What a week we had for running backs, huh? Just some vicious yardage, going from Doug Martin’s 251 against Oakland to Adrian Peterson’s 182 against Seattle to even Chris Johnson’s 141, thanks to a late-game lackluster effort by the Bears who let him cruise to an 80-yard touchdown late in the fourth quarter. In fact, 10 different running backs cleared the century mark in yardage during Week 9. And, of course, let’s not forget Mikel Leshoure’s three-touchdown effort. Sure, he only racked up 70 yards, but who’s thumbing their nose at 18 fantasy points in touchdowns from one guy? That’s right…no one.
But it’s a new week with new match-ups and we’re ready to move forward and push towards our fantasy playoffs. So without further ado, let’s take a look at the games this week and see what kind of fantasy deliciousness we can expect…
Indianapolis Colts at Jacksonville Jaguars
Even with Donald Brown questionable/out, the Colts have themselves a nicely balanced offense and should allow Vick Ballard to take advantage of the match-up against a Jags defense that allows an average of 137.4 rushing yards per game and has given up 12 rushing touchdowns this season. Their passing defense isn’t much better so you can expect Andrew Luck to do some work downfield with Reggie Wayne. A nice game from T.Y. Hilton last week, but I don’t see a repeat performance coming.
For the Jaguars, it’s all about trying to stay afloat while MJD remains sidelined. Rashad Jennings has made for an adequate flex play, but hasn’t put up numbers that would make me scream “Start him,” even against a struggling Colts D that coughs up almost 131 yards per game on the ground. Blaine Gabbert will have his work cut out for him against a tough Colts pass D, but should still find some success. Laurent Robinson returned to the lineup finally and saw four red zone targets, so keep an eye on him this week if the Jags get inside the 20.
Denver Broncos at Carolina Panthers
The Carolina pass defense might be a bit underrated, as they are notorious for shutting down opposing teams’ top wide receiver. However, they struggle with the number twos and tight ends which is more than enough for Peyton Manning. He should have no problem finding Eric Decker and Joel Dreesen downfield this Sunday, and perhaps even a few throws in Jacob Tamme’s direction. That, of course, may not even be necessary as Willis McGahee faces a run D that is allowing almost 120 yards per game on the ground this season.
A stout run D in Denver means hedging your bets on Jonathan Stewart and DeAngelo Williams, not that either has done much for anyone this year. But this one’s going to be all about Cam Newton finding Steve Smith and Greg Olsen. Denver doesn’t give up a ton of yardage through the air, but they have allowed 14 passing touchdowns this season.
New York Giants at Cincinnati Bengals
The Giants D gives up an average of 264 passing yards per game, but don’t think it’s going to be some sort of a cakewalk for Andy Dalton and company this week as they also have 17 interceptions (T 1st - Chicago) and 25 sacks registered (T 3rd – Chi/Sea). It might be a tough battle, but A.J. Green and Jermaine Gresham should both fare well this week. Expect the usual fare from BenJarvis Green-Ellis as the Giants are still allowing an average of 118 yards per game on the ground.
While the Bengals give up just as much yardage on the ground, Ahmad Bradshaw is becoming less of a no-brainer with Andre Brown poaching touchdown carries. But that might be a moot point as Eli Manning is looking to redeem himself after four weeks of lackluster performances. Look for him to take it to the air early and often. Both Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks should provide solid totals, and look for Martellus Bennett to have a decent game as well as the Bengals give up almost 71 yards per game to opposing tight ends.
Tennessee Titans at Miami Dolphins
Two of the worst pass defenses here, so get your receivers and tight ends active. Kendall Wright, Nate Washington, Jared Cook, Brian Hartline, Davone Bess and Anthony Fasano should all find a reasonable amount of success this week so if you need some receiver/tight end help this week, you might want to see who’s available from this game. The Titans D is bad all around, so look for Reggie Bush and Daniel Thomas to start running early. As for Chris Johnson, well, given the strength of the Fins run D, I’d have to say that it would take another garbage-time 80-yarder for him to crack the century mark again this week.
Detroit Lions at Minnesota Vikings
With the Detroit defense giving up just 106 rushing yards per game with just two touchdowns on the ground all year, Adrian Peterson could find things a little slow-going this week. That means all eyes are going to be on Christian Ponder and his receiving corps. The only problem is that they will likely be without Percy Harvin which means that Michael Jenkins and Jerome Simpson really have to elevate their games this week. I see Jenkins getting the majority of targets this time around. The Lions do a great job containing the tight end, so Kyle Rudolph owners probably shouldn’t get their hopes up.
As for the Lions, they luck out as Minnesota has been weak, both against the pass and the run this year. Mikel Leshoure should have a solid game (maybe not three TDs, but solid, nonetheless) and look for Matthew Stafford to rebound this week. Calvin Johnson will likely be questionable for the remainder of the season, but now you know – if he plays, you start him. If he doesn’t, or if he falters early, then you can look to Titus Young and Ryan Broyles.
Oakland Raiders at Baltimore Ravens
The Raiders have leaned on the pass much more this season than they were originally supposed to, but now that Darren McFadden and Mike Goodson are both likely out with high ankle sprains, it looks like Carson Palmer will have to continue airing it out. Taiwan Jones and Marcel Reece should get whatever ground work comes their way, but this will be about Palmer finding Denarius Moore, Darrius Heyward-Bey and Brandon Myers downfield again. Moore and Myers should probably fare the best, and keep your waiver ear close to the ground and see how Rod Streater does again this week.
For the Ravens, they’ll be looking for Ray Rice to do what Doug Martin did to the Raiders in Week 9. He certainly isn’t a less talented back, so you can probably assume a reasonably strong day. But the Raiders are also quite vulnerable in the secondary, so look for Joe Flacco to try and break out of his four week slump and find Torrey Smith and Anquan Boldin downfield as well.
Buffalo Bills at New England Patriots
When these teams met in Week 4, it was a fantasy bonanza for most. Tom Brady threw for 340 yards and three touchdowns, Ryan Fitzpatrick threw for 350 yards and four touchdowns, the Pats had two 100-yard rushers and two 100-yard receivers, Scott Chandler had two touchdown catches and Donald Jones took one to the house for 68 yards. About the only players not lighting up the stat sheet were Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller. I would probably expect more of the same this week.
San Diego Chargers at Tampa Bay Buccaneers
While on paper it looks like the Chargers are getting another soft match-up, this one could be a lot closer than last week’s contest with the Chiefs. Ryan Mathews faces a much stronger run D that is allowing just 77.3 yards per game and while the Bucs pass D gives up 321 yards per game, they still have 13 sacks and 13 interceptions. Until Philip Rivers can offer up some on-field consistency, I’ll always hedge my bets with him. I do like Danario Alexander’s potential match-up if you’re looking for a sleeper this week.
As for the Bucs, it’s going to be a tough road for Doug Martin who faces a much stronger run D this time. The Chargers give up just 84 rushing yards per game, so look for Josh Freeman to take it to the air against a team that allows 238 yards per game and has given up 14 passing touchdowns this year. While Vincent Jackson is the team’s number one receiver, Mike Williams has actually seen more targets over the last three games and that includes Jackson’s 14-target, 216-yard performance. Williams has touchdowns in three of his last four games and it would have been four in a row had a defender not pushed him out of bounds late in the game against the Saints back in Week 7.
Atlanta Falcons at New Orleans Saints
Another barn-burner in the making here as these two high-octane offenses square off. The Falcons will probably start things off with a heavy dose of Michael Turner, but will likely have to take it to the air more to keep pace with the Saints who have almost no ground game of which to speak. Both Matt Ryan and Drew Brees should have outstanding days while Jimmy Graham, Marques Colston, Julio Jones, Roddy White and Tony Gonzalez should all follow suit. Get ‘em all active! This should be a fun one.
New York Jets at Seattle Seahawks
While the Jets pass defense still seems to be relatively strong, giving up just 206 yards per game and just nine passing touchdowns, the run D is pretty awful, allowing 141.4 rushing yards per game. Hello Marshawn Lynch. He should gash the Jets’ defensive line which will eventually open things up for play-action. I won’t wholeheartedly endorse the Seahawks passing game, but Sidney Rice is a strong red zone target while Golden Tate is creeping up the Target Percentage Leaderboard lately.
For the Jets, they’ll probably have to try and lean on Shonn Greene against a softening Seattle run defense that has been steamrolled for 502 yards over the last three games. That too should open things up in the passing game for Mark Sanchez and favorite targets Dustin Keller and Jeremy Kerley, but the deafening noise at Qwest Field (is it still even called that anymore?) could hinder that progress.
Dallas Cowboys at Philadelphia Eagles
It’s a classic NFC East match-up, but one that doesn’t bring as much excitement nowadays as it used to. The Cowboys are still going to be without DeMarco Murray, so look for Felix Jones to get another start. But while the Eagles run D allows just over 114 yards per game, they’ve only allowed three rushing touchdowns all year, so he’s more of a flex start than anything else. Tony Romo will likely take it to the air with Miles Austin and Jason Witten as the primary beneficiaries. Dez Bryant might be worth a look too if healthy, but again…if healthy.
For the Eagles, LeSean McCoy will be looking to build on his performance last week, just his second 100-plus yard game of the season, but faces a tough task against a strong Dallas defensive line. He’ll likely be a little more active as a check-down or screen pass option which bodes well if you own him in a PPR league. As for the passing attack, well, it all comes down to Michael Vick. He’s got some decent weapons, but turnovers and bad judgment have turned this season sour just a bit. DeSean Jackson should find some holes to expose in the secondary though.
St. Louis Rams at San Francisco 49ers
The 49ers are coming off their bye week and are looking to continue with the momentum that has vaulted them to a 6-2 record this year. Alex Smith is coming off one of the best games of his career and should be able to find Michael Crabtree and Mario Manningham in the short-passing game while Frank Gore will look to run through a Rams defense that is allowing just 105.5 yards per game on the ground. But the big match-up will be with Vernon Davis. Opposing teams have found a way to contain him over the last five weeks, so look for the Rams to try and follow a similar game plan and cut off his routes.
The Rams could be in a bit of trouble on offense if the 49ers don’t take them lightly and let up at all. The Niners’ run defense gives up just 87.4 yards per game so they should have no problem containing Steven Jackson and Daryl Richardson, while the pass defense ranks second in the league allowing just 184 yards per game. Sam Bradford should be getting favorite target Danny Amendola back this week, but will that be enough to get their offense moving in the right direction? Hard to say, but the outlook isn’t very good.
Houston Texans at Chicago Bears
Strange as it seems, this has the potential of being this year’s Super Bowl match-up with both teams relying on some sick defensive play. Both run defenses give up less than 90 yards per game so both Arian Foster and Matt Forte each have their work cut out for them. Meanwhile, the Houston pass D allows just 204 yards per game and the Bears pass D has 17 interceptions, 21 sacks and a slew of defensive touchdowns. Both Jay Cutler and Matt Schaub could be in for long Sunday night while Brandon Marshall and Andre Johnson fight tooth and nail for each and every yard gained. Personally, the only offensive fantasy players I like here are Shayne Graham and Robbie Gould.
Kansas City Chiefs at Pittsburgh Steelers
While normally a strong rivalry, these are two teams headed in very opposite directions. Matt Cassel is back under center for the Chiefs but the team is struggling overall under the guidance of Romeo Crennel. Jamaal Charles hasn’t been seeing enough touches or blocks on the offensive line while Dwayne Bowe seems to be the only legit target. However, he’s also experiencing a case of the fumbles again. If the Steelers contain Charles, this could be a very lopsided game.
On the other side, the Steelers could be getting both Jonathan Dwyer and Rashard Mendenhall back into the mix with Isaac Redman which could screw upo things for those fantasy owners relying on consistent touches from either Redman or Dwyer. Mendenhall is more of a longshot for this week, but if he plays at all, he’ll get carries. The Chiefs are only allowing an average of 222 passing yards per game, but have also allowed 17 passing touchdowns. Look for Mike Wallace and red zone favorite Heath Miller to find their way into the endzone this week.
Howard Bender has been covering fantasy sports for over a decade on a variety of web sites. For questions, thoughts or comments you can find him on Twitter at @rotobuzzguy or you can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.