Fantasy Football Lent has begun. From now until Week 11, you will have to do without. You will have to give up your quarterbacks, your running backs, wide receivers, tight ends, and, yes, even your defenses and kickers. I know, it hurts … especially the bond between owners and their kickers (few things run as deep). Last week started off easy; only a few of you felt the pangs of doing without a starter from Pittsburgh or a benchwarmer from Indianapolis. But this week is when you start to notice it a bit more.
Really, no red meat for another six weeks; I’m stuck eating fish? I hate the smell of fish (don’t we all?). I miss my full lineup. I’m tired of these waiver wire scraps and their 4.5 points per week.
So what do you do? Grin and bare it? Pick over the waiver wire one last time? Pray for injuries? All valid options, but there is another…and one of the few vices I’m not expected to give up for fantasy football lent. Trade. Yes, this can be a frustrating time. Your best player is gone for a week and your other matchups suck. Solution: look at everyone else’s roster to identify their weak spots. This is where the action begins. Yes, you can autodraft a winning team for the first couple weeks, but can you step away from the bargaining table feeling just as confident about the next few?
Have at it, boys and girls. Unlike poker you get to see what everyone else is holding. Does that mean there’s no bluffing involved? Hardly. Everyone has a need, or at least a “want.” Your job is to ferret it out. Horsepower or fuel economy? Beachfront resort or scenic mountain view? Whatever gets ‘em enticed enough to let you at their goodies, do it.
Joe Flacco remains in the Top 10 fantasy quarterbacks for another week. The Kansas City Chiefs are giving up more than 25 points per week to quarterbacks. Top 10 the rest of the way? Don’t get ahead of yourself. Just enjoy this matchup.
I normally hate two back systems. What fantasy owner doesn’t? Unless you typically wait on running backs and pray for split duty. But this week, both running backs from Chicago are looking like good plays. The Jacksonville Jaguars are getting gouged by the run this year and already gave up 46 fantasy points to the running back duo from Houston. If you are in a tough way this week because of byes, it might be one of the few times it works in your favor to start two backs from the same team.
Whoever starts opposite Victor Cruz is about to go off. Hakeem Nicks hasn’t practiced as of Wednesday, and isn’t sure to get any in the rest of the week. Ramses Barden and Domenik Hixon have already stepped up big in Nicks’ absence. I’m guessing it happens yet again this week in Cleveland.
Matchups I like this week
- QB Christian Ponder vs. Tennessee. Ponder had his best game of the year in Week 3 against a stingy San Francisco defense. He should have easily parlayed that success into even better results last week against an exploitable Detroit defense. Not so much. This week he gets the Titans, a team tied with the Oakland Raiders for giving up the most fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks. He makes for a good bye week fill in. It’s now or never, bud.
- RB: Ryan Mathews at New Orleans. Jackie Battle’s the starter, right? Sure. Look, the Saints are so terrible against the run that if Mathews fumbled it, they’d probably pick it up, hand it to him, then escort him to the end zone. Well that takes care of one problem, but what about his injury concerns? Fine, I’ll ask the good people of New Orleans to put aside their voodoo dolls for the weekend. We good?
- WR: Julio Jones at Washington. A guy that was taken as the third overall wide receiver on average (you know me and average draft position), should pretty much be matchup proof, wouldn’t you say? I had hoped so. I own Jones in roughly 100 percent of my leagues this year. But Weeks 2 and 4, he disproved that theory, scoring one point and three points in those weeks, respectively. Well, this is an odd number week, so he is due. Factor in his opponent – the Redskins – who are the most generous team to opposing wideouts, I wish I could own more than 100 percent heading into this matchup.
Ben Roethlisberger picks up right where he left off. Roethlisberger has already lit up the Denver Broncos, the New York Jets and the Oakland Raiders. He is currently tied for second overall in points per game at the quarterback position. If he does it again this week, it’s time to bump him into the “buy” category with matchups coming against inferior secondaries like the Tennessee Titans, Cincinnati Bengals and Washington Redskins.
Has Mike Shanahan changed his evil ways? Alfred Morris has had no less than 16 carries in a game this year, 21 totes last week alone. In that time, Morris is a Top 5 back, averaging almost 15 points per game. If it were any other coach (excluding Bill Belichick), would we still be skeptical? Did I hear something on my roof just oink?
DeSean Jackson is the best wide receiver in Philadelphia. Jackson was always the deep threat, but now he is getting targeted more frequently as well. Jackson now has 36 targets through four weeks and 333 yards receiving. Jeremy Maclin has 18 targets for 126 yards (but missed Week 3 due to injury). A lot of things seem upside down in Philadelphia this season, so this could be one of them. Maybe not. Maybe carrying around a bigger wallet has softened Jackson’s hands.
Tough Matchups for Studs this week
- QB Cam Newton vs. Seattle. Quite a few analysts were skeptical of Newton last week matching up against the Atlanta Falcons. He answered with 34 points … and a few crocodile tears along the sidelines. This week he faces Seattle, the team that gives up the fewest fantasy points to quarterbacks. Do you dare bench him? He’ll probably put up 50 if you do, then stomp his feet the whole way to the locker room.
- RB Maurice Jones-Drew vs. Chicago. The Bears haven’t given up 100 yards to a rusher this season, and just held DeMarco Murray to 24 yards rushing on Monday night. Sprinkle in a poor surrounding cast, and you’ve got a top-notch recipe for one bad afternoon. Enjoy responsibly.
- WR Larry Fitzgerald at St. Louis. Hmm. Not saying he won’t get his, just saying it might not be as easy as you think. Fitzgerald is coming off of back-to-back double-digit outings against the Philadelphia Eagles and the Miami Dolphins. This week he gets the Rams, so mark it down for three in a row, am I right? Well, turns out the Rams are actually tired for first with the Houston Texans and Dallas Cowboys at limiting wide receivers. Not so automatic anymore. Or I could just be thinking optimistically as a Rams fan.
Crazy trade offers. Nothing makes owners hit the panic button like the first week of byes. Really you didn’t see this problem looming a month ago? Oh…you just waited until now. I’ll pass on the Donald Brown and Reggie Wayne for LeSean McCoy and Roddy White offer, though. No, I’m sure it is a fair deal, but then you’d just be setting yourself up for the same problem in Week 7. I wouldn’t want you to have to go through this again.
Blaine Gabbert may die this weekend. True, that could be said of all of us. You just never know. Boy was that a downer. The Chicago Bears just ravaged Tony Romo last week. You think Gabbert stands a chance?
Chris Johnson showed signs of life last week. If he can do it again this week against the Minnesota Vikings, I’ll remove him from this section of the column. I know Johnson reads my work religiously, so we’ll use this as extra motivation against the Vikings’ run-stuffing defense.
Matchups to Avoid this week
- QB Mark Sanchez vs. Houston. Week 1, the Sanchez hung 26 points against the Buffalo Bills. Alright, we can work with that. Last week, zero points. That’s a bit of a dropoff. Now he loses Santonio Holmes, his most talented receiver, for the rest of the season? Oh, and he plays the Texans, the third-best defense against opposing quarterbacks.
- RB Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller at San Francisco. Time share, plus the No. 1 defense in the league against running backs. Unless your league rewards running backs for never crossing the 50-yard line, I’m guessing you won’t come away with much.
- WR Any and all Jets wide receivers vs. Houston. Out of all the people chanting for Tim Tebow, I doubt any of them play wide receiver for the Jets. Nothing against Tebow, I don’t think they’d cheer for Sanchez, either. With the Texans as dialed in as they are against the position, I’m guessing their secondary catches more passes from the Jets’ quarterbacks than the receivers.
Until the next go-round.