The opening three weeks has been a very unsettling ride for fantasy owners. From injuries, mysteriously poor, and good performances, to seemingly unexplained weekly upsets it’s been hard to predict anything.
One thing that is becoming clear to me is that offenses due to inflexibility by coaches have not been making adjustments when a defense, or defenses, are able to take away their strengths. It does not matter if that strength is passing or running. Game after game this season I have seen eight men in the box to stuff the run or DB personnel and coverage schemes to shut down deep passing and zero adjustments by coaches to exploit the new vulnerabilities that have been created.
The big question that therefore must be answered prior to predicting success or failure of team’s offense going forward is, “Can this defense take away the pass or run?” Because unless you have a great QB checking to the right play or your team’s coach is named Belichick the chances are that the numbers for your RB, WR, or TE are going to be lower than the prediction.
On to this week!
O-Lines That Should Dominate
Houston Texans (vs Tennessee Titans) – Both stats and the stars align for the Texans passing game in this one. Tennessee gives up a ton of yards through the air and the Texans O-line has been stout enough, combined with DeShaun Watson’s feet, to give him the most time to throw in the NFL at 3.22 seconds per play. Add in his improving accuracy and the return of speedster Will Fuller and I predict a much better game for the Texans O.
Philadelphia Eagles (vs the Los Angeles Chargers) – I am predicting a big day for the Philly run game and particularly LeGarrette Blount. He’s averaging a respectable 4.3 yards per carry and the Chargers are a bottom five run defense. They especially struggle against runs over the left tackle which for the Birds is all-pro Jason Peters.
Dallas Cowboys (vs Los Angeles Rams) – The Rams defense was exposed last week by the 49ers. A once-feared unit the Rams now rank in the mid-20s or lower in every meaningful defensive statistic. Dallas, on the other hand, has shown a strong balanced attack in both run and pass. I expect that the Cowboys will move the ball with ease and generate their highest score and output of the season to date.
O-Lines That Could Struggle
Miami Dolphins (vs New Orleans Saints) – For all the brief excitement about Jay Cutler hooking up with Davante Parker, Jarvis Landry, and Julius Thomas these first three weeks have reminded us all who Jay Cutler is. Only when he has time in the pocket is he a good decision maker with an accurate arm. The Dolphins line has so far has given him a scant 2.51 seconds to throw. Frankly, he’s having to move even before that. Take away the Dolphins receivers and the O line is only generating three yards per carry against stacked boxes. The Saints give up a lot of ground yards so this could be a get right game for Jay Ajayi (assuming he plays, he’s currently marked as questionable) but I believe the Miami O-line is unable to capitalize.
Kansas City Chiefs (vs Washington Redskins) – I always try to pick the unforeseen, where’s the fun in being obvious? I am predicting the NFL’s current offensive juggernaut will be brought low by the defense of the Skins. Washington’s D is a reflection of their coordinator Greg Manusky. They play smart and fast and are excellent at using concepts to eliminate opponents strengths. To date, the Chiefs have faced poor Ds or exploitable match ups. The Redskins are neither. I predicted the Chiefs to struggle last week and take away two big plays, (Big play =individual player error(s) and they did.
Oakland Raiders (vs Denver Broncos) – Here’s my weekly sort of obvious pick. The Raiders offense was taken apart by Washington in week three and the Broncos still possess one of the league’s elite defenses. But there’s a wrinkle in my prediction. I’m predicting the Raiders to score more points on Denver than any team so far this season. In weeks one and two the Raiders saw themselves as a playoff team. Last week they were exposed to the whole league as not as sharp or scary an offense as they had seemed. They need to have a very focused and intense effort to compete against the Broncos and I believe their skill players deliver. Derek Carr, Marshawn Lynch, Amari Cooper, and Michael Crabtree all have solid games and perhaps Jared Cook does as well.