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.
Before I speak about this week’s games I would like to leave a personal note for my fans and supporters. I am competing in the National Fantasy Football Championship Primetime league as part of a group including my father and two friends. We call ourselves the Braintrust. Last week, we not only clinched our league but also finished first in points during the regular season, out of all 360 teams. Now only 60 teams remain but if you can finish first again – we’ll have a grand prize of $100,00 coming our way. On that note, good luck to everyone on their quest for a championship.
Indianapolis at Baltimore
I’m just going to start out by saying this is going to be an ugly game for the Colts. They’re arguably the worst offense in the league and they’re playing against the Ravens defense that is giving up the fourth fewest points per game. Dan Orlovsky proved to be an upgrade over the inept Curtis Painter, but that was the Patriots defense. In terms of passing yardage per game allowed, the Patriots are 32nd and the Ravens are 5th. This passing attack will struggle to generate consistent production in this one. Donald Brown has taken over lead-back duties but can’t be counted on as more than a flex-play. Joseph Addai will still see a few carries and with the Colts likely falling behind early, I don’t imagine there will be a lot of rushing opportunities. Pierre Garcon exploded last week but once again, was facing the Patriots defense – he can be counted on as a WR3 because the Colts will fall behind and be forced to throw often – that said, consistent production can’t be expect. The same goes for Reggie Wayne, but at this point Garcon has taken over as the primary-read on most passing plays. Leaving Wayne as a less desirable WR3. Don’t start Jacob Tamme against one of the league’s best defense.
Finally the Ravens have realized they are at their best when Ray Rice receives over 20 touches. While this is good for their team, it hurts Joe Flacco’s production. In the last two weeks he has had very similar games – in both he attempted 23 passes – while averaging 159.5 passing yards and one touchdown. That said, Flacco has a great matchup this week against a terrible Colts secondary. There should also be plenty attempts to go around because of the likelihood of turnovers by the Colts offense. He’s a high-end QB2 in this one. After rushing for over 200 yards last week, there my not be a better fantasy play this week than Ray Rice. He looks healthy and has a great matchup – there also reason to believe he’ll receive around 25 touches with the Ravens in clock-killing mode. Anquan Boldin hasn’t broken 63 yards in his last four games and has just one touchdown – I’ve never been a huge fan. However this week is a dream matchup for him – he’s facing the small Colts secondary and should have plenty of chances coming off of play-action fakes. This is arguably his best game left this season and should have WR3 production. On the other side, this isn’t a great matchup for Torrey Smith. The small and speedy Colts corners are made to guard receivers like this – still, we all know Smith always has a chance to catch a long deep ball. After just 32 yards last week, he’s a WR3 in this one. Ed Dickson isn’t worth TE1 consideration this week.
New England at Washington
In terms of fantasy production there are for four fantasy quarterbacks above the rest – Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady, Drew Brees, and Cam Newton. Brady has eight straight multiple touchdown games. You’d be silly to even think about benching him for anyone not previously mentioned. BenJarvus Green-Ellis wasn’t featured against the Colts as the Patriots gave their young running backs a chance in the second half against the hapless 0-12 Colts. Look for the Patriots to use Green-Ellis more against the Redskins because they’ll need a consistent run game. When they need a dependable rushing attack – they turn to him. Because of the three other active running backs on game day, I’m calling Green-Ellis a low-end RB2. None of the other running backs are worth playing without an injury. Wes Welker topped 100 yards for the second straight week against the Colts and is now on pace for an incredible 1,670 receiving yards – I’m not sure if he’ll get there but I am sure he’s an elite option at wide receiver this week. This season no tight end has been more impressive than Rob Gronkowski (sorry Jimmy Graham). Out of Brady’s 30 passing touchdowns, Gronk has caught 13 – a very solid 43.4% on one of the league’s best offenses. With all the attention Welker draws, Gronk has proven to be unstoppable with Brady at the helm. Last week was a down-week for Deion Branch – squaring off with the small speedy corners of the Colts, Brady chose to throw to his bigger targets… and Welker of course. This week there are many better options but he’s playable as a flex in PPR. Aaron Hernandez is a fantastic young tight end and will likely have a breakout game in the final four games. That said, he’s just the third or fourth option with Gronk and Welker dominating the targets – leaving him as a just a low-end TE1.
The Redskins have decided to stick with Rex Grossman this week – he’s not an NFL starting quarterback but this still qualifies as a good decision considering how inept John Beck is. I wouldn’t recommend anyone relies on him but if there is a week to do it, it’s this week against the Patriots secondary that plays two wide receivers in its heavy secondary packages (Julian Edelman and Matt Slater). Due to the fact the Redskins will likely fall behind early and have a large volume of passing attempts, you could do worst for a QB2 or desperation option. Roy Helu has been extremely impressive since taking over the starting job. He’s quick, makes good decisions and doesn’t go down easily – there’s nothing not to like. The other great thing about Helu is he doesn’t falter in games that his team falls behind because he’s very involved in their passing attack. With an average of 28.5 touches in each of his last two games, he’s a high-end RB2 play. With the looming suspension of Fred Davis, Santana Moss should see an increase in targets. He’s yet to top 100 yards this year but I wouldn’t hesitate to start him as a WR3 in this tasty matchup. Jabar Gaffney will also see an increase in targets but has little big-play ability and lacks upside. I wouldn’t want to start him in any standard leagues – he’s just a WR4.
New Orleans at Tennessee
New Orleans has looked absolutely unstoppable on offense in the past two weeks against NFC playoff hopefuls the Giants and the Lions. Facing a middle of the road Titans defense, Drew Brees is a more than solid QB1. Brees’s passing yardage this season has been ridiculous and he’s proved time and time again that he belongs in the top tier of fantasy QB’s alongside Rodgers and Brady. As good as Brees is, his distribution between targets decreases the reliability of Saints receivers. This leaves Marques Colston as the only trustworthy WR option in New Orleans. Against a Titans defense allowing the 18th most passing yards in the league, Colston is a great WR2 play, getting a boost in PPR-formats. Behind Colston, the circus of Saints receivers aren’t viable options in fantasy. Lance Moore has recorded 5 TD’s in the last 5 games, but with only 19 snaps in Week 13 he isn’t anything more than a desperation play. Robert Meachem had his best game of the season last week, but like Moore he just isn’t a significant enough part of the Saints offense to be considered. Devery Henderson saw the second most snaps behind Colston. While he might be a surprising desperation play in Week 14, stay away from all Saints receivers not named Colston. TE Jimmy Graham continues to impress with his amazing athletic ability. In this season he has easily surpassed Colston as Brees’s favorite target. Graham is the second best TE option in fantasy and will retain TE1 status the rest of the year. With Mark Ingram ruled out with turf toe, Pierre Thomas and Darren Sproles owners can rejoice in increased touches. Thomas couldn’t capitalize earlier in the year when Ingram was injured, but with the increased touches he’s a low end RB2 in Week 14. Sproles continues to show explosiveness, but hasn’t gone over 100 yards in the last 3 games. In PPR formats Sproles is a strong RB2, but in normal formats he’s still a great flex play.
The Titans have shown new life in the offensive game with what seems to be the return of CJ2K. While Chris Johnson has straight up beast-moded the last two games, his performances were against two of the league’s poorer run defenses. Johnson is still a RB1 in Week 14, but he could see a few more hiccups against a much better run defense in the New Orleans Saints. With CJ emerging as the focus of the offense, Matt Hasselbeck slips back into low end QB2 status. When Johnson performs, Hasselbeck takes the back seat. The Saints could force the Titans the throw in a shootout, but Hasselbeck’s performances all year have proved he isn’t a reliable option. With a shootout in mind, Damian Williams gets to rep a WR3 badge in Week 14. Williams will be the beneficiary of fellow WR Nate Washington out all week in practice-he’s a strongly recommended WR3 play. Jared Cook could have a surprising breakout game, but until the numbers show, he’s a TE2.
Kansas City at N.Y. Jets
In Tyler Palko’s last three games he has a 1:6 TD-to-INT ratio… and that touchdown was a fluke hail-mary at the end of the half. He’s not even an option in two-QB leagues. Jackie Battle, Thomas Jones, and Dexter McCluster cannot be relied on against the Jets defense. All of them split carries on a terrible offense and there’s very little upside – avoid them at all costs. Since Cassell went down, Dwayne Bowe is averaging 6 catches for 68 yards – he’s managed to maintain consistent PPR value but lacks upside because of the ineffectiveness of this offense. Also avoid all the other pass-catchers on this offense…
Mark Sanchez has a pretty average matchup so expect more mediocre numbers out of the mediocre talent. The problem is over his last nine games he’s only averaging 199.1 passing yards… he’s just a QB2. Shonn Greene is coming off a great game, in which he rushed for 88 yards and three touchdowns. Expect more of the same – he’s a RB2 in standard leagues and a low-end RB2 in PPR leagues. Santonio “I haven’t topped 100 yards all year” Holmes continues to save his season with touchdowns. He’s been just a WR3 because he’s averaging just 46 receiving yards per game. There’s no reason to expect anything different but cannot be sat, except in shallow leagues, because of his big play ability. Plaxico Burress had just 3 catches for 33 yards last week – he’s just a low-end WR3 who relies too much on touchdowns for value. Still yet to break 64 yards since Week 3, I wouldn’t rely on Dustin Keller. Yes, he had two touchdowns in Week 12 but I consider that a fluke because of his small influence on offense.
Philadelphia at Miami
Michael Vick will make his return for the Eagles this week and is a low-end QB1. We’ve all seen what he can do and should have plenty of pass attempts but has struggled lately. In his last two games, Vick threw for average of 170.5, no touchdowns and three interceptions. Still, I wouldn’t hesitate to start him – just understand that it’s risky and he could easily be rusty. LeSean McCoy definitely wasn’t himself last week; he looked slow and didn’t have his usually unparalleled quickness. Amazingly McCoy ran 17 times for 84 yards and a touchdown and caught four passes for 49 yards and another score. There are very few running backs with McCoy’s marvelous skill set. He has a very tough matchup against the Dolphins this week – they’ve only allowed three rushing touchdowns this season. Either way, McCoy is matchup-proof. Vick’s return bodes well for Eagles pass-catchers and Jeremy Maclin looks like he’ll also return this week. DeSean Jackson has struggled with controversy recently but still should provide WR2 value – he’s waiting for a chance to prove all his doubters wrong. Maclin looks like a high-end WR3 in his first game back, he’s been very good when healthy. Don’t start Riley Cooper unless Maclin is inactive – in that scenario he would be fine to start as a WR3/flex play. The Dolphins have struggled against tight ends so don’t be afraid to start Brent Celek as he tops the TE2 options this week.
Matt Moore has been impressive for the Dolphins recently – helping them win four of their last five. That said he’s not impressive in fantasy league. Due to only attempting 30+ passes in one of his last six games, there’s little room for upside. He’s still a low-end QB2. Reggie Bush has also been very impressive recently – either scoring a touchdown or running for 100 yards in five of his last six games. They’re willing to lean on Bush as a lead back, so you should also be willing – he’s a RB2 against the poor Eagles run defense. On pace for 84 receptions and over 1,200 yards – Brandon Marshall should be in fantasy lineups as a high-end WR2. Because of the lack of a passing attack – owners can’t rely on any other wide receivers on this team. In your desperate for a TE – take a look at Anthony Fasano.
Tampa Bay at Jacksonville
Josh Freeman is expected to start this week but is only a QB2 due to his inept play so far this year. In the fantasy playoffs it’s tough to recommend someone that lacks great receivers and has a 12:16 TD-to-INT ratio on the season… LeGarrette Blount should see more touches this week because there is no way Blaine Gabbert and the Jags jump out to a large lead. He’s a RB2 in standard leagues and a low-end RB2 in PPR leagues. Mike Williams has picked up from his slow start recently – averaging 6 catches for 86.6 yards with two touchdowns in his last three games. At this point he’s a high-end WR3. The other wide receivers: Arrelious Been, Dezmon Briscore, and Preston Parker don’t allow each other to gain consistent value because they all cancel each other out – avoid them all. Speaking of avoiding, Kellen Winslow remains a low-upside TE1 option.
Blaine Gabbert is about as bad of quarterback as I have seen. It is incredible that his useless performance against the Chargers was his best game of the season – or at least the only one he’s thrown multiple touchdowns in. He’s probably the worst starting quarterback in football. Maurice Jones-Drew will see a lot of carries in a juicy matchup against the Bucs, who allow the second-most points to running backs. MJD is an elite RB1 this week. Do yourself a favor and avoid the Jaguars pass-catchers at all costs – no one is doing anything with Gabbert at the helm.
Atlanta at Carolina
Matt Ryan has been a disappointment all season but can be relied on this week because of the favorability of this matchup. He’ll face a Carolina defense that has struggled to keep teams in check. I’m calling Ryan a solid QB1. Michael Turner benefits the most from this matchup and will face the Panthers defense that is giving up the 5th most rushing yards per game. In standard leagues he’s a low-end RB1 and a RB2 in PPR leagues. After two huge weeks in row, Roddy White was held in check last week but still managed 51 receiving yards and a touchdown. He’s a low-end WR1 this week. Julio Jones caught four passes for 68 yards last week but dropped the potential game-winning touchdown. He’s going to have his ups-and-downs but must be considered a mid-to-low-end WR2 this week because of his skill set and matchup. Tony Gonzalez also must be in fantasy lineups because of the Panthers inability to guard tight ends. He continues to produce and is currently 3rd in tight end scoring… keep him going as usual.
As I’ve said previously, Cam Newton is extremely impressive. He isn’t a great passer yet but his rushing ability doesn’t allow any bad games. With 13 rushing touchdowns this season (a single-season record for quarterbacks) Newton is a top-four fantasy quarterback. Atlanta is a tough matchup for opposing rushing backs so temper your expectations for Jonathan Stewart and DeAngelo Williams. Jonathan Stewart is the better player and the Panthers have started giving him the upper-hand in touches so he’s fine as a RB2. DeAngelo on the other hand, is a risky RB2/flex option. Steve Smith has received a lot of defensive attention but with Carolina proving they can run the ball, he won’t be doubled as frequently. Smith is still an elite option that has to be in fantasy lineups, even with his recent lack of production. It won’t recommend relying on Brandon LaFell or Legedu Naanee because of their tendency to cancel each other out. The same problem has also been occurring with Greg Olsen and Jeremy Shockey so try and find capable alternatives.
Houston at Cincinnati
I will be the first to say T.J. Yates absolutely surprised me in Week 13. He showed impressive poise in the pocket and an ability to manage the Texans offense. Yates is a solid QB2 against a depleted Bengals secondary, and may save owners reeling after the injury off Matt Schaub. The good news for Andre Johnson owners was that his production wasn’t effected with Yates at the helm. The bad news is that no one knows when he will be back. With the absence of Johnson, Jacoby Jones will get the start. Kevin Walter has been questionable all week, making Jones and TE Owen Daniels the most reliable fantasy options in the Texans passing offense. Jones should see many targets, making him a low end WR2 against a Bengals defense lacking their top CB. Daniels will be second on the team in targets, but in the Texans run heavy offense, he’s a TE2 albeit with great upside. Arian Foster has been the number one back in fantasy in points per game this season. Foster is worthy of a RB1 badge in Week 14 but his upside is limited due to a Bengals rush defense ranking 6th in rushing yards allowed per game. Ben Tate has seen huge Flex upside in games dominated by the Texans rushing game, but in Week 14 he isn’t a viable option.
While Andy Dalton has had a very promising rookie showing this season, owners can’t expect much out of him this week simply because of one fact, the Texans defense is really, really good. With the talent of A.J. Green, Dalton always has the possibility for passing TD’s, but against the league’s 3rd ranked passing defense he’s a low-end QB2. Green’s upside is limited for the same reasons as Dalton’s, but he’s proven himself with good numbers against some of the NFL’s top defenses. He remains a solid WR2 in Week 14. RB Cedric Benson has been struggling as of late and will still do so against a very strong Texans defense. His upside is very limited, and that in conjunction with his probable tag, makes him a risky low-end RB2/Flex play. Bernard Scott will get the start if Benson sits, but Benson owners can do much better as a backup replacement in this poor matchup. The Bengals will struggle in the pass against the Texans and all passing options without amazing athleticism, i.e. Green, will suffer as a result. TE Jermaine Gresham sports a TE2 badge in Week 14, with Andrew Caldwell and Jerome Simpson falling off of fantasy radars.
Minnesota at Detroit
Christian Ponder has played admirably for the Vikings in his rookie season. He broke out last week with 381 yards for three touchdowns and two interceptions against an underrated Denver defense. Sadly he came out of last week’s game with an injured hip and is questionable to play. Ponder believes he is capable of playing in Week 14 but is worried about his effectiveness. He’ll be worked out before the game but at this point, he’s a full-blown game-time decision. Even if healthy, he’d be risky as a QB2. If he sits out, the person who would take the biggest hit is Percy Harvin, who has absolutely broken out in his last three games with an average of 12 touches for 125 yards per game and four touchdowns. If Ponder isn’t healthy the Vikings will start Joe Webb, who is not an option in fantasy leagues. Webb should salvage Harvin’s value as they have played together well in the past. Although he’s been sick, he’s a high-end WR2 – finally the Vikings have realized that he has an incredible skill set. Adrian Peterson is still suffering from an ankle injury that is stopping him from making cuts and forcing him to “gallop” while he runs. The Vikings will decide if he starts on Friday – he’s impossible to sit against the Suh-less Lions if active. Just make sure he’s not serving as an emergency backup… None of the other Vikings pass-catchers are worth using but Kyle Rudolph is a very good player that isn’t getting on the field enough. Keep an eye on him.
Although he’s thrown a lot of interceptions recently, Matthew Stafford is still playing well – except for Week 10 against the Bears. He threw for 408 yards last week and only had only one touchdown because of their penalties on offense – which I imagine will be fixed this week. Start him confidently against the Vikings defense that is so depleted that Tebow tore them up last weekend. Kevin Smith’s ankle injury is very upsetting – the Lions have such a fantastic passing attack that the secondary is playing deep and Smith looks like a perfect fit for their draw and screen offensive attack. Sadly, he couldn’t cut on Friday and doesn’t look like he’ll be healthy enough for this Sunday. What’s even more alarming is he’s had ankle problems all of his career… Maurice Morris will fill in for Smith and has a great opportunity to perform in a game that should be lopsided. That said, he’s a very mediocre talent – I’m calling him a RB2 in PPR leagues and a flex-play in standard. The Saints stacked two defenders on Calvin Johnson last week – one close, one far, like a punt return. He still caught six passes and 69 yards. Even if they put three guys on him the Minnesota 2nd string cornerbacks have no chance to stop him – he’s the best option at WR this week. Nate Burleson won’t see as many targets this week because of the Vikings inability to defend the Lions primary read. He’s just a low-end WR3 this week. Titus Young isn’t an option. Brandon Pettigrew remains an inconsistent option but is a low-end TE1 in this plus matchup.
Chicago at Denver
Matt Forte’s injury was a big blow to an already depleted Bears squad. Caleb Hanie had his second-straight three-interception game – he’s off fantasy radars. Marion Barber will take over as the lead-back – he’ll be just a low-end RB2/flex-play with little upside. Let’s be honest, Barber is a plodder with little upside because this offense struggles to move the ball. I wouldn’t trust any of the Bears pass-catchers with their heavy mix and lack of a quarterback – if you must, Johnny Knox is the best one.
As I’ve said from the beginning, Tim Tebow is a winner. He’s learning how to play like an NFL quarterback and as Trent Dilfer said “you can never discount someone’s will”. There’s no Tebow will give as much effort as he can to be the best quarterback he can be – however he has a long way to go and is facing one of the league’s best defenses. Because of his incredible consistency and low floor due to his rushing ability, I’m going to call him a low-end QB1. The Bears have been good against the run but Willis McGahee has proven that he’s a rock-solid RB2 with 110+ rushing yards in each of his last two games. Eric Decker has been Tebow’s favorite target thus far and even with 8 TD’s seems very risky. I’m calling him a boom-or-bust WR3. The only other consideration for the Broncos is Demaryius Thomas. He came in for Eddie Royal last week and showed his solid playmaking ability. The only question for this low-end WR3 is can Tebow get the ball in his hands?
San Francisco at Arizona
The Cardinal’s defense was very solid last week against the Cowboys, constantly getting pressure on Tony Romo and constantly collapsing the pocket. Alex Smith has been a very good real life QB all season, but his upside in fantasy is capped by his system. With an elite defense and averaging under 27 pass attempts per game, Smith is purely a QB2, as usual. But if your league penalizes heavily for turnovers, he definitely gets an upgrade. He has been very impressive in that system…Frank Gore is the centerpiece of the offense, but is beginning to wear down. He has yet to top 19 receiving yards in a game, and hasn’t scored since Week 8. I wouldn’t call him an RB1, but he’s a pretty good RB2 in this matchup- the 49ers are very unlikely to fall very far behind (if at all) and the Cardinals are slightly below average in run defense. The only two receiving options to realistically consider here are Vernon Davis and Michael Crabtree. The latter has found a groove, catching at least 4 passes in all but one game since Week 5. Patrick Peterson has been playing much better as of late, but Crabtree has shown consistency and deserves high-end WR3 consideration. Davis had a 5-67-1 line in his last meeting with Arizona, and he can be started as a TE1 considering the shrinking list of quality TEs due to injury and suspension. Don’t expect anything over 60 yards though…
Kevin Kolb finally returned to action but as has been the case all year, he didn’t overwhelm. I wouldn’t want to start him against such a quality defense- he’s only an option in deep 2QB leagues. I would venture to say that Larry Fitzgerald is hurt by Kolb’s return. At least John Skelton forced the ball his way…That said, he is still in the running for most talented WR in the league and shouldn’t be benched unless you have truly quality alternatives. The Niners literally shut down the run, and Fitzgerald usually finds a way to salvage production. Andre Roberts and Early Doucet aren’t close to quality options, but if I had to pick one I’d go with Roberts. Kolb gets cute and ignores Fitzgerald when he has double/triple coverage on him, which bodes decently for Roberts as a desperation play. He’s a deep league option only though- the 49ers give up a mere 6.7 yards per attempt, good for tied for 8th in the league. Beanie Wells is most definitely benchable this week. Patrick Willis may be out, but the rest of that rush defense does not get enough credit. I probably wouldn’t want to start someone like Pierre Thomas over him, but if he approaches 80 yards I would be surprised. The 49ers haven’t allowed a rushing touchdown all year- somewhat fluky, but at least partially a testimonial as to the strength of their rush defense.
Oakland at Green Bay
Carson Palmer is really suffering from the absences of Jacoby Ford and Denarius Moore. It figures to be more of the same this week, but what saves his value is the potential for garbage time stats. The Packers will likely have their way at home against a middle-of-the-road Raider’s pass defense, and Palmer may be constantly passing for the better parts of the second half. I’ll say his potential for garbage time stats is good enough for high-end QB2 consideration. The Raiders will likely try to exploit a quietly below average Packers rush defense allowing 4.9 yards per carry to keep Aaron Rodgers off the field, and even if they fall behind big Michael Bush is the passing down back. He is a solid RB2 with upside in standard and PPR leagues this week, and I’d feel good about having him in my lineup. Chaz Schilens and Darrius Heyward-Bey both qualify for WR3 consideration with upside. If the Raiders fall behind and get garbage time passing yards, someone’s gotta catch it right? Neither are as close to explosive as Ford and Moore, so don’t let your imagination get the best of you…I’ll call Marcel Reece a lottery ticket desperation flex play. He possesses freaky athleticism for a fullback.
In the frozen tundra, it starts and ends with Aaron Rodgers. I’ll let other people heap on the praise and just say this- he is the number one fantasy QB play each and every week. No exceptions. The man is playing at a literally unheard of level right now…The backfield will roll with Brandon Saine and Ryan Grant this week. Grant looks so old and possesses literally no explosion anymore. I’m not starting a guy who hasn’t rushed for more than 30 yards in a game since Week 3, hasn’t topped 9 carries just once since Week 3 and hasn’t scored once this year. Brandon Saine isn’t exactly a playmaker but he will get passing down duties, and is a flex option in PPR leagues. John Kuhn will remain the goal line vulture and is a decent bet for a score. Greg Jennings has put up ONE game where he hasn’t scored or topped 82 yards- that’s a model of consistency. He’s a safe WR1. Jordy Nelson is a genie at making the most out of his targets, but is simply dominant- in his past 7 games, he’s averaging 4.3 catches for 81 yards and 6 touchdowns. I’ll call him a high end WR2 with lots of potential. Jerimichael Finley has been very inconsistent and pretty disappointing this year in fantasy, but you can credit him with taking a lot of defensive attention away from Nelson and Jennings. That doesn’t score you fantasy points, but he possesses as much upside as anyone not named Gronkowski or Graham. He’s a lower end TE1.
Buffalo at San Diego
Ryan Fitzpatrick simply isn’t that good- since Week 4 he has a pedestrian 11:11 TD to INT ratio with 0 300+ yard games in that span. He’s a mid-level, low-upside QB2 even in a decent matchup. Stevie Johnson will be his main pass target, and he’ll be good for lower-end WR2 stats in all likelihood. There just isn’t much upside in this passing game, as at least partially evidenced by Johnson yet to have a 100 yard game on the season. David Nelson is supposed to succeed as the slot receiver in this offense, but is barely worth consideration after not living up to the hype that his Week 2 game produced. He has precious little upside, and likely needs a red zone touchdown (which isn’t that unlikely) to save his performance. Quite honestly, with Scott Chandler out, the only other skill position player worth mentioning is C.J. Spiller. He isn’t a feature back in this league, but has a very good matchup here. The Charger’s 26th ranked rush defense has been getting killed by opposing running games this year due to a plethora of injuries along their front 7, and Spiller will likely have room to run. He is a flex play who probably turns into a low end RB2 in PPR formats.
The matchup is right for Philip Rivers to continue where he left off on Monday night. With injuries almost literally costing the Jaguars their pass rush, Rivers had a clean pocket to throw out of, torching the secondary for 294 yards and three scores. That makeshift offensive line is trouble, but Rivers gets a similar matchup against a pathetic Bills pass rush that ranks dead last in the NFL in sacks with 17. With a clean pocket almost assured, he has re-entered QB1 territory. Ryan Mathews is looking as healthy has he’s been all year, and is getting close to RB1 status. Tolbert still gets goal line and passing down work (he’s a pretty weak flex option), but Mathews is clearly the lead dog here. He has elite talent, and could be in for a big game against a 24th ranked Bills run defense that gives up 4.7 yards per carry. Get him in lineups. Antonio Gates is a top 3 TE option as the main red zone and chain moving target against a Bills defense giving up the 5th most fantasy points per game to opposing TEs. Pencil him in if you don’t own Gronkowski or Graham. I’m going to go ahead and bet that Vincent Jackson has his first good two-game stretch of the season against an overmatched Bills secondary, especially since Rivers will have time to throw. He’s a WR1. Who knows how long Malcolm Floyd will be healthy for, but until he’s hurt again he has a good matchup in this game. He is a giant receiver capable of going deep, a poor man’s Vincent Jackson. He has entered WR3 territory. Vincent Brown is the big loser in the return of Floyd– he’s an intriguing prospect but is a very poor fantasy bet. I’d be surprised if he gets 5 targets.
New York Giants at Dallas
As far as playoff implications go, this is arguably the game of the week. The Giants are going through one of the more impressive four game losing streaks you’ll see. Eli Manning has been simply fantastic this season- there is now way around it. He has definitely earned QB1 status, passing for an average of over 300ypg and passing for multiple scores in 9 out of 12 games. He is set up for another good game, as the Cowboys cornerbacks have a tendency to implode. Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks are both low end WR1s. There are enough passing attempts to go around- Nicks is beginning to heat up while Cruz has been the hottest WR in the league. You need to get both of them in your lineups. Mario Manningham made a surprise return to the practice field, and will likely play. But that knee is probably still unstable, and it would be best to leave him on benches this week. Start him if you don’t have anyone better, but he will be at best 3rd in line for targets and is at risk for an in-game setback. Jake Ballard’s catch should’ve been a touchdown last week, but he is still a weak bet for TE1 production- he hasn’t topped 47 yards in over a month. There will likely be a close to even split between Ahmad Bradshaw and Brandon Jacobs, but Bradshaw is the better playmaker and thus the better standard and PPR bet, but I’d consider him more of a flex than an RB2. Jacobs may plunge one in from the goal line, but if he doesn’t you’re likely looking at a sub-50 yard performance. He’s a riskier flex option.
The stats may not have shown it, but Tony Romo actually played very well against a Cardinal pass rush that was dominating Dallas’s offensive line. This week, he gets a 29th ranked Giants pass defense struggling to put pressure on the opposing QB and FB Tony Fiametta back. Unless you have Rodgers, Brees, Brady or Newton, Romo must be in your lineup in a potential shootout. It doesn’t hurt that he gets Miles Austin back either. Demarco Murray gets a big boost with Fiametta returning- there was a significant drop-off in production from him when Fiametta went down. Murray is a rock-solid RB2 with upside against a 23rd ranked Giants rush defense. Felix Jones is the backup/change of pace back, and is a risky deep league flex play. Dez Bryant has been pretty impressive recently, but still has room to grow and progress. He is actually probably helped by the return of Miles Austin, for defenses now have to pay attention to two game breaking WRs once again. Dez Bryant has been a TD machine recently, scoring in 3 of the past 4 games. I’d rank him higher than Austin, who hasn’t played since Week 9, but both of those guys are top 16 options with plenty of upside. Laurent Robinson is hurt and now fighting for target scraps- get him out of lineups. Jason Witten is a very good TE1, and gets a big boost in this matchup, as the Giants allow the 4th most fantasy points to tight ends. I’d rank him 4th this week only behind Gronkowski, Graham and Gates. He’s by far the best tight end in fantasy whose last name doesn’t start with a “G”. Start ‘em.
St. Louis at Seattle
Another fantastic MNF game pits the pitiful 2-10 Rams against the 5-7 Seachickens. Tom Brandstater will get the start at QB severely dropping the fantasy value of any Rams WR. Brandon Lloyd has shown very promising production since coming to the Rams, but Brandstater is an unknown. Lloyd’s upside is that he burned the Seattle secondary in their first matchup and that the Rams should be looking to through against a good Seattle run defense. That in mind, Lloyd sports a WR3 badge in Week 14. All other St. Louis receivers aren’t viable options in fantasy. Steven Jackson has shown a sharp decline in production and didn’t fare well in his previous meeting with the Seahawks. Jackson is merely a low end RB2/Flex play.
Seattle exploded against the Eagles last week behind the strong performance of RB Marshawn Lynch. Lynch continues to show his Beast Mode racking up yard after yard after contact. Against the Rams last ranked rushing defense Lynch is a strong RB1. Tavaris Jackson had one of his best games of the season against the Eagles last week – although he didn’t have a high volume, he was extremely efficient. That said, I look for the Seahawks to go run heavy against this week and Jackson to be just a low-end QB2. Coach Pete Carroll has talked up WR Golden Tate – calling him a special talent. He’s not someone you want to start yet but definitely worth a roster stash.