Buccaneers @ Falcons
Story To Watch: There is a lot of pro-Jameis Winston content on this website, so let me address the elephant in the room: I’m in no way, shape, or form an advocate for his historically atrocious judgment or his reprehensible actions. I’m not a fan of his oddly specific views on gender roles in elementary school. I’m not a fan of his crustacean kleptomania. I’m obviously not a fan of the more serious allegations against him. That said, I’m somewhat a fan of his deranged pregame speeches, and I’m definitely a fan of him tossing that thang, which he should do plenty of against an embarrassing Atlanta secondary. Let’s see if Jameis can pick up where Fitztragic left off…
Safe Bets: To say that this is a must win game for presumptive super bowl contenders like the Falcons would be an understatement, and I expect Matt Ryan to answer the bell. Counterpart Jameis Winston will certainly shake off the rust, but he should provide ample fantasy support whether this is a competitive game or through the glorious bounty of garbage time. One player to watch is Mike Evans, who seemed to flourish with Ryan Fitzpatrick at the helm but has an inconsistent rapport with Jameis. Winston habitually overthrows the gigantic Evans, which seems preposterous given that he can outjump basically the entire NFL. Another week gone by, another scoreless endeavor for Julio Jones. It’s not even worth writing about at this point (or complaining about, as his 548 receiving yards are good for 3rd in the league), but you know the book on this guy. And for the record, am I actually suggesting you think twice about starting Julio because of his touchdown allergy?
Hope For The Best: It’s been an up and down season for Chris Godwin this year, but he’s flashed enough potential to warrant start consideration in shootouts. Outside of king crab fisherman across the world, Cameron Brate is likely the most excited about Jameis’ return the to starting lineup. With OJ Howard sidelined, Brate should resume his duties as the Buccaneers’ primary red zone option. I’m just about done with Tevin Coleman, especially when Ito Smith somehow gets the glory on the goal line. Still, this game has some high scoring potential, so Coleman is worth slotting in on volume alone. Calvin Ridley came back down to earth as expected, and that’s mostly due to the pesky Mohammed Sanu’s continued relevance in this system. It’s a coin flip between the two for who gets a lucky touchdown
Hell No: There’s a chance that this game is the coming out party for Ronald Jones in the same way that there’s a chance a Hooters waitress actually likes you. He’s not a bad stash, though. I’d take a flier on Ito Smith as a bench hold with Devonta Freeman’s status up in the air.
Postgame Headline: “Falcons survive shootout in season saving 30-28 win over Bucs”
Cardinals @ Vikings
Story to Watch: They say if you love some someone, let him go. The adage unfortunately applies to the indomitable Larry Fitzgerald, whose 15 years of near perfection at the position isn’t enough to overcome stone age playcalling and a rookie quarterback. I truly believe that the talent and drive are still present for Fitz, but the floor clearly isn’t what it once was in years past. You’d be forgiven for dropping the future hall of famer if you need to free up roster space, but I think you should have to stare long and hard at his avatar before finalizing the deed. Ned Stark had the decency and honor to be personally accountable for his direwolf, and so to should the man who drafted Fitz in the 4th round this season.
Safe Bets: Kirk Cousins, 100 yard game machine Adam Thielen, Stefon Diggs, David Johnson
Hope For The Best: Kyle Rudolph, Ricky Seals-Jones, and (if healthy) Dalvin Cook
Hell No: Latavius Murray, Josh Rosen, Christian Kirk, Larry Fitzgerald (god that hurt to type)
Chiefs @ Patriots
Story To Watch: The “story to watch” is the entirety of this incredible Sunday Night matchup. The 5-0 Chiefs looked unbeatable at this point last season too, so a date with Tom Brady and the Patriots will be the true litmus test to see if Andy Reid’s unit is for real this time around. As far as fantasy is concerned, however, this should be the most obvious matchup of the week in terms of sit/start conundrums. Let’s be honest here – you want everyone…
Safe Bets: Just to paint a portrait of the BFG’s hopeless situation in my big money league, I’m personally facing off against Tom Brady, James White, Patrick Mahomes, Kareem Hunt, and Tyreek Hill in my matchup this week. They’re going to explode all over my face, obviously, but in a laughable attempt to remain impartial as I’m getting dismantled, I plan on paying close to attention to how James White is utilized. He’s looking like found money in the Patriots two back system with Sony Michel, and even with Julian Edelman returning, White’s position as Tom Brady’s favorite target appears to be secure. The man is straight cash in PPR leagues and even a solid RB2 in standard with his touchdown upside. Rob Gronkowski is looking more and more like Frankenstein’s monster by the week, held together by loose fitting bandages and contraptions that seemingly come apart on every cut and blocking maneuver. We’ll see him return to form in this one, though, as the bright lights of SNF seem to always feature at least one Gronk spike. Not to be outdone, Travis Kelce figures to pile up 85-100+ yards with ease against a defense that just got torched by the bumbling Eric Ebron.
Hope For the Best: For the record, you want to play Sammy Watkins regardless. Andy Reid is keeping him involved in creative ways in this offense, but it’s hard to bank on a score from the de facto 3rd option in the passing attack. Josh Gordon is a gamble – he’s simply not seeing enough targets to consider him more than a WR3. There are just so many options for Brady to choose from while robotically dissecting a defense that I’m not sure Gordon’s raw talent will even matter.
Hell No: Even in a shootout, somebody must be the odd man out. Phillip Dorsett and Chris Conley are hard passes, not that you were considering starting them anyway. In an unfortunate turn of events for Chris Hogan investors, the presumably high-priced draft pick is now well on his way to Shitsville™.
Postgame Headline: “Patriots hand Chiefs first loss of season in 34-30 Sunday night thriller”
Bills @ Texans
Safe Bets: Fresh off of saving Houston’s season with a dramatic overtime win, Deshaun Watson looks to build off the Texans’ success with a trip to the beer-drenched confines of Ralph Wilson stadium. While Watson nearly wound up in a body bag on a few occasions against the Cowboys, the sophomore quarterback is finally rounding into form. He can largely thank primary option DeAndre Hopkins, whose unbelievable overtime catch-and-run sealed the game for the Texans last week. I didn’t think a possession artist like Nuk had it in him, but I personally would welcome more plays where he attempts to make defenders miss by impersonating Homer Simpson
Even against burgeoning shutdown talent Tre’davious White, Nuk is a full go. That’s about where the “safe bets” end, though…
Hope For The Best: I do not feel confident in this claim whatsoever, but Josh Allen’s willingness to plow through defenders at least gives him a Cam-like rushing touchdown floor for fantasy purposes. I’m not advocating staking your matchup on the rookie, but he’s proven to be effective in the red zone so far. Provided that Will Fuller is healthy, you can expect a reasonable stat line for Deshaun Watson’s primary touchdown obsession. Everyone’s favorite bottle rocket Keke Coutee is an extension of the running game for the Texans. Given the garbage ass state of the Houston backfield, Keke should see plenty of work in the form of swing passes, hitches, and other 2-5 yard specials. Lesean McCoy showed some life for first time this season last week, and I expect him to ramp it up even more in this matchup.
Hell No: There are countless other candidates for the “most worthless player in history” designation, but right now, Kelvin Benjamin has a furlong lead over everyone else in the shmuck race. With less than 40 yards in every game this season, the formerly promising wideout can safely look into signing a lease in Shitsville™. While he salvaged his day with some big receiving numbers, Alfred Blue failed to seize his opportunity to claim the Houston backfield last week. Shocking, I know, but little boy blue will be relegated to change of pace duty once again with the equally unappetizing Lamar Miller back in the fold.
Postgame Headline: “Watson impresses on road, guides Texans to 20-13 win”
Bears @ Dolphins
Safe Bets: “Safe” is a relative term, but in the context of this unappealing context, the best you’re going to get is probably Trey Burton, maybe? With ballhawk Xavien Howard keying in on Allen Robinson, I could see the tight end racking up big numbers in this one. Again, though, this is a difficult matchup to forecast. You’re talking about deciding between a wilted stadium hotdog on a soggy bun vs. a dried out hamburger with those spore-like bumps on it, so you just have to go with your gut when pulling the trigger.
Hope For The Best: I’m not buying that the Hasidic Homeboy Tarik Cohen is fully featured in Matt Nagy’s offense, but it’s hard to argue with his production before the Bears’ bye. If he truly is going to be utilized to the extent he was against the Bucs, then the diminutive change of pace back gets a major upgrade. I’m also bullish on Mitchell Trubisky, whose training wheels are firmly off going forward. Allen Robinson is trending upward, but the aforementioned Xavien Howard will limit his upside in this matchup. Perhaps Adam Gase will buy a clue after Kenyon Drake’s breakout last week. Even though his touches were evenly distributed zombie Frank Gore, Drake is clearly the more talented option going forward. Proceed with caution against the Bears defense, however. It’s a guessing game with Jordan Howard – he’s presumably the most talented back in the team, but he also looked like a dinosaur in the Bears offensive explosion against Tampa Bay. I suspect he’ll be featured more heavily against the Dolphins, but his usage in this game will likely dictate what his value is going forward.
Hell No: The Chicago Defense is rapidly approaching the elite category with Khalil Mack in tow, so I’d stay far away from fraud Ryan Tannehill in this ballgame. The same goes for Kenny Stills, who’s been on milk carton for the past couple of weeks.
Postgame Headline: “Bears maul Dolphins to the misleading tune of a 24-15 road win”
Browns @ Chargers
Story To Watch: Amidst all the jokes about organizational ineptitude and bumbling decisions leading to inconceivable ties and losses, there’s this glimmering truth beneath the rubble that, well, the Browns are pretty good! They’re not blowing teams out like the Chiefs or Rams, they’re not suffocating opponents like the Bears, and they’re not methodically grinding out W’s like the Panthers, but they’re playing their own brand of football to be competitive this season. What’s more, and I can’t emphasize this enough – it’s motherfuckin’ Baker time. The rookie has only lit a fire under the collective asses of a long stagnant franchise so far, but now it’s time for him to actually pay the bills in fantasy. I can’t think of a better coming out party than a road game (read: home game) in Tinseltown against the carpet bagging Chargers. Punch your ticket for the Baker bus while you still can…
Safe Bets: Yea, so it should be fairly obvious where I stand on Baker Mayfield this week. He’s going to deliver early and often, and I think Jarvis Landry will have his best game of the season as well. Not to be outdone, Felipe Rios will continue his stellar season, and I envision Keenan Allen getting back on the touchdown track in what should be an entertaining matchup with rookie sensation Denzel Ward. Melvin Gordon should continue his Gurley-lite efforts this week, but it’s going to be tough sledding against a better than advertised defensive front for the Browns. I still like him for 100 total yards and a score, though.
Hope For The Best: This is purely by virtue of me being so high on Baker this week, but I think Carlos Hyde is in for a downgrade eventually. I love “El Guapo”, but the Browns will need to air it out to keep pace with the Chargers, and Cleveland has to eventually mix in more than two Nick Chubb carries per game, right? That said, this is a great matchup and I see a nice opportunity for a Carlito goal line score. David Njoku has been trending in the right direction for weeks now, and I think semana seis is when he finally pops off. 87 yards and a touchdown sounds pretty good, doesn’t it? Mike Williams has been a mixed bag over the past couple of days, but he should find some open field with the defense keying in on Keenan Allen. He’ll get back on track soon.
Hell No: While Nick Chubb has certainly flashed the chops to play at this volume, he’s purely a stash until something changes in the Cleveland backfield. The same goes for Duke Johnson Jr., whom I’ll eternally and unjustifiably dislike. Outside of a potential fat guy touchdown, Antonio Gates is little more than a dart throw. Antonio Callaway has failed to seize the opportunity in front of him, but I don’t know… something tells me you should grab him before it’s too late.
Postgame Headline: “Chargers fans surf, brunch, and get high elsewhere as LA bounces Browns in 31-29 win”
Rams @ Broncos
Story To Watch: For a while there, it looked as though Phillip Lindsay and Royce Freeman were two sides of the same coin. Tomato /Tom-ahh-to, “six in one vs. half dozen in the other”, veteran and veterinarian, etc. However, after last week’s performance against the Jets, it seems clear that Lindsay is the front runner in the backfield. I wouldn’t punt if you’re a Royce owner just yet, but hoping for a 50-50 split is little more than wishful thinking at this point.
Safe Bets: The Broncos defense just got curb stomped by turnover enthusiast Sam Darnold, so the mile-high reputation is getting by purely on its name at this point. Even with snow forecasted, I’d play everyone in the shit-hot Rams offense. Jared Goff and Todd Gurley are must starts, but Bob Woods will get a major bump if Brandin Cooks and Cooper Kupp’s status remains uncertain. Call me crazy, but I think Phillip Lindsay comes out strong in this one before the Broncos inevitably abandon the run when they’re facing a 20 point deficit in the second half.
Hope For The Best: The high passing yardage totals for Case Keenum belie just how terrible he’s actually been so far, but I’d give him one more shot against the Rams. Marcus Peters is little more than an expensive mascot for the L.A. secondary, so I’m bullish on Emmanuel Sanders as well. Given that this game is likely to feature an extended period of garbage time for the Broncos, Demaryius Thomas has an opportunity to rack up chunk gains when nobody’s looking and/or cares anymore in the 4th quarter. Courtland Sutton has all the talent in the world, and he’s trending in the right direction. He’s a boom/bust play if there ever was one.
Hell No: There’s a logical line of thinking that the weather and a home game create a perfect confluence for a run heavy game script, but Royce Freeman can’t be trusted when there’s a good chance he nets less than 10 touches in the game. Hold him on your bench for now
Postgame Headline: “Rams keep it rolling, trample Broncos 29-21 in Denver”