Welcome to NFL season! I cannot begin to tell you how excited I am and that alone is shocking as I am a baseball guy through and through. This article is going to be a spin-off of the traditional rankings or studs/values pieces that you are used to or generally see everywhere. I am going to focus on locating some handcuffs/stacks that should work to our advantage this weekend.
When it comes to stacking or handcuffing in football, we generally look to find a WR to pair with our QB and if you are really hardcore and trying to hit a home run you try to add a second pass catcher from that team to your QB/WR combo to make a trio. That strategy is a tough one to get excited about as you really need your QB to go off and allow for two guys to go nuts. Another strategy is to pair your RB with his DEF. Generally when a RB is having a big time game, his DEF is off the field and stays rested, which usually means less opportunities to give up scores but also generally has the opponent trying to play catch up which leads to more picks and/or sacks.
So first we will take a look at the QB position and try to figure out who the high owned combos will be and who might be sneaky in some spots as compared to the ownership %s. There is also something to be said about going “naked” with your QB and taking him on his own with no handcuff.
The highest owned combination in your games is going to be the Aaron Rodgers/Davante Adams tandem as we all know what a bargain Adams is as his salary was posted prior to Jordy Nelson’s injury. For cash games, I don’t think this is one you want to ignore, however in GPPs I think there is a ton of merit to fading this combo. As far as Rodgers goes, I can’t believe I am going to say this but Randall Cobb is going to go severely under owned as long as he is a full go.
The combo that will push the Packers for the highest ownership is most likely going to be the Sam Bradford/Jordan Matthews combination of the Eagles. The game between the Eagles and Falcons is going to be full of points and a lot of exciting plays as the combo on the other sideline, Matt Ryan/Julio Jones should also be popular. These two combos should be in the top 3 of highest owned QB/WR handcuffs on the weekend and for good reason as well. When it comes to the Falcons combo, I do not really have much of an option for a different combo as Roddy White has been recovering from elbow surgery and is far from a guarantee to play a full game. Should he not be able to go, Leonard Hankerson makes for an interesting option to add to Ryan. When it comes to Bradford, I think it’ll be tough to go away from Matthews as he is priced very reasonably across the industry, however I think that Nelson Agholor could be a sneaky option as he is a big time rookie out of USC who should become a big piece of their offense this season.
I will add two more combinations to give you the 5 that I think are the “best” overall. The last 2 also come in a game in which they play each other as Tony Romo/Dez Bryant and Eli Manning/Odell Beckham Jr. That makes 5 extremely strong QB/WR duo’s that could certainly anchor the winning GPP lineups this weekend. For the Cowboys, Terrence Williams is an interesting option as he is really cheap around the industry and has put up some pretty big games. As for the Giants, I am really torn as to which option would be usable as it sounds like Cruz may miss the game which gives Reuben Randle a big time bump up, but it also means that Larry Donnell could be in a great spot at TE. I think with both of those combos, there is no need to look to go contrarian with your handcuff as both of those WRs are big time stars.
When it comes to combos that I think will go a bit under owned, I have 3 that really intrigue me for the weekend as I think they are just being ignored and I am not sure why. The first one will initially surprise you as its one of the best combos in the NFL. Peyton Manning/Demaryius Thomas seem to be flying way under the radar at this point and I find it quite funny as the Ravens pass defense was pretty bad last season. Of course you could always use Emmanuel Sanders as an option as he put up some monster games last season in this offense. The Broncos did lose Julius Thomas in the off-season and I think that puts the two WRs in an even better spot.
Number 2 on my sneaky list is the combination of Drew Brees/Brandin Cooks as they take on a decent Arizona pass defense. With that said, this combination is going to hook-up a LOT this season as long as Cooks stays healthy as the Saints traded away Jimmy Graham in the off-season. This one is a bit more GPP only as Brees turned the ball over frequently last season and just looked off in comparison to his previous 5 seasons.
The last combination that has me excited for not only just this weekend, but for the season is Ryan Tannehill/Jarvis Landry as the Dolphins offense is a trendy pick to take a big step forward this season and Landry is a target machine. I think Jordan Cameron is sneaky within the Dolphins offense, but I also feel like Lamar Miller is poised for a breakout season and I will have more on him shortly.
When it comes to the RB position, there has not been a ton of talk about pairing a RB with his DEF as it’s not something that immediately correlates as far as fantasy production. This one takes some deeper thinking to understand how they tend to go hand in hand. I stated earlier that the more pounding that a RB does in a game, the less time his DEF is on the field and having plays run against them. This also keeps an opposing offense off the field and out of rhythm. This list is a lot smaller than usable QB/WR duos as there just isn’t a ton of stellar RB’s with solid defenses. With that said, I have 4 excellent options to go with 4 that have me intrigued enough to receive some consideration.
The first one I am going to mention, I kind of eluded to earlier as I am a big fan of Lamar Miller/Miami as I think the Dolphins defense is in a great spot against the turnover-prone Kirk Cousins and the Redskins. Miller should be active in the passing game early and if the game flow goes as predicted, he should receive more and more carries as the game goes on and the Dolphins pull away in this one. I personally have the Dolphins defense as my top option for week 1.
The next combo is going to make me sound like a homer (I’m from WIS but hate the Pack and I Love the…), but Adrian Peterson/Minnesota is a great combination as AP appears to be extremely motivated while the Vikings get to face a rough looking 49ers team who have a terrible looking offensive line to go with a rag tag defense after all of the retirements and defections. I never want to be somebody who doubts AP as this is a guy that just finds motivation for everything as evidenced a few years back by his recovery from ACL surgery. The loss of John Sullivan does have me pause as he is a great run blocking center but I think AP should still be able to get it done Monday Night.
The next combination is one that would make me sound like a homer if I actually liked the Packers as Eddie Lacy/Green Bay are in a great spot as the Bears defense is going to have their hands full and I could see the Packers putting up 32+ in this game while having their defense step on Jay Cutler’s throat. Cutler plays pretty terribly against the Packers and that should continue this weekend. The Packers got a lot younger and even more athletic in their secondary and that spells bad things for a Cutler lead Bears team that traded Marshall and has its top 3 WR’s listed with Questionable tags for the weekend.
My last top duo is a little more sneaky than the other 3, however I think Marshawn Lynch/Seattle could really surprise against a tough Rams defense. Lynch can wear down any defense he takes on and with the sudden release of Turbin along with the trade of Michael to the Cowboys, I think Lynch gets to pound it even more even with FJax taking over the #2 role. With that said, the Rams defense is legit, however I think they are more dangerous as pass rushers than as run defenders and I think the best way for Seattle to limit that pass rush is to let Lynch go to work. On the other side of the ball, the Rams offense is breaking in a new QB who was jettisoned by the high flying Eagles. He has some injuries in the backfield as there is a possibility the Rams are without their top 2 backs and are stuck leaning on Isaiah Pead and Benny Cunningham. The Seahawks are always a top tier defense and with the addition of a dangerous return man, Tyler Lockett, I think they make a top 5 option this weekend.
My 4 sneaky, under the radar combinations are Jonathan Stewart/Carolina, Doug Martin/Tampa Bay, Chris Ivory/New York Jets and Alfred Blue/Houston. I will say a little bit about each one and I will start with Ivory and the Jets defense. I think individually these two are going to be somewhat popular as the Jets defense gets to take on a Browns offense that is in shambles. Ivory is an intriguing cheap option for the weekend and as I write this, the Thurs game has started and on FD I am showing an 8.8% ownership level for Ivory. Ivory should get a majority of the carries and he is a load to handle and the Browns front 7 are not known to be extremely stout.
Stewart and the Panthers defense has me intrigued because the defense has some legit players on it and are going up against a Jacksonville Jaguar offense that allowed defenses to score nearly 6 points above expectation against them last season. Stewart gets the reigns as the number 1 back in Carolina as DeAngelo Williams is tearing it up for the Steelers as I type. Stewart will always lose carries to Newton, especially near the goal line.
I think Martin and the Bucs defense are interesting as Martin is extremely cheap and had a great preseason and the Bucs defense will go over looked as they generally aren’t viewed as a top of the line option. I think Mariota will be a solid QB this season, but I do envision some struggles for him and he could be somewhat turnover prone. I honestly like Mariota as a “naked” QB option because of his running ability.
The last combination is Blue and the Texans. The Texans defense is viewed as a top 3 unit in the NFL and are going to always be in the conversation as usable. The Chiefs offense is solid and they generally do not turn it over a ton, which is a downfall, however any time you have J.J. Watt on your team, you are going to make things happen. Blue does not have a great match-up as the Chiefs defense is pretty solid, however I think the Texans are going to do their best to control the clock with Brian Hoyer at QB. This means long drives and really dedicating themselves to the running game. Blue has stepped in for Foster before and has put up solid stat lines and could certainly be active in the passing game.
To finish it out, I want to point out the few QBs that I do not mind taking in a “naked” lineup as they offer us some work on the ground to go along with the ability to spread it around when slinging it. The first one is everybody’s favorite, Tyrod Taylor. I recently published an article with my thoughts on the preseason hype warriors and I will have far far far less exposure to Taylor than the rest of the industry this weekend.
Russell Wilson is always somebody that can be rostered on his own as he scrambles extremely well and is not afraid to spread it out. He added Jimmy Graham in the off-season and that may become his go-to, but until I see how the pass game shakes out, I am completely fine with using him on his own.
A name I mentioned above is Marcus Mariota. While I think he has some turnover issues and might take a few sacks as he gets antsy in the back field, its tough to ignore his running ability and he could certainly provide 60+ rush yards and a score.
A couple of other names that might not be a terrible pick are Teddy Bridgewater, Joe Flacco and Derek Carr. Bridgewater is generally very effective and is capable of spreading it around and will have some weapons at his disposal. Flacco is going to sling it all over the field and is lacking an established #2 and TE, which generally means all the targets for the #1, however Flacco has done it for years and will continue to spread the wealth and he is not afraid to rely on guys like Gilmore, Aiken and Brown. Carr is going to throw the ball a lot again this season and has a couple of solid options, but he also has some deep threats sitting in the #3 and #4 spot that can jump up and get ya out of nowhere.