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I have noticed a trend in the first few weeks of this NFL season. The trend is that the gap between the top teams in the league and bottom teams is growing. This is especially noticeable with the defenses.

The NFL’s Top 5 defenses; Seahawks, Broncos, Vikings, Chiefs, and Panthers (the Texans and Patriots are close too) are worlds better than the league’s worst five defenses; Saints, Browns, Bears, Bucs, and 49ers. This puts extra emphasis on playing the match-ups. As a very basic DFS strategy, I would stay away from the Top 5 defenses, and heavily target the five worse defenses.

I use a A-F grading scale for each player. I do this because I think many players values are equal. In DFS, if two players have the same grade, go with the cheaper option.

“A” Players are expected to have big games. “B” players are must starts. “C” players are borderline starters. A “C+” means I would lean towards starting them, and a “C-” means I’d lean towards not starting them. “D” players are not recommended starters, and “F” players are not listed.

As it related to DFS; These numbers are based on FanDuel’s player pricing. Grades are based on FanDuels’s 1/2 point PPR scoring system. A= $8,000 plus, B= $6,500-$7,900, C= $5,500-$6,400, D= $4,600-$5,400, and F= $4,500. Keep in mind QBs prices are inflated by around $1,000, and TEs prices are deflated by around $1,000.

Week 4 Game Previews and Fantasy Predictions

Indianapolis Colts at Jacksonville Jaguars (in London)

Both of these teams have played very poorly this season. Neither team can run the ball, or play defense. The Jaguars have an advantage playing in London. They’ve played there the last several seasons. The travel and game time has been cause for rather sloppy games in London.

I anticipate both teams to throw the ball a lot. I also expect quite a few turnovers. Andrew Luck, T.Y. Hilton, and Allen Robinson are all must-start players. It’s difficult to trust anyone else in this game. Blake Bortles, Frank Gore, Phillip Dorsett, and Allen Hurns all have good match-ups, but they’ve all done little to inspire confidence thus far. The injury status of Colts star CB Vonte Davis will have a huge impact on the potential of the Jaguar’s passing attack.

Player Grades

Colts
Andrew Luck B
T.Y. Hilton B
Frank Gore C
Phillip Dorsett C-
Dwayne Allen C-

Jaguars
Allen Robinson A
Blake Bortles C+
Allen Hurns C+
Julius Thomas (Q) C+
T.J. Yeldon/Chris Ivory (Q) C-

 

Seattle Seahawks at New York Jets

The Seahawks and Jets are two more teams that have been disappointing so far this season. The Seahawks are very lucky to be 2-1, and the Jets just got pummeled by the Chiefs. This is a bad match-up for both offenses.

Seattle’s offensive line is their biggest weakness, and the Jets defensive line is their greatest strength. The Jets offense doesn’t match-up well with the Seahawks great defense either. Eric Decker has also been ruled out. Two of the better defenses in the league playing against two beat up offenses, I don’t expect many points in this game. Try to avoid this game in DFS.

Player Grades

Seahawks
Doug Baldwin B-
Jimmy Graham B-
Russell Wilson (Q) C
Christine Michael/ Thomas Rawls (Q) D+
Tyler Lockett/Jermaine Kearse D

Jets
Matt Forte C+
Brandon Marshall (Q) C
Quincy Enunwa D+
Ryan Fitzpatrick D-

 

Detroit Lions at Chicago Bears

The Bears are currently the worst team in the NFL right now. They’ve been decimated by injuries on both sides of the ball. Alshon Jeffery is their only star, and he’s yet to score a touchdown. Jordan Howard showed some ability filling in for injured RB Jeremy Langford. He could have a good game if the Bears can get him enough carries. The Bears are last in the league with only 17 rushing attempts per game though.

The Lion’s offense seems to be revolving around three players; Matthew Stafford, Marvin Jones, and Theo Riddick. Those three players all have big game potential against a bad Bears defense. Golden Tate’s production has fallen off a cliff. Anquan Boldin, Eric Ebron, and Dwayne Washington are all solid role players, but their Fantasy value is limited.

Player Grades

Lions
Marvin Jones A-
Matthew Stafford B+
Theo Riddick B
Dwayne Washington C+
Golden Tate/Anquan Boldin/Eric Ebron (Q) C

Bears
Alshon Jeffery B+
Jordan Howard C+
Kevin White/Zach Miller C
Brian Hoyer D+

 

Buffalo Bills at New England Patriots

I’m not sure who’ll be starting at QB for the Patriots. Whoever it is, the Patriots will stick to their power running offense for one more week. The Patriots lead the league with 36 rush attempts per game, and LeGarrette Blount has reaped the benefits. Blount leads the league with 298 rushing yards. The Bill’s run defense has been average at best.

The injury to Sammy Watkins is really handcuffing the Bill’s offense. Tyrod Taylor simply has no one to throw too. LeSean McCoy has looked great, but you can be sure the Patriot’s game plan will revolve around limiting McCoy.

Player Grades

Bills
LeSean McCoy B-
Tyrod Taylor C
Marquise Goodwin/Robert Woods/Charles Clay D+

Patriots
LeGarrette Blount B
Rob Gronkowski C+
Julian Edelman C
Martellus Bennett C-

 

Cleveland Browns at Washington Redskins

The Redskins are coming off a huge win over the Giants. They should keep that momentum going at home versus the browns. The Browns are coming off a very tough loss in Miami. This could be a breakout game for Kirk Cousins and the Redskin’s pass catchers. The Brown’s defense has been decent against the run, but they are being torched though the air.

The Brown’s will start Cody Kessler again this week. Terrelle Pryor will probably also take a few snaps at QB. Pryor’s value is up right now, as he’s getting extra rushing and passing yards to go along with his production as a receiver. Isaiah Crowell could have a nice game against a weak Washington run defense.

Player Grades

Browns
Terrelle Pryor B-
Isaiah Crowell B-
Gary Barnidge C+
Duke Johnson D+

Redskins
Jordan Reed A+
Kirk Cousins B+
DeSean Jackson B
Matt Jones C+
Jamison Crowder C+
Pierre Garcon C

 

Carolina Panthers at Atlanta Falcons

The Falcons won’t be rushing for almost 300 yards again this week against the Panthers. Julio Jones will also catch more than one pass. Tevin Coleman has been splitting carries with Devonta Freeman, but he’s questionable with an ankle injury. Devonta Freeman is also dealing with a hamstring injury. Freeman and Jones are the only Falcons I would start this week.

The Panthers will look to take advantage of the Falcon’s 30th ranked run defense. Cameron Artis-Payne is a good sleeper in this game. I’ll chalk up last week as a mulligan for Cam Newton, Greg Olsen, and Kelvin Benjamin. I have no concerns about any of them this week.

Player Grades

Panthers
Greg Olsen A+
Cam Newton A
Kelvin Benjamin B
Cameron Artis-Payne B-
Fozzy Whittaker C

Falcons
Julio Jones B+
Devonta Freeman (Q) C+
Jacob Tamme C-
Matt Ryan D+
Tevin Coleman (Q)/Mohamed Sanu (Q) D

 

Oakland Raiders at Baltimore Ravens

This is a very important game that will likely have playoff implications later in the year. The Ravens play their first quality opponent after starting 3-0 versus weak competition. The Raven’s defense has played well, but they’ve yet to see an offense as good as the Raiders.

The Raiders have limped to a 2-1 start, winning two very close games against the Saints and Titans. The Ravens will be the best team the Raiders have seen this season as well. Pass defense has been a huge issue for the Raider’s defense. Joe Flacco and the Raven’s pass catchers have been pretty good, and they get their third straight favorable match-up versus Oakland’s porous secondary.

Player Grades

Raiders
Amari Cooper B+
Michael Crabtree B-
Derek Carr B-
Latavius Murray C+
Clive Walford/Deandre Washington D+

Ravens
Joe Flacco B-
Steve Smith B-
Dennis Pitta C+
Mike Wallace C+
Justin Forsett C+

 

Tennessee Titans at Houston Texans

This game looks like it will be a hard fought defensive division game. Even with J.J. Watt now gone, the Texans still have a very good defense. The Titan’s defense has also been surprisingly good. RBs DeMarco Murray and Lamar Miller have been two of the best early this season. Both remain must starts, but temper expectations due to the strong defenses they’re playing. Head Coach Bill O’Brien will take over the play calling for the Texans, so they could have a different look.

Aside from Deandre Hopkins, I don’t like any of the other QBs and WRs in this match-up. We’ll see if Brock Osweiler can bounce back after a terrible performance last week in New England. The Patriots may have exposed a weakness in Osweiler. They played the whole game in zone coverage, and blitzed him only one time. Osweiler struggled mightily, and the Texans got shutout.

Player Grades

Titans
Delanie Walker (Q) B-
DeMarco Murray C+
Marcus Mariota/Tajae Sharpe/Derrick Henry D

Texans
Deandre Hopkins B+
Lamar Miller B-
Will Fuller C
Brock Osweiler D+

 

Denver Broncos at Tampa Bay Buccaneers

The Buc’s defense has been a disaster. They’ve allowed over 30 points per game. They’ve been solid against the run, but their pass defense has been non existent. If Trevor Siemian can continue his stellar play, he could have a big game throwing to Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders.

Jameis Winston does play much better at home, and this is a must win game for the Bucs if they want a chance at the postseason. However, the Broncos have a historically great pass defense. The Bengals were able to have some success running the ball on the Broncos last week. A big game from RB Charles Sims is the Bucs only hope in this game.

Player Grades

Broncos
Demaryius Thomas B
Emmanuel Sanders B
Trevor Siemian C+
C.J. Anderson C+

Buccaneers
Mike Evans B-
Charles Sims C+
Vincent Jackson/Jameis Winston/Cameron Brate D

 

Dallas Cowboys at San Francisco 49ers

The 49ers 28-0 shutout of the Rams on opening day is looking like a fluke. They’ve allowed 80 points in their last two games. The Cowboys will be without Dez Bryant for a few weeks. Terrance Williams and Cole Beasley could see increased targets. Ezekiel Elliott will look to take advantage of another poor run defense.

Carlos Hyde has quietly been having a decent season. The Cowboy’s run defense is very average. Blaine Gabbert and the 49ers receivers are not recommended starters.

Player Grades

Cowboys
Ezekiel Elliott A
Dak Prescott C+
Terrance Williams/Cole Beasley/Jason Witten C+
Alfred Morris C-

49ers
Carlos Hyde B-
Blaine Gabbert/Torrey Smith/Jeremy Kerley D

 

New Orleans Saints at San Diego Chargers

The Saints are going on three years of historically bad defense. Last Monday night versus Atlanta might have been their low point. The Saints can be beat through the air, or on the ground. It makes more sense for teams to run on them, and control the clock, like the Falcons did. Philip Rivers, Melvin Gordon, and Travis Benjamin are all must starts. They will all be popular DFS plays as well.

Drew Brees is really the only reliable star on the Saint’s offense. Mark Ingram hasn’t been able to get enough carries, and Brees spreads the ball around so much it makes Brandin Cooks, Willie Snead, Mike Thomas, and Coby Fleener all very unpredictable. Usually two of the four pass catchers will have a good game, and the other two will be very quiet.

Player Grades

Saints
Drew Brees B+
Brandin Cooks/Willie Snead (Q)/Mike Thomas C+
Coby Fleener C+
Mark Ingram C+

Chargers
Melvin Gordon A
Philip Rivers A-
Travis Benjamin B+
Tyrell Williams C+
Antonio Gates (Q)/Hunter Henry C

 

Los Angeles Rams at Arizona Cardinals

At 1-2, the Cardinals face a must win home division game versus the Rams. The Rams are 2-1 despite being dead last in the league in offense. Arizona’s biggest issue has been their 28th ranked run defense. Todd Gurley is more than overdue for a breakout game.

The Ram’s defense has given up some yards, but they’ve been stingy with points allowed. They allowed Jameis Winston to throw for over 400 yards in last week’s win. The Rams have issues in their secondary, and the Cardinals have the fire power to exploit that.

Player Grades

Rams
Todd Gurley A-
Tavon Austin C
Kenny Britt D+

Cardinals
David Johnson A
Larry Fitzgerald B
Carson Palmer B
Michael Floyd (Q)/John Brown C+

 

Kansas City Chiefs at Pittsburgh Steelers

The Chiefs got back on track last week with a dominating performance against the Jets. The Steelers, on the other hand, flew off the rails, losing 34-3 at home to the Eagles. LeVeon Bell returns for Pittsburgh this week. Hopefully he will provide a spark. Jamaal Charles is also set to return this week.

Both of these teams are 2-1, and both are expected to make the playoffs again. In a primetime game, we should see a well played football game from both teams. The Steeler’s offense versus the Chiefs defense is a strength on strength match-up.

Player Grades

Chiefs
Travis Kelce B
Jamaal Charles (Q) C+
Jeremy Maclin C+
Alex Smith C-

Steelers
Antonio Brown A-
LeVeon Bell B+
Ben Roethlisberger B
Markus Wheaton/Sammie Coates/Jesse James/DeAngelo Williams D

 

New York Giants at Minnesota Vikings

The Viking’s defense has shutdown Aaron Rodgers and Cam Newton in back-to-back games. The Giants one dimensional offense plays right into the hands of what Minnesota likes to do. With no threat of a run game, the Viking’s great pass rushers can pin their ears back and attack the QB.

Odell Beckham will get his, but Eli Manning, Sterling Shepard, and Victor Cruz are all risky plays. The Giant’s defense is much improved from last year. They ranked last in the league in yards allowed last year. So far this season they rank 11th. Minnesota is hot right now, and they should show up on Monday Night.

Player Grades

Giants
Odell Beckham B+
Eli Manning C
Sterling Shepard C
Victor Cruz C-
Rashad Jennings (Q)/Orleans Darkwa D+

Vikings
Stefon Diggs B-
Jerick McKinnon C+
Sam Bradford C
Kyle Rudolph C

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