AFC North Preview Josh Brickner

What We Learned From Last Week:

Simply the Best.  The Pittsburgh Steelers offense will only go as far as Le’Veon Bell and Antonio Brown take them. The dynamic duo combined for 346 of the Steelers’ 439 total yards of offense in knocking off the previously undefeated Chiefs in KC. Le’Veon Bell has returned to form after missing training camp and, along with Brown, are two of the most reliable fantasy options at their positions and should be started with confidence every week. A week after publicly questioning his abilities, Ben Roethlisberger played better (252 yards 1 TD 1 INT), but is still just a weekly streaming option depending on the matchup.

A Fantasy Wasteland. (Heavy Sigh) As both a fantasy football writer and a lifelong Cleveland sports’ fan, there’s nothing to like about the Browns performance against the Texans in Week 6. The QB competition is a race to the bottom as Kevin Hogan showed he likes throwing the ball to the other team (3 INTs) just as much as DeShone Kizer. This instability at QB, and within the entire organization, render the rest of the Browns offense as pariahs of both the NFL and fantasy football indefinitely.

Where’s the Offense? The Ravens D/ST (1 Punt Return TD, 1 Kickoff Return TD) and Justin Tucker (3/3 FGs) demonstrated they are Baltimore’s most valuable fantasy assets as they accounted for all of the points in a 27-24 OT loss to Chicago. Joe Flacco (180 yards, 2 INTs) and the entire Ravens’ aerial attack was an anemic mess and should not be trusted moving forward. The Ravens backfield continues to be a frustrating timeshare as Javorius “Buck” Allen out-snapped Alex Collins 47-22 per usual but Collins won the rushing battle on the stat sheet turning 15 carries into 74 yards compared to 10/49 for Allen. Allen was able to turn 4 targets into 3 catches for 17 yards and is a weekly flex option in PPR leagues while Collins is the same in standard (non-PPR) settings.  Sit both against a staunch Vikings D that has allowed the second-fewest fantasy points to the running back position.

What to Watch For:

Is Tyler Kroft a TE1? During the Bengals’ bye week it was announced that starting tight end Tyler Eifert would be out for the remainder of the season following back surgery. Enter Tyler Kroft.  Since Eifert was ruled out for Week 3, Kroft has turned 16 targets into 13 receptions for 134 yards. Better yet, Kroft has shown himself to be a reliable RZ weapon for Andy Dalton converting his three targets into two TDs.  Kroft has been the second most targeted Bengal (behind every week starter and fantasy stud A.J. Green) since Week 3 and has settled into Eifert’s role as the team’s second receiving option.  Given the depressing state of the TE position in fantasy football, along with Andy Dalton’s affinity for targeting TEs in the red zone, Kroft is a weekly starter until further notice.    

The Disappearance of Martavis Bryant. For the fourth straight week, Martavis Bryant was out-snapped (44-33) by rookie JuJu Smith-Schuster. Neither man had a great statistical performance (JuJu: 3/32 Bryant: 3/27) as Antonio Brown carried the load for the entire WR corps. Unfortunately for Bryant, the 33 offensive snaps were his lowest of the season and it’s time to declare JuJu Smith-Schuster as the #2 WR for the Pittsburgh Steelers. To make matters worse for Bryant, a report came out Sunday evening that he had requested a trade out of Pittsburgh (it was later refuted by Bryant himself). JuJu Smith-Schuster still remains a great stash and you can do the same with Bryant, but he is definitely on the fringe of being rosterable at the moment (I traded Bryant for Amari Cooper straight up in a PPR league last week; my little brother and I agreed Monday morning we both lost).  Both men should be left on your fantasy bench this week against a Cincinnati defense which allows the 5th least fantasy points to opposing WRs.

Who Drops the Boom:

Joe Mixon

Since Bill Lazor was promoted to be the Bengals Offensive Coordinator before Week 3, Joe Mixon has dominated the offensive snaps (101) for the Cincy backfield. Unfortunately, this increased opportunity has only translated to pedestrian fantasy numbers for Mixon as he has rushed 50 times for 142 yards while catching all seven of his targets for 58 yards in the last three games. Want some good news for the talented, yet controversial former Sooner? In the team’s last game in Buffalo, Mixon received the only two red zone carries of the game and scored his first NFL TD. Jeremy Hill had dominated the RZ carries for the Bengals over the first four games, but perhaps the team is turning to Mixon after Hill failed to find paydirt on those nine carries. This increase in scoring opportunities (Mixon has 5 RZ carries with Lazor as OC) and a matchup against an RB friendly Pittsburgh defense (7th most fantasy points allowed) make Mixon a must-start this week. Talent and opportunity are the two biggest predictors of success in fantasy football and Mixon has both. This could finally be the week of his much-anticipated breakout game and you don’t want all those points left on your bench.

Who Drops the Ball:

The Entire Browns Offense

Even though the Tennessee Titans defense allows 27.3 points per game (2nd most in the NFL) you should feel confident starting zero players from this hapless offense. As always, if you’re desperate and your fantasy squad has been ravaged by injuries (or are too much of a Browns homer to admit the truth) you can look to the Browns’ backfield at your own risk. Despite Cleveland trailing by multiple TDs for the majority of the game against Houston, pass-catching speedster/garbage-time hero Duke Johnson Jr. only received 8 touches (5 carries/40 yards; 3 receptions/-1 yards) and was out-snapped by Isaiah Crowell 32-30.  The Crow didn’t do much with his increased workload rushing 12 times for 58 yards while catching both of his targets for 12 yards. While both are precarious RB2/Flex options, I would give Duke the slight lean as he should return to his mop-up duty role when the Browns likely trail by double digits on Sunday.  (I’ll say this every week until he scores a TD) Isaiah Crowell remains a TD-dependent flex option who has yet to find the end zone this season.

Game Predictions:

Tennessee Titans 34 Cleveland Browns 13

Pittsburgh Steelers 27 Cincinnati Bengals 24

Minnesota Vikings 20 Baltimore Ravens 14


AFC South Preview  – Shaun Crandall

What We Learned Last Week:

Jacksonville looked competitive against the Rams after the first quarter, however, the separation began after that, with the Rams defense asserting itself sacking Blake Bortles a number of times, and forcing two fumbles. Jacksonville still looks like a team that will compete for a division crown and a playoff spot.

What to Watch For:

Jacoby Brissett continues to show he is a functional fantasy quarterback. He shouldn’t be starting, unless injuries have struck, but as a bye week starter and situational player, he has placed himself on the radar. I expect this week to be a decent week for Brissett, more so because of his running ability and not his arm. Jacksonville will shrink the field for the young signal-caller and push him into utilizing his legs. I think he is a high-end QB2 this week and if Derek Carr is the starter on your team, Brissett may be a good alternative.

Who Brings the Boom:

Tennessee should be able to handle Cleveland with relative ease this week and will be able to with the ground game. I think this allows Rishard Matthews to feast. He’s had one lone touchdown to this point in the year, however, I think this is the week he scores and has 5+ receptions.

Who Drops the Ball

Indianapolis will face a tough secondary against Jacksonville and T.Y. Hilton is in the crosshairs. Hilton has had a mixed bag of production. He has had two enormous weeks, but has mostly been held in check, because of the lack of Andrew Luck and receiving targets from an inexperienced play-caller. I think this will be a lackluster week for Hilton and the Colts.

Game Predictions :

Jacksonville Jaguars 28, Indianapolis Colts 10

Tennessee Titans 24, Cleveland Browns 13

Bye: Houston Texans


AFC East PreviewJay Santos

What We Learned From Last Week:

In general what we learned from last week was that I had a bad week with my predictions.  I’ll own it and let’s move forward as I recalibrate.  However, outside of looking at the stats and the box scores that are readily available to everyone, here’s my take on what I saw on film from each game:

Patriots – New England took awhile to get things going, mainly because their defense continually gets beat left and right.  From an offensive standpoint, the Patriots O-line protected Tom and opened running lanes well against an underrated front 7.  Hogan had an off game but that was because he got hurt early and was playing through it.  Cooks started to show some rapport with Brady and Gronk gave Jamal Adams a “Welcome to the NFL Moment” with his two touchdowns.  However, the biggest takeaway is that Dion Lewis might be the preferred fantasy back moving forward.  Gillislee fumbled in the first quarter and rode the pine for most of the remainder of the game.  With that opportunity, Lewis seized the moment and showed off the same elusiveness he showed in the early portion of the 2015 season to go along with a goal-line conversion.  Yes, I can already hear people saying “here we go again, the Patriots backfield is a crapshoot.”  I hear ya, and I’m not saying to go all in on him for the rest of the season.  But what I am saying is that after performing well over the last 2 weeks, I’m starting to believe that Lewis might be the most valuable RB by seasons end.

Jets Austin Seferian-Jenkins is a top 10 TE for the rest of the season and the only Jets player worth starting.  A couple weeks ago I mentioned how he was a sleeper on a lot of people’s list during the offseason and he hasn’t disappointed since coming back from suspension.  Nobody has ever questioned his athleticism since coming out of college but his floor is also evident as he’s had no fewer than 4 catches in every game.  Throw in that he’s the team’s #1 option in the red zone after scoring in back to back weeks (don’t get me started on that BS fumble ruling on his 2nd TD) and you’ve got yourself one of the rare safe TE’s in fantasy.  Due to his offense, he likely won’t be up there with the top TE’s in regards to yardage but that’s ok outside of standard leagues.  When it comes to the TE position all you want them to be is an integral part of the offense and one of their team’s top red-zone weapons.  ASJ checks both of those boxes.  As far as the rest of the team, if there are better options out on the wire in your league, I wouldn’t be dropping everyone else.

Dolphins – The Dolphins stuck to their best offensive game plan from over the past year, feed Ajayi and control the time of possession.   If you look at the box score you’ll see 26 carries for 130 yards with 5 YPC.  Looks great but that could’ve been inflated by just one long run like [profiler]Derrick Henry ending up with 6.89 YPC because of one 72 yard run (he was averaging 3.3 YPC before that).  However, I didn’t see that from the Dolphins’ workhorse.  I saw a good amount of chunk runs, yes sprinkled in with some minimal gains, but overall he looked like the back everyone invested so highly in.  His limitations are obvious, Jay Cutler stinks as he only completed just over 57% of his passes.  However, the main takeaway is that even when the Fins we in comeback mode, they still utilized their #1 offensive player.  That is an encouraging sign as it shows that Ajayi can still be utilized even when the game flow doesn’t work in his favor.  If they continue to ride him like this, he may be able to string together a few good games against three bottom 9 teams against the run (NYJ, BAL, OAK)

What to Watch For:

Ghosts of “28-3” – Wow how things have changed from just eight months ago.  Both the Falcons and Patriots had top-notch offenses and pretty good defenses.  And it was no surprise to all of us that when they met in the Super Bowl that it would be a great battle up until the end…well maybe the Falcons didn’t think that was going to happen midway through the 3rd quarter but I digress.  Flash forward to the present and both teams look to still be figuring themselves out so, to be honest, I don’t know what to expect.  What I do know is this, the Falcons and Patriots are not playing like the defending conference champions they were last year.  But the Patriots have shown they can push adversity back when they need to while the Falcons seem to crumble in the same situations.  The Pats, now on a two-game winning streak, are utilizing the run more effectively (Dion Lewis, 105 yards over 18 rushes the last two weeks) and are getting Gronk going again now that he looks fully healthy (6-83, 2 TDs).  The Falcons achilles heel has been giving up the 23rd most points to opposing teams’ RBs.  It was on display last year in the Super Bowl when James White blew up and with Brandin Cooks now available to stretch the field and open up more room, look for that to be a focal point again for Lewis, Gillislee, and White.

Who Brings the Boom:

LeSean McCoy – Although he hasn’t had his typical amount of blow-up games outside of week 1 (27 total touches for 159 total yards), we all just saw what AP did to the Bucs’ defense this last week.  Why can’t McCoy, who’s more talented than AP at this point in their careers, expose them as well?  The Bills have struggled on offense, 31st in total yards, and with most of their other weapons on the shelf because of injury, the Bills should lean on Shady as much as they can.  He’s been on the cusp over the last couple games, 118 total yards in week 4 and 89 total yards in week 5.  Because of that and the matchup, look for him to not only get back on track but to also help carry your fantasy team this week.

Who Drops the Ball:

Jarvis Landry – As of right now, DeVante Parker is expected to play and if he does then I believe Jarvis Landry will disappoint fantasy owners this week.  A couple of things are still consistent with Landry this year from years past.  He’s a reliable target and he gets volume (top 5 in targets with 57).  However, when he doesn’t score a touchdown, he’s also showing to be one of the least efficient targets in the NFL.  It doesn’t come as a surprise to anyone that he gets most of his targets around the line of scrimmage but when that’s the case and you’re still averaging completing 66% of the passes thrown to you, that’s concerning.  Jay Cutler has a lot to do with that but with Ajayi being utilized as the focal point of the offense again, DeVante Parker showing off WR1 capabilities in their first 3 games and the fact that the Jets D proving to be above average in catch rate, under 57%, Landry is a candidate to underperform this week.

Game Predictions:

Miami 20, NYJ 16

Buffalo 24, Tampa Bay 22

New England 31, Atlanta 26


AFC West PreviewAnthony Zaragoza

What We Learned From Last Week:

Oakland Raiders – The magic of Derek Carr’s return to the starting lineup was short-lived, as Carr threw an interception on the team’s second play from scrimmage and passed for only 171 yards in their loss against the Los Angeles Charges last weekend, 17-16. The offense did rush for over 100 yards on Sunday (109), but the majority came on Cordarrelle Patterson’s fourth quarter 47 yard TD run. On the bright side for the Raiders offense, Amari Cooper finally showed some life in this game, with five catches (six targets) and 28 yards. Nothing to go crazy over, but a welcoming sight for sure.

Los Angeles Chargers – Melvin Gordon is rolling full throttle right now, after combining for 150 yards rushing and receiving and was responsible for his team’s two touchdowns in the Chargers 17-16 victory in Oakland last weekend. After a bad luck ridden 0-4 start to the season, Philip Rivers and company are on a two-game winning streak and are right back in the playoff picture in the AFC.

Kansas City ChiefsThe Chiefs are human. After their scorching five-game winning streak to start the season, where the offense averaged 414 yards a game, Kansas City struggled to move the ball offensively and lost against the Pittsburgh Steelers, 19-13 in Arrowhead. The NFL’s leading rusher Kareem Hunt was held to only four yards rushing in the first half and finished the day with only 21. Travis Kelce and Tyreek Hill combined for nine catches on the day but only 71 yards total. For whatever reason, it seems like the Steelers have the Chiefs number the last few years.

Denver Broncos – In another upset game in the AFC West, the Denver Broncos lost to the winless New York Giants at home, 23-10. After the Giants lost star WR Odell Beckham Jr to a fractured ankle injury in week 5, along with veteran Brandon Marshall and Sterling Shepherd, the Broncos also exited this loss with their top two pass catchers injured. Damaryius Thomas did return in this game and had himself one hell of a stat line (10 catches, 133 yards), but teammate Emmanuel Sanders looks like he could be out for some time with his ankle injury. The rushing game didn’t fare well either, as CJ Anderson rushed for only 17 yards on nine carries.

What to Watch For:

Can the Los Angeles Chargers make it three in a row? After starting the season 0-4 and on the brink of a total failure, the Chargers responded with two straight wins over the Giants and Raiders to get back within striking distance of the AFC Wild Card spots. Melvin Gordon has come alive, combining for 313 yards from scrimmage, four touchdowns and 15 receptions in those two victories. Coming to Los Angeles this week is the Denver Broncos, who just lost to the Giants on Sunday Night Football. Worst of all for the Broncos, they will be without WR Emmanuel Sanders and have an injured Trevor Siemian this week. The Chargers are pointing upward right now and could make some more noise this weekend with a victory against Denver.

Who Brings the Boom:

Travis Kelce – Raider safeties Reggie Nelson and Karl Joseph have been abused by tight ends all season. Last week, versus the Chargers, was no different. Hunter Henry lead his team with 90 yards receiving on five catches. On the flip side, Travis Kelce is coming off a game where he was held under wraps with only four catches and 37 yards. The last time Kelce struggled in a game, week 3 vs the Chargers, he responded the next week with seven receptions, 111 yards, and a touchdown. This game against the Raiders will produce a similar result.

Who Drops the Ball:

Trevor Siemian – After starting the season with six touchdowns in the team’s first two games, Trevor Siemian has come back to earth since then. He did pass for 378 yards last weekend against the Giants, but the former Northwestern quarterback threw two costly interceptions in that game. The Chargers are riding high right now after containing Derek Carr and the Raiders offense to only 171 yards passing and two INT’s. Denver will also be without WR Sanders in this game, so OC Mike McCoy could elect to run the ball more and rely on CJ Anderson to carry the load in this division rivalry. All signs point to a rough day for Denver and their passing attack.

Game Predictions:

Kansas City Chiefs 28, Oakland Raiders 17

Los Angeles Chargers 20, Denver Broncos 17


Writer for Dynasty Football Factory @DFF_Fantasy & @DFF_Dynasty. Follow me on Twitter @JaymanDFF. #DFFArmy #DynastyFootball #FantasyFootball

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