Andy Dalton, QB, Cincinnati Bengals
Remember the first two games of the season when Dalton had zero touchdowns and the grumblings for A.J. McCarron were growing louder? Well, Dalton balanced the scoring scales a bit as he has thrown for six touchdowns over the last two games with his new offensive coordinator. So the question becomes, which Dalton are we to expect on a weekly basis? Right now he’s split down the middle of being a weekly QB1 to maybe even being better suited for the free agent pool. A big game here against a leaky Buffalo defense could have Dalton working back into must start territory and giving owners either relief in certain cases like for Derek Carr, or a trade chip if they’re loaded at the position. If Dalton has another three touchdowns here, his value will peak and owners will have some decisions to make.
Cam Newton, QB, Carolina Panthers
We watched very single second of the Patriots and Panthers’ game with our very own eyes. In case you missed it, don’t look at the box score and think that Newton has finally returned to form. Far from it actually. The Patriots’ defense has been historically terrible and couldn’t get any pressure on a quarterback who was being sacked about three times a game. They left monster sized receivers uncovered as they looked like the JV squad taking on the seniors. We don’t think Newton will be Superman again until Week 1 of 2018 but we’ve been wrong before as nothing is for certain. If Newton can buckle down and start hitting the in close targets he’s been missing all season while escaping the elite pass rush of the Lions, he’ll be making a statement that he’s back. If he’s running for touchdowns and hitting his receivers with precision, we’ll have egg on our face. With that in mind, it’s unreasonable to expect Newton to hang QB1 numbers with Ezekiel Ansah in his face. This is a prove it game for Killer Cam.
LeGarrette Blount, RB, Philadelphia Eagles
Blount has been a wrecking ball with the Eagles’ offense. Last week, Blount sprung one of the most dominant runs that you’re ever going to see as he overpowered and tossed defenders left and right. With Darren Sproles out for the season, Blount was figured to be used more and he responded very positively. Now we’re hearing that Wendell Smallwood isn’t practicing and could either play limited or not at all against Arizona. If that turns out to be true, can Blount produce enough against a defense that looks to have some of the best personnel on paper to earn a RB1 billing? Can he show the coaches that he needs to be touching the ball 20 plus times a game? Or will Blount regress from last week and fall back into the running back pool that the Eagles are supposedly fine with utilizing. There’s tremendous value on the line for Blount. Don’t for a second think he doesn’t know that this game could set up the rest of his season and a potential pay day for next year.
Eli Manning, QB, New York Giants
Are we the only ones who think that Manning is in mortal danger this week? The Giants’ offensive line is one of the worst in the league. When Manning is scrambling up the middle for touchdown scores you know you have a leaky dam up front. Ereck Flowers may be the worst starting offensive lineman in the league as the Giants look unable to own up to the fact that he’s a draft bust. Now factor in that the Chargers can hang points and offer an underrated pass rush to boot. This game has all indicators pointing at us to avoid Manning. Odell Beckham is dealing with more knee issues and now a hand problem. The running game is still flat out laughable. And the Chargers will be sending Melvin Ingram and Joey Bosa full steam ahead at Eli. Don’t be surprised to see those two pass rushers in the Giants’ backfield more than Paul Perkins is. If Manning can dip, dive, duck, and dodge his way through and put up respectable numbers, we should be able to trust him in some of the harder contests. If he’s knocked around all day though, he’ll become a must sit in some of the approaching games to include both Philly games and the Chiefs, never mind the Broncos and the Seahawks.
Doug Baldwin, WR, Seattle Seahawks
This isn’t to say that Baldwin hasn’t had a solid year. He’s on pace for 1,000 yards and will likely flirt with 100 catches. That’s all well and good, but Baldwin was drafted as a WR1 in 2017 after so many argued against him in 2016. Last season, every outlet said that Baldwin was in no way, shape, or form going to come close his previous season’s total. While he didn’t match the 14 touchdowns, he did have 8 to include a touchdown pass to Russell Wilson (still counts) while surpassing his yardage total. At his current pace, he’s set to finish with both less yards and drastically less touchdowns. It’s a lot to ask from a guy who is clearly battling through a very uncomfortable groin injury but he needs to turn the dial up a bit and get back on course. The Rams have a strong defensive front and Seattle is still figuring out who the lead back of 2017 is going to be. Seattle is going to need to pass and Baldwin should benefit greatly. If he can’t shake this injury and continues on this pace, he’ll have fallen from a projected Top-10 wide receiver to a PPR WR2.
Marshawn Lynch, RB, Oakland Raiders
The Derek Carr injury obviously hurts the entire Raiders’ offense. E.J. Manuel is not the pure passer or play maker that Carr is (DUH). Manuel is a former first round bust cast off from Buffalo in favor of guys like Joe Webb and Nathan Peterman and that should tell you all you need to know. The Raiders do have some big time play makers on defense and could take a ground and pound approach. If that’s the case, then Marshawn Lynch could turn out to be a stud. People had very high expectations for Lynch on draft day and he’s paid them back with 3.4 yards per carry with one lone score. But that was when Carr was throwing all those scores and big chunks of yardage to Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree. E.J. Manuel is not very likely to produce in such a manner so it could be Lynch who the offense rallies around. We need to see close to 20 touches with a YPC much closer to four in order to move Lynch up our boards. The other side of this coin is that the Ravens target Lynch and force Manuel to air it out. That would be a big problem as the approaching defenses down the schedule could mirror that blue print. The long and short of this is that Lynch’s entire ’17 outlook will sway in this one game.