We’re nearly at the quarter mark of the NFL season. Going by too fast, as usual. Hopefully your fantasy team(s) is/are making you smile more than not. However, even successful fantasy football teams face indecision – especially now during the start of the bye weeks. So we’ve got some friendly advice for you on this week’s starts or sits – and we’ll try not to make it condescendingly obvious either. If you need even more analysis on specific players not listed here, please leave us a message – we’d be happy to give you some insight.
49’ers at Rams (tonight!)
Start ’em RB Frank Gore: This one might be a little obvious, but I just wanted to take a moment here to comment about Gore’s baffling usage in week 3. Gore had 11 carries for 82 yards, and added 2 catches for 21 yards….so why didn’t he get more than 13 touches? Even he wants to know – and the story broke this week about him getting in an argument with Jim Harbaugh about it. The Rams defense is tough to figure – they should be doing better with the talent they have, but they’re by no means invincible right now – even given their good history for playing the Niners hard. On a short week the games tend to be a little sloppy and with Gore calling for the football, the smart plan for the Niners would be to lean on him for at least 25 carries. Will that get done? I don’t know…but I think so…
Sit ’em TE Jared Cook: Maybe this is just me trying to reverse jinx Cook since I own him in a few leagues. Or maybe this is just me watching the Rams’ offense regress with every quarter of football played. The Rams smaller WR’s and RB’s are getting manhandled most weeks, and Cook is paying some of the price for that as Sam Bradford’s confidence and play decline. The Niners defense has given up a surprising 24 points or more, in 8 out of their last 9 games. They are banged up and they aren’t what they once were right now. So the Rams should score points in this one, but trying to predict who scores those points is insanely difficult. I mean can you start a guy like WR Austin Pettis, and hope he has one 2 yard catch for a TD? I don’t know…I wouldn’t. On paper Cook is a safer option, but I can’t back him this week with any confidence until that offense shows me some consistency.
Ravens at Bills
Guys you want to Sit but probably can’t: RB Ray Rice & RB CJ Spiller: Both have disappointed owners so far in 2013 after being top 8 picks (or higher) in most redraft leagues this year. Both are now nursing injuries, although both are thought at this point to be in for Week 4. If you own them, you know the deal: you drafted these guys as the centerpiece of your team and if they play you’re not likely to have better options. Spiller may be the healthier of the two this week, but the Ravens defense is ranked 4th against the run in 2013. Unless you have a player behind them almost assured to get you 10 or more points in your league’s scoring sitting behind them, you will have to grin and bear it this week and hope they at least show you some kinds of life.
Start ’em WR Torrey Smith: Did you see what Geno Smith and Santonio Holmes did to Bills CB Justin Rodgers last week? The Ravens saw it. And Joe Flacco and Torrey Smith are better players, could be a long day for the Bills back 4.
Bengals at Browns
Start ’em Bengals Defense: I know, I know – some of you tried the Minnesota D against Hoyer and the Browns last week and got semi-burned by it. (Depends how your league scoring for defenses works). But, let me be clear about this that was a matchup play rather than a talent play – meaning that we expected Hoyer and Rainey in their 1st games as starters, and Josh Gordon in his 1st game back – to have their issues. It was about the Browns in otherwords, not about the Vikings. This week it’s more about the Bengals than the Browns themselves. The Bengals defense is much better than the Vikings – and let’s not forget Brian Hoyer is still learning the QB position. The Bengals should be able to equal or better the 4 turnovers the Vikings got last weekend, plus hold the yards and scoring against them down much lower.
Sit ’em All Browns except for maybe TE Jordan Cameron: Again Hoyer had a nice debut – but in addition to 300 yards and 3 TD’s..he also threw 3 INT’s. WR Josh Gordon had 146 yards and a TD, but 47 of them and the TD came on a coverage blown so badly that no one was within 10 yards of him. RB Willis McGahee, newly acquired to be the starter managed just 9 yards on 8 carries. Let me reiterate: The Bengals Defense is much better than the Vikings – all of the positives the Browns had from last week can be minimized, and all of their stumbles amplified. TE Jordan Cameron is a possible exception – I have doubted him all season as a “sleeper” TE, but he has proven me wrong. I don’t think he manages a big game here, but he might have passable (6 for 65 and a TD or so) starter’s production if he is your TE starter.
Bears at Lions
Start ’em WR Ryan Broyles: You never know how long Broyles will play given his knee issues, but you do know that Nate Burleson got hurt reaching for a pizza box and broke his arm. The absurdity of that statement does not in any way make it less of a fact. Here’s another fact: for all the accolades the Bears’ defense gets annually for creating turnovers, they are actually usually a pedestrian defense in yards allowed – this year they are 24th in the league vs the pass. Reggie Bush will be back and playing for the Lions, so he will take some of that short passing game work – but Broyles can still have a role over the middle in the slot, and the best news of all is that the Lions have said they will finally let him play a full game. “If healthy” is a question with Broyles you may have to ask as soon as next week – but right now he’s going out there full bore and could be a very nice Wr3 or flex play this week.
Sit ’em WR Alshon Jeffery: Again this may be an attempt to reverse jinx because we have recommended him here before, but until I see the Bears even look Alshon’s way near the endzone I don’t think you can make him a weekly start. Even against a potentially good matchup like this one you probably have better options.
Colts at Jaguars
Start ’em RB Ahmad Bradshaw: Turns out that lost in the hoopla over the Trent Richardson deal is that Bradshaw still intends to fight for his football life. 95 yards against San Francisco put that game away with tough running, and it’s clear for at least the next few games that Bradshaw will be out there to produce in some type of rotation with Richardson. If you own Bradshaw and were ready to send him to the bench after the Richardson trade, it’s time to put him in against good matchups as a flex. (Edit: As of Friday – Bradshaw now appears to be sitting out this weekend due to injury, he may be a starter for you in the future…but not this week,)
Start ’em WR Cecil Shorts: With Henne or Blaine Gabbert back there it really doesn’t matter. Shorts may have disappointed owners in the 1st 2 weeks of the season, and last week his 143 yards were mostly during garbage time of a blowout…but Shorts is starting to find his groove this season and he has to be the main target in that offense by default. It may not produce draw dropping numbers, but Shorts could be a legitimate WR2 this week against Indy.
Giants at Chiefs
Start ’em: WR Hakeem Nicks: I know, I know – The Giants and their offense were a tire fire last week. And yes, I usually use this spot to advise you to bench RB David Wilson (haven’t been wrong about that yet)…but the Giants passing offense is much better than they showed last week. I know the Chiefs have a solid defense (fantasy owners will get it confused as a “great” defense because of last week), but the fact is there’s no reason the Giants shouldn’t turn in a better performance this week. Nicks had some of his comments about not being able to “throw himself the ball” exaggerated this week in typical NY press style, but the fact remains he’s unhappy with his play and his role. As you know from what I predicted about Mike Wallace after Week 1, I love it when a WR is upset early in the season (the 1st time – after that the returns seem to lessen) – I think the Giants look to appease Nicks early and often in this one.
Sit ’em WR Dwayne Bowe: You can’t completely give up on Bowe yet for 2013, but until he shows you something he can be left on your fantasy bench if you have options. Bowe simply has had a hard time meshing with QB Alex Smith’s conservative short passing game – and while the team is winning, Bowe will not see his role change much. The Giants are a great matchup for him on paper, but unless the Chiefs get behind by a bit I can’t see Bowe having a breakout or even serviceable game.
Steelers at Vikings
Sit ’em RB Le’Veon Bell: This is normally where I advise against starting any Pittsburgh RB, but since the hype is building for Bell’s potential return this week I feel like I have to single him out. Let’s review why Bell is a hot name this week: 1.) Many of you are getting desperate to either turn around your team’s fortune, or to get some production from a guy you drafted in the middle of your fantasy football drafts. 2.) Others of you “cleverly” won Bell off of waivers in recent weeks when a frustrated owner dropped him. 3.) Everyone, even the media always has a a good ole case of “rookie fever”. We love the potential of the unknown, we love a potential savior. 4.) And hell, as a flex what could it hurt right? He’s playing Minnesota’s defense that got whopped by the lowly Browns.
But here’s the cold water reality: Pittsburgh’s offense is in shambles, they simply cannot move the ball on the ground – and it’s not all about the RB “talent”, it’s about the offensive line. Ben Roethlisberger has been quoted this week to the affect that it’s clear he doesn’t expect Bell to walk right in and fix the situation. He’s said he flat out “has no idea” if Bell can help…or even play. And this great matchup? The Vikings defense was beat (almost inexplicably) to death through the air last week, not on the ground – in fact on the ground they held the Browns to about 3 YPC.
So if you hear that Bell will play, or even start this weekend – and think “well, I have my flex player”…I’m advising against it. Strongly. Look it may be that Bell turns into a great flex play or even RB2 by the end of the season – but he’ll need time to find out how he fits in a very battered offense right now. Try someone else while you can, if you owned him since your draft patience is key – don’t rush now. Check back in a week or two….
Sit ’em The Vikings every single one of them except Adrian Peterson: Maybe I’m just mad the Vikings knocked me out of my survivor pool this weekend, maybe I just can’t imagine an injured Christian Ponder being any better than a non-injured Christian Ponder or a healthy *gulp* Matt Cassel, or maybe I just want this game to be so unwatchable that London promptly tells Goodell – thanks but no thanks to the future of American football in the U.K. In any case, think about it? Who (other than AP) would you want to start in purple this week?
Redskins at Raiders
Start ’em RB Darren McFadden: This is the week McFadden goes from “flex” play or low end RB2 to bonafide stud potential. It’s a combination of things: QB Terrel Pryor’s concussion may not be cleared by then, but even if it is – he’ll likely be more conservative with scrambling and pass attempts. The Redskins defense is starting to collapse even up front against the run, which was one of their “strengths” last season and earlier this season (watch Joique Bell run through them this past weekend for example) – and in theory, this should be a close game for most it meaning McFadden should get traditional hand-offs to compliment his short pass repertoire. So, if you some weeks have McFadden and bench him for a close option – this is the week to give him the edge.
Sit ’em TE Fred Davis: After advising most fantasy teams that have even one semi-reliable option to drop Davis flat out this week, I promise this will be the last time I use him here. I just want to use this space to get the message across one last time. Davis cannot be trusted at all this year – good matchups, bad matchups – does not matter: he’s hurt, his starter’s job is in question, he’s on the last year of his deal in DC…the hopes of him being top 10 or even top 15 at the TE position seem dead.
Seahawks at Texans
Start ’em – Russell Wilson: Houston’s strong defense will pose a problem for the Seahawks depleted offensive line, this will surely be a low scoring game, but I think Wilson will have the best game of the lot. He isn’t a high level start, but if you are facing a bye week I think he is a good play.
Start ’em – Seahawks Defense: Seattle is #1 against the pass this season. Andre Johnson is injured and may not play. Seattle should contain the run game. This will be a low scoring game where turnovers and field position will reign supreme. Seattle is turning the ball over this season on defense and Chris Clemons came back last week to bolster the pass rush.
Sit’ em – Matt Schaub: He hasn’t played particularly well lately, he is going against the #1 defense with the #1 pass defense in the league averaging 147 passing yards allowed a game. Does not compute to a start. A big game against the worst pass D in the league (Chargers) and decent second half agaisnt the Titans make his stats look pretty good, watch the games. He was terrible last week and has trouble when he is moved off his spot in the pocket.
Cardinals at Buccaneers
Start ’em – Cardinals Defense: I don’t love their defense, but also I don’t love Rookie QB’s making their first start with his two starting wideouts banged up. I really like this play.
Start ’em – Doug Martin: He might get 30 carries with a Rookie QB and banged up WR’s…
Sit’ em – Cardinals Running Backs: The commitment to the run isn’t really there and their O-line is below average at best. Tampa still has a very good run D regardless of what happened last week. I would avoid them all unless you are in a bind. Mendenhall is the only back to consider, but he is a RB3 at best.
Jets at Titans
Start ’em – Santonio Holmes: Titans have a pretty good defense, but I think their secondary is a bit of a weakness. Holmes is the Jets best route running WR and a clear #1 target. Geno Smith seems to developing a report with Holmes as he works his way back to health. A borderline WR2 play this week.
Sit’ em – Chris Johnson: The Jets defense is quietly having a very good year. They have a strong front 7 and have been playing the run very well. They are only giving up 79 yards a game. Save for breaking a long run, I can’t see Johnson having big day. I wouldn’t count on him for any big numbers.
Eagles at Broncos
Start ’em – Broncos WR’s: Any 3 of them are a must start until further notice. The biggest problem here would be if the Broncos got a huge lead and stopped throwing. It’s hard to imagine a scenario where, Welker, Thomas or Decker aren’t in your starting lineup regularly. Feel confident starting any of the three.
Start ’em – LeSean McCoy: He is playing the best of any RB in the league right now. Not that you weren’t going to start him, but man, this guy is having a MVP type year through 3 games.
Sit’ em – Mike Vick: If you aren’t penalized for turnovers in your league, this isn’t a bad play, but I can see him turning the ball over several times in this game while playing catch up. Any numbers he puts up will be tempered by the turnovers.
Cowboys at Chargers
Start ’em – Dez Bryant and Tony Romo: Miles Austin and Terrence Williams are hurt and the Chargers have the worst pass defense in the league.
Sit’ em – Ryan Mathews : Most people who own him can’t afford to not play him. He just isn’t getting enough carries at this point in the season to justify his top 4 round draft status. The Dallas defense is playing fast this year. A good game for Mathews here, would seemingly give the team more confidence in his ability to carry the load moving forward.
Patriots at Falcons
Start ’em – Steven Ridley: Don’t worry about Blount and Bolden getting touches. I think he gets nearly 15 touches and is effective as the Pats try and grind down the Falcons and keep Matty Ice off the field. He does the little things that Belichick likes and this will keep him on the field.
Sit’ em –Jacquiz Rodgers: Yes, he might get some yards on draws, screens and in spread sets, but he just doesn’t score touchdowns. Jason Snelling is the TD vulture. I would avoid him if you have a better option. Flex play at best.
Dolphins at Saints
Start ’em – Mike Wallace: I think he has a break out game on Monday night. This could be a shootout between two undefeated teams in Louisiana. It wouldn’t surprise me to see him get deep against the Saints blitz heavy scheme.
Sit’ em – Lance Moore: They just aren’t throwing to this guy thus far in the season. Not to say he might break out at some point, but he is a very risky WR3 play this week. I would look elsewhere.
-Ron and Mike