Slightly different format from me this week. I want to be sure that I cover all games from a fantasy perspective so as Adam covers the TV games with his bets and elements of fantasy, I will give my brief opinions on the start/sit aspects of those games in addition to my usual previews.
Detroit Lions @ New Orleans Saints
Points!! Points! Points! I love watching the Saints this year. Feel like they are getting back to their superbowl type standard. Love Drew Brees who is leading the NFL in passing touchdowns. As mentioned before, you can start virtually all skill positions this week with confidence against a pourous Lions D who are still one of the worst teams against opposing QBs. Distribution again skews potential production but Thomas and Ingram/Hightower are the obvious starts. Flex options for everyone else, again, depending on who is open. If they destroyed the Rams last week in the Gregg Williams REVENGE game then you can expect more of the same this week. Put it this way, Brees is 99.9% certain to extend his touchdown figure by at least 3. Hell he might even get one on a QB sneak for fun. Matt Stafford continues to show why he is a legit MVP candidate in the real world despite his recent low-ish fantasy scores. Theo Riddick is your winner is PPR leagues and also standard formats but purely on volume. I am waiting on Marvin Jones to get back involved which could literally be any week so this week against the Saints is as good a chance as ever. Probably wouldn’t start him anyway but it’s an option if you don’t like Golden Tate. Ebron is a popular start this week amongst the NFL experts but after his 0 point outing against the Vikings last week, I now side a bit more with Adam about his inconsistency despite being a physical monster. Traditional thought would again lead to a shoot out but the Lions haven’t exactly been on fire and the Saints D is markedly better this year so Stafford will have to get Ebron, Jones and Tate involved to stay in this one. Again, home field advantage in a dome cannot be underestimated and I think the Saints keep rolling.
Winner – Saints
LA Rams @ New England Patriots
Big news out of New England is that Rob Gronkowski is probably out for the rest of 2016 after having back surgery this week. This is the Patriots and they will be fine but their offense is much different without him. It would help if Martellus Bennett was 100% healthy but he isn’t so distribution will change dramatically. Rising star Malcolm Mitchell is the immediate beneficiary here, case in point the last 2 weeks his targets have shot up and he has produced. Do that for Bill Belichick and you will be rewarded. Tom Brady seems to trust him too which obviously helps. Everyone else in the WR corp should get more looks, would certainly play Edelman if you have him. If you have Dion Lewis or James White, temper any expectations as they both eat in to each others playing time as they are pretty much the same type of player. So much so I would say that White will be worth dropping soon as Lewis gets back to full strength. Blount should be a good shout after watching Mark Ingram and Tim Hightower drop huge numbers on the Rams D last week, if the Pat’s race away early, this becomes a very Blount heavy game. Jared Goff will be experiencing all the highs and lows of a rookie QB at the moment and I can see him coming away with decent but unspectacular numbers. The Pat’s defence is not exactly a strength this season and they can be exploited but that will not happen this week. Expect lots of formations and different looks for Jared Goff as the Pats will aim to confuse him and make mistakes. Do you want to start the Rams defense this week? Nope. Do not do it. In fact, you don’t want to start anyone at all this week from the Rams so I won’t waste my time doing so. Jeff Fishers reign of mediocrity will continue and Pat’s casually stroll out of Gilette Stadium with the W.
Winner – Patriots
Denver Broncos @ Jacksonville Jaguars
Defense. Wins. Championships. This is very true in the world of the NFL but for this specific game, it is even more applicable. The only chink in the Bronco’s defence this year is their run D which has been exploited by a few teams, Melvin Gordon and Latavius Murray being the most recent guys to chalk up over 100 yards against them. I don’t think the tandem of TJ Yeldon or Chris Ivory will reach 100 this week though so their overall defensive numbers are going to look a little bit better after 60 minutes are over. I would expect the Bronco’s pass D to all but lock up the Jags WR’s and give Blake Bortles no one to throw to. That won’t matter as this is Bortles so he will throw anyway. I feel bad for the guy but watching his mechanics turn in to something resembling a discuss throw is just embarrassing. Allen Robinson (volume flex play) and Marquis Lee are your only viable options this week, I say viable in the loosest sense of the word by the way so don’t play them if you don’t have to. The woes on offense have not spilt over to the defence and they have actually played very well considering the positions that they are put in. Jalen Ramsey is quickly becoming one of my favourite players to watch as he all but locks down whoever he is covering. On the Bronco’s offensive side of the ball, I oddly don’t see them being much better. I would rate Emanuel Sanders and Demaryius Thomas as flex plays this week with WR2 upside. Thomas has the safer floor but Sanders is a big play guy and can speed past anyone. RB Devonte Booker gets the first look at the carries but if he doesn’t break through early his touches tend to get eaten into by Kapri Bibbs. Don’t drop Booker as I can see him getting better the more he plays but it’s hard to predict for this week. Other than those core guys I don’t think there are any surprise sleepers lurking around. With Trevor Siemien out and Paxton Lynch in I would avoid both QB’s this week and expect a low 17-7 type score line with the aforementioned defence dominating the game.
Winner – Broncos
Houston Texans @ Green Bay Packers
Rodgers is back!! Back baby!! So everyone can now R-E-L-A-X. Not that anyone who really knows football was really concerned but Rodgers has not been the same other worldly player this year but the talent and potential never goes away. Now you can see how they are settling in to a rhythm as an offense, you can see the results on the field. Like Brady, Brees and Ryan, you start Rodgers no matter what. Even more so now that his wide receivers actually seem to be playing for him now. I am still not 100% sold on Jordy Nelson, the 31 year old is not the player he was before his surgery. Maybe next year he will shine out but of course you play him too as he is Rodgers favourite target. Davante Adams is the next man up as Randall Cobb’s apparent decline continues. Roll with Nelson and Adams and avoid others, even Jared Cook. I would wait for another big game from Cook just to make sure the other week wasn’t a fluke. As for running backs, no one has any real fantasy value. Aaron Rodgers has more fantasy upside on the ground that his running backs which tells you everything. I jumped on the Ty Montgomery train hard and then was bitterly disappointed when they dropped him like a bad habit. You could potentially start the Packers D but only because Brock Osweiler is so legitimately bad. Ok, in all fairness, he is basically a rookie who got paid a ridiculous amount of money to switch over from Denver but he should never have had this kind of expectation on him. However, get paid big boy money and people expect big boy results so his criticism is fair. Deandre Hopkins might, just might, have a good game this week. The Green Bay secondary has been torched this past month so as long as he has the volume, he will be a WR2 this week. TE Fiedorowicz (I just spelled that without checking first and got it right, that tells you that he is getting way too much attention from both media and Osweiller) is the other option and as I wrote last week, he is the most targeted pass catcher. That being said, it does make sense as TE’s are usually a rookie QB’s safety net, just ask Dak Prescott. Not sure on Will Fuller’s status but I wouldn’t start him either way. Lamar Miller is starting again for your fantasy team but purely based on volume. He has not really produced and I am sure a good portion of spot starts or streaming RB’s will probably score more points. The Pack are usually dominant at home and with Rodgers on a roll I don’t think the Texans have much of a shot
Winner – Packers
Philadelphia Eagles @ Cincinnati Bengals
This is a difficult game to write up. I usually despise all the media attention the Eagles get year after year but this year I did get in to the hype thanks to Carson Wentz. After a hot start, Wentz has gone through the usual rookie ups and downs so playing him, which I wouldn’t advise, is purely situational. If was against Cleveland, which he will be in a few weeks is a good shout but he needs to get another off season behind center to really push himself and get the experience needed to succeed. The running back situation for the Eagles is messy, injuries and inconsistency has pushed them in to some weird kind of running back purgatory. When you’re best RB1 so far is Darren Sproles, that is a problem. He is great but not a guy that can power between the numbers. Ryan Matthew’s SHOULD be the guy but again his inconsistent play has forced his Head Coach to call Sproles RB1. One guy to look out for, and I’m serious, is Wendell Smallwood. Sneaky play and I think he can produce if he gets a shot. Stash him on your bench at least. Eagles wide outs, just don’t bother. Possibly Jordan Matthews who does a lot of work in the slot but with Aghalor out, he could get more work all over the line. Ertz is your only real option from a fantasy standpoint but there are better players out there so play him with a low ceiling in mind. The Bengals have had a rough time the last few weeks. My prediction on Jeremy Hill getting more work and being less useful came true as he provided nothing of value at all. Dalton needs more production from LaFell and Boyd on the outside but he needs his o-line to protect him. Neither of which I see happening till they get used to their new line up of players which takes time. Eifert, the teams current best healthy player will again get all the looks, start him with confidence. The Bengals D might be a good streaming option against a struggling Philly offense. In fact, start the Eagles D as well. I started the Ravens D against the Bengals last week and they got 11 fantasy points so I think the production will be similar. Low scoring game, low scoring fantasy outlook so don’t have too high expectations for this one. 20 points I think takes this one so it is down to the defense.
Winner – Eagles
Miami Dolphins @ Baltimore Ravens
The Dolphins are on a winning streak and look like a great shot to make the playoffs. However, recent performances have left me pining for a bit more from them. Admittedly, they rode the momentum from Ajayi’s ridiculously violent running and Ryan Tannehill has actually produced decent numbers when Ajayi has been kept in check (see last week against the 49ers). Fantasy wise, you start Ajayi anyway as no one is taking away his touches. Much like LeSean McCoy’s situation in Buffalo, they are talented enough to get 10 plus points against 8 man fronts but also break away when the D makes a mistake getting you more than 20. Ajayi has that capability each week. That being said, their injured o-line needs to be healthy to make him a constant weekly starter so temper expectations against a very good Baltimore D. On the other side, I would say that Terrance West, Kenneth Dixon, Mike Wallace and Steve Smith are all flex starts. Wouldn’t count on massive production from any of them but they should produce decent numbers this week against an average Dolphins defence. Due to the nature of this game, I think the Dophins would have the advantage on offense but the Ravens D is very good so they should cancel each other out. The key is then the Raven’s offense against the Dolphins defence. If the Ravens can jump ahead and produce points early, I don’t think the Dolphins can rely too much on Tannehill to claw them back. Don’t get me wrong I know I said how well he has been playing but he isn’t really THE guy to do it on a consistent basis. Devante Parker might be a sleeper if he recovers from his injury last week but check the injury report tomorrow, however you should hopefully have someone else in play before you go with a guy like Parker. Very close to call, I want to say the Ravens win because I don’t see the Miami win streak continuing too long but it is genuinely a coin flip game. So I will just pick…..
Winner – Ravens
San Francisco 49ers @ Chicago Bears
Adam sent me possibly one of the best stats so far this season, since week 6 Colin Kaepernick has more rushing yards than LeSean McCoy, Todd Gurley and Devonte Freeman. Now I am a big Kap fan but even I can say that his touch is not the best and his ability to read blitzes is down right terrible but the 49ers have put a few nice games together. Offense is putting up yards and points and it keeps getting better the more Kap plays in Chip Kelly’s system. You wonder what kind of numbers he would be putting up now if he wasn’t the back up for the first 5 weeks of the season? Based on the previously mentioned improvement Kap is now a weekly starter in fantasy averaging well over 20 points a game in the last month. Carlos Hyde gets all the RB touches and no matter the script will get 80 and a touchdown. Only guy worth looking at in catching corp is Vance McDonald who is the real beneficiary of Kap’s improvement in this fast paced offense. I have written several times this season about Vance and calling his number and I have been right each time and I am calling his number again. The offensive line is good, not great but serviceable and Kap’s improved pocket awareness is greatly noticeable. On to the Bears, who really cannot sink any lower. I think from last count they are missing their starting QB, top 2 WR and starting TE. That sucks! They have had some small success in the running game but coach John Fox keeps plodding out this terrible RB by committee that most teams have gone away from. If you have Jordan Howard, play him despite the Niners improvement keeping both David Johnson and Jay Ajayi contained in recent weeks. If he gets volume he should score you some fantasy points. Matt Barkley showed that he might be a bit more than a career 3rd stringer but Brian Hoyer had some success in the offense too so I am not jumping on any bandwagon just yet but if he can sling it like he did last week then heck, he has a shot at improving his own stock. Marquess Wilson is the only player that you would consider with the Bears WR’s and that is only if all your other players are injured. Barkley seems to favour him so the volume is there. Probably a touchdown there if you wanted to risk it. The Bears D has been okay but nothing to shout from the rooftops about but given the recent success of the 49ers offense, and lack of weapons for the Bears, I like San Francisco’s chance to grab win number 2. Before you say anything no I am not just picking the 49ers each week, I genuinely thought they had a shot last week against the Dolphins and they proved me right and were only 1 yard away from overtime. Side note, depending on the Bears D, this will either be a 10-6 type of day or a 35-28 type of day with points flying all over the place. I still like the 49ers chances either way and the weather is expected to be cold, which plays right in to Kaepernicks hands (see Niners/Packers playoff game a few years ago).
Winner – 49ers
Buffalo Bills @ Oakland Raiders
This honestly might be the game of the week. I know I know I can’t believe it either. The scene has been set though and the Raiders as we all know are on fire this season and are on pace to challenge the Patriots for the number 1 seed in the AFC. Derek Carr showed his toughness playing through a nasty finger dislocation (did you see it? It was gross!) and the Coop and Crab Connection keeps opposing secondary’s on their toes but their production has been somewhat lacking recently. Cooper hasn’t topped 60 yards in 4 of 5 games so his fantasy value seems highly TD dependent and Crabtree has his end zone scores vultured by Seth Roberts. Would label both as flexes and leaning towards Cooper getting a bit of mojo back. The team is great and completely in sync as a unit but honestly this week their fantasy options aren’t fantastic. Latavius Murray exploded against the Broncos but the Bills have been stingy against opposing runners so I would only consider him a flex type play as well. Would probably sit him if I had anyone else that had more guaranteed volume. Flip that over to the other side, and you start LeSean McCoy. No questions asked. The Raiders are better than their early season troubles would suggest but he gets all the looks and has big play potential each week. He has 8 double digit games this year and was out for 2 and they have had their bye week as well so he is money this week. Dancing Tyrod Taylor is a nice streaming option this week if you are looking to take a risk. He has favourite target Sammy Watkins back who has a similar style and ceiling to Mike Evans so the threat is legit providing that he is healthy. Normally I would suggest that you start the Bills defense but I think the Raiders are playing too well to really pick up decent points for you. Offense should run wild on both sides here so a high scoring affair is on the cards. In that scenario, along with the Bills making their way cross country, advantage goes to the home team.
Winner – Raiders
Washington Redskins @ Arizona Cardinals
Last year the Cardinals were incredible on offense. Moving the ball at will, piling up the yards and moving through defences like a knife through warm butter. This year is a different story. Carson Palmer looks old. The wide receivers not named Larry and going to the hall of fame look like practise squad players. They lean on the broad shoulders of David Johnson which is not necessarily a bad thing, but the guy cannot keep having 30+ touches a game and not experience some wear and tear. The other guys HAVE to step up. That being said, pretty much a lost season for them anyway so I think they start to hold back on DJ soon and start looking at other players. Carson Palmer might be done. Maybe one more year till Coach Arians can find a suitable replacement but they are done. Even their high flying top 5 D can’t help them this year. I would probably start them though against the Redskins who I can see having a bit of a come down game. Their D is not great so all it would take is some Fitzgerald magic and a couple of touchdowns from David Johnson and this game isn’t as easy as it initially looks for the Redskins. Kirk Cousins has played his way in to a big contract next year, much like Joe Flacco did a few years back. I hope he gets paid but I don’t think he is a great QB. He is a product of a good system and great supporting cast. If you are in a system long enough, you start to get the nuances and start to truly master and counter certain defensive looks. That being said, most players don’t have that chance outside of New England, Pittsburgh and recently Seattle so fair play to him for succeeding. He is worth a start as he has thrown under 300 yards just 4 times this year but I don’t think he will be a top 10 QB for the rest of his career. You can probably start Crowder, especially with Jordan Reed out. You could start Vernon Davis who replaces Reed but I think your focus goes to the other WR rather than Davis. He had a good few weeks but he also seems to have trailed off recently. This could be a Rob Kelley game where they smash him in to the Cardinal front 7 and let him grind down. Then Cousins can get some play action and freeze the fast moving Arizona secondary. This is an important game for the Redskins as they have to keep pace in their division and it’s just as important for the Cardinals to save face on a lost season. This one is also very hard to call but I like the Redskins chances away from home. If they can force Carson Palmer to move around like other teams have then everything else will just fall in to place.
Winner – Redskins
Tampa Bay Buccaneers @ San Diego Chargers
Whenever I write about the Chargers, I want and expect points. Which is strange because their D is actually quite good so you wouldn’t expect that they need to put up so many. They do have injury concerns so for Jamies Winston and Mike Evans, they get an immediate start this week. Picking between Winston or Rivers is a tough one because both are prone to throwing a pick or two in a game but my god they are fun to watch. The San Diego offense is continuously putting up good numbers each week off the arm of Phillip Rivers and feet of Melvin Gordon. Speaking of Gordon, his hot start has been cooled the last few weeks and this week could indeed be more the same. The Bucs defensive unit has been surprisingly feisty during their recent success so Gordon might struggle to hit 10 points. However, he could get that just when he scores 2 touchdowns which has happened regularly this year so start him regardless. Tyrell Williams and Dontrelle Inman of the Chargers will find success this week too against an average secondary so play them with confidence. Williams as your WR2 and Inman as a weekly flex. Cameron Brate is a nice play this week along with Evans as a decent red zone option, don’t count on Hunter Henry just yet but I wouldn’t put your weekly hopes on Antonio Gates either. He is a legend and one of the greats but eventually the body starts to break down and volume alone cannot shadow your lack of fantasy production. Previously I had written about Tampa’s success riding heavily on Doug Martin, I think I was the only person on Earth that called the upset last week against the Seahawks but I thought it would have to fall on Doug’s yards and controlling the ball. That didn’t really happen as Evans was the catalyst and destroyer of Seattle so I don’t really think the Bucs NEED him to play well at the moment to succeed. I like this as another high scoring game but this will come down to whoever wins the turnover battle. Another cross country trip for an NFC team so I think San Diego pips a close one.
Winner – San Diego
Kansas City Chiefs @ Atlanta Falcons
Starts: Matt Ryan, Devonta Freeman, Julio Jones, Tyreek Hill, Ttravis Kelce
Flex: Mohammad Sanu, Taylor Gabriel, Spencer Ware, Maclin (if he plays)
Streamer/sleeper: Alex Smith
New York Giants @ Pittsburgh Steelers
Starts: Ben Rothlisberger, LeVeon Bell, Antonio Brown, Eli Manning, Odell Beckham Jr
Flex: Sterling Sheperd, Sammie Coates, Rashard Jennings
Steamer/Sleeper: Giants D, Ladarius Green
Carolina Panthers @ Seattle Seahawks
Starts: Kelvin Benjamin, Greg Olsen, Doug Baldwin, Russel Wilson, Jimmy Graham, Panthers D, Seattle D.
Flex: Cam Newton, Johnathan Stewart, Thomas Rawls
Indianapolis Colts @ New York Jets
Starts: Andrew Luck, TY Hilton, Donte Moncrief, Matt Forte
Flex: Frank Gore, Brandon Marshall (if Fitzpatrick plays), Enunwa, Bilal Powell
Only two teams on the bye this week so lots of football, enjoy!