Here are the latest insider reports from our NFL reporter Steve Silverman. You can follow Steve on Twitter @profootballboy.
Denver, Detroit, San Francisco, Jacksonville, Arizona and the New York Giants are all on bye weeks.
What’s a Fantasy owner to do?
Many of you are in need of short-term fixes and will have to gamble during the bye week to keep your head above water.
You just may have to turn to the Chicago Bears.
We don’t expect the Bears to beat the Green Bay Packers – they almost never do – and we certainly don’t have a lot of love for backup quarterback Josh McCown, who lines up under center for the injured Jay Cutler (groin). The Bears have little hope of holding down the super-accurate Aaron Rodgers.
The Chicago defense does not resemble what it was in either of the last two years. Age and injuries have wrecked the unit and Rodgers should be able to do whatever he wants against a team he has tormented for years.
That means head coach Marc Trestman is going to have to ask McCown to go for it. McCown was quite sharp after taking over for Cutler in Week Seven against the putrid Washington defense – 14-of-20 for 204 yards and a touchdown – so he has a bit of confidence going for him.
But McCown knows it’s going to be much more difficult against the Packers, who rank 11th in total defense.
The passing game is likely to be the weapon of choice. Brandon Marshall is too big and powerful for the Packers’ secondary and Alshon Jeffery caught all four of his passes in the Redskins game from McCown.
Since tight ends regularly burn the Packers, pencil in Martellus Bennett for a big game. Green Bay is going to make stopping Matt Forte its first priority, so that means Marshall, Jeffery and Bennett should be viable options.
The Bears lost their last game, 45-41. This could be that same kind of high-scoring game as well.
Colts need a little less ‘Pep’.
It may start to get ugly in Indianapolis, and your Fantasy outlooks could be affected if you try to rely on some notable Colts.
The Colts appear to be sitting pretty because they have recorded victories over San Francisco, Seattle and Denver this year and they are in first place in the AFC South with a 5-2 record.
That should qualify them as an elite team in the NFL. If you needed further proof that this is a team on the rise and ready to take on the established AFC powers, all you have to do is look at their quarterback, Andrew Luck.
He is one of the most gifted players in the NFL and there’s no reason think that he will become the leading quarterback of the Generation Now quarterbacks that were drafted in 2012 or later.
However, the Colts have the 20th –ranked passing game in the league and Luck is 24th in passing yards per game at 224.9 and tied for 14th in touchdown passes with 10.
That is statistically ridiculous, and it’s not likely to get better this week against a Houston Texans defense that ranks first overall against the pass.
Luck is healthy, talented and hungry. His stats should be inside the Top 10 in both of those categories at the least, and possibly inside the Top 5.But they are not because the Colts play conservative offensive football under offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton. The more the Colts win, the more secure Hamilton in his position. However, they are winning in spite of Hamilton, not because of him.
Hamilton designs a gameplan as if Luck were prone to making game-altering mistakes. He coaches out of fear. When the Colts beat the Broncos in Week Seven, Luck had three TD passes in the first half. He didn’t have any in the second half, although he did run for one score in the final 30 minutes.
Hamilton made the Colts button up their offense. You don’t do that when you have one of the most talented quarterbacks in the game. You let him run the offense and throw the ball. That’s not going to happen with Hamilton.
Not only is that bad news for the quarterback, it hurts wide receiver T.Y. Hilton, who should be the focal point of the offense now that Reggie Wayne is out for the season with a knee injury. It’s also bad for tight end Coby Fleener and running back Donald Brown.
If the Colts would open up the offense, Hilton and Fleener would get more opportunities, while a wide-open passing game would create more running game opportunities for Brown.
We only briefly mention of Darrius Heyward-Bey and Trent Richardson because both players are undependable at this point. Heyward-Bey has what Frank Costanza (Jerry Stiller) calls the “Jimmy Hands” and Richardson is just not as fast as scouts thought he was.
This could get worse before it gets better. Luck is going to have to take this over Hamilton’s head and let coach Chuck Pagano know exactly what he thinks of the Colts’ choked-down offense.
The Colts are winning and Luck wants everyone to know he’s a team guy, so that is not likely to happen any time soon. So do not depend on him as your starting Fantasy QB. Temper your expectations on Hilton and Fleener as well.
Rivers has no problems with short-passing game
The Chargers may be a playoff team before the year is over, something nobody saw coming at the start of the year. They are also a better source of Fantasy production than expected.
If they can make it to double digit wins – they are 4-3 as they prepare to face the Washington Redskins – the Chargers will have become one of the most surprising teams in the league under first-year head coach Mike McCoy. That’s because McCoy has given the Chargers an effective offense that features their best asset: Philip Rivers’ accuracy.
During the Norv Turner regime, the Chargers were done in by second-half failures that often featured a plethora of Rivers interceptions. McCoy does not want to put Rivers at risk this season. He wants Rivers to do what Rivers does best. And what Rivers does best is throw short- and medium-range passes. Not the 35-yard out that Rivers loves to throw because he thinks he can fit any pass through a tight window. Just the short- and medium-range passes.
The whole idea is to maintain possession and march down the field with those short passes. In recent weeks, they have gotten help from running back Ryan Mathews with two straight 100-yard games. That’s a bonus. The key for the Chargers is throwing the ball. Rivers throws to tight end tight end Antonio Gates, wide receiver Keenan Allen and running back Danny Woodhead.
Explosive wide receiver Eddie Royal does not figure to be a big factor. He has that lingering toe injury and even though he caught his first touchdown since Week Two when the Chargers won at Jacksonville in Week Seven, Royal is not a big factor.
It’s all good for Rivers. He is not one to keep his mouth shut when he is unhappy. One AFC scout said Rivers is maturing and sees the change in the Chargers offense as a positive because it gives them a chance to be a winning team. He’s not going to push the ball downfield simply because he wants to.
He’s going to take the approach that allows the Chargers to maintain possessions. It’s good for Rivers from a yardage perspective as he ranks sixth in the league with an average of 304.6 passing yards per game. He has thrown 15 TD passes, which places him in a tie for sixth with Aaron Rodgers.
Gates, Allen and Woodhead should all continue to benefit from this gameplan. Mathews may have a few good weeks, but he’s not a consistent asset. Royal will be little more than a decoy when he gets healthy.
Ray Graham is the name. He’s the running back on the Houston Texans who figures to get the bulk of the work if Arian Foster (hamstring) and Ben Tate (broken ribs) can’t play against the Indianapolis Colts. The idea of Tate playing seems ludicrous, although the running back says he is going to be out there. Foster had a decent practice Thursday, but that hamstring could go out on him at any time. Graham was an undrafted rookie out of Pittsburgh, and he does not have a lot of speed, At 5-9 and 190, he is a one-cut-and-go runner, and he’s not going to go far if he gets his opportunity against the Colts.
It’s time to move away from all Patriots receivers not named Rob Gronkowski. Over the second half of the season, Julian Edelman, Danny Amendola, Kenbrell Thompkins and Aaron Dobson may all have their moments. However, none of them are going to play consistently. Tom Brady is not passing the ball well enough and the only receiver who is going to command the ball is Gronkowski, who now has a hamstring issue to go along with his forearm and back problems. It’s time to stop beating your head against the wall waiting for one of the non-Gronkowskis to establish themselves.
If you need a wide receiver to step up this week, the stars are aligned for a big game by Steve Smith of the Carolina Panthers. Smith has been targeted by quarterback Cam Newton 55 times this year. Smith also caught seven passes for 109 yards (no TDs) in his last game against the Falcons in 2012. The Falcons have one of the softest pass defenses in the league, and Smith should be able to exploit that unit.
Lance Moore could be your emergency receiver against a Jets secondary that is battered and beaten up from last week’s debacle at Cincinnati. It should be Kenny Stills or Marques Colston who step up, but both players have knee injuries and we can’t trust them. Moore caught a TD pass last week against the Bills, and he could do even better this week. Moore has been a huge disappointment to this point, but he has a good chance to get well vs. the Jets.
Love ’Em, Hate ’Em in Week Nine
If you have been waiting for quarterback Alex Smith to have a big game passing the ball, this could be the week. We hear that Andy Reid may be willing to open up the passing game against the Buffalo Bills’ 26th-ranked pass defense and let him start throwing. The key is whether Buffalo DE Mario Williams wants to play or go through the motions. We’re betting Williams does the latter and Smith will throw for 250 yards and three TDs. LOVE HIM.
The Packers have just one thing on their minds this week against the Bears: Stop Matt Forte. With Jay Cutler injured, they don’t mind if backup Josh McCown wants to throw the ball downfield to Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery. They just want to stop Forte. They are going to try to him hard early in the game, and make sure he is not a factor Monday night. HATE HIM.
You want a shocker, go with running back Shonn Greene of the Tennessee Titans if you need a bye-week running back. Head coach Mike Munchak said publicly that Greene could get 15 touches a week the rest of the season. Chris Johnson has been so frustrating with his 366 yards and 3.2 yards per carry average. Greene gets his shot and he will produce. LOVE HIM
The Saints had the worst defense in the NFL last year. They have improved dramatically in 2013 and rank 12th overall. When Rob Ryan looks at his brother Rex Ryan’s team, he knows the Jets don’t have a dependable quarterback in rookie Geno Smith. He knows that the Jets want to keep it on the ground with running back Bilal Powell. Rob Ryan won’t let Powell beat them and he will take away the Jets ground game. Powell (159 rushing yards in last five games) will have less than 40 rushing yards. HATE HIM.