Each week Des Bieler breaks down the NFL’s slate to identify key fantasy factors on which to focus when the Sunday action gets underway.
Lions (5-2) at Falcons (2-5)
At Wembley Stadium and against the Lions’ tough defense, there’s a very good chance Matt Ryan could have a fourth straight underwhelming game, and then he’ll be on a bye. At which point, he could be a good buy-low, because once he returns, Atlanta’s schedule starts looking a lot softer.
Rams (2-4) at Chiefs (3-3)
After his first four weeks, Brian Quick was looking like a solid WR2, but his past two outings have burned fantasy owners, as he has totaled three catches for 43 yards. But if the Rams WR gets back on track against the Chiefs’ No. 2 pass defense, he’ll get back into everyone’s good graces.
Texans (3-4) at Titans (2-5)
Seeing a rookie take over at QB is rarely good news for a WR, but it could be for Justin Hunter. The second-year Titan is a dangerous deep threat, but his talents were largely wasted while “Checkdown Charlie” Whitehurst was under center. Mettenberger should be able to wing it downfield to Hunter.
Dolphins (3-3) at Jaguars (1-6)
Denard Robinson is nicknamed “Shoelace” for his habit of leaving his sneakers untied. You know what else isn’t tied these days? The Jags’ four-way RB battle between him, Storm Johnson, Toby Gerhart and Jordan Todman. Shoelace sprinted ahead of the pack, but he’ll need to keep playing well.
Vikings (2-5) at Buccaneers (1-5)
This could be Doug Martin’s last stand, at least as the Bucs’ top RB. Martin has failed to generate big plays, and even if the coaching staff seems reluctant to promote Bobby Rainey, another option will soon emerge: rookie Charles Sims, who is eligible to return from injured reserve in Week 9.
Seahawks (3-3) at Panthers (3-3-1)
In a year when name-brand TEs such as Jimmy Graham, Vernon Davis and Jordan Cameron have struggled (mostly due to injuries), Greg Olsen has been a rock of consistent production. The Panther has had at least 62 receiving yards in six of his seven games and has five touchdowns.
Ravens (5-2) at Bengals (3-2-1)
The Bengals sorely miss A.J. Green, but Giovani Bernard probably misses the WR’s field-stretching ability the most sorely, as he has had poor outings in two of the past three weeks. Green may be back this week, or not, and it will be interesting to see how Bernard fares either with or without him.
Bears (3-4) at Patriots (5-2)
So, is Jonas Gray a thing now? The Pats’ previous game didn’t tell us as much as we’d like (go figure). Gray had just three carries against the Jets, but he certainly seemed to be ahead of Brandon Bolden in the pecking order. Going forward, how much bigger of a workload will Gray get?
Bills (4-3) at Jets (1-6)
Fred Jackson is out for a while, and C.J. Spiller is gone for even longer, leaving Bryce Brown and Anthony Dixon as popular waiver adds this week. But will either be reliable? Buffalo has become more of a throwing team, ranking seventh in pass attempts per game, compared to 25th in rushing attempts.
Eagles (5-1) at Cardinals (5-1)
Reports of Darren Sproles’ demise, at least in fantasy terms, may have been premature. The Eagles RB suffered a nasty-looking knee injury last week, but he expects to play at Arizona. It’s a tough matchup, though, which could make Sproles a value for those looking to acquire a cheap bye-week RB2.
Raiders (0-6) at Browns (3-3)
Oh, Andre Holmes, just when we (okay, I) had begun to believe that a Raider could be a reliable source of fantasy production, you go for just 34 yards against the Cards’ burnable secondary. However, if you look more like the dangerous WR from the previous two games, most of that faith will be restored.
Colts (5-2) at Steelers (4-3)
Ahmad Bradshaw has been a solid RB2, but his production may be a bit unsustainable, given how reliant he has been on receiving touchdowns. The Colt has six in seven games, versus just one rushing, which puts him easily on pace to become the first RB ever with double-digit touchdowns through the air.
Packers (5-2) at Saints (2-4)
Last week, the Saints put Jimmy Graham, playing through a shoulder injury, on the field for about 30 snaps, but barely tried getting him the ball. In other news, the Saints lost last week. Here’s hoping New Orleans has learned, that while Graham may make for a good decoy, he makes for a better pass-catcher.
Redskins (2-5) at Cowboys (6-1)
There’s a decent chance that Robert Griffin III won’t return until after Washington’s Week 10 bye, which would mean two more starts for Colt McCoy. That, in turn, could mean three weeks without meaningful production from WR DeSean Jackson, as McCoy struggles on deep throws.
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