The Week 9 Byepocalypse was felt across the fantasy community, especially at the wide receiver position. With nine regular starting fantasy receivers taking a seat last week, guys like Allen Hurns, Odell Beckham Jr., Taylor Gabriel, Corey Washington and Jarvis Landry were among the top-24 scorers at the position last week. Receivers aren’t quite as affected this week, but another Byepocaplypse is upon us.
Teams with a bye in Week 10 include New England, Indianapolis, San Diego, Minnesota, Houston and Washington. That means three of the top-five scoring quarterbacks (Andrew Luck, Tom Brady, Philip Rivers) are out. All six of those teams contribute a regular starting running back to the fantasy community, including top-10 scorers Arian Foster, Ahmad Bradshaw and Alfred Morris.
Finally, three of fantasy’s top-seven tight ends -- Rob Gronkowski, Antonio Gates and Julius Thomas -- are out, as is a fourth, Jordan Reed, who generally starts for his owner.
Who will be the surprise starters at quarterback, running back and tight end this week? Find out in the Week 10 edition of Start ‘Em or Sit ‘Em.
The following recommendations are based on 12-team leagues that start one quarterback, two running backs, two receivers, one RB/WR flex, one tight end and one defense. Starters include the top-12 quarterbacks, tight ends and defenses and top-24 running backs and receivers. The remaining backs and receivers are considered for the flex position, with the best 12 players making it as starters.
Cleveland Browns at Cincinnati Bengals
Browns: Terrance West
West played more snaps and got more carries than Ben Tate last week. He also scored on a two-yard pass from Brian Hoyer. Tate has been dreadful the last three weeks, running for 65 yards on 41 carries. Don’t expect the breakdown from last week to just be a one-week anomaly. All signs point to West taking over as the lead back in Cleveland. Having said that, he’s still a low-end RB2 in this matchup. The Browns’ running game has been a mess ever since center Alex Mack broke his leg. This is a start recommendation based purely on volume. If West doesn’t find the end zone, chances are he does not have a good night for his fantasy owners.
Bengals: Andy Dalton, Jeremy Hill, A.J. Green, Mohamed Sanu, Bengals DST
Hill took advantage of his chance to start last week, rumbling for 154 yards and two touchdowns in the win over the Jaguars. Giovani Bernard will likely miss another game because of his injured hip, especially on a short week. The Browns have allowed a back to reach double-digit fantasy points in six of their eight games. Green gets healthier by the week, and teaming him with Sanu gives the Bengals, and Dalton, one of the best receiving duos in the league. Dalton slides into the starting class at quarterback, while Green and Sanu are comfortable plays.
Browns: Brian Hoyer, Ben Tate, Isaiah Crowell, Andrew Hawkins (thigh), Taylor Gabriel, Travis Benjamin, Jordan Cameron (concussion), Browns DST
It’s almost a misnomer to say that Tate ran for 65 yards on 41 carries in his last three games, if only because there was so little running involved. He’ll continue to have a role in the offense, but his days as a regular fantasy starter are over. Crowell didn’t play a down last week, and shouldn’t be owned at this point. Hawkins hasn’t yet practiced this week, and could very well miss the divisional clash with the Bengals, thanks in large part to the short week. Fantasy owners can’t even think about Hoyer if he’s without both Hawkins and Cameron.
Bengals: Giovani Bernard (hip), Brandon Tate, Jermaine Gresham
It’s a shame for Bernard owners – unless they also own Hill – that he’s out for Thursday’s game. This would have been a great matchup for him, as it is for the rookie from LSU. It stings even more knowing that Bernard may have had a chance to play if this were anything but the Thursday night game. It’s a rough bye week for tight ends, so if you’re absolutely desperate you could think about rolling Gresham out there, but even those among us who are grasping at straws should be able to do better
Kansas City Chiefs at Buffalo Bills
Chiefs: Jamaal Charles, Travis Kelce, Chiefs DST
The Bills have been very tough on running backs this year, allowing just 3.28 yards per carry and three rushing touchdowns. They have been hurt by backs that can catch the ball, though, most notably by Matt Forte (eight catches, 87 yards) and Arian Foster (seven catches, 55 yards). Expect Charles to do the same. Even if Kelce doesn’t play more than 60 percent of the Chiefs’ snaps, he’s going to make something happen. He’s getting a huge 9.98 yards per target this season. The Bills are one-dimensional on offense without Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller, and the Chiefs have one of the league’s best pass rushes, led by Justin Houston.
Bills: Sammy Watkins
The Bills have had two weeks to prepare for this game, but it’s still only Watkins who is worth starting for fantasy owners. Unfortunately, he left Wednesday’s practice with a groin injury, calling into question his status for Sunday’s game. Watkins has been a monster with Kyle Orton under center, catching 21 passes for 393 yards and three touchdowns. He had nearly as many yards in his last game,157, as he did in four games with EJ Manuel as the starter. The Chiefs have been rather stingy against receivers this year, but Watkins has become matchup-proof halfway through his rookie season.
Chiefs: Alex Smith, Knile Davis, Dwayne Bowe, A.J. Jenkins
Smith has had a pair of dream matchups in the last two weeks, going up against the Rams and Jets. Smith combined for just 422 yards and two touchdowns in those games, finishing 27th and 16th at the quarterback position in weekly rankings. And remember, one of those scores was almost certainly the flukiest touchdown pass we’ll see all season. The Bills have allowed the sixth-fewest fantasy points per game to quarterbacks this year. Don’t expect Smith to suddenly turn it on against them. As is the case with the other Chiefs in this section, benching him is an easy choice.
Bills: Kyle Orton, Anthony Dixon, Bryce Brown, Fred Jackson (groin), Robert Woods, Scott Chandler, Bills DST
With six teams on bye this week, it’s understandable that some owners may be thinking about starting Dixon or Brown this week. Unless you have no other option, that would be a bad choice. There’s no clarity in this backfield, but it appears Dixon, who had who ran for 44 yards on 22 carries in Buffalo’s last game, will again lead the committee. He isn’t good enough to overcome a Chiefs defense that has allowed the third-fewest fantasy points per game to running backs, and Brown is unlikely to get enough touches to put up a meaningful fantasy game. Keep an eye on Jackson, who practiced in a limited capacity on Wednesday. If he’s able to do the same the next couple days, he could very well start for the Bills.
Miami Dolphins at Detroit Lions
Dolphins: Lamar Miller (shoulder), Mike Wallace, Charles Clay, Dolphins DST
Miller is dealing with a bit of a shoulder injury suffered in the win over the Chargers last week, but he's expected to play Sunday. His injury, combined with the tough matchup against the Lions, downgrades him to an RB2, but he’s still a slam-dunk fantasy starter. Clay has come on strong in recent weeks, going north of 11 fantasy points in two of his last three games. Wallace’s production has slowed in Miami’s last two games, even with Ryan Tannehill playing like one of the best quarterbacks in the league. The Lions have allowed the second-fewest fantasy points per game to receivers, making Wallace a low-end WR2.
Lions: Matthew Stafford, Joique Bell, Reggie Bush, Calvin Johnson, Golden Tate, Lions DST
After limping through two games and sitting for another three because of a high ankle sprain, it appears Johnson is back at 100 percent, or something near it. He may not be full Megatron, but he’s almost there, making him a lock for fantasy lineups. His presence helps Stafford, who owners can now get back into their lineups with confidence this week. It hurts Tate, though, who has been the No. 8 receiver in fantasy over the last five weeks. Bush is a speculative recommendation here, but it sounds like he will be able to return from an ankle injury of his own this week.
Dolphins: Ryan Tannehill, Damien Williams, Daniel Thomas, Brian Hartline, Jarvis Landry
Tannehill has averaged 22 fantasy points per game over the last five weeks, but he didn’t see anything like the Detroit defense in that stretch. He has averaged 45.4 rushing yards per game on his hot streak, but the Lions have the sort of speed and discipline up front to negate that. They’ve allowed the fewest points per game to quarterbacks this year, holding every one they’ve played, other than Drew Brees, to less than 20 points. Even if we find out before Sunday that Miller will be out or limited because of his shoulder injury, fantasy owners won’t want to turn to Williams or Thomas. Even with an increase in volume, they would be bad plays against this defense.
Lions: Corey Fuller, Jeremy Ross, Eric Ebron
Ebron may be able to return from a hamstring injury this week, but he hasn’t yet participated in practice this week. No matter what, the three guys listed above are only on the radar in the deepest of formats.
Dallas Cowboys at Jacksonville Jaguars
Cowboys: DeMarco Murray, Dez Bryant, Terrance Williams, Jason Witten, Cowboys DST
Even with the uncertainty at the quarterback position, everyone of fantasy relevance on the Dallas offense is worth starting this week. Murray and Bryant are easy plays, even though Bryant didn’t catch a pass until the fourth quarter with Brandon Weeden under center last week. Williams gets downgraded to a flex with Weeden, but he still registers as a starter during a week where six teams are on bye. Witten has been more of a factor in the passing game over the last two weeks, catching 11 passes for 132 yards and a touchdown. Whether it’s Weeden or a banged-up Romo, chances are there will be more plays made in the short and intermediate parts of the field, which bodes well for the tight end.
Jaguars: Denard Robinson, Allen Robinson
In three short weeks, Robinson has transformed from a gimmick into a must-start running back. He has 329 yards and two touchdowns on 57 carries in his last three games, all while still learning how to play the running back position. The Cowboys haven’t surrendered many huge games to running backs this year, but they have allowed a back to score double-digit fantasy points five times in nine weeks. Blake Bortles may have to put the ball in the air a whole lot this week, and that would be great for Allen Robinson. The allure of the potential garbage-time touchdown is too strong to pass up.
Cowboys: Tony Romo (back), Brandon Weeden, Cole Beasley
Even if Romo is able to play this week, it will be hard to trust him as a fantasy starter. Weeden was absolutely terrible last week, holding back the Dallas offense at every turn. Romo’s mere presence on the field would make the Cowboys far more dangerous. At the same time, they should be able to handle the Jaguars regardless of who starts at quarterback, so they may take it easy with Romo for one more week, especially with their bye looming in Week 11.
Jaguars: Blake Bortles, Toby Gerhart, Allen Hurns, Cecil Shorts, Clay Harbor, Jaguars DST
The Jaguars played primarily three-receiver sets last week for the first time this season, and Hurns took advantage. He caught seven passes for 112 yards and two touchdowns, marking the first time he hit paydirt since Week 3. Given that the Jaguars scored 20-plus points for the first time all year last week, expect them to continue rolling out plenty of three-receiver looks. Still, this is a bad matchup for Hurns and all the Jacksonville receivers. I’m still leaning toward Allen Robinson if I’m going with any of them because he generally gets the most targets. Harbor is one of a number of tight ends who could make a spot start this week with four regular starters on bye, but I prefer Heath Miller and Mychal Rivera.
San Francisco 49ers at New Orleans Saints
49ers: Frank Gore, Anquan Boldin
This offense has looked terrible in its last two games. Even in a great matchup with a thinned-out pool of receivers, only Boldin makes it as a starter. The Saints have allowed the sixth-most fantasy points per game to receivers this season. After last week’s debacle against the Rams, expect to see a lot more touches for Gore against the Saints. I would also expect the 49ers to want to slow this game down and keep Drew Brees and company on the sidelines as long as possible. The more possessions there are in this game, the worse the 49ers’ chances of coming out with a much-needed win.
Saints: Drew Brees, Mark Ingram, Brandin Cooks, Marques Colston, Jimmy Graham, Saints DST
There has been a lot of “sell Mark Ingram” recommendations out there, and I disagree with them wholeheartedly. Other than his first game back from a broken hand, Ingram has at least 16.4 fantasy points in all of his games this season. This version of the Saints’ offense is clearly better with a heavy run presence, and Ingram is the only guy in New Orleans who can provide that. His per-game scoring will almost certainly taper off a bit, but he’s a strong RB2 for the rest of the season. Colston admittedly only gets in as a starter due to all the byes this week.
49ers: Colin Kaepernick, Carlos Hyde, Michael Crabtree, Steve Johnson, Vernon Davis, 49ers DST
It’s shocking how poorly Kaepernick played last week coming off a bye against a weak Rams defense. The Rams had six sacks all season entering the game. They got eight against the 49ers. This Saints group may not be much better, but the 49ers have an offense in disarray. Kaepernick hasn’t been terrible when looking at his full season numbers, but he has been among the top-10 quarterbacks in an individual week just once. He has been outside the top 20 twice. Even in a great matchup, Crabtree belongs on your bench. The last time he had 50 receiving yards in a game, the San Francisco Giants had lost three games in a row and were backpedaling into the playoffs.
Saints: Pierre Thomas (shoulder), Khiry Robinson (forearm), Travaris Cadet, Kenny Stills
Thomas and Robinson both have a chance to return from injury this week, but neither should be treated as a fantasy starter. Robinson is likely no more than Ingram’s backup, while Thomas, at least in his first game back, is likely to share a pass-catching role with Cadet. The Saints desperately need what Stills brings to the table in terms of stretching a defense vertically, but for this week at least, he appears to have more real-life impact than fantasy. The Niners have done well against smaller receivers this year, allowing big games only to Brandon Marshall and Demaryius Thomas.
Tennessee Titans at Baltimore Ravens
Titans: Kendall Wright, Justin Hunter, Delanie Walker
The Titans have had two weeks to prepare for this game, and getting extra time is always good for a rookie quarterback. The Ravens have allowed the second-most fantasy points per game to receivers this year, making this a good spot for Wright and Justin Hunter. Baltimore has also held running backs to the fewest fantasy points per game, so expect a lot of action for both Wright and Hunter. The Ravens have only allowed one tight end to score double-digit fantasy points, but the only way you could consider benching Walker is if you also own two of the few tight ends who are worth starting every week.
Ravens: Joe Flacco, Justin Forsett, Steve Smith, Torrey Smith, Owen Daniels, Ravens DST
Flacco has been a boom-or-bust quarterback, putting up two games with more than 25 points, and four with fewer than 15. This looks like a good week for him, though with a mediocre defense visiting Baltimore. Torrey Smith has been on a high-end WR2 pace over the last five weeks, and now sits in the season-long range where most people expected him to be. Forsett and Smith have become every-week plays, and Daniels is now in that group, too, as he has established enough consistency to be a top-10 tight end. Forsett could be the big winner here, as the Titans have allowed the seventh-most fantasy points per game to running backs.
Titans: Zach Mettenberger, Bishop Sankey, Shonn Greene, Nate Washington, Titans DST
If regularly start Andrew Luck, Tom Brady or Philip Rivers, and are without a quarterback this week, Mettenberger could actually be a decent spot starter. As stated earlier, the Ravens have allowed the second-most points to receivers, and Mettenberger has the weapons to take advantage. Wright and Hunter are both worthy flex plays this week, placing Mettenberger closer to the top-12 quarterbacks than he has yet been in his young career.
Ravens: Lorenzo Taliaferro, Bernard Pierce
Taliaferro’s last two games have been nearly identical. Two weeks ago, he had seven carries for 27 yards, and caught two passes for 42 yards. Last week, he had seven carries for 21 yards, and caught three passes for 34 yards. The big difference between the two? In the first one, he vultured two short-yardage touchdowns. He did not get in the end zone last week. Such is the life of a touchdown vulture, and it’s why Taliaferro simply isn’t a starting option for fantasy owners.
Pittsburgh Steelers at New York Jets
Steelers: Ben Roethlisberger, Le’Veon Bell, Antonio Brown, Martavis Bryant, Heath Miller, Steelers DST
If Roethlisberger throws for another six touchdowns this week, we may have to question if he made a deal with the devil. Funny thing is, this is his best matchup in the last three weeks, as the Jets have allowed the most fantasy points per game to quarterbacks. The Jets have done well against running backs all year, and have been better against receivers in recent weeks, but you want to invest in the Steelers with the way this offense has been playing the last two weeks. Plus, Bell and Brown are stars. The Jets have allowed the second-most fantasy points per game to tight ends, making Miller a strong spot starter this week.
Jets: Chris Ivory, Percy Harvin, Eric Decker
Don’t pay too much attention to Chris Johnson’s workload last week. With the Jets chasing a deficit all game, they had no choice but to play Johnson more to at least show the pass. Ivory remains the primary runner in the Jets’ backfield, though he’s no better than a low-end RB2 for this week. This is another game that could get out of hand. Harvin already has 22 targets and five carries in two games with the Jets. They’re committed to using him, and that means he can finally capitalize on the WR2 upside he sported coming into the season.
Steelers: LeGarrette Blount, Markus Wheaton
Wheaton is a potential starter in deeper leagues with the way Roethlisberger and the Pittsburgh passing attack is playing right now, but he doesn’t quite make it for our purposes here.
Jets: Michael Vick, Chris Johnson, Jeremy Kerley, Jace Amaro, Jeff Cumberland, Jets DST
Even though Ivory is definitely still the lead back for the Jets, Chris Johnson owners should hold onto him after he ran for 69 yards on 11 carries last week. In fact, you could start him in a pinch this week. All six teams on bye contribute a regular starting running back to the fantasy community. Chances are at least one or two owners per league are struggling to fill their necessary starting running back slots. If that describes you and you own Johnson, don’t be afraid to get him in there.
Atlanta Falcons at Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Falcons: Matt Ryan, Steven Jackson, Julio Jones, Roddy White
The Buccaneers could be just the team to cure what ails any offense, especially this one. The last time these two teams met, the Falcons scored 56 points. Ryan had 286 yards, 11.92 yards per attempt and three touchdowns in that game. Jones had 161 yards and two touchdowns, while White sat due to injury. Both are very strong plays this weekend. Jackson should finally get in on the fun too, as the Buccaneers have allowed the 10th-most fantasy points per game to running backs this year. Even if he only gets his customary 12 to 15 touches, he should be able to do some damage.
Buccaneers: Bobby Rainey, Vincent Jackson, Mike Evans
The Buccaneers made the switch to Josh McCown from Mike Glennon this week, but that really shouldn’t have much of an effect on the skill players in this offense. The two quarterbacks are similarly below average. Evans had his best game as a pro last week, catching seven passes for 124 yards and two scores. Both he and Jackson project as WR2s this week. Rookie Charles Sims will likely make his NFL debut, but don’t expect him to dominate the touches right out of the gate. Rainey is still the guy you want this week, and the Falcons have allowed the most fantasy points per game to running backs.
Falcons: Jacquizz Rodgers, Devonta Freeman, Antone Smith, Harry Douglas, Devin Hester, Levine Toilolo, Falcons DST
Most of these players are in the fantasy consciousness, but none should be on your radar as a potential starter. Even though offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter insists on going to some of them (looking at you, Freeman) in the red zone just as often as he does to Jones, there aren’t enough touches for these bit players to be fantasy options.
Buccaneers: Josh McCown, Charles Sims, Doug Martin, Louis Murphy, Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Buccaneers DST
Martin should be healthy enough to return from an ankle injury this week, but he may find that there’s no spot for him on the field anymore. The Buccaneers really don’t need to feature more than two running backs, and those spots appear to belong to Rainey and Sims. The former has earned it with his play this year, while the latter appears to be a big part of Tampa Bay’s future. They need to find out what they have in him now that they sit at 1-7 and are out of playoff contention.
Denver Broncos at Oakland Raiders
Broncos: Peyton Manning, Ronnie Hillman, Demaryius Thomas, Emmanuel Sanders, Julius Thomas, Broncos DST
This is one of the most lopsided matchups we will see all season, both from a real-life and fantasy perspective. And to think, there’s still another one of these games looming this year. The Raiders have actually been a bit better defensively than their reputation would suggest, but the Broncos are coming off their worst performance of the season in a game giving the Patriots pole position in the AFC. In other words, I hope you aren’t going up against any Broncos in your fantasy matchup this week. Fantasy owners auto-start all of these players anyway, but this could be an especially big week for Denver.
Raiders: Darren McFadden, Mychal Rivera
Rivera’s presence in the Oakland offense has increased in the last two weeks. Through Oakland’s first six games of the season, Rivera had a total of 22 targets. In just the last two games, he has 20, catching 15 of them for 121 yards and two touchdowns. Rob Gronkowski, Antonio Gates, Jordan Reed, Dwayne Allen and Coby Fleener are all on byes this week. With the Raiders likely to be attempting to throw their way out of a huge hole on Sunday, Rivera could volume his way to a nice fantasy performance. McFadden is a low-end RB2 based on volume and the fact that he won’t go to the bench if the Raiders have to chuck the ball 50 times.
Broncos: Montee Ball (groin), Juwan Thompson, C.J. Anderson, Wes Welker
When the only sit recommendations on your team are an injured running back, a pair of backup running backs, and a third receiver, you know you’re doing something right.
Raiders: Derek Carr, Andre Holmes, James Jones, Raiders DST
And then there’s the Raiders. Like Rivera, Holmes and Jones could potentially have nice games based on volume, and there’s a strong chance for garbage-time stats in this matchup. That alone is not a good reason to get a player in your lineup. The Broncos have yet to allow a 100-yard receiver this year, and had completely shut down the position before Tom Brady carved them up in Foxboro last week.
St. Louis Rams at Arizona Cardinals
Rams: Tre Mason
This could not be a more tepid recommendation for Mason. There’s no doubt he’s the man in the St. Louis backfield after he dominated the touches last week. However, he ran for just 65 yards on 19 carries, and faces an even tougher matchup with the Cardinals. What’s more, the Rams could very easily find themselves in a big hole in this one, and that would mean a whole lot more Benny Cunningham on the field. If there weren’t six teams on bye this week, Mason would be on the fantasy bench.
Cardinals: Carson Palmer, Andre Ellington, Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Floyd, Cardinals DST
Palmer has quietly put together a nice season thus far, shoulder injury and all. He’s tied with Tom Brady for the seventh-most points per game at the quarterback position, and has been a top-12 weekly quarterback in four of his five starts this season. Floyd has been a serious disappointment with Palmer back in the fold, but he remains the team’s primary downfield threat. It’s just a matter of time before he connects with Palmer, and the Rams have allowed the seventh-most fantasy points per game to receivers. Ellington, meanwhile, has averaged 15.97 points per game in the last three weeks.
Rams: Austin Davis, Benny Cunningham, Zac Stacy, Kenny Britt, Tavon Austin, Stedman Bailey, Jared Cook, Rams DST
Britt’s usage has increased significantly in the wake of Brian Quick’s season-ending shoulder injury, though he doesn’t have a ton of production to show for it. He did get in the end zone last week, but he’s still way down on the overall wide receiver totem pole. The Cardinals have allowed the fifth-most fantasy points per game to receivers, but that is thanks in large part to 30-point games from Demaryius Thomas and Jeremy Maclin. I don’t see someone of their caliber anywhere on this St. Louis roster. The eight sacks the Rams got last week had as much to do with the San Francisco offense as it did with their own defense.
Cardinals: John Brown, John Carlson
Brown brings a lot to this offense in a real-life capacity, but his fantasy role is still that of a depth receiver. He has had fewer than 50 yards in six of eight games this year. He’s going to be a fantasy weapon in seasons to come, but right now he’s far too inconsistent for fantasy owners.
New York Giants at Seattle Seahawks
Giants: Odell Beckham Jr., Larry Donnell
Beckham had a monster game last week, catching eight of 11 targets for 156 yards. The best news for him this week is he has started working a lot out of the slot, and that means he should avoid Richard Sherman on Sunday. The Seahawks have allowed the third-most fantasy points per game to tight ends this season. They’ve been exploited by tight ends in the red zone, most recently by Mychal Rivera, who caught two touchdowns against them last week. Expect Eli Manning to target Donnell if and when the Giants get in scoring range.
Seahawks: Marshawn Lynch, Seahawks DST
The Giants have allowed the fifth-most fantasy points per game to running backs, surrendering 4.68 yards per carry and six rushing touchdowns. Receiving isn’t necessarily Lynch’s strong suit, but he’s been in more routes this season than in years past, and the Giants have allowed the third-most receiving yards to running backs. The Seahawks leaned on Lynch in a great matchup last week. Expect them to do so again on Sunday.
Giants: Eli Manning, Andre Williams, Rashad Jennings (knee), Rueben Randle, Giants DST
It’s pretty easy to diagnose why all these Giants are worth sitting this week. The Seahawks have allowed the sixth-fewest fantasy points per game to quarterbacks, and Manning used huge garbage-time production to turn around what had been a horrible fantasy game against the Colts. Williams has 132 yards on 47 carries in three games as the starter, and Jennnings, if he is able to return, cannot be trusted against the Seahawks in his first game back. Randle is getting 5.36 yards per target and 1.23 yards per route run this season, both of which rank among the worst in the league for receivers with at least 25 percent of their team’s targets.
Seahawks: Russell Wilson, Doug Baldwin, Jermaine Kearse, Paul Richardson, Luke Willson, Cooper Helfert
The relative lack of Seahawks worth starting this week says almost nothing about the Giants defense and everything about the state of this offense. The passing attack has ground to a halt, and Wilson has become almost wholly dependent on his legs for his fantasy production. When he comes through on the ground, as he did against St. Louis and Washington, he has a huge day. When he doesn’t, he typically falls outside the top-20 scorers at the position. This should be another game heavy on Lynch and the rushing attack, pushing Baldwin to your bench, unless you’re really hurting at wide receiver.
Chicago Bears at Green Bay Packers
Bears: Jay Cutler, Matt Forte, Brandon Marshall, Alshon Jeffery, Martellus Bennett
All of the Bears’ worst nightmares always seem to come to fruition either in prime time games or at Lambeau Field. This game is a double whammy in that regard, but the Bears still have top-flight weapons going up against an average-at-best defense. Forte is on pace for 116 receptions, which would be an NFL record for a running back. Marshall and Jeffery both being outside the top-20 fantasy receivers through the first half of the season is one of the year’s biggest surprises, but their owners should still expect WR1 production from them. Despite the offense’s overall struggles, Cutler is the No. 9 fantasy quarterback in points per game, while Bennett ranks fourth among tight ends.
Packers: Aaron Rodgers, Eddie Lacy, Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb
Give this team two weeks to prepare for a sub-par defense like Chicago’s, and you’re likely to see Rodgers put on a show. It will almost certainly take at least 30 points to win this game, and both offenses will be up to the task. The first time these teams played back in Week 4, Rodgers threw for 302 yards, 10.79 yards per attempt and four touchdowns, with Nelson and Cobb catching two apiece and both crossing the 100-yard threshold. There’s little reason to expect much of anything else when these teams meet on Sunday night.
Bears: Bears DST
Let’s see, a below-average defense with a suspect pass rush going up against Rodgers? Yeah, they should be on the bench.
Packers: Davante Adams, Andrew Quarless, Richard Rodgers, Packers DST
Adams could actually sneak into lineups depending on your bye-week status. The Bears have now allowed the second-most fantasy points per game to quarterbacks this season, and the next time they slow down Rodgers will be the first time they ever have, other than when Shea McClellin broke his collarbone last year. There’s some touchdown upside with Adams, but, you should only consider him if you’re decimated by the heavy bye week or injuries.
Carolina Panthers at Philadelphia Eagles
Panthers: Cam Newton, Jonathan Stewart, Kelvin Benjamin, Greg Olsen
Do not, I repeat, do not worry about Benjamin. He has been one of the most consistent receivers this year, even with last week’s 18-yard performance to his name. He did drop a touchdown pass last week, but Newton airmailed him on what should have been another score. Newton, meanwhile, has fallen flat the last three weeks, and we may have to write him off entirely if he comes up short on Monday night. The Eagles have allowed the fifth-most fantasy points per game to quarterbacks. One of Stewart or DeAngelo Williams will likely finish as a low-end RB2, and I’ll put my money on Stewart. He had a higher snap percentage than Stewart last week and picked up 26 more yards on the same number of carries.
Eagles: Mark Sanchez, LeSean McCoy, Darren Sproles, Jeremy Maclin, Eagles DST
In his first week as the Philadelphia starter, you want Sanchez active. Forget all the jokes from New York. He never had weapons like this, and the Panthers have allowed the seventh-most points per game to quarterbacks this year. McCoy ran for 117 yards on 23 carries last week, and is starting to perform like the elite RB1 he was last year. McCoy finally has most of his great line in front of him, and he should be ready to take advantage of a Carolina defense that has allowed the third-most fantasy points per game to running backs. Maclin did just fine with Sanchez last week, registering four of his six receptions for 88 yards and a touchdown with the new starter. He remains a strong WR1 no matter who is playing quarterback for the Eagles. Don’t be surprised to see more screen action for the Eagles this week, as the Panthers have allowed the fifth-most receptions to running backs this year. That would be great news for Sproles.
Panthers: DeAngelo Williams, Jerricho Cotchery, Jason Avant, Panthers DST
The only player listed here a fantasy owner could even think about starting is Williams. He did have more total yards than Stewart last week, but ran for just 20 yards on eight carries, while Stewart ran for 46 on the same eight totes. Stewart also outsnapped him by a 3-to-2 ratio. If I’m betting on one Carolina running back this week, I want it to be Stewart.
Eagles: Riley Cooper, Jordan Matthews, Zach Ertz
Ertz is right on the cusp of being a starter this week, but I’d rather go with someone like Heath Miller or Mychal Rivera, two guys I know will be part of their respective team’s gameplan. Ertz played a total of 24 snaps last week and got just two targets. He hasn’t had more than 50 yards in a game since Week 2, and has just two touchdowns this year. That he had such a poor showing in a little more than a half with the new starter is disconcerting.
Quarterbacks: Aaron Rodgers, Peyton Manning, Ben Roethlisberger, Drew Brees, Jay Cutler, Carson Palmer, Matt Ryan, Andy Dalton, Matthew Stafford, Joe Flacco, Mark Sanchez, Cam Newton
Running Backs: Matt Forte, Jamaal Charles, DeMarco Murray, LeSean McCoy, Le’Veon Bell, Jeremy Hill, Eddie Lacy, Andre Ellington, Marshawn Lynch, Mark Ingram, Ronnie Hillman, Justin Forsett, Lamar Miller, Bobby Rainey, Denard Robinson, Steven Jackson, Frank Gore, Joique Bell, Chris Ivory, Terrance West, Jonathan Stewart, Darren Sproles, Reggie Bush, Darren McFadden
Wide Receivers: Antonio Brown, Jordy Nelson, Demaryius Thomas, Jeremy Maclin, Randall Cobb, Alshon Jeffery, Julio Jones, Calvin Johnson, Brandon Marshall, Emmanuel Sanders, A.J. Green, Dez Bryant, Golden Tate, Mike Evans, Kelvin Benjamin, Sammy Watkins, Larry Fitzgerald, Roddy White, Mike Wallace, Steve Smith, Vincent Jackson, Percy Harvin, Michael Floyd, Odell Beckham, Jr.
Flex: Brandin Cooks, Eric Decker, Mohamed Sanu, Anquan Boldin, Allen Robinson, Kendall Wright, Martavis Bryant, Tre Mason, Terrance Williams, Torrey Smith, Marques Colston
Tight Ends: Jimmy Graham, Martellus Bennett, Greg Olsen, Julius Thomas, Travis Kelce, Owen Daniels, Charles Clay, Delanie Walker, Larry Donnell, Jason Witten, Heath Miller, Mychal Rivera
Defense/Special Teams: Seattle Seahawks, Arizona Cardinals, Dallas Cowboys, Denver Broncos, Cincinnati Bengals, Detroit Lions, Kansas City Chiefs, Baltimore Ravens, Pittsburgh Steelers, Miami Dolphins, New Orleans Saints, Philadelphia Eagles