5th Down’s Matt New weighs in with his unique take on who he’s high on and who might be better sitting this week out from a fantasy perspective.
Cool your Jets
Last week, seven different players for the Dallas Cowboys defense notched a TFL. Seven. They also had seven sacks and 12 hits, and Daniel Jones got in his cardio for the month. Three players posted a top-six pass rush win rate at the edge: Dorance Armstrong, Dante Fowler, and Sam Williams.
You may have never heard of these players. It doesn’t matter. It’s about the defensive unit as a whole. They generated pressure on 23 of 37 dropbacks. That 62% pressure rate is one of the best since data nerds have started to collect it. Micah Parsons operated at linebacker, along the edge, and even inside as a tackle and wreaked havoc on the entire city of New York. The Giants offense logged a -0.24 EPA. Yes, that’s a real number. Bill Barnwell just told me. They were better off kneeling from the first drive.
Now imagine that defense against, say, an offense with a shaky line and a shakier quarterback that is being led by Nathaniel Hackett. This team had high aspirations and is currently gaslighting themselves into thinking they could meet said aspirations. They’re sleepwalking and they’re about to have a traumatic nightmare.
Yes, the Jets. J-E-T-S.
You have to sit Breece Hall and Dalvin Cook. If you can sit Garrett Wilson, do that too.
It’s not that they cannot generate points—we saw last week Hall rip off an 83-yard run and Zach Wilson get in the end zone after Rodgers went down—but the probability of them having meaningful fantasy games is very thin.
If the Jets have any chance of winning it’s because their defense carried them. A 9-3 final score that would cream Robert Saleh’s pantaloons. There won’t be many points at all for the Jets; not after Wilson gets in his cardio.
Vic Fangio invites you to run all over him
The Chargers finished last week averaging 0.31 EPA per designed rush. That’s about 5x better than the second-place team in Week 1. That was as good as Patrick Mahomes’s EPA last year. You can think of it this way—it is the mirrored opposite of how bad the Giants performed last week with their -0.24 EPA.
Sure, they have a healthy offensive line and Kellen Moore is calling plays and Joshua Kelly looked good and all, but I am guessing this is as much about the Dolphins rush defense. Remember that Vic Fangio is now the DC of the team, and the Fangio defense is essentially a-run funnel system. 2-high, eliminate the big play, and allow the opposing team to make hay up the gut. This is the man who tutored Brandon Staley himself, the master, the purveyor of giving up yards on the ground.
I bring this up because this week they’re playing a team that would love nothing more than to run duo up the gut all Sunday long. If only it was 1985! I’m speaking here of the New England Patriots, and while their offensive line is not up to par with the Chargers’, they will make up for it in volume. Like the Jets, their path to winning is to make the game as short as possible.
Expect no-longer-ill Rhamondre Stevenson to have a big game.
You can even take a dart through on Ezekiel Elliott. The Patriots will pound the rock as long as they can against the Dolphins. Vic Fangio will be laying down the red carpet.
Don’t Mess with Cleveland. (At least their secondary.)
Speaking of teams that limit explosive plays, see the Cleveland Browns. Last week Jim Schwartz’s gang was able to contain the Bengals receivers being aggressive with man coverage and changing looks from pre-snap positions. Joe Burrow went 1 for 11 with throws over 10 yards and the Bengals—a team with the best current receiving core and one the most explosive playmakers—had no explosive passes.
The sudden change of pre-snap looks charges the quarterback to hold the ball just a tick longer, and that tick is all Myles Garrett and Za’Darius Smith need sometimes. Meanwhile, their excellent coverage cornerbacks Denzel Ward, Greg Newsome, and Juan Thornhill blanket receivers and you have what happened to Burrow last week.
I don’t see how George Pickens has a good fantasy day. Do you?
He posted a 62% catch rate last year, which, yes, wasn’t good. For a trope X-receiver he lined up on the outside on 83% of snaps and had chronic separation issues. He finished in the 5th percentile in success rate against man and against zone. His talent lies on post- and go-routes, and these are exactly the type of routes the Browns are experts at making disappear.
If he doesn’t have that big play, and the chances of him doing so are thin, then you’re going to be disappointed starting him. Remember he is a player who has quite a basement. He had six games last year with less than 5 points. His low is too low for comfort, especially when you can see it coming.
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