By The Hudsonian, Joshua Hudson
Everyone has that one friend who they play against year in and year out. You look at the schedule when the season starts and you circle that week on your calendar. You know going into the week that trash will be talked, feelings will be hurt, and there is absolutely zero love lost. It is spectacular.
This is that week for me. I’ve been playing fantasy football for close to 15 years and I have one friend who I’ve played against since the beginning. We currently play in four different leagues together. But one league, the league that matters, the league this site was inspired by, is the one we put all the marbles into. And this is the week we face off.
Of course, I’m talking about The Commish. He’s currently 5-0 with an abnormally large lead in points through five weeks. I should also tell you he drafted David Johnson first overall and hasn’t let it affect him whatsoever. I’m 4-1 and coming off a week when I led the league in points scored. It’s very rare a fantasy team goes undefeated for a large stretch of the season, let alone starts the season and ends the season as the top seed. No one has done it in our league. But The Commish dropped this little tidbit on me this week and I couldn’t help but share:
“No one (in) our league has ever gone wire to wire as the #1 seed from the start of the regular season to the end of the playoffs. I am currently 5-0 and have been #1 since the end of the first week.
In 1999, FSU became the first team to go wire to wire as the AP #1 ranked team.
We play each other this week (Week 6). In 1999, FSU played Miami in Week 6.”
I should mention The Commish is an FSU grad and I’m a huge Miami Hurricanes fan. I would also like to point out that while I’ve won this league twice, I haven’t won since 2009, the last time Miami toppled FSU. And just in case you live under a rock, Miami beat FSU this past weekend in one of the most exhilarating games I’ve ever watched in my life.
Irony, how I heart thee.
That brings us to this week’s Confidence Plays. Here’s your refresher because I know you’ll get this confused. This column serves as a Start/Sit of sorts. I break things down into three categories. Start means exactly that. These are your studs, the guys we know are going to be studs this year and this is a week they return some of that draft value. Get them into your lineup! Play analyzes the fringe starters, your FLEX plays if you will. These guys could be on your bench one week and thrust into your starting lineup the next based on the matchup. When you see them mentioned here, put them in your lineup in some way, shape, or form. Do not misconstrue what Bench means. Seriously. I’m not saying to not start the players that end up in this section. Maybe they’re your studs that you know you’re going to start, but with bad match-ups, temper expectations. If I tell you to bench them, then you can blame me if they go off. These choices are based on my rankings, so feel free to check them out if you haven’t already!
QB Matt Ryan & WR Julio Jones (ATL) – The Falcons’ gunslinger has been a shell of his 2016 MVP self to start 2017, with only 5 TDs to 5 INTs through four weeks. The Dolphins defense is currently 2nd in the NFL in total defense and gives up the 7th fewest passing yards. Ryan, through weeks 1-4, was 6th in the NFL in passing. This is a case of “the bye week fixes the issues.” Jones will be moved around, likely away from SS Reshard Jones’ side of the field. If the Falcons can get him on the side of the field with CB Xavien Howard and FS Nate Allen, it’s going to be a good day for Ryan and Jones owners.
QB Kirk Cousins (WSH) – There was a lot of talk about the 49ers making a run for Redskins QB Kirk Cousins, whether it was this past offseason (they didn’t) or next (they might). They will now get a firsthand look at their potential future signal-caller. The 49ers have actually been competitive, but they still allow an average of 20.1 fantasy points to QBs per contest. Cousins should put on a show this week and I will gladly purchase front row seats.
RB Kareem Hunt (KC) – Is there anything this guy can’t do? Hunt’s fantasy totals have actually declined in each of the last three weeks. You know what fixes those types of woes? A date with the Steelers and their run defense that allowed Jordan Howard and Leonard Fournette to rush for a combined 321 yards and 4 TDs. The way Hunt has run this year – three straight 100 yard rushing games – he’s going to hit 200 yards on the Steelers. He’s my number one RB this week.
RB Leonard Fournette (JAX) – The aforementioned Fournette is riding a wave of confidence so high, he’s actually telling defenders to hit him. Someone with that much confidence deserves a spot in this week’s Confidence Plays. It also helps his’s going against a Rams team that allows the 2nd most fantasy points to opposing RBs through five weeks. I’m thinking there will be a respectable encore to his 181 yard, 2 TD performance from a week ago.
RB Todd Gurley (LAR) – If you want a defensive game that will likely move very quickly due to all the running plays being called, this week’s Rams-Jags game is for you. It will also feature Fournette and Gurley, two young stud RBs who have ascended to the top of your fantasy loving hearts. Gurley is second in the NFL in touches through five weeks and the Jags have been vulnerable on the ground, allowing the 8th most fantasy points to opposing RBs so far this season. Ground and pound in Jacksonville this week, and you can’t go wrong with either team’s RB.
WR DeAndre Hopkins (HOU) – Hopkins continues to make fantasy owners pay for passing on him after a down 2016. He tacked on 3 TD receptions to his season total, vaulting him to number one among WRs in fantasy to date. You know how you stay there? A date with the Browns. The Browns rank dead last in DVOA to opposing #1 WRs, allowing an average of 96.3 yards. Sit back and enjoy the show this weekend.
WR T.Y. Hilton (IND) – Filling in for the injured Andrew Luck, Jacoby Brissett has kept Hilton among fantasy’s best WRs. He’s currently tied for 10th in fantasy points per game with 15.3, and he faces a Titans defense that allows the 3rd most fantasy points to opposing WRs, and an average of 82.8 yards per game to opposing #1 WRs. Hilton should have no problem hitting 100 yards this week.
TE Delanie Walker (TEN) – The Monday Night game this week should be an offensive show, in stark contrast to last week’s contest. The Colts are abysmal on defense, and allow TEs the 7th most fantasy points. Mariota is expected to play, but with an iffy hammy, I don’t expect him to be running much, which means he’ll be looking for his favorite target early and often. Walker is my number three TE this week.
QB Deshaun Watson (HOU) – He’s my number one QB this week. If he does it again, he’s getting promoted to “Start” status. He has been on fire the last three weeks, and last week’s garbage time definitely helped pad the stats. But against Cleveland, he’s going for a six spot for TDs. You want to bet against him?
QB Carson Palmer (ARI) – Call Palmer old all you want, but he’s still slinging the football. He’s currently 2nd in the NFL in passing yards and has thrown at least one touchdown in every game this season. The Bucs are going cross-country – never easy – and allow the 5th most fantasy points to QBs. Palmer should go for multiple TDs for just the 2nd time this season.
QB Jacoby Brissett (IND) – Brissett may not throw a lot of TDs – only two so far this season – but he’s thrown for 216 yards or more in all four of his starts, including 314 last week. The Titans allow the 2nd most fantasy points to QB this year. He also has three rushing TDs so far and what he adds on the ground is worthy of a spot start if you have Dak Prescott or Russell Wilson on a bye.
RB Lamar Miller (HOU) – Miller has averaged 20 fantasy points over the last two weeks. It obviously helps having a mobile QB to keep defenses honest. The Browns have actually played solid run defense and allow the 9th fewest fantasy points to RBs thus far. But outside of Le’Veon Bell in Week One – off a carry-less preseason – they’ve yet to face a good RB. I think Miller does some damage in the receiving game as well here to keep his value high this week.
RB Ameer Abdullah (DET) – He’s getting the football, 10th in the NFL in carries, and has added 10 catches on 11 targets. With a hobbled Matthew Stafford, it makes me think the Lions will lean on Abdullah a lot this game. The Saints allow an averaged of 28.4 fantasy points per game to RBs so yeah, Abdullah should be good for a solid RB2 performance this week.
RB Chris Thompson (WSH) – Did you know little ol’ Chris Thompson is averaging 18.9 fantasy points per game, good for 6th best among RBs? Crazy, right? The 49ers also allow the 4th most fantasy points to RBs, so even with Rob Kelley starting, this should be a big game for Thompson, especially through the air.
RB Elijah McGuire (NYJ) – Who? I know, you probably have no clue who this rookie from Louisiana-Lafeyette is. He’s actually the third string RB on the Jets. But Matt Forte has missed the last couple of weeks and now Bilal Powell is banged up. McGuire scoots – he ran a 4.53 40 at the combine but we know how misleading those times can be – and the Patriots are basically an open running lane on defense for RBs, allowing the most fantasy points to RBs. Sneaky play this week.
WRs Chris Hogan & Brandin Cooks (NE) – Speaking of the Patriots, their WRs are awesome. Hogan and Cooks have combined for 7 TD receptions through 5 weeks, and the Jets gave up 3 TDs alone to Michael Crabtree in Week 2. The Jets have limited WRs to 31.1 fantasy points per game to WRs, but they haven’t faced Tom Brady. You think Brady likes waking up in the morning and seeing his Patriots are tied with the Jets for the AFC Esat lead? Think again.
WR Alshon Jeffery (PHI) – Jeffery has been quiet through five weeks. Carson Wentz on the other hand has been loud and awesome. The Panthers cover WRs well, and while I think Zach Ertz will have a good game, I think this will be Jeffery’s coming out party in an Eagles uniform. The Panthers were torched by Brady and Drew Brees, and while Wentz isn’t on that level yet, Jeffery is a stud WR. This is a gut call folks. Treat it how you choose.
WR Rishard Matthews (TEN) – As I’ve already said, Monday Night’s contest between the Titans and Colts should be a shoot out. Mariota has a comfort with Matthews dating back to last year and the Colts secondary allows the 9th most fantasy points to WRs. Trust Matthews this week the way Mariota does.
WR Will Fuller V (HOU) – 4 TDs in 2 weeks lands you here. Talk about announcing one’s self after missing the first few weeks due to injury. Watson’s surge to the top has coincided with Fuller’s return. He stretches the field and takes focus away from Hopkins. This is exactly what the Texans imagined when they drafted Fuller a year ago. Again, it’s the Browns, so big game ahead for all of the Texans’ skill position players.
TE Evan Engram (NYG) – You don’t usually get a favorable ranking from me a week after throwing up a goose egg for fantasy owners, but let’s be honest, who else does Eli Manning have to throw the football to? If there’s one area of weakness in the Broncos’ defense, it’s covering TEs. They were 21st last year in fantasy points allowed, and 27th so far this year. Eli needs a new #1 weapon now that OBJ is done for the year. Let’s see if the rookie answers the call.
TE Cameron Brate (TB) – Much like Mariota with Walker and Matthews, Winston has a lot of trust in Cameron Brate. People told me I was crazy for thinking Brate would outscore rookie TE O.J. Howard this year in fantasy. Hey, just because you’re a 1st round pick doesn’t mean you succeed right away. You have to earn the QB’s trust. Give Howard time, he will, but for now, it’s all Brate. He’s currently 3rd in average fantasy points per game among TEs, and the Cardinals are middle of the road when covering TEs. DeSean Jackson will be able to stretch the field against the CB not named Patrick Peterson, which should open up the middle of the field for Brate.
Streaming defenses of the week are the Falcons D/ST, Redskins D/ST, and the Texans D/ST.
QB Derek Carr, RB Marshawn Lynch, & WR Amari Cooper (OAK) – Carr isn’t 100%, Cooper has been abysmal, and Lynch looks like he missed a whole year of football. Crabtree should be fine as he works over the middle, but I don’t expect a huge day for Carr as he works through playing with his back injury.
RB Jay Ajayi & WR DeVante Parker (MIA) – The Dolphins are just bad. This isn’t a glowing endorsement for the Falcons defense, more like a denouncement of the Dolphins offense. They can’t block and Cutler looks disinterested in earning his $10 million salary. Sometimes the eye test supersedes the stats.
WR Mike Evans (TB) – Look, you’re starting him. Hell, I’m starting him. But the Cardinals will have Patrick Peterson blanketing Mike Evans all game. There won’t be a single play where Evans is covered by another member of the Cardinals secondary. #1 WRs average 30.7 yards per game against the Cardinals. This will be a Brate/DJax game for the Bucs this week.
WR Demaryius Thomas (DEN) – With the Giants in town, expect a lot of Janoris Jenkins on Thomas. This is an Emmanuel Sanders game folks.
TE Kyle Rudolph (MIN) – He redeemed himself last week, but he’s been awfully quiet this season without Sam Bradford throwing to him. The Packers allow the 2nd fewest fantasy points to TEs. Yeah, passing here.
TE Jack Doyle (IND) – He hasn’t clicked well with Brissett, and he’s been dealing with a concussion. And the Titans do defend TEs well, so there’s that.
Any Giants offensive player not named Evan Engram (NYG) – Are you surprised to see them here? With no healthy WRs and an offensive line who can’t block a flock of 6-month olds, Manning is on life support. Not this week.