As teams go through their bye weeks – so do we here at the artofscore. With Ron’s vacation underway, our rollout schedule is a little behind. So for this week, we’ll get you the Starts and Sits before Sunday, but *this page will be updated throughout the weekend as we complete matchup analysis*.
As always we try to stick away from the obvious “start Calvin Johnson” etc, but we are always open to fielding specific lineup questions if you leave them in the comments below.
Bengals vs Dolphins
Sit ’em WR Marvin Jones – I know, I know….what?!!! He just scored 4 td’s in a game? You guys recommended picking him up weeks ago, and you’re very proud of that fact. Both those statements are true, but so is this one…it’s likely that was Marvin Jones’ highest fantasy output of his entire career, let alone the 2013 season. And this isn’t a strict bench advisory if you’ve got some WR 3 issues or bye issues, but this is a warning to temper expectations. Thursday night games have a way of being sloppy and low scoring- which isn’t the best environment for a guy that plays on the outside. He and Dalton have been heating up, but something is warning me this is a game where he dips and maybe is even held out of the endzone for the 1st time in 3 weeks. I mean don’t start him just because you didn’t last week and got burned- it’s not going to happen to that degree again. I think a realistic expectation for him is around 5 catches for 65 yards and no score – which may be passable for you depending on what your situation is…but I’m cautioning against Marvin as a “must start” this week, he may have problems tonight.
Start ’em TE Tyler Eifert: Lost in the breakout that was Marvin Jones’ 4 TD reception day, was another near miss TD by Eifert. Eifert is a guy that I think should be a potential star and for fantasy purposes the only thing holding him from top 5-10 Te status this year has been his infrequent targets by Andy Dalton. I am hesitant to recommend Eifert regularly, because Dalton usually looks his way less than 6 times a game, but I just have a good feeling about him in what generally are sloppy Thursday night affairs. In these types of lower scoring games reliable TE’s usually see their target increase. The Dolphins d is just 20th against the pass this season, and I don’t see anyone being a matchup equal for Eifert’s big frame.
Sit ’em RB Lamar Miller: I like Miller more than most, and he has been averaging close to 5 yards per carry his last 2 weeks. But the Bengals have the league’s 8th best run defense – allowing opponents under 4 YPC on average. Miller may get some additional pass receptions in this one, but over 70 combined yards from scrimmage seems unlikely – and he probably won’t find the endzone either. In no way is he a RB2 this week, and he may have problems being a solid flex or RB3 play. I’d start him over guys like Peyton Hillis, Mike James, or Willis Mcgahee – but I’d also feel free to take a risk on some guys like Chris Ivory or teammate WR Rishard Matthews as a flex. Miller’s outlook seems pretty pedestrian.
Chiefs at Bills
Sit ’em RB CJ Spiller: This is my 2nd straight week of advising to bench CJ, and this week it looks like he really will get some playing time. The problem is no one knows what sort of workload CJ is capable of at this point and he is the poster child for fantasy frustration this season. Particularly aggravating is that even when healthy Spiller cedes carries to Fred Jackson near the goalline, and I can’t imagine he sees more than 10-12 total touches in this game against a fairly stout (10th in the NFL for rush defense) Kansas City Defense. I see Spiller’s upside as 6-8 points, which is generally disappointing for a fantasy starting RB. Spiller owners who have a shot at the playoffs should hold Spiller on their bench until he shows he is healthy – those of you with only outside playoff hopes it may be time to start shopping him to owners that believe he will reboound. I don’t see Spiller as a real fantasy factor for another 2-3 weeks.
Start ’em WR Dexter McCluster – McCluster’s career has been so inconsistent that I almost feel like the Chiefs were trolling us for a few seasons there. He’s a RB, no he’s a slot WR, no he’s a punt returner, a wildcat QB, etc, etc, etc….McCluster is an above average talent, with a below average frame – so unlocking his true potential has been very difficult over his 1st 3 seasons. I say strike while the iron is hot here. In his past 2 games McCluster has around 140 total yards and a TD, which means he’s clearly in the gameplan weekly for KC. Buffalo has the league’s 26th overall defense which should mean opportunities for McCluster to find space – and he becomes a solid flex choice this week. McCluster has a history of disappearing (injuries, fumble issues) so he may not be worth starting for long – but he is trending upwards right now, which can help your team.
Falcons at Panthers
Sit ’em Steven Jackson: Jackson didn’t look completely healthy last week in his 1st game back since the 2nd week of the season. In fact an 11 carry for 6 yard performance looks downright nasty. We remarked in the preseason how Jackson looked very slow and hurt, and we had hoped it was just a veteran going through those preseason “I have to be out here” motions. Well he looks like that again, and against a Carolina team that ranks 2nd in the NFL against the rush he should find a seat on your fantasy bench. Jackson will be very fantasy useful down the stretch, and I love the player – but like Spiller, he’s just not there yet.
Start ’em WR Ted Ginn: This might be the riskiest of my advice this week, but I can’t help myself. Ginn can be a devastating weapon when Cam Newton looks for him – and if Cam involved him in the game plan weekly you’d be looking at a solid fantasy WR2 option. Unfortunately Cam likes to feed the mouth that is WR Steve Smith, and the Carolina running game, and some weeks even TE Greg Olsen – all before Ginn. So you look over Ginn’s season and you see things like 10 yards, 60 yards and a TD, 70 yards and a TD, 70 yards, 20 yards, 30 yards, 80 yards….it’s pretty maddening. In non PPR leagues Ginn is a top 30WR, averaging around 9 points a game….it’s just that those duds in between scare you off. Against the Falcons who should keep the pressure on scoring wise, I think you start Ginn this week and he gives you a nice performance. Just be aware of the disappearing risk.
Vikings at Cowboys
Start ’em RB Demarco Murray: I’ve never been a huge fan of Murray’s talent level, but after watching the Dallas running game in his 2 week absence (RB Joseph Randle under 2 YPC) – it’s clear the team needs him. Hopefully Murray’s return frees up Tony Romo to play better, as Romo has also somewhat underperformed without the real threat of the run. I predict a heavy workload for Murray this week against a bad Vikings defense – so start him without hesitation this week.
Sit ’em all Vikings other than AP: And you likely weren’t going to start any of them anyway, but with the news that QB Josh Freeman is probably back under center in this one you can’t take a chance on any of the WR’s or on Kyle Rudolph. This is a real shame, because the Cowboys pass defense is very susceptible to giving up all sorts of fantasy yardage, but the Vikings are the league’s 29th ranked offensive team – and they now have a QB controversy (reports are emerging that the locker room is behind Ponder as the starter). Only the Rams and the Buccaneers are worse run NFL franchises right now-especially on offense (yes Jacksonville I’m giving you props up to 4th worst).
Saints at Jets
Start ’em RB Chris Ivory: Ivory burned me last week with a start recommendation, but that was against a stout Bengals run d. The Saints run defense is only 19th in the league right now, and Ivory appears these last 2 games to have finally (8 weeks into the season- when he was supposed to be the lead back in Week 1) won the early down role for the Jets. One factor from last week’s game that worries me a little is that the Bengals were able to get up on them 14-0 in the 1st 3 drives of the game – which regulated the amount of time the Jets could even think about trying to run the ball. The Saints offense could put the Jets in a similar situation again, but you have to think very early it will be about ball control with the Jets – and the Saints run defense is not near the level of Cincy to make the early stops. I like Ivory this week as a high RB3 possibly even RB2, this might finally be the game he puts together yardage and a TD. The Jets should be nice enough to try to get him in the endzone against his old team.
Sit ’em WR Marques Colston: Name value aside it’s very arguable that Colston should even be on a fantasy roster in standard size leagues. You either keep starting him as a flex, or a bye week guy – or more hopefully, stashing him on the bench waiting desperately for something that looks like his 1st month of the season where at least he was getting 60 yards. Colston may not be done as a player in the league, but something is wrong with him. And the Saints have picked up on it -in his last 3 games Colston has yet to break 20 total yards! While Colston used to be the 1st or 2nd option in the passing game he’s now clearly behind Jimmy Graham, Darren Sproles, and then depending on the week Stills, Meachem, or Moore are also stealing looks. Colston’s a better player than his output, but with the Saints philosophy already being to spread the ball around – and Colston clearly not a redzone priority (1 TD all season) – you can’t start him with any confidence. I keep him on my roster for now, but if he posts his 4th straight game under 20 yards (even under 40) he becomes someone I look at for freeing up a roster spot.
Titans at Rams
Start ’em RB Zac Stacy: I still think Benny Cunningham (out with injury these last 2 weeks) may be the better RB, but I have to tip my cap to Zac. With Kellen Clemens as no real threat to anyone, somehow Stacy ran all over Seattle last week for 134 yards and a 5.2 ypc! In 4 games since being named the starter Stacy has surpassed 70 total yards each time, and if he can somehow add a TD to that average you’ve got a mid-level fantasy RB2. Stacy was banged up a little this week with a foot injury, but he’s been practicing and make no doubt he knows he can put a stranglehold on this job very soon. The Titans are just 24th against the rush- so even though Clemens presents zero threat, and the rest of the Rams skill position players are among the most worthless in the entire league, and he’s a little hurt – Stacy is still a great option this weekend.
Start ’em RB Chris Johnson: This is just a vote of confidence to you Johnson owners. I know the news came out of Tennessee this week that they want to get Shonn Greene more involved (the Titans comical mismanagement on offense has them threatening the bottom Vikings, Rams, and Bucs) but let’s face it Chris Johnson doesn’t need a lot of typical rushing touches to be productive. Last week against a good Niners d he only ran for 39 yards (on a semi respectable 4.3 average), but he still added 71 yards and a TD to that total with his receiving totals. The Rams run d in prime time against Marshawn Lynch looked good last week – but remember the Seattle OL is very depleted right now, and overall the Rams rank just 22nd against the run for the season. Don’t let the hype – either from the Titans, or the Rams d scare you off of Johnson for 2013 – he’s going to be a very good player for your team.
Chargers at Redskins
Start ’em RB Ryan Matthews: You would think there would be fantasy points galore in this game. Neither defense is any good at making stops, and both offenses have decent if not superstar point producers. I want to highlight Matthews for the Chargers, as his previous 2 games he went over 100 yards rushing and then got the bye to rest up. We know Matthews history: injuries and fumbles. Well he’s healthy right now and starting to run red hot against the 30th ranked Redskins run defense he’s a high end RB2 and absolutely a better play this week than some guys with better historical reputations like Steven Jackson or even Chris Johnson.
Start ’em WR Pierre Garcon: Garcon, like RG3 has been a bit of a disappointment this season. He still makes crazy catches and accelerates well after them, but as he put it best “We suck right now at passing”. He’s been held without a TD for 3 straight games and has only broken the 60 yard barrier once in his last 4 games. But, we know the drill with WR’s: complain and teams will usually try to force feed you the ball. Against good defenses this could be a problem, but against the Chargers 26th ranked pass defense it’s likely Pierre gets his long awaited breakout week. I’m not saying to expect the insane 143 and a TD he put up in week 2, but I would think he’ll be a redzone target this week for certain. So if you’ve recently taken him out of your WR rotation b/c you’re sick of looking at him put up 6 points or so – now is the time to get him back in as a high WR2 this weekend.
Eagles at Raiders
Sit ’em QB Terrelle Pryor: I know he just rushed for the longest TD in league history by a QB. But if someone from the Steelers makes a tackle after say 40 yards what kind of day are we talking about fantasy wise? And that’s the thing, I feel like Pryor is on about 14:58 of his 15mins of spotlight. His passing #’s over his last 2 games are hovering around a pathetic 52% completion percentage and he has 1 TD vs 5 Int’s during that span. Pryor can’t really pass at the NFL level, and teams are starting to adjust to this, once his rushing yards drop to a semi-normal 40-50 yards per game you’re going to wind up with a below average fantasy QB (and a terrible real life QB). We have probably made more wrong calls about Pryor being hot or cold than any other player all season, but I just don’t know how you can feel good about starting this guy right now. Sure if you’re faced between a Case Keenum or a Jason Cambell, Pryor’s homerun upside is worth it, but against any midlevel producer like Alex Smith or Russel Wilson- I’m taking the safer guys all the time.
Start ’em WR Riley Cooper: In the 2 games prior to Nick Foles getting a concussion Cooper had over 200 yards and a TD. Foles may be a little slow coming back from his injury (thus why I can’t go all in on him this week), but Cooper will still be one of his favorite targets when he gets back under center this week. I feel like if Foles can stay healthy that duo will surprise folks down the stretch of this season – it’s not so much that Cooper is extremely talented, so much as it is that Foles is capable of involving his secondary WR options much better than Vick – or the insanely terrible Matt Barkley could ever be. Cooper makes a nice WR3 or very low end flex play this week – with a trend I think to be a very solid option in weeks to come. 70-80 yards could be a very reasonable expectation for him this weekend.
Buccaneers at Seahawks
Sit all Buccaneers except WR Vincent Jackson: And the only reason you can’t sit Jackson is because Glennon’s targets him at such a high volume there’s a nice chance for garbage production. I like Glennon’s development but he’s not ready for Seattle’s 2nd overall defense in their own building – so this eliminates any of the passing game players (save Jackson and you have to expect a reduced day for him), and rookie RB Mike James has yet to break 60 total yards since stepping in for Doug Martin. Our own Ron Brown will be there in person this weekend to lend his screaming voice to the throng – so there’s even other reason to bench your Bucs.
Start ’em QB Russell Wilson: No way around it, Wilson’s been a fantasy disappointment this season – with his OL beat up, Percy Harvin not available, and a run heavy gameplan, Wilson is probably hovering around the 10th-15th scoring QB in your league (which is not great in 12 team leagues). I say don’t get too discouraged or overthink it, Wilson against lesser opponents is still a good- to-great starting option. The loss of Sidney Rice for the season doesn’t worry me too much, because let’s face it Sidney Rice has been “just a guy” for 3 seasons now – Doug Baldwin or Jermaine Kearse can handle that level of production. Wilson will have a nice day against a below average Buccaneers pass defense, and he’s a clear start to me if you’re choosing between 2 QB’s and don’t have an elite guy this weekend.
Ravens at Browns
Sit ’em RB Ray Rice: Rice is quickly approaching RB3 level which is not something you want when talking about someone that was taken in the 1st round this summer. The good news for a down season is that Rice has had an occasionally excellent week (like Week 5 vs Miami 102 total yards and 2 TD’s), and he’s had a bye week to get some much needed rest. But here’s the bad news – Rice’s current season’s YPC is a horrific 2.8, and he has just 3 total TD’s through 7 games. Rice looks like the “oldest” 26 year old to ever play the game, and looks slow and beat up. Some of this is the general failure of Baltimore to run at all, as the younger and larger Bernard Pierce has also struggled. It got so bad the team even brought in Beanie Wells for a change of pace (and poor Wells tore his ACL during the workout!) If your team can only start 2 RB’s and you have 3 options – Rice is a sit against tough matchups nowadays, if you have a flex spot or an RB3 you probably still have to take a chance most weeks with Rice – but it’s not looking like a dramatic turn around is imminent. The Browns have a decent 11th ranked run defense and I’m no longer convinced that against a team of this level that Rice is a “must start”. Consider other options this week.
Sit ’em RB Willis McGahee: Speaking of old and beat up, here’s a guy that’s actually both. The Browns are sort of shuffling their backfield around constantly- and this combined with McGahee’s achy knees has resulted in him only getting an average of 9-12 touches a week. Willis is simply not at the stage of his career where he can really produce with so few opportunities, and he doesn’t appear to be able to handle a 20+ touch workload (they did it once with 26 carries in week 5, and he hasn’t been able to recover). I had hope McGahee would develop into a low end RB2 this season, but it looks like that hope is expiring quickly, and currently he’s a very low end RB3, and probably not an option if you have a flex spot (def not in PPR). Keep him rostered for a few more weeks to see if he can get his workload back to normal for a starting RB, but keep him on your bench until he can cross that 15 carry mark.
Steelers at Patriots
Start ’em RB Steven Ridley – Few things in fantasy this year have been more perplexing to me than Ridley’s recent run to fantasy relevance. Through his 1st 5 games of the season Ridley looked terrible running for over 50 yards just 1 time, and getting 0 Td’s. He looked DONE. TOAST. EL FINITO. Owners probably couldn’t dump him because he was likely drafted in the 1st 3 rounds of your league’s fantasy draft, and you were counting on him. Well, inexplicably Ridley has rewarded any patience shown to him – as over his last 3 games he hasn’t once totaled under 50 yards, while piling up 4 Td’s. Pittsburgh’s run defense – usually a hallmark, is well below average this season at 27th overall. So continue to rely on Ridley this week as a RB2, and be glad the Pats have worked him back into their gamplans. (IF YOU WANTED A GRONKOWSKI VERDICT = IF HE PLAYS YOU START HIM)
Colts at Texans
Start ’em RB Ben Tate: And here I am recommending a guy with 4 broken ribs, what a fantasy season this has been. The Colts have a terrible run defense, (29th in NFL) and with Case Keenum as your QB – you have to think the Texans will try to establish the run. Arian Foster (gametime decision), if he suits up will at best get 50% of the workload as (hopefully) the Texans won’t push him on a bad hamstring. Even injured, and even if his workload is capped Tate makes a nice play this week as a flex, or even a very low end RB2. I mean if you’ve owned Tate at all in your fantasy life you know that these are the types of conditions and matchups that you wait all year to play him in. His points could fluctuate anywhere between 6-20, so as an upside lotto pick he is probably worth it over your bench full of under-producers or bye week starters.