Fantasy Matchup Breakdowns
Welcome to the second instalment of ‘Schematic Study’, a fantasy football article that is slightly different to stuff you will see on other websites. This article looks at the tactical side of the game, and I watch a lot of tape in order to identify schematic weaknesses in opposition defences that can be exploited by receivers and running backs. This is essentially a start-em article, but with a deeper look at the tactical side of the game, and by taking a deeper look at defensive tendencies, we can pinpoint favourable fantasy matchups, as opposed to just labelling an entire defence as bad.
Last week’s top predictions included: Golden Tate, LeGarrette Blount, and Coby Fleener. Check my week one article here to recap.
Cardinals vs. Colts
The main news surrounding the Arizona Cardinals this week has been around David Johnson, and the current infatuation with the Cardinals running backs have caused people to overlook their exciting and deep wide receiving corps. JJ Nelson is probably the 2nd best receiver on this roster at the moment as John Brown has not performed, and the likes of Jaron Brown have underwhelmed. JJ Nelson finished with a touchdown against the Lions and was a reliable target for a struggling Carson Palmer. Nelson has primarily been used as a deep threat, but in week one he became used underneath, which is excellent for his fantasy value. He could in theory break out this week, as he has a very favourable matchup against a Colts defence that allowed seven completions of ten yards or over, a total only beaten by the New Orleans Saints. The Colts secondary isn’t actually that bad on paper, but their pass rush is non-existent, and Carson Palmer should have a lot of time to throw. Nelson’s usage in week one suggests a bigger role for him, but his 4.28 speed means he has the potential for a big play against a defence that enjoys shipping them. Nelson is only owned by 4.4% of teams on NFL.Com, and it is time for that to change.
Bucs vs. Bears
The Chicago Bears defence is one of the most underrated in the league as they have a wizard of a coordinator in Vic Fangio, but they have a clear weakness at safety. Austin Hooper waltzed through their secondary for an easy touchdown on Sunday night, and both Eddie Jackson and Quintin Demps struggled throughout the encounter. I do not think Cameron Brate’s fantasy owners should expect an 88 yard touchdown this week, but he is a reliable play as he could exploit a chink in the Buccaneers armour. The Bears are terrific against the run, so Dirk Koetter may prefer to pass on third and short situations, which means Cameron Brate should see a lot of volume. Brate is also in theory the odd man out for a defensive coordinator, as the most attention will go towards Mike Evans and DeSean Jackson, which is the most deadly receiving one-two punch in the NFL. Vic Fangio likes to use ultra-deep coverage most of the time anyway, but he will use this to the extreme to stop Jackson, which means Cameron Brate will see a lot of volume, and is a must play in DFS.
Chargers vs. Miami DolphinsThe Miami Dolphins have a defence that is relatively solid across the board, but I have spotted what I believe to be a schematic weakness. They will be solid against the run and should generate enough edge rush, but they could struggle at covering intermediate level threats as they do not have a single linebacker who is known for their coverage skills. Both Lawrence Timmons and Kiko Alonso will be on the field in sub packages, and both struggle in coverage, which means that they could end up giving up a lot of short passes due to the fact teams will not want to run on Ndamukong Suh , William Hayes and Cameron Wake. Keenan Allen has been the underneath threat in this offence for some time, and he should see a lot of volume on Sunday, and remains a must play in DFS formats for me.
Broncos vs. Cowboys
The Dallas Cowboys had a relatively easy first test as they played a team with no run game, and a team without their WR1 in the Giants, but they could fall back down to earth against the Denver Broncos. Dallas often like to go with a 3-2-6 formation on the road, and the variety of receiving threats the Broncos have means that Rod Marinelli will likely opt for this strategy for the entire game. The main benefactor of this could be CJ Anderson, who is really due to have a breakout game sooner rather than later. The Cowboys have lost a lot of bodies on the front end of their defence, and the cracks will begin to show sooner rather than later as Rod Marinelli’s genius can only gloss over so much. Mike McCoy has begun to mix some outside zone concepts into the Broncos playbook, and Dallas lack the players who can stop a potent running game, so CJ Anderson is one of the best value picks in draft kings or your fantasy leagues this weekend.
Redskins vs. Rams
The Rams played a mix of man and zone coverage under Gregg Williams, but they look set to switch to a man-heavy scheme under Wade Phillips. The secondary looked good in week one, but the reality is that the Rams do not have the personnel to use man-heavy coverage, and this means that the Redskins wideouts could all be in for a fun afternoon on Sunday. Trumaine Johnson has a high reputation, but he is more of a zone corner than a man corner, which is why the Rams were so desperate to trade him in the off-season. Terrelle Pryor is likely the man who will draw the coverage from Trumaine Johnson, and he should be in for a big week after an underwhelming week one performance against the Eagles. He will get a lot of intermediate work on slant patterns, but go routes and post routes are where he could cause the Rams a lot of problems, and he looks to be good value this weekend.
Saints vs. Patriots
It feels boring to put Fleener in this feature for the second week in a row, but he has a really nice matchup against a Patriots defence that needs fixing sooner rather than later. Matt Patricia and Bill Belichick will likely find a way to plug a unit up that gave up a league-leading 6.9 yards per carry on the ground in week one, but they have other weaknesses that will be hard to fix. One of the things they struggled with against Kansas City, was defending seam routes, and no QB is better at throwing those than Drew Brees. Sean Payton’s offensive line has been ravaged by injuries, but Coby Fleener still has the potential to go deep, and the Patriots will likely find it hard to stop him due to the continued struggles of Patrick Chung and Kyle Van Noy in coverage. Fleener is getting a lot of targets anyway due to the absence of Snead, but his potency in the seam routes and Brees’ ability to find him is something that makes him a very attractive play this weekend.
Seahawks vs. 49ers
Deep Dive of the week
Paul Richardson is one of the more undervalued WRs on the waiver wire at this point in time, as he is the WR2 of one of the best QBs in the game. The Seahawks offence was pretty garbage against the Packers in week one, but Richardson still managed to put up 59 yards, and he looked dangerous on the rare occasions that Seattle were effective in non-heavy sets. The 49ers defence looked good in week one, but they had a good matchup as Carolina don’t have a single receiver with any real speed to burn on the deep ball. The 49ers corners are all bigger players, and Paul Richardson has a legit shot of being a big play threat this week. The Seahawks are much better at moving the chains at home, and this could be the week where Richardson’s ownership jumps by 5-10%, so it makes sense to get ahead of the game early.