Copestick’s Picks Week 7


Start em’

Cam Newton, Carolina Panthers – Cam Newton’s play is worlds apart from what it was last year. Before throwing three interceptions in a loss to the Eagles last week, Newton led the Panthers to a 4-1 record on the season. The Panthers running game has been pretty ineffective, rookie Christian McCaffrey has struggled running between the tackles, and veteran Jonathan Stewart has yet to post over 70 rushing yards yet this season. Newton has been forced to pick up the slack, as he was the team’s leading rusher in a loss to the Eagles, because the aforementioned Stewart had eight carries for negative four yards. It’s a given that Newton will tuck the ball and run a few times, but the team might rely more on their aerial attack, given the Bears solid defense. Newton shouldn’t have a problem finding his two big targets on the outside, in Kelvin Benjamin and Devin Funchess.

Leonard Fournette, Jacksonville Jaguars – I apologize for putting Leonard Fournette on my “Sit em” list a few weeks back. Fournette has scored in all six games for the Jaguars, who have already made the rookie running back the focal point of their offense. Over the last two weeks, the former LSU Tiger has put up 311 yards rushing, and touchdown runs of 90 and 75 yards. Fournette has shown off his breakaway speed, and couple that with his size (6’1, 228 pounds), he’s everything you’d want in a running back. Fournette and the Jags have a divisional game against the Colts this weekend, a team that was just gashed by the Titans for 168 yards on the ground. There’s nothing not to like about Fournette; he’s second in the NFL in rushing yards, the third best running back in fantasy, and has a favorable matchup. With that being said, I’ll predict that Fournette has 150 yards and a touchdown.

Adrian Peterson, Arizona Cardinals – After an extremely short and disappointing tenure with the New Orleans Saints, people thought Adrian Peterson was washed up. Well, it turns out he just needed more touches. Peterson was dealt to the Arizona Cardinals for a draft pick, and in only one game with his new squad, Peterson ran for more yards than he did in four games with the Saints. The Cardinals offense had been in a bad slump, following the loss of star running back David Johnson, who broke his wrist in the season opener. Since Johnson’s injury, the Cardinals had gotten little out of backups Kerwynn Williams and Andre Ellington. Not only did Peterson fill the void at running back, but he opened up the Cardinals offense, who put up 38 points; the team hadn’t put up 20 since the season opener. Peterson faces the 29th ranked run defense in the LA Rams, and the Cardinals could come away with a huge divisional win if the offense can repeat what they did last week.

Tyreek Hill, Kansas City Chiefs – His name is Tyreek Hill, but on social media, he refers to himself as “Cheetah”. The second year player from West Alabama has plenty of speed, evident by his 4.26 forty yard dash time and his three touchdowns on special teams last year, where Hill spent most of his time. However, the Chiefs cut starting receiver Jeremy Maclin before the season, having Hill assume the position, taking him off special teams almost entirely. Hill has solidified himself as a true number one receiver, but still produces in the run game and return game when asked. Hill is as versatile as anyone in football; last year in a game against the Broncos, Hill found the endzone three times, but it was how he found the endzone that made his performance special. Hill caught a touchdown pass, ran for a touchdown, and added a punt return touchdown as well, becoming the first player to accomplish this feat since Gale Sayers in 1965. If the self proclaimed “Cheetah” can dismantle the strong Broncos secondary the way he did a year ago, the Raiders defense he plays Thursday night doesn’t stand a chance.

Sit em’

Matt Ryan, Atlanta Falcons – The big question surrounding the Falcons this offseason was how the team would respond to the departure of mastermind offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan. So far this year, the answer is clear: Shanahan made all the difference. Matt Ryan, who was last year’s MVP of the league, is not nearly as effective as he was last year, as the Falcons have lost their last two games at home, and Ryan’s play has really dropped off. The Falcons travel to Foxboro for a showdown with the Patriots, a rematch of last year’s Super Bowl. Given the circumstances, I think the lights will be too bright for Matty Ice, and the Falcons will struggle to put a points, against a Patriots defense that showed improvement last week.

Chris Thompson, Washington Redskins – For fantasy players in PPR leagues, Chris Thompson has been a monster this season, as he’s put up 15 or more points in all but one game so far. Thompson has the ability to handle a full workload in the run game, and his exceptional hands allow him to stay on the field for all three downs. However, a few factors land him on the “sit em” list this week. Robert Kelley, who started the season at running back, returns from injury this week. The Redskins will also travel to Philly to face the NFC leading Eagles, and their stout run defense, ranked second in the NFL. It will be hard for Thompson to put up big numbers because of the Eagles defensive line and a limited workload.

Giovani Bernard, Cincinnati Bengals – The Bengals and Steelers rivalry is one of the most intriguing matchups every season. Both offenses have had their ups and downs coming into this week, but it’s the defenses that headline this game. The two defenses rank in the top 10 in yards per game, which should make for a physical, gritty, low scoring affair. The Bengals backfield has been a mystery this season, making it hard to predict if Giovani Bernard, Jeremy Hill, or rookie Joe Mixon will get the bulk of the carries. As of late, Mixon has been the leader, leaving Bernard with only 15 touches over the last three weeks. The Bengals didn’t invest a second round pick in Mixon just to have him watch from the sidelines, he looks to be their running back of the future. Bernard’s touches are few and far between because of Mixon’s presence. Mixon’s ability to run between the tackles have kept him on the field for early downs, but Mixon’s surefire hands keep him on the field on passing downs as well, which used to be Bernard’s role. Mixon has 11 receptions on 11 targets this season, providing the Bengals with an every down back that makes it hard for Jeremy Hill and Giovani Bernard to see the field.

Packers Offense – When quarterback Aaron Rodgers went down with a potentially season-ending broken collarbone last week, the Packers playoff hopes went with him. Former UCLA product Brett Hundley will be thrust into the starting role, with the hopes of salvaging the season. The Packers are not only missing their future Hall of Famer at quarterback- their offensive line is banged up, and the team’s stable of running backs is either hurt or ineffective. I’m not confident in Hundley; although his group of receivers is talented, I didn’t like his decisions last week. If Hundley keeps staring down receivers and making bad throws, a much improved Saints defense, with rookie cornerback Marshon Lattimore and safety Kenny Vaccaro, will have chances at creating turnovers. This year’s Saints defense has shown flashes, they recorded five sacks and six turnovers against Matt Stafford’s Lions last week.

Play of the Week

George Kittle, San Francisco 49ers – To quote former Cardinals coach Dennis Green, “The 49ers are who we thought they were”. In that case, the winless 49ers are really, really bad. The Niners rank pretty close to the bottom in a lot of categories, the defense has been hit with some injuries, and the offense has had trouble with Brian Hoyer at the helm. However, rookie tight end George Kittle has been one of the few bright spots this year. He’s averaging over 10 yards per catch this season, and he’s seen 17 targets over the past two weeks. Rookie quarterback CJ Beathard replaced Brian Hoyer against the Redskins, and the offense played some of its best football with Beathard leading the charge. Kittle was college teammates with Beathard at Iowa, and their rhythm showed, with Kittle securing a huge 31 yard reception late in the game. Against a struggling Cowboys defense this week, Kittle and Beathard should connect quite a few times.