Carolina Panthers v Detroit Lions
Cam Newton– Nobody saw last weeks drop off coming. That matchup against the Tennessee Titans should have been a complete joy for owners. Instead fantasy managers were blindsided by a runaway freight train when they checked on Newton’s numbers. The Panthers looked like the Panthers of old. They were completely unable to get anything going at all on either side of the ball. Newton disappointed for the first time in 2011 and this game against the Lions could make two in a row. The Lions are a sneaky good defense and provide one of the best pass rushes in the entire league. When Newton decides to run the Lions’ defensive ends have enough speed that they could be used to successfully channel Newton up the middle of the field where the linebacking core awaits. This game is a great chance for us to see how Newton not only rebounds from a complete flogging but also how he handles that purposed containment. As well as the Panthers have been this season that offensive line still needs some work. The offensive line is nowhere near the caliber of the talent that makes up the defensive front of the Lions. Newton will have much less time in the pocket to wait for the deep routes to develop. That means that he won’t be able to connect with Steve Smith in the same manner that they have grown accustomed to. Newton will need to be accurate on his short passes and move the chains with short chunks of yardage. Don’t expect either DeAngelo Williams or Jonathan Stewart to be huge factors in the running gaming, per usual. Newton will have a huge workload and will need to be extremely efficient to avoid turnovers. This game gives us the opportunity to see not only how Newton handles intense pressure but also how accurate he really is. Newton’s accuracy has been highly scrutinized since his college days. It’s one thing to throw a complete bomb down the field to a receiver as fast as Steve Smith in a “go and get it” type of mentality compared to needing to be spot on when given a small window to throw into. I expect Newton to provide owners with another solid, number one quarterback outing. But I also expect him to play like a rookie quarterback and make a few mental mistakes that will sway the game. The yardage will be there but so will the turnovers and the sacks.
Oakland Raiders v Minnesota Vikings
Michael Bush– Oakland is currently in a situation that fantasy owners lose sleep over. What do you do with a wealth of talent at running back? Does Bush go back to the bench once Darren McFadden is fully healthy? Does Bush’s workload increase or does he go back to being ridiculously underused? Several teams over the past season have found themselves in this exact situation and the results are quite mixed. The Texans have seemingly found a way to utilize both of their backs in a successful manner. The Jets have found a way to platoon Shonn Greene and LaDainian Tomlinson with success. However in a case like the Dolphins, Reggie Bush has all been taken starting duties away from Daniel Thomas due to injury. Demarco Murray in Dallas has become the main threat in Felix Jones’ absence. It’s completely up to the team in question as to how exactly the situation will play out. Some teams believe that players don’t lose their jobs due to injury while other teams like the Broncos believe in riding the hot hand. There is no doubt that Darren McFadden has his job awaiting him in Oakland upon his return. The question is how does Bush effect his value from here on out? We could be in a Mike Tolbert and Ryan Mathews situation. The overall yardage will be easy to judge but the scoring opportunities could become quite murky. As of this moment it doesn’t appear likely that McFadden will be able to go on Sunday. Bush will have yet another chance to rank up the stats and prove that he’s a dynamic player that needs to get his fair share. If Bush can impress in the way that he did last week against the Chargers there will be no debate about getting an increased workload. As Bush’s value increases Darren McFadden’s value inevitably decreases. Both Michael Bush and Darren McFadden owners should watch intently on Sunday because this game has huge future value implications.
Dallas Cowboys v Washington Redskins
Felix Jones– Much like the aforementioned situation in Oakland, we have another one currently unveiling in Dallas. Felix Jones was the highly touted preseason favorite to be the dynamic playmaker out of the Dallas backfield. But much like the years before, Jones hasn’t managed to stay on the field. A dislocated shoulder and a high ankle sprain have limited what could have been a monster season. The ankle injury was especially detrimental because it opened the gates for DeMarco Murray. This week against the Redskins will give us our first look as to how Jason Garrett will handle the backfield situation. After what we’ve seen from the rookie there doesn’t seem to be a chance for Jones’ value to go back to what it was again. By again I’m not just implying the 2011 season. I mean again as in for the rest of Jones’ career with the Cowboys. Felix will need either a severe injury to Murray or a new zip code to regain his value. Jones will likely slip back into his complimentary role and fall into fantasy purgatory. Fantasy purgatory is that place where a player shows great potential each week but doesn’t receive the workload to be trusted in your lineup. I’d expect Felix to receive carries only when Murray needs a break. Felix’s main value will come through the passing game and those touches don’t provide enough work to really count on him. If Murray were to continue to excel, even with Felix Jones in tow, DeMarco’s value would rise even further in my eyes. We’d know that Garrett wouldn’t patronize Jones with carries to appease him therefore regulating Murray’s value to a medium. Much like the Raiders’ game, both Jones and Murray owners should pay close attention to how the backs are used on Sunday. Sadly for Jones owners there isn’t going to be much to hang your hats on after Murray continues to roll even with Jones active.
Buffalo Bills v Miami Dolphins
Ryan Fitzpatrick– The second quarter of season has been the polar opposite of the first quarter for the Bills. They have seemingly stumbled and fallen out of the AFC east elite category. Luckily for the Bills though there is still someone in the AFC east that has stumbled even harder. The Dolphins should be the perfect team for the Bills to get back on track with offensively. Ryan Fitzpatrick should be able to get back to his early season form against a Dolphins’ defense that struggled to stop anyone. The cornerbacks for Miami have been in and out of the lineup with injuries, creating inconsistency in a position that wasn’t that good to begin with (no matter how much they want to compare themselves with the Jets). As long as Steve Johnson is able to go in week 11 expectations for Fitzpatrick should remain high. As I said the Dolphins defense presents a great chance for the Bills’ offense to find itself again. I didn’t say that the Bills defense was going to be able to do anything special. The Dolphins have found their offensive grove and will exploit the Bills’ inability to stop the run. That factor will also bode well for the Bills offense getting back on track. Look for Fitzpatrick to have the best fantasy day that he’s had in several games. With all the terrible quarterback matchups and bye weeks don’t be surprised to see Fitzpatrick finish in the top seven or so in quarterback scoring. Expectations will need to be lowered if Steve Johnson isn’t able to go but the other guys like David Nelson and Scott Chandler would be able to pick up some of the slack.