I talked a little on Tuesday about how top heavy the league has become. I only think there are 13 teams that are legitimately playoff caliber teams right now. That’s insane. Conversely the very bottom is filled with dumpster fire after dumpster fire. San Fran, Detroit, Tennessee, are all pretty much laughing stocks right now. Cleveland, Houston, San Diego and Baltimore are just bad football teams for various reasons. Chicago and Dallas are sort of in a twilight zone of mediocrity. Tampa, Indy, Washington, Philly, KC and Jacksonville I think should all be better and just have underperformed. Buffalo, Miami, New Orleans and the Giants are teams that have shown a tendency to just sort of fall down, and not lightly when these teams have fallen down, they have fallen down hard. Just ask My Friend Craig.
I think it’s becoming obvious that level of play is a direct result of the NFL being talent heavy at the top and talent deficient at the bottom. The NFL wants us to believe this is parity. Because in a single year a team can go from a losing record to into the playoffs or vice versa. This isn’t real parity though, this is instituting a salary cap so teams can’t simply pay dollars to become a dynasty. Or as I like to think about it, protecting owners from themselves in terms of overspending on players.
True parity would involve a consistent level of play across the league no matter the season. The level of play has degraded to the point that even when two good teams play together it can be bad. This isn’t something that I want throw just at the feet of the salary cap. The league altering the amount of practice time players teams are allowed to schedule, heartilly backed up by the player association. I’m not going to put the refs in here, but the league has instituted peculiar points of emphasis this season that highlight some of the weaker areas of talent in the league. Offensive and defensive line play in particular. You could call holding on every play, and some of the officials seem to be.
How would I fix it? More practice time. Maybe not full contact, maybe not huge amounts of time added, but more ability for coaches to coach and players to learn. I’d also eliminate the Thursday Nights because there just isn’t time for players to physically recover or coaches to create and implement a game plan.
AS for this Thursday here we are again! THe rest of the NFL:64 will be up tomorrow morning but for now here are my ranks, my Thursday pick and notes on the Thursday teams and bye week teams! Read up!
It’s a huge week of byes, 6 teams. Check your fantasy lineups! Get anyone on the bye list teams out of your fantasy lineups, after you finish reading this whole article, of course.
|ARZ (6-2)||BAL (2-6)||DET (1-7)|
|HOU (3-5)||KC (3-5)||SEA (4-4)|
|CLE (2-6) @ CIN (7-0)|
|GB (6-1) @ CAR (7-0)||WAS (3-4) @ NE (7-0)|
|TEN (1-6) @ NO (4-4)||MIA (3-4) @ BUF (3-4)|
|STL (4-3) @ MIN (5-2)||JAC (2-5) @ NYJ (4-3)|
|OAK (4-3) @ PIT (4-4)|
|NYG (4-4) @ TB (3-4)||ATL (6-2) @ SF (2-6)|
|DEN (7-0) @ IND (3-5)|
|PHI (3-4)@DAL (2-5)|
|CHI (2-5) @ SD (2-6)|
|1.NE 7-0 LW1|
|2.CIN 7-0 LW3|
|3.DEN 7-0 LW5|
|4.CAR 7-0 LW4|
|5.GB 6-1 LW2|
|6.ARZ 6-2 LW6|
|7.MIN 5-2 LW10|
|8.SEA 4-4 LW9|
|9.STL 4-3 LW11|
|10.OAK 4-3 LW12|
|11.NYJ 4-3 LW7|
|12.ATL 6-2 LW8|
|13.PIT 4-4 LW13|
|14.NYG 4-4 LW7|
|15.NO 4-4 LW19|
|16.BUF 3-4 LW16|
|17.MIA 3-4 LW14|
|18.JAC 2-5 LW20|
|19.WAS 3-4 LW17|
|20.KC 3-5 LW27|
|21.PHI 3*4 LW18|
|22.IND 3-4 LW21|
|23.TB 3-4 LW28|
|24.DAL -5 LW22|
|25.CHI 2-5 LW23|
|26.BAL 2-6 LW26|
|27.SD 2-6 LW25|
|28.HOU 3-5 LW29|
|29.CLE 2-6 LW24|
|30.TEN 1-6 LW30|
|31.DET 1-7 LW31|
|32.SF 2-6 LW32|
BYE WEEK TEAMS
- The Cardinals have been playing with fits and starts, but achieving in the end. They will likely use the bye week to help fix the small defensive lapses they have developed and get healthy. The offense could use some help with being more consistent, but the surprise of Chris Johnson and the return of Andre Ellington should allow them to get that consistency.
- There Is some chatter about John Brown being replaced as the starter by MIchael Floyd. I don’t think it’s a big deal because they use plenty of 3 WR sets. As far as the RBs go, I’d be willing to add both Ellington and David Johnson as I don’t think Chris Johnson is going to last 16 games.
- They won the battle of disappointing AFC teams last week on a last second field goal. They may be the unluckiest team of 2015, but that still means they are looking forward to 2016.
- The Steve Smith injury really sort of kills the fantasy value of everyone on the Ravens except Justin Tucker. I mean if you are desperate for a WR Kamar Aiken would be the guy and Justin FOrsett is still ok, but he hasn’t been Justin Forsett 2014 and who knows when they move onto to finding out what their other backs are capable of.
- First the offensive coordinator, now the GM, I mean Jim Caldwell is the issue so it’s probably time for him to go too, but I’m not sure that makes sense until the end of the year. Evaluate the talent under contract and look toward 2016.
- I don’t think the RB situation in Detroit is worth a damn right now, or can be because of the woeful offensive line. I do think Matt Stafford and Calvin Johnson and Eric Ebron are useful pieces, but I don’t really want to rely on them.
- How does this team have 3 wins? Awful. A sad state of affairs for sure because they have looked like they are coached like Jim Tomsula at times this year. Amazingly they could make the playoffs or even win their division. Which is awful.
- DeAndre Hopkins is the only guy worth a damn in fantasy. Ignore everyone else.
- I thought they were dead, but they have shown some nice life the last 2 weeks. I don’t know if they can get back into the playoff race, but they sure can make it hard on plenty of teams going forward.
- Jeremy Maclin, Charcandrick West and Travis Kelce are good fantasy plays. Especially the later 2. Maclin is less reliable, but still a good talent. His issue has more to do with Alex Smith than himself.
- Back to 500. It’s the first step they needed to get to get back into the wild card race. They are only 2 games off the division lead, but are behind in tiebreakers and will need some help to actually get into the playoffs. (Sorry Danielle.)
- Russell Wilson is the more valuable fantasy piece and Marshawn Lynch is nice, but something looks wrong other than just the offensive line. Jimmy Graham is a top 12 tight end, but I feel like it’s a guessing game as to when he will be good, which is basically the case for every TE not named Gronk.
THURSDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL
- Johnny Football time in Cleveland. I don’t think it’s going to go well as the team has been in disarray for quite sometime. They had some magic early and now they’ve petered off.
- I think you can play Gary Barnidge because who do you have that is better? Other than that I’m watching to see if anyone is any good, but I’m not counting on anyone.
- Time to put up Bengals. Take care of business in a serious way against the Browns here and you will be in great shape going forward.
- I’m starting Andy Dalton, Tyler Eifert, AJ Green, the Bengals DST, Giovanni Bernard and Jeremy Hill. I don’t know how much of a throwing game it turns into so Marvin Jones and Mohamed Sanu are if you are desperate plays only for me. And you might be because of the injuries and byes!
Bengals 38, Browns 24
SUNDAY 1 PM GAMES
- I thought the Green Bay defense was better than what they showed last night. I was wrong and while it doesn’t bump the Packers from the top 2 tiers of the NFL elite, it bumps them from the very top tier. Also after Rodgers took a big hit he changed in a big way, I hadn’t seen that before. It could be a formula for teams going forward, hit Rodgers big early, even if it costs you 15 yards. (And I don’t mean in a malicious way, a clean form tackle that happens to be a second late that rattles Rodgers cage.) Maybe the offensive line is bad and with no one stepping into the Jordy Nelson role it’s become easy to take away a diminished, by injury, Randall Cobb.
- You start Rodgers, Eddie Lacy looked ok, Cobb is hurt and I think until they are rolling again those are the only guys that even matter a little bit.
- The Panthers are just winning and that’s something that can’t be ignored. If their offense can start to possess the ball a little more, and maybe the rain was the x factor in last week’s game, that defense can be legit for 30-35 minutes. The defensive line wore down and the pass rush disappeared as the game got later, but the linebackers and defensive backs were still highly effective and extremely high energy.
- Cam Newton, Jonathan Stewart and Greg Olsen are every week starters and Ted Ginn seems to be able to get open, but doesn’t seem to be able to catch the ball. I think roles for Philly (Corey) Brown and Devin Funchess are there for the taking, but they must not be earning Cam’s trust in practice because he isn’t looking for them unless they are his first read.
Carolina 24, Packers 20
- The Redskins are coming off the bye and heading to New England to enjoy our unseasonable fall. How do you like THAT Kirk Cousins? If the Redskins have gotten a little healthy they will be a better team, but their isn’t a sole in DC that thinks they can win this game outright and most think that simply winning with the 14 points Vegas is giving them is a victory in itself. Football wise I expect them to try and control the ball, by running it and keeping Tom Brady on the sideline. I don’t expect it to be spectacularly effective, even if their injured center returns to action.
- I don’t think any Washington player is relevant in fantasy this week. If you are WR desperate I could justify slotting Pierre Garcon in in a PPR format.
- The Patriots can’t get caught looking past the Redskins. I don’t think that will be a problem. Tom Brady has had a top 5 QB performance every week except his bye week. Taking weeks off isn’t in the Patriots vocabulary in 2015, Brady is too angry and as we have seen now for 15 years, as goes Tom Brady so do the Patriots.
- If you have a Patriot you can start them. I mean I’m not starting Brandon LaFell and I’m mildly hesitant to start LeGarrette Blount, but he continues to score TDs at an amazing rate in a Patriots uniform.
Patriots 41, Redskins 27
- Mike Mularky takes over and I don’t see it making the team any better initially. I think this move was made strictly as a response to Ken Whisenhunt becoming a little too candid with the media about various players and as a move to protect the investment in Marcus Mariota. This team can play a little defense, but they don’t seem to be able to score, at all, and that’s a problem I don’t see Mularky fixing.
- Antonio Andrews, Dorial Green-Beckham, Delanie Walker? I don’t love any of them and if you are in the running for the playoffs and you’ve been counting on any of these guys kudos to you my friend.
- New Orleans shoot out last doesn’t make me think they are particularly good or a playoff bound team, but they can certainly put up points and beat the Titans. This will get them to 5-4, and will put them in the Wild Card hunt, but Carolina has a huge lead for the division and Atlanta has a 2 game lead over them in division and for one of the 2 Wild Card spots.
- I don’t love the Saints this week off their huge week against the Giants. Their players should be good and meet reasonable projections, but I wouldn’t be chasing their week 8 performances in DFS.
New Orleans 27, Titans 10
- How does Miami bounce back now that they have had their first knockdown of the Dan Campbell era. I think well. I think if Dan Campbell were a boxer, he would be the guy that figures out a way to come out of his corner at a million miles an hour each round no matter if he is winning the fight or just got his ass beat in the last round. He’s got 9 more rounds (games) to prove he is a legitimate NFL head coach and that the Dolphins didn’t over spend on free agency this past off season.
- I would sit Ryan Tannehill, but I would play Lamar Miller and Jarvis Landry with no qualms. Rishard Matthews I’m a little hesitant about, as I am with Jordan Cameron because Cameron popped up on the injury report later in the week.
- How does Rex Ryan get My Friend Craig’s Bills to bounce back after the bye week? By getting players back from injury. When the Bills looked pretty good this year, Tyrod Taylor and Karlos Williams were a big part of the offense and both will be back in week 9. If the defense can bounce back and put pressure on Tannehill they should be able to get back in the win column.
- Tyrod Taylor, Lesean McCoy and Charles Clay are the only Bills I’m counting on in week 9. Karlos Williams could be a nice play if you are desperate at RB2 or FLEX. As for the WRs, I don’t know who to trust.
Bills 38, Dolphins 34
- The Rams are following the Jeff Fischer model, defense, special teams and a dominant RB. Todd Gurley has come in and been everything people who loved him thought he could be. Can they keep teh pattern going against a very good Vikings defense? I don’t think so as they have struggled on the road, especially against good teams.
- Todd Gurley is a stud, Tavon Austin is becoming a weekly FLEX consideration and everyone else is irrelevant in all fantasy situations.
- The Vikings have played up to their competition when it is good and down to their competition when it’s been bad. The Rams and Vikings are likely battling for a Wild Card spot (or will both be Wild Card teams) in the NFC so I expect them to be ready for this game. They need to protect Teddy Bridgewater and open enough holes for Adrian Peterson. I expect Peterson to be particularly motivated to face “the new Adrian Peterson” Gurly and show that the old Adrian Peterson isn’t done yet.
- I start Peterson for the reasons above and Diggs because he has been consistent since entering the starting lineup. I don’t love any of the other Vikings this week in any fantasy format.
Vikings 21, Rams 17
- I’ve been riding Jacksonville all year and I think they finally began to find themselves two weeks ago across the pond in London. I’ve been calling them my team on the cusp of being a team on the come all year and the rubber beings to meet the road with that this week as they go into New York and upset the Jets.
- I like a lot of the Jags pieces on offense. And I think the crack in the walls of the Jets are starting to show so I think they are usable this week. I don’t anticipate any top 10 performances, but a couple of guys sneaking into the top 15 wouldn’t surprise me.
- The Jets had a huge let down in Oakland last week. I don’t mean that they should have won, but they should have been competitive. I think the armor is broken and I think that Ryan Fitzpatrick most likely shouldn’t be playing and is likely to either; A, leave the game early or 2, be ineffective. Fitz is also due for a stinker and the Jags are primed to force him into that ineffectiveness.
- I think that your Jets that matter are ok to play. Chris Ivory, and if they play Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker.
Jaguars 28, Jets 13
- Oakland is legit. They may not be primed for Super Bowl glory, but if they keep it up they are likely playoff bound. They can move the ball on offense and they are opportunistic on defense and special teams.
- Go ahead and play your Raiders, Derek Carr, Latavious Murray, Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree.
- Pittsburgh didn’t look good last week and lost their best weapon in Le’Veon Bell for the season. Big Ben Roethlisberger still looks hurt. Not that he can’t be effective hurt, but he forced the ball into awful spots and it cost his team the game. I don’t think Landry Jones makes them better, but if Big Ben hasn’t made serious improvements this week they are likely to be looking up at their home scoreboard and watching the Raiders win.
- Big Ben, Antonio Brown, Heath Miller, Martavis Bryant and DeAngelo Williams are all good plays this week in any fantasy format.
Raiders 38, Steelers 35
SUNDAY 4 PM GAMES
- Start your Giants involved in the passing game. Eli Manning, Odell Beckham Jr., Shane Vereen, Ruben Randle (and if you own him and count on him yo are a fucking saint because his hands are terrible).
- I’m not sure if Lovie Smith is still involved or not, but I’m guessing no because the Bucs have started to make a turn. Their defense has stepped up in a big way and returned to the run defense we saw in 2013, which made them the darlings of disappointment in 2014. Jamies Winston has become, as I expected, a very solid QB and it’s resulting in holes for Doug Martin to run through and that’s resulting in open areas in the secondary for Mike Evans to catch balls in. It’ll even get better when Austin Seferian-Jenkins returns to the field.
- It’s a big week for bye’s and it’s hard to imagine anyone made it through all the injuries last week unscathed, so Bucs players are suddenly thrust into fantasy prominence. Jameis Winston is a top 10 play, Mike Evans and Doug Martin are too.
Giants 33, Buccaneers 31
- The Falcons have fallen on hard times and needed something to help them get back feeling good about themselves. The football gods were on their sides and have served up the 49ers and Blaine Gabbert, who are likely to be relegated to the Arena League if they keep playing how they are of late. Even traveling to San Fran this should be a calk walk for the Falcons even struggling as they have the last few weeks.
- Start Matt Ryan, Devante Freeman, and Julio Jones with supreme confidence. Jacob Tamme is the next option in the passing game and I think he could be a sneaky good play here in daily fantasy if you wanted to buy low on a TE>
- Tony Bennett left his heart in San Francisco. Jim Harbaugh just left San Francisco and so did the hopes of 49ers fans everywhere. I think Michigan could play the 49ers NFL schedule and do better. Throwing this mess first the feet of Harbaugh and not at the feet of Colin Kaepernick is absurd. The roster construction is terrible and the holes are far ranging all over the place. There isn’t a solid position group anywhere. The whole team needs to be torn down and rebuilt from scratch at this point. Oh and the head coach stinks.
- If you have a 49er on your team not named Carlos Hyde drop him immediately. And to be completely honest the way this teams has played the last two weeks and with Hyde’s injuries I’m not even sure he is worth bothering with at this point.
Falcons 34, 49ers 9
- I was tempted to bump them to number 1 this week ahead of the Patriots. The defense was that impressive against what I still think is the best offense in the NFC, Green Bay. I didn’t because I still don’t believe that on their best day versus the Patriots best day, that they will come out on top. Especially after having to deploy some different defensive schemes than they previously have had to against the Packers. Defensive Coordinator Wade Phillips has been around a long time and I’m not sure how many tricks he has left up his sleeves. (He shouldn’t have anything up his sleeves he shouldn’t have sleeves at all!)
- Is Peyton Manning back? No. Will he be very good for a couple of weeks, especially indoors in the town he formerly owned? Start him. Demaryius Thomas. Emmanuel Sanders should run free against a Colts secondary that couldn’t cover Ted Ginn. Ronnie Hillman and CJ Anderson could both have very good games, if I had to pick one? I’d go Hillman.
- I think the Colts needed that game last week, I think they needed that win badly. They didn’t get it. They fired the offensive coordinator and we saw how that worked out for the Lions in London last week. I think this train is headed off the tracks faster than most others seem to want to admit. That doesn’t mean they still don’t make the playoffs though.
- I would run and hide from any and every Colt on my roster. That’s for this week alone, not going forward.
Broncos 42, Colts 24
SUNDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL
- What can we expect from the Eagles vaunted offense against the Cowboys defense that just shut down a better offense running just about the same sort of thing? I’m not expecting much. Sam Bradford was not the answer for Chip Kelly and it’s going to cost him the playoffs in 2016.
- I’m staying away from all Eagles not named Demarco Murray.
- I think the Cowboys get off the snide this weekend. I think that a second game for Dez Bryant and Matt Cassel together will be just enough against a bad Eagles secondary to get the Cowboys a win in big D.
Cowboys 17, Eagles 14
MONDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL
- The Bears aren’t as bad as their 2-5 record might suggest. I don’t mean that they are going to rally and make the playoffs, but I think they are going to make it interesting for a lot of teams going down the stretch. They can certainly score points and if the defense continues to make marginal improvements they are going to make playoff teams sweat late into 4th quarters the rest of the year.
- Jay Cuter, Jeremy Langford, Alshon Jeffrey and Martellius Bennett are all starters. Langford is cheap DFS buy with Matt Forte being ruled out.
- There is no home field for the Chargers anymore. The poor San Diego fans know the Padres are leaving them for their big brother Los Angeles and they have given up on the super Chargers. The Chargers haven’t been able to stop anyone all year and Keenan Allen was having a great year, but that is over so it’s hard for me to think the Chargers are going to keep bouncing back week after week with no hope of making the playoffs and no 2016 to look forward to in San Diego.
- I think you can start Phillip Rivers and Antonio Gates and maybe Malcolm Floyd.
Bears 30, Chargers 27