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