Heading into the second week of the fantasy playoffs, I can understand if fantasy owners are down on those players who failed to help them last week. However, one bad game doesn’t mean a player is going to let you down again this week.
While rookie Bryce Brown struggled against the No.1 defense in the league against the run, expect a bounce-back performance as the Eagles return home for a Thursday night matchup against the Bengals.
QB Matt Ryan vs. Giants
It’s been a rough second half of the season for Matt Ryan owners, as the Falcons have struggled in the first half of games and they’ve had a hard time converting drives into scores. Last week, Ryan salvaged his stat-line with some garbage time numbers, but I expect him to have a better performance this week.
The Giants secondary is susceptible to the big play and lacks discipline at times. With Atlanta coming off an embarrassing loss on the road, expect the Giants to receive their best this week.
RB Bryce Brown vs. Bengals
I really don’t care if Brown was a major letdown last week. While the Bengals have played well against the run, they may be without one of their better run defenders on the front line, as Michael Johnson is battling a bad toe injury and has a short week to get ready.
With LeSean McCoy out this week, Brown should be viewed no lower than a RB2 play, and I still consider him a must-start. Don’t expect his floor to be anywhere close to what we saw in Tampa Bay, and we all know his ceiling is that of an elite player at his position.
RB Reggie Bush vs. Jaguars
I like the way Bush ran against the 49ers, and he could be in line for a big performance against a Jaguars defense that has struggled against the run in recent weeks. The Dolphins should win in time of possession, and Bush is likely to touch the football over 20 times in this game.
RB David Wilson at Falcons
Even if Ahmad Bradshaw plays this week, look to David Wilson as the better start in the Giants backfield. Wilson flashed his big-play ability against the Saints, and while he may not go for 100 yards in Atlanta, he’s a terrific flex play option going forward.
WR Dez Bryant vs. Steelers
As long as Bryant suits up against the Steelers, he’s a WR1 option. Pittsburgh is struggling at cornerback without Ike Taylor, and that won’t change this week. Bryant is on a hot streak, and he tends to play much better at home than when on the road.
WR Josh Gordon vs. Redskins
If Gordon remains dedicated to his craft, he will be a WR1 in the future and a Pro Bowl receiver. At this point in Gordon’s career, he’s a deadly threat down the field that is rounding his overall game into shape. Playing against the Redskins this week, Gordon will have opportunities for big plays against a leaky secondary.
TE Tony Scheffler at Cardinals
With the Lions wide receiver core depleted by injury, tight end Tony Scheffler is picking up work as the team's slot receiver. Over the course of the last four weeks, Scheffler is third among tight ends in targets and picked up 10 last week while scoring a touchdown against the Packers.
D Lions Defense at Cardinals
With the news of Kevin Kolb being placed on injured reserve on Wednesday, it appears the Cardinals will have little choice but to stick with Ryan Lindley or John Skelton at quarterback. I expect the Cardinals to play a more competitive game this week, but Detroit’s defense should have a productive game for fantasy leagues.
QB Robert Griffin vs. Browns
If Griffin plays, we should be concerned about his running ability and where his knee injury will hurt this throwing accuracy. I give Griffin credit for attempting to play through the injury, but fantasy owners need to be cautious about expecting QB1 numbers in the final weeks of the season.
RB Ahmad Bradshaw at Falcons
As if it wasn’t hard enough to trust Bradshaw when he was dealing with his feet problems, now he has a knee injury. We should expect rookie David Wilson to be the top option to start in the Giants backfield. Bradshaw is likely to have problems finishing games, and if the Giants have the lead in the fourth quarter, expect Wilson to see most of the work, as was the case last week.
RB Michael Turner vs. Giants -
Jacquizz Rodgers continues to see more time in the Falcons backfield over Turner, and that’s not likely to change. Outside of a couple of nice runs against New Orleans' weak run defense, Turner has looked like a running back ready to be forced into retirement by the start of next season.
RB Vick Ballard vs. Texans
Ballard has the situation to be a reasonable flex play starter down the stretch. Problem is, he faces the Texans this week, and we should expect Houston to bounce back after an embarrassing loss to the Patriots on Monday night. Ballard has been serviceable for the Colts, but his upside is limited.
RB Jonathan Dwyer at Cowboys
It appears Dwyer will get the start once again for the Steelers, and while I’m happy to hear guard David DeCastro will play this week, I wouldn’t trust this ground attack. Pittsburgh’s offensive line looked overmatched at times against the Chargers run defense, and the Cowboys should do a respectable job against Dwyer this week.
WR Antonio Brown at Cowboys
Obviously, Brown is a better play with Ben Roethlisberger under center, but I just don’t trust him at this point. Brown is the top possession receiver in the Steelers offense, but he had only one touchdown before last week’s garbage-time score for the season.
Last year, Brown went to the Pro Bowl, but only hauled in two touchdowns on the season. This is a problem, and until I see him break out for a high volume of receptions, I wouldn’t even trust him in a PPR league. Look to Mike Wallace and possibly Heath Miller as better options.
WR James Jones at Bears
The Packers are running the football just as much as they put it up in the air over the past two weeks. With Brian Urlacher out, don’t expect this trend to change, as the Bears have been gashed in the running game of late. Green Bay has a respectable track record of running the football against Chicago over the years, so keep Jones on the bench as an unreliable option.
TE Antonio Gates vs. Panthers
Not sure if it’s over for Gates, but he’s clearly not the player we once knew. This has been a horrible season for Gates after it looked like he was ready for a bounce-back season, after finally overcoming his foot ailments this offseason.
49ers Defense at Patriots
Did you see what the Patriots did to the Texans last week? No, I don’t expect New England to have as easy of a time against the 49ers defense. For one, the Texans were without Brian Cushing, their best linebacker and probably best suited to handle tight end Aaron Hernandez in coverage.
Both Patrick Willis and NaVorro Bowman will present problems to the Patriots that they didn’t have to face against the Texans and that will slow their offense down. Still, this is likely to be a high-scoring game, and we shouldn’t expect the kind of big plays San Francisco had against the Saints a few weeks back.