There are a lot of injuries occurring on in the NFL now that the season is in full swing. Whether it’s just a minor injury or something that’s kept your player out for a while, you should think about how this injury is affecting the player’s performance. Just because that player hasn’t been missing games, missing practices can hurt them as well. When a player hasn’t seen the practice field in two weeks, that player has a slight decrease in their conditioning. These guys are elite athletes and their floor for conditioning is higher than yours and mine, but playing against other elite athletes means that you need to be in top condition. A wide receiver that is running 40-yard sprints down the sideline on every play needs to be just as fast on the first snap of the game as the last. Not having practiced for two weeks can really hurt the amount of effort they can put forth for 60 straight minutes.
As a general rule, if a player has missed more than one week of practice, I’ll sit him until he’s been back at practice for a week. This can be seen with guys like Arian Foster and Dez Bryant this season. These guys have been putting up points, but they’re not doing what you thought they were going to be doing if they had been at practice for a full week and fully healthy. A mediocre player that hasn’t practiced all week is probably not going to get his normal workload for the game. Less snaps means less chances to touch the ball, and that means less points on your roster. Paying attention to how many practices your players have missed can help you make those tough roster decisions when the time comes.
Now on to the picks for the week:
Andy Dalton will make a nice bye-week fill-in this week. Indianapolis has been weak on defense all year. Dalton has put up decent numbers against weaker defenses such as Denver and Buffalo, who both rank in the bottom 10 against quarterbacks. The Colts have given up at least 220 yards and a touchdown against every quarterback they’ve faced this year. Having the Colts who rank in the bottom 10 and having the game in Cincinnati should give Dalton enough to fill in for your quarterback while he’s out.
Jay Cutler could also make a nice bye-week fill-in with a soft matchup against Minnesota in Chicago. Minnesota allows an average of 245 yards and both Matt Cassel and Josh Freeman have thrown touchdowns against the Vikings. Cutler has thrown a touchdown in all but one game this year. He should have no problem getting at least one or two against Minnesota. Starting him would be a ‘Good Call’ this week.
I’d sit Matt Schaub this week. With Andre Johnson out of the lineup and a tough matchup in Baltimore, Schaub should be on your bench with Johnson if you’ve got another quarterback with a soft matchup. The only other time this year Schaub has faced a Top 10 defense was against Pittsburgh and they held him to 138 yards and one touchdown, and that game was in Houston. The matchup against the Ravens this week will be even harder for Schaub in Baltimore, and starting him this week would be a ‘Bad Call’.
Carolina has a very unbalanced defense in terms of fantasy points. They are tough against the pass and rank dead last in rush defense. I don’t see much passing happening in the second half with Atlanta up with a good lead. Matt Ryan should be benched this week if you have another option. I don’t see his production to be much higher than 200 yards and maybe a touchdown that touchdown happens in the first half.
Cedric Benson is a different man at home than on the road. At home you want him in your lineup, especially against the visiting Indianapolis Colts and their 27th ranked rush defense. Benson should be able to put up 100 yards and a touchdown against this weak Colts’ run defense. This is the week to have Benson in your lineup, and it’s nice that this easy matchup comes during a bye week.
Ryan Torain looks to be the primary back in coach Mike Shanahan’s offense, for now. Take advantage of this before the coach changes his mind in three weeks and puts in Roy Helu. If he blows up this week it’s time to trade him away while his value is high. Torain had three 100-plus yard games last year when he was in Shanahan’s good graces. Torain should be able to do that again against a bad Philadelphia defense that has allowed every No. 1 running back they’ve faced to score at least one touchdown. Torain would be a ‘Good Call’ to have in your lineup this week.
Expect Arian Foster to put up minimal points this week at Baltimore. The Ravens have the first-ranked run defense and the game is in Baltimore. Foster has been tearing it up since his return to the field fully healthy, but this game would be tough for any running back. The Ravens haven’t allowed any running back to top 65 total yards this year. Foster would be a ‘Bad Call’.
I expect the game in Atlanta to have the Falcons out to an early lead forcing the Panthers to start passing, giving Cam Newton a big day. A big day for Newton means a poor day for DeAngelo Williams. Atlanta’s run defense is in the middle of the pack, but being down means more passing and less running. Williams should be on your bench this week.
With Julio Jones out of the lineup with an injury that should give Roddy White a chance for even more targets. More targets equals more yards and more points. White should have a good first half, and then drop off when Atlanta starts running the ball. Carolina’s passing defense is Top 10, but that’s mostly because teams run on Carolina instead of pass. White would be a ‘Good Call’ to have in your lineup and expect a big day for him.
Victor Cruz is off to a great start this season and he should have another big day against a very weak Buffalo defense. Cruz’s targets have been increasing since Week 2 from two to three to five to 11 last week. Buffalo has given up a 100-yard receiver in all but one game this year. Cruz should be a solid play this week.
Mike Thomas has been consistent if anything this year. His targets have been about nine a week, which gives him about five catches for 50 yards a game. Not a bad play for your WR3 spot. This week I wouldn’t expect that much out of him against Pittsburgh and its Top 3 receiving defense. The best a wideout has done against Pittsburgh is Pierre Garcon’s six catches for 82 yards. This is not the week to be starting Thomas.
This will be the first week Santana Moss sees a Top 10 receiving defense when he plays Philadelphia. I expect him to be covered by Nnamdi Asomugha, and that should end his day right there. Moss should be on your bench this week.
Vernon Davis’ last three games have looked more like what he was doing last year, and that’s definitely a good thing. Now that Josh Morgan is out, Davis should be getting even more targets. Detroit has allowed a tight end to score a touchdown on them in each of the last three games. Davis shouldn’t have a problem getting one touchdown and good yardage, also. Starting Davis this week would be a ‘Good Call’.
Jake Ballard has been a surprise so far this year. He has scored in the past two games, and a game against Buffalo should continue that streak. Ballard would make a good spot start for tight end if you’re looking for a bye-week filler. Don’t expect Jason Witten numbers, but a decent day isn’t out of the question.
Owen Daniels should be benched. Baltimore’s defense is good. I think I’ve talked enough about the Baltimore defense so far, but the best a tight end has done against the Ravens was three catches for 42 yards put up by Heath Miller in week 1. Sit Daniels and move on.
Curtis Painter has wanted to get it going with someone else, besides Pierre Garcon, but that guy will not be Dallas Clark. Not this week. Cincinnati has a strong defense and will be able to shut down the Colts offense all day. Don’t expect a big day from any Colts’ player if you weren’t doing that already.
Calls from last week:
Good luck. I hope you make all the right calls.