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T.J. Yeldon listed as starter for Week 1

Fantasy Football, NFL News
September 8, 2015
Jags rookie safe to deploy as RB2/FLEX with upside

AP reporter Mark Long reported on Twitter that rookie RB T.J. Yeldon is listed as the Jaguars Week 1 starter ahead of veteran RB Denard Robinson. (Twitter)

Nerdy Football Analysis: While Robinson had a productive 2014 and Yeldon is still pretty raw, the Jags coaches apparently think he’s far enough along to be the main ball carrier for the team and a three-down contributor. He’s safe to deploy as a risky RB2/FLEX with some upside facing the Panthers this week.

Players On IR With Designation To Return

NFL News
September 8, 2015

As of 3:00pm central time this past Sunday, NFL teams could begin adding players to injured reserve lists with the designation to return. Unlike the usual IR list, which keeps a player inactive all season or until he reaches an injury settlement with his team, this shorter-term IR list allows a player to begin practicing after six weeks and to begin playing in games after eight weeks.

Of course, whereas the standard injured reserve list can accommodate several players at once, NFL teams can only use the designation to return on one player, so teams must be cautious about how to fire that single bullet. Given the eight-week timeframe for the IR-DTR slot, most clubs will use it during the season’s first few weeks if they need to use it at all.

So far, a handful of clubs have taken advantage of the opportunity to use the IR-DTR spot — we’ll list all those players right here. If other clubs decide to use their openings at any point, we’ll note that below as well. This post can be found anytime on our right-hand sidebar under the Nerdy Football Features menu.

Here’s the full list so far:

AFC East:

  • Buffalo Bills: Unused
  • Miami Dolphins: Used on RB Jay Ajayi (rib)
  • New England Patriots: Unused
  • New York Jets: Used on CB Dee Milliner (wrist)

AFC North:

  • Baltimore Ravens: Unused
  • Cincinnati Bengals: Unused
  • Cleveland Browns: Used on CB Charles Gaines (hamstring)
  • Pittsburgh Steelers: Used on C Maurkice Pouncey (fibula)

AFC South:

  • Houston Texans: Unused
  • Indianapolis Colts: Unused
  • Jacksonville Jaguars: Unused
  • Tennessee Titans: Used on RB David Cobb (calf)

AFC West:

  • Denver Broncos: Unused
  • Kansas City Chiefs: Unused
  • Oakland Raiders: Unused
  • San Diego Chargers: Unused

NFC East:

  • Dallas Cowboys: Unused
  • New York Giants: Unused
  • Philadelphia Eagles: Unused
  • Washington: Unused

NFC North:

  • Chicago Bears: Unused
  • Detroit Lions: Used on CB Alex Carter (ankle)
  • Green Bay Packers: Unused
  • Minnesota Vikings: Unused

NFC South:

  • Atlanta Falcons: Unused
  • Carolina Panthers: Unused
  • New Orleans Saints: Unused
  • Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Used on T Demar Dotson (MCL)

NFC West:

  • Arizona Cardinals: Unused
  • San Francisco 49ers: Unused
  • Seattle Seahawks: Unused
  • St. Louis Rams: Unused

Fantasy Football Week 1: Flex and PPR Rankings for Top 50 Players

Fantasy Football
September 8, 2015

Weeks of meticulous research and planning paid off on draft day. Take a breather from depth-chart diving and enjoy the fruits of your labor.

Make it snappy, though. The fantasy football grind only intensifies with the chore of submitting an optimal lineup every week.

Week 1 presents a challenging tuneup for gamers across the globe. In the middle of the season, managers can identify wide receivers seeing increasing targets and vulnerable opponents who can’t stop the pass. This weekend, however, everyone is left with last year’s outdated data along with speculations based on offseason moves and personnel changes.

Let’s dust off the cobwebs with a look at Week 1’s top 50 flex plays under standard and point-per-reception (PPR) scoring. The rankings will include tight ends along with running backs and wide receivers, but anyone starting a tight end in the flex spot is probably in for a long year.

Week 1 Flex/PPR Rankings

While target monsters obviously carry more weight in PPR scoring, their stability also offers peace of mind to gamers operating under standard scoring. Must-start studs in PPR leagues, Julian Edelman and Jarvis Landry still derive flex appeal across the board.

Everything is in line for Edelman to explode on Thursday night as long as he’s healthy. The elusive wideout, who dealt with an ankle injury all August, wouldn’t reveal any updates to the Boston Herald‘s Jeff Howe two weeks ago.

“Ask Bill (Belichick),” Edelman said. “We’re taking it day by day. I think I’m 10 seconds better than the last 10 seconds.”

The curmudgeonly New England Patriots head coach shockingly hasn’t shared more information, meaning managers will have to pay attention on Thursday night. If healthy, Edelman is the clear-cut No. 1 wide receiver after the team officially placed Brandon LaFell on the physically unable to perform (PUP) list.

In his last two seasons, the former seventh-round selection has collected 197 catches through 30 games. His role only expanded to close out the 2014 campaign. Including three stellar postseason performances, he amassed 73 receptions for 786 yards and four touchdowns over the Patriots’ final nine bouts. With Tom Brady back in play, the Patriots and Pittsburgh Steelers are poised to start the season with a shootout.

As for Landry, he gets a Washington defense that surrendered the second-most fantasy points to receivers last year under standard ESPN.com scoring. Pro Football Focus graded it football’s worst defense in terms of pass coverage:

While he didn’t compile a 100-yard game all year, Landry averaged 53.9 yards per contest over his last dozen games. It looks boring, but at least owners know they’re leaving the week with something. PPR players can expect at least five extra points their way from the trendy breakout pick.

Nobody will blame a standard gamer turning elsewhere for a big splash. Pro Football Focus’ Mike Clay noted the second-year pro’s limited prowess downfield during exhibition play:

Players need to access their level of risk tolerance. Some would rather gamble on DeSean Jackson breaking free once, but a consistent target given a golden matchup is tough to ignore.

Anyone who exerted a first-round choice on Le’Veon Bell will play Week 1 short-handed at running back. So will those who drafted Arian Foster, Todd Gurley and/or LeGarrette Blount, and none of their replacements are particularly appealing.

The shortage of rushers turns Giovani Bernard into a serviceable flex play. Usurped by Jeremy Hill, he still compiled 453 yards over the Cincinnati Bengals’ final seven games. He made his presence felt as a pass-catcher, making him a sneaky play in any scoring.

Last season, the Oakland Raiders relinquished an NFL-worst 22.0 fantasy points per game to running backs on ESPN.com. They allowed 78 catches for 761 yards and seven touchdowns to backs, and Hill only tallied 27 receptions during his rookie year.

Bernard played in eight of Cincinnati’s wins, averaging 15 carries. If Cincinnati builds up a decent lead, he could spell his replacement for 10-12 handoffs along with some targets, which isn’t too shabby for someone viewed as a top-10 back this time last year.

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Kam Chancellor not expected to play in 2015

Fantasy Football, NFL News
September 8, 2015
Seahawks safety plans on continuing holdout indefinitely

Ed Werder posted on Twitter that a Seahawks’ source told him they are planning as if holdout safety Kam Chancellor won’t play. He said one source told him “I don’t think we’re going to have him at all this season.” (Twitter)

Nerdy Football Analysis: This is devastating news for those who counted on Chancellor in IDP leagues, as well as Seahawks DST owners. It’s seemingly counterproductive to Chancellor’s goals of getting a new contract. Let’s hope something changes in the coming days and weeks.

Start 'Em, Sit 'Em Week 1: Top Matchup Plays and Sleepers for Opening Games

Fantasy Football
September 8, 2015

Welcome to the most difficult time of the year for fantasy football start ’em, sit ’em decisions.

It’s Week 1, which means all owners have to work with is projections and last year’s numbers, a dangerous combo sure to nudge more than a few owners in the wrong direction right out of the opening gates.

Through a smart draft, waiver-wire pickups and more, owners should be sitting in a good position before byes and injuries, though, so droves of options means plenty of winning combinations.

Below, let’s take a look at some of the top names when it comes to start ’em, sit ’em scenarios and point owners in the ideal direction while also taking a deeper dive at some of the best matchup plays and sleepers.

QB

Top Matchup Play: Matt Ryan, Atlanta Falcons (vs. PHI)

Too easy.

Aaron Rodgers of the Green Bay Packers has an oh-so-obvious matchup, but perhaps more interesting for owners would be Matt Ryan of the Atlanta Falcons.

Last year, the Philadelphia Eagles tied for the second-most points allowed to quarterbacks on average. Ryan, on the other hand, ranked as the seventh-highest scorer.

Even better, this one comes in Atlanta on Monday Night Football. In other words, it’s another day for new offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan to scheme up his deep-passing attack, which borderline promises to produce more points than ever with Julio Jones and Roddy White at his disposal, both of whom missed time last year.

In what should be a shootout, Ryan’s a superb value pick and the best matchup play this side of Rodgers.

Sleeper: Ryan Tannehill, Miami Dolphins (at WAS)

The best matchup nobody sees coming?

Ryan Tannehill against Washington. It’s a road game, but owners seem to forget Tannehill posted the ninth-most points among quarterbacks last year under the guidance of first-year coordinator Bill Lazor.

It’s all uphill from here, especially against a Washington defense that surrendered the most points to quarterbacks last year on average. The Dolphins were serious about upgrading around their franchise quarterback too, considering Kenny Stills, Greg Jennings and rookie DeVante Parker join Jarvis Landry in the passing game.

For a guy with an average draft position (ADP) of 8.08 as the 12th quarterback off boards, Tannehill‘s an incredible sleeper.

RB

Top Matchup Play: Jeremy Hill, Cincinnati Bengals (at OAK)

Jeremy Hill of the Cincinnati Bengals was one of fantasy football’s best surprises last year.

Despite receiving more than 10 carries once in his first six games as a rookie, Hill exploded as a top-10 scorer at the position. Now there aren’t any training wheels and he has his eyes set on an explosive sophomore debut, per Joe Danneman of Fox 19:

The opponent? The Oakland Raiders, owners of the worst average points allowed to backs last year.

Granted, the Raiders appear better on paper this year, but Hill didn’t have many problems with defenses last year provided the opportunities were there, which they will be Sunday.

Sleeper: Frank Gore, Indianapolis Colts (at BUF)

There’s no reason to go away from Frank Gore now.

Make no mistake—Gore sits in a tough matchup this week against the Buffalo Bills, a team that devastated running backs last season. But Gore does just as much damage year in and out, having not missed a game since 2011 and easily surpassing the 250-attempt mark in each of the past four seasons.

ESPN.com‘s fantasy writeup put it best:

He’ll take his rock-solid act to Indy, where one of the NFL’s highest-scoring offenses should afford him TD chances galore. The Colts don’t have a legit threat to Gore on the depth chart; even better, he’s an elite blocker who won’t come off the field in passing situations.

Gore is a proven every-down back afforded wider holes than usual and better scoring opportunities thanks to his new situation with Andrew Luck as quarterback.

WR

Top Matchup Play: Julio Jones, Atlanta Falcons (vs. PHI)

Sometimes this is just how matchups unfold, folks.

Julio Jones might be worthy of top-three praise. He finished eighth in scoring last year at the spot, but he missed time with an injury. With the aforementioned Shanahan in town, who loves to lean on No. 1 wideouts, Jones’ ranking of third in targets (163) and receptions (104) will only go north, health permitting.

As for this matchup in particular, the Eagles don’t have a player who can run with Jones. Over at Pro Football Focus, Byron Maxwell ranked as the 45th corner in the league last year. The starter opposite him, Nolan Carroll, didn’t receive a grade.

Jones is in for a big day, which is what happens when elite talent meets the perfect matchup.

Sleeper: Davante Adams, Green Bay Packers (at CHI)

Injury and circumstance has boosted Green Bay Packers wideout Davante Adams from almost unknown territory to one of fantasy’s most important players.

With Jordy Nelson gone and Randall Cobb fighting a shoulder issue, Adams might just wind up as Aaron Rodgers’ favorite target this weekend against the Chicago Bears despite catching only 38 balls for 446 yards and three scores last year as a rookie.

It’s important to dive deeper, though, as Rich Hribar of Rotoworld did:

Adams seems a lock to see the necessary target numbers, especially against a Bears defense that one year ago allowed the ninth-most points to wideouts on average and just parted ways with Tim Jennings.

TE

Top Matchup Play: Charles Clay, Buffalo Bills (vs. IND)

Charles Clay seems like a boom-or-bust player this year after four solid seasons in Miami. For one, he’s going to deal with Tyrod Taylor or EJ Manuel under center, and two, wideouts such as Percy Harvin and Sammy Watkins will demand the ball.

Still, when the going’s good with Clay, it figures to be great.

So it should go this weekend in his team’s encounter with the Colts, a defense that allowed the third-most points to tight ends. In a hostile environment, it won’t matter who is under center. Clay will see the ball plenty on third downs and within scoring range, meaning he’s a major Week 1 breakout candidate.

Sleeper: Tyler Eifert, Cincinnati Bengals (at OAK)

It’s understandable to sleep on Tyler Eifert, who went down with a season-ending injury in Week 1 last year and resides on the same offense as Hill and one A.J. Green.

Still, anyone who saw the Cincinnati offense last year before the injury knows Eifert was going to be the second-biggest target, if not see more targets than Green with Andy Dalton under center.

It’s something owners have seen reinforced so far, as Eifert was the focal point of the passing attack in the preseason, hauling in five passes for 67 yards.

Now Eifert gets another stab at becoming a top-five player at his position against one of last year’s 10 worst defenses against the spot. It’s a situation to exploit to great effect before more owners catch on to Eifert‘s value.

All scoring info courtesy of ESPN standard leagues, as is points-against info and ownership stats as of September 7. Statistics courtesy of ESPN. All ADP info courtesy of Fantasy Football Calculator.

Follow Chris_Roling on Twitter

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