Week4: Analyzing Ease of Schedule

By Jen Ryan
(Reference Link: http://www.footballdiehards.com/eosforecast.cfm)

“Play the match ups” is one of the most common, if not most obvious, pieces of fantasy advice anyone can give. Match ups are essentially what it all boils down to when you have tough decisions in season long leagues and match ups should play a heavy part in decision making in terms of daily fantasy. To reiterate, playing the matchup is common and obvious. You probably do not want to play a WR2 against the Seattle Seahawks or the New York Jets. Simple enough, right? Well, sort of. Match ups need to be further analyzed beyond “avoid the Legion of Boom” and “stranded on Revis Island”. You need to consider the whole season relative to what is happening this week, the next three weeks, the middle of the season, and the playoffs. Below are a few teams with favorable match ups to consider in both season long and daily leagues.

Chicago Bears – vs. Oakland, @ Kansas City, @ Detroit
The 0-3 Chicago Bears are similar to the New Jersey Turnpike towards the end winter: battered, completely run over, and full of holes so big they may never be completely fixed. However, the Turnpike still has its faithful that ride it and with a little patience is usually becomes somewhat smoothed over. Things could not be possibly going any worse for the Bears. Their starting quarterback, who was off to a putrid start, is injured and their reserve quarterback reminded the team they need to value Cutler more than they do. Much like the Turnpike, the Bears seem to be undergoing a reconstruction with unloading two players yesterday, and rumor has it they aren’t done.

I say we focus on the positive. A quick glance at our Ease of Schedule Forecast provides a glimmer of hope in the Windy City. Over the next three weeks no team has a higher receiving esov score than the Chicago Bears (1.75). Their next three match ups are rather friendly through the air. History has shown us that “bad’ NFL quarterback does not necessarily equate to “bad” fantasy quarterback. A healthy Jay Cutler is imperative to elevate the fantasy value off all Chicago offensive skill positions, including the run game. Of their next three match ups the Bears, on the ground, have two favorable ones opposed to one unfavorable (Kansas City).

Verdict: Buy low on all Chicago Bears. The window to acquire Alshon Jeffery, Martellus Bennett, and Matt Forte has likely never been this wide open. Jeffery is injured but should see the field this week. It is encouraging the coaching staff opted to rest him rather than force him to play unhealthy. Jay Cutler rested as well, and despite the criticisms, he can churn out a positive fantasy output with all his weapons on the field. Jeffery, Bennett, and Forte should be trade targets for you in season long leagues and should slowly return value in daily leagues as their prices slightly dip. Do not forget about Eddie Royal who, contingent on his health, can be a sneaky PPR option.

Denver Broncos – vs. Minnesota, @ Oakland, @ Cleveland
C.J. Anderson is a bust, Peyton Manning might as well be in a wheel chair, and Demaryius Thomas only one touchdown. Burn it all to the ground if you have Broncos on your team, right? Not so fast. It is only Week 4, meaning there is 75% of the fantasy football season remaining. The next few games present the Denver Broncos with the opportunity to bounce back in fantasy terms (not in real football, where people need to remember that they are 3-0). Emmanuel Sanders has been on fire which has slightly cast a shadow over Demaryius Thomas. Fantasy owners seem close to cutting bait on Anderson and rightfully so with his performance thus far, but panicking this early is impulsive and dangerous. Manning deserves some respect and has the chance to earn it over the next three games. Broncos receivers have two neutral and one favorable match up on the horizon and running backs have one unfavorable match up (Minnesota) against two favorable. In the same vein as the Chicago Bears, the Denver Broncos have opportunities for fantasy success ahead of them.

It feels like it is now or never for Anderson and I would err on the side of now when it comes to him. He has been banged up these first few weeks but has not incurred any major injury. Shockingly, Ronnie Hillman has scored more fantasy points on the season that he has. If it does not turn around for Anderson this week, it has to against Oakland and Cleveland. Thomas is coming off of a 9 catches for 92 yards game that saw him finally make a trip to the end zone. 100 yard, multi-score games can be expected and we can assume that we have experience his floor. We may be witnessing Manning’s decline but I would not bank on that just yet.

Verdict: Buy low on Anderson, Thomas, and Manning. Hold Sanders, but possibly sell after his next big game in season long leagues. Anderson and Manning have gone down in pricing each week on Draft Kings. While most of the pool will be fading them over the next few weeks this is your opportunity to play them while they are at their cheapest. Week 4 is a bad match up, however that could drive prices even further down for those Oakland and Cleveland games. Thomas is still an expensive receiver in daily at $8,100, but that’s a discount compared to Julio Jones ($9,300) and Odell Beckham, Jr. ($9,100). As you may have guessed, Emmanuel Sanders is right behind him, priced at $7,700. Do not give up on these Broncos (yet).

Kansas City Chiefs - @ Cincinnati, vs. Chicago, @ Minnesota
Jeremy Maclin scored a touchdown! Let’s jump all over him in every format imaginable now! Obviously I’m exercising my right to use hyperbole here but more touchdowns could be on the horizon for all receivers, including their elite tight end. These next three match ups present two favorable games and one neutral game (Minnesota). If you look a little further down the road you will see the Chiefs passing game does not encounter a bad match up until Week 10 when they play the Broncos at Mile High Stadium. If you switch over to the receiving view on our tool you will see a sea of red until Week 8. Do not be deterred by this. Despite the poor rushing match ups these are still positive for the Jamaal Charles due to his contributions in the passing game.

Alex Smith’s slow start in Week 3 is a cause for concern. At times he looked lost and we are all aware of his hesitance and/or inability to throw more than ten yards. On the season he is averaging just 7.4 yards per completion already has three interceptions to his four touchdowns. He is playing poorly to say the least, but it does not necessarily poorly impact his receivers. It does not matter how short he throws when targeting Kelce because he averages an astounding 15.3 yards after the catch. The small issue with Kelce is that he is not targeted enough. He has just 21 on the season, one more than Charles. It is baffling that Andy Reid refuses to feed him, but these next couple of games may give him no choice. Game script can be dictating his usage and these friendly defenses could, and should, invite more volume in the direction of Travis Kelce.

Verdict: Sell high on Jeremy Maclin. People will buy into his touchdown as a sign of things to come. Continue to pay up for both Charles and Kelce in daily. Their upcoming opponents could offer them an abundance of points. Play Alex Smith if you dare, but wait until Week 5. His saving grace is the yards he gets on the ground, but if he cannot throw for 300 yards and multiple touchdowns against Chicago he may be doomed.

The Ease of Schedule tool is meant as a reference but if you analyze it there are a ton of conclusions you can come to. Match ups always are deeper than then the “soft against the pass” or “tough against the run” generalizations. In season long it is important to have the win now mentality but getting to the playoffs is the goal. Ease of Schedule is a great way to plan ahead and target players for the stretch. Give yourself an edge in daily fantasy also when analyzing Ease of Schedule. It is a useful tool when you begin considering match ups and constructing your money making line ups.