I wanted to start this Daily Dose by suggesting that today's excitement is similar to Christmas morning for a lot of children, but realized that may be understating it for me and many others. There is no offseason for those in the fantasy industry and that’s shown by the countless hours of analysis spent on free agency, the NFL Scouting Combine, NFL Draft, OTA’s, training camp, preseason, and so much more. Breaking down every possible bit of information in a league so complex becomes worth it by the time the season rolls around as our findings leads to loads of actionable analysis. Week 1 articles are already flowing with Rich Hribar’s Worksheet, Nick Mensio’s Start or Sit, Jesse Pantuosco’s Power Rankings, Raymond Summerlin’s waiver wire adds, and Gary Davenport’s defensive plays.
Thursday Night Football: Eagles vs. Falcons
Tonight’s game features the 2017 Super Bowl champs led by their MVP and hero himself, Nick Foles. With Carson Wentz still sidelined while rehabbing from a Week 14 ACL tear against the Rams, Foles will try and continue his playoff magic against the Falcons. For what it’s worth, Foles’ preseason play shouldn’t inspire much confidence as he completed 16-of-26 (61.5 percent) passes for 171 yards, no touchdowns and two interceptions. Beyond raw stats not mattering all that much in preseason, a lot of teams don’t create a specific game plan on how they want to attack a defense. Multiple coaches from different teams have said they generally run plays they are working on as an offense and not ones to specifically take advantage of opponents’ tendencies. Knowing that Doug Pederson and the Eagles are one of the most analytically-driven teams in the league, having over a week of preparation for a team and how to attack them is invaluable to the success of player like Nick Foles. Evan Silva does a great job breaking down the full game in his Matchups Piece.
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Le’Veon Bell holdout nearing reality
After Bell’s fake hold out threat in 2017 where he showed up right after Labor Day, most people were expecting the same scenario this time around. Unfortunately, it hasn’t been. Beyond the potential holdout, reports aren’t looking good. QB Ben Roethlisberger is “preparing” as if RB James Conner will be the starter on Sunday and Bell’s agent said he could hold out as long as November. Steelers’ LG Ramon Foster and C Maurkice Pouncey have publicly called out Bell saying, “What do you do? Here’s a guy who doesn’t give a damn, so I guess we’ll treat it as such. I just hate it came to this,” and “He’s making seven times what I make, twice as much as [LT] Al [Villanueva] is making and we’re the guys who do it for him. The business part. ... I get it. But not if it's game day. We have a game this Sunday, we're all the way into the game plan and you're still not here?”
This situation is escalating quickly. Beyond pissing off the team’s ownership and coaches, his absence is also getting to his teammates. They have a right to be mad as Bell is an important part of their team, but the reality is the running back position hasn’t mattered all that much to the Steelers’ success. As JJ Zachariason (@LateRound QB) notes on Twitter, “The Steelers have averaged more points per game without Le'Veon Bell (26.63) since he entered the league than with him (25.19) when you remove irrelevant contests where they rested starters. 16 games worth of data.” This isn’t an end-all-be all as who they played matters in that sample as well, but it shows that the offense can still perform competently in the absence of their star running back.
RB James Conner has been announced the starter even if Bell decides to show up today. If Bell officially doesn’t show up this week, I view Conner as a RB2/3 plug-and-play slated to handle a sizeable workload. He was Pro Football Focus’ No. 3 RB in the preseason out of 189 qualifiers while recording 100 yards and a touchdown rushing on 19 carries as well as 61 yards on seven catches. He is also a viable cheap play on most daily fantasy platforms.
Delanie Walker (toe) Healthy for Week 1
Walker wasn’t listed on the Titans' injury report for Week 1 against the Dolphins and will be close to full health. This is a great sign for a player who injured his toe and walked “gingerly” off the field during training camp in mid-August. Walker draws a prime matchup in Week 1 against the Dolphins defense who struggled mightily against tight ends last season. Beyond allowing the highest percentage of opposing targets to go to tight ends (27.7 percent), they allowed the 9th highest yards per attempt (7.5), a 69 .6 percent catch rate, and 10 touchdowns. This combined for the Dolphins to allow the most fantasy points to the position last season. Fantasy points allowed may not be a stable statistic year over year when factoring in the amount of offseason changes most teams have, but when looking at the Dolphins linebacker corps it’s pretty easy to tell it will still be an issue. Pro Football Focus graded their best linebacker at 61.7 overall last season. Walker is a must-start in all season-long leagues and is a high-floor, high-upside target in daily fantasy this week.
Rams COO Kevin Demoff said the team offered the Raiders an "aggressive package" for Khalil Mack before Oakland traded him to the Bears. Whew, what could have been, if the Rams were able to acquire Mack this could have had the best defensive line in recent memory. ... Rashad Penny (hand) is practicing in full for the Seahawks Week 1 matchup against the Broncos. This is one hurdle out of the way for Penny who broke his finger early in training camp. He will begin the season as the No. 2 running back behind Chris Carson. ... Doug Baldwin is practicing in full for Week 1 against the Broncos. Even with a tough matchup against All-Pro corner Chris Harris, Baldwin should be fired up as a WR 2 in fantasy leagues. ... Rishard Matthews (knee) is practicing fully for Week 1 against the Dolphins. He will likely rotate in as an outside receiver in their first game and shouldn’t be trusted for fantasy purposes. ... Saquon Barkley (hamstring) is not listed on the Giants' injury report for Week 1 against the Jaguars. All systems go for the No. 2 overall pick in this year’s draft. ... ESPN Redskins reporter John Keim confirmed Adrian Peterson will start Week 1 against the Cardinals. This was expected after carrying the load in their tune-up game during the preseason. He will handle the early-down work against Denver with Chris Thompson rotating in. ... Bears first-round LB Roquan Smith (hamstring) is practicing in full for Week 1 against the Packers. Smith wasn’t listed on the injury report and will suit up Week 1. Him and Mack make for an intriguing duo on a defense that was already above average last season. ... George Kittle (shoulder) is "all systems go" for Week 1 against the Vikings. Kittle has fully recovered from a scary offseason injury which could have threatened his season. A popular breakout candidate prior to his injury, Kittle has lots of upside as a late round tight end. ... Earl Thomas ended his holdout. This is big for the Seahawks defense who had noticeable splits without him last season. ... Sony Michel (knee) was limited at Wednesday's practice. This is a step in the right direction for Michel, but he is still facing an uphill battle towards being active in Week 1. ... Seahawks coach Pete Carroll confirmed fifth-round rookie Shaquem Griffin will start at weak side linebacker Week 1 against the Broncos. The feel-good story from UCF will draw the start in his first game as a pro. …Coach Jay Gruden said Jordan Reed is "in great shape" and will play Week 1 against the Cardinals. Reed is a must-start in fantasy when healthy and he also draws a good matchup against the Cardinals. ... The Saints waived RB Boston Scott. With Scott out of the picture it looks like RBs Mike Gillislee and Alvin Kamara will share the workload in Week 1 against the Bucs. ... Head coach Mike Zimmer confirmed Dalvin Cook (knee) is "ready to roll" for Week 1 against the 49ers. Cook’s health won’t be a problem, but a limited workload may cap his upside. ... The Miami Herald's Armando Salguero reports DeVante Parker (finger) will not play Week 1 against the Titans. This means the Dolphins will roll with Kenny Stills and Albert Wilson on the outside while Danny Amendola works the slot.