Greg Cosell is one of the most respected NFL analysts in the country, and he’s been a contributor/consultant with Fantasy Guru for about 10 years. When it comes to analyzing matchups and personnel, Greg is the best. No one watches more film than he does thanks to his gigs at NFL Films and as the Senior Producer for the Matchup Show on ESPN. It’s been great to have him on our side, and he’s really helped us with our player scouting and more.
Yet again we’ve locked Greg into doing a weekly matchup column. Greg usually rolls into the NFL Films offices at the crack of dawn each Monday morning, and he dives right into the coach’s tape. He’s absorbed in film for 3-4 days, and this season he’ll be paying special attention to specific matchups for the upcoming week that can greatly affect the fantasy world.
Chicago vs. Green Bay
I think Brian Hoyer should keep it going this week, as well as WR Cameron Meredith. Their OC Dowell Loggains is in a little bit of a tough spot because they don’t want to step outside what they normally do, but the litany of injuries on the Green Bay defensive side of the ball makes it tempting to throw it. So this Chicago offense will have to be careful as to not throw it all over the place. They’re a run-first offense and Hoyer isn’t that kind of quarterback. Additionally, Green Bay’s rushing defense got shredded last week by Ezekiel Elliott. They had been great up until that point, but it’s something to keep an eye on; so if you’re Chicago, you have to play to who you are. I know Jordan Howard got stuffed last week, but they’ll go back to him. I really like Ka’Deem Carey as a second back. He’s not feature back material and never will be because he’s small for inside, violent running style. In this passing game however, I would expect Alshon Jeffery to make some noise with no Sam Shields matchup. And for what it’s worth, Jordan Howard runs the outside zone run scheme very well, which is exactly what Dallas did last week.
For Green Bay, Aaron Rodgers just isn’t executing the offense. When their staple plays are called he’s not turning it lose. And it’s frustrating for the offense because when a play is dialed up and there’s a play to be made—just their staple plays out of base, nothing new or gimmicks—Rodgers hasn’t been throwing it and it’s shutting down the offense. Additionally, he’s become very scattershot, which is something I though I’d never say. However, this could be a stepping stone game for Rodgers, as Chicago has no pass rush and has issues in the secondary.
Los Angeles Offense vs. New York Giants Defense
I think Case Keenum has been relatively consistent for what he’s being asked to do, and this might be exactly what to expect from him. One of his better weapons, Tavon Austin, has become so unpredictable and quite frustrating for fantasy. I know he’s small, but I feel like Austin should be used more along the lines of guys like T.Y. Hilton and Antonio Brown. Now, he’s nowhere near the talent level and I would never expect him to catch 200 balls, but Austin should be utilized the way guys like Hilton and Brown are. In the end though, it’s a function of team and offensive philosophy and they don’t see Austin like that. They don’t see him running downfield routes and he has a very low average depth or target. It will be interesting to see how this offense matches up against a still respectable Giants defense. They mix and match a lot but they don’t really have a pass rush. At CB it’s been Eli Apple, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Hunter and Wade, but at least Janoris Jenkins had provided some great consistency and Leon Hall is entrenched as their slot CB. They’re a defense that plays nickel and dime based on situation and if anything, they’ll be going up against a somewhat predictable Rams offense.
Importance of Eifert
I strongly believe the one of the most overlooked issues on this Bengal defense, and even in the entire NFL, is the absence of Tyler Eifert in this offense. Andy Dalton is still playing well, he’s established himself as a mature veteran QB, but they haven’t run the ball with consistency—and that’s actually been a problem dating back to last year—so with limited weapons, there’s only so much he can do. Eifert has pure talent with size and movement and all you need to do is take a look at a few games last year to watch him beat one-one-one coverage against CBs, including against the Seahawks. He’s just a huge missing player and a big loss. That being said, it should be a good matchup for AJ Green if Eifert either still doesn’t return or if he’s limited, and especially if Joe Haden is out. If Haden is in, it’s a slightly tougher matchup, but Green should still be able to handle him. In the end though, this Bengal offense needs a most consistent element outside of AJ Green, and Eifert is the guy to bring that to the table when he gets back.
Washington’s Run Game
You gotta give credit to the Redskins’ offensive line—it’s been a solid group throughout the season and they’ve provided some nice lanes for Matt Jones. He may not be a consistent producer, but during this four-game win streak the Redskins are on, the run game has been a huge factor and that’s largely due to the offensive line. When they beat the Giants on the GW FG drive, it was all about the run game. And on the other side, Haloti Ngata might not play again and the Lions defense overall has some issues. There’s been mental mistakes, which is not something you want to see from a team that doesn’t have great talent. One way the Redskins might capitalize on it is at the TE position, even if Reed is out again. They used Vernon Davis last week like they do Reed and while Davis isn’t as talented, he caught a nice wheel route against man coverage last week, beating Malcolm Jenkins. This offense will start with the run backed by their offensive line, but it still won’t be the end of the world of Reed misses another game.
Philadelphia Offense vs. Minnesota Defense
On paper, this looks like a frightening matchup for Wentz and the Eagles playing against a really good defense, and Minnesota brings so much to the table with they cause opponents do it. At its core for the Eagle offense, they need to basically create a passing game, because they don’t have much at wide receiver and because of the rookie RT. Wentz is still actually playing well, but they need to do some things to help protections—something they’d rather not to because it limits their passing game. Anything can happen obviously but I find it hard to think that the Birds will consistently move the ball. Additionally, the Vikings can stop the run very well. I see Everson Griffin winning the battle against Jason Peters, and moving Robeson inside should probably overwhelm their rookie RT. They do a lot of things with their double-a gap to help create one-on-one matchups: advantage Vikings. The Eagles will have to be more tactical with schematic changes. The only real hope the Eagles have is the run game though. Last week, when Philadelphia got behind, they stayed with the run game because they knew they had protection issues, so if their defense can at least keep it close, they can continue running it, which is the best way to protect their offensive line and not get caught with protection issues.
Atlanta vs. San Diego
Atlanta is going big, and going heavy, sometimes with 3 TEs on the field, which makes sense, considering their RBs and Julio Jones. What the Falcons do is present issues in preparation. They play out of base personnel with 2 WRs, and sometimes 1, on the field on almost 65% of the time. And when you prep to play them, it’s much different than against other teams so the entire week of practice is different. They don’t just line up their FB in the backfield—he can be spread out wide sometimes. Even Tevin Coleman lines up wide as well. However, I do respect the Charger defense. They’re fast at LB (actually a little faster with Te’O out for the season). But I don’t think they’re very well equipped to slow down the Atlanta offense. The best bet is for SD to keep up, which is very possible.
Speaking of the offense, the Chargers want to run the ball a lot. They run power and inside zone a lot, which helps Melvin Gordon, but ultimately, Gordon is a function of their offensive line: he’s not a creator of runs and he needs the line to be effective. Last week, his 48-yard run was all due to offensive line help and he went untouched for 35 yards. Outside of that though, he had 26 carries for 46 yards which is abysmal. Atlanta will probably be counting on Franklin and Fluker to be forces against the SD line. Both guys are big guards with movement abilities because they played tackles in college.
Pittsburgh vs. New England
Obviously there’s going to be a big drop-off with Landry Jones manning this Steeler offense and I wouldn’t expect anything down the field. In the past, their passing game has dropped off considerably when he’s played. He’s a middle of the field type of guy, so perhaps he’ll be looking for the TEs, as the Pats will surely do what they can to try and take away Antonio Brown. Working for the Steelers though is that Le’Veon Bell is the best back in the league working through the line of scrimmage instead of the outside. So to counter, we’ll probably see Bill Belichick have someone who won’t allow Bell to get through the line of scrimmage.
On the other side, I’m not sure how the Steelers defense will slow down this New England offense after getting crushed by Miami last week. For Tom Brady, 35 of his 57 passes since his return have gone to Rob Gronkowski, Martellus Bennett, and James White (12 to Gronk, 11 to Bennett, 12 to White). And White is absolutely perfect in this offense, and with Ryan Shazier currently limited, things are looking up for White…and perhaps LeGarrette Blount as the finisher.