By Anthony Stampone
Position by position Start’em, Sit’em, and Sleeper look at fantasy Hashtag Style
Carson Palmer: A week after dismantling one of the NFL’s best pass defenses, look to Palmer to do it again this week when they face-off against the Bengals. This offense seems to move the ball at will and there really doesn’t seem like there is a defense in the NFL that can stop this potent passing attack. Chris Johnson helps matters being the 2nd leading rushing in the NFL, look for the Cardinals to run early to set-up the play action pass against a banged up secondary and have their way all day.
Derek Carr: Aaron Rodgers may have had problems moving the ball through the air last week against the Lions defense, don’t expect the same for the Raiders. This is a young, talented, and more importantly health passing attack. Carr has grown by leaps and bounds this season and has the ability to blow a game open fast. This Lions defense isn’t as good as they looked last week and Carr will show that this week.
Ryan Tannehill: After showing progression year over year for his first few seasons, Tannehill has taken a giant step back this year after getting his monster contract extension this offseason. He is better than his numbers show and a lot of his trouble can be attributed to his offensive line, which isn’t going to change this week. Dallas is finally getting healthy on both sides of the ball and since Hardy has come off his suspension he has been attacking QB’s with the veracity of a starved lion. Sean Lee is also back which is the big for the Cowboys as he is excellent at stopping the run, rushing the passer, and defending the pass. Tannehill will eventually come back around, just not this week.
Andy Dalton: To quote the best defensive player in the league and arguably the best player in the whole NFL JJ Watt, “We made the Red Rifle look like the Red Rider BB Gun.” And that about sums up last weeks performance by Dalton against a very weak Houston defense. This week things aren’t going to be any better as the BB Gun has to face the vaunted Cardinals defense. The Cardinals have a fast a furious defense that has the skill, speed, and athleticism to make things very difficult for Dalton and the Bengals quick strike offense. Because the Cardinals may blow this game wide open they may get some late game yards and points, but it won’t be enough to play Dalton. Sit him!
Sleepers: Tyrod Taylor, Mark Sanchez, Matt Ryan
Jonathan Stewart: Many prognosticators like to say, “If you don’t have an elite QB, you aren’t going anywhere in the league.” The Panthers are proving them wrong (Yes, that is me implying that Newton is NOT elite!). The Panthers are limited on offense but still cannot be stopped and much of that has to do with the dual threat of Newton and Stewart out of the backfield. The Redskins have a terrible rush defense (it started strong but has had a lot of trouble lately), and the Panthers are one of the best rushing offenses in the league and have a very strong defense. Expect the Panthers to jump out to an early lead with their defense forcing Cousins into mistakes and the Panthers pounding the rock with Stewart all day to keep drives going and putting points on the board.
Devonta Freeman: After starting off the season like a firecracker, racking up 100+ yard games and touchdowns like a varsity RB going against a JV defense, Freeman has since slowed down. Play him with confidence this week as he will get back on track against a weak Indy defensive front seven. While the Colts have gotten a little healthier and have played a little better of late, they are still weak against a good running team, and the Falcons can pound the rock. Atlanta will look to get themselves back on track and Indy is right for the picking with 40 year old back up QB and a weak defense. Freeman will be heavily involved into Shannon’s game plan and will get a ton of touches and yards.
Darren McFadden: As the Cowboys look to get their first win since week two, they couldn’t have asked for a better situation than to have to face the floundering Dolphins who’s “Bad Boy” mentality has already wore off. They are still highly susceptible to being passed on which sets up the run. Problem for McFadden is he will enter and start this game with a groin injury. For a back like McFadden this is a terrible injury that will clearly affect him during this game. McFadden needs his up legs to draw power to burst through holes as he has never really had impressive speed and is a one cut power back. Losing some of that power and burst is going to affect him even against a bad Miami run defense. Once Dallas gets a lead in this game look for McFadden to see a drop in his touches this week and play in spot duty as a pass blocker as the game progresses.
Melvin Gordon: It hurts me to have to say it but it is time for me to just admit it; Gordon isn’t performing as I said he would when he came into this league. There are a lot of reasons I can list as to why, and most of them are legitimate objective points, however some of them are sour grapes so I’ll just leave that area alone for now. Gordon does actually carry the load so to speak for the Chargers rushing offense, but that only means 10-15 carries per game at the most, and then being replaced by Danny Woodhead on all passing downs and situations. If someone in your league still thinks he’ll break out and like his potential like I do, see if you can get a RB2 or flex player for him.
Sleepers: Frank Gore, Chris Ivory, Chacandrick West
Demaryius Thomas: Even with Peyton Manning benched this week due to injuries and inconsistent play, Thomas will get his catches and yards. Play him with confidence, especially in PPR settings as I suspect that Kubiak won’t stray far from hi game plan to throw a lot of WO screens Thomas’ way as well as intermediate routes to take the pressure off of his young first time starting QB. Thomas’ size, speed, and ball skills are as good as most if not all in the league and can be just the guy to lean on in the passing game to protect an inexperienced QB.
Sammy Watkins: This is the perfect time to play Sammy and know he will produce for you. Yes, everyone knows that Belichick loves to take away what you do best on offense, but right now that isn’t Watkins, it’s the Bills running game. This game is going to be a shoot-out and the Bills will at some point have to rely on the pass to stay in this game. Watkins and Taylor have been coming along nicely as the season has progressed with their chemistry, and there really isn’t a single DB on the Patriots that can stay with Sammy play in and play out. He will get his targets and catches, and if the Pats secondary looks like it did last week versus the Giants, Sammy could be in for a really big game.
Brandon LaFell: I do not care how great Tom Brady is, the loss of Dion Lewis and Julian Edelman is huge. It complete changes the way defenses will play them for the rest of the year and will leave more defenders open to shutting down Gronkowski, Amendola, and LaFell. LaFell of the three will miss them as much as Brady as he was often the beneficiary of the coverages that Lewis and Edelman commanded when they are on the field. Buffalo has one of the best CB duo’s in the league so it doesn’t matter which one he lines up against they are going to give him fits all day. Bench LaFell this week with the Bills strong and complex secondary coming town.
DeAndre Hopkins: First, let me preface this decision by making something clear; Sammy Watkins did now “OWN” Revis last week. Yes, one the first play of the game he made him look silly and had the pass been on target Watkins was gone for the TD, and yes on that crucial 3rd down late in the 4th, Watkins put the moves on Revis to get open and get that all important game clinching 1st down. But let’s be realistic, Watkins had 3 catches for 14 yards. I am sorry but those numbers don’t scream “dominance” or “owning” a DB, Revis is still Revis for the most part, and that will continue this week. Hopkins has been outstanding this season, even with subpar QB play. But Revis is Revis and he is going to bump, jam, grab, and flat out shadow Hopkins all day as the Jets know the Texans can’t run the ball and are going to have to pass the ball and where they are going to attempt to throw it at. Good luck DeAndre, you are going to need it this week.
Sleepers: Steve Johnson, Tavon Austin, Roddy White
Jason Witten: All Witten and Dez Bryant owners have to be breathing a sigh of relief. If these guys are available in your league(s) due to their dips in production due to their own injuries or Romo’s snag them up now. As good as Romo to Bryant passing combo has been over the last few years, Witten is still Romo’s man and he will get plenty of targets as Romo looks to get back into game shape in a favorable match up this week for both Romo and Witten playing Miami since the Dolphins pass defense, especially cover LBs are weak.
Greg Olsen: That’s all that needs to be said…….
Jordan Reed: When he has been healthy, Reed has been a very productive TE this season. Unfortunately for Reed his team faces the undefeated Panthers that are proving with each passing week that they are not a fluke. Their LBs are amongst the best in the league in coverage without CB or Safety help, and if the Panther think they need to roll a little extra coverage to stop Reed, they can and will without worry about the rest of the field with Norman making his case as possibly the best CB in the NFL this season.
Jordan Cameron: His production has been missing since his break-out season and no one seems to have an answer as to why. One can speculate it’s because he can’t stay healthy which is 100% correct. Either way he isn’t playing to his ability and with facing the rejuvenated Cowboys defense this week that also has a good group of LBs that can hang in coverage with TEs like the Panthers, he will continue his poor production and should not only be benched, but if you are in a tight race for the playoffs, flat out drop him and check the waiver wire for another TE such as Gilmore Crockett from the Ravens to get more production from your TE position.
Sleepers: Gilmore Crockett, Charles Clay, Richard Rodgers
Carolina Panthers: This defense just doesn’t stop and may be one of the best ball hawking defenses we have saw in quite some time. The Redskins go as Kirk Cousins goes, and the Panthers aren’t letting him go anywhere. They will get after, confuse, and frustrate Cousins early and often. Expect points for sacks, TFLs, and INTs this week from the Panthers.
New York Jets: After being run all over by the Bills the Jets will bounce back this week as they face the Texans being led by TJ Yates. Yates isn’t scaring anyone and the Jets secondary even being banged up has to be licking their chops knowing they will have chances for easy interceptions this week. The defensive front will get after Yates and get some sacks and force him to move Yates off his spots and into bad passing positions.
Cincinnati Bengals: Strong up to this point in the season, they will not hold up this week. As good as the Bengals are as a unit they struggle against the run, something the Cardinals do well. The Cardinals will pound the ball with CJ2K and Andre Ellington and then pick them apart down field with play action. Sorry Bengals fans but your team is going to get spanked.
New England Patriots: This is going to be a high scoring affair and that is never a good time to play any defense. Another reason to consider sitting NE’s defense is the Bills run game. As long as the Bills keep the score close they will continue to throw thunder and lightning at the Pats and will prove that that 4th ranked rush defense is a false stat. I often refer to DVOA rankings and say how much I like these rankings over ranking systems out there due to their ability to take circumstances or situations into consideration when ranking teams, and again they are correct and have a more realistic ranking of 12th for the Pat against the run. What other metrics aren’t considering I that most teams abandon the run to keep up with the Pats high flying, point scoring offense. So other sites that don’t consider this have them overrated. The Bills will do whatever they can to keep this game close all game, which will include running the ball, A LOT, to keep the ball out of Brady’s hands. The Bill just carved up the NFL’s top rushing defense, there is little doubt they can’t do it against a weaker unit.
Sleepers: Buffalo Bills, St Louis Rams, Seattle Seahawks