Matthew Stafford vs Kansas City
Who exactly is Stafford in 2015? Is he a victim of his circumstance as he was left dumbfounded behind a below average offensive coordinator? Or is it that Stafford simply isn’t as elite as we all had envisioned he would be at this point in career? Looking at the numbers, Stafford gets the benefit of the doubt that former offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi was the thorn in his heel. It’s easy to forget that Stafford was a fantasy stud a few years back as the Lions were content with having him toss the ball 50-plus times on a weekly basis.
Then, in 2014, Detroit tried to transition to a more defensive ball-control mentality that failed to work due to not being strong enough on defense and not having ball control runners. Joique Bell is too fragile to ground and pound and Ameer Abdullah is not only too liberal with his fumbles but his skill set is best suited for a passing attack to begin with. Look for Jim Bob Cooter to knock off the training wheels as he wagers his career on Stafford’s ability to connect with Golden Tate and Calvin Johnson over and over again. KC should be more than willing to help Stafford redefine himself as a top-end option.
Chris Johnson vs Cleveland
No one could have predicted that Chris Johnson would have this much impact for the Cardinals at this point in his career. If you recall, Johnson was sent packing from The Jets, hit free agency without garnering any interest, sat all offseason after an off-field incident, and then was an afterthought for the Cowboys as Dallas attempted to retool their backfield. Jerry Jones is likely questioning everyone in talent evaluation because they could have had him for pennies on the dollar.
Instead, Johnson eventually landed in Arizona where he has been an impact player since. He’s supplanted Andre Ellington and has earned enough of coach Bruce Arian’s respect to relegate rookie runner David Johnson into an emergency option. The Cardinals offered Johnson the motivation to prove others wrong while also offering one of the better constructed offensive lines in the league. If Johnson can pad his stat line against cupcake matchups like this one here, there is the strong chance that he could finish with around 1,500 yards. Such a feat would have Johnson moving from a waiver find in 2015 to a second-round fantasy target in 2016.
Ronnie Hillman vs Green Bay
Gary Kubiak wants to run the ball in Denver. Peyton Manning can no longer throw the deep ball in Denver. Both of these aspects should put a strong emphasis on the running game but instead Denver comes in ranked 30th in rushing yards per game. Part of this has been Denvers’ inability to run block up front. Another part of this has been the disappointing campaign of C.J. Anderson. Anderson looks to have lost all of his explosiveness over the offseason as the big play no long exists. Anderson is constantly seeing contacted behind the line, making him unable to use his speed to become elusive outside the tackle box.
Ronnie Hillman, however, is a much different kind of runner. Hillman is a more physical kind of back that can absorb a little more contact and still keep moving forward. Such notion has lead to the Broncos reportedly working Hillman into the starter’s role over their bye week. How much a role as the labeled starter remains to be seen, but it’s certainly an immediate value boost for Hillman and a downgrade for Anderson. If Hillman goes off in a big way against the Packers and sees something ridiculous like 20-plus touches, we’ll have to view Hillman as a low-end RB1 for the rest of the year. If Hillman were to see 12 touches for 30 yards and Anderson be close behind in the RBBC split, he’d remain a hopeful touchdown-dependent play with a very limited season.
Derek Carr vs New York Jets
As great as Amari Cooper has been to this point in his rookie year, people seem to be overlooking the fact that Derek Carr is the one allowing him to do what he’s doing. Oakland is moving in the right direction and this growing offense will only make Carr better over time. The Raiders now have their wide receiver, running back, and quarterback of the future and will look to add even more weaponry in the offseason.
As long as Carr continues to impress, The Raiders will continue to cater to him in the hopes of building a contender. A best case scenario in dynasty formats for both Carr and Cooper is to go out and put up fantasy-starter numbers against one of the top units in the league while also losing the game outright. Such a scenario will benefit us immediately and it would show the front office that they’re just a few offensive players away from hanging with the big boys. A loss would mean that Oakland is just a spot higher in the draft to help grab such a contributor and Carr’s stock would potentially be on the rise even more so.
Mike Evans vs Atlanta
Evans has been one of the most hot and cold wide receiver producers of 2015. Everyone thought that the immediate upgrade of Jameis Winston over any quarterback that Evans had in 2014 would lead to monster numbers. The chemistry still seems to be building between the quarterback and Evans but things look to be getting shaken up again.
The latest news indicates that Vincent Jackson will be missing several weeks with a knee injury. This is like looking into a crystal ball for the 2016 season as V-Jax will likely be a salary cap hit in the offseason. The next few weeks will give us a glimpse of what Evans looks like with not only the additional targets from Winston but all the additional defensive attention without Jackson playing across the field. Atlanta’s defense has played fired up and could aim to simply take Evans away from the offensive game plan. Evans’ dynasty value sways heavily on the upcoming contests, starting here against The Falcons.