Top News: Media reports out of Pittsburgh are suggesting that the erratic Johnny Manziel will get the start tomorrow against the Steelers over the more dangerous Josh McCown - who is still nursing sore ribs. This bit of news will downgrade Cleveland's best fantasy player Gary Barnidge and the other Browns receivers which is too bad considering how poor Pitt's D looked last week against Oakland last week. On the other side, all signs point to Ben Roethlisberger's sprained foot keeping him out of tomorrow's game as well - leading the way for low-priced Landry Jones to become a popular low priced selection on all daily cards. The Steelers sneaked by a high powered Raiders team last week, partly because they knocked out Oakland RB Latavius Murray literally with a concussion. Murray is listed as probable for tomorrow's game against Minnesota as he has cleared the NFL's concussion protocol. Minnesota QB Teddy Bridgewater also suffered a concussion last week against St. Louis and is more of a question mark than Murray, but the team does expect him to play after his full participation in practice on Friday. This would be great news for Minnesota receivers, especially considering Oakland's league-worst pass defense. Chicago RB Matt Forte's knee injury was finally confirmed as a sprained MCL which is an injury that takes at least 3-4 weeks to heal. Expect Jeremy Langford to be the main back for at least the next two weeks if not more, so his low price point will provide a lot of bang for your daily buck, even against the Rams.
Stock Up - Allen Hurns (JAX) - Even though he is listed as questionable with a foot injury for tomorrow's game against Baltimore, he will play and take advantage of what could be a very high scoring game involving two bad pass defenses.
Dez Bryant (DAL) - Despite his slow rehab from a broken foot, he is listed as probable for tomorrow's game against Tampa Bay and should have a strong game. To make yourself feel confident about picking him, just watch a replay of his TD last week against Philly and see how high he jumped.
DeSean Jackson (WAS) - The injury prone speedster has been an incredible bust this year due to a bum hamstring but is now the healthiest he has been since Week 1 and is expected to have a strong game against one of the league's worst pass defenses - New Orleans.
Stock Down - Eddie Lacy (GB) - Bad ankle, bad groin and overweight? Lacy not only lost his starting job to James Starks, he will be fighting a huge uphill battle to regain the value he had last year. If you remember, he struggled the first half of last year before ending on a tear but he will be hard pressed to match his 2014 at this point.
Emmanuel Sanders (DEN) - Sanders was limited in Friday practice because his sore ankle was still giving him trouble. Head coach Gary Kubiak confirmed Sanders was really sore and will essentially be a game-time decision which makes him a tough play.
Marshawn Lynch (SEA) - The powerful runner is dealing with an abdomen injury that has him listed as questionable for tomorrow's game against Arizona. Lynch has been bothered quite a bit by the injury bug this year which begs the question - is his body starting to finally break down due to his physical style and age?
Alshon Jeffery (CHI) - Although the streaking WR is expected to go tomorrow against St. Louis he was limited in practice Friday with a groin injury. Groin injuries are hard to overcome so Jeffery will have two things working against him - a sore groin and a ballhawking St. Louis defense.
***We will use Draft Kings as the basis of our recommended players and their corresponding salaries.
Fantistics Top 5 QBs:
1. Tom Brady
2. Aaron Rodgers
3. Peyton Manning
4. Blake Bortles
5. Drew Brees
Blake Bortles (JAX) - Bortles remains moderately priced despite his ability to have highly productive games with an impressive young array of offensive talent around him. His price tag of $5,600 is considered second tier which is very beneficial when it comes to loading up on other positions of your card. Consider that Tom Brady is at $8,600 which is a $3,000 difference, and that can be huge, especially when you consider that Bortles matched Brady's production last week. Now, Bortles does throw a lot of INTs, but guess who he faces Sunday? That's right, the 29th ranked pass defense in the league - Baltimore. The Ravens have already yielded 16 passing TDs and 300.8 passing yards per outing. In his last four games, Bortles has thrown 11 TDs versus seven INTs and registered three 300-yard passing games. Jacksonville is a young team that shows its inexperience but at that same time, its strength is its offensive firepower which Bortles will have to bring to take advantage of an injury stung Ravens squad.
Derek Carr (OAK), Matt Cassel (DAL) and Ryan Tannehill (MIA).
Derek Carr has been on fire for most of this season because the Raiders' offensive scheme is about 10 steps ahead of opposing defenses. Not counting the season opener against Cincinnati that saw him get injured, Carr has thrown 300+ yards in four of seven games, thrown multiple TDs in six games and is currently on a three game streak of throwing at least three TDs. Not only is Carr connecting at a ridiculous rate, a majority of his passes go for first downs as there are no defenders even near who he is targeting. Offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave has devised a spread offense that incorporates Carr's uncanny accuracy and the diverse receiving talent in Oakland. Despite all the fanfare, Carr is priced at a reasonable $5,800 for a home game against a Minnesota team that may not have the recently concussed Teddy Bridgewater. Matt Cassel ($5,000) looked like a deer in the proverbial headlights when he took over for the ineffective Brandon Weeden weeks ago but against Philly last Sunday night, he looked more like the solid QB we saw in Kansas City a few years ago. He ended up throwing 25 of 38 for 299 yards, three TDs and one INT against Philly which no doubt was helped by the continually progressing health of Dez Bryant. He faces a very vulnerable Tampa Bay defense that has given up 19 receiving TDs - the second most in the league behind New Orleans. In a very encouraging trend, Dallas has rounded into an offense that looks a lot like last year's with Darren McFadden playing the downhill DeMarco Murray chain mover and Bryant and Jason Witten finally waking up last week. Cassel didn't force things and looked much more at ease which should continue against the Bucs who allowed Eli Manning to throw up and down the field on them in Week 9. Ryan Tannehill ($5,300) hasn't thrown a TD the last two weeks against strong pass defenses but will get a reprieve against the 22nd ranked Philly pass defense this Sunday. He did still throw for 300 yards in each of his last two games which has been a consistent theme since Dan Campbell took over as head coach starting Week 6. The offense has been simplified to suit Tannehill who is also enjoying the resurgence of Lamar Miller which helps keep opposing defenses honest. Philly gives up nearly 270 passing yards per game and even had problems against the previously cold Matt Cassel. Earlier this season, Tannehill threw multiple TD passes in five straight games.
Fantistics Top 5 RBs:
1. DeAngelo Williams
2. DeMarco Murray
3. Doug Martin
4. Justin Forsett
5. Jeremy Langford
DeAngelo Williams (PIT) - Williams had a game for the ages last week against Oakland when he garnered 170 yards and two TDs on 27 carries. He picked up right where the injured Le'Veon Bell left off and looked explosive doing it. He is battling a swollen foot and missed practice Wednesday but the team isn't worried about him missing any time against woeful Cleveland. The Browns rank dead last in the league against the run as they yield 147.6 yards per game along with a 4.7 YPC average. With Ben Roethlisberger out with a foot sprain, Pittsburgh will most likely play it conservatively and work its running game, especially since Cleveland is so poor in defending against it. Williams is priced at $6,500 because of his game last week but is a strong value.
Darren McFadden (DAL) - McFadden hasn't been on a roll like he is currently on in a longgg time, and it is time daily players take advantage of it. Over the last three weeks, Run DMC is averaging 111 yards per game but does have just one TD. With Joseph Randle long gone, Dallas quickly figured that its best chance to stabilize a struggling offense was to copy the success it had last year when it ran DeMarco Murray countlessly behind a stellar offensive line which set up Tony Romo's explosive passing game. McFadden has been up to the challenge thus far and will now face a Tampa Bay defense that has had its share of big lapses this year. The Bucs are giving up over 108 rushing yards per game and really haven't stopped anyone this year. Matt Cassel also played his best game as a Cowboy last week which should help McFadden as TB cannot cheat and load up the box. McFadden is priced at $4,900 which is reasonable enough to load up on other parts of your card.
LeGarrette Blount (NE), James Starks (GB) and Antonio Andrews (TEN).
LeGarrette Blount - With the season ending injury to Dion Lewis, even though his pass receiving skills will cause him to be substituted for regularly, Blount is considered the primary back in the offense and will receive more carries as a result. He is priced at a reasonable $4,900 and faces a 22ndranked NY Giants run defense that allows almost 115 yards per game and a 4.3 YPC average. Not surprisingly, Blount's greatest strength is Tom Brady, whose engineering of NE's spread offense is simply masterful. In recent years, NE has always used the pass to set up the run which causes defenses to play soft against the run which directly benefits Blount who can feast against a standard box. Blount is also money at the goal line which is an underrated part of his appeal, especially when you consider how often NE goes for it on fourth down near the goal line. James Starks - Due to Eddie Lacy's bum ankle, bum groin and apparently being out of shape all season, Starks was named starter for this Sunday's battle against the lowly Detroit Lions. Lacy will still be a part of the offensive gameplan but Starks will log more carries and overall touches which is a great thing against Detroit, a team that is ranked 30th against the run. The Lions give up 133.8 rushing yards per game! During the Packers recent two game losing streak, their one-dimensionality has caused the GB receivers to get beat up at the line which has resulted in the offense becoming out of sync. The Packers must focus on the running game a little more so that defenses don't know what's coming, so who better to plug into your card than a $4,900 back? Detroit is a great team to do that against. Antonio Andrews was named the primary back for the Titans two weeks ago and as a result, has put up some decent production. In his last two games, he has rushed 35 times for 154 yards (but zero TDs). The Titans find themselves down in games a lot because their D is pretty bad, which adversely affects the running game. Tennessee has to throw in a lot of situations which doesn't help Andrews' numbers, but the Titans are riding high off a big OT win last Sunday against New Orleans and hosts Carolina at home this Sunday. It is a gamble, but the Panthers run defense isn't as good as people think (Carolina yields 108.4 rushing yards per game) it is and Andrews' price of $3,600 is very attractive, especially in a home game with momentum.
Fantistics Top 5 WRs:
1. DeMaryius Thomas
2. Antonio Brown
3. Dez Bryant
4. Allen Robinson
5. Odell Beckham Jr.
Allen Robinson (JAX) - There isn't a receiver more underrated yet consistently productive as Robinson this year, so for him to have a second tier price tag of $6,700, you have to jump on it especially when you consider that he plays the lowly Ravens pass defense this Sunday. He has caught no less than six passes in four straight games, he has caught four TDs in his last four games and is averaging 97 receiving yards over his last seven games. Baltimore gives up 300.8 receiving yards per game while Jacksonville is ranked 11th in passing yardage at 274.1 yards per game. With two struggling defenses, this game appears to be a shootout in the making so Robinson's teammate Allen Hurns ($5,800) is another strong daily play. Jacksonville has played better than its record so don't let the numbers fool ya, this is a talented young offense that is getting better quickly.
Michael Crabtree (OAK) - Crabtree was an afterthought in free agency this past offseason and even turned down more money in Miami because he felt the offer was insulting. He wound up taking a short deal in Oakland which was probably the best thing he's done since his part in the 49ers run to the Super Bowl just a few short years ago. His stock will go up next season when his contract comes due but his stock has already skyrocketed in the daily world, and he is still priced at a reasonable $5,800 while putting up numbers far more valuable than that. Over the last three weeks, he has caught 20 passes for 273 yards and four TDs. He will next play a Minnesota pass defense that yields only 236.3 yards per game but nobody except Cincinnati in the season opener has figured out how to slow down an Oakland offense which is running on all cylinders. Crabtree is making more big plays than explosive rookie Amari Cooper and is being targeted more by Derek Carr who seems to be favoring him as his top receiver.
Brandon LaFell (NE), Tavon Austin (STL), Stefon Diggs (MIN)
Brandon LaFell - Slowly but surely, LaFell is rounding into form after battling a long term foot issue and is still priced low enough to be a steal on your card at $4,100. After a slow start in Week 7 which was ripe with many drops, his last outing against Washington saw him catch five passes for 102 yards. It is just a matter of time before he hits the end zone, especially with Dion Lewisout for the season (more balls will have to be thrown to the receiving core as a result) and opposing defenses continuing to double team Rob Gronkowskiand bumping Julian Edelman all over the field. As long as Tom Brady is healthy, LaFell will see a lot of action in the spread as he should this coming Sunday against NE nemesis - the New York Giants. Tavon Austin is one of the Rams' two true playmakers (along with Todd Gurley) who despite the team's overall offensive struggles, are valuable because there really is no one else. Over his last five games - he has two games of 96+ yards receiving, 150 total yards rushing and five total TDs. He is so explosive and diverse as he gets points in a multitude of ways. He is priced at $4,800 and has a nice matchup against a soft Chicago defense that has allowed a fourth worst 17 receiving TDs and is coming off a tiring Monday night game against San Diego. Stefon Diggs ($5,100) had his worst game in a while last Sunday against a good St. Louis defense as he caught just three passes for 42 yards, however the last four weeks he was on fire - catching 25 passes for 419 yards and two TDs. He will rebound this week as he plays the defense (Oakland) that allowed Antonio Brown to register a millions receiving yards last week. Oakland is ranked dead last against the pass, yielding 325.1 yards per game! Teddy Bridgewater still has to pass concussion protocol to be eligible Sunday, but the team is confident he will be fine. When your secondary's best player is near 40-year old Charles Woodson, not to say he isn't playing great because he is, you have defensive problems.
Fantistics Top 5 TEs:
1. Rob Gronkowski
2. Greg Olsen
3. Tyler Eifert
4. Jordan Reed
5. Travis Kelce
Tyler Eifert (CIN) - Eifert is already a contender for fantasy surprise of the year for his scoring exploits thus far, and has a great chance to improve his stock when lowly Houston comes to town this weekend. While Rob Gronkowski is priced at $8,000, Eifert is priced at a more affordable $5,800 and has been outproducing the NE stud. In his last four games, Eifert has six TDs! With opposing defenses more concerned with AJ Green and the Bengals' multifaceted running attack, although he is seeing more double teams now, he still gets a lot of room but simply catches the ball in traffic about as well as any TE can right now. The Texans have already given up a ridiculous 16 receiving TDs so far this year and might get rolled over both on offense and defense by a streaking Cincy team that is led by Andy Dalton - a guy who is playing with a chip on his shoulder.
Jordan Reed (WAS) and Ben Watson (NO).
Jordan Reed - We all know the drill when it comes to Reed, he is a helluva player when he is healthy which is the problem. He missed Weeks 5 and 6 due to various ailments but has caught three TDs in the two games since his return to the lineup. Washington's offense can be a mess at times but against a defense as bad as New Orleans (who they face this Sunday), we expect Kirk Cousins to be very effective. Reed has been productive in every game he has played his year and will now get to face a 30th ranked New Orleans' pass defense that yields 306.3 yards per game and has allowed a whopping league-worst 24 receiving TDs! His $4,600 price tag is a little higher than I thought he would be listed at but all it means is popular thought is on Reed's side as well.Ben Watson is priced at $4,300 and should also benefit from the NO-Washington game. Since Drew Brees' re-emergence from his early season shoulder woes, Watson has been one of the key beneficiaries on the receiving end. Over his last five games, Watson has caught 31 passes for 429 yards and three TDs. With just one more TD, he will have his most since 2009. With Brees reassessing nuances in the post Jimmy Graham Era, his young receivers have had growing pains so the decision was made to phase down the ineffective Josh Hill and increase Watson's role which shows no signs of stopping.
Fantistics Top 5 Defenses:
3. St. Louis
Green Bay Packers - The Packers are priced as a lower top tier defense at $3,200 which makes a lot of sense if you don't mind spending a higher than average price for guaranteed points against a sad sack Detroit team. GB has dominated Detroit over the years at home and this time, it is coming off losing two consecutive games which doesn't happen often to Aaron Rodgers and Co. They will be mad and ready to pounce with ROLB/DE Julius Peppers leading the way with a team high 5.5 sacks. GB is struggling against both the pass and rush lately but will be facing a Detroit team that has no running game and a QB in Matthew Stafford who is inconsistent to say the least. GB is ranked 5thin INTs with 10, 5th in sacks with 23 and 8th in passes defensed with 39. MLB Clay Matthews has to shore up the defense and add to his 37 tackles (4th on the team) and 4.5 sacks (2nd on the team) while S Ha Ha Clinton-Dix leads the secondary and team with 53 tackles and also has two passes defensed and one INT. The secondary also features CB Sam Shields (eight passes defensed and two INTs) and underrated CB Damarious Randall (10 passes defensed and two INTs). Six GB defenders have at least two sacks and seven have at least one INT. The Lions offense is ranked 31st in points per game, 3rd in fumbles lost and 2nd in INTs thrown so the Packers can strike in a big way.
Other Values: Dallas Cowboys - The Cowboys might have given up a lot of points to Philly last Sunday night but the Dallas D is the main reason the team has been competitive during the non-Tony Romo Era. They haven't produced nearly enough INTs and fumbles this year (hence the $2,500 price tag) but with the offense finally looking imposing last week, when playing Tampa Bay this Sunday, the Boys can be more aggressive on defense as they shouldn't be in the hole by so many points. While Jameis Winston has played well as a rookie for TB, he and the entire offense have been inconsistent while turning the ball over liberally. This is a great spot for Dallas to turn it on on both sides of the ball if it wants to turn around its fortunes in the mostly pathetic NFC East. Chicago Bears - Priced at only $2,200 the Monsters of the Midway are not expected to do much this Sunday but do consider they are playing St. Louis - a team that doesn't bring to mind memories of the Greatest Show on Turf (ranked 30th in points per game!). As written earlier, the Rams will try all game to funnel plays to Tavon Austin and Todd Gurley, but that doesn't mean they will dominate because defenses can adequately prepare for such predictability. Also, the Bears gave gunslinger Philip Rivers trouble last Monday so imagine what they could do to Nick Foles? Mistakes will not be exclusive to either team, but the Bears D will at the very least make some plays to give you decent points based on their price.
Fantistics Top 5 Kickers:
1. Stephen Gostkowski
2. Chris Boswell
3. Caleb Sturgis
4. Dustin Hopkins
5. Blair Walsh
Graham Gano (CAR) - Gano has been on a tear the last three weeks and that shouldn't change this coming Sunday against a soft Tennessee defense. The veteran kicker has nailed 8-of-9 FGs and nine XPs in his last three games, two of which were played in bad weather. Carolina's offense is red hot right now as Cam Newton and Co. is ranked fourth in points per game (28.5). Gano will continue to benefit and put up a nice amount of points.
Other Values: Greg Zuerlein (STL), Chandler Catanzaro (AZ) and Justin Tucker (BAL)
Sample Cards (each card reflects a roster at or under a basic 50K cap total) -
#1 - BALANCE IS KEY
QB Blake Bortles
RB Darren McFadden
RB Lamar Miller
WR Michael Crabtree
WR Allen Hurns
WR Alshon Jeffery
TE Tyler Eifert
FLEX DeMarco Murray
#2 INVESTING IN HIGH SCORING GAMES
QB Derek Carr
RB LeSean McCoy
RB James Starks
WR Amari Cooper
WR Allen Robinson
WR Stefon Diggs
TE Jordan Reed
FLEX DeAngelo Williams
DSR Green Bay
#3 HIGH-PRICED SUPERSTAR LEADING THE WAY
QB Tom Brady
RB Todd Gurley
RB Antonio Andrews
WR DeAndre Hopkins
WR Rueben Randle
WR Jarvis Landry
TE Ben Watson
FLEX Brandon LaFell