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Quarterbacks

Blake Bortles JAC @ CLE | QB

Despite looking erratic quite often this season, Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles has quietly put up respectable numbers as a bottom-tier option for fantasy owners. He has double digit fantasy points in all but one game this season, including 16 + fantasy points in his last three contests (per standard scoring formats). With a matchup against the Browns porous defense this week, Bortles should continue his under the radar streak of productivity for fantasy owners. The Jaguars will most likely be without wide receiver Allen Hurns this weekend, while Marquise Lee is listed as questionable as he battles a lingering knee issue. Even though Lee is expected to play at less than one-hundred percent, I still love Bortles’ matchup this week. I fully expect the Browns to stack the box in efforts to slow down Leonard Fournette and the running game, which should provide Bortles more room to operate down the field. He’ll be a sneaky candidate for top-ten production in Week 11.

Jay Cutler MIA vs. TB | QB

While it’s safe to say Jay Cutler probably should have opted for the broadcast booth in 2017, he’s been able to string together productive performances in back-to-back games. Albeit, last week’s 213 yards and two passing touchdowns came in complete garbage time, as the Panthers thumped the Dolphins 45-21 on Monday Night. While it’s looking like Cutler and the ‘Fins are a team destined for much more garbage time this season, this week they actually have a solid chance to pickup a win at home against Ryan Fitzpatrick and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Bucs defense ranks 29th in the league against the pass as Cutler will have a prime opportunity to move the ball downfield. I like the chances that Head Coach Adam Gase tries to get Kenny Stills and Devante Parker involved in the vertical passing game with Cutler taking a couple shots downfield. While this offense has struggled immensely over the course of the season, they should be able to put together a respectful day in the passing game.

Running Backs

Tevin Coleman ATL @ SEA | RB

Before the season started, I wrote a column on some of the league’s top running back handcuffs in event of the starter missing time in the lineup. Tevin Coleman was an easy choice for a running back to put in that category. While Coleman has played second-fiddle to Devonta Freeman each of the past three seasons, he has proven to be one of the best backups in the league over the past two. This week, Coleman has a great chance to show the rest of the league what he’s capable of doing when presented with the chance to be an every-down back. Devonta Freeman left last week’s game after sustaining a concussion and doesn’t appear likely to suit-up for Monday Night’s tilt in Seattle, as he’s struggled to gain clearance from the league’s concussion protocol. The Seahawks boast a stout run-defense, ranking ninth against the run this season. However, after losing Richard Sherman to a torn achilles in last week’s win over game over the Cardinals, it’ll take much more of a group effort to corral Julio Jones and the Atlanta Falcons receivers this weekend. I think Coleman has a solid chance to find some running room against a Seattle defense I expect to show a various series of looks, including a bunch of sub-packages of the nickel and dime variety. With Freeman looking like he’ll be ruled out in advance of Monday Night, Coleman should be catapulted towards the top when it comes to low-risk / high-reward DFS plays.

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Jay Ajayi PHI @ DAL | RB

It’s no secret the Philadelphia Eagles have looked like the best team in football throughout the first 10 weeks to this year’s season. However, it’s a scary thought to think their running game has the ability to improve over the back-half of the regular season. After acquiring Jay Ajayi from the Dolphins ahead of the tread deadline, the former Boise State standout has only suited-up for the team in their Week 9 blowout over the Broncos. Absorbing the Philly offense on a short week, Ajayi made the most of his touches, as the fourth-year pro toted the rock eight times for 77 yards and a touchdown. Coming off the Week 10 bye, Ajayi will be more acclimated and comfortable within the confines of the Eagles’ offense for this week’s divisional slate with the rival Cowboys. Ajayi is a similar-styled runner as fellow bruiser LeGarrette Blount, but is quicker into his cuts and can get downfield in a hurry for a big-bodied back. The thought all along was that he would eventually supplant Blount as the featured back, but that sentiment could come to fruition as early as this week. If last week was any indication how much the Cowboys missed their pro-bowl left tackle Tyron Smith, the Cowboys could be in trouble again in Week 11. The team gave up a total of eight sacks, six of which to Adrian Clayborn, and will be without Smith for the second consecutive week. Dak Prescott and the Cowboys offense could certainly struggle with time in the pocket, thus having a difficult time to put up points. If the Eagles get out to an early lead, it could be a downfield dose of a runaway Ajayi train in the second half.

Wide Receivers

Bruce Ellington HOU vs. ARI | WR

With Texans wide receiver Will Fuller expected to miss Sunday’s game against the Cardinals, the next man up will be Bruce Ellington. The former sixth-round pick has been a solid slot receiver and hauled in his first touchdown reception of the year in last week’s loss to the Rams. With shutdown corner Patrick Peterson expected to blanket DeAndre Hopkins all afternoon, look for quarterback Tom Savage to rely on Ellington to create separation if the Houston offense has any chance to move the ball with consistency. Fantasy owners should expect 7 + targets from the third-year receiver and former San Francisco 49er as Ellington will be on the flex radar for Week 11. He’s one of the deeper sleeper for this week in year-long and DFS leagues.

Tight Ends

Tyler Kroft CIN @ DEN | TE

While the Cincinnati Bengals have struggled to maintain consistency this season, they have already been all but eliminated from playoff contention sitting at 3-6. It’s fair to wonder if Marvin Lewis will return for a 16th season as Bengals Head Coach. That said, the Cincinnati offense never materialized the way it hoped as rookie receiver John Ross has struggled to stay on the field, while Tight End Tyler Eifert was shutdown with renewed complications in his surgically repaired back. However, third-year tight end Tyler Kroft has done his best to alleviate the absence of Eifert. The Rutgers product draws a matchup with a Denver Broncos defense that has struggled to duplicate the level of play that earned them the mantra of a “No Fly Zone” stemming from their secondary’s ability to shut down opposing passing attacks. While Denver’s defensive unit still ranks towards the top of the league in defensive metrics, they are no where near as effective as they have been over the past few years. After allowing 51 points two weeks ago against the Eagles, the Broncos followed-up that performance by allowing 41 points to the Patriots on Sunday Night. With Denver’s defense primed to focus all of their attention on bottling up A.J. Green, I think Kroft could quietly put together a solid game.

Defenses

San Diego Chargers SD vs. BUF | DEF

When the Buffalo Bills made the surprise announcement this week that they would start backup quarterback Nathan Peterman in place of Tyrod Taylor, fantasy owners quickly ran to the waiver wire to pickup the Chargers defense. Peterman is a rookie signal-caller out of Pittsburgh who got his feet wet in garbage time in last week’s blowout loss at the hands of the Saints. It’s anyone’s guess what kind of level he’ll play at this Sunday in Los Angeles, but the fact Buffalo’s 5-4 record has been mired by inconsistency by the offense doesn’t bode well for immediate success. The Chargers should be able to force a few turnovers and wreak havoc in the backfield when Peterman makes his first NFL start. The Chargers will be a great, cheap option in DFS for Week 11.

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Matt Ryan – ATL vs. TBMatt-Ryan
After allowing the Redskins’ largest comeback in franchise history this past Sunday (24 points), it’s safe to say the days of Warren Sapp, Simeon Rice, Derrick Brooks and company feel like a distant memory. This Buccaneers defense is flat-out atrocious and a visit to Atlanta with Matt Ryan and the 6-1 Falcons isn’t going to stop the bleeding. Playing on the road the previous two weeks and managing only four TDs in Ryan’s last four games, a stop back at the Georgia Dome is just what the doctor ordered. It speaks volumes that over that same four-game span Julio Jones hasn’t topped the 100 yard mark in receiving, which bodes well for the chances of an imminent explosion from this high-powered passing attack. I expect Matty Ice to throw for 250+ yards and multiple scores in what should be a route of the hapless Bucs.

Cam Newton – CAR vs. INDCam Newton
Coming off a season-worst performance against the Eagles on Sunday Night, Cam Newton and the Panthers look towards an impending matchup against the Colts to get things back on track on Monday night. Despite three Interceptions, Newton still managed to get 17 fantasy points in a lackluster effort. As a run-first oriented offense and Jonathan Stewart on the heels of a 125-yard performance vs. Philly, expect the Colts to try and stop the run-first. Combine that defensive game plan with a Colts secondary allowing 286 yards a game through the air and it’s a safe bet that Cam will improve on his 197 passing yards and one passing touchdown performance from last week.

 

Eli Manning – NYG @ NO
In what will be a homecoming of sorts for Louisiana natives Eli Manning, Odell Beckham Jr. and Rueben Randle, Sunday has all of the fixings Eli Manningfor a successful reunion in the Bayou. After averaging 22 fantasy points in weeks 2 – 5, Eli scuffled in weeks 6 and 7 against divisional foes Philly and Dallas. This week Eli is primed to right the ship against a New Orleans secondary, which has allowed a whopping 276 passing yards per game. With the Giants running-back carousel still in limbo, and a Saints defense that has allowed at least 20 + points in all seven games this season, fantasy owners can expect fireworks from the Giants passing game this week.

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Brian Westbrook, LeSean McCoy, and Jamaal Charles – just a few of the stud RBs that Andy Reid has coached to become some of the most complete backs in both the passing and running game.  After Jamaal Charles suffered a high-ankle sprain in last week’s loss to the Broncos, 2nd year RB Knile Davis spelled Charles to the tune of 2 Tds and 95 total yards on 28 touches. Dating back to last year, in the parts of the 3 Knile Davis Chiefsgames Charles has missed, Davis has racked up a total of 6 TDs in relief.

In Andy Reid’s last season with the Eagles in 2012, LeSean McCoy left a Nov. 18th game after suffering a concussion, forcing McCoy to miss the next two games. Bryce Brown came on in relief for McCoy and rolled along to a juicy 43 – 347 – 4 TD line across the two contests.

As we’re well aware, Andy Reid-coached offenses are highly dependent on the Running Back position, as well as their involvement in the passing game. Davis is a shifty, talented runner working in a run-first scheme and as long as JC25 is on the shelf, Davis will be a bonafide RB1. Waiver-wire vultures can feel comfortable flowing with Knile as their top add for the week.

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When the Dodgers and Red Sox completed their historic trade in 2012, the impact was far-reaching in terms of shaping identities for the respective franchises. Still riding the fumes from the team’s sale to a group led by Magic Johnson, the Dodgers made a bold, but yet simple statement with the acquisitions of hefty contracts in the likes of Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford, and Josh Beckett. The statement was that they Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawfordwere ready to spend, spend, and spend some more – and they have.

In an era of Major League Baseball where lucrative  $20+ million-a-year contracts are dominating the headlines and payrolls, it is rare that a franchise ever gets a shot to make amends for these monstrosities that often stunt a team’s success for years to come (I.E. Ryan Howard’s $125 million extension signed in 2010). However, the Red Sox pulled off this seemingly impossible feat, shedding a lucrative $250+ million in salary through the 2012 deal with the Dodgers. Since then, the Red Sox have made it evident that they were going to scrap the careless spending that led them to handing Carl Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez a near combined $300 million when they signed in 2010 and 2011.

The stark change in thinking netted the Red Sox a historic worst-to-first finish last season. Meanwhile, the Dodgers have continued to add the zeros onto their paychecks, as they made Clayton Kershaw the richest pitcher in MLB history, signing him to a seven year – $215 million deal, earlier this year.

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On the heels of the 2013 season that was both cinematic and magical, 2014 has been nothing but dark and stormy for the Boston Red Sox. One of the few bright spots for the defending World Series champs has been Jon Lester. Over 21 starts this season, Lester has carved out a 10-7 record with a 2.52 ERA and 149 strikeouts across 143 frames. The ERA is on pace for a career best, while the strikeouts are on par with his Jon Lester Red Soxcareer bests from 2009 and 2010.

The 30-year-old has spent his entire nine-year career in Boston and has been a member of two championship teams. However, combine Lester’s impending expiring contract with the Sox being 12 games out of 1st place in the AL East and it has all the makings for a departure from Boston.

While Lester’s teammates would undoubtedly miss one of the most respected and talented players on the club, there are a few of his former teammates who would welcome Lester with open arms. Those being Josh Beckett, Adrian Gonzalez, and Carl Crawford – the focal points of the historic 2012 deal.

The Los Angeles Dodgers 2014 campaign has been nothing short of spectacular. Clayton Kershaw has turned in one of the most dominant seasons for a SP in MLB history, Yasiel Puig has broken onto the scene as a budding superstar, and Dee Gordon has finally leveraged his lightning speed to ignite the top of the L.A. lineup.

With the Cardinals, Pirates, and Athletics listed as potential suitors to strike a deal with the Red Sox for Lester, the Dodgers are the destination that makes the most sense. In complete win-now mode, the Dodgers have been throwing more money around than Pac Man Jones at a Las Vegas stripclub. 2012 trade history aside, the willingness to overpay (in both money and prospects) is the reason why the Red Sox should look no further than southern California as the location to ship Lester.

An integral element to the Lester trade-saga is the situation with Tampa Bay Rays ace, David Price. The Rays have climbed back into the hunt for the AL East by winning 11 of their last 12 games which naturally makes it a more complicated decision with Price. This makes Lester the bread-winner for the 2014 trade deadline, which comes to fruition at 4 pm EST tomorrow, July 31st.

The Red Sox have made it clear that they will not move Lester for anything less than two elite prospects, and I expect a few teams to pump the brakes. However, L.A. should remain committed in its pursuit of the Boston ace. Despite its deep rotation that includes Lester’s former top-of-the-rotation teammate in Boston, Josh Beckett, the Dodgers are no strangers to crowded talent. Two months before they acquired Crawford in 2012, the team gave OF Andre Ethier an absurd five year – $85 million extension, that has since seen him relegated to the bench with the inevitable emergence of Yasiel Puig over the past two seasons.

However, the situation with Lester is not comparable to the faulty course of action the team took in retaining the services of Andre Ethier. Success in the MLB playoffs are predicated on elite pitching depth: allowing the top two or three pitchers in your rotation to take the mound and silence the other team’s bats. While the Dodgers have two clear-cut candidates in the unworldly Kershaw and fellow NL All-Star Zack Greinke, Lester would provide the team with more dominant stuff than current #3 starter, Hyun-Jin Ryu. While Ryu has pitched at an extremely effective level this season (12-5, 3.44 era), it would give the Dodgers the luxury of having four highly reliable pitchers, while being able to lean on Dan Haren and Josh Beckett in a more situational/potential long-relief role out of the bullpen.

As the Red Sox look to net a couple blue-chip prospects in return for Lester, the Dodgers are an above-average fit. The main reason is the surplus of talent in L.A.’s outfield and the lack of talent in Boston’s. The end-result will depend on what the Red Sox value more: getting an established, but inconsistent (and injury-riddled) OF on the cheap or receiving a couple of high-level prospects. My inclination is that it could be a combination of both, but that propensity will depend on whether or not the Red Sox think a player like Matt Kemp could invigorate his career in Boston. The Dodgers are financially committed to Carl Crawford and it will be nearly impossible to get a team to absorb the remaining $70 million or so that he is owed through 2017.  It is a similar situation with Kemp, but it is possible the Red Sox would agree to eat some of his Matt Kempremaining $107 million on his deal.

If the Sox are to pursue the Dodgers farm-system, it all starts with the club’s top prospect, OF Joc Pederson. The 22-year-old has batted .318 with 22 HRs to go along with 25 SBs for Triple-A Albuquerque. Other top prospects include Corey Seager, a 20-year old SS, and Julio Urias, a 17-year old SP.

Despite waiting on the development of outfielders Mookie Betts and Jackie Bradley, the Red Sox have a clear need for an upgrade at OF, as Jonny Gomes, Shane Victorino and Daniel Nava will not be in the plans for the future. Boston could wind up hedging their bets by acquiring a MLB ready OF in Kemp and a top prospect in the minors in Pederson. With an already stacked SS position in the minors (Devin Marrero and Michael Chavis), it would not be pragmatic for the Red Sox to pursue Seager.

With Lester already 30 years-old and set to command $20+ million a season in his new contract, Boston could use their better judgement and acquire valuable, cheaper pieces, while getting something on the open-market for their ace. With the addition of Lester to the Dodgers rotation, they would instantly have the upper-hand in post-season pitching match-ups and would instantly become World Series favorites.

 

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The Vikings competition at quarterback is heating up between the veteran Matt Cassel and the rookie Teddy Bridgewater. According to those at Vikings training camp, Bridgewater has looked extremely impressive in the early-goings and has made a nice transition to the NFL level.

At this juncture, the expectation is that Cassel has a tiny advantage over Bridgewater at lining up under for Minnesota in Week 1. However, Bridgewaterthe 1st-year product out of Louisville is beginning to make the strides that the team envisioned when they made him the 32nd overall pick of last year’s draft.

It’ll be interesting to see how things shake out with the Vikings, but I expect Bridgewater to ultimately be handed the keys to Minnesota’s offense. For all intensive purposes, Bridgewater holds the higher fantasy value.

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After spending his first six NFL seasons with the Titans, Jets newcomber RB Chris Johnson is ready to begin training camp with Gang Green. Johnson underwent surgery in January to clean up a torn meniscus in his knee, but has officially been given the green light for camp.

Chris Johnson gets some reps in Jets camp

Chris Johnson gets some reps in Jets camp

The Titans focused on upgrading their offensive line last season with the hopes of revitalizing CJ2K’s career, but the result was tumultuous, leading to his departure from Tennessee. Now in New York, the 27 year-old Johnson will look to regain his explosiveness from the 2009 and 2010 seasons, where he ran for the most yards and touchdowns in his career.

While CJ will have to fight off Chris Ivory for carries, look for the Jets to use the two in a timeshare with Ivory’s thunder complementing Johnson’s lightning in Marty Mornhinweg’s offense.