We’ve officially passed the “bye-pocolypse,” where 12 teams had a bye in a two-week stretch. It’s back down to four teams this week, but will leave some people missing their week-to-week starters. The Kansas City Chiefs and Philadelphia Eagles have the top two quarterbacks in standard scoring, as well as several other players who have been pivotal for many fantasy teams this season. Derek Carr, Amari Cooper, and Alex Collins owners are also looking for temporary fill-ins for this week. Let’s get started.
Matthew Stafford, DET
A weird thought overcame me while I was watching the Lions handle the Green Bay Packers on Monday Night. Have we reached the point where Matthew Stafford is among the most reliable quarterbacks in football? He’s gone north of 300 yards in the last three games, and his game this weekend against the Cleveland Browns is his most favorable matchup to date. It’s worth noting that the lowly Browns do a superb job at stuffing the run, allowing the 3rd fewest yards despite seeing the 13th most attempts. Regardless of Cleveland’s run-stopping prowess, the Lions already average the 3rd fewest yards per carry. Expect a majority of the offense to come through Stafford’s arm.
Homer Play of the Week: Jared Goff, LAR
I have to at least try to work in a Los Angeles Ram every time, right? Goff had his best statistical game as a pro last week in the Meadowlands, albeit against a depleted and discouraged New York Giants defense. The reason for the continued optimism? The Houston Texans are tied for the 3rd most passing touchdowns and allow the 3rd most yards per passing attempt. I expect the reigning NFC Offensive Player of the Week to have a worthy encore performance.
Others Receiving Votes: Josh McCown plays against a putrid Tampa Bay Buccaneers secondary. And in the same game, Ryan Fitzpatrick gets the call in place of the injured Jameis Winston, who believes the letter ‘W’ is the most delicious. And since Fitz seems like the type to keep a burn book, he may be looking to go off on his former...one of his many former teams. Did you know that he went to Harvard?
Le’Veon Bell, PIT
It’s a no-brainer, but maybe this is a warning to those that see Bell in their opponent’s lineup. In the first 9 weeks, only one defense has allowed 10 touchdowns on the ground. That’s the Indianapolis Colts. Le’Veon Bell plays the Indianapolis Colts this week. And in case you thought it wasn’t one-sided enough, the Pittsburgh Steelers are coming off a bye. I’m really bringing his name up because I want to make a point to show I was expecting it if he breaks some kind of record this week.
Orleans Darkwa, NYG
From the obvious to the not-so-obvious, Darkwa was a popular waiver wire target this week. While he didn’t exactly move mountains against the Rams last week, 18 touches is something you’d like to see from a running back. And 18 touches against a San Francisco 49ers team that has allowed the most rushing yards this season should turn into reasonable fantasy numbers. He’s a good flex play this week, with potential at RB2 numbers if he manages to find the end zone for the second time this season.
Others Receiving Votes: A few weeks ago, I had both Ty Montgomery and Aaron Jones as “sit ‘ems” because I wasn’t sure how the touches would be dispersed. Well, in the last two games, Jones has out-touched Montgomery by a margin of 27-11. With Matt Forte ruled out, look for Bilal Powell to carry the workload, but it also opens the door for Elijah McGuire for a deep home run play.
Jarvis Landry, MIA
In PPR leagues, Landry is the living, breathing definition of “high floor.” He has had no fewer than 5 receptions and 32 yards in a game this season. His biggest issue is that he’s yet to top 100 yards in a game this season, making his ceiling a bit limited. A game against the Carolina Panthers isn’t likely to have him cross the century mark, but let this serve as a reminder that Landry is as steady as they come.
Marvin Jones Jr. and Golden Tate, DET
For much of the same exact reason I listed Stafford earlier, Jones and Tate will be the primary beneficiaries of the Lion’s aerial attack. Their last 3 games have proven that both can put up huge numbers when Stafford goes off, and it’s easy to believe it will be more of the same against the Browns.
Others Receiving Votes: Sterling Shepard makes the list as a “who else is Eli going to throw to” candidate. Danny Amendola comes into this week as questionable, but could be primed for a strong week with Chris Hogan ruled out. Robert Woods leads the Rams in targets, receptions, and receiving yards. If I had to pick one Goff target, it’d be him.
Cameron Brate, TB
Ryan Fitzpatrick is going to have to throw to someone with Mike Evans missing this game. It also helps that the Jets allow the 7th most points to tight ends. I’d rank him just below the elite options at the tight end position this week.
Ben Roethlisberger, PIT
The home-road splits for Roethlisberger may be real, but as of late he’s struggled just about everywhere. To give you an idea of how things are going for him, Aaron Rodgers still has more fantasy points than him. Big Ben has yet to throw for more than 2 touchdowns in a game. The Indianapolis Colts are a generous team, but I’m seeing way too many fantasy experts place their trust in Roethlisberger this week.
Others Receiving Votes: Kirk Cousins gets to play against a Minnesota Vikings defense that’s allowed the 5th fewest passing yards. Does anybody else feel like A.J. Green’s fight with Jalen Ramsey was more about Green having to play with Andy Dalton during the prime of his career? That was 6 and a half years of frustration coming to fruition.
DeMarco Murray, TEN
It’s safe to say that Murray hasn’t quite been himself this year. But with injuries and lack of production, it’s safe to question whether or not the Tennessee Titans will consider Derrick Henry as the lead back moving forward. The Cincinnati Bengals allow less than four yards per carry and have only given up three touchdowns on the ground this season, so this may be a backfield to ignore altogether this week.
Dion Lewis, NE
His uptick in volume (42 touches in the last 3 games) has had people jumping on the hype train. However, the Denver Broncos have allowed the 5th fewest rushing yards to date and James White remains the receiving back in New England. Lewis could very well lead the crowded Patriot backfield in touches once again, but expect minimal production.
Others Receiving Votes: The Carolina Panthers have given up the 4th fewest rushing yards this season, making Kenyon Drake’s job difficult. After a strong surge to start the year, Tarik Cohen has come back down to earth and now serves as a boom-or-bust option at the flex spot. Due to Minnesota’s strong run defense, it’s fair to expect to see more Chris Thompson than Rob Kelley this week.
Keenan Allen, LAC
A game against Jacksonville’s secondary is enough to warrant concern. But add in Philip River’s less-than-stellar play this season and you have a recipe for a long day in Florida. The best thing Allen has going for him is that he is a target monster and could salvage his day in a PPR league.
T.Y. Hilton, IND
Hilton has the 7th most points among wide receivers in ESPN standard scoring leagues. Hilton has also had six of his nine games go for fewer than nine fantasy points. His three games of 28.3, 24.7, and 34.5 points are nearly 73% of his entire season’s worth of production. Do you feel lucky?
Others Receiving Votes: Maybe the Buffalo Bills will try throwing an end zone fade to the newly-acquired Kelvin Benjamin, who is still very tall. But that’s all you can really hope for from someone still learning a new playbook. Josh Gordon and Mohamed Sanu entered the league in 2012. Before last week, Gordon had more receiving yards than Sanu, who has played in 44 more games.