It’s time to take our weekly look around the NFL to see which players have the potential to set your roster on fire and which ones seem to be cooling down. I’ll try to avoid the obvious candidates for the players that are heating up, in addition to focusing in on higher profile players that could leave your team on ice this week. I will also be taking a look at their performance from the previous week, as well as what the matchup holds for them heading into Sunday.
Brian Hoyer – Chicago Bears
Matchup – Jacksonville Jaguars
Brian Hoyer has been a major improvement for the Bears since Jay Cutler went down with an injury. The coaching staff has already said Cutler will not come right back in as the starting quarterback, and that is the right call in my humble opinion. Hoyer completed 33 passes for 397 yards and 2 touchdowns against the Colts on Sunday, which marks the third game in a row where he was thrown for over 300 yards and 2 touchdowns. Granted, Hoyer hasn’t faced the most difficult competition to this point, but he’s been spreading the ball around to multiple receivers and has limited his turnovers. The emergence of the ground game in Jordan Howard has also helped keep defenses in check over the last couple of weeks. Hoyer faces a Jaguars defense at home this week that has allowed 27 points or more in three out of four games this season. He should be able to continue to build upon his strong case to remain the starting quarterback in Chicago even after Cutler is healthy enough to play.
Derek Carr – Oakland Raiders
Matchup – Kansas City Chiefs
Derek Carr has been one of the most consistent NFL signal callers to this point in the season. He came in this week as the fourth highest scoring fantasy quarterback in standard leagues and then torched the San Diego Chargers for over 300 yards passing and two touchdowns. Carr has at least 24 fantasy points in all but one game this season. He has two explosive receivers to toss the pigskin to in Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree, and the Oakland defense is lacking in terms of holding opponents from scoring touchdowns. This is generally a recipe for fantasy success. This week the Raiders face a Kansas City defense that is better on paper than they are on the field. The Chiefs allowed 27 and 43 points to the Chargers and Steelers this season. Both of those offenses are strong in the passing game, and I like Carr’s chances this week to continue to perform at a high level.
Ben Roethlisberger – Pittsburgh Steelers
Matchup – Miami Dolphins
Big Ben is well on his way to an MVP caliber season. Besides a dud in week 3 against the Eagles, Roethlisberger has thrown for over 250 yards and three or more touchdowns in each game this year. The Steelers have Le’Veon Bell back in the lineup to help keep opposing defenses honest and, the emergence of Sammie Coates beside one of the most productive fantasy receivers, Antonio Brown, makes this arguably the most highly powered offense in the National Football League. The largest concern you would have with Roethlisberger on your roster is simply the fact that he is injured so often, however, if he can survive the season without getting hurt I think this is a Super Bowl caliber team. The Steelers will face a Miami defense that has given up 22 or more points to opposing offenses in the last four weeks. Big Ben is a weekly starter if I own him considering his schedule moving forward. Outside of facing the Arizona Cardinals in week 14, Roethlisberger has very advantageous matchups down the stretch. Barring injury, Roethlisberger could very well end up the highest scoring fantasy QB this season.
Carlos Hyde – San Francisco 49ers
Matchup – Buffalo Bills
You likely snagged Carlos Hyde in a later round in your draft this season. With the way he is performing so far you have to feel pretty good about him moving forward. The biggest issue we’ve seen from Hyde in the past is his the fact that he is fairly susceptible to injury. However, he is off to a fast start and only has one week so far where he has not scored more than 15 fantasy points for owners. What’s most surprising about Hyde’s season is the fact that the 49ers continue to feed him the football regardless of how the game script unfolds. If he can stay healthy, I think Hyde finishes as a top 10 fantasy running back this season. He faces a couple of tough matchups later in the season, but the rest of the 49ers schedule is fairly advantageous regarding the opposing defense’s ability to stop the run game. San Francisco will face a Buffalo defense that has been gashed by running backs this year, so Hyde should continue to shine.
Terrance West – Baltimore Ravens
Matchup – New York Giants
After three weeks of splitting carriers with Justin Forsett, Terrance West has finally asserted himself as the lead back in the Ravens offense. Baltimore decided to cut Forsett after seeing West rush for 113 yards and a touchdown against the Raiders in week 4. While we saw him split a few carries with Buck Allen and Kenneth Dixon against the Redskins, West certainly seems to have entrenched himself as the number one player in the backfield (at least for the next few weeks). The general consensus is that rookie Kenneth Dixon will eventually earn more playing time and surpass the veteran on the depth chart, but I don’t see that happening for a couple weeks at the very least. Dixon did see 3 carriers on Sunday but lost a yard on his attempts. The Ravens will face an improved Giants defense this week, but West should get enough touches to remain relevant. However, you’ll want to monitor his snap count moving forward and try to identify any trends that may suggest a changing of the guard.
Ezekiel Elliott – Dallas Cowboys
Matchup – Green Bay Packers
We all had high expectations for Zeke coming into this season, and he’s been heating up over the last few weeks. After getting off to a slow start, Elliott has exploded and has three straight games with over 130 rushing yards. On the season he’s averaging almost 22 carries, 109 yards, and a touchdown per game, which puts the rookie on pace to finish the season with 1,853 yards and 17 touchdowns. Zeke was quoted before the season saying he has his eye on Eric Dickerson’s rookie rushing record of 1,808 yards, so he’s well on his way to surpassing that total. Barring any setbacks, the Ohio State product is a must start each and every week. However, the rookie will have his work cut out for him this week as he faces a Packers defense that is holding opposing offenses to only 42 rushing yards per game. In fact, no running back has surpassed 40 yards on the ground against Green Bay in four games this season. If Zeke can continue his hot streak this week, then I think he has a real shot to break Dickerson’s record.
TY Hilton – Indianapolis Colts
Matchup – Houston Texans
After starting the season with 10 catches and 120 yards over the first two games, Hilton has blown up over the last three weeks. He’s scored in each of the last three contests and has caught 25 passes for 387 yards. The Colts defense has continued to struggle to contain opposing offenses, so Andrew Luck has been forced to take to the air early and often to keep his team in the game. Hilton had 44 targets on the season coming into Sunday. The next most targeted receiver on the team was Phillip Dorsett with 18. Luck obviously wants to get to ball into his playmaker’s hands as much as possible. The amount of attention Hilton has seen from his quarterback rivals other big name receivers such as Antonio Brown and AJ Green. Indianapolis faces off against Houston next, and the Texans defense has allowed 26 points per game over the last three contests. Luck and Hilton should continue to connect this week.
Jeremy Kerley – San Francisco 49ers
Matchup – Buffalo Bills
I think it might be time for us to start paying attention to Jeremy Kerley, and this might be one of the last weeks you’ll be able to scoop him up off the waiver wire. Kerley has emerged as the top pass catcher for Blaine Gabbert over the last few weeks and is the most targeted receiver in the 49ers offense. One week after putting up 88 yards and a touchdown, the veteran caught 8 passes for 102 yards and a touchdown against the Cardinals on Thursday night. He’s posted back to back 20 point games in PPR formats and seems entrenched has the go to guy for Gabbert to this point in the season. The 49ers have a tough matchup against a Bills defense that is only allowing 17 points per game and hasn’t allowed more than 19 points since giving up 37 against the Jets in week 2. I don’t know that I’m starting Kerley this week, but he’s certainly worth a waiver addition as he is only 8% owned at this point.
Sammie Coates – Pittsburgh Steelers
Matchup – Miami Dolphins
Coates’ performance on Sunday was inevitable. We all knew it wasn’t a matter of if but when. The second year receiver had a career day against the Jets as he hauled in 6 passes for 139 yards and two touchdowns. Coates now leads the NFL with six receptions on the season of 40 or more yards and is developing into one of the premier deep threats in the league. What’s more important to note is the growing role Coates is seeing in the offense in general. He now has 31 targets on the season with 19 of them coming in the last two games and can easily become a valuable waiver addition if he continues to see that kind of attention. The Steelers will face a Dolphins defense this week that is struggling to stop opponents through the air, so Coates has another solid matchup in Miami. Pittsburgh is on a roll, and I feel confident that Coates will continue to be a large part of their success.
Martellus Bennett – New England Patriots
Matchup – Cincinnati Bengals
I don’t believe there are “sure things” in football. Any team can beat the other on any given day. However, New England’s dominance over Cleveland on Sunday was just about as close to a sure thing that you can have. The stage was set for Tom Brady to make his triumphant return, and Gronk was finally healthy enough to play like himself. However, it was Martellus Bennett that stole the show as the former Bear tight end caught 6 passes on 8 targets for 67 yards 3 touchdowns on the day. You’ll remember the last time the Patriots utilized two talented tight ends when Aaron Hernandez was paired with Gronk and was a very serviceable fantasy player. I think we have the makings of something similar in Martellus Bennett. Gronk will always get his targets but is also very injury prone, and it’s a matter of time until he goes down again. If that happens Bennett vaults into must start territory. Until then, I think he’ll still put up decent enough numbers to make him a start-able tight end for fantasy purposes.
Jesse James – Pittsburgh Steelers
Matchup – Miami Dolphins
James is quietly becoming an efficient red zone target for the Steelers this season. While his yardage totals are unimpressive, he still has 3 touchdown in 5 games this season. Pittsburgh turned to the passing game early against the New York Jets on Sunday, and James was able to pull in 6 catches on 8 targets for 43 yards and a touchdown. There won’t likely be many weeks where Big Ben will need to throw 47 passes to pull off a win, and there are certainly a lot of mouths to feed in this offense. However, if James can continue to earn trust with Roethlisberger and be more involved outside of just the red zone, then he has the potential to become a weekly starter at the tight end position in a high powered offense. He’ll get his next opportunity to impress against a very beatable Miami defense this week.
CJ Fiedorowicz – Houston Texans
Matchup – Indianapolis Colts
Who? I know, I know, but stay with me here. The Texans are a mess offensively outside of some consistency from Lamar Miller at running back. Rookie Will Fuller has been solid at times but drops a lot of passes, and Brock Osweiler can’t seem to get the ball to DeAndre Hopkins. In short, the Houston offense needs some sort of reliable option to get involved. After catching 2 passes for 7 yards over the first three weeks, Fiedorowicz has accumulated 109 yards and a touchdown over in last two contests. He’s also seeing more attention from Osweiler and saw 8 targets against Minnesota after only being targeted 9 times in the first four games combined. I’m not suggesting you drop anyone of note to go pick up Fiedorowicz. However, I think he could be someone to keep an eye on over the coming weeks to see if he does in fact take on an increased role in the Texans offense. He is a huge target listed at 6′ 6″ and 265 pounds. Houston will face a soft Indianapolis defense this Sunday night, so keep an eye on the former Iowa Hawkeye to see if he continues to earn Osweiler’s attention.
Ryan Tannehill – Miami Dolphins
Matchup – Pittsburgh Steelers
Ryan Tannehill has not been playing like an NFL quarterback recently. After putting up two decent games in weeks two and three, the Dolphins signal caller has scored just over 13 fantasy points the last two weeks combined with a 1:3 touchdown to interception ratio. As a result, Miami’s offense as a whole is struggling. Tannehill only completed 12 passes against the Titans last week, and Jay Ajayi was the only player on offense to score a touchdown. Head coach Adam Gase had to publicly state that Tannehill is the Dolphins starter for the rest of the season after fielding several questions about the idea of benching him. Miami faces a very beatable Pittsburgh secondary this week, so if the former first round draft pick continues to struggle it will be even more concerning for fantasy owners with invested interest in the Miami offense as a whole.
Ryan Fitzpatrick – New York Jets
Matchup – Arizona Cardinals
Ryan Fitzpatrick now has the unique honor as a New York Jet quarterback to boast that he tied one of Joe Namath’s records. Unfortunately, that record was for the most interceptions thrown in two consecutive games. After throwing an unbelievable six interceptions against the Chiefs in his third game this season, Fitzpatrick followed that up by throwing three more the following week. The Jets have weapons on offense, so it’s not like Fitzpatrick doesn’t have any talented players to throw the ball to. Most of the issues stem from him seeing consistent pressure in the pocket and making poor decisions with the football. The Jets will travel to Arizona to face an intimidating Cardinals defense this week, and I’d be shocked if Fitzpatrick has a bounce back game this week.
Joe Flacco – Baltimore Ravens
Matchup – New York Giants
There are times during the season where Flacco looks like he can be a serviceable fantasy quarterback. Baltimore played four mediocre defenses over the last few weeks but Flacco only turned in decent days in two of them. Through the first six games of the season, he has only surpassed 20 fantasy points twice. Needless to say, those are not very strong numbers. To be fair the Ravens running back situation is a mess, and they’re somewhat limited at wide receiver outside of 37 year old Steve Smith and journeyman Mike Wallace. Due to the sporadic nature of Flacco’s play, he’s simply not worth a start unless you’re absolutely desperate. Baltimore faces a New York Giants this week that has given up 23 points or more to opposing offenses over the last three weeks, but I just don’t feel very confident in Flacco unless he shows some consistency.
Melvin Gordon – San Diego Chargers
Matchup – Denver Broncos
You might be scratching your head on this one, but hear me out here. I do agree that Gordon has been decent as the featured back in San Diego. He has a true stranglehold on the starting job and will be given every opportunity to prove himself. What concerns me about Gordon is what he’s able to do with the ball once he gets it. He entered week 5 tied for 6th in the league in total carries. After carrying the ball 16 times for 69 yards against the Raiders, he now has 89 carries on the season for a mere 299 yards rushing. So, through the first five weeks of the season Gordon is averaging 3.35 yards per carry. What’s made this tolerable is the touchdowns he has scored and his involvement in the passing game. He’s scored at least once in each game and has 14 receptions for 122 yards on the season. With San Diego’s knack for falling behind and blowing leads, I have trouble buying into the Gordon hype for a full season. If I own him I’m testing the market in my league to see what sort of value he holds. I’m definitely a little apprehensive about rolling him against the Denver Broncos, who the Chargers will face twice in the next three weeks.
Matt Forte – New York Jets
Matchup – Arizona Cardinals
What a difference three weeks can make. Forte owners felt like geniuses the first two weeks of the season as the former Bear averaged 26 carries for 98 yards and 1.5 touchdowns. The last three weeks have been a completely different story. After being shelved for the first couple of weeks, Bilal Powell has been much more involved in the passing game as of late. Unfortunately, that is where Forte has made his living. If the Jets don’t utilize him as a pass catcher, then his value plummets drastically from a fantasy perspective. He’s seen his touches drop in each of the last four games, which is largely due to the Jets having to pass just to stay in the game each week. There is still plenty of football to be played, and Forte certainly has the ability to bounce back from this three game lull. However, I don’t anticipate that will happen this week against a strong Cardinals defense.
Frank Gore – Indianapolis Colts
Matchup – Houston Texans
Fun stat of the day: the Indianapolis Colts have played 41 consecutive games without a player rushing for 100 yards. I find that stat absolutely mind blowing. The last running back to top 100 rushing yards in a game for the Colts was Vick Ballard back in 2012, and he is the only running back to hit the mark in the Andrew Luck era. Obviously, the Colts are going to be a pass oriented offense with Luck under center. That is, after all, why the team decided to pay him the ungodly contract he received in the offseason. Unfortunately for Gore, he plays second and possibly third fiddle in this offense. He’ll get touches to keep defenses honest, but he’s still an aging running back without a feature role on his team. The Colts have a tough road ahead of them but face a Texans defense that has allowed at least 20 points over the last three weeks. Gore has some upside this week, but I’m not putting much faith in him down the stretch.
Jordan Matthews – Philadelphia Eagles
Matchup – Washington Redskins
Matthews was extremely impressive in the first game of the season of the hype around rookie quarterback Carson Wentz began to swell. It reached a fever pitch after week 3 as the Eagles entered their early bye as one of the only undefeated teams in the NFL. Unfortunately for Matthews owners, he has mostly been a non-factor in the last two games for the Eagles. He was only targeted four times in the loss to the Lions as Wentz chose to check down to various receivers and spread the ball around. Matthews has only accumulated 84 yards and 6 catches since week 2 of this season. However, the Eagles will play a Redskins defense this week that has given up a ton of fantasy points to opposing receivers this season. Unfortunately for Matthews, they have a tough schedule ahead as they face Minnesota in week 7. The thought is that he can bounce back this week to give fantasy owners some relief, but if Wentz continues to spread the ball around it’ll be tough to endorse Matthews as a WR1 moving forward.
Alshon Jeffrey – Chicago Bears
Matchup – Jacksonville Jaguars
Jeffrey has long been a staple in the Bears’ offense. After the Bears let Brandon Marshall walk a few seasons ago, most people thought it would give the former South Carolina Gamecock his chance to shine as Jay Cutler’s primary target. While that was true for the most part, Jeffrey has battled injuries for most of his young career. However, his troubles haven’t been injury related this season. Cutler has been injured, so the Bears have been utilizing Brian Hoyer over the last three games. Surprisingly, Hoyer is playing at a very high level and has thrown for over 300 yards and two touchdowns in the last three contests. Unfortunately for Alshon owners, he’s not been involved very much in that productivity. In a game where Hoyer threw 43 passes, Jeffrey was only targeted 6 times. You have to assume this is due to opposing defense’s trying to limit the star receiver and force Hoyer to find other targets. If you’re an Alshon owner you likely don’t have the option of sitting him. I think he bounces back sooner rather than later, so just sit tight for now. However, you can’t feel great about his underwhelming start.
Golden Tate – Detroit Lions
Matchup – LA Rams
You’ve got to feel for the Golden Tate owners out there. Although he is the second most targeted player in the Lions offense by Matt Stafford, Tate only has 17 catches for 134 yards on the season. That averages out to 3.4 catches and 26.8 yards per game. Not a great stat line. The emergence of Marvin Jones as the number one receiver for Detroit has certainly taken opportunity away from Tate, but veteran Anquan Boldin has been making his presence felt in the passing game as well. Through 5 weeks Boldin has accrued 28 fantasy points in standard scoring leagues. Golden Tate has 14. Even often injured tight end Eric Ebron has 25 fantasy points this season even after sitting out last week. To put it in a nutshell, Tate should not be in your starting lineups moving forward until he shows some signs of life. Detroit faces off against a Los Angeles defense that has given 28 points or more in three games this season, so Matt Stafford and company have a shot to put up some fantasy points. I just don’t see Golden Tate being a big part of it.
Jason Witten – Dallas Cowboys
Matchup – Green Bay Packers
There are few names that stick out to Cowboys fans in recent years more than Jason Witten. The former Tennessee Volunteer will turn 35 this year and has enjoyed a Hall of Fame worthy career in Dallas. However, I fear that his days of fantasy relevance are nearing an end. While he has had a couple of decent games this year, he ranks 18th at the tight end position in terms of fantasy points in standard leagues. He is not heavily targeted in the red zone and has mostly acted as a security blanket for rookie quarterback Dak Prescott. His fantasy production falls behind players like Dennis Pitta, Cameron Brate, and Hunter Henry, all of which are lesser owned that the veteran tight end. Jerry Jones stated this week that Tony Romo will assume the starting quarterback duties once he is healthy, so there’s some hope that maybe Witten can improve if that happens. In the meantime, there are several other tight ends available in most leagues that can provide better production.
Jacob Tamme – Atlanta Falcons
Matchup – Seattle Seahawks
I told you this was going to happen. Tamme got off to a hot start to the season as he caught 11 passes for 126 yards and a touchdown in the first two weeks. However, he’s seen his catches and targets drop in each subsequent game hitting a low point last week by catching one pass for one yard against the Broncos. Most of Tamme’s early season success was due to Julio Jones being somewhat hampered by injury and the Falcons trying to find an identity in the backfield. Five games in they seem to have found it. Unfortunately, the emergence of Tevin Coleman as a receiver out of the backfield coupled with last year’s breakout star Devonta Freeman leaves little room for Tamme on the pecking order after you throw in Julio and Sanu in the mix. He may still have some decent games down the stretch, but I don’t think he’s worth rostering moving forward. This is especially true against a stout Seahawks defense this week.
Zach Ertz – Philadelphia Eagles
Matchup – Washington Redskins
If I’m being fair, this was Ertz’s first game back since the first week of the season after he suffered a rib injury. However, he did not seem to be a very big focal point in the offensive game plan. The rookie sensation, Carson Wentz, threw 33 passes against the Eagles on Sunday. Zach Ertz was only targeted 3 times. Wentz elected to spread the ball around this week, and Nelson Agholor saw the most targets last with seven. As you know, targets equate to opportunity in the NFL. The more targets a player sees, the higher the likelihood of producing at a high level. If Wentz continues to spread the ball around, then that hampers all pass catchers in the offense regardless of whether the Eagles win the game or not. Ertz will have another shot to be more involved against a shaky Washington Redskins defense this week, but I’m going to want to see something encouraging before I put him in my lineup.
In my opinion, roster management is the key to putting together a winning fantasy football season. It’s imperative to be conscious of the players on your roster that are performing well and ones that you may want to keep an eye on. Blindly starting players because of where you drafted them can quickly run a team into the ground if those players are on a cold streak. It can be difficult to come to the conclusion that your 2nd round pick may be better left on your bench, but those decisions are what will help win you a fantasy championship.
As always, please feel free to give us a shout on Twitter @No_HuddleFFB if you have any questions or concerns regarding your lineup or just want to chat about fantasy football. Best of luck this week!
Picture from: FoxSports.com