Exploitation is a key component of fantasy football rankings and projections.
Normally a word with negative connotations, in the realm of fake football it simply means jumping on top of favorable matchups. Owners need it more than ever, too—Thursday Night Football between the Indianapolis Colts and Houston Texans just saw Andre Johnson, Brian Hoyer and Jaelen Strong lead all scorers.
Below, let’s examine the rest of Week 5 with point projections based on matchups and highlight some exploitable situations that should be on an owner’s mind going into the weekend.
Week 5 Schedule
Through four games, Manning has breached double digits twice and thrown an interception in each contest. If there’s ever a team to turn it around against, though, it would be the Oakland Raiders.
Oakland allows the fifth-most points to quarterbacks on average, allowing each opponent faced to reach double digits and toss two scores. On the road or not, two scores seems like the floor for his production this weekend.
Here’s a barometer for how strange things have been this year—Tennessee Titans rookie quarterback Marcus Mariota has scored more points than Manning.
Which is something owners should want to hear. Mariota has at least 15 points in every contest with eight touchdowns in three games. Now he gets the Buffalo Bills, a defense that sounds scary on paper, but actually ranks two spots above Oakland against quarterbacks after having already surrendered 10 touchdowns.
Le’Veon Bell’s return from a two-game suspension couldn’t be going better.
The Pittsburgh Steelers lead back posted 19 points in Week 3, then turned around on a short week and posted 20 in a Thursday showdown. Now rested this time around, Bell looks like one of the best plays of the year this week.
The San Diego Chargers are the second-worst team against backs, having allowed four scores to the position and 27, 12, 32 and 29 points. The 25-point average should be the expected floor for Bell this week as the offense leans on him without quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.
How about a lesser-known exploit play? New England Patriots back Dion Lewis comes to mind.
Few owners had trust in Lewis because Bill Belichick‘s game of musical chairs in the backfield ruins a player’s production more often than not. It’s hard not to consider Lewis the real deal after two scores and three trips to double digits in three games.
An encounter with the Dallas Cowboys writes itself for the versatile back. Over the defense’s past two games, opposing backs have scored 37 and 35 points. Lewis is in for a good chunk of production.
So far, New York Giants wideout Odell Beckham Jr. has yet to erupt.
It’s an odd thought considering Beckham already touts one 20-point outing, but he’s been held to 20 more points total in his three other outings.
An encounter with the hapless San Francisco 49ers should fix the issue in a hurry. The 49ers have allowed every wideout corps to reach double digits this year. Receivers of Beckham’s caliber usually have field days against the unit, hence 46 points allowed to Pittsburgh wideouts and another 32 surrendered to Arizona Cardinals receivers.
Beckham should run wild against the 49ers in the same way Jeremy Maclin of the Kansas City Chiefs should against the Chicago Bears.
Chicago has already allowed eight touchdowns and two allowances of 31 or more points to the position. Maclin is one of the league’s most-targeted players with a whopping 40 already. He’s turned the chances into top-12 fantasy production at his position.
It normally applies to running backs, but in this case, opportunity equals production for Maclin, whose targets will at least stay consistent against a miserable defense.
It’s so easy—play any tight end against the Raiders.
Oakland surrenders an average of five more points to the position than any other defense. For such an erratic fantasy spot, that’s quite a lot. The defense has allowed at least 14 points to the position in each game along with six total scores.
In other words, it’s Owen Daniels time. Manning isn’t leaning on his tight ends like he has in past years, but the veteran Daniels continues to see a larger role as the season goes along, having caught a score in each of his past two outings.
Given the matchup, banking on returning San Diego tight end Antonio Gates makes sense.
The Chargers encounter the Steelers, who have let up eight or more points in two games to tight ends. The unit’s four scores allowed came at the hands of the New England Patriots (three of which went to Rob Gronkowski), sure, but since it has yet to encounter anything like Gates. He’s in for a major performance after having so long to prep for his debut.
With defenses, much of the argument can boil down to consistency.
This is why the Giants look so good this week. Coach Tom Coughlin’s unit has scored at least eight points in three of four contests, the exception being a showdown with the Atlanta Falcons that owners should have known to avoid anyway.
Not to avoid? An encounter with the 49ers. Colin Kaepernick and Co. allow the most points to fantasy defenses thanks to 14 sacks, five interceptions and a pair of scores allowed off turnovers.
If there’s a way to keep New York’s defensive consistency alive, it would be against the leaking San Francisco offense.
It doesn’t get much more exploitable than this.
Brandon McManus is fantasy’s leading scorer at kicker. The Raiders, like tight ends, just can’t seem to stop leaking points to the position, allowing the most points to it through four games.
McManus has two double-digit outings on the year, the same contests he’s tallied three or more attempts in.
Manning and Co. figure to do plenty of scoring, but a field goal here and there will help keep McManus at the top of the leaderboard.
All scoring info courtesy of ESPN standard leagues, as is points-against info and ownership stats as of October 9. Statistics courtesy of ESPN.com. Miami, Minnesota, Carolina and the New York Jets are on bye.
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