It only took until Week 15 of the NFL season, but it looks like Mike Pettine actually wants to win games in Cleveland. After suffering through 13 games with Brian Hoyer as the quarterback, Pettine made the call to start Johnny Manziel this week against Cincinnati. Look, I’m on record as saying that Manziel is going to be a bust in the league, and I stand by that. However, Manziel can’t be as bad as Hoyer, and he’s the spark plug this offense needs.
First off, it should help Josh Gordon, who had just two catches last week in a dream matchup. For me, however, I’m most excited for what this should do for the Cleveland running game, especially our start of the week, Isaiah Crowell. We see what Le’Veon Bell did last week against the Bengals, and while no one is saying Crowell is in Bell’s class, the recipe for success is there for Crowell to have a top 10 day at the position.
Manziel’s presence should open up running lanes for both Crowell and Terrance West, but Crowell is the clear play of the two. We’ve seen the impact that Robert Griffin has had on Alfred Morris when he is in and out of the lineup, and expect much of the same for Cleveland this week. Crowell is a top 15 running back this week, with the potential to finish much higher.
Matt Ryan, Atlanta: Who saw that performance coming last week? Not me, that’s for sure. Anyways, Matty Ice and the Falcons return home this week to face the Steelers, who, let’s be honest, have one of if not the worst secondaries in the league. It sure would help if Julio Jones plays (as of print on Thursday, I don’t think he will), but it won’t hurt him too much if he doesn’t. With Jones, Ryan is a top five play. Without Jones, he’s still a top-10 play.
Roddy White, Atlanta: Sensing a theme here? This game should be a shootout, and I like just about all of the offensive weapons for both teams, sans the tight ends. It would be a boost to White if Jones misses the contest, but either way, White is a must-start option this week.
Jimmy Graham, New Orleans: I hate putting obvious starts in here, but the questions and concerns are real. I’ve been asked and have seen numerous owners panicking over Graham, wondering what they should do with him. Until I hear something definitive about his injury, I’m putting him in my lineup. He received 11 targets last week after receiving none the previous week against Pittsburgh. Graham is taking on the Bears on Monday night, who have been notoriously bad against the tight end this week. Graham is my top tight end of the week.
Colin Kaepernick, San Francisco: Every other week or so, I’ll put a player in the sit section that should actually be cut from your team. Kaepernick isn’t even a top 25 option this week, and his production for the season has been dreadful. In keeper leagues, you can make a case for him, I guess, but in redraft leagues, get over the name value, and drop Kaepernick ASAP. If you are somehow in your league’s playoffs still with him as your signal caller, literally pick up anyone else off of waivers and start them.
Ryan Mathews, San Diego: Sit back in your seat for this one, but believe it or not, Ryan Mathews is hurt. It’s the first time in his career, or something like that. Anyways, Mathews had just 11 carries last Sunday night against the Patriots, and he’s still dealing with the injured leg this week in practice. Add to the fact that he faces a tough matchup against the Broncos, I’m staying completely away from Mathews or any other San Diego running back this week.
A.J. Green, Cincinnati: You aren’t sitting Green. Not at all. However, Joe Haden — who can be beat — has held Green in check over their past five meetings. If you’re choosing between two players for flex, you may want to take the one with the higher upside, as Green can’t be counted on for his typical production. He’s a low WR1/high WR2 for me this week.
Kyle Rudolph, Minnesota: Again, it’s a coin flip here. Outside of Graham, Rob Gronkowski, Martellus Bennett, Greg Olsen and Julius Thomas, you are praying for a score. Rudolph had the matchup last week, but was unable to take advantage of it. This week, he gets a tough Lions’ squad, and he’s not getting any targets from Teddy Bridgewater.