By Anthony Stampone
Position by position Start’em, Sit’em, and Sleeper look at fantasy Hashtag Style
Carson Palmer: A week after dismantling one of the NFL’s best pass defenses, look to Palmer to do it again this week when they face-off against the Bengals. This offense seems to move the ball at will and there really doesn’t seem like there is a defense in the NFL that can stop this potent passing attack. Chris Johnson helps matters being the 2nd leading rushing in the NFL, look for the Cardinals to run early to set-up the play action pass against a banged up secondary and have their way all day.
Derek Carr: Aaron Rodgers may have had problems moving the ball through the air last week against the Lions defense, don’t expect the same for the Raiders. This is a young, talented, and more importantly health passing attack. Carr has grown by leaps and bounds this season and has the ability to blow a game open fast. This Lions defense isn’t as good as they looked last week and Carr will show that this week.
Ryan Tannehill: After showing progression year over year for his first few seasons, Tannehill has taken a giant step back this year after getting his monster contract extension this offseason. He is better than his numbers show and a lot of his trouble can be attributed to his offensive line, which isn’t going to change this week. Dallas is finally getting healthy on both sides of the ball and since Hardy has come off his suspension he has been attacking QB’s with the veracity of a starved lion. Sean Lee is also back which is the big for the Cowboys as he is excellent at stopping the run, rushing the passer, and defending the pass. Tannehill will eventually come back around, just not this week.
Andy Dalton: To quote the best defensive player in the league and arguably the best player in the whole NFL JJ Watt, “We made the Red Rifle look like the Red Rider BB Gun.” And that about sums up last weeks performance by Dalton against a very weak Houston defense. This week things aren’t going to be any better as the BB Gun has to face the vaunted Cardinals defense. The Cardinals have a fast a furious defense that has the skill, speed, and athleticism to make things very difficult for Dalton and the Bengals quick strike offense. Because the Cardinals may blow this game wide open they may get some late game yards and points, but it won’t be enough to play Dalton. Sit him!
Sleepers: Tyrod Taylor, Mark Sanchez, Matt Ryan
Jonathan Stewart: Many prognosticators like to say, “If you don’t have an elite QB, you aren’t going anywhere in the league.” The Panthers are proving them wrong (Yes, that is me implying that Newton is NOT elite!). The Panthers are limited on offense but still cannot be stopped and much of that has to do with the dual threat of Newton and Stewart out of the backfield. The Redskins have a terrible rush defense (it started strong but has had a lot of trouble lately), and the Panthers are one of the best rushing offenses in the league and have a very strong defense. Expect the Panthers to jump out to an early lead with their defense forcing Cousins into mistakes and the Panthers pounding the rock with Stewart all day to keep drives going and putting points on the board.
Devonta Freeman: After starting off the season like a firecracker, racking up 100+ yard games and touchdowns like a varsity RB going against a JV defense, Freeman has since slowed down. Play him with confidence this week as he will get back on track against a weak Indy defensive front seven. While the Colts have gotten a little healthier and have played a little better of late, they are still weak against a good running team, and the Falcons can pound the rock. Atlanta will look to get themselves back on track and Indy is right for the picking with 40 year old back up QB and a weak defense. Freeman will be heavily involved into Shannon’s game plan and will get a ton of touches and yards.
Darren McFadden: As the Cowboys look to get their first win since week two, they couldn’t have asked for a better situation than to have to face the floundering Dolphins who’s “Bad Boy” mentality has already wore off. They are still highly susceptible to being passed on which sets up the run. Problem for McFadden is he will enter and start this game with a groin injury. For a back like McFadden this is a terrible injury that will clearly affect him during this game. McFadden needs his up legs to draw power to burst through holes as he has never really had impressive speed and is a one cut power back. Losing some of that power and burst is going to affect him even against a bad Miami run defense. Once Dallas gets a lead in this game look for McFadden to see a drop in his touches this week and play in spot duty as a pass blocker as the game progresses.
Melvin Gordon: It hurts me to have to say it but it is time for me to just admit it; Gordon isn’t performing as I said he would when he came into this league. There are a lot of reasons I can list as to why, and most of them are legitimate objective points, however some of them are sour grapes so I’ll just leave that area alone for now. Gordon does actually carry the load so to speak for the Chargers rushing offense, but that only means 10-15 carries per game at the most, and then being replaced by Danny Woodhead on all passing downs and situations. If someone in your league still thinks he’ll break out and like his potential like I do, see if you can get a RB2 or flex player for him.
Sleepers: Frank Gore, Chris Ivory, Chacandrick West
Demaryius Thomas: Even with Peyton Manning benched this week due to injuries and inconsistent play, Thomas will get his catches and yards. Play him with confidence, especially in PPR settings as I suspect that Kubiak won’t stray far from hi game plan to throw a lot of WO screens Thomas’ way as well as intermediate routes to take the pressure off of his young first time starting QB. Thomas’ size, speed, and ball skills are as good as most if not all in the league and can be just the guy to lean on in the passing game to protect an inexperienced QB.
Sammy Watkins: This is the perfect time to play Sammy and know he will produce for you. Yes, everyone knows that Belichick loves to take away what you do best on offense, but right now that isn’t Watkins, it’s the Bills running game. This game is going to be a shoot-out and the Bills will at some point have to rely on the pass to stay in this game. Watkins and Taylor have been coming along nicely as the season has progressed with their chemistry, and there really isn’t a single DB on the Patriots that can stay with Sammy play in and play out. He will get his targets and catches, and if the Pats secondary looks like it did last week versus the Giants, Sammy could be in for a really big game.
Brandon LaFell: I do not care how great Tom Brady is, the loss of Dion Lewis and Julian Edelman is huge. It complete changes the way defenses will play them for the rest of the year and will leave more defenders open to shutting down Gronkowski, Amendola, and LaFell. LaFell of the three will miss them as much as Brady as he was often the beneficiary of the coverages that Lewis and Edelman commanded when they are on the field. Buffalo has one of the best CB duo’s in the league so it doesn’t matter which one he lines up against they are going to give him fits all day. Bench LaFell this week with the Bills strong and complex secondary coming town.
DeAndre Hopkins: First, let me preface this decision by making something clear; Sammy Watkins did now “OWN” Revis last week. Yes, one the first play of the game he made him look silly and had the pass been on target Watkins was gone for the TD, and yes on that crucial 3rd down late in the 4th, Watkins put the moves on Revis to get open and get that all important game clinching 1st down. But let’s be realistic, Watkins had 3 catches for 14 yards. I am sorry but those numbers don’t scream “dominance” or “owning” a DB, Revis is still Revis for the most part, and that will continue this week. Hopkins has been outstanding this season, even with subpar QB play. But Revis is Revis and he is going to bump, jam, grab, and flat out shadow Hopkins all day as the Jets know the Texans can’t run the ball and are going to have to pass the ball and where they are going to attempt to throw it at. Good luck DeAndre, you are going to need it this week.
Sleepers: Steve Johnson, Tavon Austin, Roddy White
Jason Witten: All Witten and Dez Bryant owners have to be breathing a sigh of relief. If these guys are available in your league(s) due to their dips in production due to their own injuries or Romo’s snag them up now. As good as Romo to Bryant passing combo has been over the last few years, Witten is still Romo’s man and he will get plenty of targets as Romo looks to get back into game shape in a favorable match up this week for both Romo and Witten playing Miami since the Dolphins pass defense, especially cover LBs are weak.
Greg Olsen: That’s all that needs to be said…….
Jordan Reed: When he has been healthy, Reed has been a very productive TE this season. Unfortunately for Reed his team faces the undefeated Panthers that are proving with each passing week that they are not a fluke. Their LBs are amongst the best in the league in coverage without CB or Safety help, and if the Panther think they need to roll a little extra coverage to stop Reed, they can and will without worry about the rest of the field with Norman making his case as possibly the best CB in the NFL this season.
Jordan Cameron: His production has been missing since his break-out season and no one seems to have an answer as to why. One can speculate it’s because he can’t stay healthy which is 100% correct. Either way he isn’t playing to his ability and with facing the rejuvenated Cowboys defense this week that also has a good group of LBs that can hang in coverage with TEs like the Panthers, he will continue his poor production and should not only be benched, but if you are in a tight race for the playoffs, flat out drop him and check the waiver wire for another TE such as Gilmore Crockett from the Ravens to get more production from your TE position.
Sleepers: Gilmore Crockett, Charles Clay, Richard Rodgers
Carolina Panthers: This defense just doesn’t stop and may be one of the best ball hawking defenses we have saw in quite some time. The Redskins go as Kirk Cousins goes, and the Panthers aren’t letting him go anywhere. They will get after, confuse, and frustrate Cousins early and often. Expect points for sacks, TFLs, and INTs this week from the Panthers.
New York Jets: After being run all over by the Bills the Jets will bounce back this week as they face the Texans being led by TJ Yates. Yates isn’t scaring anyone and the Jets secondary even being banged up has to be licking their chops knowing they will have chances for easy interceptions this week. The defensive front will get after Yates and get some sacks and force him to move Yates off his spots and into bad passing positions.
Cincinnati Bengals: Strong up to this point in the season, they will not hold up this week. As good as the Bengals are as a unit they struggle against the run, something the Cardinals do well. The Cardinals will pound the ball with CJ2K and Andre Ellington and then pick them apart down field with play action. Sorry Bengals fans but your team is going to get spanked.
New England Patriots: This is going to be a high scoring affair and that is never a good time to play any defense. Another reason to consider sitting NE’s defense is the Bills run game. As long as the Bills keep the score close they will continue to throw thunder and lightning at the Pats and will prove that that 4th ranked rush defense is a false stat. I often refer to DVOA rankings and say how much I like these rankings over ranking systems out there due to their ability to take circumstances or situations into consideration when ranking teams, and again they are correct and have a more realistic ranking of 12th for the Pat against the run. What other metrics aren’t considering I that most teams abandon the run to keep up with the Pats high flying, point scoring offense. So other sites that don’t consider this have them overrated. The Bills will do whatever they can to keep this game close all game, which will include running the ball, A LOT, to keep the ball out of Brady’s hands. The Bill just carved up the NFL’s top rushing defense, there is little doubt they can’t do it against a weaker unit.
Sleepers: Buffalo Bills, St Louis Rams, Seattle Seahawks
By Anthony Stampone
Position by position Start’em, Sit’em, and Sleeper look at fantasy Hashtag Style
Blake Bortles: In his second year in the NFL Bortles has shown some impressive progression this season, and seems to finally have some reliable weapons in the pass game with the Allen’s giving even good defenses fits every week. Yes, Bortles still has the propensity of throwing a terrible INT here and there but it is way down compared to last season. This week Bortles and the Jags face off against a surprisingly porous Ravens defense that just can’t seem to stop anyone this year after Terrell Suggs went down for the season. I am not predicting the Jags win this game, but I am saying he will have plenty of opportunity to put up some good yardage through the air and have at least 2 TD passes.
Andy Dalton: The “Red Rifle” has been having the best season of his career so far and seems to have finally overcome some of the consistency issues that plagued him early in his career. Look for Dalton to have another big game this week as the Bengals continue their impressive play that has them at an 8-0 record against the Texans in Cincinnati. Besides JJ Watt there really isn’t anyone on the Texans defense that seems to be able to stop a nose bleed let alone a dangerous passing attack that the Bengals are able to put on the field at any time. Dalton and crew will have a big week this week and win this game with ease and put up impressive passing numbers in the process. If Dalton is on your team, start him with confidence.
Russel Wilson: Much of the noise about this game has to do with the battle between the Cardinals high powered offense versus the Seahawks defense. While this storyline isn’t without merit, more needs to be said about the Cardinals defense. The Cardinals have the 3rd ranked defense in overall DVOA per footballoutsiders.com. What may be surprising to some is that the Cardinals are outranking their divisional opponent using this metric (Seattle is 7th), and the Seahawks have shown to be vulnerable at times this season blowing leads in multiple games and losing while giving up big plays in the passing game. What I am getting at is Wilson will not have an easy day against this defense. The Cardinals have a great group of pass defenders themselves and have the ability to push around a weak Seattle offense to push Wilson out of the pocket and into mistakes. Wilson is one of the most sacked QBs in the NFL this year and with Lynch likely out again this week with another injury, he will have to take more snaps to keep up with the Cardinals offense and will likely spend a lot of time on his back and make some mistakes against this overlooked Cardinals defense.
Marcus Mariota: Returning from injury last week, Mariota put up some impressive passing stats; 71.8% completion rate, 371 yards, and 4 TDs and 0 INTs. But that was last week against one of the worst pass defenses in the NFL. This week Mariota will face arguably his toughest challenge yet when the Carolina Panthers come to town. Carolina is the 2nd ranked defense in the entire NFL based on DVOA, and have been making even good offense look just flat out bad all year. Mariota is going to be pushed out of the pocket often, won’t have room to run with Luke Kuechly and Thomas Davis lurking at the second level looking to get a crack at the young QB, and the this secondary has been outstanding especially CB Josh Norman, who has been arguably the best cover corner in the league this year and is playing at an All-Pro level. Leave the young QB on your bench this week if you can, he isn’t going to have a good day.
Sleepers: Matt Cassel, Eli Manning, Kirk Cousins
DeAngelo Williams: With the Steelers facing the Browns and their second to last rush defense this is an easy choice but maybe for more reasons that just that. When Williams has been in the line-up this season for the Steelers he has been an absolute monster and looks much better than his age would suggest he would be. Also, keep in mind the Steelers will more than likely be without Big Ben again this week and will rely heavily on Williams to lighten the load on Landry Jones by getting at least 20-25 carries in this game. Look for Williams to top 100+ yards and have at least a TD to go with those yards.
Mark Ingram: For the first few weeks of the season the Redskins had one of the best run defense in the NFL. Since then that run defense has fallen apart, probably largely due to the fact that they find themselves trailing in most games which gives teams the chance to attack them repeatedly with their running games. The Saints have the skill and ability to be one of these teams. Their passing offense is always dangerous, but Ingram has somewhat quietly been a quality back for the last season and a half. In PPR leagues Ingram is a must start every time the Saints hit the field as he has become a dual threat back and gets a lot of attention from Brees when he needs a check down or short yardage for first downs. Ingram as the ability to rack up points in the running and passing game so he is a quality play no matter what this week.
Justin Forsett: Unless you have Forsett in a PPR league, get him on your bench and keep him there this week. Yes, the Ravens are playing the Jags this week, but if there is one thing the Jags defense does well, it’s stopping the run. Last week against the Jets, a good running team lead by a big powerful back with Chris Ivory had very little success moving the ball against the Jags run defense. Ivory had 23 attempts for 26 yards. That is impressive for any defense no matter who the back is, let alone a back of Ivory’s ilk. Forsett can still be dangerous in the passing game especially since it seems like every week Flacco has even less to work with, so in PPR he might be worth starting as a Flex, but in standard leagues let him ride the pine this week.
All Giants Running Backs: I am not sure what is going on in Ben Mcadoo’s head but for some reason it appears every week he adds another back into the rotation which is up to 4 backs in any given game in recent weeks. Even when he gets good production from a back like Jennings who two weeks ago had 10 carries for 52 yards, he stopped feeding him the bad and mixed in his other backs for some reason. I realize that many teams in the NFL are taking a RB by committee approach making it harder and harder to find quality consistent starts in Fantasy, but what the Giants are doing is just baffling. If you have Jennings, Vereen, Williams, or Darkwa sit them this week because none of them are going to see enough touches against the Patriots who are actually very good against the run, to have any kind of reliable success for your team. Also, let’s not forget the Patriots have been pretty much unstoppable on offense this year and that will continue this week and the Giants aren’t going to be running the ball much if they hope to stay in this game.
Sleepers: James Starks, TJ Yeldon, Jeremy Hill
Reuben Randle: One thing that the whole league knows about the Patriots and Belichick’s defense is that they will do whatever it takes to shut down or at least contain what you do best. For the Giants that is the Manning to Beckham connection. I am not saying they are good enough to stop that connection, but they will do everything they can to limit its success which should leave Randal in plenty of favorable one on one match ups all game long. This game has the chance to become a shootout which is why playing Randle this week is a smart move as he should see a decent jump in his targets this week and he has the size and skill to make the most of them.
DeSean Jackson: Finally back to being relatively healthy and with a favorable match up this week against the Saints, play Jackson as he will see plenty of passes thrown his way to rack up chuck yards and scores against the Saints poor pass defense. Another game that could be exciting to watch if all you want to see is offense as both teams have struggled to keep their opponents out of the end zone, Jackson will benefit from the fast pace air raid as there are probably no CBs in the entire league that can keep up with Jackson’s speed and endurance if he’s going deep every play and is bound to bust a few for some big yards and a score.
DeAndre Hopkins: For anyone that has read my fantasy articles, knows I am not one to shy away from a bold prediction. This week is no different. This week the Texans travel to Cincinnati to face the undefeated Bengals, they will do so with no running game, a QB that is playing better this year but still isn’t anything special, and one massive weapon in the passing game with Hopkins. With that said the Bengals are 10th against the pass and will have no problem doubling this monster all game to limit his ability to affect any semblance of an offensive attack against the undefeated Bengals on MNF. If Houston is going to move the ball consistently through the air, it will be because Hopkins will command so much attention, not because of his production.
Marques Colston: Yes, I already said this week should be a shoot-out between the Saint and Redskins, or at least the Saints should move the ball throw the air with little issue. However, with that said Colstonwon’t be a major role player in that air attack. Breeshas relied heavily on Watson, Ingram, Snead, and Cooks all year and this week will be no different. At one time Colston was easily Brees’ safety blanket, but not any longer and he doesn’t see many target these days, and in the rare event he does, he doesn’t have the explosiveness to make the most out of those targets like he used to.
Sleepers: Jarvis Landry, Travis Benjamin, John Brown
Gary Barnidge: Barnidge has put up some incredible game this year and seems to do his best when McCownis the one throwing the passes for Cleveland. With Cleveland playing “Guess Who” at QB this week I am still comfortable with starting Barnidge against the Steelers this week. The Steelers struggle against good TEs and Barnidge has been great this season. Even if Manziel gets the start, he showed some repore last week with Barnidge targeting him more than he had in any other game he played with Barnidge prior to that game. No matter which QB is throwing him the ball, he will get his catches, yards, and probably a TD this week.
Travis Kelce: Even with Denver hosting the Chiefs this week, and still having the #1 ranked overall defense in DVOA, the Chiefs should be able to take advantage of this Kelce this week any whatever coverage he draws due to the shortcomings on the Broncos defense this week. With Talib suspended this week that probably means that DC Wade Philips will need to move Chris Harris outside to cover Maclin which will leave Kelce primarily matched up with back up covers or LBs, neither of which are going to be good enough to match up with this young rising star. Kelce could be a key cog in the Chiefs offense this week as they look to continue to climb out of the AFC cellar into a possible Wild Card spot. Expect Kelce to see a lot of passes and do what he does best, rack up yards after the catch.
Owen Daniels: Yes, Daniels has been seeing more and more targets as the season has progressed this year, but that was before Vernon Davis came into the picture. While Daniels is a reliable TE he doesn’t possess the speed, ball skills, or route running the Broncos have been looking to replace since Julius Thomas left in free agency. Due to a little bit of a log jam it would be best to sit Daniels this week as Davis is going to be taking more and more of his snaps, and will become a larger part in this Denver passing game.
Delaine Walker: Although Walker has emerged as Mariota’s favorite target in the passing game, this week he will have a tough time getting open against the Panthers back seven. Between the Panthers corners, safeties, and outstanding cover LBs, Walker will have trouble finding space with the having to face this ravenous defense and won’t have the big days he has become accustomed to when Mariota is taking the snaps at QB.
Sleepers: Vernon Davis, Greg Olsen, Jason Witten
Carolina Panthers: As surprising as the Panthers 8-0 start maybe, more credit needs to be given to this defense. Yes, Cam Newton is having an unbelievable year considering what he has to work with on offense, but it’s the defense that is keeping opponents out of the end zone so that Cam can have time to make one or two big plays to win games. Playing the Titans this weekend, they should feast on a rookie QB and shutdown an already questionable rushing attack by the Titans.
Philadelphia Eagles: Philly has quietly climbed the latter in defensive rankings this season, and should continue down that path as they host the Miami Dolphins. Besides two impressive wins against listless teams, Miami has struggled all season, especially on the offensive side of the ball. Tannehill seems to be regressing after his big extension and Bill Lazor can’t seem to figure out how to properly utilize all the weapons the Dolphins acquired this offseason. Philly is 3rd against the pass and 9th against the rush according the DVOA rankings and shouldn’t have a problem stopping this misfiring offense and getting after Tannehill to get some sacks and a few turnovers.
Arizona Cardinals: Even with facing the multifaceted offense of the Seahawks, the Cardinals will be more than up to the task of stopping whatever Seattle attempts to throw at them. If Lynch doesn’t in fact play, this will help the Cardinals pin their ears back and go right after Wilson and his terrible offensive line. This will be a long day for the Seahawks offense barring a complete failure by the Cardinals offense. Not only is Arizona going to stop this offense, they are going to walk away with their second win in three years in Seattle.
New York Giants: They play the Patriots and have one of the worst pass defense in the entire NFL, do I need to say more? Bench them, they are going to get run over by a truck. Gone are the days of the Giants and the best pass rushing defensive line in the NFL to get after Brady, and the Giants even when healthy have struggled to put up and semblance of a respectable pass defense which is all the Pats seem to do these days. Bench them for pretty much another defense, this isn’t going to be pretty.
Sleepers: Dallas Cowboys, St. Louis Rams, Minnesota Vikings
Survivor League Pick: Minnesota Vikings
By Anthony Stampone
Position by position Start’em, Sit’em, and Sleeper look at fantasy Hashtag Style
Tyrod Taylor: After an extended leave due to an injury, Taylor couldn’t be coming back at a better time to and is reportedly at full health as the Bills face the Dolphins who they stomped earlier this year. Taylor is supposed to be getting back one of his best weapons in Sammy Watkins this week and is also going to have his full stable of backs ready to go against the Dolphins at home. With having a healthy back field and getting back one of the most dangerous offensive weapons back in the passing game, look for Taylor to have another huge game against a still underachieving and banged up Miami defense. Taylor could be a great value play in one week fantasy leagues as he comes relatively cheap and has the ability to rack up points with his arm and his legs.
Eli Manning: Coming off of an outstanding outing against the Saint last week, Manning found open receiving options all over the field and had an incredible day throwing 6 TDs, 350 yards, and had a very impressive 73.2% completion percentage. Manning has quietly been playing at a Pro-Bowl level all season even though he has saw some of his weapons in and out of the line-up due to injuries. The Giants are the away team this week, but with traveling to Tampa Bay to play the Buccaneers, it might not really be much of a disadvantage. Tampa’s defense still hasn’t found consistent success and struggles mightily against the pass. Expect Manning to have another big day and should put up at least 250 yards and 2 TD passes.
Ryan Fitzpatrick: With torn ligaments in his non-throwing hand and still getting the start really says what the Jets think about their back up QB Geno Smith (who is in all fairness also banged up). Expect the Amish Rifle to struggle handling the ball especially snaps with the injury to his left hand, and watch the Jets rely heavily on Chris Ivory and the backfield to carry much of the load for the Jets against the Jags this week. Fitzpatrick is already well known for being prone to turnovers, and having added issues handling the ball isn’t going to help matters in all facets his game. Leave Fitz on the bench this week even with a weak defense playing on the other side of the ball.
Andrew Luck: This suggestion may not come as much of a surprise to many due to Luck’s play alone this season as he is leading the NFL in interceptions and has struggle with accuracy all season long. He did show up some over the last 3 weeks throwing 8 TDs but also had 5 INTs in those games. Luck’s season isn’t going to get much better this week as he has to face off against the best defense in the NFL with the Broncos coming to town. The Broncos defense held Aaron Rodgers to a epically bad day last week and Rodgers is far and beyond a better QB than Luck is and has a much better offensive line. Luck is going to be looking the ceiling of Lucas Oil field early and often this week and will probably have at least 2 turnovers. Use another QB this week.
Sleepers: Derek Carr, Jay Cutler, Matt Ryan
LeSean McCoy and Karlos Williams: Yes, I am saying that both McCoy and Willaims can and should have big days against this Miami defense. Miami is down one of its best defensive front 7 defenders with Cameron Wake out for the year and even when he was in they have struggled to stop the run. McCoy will see the majority of work early in this game which can help the Bills break this game wide open early opening the door for Karlos Williams to come in and close the game out leading both backs to potentially having great games and a score each.
Chris Ivory: After being bottled up the last two weeks against the Raiders and Patriots, look for Ivory to get back on track and returning to his early season form against the Jaguars. With both QBs banged up the Jets are going to need Ivory to carry the load and against the Jaguars sad defense this week. Ivory has proven he is more than capable of being a dominate when he can get enough carries to make a difference in a game and with the bad Jaguars defense and the Jags offense still a work in progress against a potent Jets defense, the Jets and Ivory will have plenty of chances to cash in and control the ball.
DeMarco Murray: There are a lot of people out there claiming this is going to be a statement game for Murray and expect him to have a big game against his former team in his first trip back to Dallas. I however am not one of these prognosticators who feels that Murray is just going to run all over this Dallas defense. Keep in mind that back in week 2 when the Eagles were the home team, Murray had 13 carries for 2 yes you read that correctly 2 yards! I am not going to say that he will perform that poorly again this week but the Eagles best lineman Jason Peters may not play this week, and the Dallas defense is even better this week than it was back in week 2. The Cowboys now have Greg Hardy, Ronaldo McClain, and a healthy Randy Gregory ready to start to contribute, Murray is in for a very long day and so is Sam Bradford. Keep Murray on your bench and play one of your other backs even if they are just a “flex” option guy.
TJ Yeldon: Yes, I am aware the Yeldon ran all over the Bills 6th rank rush defense in London two weeks ago, but that was largely due to the Jags playing with a lead most of the game. This week Yeldon faces a daunting task of playing the Jets defense that is looking to rebound after two very poor performances back to back. The Jets play a very aggressive style of defense, and have no issues bring the house to shut down the other teams rushing attack to make them one dimensional early. The Jets do have the personal to do all this without having to bring an 8th man into the box so look for another option this week as Yeldon isn’t going to have a big game.
Sleepers: Ronnie Hillman, Darren McFadden, Rashad Jennings
Willie Snead: I would seriously check your leagues waiver wire and see if he is still available. Snead has quietly become Drew Brees’ go to guy in the passing game and he leads the Saints in receiving yards even with Brandin Cooks on the team. If he is not on your team and you can manage the trade for a few role players, do it! Brees, Snead, and the Saints offense has been clicking on all cylinders lately, and I do not anticipate this changing anytime soon. As many of us have saw in the past, once Brees gets going he can be one of the hardest to slow down, let alone stop in the league. Snead is an awesome option this week and can be a steal in weekly leagues if you play them. Playing the Titans defense should make for a big week for the entire Saints passing offense, especially Snead.
Emmanuel Sanders: Against the Packers last week Sanders struggled to find ways to get open and get the ball while Manning finally looked like the Manning we know he can be. Facing the Colts this week and with Demaryius Thomas more than likely drawing the attention of the Colts best cover man Vontae Davis, Sanders should see plenty of favorable matchups and have a big day as the Broncos look to dismantle the Colts and continue on with their impressive undefeated season.
Entire Colts Receiving Corps: As this season approached, many felt that the Colts had done a nice job of bolstering an already potent and explosive passing attach by adding Andre Johnson and Philip Dorsett to go with TY Hilton and an impressive duo of TEs. Unfortunately that hasn’t been the case and as the Broncos showed they are more than capable of shutting down even a strong passing game and they will continue to do so this week. If any of Andrew Luck’s weapons are in your line up, sit them! It is going to take a lot of luck (no pun intended), for any of these receiving options to have a day worth having them play in your starting line-up.
Dez Bryant: For the second week in a row I am telling you to hold off on playing Bryant. I will admit, after watching the game Bryant looked more than game ready and actually played better against Richard Sherman than many will give him credit for and was open more than people may have notices. Even with that said, it is not Bryant that is the reason for this decision it’s who his QB is. Matt Cassel continues to show why he is at best a back-up QB in this league and lacks the talent and arm strength to throw the passes that Dez has made his bread and butter in his still young career. Due to Cassel’s inability to push the ball down field, Bryant isn’t going to see enough quality throws to have a big enough day to give up a roster spot in your starting line-up.
Sleepers: James Jones, Robert Woods, Alshon Jeffries
Ben Watson: Another player than I wouldn’t be shocked might still be sitting on your leagues waiver wire, just waiting to be claimed. Watson has been a beast this year and has enjoyed somewhat of a career revival this year with Brees targeting him early and often with great success. Before this season started many had relegated Watson as a player holding on to the end of his career and being primarily a run blocking TE. With the exit of Jimmy Graham via trade and the other TEs on the team unable to win the primary pass catching role with the open vacancy, Watson has been much more than just a blocker. Get Watson in your line up this week and you won’t be disappointed since Watson is going to see a lot of favorable match ups this week against the Titans.
Greg Olsen: A model of consistency as a starting TE in the NFL, Olsen is an “old school TE” as he does it all. He blocks, can play HB, and catches passes with the best of them. As Cam Newton’s only legitimate weapon in the passing game, and the Packers coming to town looking to get their offense back on track against a great defense, I see the Panthers doing everything they can to get in front of the Packers early and keeping that lead by playing ball control. One of the ways they are going to accomplish these goals is to get Olsen involved early to get the lead and then using him again to gain first downs and keep the clock running and Rodgers off the field.
Julius Thomas: Still dealing with health issues and even when he is in the game he doesn’t seem to be seeing as many passes as he is accustomed to, Thomas is still a liability as your starting TE. Also, the Jets have one of the best pass defenses in the NFL and even with Cromartie and Revis having to focus on young rising stars Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns, they still have Buster Skrein who can hang with some of the best himself to cover Thomas and limit his production. Keep Thomas on the bench, because as his history shows, he is more than likely to end up there anyway.
Richard Rodgers: Rodgers has been hot and cold all season, and the cold is about to get colder. With GB facing the Panthers this week, one of many strong points of the Panthers defense is their ability to provide quality coverage without sacrificing their whole defensive scheme thanks to two very talented men in the middle built for covering TEs and even some slot WOs. These two guys are Thomas Davis and Luke Kuechly are two of the best in the league all around LBs in the NFL. Both Players have great speed, instincts, and reaction pre and post snap to read the offense and cover or stop the run in its tracks and it’s these skills that will keep Rodgers from having any semblance of a big day against these incredible LBs.
Sleepers: Vernon Davis, Charles Clay, Martellus Bennett
Dallas Cowboys: While many pundits around the NFL will want you to believe that Chip Kelly and his offense are starting to find their way, I’m still not convinced that this offense especially in the hands of Sam Bradford as QB. Dallas’ defense is rounding into form and is almost completely healthy and playing very well. Last week Dallas’ defense almost stole a game for them against a good Seahawks team, and I see them getting after Bradford early and often, frustrating him into turnovers, bad throws, incompletions, and taking sacks. This defense is getting good enough that if they can steal a game or two, once Romo is back Dallas can be a legitimate threat in the NFC.
St. Louis Rams: Facing a young growing QB, and a RB that although he is preforming isn’t who he once was, this Rams defense should eat the Vikings offense up without issue. Bridgewater, a young QB who has great poise in the pocket and doesn’t rattle to easily for a young QB will be in for a long day and the Rams will help put their team into position to take a win here, even if the offense isn’t up for the task.
Chicago Bears: While this unit has surprisingly improved under first year head coach John Fox, it still isn’t where it needs to be to be competitive against a QB of Rivers ability. Even with Keenan Allen out for the season Rivers still has enough weapons, but more importantly skill and intelligence to pick apart a below average or even average defense to keep his team in games. With little risk of a pass rush and a young and growing secondary working towards finding their way to being competitive on a weekly basis, Rivers is going to make them pay early and often. Drop or bench the Bears defense, there are plenty of other defenses that are better options not just for this week, but for the rest of the season as well.
Oakland Raiders: This young unit is rounding into form nicely under head coach Jack Del Rio, but still need more time to become a dominate unit on a week in and week out basis. With the Steelers coming to town and Roethlisberger in his second game back since his injury, he will be more than ready to use the weapons he does still have in the passing game and crave up this young and up and coming defense. If it was another year or two from now I would pick this defense as a play this week, but they aren’t quite there just yet.
Sleepers: Buffalo Bills, New England, New York Giants
Survivor League Pick: St. Louis Rams