Joe Flacco @ PIT
So far Polamalu’s protective hair shell has kept him from any season-ending injuries, which means the Steelers defense is about as good as there is in the NFL. If Ray Rice was full strength, Flacco owners could hold out hope that Pittsburgh would focus on shutting down the run, opening room for Flacco to find some yards, but it looks like Rice won’t be 100% if he plays. Polamalu will be sitting back and waiting for Flacco’s mistakes.
Carson Palmer @ CLE
This has less to do with the matchup (which isn’t bad) than it does Palmer’s current level of ability. He shows flashes every now and then, but on a week to week basis he isn’t making the throws to beat good coverage. If you drafted him as your QB1, I’d start implementing Plan B right now. Check to see if someone took Orton late and is willing to deal their other QB, or maybe the Roethlisberger owner is getting ready to put their fill-in QB up on the trading block.
Chad Henne vs. NE
Amazingly, Henne looks more accurate than he ever did in college, and this is the perfect week to take advantage. The Patriots’ secondary is young and they aren’t pressuring the quarterback. Henne should have plenty of time to uncork some downfield throws to Brandon Marshall.
Kyle Orton @ TEN
Yes, the Titans are a very good pass defense. But with Moreno questionable, Maroney still settling in, and Buckhalter — well, Buckhalter just isn’t very good — Orton should throw early and often. 250 yards should be a cinch, so Orton owners just need to hope that either Denver is sorting out how to score in the redzone, or Orton just starts tossing it in from the 30 yard line.
Ahmad Bradshaw vs. CHI
Brandon Jacobs looks to be a nonfactor at this point, but there may not be enough carries in the world to put together a big game against the Bears rush defense right now. Bradshaw may throw in a few receiving yards but you’re likely to miss out on that 100 yard bonus.
Rashard Mendenhall vs. BAL
Mendenhall has been better than I expected so far — I was worried that with Roethlisberger out, defenses would load up at the line to stop the run — but some of his numbers have been a little misleading. A long overtime TD run boosted his numbers in Week 1, the Titans held him to 72 total yards and no TD’s in Week 2, and then he rolled on a terrible Tampa Bay defense last week. I’m guessing his numbers look more like Week 2′s line.
DeAngelo Williams @ NO
Three underwhelming weeks in the books for D-Will. I’m hoping you haven’t sold low on him yet, because we’re nearing the point in the season where he starts churning out 140 yard, 2 TD weeks. The QB situation is a concern, but he has put up monster numbers when Delhomme was doing his best to sabotage the offense, so he ought to be able to do it with Clausen at the helm.
Justin Forsett @ STL
I want to see another week or two of 15+ touches for Forsett before I consider him a solid RB2, but I like him as a flex play this week. Clinton Portis and Ryan Torain both averaged about 6.5 yards a carry against the Rams defense last week, and Forsett has the talent to break some big runs (and receptions). Maybe Pete’s finally figuring it out.
Braylon Edwards @ BUF
Don’t be fooled into thinking Edwards is a must-start against a bad Bills team. The Buffalo secondary is legit and I expect to see a lot of Shonn Greene and LaDainian Tomlinson. Keep Braylon in your lineup and you may need a drink by halftime. (Get it? Because he was arrested for drinking and driving.)
Calvin Johnson @ GB
In most weeks, Megatron remains a good play no matter who is at QB, but with a weak-armed Shaun Hill, a good Packers secondary, and the Packers pass rush hurrying Hill’s throws, I don’t see much opportunity for big plays. I’d consider him a low-end WR2 this week.
Brandon Marshall vs. NE
Go read the Chad Henne section above. Done? Good. Nobody in the Patriots secondary can handle Marshall’s size and after-the-catch ability.
Jacoby Jones @ OAK
Conditional recommendation — if by late Saturday it looks like Andre Johnson is ready to go, then Jones’ value will be limited. But Johnson still couldn’t practice on Wednesday, and there’s a good chance he won’t play. Kevin Walter is likely already rostered in most leagues, but I’ve seen Jacoby Jones available in a few leagues. Walter can’t catch everything, and Owen Daniels still looks limited in the passing game, so Jacoby ought to get a good number of looks his way.
Todd Heap @ PIT
Heap’s been his usual steady self, but I’d look elsewhere this week. With Polamalu patrolling center field, I don’t see Heap racking up many yards even if he can pull in 6-8 catches. In PPR he’s got a little more value, but I’d rather play…
Tony Scheffler @ GB
Unlike Heap, Scheffler has the athletic ability to gain some yards after the catch against a good Green Bay secondary. Shaun Hill doesn’t have the arm to test the Packers corners, but he is accurate enough on shorter routes, and I could see Scheffler getting a lot of action — Pettigrew is playable as well in deeper leagues.
New England @ MIA
In the past few years, the Pats defense seemed to be able to play above their apparent skill level — they’d give up some yards, but somehow they’d limit points and generate a turnover or two. Not this year. They are just bad. After last week, consider them unplayable in even the most advantageous matchups.
Atlanta vs. SF
Nothing like facing a team that just fired its offensive coordinator. The Falcons shouldn’t have any trouble putting up points on the 49ers — and when San Fran shifts into catch-up mode, there should plenty of opportunity for turnovers.