By Anthony Stampone
Position by position Start’em, Sit’em, and Sleeper look at fantasy Hashtag Style
Drew Brees: It took a little while but it finally clicked for Brees and this passing offense. Over the last four games Brees has his team running a 3-1 record with a 6:2 TD to INT ratio over those 4 games. Brees has also passed for an average of 315 yards over the last four games and seems to have found his stride and will look to keep it going as the Saints host the NY Giants this week. Brees is a machine at home since becoming a Saint and the Giants pass defense doesn’t really scare anyone. Look for Brees to continue his upward trend this week as he looks to keep the Saints faint prayers of making the playoffs alive against a fellow potential wild card contender this week.
Brian Hoyer: Looking for a one week play at QB that should net you some much needed QB relief depending on your teams QB health, strength, or schedule, grab up Hoyer off the waiver wire for this week. Hoyer has actually put up some decent stats this year (Yes, most of it has to do with the fact that the Texans play from behind an awful lot), but Hoyer does have a nice group of play makers on his side. Even with Adrian Foster out for the rest of the season, the Texans still have DeAndre Hopkins who at times has been unstoppable this season and Nate Washington is back to full health and averages over 10 target per week when he is in the line-up. Facing one of the worst all around defenses this week as the Texans host the Titans, this will be a great match up for Hoyer to exploit a poor secondary and rack up some much needed fantasy points for your team if you do not have a favorable match for your QB’s or they are hurt or on the bye.
Aaron Rodgers: As I sit here and type these words I realize how ludicrious this decision may seem, but trust me when I tell you it’s in the best interest of you team this week to play another QB if you have the option. Rodgers is the best QB in the NFL and I think there is little debate about that, but if you look at the Packers passing attack over the last few weeks, and how seemingly every week Rodgers loses another weapon in in passing game, there is only so much even the best in the game can do. Mix the Packers struggles to stay healthy with the fact that they will face the NFL’s top defense this week when they play the Broncos in Denver Sunday night, Rodgers is going to be in for a long night. The Broncos defense has not holes, they are stout against the run, cover as well as anybody in the league, create turnovers, score TDs at an alarming rate, and have no problem putting their oppositions QB on his back. While Rodgers has made a career of making plays using his feet to buy him time, this may not be an option this week as the Broncos boost outstanding coverage skills as well as the ability to make Rodgers uncomfortable in the pocket and take him down for multiple sacks.
Derek Carr: Carr is showing he is deserving of the praise he has received regarding his progression towards becoming a legitimate passing threat in the NFL. However, Carr and the Raiders face an incredibly daunting task this week against a vaunted Jets defense that may have given Tom Brady the hardest challenge he has faced all season. The Jets, like the Broncos are the full package on the defensive side of the ball and will test Carr early and often to see if the kid can stand up to immense pressure and still be able to pick apart one of the best secondary’s in the league with a largely unproven cast of talented support players. Carr is coming off a big week and a great performance against the Chargers, but the Jets will test Carr and this passing offense in ways they haven’t had to deal with yet this year.
Sleepers: Teddy Bridgewater, Jay Cutler, Peyton Manning
Chris Johnson: Enjoying somewhat of a career revival in Arizona this year CJ2K has been a good performer who’s seen a steady rise in his carries and performance each week since the start of the season. With the Cardinals playing the NFL’s worst rush defense this week when they travel to Cleveland, expect Johnson to see the ball early, often, and all game long as the Cardinals look to continue their dominate offensive play against a questionable and underachieving Browns defense. Last week Johnson rushed for 122 yards and a TD, don’t be surprises if he matches or even exceeds that production his week.
Jonathan Stewart: Last week Stewart finally broke out with his first 100 yard rushing performance of the season posting 125 yards against the Eagles. This week Stewart and the undefeated Panthers look to continue their impressive win streak as they take on the underwhelming Colts on MNF. The Colts run defense is still a major problem and with the way Andrew Luck has played this year combined with the Panthers impressive defense, this sets up nicely for Stewart to play a major role in the Panthers offense this week. Stewart will see a ton of carries this week to give Newton a little bit of a break this week and extends his 100+ yard rushing weeks to two this week with at least one TD.
Darren McFadden: After Joseph Randle left the game due to injury and inconsistency so far this season, McFadden jumped all over the opportunity and posted his first 100+ yard performance last week rushing for 152 yards and a TD against the Giants. However the streak will be put right to an end this week as the Cowboys face the Seahawks. The Seahawks know the Cowboys have no semblance of a passing game to have to worry about even if Dez Bryant plays as Matt Cassel is well Matt Cassel and the Seahawks will have no problem putting their corners on islands in man on man coverage and stack the box to stop the run and force the Cowboys to pass the ball.
Rashad Jennings: It appears Jennings days as the Giants primary running back are all but over at this point. Jennings has say his number of snaps drop almost every week since the beginning of the season. Once a promising fantasy selection has been basically relegated to a secondary role in the Giants offense as Mcadoo has gone with a rotating back approach with his offense with no one back seeing the large majority of snaps at any point recently.
Sleepers: Matt Forte, Ameer Abdullah, Chris Ivory
Nate Washington: It is clear that in Houston DeAndre Hopkins is the clear cut number one receiver and it’s not even close. With that said it can’t be understated that when healthy, Washington is a big part of their offense. In four games this season when Washington played he has averaged over 10 targets per game with 16 coming last week which led to Washington having a big day hauling in nine of those targets for 127 yards and two touchdowns. With the Texans facing a very favorable match-up this week with division rival Jacksonville coming to town with a very unimpressive defense. Expect the Jags to roll coverage over the top in attempts to slow or stop Hopkins which will put Washington in favorable match ups for Hoyer to get him the ball.
Antonio Brown: Man it feels good to be able to list him up here again with confidence. Yes, I know the Steelers face a tough challenge this week with havingto play the undefeated Bengals, but with Roethlisberger back in the fold expect Brown to get back to his usual self of catching at least seven passes for at least a 70+ yards every week as he did before Roethlisberger went down and Brown’s record setting unprecedented run of consecutive games of at least five catches and 50+ yards. This is a connection that only seems to work consistently when the two are together as both back-up QBs for the Steelers struggled to have consistent success with Brown who is one of the best WOs in the entire league and is among if not the best route runner in the whole league. Even against a very talented secondary, Brown will show all he needed was his partner in crime back to show he is virtually unstoppable for an entire game.
Dez Bryant: Although Cowboy fans will go nuts and I am sure there are many leagues in which Dez was either waived or traded for almost nothing due to his injury, Dez will come back and be a force in fantasy again; just not yet. Foot injuries are tricky and can seem fine and pop back out of nowhere, it would be smart of the Cowboys to put Dez on a pitch count until they are completely sure their franchise All-Pro WO is back to 100% health. Between not being sure how much Dez will go Sunday, and Matt Cassel taking the snaps for the Cowboys against the Seahawks, this is not the week to test your team’s ability to cover for a #1 WO and keep Dez on the bench for another week.
Amari Cooper: So far, Cooper has come as advertised and is a strong early candidate for rookie of the year. With that said this week Cooper will face the toughest challenge he may see all season with facing the Jets defense and their impressive and imposing secondary. There is a good chance the Jets cut Darrell Revis loose on the Cooper and let him handle the rookie one on one all game long which is going to make for one long day for any rookie, no matter how good they are this early in their careers’.
Sleepers: AJ Green, Stevie Johnson, Steve Smith Sr.
Greg Olsen: At this point I should be forbidden to be allowed to pick Olsen and a start’em for tight ends given that he is an automatic in the Panthers offense and the only real weapon Newton has in the passing game, but since I write the column and my bosses haven’t told me I can’t pick him anymore, I am picking him again for the very reasons listed above. With the exception of a play here and a play there Olsen is by far Newton’s favorite, best, and most consistent target in the passing game. He is such a consistent important performer for the Panthers passing offense, if you can find the person in your league that has him if you don’t see if they are silly enough to trade him too you.
Vernon Davis: The 49ers passing offense is putrid, and it’s scary how much Kaepernick has regressed over the last two seasons. Even with that said one thing stands out, the 49ers are a bad team and are going to have to throw the ball a lot no matter what and someone has to be the beneficiary of those passes. With all the rhetoric going on around the 49ers and their QB, there has been one person that has stood up for him; Davis. If you think this stuff doesn’t matter you’re only kidding yourself. Davis will see a little bit more “love” coming from his QB this week and put up some decent numbers for once against the Rams this week.
Jermaine Gresham: If you picked Gresham up for nothing more than you were running out of options, reconsider your selection. Yes. Gresham showed up some on the stat sheet finally last week and seems to have a good repore with QB Carson Palmer, Palmer just has far too many toys in his passing arsenal that do a better job of spreading the field and getting open than the once impressive Gresham does. Do yourself a favor and drop him or bench him for someone else, he holds little to no value for the Cardinals passing game.
Tyler Eifert: This week the Bengals face off against the Pittsburgh Steelers and this game has shoot-out written all over it. Although Eifert has been outstanding this season, as bad the Steelers defense has been at times this when attempting to stop other teams passing attacks is that their LBs are good in coverage. The CBs and safeties will have their hands full with AJ Green, Sanu, and Marvin Jones it will be up to the Steelers LBs to do what they can to control and/or stop Eifert and I believe they can and will.
Sleepers: Gary Barnidge, Kyle Rudolph, Ben Watson
Denver Broncos: This is a bold choice considering their opponent has the best QB in the NFL right now in Aaron Rodgers, but I still see this defense giving Rodgers the most trouble he has had in quite some time. The can do it all, stop the run, cover receivers, get after the QB, and do pretty much anything you would want a top defense to do and is led by one of the best defensive minds in the league. Wade Phillips and his group will be aggressive, blitz early and often, and will leave and trust their corners in one on one coverage and they are more than capable to hold their own that Sunday night is going to be a long night for Rodgers.
Carolina Panthers: This is a one tough group and they can hang with pretty much any offense in the league. You want to pass against them, go ahead and try but it is only going to get so far, want to run; never mind don’t even waste your time, you aren’t running on this team. This week the Panthers get another test in Andrew Luck. The real question at this point should be, is he the test or are the Panthers defense? That question will be answered over and over again on MNF as the Panthers defense will shut down Luck and continue what has been a terrible season for him.
Cleveland Browns: You are one of the league’s worst defenses and you are playing the top rated offense in the league with more weapons than you could ever imagine attempting to cover and slow down. Once you think you have the Cardinals offense stopped they just roll out another weapon from their deep stable or options or use them same weapons a new way, either way Cleveland isn’t stopping this offense, bench them.
Tampa Bay Bucs: You’re a defense that has a ton of talent but your coach just can’t seem to find the right way to play to your strengths, you might be a member of the Tampa Bay defense. This unit is full of talent, has brought in other talent from the outside and cast it away already because they don’t know how to use it. That hasn’t changed much since Lovie Smith arrived on the scene last season and it doesn’t look like it’s getting much better in year two so far. With the red hot Falcons hosting you this week and their high powered offense that can beat you by air, land, and sea, you are in for a long day. If the Bucs are your defense this week, find someone else, the Falcons are not going to make this a fun day for their division rival.
Sleepers: KC, Minnesota Vikings, Dallas Cowboys
Survivor league pick: Carolina Panthers
By Anthony Stampone
Sunday morning’s loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars was extremely hard but at times fun to watch and comprehend in many different aspects of the game. Turnovers, bad passes, great passes, dropped passes, stupid/costly penalties, play calling, line play, and on and on, played a role in my discontent and/or my excitement as the game went on today. However, the end result was a disappointing 34-31 loss to one of the worst teams in the entire NFL.
Prior to the game there was some legitimate concern for the Bills as it pertains to having enough firepower to beat even a weak Jaguars team due to a significance of who on the team was injured and how many injuries there were. While no coach in his right mind will ever blatantly come out and say that injuries are a reason for concern going into a game or why you lose a game, it was a fair concern considering the Bills circumstances. With that being said, the game still has to be played and the Bills proved they did have enough talent and skill to be competitive in this game.
Regardless the end result wasn’t what the Bills needed it to be and sent our fan base into a world of pissed off I have not witnessed in quite some time. Fans attacking fans, making ambiguous and disingenuous statements, calling for the coach to be fired, making completely irrational and baseless assertions regarding the teams’ performance or lack thereof and much more than I can careless to have read. The remainder of this article is going to read almost like a Q&A article is written except rather than put up a question and then list the response, I am going to copy some of the posts and comments I have read and use legitimate logic, reason, and breakdown to explain why some if not most of our discontent following this game is completely off base and we need to take a step back and be realistic rather than irrational.
“Rex Ryan needs to be fired for that 4th down play call”
Before I break down this asinine statement let me just add that most of the time this statement was posted it usually ended with some kind of expletive(s) regarding Rex’s mental state. With that said let’s list some facts regarding this statement that invalidate it. First and foremost, I think it is important for everyone to know that Rex Ryan does not call the offensive plays for the Bills, Greg Roman does and is given full autonomy to do what he feels is right at all times. This is something that Rex has done with his coordinators since he has become a head coach and is often the reason his coordinators enjoy working for Rex, he lets them do their job without restrictions. With that said this statement is not only invalidated, it’s not proven to be nothing but a false spouting of rhetoric from disgruntled fan(s) that probably just do not like Ryan (be honest with yourself if this is you, it’s ok). Additionally, anyone’s point of view on whether or not they liked the play call is ambiguous, the problem still comes down to one very important part that I truly believe many fans are overlooking; execution. There are many times during a game that we as fans have no clue what the play call is and as long as the result is something that we like we say nothing about the call, whether it was ideal or not for the situation. This play should be no different, because again as I said it really comes down to execution. If EJ throws that ball with more velocity and recognizes the open receiver sooner it’s a first down and we are cheering, but since it was incomplete and was basically an isolation the play works or we’re done type play call, to many people feel it was a bad play call. Looking at the play call it was a great call, the receiver was wide open and again had EJ made the throw better it was a 1st down.
“Fire Dennis Thurman, bring back Jim Schwartz!”
First of all, this statement is flat out baffling to me as we have not even given Thurman half a season let alone a full season to show what he can do as a DC. We also need to keep in mind whose defense this really is; let’s not kid ourselves, this is Rex’s defense and it is much better than people are giving it credit for. Over the last few seasons we as Bills fans have been spoiled with outlandish sack numbers from an incredibly talented defensive line. Consider these points before you call for someone’s job; do you think that teams forgot how good this defensive line is and haven’t learned to adapt to their fierce rush and game plan against it (hint: The Patriots, Giants, and Bengals all did this to basically make our star studded front four basically irrelevant)? Also, with all the sacks last season under Schwartz and the year before under Pettine, how did the team fair, did we make the playoffs or are we still looking for our first playoff appearance in this millennium? The defense is still very good if not outstanding if you look at more than just stats (Stats like all numbers are subjective and can be manipulated to favor the person(s) using them to make their point of view look good), that is why I personally do not use any other site besides footballoutsiders.com DVOA rankings. These rankings are the most thorough, complex, and situationally accurate out there right now. With that said even though you may think the defense is “pathetic”, “putrid”, or whatever adjective you would like to use to fill in the blank, the fact remains this defense is still ranked in the top 3rd in the NFL with more than half our season still left to play. And by the way, how good was the defense last season against Philip Rivers, Peyton Manning, and Tom Brady? There is more I will say about the defense but I will save that for later.
“EJ Manuel was a warrior, he brought us back, McCoy and the refs cost us the game, and people are just biased against him”
Every time I see a pro EJ post after the last two games I have watched I don’t know if I should burst out laughing, ask the person if they need help understanding football, or throw up. EJ, in all honesty and being objective about watching his play this game as much as possible, flat out cost the Bills this game. It is the cold hard truth. For everything positive he did, he did three things wrong. All game EJ was what we have come to know him to be, inconsistent. Yes, EJ made some great throws, two great examples are his touchdown passes to Robert Woods and Marcus Easley, however there are even more examples of his poor passing. EJ’s back corner pass to pass to Chris Gragg was terrible. It was thrown to the wrong shoulder and was way over thrown. EJ missed a wide open LeSean McCoy in the flat with a lot of green out in front of him. Let’s not also forget how EJ almost allowed the Jags to close the game out much earlier than they did by throwing the ball straight to Jags LB Telvin Smith. Luckily for the Bills and EJ, Smith dropped one of the easiest INT chances I have saw in quite some time and the Bills got a field goal out of the drive. These are just examples of some of his poor play over the course of the game. The amount of wide open receivers and tight ends Manuel overlooked or never looked at are countless, it would take me hours of watching All-22 video to see how many open targets he didn’t even look at or throw too. So we covered some good, some bad, now the ugly. In NFL record fashion, Manuel is completely and sole responsible for two back-to-back defensive touchdowns by the Jags. Yes, on EJ’s fumble you could make an argument that the line may not have held up well in protection, but it’s also not the lines job to make EJ takes care of the ball and not leave it out for easy pickings for a defense to knock out, pick up and score with. Following these two terrible plays EJ came right back on the field and gave the ball right back to the Jaguars throwing another terrible interception right to the Jags to set them up on a short field which lead to another Jags touchdown. On these three plays alone, EJ’s “awesome skills” lead to 20 Jaguar points and a 27-3 lead before halftime. Yes, McCoy fumble just shy of a touchdown that cost us points. There is no excuse for that, McCoy is a veteran and needs to do a better job of protecting the ball especially in the red zone.
“The refs have it out for the Bills, it’s a conspiracy”
Allow me to let you in on a little secret, officiating around the league is terrible! Do I agree the Bills have had some absolutely terrible calls against them this year, including a horrible pass interference call against Robey that would have put the Jags in a 4th and very long situation; yes I 100% agree and that call may very well have cost the Bills the game in the end. Here is the problem, the Bills have done this to themselves. In the beginning of the season the Bills were rightfully being penalized for nothing short of plain stupidity, and like anything else in life once you have a reputation for doing something you are not going to get the benefit of the doubt in situations that sometimes aren’t even close let alone when they are. Now I am not attempting to justify the bad call, all I am saying is I understand why the refs are so flag happy against the Bills. There is no conspiracy, between the Bills reputation and the fact that officiating in this league has been bad for quite some time is the reason for the flags, not a disingenuously assumed prejudice against this organization.
“Greg Roman sucks, fire him, he doesn’t know how to call plays or run an offense”
When I saw this comment multiple times I couldn’t do anything but shake my head. For those of you who may not be well acquainted with Roman’s history as a OC in the NFL, he lead the 49ers offense to back to back to back NFC title games, and is deservedly credited with saving Alex Smith’s career and making Colin Kaepernick an NFL overnight sensation before he fell apart last season and continues to be even worse this year. So, that is his past, now a look at the present. Roman has a 6th round career back-up QB that he has turned into his starting QB but is out due to injury, and a young back-up that is a 1st round-bust-capable-at-best to manage a game for you and he has gotten the most out of both of these QBs. Has there been a time or two this season when Roman has called plays that made you scratch your head or depending on your self-control, scream at your TV uncontrollably (guilty!)? Yes! A good example of this was last weeks’ game against the against the Bengals where after a fantastic first drive of the game in which the Bills marched the ball straight down the Bengals throat and scored a touchdown largely due to McCoy and the running game, he proceed to call three total run plays the next three or four possessions. So like any coordinator in the NFL he is prone to make mistakes and call bad plays. However, we as Bills fans need to back up and remember where our minds were after a blowout win in Miami and we were all afraid and preparing for the possibility that we would lose Roman to a HC job at the end of this year. He is still the same guy in a very difficult situation, he is missing five, that is right you read that correctly FIVE of his starters on offense including the most important player on the field, his QB (QB, RG, RT, WO1, WO2). I do not care what you do for a living, but if you work in a “team” based job and five members of your team are missing at one time for some reason or another, and replaced by people who really don’t belong in those positions to begin with due to their skill and knowledge levels, you aren’t going to perform as well at your job either. Still, even with that said, Roman was able to get EJ to right the ship later in the game and get the Bills ahead and into the hands of the defense to close out what started as a blowout loss for a potential win. Now, please tell me using facts and valid proof how incompetent Roman is at his job.
“Doug Whaley is a terrible GM, he needs to be fired”
Just like the Rex Ryan “fire him” comment, some form of profane name-calling and ludicrous explanation as to why the Bills should let Whaley walk often followed up this comment. While I am not against asking for people who are unable to perform their job duties to be removed from their position, I first like to know what qualifies the person as incapable of doing the job to begin with. I think what makes these types of statements easy for people to say is that these guys (Doug and Rex are examples), make millions of dollars and if they don’t do exactly what we like, we couldn’t care less if they lose their jobs since it’s not us losing our job. Anyway, back to the football talk. I would like to know why people feel Whaley is a bad GM. I know that he has made some, well questionable choices, but nothing I would ever say that has been to the detriment of the organization in a long term view. Yes, he traded up to get Sammy Watkins using the Bills first round pick for this past draft. While that was a very expensive price to pay, I applaud him for doing what he felt was right, getting a stud WO (before you scream he can’t stay healthy, that’s not the point nor was it an issue of Watkins in college so there was no way Whaley would have known that was going to happen when drafting Watkins), for his young QB they felt was ready to take the next step but needed more weapons. For years we begged, whined, and complained we wanted a GM with a backbone to pull off moves like this! Now we have one, and you want him gone? Sammy Watkins is far from a bust and when he has been healthy has proven he has the skills to be a dominant and explosive WO in this league. Don’t like that trade, OK I can understand that; I don’t agree with you, but I understand.
The only other move that really jumps out to me that seems to get a lot of people upset and I’ll admit when it first happen I wasn’t happy about it was trading Matt Cassel. While I may not have loved the move, I understood it, and I even bought into the coaches and the GM telling us they were keeping Manuel because he was younger and offered more upside (which I still believe is true). But unlike most I didn’t get to emotional about the move because even though I know that Cassel can come in and “manage” a game or two, if he needed to start long term due to an injury, he wasn’t good enough to win that many games to keep us competitive as an organization, and not to mention he is not an exciting player. Now that everyone has had the chance to see how well Cassel play against the Giants and how bad he looked (3 INTs and any pass longer than 10 yards looked like he was throwing rainbows) I doubt people are as angry as they were when the Bills game first ended (which just proves my point about how erratic some of this fan base really is). Besides those two moves, what major mistakes (if you even call these moves major mistakes) has he made? The man has been a savvy drafter, made some impressive trades, and has kept the talent we have here, here for a change. A lot of people like to blame Whaley for drafting Manuel, which if you can recall properly was actually Buddy Nix last draft as GM and said he wanted to leave the Bills by making a splash (I am paraphrasing) before he left his job, so no matter how much Whaley publically says that was his draft, I still believe that was Nix’s call not Whaley’s. Additionally, look at Whaley’s drafts, he has been a quite genius at finding starting caliber talent up and down the whole draft. Don’t think so, here are a few of his picks that have hit and most of them started in their first year: Cordy Glenn, Kiko Alonso, Preston Brown, John Miller, Seantrel Henderson, Karlos Williams, Robert Woods, Ronald Darby, and picked up Nickell Robey in free agency. Not a single one of these draft picks where selected in the first round and all of them are starters on our team and have been for at least a season prior to this one. That is some impressive drafting in just three years on the job! One last point, please do not forget that Whaley traded what was the equivalent to use as a bag of footballs and got Jerry Hughes and his 20+ sacks over the last 2 and almost a half season. There are many other moves he made that has made this team the most talented it has been in over a decade or longer but I believe I have made the point that the man is a not a good but a great GM.
Last but not least:
“This defense is terrible, how do you give up 34 points against the worst offense in the NFL”
Yes, I actually came across this comment more than once, so there is actually more than one person in Bills Nation that actually thinks that the Bills defense gave up all 34 points to the Jags. This statement, the more I read it made we want to punch a baby. Ignorance is not excuse for stupidity. If you have no clue whatsoever about you’re about to post or say publically, keep it to yourself, or fact check yourself first. We live in a world of immediate gratification and unlimited information at our finger tips within seconds, it’s not hard to look something up to make sure it is fact before clicking send, post, tweet, or whatever social media you are choosing to spout this garbage out. Please allow me to break the scoring down for you so you can more accurately assess the game and the defense. The Jags did score 34 total points. However, 14 of those points came as a direct result of turnovers by EJ Manuel. When I say this I do not yet mean EJ threw an interception or fumbled and then the Jags offense came onto the field and cashed in on the turnover. No, EJ threw an interception and it was returned by the Jags defense for a touchdown and then EJ fumbled and the Jags defense picked the ball up for a touchdown on that same play. What that means is EJ and the offense were directly responsible for 14 points. With that said that means the defense gave up 20 points. That for one is not terrible, and also 6 more of those 20 points were a result of the Jags having a short field thanks again to EJ throwing an interception on the Bills side of the field, and the Jags capitalized. Yes, it would have been great if the defense could have stepped up in that situation and held the Jags to three or zero points but they didn’t and that is on them. These facts do show however that without EJ’s “give me” points, the Jags only scored 20 points, the Bills scored 31, who wins in that situation? Hmmm, I think 31-20 means the Bills do. Taking it a step further lets break down the stats. The Jaguars passed for 182, which by any measure in the NFL is terrible in today’s NFL unless you rushed for some crazy amount (250 yards?), but that isn’t what happened. Also, keep in mind in the two games before the Bills, Bortles threw for over 300+ yards and 3 TDs in consecutive games, he didn’t come close to that production against the Bills. The Jaguars rushed for a total of 120 yards on 33 carries for an average of 3.64 YPC which is very good as a defense. The Jaguars did score two passing touchdowns which is an issue if you want to call yourself a great defense and they also rushed for another, which further hurts your case, but that isn’t terrible, actually it is still above average in the league. The Bills also had an interception that they returned for a touchdown, on a play where the Bills pass rush force Bortles to throw off his back foot which lead to the easy interception and touchdown by Corey Graham.
If there is on issue the Bills had all game that seemed to be a major problem and a cause for concern, it was stopping TJ Yeldon. Yeldon rushed for 115 of the Jags rushing yards on 20 carries for an average of 5.75 YPC and a touchdown. Much of Yeldon’s success was due to the Bills inability to tackle. The Bills did have a problems tackling on Sunday which lead to Yeldon’s 28 yard touchdown run (which is the longest run the Bills have given up all season). Yeldon was able to break multiple tackles and break lose for multiple good gains and first downs over the course of the game. The Bills also missed at least two if not more sack opportunities during this game due to poor tackling. So, yes they had some issues but they are FAR from the problem here in Buffalo, and yes they are still a great unit (STOP OBSESSING ABOUT SACKS!!!!!!!!!). They may not be putting up insane sack numbers but they are doing an above average job of keeping opponents in check and keeping the Bills in most games this year by, causing turnovers, bad throws, running backs from running wild, and pressuring other teams to change their game plans to the point that they look lost. This is still a great defense, it’s just great in a different way.
With all of that sad I would like to summarize by saying simply this, do not let your emotions push the buttons on your computer or your cell phone. Stop, think, take a deep breath, maybe even research what you THINK is right to make sure it is before you post it. I know we are allllllllll frustrated and sick and tired of losing! But before you go spitting out nonsensical statements and acclaimed facts that are not actually correct, think, research, or simply calm yourself down before you react because on top of being mad we lost you are also going to get aggravated by other fans that do actually know that they are talking about are going to come along and set what you said straight an it’s just going to make you even more frustrated.
By Anthony Stampone
I am going to keep this as short and to the point as possible, but for those of you that are freaking out and blaming the teams defense as the or a major part of the problem for the inconsistency this season need to reevaluate your thought process and/or your overblown expectations. Many of my fellow Bills that I have either talked to, read posts from, or heard talking on the radio seem to be under the impression that our defense isn’t good and that our coach should be fired or at least the defensive coordinator should be replaced. While I am not a “professional football analyst" I do understand the game and many of its nuances very well. To those of you that believe that Bills defense is even just average, I am sorry but you are terribly mistaken.
One major issue I believe most fans have is that there was a preconceived notion prior to the season that this defense was not going to just stop, but completely dismantle every opponent they came across. They would single handedly win the Bills 11 or more games. Unfortunately that is just flat out a fantasy and unfair. This is 2015, almost every single rule that is enforced on any given Sunday is designed to help the offense move the ball and put up points. Defensive players are considerably more scrutinized than offensive players. Most people do not give this fact the attention it is truly due. I know that our coach is pompous and made some statements before the season started that probably has played a role in your prejudice of how well the defense has fared so far this season. Rex’s boisterousness and sometimes overzealous prognostications aside, a major fact remains, the man is without question one of the best defensive minds in the entire football world. He can coach, design, and scheme an effective and productive defense that is and can be successful in today’s NFL even with all the handcuffing the league does to that side of the ball. Ryan coming out and saying the Bills had a chance to be one of if not the best defenses in the history of the NFL this year was not just typical Rex “soap box” speak, there is some truth to it. We have the coach and the talent on that side of the ball that we could be the best defense in the NFL this season and there is still plenty of time to climb the rankings.
To many of the people I hear from are concentrated on sack numbers and not on the effectiveness of the scheme that is in place on any given game day. Yes, we have a group of defensive linemen whose contracts are a more than the gross national product of some countries, and many feel justified in saying, “With them making that kind of money, they should be getting five or more sacks per game.” While I would personally love to see the Bills get more sacks myself, this thought process is misguided and incorrect. The Bills pay their defenders well to be effective, not just sack the quarterback. The sack, as exciting as it can be, is not the only measure of a great player or defense.. This line has been great this year, containing mobile QBs such as Luck, Tannehill, and Mariota in the pocket and forced them into making significant mistakes that lead to wins. Luck, who was successfully taken down for a sack two times during the game, was also rushed and rattled into a completion percentage of 53.1%, two interceptions, and over seven passed knocked away by our coverage group. Against a QB of Luck’s ilk, that is not only containing and slowing him down, that is pure dominance. Luck’s success against the Bills came in garbage time as the Bills rushed out to a commanding lead early and did more than enough to hold on to keep the game from ever coming close, as Luck has a reputation for comeback victories. Against Tannehill, who has shown great progression every year since he entered the NFL as a 1st round pick, was also shut down and dominated by the Bills defense. In the two games prior to playing the Bills, Tannehill completed no less than 65% of his passes has zero interceptions with a passer rating no lower than 93.5. Against the Bills defense in week three the Dolphins and their potent passing attack were manhandled. Tannehill was held to a putrid 53.1% completion percentage (identical to Luck's), tossed three interceptions, and had a passer rating of 59.7. The Bills defense did all of this while only getting two sacks on Tannehill. I am sure at this point you are seeing a trend, it is not just sacks that show a defense is doing its job.
I know we as Bills fans have been spoiled over the last two season with Marcel, Mario, Kyle, Jerry and company putting up franchise setting sack numbers in back to back years and leading the whole league in that impressive category. With that said, I would like a question answered as to how that translated to the teams overall success; what were are records at the end of those seasons? Don’t remember? I’ll remind you, 6-10 in 2013, and 9-7 in 2014. So even after shattering a franchise record one year and performing on par in sacks the next season, how did our Bills do? Terrible one season, and not all that much better the next. Did we snap our playoff drought with these impressive sack numbers and #4 ranked defense according to footballoutsiders.com DVOA? I’ll answer for you, NO! Bottom line is that the Bills aren’t far behind how well they performed the last few seasons and we are basically in the same position we have been. Your frustration, while well deserved, is completely misguided and blown out of proportion. You want to be mad about how this team has performed so far this, then go ahead. It would be best that fans accept that at some point injuries (Yes, I am saying injuries are a legitimate reason a team doesn’t succeed) and inconsistent offense which leads the NFL in 3-and-outs should be the cause of your frustrations.
As it stands right now the Bills defense is currently ranked 10th in total defensive DVOA on footballoutsiders.com (which is an outstanding rating system, if you are unfamiliar with it or don’t know how it is calculated, go to their page and you can easily read how it is broken down and how the numbers are calculated). Some might say that isn’t good enough. I say after facing arguably four elite QBS in our first six games, with an offense that is so streaky it’s sickening , it's remarkable they are still ranked in the top 3rd of the league in total defensive effectiveness. Take away the lopsided dismantling by Tom Brady (And please tell me how well did Pettine or Schwartz do against him as our DCs as well), and an impressive and effective Andy Dalton who operated almost his entire first half offense on our side of the field, and you still have one of the best defenses in the entire NFL!
Not all the criticism the Bills have faced on defense is unwarranted, and Ryan is not without blame. Dropping Mario, Jerry, Kyle, or Marcel into coverage and rushing just four against a QB that is known to hold the ball to have time to push the ball down field was asinine and unacceptable. Rex knows that. It is a nice strategy to use against a team like New England that is notorious for getting the ball out in less time than it takes to get out of a three point stance, but not Dalton. However, even with it being a disastrous approach against the wrong kind of offensive opponent, in the right setting it is genius (hint hint, the Colts took notice to this approach and attempted to implement it against the Patriots and had some success with it).
Stop looking at one exciting statistic and start looking at the smaller details and you will see, this defense is and will continue to prove to be, one of if not the best defense in the NFL by the end of the season. The defensive line is 100% worth the money, and the rest of the defense has been outstanding minus two poor showings against the best two teams in the AFC and maybe the entire NFL. They will come around, but look for more than just sacks as the result of their effectiveness!
By Anthony Stampone
Position by position Start’em, Sit’em, and Sleeper look at fantasy Hashtag Style
Welcome to week 7 of the NFL and your fantasy football season. This tends to be the time you find out how well you drafted or how well you use the waiver wire comes into play. This is the fourth week of the season where you may need to pull out a W without some of your top play makers due to bye weeks or injuries.
Philip Rivers: As it always seems to be, Rivers is again having another outstanding season and not getting the respect he deserves. With a rather weak offensive line, underperforming defense, and no real semblance of a running game, Rivers continue to carry his team to give them a chance to win. Last week Rivers sat back and picked apart what was being touted as a talented defense in Green Bay. Although they made a big play when it mattered, Rivers made them look mediocre at best throwing for over 500 yards for the first time in his career and 2 TDs and no picks. With San Diego hosting the Raiders this is an extremely important game for the Chargers and their playoffs hopes even though the season isn’t even half over. Rivers has played well this season and is clearly the engine that makes the Chargers engine run I see him having a big game this week to keep his team in the hunt for a Wild Card position for later in the season. It is important to note that star WO Keenan Allen may not play is a major loss, Rivers still has more than enough ability and weapons to have a great game this week.
Matt Ryan: Believe it or not, Tennessee has a decent overall defense they are trotting out on the field on a weekly bases especially against the pass (6th according to footballoutsiders.com). What will help Matt Ryan come out and have a big game this week will be Devonta Freeman. The Titans struggle against the run and Freeman has been an absolute beast carrying the ball so far this season and I see the Falcons running the ball early to draw 8 or maybe even 9 in the box to stop the run and Ryan will take advantage of his outstanding play action abilities (I feel Ryan is one of the best in the game at play action), and pick apart a decent Titans secondary. With Julio Jones seemingly back to full health, Ryan will have his best and favorite target back to 100% and looking to get back on the insane pace he was on when the season first started.
Jameis Winston: Last week Winston had an OK game last week versus the Jaguars, passing for over 200 yards, a TD, 68.4 completion %, and 0 interceptions, there is something important that is missing from these stats; the Jaguars can’t get after the QB. This week the Bucs will face a very talented and vaunted Redskins front 7 that can rush the passer and force a rookie QB who has struggled when under pressure all season, into making significant mistakes. He will take some sacks and turn the ball over multiple times. Play another QB.
Sam Bradford: It is no secret that Bradford is struggling in his first season as the Eagles starting QB. He is completing 63.2% of his passes which is not bad, but he also has as many TDs and interceptions (9), and has struggled to put together any consistency in a week by week basis. This week Bradford will face a fierce and dominate Panthers defense. One thing that Chip Kelly’s offense is predicated upon is speed, tempo, and quick passes, which is a successful formula for many teams that run, if they can run it effectively. Here is the problem, the Bradford has struggled with consistent accuracy all season and the Panthers defense not only a stout secondary, they also have 2 of the game’s best cover LB’s in Luke Kuechly and Thomas Davis. Both Kuechly and Davis are more than capable of covering most teams TE’s or RB’s out of the backfield which will slow and frustrate Bradford into a lot of mistakes this week. Bench him!
Sleepers: Drew Brees, Landry Jones, Carson Palmer
Devonta Freeman: Freeman has been an absolute monster this season and it is going to continue this week. At the start of the season there was a lot of questions in Atlanta as to whether their starting RB was going to be Freeman or teammate Tevin Colman, Freeman has not only taken the job, he has flat out took it and run away with it (no pun intended). This week Freeman will face a weak Titans rush defense and will establish the Falcons offense tomorrow to help them get back on a winning track. Expect Freeman to rush for over a 100 yards for the 3rd straight week and at least 1 TD. Freeman is also very good at catching the ball out of the backfield which makes him extremely valuable in PPR leagues.
Todd Gurley: The rookie has arrived! Well, this isn’t news for some, but the highly touted back out of Georgia is finally back to full health from his offseason knee surgery and in his 3rd full professional game. Gurley will face off against one of the league’s worst run defenses in Cleveland, and will look to be the Rams whole offense and put up some great stats. The Rams still struggle to move the ball in the passing game and with Gurley running like one of the best backs in the league even this early in his young career, Gurley will see the ball early and often, he will rush for over 100 yards again and I wouldn’t be surprised to see 2 or more TDs.
Joseph Randle: Unless you have Randle in a PPR league (He does have value as a dual threat back, especially with a check down type QB with the Cowboys playing Matt Cassel), I sit Randle this week. Despite what the Eagles were able to do to the Giants defense last week running the ball, the Cowboys offense is not Philly’s offense, the Giants have been outstanding against the run all season. Randle will probably see a lot of carries to try and help the 3rdstarting QB for the Cowboys this season already, but do not expect him to have much success as the Giants will get their run defense back on track and stop Randle in his tracks.
Knile Davis: As much as I like Davis and the success he has had in the past playing in spots for an injured Jamaal Charles, Davis may not even be the #1 back in KC with Charles out for the rest of the season. Even if Davis earns the bulk of the time in the game this week as the Chiefs #1 back, KC is going to struggle to move the ball on the Steelers. This may surprise some, but the Steelers have quietly progressed as the season has gone on and have done a nice job stopping the run. KC’s offensive line has struggled all season and even with a healthy and skilled Davis in the backfield the Chiefs including Davis is are not going to have much success running the ball this week against the Steelers.
Sleepers: LeSean McCoy, Frank Gore, Danny Woodhead
Chris Hogan: The Buffalo Bills face off against the Jacksonville Jaguars in London this week and they are decimated by injuries especially on the offensive side of the ball. With the Bills missing arguably their top 2 Wide Receivers going into the game, this is a great opportunity for Hogan to step up and prove his is as good as some of us know he is/can be. Hogan has been given the nickname “Seven-Eleven” because he always seems to find a way to get open. With a significant amount of the Bills offensive talent out or hobbled due to injuries, Hogan will have a big day, and could be a steal in your fantasy league as a “one week wonder” due to the circumstance the Bills are facing on offense.
Pierre Garcon: Even with having a nightmare as a QB, Garcon has the skills and ability to get open, catch the ball, and rack up some nice YAC. With the Redskins facing Tampa Bay this week, who does not have a strong defense and a rookie QB that will probably give the Redskins extra possessions, Garcon will have plenty of opportunity to get his catches, yards, and even into the end zone for a TD this week.
Allen Hurns and Allen Robinson: Yes, I am telling you to sit both of these players as the Jags will go head to head against the Buffalo Bills and their under-appreciated defense this week. The Buffalo Bills have arguably the two best cover corners in the game so far this season with Stephen Gilmore and Ronald Darby doing much more than they are given credit for. Both Darby and Gilmore have been knocking down pass, making critical open field tackles stopping teams for significant YAC, and even picking up a few interceptions, these two WO’s will struggle to catch the ball this week. After last weeks’ disappointing performance against eh Bengals the Bills are going to pull out all the stops this week and shut down the Jags passing game and 2 of its 3 most dangerous and important weapons.
Jordan Matthews: The Eagles visit the Panthers this week, and it is not going to be a fun day for the Eagles offense, especially Jordan Matthews. Matthews will more than likely be shadowed by Josh Norman who has been an absolute monster shutting down opposing teams passing offenses, often times being given the assignment of covering the opponents #1 WO. Matthews is listed as and often sees enough targets per game to be considered the Eagles #1 WO and will draw the tough task of making Norman look average which is highly unlikely. Being successful in Fantasy has a lot to do with picking smart match ups for your players, this is not one of them if Matthews is on your team.
Sleepers: Josh Brown, Amari Cooper, Julian Edelman
Charles Clay: Rather than given Clay a ton of accolades as to why you should play him (which he is more than deserving most of the time), but he is a player due to his team’s pure lack of offensive talent right now, mainly due to injury, that will benefit as an individual because of it. Clay as stated in previous weeks is a match up nightmare for most teams; too big and strong for CBs and Safeties, and to fast, quick, and agile for LBs Clay has the ability and right situation to have a monster day as a fantasy TE and for his team to leave London with a “W”.
Jason Witten: Facing a similar situation as Charles Clay, Jason Witten could have an outstanding game this week, as the Cowboys face off against a vulnerable and banged up Giants pass defense. The Cowboys will be playing their 3rd different starting this week when they trot Matt Cassel out on the field, Cassel as many may already know is well known for his inability to push the ball downfield so he relies heavily on his ability to make smart passes and gets his pass out fast and often short to RBs and TEs. Witten at 33, is still one of the NFL’s best pass catching TEs in the league and should draw plenty of favorable match-ups this week against the Giants pass defense. Even if Witten draws extra attention as he often does, he is a very smart veteran that knows how to get open. Witten should see plenty of passes go his way due to his reliability and his new starting QBs’ ability to make quick, short, but accurate passes.
Larry Donnell: Donnell who blew the lid off the fantasy world last year with back to back impressive showings, catching multiple TDs and plenty of yards, has been at best inconsistent since then. This week the Giants face a rested and healthy Cowboys defense that will look to shut down the Giants passing attack to give their team a chance to climb back into the sad race in the NFC East. The Cowboys will be back to full health (minus top CB Orlando Scandrick who is and has been out of the season due to a significant knee injury), and are being underrated. The Cowboys will have both of their top pass rushers back in the line-up looking to make Eli Manning’s day a bad nightmare. The Cowboys will also be back to full health with Rolando McClain who seemed to finally live up to his draft hype last season for the Cowboys, Sean Lee is healthy again, and Anthony Hutchens. These linebackers are fast, smart, have great instincts. All three have the ability to stop the run, or drop into coverage and be effective. With the Cowboys secondary needing to focus on the always dangerous Odell Beckham JR even though he seems to be a little banged up, the LBs will be crucial in stopping the Giants TEs and backs in the passing game, and Donnell will not win many battles against this strong group.
Jordan Reed: Although it appears that Reed, who start the season on fire, has been cleared to play since missing the last 2 games due to several injuries will struggle in his initial return to the field. One of Reed’s injuries was a concussion, an injury that the NFL still does not give it its correct due, and make these players sit longer and receive better care for the injury before allowing players to return to the field, has a significant effect on players when they first return to play. When a player from the NFL returns from being cleared to play, they have a high propensity of having lingering effects or even suffering additional immediate concussion for this reason. Reed hopefully won’t suffer this same fate, but he will not be as effective as he was to start the season in his first week back.
Sleepers: Jordan Cameron, Gary Barnidge, Antonio Gates
Buffalo Bills: I maybe in the minority in believing the Bills defense has been unjustly underrated and criticized this year. Much of that may be because of the teams’ boisterous coach, pre-season expectations and promises, and past successes in 1 or 2 statistical areas, mainly sacks. Even though the Bills haven’t racked up sacks like they have over the past 2 season in which the lead the league both seasons, it is important to note that besides games against Tom Brady and Andy Dalton, the Bills defense have been able to at least get pressure against the opposing teams QB and force them into incompletions, poor accuracy, and interceptions. After last weeks’ breakdown, some players coming out publically about wanting the teams’ defensive scheme to change, the Bills will make this game a statement game and flat out dominate the Jacksonville Jaguars. While in know the Jaguars are a team the Bills should beat and dominate anyway when you look at each teams rosters and records, it is important to note that Blake Bortles has shown improvement over last years’ performances, and the fact that they do have 3 legitimate threats in their passing game with Allen Hurns, Allen Robsinson, and Julius Thomas, this is a better offense than most give them credit for being. The Bills will get back to what most thought they would be at the beginning of the season and get after Bortles early and often, shut down an already weak rushing attack with #1 back rookie TJ Yeldon likely out for this game, and lead the Bills to victory.
Washington Redskins: The Redskins record (2-3) and offensive play thus far is deceiving representation of what the Redskins can do on the defensive side of the ball. The Redskins have an outstanding front 7 with the likes of Terrance Knighton, Jason Hatcher, and pass rushing stud Ryan Kerrigan in the mix of this group, they have the ability to stop the run before it ever even gets going against them and get after an opposing teams QB in a hurry and often. The Redskins will play Tampa Bay this week, a team that has a lot of issues on the offensive line and a rookie QB that has already shown he has issues and will make mistakes when he is under pressure so far in his young short career. Washington will stop the run, pin their ears back and get after Winston early and often forcing sacks and an opportunity for a bunch of turnovers.
New York Jets: So far this season the Jets defense has been impressive and flat out dominate at times so far this season helping the Jets to a fast and impressive start of 4-1 under new head coach Todd Bowles. All of these great accolades will be put back in check this week as the Jets will face the New England Patriots and Tom Brady. Brady is playing out of this world efficient this season, pick apart two very good defenses in Buffalo and Dallas, and dismantling 3 other opponents to the tune of more than 36 points per game. The Jets do have the ability to slow this offense down, but they will not stop it. The Patriots are the best in the league and finding and exploiting weaknesses in a team and at making in game adjustments to maximize their production and this week will be no different. Sit the Jets simply by virtue of who they have to play and find another defense that can get you more points.
Baltimore Ravens: With the loss of Terrell Suggs to start the season, the Ravens defense seems to have also lost its way. A group that was thought to good enough to be a part of a team that was favored to push to represent the AFC in the Super Bowl this year is a shell of its former self. With one of the NFL’s most potent and highest scoring offenses hosting the Ravens this week, do not expect a major turnaround. The Cardinals are well balanced on the offensive side of the ball, and beat most teams with their rushing game and/or passing game any week. The Ravens struggle at stopping both which will make for a long day for the Ravens defense as it will attempt but fail to stop the Cardinals from dropping at least 28 points on them.
Sleepers: Arizona Cardinals, Pittsburgh Steelers, St. Louis Rams
Survivor League Pick: Washington Redskins
By Anthony Stampone
Position by position Start’em, Sit’em, and Sleeper look at fantasy Hashtag Style
Welcome to week 6 of the NFL and your fantasy football season. This tends to be the time you find out how well you drafted or how well you use the waiver wire comes into play. This is the third week of the season where you may need to pull out a W without some of your top play makers due to bye weeks. Let’s take a look to who is playing and see who you should play, sit, or if available, go pick them up fast!
Carson Palmer: Palmer is having an outstanding season while he is leading his team to an impressive 4-1 start to the season. Palmer has picked up where he left off last season before his season ending ACL injury. Averaging just over 263 passing yards per game and 2.6 touchdown passes per game he is a must start this week if he is on your team. Facing a depleted and banged up secondary in Pittsburgh, expect Palmer to have a 300+ yard game with at least 2 TD passes. The Steelers do have a decent front seven which may limit the Cardinals rushing game putting the ball in Palmers hand more giving him the opportunity to carve up a secondary that might have trouble getting starting jobs in college let alone the NFL.
Matt Stafford: After last week’s embarrassing outing in which he tossed 3 interceptions and was benched due to his play, I expected Stafford to bounce back in a big way against Chicago. It was the first time in his career being benched, and Stafford is the kind of player that is smart and mature enough to take the wake-up call and get things going like he should have been doing all along. With a banged up back field with the exception of rookie Ameer Abdullah, Stafford will have plenty of opportunities to show he hasn’t forgotten how to play catch with his outstanding receivers Calvin Johnson and Golden Tate.
Michael Vick: If you picked up Michael Vick hoping to see some of that old “Vick Magic”, it’s time to let it and him go. Vick has proven between last season’s play and this year, that his best days are well behind him, and that it was actually not that big of a surprise Vick was jobless until Steelers came along in dire need of a veteran QB for a back-up. Problem with the signing is that over the course of three games is that Vick is only averaging 122 yards per game passing and not even a whole TD pass per game since taking over for the team’s incumbent QB “Big Ben”. With talent all over the field between Le’Veon Bell, Antonio Brown, Heath Miller, and Markus Wheaton, Vick has only had one game with over 200 yards passing (74 of which came on one play), and zero games of more than one TD pass. Even with Martavis Bryant returning this week I don’t expect much out of Vick especially against a stout and fast Cardinals defense, and neither should you. Bench him or drop, either way get him off your team or out of your starting QB spot.
Alex Smith: Even though Smith is averaging a respectable 258 yards passing per game this season he still hasn’t done much to make his team to be more respectable. The Chiefs, a team many believed would at the very least would be in contention for a Wild Card spot at the beginning of this year have bigger problems than worrying about if they have a chance at a Wild Card spot after their terrible 1-4 start this year. Much of the team’s struggles can be attributed to the Chiefs anemic offense. With the loss of their top playmaker in Jamaal Charles last week, Alex Smith now has to attempt to get his offense back on track against a young but very fast and underrated Vikings defense without his #1 playmaker in the rushing and passing game. Charles will be replaced by a reliable backup in Knile Davis, one that has proven in the past that he is more than a capable back-up, but Smith still isn’t hitting his upgraded passing weapons enough for me to want him in my lineup as my QB this week.
Sleepers: Peyton Manning, Blake Bortles, Sam Bradford
CJ Anderson: Yes, I am telling you to start a running back that so far this season is averaging a sad 2.6 yards per carry. After such a promising showing last season, it appears as if Anderson may be a one year (or ½ a year) wonder. Expect that to change this week as the Anderson and the Broncos travel to Cleveland face the league’s worst rush defense that will also be missing two pro-bowlers in Tashaun Gibson and Joe Haden in their secondary. Although Manning and Kubiak’s passing attack isn’t really scaring anyone these days, expect the “box” to open up some this week as the Browns will have to leave as many guys in coverage as possible to cover for the missing studs in the back end. With the Browns having to focus on stopping Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders, it will leave the Broncos running game in favorable six or seven man boxes where Anderson will be able to find some holes and rack up some yards.
Ahmad Bradshaw: I know my “Start’ems” this week seem like reaches, but trust me on these. Bradshaw is returning to an offense he already knows and will immediately be thrust into duty to help energize a poorly performing rushing attack this week as the Colts host the New England Patriots. Last yard, before his season ending broken leg, Bradshaw was arguably the Colts engine that made the running and passing game run. He was a fantasy stud, especially in PPR leagues, and I anticipate that to continue, even with Bradshaw just now getting signed six weeks into the season. There is a reason the Colts are bring Bradshaw back, and he will pay dividends to those willing to take a chance on him early. I am willing to bet that many of the other people in your league don’t even know he’s available. Grab him now before you are regretting it later.
LeSean McCoy: Early reports are suggesting that McCoy is going to play this week, as the Bills hots the undefeated Bengals in Orchard Park. As much as I want to believe the rhetoric coming out of One Bills Dr. especially Rex Ryan, I am not inclined to believe that McCoy is coming back at full health as he promised he wouldn’t due after it was discovered he had a new tear in his hamstring just a little more than a few weeks ago. Even if McCoy is healthy enough to play almost every down and be semi productive, he will be facing a very talented and well balanced Bengals defense. Yes, last week the Bengals were carved up by little known undrafted free agent Thomas Rawls for the Seahawks for 169 yards and a touchdown, rushing at a rate of 7.3 yards per carry, I do not expect that to continue this week for McCoy for several reasons. First and foremost, Rawls is/was 100% healthy, and has been all season. Secondly, McCoy has missed several weeks and will need a week or two to get back into game shape, and the Bengals do have the front seven to force the Bills into being one dimensional and keeping the ball out of McCoy’s hands.
Cleveland’s trio of backs: On any given week you could play either West, Crowell, and/or Johnson and expect to get decent production from either one or even two of the three headed monster from Cleveland. Do not count on much production from any one of these three this week as the Broncos march into town with their #1 ranked all around defense. The Broncos defense have been absolutely dominate thus far this season and can easily be given direct credit for 3 of the Broncos 5 wins so far. Even with the loss of DeMarcus Ware due to back issues, don’t expect the Broncos defense to skip a beat in stopping the run or the pass. The Broncos got Derek Wolfe back from suspension last week and he should be a force up the middle in both the run and pass defense for the Broncos. Add in that the Broncos were being proactive with grabbing reliable edge setters behind stars Ware and Miller, they can rely on rookie Shane Ray and Shaquil Barrett to pick up the slack for Ware until he returns. If Cleveland wants to chance to even be in this game they better hope that Josh McCown can continue with his surprising and impressive play over the last few weeks.
Sleepers: Chris Johnson, Thomas Rawls (If Lynch doesn’t play), Ameer Abdullah
Demaryius Thomas: With the Broncos offense struggling while it searches to find an identity that fits Kubiak’s offensive theories and QB Peyton Manning’s strengths, a lot of fantasy owners have been frustrated by the lower production coming from Thomas this season, especially because many of you may have used your first round pick on Thomas. This will change this week as the Broncos travel to face a banged up Browns defense. While head coach Mike Pettine will do what he can to confuse and frustrate Manning with his creative blitz packages, he still is missing too many important horses in his defense to contain a stud like Thomas. Look for the old Manning to Thomas connection many of us got used to seeing over the last few seasons and look for Thomas to put up insane numbers such as 8-11 catches for at least 100 yards and 2 TDs!
Allen Robinson: I have admittedly have been a little too high on Robinson this season, as I thought he was going to be the clear cut #1 in Jacksonville this season. Fellow teammate Allen Hurns has clearly earned that spot this season with QB Blake Bortles preferring Hurns over Robinson for much of the season. But with Hurns a question to even play this week and with the Jaguars playing an expected JJ Watt less defense, expect Bortles to target and connect with Robinson early and often. With Watt out of the game the Jags Bortles should have plenty of time to sit back and take his time with his throws, and even push the ball deep down field for some chunk yardage plays to Robinson in the passing game.
Odell Beckham Jr: As it stands now, Beckham’s presence on the field for MNF is in question. Even if he decides to “tough it out” and play, do not expect Beckham to be a major threat as the Giants travel to Philly to play the Eagles. A player like Beckham needs to have healthy hamstrings, as he relies heavily on his quickness, agility, and ability to cut and change direction to be productive. With injuries to fellow wide outs Reuben Randall and Victor Cruz still not back to full strength, if Beckham does in fact play he will still see his fair share of targets, but don’t expect much productivity, especially in Beckham’s ability to rack up YAC.
Jeremy Maclin: Without the presence of Jamaal Charles to scare defenses into leaving a reliable cover corner or linebacker in on all passing plays versus the Chiefs, expect the Vikings whom themselves already sport a very talented and strong secondary to roll coverage over to Maclin to minimize an potential impact he may have had in this game. Maclin has quietly been a decent fantasy player this year especially in PPR leagues. But with the absence threat of Charles and Smith’s inability to push the ball down field where Maclin could still do damage even in double coverage, do not expect much production from Maclin this week.
Sleepers: Calvin Johnson, Brandon Marshall, Julian Edelman
Charles Clay: With backup QB EJ Manuel more than likely to start this week due to injuries to the Bills starting QB Tyrod Taylor, and the likely return of running and receiving threat LeSean McCoy, Charles Clay can expect to have some very favorable matchups this week as the Bills host the Bengals. Clay, who is having a decent 1st season as a Buffalo Bills is the prototypical modern NFL TE; too big and strong for most CBs, and to fast and quick for LBs. The difference from Clay and many of his counter parts, is that he is actually a decent blocker as well. With Manuel coming in to play in relief and the Bengals having a great pass rush, Manuel will be looking Clay’s way early and often as he will need to get the ball out fast and hope of YAC to move the ball on the Bengals.
Delaine Walker: With the Titans being the first team to have the face the “New” Miami Dolphins, I expect the Dolphins to come out flying on defense and sending wave after wave of pass rushers to try and make a statement against the Titans’ rookie QB Marcus Mariota. What this will do is increase Walker’s chances of seeing quick outlet passes to slow down the pass rush of the Dolphins. Walker is a talented TE and has the ability to be a game changer, this should be a week where his presence is noticed on the stat sheet.
Gary Barnidge: You might be asking yourself, “GARY WHO”? Well unless you are a Browns fan; that would be a fair statement. Before the last few games Barnidge was a little known 30 year old TE out of Louisville. Over the last 3 weeks he has become one of Josh McCown’s favorite targets, racking up over 300 yards receiving, 20 receptions, and 3 touchdowns. With the Broncos coming to town with the #1 rated overall defense, I do not see Barnidge being the force in the passing game he has been in recent weeks. The Broncos have an outstanding secondary being led by TJ Ward, Aquib Talib, Chris Harris Jr., and two middle linebackers in Marshall and Danny Trevathan that are more than capable of dropping into coverage. Expect Barnidge and the Browns to struggle big time to get anything going in the passing game.
Coby Fleener and Dwayne Allen: As Colts nation breathes a sigh of after winning two straight division games with their 40 year old backup QB Matt Hasselbeck, Andrew Luck should be back behind center looking to turn his season around. Playing the New England Patriots it seems plausible that Luck can put together a nice outing and some impressive stats as the Colts barring some kind of surprising chain of events, will be playing from behind and passing the ball all over the place. One position that will struggles against the Patriots will be the Colts’ TEs. The Patriots have done a great job shutting down TEs all season long, including last week when the Patriots limited the Cowboys TEs to a combined 5 receptions for 33 yards and 0 TDs (All catches and yards went to Jason Witten). Expect much of the same this week as the Colts will have to rely on their Wide Outs and Running Backs to pick up the slack in the passing game if the Colts want a punchers chance to stay in this game, let alone win it.
Sleepers: Travis Kelce, Zach Ertz, Richard Rodgers
Denver Broncos: Seems like a very easy choice, but keep in mind Josh McCown and the Cleveland Browns have put up over 300+ passing yards in the last 3 straight weeks. Even with an injured DeMarcus Ware, the Broncos won’t skip a beat. A fast and overwhelming front 7 plus an incredibly strong secondary will make for a long day for the Dawg Pound. Cleveland does have a good offensive line that sports 2 All Pro linemen in LT Joe Thomas and Center Alex Mack so the Broncos may not rack up the sack numbers they are used to, but they will still do enough to rattle McCown and force turnovers that the Browns can’t afford if they want to knock the Broncos off their undefeated stool.
New York Jets: Returning from their bye week giving a couple of their defensive stars some much needed rest in this young season. Darrell Revis need the rest after hurting his hamstring, Stud LB David Harris who has been ailing from a strained quadriceps are healthy (or in better shape) and ready to get back on the field and dominate much like they had for their first 4 games of the year helping the team to a surprising 3-1 start to 2015. Will the Jets defense continue to force an average of 3.25 turnovers per game? More than likely not, but they do have a solid all around defense from the front all the way back to the secondary. I expect the Jets defense to give the Redskins offense all they can handle and to pressure Kirk Cousins to make several mistakes in this game that he usually does anyway.
New York Giants: After struggling to start the season the Eagles offense seems to have found its stride in the last 2 weeks and will host the current NFC East division leader NY Giants. The Giants defense has been outstanding in stopping the run this season, but struggle mightily in pass defense, largely due to the lack of a semblance of a pass rush. The combination of an Eagles offense that is finding its stride and a weak Giants pass defense, this is not the week to play start the Giants as your defense. The Eagles pass to set up the run, unlike most teams that run to set up the pass. Expect the Eagles to rack up plenty of yards and points against the Giants defense this week.
San Diego Chargers: If having to face the best QB in the whole league this week in Aaron Rodgers, the Chargers have bigger problems as they face a beat up, but still very strong Packers offense. Every game this season the Chargers defense has allowed at least 24 points in every game they have played this season. When you are a defense you can rank as high as you want in every statistical category there is, but if you can’t stop the other team from scoring points, it doesn’t mean a thing. When you are allowing an average 26.8 points per game, it says a lot about how good your defense is. After the Packers have won their last 2 games by scoring 24 or less points it has a lot of people wondering if the book is out on stopping the Jordy Nelsonless Packers offense, the answer is a clear cut NO! Aaron Rodgers and company will march up and down the field against this Chargers defense making them a team you do not want in your lineup.
Sleepers: Detroit Lions, Jacksonville Jaguars, Green Bay Packers
Survivor League Pick: Baltimore Ravens