Fantasy Football Week 8 Start 'Em, Sit 'Em
Fantasy footballers tend to believe the NFL is a game of matchups. Right now it is merely a game of survival.
Ask Sam Bradford (knee). Ask Reggie Wayne (knee). Ask anyone struck by the myriad injuries.
They are coming right at the midseason point, which is why the NFL wanted to stack so many teams on bye in these next three weeks. Half of the league will be idle this Sunday through Week 10, and the rash of injuries are examples of why the time off is needed.
We help you sort through the mess caused by six teams on bye and all of the injuries that have players out (Roddy White) or among the dreaded game-time decisions: Danny Amendola (concussion) and Jimmy Graham (foot).
This is Bleacher Report's Start 'Em, Sit 'Em in a six-part, position-by-position slideshow.
Quarterbacks: Mobile Quarterbacks Lead Our 'Starts' This Week
Robert Griffin III, Washington Redskins
RG3 hasn't been great yet, but he is running more and should put up some monster numbers in that shootout with the Broncos this week. Denver has given up the most passing yards per game and is second to only Dallas in terms of giving up points to opposing quarterbacks. RGIII has a newfound weapon in rookie tight end Jordan Reed too. This should be a bonanza you won't want to miss.
Colin Kaepernick, San Francisco 49ers
Speaking of disappointing new-wave quarterbacks, Kaepernick is facing a Jaguars team that is in the bottom 10 of fantasy against quarterbacks despite struggling to slow anyone on the ground either. It should be a field day for the entire 49ers offense in London.
Michael Vick, Philadelphia Eagles
So much for Nick Foles (concussion) taking hold of the Eagles' quarterback job. Vick has to rush back to the field before he's ready, and it should prove to be good timing for his fantasy owners. Despite shutting down the Vikings on Monday night as they debuted (horribly) Josh Freeman at quarterback, the Giants are still the sixth-worst team in fantasy against the position. Vick had poor numbers in their past meeting, but this one should be different at home, especially because Vick's hamstring will force him to stay in the pocket and find targets downfield.
Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh Steelers
Those guys above might be relatively obvious options, but Big Ben is not necessarily. The Raiders are middle of the pack against the pass and fantasy quarterbacks, but Big Ben is still what makes the Steelers offense go.
He has a healthy Heath Miller now and a running game to take the pressure off too with the return of Le'Veon Bell. Big Ben is just on the fringe of a sure-fire fantasy starter, but you can use him with six teams on bye and injuries ravaging the other fringe options this season. Go with the veteran over some unknown.
Terrelle Pryor, Oakland Raiders
As poorly as this season has started for the Steelers, it is a bit too easy to lose track of the fact Pittsburgh is still the No. 1 team in fantasy against quarterbacks. Troy Polamalu's health has a lot to do with that. Pryor should be left out of lineups outside of two-quarterback formats this week.
Ryan Tannehill, Miami Dolphins
Lost in the Pats' frustrations with their receivers and injuries to their run-stuffers is the fact they have played much better this season against the pass. The Pats are just out of the top 10 there and have been the sixth-toughest team against quarterbacks. They are also one of five teams to have intercepted more passes than allowed passing touchdowns.
Andy Dalton, Cincinnati Bengals
He has posted back-to-back 300-yard, three-touchdown passing days, and he has found some secondary targets to complement A.J. Green. The problem is the Jets defense comes to town. This game should be a lot closer to the vest like the Pats-Bengals game was in Week 5, where Dalton had one of his worst performances of the season. The Jets are top 10 against the pass and fantasy quarterbacks, so move away from trusting Dalton this week.
|1||Peyton Manning||Den||vs. Was||1||0|
|2||Aaron Rodgers||GB||at Min||3||+1|
|3||Drew Brees||NO||vs. Buf||2||-1|
|4||Cam Newton||Car||at TB||8||+4|
|5||Matthew Stafford||Det||vs. Dal||4||-1|
|6||Matt Ryan||Atl||at Ari||11||+5|
|7||Tom Brady||NE||vs. Mia||12||+5|
|8||Colin Kaepernick||SF||at Jac||10||+2|
|9||Robert Griffin||Was||at Den||5||-4|
|10||Russell Wilson||Sea||at StL||9||-1|
|11||Tony Romo||Dal||at Det||6||-5|
|12||Michael Vick||Phi||vs. NYG||7||-5|
|13||Ben Roethlisberger||Pit||at Oak||16||+3|
|14||Eli Manning||NYG||at Phi||13||-1|
|15||Andy Dalton||Cin||vs. NYJ||14||-1|
|16||Terrelle Pryor||Oak||vs. Pit||15||-1|
|17||Carson Palmer||Ari||vs. Atl||17||0|
|18||Alex Smith||KC||vs. Cle||18||0|
|19||Ryan Tannehill||Mia||at NE||19||0|
|20||Geno Smith||NYJ||at Cin||20||0|
|21||Thaddeus Lewis||Buf||at NO||21||0|
|22||Christian Ponder||Min||vs. GB||23||+1|
|23||Mike Glennon||TB||vs. Car||22||-1|
|24||Jason Campbell||Cle||at KC||27||+3|
|25||Chad Henne||Jac||vs. SF||24||-1|
|26||Kellen Clemens||StL||vs. Sea||28||+2|
Running Backs: Eddie Lacy, Knowshon Moreno Give Offenses Added Dimensions
Eddie Lacy, Green Bay Packers
This one has become obvious amid the Packers' absences in the passing game. Lacy leads the NFL with 301 yards rushing the past three weeks, and that comes after James Starks and Johnathan Franklin each rushed for 100 yards in the two games prior due to Lacy's concussion. The Packers are a legit running team now, and the Vikings have allowed the most points to running backs in fantasy.
Knowshon Moreno, Denver Broncos
He has put away the running back committee with his performances this season—and surprising health. The Redskins are the fourth-worst team in fantasy against running backs, so Moreno not only has to stay active, but you might consider his backup as well. That will be Montee Ball this week. Mike Klis of the Denver Posts tweets Ronnie Hillman will be inactive because of his issues with fumbles. This will be another big week for Moreno, and the rookie Ball might even find the end zone in garbage time.
Stevan Ridley, New England Patriots
He has been a fantasy enigma, but he rebounded a couple of weeks ago and should continue to see more carries as the Pats lean on their feature back amid their struggles in the passing game. Ridley faces a Dolphins defense that has allowed the fifth-most points to backs in fantasy. He reaches 100 yards and the end zone at least once, if not twice, here.
Fred Jackson, Buffalo Bills
The Bills apparently are no longer willing to play C.J. Spiller through an ankle issue, according to Bills insider Joe Buscaglia, so Jackson will assume the feature-back role against the Saints, who have allowed an average of 114 rushing yards per game.
Jackson is the best thing the Bills have going for them offensively, and we should expect the Saints to pile on the points early and often. There should be garbage time for Jackson, perhaps a couple of short touchdowns.
Andre Ellington, Arizona Cardinals
The doubtful status of Rashard Mendenhall (toe) thrusts Ellington into a feature role this week, and he is good enough to keep it for the rest of the season perhaps. Ellington told Darren Urban of AZCentral.com: "I was already getting the majority of the plays on offense, but my role is just a little bit bigger." The Falcons are a top-10 team against running backs, but Ellington will be a factor in the passing game too. He picks up a receiving touchdown and over 100 total yards.
Willis McGahee, Cleveland Browns
The 32-year-old has needed time off practice for his ongoing knee issue, and Chris Ogbonnaya has surpassed him as the back of choice for the Browns in most of the crucial situations. It also doesn't help that the Browns are facing the Chiefs, a team that is third in fantasy against running backs. McGahee is closer to hitting the street than anyone's fantasy starting lineup right now.
Zac Stacy, St. Louis Rams
Not only will the Rams have to rely on Kellen Clemens at quarterback after the loss of Sam Bradford for the season, but they will also have to contend with the Seahawks defense. That spells bad news for the Rams offense, which was going to feature Stacy more. It will be tough to feature him against an eight-man box and a Seahawks defense that is No. 5 against the run and No. 6 against fantasy backs.
Giovani Bernard and BenJarvus Green-Ellis
Byes and injuries likely force you to rely on these timeshare backs, but the matchup should force you to think twice about it. The Jets are the second-best team in the NFL against the run. Bernard has the juice to break a long one, but it is more likely the Jets bottle him up and force BGE into a game of 15 carries for 35 yards. Sit these two if you have viable alternatives.
Bilal Powell, New York Jets
Chris Ivory emerged as a workhorse last week for the Jets, so we have to assume they stick with their hot hand against the Bengals run defense this week. The Bengals boast a top-10 team against fantasy backs and are in the top 10 against the run. Ivory is a marginal play, and Powell should be left out of lineups in standard leagues.
|Rank||Running Backs||Team||Opponent||ECR||vs. ECR|
|1||Adrian Peterson||Min||vs. GB||4||+3|
|2||LeSean McCoy||Phi||vs. NYG||3||+1|
|3||Jamaal Charles||KC||vs. Cle||1||-2|
|4||Frank Gore||SF||at Jac||5||+1|
|5||Marshawn Lynch||Sea||at StL||2||-3|
|6||Knowshon Moreno||Den||vs. Was||6||0|
|7||Reggie Bush||Det||vs. Dal||8||+1|
|8||Alfred Morris||Was||at Den||10||+2|
|9||Eddie Lacy||GB||at Min||7||-2|
|10||Stevan Ridley||NE||vs. Mia||12||+2|
|11||Darren Sproles||NO||vs. Buf||14||+3|
|12||Le'Veon Bell||Pit||at Oak||9||-3|
|13||Steven Jackson||Atl||at Ari||18||+5|
|14||DeMarco Murray||Dal||at Det||25||+11|
|15||Fred Jackson||Buf||at NO||11||-4|
|16||Andre Ellington||Ari||vs. Atl||22||+6|
|17||Darren McFadden||Oak||vs. Pit||13||-4|
|18||Lamar Miller||Mia||at NE||24||+6|
|19||Pierre Thomas||NO||vs. Buf||20||+1|
|20||Chris Ivory||NYJ||at Cin||23||+3|
|21||Giovani Bernard||Cin||vs. NYJ||15||-6|
|22||Maurice Jones-Drew||Jac||vs. SF||19||-3|
|23||Peyton Hillis||NYG||at Phi||29||+6|
|24||DeAngelo Williams||Car||at TB||17||-7|
|25||Jacquizz Rodgers||Atl||at Ari||30||+5|
|26||Zac Stacy||StL||vs. Sea||16||-10|
|27||Roy Helu||Was||at Den||26||-1|
|28||Joique Bell||Det||vs. Dal||31||+3|
|29||Kendall Hunter||SF||at Jac||40||+11|
|30||Chris Ogbonnaya||Cle||at KC||41||+11|
|31||BenJarvus Green-Ellis||Cin||vs. NYJ||28||-3|
|32||Mike James||TB||vs. Car||21||-11|
|33||Montee Ball||Den||vs. Was||46||+13|
|34||Bilal Powell||NYJ||at Cin||36||+2|
|35||Stepfan Taylor||Ari||vs. Atl||52||+17|
|36||Willis McGahee||Cle||at KC||35||-1|
|37||Robert Turbin||Sea||at StL||50||+13|
|38||Bryce Brown||Phi||vs. NYG||51||+13|
|39||Brandon Bolden||NE||vs. Mia||34||-5|
|40||Michael Cox||NYG||at Phi||49||+9|
|41||Joseph Randle||Dal||at Det||27||-14|
|42||Lance Dunbar||Dal||at Det||48||+6|
|43||Daniel Thomas||Mia||at NE||38||-5|
|44||James Starks||GB||at Min||57||+13|
|45||Johnathan Franklin||GB||at Min||55||+10|
|46||LeGarrette Blount||NE||vs. Mia||59||+13|
|47||Daryl Richardson||StL||vs. Sea||53||+6|
|48||Felix Jones||Pit||at Oak||62||+14|
|49||Anthony Dixon||SF||at Jac||68||+19|
|50||Mike Tolbert||Car||at TB||39||-11|
|51||Toby Gerhart||Min||vs. GB||63||+12|
|52||Justin Forsett||Jac||vs. SF||66||+14|
|53||Christine Michael||Sea||at StL||74||+21|
|54||Fozzy Whittaker||Cle||at KC||61||+7|
|55||LaMichael James||SF||at Jac||69||+14|
|56||Brian Leonard||TB||vs. Car||47||-9|
|57||Khiry Robinson||NO||vs. Buf||45||-12|
|58||Mark Ingram||NO||vs. Buf||60||+2|
|59||Phillip Tanner||Dal||at Det||64||+5|
|60||Knile Davis||KC||vs. Cle||76||+16|
Wide Receivers: Trust Your Giants, but Not Your Patriots or Rams Receivers
Eli Manning has been terrible, and he hasn't gotten any help from the running game or offensive line, but the Eagles have allowed NFL highs 122 catches, 1,555 yards and 14 touchdowns to receivers for a well-deserved worst in the NFL ranking against wide receivers. Randle and Nicks had big games against the Eagles last time out despite a big Giants loss. All three are starter-worthy in fantasy now, even the struggling Nicks.
Marques Colston, New Orleans Saints
Not only is Jimmy Graham (foot) banged up and likely to be on the wrong side of a game-time decision, but the Bills are the second-worst team in fantasy to wideouts. Colston rebounds from his past two quiet games (two catches for 15 yards and one catch for 11) with a 100-yard, two-touchdown performance here. The matchup is so good for the Saints receivers, you might even consider Lance Moore (hand) an option for your starting lineup off waivers. Moore is finally probable on the NFL Injury Report.
Pierre Garcon, Washington Redskins
He hasn't performed like an elite receiver, and Robert Griffin III might be favoring rookie tight end Jordan Reed as his go-to man, but the Broncos are last in the NFL against the pass and the third-worst team against wide receivers. Garcon should have his best week of the season in this shootout in Denver.
Terrance Williams, Dallas Cowboys
We have to relent here. Miles Austin (hamstring) is unlikely to play, according to Bryan Broaddus of DallasCowboys.com, so Williams will get another week getting the leftover targets that don't go to the double-teamed guys, Dez Bryant or Jason Witten. The injury circumstances and the matchup against the Lions (seventh-worst team against wide receivers) make Williams a top-25 fantasy wideout.
Harry Douglas, Atlanta Falcons, and Jarrett Boykin, Green Bay Packers
It is rare when the most popular waiver pickups prove to be fantasy starters off a big week, but Douglas and Boykin are true NFL starters for two of the best quarterbacks in the league. You should feel confident starting them because of the targets they are going to receive, especially Boykin against a Vikings defense that has given up the fourth-most passing yards per game.
Julian Edelman, Kenbrell Thompkins and Aaron Dobson, New England Patriots
If Tom Brady has been skittish of this group of unproven NFL receivers before, you have to be really wary of them now. Rob Gronkowski is back and will get more targets by the week, while Danny Amendola (concussion) has passed his medical tests, according to ESPN's Mike Reiss, and should be active. That will leave less for the trio above, particularly against a Dolphins team that has been the third best against fantasy wide receivers.
Tavon Austin, Chris Givens, Austin Pettis and Brian Quick, St. Louis Rams
You should not have liked them after Sam Bradford (knee) went down, if you had liked them. Against the Seahawks secondary, No. 2 in the NFL against the pass, forget it.
Dwayne Bowe, Kansas City Chiefs
Andy Reid is going to get Bowe involved more, but facing the Browns and shutdown corner Joe Haden is a bad time to expect it in fantasy. Buy low on Bowe perhaps, but don't dare trust him in your starting lineup this week.
|Rank||Wide Receivers||Team||Opponent||ECR||vs. ECR|
|1||Calvin Johnson||Det||vs. Dal||1||0|
|2||Dez Bryant||Dal||at Det||2||0|
|3||A.J. Green||Cin||vs. NYJ||4||+1|
|4||Jordy Nelson||GB||at Min||3||-1|
|5||Wes Welker||Den||vs. Was||6||+1|
|6||Demaryius Thomas||Den||vs. Was||5||-1|
|7||Eric Decker||Den||vs. Was||11||+4|
|8||Victor Cruz||NYG||at Phi||7||-1|
|9||DeSean Jackson||Phi||vs. NYG||8||-1|
|10||Larry Fitzgerald||Ari||vs. Atl||13||+3|
|11||Marques Colston||NO||vs. Buf||16||+5|
|12||Antonio Brown||Pit||at Oak||10||-2|
|13||Josh Gordon||Cle||at KC||18||+5|
|14||Vincent Jackson||TB||vs. Car||12||-2|
|15||Pierre Garcon||Was||at Den||9||-6|
|16||Danny Amendola||NE||vs. Mia||34||+18|
|17||Justin Blackmon||Jac||vs. SF||14||-3|
|18||Hakeem Nicks||NYG||at Phi||19||+1|
|19||Anquan Boldin||SF||at Jac||17||-2|
|20||Mike Wallace||Mia||at NE||22||+2|
|21||Harry Douglas||Atl||at Ari||21||0|
|22||Jarrett Boykin||GB||at Min||15||-7|
|23||Terrance Williams||Dal||at Det||26||+3|
|24||Steve Smith||Car||at TB||20||-4|
|25||Rueben Randle||NYG||at Phi||24||-1|
|26||Greg Jennings||Min||vs. GB||31||+5|
|27||Denarius Moore||Oak||vs. Pit||27||0|
|28||Lance Moore||NO||vs. Buf||50||+22|
|29||Michael Floyd||Ari||vs. Atl||25||-4|
|30||Cecil Shorts||Jac||vs. SF||23||-7|
|31||Golden Tate||Sea||at StL||32||+1|
|32||Steve Johnson||Buf||at NO||28||-4|
|33||Julian Edelman||NE||vs. Mia||33||0|
|34||Kris Durham||Det||vs. Dal||37||+3|
|35||Brian Hartline||Mia||at NE||29||-6|
|36||Kenbrell Thompkins||NE||vs. Mia||39||+3|
|37||Emmanuel Sanders||Pit||at Oak||35||-2|
|38||Mike Williams||TB||vs. Car||41||+3|
|39||Donnie Avery||KC||vs. Cle||53||+14|
|40||Dwayne Bowe||KC||vs. Cle||36||-4|
|41||Brandon LaFell||Car||at TB||38||-3|
|42||Jeremy Kerley||NYJ||at Cin||30||-12|
|43||Stephen Hill||NYJ||at Cin||40||-3|
|44||Ted Ginn||Car||at TB||57||+13|
|45||Brandon Gibson||Mia||at NE||43||-2|
|46||Sidney Rice||Sea||at StL||44||-2|
|47||Riley Cooper||Phi||vs. NYG||48||+1|
|48||Jason Avant||Phi||vs. NYG||56||+8|
|49||Aaron Dobson||NE||vs. Mia||47||-2|
|50||Robert Woods||Buf||at NO||42||-8|
|51||Jerricho Cotchery||Pit||at Oak||64||+13|
|52||Rod Streater||Oak||vs. Pit||59||+7|
|53||Doug Baldwin||Sea||at StL||62||+9|
|54||Jon Baldwin||SF||at Jac||90||+36|
|55||Santana Moss||Was||at Den||76||+21|
|56||Kenny Stills||NO||vs. Buf||52||-4|
|57||Chris Givens||StL||vs. Sea||60||+3|
|58||Austin Pettis||StL||vs. Sea||61||+3|
|59||Jerome Simpson||Min||vs. GB||45||-14|
|60||Leonard Hankerson||Was||at Den||55||-5|
|61||David Nelson||NYJ||at Cin||72||+11|
|62||Greg Little||Cle||at KC||70||+8|
|63||Andre Roberts||Ari||vs. Atl||69||+6|
|64||Davone Bess||Cle||at KC||79||+15|
|65||Mohamed Sanu||Cin||vs. NYJ||71||+6|
|66||Marvin Jones||Cin||vs. NYJ||49||-17|
|67||Nick Toon||NO||vs. Buf||96||+29|
|68||Ryan Broyles||Det||vs. Dal||75||+7|
|69||Tavon Austin||StL||vs. Sea||63||-6|
|70||Brian Quick||StL||vs. Sea||78||+8|
|71||Dexter McCluster||KC||vs. Cle||86||+15|
|72||Cole Beasley||Dal||at Det||58||-14|
|73||Cordarrelle Patterson||Min||vs. GB||73||0|
Tight Ends: Jimmy Graham Starts If He's Active, Ben Watson Doesn't Regardless
Heath Miller, Pittsburgh Steelers
The Raiders are more of a neutral matchup than a favorable one, but Miller is getting steadily more healthy and involved in offensive coordinator Todd Haley's offense. Despite just two catches a week ago, he reached the end zone, something he did eight times a year ago. Expect him to do so again here—this time with six-plus catches.
Kyle Rudolph, Minnesota Vikings
This is not one to bet the farm on, but the Vikings are going back to Christian Ponder, the quarterback who made Rudolph a top-10 fantasy tight end coming into the season. Also, the Packers have allowed the third-most fantasy points to the position to date. Rudolph is a solid option during the heavy bye weeks at the very least.
Jordan Cameron, Cleveland Browns
Chalk this one up in the vote-of-confidence category. Cameron has been a superstar at times, but there has to be some uncertainty with him, as Jason Campbell gets the start for the Browns at quarterback. The Chiefs defense has been the best in fantasy against tight ends, allowing a league-low 204 yards to them and no touchdowns.
Ben Watson, New Orleans Saints
The only reason his name is a blip on the fantasy radar is because of the game-time decision Jimmy Graham (foot) finds himself to be. Graham was limited in his return to practice Friday and is questionable for the game. If Graham plays, you have to start him. If he doesn't, don't bother going to the well on Watson. The Bills have been the third-toughest team on fantasy tight ends.
Brandon Myers, New York Giants
He was supposed to bust the seam for the Giants' pass-heavy team this season; instead, he has been left in for max protection. That leaves him busting pass-rushers instead of the seams. Myers is a bad fantasy option right now, especially against an Eagles team that has been the second best in fantasy against tight ends. Like the Chiefs, they haven't allowed a touchdown reception to one.
Jared Cook, St. Louis Rams
Forget starting Cook at this point, you need to cut him. He has been waiver fodder since his huge first game, and the loss of Sam Bradford (knee) and the involvement of Lance Kendricks hurts. Cook is a bad, bad play against a Seahawks secondary that is No. 2 against the pass and No. 5 against fantasy tight ends.
|Rank||Tight Ends||Team||Opponent||ECR||vs. ECR|
|1||Jimmy Graham||NO||vs. Buf||5||+4|
|2||Rob Gronkowski||NE||vs. Mia||1||-1|
|3||Julius Thomas||Den||vs. Was||4||+1|
|4||Jason Witten||Dal||at Det||6||+2|
|5||Tony Gonzalez||Atl||at Ari||3||-2|
|6||Jordan Cameron||Cle||at KC||8||+2|
|7||Vernon Davis||SF||at Jac||2||-5|
|8||Kyle Rudolph||Min||vs. GB||12||+4|
|9||Greg Olsen||Car||at TB||10||+1|
|10||Charles Clay||Mia||at NE||11||+1|
|11||Jordan Reed||Was||at Den||7||-4|
|12||Heath Miller||Pit||at Oak||9||-3|
|13||Brandon Pettigrew||Det||vs. Dal||16||+3|
|14||Jared Cook||StL||vs. Sea||17||+3|
|15||Anthony Fasano||KC||vs. Cle||24||+9|
|16||Joseph Fauria||Det||vs. Dal||14||-2|
|17||Rob Housler||Ari||vs. Atl||18||+1|
|18||Brandon Myers||NYG||at Phi||25||+7|
|19||Tyler Eifert||Cin||vs. NYJ||15||-4|
|20||Jeff Cumberland||NYJ||at Cin||13||-7|
|21||Jermaine Gresham||Cin||vs. NYJ||19||-2|
|22||Tim Wright||TB||vs. Car||21||-1|
|23||Zach Miller||Sea||at StL||22||-1|
|24||Lance Kendricks||StL||vs. Sea||29||+5|
|25||Zach Ertz||Phi||vs. NYG||28||+3|
|26||Scott Chandler||Buf||at NO||23||-3|
|27||Marcedes Lewis||Jac||vs. SF||31||+4|
|28||Brent Celek||Phi||vs. NYG||27||-1|
|29||Sean McGrath||KC||vs. Cle||32||+3|
|30||Ben Watson||NO||vs. Buf||26||-4|
|31||Mychal Rivera||Oak||vs. Pit||33||+2|
|32||Levine Toilolo||Atl||at Ari||34||+2|
Defense/Special Teams: Bengals and Pats a Lot More Important During Heavy Byes
The Jets might be a lot more capable of competing than anyone anticipated, but they are still a team with a rookie quarterback and one that has been the sixth worst in fantasy against defenses. You should continue to play the Bengals defense at home against anyone.
New England Patriots
They have suffered significant defensive injuries, but they have proven to be a lot tougher against the pass this year too. The Dolphins have an improving young offense, but a road game at New England and sitting seventh worst in fantasy against opposing defenses make the Pats a must-start option in all leagues.
Green Bay Packers, New Orleans Saints and Pittsburgh Steelers
It is possible, if not likely, the above defenses are owned. These are likely available this week. When in doubt with your defense, play against the bad quarterbacks. That is what the Packers (Christian Ponder) and Saints (Thad Lewis) will do. Meanwhile, the Steelers are looking a lot more capable of late and should get after Terrelle Pryor and the Raiders, who are fifth worst in fantasy against defenses.
We cannot necessarily explain the Cowboys' No. 2 standing among defenses in standard-scoring leagues, but starting them against the Lions on the road is likely a bad move. Detroit is quietly the third-best team in fantasy against defenses.
Coming into the season, there was promise here. You cannot trust this unit in fantasy right now, though, especially not against Matt Ryan. The Falcons have been the toughest on opposing defenses in fantasy to date.
Denver Broncos, Cleveland Browns and Miami Dolphins
These units have all been a bit disappointing for fantasy owners, and they are on the wrong side of the matchups this week. You should not own them amid these heavy byes that are stressing out rosters, much less be starting them at this point.
|Rank||Defenses and Special Teams||Team||Opponent||ECR||vs. ECR|
|1||Seattle Seahawks||Sea||at StL||2||+1|
|2||San Francisco 49ers||SF||at Jac||3||+1|
|3||Kansas City Chiefs||KC||vs. Cle||1||-2|
|4||New England Patriots||NE||vs. Mia||5||+1|
|5||Cincinnati Bengals||Cin||vs. NYJ||4||-1|
|6||Carolina Panthers||Car||at TB||6||0|
|7||Green Bay Packers||GB||at Min||8||+1|
|8||New Orleans Saints||NO||vs. Buf||7||-1|
|9||Pittsburgh Steelers||Pit||at Oak||10||+1|
|10||Philadelphia Eagles||Phi||vs. NYG||9||-1|
|11||New York Jets||NYJ||at Cin||15||+4|
|12||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||TB||vs. Car||16||+4|
|13||Dallas Cowboys||Dal||at Det||17||+4|
|14||Atlanta Falcons||Atl||at Ari||14||0|
|15||Arizona Cardinals||Ari||vs. Atl||12||-3|
|16||Denver Broncos||Den||vs. Was||13||-3|
|17||Oakland Raiders||Oak||vs. Pit||11||-6|
|18||Detroit Lions||Det||vs. Dal||18||0|
|19||Cleveland Browns||Cle||at KC||19||0|
|20||Miami Dolphins||Mia||at NE||21||+1|
Kickers: Big Legs of Walsh, Zuerlein and Janikowski Are Bad Plays This Week
Dan Bailey, Dallas Cowboys
He came out of the gate scorching, but he has been held to a field goal or less in four of the past five weeks. It should get a lot better in Detroit this week. First, it is a climate-controlled dome, and second, the Lions have given up 18 made field goals. Only the Ravens (19) have given up more.
Alex Henery, Philadelphia Eagles
The move back to Michael Vick (hamstring) should do wonders for Henery's fantasy production. The Eagles are going to be able to score at will against that suspect Giants team that has given up the second-most touchdowns in the NFL (24). The Giants are the fifth-best matchup for an opposing kicker to date.
Phil Dawson, San Francisco 49ers
This has been a disappointing year for the veteran who was supposed to rise to the fantasy elite this season. This won't be a down week for him, though, not against the Jaguars. They have allowed the most points in the NFL thus far (222).
Blair Walsh, Minnesota Vikings
He was coming off a record-setting rookie year, but he has succumbed to a sophomore swoon. He registered just one extra point Monday night, and the Packers have been the fourth-best team in fantasy against kickers.
Greg Zuerlein, St. Louis Rams
Speaking of sophomore slumps, Zuerlein has been unable to rekindle his fantasy magic. Not only does the loss of Sam Bradford (knee) hurt, but the Seahawks are also next on the schedule. It should be a long night for the Rams and a quiet one for Zuerlein.
Sebastian Janikowski, Oakland Raiders
Yet another week we should fear SeaBass and the Raiders getting shut out, no matter what you think of the Raiders' offensive progress and the maturation of Terrelle Pryor as a legit NFL starter. The Steelers have played a lot better defensively of late.
|1||Stephen Gostkowski||NE||vs. Mia||1||0|
|2||Matt Prater||Den||vs. Was||2||0|
|3||Mason Crosby||GB||at Min||9||+6|
|4||Garrett Hartley||NO||vs. Buf||4||0|
|5||Alex Henery||Phi||vs. NYG||3||-2|
|6||Matt Bryant||Atl||at Ari||6||0|
|7||Ryan Succop||KC||vs. Cle||10||+3|
|8||Phil Dawson||SF||at Jac||8||0|
|9||Steven Hauschka||Sea||at StL||5||-4|
|10||Dan Bailey||Dal||at Det||7||-3|
|11||Blair Walsh||Min||vs. GB||11||0|
|12||Caleb Sturgis||Mia||at NE||21||+9|
|13||Shaun Suisham||Pit||at Oak||15||+2|
|14||Kai Forbath||Was||at Den||12||-2|
|15||Mike Nugent||Cin||vs. NYJ||14||-1|
|16||David Akers||Det||vs. Dal||13||-3|
|17||Sebastian Janikowski||Oak||vs. Pit||16||-1|
|18||Jay Feely||Ari||vs. Atl||17||-1|
|19||Josh Brown||NYG||at Phi||23||+4|
|20||Nick Folk||NYJ||at Cin||18||-2|