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Sunday 22nd Oct 2017

Since Week 4 pre-season games do not matter as very few fantasy-relevant players see the field, I thought it would be a good idea to answer the questions I asked last week. Between the games that were on live over the weekend, and the replays on the NFL Network (found it great that you can DVR a game and watch the whole thing in less than an hour), I watched almost all of the games.

Miami at Philadelphia - Which receiver is Jay Cutler’s favorite? DeVante Parker. Who is the number one receiver in Philly? Zach Ertz. Cutler does not hesitate to throw deep, completing a 72-yard pass to Parker and drawing a pass interference call. One pass led to a Jay Ajayi one-yard TD run and the other led to a one-yard Cutler-to-Thomas TD pass. Wentz spread the ball around to Alshon Jeffery, Torrey Smith, and Zach Ertz. This Eagles offense looked good with Wendell Smallwood in the backfield.

Carolina at Jacksonville - How do Cam Newton and Christian McCaffrey mesh? Too early to tell. Does the move to Chad Henne help Allen Robinson? NO, and it was short-lived anyway. Cam played one series, completing short passes to Christian McCaffrey, Jonathan Stewart and Kelvin Benjamin but threw nothing downfield. Stewart was the primary back. The move to Henne did nothing for the Jaguars offense, so they decided to go back to Bortles. This offense has the makings of a huge mess.

New England at Detroit – Does Brandin Cooks catch anything short? Not really. Can Ameer Abdullah be a primary back? YES, if you believe he can stay healthy. With Julian Edelman suffering a torn ACL, the value of Cooks and Chris Hogan go up. I challenge you to guess the game-day rotation of the Patriots running backs – Mike Gilislee, James White, Dion Lewis, and Rex Burkhead will drive fantasy owners batty all season. Draft them only in a best-ball/draft champion type of format where you do not have to guess from week to week. On the Lions side, Matthew Stafford did not look great. Golden Tate and Marvin Jones made some impressive catches and dropped some easy passes. Abdullah was heavily involved in the running and passing game – it is all about health with him.

Kansas City at Seattle – Can Patrick Mahomes overtake Alex Smith at QB? Not sure it matters with the lack of quality wide receivers in KC, but Mahomes plays like an NFL veteran. Does someone emerge as the primary back in Seattle? With Rawls and Prosise still out, Lacy ran hard in limited action. Spencer Ware leaves with a right knee injury and is done for the season, moving Kareem Hunt up to Round 3/4. Russell Wilson looked sharp.

Buffalo at Baltimore – Is Zay Jones legit? Eight targets certainly makes him appear to be legit. Does Jeremy Maclin have anything left in the tank? No way to tell at this point, honestly.

New York Jets at New York Giants – Can Bilal Powell and Robby Anderson become dominant fantasy scorers for a really bad team? I would bet on a lot of garbage time points. Can anyone on the Giants run the ball? No, so expect a healthy dose of Eli Manning.

Arizona at Atlanta – How is Carson Palmer’s arm strength? There were no real downfield throws, mostly short to intermediate. Is there a Falcons receiver worth rostering after Julio? There was nothing in the Falcons offense that made me want to say yes. Cardinals receiver John Brown looked healthy, but for how long? Brittan Golden looks good for Arizona, but he will likely be a late rotation wide receiver once Fitzgerald plays. The Falcons looked completely out of whack on offense when all the starters were in.

Indianapolis at Pittsburgh – Can Marlon Mack emerge as a back that takes some plays away from Gore? Sure looks like it will be all Gore as long as he can handle it. Mack did play on some third downs with the first team. With Bell still out, is there a legit number two that will play in the regular season? There was not here. Terrell Watson, James Conner and Knile Davis all had carries. Fitzgerald Toussant is also in the mix. It will be a long season for the Colts if Luck misses time. That may sound obvious, but if Luck is out, I will scratch just about every Colt off my list.

Cleveland at Tampa Bay – Does Deshone Kizer take the helm and run with the job? Sure looks like it. Which tight end is more involved between Brate or Howard? I see Winston trying to use both. Cleveland is kind of interesting. Something tells me they won’t be as bad as many people think. While I have no real interest in Kizer, I can see guys like Isaiah Crowell and Corey Coleman posting good numbers. The Bucs offense will have days where they are dynamic and unstoppable. But they will probably have others that leave you scratching your head. I fear it might be one year too early before Winston puts it all together.

Los Angeles Chargers at Los Angeles Rams – Is Cooper Kupp for real? Kupp was out with a minor injury. Is there a legit backup to Melvin Gordon? Branden Oliver is the clear number two. Keenan Allen looks great catching passes for the Chargers, with Travis Benjamin as a deep threat. Malcolm Brown and Justin Davis would both be in play should something happen to Todd Gurley.

Houston at New Orleans – Is there a number two receiver in Houston? Bruce Ellington was by far the best player on the field in the first half. Does Michael Thomas move to the elite class of receivers? There is a ton of short pass volume in the Saints offense, and it appears that most of it will go to Thomas.

Oakland at Dallas - Is Marshawn Lynch finished? YES, he is done. Does Alfred Morris or Rod Smith have any value? The short answer is NO. Cordarrelle Patterson is an intriguing third receiver for the Raiders. DeAndre Washington and Jalen Richard appear to be the future of the Oakland backfield. Lynch looked slow. Cole Beasley will again be an overlooked PPR number three fantasy receiver who will go overlooked in drafts due to lack of “upside.”

Green Bay at Denver – Can Montgomery hold up to 15 touches per game? Only four touches for Montgomery, but he did get the goal line carry. Does Trevor Semien have value as a QB2? There was not much to like. Aaron Jones and Jamaal Williams will battle for carries as the 2nd and 3rd backs. Wide receiver Jordan Taylor looked good with Semien.

Chicago at Tennessee – Do I really want to spend a late first round pick on Jordan Howard? NO. Can Henry take enough carries away from Murray to be relevant? I think Tennessee is going to try. It was depressing to see Cameron Meredith go down for the season. The Bears really do not have much in the way of a receiving group. You can take a flyer on Kevin White, but there is no reason to have a high level of confidence. Tennessee looked so bad on offense that their starters were forced to play into the 3rd quarter. First round pick Corey Davis was supposed to be a new toy for Marcus Mariota, but his hamstring has kept him off the field.

Cincinnati at Washington – Even if Mixon does not start right away, is he worthy of a 4th round pick? If the Bengals get off to a good start, then it will be hard for Mixon to overtake Hill. Can Terrelle Pryor be a real number one receiver? If this game was a real indicator, it could take some time.

San Francisco at Minnesota – Can Carlos Hyde be a top producer? He sure looked the part. No question – Dalvin Cook is for real. But he did not look great against San Francisco. Murray will not really push him.

With Week 3 of the NFL pre-season upon us, and fantasy league drafts really kicking into gear, there are some things I am looking at come draft day and the NFL kick off. Here are a few.

Miami at Philadelphia - Which receiver is Jay Cutler’s favorite?  Who is the number one receiver in Philly?

Carolina at Jacksonville - How do Cam Newton and Christian McCaffrey mesh?  Does the move to Chad Henne help Allen Robinson?

New England at Detroit – Does Brandin Cooks catch anything short? Can Ameer Abdullah be a primary back?

Kansas City at Seattle – Can Patrick Mahomes overtake Alex Smith at QB? Does someone emerge as the primary back in Seattle?

Buffalo at Baltimore – Is Zay Jones legit? Does Jeremy Maclin have anything left in the tank?

New York Jets at New York Giants – Can Bilal Powell and Robby Anderson become dominant fantasy scorers for a really bad team? Can anyone on the Giants run the ball?

Arizona at Atlanta – How is Carson Palmer’s arm strength? Is there a Falcons receiver worth rostering after Julio?

Indianapolis at Pittsburgh – Can Marlon Mack emerge as a back that takes some plays away from Gore? With Bell still out, is there a legit number two that will play in the regular season?

Cleveland at Tampa Bay – Does Deshone Kizer take the helm and run with the job? Which tight end is more involved – Brate or Howard?

Los Angeles Chargers at Los Angeles Rams – Is Cooper Kupp for real? Is there a legit backup to Melvin Gordon?

Houston at New Orleans – Is there a number two receiver in Houston? Does Michael Thomas move to the elite class of receivers?

Oakland at Dallas - Is Marshawn Lynch finished? Does Alfred Morris or Rod Smith have any value?

Green Bay at Denver – Can Montgomery hold up to 15 touches per game? Does Trevor Semien have value as a QB2?

Chicago at Tennessee – Do I really want to spend a late first round pick on Jordan Howard? Can Henry take enough carries away from Murray to be relevant?

Cincinnati at Washington – Even if Mixon does not start right away, is he worthy of a 4th round pick? Can Terrelle Pryor be a real number one receiver?

San Francisco at Minnesota – Can Carlos Hyde be a top producer? No question – Dalvin Cook is for real.

You can follow me @mastersballmarc.

There is good and bad with Week 17 upon us. Among the bad, it is the last regular season week of the NFL season and many teams with playoff spots locked up will rest or limit their players. The good – we have a full Sunday 16-game slate for the only time this entire season. We also have a silly 56-point Vegas total in the Saints-Falcons game.

Aaron Rodgers has been silly since Week 7 with two or more touchdown passes in every game except for the ice bowl, and three or more TDs in six of those games. As much as I believe that Brees-Ryan could go back and forth, both of those teams have enough of a running game to put me all-in on Rodgers.

QB Aaron Rodgers GB 7700 Best QB right now with the most to play for
QB Drew Brees NO 7600 Scary high 56-point total
QB Matt Ryan Atl 7400 See Brees above
QB Kirk Cousins Was 6500 One game for a playoff berth and a big payday
QB Matthew Stafford Det 6000 Should be playing comeback most of the game
QB Blake Bortles Jax 5600 Trying to prove he is relevant for 2017

There is a ton of potential value in the running back slot with some of the big boys sitting it out or injured. Follow the news as we get closer to roster lock time to see if any other low-price backs will have an extended opportunity.

RB David Johnson Ari 9800 Expected to get a near full load
RB Devonta Freeman Atl 7000 Only one dud in the past five games
RB Jordan Howard Chi 6800 Earning number one status for next season
RB Jay Ajayi Mia 5900 This is not Buffalo, but he's the Dolphins' best weapon
RB Mark Ingram NO 5600 Playing for top spot next season
RB Alex Collins Sea 4600 Last man standing against worst run D - not cheap
RB Kenneth Dixon Bal 4200 Another back trying to earn 2017 starting job
RB Darren Sproles Phi 4000 Someone will be in the backfield for Eagles
RB Rex Burkhead Cin 3500 Catches enough passes at cheap price to be in play
RB Shaun Draughn SF 3200 Same play as Burkhead

I know it feels a week late, but Jordy Nelson has to go with Aaron Rodgers. There are enough cheap running backs to avoid skimping at the receiver position.

WR Jordy Nelson GB 8100 Playing at another level
WR Mike Evans TB 8000 Last Bucs playmaker still standing
WR Doug Baldwin Sea 7200 Even more significant with Lockett done
WR Brandin Cooks NO 6900 Not at home, but still in a dome
WR Michael Thomas NO 6700 Expected to put exclamation on star rookie season
WR Golden Tate Det 6600 Needs to make plays for Lions to compete
WR Sammy Watkins Buf 5800 Late season tease
WR Davante Adams GB 5700 Caught the TD he dropped the week before
WR DeSean Jackson Was 5600 Playing for another free agent contract
WR Tyreek Hill KC 5600 Dynamic playmaker
WR Allen Robinson Jax 5500 Still cheaply priced
WR Cameron Meredith Chi 5200 Earning time with Howard for 2017
WR Steve Smith Sr. Bal 4900 Announced retirement - narrative for TD targets
WR DeVante Parker Mia 4300 Big play ability even with Moore

Here we are at the black hole known as tight end. Throw a dart, roster a tight end.

TE Travis Kelce KC 5000 Over 100 yards in five of past six
TE Zach Ertz Phi 4800 Only two targets last week after 36 in previous three
TE Eric Ebron Det 3600 At least four catches in four straight
TE Jared Cook GB 3100 Seeing more targets with Cobb out

Tough to gauge which defenses will show up. Certainly the Steelers are in an ideal spot against Cleveland, but how long will their defensive starters play? 

DST Broncos Den 3900 Were embarrassed by KC last week
DST Seahawks Sea 3700 Should dominate SF
DST Steelers Pit 3600 Nothing to play for, but this is Cleveland
DST Texans Hou 3500 Matt Cassel is not good
DST Bills Buf 3400 Jets are a mess
DST Cardinals Ari 3000 Rams getting ready for 2017

Here is my planned GPP lineup led by the three Packers with Cook still a possibility at tight end. 

QB Aaron Rodgers GB 7700
RB Devonta Freeman Atl 7000
RB Shaun Draughn SF 3200
WR Jordy Nelson GB 8100
WR Michael Thomas NO 6700
WR Davante Adams GB 5700
TE Eric Ebron Det 3600
RB Darren Sproles Phi 4000
DST Bills Buf 3400
      49400

Many thanks to Seth Trachtman for the 2017 Street & Smith’s Magazine mock draft held on Thursday night. The league set-up is no PPR, which is a unique format for me as all of the leagues I am in for real have some form of PPR.

The early first round went just as expected (for a PPR league), so I was very happy sitting at number nine to grab running back Devonta Freeman. After taking DeMarco Murray on the turn in the second round, Tom Brady in the third round was a no-brainer with six points awarded for a touchdown pass and Aaron Rodgers already gone.

Since touchdowns dominate non-PPR scoring, I am not concerned to come out of the draft with Terrelle Pryor, Golden Tate, Jamison Crowder, Eric Decker, Kenny Stills and Zay Jones as my receiving group.

One player that I will be targeting in all drafts regardless of format is former South Florida Bull Marlon Mack. Frankly, I was going to target whatever running back the Colts selected, after continuing to ride Frank Gore into old age. I expect Mack to get a real chance for carries, and even though Gore has been a model of durability over his career, he is old enough to almost qualify for AARP.

Christmas and Hanukkah week is upon us and the NFL has a full weekend slate to keep NFL fans healthy. The Week 16 schedule begins with the Giants-Eagles game on Thursday, followed by a full 1:00, 4:00 and night game on Saturday, two more on Sunday and finally Lions-Cowboys on Monday. I know many of you will be sweating out season-long league championship games over that five-day stretch. But for the main slate DraftKings DFS players, we have 12 games on Christmas Eve day.

Six of the seven QB’s on the list are in the three Vegas over 52 total games. Not going much out on a limb here. All are in very good spots to post numbers. Game flow will determine which QB’s outperform the others.

QB Drew Brees NO 7400 The game vs. TB two weeks ago was a fluke
QB Matt Ryan Atl 7200 Should be another up and down the field game
QB Andrew Luck Ind 7000 Playing for their playoff lives
QB Kirk Cousins Was 6800 The only QB on this list not in an over 52 game
QB Derek Carr Oak 6800 Uncomfortable with finger injury but getting by
QB Cam Newton Car 6600 Cam not running but Atl defense has holes
QB Jameis Winston TB 6500 Could have beaten Dal with better fourth quarter

With LeVeon Bell off the main slate and David Johnson in a tough match-up, we have the chance to slide down a little at RB and save some money for WRs. LeSean McCoy was under $7k six of the first seven weeks of the season and has now hit $9k.

RB David Johnson Ari 9200 Is he totally match-up proof? 
RB LeSean McCoy Buf 9000 Hitting the elite price range
RB Devonta Freeman Atl 7100 Worried about Coleman
RB DeMarco Murray Ten 7000 Two TDs vultured by Henry last week
RB Latavius Murray Oak 6200 Needs to hold onto the ball
RB Bilal Powell NYJ 6000 Very high volume PPR option with Forte injured
RB Ty Montgomery GB 5900 Will be the hot choice this week. DK moves him to RB
RB Carlos Hyde SF 5800 Faltered last week but always in a good spot
RB Thomas Rawls Sea 5100 O-line could not block for him last week
RB Kenneth Farrow SD 5000 Elite match-up for average RB
RB Mark Ingram NO 4400 Pouting worked for Cooks

Mike Evans tops my WR list again, but he's coming off three straight poor games. I do not see a fourth. Wide receiver ownership should be spread out with plenty of very good options on the board across all price ranges.

WR Mike Evans TB 8500 Big price is a risk with three straight games under 10
WR T.Y. Hilton Ind 7800 Disappointed vs. Min but 23 targets in two games prior
WR Michael Crabtree Oak 6100 Double-digit targets in four of past eight
WR Michael Thomas NO 6000 Ten targets after missing a week
WR Dontrelle Inman SD 6000 Favorable match-up but Rivers spreads the wealth
WR Davante Adams GB 5400 Looking to rebound from two dropped TDs
WR DeAndre Hopkins Hou 5200 Thank you Tom Savage
WR Tyler Lockett Sea 4800 Finally healthy and a great weapon for Wilson
WR Cameron Meredith Chi 4700 Took awhile to develop the rapport with Barkley
WR J.J. Nelson Ari 4400 Taking advantage of drunken Floyd's departure
WR Kenny Stills Mia 3900 Big play guy at low price

Tight end has been an enigma all season. Too many times the expensive guys just did not perform. There always seems to be a min-price player coming through each week. 

TE Greg Olsen Car 5200 Elbow a concern with a weak TE group
TE Jimmy Graham Sea 4500 Big price drop after back-to-back one-catch games
TE Delanie Walker Ten 4300 Attractive price in this spot
TE Cameron Brate TB 3900 Catching everything near him
TE Ryan Griffin Hou 3300 Missed him last week at min price with C.J. out
TE Dion Sims Mia 2600 Near min price with four TDs in past four games

The Patriots are clearly the stand-out defense and if they get ahead early, it could be real trouble. There are several other high potential defenses at a discount if you do not trust the Patriots.

DST Patriots NE 3600 Score depends only on how interested NE is
DST Titans Ten 3400 Sacks and turnovers
DST Chargers SD 3400 Continuing with defenses against Cle theme
DST Bengals Cin 3200 Not completely buying the Savage hype
DST Dolphins Mia 3000 Playing at a very high level
DST 49ers SF 2800 Ultimate punt against the Rams

Here is my planned GPP lineup, led by the two Bucs main men. 

QB Jameis Winston TB 6500
RB Bilal Powell NYJ 6000
RB DeMarco Murray Ten 7000
WR Mike Evans TB 8500
WR Tyler Lockett Sea 4800
WR DeAndre Hopkins Hou 5200
WR Michael Thomas NO 6000
TE Dion Sims Mia 2600
DST Chargers SD 3400
      50000

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