The last two weeks of the NFL season have had a large amount of injuries which have forced us to empty our benches or search the waiver wire to fill a starting lineup. This week as of Friday, there are several starting quarterbacks, running backs and wide receivers who are doubtful to play or have already been ruled out. Adding to our troubles are that two teams, Green Bay and Philadelphia, are off this week in the first of nine weeks of team byes. I can’t believe that teams have a bye as late as Week 13. So your focus every week is not only to monitor the injuries you have but also to prepare for the players you have off. Next week Seattle, New Orleans, Kansas City and Jacksonville are on a bye. Jacksonville and Indianapolis face off in London so make sure you are prepared for the 9:30 a.m. ET start time. I find it interesting that Indianapolis don’t get the week off following the London game.
The Golden Mug Award
Awarded to the fantasy players who came through for their team.
Marvin Jones – 6 receptions, 205 yards, 2 TD. Jones is averaging 9.6 targets per game and his yards per game has increased each week. It is clear that Golden Tate (31 yards per game) and Anquan Boldin (35 yards per game) are behind Jones in this offense.
Devonta Freeman/Tevin Coleman – The duo has racked up 194 rushing yards, three rushing touchdowns, 102 receiving yards and a receiving touchdown. This is a situation that will become frustrating to owners of either running back this season as you can’t count on them both going off every week.
Emmanuel Sanders – 9 receptions, 117 yards, 2 TD. It took a few games but we finally got the big game we expected. Denver has another good matchup this week against Tampa Bay, who have allowed 31.8 fantasy points to receivers through three games.
The Urinal Cake Award
Awarded to the fantasy players who you would like to, well you know.
Kelvin Benjamin – 1 target. After two games with 20-plus fantasy points, including three touchdowns already this season, Benjamin was held without a catch. You can expect a bounce-back game this week against a weak Atlanta pass defense.
Rob Gronkowski – 1 target. Gronkowski made his season debut but saw just one pass thrown his way. If you didn’t take precaution and started him you got burned. So far he is looking like a high draft pick bust.
Ryan Mathews – 2 carries, -5 yards. After scoring two touchdowns the previous week, he left the game after just two carries, leaving owners with zero fantasy points. His status going forward is unclear.
Good quarterback matchups this week:
Joe Flacco against Oakland. Flacco is an inconsistent fantasy quarterback but in the right matchup he could be a good play. This week he is in a great spot as he faces the Oakland defense which has been lit up the first two weeks. Even though Oakland held Tennessee without a passing touchdown last week, this unit is still awful. It is allowing 20.3 fantasy points per game (third-highest) and have already allowed seven touchdowns through the air this year. Steve Smith Sr. was productive last week with 11 targets and I expect him to score this week.
Philip Rivers against San Diego. Rivers failed to throw a touchdown last week but still had more than 300 passing yards. Rivers is without his two starting wide receivers as both Stevie Johnson and Keenan Allen are lost for the season. Antonio Gates is also missing time so you need to appreciate what Rivers has been able to do through the first three weeks. He faces a New Orleans team that is very depleted defensively and is allowing 17.3 fantasy points per game to quarterbacks this season.
Sleeper Pick of the Week: Brian Hoyer against Detroit. Hoyer is a great fantasy quarterback. He has had some good fantasy outings but can’t seem to stay on the field for an entire season. He entered this season as the backup but will now start for an injured Jay Cutler. Last week he threw for 317 yards and two scores. The Detroit defense has allowed the most fantasy points to quarterbacks with 25.7 fantasy points per game thus far. That is 5.4 more fantasy points tha the three teams tied for third. Detroit has already allowed 10 passing touchdowns in three games.
Good running back matchups this week:
David Johnsons against Los Angeles. Johnson is third among fantasy running backs yet he hasn’t had a true breakout rushing game as he hasn’t rushed for more than 89 yards this season. He did score two of his three touchdowns this season last week and I can see another multiple-touchdown game against Los Angeles. Los Angeles was run over by Carlos Hyde in Week 1 for three scores and gave up another score last week. I expect Arizona to get up early and then ride Johnson the rest of the game.
C.J. Anderson at Tampa Bay. Last week it was Trevor Siemian who carried the team with four passing touchdowns. I think Denver gets back to the run game this week since Anderson didn’t get a ton of touches last week. Tampa Bay is coming off back-to-back games allowing 100-plus rushing yards and three scores on the ground in those games. Tampa Bay is giving up 20.7 fantasy points to quarterbacks this season.
Sleeper Pick of the Week: Isaiah Crowell at Washington. Crowell is not a top running back name but he is a guy who can be a great flex starter or even fill in at the running back spot. He’s getting about 15 carries a game and is averaging 6.1 yards per carry. That’s an average of 91.5 yards per game. He faces a Washington team that is allowing 88.3 rushing yards per game with the third-most fantasy points allowed to running backs at 24.3 thus far this season.
Bad quarterback matchups this week:
Ben Roethlisberger against Kansas City. Kansas City had a field day with the New York Jets last week as it intercepted Ryan Fitzpatrick six times, one was run back for a touchdown. Kansas City has allowed just two total passing touchdowns this season and they allow the lowest fantasy points per game to quarterbacks on the slate at just 6.7 per. Pittsburgh has Antonio Brown and get back Le’Veon Bell. Brown is matchup-proof but it could be difficult for him to go off in this game.
Derek Carr at Baltimore. Carr is the ninth-best fantasy quarterback through three weeks despite only tossing one touchdown in 2-of-3 games. Oakland has had a hectic travel schedule and now travels across country to face a good Baltimore defense. Baltimore has allowed just 9.7 fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks this season. I expect the Baltimore defense to score a defense touchdown this week.
Matt Ryan against Carolina. People are not talking much about Ryan this season but he is currently third among quarterbacks and is throwing almost 325 passing yards per game. However, Carolina has played Ryan well in the past as he has averaged just 14 fantasy points over the last four meetings. Carolina has held fantasy quarterbacks to 13 points per game this season. That’s about what Ryan has averaged against them in his career.
Bad running back matchups this week:
Christine Michael at the New York Jets. With Thomas Rawls out with an injury, Michael has carried the load. This week he faces a difficult matchup against the Jets, who are holding running backs to 64.3 rushing yards per game with only one rushing touchdown given up this season. They are also holding fantasy running backs to just 10.3 fantasy points per game. After the embarrassment the Jets had last week against Kansas City, expect them to come out angry.
Jerick McKinnon against the New York Giants. Since Adrian Peterson went down with a knee injury, the Minnesota run game has been non-existent. I am expecting this to be one of the lowest-scoring games of the week. The Giants have the lowest fantasy points per game allowed on the slate at just 9.7. They haven’t allowed a 100-yard rusher this season and have only allowed only one score back in Week 1. I am avoiding the Minnesota backfield situation all season.
Lamar Miller against Tennessee. Miller was productive last week in a very bad loss against New England, rushing for 80 yards. Miller has yet to reach the end zone this season and I don’t expect it to happen this week. The Tennessee defense has held fantasy running backs to just 10.7 fantasy points per game with only one touchdown allowed this season.