I finally can write this column with a smile on my face, as I went 2-1 in my three money leagues for my first winning record in four weeks. About damn time. It wasn’t that my choices were bad…it was just that I was getting completely outscored in all leagues. I scored a whopping 150 points in a standard 10-team league, damn near outscoring my opponent by a buck. It certainly makes the Giants loss sting much less. So while I’m riding the high from last week, let’s get into it this week! There’s a lot of fantasy goodness to be had, as we have the potential for some blowouts and some shootouts. Every fantasy relevant player will be covered! Get some, bum!
Arizona Cardinals vs. St. Louis Rams
Comfortables: Kevin Kolb, Ryan Williams, Steven Jackson, Larry Fitzgerald, Danny Amendola, Arizona Defense, St. Louis Defense
Cautions: Sam Bradford, Daryl Richardson, Todd Heap
Casualties: LaRod Stephens-Howling, Michael Floyd, Brandon Gibson, Lance Kendricks
Sleeper: Andre Roberts
The Arizona Cardinals are 4-0! Wha? How? And led by Kevin Kolb, who couldn’t even win the starting QB job in training camp, no less! The Rams are better than their record indicates, and suddenly we have a superpower division in the NFC West. Who’da thunk it? This matchup would have been groan-inducing only a year ago, but now it’s become a must-see game. I think this is going to come down to defense, as you can start both defenses comfortably. Ryan Williams becomes an interesting start because he’s essentially the only game in town. I still wouldn’t trust Sam Bradford to lead your fantasy team as a QB1, but I’ve been rolling with Kevin Kolb as a Superflex in one league the past couple of weeks to decent results. Andre Roberts went off last week, so I will expect an increase in targets this week (as well as an increase in attention, hence why I have him listed as a sleeper).
Prediction: John Canton’s going to like this one…upset special! The Rams shock the Cardinals and pull it out at home, knocking off one of the last three unbeaten teams.
Miami Dolphins vs. Cincinnati Bengals
Comfortables: Andy Dalton, Reggie Bush, BenJarvis Green-Ellis, Brian Hartline, AJ Green, Andrew Hawkins, Cincinnati Defense
Cautions: Ryan Tannehill, Daniel Thomas, Davone Bess, Anthony Fasano, Jermaine Gresham, Miami Defense
Casualties: Lamar Miller, Bernard Scott
Sleeper: Armon Binns
Reggie Bush looked good coming off his knee injury two weeks ago, so I feel safe starting him (even though I didn’t start him last week…blame the 4:25 start time). Brian Hartline rose to the top of the receiver depth chart and is now Ryan Tannehill’s go-to option in the Dolphins receiving corps. He’s a must-start WR3. I’m also moving Andrew Hawkins into must-start territory, as he’s proven to produce week after week. It’s not a fluke anymore. The Bengals offense in general has been extremely impressive, and Andy Dalton is easily a fantasy starter. It helps when you’ve got a guy like AJ Green catching your passes.
Prediction: Cincy’s D capitalizes on one too many Tannehill mistakes, and the Bengals win at home.
Green Bay Packers vs. Indianapolis Colts
Comfortables: Aaron Rodgers, Cedric Benson, Donald Brown, Jordy Nelson, Reggie Wayne, Jermichael Finley, Green Bay Defense
Cautions: Andrew Luck, Greg Jennings (if he plays), Randall Cobb, James Jones, Donnie Avery, Coby Fleener
Casualties: Delone Carter, Vick Ballard, T.Y. Hilton, Dwayne Allen, Indianapolis Defense
Sleeper: Donald Driver
Unfortunately, as Sean Payton’s absence has proved, the team without a head coach is in for some trouble. After the news that Colts head coach Chuck Pagano was diagnosed with a treatable form of Leukemia, Indianapolis now finds itself without its head coach for six weeks. That’s too long, especially if you have an offense like Green Bay coming into town. Start all the starting Packers, with the possible exception of Greg Jennings, who re-aggravated his groin during last week’s game against the Saints. I really like James Jones as a starter and Donald Driver as a sleeper if Jennings can’t go. Indy will be behind, so they’ll have to throw, with Reggie Wayne being the primary benefactor. I can see Wayne getting a Dwayne Bowe-like garbage time TD. Coby Fleener disappeared off the face of the earth two weeks ago, so I have to downgrade him to a Caution. I hope he can prove me wrong.
Prediction: Without its captain to steer the ship, Indy succumbs to Green Bay’s juggernaut offense.
Baltimore Ravens vs. Kansas City Chiefs
Comfortables: Joe Flacco, Ray Rice, Jamaal Charles, Torrey Smith, Anquan Boldin, Dwayne Bowe, Dennis Pitta, Baltimore Defense
Cautions: Jacoby Jones
Casualties: Matt Cassel, Peyton Hillis, Shaun Draughn, Dexter McCluster, Bernard Pierce, Tony Moeaki, Kansas City Defense
Sleeper: Jonathan Baldwin
Poor, poor Matt Cassel. He is in for a long day. And the poor Chiefs Defense that can’t stop a nosebleed will be torched by Joe Flacco and the offense all day. I’ve moved up Anquan Boldin to a must start, as he’ll get some possession catches throughout the game. I don’t know why Flacco wasn’t looking Dennis Pitta’s way last Thursday, but I don’t think that’s a trend that’s going to continue this game. Bench Pitta at your own risk. The only Chiefs I feel comfortable starting are Jamaal Charles and the king of the garbage time TD, Dwayne Bowe.
Prediction: The Ravens stomp a mudhole in Matt Cassell and walk it dry.
Tennessee Titans vs. Minnesota Vikings
Comfortables: Christian Ponder, Adrian Peterson, Percy Harvin, Kyle Rudolph, Minnesota Defense
Cautions: All starting Titans players (including defense), Jerome Simpson
Casualties: Toby Gerhart
Sleeper: Darius Reynaud
Here you have a battle of the previous two teams to beat the Lions. Minnesota’s been DAMN impressive lately, not only knocking off Detroit but also upsetting San Francisco two weeks ago. You have to like them in this matchup, so start all your starting Vikings. Chris Johnson broke 100 yards last week, but a majority of his production came when the game was already out of hand. I don’t foresee him having a repeat performance against a Vikings D that shut down Mikel Leishore. I don’t like the Titans offensively at all, especially with Jake Locker out, so start any Titan with caution. Darius Reynaud is a sleeper because he might get some garbage time opportunities.
Prediction: Minnesota continues to ride their hot streak and pounds an overmatched Tennessee team.
Atlanta Falcons vs. Washington Redskins
Comfortables: Matt Ryan, Robert Griffin III, Michael Turner, Alfred Morris, Julio Jones, Roddy White, Pierre Garcon, Tony Gonzalez, Atlanta Defense
Cautions: Jacquizz Rodgers, Santana Moss, Fred Davis, Washington Defense
Casualties: Ryan Grant, Evan Royster, Harry Douglas
Sleeper: Leonard Hankinson
The Falcons keep finding ways to win, don’t they? It was tough sledding for a while against Carolina last week, and now they play a Washington team with the same style of quarterback, going from Cam Newton to RG3. You have to figure that Atlanta has figured out some sort of gameplan to stop that kind of mobile quarterback. I think both Michael Turner and Alfred Morris will bruise their way to big days on the ground. Julio Jones is frustrating because he can go off or go quiet. But there’s no way anybody should bench him. Roddy White is liquid gold. Atlanta’s defense also considers a start because they’re a veteran group looking to prey on a rookie QB who has put the ball on the ground before.
Prediction: Washington keeps it close, but Atlanta stays undefeated with a big road win.
Cleveland Browns vs. New York Giants
Comfortables: Eli Manning, Ahmad Bradshaw, Andre Brown, Victor Cruz, Hakeem Nicks (if he plays), Martellus Bennett, New York Defense
Cautions: David Wilson, Domenik Hixon
Casualties: Any Brown not named Trent Richardson (including defense), Ramses Barden
Sleeper: Reuben Randle
You’d think I’d be upset after the Giants’ loss to the Eagles last Sunday night, but I’m not too worried. The Giants weren’t screwed. They just played a chess match against a worthy opponent and lost. But I could write an entire column on my thoughts on Giants/Eagles. All you need to know is that they are going to whoop on the Browns in the NFL’s version of a cupcake game. As usual, the only Brown worth starting is Trent Richardson, and even now I’m not too thrilled about his chances against a pissed off Giant team. All starting Giants deserve a fantasy start, including both Ahmad Bradshaw and Andre Brown, as Brown might get more touches once this game is out of hand. If Nicks is ruled out again, upgrade Domenik Hixon to start status.
Prediction: It’s a massacre. Pray for Brandon Weeden.
Philadelphia Eagles vs. Pittsburgh Steelers
Comfortables: Michael Vick, Ben Roethlisberger, LeSean McCoy, DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin, Mike Wallace, Antonio Brown, Brent Celek, Heath Miller
Cautions: Jonathan Dwyer, Philadelphia Defense, Pittsburgh Defense
Casualties: Isaac Redman, Bryce Brown, Jason Avant, Emmanuel Sanders
Sleeper: Rashard Mendenhall
The Battle of Pennsylvania! I like all starting options for both teams except for the Pittsburgh backfield. Rashard Mendenhall is going to make his return, but he won’t be 100%, and that’s going to make the split between him, Jonathan Dwyer and Isaac Redman even more confusing than usual. Stay away for a week and see how the touches fall. Other than that, I expect this to be an offensive explosion. I’d stay away from the defenses if I could.
Prediction: Big Ben outscores Vick as the Steelers hang on to win at home.
Seattle Seahawks vs. Carolina Panthers
Comfortables: Cam Newton, Marshawn Lynch, Steve Smith, Greg Olsen, Seattle Defense
Cautions: Russell Wilson, DeAngelo Williams, Jonathan Stewart, Sidney Rice, Carolina Defense
Casualties: Robert Turbin, Mike Tolbert, Doug Baldwin, Golden Tate, Brandon LaFell, Anthony McCoy
Well, Cam Newton got his stats last week against Atlanta, but I wouldn’t say he had a good game in the real sense. He still can’t prove that he can lead his team to victory (he has a losing record as a starter), but he’s still good for fantasy (still doesn’t justify the second round price tag, especially when cheaper guys like Matt Ryan, Ben Roethlisberger and Matt Schaub have gone off). I don’t expect a lot of high-octane offense here. Seattle’s D will clamp down on Cam, and I don’t expect anybody outside of his top two targets (Smith and Olsen) to benefit. As always, it’s a complete crapshoot who out of DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart will get the stats.
Prediction: Seattle’s defenses forces Newton to make a mistake too many, and Seattle grinds out a huge road win.
Chicago Bears vs. Jacksonville Jaguars
Comfortables: Jay Cutler, Matt Forte, Maurice Jones-Drew, Brandon Marshall, Chicago Defense
Cautions: Michael Bush, Alshon Jeffery, Kellen Davis, Mercedes Lewis, Jacksonville Defense
Casualties: Blaine Gabbert, Khalil Bell, Rashad Jennings, Devin Hester, Earl Bennett, Justin Blackmon, Laurent Robinson, Cecil Shorts
Sleeper: Dane Sanzenbacher
Wow! How bout that Bears defense? I personally think Tony Romo is overrated as a quarterback, but he’s at least better than Blaine Gabbert, and if Chicago can go into Romo’s house and do what they did to him, does Blaine even stand a chance here? Start MJD and nobody else from Jacksonville (you can risk the defense hoping that they can get a couple turnovers and sacks out of Jay Cutler, but I wouldn’t recommend it). I don’t actually think Dane Sanzenbacher will be a sleeper, I just like typing his name. Dane Sanzenbacher.
Denver Broncos vs. New England Patriots
Comfortables: Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Willis McGahee, Stevan Ridley, Demariyus Thomas, Eric Decker, Brandon Lloyd, Wes Welker, Jacob Tamme, Rob Gronkowski
Cautions: Danny Woodhead, Denver Defense
Casualties: Lance Ball, Ronnie Hillman, Knowshown Moreno, Julian Edelman, New England Defense
Sleeper: Brandon Bolden
The more things change, the more they stay the same. Peyton Manning vs. Tom Brady. Gentlemen, start your engines! All starters get the nod. On Welker, on Ridley, on Gronkowski and Lloyd! On Decker, on Tamme, on Thomas and McGahee! Denver’s D only gets a caution because they’ve been very good lately, but Brady and the Pats officially went into Eff You mode last week against the Bills, and I think the pedal has finally gone to the floor. Anybody who invested in the Patriot passing game (ahem) has to be bothered by the fact that they’re trying to be multidimensional and add a running game this season, but there’s been plenty to go around on this offense. Brandon Bolden is a must-roster guy, as he may have overtaken Shane Vereen on the depth chart, but I’d hold off on starting him unless the Patriots play a team they can destroy.
Prediction: Brady out-guns Manning and the Patriots win a big one at home.
Buffalo Bills vs. San Francisco 49ers
Comfortables: Alex Smith, Frank Gore, Michael Crabtree, Scott Chandler, Vernon Davis, San Francisco Defense
Cautions: Ryan Fitzpatrick, Fred Jackson, CJ Spiller, Stevie Johnson, Donald Jones, Mario Manningham
Casualties: Tashard Choice, Kendall Hunter, LaMichael James, Randy Moss, Buffalo Defense
Sleeper: Colin Kapernick
This week seems to be “lambs to the slaughter” week. Chiefs to the Ravens, Browns to the Giants, Jaguars to the Bears, and now this. I was one of the poor unfortunate souls who had to face the San Francisco Defense last week, and single-handedly lost because of them (didn’t help that I started Santonio Holmes, who gift-wrapped a touchdown for the San Fran D and basically accounted for a 10 point swing in my matchup). The only Bill I like this week is Scott Chandler, who has been making some tremendous catches for touchdowns. You know Ryan Fitzpatrick will be throwing with the Bills down, and he’ll do better than Mark Sanchez. I actually don’t mind Fitzy this week as he’ll get some serious garbage time yardage, but another multi-interception game is inevitable. What to do about the Bills running backs? I have to start Fred Jackson this week because all better options are on bye, but I don’t feel great about it. The Bills had no business trotting CJ Spiller out there last week coming off a separated shoulder, and now the backfield situation is more unstable than ever. You shouldn’t have confidence even if they were going against a good defense, but they’re playing an elite D. The best hope is that the Bills can get the ball to the 1 and just hand it off (although if you started Spiller last week, you know that’s not a guarantee).
Prediction: San Francisco muzzles the Bills.
San Diego Chargers vs. New Orleans Saints
Comfortables: Philip Rivers, Drew Brees, Ryan Matthews, Darren Sproles, Malcolm Floyd, Marques Colston, Antonio Gates, Jimmy Graham
Cautions: Jackie Battle, Pierre Thomas, Lance Moore
Casualties: Ronnie Brown, Mark Ingram, Eddie Royal, Devery Henderson, Dante Rosario, San Diego Defense, New Orleans Defense
Sleeper: Robert Meachem
I’ll bet the schedule makers wish they could take back giving New Orleans four prime time games this year. At least they make things exciting. So hey…if you were stashing Robert Meachem or dropped him entirely, this is the week he starts, and here’s why. 2012 has already been the year of the revenge game for players going against their former team from 2011: Martellus Bennett against the Cowboys, Joel Dreessen against the Texans, Kevin Kolb against the Eagles, and Jackie Battle against the Chiefs last week. They all had great games. If there’s any week for Robert Meachem to go off, this is the one. Remember, I called it here first. This also has to be the week Antonio Gates goes off, right? RIGHT? Brees will get his stats, as will the big three targets (Sproles, Colston, and Graham). Don’t you dare think of starting either defense.
Prediction: New Orleans finally gets their first win at home.
Houston Texans vs. New York Jets
Comfortables: Matt Schaub, Arian Foster, Andre Johnson, Owen Daniels, Houston Defense
Cautions: Ben Tate, Kevin Walter
Casualties: ALL JETS!!!
Sleeper: James Casey (or Teeeeeeeeeeebow!)
The final lamb goes to the slaughter. The line for this game is 7.5 in favor of the Texans. That seems ridiculously low. No Revis, no Holmes, no hope. No Jet gets started this week. None. Not even the defense. So enough about Gangrene. What to make of Ben Tate? I know he’s got weeks like Week 2 in him (where he spells Arian Foster and gets serious stats), and this week seems like the week that Tate will get work when the game is out of hand, but it was out of hand last week, and Gary Kubiak left Foster in the game well after it had been decided. James Casey scored last week (and had scored a couple times last year) but he’s only for the most desperate this week.
Prediction: Sanchez sucks again, and the Jets go to Tebow Time, but it’s too late.
For my final tallies, I’m really high on QB play this week, as I’ve tabbed 18 of the 28 starters as Comfortables. I also think Tight Ends will prosper, with 15 of them earning a Comfortable tag. Where I’m down is on the Wide Receivers (and that has to do with Detroit, Tampa Bay and Dallas being on bye…no Megatron, no V-Jax, no Dez and no Miles), so only 30 are Comfortables. Finally, 23 running backs are good to go, and I’m only high on 12 defenses.
Good luck, and god help you if you have to play against the 49ers or Texans defense.