By now, you know the obvious matchup choices, but it’s the lesser-known defensive team stats that will give you an edge. We saw Matt Ryan and his receivers, Carson Palmer, Shonn Greene and Brent Celek impress while Ryan Fitzpatrick and Chris Ogbonnaya disappointed. Who will follow in each group’s footsteps this week? Let’s find out.
(Reminder: You’ll notice the rankings are not in exact order of points allowed. Other metrics are calculated in along with just straight points. It allows for better analysis so one off-week doesn’t skew the opponent difficulty too greatly.)
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, buried underground by layers of cement, you know the Patriots pass defense is abysmal. Mark Sanchez is the beneficiary this week, but that does not vault him to QB1 status. As seen last week, and even in the first matchup versus New England (166 yards, two TDs), Sanchez is just a high-end QB2 during favorable matchups.
Everything said about Sanchez can be slapped right on Matt Cassel as well. Actually, Cassel is even less likely to reach high-end QB2 status than Sanchez is, as he managed just 253 yards and zero TDs against one of the weakest pass defenses, Miami, last week. With a home game against another poor unit, Cassel has a chance for redemption, but it can’t be guaranteed, and you should view him as a mid-level QB2.
While we continue to speculate if there is something more wrong with Philip Rivers than meets the eye, we find Rivers with another quality matchup that will help his numbers. Sure, the interceptions are awful to look at and he did throw three more against the Packers, but he also threw for 385 yards and four TDs. Oakland presents another favorable matchup, and provides Rivers with another week of QB1 value – it’s crazy to think that’s no longer a lock for Rivers every week.
|The Rams are glad to have Bradford back, but he’s not yet Fantasy worthy. Photo Credit Atlanta_Falcons|
Christian Ponder appears to be picking up the NFL game rather quickly and that will help against the Packers. Yes, Green Bay’s defense is opportunistic and good at intercepting the ball, but they’re equally susceptible to big games and plays – see Philip Rivers’ stat line above. With Minnesota likely behind in short order, Ponder will be asked to pass a decent amount and presents nice value as a QB2 and must-start in two-QB leagues.
Are you going to bench Tom Brady? No chance. Not unless you’re insane. That said, don’t expect Top Five numbers from Brady given his recent play and the fact that New England travels to play the Jets. While three straight games with two TDs in nice, Brady also has two games with two INTs and only topped 300 yards once. In the first game versus the Jets, Brady threw for 321 yards but just one TD and an interception. Start him, but don’t pick him in Salary Cap leagues.
Hopefully everyone listened last week when I warned people not to be fooled by Tarvaris Jackson’s 323 yards versus Cincinnati. The Cowboys showed just how poorly TJax could play, as they intercepted him three times. Don’t expect different results as the Seahawks host the Ravens… uh oh.
It’s nice to see Sam Bradford back for the Rams, and it’s good news for their future, but not this week. The Rams play the Browns who sport one of the best pass defenses in the NFL and one of the game’s best corners in Joe Haden. Don’t plug Bradford back in just yet, as it’s another week where you cannot expect much production.
Oh Jay Cutler, how you love to tease. Cutler presents so much upside with his arm and occasional great games, but more often than not, he frustrates with bonehead throws and erratic play. With Chicago hosting Detroit, you don’t want Cutler as your QB. In the first matchup, Cutler threw for 249 yards and one TD, but it took 38 attempts. The Lions will have enjoyed two weeks of preparation for this game, so better numbers are not in store.
Did we just have a CJ2K sighting?! Okay, even with 110 total yards, it’s still somewhat far from being the Chris Johnson of old. Yet, that 4.6 yards per carry (YPC) average is Johnson’s best of the year. The Panthers are still the worst in the league for Fantasy points per game (FPPG) allowed to RBs at 26.2. If you have him, use him. It’s an uneasy feeling to do so, but you can’t bench him with Carolina on tap.
Maurice Jones-Drew only has three touchdowns (all rushing) on the year, but you can’t blame him much. In reality, MJD is doing everything he can to keep running well, and it’s not easy when there is little threat elsewhere on offense. The good news is that Jacksonville plays Indianapolis this week, and MJD can put up 100 yards and a score with little sweat against these Colts. Jones-Drew is back to RB1 status this week.
So, just because you’re the lead back on a team, it doesn’t mean you’ll be productive. That’s what we saw with Chris Ogbonnaya against the Texans. Granted, the Browns were down quite a bit most of the game, but Ogbo (my shorthand nickname) did have 13 carries… for 28 yards. Ugh! The Rams present a much more favorable matchup, but Ogbo is no more than a flex play. I guess you could do worse (trying to guess the Lions or Colts leader for instance).
Talk about frustrating – possibly even more so than Chris Johnson the past two weeks. First, Beanie Wells wasn’t supposed to play much against the vaunted Ravens defense and he gains 83 yards and runs for a TD. Then, Wells appears to be fine and manages just 20 yards versus the awful Rams. Seriously?! Wells gets another weak opponent with the Eagles run defense being exploitable, and it means you have to consider him a solid RB2, even with the poor output last week.
The 49ers have not allowed a single running back to run for over 64 yards. Let me say that again, 64 yards is the highest RB rushing output on the year. That was by Cedric Benson, and the other seven RBs never even broke 41 yards! Whether or not Ahmad Bradshaw plays, you cannot risk him while not being 100 percent and playing against this defense. Even if Bradshaw sits, Brandon Jacobs is not a worthy option either. Yes, I am saying Jacobs is not a RB2, as the 49ers also have not allowed a single rushing TD. They are a running back’s worst nightmare.
I had flashbacks of the Seahawks-Saints playoff game watching Marshawn Lynch run over the Cowboys defense. That will not happen against the Ravens; that’s a fact. Baltimore is holding opposing RBs to just 12.3 FPPG and 80.6 YPG. Lynch is only a flex play.
The Texans have finally turned into the team we have been expecting the past few years. That includes a well-rounded defense that is in the Top Five against the run. LeGarrette Blount is back and healthy, but he’s still iffy on third-and-short and can’t be expected to put up significant numbers against the Texans.
The running back situation in New Orleans is becoming eerily similar to their receiver dilemma in Fantasy. There is one guarantee in Darren Sproles and then a quagmire when trying to decide whom to use. Mark Ingram should return this week, but that only clouds the planned workload with Pierre Thomas and Chris Ivory even more. With the Saints facing the stout Falcons run defense, Sproles is the only RB to use.
We already know Dwayne Bowe is an every-week start, and this presents yet another week of WR1 value. Steve Breaston continues to put up big games every few weeks. Here is his chance for back-to-back big games as Denver gives up the most FPPG to receivers. Sometimes Fantasy owners don’t want to listen, even when I warned them ceaselessly not to play Jon Baldwin after one game. Please don’t make the mistake again in a week with no byes. There is no reason to dig this deep even with the matchup.
While Santonio Holmes reached the end zone for his fourth time, it was still a quiet week with eight Fantasy points. Holmes only has one game with more than four catches. The Patriots present the perfect opportunity for his best game yet. While that keeps him in WR2/3 territory, the WR1 hopes are long gone. Plaxico Burress finds himself entrenched as a WR3 given his last two games. Mark Sanchez is targeting him more often, and it’s clear he’s the main red zone option.
If we handed out Fantasy points for decoy plays, DeSean Jackson would lead the league. Too bad we don’t, and too bad DJax is killing owners. With a lost fumble against Chicago, DJax registered zero Fantasy points. That is the world of Jackson: just as many single-digit games as he has double-digit ones. A game against Arizona provides hope for one of the better outputs, but he’s far from a WR1 and he’s not far from becoming a WR3 at this point. Jeremy Maclin is clearly the more consistent and reliable option and is a solid WR2 with upside.
Greg Little continues to be the main target in Cleveland, but with Colt McCoy at QB and no running game to speak of, his potential is capped. Little is a WR4/deep league play even with a game against St. Louis. If you want the better reward play with barely higher risk, use Josh Cribbs who has 50-plus yards and a TD in each of the last two games.
Really, it doesn’t matter who the Patriots play; Wes Welker is locked in as a WR1. Welker is second only to Calvin Johnson and 14 points ahead of third place Mike Wallace. Plus, Welker notched 124 yards against the Jets the first time around. That’s where your Patriots WR options end though. Deion Branch is too inconsistent to trust in this matchup, and Chad Ochocinco should change his name to Cerocinco for his production and impact.
Brandon Lloyd, the end. That’s the only Rams WR you can trust, but be forewarned that Lloyd draws Joe Haden in coverage this week. Temper your expectations, and if you want to make the rest of the Rams receivers seem interesting, take bets on who is the next one to get hurt.
A.J. Green has certainly produced more quickly than most expected, but he will now face the toughest test of his young career. The Browns play Pittsburgh, a team that is back to playing strong defense. The Steelers allow the third fewest FPPG to receivers, and in Green’s most difficult matchup to date (49ers), he recorded just four catches and 29 yards. Green is a must-start in all leagues, but his value tops out as a WR2/3 this week. As for Jerome Simpson, he is simply too hit-or-miss to warrant play in a week with a full slate of games.
Can we have a moment of silence for Reggie Wayne? You can’t place the blame solely on him with Curtis Painter at QB instead of Peyton Manning, but it’s sad to see such a drastic drop-off. Pierre Garcon is now the lead WR in Indy, as Painter targets him most. Neither one is worth more than a WR3/4 play against the surprisingly good Jacksonville secondary. In fact, the WR3 status would on be in leagues of 12 or more.
As hot as Brandon Pettigrew was from Weeks 3-6, he’s cooled off considerably in the two games prior to the bye. The problem with Pettigrew is that his targets will always be limited as long as Tony Scheffler is around. Nevertheless, Brent Celek proved again that the Bears are the worst team against tight ends, which gives Pettigrew high-end TE2 value.
The Titans are another team that is rather forgiving for opposing tight ends. Greg Olsen provides TE1 value about half of the time, and this is a week that you can project those type of numbers with confidence.
Fred Davis put up his lowest score since the Redskins bye week with just four points against San Francisco. Keep in mind, it was the 49ers and they have one of, if not the, league’s best defenses. John Beck at QB and the loss of Santana Moss hurts their offense, but Davis is too talented to be contained by most defenses. With a game versus the Dolphins, Davis retains his TE1 status.
Kellen Winslow found the end zone! In back-to-back weeks no less! Too bad Winslow still hasn’t topped eight Fantasy points even with those scores. Now he faces a Houston team allowing just 35.3 yards and 4.9 Fantasy points per game to tight ends. Bench him, or more likely, leave him on the waiver wire.
It’s safe to say that Rob Gronkowski is the better play in New England. While Aaron Hernandez sees more targets at times, Gronk is clearly Tom Brady’s favorite option in the red zone. You have to start Gronk, but unless Hernandez is your only tight end, you can actually consider benching him. The Jets have allowed just one TD to TEs and a low average of 4.9 receptions per game.
You’ve likely moved on from Ben Watson in your league, but just in case you haven’t and/or are holding out hope that he’ll have value finding the end zone, forget about it. Watson hasn’t scored since Week 4, has just 11 points since then and faces the Rams who are the stingiest team for opposing tight ends at 3.7 per.
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