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.
Denver Running Game vs. San Diego Defense
Good news for Denver in that Trevor Siemian is back and ready to go. Everyone assumes that Denver is a running football team primarily and have been shocked with their passing choices. And in fact, over the first 4 games with Siemian in, the first 10 plays in each game have been over 60% passes. However, the nature of that offense is that the settle into an offense reliant on balance. So it’s a significant issue that they can’t run the ball right now. They will hopefully have some run-blockers back this game and I think we’ll see an improvement, but this San Diego run defense has played well. Joey Bosa has played OLB in their base 3-4 and has played as a rushing DE in their subpackages. Overall this is a good front-7 that doesn’t have that many star names—we’ve even seen Melvin Ingram play as the 3-4 ILB on some snaps. Back on the Bronco offense, I think as the season progresses Devontae Booker may edge out C.J. Anderson in carries, but the big issue with him is fumbling. In the end, I think Booker is just a better fit for this offense.
The Switch to Kaepernick
I actually think over the last 2 weeks, the 49er offense has looked good from a conceptual standpoint. There have been plays to be made but Blaine Gabbert simply isn’t making them, which is why he’s been benched and why Kap is playing. Now, I can’t say that Kap will go in there and make every throw and be their difference-maker, but the film shows that there have been throws to be made that Gabbert simply didn’t make. It’s not, however, an ideal defense to be making this QB switch to, as the Bills defense is pretty good considering all their injuries at LB. They’ve seen good play from their 2 ILBs like Preston and Zach Brown, and they have good CB play on the back end as well.
Pittsburgh Offense vs. Miami Defense
The Dolphins defense is the one defense that is a 100% nickel defense and they haven’t played a single snap out of dime this year, which could be a big big issue going against this powerful Steelers offense. Every week we see teams do whatever they can do double-team Antonio Brown. Miami didn’t do that against A.J. Green a couple weeks ago and he went nuts—and the Bengals didn’t even have a deep threat like Sammie Coates. Additionally, I think this could be a big game for Le’Veon Bell particularly as a receiver. Byron Maxwell hasn’t been that good, Tony Lippett is a converted WR and their defensive line hasn’t been that good at all, with their big money guys Suh and Williams underperforming. Additionally, Reshad Jones may not even play and he’s their best secondary player.
Eli Manning’s Struggles vs. Baltimore Defense
To put it lightly, it hasn’t been going that well for Eli and the Giants, and Eli has admitted that he hasn’t played well. He’s always been a quarterback that misses things on occasion but now he’s missing a lot more than he should, and he needs to get back to basics. He’s lived on the edge with his mechanics in his career because he’s a great natural thrower and can make it work, but right now he needs to go back to fundamentals. And the offense will only continue to hurt if they don’t have Rashad Jennings back. This week, Eli’s facing a very solid defense in Baltimore. On the back end with Lardarius Webb and Eric Weddle, they have two very versatile players, and Webb brings CB knowledge with him as well. Timmy Jernigan is a nice interior player against the run and they’re getting good play from the free agent Zach Orr. One issue is that C.J. Mosley may not go, and he’s played every snap until hurting his hamstring last week.
Philadelphia vs. Washington
As far as fantasy goes, it’s irksome that Philadelphia doesn’t have a true go-to guy and that they’re really spreading the love around amongst the WRs, TEs and RBs. However, Jordan Matthews is definitely the closest thing they have to a go-to guy and he could actually be in store for a big game. This will be rookie CB Kendall Fuller’s 3rd game as a slot CB in the NFL, and while he’s played well, he might be overmatched here. I like the Philadelphia run game a lot, also, but again, their committee of sorts isn’t a great translator for fantasy. We’ll see first-hand how the Lane Johnson suspension affects their run game as well as Carson Wentz’s protection.
On the other side of the ball…
Leodis McKelvin is still banged up for the Eagles, but the big issue is that Jordan Reed is in concussion protocol and if he doesn’t play, the scheming of the Redskins takes a shot. Jay Gruden does a nice job with his offensive scheming, but the athleticism and talent of Reed is a big part of what makes it work. Additionally, Kirk Cousins has been very up and down—the system helps tremendously but he’s never going to be more than a guy who needs a system in place and weapons—and this Eagles defense is off to a fast start both on the back end and up front.
Oakland Offense vs. Kansas City Defense
The biggest concern for Oakland in this game (and perhaps going forward) is their pass protection. In fact, last week they played 6 offensive linemen on 27 snaps, not just to run the ball, but also to protect Derek Carr. We’ll see if they do it again this week as Kansas City sacked Carr 10 times in their two games last year. I don’t think it’s a huge deal if Latavius Murray is out again, as I actually like the combination of DeAndre Washington and Jalen Richard more than Murray as their lone back. I don’t necessarily think they view the two young backups in terms of one instead of the other; instead, it seems like they work best and complements to each other. Overall this is a multi-dimensional offense and they even played a snap with 5 wide receivers last week. The big advantage they have this week against the KC defense is that Chief CB Marcus Peters plays on the left side and doesn't travel so he won’t be locked in on Amari Cooper.
Green Bay vs. Dallas
The GB passing game as been a week-to-week proposition and very inconsistent, and the Dallas defense suddenly isn’t one to roll over It looks like Morris Claiborne has finally arrived and he even might be their best player on defense. One matchup I’m watching is that it looks like Orlando Scandrick might not go so the rookie Anthony Brown from Purdue will see a test opposite Randall Cobb. If GB wants to find a rhythm, it might be in this matchup out of the slot.
On the other side of the ball…
Ezekiel Elliott leads the NFL in rushing attempts and yards but Green Bay has been outstanding against the run. Ryan, Martinez and Daniels are all playing well up front, rookie Kenny Clark has seen a lot snaps and one thing Dom Capers has always done well is inserting the S into the mix for run-stopping. It’s almost like a hidden 8th defender in the box. On the negative side, though if Damarious Randall can’t play again (we know Sam Shields probably won’t), then Micah Hyde will have to step up a play slot, giving an advantage to the Cowboys on offense.
Atlanta vs. Seattle
Atlanta plays a lot of zone on defense but we’ll see this week if they play some man coverage. Richard Sherman traveled with Brandon Marshall earlier and that was a great matchup so we’ll see if he does the same with Julio Jones. Last week, Matt Ryan and the Falcons offense specifically game-planned for Denver and they stayed in base personnel for the most part. The Seattle defense is quick and fast up front, but one thing overlooked is that Jake Matthews has evolved into a solid LT for Atlanta and Alex Mac at C has been great in the outside zone run game. We should see somewhat of a different offense for Atlanta against Seattle, but as long as they remain effective up-front, it should be an exciting Julio-Sherman matchup.