These fantasy football picks will guide you to the money in the Monday and Thursday NFL contests.
Top Pick: Andrew Luck, Indianapolis Colts, $17,300
Luck is in a class of his own when compared to the other quarterbacks playing in the Monday and Thursday NFL contests. He entered week nine leading quarterbacks in passing attempts and passing yards, and tied for the lead in touchdown passes. The stud quarterback has thrown for more than 300 yards in all but one game, and he’s tossed multiple touchdowns in all but one game as well. That type of consistency is huge, and he’s a threat on the ground as well having rushed for a pair of scores and 124 yards. Vegas Insider has the betting point total at 50 with the Colts serving as a three point favorite, and that makes the Colts the highest projected scoring team in the two prime time weeknight contests. Pony up for the head honcho on the Colts.
Value Pick: Eli Manning, New York Giants, $12,700
With just a three point spread, the Giants are projected to hang with the Colts in a shootout. Manning is doing a decent job of settling into offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo’s scheme, and that’s reflected by his ranking 10th in Pro Football Focus’s PFF QB Rating entering this week’s games. Manning is enjoying a bounce back season in which he’s taking care of the football (just five interceptions), and his 14 touchdown passes match the total number of touchdown throws from Andy Dalton and Brian Hoyer combined through the first eight weeks of the season. The loss of Victor Cruz isn’t ideal for Manning’s chances of lighting it up through the air, but he’s facing a Colts defense that PFF ranks 15th in pass coverage and Football Outsiders (FO) ranks 17th in pass defense. Manning’s 2004 draft mate Ben Roethlisberger spanked the Colts in week eight, and there is no doubt the Giants signal caller was licking his chops watching on the team’s bye week.
Top Pick: Jeremy Hill, Cincinnati Bengals, $9,050
Giovani Bernard was forced to sit out Sunday’s game with a hip pointer and collarbone injury, and Hill went nuts in his first career start. The rookie runner rumbled for 154 yards rushing and a pair of touchdowns on 24 carries while adding a reception for nine yards. It’s too early to know if Bernard will be out of the Thursday Night Football game, but given the quick turnaround, it’s safe to guess that even if he’s active Hill will be in line for significant work to reduce Bernard’s workload. And in the event Bernard is inactive, Hill will have a shot at another big game on the ground facing a Browns defense that PFF ranks 17th and FO ranks 30th defending the run.
Value Pick: Terrance West, Cleveland Browns, $5,550
The Browns backfield is a mess, and just a few weeks removed from being a healthy inactive, West actually led the backfield in carries this weekend with 15 to Tate’s 10. He also bested Tate in yardage by a huge disparity of 48 yards to three. West’s healthy scratch was perplexing as he’s been arguably the best back on the team. His 2.4 YCo/Att ranks tied for 19th out 58 backs that have played 25% or more of their team’s snaps, and his 11 missed tackles forced running were just one less than Tate’s 12 on 18 fewer carries prior to Sunday’s game. There is a risk that West could take a backseat to Tate again, but at West’s cost he is a great dice roll facing a run defense ranked 29th by PFF and 32nd by FO. Those ranks are unlikely to improve after allowing 122 yards rushing and a touchdown on 21 carries by Jaguars running backs on Sunday.
Top Pick: A.J. Green, Cincinnati Bengals, $13,050
Green was healthy enough to play on Sunday for the first time since week five, and he immediately made an impact hauling in three receptions for 44 yards and a touchdown. Mohamed Sanu has stepped up in a big way in Green’s absence, and that means that the days of Green being options one, two and three in the passing game may be a thing of the past. Have no fear though, Green is one of the elite receivers in the game and will still get a heaping helping of targets. He’s not just a volume created stud either, as his 3.53 YPRR in the highest total among wide receivers that have received 25% or more of their team’s targets. PFF ranks the Browns best in pass coverage and FO ranks them 13th in pass defense, but Joe Haden has been one of the worst corners in football this season. His PFF coverage grade is tied for the 14th worst among cornerbacks that have played 25% or more of their team’s snaps, and with that bit of knowledge it should come as little surprise that FO ranks the Browns 30th defending number one wide receivers. Let others mistakenly fade Green for fear of Haden shutting him down, but don’t make the mistake of doing so yourself.
Value Pick: Taylor Gabriel, Cleveland Browns, $4,000
Gabriel doesn’t top the Browns wide receiver depth chart, but the snaps played number tells an interesting tale. PFF credits the rookie receiver with playing 276 snaps and running 154 pass routes this year, putting him just behind number two receiver Miles Austin in both categories as he’s totaled 307 snaps and run 181 pass routes. Gabriel is also well ahead of Travis Benjamin in both counts. The diminutive receiver led the Browns in receptions with five, and receiving yards with 87 against the Buccaneers on Sunday, and he even added a touchdown grab for good measure. His value far exceeds his bare minimum salary, and he’s a great option to offset some of the bigger ticket items I’ve touted.
Top Pick: Larry Donnell, New York Giants, $8,300
I went back and forth between Donnell and Dwayne Allen as the top pick at tight end, and both will be rostered heavily by me (and in many instances, I’ll roster them together with one serving as a flex choice). Donnell had a sizable role in the passing game in Cruz’s absence in a week seven showdown with the Cowboys. He led the Giants in receptions and receiving yards in that game with seven and 90 respectively, and with FO ranking the Colts 30th defending tight ends in the passing game, it makes sense that he’ll be utilized heavy on Monday night.
Value Pick: Coby Fleener, Indianapolis Colts, $6,450
Fleener isn’t even the best tight end on his own club, but given the Colts propensity for trotting out two tight end sets, he’ll have his own opportunity to take advantage of a Giants defense that FO ranks dead last defending tight ends in the passing game. According to PFF, Fleener has actually run more pass routes, 242, than Allen, 210. Allen has been the touchdown scoring leader at the position for the Colts, but Fleener has grabbed three scores himself. The Stanford product is a worthy gamble due to his cost, the high scoring projection for the Colts, and the shortcomings of the Giants stopping tight ends.