(Doc’s Note: I’d like for you to welcome Mike and give him a warm Razzball welcome! Here are his takes on this week’s slate of games.)
Philadelphia at Buffalo
This game is shaping up to be a shootout for fantasy owners. During a bloated fantasy week, Vick is as usual a strong QB1. He should have a strong game facing a sub-par Buffalo defense in a must-win game for the Eagles. This should lead to solid games for Jackson and Maclin. DeSean Jackson broke out in a big way last week and will look to continue in this solid matchup as a deep threat – just know that he’s always a threat for a clunker if the defenses don’t let him stretch the field. Jeremy Maclin looks to be the better play in PPR leagues as a more consistent threat for catches – plug him in as a very solid WR2. LeSean McCoy is an elite RB1 and should be a shoo-in for 100 total yards and a score in this plus matchup. Celek is not an option in fantasy leagues this year, as he will be spending his time blocking – don’t even waste a roster spot.
Fred Jackson looks to be the best play for the Bills due to the Eagles sad excuse for a rush defense. After being gashed by the 49ers last week, they are 30th against the run. Don’t look for a huge game from Fitzpatrick though; he’ll struggle to get the ball to his outside receivers with the Eagles top corners shutting them down. Stevie Johnson slides down to a mid/low-end WR2. Leave Donald Jones on your benches, but David Nelson is an intriguing WR3 with upside PPR play with lots of short passes underneath. Nelson is a solid 4-6 inches taller and over 30 pounds heavier than probable cover-man Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, and should get a nice dose of targets from the slot.
New Orleans at Carolina
The Carolina secondary has surprisingly held up pretty well against the pass, but Brees is still a QB1 play. The Panthers have statistically been the 2nd worst in the league against the run; look for Ingram to have his best game as a pro. Sproles is also worth starting in most leagues during this bloated bye week – definitely keep him going in PPR leagues… this will not be the week he cools off. None of the WRs are great plays with Colston returning to action last week and expected to see even more snaps this Sunday. Ideally, it would be a wait-and-see week for Colston owners, but trot him out there if the bye weeks are hitting hard. Lance Moore is still a fine WR3 play in PPR leagues, while Robert Meachem is a hit-or-miss bye week filler. His days as a fantasy starter are through barring another Colston injury. As Brees’ favorite target Jimmy Graham is a must-start, expect more elite TE production. Get him in lineups.
With New Orleans controlling the game, look for more of the same from Cam Newton. The Panthers will be playing from behind so look for Newton to continue his impressive streak of solid QB1 numbers. Not a great week for Carolina running backs, as New Orleans has been solid against the run. Jonathon Stewart is the better bet, as he should catch some balls in the pass-heavy attack late in the game. DeAngelo Williams should be benched if owner’s have other options – without an injury neither one of these running backs will be able produce elite numbers. Steve Smith cannot be benched… expect more WR1 numbers. Neither LaFell nor Naanee are worth starting this week or any week for that matter. Olsen and Shockey have both shown flashes but will probably cancel each other out over the season. If you have no other options, Olsen is the better option.
Oakland at Houston
Campbell is not a good start this week facing a tough Houston defense that has allowed fewer than 215 passing YPG. Look for the Oakland offense to rely heavily on Darren McFadden, and expect the mega talented RB1 to touch the rock 20+ times. It’s hard to recommend any of these WRs this week, but if you are forced to start one go with Denarius Moore. He is the most talented of the group but with Darrius Heyward-Bey and Jacoby Ford back so it’s hard to expect big numbers. It’s probably best to hold off on any of these guys if you have other options. Kevin Boss isn’t an option.
Houston is coming off a big win against Pittsburgh which proved that Arian Foster is back in business – look for him to be the elite RB play the rest of the way out. Against the 29th ranked run defense, they’ll rely even heavier on him with Andre Johnson out. Schaub looks to be a low-end QB1 play with the Texans going run heavy. Sell him after his next big game. Jacoby Jones will replace Andre Johnson but make no mistake – Owen Daniels is the first option in the passing game until further notice and should continue his TE1 ways. Wait and see this week for Jones if you can.
Kansas City at Indianapolis
Matt Cassel is an unacceptable play at QB; he’ll be running for his life for most of this game. The Colts have been bad against the run, but with the timeshare in the Kansas backfield, none of the Chiefs RBs are going to have optimal production. Look for McCluster to be a decent flex in PPR leagues, while Thomas Jones continues to be ineffective. Bowe somehow continues to produce and is the best bet for offense against an average Colts pass defense. Breaston is on the wrong side of being a borderline desperation start… do your best to keep him on the bench.
Curtis Painter is going against a poor Chiefs pass defense but is still not a good bye week fill-in for fantasy leagues. Hopefully he can help the Colts WR corps produce, but right now he belongs fantasy benches. In a game that should be close enough until the end, Addai should be able to produce just enough to warrant a RB2/flex play. Wayne is the best bet for Colts receivers; hope for WR2/3 numbers, but expect WR3/4. Garcon is coming off a huge game but chalk it up as a fluke – he’s not putting up numbers like that consistently and the fact he only caught two balls shows he wasn’t a huge part of the game plan. Collie is hardly worth stashing, never mind starting – no one besides Dallas Clark has been hurt more by the Peyton Manning injury. Speaking of Clark, he is pretty much droppable at this point. Don’t do your opponent a favor and start him.
Cincinnati at Jacksonville
After a nice game last week, Andy Dalton still needs to show more to be trusted in fantasy leagues. He belongs on benches, but don’t panic if you are in a deep league and he’s your bye-week filler. Benson looks like he’ll be in the lineup this weekend, consider him a low-upside RB2/flex in a matchup against a surprisingly good Jacksonville run defense. Look for A.J. Green to have a solid game – he’s a WR2 in a bye week. Caldwell and Simpson will probably cancel each other out this week, but Simpson has a significant edge in talent. Either way, both guys belong on your bench or the waiver wire. Gresham isn’t a bad play, so consider him a low-end TE1.
Gabbert will struggle against a very good Bengals defense. The Jags offense has conceded they did not give Jones-Drew enough carries last week… you should expect him to have a productive outing. He’s going to get a lot of carries and he should be a solid RB1. Mike Thomas is the only player worth looking at in the passing game and he’s barely a WR3.
Arizona at Minnesota
Beanie Wells is coming off a huge week against the Giants. He’s been matchup proof this year, but I don’t think he’s going to have an easy time against Minnesota. That said he’ll still be productive with plenty of touches, and the blossoming high-end RB2 is a great bet for a TD. Kolb is a decent QB2 in this matchup considering the Vikings have been susceptible to big plays against the pass. Don’t expect huge production, but he should be a decent backup if your starter in on bye. Fitzgerald is obviously a WR1, you don’t need me to tell you that. Heap belongs on fantasy benches most weeks, including this one.
The Cardinals pass defense has not been good, but you still can’t trust McNabb. The Vikings haven’t been able to pass the ball, and their coaching seems to be deficient in talent evaluation, to put it nicely. This is evidenced by their starting outside receivers Michael Jenkins and Bernard Berrian, who lost their separation and playmaking skills light years ago. Finally, the coaches have conceded Harvin deserves more snaps and he looks to be a high-end WR2 in this matchup. Look for Peterson to be an elite RB1 in this plus matchup as usual. Unless your league is deeper than the ocean, don’t bother looking at either of Minnesota’s TEs.
Seattle at New York Giants
Tavaris Jackson is a poor bet for production against the Giants pass defense. Don’t expect any production for Lynch but may be worth a desperation flex start during the bye week. Sidney Rice is the only Seattle receiver worth rostering in most leagues, he’s only a low-end WR2/3. Sell high if you still can.
The Seattle run defense has been surprisingly good since the hiring of Pete Carroll. Expect the inconsistent Eli Manning to post low-end, if decent, QB1 stats in this one. Bradshaw is a solid RB2, but Jacobs belongs on the bench if you have other options. Hakeem Nicks went off against the Cardinals last week; he’ll keep on rolling as a bona fide WR1. The situation between Victor Cruz and Manningham has yet to be resolved but they both warrant WR3 consideration this week against the Seahawks subpar pass defense.
Tennessee at Pittsburgh
Matt Hasselbeck looked good last weekend, showing he didn’t need Kenny Britt for at least one week of production. But the Steelers have been pretty stout against aerial attacks so far; so try to find another option. If you are a Romo owner though (dealing with a bye week), James Harrison’s absence should instill enough confidence for you to start Hasselbeck. Chris Johnson had his first 100-yard performance last week; expect him to continue as a solid to low-end RB1 this week. After the Kenny Britt injury, Nate Washington is the only Titans WR worth considering. That said he is only a high risk/high reward WR3. After getting his first TD last week, you could do worse than Jared Cook as a plug-in backup TE.
After injuring his foot and most likely losing Mendenhall for the week, Big Ben is a high-end QB2 in this matchup. He’s got a tough matchup against an underrated Titans defense, not to mention a terrible offensive line that constantly forces him to flee the pocket. The desperation signing of Max Starks tells you all you need to know. In all likelihood, coaching-staff favorite Isaac Redman will be filling in for Rashard Mendenhall and should get 20-25 touches with Mewelde Moore also missing time. If you can pick him up or have him, he should be started as a solid RB2. Keep Mike Wallace rolling as a WR1 – there’s always hope for a long TD with “60 Minutes” on the field. Temper your expectations however; as this could be his first true clunker. After three straight weeks of 67+ yards, don’t be afraid to start Antonio Brown in a bye-week crunch. The Steelers may still go pass-heavy and he’s been seeing plenty of targets. Don’t count on Heath Miller as your TE; he stays in to block too frequently for fantasy production.
Tampa Bay at San Francisco
After having a great game on Monday night, look for the Tampa Bay offense as a whole to regress as they travel to San Fran to take on the 49ers front seven, who have arguably been the best in the league through the first four weeks. Josh Freeman is a low-end QB1; expectations should remain low. Blount is not going to have the same kind of performance, expect mid to low-end RB2 numbers in non-PPR leagues and flex numbers in PPR leagues. Mike Williams owners have been looking for that breakout performance; but you probably won’t see it this week. Still, plug him in as a WR2/3 during this first of many bye weeks. Winslow is a not a TE1; you’ll want to look for other options, as he hasn’t shown much so far.
After a nice week last week, Alex Smith will face a defense coming off a short week. You could do worse in 2 QB leagues during the bye week. Gore is coming off a big week and says he’s feeling great, but he doesn’t get to face the Eagles every week. I hope you sold high. With Kendall Hunter stealing carries, he’s only an RB2. Speaking of the talented rookie, leave Hunter on your bench for the time being. Crabtree isn’t a great bet but he’s the best option at WR for the 49ers – he’s an acceptable bye week filler. You know the drill – start Vernon Davis as a solid TE1.
San Diego at Denver
It looks like Champ Bailey will be back this week, but that doesn’t stop Rivers from being an elite QB1 play this week. Mathews should also be in for a big game…he has started to earn goal line work as well as the coaching staff’s trust. He’s the real deal- trade for him while there’s still time. The Chargers figure to be playing with the lead for a large portion of the game; this bodes well for Michael Tolbert as a flex play. With hamstring and abdominal injuries, Vincent Jackson is a high-risk WR1; it’s tough to see the Chargers risking injury aggravation if they are demolishing the Broncos. Don’t expect much from the other WRs on the Chargers unless Jackson sits. The biggest beneficiary of this situation would be Malcom Floyd…trot him out there if you must. Gates looks like he’s going to be sitting again this week, relegating the low-upside Randy McMichael to starting duties. Let him ride the pine – this offense has too many options to be throwing the ball to him more than a couple times a game.
Kyle Orton is a QB2 this season. Without McDaniels, the Broncos offense has not been as effective in the passing game. After John Fox anointed Willis McGahee the primary ball carrier, he can be considered a low-end RB2 in this one. He may possibly score a TD, but he has zero burst or big play ability. Considering they will be playing from behind against the Chargers, Brandon Lloyd could be in for a nice game. I expect high-end WR2 production. Eric Decker should also provide solid WR3 value in this one.
New York Jets at New England
Coming off a physical beating from the Ravens last week, the Jets plan revert to their run heavy offense, per Rex Ryan. I imagine the team will start with the run and fall behind quickly against a good Patriots team. Sanchez is a low to mid – QB2 in this matchup against a poor Patriots secondary; Play him if you have to, just don’t get your hopes up. Shonn Greene can be benched if you have any semblance of a decent replacement but expect low-end flex numbers ala Marshawn Lynch if he’s in your lineup; he has proven time and time again he doesn’t possess any special talent. Santonio Holmes is the best bet for production amongst Jets WRs – no one in the Patriots secondary can stop him. It’s just a question of whether Sanchez can get him the ball. Keep starting him even with his subpar performances thus far. Burress will benefit from the matchup and could easily grab a red-zone TD, but he’s only a WR3/flex. Keller is Sanchez’s favorite target and will continue to provide solid TE1 production in this game.
Facing a Jets defense that is designed to stop the Patriots offense, this is about as bad of matchup as Tom Brady is going to have. Still, some guys are matchup proof… Brady is one of them. Keep him in lineups. With Woodhead out, expect to see even more Stevan Ridley. The Jets have struggled against the run, and this could very well be a continuation to Ridley’s breakout. He will be splitting time with BenJarvus Green-Ellis who also figures to get touches. But for long-term purposes, Ridley is the one to own in this backfield. There’s no word yet on whether Revis will be guarding Welker, but either way he’s matchup proof. Since Aaron Hernandez got hurt, Deion Branch has been ineffective. If you have Branch, keep him out of your starting lineup until he starts producing again. Hernandez is worth playing as a TE1 if healthy and obviously so is Gronkowski – fantasy’s top TE and the Patriots second option behind only Welker.
Green Bay at Atlanta
After absolutely torching the Broncos last week, no football player is hotter than Aaron Rodgers; keep him going as the best possible QB1 in a showdown of last year’s playoff battle. Ryan Grant looks like he’ll return, so expect more of the “hot-hand” committee. Starks is the superior talent and the better play as an RB2/flex- think of Grant as more of a RB3/desperation play. Somewhat surprisingly, even with Jermichael Finley back, Greg Jennings has remained a WR1. I have no reason to think that is going to change this week- keep him rolling. The only other WR worth playing on the Packers is Jordy Nelson… expect WR3 numbers from him. Jermichael Finley is an elite TE play each and every week.
This looks like a tasty matchup for Matt Ryan owners. The Packers have been very good against the run but only the Patriots have been worse against the pass. Michael Turner won’t have anywhere to go and the Falcons are going to fall behind, leaving him short of touches. He’s only a low-end RB2 in this one; his high probability of scoring a TD keeps him afloat in weeks like this. Roddy White is an elite WR1 even with his injury concerns and slow start; the guy is just a target monster. The game should be Julio Jones’ Breakout Game 2.0, this time on national television. He’s one of the most talented young WRs in the NFL and looks to be becoming comfortable with the offense. WR2 numbers are easily attainable in this one. Tony Gonzalez looks like a solid TE1 play in a game with plenty of pass attempts to go around, and until further notice is Matt Ryan’s favorite red-zone target.
Chicago at Detroit
Jay Cutler is a QB2 in this matchup; his line doesn’t protect and the Lions have a scary pass rush. This isn’t a great matchup for Matt Forte, but he’s proven matchup proof. Even when Chicago falls behind he is a vital part of the passing game. I wouldn’t recommend playing any Chicago WRs because Cutler will have no time to throw the ball down the field. But if you must, Johnny Knox is the best bet for production.
Expect more of the same from Matthew Stafford; this is a plus matchup for the QB1. During the bye week, Best has the look of a low-end RB1. You don’t need me to tell you this, but Calvin Johnson is an elite WR1 play and the best bet to lead the league in TDs. Burleson and Titus Young are fine bye week plug-ins, just don’t expect consistent production with the two of them effectively cancelling each other out. Pettigrew should provide solid TE1 production in a pinch.