If you’re new to RotoExperts.com or if you’ve never read the Xpert Eye, then welcome. The XE is a (mostly) daily column that typically focuses on the important issues of the day. The vast majority of this past week has been spent on the potential return of Wes Welker and Josh Gordon from their respective suspensions, which I may as well update since you’re here.
That story is in a holding pattern pending the outcome of a vote by the NFL Players Association on changes to the NFLs drug policy, including the addition of HGH testing, changes to the designation of certain substances from PED to substances of abuse and raising the threshold for blood levels of marijuana that would trigger a positive test. As of now, a vote could come as soon as today. The NFLPA could also impose a deadline for an agreement to be reached, or they could table any further discussion and choose to wait until either later in the season or after the season ends before continuing talks with the NFL.
If a vote does take place and the NFLPA approves an agreement, at least some of the 20 or so players currently suspended under the current rules could be reinstated. Wes Welker will likely return to the Broncos under the terms of the pending agreement; it is believed to contain language that would overturn failed drug tests that occurred after March of this year.
However, since Gordon failed his drug test in 2013, it appears that his case would be left to Roger Goodell’s discretion. The latest speculation is that Gordon’s suspension would be reduced to eight games, which would put him back on the field for the Cleveland Browns for their Week 10 game against the Cincinnati Bengals on Thursday, November 6. If you’ve got Gordon stashed away, you’ve done well for yourself, but if he’s still available in your league, now is the time to make your play for him, especially if the NFLPA votes and approves the new measures today.
Now that we’ve dispensed with that bit of business, let’s get to the real focus of today’s Xpert Eye. What follows here are matchups to exploit and avoid this weekend. Whatever you do, though, don’t bench an established stud or known quantity to run to the waiver wire or activate players listed here based solely on the matchup. Always roll with your best players. These are just some players that I believe will exceed or fall way short of expectations this week. You can use these recommendations to decide between somewhat evenly ranked players this weekend.
PASSING MATCHUPS TO EXPLOIT
Jake Locker and Titans Receivers vs. Dallas Cowboys – Locker withstood the Kansas City Chiefs pass rush to complete 22 off 33 pass attempts for 266 yards and two TDs despite being sacked four times. He showed solid decision making skills and generally looked like he is finally ready to deliver on the promise he’s long shown but had yet to fulfill, mainly due to injury issues. The Dallas defense is practically non-existent and just lost LB Justin Durant for the next 3-4 weeks, further demoralizing an already weak group. Locker should pick these guys apart. Definitely start Kendall Wright in this one and Justin Hunter is also in line for a big game.
Ryan Tannehill and Dolphins Receivers vs. Buffalo Bills – Tannehill looked pretty damn good against the Patriots; he spread the ball around and connected with Mike Wallace in key situations and in the red zone. Jay Cutler hung 341 passing yards on a vulnerable looking Bills secondary. The Bills came away with a win but I’m not convinced they’re all that good. Tannehill will connect with Wallace this week too.
Carson Palmer and Cardinals Receivers vs. NY Giants – Palmer carved up the San Diego Chargers for 304 yards and a pair of scores, and that was without utilizing Larry Fitzgerald all that much. The Giants allowed Matthew Stafford to embarrass them on Monday Night Football to the tune of 341 passing yards and a pair of touchdowns. The Giants defense looked almost as bad as Dallas. Almost. Look for both Fitzgerald and Michael Floyd to have big games.
PASSING MATCHUPS TO AVOID
Robert Griffin III and Redskins Receivers vs. Jacksonville Jaguars – Griffin’s struggles to convert to a pocket passer are well documented but what worries me most is the poor play of his offensive line. Griffin was sacked three times for minus 26 yards in Week 1 and he was hit 14 times during the game against the Texans. Meanwhile, the Jaguars sacked Nick Foles five times for minus 47 yards in Week 1, meaning Griffin and his o-line will face another stiff challenge this week. This could be another very ugly game for RG3. You have to start Pierre Garcon and DeSean Jackson but I wouldn’t bother with anyone else.
E.J. Manuel and Bills Receivers vs. Miami Dolphins – In general, Manuel is gradually learning and improving as a quarterback and I believe there is hope for him to someday be a Fantasy-worthy asset. But that day is still off in the future. This week, he’ll face a Dolphins pass rush that was in Tom Brady’s face throughout their Week 1 game; they sacked Brady four times for minus 23 yards. Granted, the Dolphins have some injury woes on defense, but while Buffalo does a nice job of run blocking, their pass blocking leaves a lot to be desired and I envision Manuel spending too much time on the run to be effective in this game. Keep low expectations for Robert Woods, and the rest of the Bills receivers should probably be on your bench.
Derek Carr and Raiders Receivers vs. Houston Texans – As mentioned, the Texans put a hurtin’ on RGIII and I would expect more of the same for Derek Carr; the Raiders’ offensive line might be even worse than that of the Redskins. The Oakland passing game relies on a dink and dunk/short passing scheme, which the Texans should be able to shut down easily. The rookie just isn’t ready for what will come his way from J.J. Watt and company. This will be a tough day for Rod Streater and James Jones.
RUSHING MATCHUPS TO EXPLOIT
Montee Ball vs. Kansas City Chiefs – The Chiefs allowed the Titans to pile up an astounding 162 rushing yards in Week 1, led by Shonn Greene’s 71 yards on 15 carries (4.7 YPC). For those who were disappointed by Montee Ball’s measly 67 yards on 23 carries (2.9 YPC), this could be the week we see him top the century mark, especially if he gets that many touches again.
Frank Gore vs. Chicago Bears – The Bears were the worst in the NFL vs. opposing RBs last season, allowing an average 161 yards per game. Last week, the Buffalo Bills ran roughshod over the Bears, amassing 193 yards on just 33 carries (5.8 YPC). Frank Gore ran for 66 yards against Dallas last week but had his TD chance vultured by Carlos Hyde, who piled on another 50 yards. Gore will rack up better yardage this week, and given the holes in the Bears’ front seven, I wouldn’t be surprised if he broke one or two for long yardage and a score. Hyde is a viable Flex play in this matchup.
RUSHING MATCHUPS TO AVOID
Steven Ridley vs. Minnesota Vikings – In general, Ridley looks like a bad play this season. It’s obvious that Shane Vereen is Bill Belichick’s first choice to fill the primary running back role, as he received the most total touches (running and passing) among the Patriots RBs last week, a trend I fully expect to continue. The Vikings’ revamped defense looked solid against the run last week, holding the Rams to just 72 rushing yards. Where Minny can be beat is through the air, and I fully expect Tom Brady to make 50-plus pass attempts again this week. Ridley won’t see much action at all, but Vereen will still be a decent start, especially in PPR leagues.
Rashad Jennings & Andre Williams vs. Arizona Cardinals – Jennings had a solid game against Detroit with a total of 96 yards through the air and on the ground, while Williams was disappointing, to say the least. Arizona held the Chargers to just 52 rushing yards in Week 1, proving that they are a formidable squad against the run. The Giants will be playing from behind from the start of this one, so they’ll abandon the ground game early and probably watch Eli Manning throw the game away. You want no part of anything to do with the Giants right now.
Trent Richardson vs. Philadephia Eagles – At this point, I’m not sure I’d start Richardson against a Pop Warner team. The Eagles held Jacksonville to just 64 yards on 25 rush attempts, so they’re pretty stout against the run. This looks like a shootout between Nick Foles and Andrew Luck. So Ahmad Bradshaw, who had five catches for 70 yards last week, will still have some value in PPR formats.