Normally when I write this weekly article, I focus on the players participating in Thursday Night Football. Well, here's some advice, folks—in a matchup of two good defenses and division rivals each playing on a short week, don't trust many offensive players from this game to blow up for you from a fantasy perspective.
Instead, I decided to focus on a few fringe players at their respective positions you won't see on Thursday night to give you a better idea of whether or not they're worth a start. Spoiler alert: I'm a fan of the Atlanta Falcons this week.
Start 'Em: Matt Ryan, QB, Atlanta Falcons
I know that Matt Ryan hasn't exceeded 15 fantasy points since Week 4. I know he couldn't exploit a weak Tampa Bay pass defense for more than 14 points this week. I know that Atlanta's offense, in general, has been pretty disappointing.
I also know that he faces a Carolina Panthers defense this week that made Mark Sanchez look like Joe Montana on Monday Night Football. I know that the Panthers have given up 17 or more fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks in six of their last seven games. I know that their completely overhauled secondary this season has been mediocre at best.
So, yes, I believe Ryan is a QB1 this week. He's not the sexiest option out there, no, but he's absolutely worth starting if you don't have one of the truly elite options.
Sit 'Em: Jay Cutler, QB, Chicago Bears
For much of the season, Jay Cutler has been surprisingly consistent for fantasy owners. In fact, he had at least 16 fantasy points in each of his first six games.
But as the Chicago Bears have descended into mediocrity, Cutler has cooled off, failing to reach double-digit points in two of his last three games. Now, he faces a Minnesota Vikings defense that has been particularly stingy against opposing quarterbacks and is allowing just 13.1 fantasy points to the position per week, fourth in the NFL.
Plus, the Vikings are coming off of a bye and have had an extra week to prepare themselves for the disastrous Bears. That should give defensive mastermind Mike Zimmer plenty of time to devise a solution for Chicago's many weapons.
Maybe, at home, Cutler and his teammates will right the ship. Maybe he'll have a big week for fantasy owners. But given his recent play and Minny's surprisingly stingy defense against opposing quarterbacks, I'm not banking on it.
Start 'Em: Steven Jackson, RB, Atlanta Falcons
As you can see, I don't think very much of Carolina's defense.
The Panthers have given up four touchdowns to opposing running backs in the past two weeks. They've given up 20 or more fantasy points to opposing running backs in seven of their last eight games. They've given up 75 or more rushing yards to opposing backs seven times.
Meanwhile, Steven Jackson has rather quietly scored 27 total fantasy points in the past two games. He's hit or miss—he had just two points apiece in the two games before that—but given the current state of Carolina's defense, Jackson is a great option this week.
I won't write that sentence very often, I promise, so Jackson owners should savor this moment.
Sit 'Em: Joique Bell, RB, Detroit Lions
You could make an argument for sitting Joique Bell even if he had a good matchup this week. After all, he has just 12 total fantasy points in his last two games, and with the return of Calvin Johnson and with Matt Stafford wheeling and dealing, the Detroit Lions are likely to take a "bomb's away" approach with the passing game the rest of the way.
Add in the fact that Bell always seems to be in a platoon, even when Reggie Bush can't play—Theo Riddick has done well in his stead—and Bell is hardly a weekly lock for fantasy production.
But boy, does Bell have a brutal matchup. The Arizona Cardinals are giving up a meager 11.3 fantasy points to opposing running backs per week, second in the NFL, and have allowed just five touchdowns to running backs in nine games. This week, I'd advise staying away from Bell.
Start 'Em: Pierre Garcon, WR, Washington
While DeSean Jackson is a no-brainer starter every week, his partner in crime on the other side, Pierre Garcon, has been pretty hit-or-miss this season for fantasy owners, with the misses being more plentiful. Garcon has just three touchdowns on the season and has scored 10 or more fantasy points just twice.
But two factors seem to play in his favor. For starters, he has Robert Griffin III back under center. While the pairing didn't do much together in Week 9—Griffin's return from injury—Garcon did nab 10 RG3 passes in Week 1 for 77 yards.
But the other major factor is a tantalizing matchup against a Tampa Bay Buccaneers defense that has given up 28.8 fantasy points to opposing wide receivers per week, worst in the NFL, and has given up 20 or more fantasy points to opposing wideouts in six of the last seven games.
If ever there was a matchup for Garcon to get back on track, this is the one.
Sit 'Em: Larry Fitzgerald, WR, Arizona Cardinals
You can sit Michael Floyd and John Brown, too.
No, this isn't about Drew Stanton having to start after Carson Palmer went down to injury, though that certainly doesn't help. This is really about a Detroit Lions defense that boasts the league's most ferocious defensive line, makes a habit of crushing quarterbacks and allows just 15.6 fantasy points to opposing wideouts per week, tops in the NFL.
But no, the Palmer injury doesn't help. In the three games that Stanton has started this season, Fitzgerald has a total of just 11 fantasy points. Meanwhile, with Palmer back under center, Fitzgerald had seven or more fantasy points in four of his last five games.
The good times may be coming to a close, Fitz owners. Certainly, you don't want to roll with him this week.
All point totals and points-against statistics via ESPN standard-scoring leagues. Hit me up on Twitter—I'll answer your fantasy questions and make some corny jokes, too. It's more fun than a passing drill against the Chicago Bears defense.