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