Notes for all 32 Teams (Week 14)
Jeff Haseley catches us up with what’s going on around the league for each NFL team.
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Arizona has lost two games in a row and has let Seattle crawl back into the chase for the NFC West title. The Cardinals offense has been hit with a barrage of injuries this year, most notably Carson Palmer (knee), Larry Fitzgerald (knee) and Andre Ellington (foot/hip). Monitor the practice schedules for both, especially Fitzgerald. Ellington is a safer bet to play, but this could be the week Fitzgerald returns. From a fantasy perspective, I’m not high on any player in particular this week vs. Kansas City. Drew Stanton has been a serviceable quarterback, but in the last three games (all games where Stanton appeared), Arizona has scored a total of 35 points.
The Falcons travel to Lambeau Field this week to face the upstart Packers on Monday Night Football. Atlanta took care of business against the NFC West-leading Cardinals last week. Could lightning strike twice with back to back wins against conference division leaders? I would be surprised if that happened, in fact I think Atlanta will lose by at least ten points and possibly more. How does this affect them in fantasy terms? I would fade the running game, despite Steven Jackson‘s recent resurgence of scoring a touchdown or rushing for 100 yards in four of the last five games. Roddy White (ankle) missed last week’s game, but he’s expected to return to the lineup this week. It’s a late game, so monitor his practice schedule on Friday to be sure he practices in full. The game script could mean a lot of pass attempts for Matt Ryan, which figures to play into the success of Julio Jones and Roddy White. Harry Douglas‘s production should drop off if White is back, so don’t go chasing points this week thinking Douglas will provide more of the same.
The Ravens play at Miami this week and if you have been following the Dolphins defense, you know that they have allowed a ton of rushing yards to each of the last two opponents at DEN and at NYJ. Miami is a tougher opponent at home, especially on defense, so don’t automatically assume this is a green light for Justin Forsett. I like the matchup for him, but I don’t love it. Forsett does have three consecutive 100+ yard rushing games with four touchdowns in those games (none last week vs. SD). Miami has been pretty stout against the pass, holding three of the last five teams to zero touchdown passes. I wouldn’t be too high on Joe Flacco and company this week. If anything, the running game, led by Forsett, is the matchup to exploit.
Sammy Watkins has tailed off in the last few games and now he’s dealing with a hip injury. I don’t expect him to sit out the game at Denver, but he also isn’t expected to be at 100%. Robert Woods has been the go-to receiver for Kyle Orton lately. In the last four games, Woods has 31 targets (same as Watkins) with 21 receptions and a touchdown. Watkins has just 13 receptions in the same span. Denver has allowed an average of 2.4 passing touchdowns in the last three weeks, but I don’t see this as a great matchup for the Bills, who probably won’t score over 21 points in this game. Fred Jackson had 21 carries last week, which tells me his injured groin is allowing him to play at or near 100%. He’s an interesting option this week against Denver. I would not be surprised to see him reach upwards of 4-5 receptions in addition to being the team’s leading rusher.
The Panthers are struggling in every facet of the game, especially on the road. Their offense can’t find a rhythm, Kelvin Benjamin is being over targeted and heavily covered (45% reception percentage in the last four weeks). DeAngelo Williams has a broken finger (but should play), the offensive line is devoid of talented starters and they will quickly become one-dimensional against the Saints this week. Fade the Panthers this week and weeks going forward unless they show something – but I doubt they will. Garbage time may be their only saving grace this week, but you can’t always rely on that. If you’re looking for a glimmer of hope – Jonathan Stewart rushed for over 80 yards last week and New Orleans has given up an average of 152 yards rushing a game in the last five weeks.
The Bengals have won five of their last six with wins over BAL, JAC, NO, HOU, TB. This week they will host the Steelers in a pivotal division game that will surely have playoff implications. I expect a game in the 20’s with a tight margin at the end. The Bengals strength lately has been their running game, while their offense through the air has struggled to take off with the exception of A.J. Green. Green has been the primary receiving threat since he returned from his toe injury and remains an elite WR1 going forward. Pittsburgh has allowed 2.8 touchdown passes per game over the last five weeks, which means Andy Dalton and A.J. Green have a good chance for a connection in the end zone. It’s hard to target Jeremy Hill or Giovani Bernard, as both may cancel each other out as fantasy options. My gut says to target Green this week and hope for a big outcome.
Isaiah Crowell and the Browns running game (and offense in general) was stopped in their tracks last week at Buffalo. This week they will host the Colts which should yield more opportunities for the offense, even with Brian Hoyer getting the nod as starting QB. Terrance West is having ball security issues, so look for Isaiah Crowell to see the majority of the team’s carries. The big matchup that I am intrigued about is Josh Gordon against the Colts secondary who could be without their star cover corner, Vontae Davis (concussion). If Davis is out, look for Gordon to roam free and have a monster game. I like his chances more now that Hoyer is officially under center. Hoyer has more experience and knowledge of defenses to find the right pass plays to exploit the Colts weakened secondary.
The Bears host Dallas on Thursday night and there are several items to talk about in this game. Alshon Jeffery is fighting a hamstring injury that keeps coming back and he may not be 100% for this game. He did not practice Tuesday, so monitor his health as we get closer to Thursday night. Brandon Marshall stands to benefit if Jeffery is still hobbled by game time. Chicago has talked about getting Matt Forte more involved in the rushing game and this is a good week to test those waters. Dallas has allowed 1.7 rushing touchdowns per game in the last four weeks with an average of 139 yards rushing in that same span. Start Forte and hope the Bears can stay in the game to give them an opportunity to exploit the rushing matchup. In my opinion, the game script benefits Forte and the Bears offense, especially if they can minimize turnovers and convert on their chances in the red zone. Elevate Marshall especially if the news about Jeffery doesn’t drastically improve.
The Cowboys have lost their edge in the NFC East and now are looking like the only way into the playoffs is via a wild card berth. If Dallas wants to play in the postseason they need to be able to win a road game like this week at Chicago. The Bears have struggled this year, so there is plenty of optimism for a strong fantasy week from the Cowboys faithful. DeMarco Murray has been able to find success against all opponents and that shouldn’t change against the Bears. The big winner this week though is Tony Romo and Dez Bryant. The Bears pass defense has allowed 2.5 passing touchdowns per game over the last four weeks. Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson took advantage of this unit last week. I would be shocked if Dallas didn’t take to the air this week, especially if Chicago is focused on stopping Murray. This game has the chance to be in the upper 20’s for both teams with plenty of scoring opportunities.
C.J. Anderson has been the best RB in the league over the last few games and it doesn’t look like it will let up anytime soon. Having said that, the Bills come to Denver this week and they are led by their strong defense that has not allowed rushing touchdown since Week 10 or a passing touchdown since Week 11. This is Peyton Manning that we’re talking about though, so all concerns are out the window right? You can’t sit Anderson, but if he doesn’t clear 100 yards rushing, don’t be surprised. Julius Thomas (ankle) is looking like he will return to the lineup this week. Monitor his practice schedule to be sure he’s a go. If he practices in full, start him.
The Lions host the Buccaneers this week – cupcake city right? Think again. Tampa Bay has held their last four opponents (Ryan, Griffin, Cutler, Dalton) to one touchdown pass. Surely Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson can get the best of the Buccaneers secondary, right? They might, but this defense has quietly been better than advertised lately. Reggie Bush (ankle) is expected back this week, but don’t assume that means we’ll see less of Joique Bell. No, that means we’ll see less of Theo Riddick. Look for Bush to be more involved as a receiver than anything else. Joique Bell will still see the majority of the Lions carries.
The Packers host the Falcons this week on Monday Night Football. Start your Packers. Atlanta does not have a good defensive pass rush, which means Rodgers should stand back and pick who he wants to throw the ball to. Randall Cobb and Jordy Nelson are the two biggest beneficiaries. Davante Adams came on strong last week, but that was mainly due to Darrelle Revis in coverage with Nelson, and at times Cobb. The receiver who was open more often was Adams and Rodgers took advantage of it. It’s entirely possible that Eddie Lacy will vulutre a touchdown or two, which will keep Rodgers’ totals down. Two touchdown passes is expected, three is a distinct possibility and if no Lacy touchdown, four is possible. Load up on your Packers.
Ryan Fitzpatrick had six touchdown passes last week against Tennessee. I don’t expect the same this week at Jacksonville. The Jags defense, especially against the pass, has been strong lately. They held Andrew Luck to the only game in his last nine without 300 yards passing. Luck also had only one touchdown pass against Jacksonville. The run defense has been another story, so jump on Arian Foster this week and ride him to at least one touchdown and over 100 total yards. DeAndre Hopkins had a week to remember last week, but that was against the Titans #2 corner Blidi Wreh-Wilson who was battling a bad back. I’m not bullish on the Texans receivers this week. A touchdown is definitely a possibility for either Andre Johnson or Hopkins, but I don’t see another blowout with record touchdown passes.
The Colts play the Browns on the road this week. I’ve ridden the #2 WR against the Browns all year long and have mostly come out on top. This week that receiver is Reggie Wayne with some possible switches that could see Donte Moncrief getting a crack at Browns corner Buster Skrine. Dwayne Allen (ankle) could be back this week, which would put a damper on Coby Fleener‘s fantasy outlook. I wouldn’t ignore Fleener altogether, even if Allen is back. Andrew Luck loves to involve his tight ends in the offense. 14 of Luck’s 34 touchdown passes have gone to a tight end – the highest percentage in the league. Dan Harren had some success last week, but I don’t love his matchup at Cleveland. This could be a close game, but I expect Luck to pull it out in the end. The receiving game reigns supreme when talking about the Colts. Fade the rushing options and target the Colts receivers. T.Y. Hilton could still have a productive game, but he’ll likely draw Joe Haden, who has been effective this year in neutralizing the receivers he covers.
Blake Bortles has had only two games this year where he had more than one touchdown pass in a game. That doesn’t bode well for any Jaguars receivers.Marqise Lee has started his climb to become the next emerging rookie wide receiver this year. Lee, Cecil Shorts and Allen Hurns each had 8 targets last week against the Giants. Lee came away with the most receptions (6) and he found the end zone. This week’s opponent, Houston has been pretty stout against the run lately, but somewhat suspect against the pass. This has the feel of a 17-14 type of game or the first to 20 wins. I’m not loving any matchups in particular for Jacksonville this week.
The Chiefs have a tough matchup this week at Arizona. Yes the Cardinals have lost two games in a row, but the Chiefs weakness is their offense and the Cardinals strength is their defense. This does not bode well for Kansas City, especially with Jamaal Charles nursing a sore knee. This could easily be a 17-9 game in favor of the Cardinals. The Chiefs have averaged 169 yards passing in the last four weeks. Unless Jamaal Charles is unstoppable, I don’t like their chances of coming out of this game with a decent fantasy scorecard, let alone a win.
Miami plays host to the Ravens this week in what could be a nice game for Ryan Tannehill and the Dolphins receiving corps. The Ravens are one of the worst teams in the league against the pass this year allowing 420 yards to Drew Brees and 383 to Philip Rivers over the last two games with three touchdown passes allowed in each game. Ryan Tannehill and the Dolphins offense is not known for getting behind the defense, but they will short-yardage you all day long. This game has that feel to it. Jarvis Landry is the Dolphins go-to receiver threat in intermediate circumstances. He is this year’s version of Kendall Wright. He’ll get a ton of catches but not a lot of yards. This game benefits him with Mike Wallace also getting some action as well. If Tannehill can reach even 260 yards passing, this should be a big game for both receivers. I would not put much stock in Lamar Miller. The Ravens run defense is tough to run on, which is another reason why teams take to the air against the banged up Ravens secondary. Landry is a great start this week, especially in PPR. Mike Wallace is also someone to consider. Both have as good a chance as the other at scoring a touchdown. Baltimore has allowed a WR to total 98+ yards receiving in five of the last six games. My money is on Landry to keep that streak going.
Teddy Bridgewater found some success last week against a Panthers defense that gave him plenty of time to sit back and find the open receiver. The yardage wasn’t that plentiful, mostly because time of possession was not in their favor. Two scores on special teams can allow that to happen. I am not a fan of the Vikings passing game this week for two reasons. One, the cold weather is not conducive to sustained passing success and two the Vikings aren’t loaded with talent on offense. I’m staying away from the Vikings this week. The Jets struggle against the pass, but I don’t see Bridgewater making enough plays to exploit that weakness.
The Patriots don’t have the best schedule against the pass for the playoffs, but they will face the Jets (in New York) for Week 16. This week at San Diego is not a great matchup for Tom Brady and the Patriots offense. We could see a decent game, but I’m not expecting a 40+ attempt game with 300+ yards from Brady this week. Julian Edelman is battling a leg (quad?) injury that could see a reduction in touches for him. His loss is Brandon LaFell, Shane Vereen and Rob Gronkowski‘s gain. Monitor Edelman’s practice schedule this week. He’s a tough out, so count on him playing. How much he plays and how much he’s involved is another story. LeGarrette Blount appears to be the team’s go-to rusher going forward. Jonas Gray is just a memory right now, but that could change any moment, especially if Blount has ball security issues or gets nicked up. Gray could be a winning ticket in the playoffs if he sees more action. For now, expect more from Blount but keep Gray on the bench just in case.
The start of the week is any Saints player against the Panthers defense, who have given up at least 31 points in every road game this year with the exception of Tampa Bay in Week 1. Carolina recently released Antoine Cason (their worst cover corner) so losing him is addition by subtraction. That still doesn’t solve the problem of Carolina’s lack of a pass rush. Look for Drew Brees to take advantage of the situation with timely, uncontested throws to all of his open receivers. Don’t worry about Jimmy Graham‘s goose egg last week. That will not happen this week against Carolina. Brees, Graham, Mark Ingram, Kenny Stills, Pierre Thomas and maybe even Marques Colston should have above average fantasy production this week. Start ’em all and hope that Carolina can keep pace to keep the Saints offense going full steam. New Orleans should score 30+ points in this game. Take advantage.
The Giants are on the road at Tennessee, who just gave up six touchdown passes to Ryan Fitzpatrick. The Titans are reeling, especially on defense. Odell Beckham should have another big game this week, but I also believe Rueben Randle will see quite a few looks going up against the Titans number two corner Blidi Wreh-Wilson. Rashad Jennings (ankle) is considered questionable to play in what would be a great matchup for the running game. Andre Williams stands to benefit if Jennings is indeed out.
The Jets clearly believe their running game is the best way to find sustained offensive success. Chris Ivory and Chris Johnson are expected to share the load once again – this week at Minnesota. Stay away from any passing options and consider the rushing duo a viable flex start. The Vikings have allowed 152 yards per game average on the ground over the last four weeks. Look for the Jets to take advantage of that situation.
The hapless Raiders host crosstown rival San Francisco this week. Latavius Murray (concussion) may be back, so monitor his situation. Oakland has struggled to find any success on offense lately, especially against strong defenses. San Francisco is a good defense, but they are not as strong as they have been in recent years. The short passing game has been the game script for Oakland recently, however if Murray is back, I expect them to feed him the ball until the defense stops him. If Murray is out once again, consider Marcel Reece a viable option in PPR leagues. He had six receptions last week in the 52-0 blowout loss to St. Louis.
The Eagles offense is clicking on all cylinders lately and I expect them to win this tough conference matchup against Seattle this week, but the fantasy points may be hard to come by. The Seahawks have come alive defensively, especially over the last few games. This could be a lower scoring game for Chip Kelly can company, so don’t expect the moon from Mark Sanchez, Jeremy Maclin, LeSean McCoy and Jordan Matthews. Seattle has allowed an average of 165 passing yards per game and 93 rushing yards per game over the last four weeks. I don’t think they will keep the Eagles under those numbers, but it shows how effective Seattle has been lately.
The Steelers have had their share of good matchups lately, but I don’t like this week’s pairing against the Bengals, on the road. I expect to see a low scoring game in the low 20’s, if that. The first to 20 points may win this game. Ben Roethlisberger, Antonio Brown and LeVeon Bell are the two Steelers I’d recommend, but again I don’t see a big game from a fantasy perspective. Cincinnati has been strong lately allowing just over 200 yards passing per game and just under 100 yards rushing per game over the last four weeks.
I love this matchup for the Chargers this week against the Patriots. New England has allowed 438, 303, 264 and 368 yards passing in the last four games. Philip Rivers is next in line. I expect another strong game from Rivers as well as his go-to target Keenan Allen. Check out Eddie Royal as well. He’s slippery enough to get open against the Patriots and Rivers has been looking his way lately. Royal’s 19 targets is second to Allen (37) in the last three games. The feeling I get from this game is that the majority of the Chargers passing yards could come in comeback mode, especially if New England gets out to an early lead. Either way, it’s good news for the Chargers fantasy options.
The Seahawks offense is nothing to get excited about, but as long as Russell Wilson is quarterback and the running game is thriving with Marshawn Lynch (and recently Robert Turbin), they will be in most games. This week’s opponent, Philadelphia, has had their struggles defnesively, but they have also made some game changing plays on defense. The Seahawks offense could come alive this week. The Eagles have allowed 304 yards passing per game average over the last four weeks. Giving Russell Wilson a game with over 35 pass attempts usually means fantasy production will follow. This game will probably fall in the 28-24 range for both teams, which means there’s fantasy value to be had. Look for Doug Baldwin and/or Jermaine Kearse to have a productive game this week. Wilson has rushed for 70+ yards in three of the last four games. If he’s active and moving the ball on offense, he should once again see similar rushing numbers.
The 49ers play at Oakland this week. The Raiders were steamrolled by the swift of foot, Tre Mason last week. I expect Frank Gore to see the majority of the team’s carries and have a decent chance at good production. Gore has 79 rushing attempts compared to 27 by Carlos Hyde over the last five games. Hyde has two touchdowns in that span compared to Gore’s one. Unless the running game has a clear advantage over Oakland, I don’t see this being a high scoring game for either team, nor do I see the 49ers winning by more than ten points. 21-13 seems about right. Anquan Boldin has been Colin Kaepernick‘s go-to receiver lately. I don’t see that changing this week.
Tre Mason has earned his keep as the Rams leading running back. He had his best game yet last week with over 160 yards of total offense including three touchdowns. This week the Rams will get a crack at Washington in hopes that Mason will again catch lightning in a bottle with another impressive performance. Washington has been fairly stingy against the run lately from a yardage standpoint, but they have allowed two rushing touchdowns over the last two games. Get Mason in your lineup and see if he can keep the streak going. Mason is not known for his receiving abilities, but he had four targets last week (3rd most on the team) and the Rams are clearly looking to get him more involved.
The Bucs play at Detroit this week. We have learned that teams don’t do well against the Lions run defense, especially in Detroit. The Bucs don’t have a bruising back who can take a pounding and move the pile, so look for Tampa Bay to become one-dimensional. Look for Josh McCown to force a lot of passes this week, which means Mike Evans and Vincent Jackson should see a lot of targets their way. The heavy pass rush could also lead to an increase in check downs. Charles Sims would be the main beneficiary in this instance.
The Titans will be without Justin Hunter (spleen) for the rest of the season so that opens the door for more pass attempts to Kendall Wright and Delanie Walker. Zach Mettenberger (shoulder) is questionable to play. If he cannot go, Jake Locker will get the start. Either one has the ability to move the ball effectively. This week’s opponent, NYG has been tough against opposing quarterbacks lately, holding three of the last four to less than 200 yards passing (SEA, SF, JAC). Part of the reason behind the Giants strength defending the pass has been their inability to stop the run. Marshawn Lynch, Frank Gore and DeMarco Murray teed off on the Giants most recently. Bishop Sankey isn’t in the same stratosphere as those backs, but if the opportunities present itself, he could have a productive game. Tennessee has lost six straight games, but they have scored 21, 24 and 24 points in each of the last three contests. Wright and Walker should be heavily targeted this week with Nate Washington also getting some love in certain situations.
Colt McCoy had a big game last week in garbage time against the Colts, however he did take advantage of the Colts weakness at secondary once Vontae Davis (concussion) left the game. He will have a much harder time against the Rams this week, but at least it’s at home and not at St. Louis where the Rams have played extremely well this year. There are rumors that Pierre Garcon will see an increase in targets this week. Coach Jay Gruden wants to get him more involved in the offense so he can use his speed and quickness in space. The same can be said for DeSean Jackson. Last week Jordan Reed came alive with 9 catches for 123 yards. In the two starts by McCoy, Reed has 16 receptions for 163 yards. I would take a gamble on Reed this week. He should have another productive game, provided McCoy can stay on his feet against the young and fierce Rams defenesive line.