Hello again Razzball readers! I’ve really been enjoying contributing to Razzball so far and I look forward to answering more questions and helping more fantasy teams. Asher Molk and I will be working as a team and editing each other’s columns so feel free to ask either of us any questions; we’d love to help! And check us out on Twitter at @BraudeM and @AsherMolk.
Before you read my matchups column I would like to give you some advice:
Be sure all your players are active and ready to roll on game day. If your player is a game-time decision, check 30 minutes before game day – if he’s active, check what kind of role he is going to have in the game and make sure he’s not just an emergency option.
This article is written every Wednesday so it doesn’t always have perfect accuracy for who’s playing. I just wanted to go over those because getting a goose egg out of someone is detrimental to your team. Good luck in your fantasy leagues!
N.Y. Jets at Denver
After failing to capitalize against the Patriots poor secondary play, Mark Sanchez has provided up with even more reasons why he can’t be trusted in fantasy leagues. In my opinion, it’s time for the Jets to find a new franchise QB… Shonn Greene faces a Bronco’s run defense giving up an average of 117.6 rushing yards per game. Expect more low-upside games from Greene, he needs touchdowns to have significant value. For the first time since Week 1, Santonio Holmes topped 70 yards and looked more involved in the Jets offense. He’s still the dynamic talent we know him as and is a solid buy-low target in fantasy leagues. Holmes has solid matchups ahead and hopefully the Jets are starting to realize they need him. This week however, Holmes will draw Champ Bailey – he’s only a low-end WR2. Plaxico Burress continues to provide Sanchez with a red-zone target but little else. He looks better than he did to start the season but needs touchdowns for value. This is a plus matchup for Burress with Bailey on Holmes but he’s still only a WR3. Clearly the most affected by the run-heavy offensive switch, Dustin Keller no longer has a big role in the passing game. He’s still playable, maintaining solid yardage totals but his upside is lacking with Burress getting the red-zone looks. Keller is nothing more than a low-end TE1.
Coming off a big win, Tim Tebow has greatly reduced the chances of losing his job. With only eight pass attempts and two completions, Tebow made the most of his opportunities. Threading a 56-yard bomb to hit Eric Decker in stride, Tebow managed to score just under 20 fantasy points in most formats. This week will prove much tougher for Tebow; he faces a Jets defense that always comes to play. While I have argued for owners to play Tebow every week thus far, I concede this would be a good week to leave him on your bench. It’s going to be tough to predict pass attempts especially with the chances the Broncos fall behind early. His legs will provide him with low-end QB1 value… After returning early to face Oakland in Week 9, Willis McGahee injured his hamstring in Week 10. I don’t believe he’ll play this week but if he does he should provide solid flex numbers at a minimum. If he does play, I don’t like his odds of finishing the game – hamstrings are very risky to rush back. With Knowshon Moreno out for the season, Lance Ball will draw the start if McGahee is inactive. Ball rushed 30 times for 96 yards against the Chiefs last week and showed little promise, however with all these injuries he becomes significant. The Denver offensive line is playing well, they have run-heavy game plans, and Tebow’s rushing ability opens up running lanes by distracting linebackers. He’s a low-end RB2 if McGahee sits. With touchdowns in three straight games, Eric Decker looks like Tebow’s favorite target. While his numbers have been good, I would look to sell-high. Decker can’t consistently produce in run-heavy offense with an inaccurate QB. Squaring off with Revis this week, Decker is a low-end WR3. No other Broncos pass-catchers should be anywhere near fantasy lineups.
Buffalo at Miami
Ryan Fitzpatrick started the season on a tear but has been unproductive in his last six games. With a 7:9 TD-to-INT ratio and a 206-yard average, he’s going to be tough to rely on even against the poor Miami secondary. I wouldn’t recommend him – he’s a QB2. After falling behind against the Cowboys, Fred Jackson’s fantasy day was in doubt – surprisingly, he saved the day with a few big runs and finished with 13 carries for 114 yards. This week staying in the game shouldn’t be too hard of a task but the Miami run defense has been impressive. Giving up the sixth least yards per carry (3.8), Jackson is a low-end RB1. Stevie Johnson struggled mightily last week with only 8 yards receiving; he has a much better matchup against a Dolphins pass defense giving up the 8th most passing yards per game. The spread the wealth offensive has killed Johnson so keep expectations low but he’s a low-end WR2 in this one. I would keep David Nelson and Donald Jones on fantasy benches – both lack upside on an offense that spreads the ball around.
Aside from his Week 9 gem against the Chiefs, Matt Moore has 1:5 TD-to-INT ratio… obviously he’s not startable… in any league. Reggie Bush has provided solid numbers the past three weeks and it looks like the Dolphins are figuring out how to use him. He has the team’s red-zone carries and is currently a solid RB2. If he’s going to get these kinds of touches weekly, he’ll produce as long as he stays healthy. Matt Moore has locked on to Brandon Marshall the last two weeks, to the tune of 15 catches for 204 yards and a touchdown. He’s suddenly climbing up the charts to a low-end WR1. As a said last week, Moore’s ineffectiveness keeps this team from having other startable options. However when he’s only passing for 193.2 yards per game, there are no players besides Marshall even worth consideration.
Dallas at Washington
Tony Romo is coming off his best game of the season; he completed 23-of-26 passes for 270 yards and three touchdowns. The scary thing is, had the game been close, his day could have been a whole lot better. Even against Washington’s respectable pass defense, Romo is a top-5 play this week. DeMarco Murray has been remarkable since replacing Felix Jones; over the last four games, Murray has averaged 150.2 rushing yards per game and 8.01 per carry. Washington has been average against the run and Felix Jones is returning this week, still Murray cannot be benched. Even with Jones back, Murray is the guy – they’ve looked great on offense ever since he’s been inserted. He’ll still get the touches he needs – I’m calling him a RB1 this week. With Miles Austin out, I’m expecting a breakout second half from Dez Bryant. He’s extremely talented, finally healthy, and now there’s an opportunity for more targets. He’s a low-end WR1 – the breakout is coming. Laurent Robinson provided Romo with big plays he’s been looking for last week, helping many fantasy owners. He isn’t going to do this every week but will maintain solid WR3 production with Austin out. Jason Witten didn’t have a chance to produce with a big lead last week, look for him to dominate the Redskins.
Rex Grossman was surprisingly the starter for the Redskins last week. Although I believe he’s useless as a QB in fantasy leagues, Grossman is good enough to provide Redskins pass-catchers with opportunities to make plays – which is a lot more than John Beck can say. Last week Ryan Torain led the backfield in carries but was ineffective, producing at the clip of 2 yards per carry. Roy Helu was much more effective, averaging 6.8 yards per carry. I believe this is enough evidence for Shanahan to see that Helu is more deserving of carries. While I wouldn’t recommend that anyone play Torain, Helu should get more touches this week and is a solid flex option. The Redskins WRs are very suspect; Leonard Hankerson looked impressive in Week 10 but has been placed on injured reserve with a torn labrum. I’m not a believer in Jabar Gaffney, or Rex Grossman for that matter, so I wouldn’t recommend Gaffney as a WR3 – however he should be serviceable in PPR leagues. Fred Davis has had two clunkers in his last two games but has shown he’s talented and should provide inconsistent value as a low-end TE1.
Oakland at Minnesota
First off, I want to say I’m extremely impressed with Carson Palmer. Last year I felt he was a liability for the Bengals and an inconsistent QB option. Nevertheless, Palmer has proven me wrong this season – he’s provided the Raiders with a spark in a difficult situation (not knowing the playbook and being forced into the offense after not playing or practicing for the first six weeks). For whatever reason, Palmer arm strength and accuracy looks improved from his time off and he looks like a great fit for this offense. That said, I’m calling him a low-end QB1 against Minnesota this week. Darren McFadden missed Raiders practice Wednesday and will likely sit another week – sadly, owners can’t be too confident he’ll be back next week either… in the meantime, Michael Bush has taken complete advantage of his opportunity. With 242 yards from scrimmage and a touchdown last week, there’s no way you’re sitting him – he’s a RB1 this week. After Jacoby Ford left the game with a foot sprain, Denarius Moore took over. The preseason darling broke out to the tune of 123 yards and two touchdowns. He was Palmer’s obvious go-to target and can have significant value down the stretch. With Ford likely out again this week, the exciting rookie is a high-end WR2. Plug him in to fantasy leagues as soon as possible. Darrius Heyward-Bey was held without a catch last week and isn’t an option even with Ford out.
After getting dismantled by the Packers last week, the Vikings are looking to turn things around this week. While Christian Ponder has been more effective than Donovan McNabb, his 50.5 completion percentage (exceeding only Blaine Gabbert among NFL starters) provides evidence as to why he’s not startable. With 11 touchdowns in nine games, Adrian Peterson has been impressive even without a real passing threat. This week he’s going against a Raider run defense giving up the fourth most fantasy points to running backs – obviously he’s a RB1… Percy Harvin is fully recovered from his ailing ribs and the Vikings were frequently trying to get him the ball against Green Bay. These factors, along with Harvin’s special talent, are a recipe for a breakout second-half. I consider him one of the best buy-low candidates in fantasy football – this week, he’s a WR2. None of the other Vikings pass-catchers are even worth rostering, nevermind starting.
Tampa Bay at Green Bay
Josh Freeman has been a big disappointment this year – I never liked him but I didn’t think he’d have a 9:13 TD-to-INT ratio so far this year… He’s inaccurate and doesn’t make good decisions. That said, he’s going against a Green Bay team that will jump out with a big lead. Therefore, Freeman will get a solid amount of pass attempts and is a high-end QB2. While falling behind big will help Freeman, it will hurt LeGarrette Blount. He’s proven tough to trust when the Bucs fall behind because he’s not a part of the passing game. After carrying the ball 10 times for 34 yards against the Texans, he’s just a flex option against the Packers. Mike Williams hasn’t broken 100 yards in any game this season and doesn’t have a touchdown since Week 1. There will be opportunities in this game for him to make catches but I think he’ll be more effective in PPR leagues. He’s not beating Tramon Williams deep – he’s just a WR3… The other Bucs receivers are just cancelling each other out – none are worthy of a starting stop. Kellen Winslow looks old, slow and is just a TE2 in this matchup.
There is no one in the NFL playing better than Aaron Rodgers right now. He’s absolutely on fire and in my view, is playing better than any quarterback ever. He’s able to do everything a quarterback needs to do: avoid the pass rush and extent the play, read defenses and make changes at the line, throw the ball accurately, and he has a quick release. Not only can he do all those, but he’s extremely good at every one. With 30 total touchdowns and only 80 incompletions (out of 295 attempts), Rodgers is averaging an absurd 2.67 incompletions per touchdown. There is no one in the league that can matchup with the Packers when they’re on their game – we may be looking at another 16-0 run… If there is ever a chance for James Starks to breakout – it’s this week. Going against a Bucs defensive-line that has been killed without Gerald McCoy, the Packers will have a good lead and Starks will get a solid chance to produce – he’s a RB2 this week. In this offense Greg Jennings is always a good bet to produce – the stud is a rock-solid WR1. Jordy Nelson is free to attack cornerbacks one-on-one with Rodgers throwing to him. There’s no reason to think this is a fluke – he’s a solid WR2. James Jones is a boom-or-bust WR3 – he’s talented but doesn’t get enough snaps or targets to produce regularly. The spread the wealth offensive attack has hurt Jermichael Finley – he gets doubled over the middle and there is no reason to force it to him, Rodgers just dumps it off to Nelson or Jones or Cobb. He still has ridiculous upside but until defenses key in on other players, he’s a solid – but not top, TE1.
Carolina at Detroit
Cam Newton struggled against the Titans last week for the first time as a pro. Growing pains should be expected for rookie quarterbacks but I’m not panicking because he has a very high floor. The ‘floor’ in fantasy is the worst a player can do, while the ‘ceiling’ is the best. Newton has a very high floor because of his running ability. He has 7 rushing touchdowns in 9 games and is averaging 41.6 rushing yards per game. There’s no reason he won’t be a quality QB1 this week against Detroit and he has an extremely favorable schedule the rest of the way. Jonathan Stewart has taken over as the back to own in Carolina and should provide solid value in games that don’t get out of hand in a hurry. While he will still split carries with DeAngelo Williams, Stewart plays on passing downs and has more goal-line touches than Williams. Whereas Stewart is a RB2 in this matchup, Williams is an undesirable low-upside flex play… Don’t let Steve Smith’s clunker fool you, he’s an amazing talent with a quarterback who is willing to target him deep often – he’s a WR1. Breaking 50 yards for just the second time this season, Legedu Naanee is still not an option. Greg Olsen is a low-end TE1; he’s a solid option but has yet to break 80 yards on the year.
Watching Matthew Stafford play the Bears last week was dreadful; the team was so unbalanced in favor of passing that the offense looked terrible. Stafford continuously forced passes and ended with four interceptions. I’m starting to be concerned that Jahvid Best’s injury is having a bigger impact on the offense than originally expected… The good news is it looks like Stafford is healthy enough to play and the Panthers are a much easier task than the Bears – Stafford should be provide solid QB1 value. Jahvid Best still hasn’t been medically cleared, leaving Maurice Morris to shoulder the load. Although Carolina is giving up an average of 137.6 rushing yards per game, Morris can’t be trusted as more than a flex given the Lions pass heavy offense. Second in the NFL, the Lions average 40.6 pass attempts per game. Coming in with the fourth fewest rushing attempts per game, the Lions rush only 22.9 times per game. When you only have 23 rush attempts and they’re divvied up between Morris, Kevin Smith, and Keiland Williams – it’s tough to have any value. That said, Kevin Smith was moved up to second on the depth chart after just one week – keep an eye on him. Calvin Johnson was targeted 20 times last game and is still that best bet of any WR for a touchdown. Don’t let his “off” game fool you – he’ll bounce back this week. Nate Burleson had a solid game last week but it’s a fluke – coming from the volume of Stafford throwing 63 passes. Brandon Pettigrew has been the Lions’ second-option in the passing game and can confidently be started as a TE1 going against a Panthers defense that has been charitable to opposing tight ends.
Jacksonville at Cleveland
I’m going to be honest, the only player I would feel confident starting on either of these teams is Maurice Jones-Drew. This will be a low-scoring game that doesn’t provide a lot of fantasy production. It would be a good idea to stay away… I’ve talked about how bad Blaine Gabbert is before, don’t make me say anything else… he’s not even on the radar in QB2 leagues. The ineffectiveness of the Jaguars offense is holding back Maurice Jones-Drew. There’s nowhere to run and he has by far the worst supporting cast of QB, WRs, and TEs, out of any RB1. It’s a concern for the future but this week he’s a solid RB1 against the Browns bottom-3 run defense. Honestly, no fantasy owners should be relying on Gabbert’s arm for fantasy production – this means don’t start any of the Jaguars useless pass-catchers.
Speaking of ineffective quarterbacks, Colt McCoy isn’t much better. Averaging a miniscule 5.9 yards per attempt, he can’t be played against a Jaguars pass defense allowing only 193 yards per game. With Peyton Hillis and Montario Hardesty out again this week, Chris Ogbonnaya will draw another start. Ogbonnaya provided solid production against the Rams but will have a much harder time against a better Jaguars run defense. He’s just a flex option on a bad offense. Greg Little is the only pass-catcher I would consider on this offense. He’s just a low-end WR3 because of McCoy’s lack of arm strength but has all the necessary tools to be a successful wide receiver in the NFL.
Cincinnati at Baltimore
Andy Dalton has been extremely impressive as a rookie, becoming only the third rookie to ever throw for 14 touchdowns in his first ten games. Still, he can’t be trusted against a tough Baltimore defense. Cedric Benson continues to only get what’s blocked – averaging 3.3 per carry over his last three games – I have to expect Bernard Scott will get more carries down the stretch. This week, going against the Ravens, expectations for Benson have to be low. In my view, he’s just a flex option this week – my argument for that would be his upside. Trust me, he’s not scoring three touchdowns on the ground against the Ravens and he’s not getting over 100 yards either… still he’ll get a solid amount of touches – so he’ll have some value. A.J. Green injured his knee last week making a ridiculous touchdown catch over two defenders. He’s a game-time decision and the bone bruising could be an issue for a receiver that relies heavily on his jumping ability. That said, I believe this rookie is too talented to sit if he’s active… Jerome Simpson was held without a catch against the Steelers, obviously he’s not worth starting. When healthy, Jermaine Gresham has provided solid TE2 production – this isn’t a matchup to test your luck.
Joe Flacco has failed to take the next step as a quarterback this season and it has shown in the Ravens inconsistency. He’s thrown for more than one touchdown in just two of his nine starts and has settled in as a QB2. He’ll continue his mediocrity in this one… Ray Rice has yet to truly breakout this season but his consistency in the passing game keeps PPR owners happy. Standard league owners just have to hope the Ravens come to play. Last week, the Ravens played terribly against a weak Seattle team and Rice was left with only 5 carries – a blunder by offensive coordinator Cam Cameron. Although this is a tough matchup for Rice, look for the Ravens to try and get their best weapon more involved. He’s still a RB1 this week. Anquan Boldin isn’t the premiere talent he used to be but has a nice matchup against a Bengals pass defense without their best corner, Leon Hall. He’s still just a WR2 but should be able to bounce back after a poor showing last week. I don’t like relying on Torrey Smith – he’s a raw talent on a run-heavy offense that struggles to pass the ball consistently. Although he’s shown a lot of upside, he’s just a low-end WR3 in this one. Ed Dickson had a solid breakout game last week; reeling in 10 passes for 79 yards and two touchdowns. While it was nice to see a big game, Dickson broke 60 yards for just the first time all season. He’s still a high-end TE2 this week but don’t expect a repeat performance any time soon.
Seattle at St. Louis
Tarvaris Jackson had a solid performance in Seattle’s big win against the Ravens last week but still cannot be trusted in fantasy leagues. With just 6 touchdown passes and 9 interceptions in eight games, he’s even risky as a QB2. Marshawn Lynch now has a streak of two 100-yard games and touchdowns in the last five games he’s played. That said, there are many negative – Lynch lacks breakaway speed, only averages 3.9 yards per carry and is in a terrible offense. He’s running hard though and if the touches keep up he can definitely maintain RB2 value. This week he has a juicy matchup with the Rams and he’s a solid RB2. Sidney Rice was diagnosed with a concussion last week but has a chance to play in this one. He’s proven he’s Jackson’s favorite target when on the field and healthy so he’s be a solid WR3. Doug Baldwin also suffered a concussion and is also questionable to play – the difference is he’s too inconsistent to be in your lineup.
Sam Bradford hasn’t been the quarterback owners were looking for during the draft. Many factors have contributed to this including poor wide receivers and injury. With the addition of Brandon Lloyd, hopefully Bradford can get going in the second half – I’m not holding my breath though. Right now it’s a good idea to wait and see – the guy only has four touchdowns in seven games… Steven Jackson has been red hot since returning from injury – he has at least 120 rushing yards in each of his last three games. Seattle has been impressive against the run but Jackson cannot be benched. He’ll attempt to continue his streak this week as a low-end RB1. Brandon Lloyd is one of my favorite buy-lows for the stretch run. As I mentioned last week, McDaniels will feature him in the passing game just like he did in Denver. He has a nice schedule the rest of the way, starting with a juicy matchup against Seattle. He’s a high-end WR2 in this one. Austin Pettis is worth watching in PPR leagues because of Bradford’s tendency to heavily target the team’s slot receiver. Aside from that, stay away from Rams pass-catchers.
Arizona at San Francisco
Kevin Kolb looks like he’ll miss his third straight start this week, meaning John Skelton will draw another start. While he did play very well against the Eagles, Skelton cannot be started against the 49ers feisty defense. Beanie Wells will leave many owners with a very difficult decision this week – he’s going against the league’s best run defense and is banged up. He’ll see a lot of touches but his upside is limited against the only defense that still hasn’t allowed a rushing touchdown on the season… every other team has allowed at least three. I’m calling him a low-end RB2. Larry Fitzgerald had a huge game last week – 7 catches for 146 yards and 2 touchdowns. This is a plus matchup for Fitz, with the rushing game likely being ineffective there will be a lot of pass attempts. Start him confidently as a WR1. Early Doucet is on the radar as a fantasy option but would only be a desperation play this week. All the other Cardinals pass-catchers are irrelevant this week.
Arguably the most impressive team so far this season, the 49ers are off to an 8-1 start. Few would’ve predicted that before the season… Alex Smith has been a perfect game manager for this team – taking what the defense gives him and letting the running game and defense define the team. The problem is he doesn’t get enough pass attempts for fantasy value; he’s just a QB2. Frank Fore disappointed last week with just 8 total yards before being removed in the second half. After not participating in practice Wednesday – keep an eye on his status. He may play and be “limited” but remember the last time in a similar situation against the Eagles – many owners sat Gore because he wasn’t supposed to have a big impact on the game. He made the most of his 17 touches, going for 139 yards and a touchdown. I’m tentatively calling him a high-end RB2. Kendall Hunter is a more than capable backup and could have a big day if he gets to shoulder the load against the Cardinals. If you have either of these players, keep an eye on the news Sunday morning – this is definitely something worth monitoring. Michael Crabtree disappointed owner last week with his one catch for 21 yards – this is a nice opportunity to bounce back, but don’t expect more than WR3 numbers for a player that hasn’t topped 80 yards yet this season. Vernon Davis’ involvement in the offense has been a mystery. With only one game over 50 yards, owners must hope something changes. He’s still the team’s red-zone target and provides low-end TE1 numbers but I’m not sure a breakout is coming… If you have the 49ers defense, this would be a nice week to insert them.
San Diego at Chicago
It’s hard to recommend Philip Rivers as more than a QB2, especially against a pass defense that dominated Matthew Stafford last week and is beginning to click. He has done nothing to dispel the notion that he simply isn’t the same QB as in previous years, continuing to be a turnover machine. However, it’s a good matchup for Antonio Gates, who needs to be in lineups whenever healthy (however much longer that may be for) – the Bears have given up the most fantasy points per game to tight ends this year. Who knows which version of Vincent Jackson will show up this week? It’s anyone’s guess, but unless you have better options he needs to be in there – he’s shown what he can do when he explodes. I’ll call him a WR2 this week. Vincent Brown was the only Charger to show up on offense last week, and he can be considered a WR3 play. His emergence has been possible due to the continued absence of the glass-bodied Malcolm Floyd, who isn’t playing this week. Ryan Mathews continues to show the talent, but he simply cannot stay healthy or produce when he isn’t 100% most of the time. He is an RB2 in this one, but will likely lose passing down and goal line work to Mike Tolbert, who is nothing but a flex option siphoning value from Mathews these days.
The matchup is perfect for Matt Forte, who is facing the 24th best rush defense that may possibly be even worse than it’s actually ranked. Put last week’s “clunker” behind you – the game got out of hand so quickly that Forte was held to 19 touches, and Marion Barber got 13 carries. Start Forte with confidence, and expect at least 25 touches. It’s not a coincidence that they began to win when they balanced their offense, and the coaching staff knows that. Jay Cutler has been playing incredibly efficiently, throwing an interception in only one of his last 5 games. But the switching of offensive philosophy has hurt his fantasy value, and he’s a decent QB2 the rest of the way. The only receiving option I’d consider on the Bears is Earl Bennett. He’s a low upside WR3 with a little more value in PPR leagues, but Cutler clearly trusts him and has more chemistry with him than with any other Bears receiver. Johnny Knox, Roy Williams, and Devin Hester are simply too inconsistent to consider starting at all the rest of the year. They are all pretty much droppable in standard leagues.
Philadelphia at New York Giants
The Eagles have been the talk of the league for most of the season, and usually for the wrong reasons. This week is no different- Michael Vick is shaping up to be highly doubtful for this division matchup, leaving Vince Young as a high end QB2 and a nice bye-week filler. He is a massive head-case, but he has a high ceiling due to his situation and running ability against a middling Giants pass defense. LeSean McCoy has scored in every single game this year. He has had an unbelievable year, surpassing all expectations. Never sit him, especially against a 20th ranked Giants rush defense. He may see more dump off catches if Young proves hesitant to drive the ball down the field. Jeremy Maclin got really banged up last week, and is very questionable to play with a shoulder injury. He’ll be a WR2 if he goes, but keep an eye on him. DeSean Jackson will be the number one passing game option a week after sitting out for repeated team distractions, culminating with him missing a team meeting. He is the ultimate boom or bust player, but I wouldn’t classify him as anything more than a WR2. Jason Avant is worth a look in deep PPR leagues as a bye-week fill if Maclin sits – the same applies for Steve Smith, but don’t expect too much with Young at the helm. Brent Celek is a pretty good TE2, but nothing more.
Few quarterbacks are playing at a higher level than Eli Manning- he just isn’t getting all the credit due to all the noise (positive or negative) that Aaron Rodgers, Mike Vick, Philip Rivers, and Tom Brady are making. His schedule gets tough, but there is no reason to bench him. He’s every bit a QB1, even in this tough matchup. With Ahmad Bradshaw likely sitting again, Brandon Jacobs will carry the load in this plus matchup. He has a pretty decent chance of punching one in from the goal line, so he’s a low-end RB2. DJ Ware will resume passing down duties, and can be played as a deep PPR league flex, but he has virtually no upside. Jake Ballard may have a rough day, as he the Eagles give up the 6th least amount of fantasy points to tight ends. But Manning really trusts him and looks his way in the red zone fairly often. He’s a low end TE1. Hakeem Nicks will likely be covered by Nnamdi Asomugha, leaving him as a WR2 with Mario Manningham and Victor Cruz eating into his targets. Manningham is a lower end WR2, while Cruz gets the easiest matchup against Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie in the slot. He can be considered a solid WR2.
Tennessee at Atlanta
Chris Johnson finally showed signs of life with 174 yards and a score against the woeful Panthers defense, but the sledding gets tougher against a top 3t Atlanta rush defense. This will be a fantastic test for him, and he’s an RB2 in this one. Matt Hasselbeck is still producing decent numbers even without Kenny Britt, but his upside is capped due to the lack of playmakers on the outside. He is still worth QB2 consideration against a Falcons offense showing signs of life, and who only rank 23rd against the pass. Damian Williams’ statistics were greatly inflated by incredibly poor tackling on his 43-yard score last week, but he and Hasselbeck have found a groove, and he is a decent WR3 flier in the final bye week. He has the opportunities; he just doesn’t have any special playmaking abilities to vault him into every-week starter status. Nate Washington is fast becoming a WR4/5, having failed to top 40 receiving yards since Week 5. Leave him on benches. Jared Cook is the most talented pass catcher in Tennessee, but he isn’t on the field enough – he has more than two catches in a game only twice this year, and is a clear-cut TE2.
Matt Ryan played arguably his best game of the year last week, surpassing 350 yards and throwing for two scores. But Julio Jones is looking very iffy after re-aggravating his hamstring injury, and when he doesn’t play the Falcons go into ball control mode. Ryan is a pretty good QB2 against the 15th ranked Titans pass defense. Michael Turner is probably the best bet for fantasy production against the Titans, who rank 22nd in rush defense this year. They have only given up four rushing scores on the year however, so Turner may not find the end zone. He’s a low end RB1 in this pretty good matchup. Harry Douglas made a splash last week with a 8-133-0 line last week against the Saints, and will be a pretty risky WR3 play- that was the first time all year he’s had more than 62 receiving yards. Tony Gonzalez continues to be a red-zone machine; scoring in over half of the games he’s played in. He has proven doubters wrong, and is worth rolling out there as a TE1 against a Titans defense giving up the 6th most fantasy points per game to tight ends. With only one game over 78 yards, Roddy White has disappointed many people who used a top 30 pick to take him. But with Julio Jones likely out, he will be a target hog – you need to keep the faith and start him as at least a WR2 this week. If Julio Jones ends up playing, then he can be started as a risky WR2/3 – he will be very prone to reinjuring that nagging hamstring injury. But if he does suit up, Douglas is off the radar.
Kansas City at New England
With Matt Cassel out for the season, Tyler Palko will take over. He’s shown in the preseason he’s just a fringe NFL talent. In five NFL preseasons, Palko has completed 133-of-243 passes (54.7%) for 1,423 yards (5.86 YPA), five touchdowns, and 12 interceptions while fumbling 10 times. If you’re thinking this is going to be a huge hit to an already mediocre Chiefs offense, you would be right. Palko is weak-armed and cannot be trusted in fantasy leagues… Jackie Battle will be involved heavily early as the Chiefs go run-heavy but doesn’t have a role when the team falls behind. For that reason, he’s tough to rely on against a Patriots team that will blow the Chiefs out. Look for Dexter McCluster to be more involved with the Chiefs being forced to play from behind – however he can’t be started. Dwayne Bowe takes arguably the biggest hit of all but has a great matchup this week. He can’t be benched against a poor New England secondary in a game that will have the Chiefs throwing early and often. I wouldn’t want to rely on Steve Breaston or Jonathan Baldwin even with this great matchup.
Tom Brady looked fantastic against the Jets on Sunday Night Football – displaying his elite poise, accuracy, and field vision. Look for Brady to continue against the Chiefs pedestrian pass defense; in other words, he’s an elite QB1. In all honesty, I could write a whole paragraph about the New England running backs but their unpredictable usage makes them all bad fantasy plays. If you’re feeling risky BenJarvus Green-Ellis could be featured with the Patriots up and trying to run out the clock… Wes Welker struggled against Revis last week but should recover against the Kansas City. He’s a WR1. Rob Gronkowski showed his elite athleticism, size and overall prowess last week against the Jets. The Jets tried sticking Revis on Gronk, but even that failed. He’s like Jason Witten except more athletic and has Brady throwing him the ball… If that’s not enough, he’s targeted so frequently in the red-zone it is ridiculous – the only other tight end on his level is Jimmy Graham… Deion Branch has provided serviceable WR3 numbers thus far and should continue more of the same this week. With Gronk stealing the spotlight, don’t sleep on Aaron Hernandez. He’s extremely talented and there are enough pass attempts for both to be TE1s the rest of the way – not to mention their great playoff schedule. In other words, Hernandez is still a TE1 this week.
Feel free to ask me any questions here or on Twitter @BraudeM!