Many Top Players Face Tough Defensive Matchups
Well, if you made it this far, then you survived a week in which more than a few of the top players in the game laid an egg. This week could be more of the same. Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Ben Roethlisberger, and Andrew Luck have been among the Top 5 quarterbacks for most of the season. They all have lousy matchups this week. Can you sit them in your semi-finals? It’s decisions like this that can turn one’s hair gray. Usually, I tend to go with the “don’t get too cute with your studs” mindset, but it’s one game, matchups do come into play now. Hopefully, columns like this will help you to make the right decision more often than not. Good luck once again.
- Los Angeles Rams: Do you ever have the feeling that a game is going to be a colossal blowout? That’s how I feel about the game tonight. I want to start all of my Seahawks. They are a different team on the road than they are at home and will make the Rams pay for the shellacking they took in Green Bay last Sunday. Tyler Lockett is the only player I’d hesitate to start, but I think he gets in the end zone also. Russell Wilson is a Top 5 play this week.
- San Francisco 49ers: If I was a Julio Jones owner, I wouldn’t mind if the Falcons just made him inactive again. It would make life easier. Just bench him so we don’t have to figure out if the toe will make him nothing more than a decoy. Tyler Gabriel is a must-play either way. As for Jones, if he plays (didn’t practice on Wednesday), I’m only starting him if I just don’t have much depth at WR. Tevin Coleman is also back in my good graces.
- Cleveland Browns: Tyrod Taylor could be a good start for anyone this week that is worried about a Dak Prescott or Marcus Mariota The Browns’ defense has cured quite a few ails this season. Sammy Watkins is a WR2 as well.
- Chicago Bears: It’s supposed to be brutally cold in Chicago this weekend. Normally, I wouldn’t care all that much about this, but you have to worry somewhat about how that cold will affect Aaron Rodgers. You’re still starting Rodgers, but he’s dealing with multiple leg injuries and those muscles could stiffen up as the game goes along. If I had to choose a RB for the Packers, it would be Ty Montgomery. Hopefully, the site you use allows him to be slotted at RB. I don’t expect big numbers here, he’s just the best of what the Packers have.
- New Orleans Saints: Well, you’re certainly not starting Michael Floyd this week as he was released after his arrest. J. Nelson moves up in my ranks to flex consideration. Carson Palmer is also back in my Top 12, but only because several other top QBs have bad matchups and/or are struggling. If your league has heavy penalties for turnovers, you may want to look in another direction.
- Indianapolis Colts: Adrian Peterson is not going to play this week despite showing up at practice. Should you be going out of your way to claim him? Only if you have a dead spot on your roster. It wasn’t like AP was lighting it up when healthy and the Vikings’ offensive line has only gotten worse. Kyle Rudolph and Stefon Diggs start for me here. Adam Thielen is in flex consideration. I know it’s Indy, but I’m still not starting Sam Bradford.
- San Diego Chargers: The extra four days should have given Derek Carr enough time for his pinky to be almost fully recovered and even if it’s not, the warm weather of San Diego will make it much more comfortable for him. I’m starting Carr as I normally would.
- Washington Redskins: On paper, this looks like a good matchup but who can you trust in this game? Sure, I’ll start Greg Olsen but even Cam Newton scares me a bit. We would expect Josh Norman to travel with Kelvin Benjamin. That will remove him from starting consideration. Can you trust Ted Ginn? No, but I do expect him to get a couple of deep shots, and I prefer him as a WR3/flex play than KB as a WR2. Newton probably starts here but this has the look of a going down with the ship game.
- Philadelphia Eagles: Joe Flacco is another QB that I would start over Prescott. I’m not expecting huge numbers here, but he should have a solid game against an Eagles’ defense that is playing out the string. Mike Wallace and Steve Smith are WR3 for me. The Eagles do cover the opposing TE well, so Dennis Pitta is not a TE1 this week. I’d prefer Kenneth Dixon over Terrance West but that is still somewhat close.
- New York Jets: What do we make of the Dolphins passing game without Ryan Tannehill (ACL/MCL)? I would expect them to use Jay Ajayi early and often, but Matt Moore is a veteran backup and should be able to move the chains via the passing game. Jarvis Landry is still a play, especially in a PPR league, but DeVante Parker and Kenny Stills drop down a tier for me to WR3 and flex play respectively.
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers: This is all about Prescott. He will have to be able to figure out what the defense is doing to stop him. Teams have been clogging the middle against him to make him uncomfortable and while they haven’t been able to stop Ezekiel Elliott, they have been able to keep the game-changing plays to a minimum. Prescott doesn’t start for me here, but Elliott and Dez Bryant I would also expect the Cowboys to get Cole Beasley back involved in the passing game and to keep him on the field during the two-minute drill.
- Carolina Panthers: The points for Washington tend to come in the passing game. Guess what the Panthers don’t do well on defense? Stop the pass. Kirk Cousins is a must-play for me here along with all three of their WRs. Jordan Reed is a different story. One target last week tells you all you need to know about how healthy his shoulder is. He’s a gamble this week, although I would expect him to be more involved in the offense.
- Dallas Cowboys: The Cowboys will likely focus their defensive effort on keeping Mike Evans in check. It doesn’t matter, he still starts and so does Cameron Brate, as Dallas has had trouble covering TEs this season. Doug Martin is a low-end RB2 and Jameis Winston a low-end QB1.
- Baltimore Ravens: I think we all know by now that the Ravens have one of the best run defenses in the NFL, which means I’m sitting Ryan Mathews and Darren Sproles (concussion). They can be thrown on, however, so Jordan Matthews is a must-start for me, especially in PPR leagues. The same can be said for Zach Ertz. That’s it though.
- Oakland Raiders: The running game is in shambles. Melvin Gordon will miss the game on Sunday with a hip injury, which will leave Kenneth Farrow with the starting job. Should you start him? This really depends on who else you have. I don’t expect big numbers here. I also wonder what will happen if he gets off to a slow start. Will the Chargers just put the ball in the hands of Philip Rivers? I’ll take Dontrelle Inman either way. He’s a low end WR3 or flex play this week.
- Jacksonville Jaguars: I’m not sure there is anyone in this game that I want to start outside of Lamar Miller. The poor QB play has killed DeAndre Hopkins. I can’t start him anymore. I don’t expect J. Fiedorowicz (concussion) to play, but Ryan Griffin will likely be a solid alternative.
- Pittsburgh Steelers: The Bengals will likely try to keep the ball on the ground in this game to keep the Steelers’ offense on the sideline. This should be good news for Jeremy Hill. Tyler Eifert is also a solid play. In a STD leagues, I’d prefer Brandon Lafell but in a PPR give me Tyler Boyd. Andy Dalton is a high-end QB2.
- Arizona Cardinals: I don’t know if I can sit him, but Brees hasn’t looked like himself lately. He has now thrown six picks in his last two games and he wasn’t facing great defenses. Well, Arizona can make life tough on an opposing QB. Brandin Cooks still starts for me. Michael Thomas, however, is a wait and see and may be best left on your bench. I’m not going too big on either Mark Ingram or Tim Hightower
- Green Bay Packers: If the Packers have figured out their issues on defense, then they might actually run the table and win the NFC North. As for Chicago, well, they are playing out the string. I’m starting Jordan Howard but the only way Alshon Jeffery makes my starting lineup is if I’m desperate. It’s not like he was doing anything while in the lineup with Jay Cutler and Brian Hoyer behind center.
- Detroit Lions: We’re all talking about how bad Prescott looked against the Giants last Sunday, but if the Giants had lost that game, we would be all over Eli Manning as he was much worse. I can’t start him. As a matter of fact, the only player on the team I trust is Odell Beckham and only because he can take a short pass and take it to the house.
- Cincinnati Bengals: The Steelers are a different offense on the road than they are at home and this is a big-time rivalry game. It won’t matter to the Bengals that they have little to play for. You’re still starting Roethlisberger, but a big game is unlikely. Ladarius Green is a low-end TE1.
- Minnesota Vikings: Can you sit Luck and Y. Hilton in your Fantasy playoffs? That is a question quite a few Fantasy owners will have to wrestle with this week. It is likely that Hilton will see a whole bunch of Xavier Rhodes, who has been a shutdown CB this season. The Colts could also be without Donte Moncrief. I don’t know if you have a better QB on your roster than Luck or at least someone with a good matchup, but if you do, I would look long and hard in their direction, as there isn’t anyone I like on Indy this week.
- Miami Dolphins: I have my doubts that Matt Forte (knee) will play on Saturday night and if he’s out, Bilal Powell will rise even higher in my rankings. He is the only Jets player that I would consider playing in this game and that includes Brandon Marshall. About Forte: even if he’s active, he’s not starting on my Fantasy team, as I would have a hard time seeing him finish the game.
- Buffalo Bills: Well, the first of the four-game audition for Robert Griffin III didn’t go well, and I don’t think the encore will be any better. I love Terrelle Pryor but it’s just so hard to see RGIII being able to get him the ball with any kind of consistency. There is no one on CLE that I would feel comfortable starting.
- Kansas City Chiefs: Marcus Mariota had a horrible game versus Denver but we expected that. Life should be a little better versus the Chiefs, but not much. He’s still not a start for me. All of the receivers, including TE Delanie Walker, are risky plays. DeMarco Murray is the only offensive player I trust for Tennessee.
- Houston Texans: The Jags are yet another team that I would like to stay away from in Fantasy. Allen Robinson does have some upside, but when was the last time we heard from him? You can easily make the argument that Marquise Lee is the best WR to start for the Jags. J. Yeldon is a desperation start at RB.
- Tennessee Titans: Tyreek Hill has changed the KC offense. They now have a downfield weapon that opposing defenses have to account for. Unfortunately, he hasn’t opened up running lanes for Spencer Ware. You’re still starting Ware but I wouldn’t count on big numbers. Travis Kelce is a must-play here, just like he is every week.
- Denver Broncos: I know that virtually no QB has put up good numbers versus the Denver secondary but Brady is not just any QB. Can you sit him for say, Winston, and then live with yourself if you lose because Brady did what he usually does and Winston bombed? I don’t have Brady in my Top 5, but he is in my Top 10. I wouldn’t get too cute here unless you happen to have a great backup. The way to attack Denver is via the run game. I’d look for LeGarrette Blount to have a big game here. I’m sitting Malcolm Mitchell and Chris Hogan
- New England Patriots: I want nothing, zero, nada, zilch, to do with the Denver running game. Let someone else gamble on that. I will start Emmanuel Sanders and Demaryius Thomas
- Atlanta Falcons: We were riding Colin Kaepernick for about a month leading up to the Fantasy playoffs but he has cratered the past two weeks. Can we trust him here? Well, no, but that doesn’t mean he’s unusable. Still, he barely cracks my Top 12, so be careful. Carlos Hyde is my only other start for SF.
- New York Giants: You will have a hard time convincing me that Matthew Stafford is a safe start this week. Even if he was healthy (finger) I wouldn’t want to go with him. Throw in that it’s supposed to rain for most of the game and you have a recipe for disaster. There is no one on Detroit that I’m plugging in this week.
- Seattle Seahawks: Let’s see, we’re talking about a team that just fired their head coach, a short week, little to no offensive weapons, and playing on the road versus a good defense. No, thank you.
As always feel free to follow me on Twitter and ask any questions you, @georgekurtz.
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