Robby Anderson, Alfred Morris and the other top fantasy NFL pickups this week

Jay Asser 23:31 08/10/2018
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Here are five players to target on the waiver wire this week, who could be useful in your lineup going forward.

ROBBY ANDERSON

It doesn’t really need to be said after his performance on Sunday, but Anderson will be the most sought-after pickup this week.

The New York Jets wideout is a classic boom-or-bust player who is dependent on the long ball, but when it connects, it can yield a plethora of points – as it did against Denver who he burned for 123 yards and two touchdowns on just three catches.

ALFRED MORRIS

This is obvious, but if Matt Breida misses time due to his ankle injury, Morris in line for a greater workload, like the one he received this weekend when he had 18 carries and five targets.

The 49ers offence isn’t setting the world on fire right now, but opportunity is king in fantasy.

And for those in PPR leagues, fullback – that’s right, fullback – Kyle Juszczyk is a sneaky play for his work as a receiver.

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JALEN RICHARD

Speaking of running backs who have value in PPR leagues, Richard should garner attention for what he’s doing as Derek Carr’s safetly valve.

He’ll give you almost nothing in the ground game – he has five rushing yards on four attempts the past four games – but his 24 receptions on 29 targets for 205 yards makes him a potential flex play, especially with bye weeks starting to hit.

JOSH REYNOLDS

It’s unclear if Brandin Cooks or Cooper Kupp will be available for the Los Angeles Rams this week after suffering concussions on Sunday, which could thrust Reynolds into immediate fantasy relevancy.

The Rams offence isn’t going to suddenly shy away from what has worked so far, and Reynolds stands to benefit if he sees starter-level snaps. Make sure you monitor Cooks and Kupp’s status though.

CHESTER ROGERS

The Indianapolis Colts wide receiver has come to the fore the past two weeks, hauling in eight passes on 11 targets in two straight contests.

The first of those performances was with T.Y. Hilton on the field, so it’s not as if Rogers’ value is completely dependent on whether or not Andrew Luck’s favourite target is healthy.

That said, it would help if Hilton doesn’t play this week, which is a possibility.

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How the Los Angeles Rams and Kansas City Chiefs compare in their flawless starts to the season

Jay Asser 22:19 08/10/2018
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Through the first five weeks of the season, there has been a clear divide between the top two teams in the league and everyone else.

It’s no coincidence that these two teams are the only unbeaten sides remaining, as the Kansas City Chiefs and Los Angeles Rams have looked like the unmistakable favourites in their respective conferences.

Talk of whether or not they can go undefeated is still premature. If they’re perfect ahead of their showdown in Week 11, then that’s worth a real conversation. But that’s no sure thing with the New England Patriots and Cincinnati Bengals next on the schedule for the Chiefs, while the Rams have to travel to face the New Orleans Saints in Week 9.

Regardless, it seems like Kansas City and Los Angeles are on a collision course for the Super Bowl. Here’s a look at how they stack up right now and how they’ve taken the league by storm through the first third of the season.

AIR RAID

Quarterback play has been at the centre of the Rams and Chiefs’ success, with Jared Goff and Patrick Mahomes playing like 10-year vets instead of the 23-year-olds that they are.

Both are at the top of the list of MVP candidates as Goff is averaging 345 yards with 12 touchdowns and four interceptions for the league’s best passer rating at 119.7, while Mahomes is throwing for 303 yards per game to go with 14 scores and two interceptions for a passer rating of 112.7, ranking fifth.

The reason Mahomes and Goff have been so efficient is because of their downfield passing, which has picked up chunks at a time and led to quick-strike scores. Goff and Mahomes rank one and two in the league in most 20-plus yard completions, with 28 and 25, respectively.

Part of that has been coaching – more on that coming – but their arm talent and ability to put the ball where it needs to be is undeniable.

GROUND ATTACK

The run game has been a secondary form of attack for both offences, but it’s been more than just a change-of-pace option.

Todd Gurley and Kareem Hunt rank second and fourth in the league in rushing, at 415 and 376 yards respectively, and their impact has extended beyond the instances when they’ve touched the ball. By forcing defences to respect their ability as ball-carriers, they’ve allowed the passing game to flourish off play-action.

And because both offences like to use jet sweeps and end-arounds to leverage the speed of their receivers, the threat of Gurley and Hunt between the tackles has opened up running lanes on the outside.

The Rams and Chiefs will never be power offences built on the run, but they have just enough balance to keep defences guessing.

SCHEME EM UP

As touched on earlier, coaching has been instrumental in unlocking both these teams’ potential, particularly on the offensive side of the ball.

Andy Reid has always been considered a quarterbacks guru, but in Mahomes he has arguably his most talented weapon yet – and he’s unleashing the gunslinger while at the same time putting him in the best position to succeed. The college-like spread concepts the Chiefs are employing has managed to somehow give Mahomes simpler reads and plenty of options at once, in part due to the dangerous pass-catchers he has at his disposal. Because Mahomes can hit every blade of grass on the field, Reid’s play-calling has taken advantage of space beautifully.

The Rams, meanwhile, similarly put a concerning amount of pressure on defences by building off simple concepts. It’s not that Sean McVay is calling intricate plays that are designed to beat any defence – it’s that the plays are fungible enough to beat specific types of coverages. It also helps when your trio of wide receivers – Brandin Cooks, Robert Woods and Cooper Kupp – can be used in indistinguishable ways to keep defences from keying in.

Reid and McVay are putting on coaching clinics week after week, and while the talent they’re working with allows them to do so, they’re getting the most out of it.

ACHILLES HEEL

As dominant as Kansas City and Los Angeles have been, it’s not as if they’re without flaws – nearly all of which reside on defence.

The Chiefs are far more one-dimensional as their defence has been one of the worst in the NFL, allowing a league-worst 461.8 yards per game and an average of 25.8 points. They had an encouraging performance against Jacksonville this past weekend, forcing five turnovers to take the pressure off the other side of the ball, but they still have issues to work out. The play in the secondary has been particularly bad, but if they can get Eric Berry back at some point this season – the star safety is dealing with a heel injury – that could go a long way in getting the defence up to average. With that offence, average is all they need.

Los Angeles’ defence hasn’t been bad, per se, but it’s underperformed considering the talent the unit possesses, which created high expectations. They rank ninth in yards allowed (341.4) and seventh in points (19.6), but they’re surrendering the fourth-most yards per rush (5.0) and are tied for the fifth-fewest sacks (10). That last stat is troubling because a defensive line featuring Aaron Donald and Ndamukong Suh should be eating quarterbacks alive, but that hasn’t been the case. And the loss of Aqib Talib in the secondary has hurt a group that has been burned too many times. Still, the pieces are too good for the unit to significantly hamper the team, but they are vulnerable right now.

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Drew Brees on verge of history, while Mark Ingram set to give New Orleans Saints boost against Washington

Jay Asser 20:45 07/10/2018
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All of the focus on Monday night will centre on the New Orleans Saints offence.

One of the most efficient units in the league is set to get an integral piece back, while their leader is expected to break a monumental record.

Drew Brees needs just 201 yards to become the NFL’s all-time passing yardage leader, with his 71,740 yards trailing only Brett Favre’s 71,838 and Peyton Manning’s 71,940.

The Saints quarterback will have the chance to set the new benchmark in front of his home fans at the Superdome, where he has delivered several memorable moments since he arrived to the franchise in 2006.

With the way Brees and New Orleans’ attack have operated through the first four weeks, the record is almost a foregone conclusion. The 39-year-old continues to be near the top of his game as he ranks third in the league in passer rating at 115.3, while having eight touchdowns to no interceptions.

Against Washington, however, the Saints’ passing game should face more resistance than usual. Washington’s defence is allowing the lowest expected points added per pass play in the league, according to Pro Football Focus, while ranking third in both passing yards allowed at 187.3 and passer rating at 77.0.

INGRAM’S RETURN

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Though Brees will remain the focus point of the offence, New Orleans’ game plan could incorporate more of the run game this week with running back Mark Ingram returning after serving his four-game suspension for performance-enhancing drugs.

Alvin Kamara has been unstoppable as a receiver out of the backfield, but the Saints’ ground attack hasn’t been nearly as effective in Ingram’s absence as it was last season, when they ranked second in the league with 4.7 yards per rush and fifth with 129.4 yards per game. So far this season, they rank 10th with 4.4 and 18th with 104.5, respectively.

With Ingram back on the field, not only will New Orleans feel more confident running between the tackles. But it should ease the burden on Kamara, who is averaging 23 touches per game this season.

Kamara has gotten those touches for a reason as he’s leading the league with 611 yards from scrimmage, so Ingram may not force an equal split in work – at least not in his first game back. But eventually, the Saints should strive to look closer to last year’s offence, which will afford them greater balance and alleviate pressure on Brees.

And with Washington’s defence stingy against the pass heading into Monday’s match-up, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Ingram utilised heavily right off the bat.

PETERSON’S REVENGE

There will be plenty of attention on Washington’s running game as well, with Adrian Peterson facing his former team, with whom he saw few opportunities with in all of four games last year before being traded.

Between Ingram and Kamara, New Orleans felt their backfield was crowded enough and that Peterson wasn’t needed. Now, the future Hall of Famer will have his chance to exact revenge and prove why he deserved more of a chance than he received.

At 33, Peterson is averaging 78.6 yards per game and 4.2 yards per rush to look like he still has some juice left.

Though he could be leaned on to eat up the clock and keep Brees on the sidelines on Monday, Washington may instead try to attack the Saints through the air. New Orleans’ run defence is allowing the fewest rush yards per attempt at 3.2, while surrendering the most pass yards per attempt at 9.6.

That could mean a healthy dose of Chris Thompson, who is Washington’s third-down back and change-of-pace option.

Considering the opponent, environment and context on Monday, Washington’s offence will need to deliver.

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