With Jonathan Stewart out of the lineup it appears we can finally trust a running back in our lineups out of Carolina. For the second year in a row, DeAngelo Williams is playing his best football down the stretch, and we should expect the veteran to touch the football over 20 times this week as the Panthers are sure to roll up a big lead on the Raiders.
QB. Tony Romo vs. Saints
On a hot streak through the second half of the season, the Cowboys have now won five of their last six games and are entrenched in a chase for the NFC East crown. With New Orleans coming to town you can count on a high-scoring game, and Romo should be a lock for two or more touchdowns and over 300-yards passing.
Don’t worry about the Saints shutting out the Buccaneers last week. While it was a terrific performance by New Orleans, this defense doesn’t travel well in road games.
QB. Colin Kaepernick @ Seahawks
Some of you may still be a little nervous to start Kaepernick this week because of how the Seahawks are playing, and they always seem to play better at home.
Keep an eye on corner back Richard Sherman’s availability this week, because if he’s out it will be key for Kaepernick’s odds of success.
With Brandon Browner already serving a suspension and backup corners Walter Thurmond and Marcus Trufant attempting to come back from hamstring injuries, Kaepernick might just face the Seahawks secondary at the right time.
RB. DeAngelo Williams vs. Raiders
With Jonathan Stewart out of the lineup, Williams is being used as a—dare I say—feature back. Sure, he will lose out on goal-line opportunities to Mike Tolbert and Cam Newton, but Williams has carried the football 39 times over the past two weeks.
Carolina is on fire, and they should build up a big lead on the Raiders in the first half, allowing them to run the football with regularity in the second half. Over the past two weeks, Williams has a touchdown in each game and over 50 yards in the running game and passing game each week. As long as Stewart is out, Williams is worth starting, especially against the Raiders.
RB. LeSean McCoy vs. Redskins
According to Sheil Kapadia of PhillyMag.com we shouldn’t expect the normal workload from McCoy we used to see before his concussion a few weeks back. Still, Bryce Brown has struggled for two weeks in a row, and his ball security issues are a problem so the opportunity could be there for a full workload.
While I can’t blame the Eagles coaching staff for playing it cautious with McCoy (at least to the press) if he has success early in the game, we should expect him to possibly touch the football 20 times. Then again if the Eagles fall behind early, we could see McCoy pulled in the second half of the game.
It’s a bit of a risky play, but if you need help at your flex position, McCoy is a player too talented to turn down.
RB. David Wilson @ Ravens
While Ahmad Bradshaw tells us he’s going to play this weekend, he’s yet to be cleared for practice after his knee injury against the Saints a few weeks ago. Wilson should split time with either Bradhsaw or Kregg Lumpkin but his big-play ability—coupled with the Ravens struggles against the run—make him a worthy start this week.
RB. Stevan Ridley @ Jaguars
Ridley has had his fumbling issues resurface over the past two weeks after going without a fumble since Week 5 against the Broncos. While Danny Woodhead was in the game more in the second half last week, I believe it had more to do with the Patriots actually playing from behind than anything else.
The games scripts will return to normal for the Patriots this week as they face a floundering Jaguars team. Ridley should remain as the top option in the running game and the closer in the fourth quarter. For the first time since his matchup against the Jets, Ridley actually has a favorable matchup so get him in the lineup.
WR. Brandon Lloyd @ Jaguars
Outside of Wes Welker and Lloyd the Patriots are depleted at receiver. With Rob Gronkowski out as well, the door has reopened for Lloyd to make an impact in New England’s passing game, and he’s taking advantage with big numbers over the past two weeks.
Lloyd should have continued success against the Jaguars leaky secondary. It would be wise for the Patriots to keep Lloyd involved as he posses a threat to opposing defense as a presence that can make big plays down the field. Time to keep the veteran going to give opposing teams in the playoffs someone to prepare for in the vertical game, which in turn will open up more opportunities in the short passing game and running game.
WR. Antonio Brown vs. Bengals
I was a big fan of Brown’s this summer with Mike Wallace going through this holdout. As it turned out, Brown was the disappointment for most of the year as Ben Roethlisberger gravitated towards Wallace, no matter his conditioning or understanding of Todd Haley’s playbook.
Brown is a good receiver and will likely be the Steelers go to possession option in future years, but he’s struggled too often in failing to find the end zone. Since Roethlisberger’s return from a rib injury, the veteran has found Brown in the end zone each of the past two weeks.
Pittsburgh is struggling to run the football, and their defense is leaky against the pass, so expect the Bengals to take advantage and score over 21 points. Roethisberger will be throwing more often than the Steelers would like, but that’s a benefit to Brown owners so consider him a respectable WR3 this week.
TE. Dennis Pitta vs. Giants
With Joe Flacco struggling to keep Torrey Smith involved in the offense, it appears Pitta is the one taking advantage. The Ravens have struggled on defense this year, and while the Giants are coming off a horrible game in Atlanta, we should expect them to score up to 30 points in this game.
Pitta should be active and makes for a respectable low-end TE1 down the stretch.
D. Redskins Defense @ Eagles
The Eagles should have some yardage in this game, but expect the Redskins to make some big plays on defense much like they did against his team a few weeks back. Washington has playoff aspirations, and as we saw with the Eagles last week, playing so many young players is starting to take its toll.
Bringing LeSean McCoy back from a concussion will help the Eagles, but expect Washington to deliver a solid performance for fantasy leagues.
QB. Matthew Stafford vs. Falcons
Forget about Stafford’s throwing mechanics and focus on his receiving core as the main reason why you shouldn’t trust him down the stretch. While the Cardinals have a respectable secondary, Stafford should have at least had a touchdown pass against the Cardinals in 300-yards passing as the Lions played from way behind.
Atlanta has given quality quarterbacks problems over recent weeks as both Drew Brees and Eli Manning have produced unworthy starting numbers against this secondary. I don’t like Stafford’s odds, and you would be wise to keep him on your bench after a pathetic loss to the Cardinals last week.
RB. Ahmad Bradshaw @ Ravens
As I mentioned above when discussing David Wilson as a start ’em option, Bradshaw continues to tell the press he’s going to play this week. Even if he plays, I have to wonder just how many touches he will get if he actually suits up.
Don’t put Bradshaw in your lineup this week if you have any other half way respectable options.
WR. Greg Jennings vs. Titans
While Jennings has been back from his groin injury a few weeks now, he’s still not playing up to the expectations we would normally have for him. The Packers should make quick work of the Titans this weekend, and if Jennings doesn’t make noise in the first half, he’s likely to disappoint you.
WR. Josh Gordon @ Broncos
Coming into last week Gordon was having a nice little stretch but his inconsistency crept up on fantasy owners as he failed to reach 50 yards on the day. Playing against the Redskins leaky secondary, it was worth a shot last week to put him in the lineup but this week he faces Champ Bailey and the Broncos defense. Keep the rookie out of your lineup.
TE. Kyle Rudolph @ Texans
Christian Ponder needs to hit the restart button in the offseason and figure out how to play quarterback again. For now, it appears Ponder’s confidence is shaken, something he admitted to be a problem down the stretch of last season, and it’s clear the Vikings are trying to win by leaning solely on Adrian Peterson’s running ability.
Ponder will continue to run a dink and dunk offense which will hurt Rudolph’s chances to help your team.
D. Seahawks Defense vs. 49ers
As I mentioned above with Colin Kaepernick, we need to keep an eye on Richard Sherman’s availability for this week's game as he may be suspended starting on Friday. With fellow corners Walter Thurmond, Marcus Trufant and defensive tackle Allen Branch possibly out this week, the Seahawks would be a bad play for you if they are all out.
Unfortunately, this game will be played on Sunday night, and there won’t be a Monday night game. That basically means if you go with the Seahawks, by the time you realize Trufant, Thurmond or Branch are in fact out, it will be too late to make a change.
Therefore, you need to rely on the practice participation of these three players and Sherman’s status on Friday to determine if you should start them. Keep an eye on this situation.