock on wood if you are with me.