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.
N.Y. Jets at Buffalo
After a big win against San Diego in Week 7, the Jets had a bye last weekend. Coming off a big start, Mark Sanchez has cooled down recently. He has seen his pass attempts decrease from a hefty 36.7 during the first four weeks, to 28.0 over the last three weeks. While he does have 14 touchdowns, the fact that he’s a mediocre talent in a run-heavy offense leaves him as an undesirable QB2. Sanchez is a fine bye week plug-in but you don’t want him as an every-week starter. Shonn Greene has feasted on the switch to the ground-and-pound attack – averaging only 39.25 rushing yards in the first four weeks compared to a shade less than 90 yards in the last three. While he isn’t a special talent, he’s received at least 20 carries in each of the last three games – keep him going as a RB2. Coming off a 24-yard performance in Week 7, Santonio Holmes has been extremely frustrating to own. Since Week 1, Holmes hasn’t caught more than 4 passes in a game. Despite these aggravating statistics, you can’t bench him unless you have better options. He’s still a WR2 this week and always has a lot of upside because he’s extremely dangerous when he gets the ball in his hands. My colleague Asher Molk and I recommended Plaxico Burress as a sell-high after his three-TD game against the Chargers. With only 18 catches on the season, Burress is old and doesn’t have the speed to create the separation receivers need to be successful – he’s strictly a red-zone target, which produces extremely inconsistent results… leave him on the bench this week. No one has been affected by the offensive change more than Dustin Keller. Averaging 31 yards per game since Week 4, he’s someone you’d rather have on your bench. While he does have talent, he’s only a high-end TE2 right now.
Coming off a blow out against the Redskins, the Bills are tied with the Patriots for the lead in the AFC East. Ryan Fitzpatrick has been a rock-solid QB2 and should continue to more of the same this year – this week however, you’ll want to leave him on your bench against an elite Jet secondary. Fred Jackson may be the fantasy MVP this year – extremely unappreciated in preseason drafts, Jackson has been stunning. Averaging 153.4 total yards per game, this fantasy stud has at least 100 yards rushing or a TD in each of his seven games this season… After a hot start to the season Stevie Johnson has cooled down. This in part has to do with the emergence of the Bills rushing attack – averaging 8 less pass attempts per game over the last three weeks – he’s more of a WR3 this week against the Jets. With Donald Jones likely returning this week, you’ll want to leave David Nelson and Jones on fantasy benches – neither will receive the targets to have a productive fantasy day. Scott Chandler’s TDs aren’t a fluke – he’s his team’s red-zone target – but with only 15 catches for 133 yards on the season, he can only be counted on in TD-only leagues.
Seattle at Dallas
After watching Charlie Whitehurst’s ineffectiveness for a whole quarter, the Seahawks turned to previous starter Tarvaris Jackson. Considering we’ve been watching Whitehurst complete less than 50% of his passes, average less than 100 yards a game and prove completely useless – Jackson looked pretty good. While he’s not even close to start-able in fantasy leagues, he is good enough to get his receivers that ball and not completely stall the Seahawks offense. Marshawn Lynch may be the league’s most ineffective running back – he’s slow, he doesn’t make people miss and isn’t exactly a power back… the good news is Lynch gets the goal-line carries and has a TD in each of his last three games. Still, expecting Lynch to produce against the stout Dallas run defense is a recipe for disaster. In a game that the Seahawks are going to struggle to run, Sidney Rice actually looks pretty good. In the three games that Rice and Jackson have been healthy together, he’s averaging 6 catches for 96.6 yards – start him confidently as a high-end WR3. Doug Baldwin recovered from his catch-less performance with 5 catches for 73 yards, he has some talent but this is an inconsistent passing game – we’ll call him a high-risk WR3/flex. No other Seattle pass-catchers are even worth rostering in fantasy leagues…
The Cowboys were destroyed last week by a feisty Eagles team that desperately needed a win. Tony Romo looked disinterested against the Eagles elite corners so a repeat performance shouldn’t be expected against Seattle’s defense that is strong against the run but struggles against the pass… Romo can be confidently started as a QB1. After not practicing on Wednesday, it looks like Felix Jones will miss another week with a high-ankle sprain injury. Although it will be a committee when Jones returns, DeMarco Murray has shown to be extremely effective in his limited sample size. He’s averaged a shade fewer than 10 per carry in his two starts, albeit against two bad run defenses… he’s a RB2 with upside against Seattle’s strong run defense. Although I’ve been saying it for weeks, I really believe this is the perfect situation for Miles Austin and Dez Bryant to breakout. I said similar things about these two against the Rams – but the Rams were killed by the run and the Cowboys didn’t need to force the pass. This week will be different – Seattle has consistently shown they can stop the run and the Seattle cornerbacks Brandon Browner and Richard Sherman haven’t been able to stop anyone… both Austin and Bryant are low-end WR1/high-end WR2s this week. Although Laurent Robinson had a nice game against the Eagles, he’s not an option this week – that performance was more a product of the Eagles cornerbacks taking Austin and Bryant out of the game than anything else. Don’t worry about Jason Witten’s bad game – he’s had touchdowns in three of his last four and remains a top-5 TE.
Cleveland at Houston
Colt McCoy has shown time and time again he’s not an NFL-caliber talent and with only 9 TDs in seven games – he remains a weak QB2 against a solid Texan defense. Peyton Hillis did not practice on Wednesday and looks like a poor bet to play this weekend. With Montario Hardesty also out, the Browns will turn to Chris Ogbonnaya and Thomas Clayton. Ogbonnaya will draw the start but has shown he’s nothing more than a middling talent and will struggle to produce against the Texans – he’s nothing more than a desperation flex option in standard leagues and a flex play in PPR leagues as McCoy throws a lot of check-down passes and Ogbonnaya excels on third downs. Greg Little is the only Browns pass-catcher I would consider but he’s extremely inconsistent and is stuck on a bad offense with a below-average QB… all of those factor lead to trouble – keep him benched if you can.
The Texans are squaring off against a Cleveland defense that has been second best against the pass and seventh worse against the run. Expect a heavy load of Arian Foster – this should be a huge week for perhaps fantasy’s best player. Until Andre Johnson returns, Matt Schaub is going to be inconsistent. He’s a solid QB but when Andre is out, the Texans go run-heavy – leading to a decline in his stats. Unless Andre plays, he’s only a high-end QB2 in this matchup… Kevin Walter and Jacoby Jones are not recommended plays against the Browns secondary – Walter gets more catches as the possession receiver and Jones gets the deep shots – neither is consistent and they won’t sustain value. With that in mind, Walter is a fine flex play in PPR leagues – averaging just fewer than 5 catches per game with Andre out. Schaub will look to Owen Daniels early – he’s a solid TE1 in this one.
Atlanta at Indianapolis
With one touchdown pass in each of his last 5 games, Matt Ryan has been a letdown to fantasy owners. This week is a plus-matchup for him against the small Indianapolis defense that is a giving up a league high 31.5 points per game. The return of Julio Jones will also help – Ryan has the look of a mid-to-low QB1 play. This matchup is also juicy for Michael Turner – running for 100+ yards in four of seven games and coming off a bye, Turner is a low-end RB1. Although Roddy White hasn’t been himself this year, this week is a great chance for him to get going. The small Indianapolis cornerbacks have given up big games to Wallace, Bowe, and Colston – their defense has little hope of stopping White or Julio Jones. Roddy White can be confidently started at a WR1 – it’s a matter of time until he “gets his”. Although this will be Julio Jones’ first start since the injury, you’ll want him in your lineup as a WR3. With Roddy White on the other side of the field, Jones will face single-coverage – which is just unfair for cornerbacks trying to matchup with his 6’3’ 220 lb frame. In the first four games of his career (not counting the game against the Packers when he hurt himself) Jones has averaged 85.5 yards a game – which amounts to a ridiculous 1,368 yards over the season. Start him and you won’t regret it. Tony Gonzalez missed practice Wednesday but will likely start against the Colts. He’s the No. 3 overall fantasy tight end and must be started against this struggling defense.
Since the injury to Peyton Manning the Colts have been nothing but a sad story. They’ve yet to win a game and often look hopeless out on the field. Curtis Painter has a 1:4 TD-to-INT ratio over the last three games – don’t even think about using him. After practicing fully on Wednesday, Joseph Addai looks like he’ll play as the Colts starting running back. The problem is Addai is an injury risk and the Colts are giving Delone Carter and Donald Brown carries as well. These factors, plus the fact that this is a below-average offense without Manning, make this a situation to avoid… Pierre Garcon has been Painter’s favorite target and saw a ridiculous 15 targets last week. He will continue to receive a lot of looks while playing from behind – he’ll continue to be a solid WR3. Reggie Wayne hasn’t had the same luck – he hasn’t scored a TD since Week 1 and isn’t receiving the same weekly targets he’s used to seeing. With Painter at QB, there’s not going to be enough for two WRs – Wayne belongs on fantasy benches. Like the rest of the Colts pass-catchers, Dallas Clark’s Week 8 performance was inflated by the Colts being in comeback mode for most of the second-half. Averaging 33.3 yards per game, he doesn’t belong in any starting lineups.
Miami at Kansas City
In four games this season, Matt Moore has a 1:4 TD-to-INT ratio – he may have more problems than any QB in the league right now… don’t roster him. With Daniel Thomas out last week, Reggie Bush provided the Dolphins with a solid 120-yard performance. The problem is this is Bush’s first 100-yard game since Week 16 of the 2006 season. Don’t expect this to continue when Thomas returns – Bush is a great sell-high. Thomas is the better back because he can run inside the tackles and has the goal-line work. This week Thomas looks like a low-end RB2 and Bush is a flex play. Brandon Marshall has been affected most by the loss of QB Chad Henne, he’s a solid WR2 but I’m beginning to wonder if Moore can help Marshall produce as a top-12 WR… I wouldn’t bet on it. With Moore leading this offense, no other pass-catchers can be trusted.
After starting the season with three losses, the Kansas City Chiefs looked hopeless. They have gone on to win four straight and aren’t looking so bad after all. If you take away Matt Cassel’s performance against the Colts defense, he only has 5 TDs in six games – with 9 interceptions. He’s going against a dreadful Dolphins pass-defense and has added playmaker Jonathan Baldwin but I still wouldn’t want him as my starting QB this week… Jackie Battle continues to be produce and although he’s not a special talent – there are reasons why. He’s a power back that runs behind a good offensive line and is receiving around 20 touches a game, just don’t expect huge numbers because his upside is capped by talent. Either way, there’s no reason to think he’ll stop – Battle looks like a low-end RB2 in this one. Miami has given up the seventh-most fantasy points to WRs – this means Dwayne Bowe should have a solid showing. Averaging more yards-per-game than last year, Bowe has shown his special talent is not a fluke – he’s a WR1 this week. Jonathan Baldwin is a very impressive talent that could succeed given the right situation. The problem is his team isn’t very good at passing – he’s going to have some good games because he’s a physical freak but it will be very inconsistent. Look for Baldwin to unseat Steve Breaston as the team’s second best WR – but wait and see if he can produce.
Tampa Bay at New Orleans
After a strong year last year, Josh Freeman has taken a step back. He has a 7:10 TD-to-INT ratio on the year and threw 4 interceptions in his last game. Right now, Freeman cannot be trusted as a weekly fantasy starter – however facing the Saints this week, the Bucs will likely play from behind, he’s a borderline QB1 this week. LeGarrette Blount will return this week and with Graham out for the season, he’ll be more involved in 3rd down work. He’s a RB2 this week. Averaging only 45.3 yards per game, Mike Williams has also taken a step back this year. He’s struggled to separate and has looked more like a possession receiver. He still sees plenty of targets but the production just isn’t there – he’s a WR3 this week. Arrelious Benn has shown flashes of potential and with Raheem Morris announcing this week that he’d like to get Benn more involved – this is a situation to watch. He’s not worth starting after being held without a catch in the Bucs last game, but keep an eye on him. Kellen Winslow has lost his athleticism after too many knee surgeries and doesn’t have that big game potential anymore – he’s a borderline TE1 with capped upside.
Drew Brees had his worst performance of the year last week but there’s little reason to think he won’t recover. If you have Brees, don’t even think about sitting him. Mark Ingram looks unlikely to play this week; this leaves Darren Sproles as the only great play at RB for the Saints – averaging 86.7 yards per game with 4 TDs, he has been extremely effective, he’s a RB2 in this one. We learned last week that Ingram’s injury didn’t lead to a lot of touches for Pierre Thomas; it led to Thomas and Ivory splitting carries – leaving short of fantasy production. Marques Colston is finally completely healthy and burned the Bucs to the tune of 7 catches, 118 yards and a TD in Week 6 – he’s a high-end WR2. The rest of the Saints WRs have been impossible to predict. Lance Moore led Saints WRs in production last week but played only the fourth-most snaps among Saints receivers but is averaging only 48.3 yards per game this year – leave Moore and Robert Meachem on your bench unless there’s an injury. Jimmy Graham had his first performance with fewer than 79 yards or a TD, don’t let the fluke game fool you – he is the best TE in fantasy football right now, averaging 89.1 yards per game.
San Francisco at Washington
I’m more impressed by the 49ers than any team in the NFL. They went from being the laughing stock of the NFL to being a very good 6-1 team. Coach John Harbaugh has coached Alex Smith perfectly – he allows Smith to manage the game without making mistake, putting him in situation that he can succeed. Smith isn’t much of a fantasy option but his 9:2 TD-to-INT ratio is very respectable… After a tough start to the season, Frank Gore has turned it on – he’s averaging 131.75 rushing yards and has one TD in each of his last four games. Keep your stud going against Washington as a RB1. Michael Crabtree has shown some promise in the last few weeks and is worth WR3 consideration in a game that the 49ers defense will produce turnovers for their offense. Vernon Davis has struggled mightily this year and has only 35 yards in his last two games – however there’s no question the talent is there. I recommend sticking with your starting TE; he’ll come through soon.
Honestly, your team would look a lot better without any Redskins starting. Going against one of the toughest defenses in the league, the Redskins will struggle in this one. The Redskins strength is their ability to run the football; the 49ers are the best in the league at stopping the run – giving up only 73.4 yards per game. I would advise fantasy owners to sit Torain and Helu. Jabar Gaffney will see some targets and is worth of WR3 consideration in PPR leagues – he doesn’t have any after-the-catch ability and isn’t a special talent. Fred Davis is the only Washington skill player that I would recommend starting – he’ll see a lot of targets and is talented. He’s a solid TE1, showing an obvious rapport with John Beck.
Denver at Oakland
Tim Tebow looked terrible last week and there’s no doubt he doesn’t have an NFL-caliber arm. His long delivery simply can’t get the ball out fast enough the blitz and many believe this could be his final start… given all that Tebow has provided owners with 23 and 15 points in standard leagues and his ability to run provides consistent production. There’s no doubt Tebow is a turnover waiting to happen and his days of being a starting NFL QB are numbered but while he’s playing – he’s provided numbers effectively. It may seem risky but he’s still a mid to low-end QB1 play this week… Willis McGahee has participated in practice on a limited basis this week but is only one week removed from surgery on his right hand. If he plays, he will likely cancel out Knowshon Moreno’s value… however Moreno will hold unexciting RB2 value if McGahee misses the game – with goal-line carries and limited touches, he lacks upside. Eric Decker proved to be Tebow’s favorite receiver last week being targeted 12 times and narrowly missing out on a would-be 21-yard touchdown. Decker is talented and should maintain WR3 value this week. Eddie Royal and Demaryius Thomas have been inconsistent but are both worth keeping an eye on. The Broncos offense could provide value for another WR if Tebow figures it out.
Carson Palmer looks like the Raiders starting QB coming off the bye week but can’t be counted on for production yet… if ever. Darren McFadden will likely sit out Week 9; he was seen with a protective boot and crutches after missing practice. Michael Bush should be plugged into fantasy lineups as a high-end RB2 – he’s a talented RB and Raiders will look to get him the ball early and often with their starting QB barely knowing the playbook. With the Raiders going run-heavy, the only pass-catcher I would consider is Darrius Heyward-Bey. He’s been surprisingly consistent in his last three games – averaging 96.25 yards in his last four games – he’s a WR3 in this one. Denarius Moore has been extremely inconsistent recently with only two catches in his last three games – leave him on your bench in this one.
Cincinnati at Tennessee
Andy Dalton has been extremely impressive as a rookie – many questioned his arm strength coming out of TCU but he’s proven more than capable with a 9:7 TD-to-INT ratio on the year… with all that he’s just a QB2 option in fantasy leagues. Cedric Benson is back from his suspension this week but remains a low-end RB2. He’s averaging an unimpressive 3.9 yards per carry and Bernard Scott should eat into his workload after a solid showing last week. However currently he’s maintaining his value because he receives the necessary touches every week. A.J. Green has proven to be an NFL-ready WR with five TDs in seven games this year and one in each of his last three games – Green has been extremely consistent. Don’t expect the stud to stop against Tennessee – he’s a high-end WR2. Jerome Simpson could be a bye week filler – his consistency has been an issue but Jermaine Gresham looks unlikely to play so he may get a targets. I don’t recommend starting any other pass-catchers on this team.
The shadow of a once great running game is fading and it’s starting to look like Chris Johnson’s days of being an elite runner look over. He seems disinterested and not really up to the challenge. NFL Network’s Sterling Sharpe attributed Johnson’s struggles to his ineffectiveness. He’s not making anyone miss and Javon Ringer is much more effective. At this point, Johnson and Ringer are both low-end RB2/flex plays against a stout Bengals run defense. After a low-yardage two-TD performance last week, Nate Washington will continue to be a dicey WR3. Damian Williams also had a solid game last week, but has been extremely inconsistent and is more of a wait-and-see this week. Jared Cook is a solid TE2 but can’t be relied on weekly because he’s a rotational player that doesn’t play enough snaps.
N.Y. Giants at New England
This game has the look for a shootout, play your Giants. Continuing his hot streak in last week’s win over the Dolphins, Eli Manning is averaging 304 passing yards per game with a 13:5 TD-to-INT ratio. Eli’s breakout may be for real – he’s improved his completion percentage in each of the last five seasons and has big play wide receivers, the emergence of Victor Cruz has definitely helped. This week, going against the Patriots secondary, you’re going to want Eli in your starting lineup. Ahmad Bradshaw has shown fantasy owners his upside recently – with Brandon Jacobs out with an injury and bad mouthing his own team – he could explode if healthy. There’s a chance Bradshaw misses this game so keep you eye on that, if he doesn’t Jacobs is worth plugging-in but I wouldn’t expect a full workload with D.J. Ware getting mixed in. Hakeem Nicks is also banged up but you can’t sit him if he’s active in this matchup… With Nicks in the lineup, Mario Manningham is a low-end WR2 – he’s been consistent recently and is on the verge of breaking out… Victor Cruz is a high-end WR3 in this high-scoring affair, move both Manningham and Cruz up accordingly if Nicks sits out. Jake Ballard has continued to produce over the last few weeks and is one more productive game from serious consideration; right now he’s a TE2.
The New England offense hasn’t looked the same over the past two weeks. They started the season looking extremely dominant and have come out flat the past two weeks. Belichick and Co. should figure things out this week because that’s what good teams do and New England has proven over the years, they’re pretty good. Tough to beat after a loss, Tom Brady will come out firing. He’s Tom-Terrific for a reason, expect solid QB1 despite the recent showings. The Patriots will have to pass to keep up in this game because of their poor secondary. Kevin Faulk led the backfield in touches last week; a shock to all but it’s hard to expect that to happen again. I recommend to wait-and-see how this situation plays out… including BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Danny Woodhead and Stevan Ridley. Even after last week’s clunker, Wes Welker is an elite WR1 – he’s Brady’s first read on most plays and it averaging 117.7 yards per game. Deion Branch has been extremely consistent this season – when Aaron Hernandez plays – I know this because I’m a Patriots fan and Branch has at least 69 yards or a TD in every game except the two Hernandez has missed, he’s currently a high-end WR3. My colleague Asher Molk put Aaron Hernandez on his buy-low list. Hernandez at least 5 catches and 56 yards or a TD in all five games he’s player this season – TE1. Rob Gronkowski played well last week and is averaging 70.7 yards per game with 5 TDs on the year – also a TE1.
St. Louis at Arizona
Coming off of an emotional and impressive win over the New Orleans Saints, the Rams will likely continue their roll against the lowly Arizona Cardinals. At the moment, it’s unclear if Sam Bradford will play, but if he does, he’s a very solid QB2 or bye-week filler against a laughable Cardinals secondary ranked 30th in passing yards allowed per game. This offense may begin to hit its stride when he returns. Steven Jackson looked like he turned back the clock 3 years against the Saints, busting long runs to the outside and running with authority. He’ll be a borderline RB1 against an unspectacular Cardinals rush defense. He’ll be even more heavily counted on if Bradford is unable to go. Start ‘em. The trade to St. Louis has revitalized Brandon Lloyd’s season – he’s been targeted a whopping 25 times during his two games with the Rams. When Bradford gets back, (hopefully this week) he’s easily going to be a WR2 if not better. Even if AJ Feely is under center, he’s shown he’s willing to target Lloyd relentlessly. Speaking of which, hopefully you can do better than Feeley as a bye week plug-in. Danario Alexander’s status is also unclear, but he’s wildly inconsistent even when healthy. If Bradford can’t go, Alexander definitely isn’t an option even if he plays. Greg Salas has the look of a very good bench slot receiver, and as evidenced by Danny Amendola’s stats last year, Bradford loves to throw to slot receivers. He possesses little value until his QB returns, but he could easily become a solid WR3 in PPR leagues down the stretch. Brandon Gibson and Lance Kendricks have been off the fantasy radar for a while now.
The fantasy strength of the Cardinals’ pass catchers will be dictated by the availability of Kevin Kolb. Dealing with a painful turf toe injury, he is tentatively expected to miss this juicy matchup. If he were to start however, he is a mid-low end QB2 against a pass rush that showed signs of life vs. New Orleans. Larry Fitzgerald’s numbers seem off, but he’s still on pace for a fantastic season. Owners were expecting more when they drafted him in the second round, but you gotta keep trotting him out there. However, he would probably be more of a WR2 than a WR1 if John Skelton (who isn’t a fantasy option- his completion percentage was 47% last year) were to be under center. Early Doucet has been productive in recent weeks, and will again be a WR3 value if Kolb were to suit up. If he can’t, he’s more of a low-upside WR4. There are too many other TEs out there to consider playing Todd Heap. Please don’t. Beanie Wells surprised many viewers last week by suiting up and going for 83 yards and a score against an elite Ravens defense. He is still battling through knee troubles, but is an RB1 against this Rams defense notorious for letting opposing RBs go crazy. LaRod Stephens-Howling is nothing more than a deep PPR league flex play with little upside to offer.
Green Bay at San Diego
The Packers have been the NFL’s best team so far this year, and they now travel to San Diego to take on a reeling Chargers squad. Aaron Rodgers is playing at a different level right now. He’ll be a top 2 QB play weekly. His main target will be Greg Jennings who has been a model of consistency and an elite WR1 so far this season: he’s only been held under 82 yards once, and scoreless twice (he still had 201 combined receiving yards in those two games). Like Rodgers, you’re never sitting him – they are matchup-proof even against a statistically strong Chargers pass defense. James Jones will again be a roll-of-the-dice WR3. He doesn’t get too many targets, but he still puts up decent numbers especially since Week 3. His floor is pretty low, but you could do much worse. Aside from Jennings, Jordy Nelson has been Green Bay’s most consistent WR. He has only two less targets than Jermichael Finley and 11 more than Jones. He can be considered a high-end WR3 this week. Finley has been maddingly inconsistent so far this season. Defenses have been keying in on him, and it’s shown: Besides for his 7-85-3 week 3, he’s only caught 4+ passes twice and hasn’t topped 68 yards. He makes for a fine buy-low target. The situation and talent say it’s only a matter of time before he gets things going. Keep trotting him out there unless you have another elite option. The backfield has been mired in committee since week one. Sadly, nothing’s changed: James Starks and Ryan Grant are both flex options who cap each other’s upside. However, Starks has a significant talent edge, which makes him a much better play than Grant.
The Chargers won’t soon forget their loss to Kansas City, and the going gets even tougher against the best team in the NFL. It’s officially time to worry about Philip Rivers. His TD:INT ratio is down to 7:11, and he clearly has lost some zip on his throws. He is fast becoming a QB2, as his struggles have been year-long with no end in sight. I’m not going to recommend him as a starter even against a Green Bay defense giving up almost 289 passing yards per game. If you have another option, comfortably plug him in Rivers’s place. There is something wrong that Rivers and the Chargers are not revealing. The backfield is going to consist of large doses of Michael Tolbert. With Ryan Mathews likely to miss the game with a groin injury sustained on Monday night, Tolbert will be an RB2 play who will see plenty of carries along with passing down and goal line work. Even though the Packers are a top 10 rush defense, they are still giving up 4.6 yards per carry. Teams are just so far behind them sometimes that they have to abandon the run, which explains their highly ranked rush defense. Trot Tolbert out there- even if they fall behind he will be in for passing downs as well. Antonio Gates will be Rivers’s main target when he drops back. For the time being, he seems completely healthy, which makes him a top 3 TE play weekly. Pencil him into lineups against a Green Bay defense giving up the 8th most fantasy points per game to tight ends. Vincent Jackson started red hot, but has cooled down due to injuries and the ineptitude of Rivers. He is no longer a WR1, but is still a top 20 option. I’m in a “I’ll believe it when I see it” mode, but he’s still got monster upside. The Chargers may be stuck in a shootout, and Jackson is by far San Diego’s best WR. Malcolm Floyd has benefitted from single coverage due to the return of Gates, and has posted decent numbers as of late: 10 catches for 243 yards and a score in his past 3 games. He figures to see more single coverage against the Packers, and has earned WR3 consideration. Just keep in mind he didn’t put up a game with over 60 yards before his recent spike in production.
Baltimore at Pittsburgh
As usual, this game figures to be one of the most physical games in the NFL this season. Against a Steelers defense that stifled Tom Brady, there’s no reason to think Joe Flacco will have success this week. He looked much better against the second half against the Cardinals, but has still thrown for only 1 touchdown in his past four games. Go ahead and use him if your starter is on bye, but if you play a quarterback by committee then you should find another option. Ray Rice made the Ravens look silly in week one to the tune of 149 yards and two touchdowns. But this is a different Steelers team- he probably won’t see those kinds of yardage totals this week. However, he is a weekly top 5 RB and you’re not benching him. Even if he gets shut down on the ground, he will save his fantasy day by catching passes. Anquan Boldin and Torrey Smith are the two best receivers on Baltimore. Boldin had a fantastic game against Arizona with a 7-145-0 line, but gets shutdown cornerback Ike Taylor in this matchup. He can only separate against weaker cornerbacks, and Taylor does not fit that billing. He is a high-end WR3 in this one. Torrey Smith has shown the ability to get down the field, but has yet to develop a rapport with Flacco. He is the quintessential boom-or-bust play- he’ll either get you a couple long catches and a score, or will kill your fantasy team. I’d count on the latter against a Steelers defense giving up the 2nd least amount of fantasy points per game to opposing WRs. Ed Dickson and Dennis Pitta completely cancel each other out and belong on the waiver wire.
Since Ben Roethlisberger began asking for a more pass-heavy spread offense, the passing attack has been on a role. Big Ben is in for a monster second half, and will make for a fine QB1 in this one even against a top 3 Baltimore pass defense. Mike Wallace has easily been a top 3 WR this year with nary a clunker to his stat sheet. He’s only seen fewer than 6 targets once, making his floor very high. He’s a WR1 as usual. The surprise leader in targets for your Pittsburgh Steelers: Antonio Brown. Its becoming clear that he is a force to be reckoned with on the outside, and the Steelers know that too: he’s gotten 24 targets his past two games. He can be considered a high-upside WR3 in this one. Emmanuel Sanders is dealing with a knee injury, but even if he plays he isn’t a preferred fantasy option at less than 100% health. Hines Ward says he is going to play this week, and can be considered a desperation WR3 with zero upside – he’s averaging under 37 receiving yards per game, with a high of 67 yards in one game. The biggest loser in this switch to a spread offense has been Rashard Mendenhall. Talent isn’t an issue – it’s simply lack of opportunity that’s kept him down. Even though he only got 13 carries last week, he still churned out 70 yards. A goal-line back in an offense hitting its stride, he is likely to at least score a TD and is an RB2. Just don’t expect large amounts of yards against a fantastic all-around Baltimore defense.
Chicago at Philadelphia
Jay Cutler figures to be in for a long Sunday night against the Eagles, whose front 4 are finally healthy and sacked Tony Romo 4 times. Facing an elite secondary and daunting pass rush with a joke of an offensive line, Cutler isn’t an attractive fantasy option. Middle of the road QB2 with a chance for a blowup game is a good way to describe him. Hopefully, you are not in a situation where you have to play any of the Bears wide receivers. Johnny Knox is talented, but its likely Cutler won’t have enough time to find Knox for deep passes. Leave him on benches. Roy Williams appeared from nowhere before the bye week, but I’m not buying it. He has precious little left in the tank, and you’ve survived this long without him- now isn’t the time to start counting on him. Earl Bennett’s return to the lineup has no impact outside of deep PPR leagues. He isn’t even sniffing WR3 territory. The lone bright spot all year for the Bears is the indispensable Matt Forte. The Bears have been riding him all year, and that won’t stop against the still-ineffective Eagles rush defense which has been a dream for opposing running backs. He always finds a way to rack up the fantasy points, whether it is through the ground or air. He’s been an elite RB1, and that isn’t likely to change against an Eagles defense giving up the 4th most fantasy points per game to opposing RBs.
Bear fans, you may want to cover your eyes when the Eagles’ offense steps onto the field. Michael Vick was simply fantastic against the Cowboys on Sunday night – with his offensive line beginning to gel, he will challenge Aaron Rodgers for the top spot at QB the rest of the way. The Bears’ 28th ranked passing defense will have no prayer of stopping him through the air or on the ground. His main targets will be Desean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin. Jackson has been a boom-or-bust WR2 this entire year, and that figures to continue against a Bears Cover 2 that tries to stop opponents from getting big plays through the air. But their safety play has been atrocious, and you don’t want Jackson on your bench when he finally booms – you’ve likely been putting up with the busts for too long. Start him unless you have better, more consistent options. Jeremy Maclin has truly emerged as the number 1 wide receiver on this team. He has been as consistent as they get, and is on his way to being a WR1 option. Already an elite WR2, this summer’s mysterious virus has been long forgotten. His floor and ceiling have both proven to be very high, so be thankful he’s on your team and in your starting lineup. On this Eagles team full of studs, one has really outshined the rest- the number 1 fantasy RB so far, Lesean McCoy isn’t going to let you down. His consistency is remarkable: one game under 80 yards rushing and 0 (you read that right) games without scoring at least one touchdown. His statistics barely do him justice: on the field, he makes defenders look silly and has proven to be the most elusive back in the NFL. He’s become the most elusive back in the league, and its not very close. Him and Arian Foster are neck and neck for most valuable fantasy guy going. In this game, he gets a Bears defense giving up 5.2 yards per carry – a number that will likely rise after McCoy is done with them.
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