Seahawks @ Cardinals
Story to Watch: While we were all very encouraged from a fantasy perspective to see the Cardinals force feed 37 carries to Adrian Peterson last Sunday, I think it’s fair to say that kind of volume probably isn’t ideal for a 32 year old running back with multiple knee ligament tears. I understand that AP represents the last man standing in Arizona, so to speak, but giving an old back 30+ carries is kind of like forcing a fart while you have the stomach flu. You’re playing a dangerous game there, pal. In any event, it will be interesting to see where the Cardinals go from here in what amounts to a total lost season for them. Here’s hoping “All Day” can see it through to the end…
Safe Bets: Even though the Seahawks couldn’t eclipse the vaunted 14 point mark at home against the Redskins, Russell Wilson still continued his QB1 overall campaign by delivering a 20+ points yet again. He rushed for over 70 yards as well, and figures to be active on the ground once again considering that the Seattle running backs have been merely ornamental in nature. Jimmy Graham turned in a decent game despite getting punched in the dick by Josh Norman, totaling 5 catches for 59 yards. The sky’s the limit for him this week if Arizona’s defensive backs presumably aren’t trying to end his family line. Fantasy is a volume based game, so you can’t turn down a running back that rushed 37 times the previous week. So despite what I said about pant shitting above, Adrian Peterson is a fine RB2 start.
Hope for The Best: We got the breakout that we were looking for last week, but it’s going to be tough for Doug Baldwin to repeat his 7-108-1 performance against WR eraser Patrick Peterson. Seattle should be looking downfield often, though, so there’s no reason to sit him. With Fat Ed on the shelf Thursday night, Thomas Rawls steps up to the plate as the primary rushing option for the Seahawks. Be advised that “stepping up to the plate” could very well mean 11 carries for 36 yards against the Cardinals rush defense, though. That said, he’s the starter in a hot offense, so you could do worse as far as Flex options go. The matchup certainly isn’t ideal, but Larry Fitzgerald is the only remaining usable WR on the Cardinals with Drew Stanton running the show. Even against Richard Sherman and co., Larry Legend should still see 8+ targets. Paul Richardson is your TNF roulette spin of this week, but the odds at hitting paydirt aren’t terrible as they might seem…
Hell No: While the dropoff isn’t nearly as dramatic as the situation in Green Bay, we’re just going to have to look at Jaron Brown, John Brown, and JJ Nelson differently from now on. It should go without saying that Drew Stanton is a bad bet against Seattle, as well.
Postgame Headline: “Seahawks right the ship, beat little brother Cardinals 26-14”
Packers @ Bears
Story to Watch: While I perhaps let my own checkered relationship history influence my opinion of the Ty Montgomery/Aaron Jones situation last week, it’s clear that we all forgot to account for the wildcard in the room: Dumbass Mike McCarthy. The Packers didn’t have many opportunities to run while getting their asses handed to them by the Lions, but when they did, McCarthy ensured that it would be as frustrating as possible for fantasy owners. He even came out this week and announced that the Packers like where they’re at with the committee approach, which is up there with “can you come in the office to discuss these test results?” and “we need to talk” on the list of things that are said preceding a personal disaster. For the foreseeable future, TyMont and Jones are embroiled in a turf war, and TyMont managed to chase the rookie off the corner during this round….
The king stay the king, I guess. Just beware that the king of a Brett Hundley-led offense is only a king in the way a deranged homeless person would consider himself royalty.
Safe Bets: Nothing is safe anymore for the Packers. The Green Bay offense, once a fantasy cornucopia filled to the brim with scoring potential with Rodgers at the helm, is now just a rotted, stepped on pumpkin filled with rodents and geese shit. The “Safe Bets” space will likely be empty for the remainder of the reason unless a change is made at quarterback, which McCarthy would apparently rather die than do. It was fun while it lasted.
As for Chicago, well, the only guy you can seriously consider starting is Jordan Howard, and even then it’s not a sunny proposition. The Packers are generous against the run, but Dom Capers’ unit should be able to stack the box with Trubisky running the show. Still, Howard’s basically the only viable starter for the Bears, so the volume will be there for him to brute force his way to 10+ points.
Hope for The Best: I feel bad for Davante Adams and Jordy Nelson. They were looking like steals at the beginning of the year, but Brett Hundley has rendered them borderline unplayable in all fantasy formats. Of the two, I think Adams has the better chance at a good day – but you know what you’re getting into if you start either of them. It would appear that Ty Montgomery has the upper hand now in the Packers’ backfield, but Aaron Jones looked to have a stranglehold on the job just one week ago. Who knows what the hell to think, but I would side with TyMont while he’s in his remedial head coach’s good graces.
Hell No: This isn’t actually The Matrix, so I don’t think Mitchell Trubisky suddenly whizzed through the “passing touchdowns” program during the bye week. Without Tank available to grant physical feats on the fly, there’s no reason to expect the rookie QB to suddenly be a viable fantasy option. Tarik Cohen is a gadget player at best and an unstartable RB4/5 at worst. Barring an injury, you should be avoiding him for the rest of the season. In case you haven’t been paying attention, Packers legend Martellus Bennett isn’t even on the damn team anymore. Things are going wonderfully in Green Bay…
Postgame Headline: “Bears win modern day clash of the titans between Hundley and Trubisky, 21-14”
Browns @ Lions
Story to Watch: I would be remiss if I didn’t at least mention the imminent return of Josh Gordon to our lives. Our lord and savior had a tough road to get here, as a recent GQ interview shed light on. Most shockingly, Gordon admitted that he would take shots before games to “get the motor running”. I’ve heard of pregaming, but that’s just ridiculous. Anyway, if the dude could torch the league as a half-drunk 22 year old, there’s no telling what he’s capable as a mature and hardened veteran. We only have a few more weeks to go, and the Browns sure as hell could use his help…
Safe Bets: It would seem that Matt Stafford has shed his cautious, high-percentage exoskeleton and molted into a legitimate, deep passing fantasy quarterback. He used to deliver performances like that back in the day, but perhaps Jim Bob Cooter will keep dialing up the deep shots now that the Lions have proven to be effective outside of the OC’s short passing comfort zone. Marvin Jones Jr. has been a chief culprit for the suddenly dangerous Lions, as he’s given Stafford the consistent vertical threat he’s been lacking since Megatron retired. Golden Tate hasn’t taken a backseat, either, and he still figures to be heavily targeted against the Browns.
Hope for The Best: Nothing is safe when it comes to the Cleveland Browns, but Isaiah Crowell is back in the fantasy world’s good graces after a nifty 11-64-1 line against the a tough Vikings front line before the bye. Detroit is the 6th stingiest unit against the run, but Hue Jackson should finally feed the Crow the volume that he deserves in this one. You know what Duke Johnson Jr. is at this point. It’s going to take a massive deficit for him to have value, but I think this will be an ugly game. Still, he has his typical value in PPR leagues.
Hell No: DeShone Kizer is dealing with migraine issues, and you should save yourself the headache of starting him in fantasy. It’s simply an uphill battle for him and he could be yanked at any moment. Corey Coleman could be active for this one, which is great news for the Browns. He’s not exactly returning to the 2007 Patriots though, so we’ll have to see what his usage is for a piss poor Cleveland passing game before safely starting him.
Things were set up for Ameer Abdullah to have a great fantasy night against the Packers, but you might say that he “fumbled” the opportunity. He appeared to be benched after that goal line gaffe, so expect a lightened workload against Cleveland. He’s not my favorite player from a talent perspective, and the Browns are quietly very stingy against the run, as well. Eric Ebron has settled nicely into his comfort zone of 3 catch/35 yard performances, so he can be safely ignored like your crazy uncle during Thanksgiving dinner.
Postgame Headline: “Lions win ugly game against struggling Browns 23-10”
Steelers @ Colts
Safe Bets: I was a week too late on my T.Y. Hilton prediction, but the explosion finally came against the Texans last week. If you drafted him this season, he’s essentially been a delinquent debtor that you have to track down every couple of weeks. He eventually pays you back a huge chunk of what he owes, but it’s never on time and it’s never predictable. Here’s hoping a collection agency is on his ass at home against the Steelers this week.
When we last off with Le’Veon Bell, he was getting 30+ touches per week to drive the Steelers three game winning streak. Bell’s usage has been the key to the Steelers’ success, so there’s no reason for them to change course now. DeAndre Hopkins had his way with the Colts secondary and Vontae Davis is still out this week. There’s no telling what Antonio Brown will have in store for them, but I’m guessing it will be explicit and his highlights will necessitate a NSFW tag. That doesn’t mean that Ben Roethlisberger will be throwing for 350 yards or anything, but he should be able to provide low end QB1 numbers in the 240-2-1 vein.
Hope for The Best: It was a Daunte Culpepper-lite performance from Jacoby Brissett last week, but things will obviously be tougher against the visiting Steelers. Still, he showed improvement and could deliver a useful fantasy performance with his scrambling ability. As much as I loved JuJu Smith-Schuster’s breakout party before the bye, the return of Martavis Bryant will most assuredly dig into his newfound target share. He’s not bad as a WR3, but don’t expect double digit targets. From a strict volume perspective, Frank Gore is fine as a low end flex option. He’ll give you 15+ touches, but it’s unlikely that he’ll do much with them.
Hell No: Donte MonCrief followed up his goose egg against the Bengals with an equally invisible 1-7-0 line against the exploitable Texans last week. You can feel free to drop him like a Julio Jones touchdown (too soon?). Whether or not Marlon Mack is the most talented back on the Colts roster is irrelevant, apparently. As long as space cadet Chuck Pagano is running the show, Mack will be relegated to second banana duties despite his obvious playmaking potential. Speaking of which, “potential” is all you can hang your hat on if you’re starting Martavis Bryant. I don’t see him suddenly putting up 100 yards one week after being demoted, but crazier things have happened I guess (like Ben McAdoo remaining employed).
Postgame Headline: “Steelers grit and grind their way to 27-16 road win over the Colts”
Chargers @ Jaguars
Story to Watch: It only took one bye week for me to forget that Los Angeles Chargers even existed. I was perfectly fine if their removal from the NFL happened to be permanent, and it seems to me that we all got along just fine with them out of our lives. Apparently they’re still in the league, though, so we might as well dive into the matchup…
Safe Bets: Doug Marrone and the Jacksonville coaching staff pulled an Officer Doakes on us just before kickoff last week, surprisingly deactivating their superstar rookie running back Leonard Fournette for violating a team policy. Unless he has a bad beard day and wants to skip the team photo again, all signs point to him suiting up against a Chargers defense that ranks 28th against the run this season. I fully expect Melvin Gordon to have at least 10 carries of 0 or negative yardage against the Jags, but he’ll likely take a swing pass into the end zone as well. You can’t sit him. The arrow is pointing up for Marqise Lee, who saw a whopping 12 targets during Fournette’s absence last week. That number figures to be cut in half, but he’s the primary focus of the Jacksonville passing attack. That’s like being the most prominent wart on a pig’s ass, but hey, it’s still featured.
Hope for The Best: Facing a tough matchup on the road against the vaunted Jaguars defense, let’s set a few over/unders for Phillip Rivers in this one, shall we?
O/U on how many times Rivers spikes the ball at his own center’s ass in anger: 3.5
O/U on number of times Rivers goes “No, cut in, cut IN!” to his WR after an interception that was clearly his fault to begin with: 2.5
O/U on number of times Rivers surrenders himself and allows a sack: 4.5
O/U on number of toddler-like conniptions after a penalty: 87.5
If you can’t guess by now, this is a matchup to avoid if possible. That’s not to say he can’t deliver 12+ points in a turnover laden performance, but I’d probably go with guys like Goff, McCown, or even Eli Manning instead. Hell, Blake Bortles can give you about 220 yards, 1 touchdown and 1 interception, which is basically the floor in this one for Phil. With the wide receivers likely being erased by the Jaguars CBs, it might just be a Hunter Henry day. Heavy emphasis on “might” here, because Henry is just as likely to be in the witness protection program on Sunday as he is to deliver 80 yards and a score.
Hell No: It’s pretty clear that Jalen Ramsey already plays with a fire under his ass, but after last week’s scuffle with AJ Green, he’s pretty much sitting under a blowtorch for this Sunday. I’d hate to be Keenan Allen or Tyrell Williams. Starting Marcedes Lewis is like betting 00 every single spin in roulette. You’ll eventually hit it, but you’ll probably be dead broke at that point and nobody will be happy for you. Seems to me that Antonio Gates would be happier spending his Sundays on the driving range.
Postgame Headline: “Jaguars defense shines again, shuts down Chargers in 26-14 victory”
Saints @ Bills
Safe Bets: It might sound weird, but this is the game I’m looking forward to the most this week. The Saints have emerged as a legitimate threat in the NFC, and it’s due in no small part due to the dazzling play of Alvin Kamara. He coughed up a bad fumble early last week against the Bucs, but he responded with the signature highlight of his rookie year on this amazing screen pass that he took to the house. Mark Ingram is still involved as well, and he should pay the bills against a Bills defense that just made Matt Forte look like a strapping young man. Drew Brees also delivered one of his better performances in weeks, and he shouldn’t have an issue replicating Josh McCown’s effectiveness vs. an exploitable Buffalo secondary. On the Bills side, well… let’s just chalk up LeSean McCoy’s dud of a game last week as an anomaly, shall we? The Saints defense is nothing to play around with, but McCoy’s volume should allow him fall forward into a usable fantasy day.
Hope for The Best: With a full week of practice under his belt, I think it’s safe to deploy Kelvin Benjamin in his Bills debut. Keep in mind that Tyrod Taylor regards wide receivers like Irish immigrants in the early 1900’s, though, so don’t expect fireworks between the two right off the bat.
Speaking of Tyrod, his garbage time heroics saved his day against the Jets. He’ll find things much more difficult against an improved Saints defense. Still, his ability as a runner gives him a great floor. I refuse to accept that this is the case, but it might be time for us to face facts – Michael Thomas is becoming a possession receiver. It’s not necessarily his fault, but the emphasis on defense, the running game, and Kamara’s passing involvement is almost the polar opposite of the 2016 Saints, who were trailing often and allowed Thomas to flourish. Ted Ginn Jr. is starting to look like Brees’ first read on a lot of deep shots, which doesn’t bode well for Willie Snead’s prospects. Oh, and Charles Clay is back, so fire him up and hope he returns to his early season form.
Hell No: I’m glad to see Zay Jones had his breakout game and avoided serious injury last week, but I’m thinking it was a onetime deal now that Kelvin Benjamin is in the mix. Same goes for Jordan Matthews, who I’m not even sure is actually in football anymore. Have you seen him make a play this season? Me neither. Brandon Coleman is amazing at fulfilling his role of catching his lone target every single week. Now that’s consistency you can set your watch to.
Postgame Headline: “Bills rally late, but Saints survive 26-20”
Jets @ Buccaneers
Story to Watch: For my money, there isn’t a more disappointing team in the NFL than the Tampa Bay Buccaneers this year. They officially hit rock bottom last week by getting trounced by the Saints 30-10, and in perhaps the saddest development of 2017, Ryan Fitzpatrick has officially taken over for the now shut down Jameis Winston. Jaboo may have submitted his audition for the cringiest moment in NFL history this past week by “eating some W’s”, but I’m gonna go ahead and eat some L’s for propping him up so much this season.
While civil war general Fitzpatrick has no qualms about airing out the ball, things aren’t going to magically get better with him under center. Throw in the fact that Mike Evans is suspended, Doug Martin hit his annual wall, and Desean echoed Gob Bluth’s “I’ve made a huge mistake” face last week, and we have a pretty clear picture of the Bucs immediate future…
Safe Bets: If the Bucs are the most disappointing team of the season, then the Jets have to be in the running for most surprising. During the preseason, the Jets were universally panned as the most the most talentless roster in the league this side of the Cleveland Browns. Even though they’re 4-5, the Jets have vastly outperformed expectations at this point of the season, and it’s largely due to the play of Josh McCown. The ageless wonder has been a model of consistency at the QB position, and he should continue to flourish against a Buccaneers defense that has clearly given up. Matt Forte and Bilal Powell are splitting carries almost evenly, but Forte got the touchdown glory last Thursday night. For this week at least, I think you’re looking at an Ingram-Kamara situation in that both running backs can be safely deployed as RB2s.
Speaking of safe players, Robbie Anderson is an ironclad lock for at least 70 yards in this one. He was already the apple of McCown’s eye and Jeremy Kerley is now suspended, so the targets will only go up from here. Desean Jackson is getting open on plenty of would-be touchdowns, but Jameis elects to throw the ball into the club box level nearly every time he targets him. With Evans suspended, I think Fitzpatrick will dial in on Jackson and connect on one of those bombs. 6-105-1 incoming….
Hope for The Best: After a furious and consistent start to the season, Cameron Brate has stalled over the past 3 weeks. He has a good shot of bouncing back in a game that the Bucs will be losing, however. Same goes for Austin Seferien-Jenkins, who has seen a big decline with the Jets going with a more balanced offensive approach lately. Still, against the Bucs defense, there’s no reason he can’t turn in 40 yards and a red zone score. Ryan Fitzpatrick isn’t a terrible option, but he’s not a waiver wire savior or a must-add for Jameis owners, either. Expect plenty of throws and plenty of turnovers. I’m very close to giving Doug Martin the “hell no” designation for this matchup, as he hasn’t been impressive at all despite having plenty of opportunities lately. Peyton Barber got a vote of confidence from the Bucs coaches this week too, so beware that “great volume” aspect of Doug Martin’s appeal (read: his only appeal), could very well be going out the window soon.
Hell No: Though he saw 11 carries in a blowout last week, I wouldn’t drop everything to start Peyton Barber against the Jets. This is a defensive unit that just shut down Lesean McCoy, so there isn’t a lot of upside to be had here. Even with Mike Evans sidelined, I wouldn’t trust Adam Humphries with a ten foot pole. If you want the Cole Beasley of the most anemic offense in the league, though, then by all means fire him up. Jermaine Kearse could see an uptick in targets with Kerley on Goodell’s shit list, but I’d prefer to take a wait and see approach with him.
Postgame Headline: “McCown eats a W against pathetic Bucs, leads Jets to 27-17 victory”
Vikings @ Redskins
Story to Watch: With Sam Bradford undergoing his biannual visit to Dr. James Andrews this week, the word is that the Vikings plan to put the habitually injured quarterback on injured reserve. This could very well be the end of the line for Sam, so I’ve gotta ask, which team will his sleeves get retired with? Could it be with the Rams, where his mediocre play and almost impressive consistency of season ending injury resulted in the entire rookie contract scale being overhauled? Or how about with the Eagles, where he was shoehorned into a fast-paced, read option offense despite the fact that his surgically repaired knees forced him to move at a glacial pace. Or could it be the Vikings, where his slightly above average play duped Minnesota fans into believing they had a chance in back to back seasons before his scar tissue decided, “lol, no”?
If this truly is all she wrote for poor old Sammy Sleeves, then there’s just one place his Jersey should be hanging – the orthopedic surgeon hall of fame. I feel bad for the guy, but damn, he’s probably given James Andrews $15 million alone over the years. Here’s hoping Sam can still swing a golf club during his rapidly approaching retirement.
Safe Bets: You’ve gotta tip your cap to Kirk Cousins for going into Century Link field and netting a huge road win for the Redskins. If he can do that against the Seattle defense, then I’m not betting against him at home against the Vikings. They’re formidable, but Kirk can still give you 18+ fantasy points in this one. The Washington wide receivers have lunch reservations with Xavier Rhodes and company, so I think this will be a bounce back game for Chris Thompson. He was bottled up by the Seahawks last week, but he’s always one juke away from turning a 5 yard checkdown into a 30+ yard gain. It’s been back and forth between Latavius Murray and Jerrick McKinnon, but I think I’d give the edge to McKinnon in this one. The Vikings have been successful with both backs, but McKinnon is clearly the more dynamic option. With dick puncher extraordinaire Josh Norman focusing on Stefon Diggs, I think Adam Thielen could be in line for a 10+ target afternoon.
Hope for The Best: That’s not to say you should bench Stefon Diggs, though. Not counting a Cleveland matchup in which he was clearly being eased back into action, we’ve been waiting the better part of a season for his return and he just had an extra week to rest his tender groin. Doug Baldwin put up a great line against Norman, so I think Diggs can get behind him at least once in this battle. The Redskins defense is the 4th friendliest to Tight Ends on the season, so Kyle Rudolph the red zone reindeer is a nice bet for 55 yards and a tuddy. Even though Teddy Bridgewater was activated this week, Case Keenum has done more than enough to hold onto the starting job. He’ll do enough to deliver a viable fantasy week against the Skins, too, but don’t expect a 300 yard day or anything. Jordan Reed is practicing this week, which is more noteworthy than it should be. If he’s out there, I like him for 45 yards and a potential score.
Hell No: Things are only getting better for Josh Doctson, but this is a matchup to avoid. I’d keep stashing him for a fantasy playoff run, though. Fat Rob Kelley has 36 carries for 76 yards over his past four games, and things aren’t going to get any easier against the Vikings. This is a running game to avoid entirely until the offensive line gets healthy, so Semaje Perine is also a hard pass.
Postgame Headline: “Redskins hold the line at home, stop late Vikings rally in 23-19 victory”
Bengals @ Titans
Story to Watch: It will be interesting to see how AJ Green responds after losing his shit on Jalen Ramsey last week. Ramsey claimed he was just “spittin facts” by calling Green soft, and if that’s the case, then I guess him attempting to go super saiyan on the rookie cornerback is somewhat defensible. I’d imagine getting called soft to your face in the NFL is akin the getting the glove slap, so I understand if AJ thought a response was required – but maybe don’t break your hand in the process? Rule #1: take the guy’s helmet off before you wail on him, which is masterfully exhibited by Andre Johnson from when he beat the ever living shit out of Cortland Finnegan…
Man, I miss that guy (NOT Finnegan). Anyway, the cat’s out of the bag on AJ Green’s perceived softness, so he has no choice but to respond with a monster game against the Titans. Those are the rules.
Safe Bets: Allegedly recovered from his hamstring issues, Marcus Mariota figures to be more involved as a runner this week. While this is definitely an “I’ll believe it when I see it” situation, if Mularkey’s comments about more designed runs for the young QB are true, then it’s obviously a boon to his stagnant fantasy value. Delanie Walker went from gametime decision to #1 receiving option in the span of a few hours last Sunday, so I think he returns to TE1 relevance in this one. As mentioned above, I think AJ Green goes absolutely bonkers in this game. Or he’ll get ejected after a Bengals defensive back challenges his manhood again. Either way, he’s coming back with a vengeance.
Hope for The Best: Mike Mularkey announced that the Titans plan to rest Demarco Murray until his myriad of injuries have a chance to heal. Hah, just kidding, that would make too much sense. No, Demarco is committed to hobbling his way to 38 total yards for the rest of the eternity. If you own him, you literally have to “hope for the best” i.e. keep your fingers crossed for a goal line touchdown. I’m an avowed defender of Joe Mixon, but even my sycophantic view of the situation forces me to admit that he’s not doing much with his carries. Still, he’s the Bengals best rushing option by a mile. Rishard Matthews is the safest option, but Corey Davis is fully healthy and his snap share will only increase going forward. The breakout is coming Andy Dalton isn’t going to win your week by any stretch, but someone has to supply AJ Green with footballs for his 31 point fantasy explosion this Sunday.
Hell No: Even though he had a red zone score last week, it’s hard to trust Derrick Henry as long as Demarco draws breath. On the same token, Eric Decker’s goal line touchdown last week doesn’t change the fact that he’s the odd man out on a fully healthy Titans offense. Giovanni Bernard and Jeremy Hill shouldn’t even be on your roster, and if they are you should sell your franchise.
Postgame Headline: “Titans get it together vs. Bengals, win 33-20 in Nashville”
Texans @ Rams
Story to Watch: I have a more justifiable reason than most to despise Tom Savage, and it’s not just because I’m a jaded DeAndre Hopkins owner. I mentioned this briefly in my now embarrassing Jameis Winston article, but back in high school I was teammates with Tom’s older brother, Bryan Savage. More specifically, I was the backup center and he was backup QB, so we spent a lot of quality time together during my freshman year. He was kind of a dick, but one morning he extended an olive branch by holding the door open for me to the locker room. I was shocked at this relatively commonplace polite gesture, but I foolishly accepted and began to walk in. My reward was a swift and forceful punch to the testicles and the image of Bryan saying, “hahah… you get NO ass, Devine!” as I writhed on the ground in pain.
It’s probably unfair to the younger brother, but I’ve never rooted for an athlete to fail more than Tom Savage in 2017. It kind of feels like picking the legs off of an insect, but whatever – the entire Savage family can go pound sand.
Safe Bets: Alright, I’m calm now. You can go ahead and keep starting dynamic workhorse Todd Gurley, who’s been one of maybe 3 or 4 dependable assets in low scoring fantasy season. Sean McVay’s insistence of siphoning carries to Tavon Austin and the entire Tight End corps is somewhat maddening, but Gurley’s role in the passing game and red zone is secure. Jacoby Brissett managed to light up the Texans on two deep touchdowns to T.Y. Hilton, so I like Jared Goff’s chances at replicating his success. Despite the ineffectiveness of Tom Savage, DeAndre Hopkins proved that he’s still one of the best in the business. He was a toe tap away from WR1 overall numbers on the week, too, so don’t let Savage’s ineptitude discourage you too much.
Hope for The Best: It’s a weekly struggle to decide between Robert Woods and Cooper Kupp, but I think Kupp gets the edge for his red zone potential. Woods scored on a busted play that featured a hilarious lack of effort from the Giants, so I wouldn’t read too much into his breakout game. Same goes for Sammy Watkins, who managed to break loose last week for a deep score. Unfortunately, that means he met his quota for the month and won’t be usable again until December. One week after it seemed like D’Onta Foreman would be relegated to carrying pads for the rest of the season, the rookie rose like Lazarus to get back to double digit carries last week. He wasn’t particularly effective, but it spells trouble for Lamar Miller going forward. Miller is still the safer bet for now, but Foreman is back in the conversation as a stash for the fantasy playoffs.
Hell No: It should be obvious by now, but Tom Savage is a clear “hell no” this week, and every week for the rest of time. He moves so painstakingly and deliberately in the pocket that each dropback feels like we’re watching the Zapruder film (with almost as disastrous of an outcome as well). It seems that the party is over for Will Fuller; you simply can’t start him given the current state of the Texans offense. With a quarterback who’s completing around 40% of his passes, the same goes for C.J. Fiedorowicz. Let’s just say his return to Houston isn’t exactly Gandalf’s arrival at Helm’s Deep.
(That’s a reach, but hey, any opportunity to link that badass clip is okay in my book)
Postgame Headline: “Rams, Gurley steamroll Texans 36-17”
Cowboys @ Falcons
Safe Bets: It’s almost as if my complaints about Steve Sarkisian last week were funneled directly into the Atlanta OC’s headset, because he responded by directing a whopping 12 targets to Julio Jones against Carolina. Despite a hellacious drop that derailed what would’ve been his best game of the year, Julio still delivered a 6-118-0 line. I like his chances at a deep TD in this one. The gameplan is a little murkier for Devonta Freeman, though. He seems to be phased out of the game for chunks at a time, but some of that could be due to the fact that Atlanta has never once been in control of a game from start to finish this season. That won’t change against Dallas, but this game feels “big” and one that Devonta can shine in.
Dak Prescott is right up there with Russell Wilson and Carson Wentz as a surefire, matchup proof QB play. He is almost guaranteed to produce 3 scores, with or without Ezekial Elliott. Speaking of which, Zeke should obviously be in your lineup if active, but there’s nothing obvious about the legal proceedings in this case. I hope that one side would shit or get off the pot already and just accept an outcome, but we all know that’s not going to happen. This Thursday’s decision is allegedly the end, though…
Hope for The Best: This is the new reality for Dez Bryant owners – 5 catches, 55-72 yards, 33% chance at a touchdown. There’s nothing wrong with that, but that’s simply where he’s at in this stage of his career. I wish I could say the same for Matt Ryan, who doesn’t have the luxury of wear and tear to blame for his disappointing season. He’s just not the fantasy MVP candidate you thought you were drafting, but he can still give you 230 yards, 2 touchdowns and an interception against the Cowboys. Mohammed Sanu has been money in the bank since returning from injury 3 weeks ago, turning in 65 yards or a touchdown in each game. Ryan looks his way in the red zone, so he’s a nice flex option and a good WR3 in deeper leagues.
Tevin Coleman is extremely volatile in terms of his touch distribution, but he looks pretty damn good with the ball in his hands. You could do worse when looking for upside flex plays. If Zeke is paying his debt to the NFL come Sunday, then I like Alfred Morris out of the Dallas RBBC. If Zeke’s active, then obviously Morris is as useless as a pint of O’Douls. Terrence Williams is a nice bet for 70+ yards, but don’t expect a score.
Hell No: I can see how you’d be tempted to start Cole Beasley after his two touchdown performance, but the leprechaun-esque receiver is fool’s gold. He has some redzone appeal, but he rarely eclipses the 30 yard mark (obviousy he gets a bump if Dez is inactive, though.) I feel the same way about both Jason Witten and Austin Hooper, whose main functions are to divert their QB’s attention from more exciting options about 2-3 times per week. Rod Smith sounds like the long term Dallas back to own, but starting him right off the bat is a huge gamble.
Postgame Headline: “No Zeke, No problem: Dak leads Cowboys past floundering Falcons 31-21”
Giants @ 49ers
Story to Watch: Group celebrations are all the rage in the NFL these days, so I’ve got one for the 49ers if they actually manage to cross the goal line this Sunday – the planting of the flag on Iwo Jima. Considering that the end zone might as well be a heavily fortified island full of Japanese machine gun nests to the anemic Niners offense, I can’t think of a more appropriate gesture. With CJ Beathard, Kyle Shanahan’s team hasn’t crossed the 10 point plateau in three consecutive weeks, so hitting paydirt essentially demands a timeless, historic photo opportunity at this point. It perfectly captures the hopelessness of the San Francisco offense while simultaneously pays homage to the troops, so it’s a win-win. Make it happen, Carlos!
Safe Bets: He was well on his way to an impressive 100 yard receiving day, but Carlos Hyde’s fortunes were curtailed by a bullshit ejection for fighting late in the 4th against the Cardinals. I hope he retains some of his pugilistic spirit against the Giants, though, because last week was the best Hyde looked all season. Provided that the team hasn’t decided to move on before Sunday (and who could blame them), Eli Manning is in a good spot against an equally hopeless Niners team. He won’t blow the doors off or anything, but the matchup is there for him to give low end QB1 numbers. He’ll be primarily distributing the ball to de facto #1 receiver Sterling Shepard, who shouldn’t have many issues crossing the 100 yard plateau in Santa Clara.
Hope for The Best: This is right on the border of a “safe bets” call, because Orleans Darkwa looked good with his 16 carries in last week’s blowout against the Rams. I think he’ll be featured early and often in this one. Evan Engram is a TE1 and that certainly doesn’t change against a bad Niners secondary. Kyle Shanahan was noncommittal about naming a starting quarterback for this week, which shouldn’t come as a shock to anyone who’s had the displeasure of watching CJ Beathard run the offense. If Jimmy Garoppolo actually gets the call, he’s a decent start against a Giants defense that just surrendered a whopping 51 points.
Hell No: I get that you might be in a tight spot with your quarterback options, but I can’t recommend CJ Beathard if he’s still starting. That’s like recommending cigars as a treatment for lung cancer. Same goes for Wayne Gallman and Matt Breida, who are merely change of pace backs and/or playoff stashes at this point of the season.
Postgame Headline: “Niners finally win against resigned Giants squad 20-17”
Patriots @ Broncos
Safe Bets: Not that you were planning on benching them anyway, but all Patriots have the green light against a Denver Defense that no longer carries the gravitas it once did (a 51 point dismantling the previous week will do that). The triumvirate of Tom Brady, Rob Gronkowski, and Brandin Cooks are all easy recommendations, but after that it gets a little murky. Chris Hogan is reportedly still in an arm sling, and I’m no doctor, but I’d think you’d need the use of both arms to start in the NFL. With him out, Danny Amendola clearly stands to benefit, but I question how much the Patriots will really need to throw in this one. On the Broncos side, Demaryius Thomas is probably riding high after scoring his first touchdown of the season last week. The matchup against the Patriots is fantastic, but bear in mind that Brock Osweiler is once again his quarterback.
Hope for The Best: Outside of a 30 yard sideline catch late in the game, Emmanuel Sanders was shut out in his return to action last week. Things should open up a bit this week against the Patriots. It’s hard to recommend any of the Denver running backs, but CJ Anderson still has the upper hand (albeit barely) in a murky backfield. For the Patriots, you’d still have to give the the nod to Dion Lewis, but James White is the PPR option and Rex Burkhead and Mike Gillislee aren’t going away.
Hell No: It’s Brock Osweiler. I don’t care if the matchup is nice, there’s no way I can recommend Brock Osweiler. He could be in a charity game against retired badminton players and I still couldn’t recommend Brock Osweiler. A youth movement could be underway soon in Denver, so Jamaal Charles will be on the outside looking in if that kicks off this week.
Postgame Headline: “Patriots kick Broncos while they’re down, win 40-24 in Mile High”
Dolphins @ Panthers
Story to Watch: What exactly did we do to deserve back-to-back primetime games featuring the Miami Dolphins? I understand that it’s a down year for the NFL, but surely somebody on the ESPN programming crew could’ve known this was a bad idea back in July. To make matters worse, they’re facing off against the Carolina Panthers, whose offense is about as enjoyable to watch as an elementary school documentary on the benefits of Zinc. Look, I’m gonna watch it because I’m a mindless slave to this sport, but I’ll be doing it begrudgingly. You hear that, NFL? Begrudgingly, I says!
Safe Bets: Speaking of begrudgingly, there’s no other adjective I could use to describe starting Cam Newton on Monday night. He just lost Kelvin Benjamin and Greg Olsen still hasn’t healed up yet, but even still, he’s flashing some MVP Cam moves with his legs lately. He’s a good bet for 20+ points at home. Even a hater like myself can admit that the arrow is pointing upward for Christian McCaffrey. I still think he sucks, but his fantasy upside is undeniable with Jonathan Stewart emphatically taking a backseat from here on out. The Panthers will be looking to lock down Devante Parker, so I think Jarvis Landry will be active underneath in this one. He should be heavily targeted in a game that I predict the Dolphins offense will struggle in.
Hope for The Best: I find this hard to believe, but that was Jay Cutler’s first career 300+ yard, 3 touchdown game with zero interceptions. Actually, scratch that – that’s incredibly easy to believe. Still, it was an encouraging development for the mumblecore poster boy of the NFL. He’ll have difficulty replicating that performance against the Panthers, but he can still bring home the bacon now that he’s not afraid to sling it downfield. The recipient of those bombs will be DeVante Parker, whose return seemed to spark a stagnant Miami offense. He’s a great WR2/WR3 option with upside. Damien Williams and Kenyan Drake both impressed in different ways during the first post-Ajayi game for Miami. If I was a gambling man, I’d go with Williams in this one for his ability as a receiver.
Hell No: As a rule, I never start a player who puts up 0 points the week before. Obviously there can only be improvement from there, but spite is a hell of a drug. You’re out, Ed Dickson. The same goes for Julius Thomas, who is still coasting on his flash in the pan campaign from 2013. He had his best game in years last week (6-84-1), but you can go ahead and be the guinea pig to find out if he can follow that up. Thomas is a more defensible start than Jonathan Stewart, at least. I think he should do us all a favor and just end his seemingly 23 year long career with the Panthers already.
Postgame Headline: “Cam shakes and jukes the Panthers to 24-14 win on Monday night”