Is Antonio Gates finally back to being a viable NFL tight end? Who should be in this week's Fantasy Football top 10 tight end rankings with the likes of Tony Gonzalez, Jermichael Finely and Kellen Winslow on byes this week?
Let's dive in and make sense of this position in what is sure to be a crazy Week 8 in the NFL.
Opponent: Miami Dolphins
Ballard may surprise some on making this list of tight ends, but he’s scored touchdowns in two of the last three weeks and now faces a Dolphins defense that ranks 31st against opposing tight ends.
You take that and combine it with the really good season that Eli Manning has had and you have the combination for a great week of fantasy production.
Opponent: Minnesota Vikings
Greg Olsen has had two consecutive subpar outings in a row now, after having three straight weeks of scoring a touchdown.
Some of it may have to do with Carolina Panthers rookie quarterback, Cam Newton, taking the ball himself in the red zone a lot of the time.
I do feel that his two-week drought will end this week against the Vikings and Olsen will have a decent day. The Vikings will be too focused on containing Newton and will forget about the talented tight end, allowing him to get down field.
Owen Daniels has been shut out of the end zone in all three games Andre Johnson has missed.
Opponent: Jacksonville Jaguars
I like Daniels’ matchup here a lot, because the Jags have given up four touchdowns to opposing tight ends, as well as two 100-yard games.
The reason I don’t have him ranked higher is simply because I’m not sure if Andre Johnson is coming back this week—and this season is a perfect example of how Johnson being on or off the field affects his production.
Daniels had touchdowns in three consecutive weeks—Weeks 2, 3 and 4—games in which Johnson played. He hasn’t had a touchdown in the three games that Johnson has missed.
Opponent: at Buffalo Bills (Rogers Centre, Toronto, ON)
Freddy Davis has been quietly having a decent season with 423 yards and two touchdowns.
With the Washington Redskins losing Santana Moss for the next month or longer, and Chris Cooley still out with injury, Davis’ production is sure to go up.
Look for new starting quarterback, John Beck, to look for Davis often against a Bills defense that ranks 20th against opposing tight ends.
Opponent: at Kansas City Chiefs
Look who finally decided to show up! I’m still not sure if it’s real—I'm not sure if the San Diego Chargers believe it's real.
Gates came out of nowhere to lead the team with five receptions for 54 yards and a touchdown—also being targeted seven times.
The Chiefs haven’t allowed a touchdown to opposing tight ends since Week 2, but I think that changes this week now that Philip Rivers has his man back.
Start gates with confidence that he should produce around 70 yards and a touchdown.
Opponent: at Pittsburgh Steelers
Tom Brady has to love his tight end situation. Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski are the best tight end tandem in the league.
The Steelers haven’t allowed a touchdown to opposing tight ends since Week 4, but Tom Brady and the Patriots don’t care about what defenses do well—they only care about what they do well as an offense.
Look for Hernandez to have another solid day of production for Brady and the Pats.
Opponent: at Philadelphia Eagles
Witten and Tony Romo have hooked up for scores in three consecutive games and two of those have been red-zone scores—starting what could possibly be a nice little trend for Witten owners.
The Eagles give up an average of 4.5 targets per game to opposing tight ends and seven targets to the likes of Tony Gonzalez, Vernon Davis and Fred Davis. Witten is in that elite tight end category, so expect this trend to continue as well.
Opponent: Cleveland Browns
Vernon Davis is going to have some fresh legs coming off the San Francisco 49ers bye and will be facing the Cleveland Browns.
He should have a huge day against the Browns who rank 30th against opposing tight ends—having allowed five touchdowns.
Opponent: at Pittsburgh Steelers
Back from his porn-star-filled bye week of fun, Gronk and the New England Patriots are set to clash with the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Like I said earlier, the Patriots don’t care about what you do well as a defense—they only care about what they do well as an offense.
Look for Gronk to have a great game and lead his team in targets.
Opponent: at St. Louis Rams
Jimmy Graham is taking over the NFL and Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints will make sure he keeps it up.
Brees to Graham is a combo that has produced five touchdowns and four consecutive 100-yard games so far in 2011.
The Rams have been surprisingly good against opposing tight ends, having given up just one touchdown to this point—the Saints however, are a different animal. Brees and Co. will attack the Rams through the air, early and often.
Don't be surprised to see Graham with 100 yards and at least one score this week.
Check out more of Brian Dezelske's articles.
Brian can also be found at Out of My League, where he compiles fantasy football rankings each week.