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