by Byron Hamilton
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.
Marcus Mariota – Tennessee Titans
Matchup – Indianapolis Colts
After an impressive four-touchdown game against the Dolphins in week 5, Mariota lit up the scoreboard again on Sunday against the hapless Browns. The second year quarterback was fairly efficient as he completed 17 of 24 passes for 284 yards and three touchdowns while adding another 64 yards on the ground. Through the first four games of the season, Mariota only accumulated 43 fantasy points in standard scoring leagues. He has now put up 57 fantasy points over the last two weeks. The level of competition the Titans have faced during Mariota’s impressive two-game stretch has not been what you would call high quality, and that trend will continue over the next few games as well. Tennessee will face off against Indianapolis, Jacksonville, and San Diego over the next three weeks, so Mariota has the opportunity to keep up his recent success. He could be a potential streaming option at the quarterback position with bye weeks starting to creep up, as he is only 41% owned.
Matt Stafford – Detroit Lions
Matchup – Washington Redskins
Stafford was tied for 5th in fantasy scoring at his position heading into the game against the Rams on Sunday, and his performance was enough to ensure that he will stay near the top of the leaderboard for another week. Stafford picked apart the Rams as he completed 23 passes for 270 yards and four touchdowns. He was extremely efficient, and the touchdowns were distributed to four different receivers. The performances we’ve seen out of the former number one draft pick over the past couple of weeks could be occurring more often if the Lions remain without a reliable source of production out of the backfield. Sunday marked the fourth time in six weeks that Stafford threw for three or more touchdowns in a game, and he’s got a chance to do it again this week against a Redskins defense that has allowed nearly 24 points per game so far this season. I don’t see how you can bench Stafford during this hot streak.
Matt Ryan – Atlanta Falcons
Matchup – San Diego
Ok, for all those that were still on the fence the Falcons are legitimate this year. If you listen to our podcast you know how indecisive all of us here at No Huddle have been on Matt Ryan. I for one have bought in, and Sunday’s performance against the Seahawks essentially makes Matty Ice a must start for me for the rest of the season. While the game itself didn’t go Atlanta’s way, the former Boston College standout still managed to put up 21 fantasy points against a Seattle defense that has held opposing quarterbacks in check all season long. Ryan finished the game with 335 yards and three touchdowns on 27 completed passes. At this point, you can’t keep waiting for Ryan to fall apart like we anticipated he might based on what we saw last season. The Falcons have very advantageous matchups over the next three weeks in the Chargers, Packers, and Buccaneers. If you own Matt Ryan you’ve got to play him moving forward. Don’t think twice about it.
Jay Ajayi – Miami Dolphins
Matchup – Buffalo Bills
If anyone tries to tell you they saw Ajayi’s performance on Sunday coming they’re outright lying to your face. Arian Foster was active for the first time since sustaining an injury earlier in the season, but he mostly sat on the sidelines and watched his teammate put on a show against the Steelers. Ajayi rumbled his way to 204 yards rushing and two touchdowns on 25 carries on Sunday and very well could have cemented his role as the primary back in this offense with his performance. He racked up 32 fantasy points in standard scoring leagues last week, which is all the more mind boggling when you realize he only had 24 points total on the season before his big game. Head coach Adam Gase could have just been trying to limit Arian Foster’s touches in order to preserve him for the rest of the season. However, you have to think Ajayi’s impressive day essentially guarantees his role in the offense moving forward. The Dolphins will face a stout Bills defense this week, so we will see how the running back situation in Miami unfolds moving forward. Either way, Jay Ajayi is only owned in around 42% of leagues. He’s definitely worth an add this week in case he takes the lead back role permanently.
LeSean McCoy – Buffalo Bills
Matchup – Miami Dolphins
Shady McCoy is on fire. While running backs like DeMarco Murray, Ezekiel Elliott, and Le’Veon Bell are garnering most of the attention around the league, LeSean McCoy has quietly accumulated 470 yards and six total touchdowns over the last four weeks and has scored anywhere between 15 and 32 fantasy points in that span. The confusion was palpable in Buffalo after Rex Ryan fired the Bills offensive coordinator after an embarrassing loss to the Jets in week two. However, since then Shady was accumulated at least 100 yards from scrimmage in each game since then along with six total touchdowns. The Bills obviously want to utilize McCoy has much as possible and have made him the undeniable focal point of their offensive attack. Buffalo will next face a Miami defense that has allowed 22 or more in four for six games this season. There’s no reason to think McCoy won’t be active once again.
James White – New England Patriots
Matchup – Pittsburgh Steelers
This doesn’t need to be addressed, but I’m going to say it anyway. Tom Brady makes every facet of the New England offense better when he’s on the field. Sure, the Patriots went 3-1 during Brady’s suspension. During that span, there were some wondering if it was Brady that was that good, or if Bill Belichick could simply just win with anyone under center. After watching this team over the last two weeks, Brady is that good. Sure, coaching and game planning is integral to success in the NFL. However, Tom Brady is a once in a generation quarterback that makes everyone around him that much better, which includes James White. If you’re playing in a PPR format White has been serviceable the last couple weeks, but we really saw him shine against the Bengals on Sunday. Brady loves utilizing quick and shifty running backs in the passing game, which was evident as James White was able to catch 8 passes for 47 yards and two touchdowns against Cincinnati. His 25 points (standard scoring) over the last two weeks is impressive considering the passing down specialist only had 21 points total on the season before Brady’s return. Go ahead and insert White into your lineups while you can. He’ll hold his value, particularly in PPR leagues, until Dion Lewis is able to return to the field. The matchup against a high powered Steelers team this week is especially inviting.
Kenny Britt – Los Angeles Rams
Matchup – New York Giants
Yes, Kenny Britt is included this week. We’ve all thought about adding him but simply haven’t been able to pull the trigger because he’s Kenny Britt catching passes from Case Keenum. It’s time to consider the possibility that Britt has turned into a viable fantasy option on a weekly basis. Over the first five weeks of the season, we’ve seen the veteran receiver rack up under 65 receiving yards only one time. He broke out in a big way against the Lions as he caught 7 passes for 136 yards and two touchdowns. The two touchdowns were the first of the season for Britt and shouldn’t be indicative of what we’ll see on a weekly basis. However, it’s been him and not Tavon Austin that’s received the majority of the attention from Keenum so far this season, and somebody has to catch passes in this offense. Kenny Britt has long been a breakout candidate dating back to his Titans days, and he has the size and skill set to be a productive NFL receiver. If he continues to catch his quarterback’s eye, he is worth an add if you’ve got the roster space.
Cole Beasley – Dallas Cowboys
Week 7 Bye
Dak Prescott sure is making things difficult for Jerry Jones in Dallas. If he would just have one bad game, then the overly vocal Cowboys owner could avoid the media attention he’s getting surrounding the quarterback situation with his team. Unfortunately for Jerry, that isn’t the case again this week as the rookie led his team to another win with a steady and efficient performance. A large portion of Dak’s success is related to the sure-handed receiver Cole Beasley, who had his best game of the season last week. Beasley was able to haul in all six of his targets for 58 yards and two touchdowns against the Packers and continues to see a lot of attention from his quarterback. While he’s been a reliable source of fantasy points for most of the season, particularly in PPR formats, Beasley has now scored three touchdowns over the last two weeks and the leading scoring receiver in the Cowboys offense. If you’re in a PPR league, the shifty wideout is definitely worth a roster spot if he’s still available in your league. He’s only 44% owned, but after his big game Sunday, his ownership is going to jump up significantly.
Michael Thomas – New Orleans Saints
Matchup – Kansas City Chiefs
Thomas was one of the stars in the preseason, and it hasn’t taken him long to emerge as one of Drew Brees’ favorite targets. The rookie out of Ohio State caught all five of his targets for 78 yards and a touchdown against the Panthers on Sunday and is now averaging five receptions for 61 yards in five games this season. Thomas’ value jumps up quite a bit if he continues to be on of Brees’ favorite red zone targets. The former Buckeye has now scored in three straight games and could be the guy to fill the Marques Colston role in this offense moving forward. Colston enjoyed years of success as the main red zone target in New Orleans but battled injuries during the last leg of his tenure in a Saints uniform. If Thomas can continue to earn the trust of his quarterback in the red zone, then he has a real shot to be a weekly fantasy starter. New Orleans faces a tough Kansas City defense on the road this week that held Derek Carr and his explosive offense in check last week. You may want temper expectations over the next couple of weeks as the Saints face some league-leading defenses, but the rookie receiver is a must add on waivers this week if he’s available.
Hunter Henry – San Diego Chargers
Matchup – Atlanta Falcons
Hunter Henry has been very impressive over the last few weeks. The rookie tight end has taken full advantage of the early playing time he’s received due to a nagging injury that befell Antonio Gates earlier in the season, and he very well may have wrestled away the starting position from the aging veteran for the time being. Henry was able to haul in 6 catches on a team-high 8 targets for 83 yards and a touchdown against the imposing Broncos defense on Sunday. The rookie is averaging 4 receptions for a healthy 73 yards over the last three games and has added a touchdown in each contest over that span. The Chargers passing attack has been tough to predict this season as Benjamin, Inman, and Williams seem to alternate big games each week, but Henry has been the most consistent of the bunch as of late. The Chargers will travel to Atlanta this week to face a Falcons defense that is giving up almost 28 points per game. Expect the production to keep rolling, and add Henry off waivers if you can. He’s only owned in 49% of leagues.
Coby Fleener – New Orleans Saints
Matchup – Kansas City Chiefs
Talk about a boom or bust fantasy option. Coby Fleener has had two huge weeks where he has accumulated a total of 183 receiving yards on 13 catches and three total touchdowns. The other three games? Six catches for 54 yards combined. We all know the disparity in Drew Brees’ performances when he’s playing at home compared to on the road. Outside of Brees’ big game at home in week one, Fleener’s performances this season have followed that same pattern. The good news is that Fleener has proved he can click with his quarterback and perform at a high level in the Saints high powered offense. Unfortunately, you’ll have to deal with the possibility he’ll turn out a few dud performances as well.
Aaron Rodgers – Green Bay Packers
Matchup – Chicago Bears
Rodgers is one of the top fantasy quarterbacks drafted on a yearly basis. However, the struggles we saw out from the Packers’ signal caller in the playoffs last season seem to have carried over into this year. Aaron Rodgers has only scored over 20 fantasy points twice this season and has two games where he has thrown for more than 250 yards. These are definitely not the types of numbers owners were expecting when they drafted the Pro Bowl quarterback to helm their fantasy teams. Rodgers was ranked as the 10th highest scoring players at his position coming into this week, and the 11 point performance he displayed will do little to move the needle there. To be fair, Green Bay has had to play some stiff competition to through the first part of the season and has some more advantageous matchups over the next few weeks. If Rodgers can’t get anything going against a vulnerable Bears defense this Sunday, then there is some definite cause for concern.
Russell Wilson – Seattle Seahawks
Matchup – Arizona Cardinals
After a slow start to begin the season, Russell Wilson has owners a chance to rejoice in week 4 before the Seahawks early bye. It was by far his best game of the season as he threw for 309 yards and three touchdowns against the Jets. The hope was that a week off to rest would allow Wilson to rest and heal the nagging injuries he suffered through the first few games. Unfortunately, that was not the case. He threw for only 270 yards against a beatable Falcons secondary and did not have a touchdown for the second time in five games. Wilson still looks to be hampered by the ankle injury that’s limited his mobility, which severely decreases his value in fantasy leagues. What makes him so dangerous on the field is his ability to run and create plays by moving outside of the pocket. Without the ability to do that, he becomes just an average quarterback. Seattle will travel to Arizona and face the stout Cardinals defense this week, so I am apprehensive about rolling with Wilson until his ankle and MCL injuries have subsided to the point where he can do what he does best.
Trevor Siemian – Denver Broncos
Matchup – Houston Texans
It’s very possible Siemian was still bothered the shoulder injury that knocked him out of the game against Tampa Bay two weeks ago. If I hadn’t watched the game I might have assumed the Broncos tried to utilize the run to help keep the pressure off their first year starting quarterback. Unfortunately, for Siemian that wasn’t the case in either situation. He threw 50 passes in the loss to the Chargers but was only able to accrue 230 yards. This should have been a game where Siemian excelled as the Chargers are completely decimated by injuries in their secondary. The Broncos signal caller turned heads when he threw for 312 yards and 4 touchdowns against the Bengals in week 3, however, he has been mostly irrelevant since then due to injuries and poor offense play. Siemian will look to turn it around this week against a decent Houston defense that just held Andrew Luck to only 253 yards and a touchdown last week.
CJ Anderson – Denver Broncos
Matchup – Houston Texans
After starting the season with back to back games with 20 carries for 70 yards or more and a touchdown, Anderson has come crashing back down to Earth. In those two games, he was able to rack up 39 fantasy points in standard scoring leagues, but we’ve only seen 25 points from him in the last four games combined. Unfortunately for Anderson owners, Devontae Booker has steadily become more and more involved in the running game and many see the rookie as a better overall running back than the current starter. If Anderson continues to struggle it’s not crazy to think that Booker could eventually take over the primary back in Denver’s offense. Next up on the slate for Anderson is a Houston defense that just allowed a Colts running back to break the century mark on the ground for the first time since 2012. If Anderson continues to struggle you may want to evaluate your options at the running back position.
Eddie Lacy – Green Bay Packers
Matchup – Chicago Bears
Eddie Lacy was arguably the biggest bust of the 2015 season in fantasy football, although you could make a case for CJ Anderson as well. The former Alabama standout dropped the belly in the offseason and looks much better to start the season this year. However, Lacy still isn’t living up to the expectations fantasy owners had when they selected him. Through five games this season he has rushed for 300 yards on 71 attempts and is averaging a decent 4.2 yards per carry. The frustration with Lacy lies in the fact that he has yet to find the end zone this season and only has 7.2 fantasy points per game in standard scoring leagues. To make matters worse, he tweaked his ankle against the Cowboys but had to play through it due to the fact that fellow running back James Starks was knocked out of the game entirely. What’s utterly dumbfounding to me is how in this age of football where we see running backs get injured at an alarming rate that the Packers only have two running backs on the roster. Eddie Lacy and James Starks are literally the only two running backs employed by the Green Bay Packers. How in the hell does that happen? Either way, Eddie Lacy will almost be forced to play through his injury unless Green Bay signs a running back in the next few days since the Packers play on Thursday this week. While the Bears aren’t a defensive juggernaut you still can’t imagine the team asking Lacy to do much on a short week after sustaining an injury. Find a replacement for him immediately.
Jeremy Hill – Cincinnati Bengals
Matchup – Cleveland Browns
I’m sure Jeremy Hill is a pretty decent guy. Probably pays his bills, says hello to strangers on the street, and tips his waiters over 15%. However, when it comes down to fantasy football I HATE Jeremy Hill. This has to be the most infuriating backfield in all of fantasy. Hill finished last season with only 794 rushing yards on 223 carries. His saving grace last year was the fact he scored 11 touchdowns. On the other side of the coin, Giovani Bernard racked up 730 rushing yards on 154 carries. That doesn’t even take into consideration the 49 passes he reeled in for another 472 yards. By all accounts, Giovani Bernard is the most efficient running back on this team. The only aspect of Hill’s game he had going for him last season was the touchdowns. Consider him the Tyler Eifert of running backs. Unfortunately for Hill, the touchdowns have not been there like they were last year. What’s more terrifying for owners is the fact that Bernard is slowly but surely siphoning carries away from Hill on a weekly basis. Gio even saw goal line carries last week when the Bengals had every chance to sub in Hill to give him a shot. The tide in Cincinnati’s offense seems to be shifting, and Jeremy Hill owners can’t be pleased. If he can’t get going this week against the Browns, then it may officially time to hit the panic button.
Jordy Nelson – Green Bay Packers
Matchup – Chicago Bears
I know. This is the third Green Bay player that’s been included in the Ice section this week. This isn’t me picking on the Packers. This is me observing the sandbox I play in and making rational assessments. The fantasy community wept when Jordy was lost for the year in a meaningless preseason game in 2015, but many thought a bounce back year was imminent as Nelson was ranked as a WR1 in drafts this year. I’ll start by saying he’s not been bad. He’s scored at least one touchdown in every game except against the Cowboys this week. What’s scary to me have been his yardage totals over the first five games Green Bay has played. Jordy has always been the big-play threat in this offense but has only been able to pass 100 yards receiving once this year and his averaging a paltry 62 yards per game. Nelson still came into week six as the 10th highest producing receiver in standard leagues. However, touchdowns have been his only redeeming attribute since players like Adam Thielen, Kenny Britt, and DeVante Parker have more receiving yards on the season. The hope is that Aaron Rodgers is able to start looking like his old self against the Bears this week, which should allow Jordy to put up the points that owners expected when they drafted him. If we see another lackluster performance from this Green Bay offense I may be looking to trade the veteran receiver.
Jeremy Maclin – Kansas City Chiefs
Matchup – New Orleans Saints
Maclin owners were surprisingly pleased with his production last season as the finished the year with over 1,000 yards receiving and 8 touchdowns in his first year in Kansas City. 2016 has been a different story. After playing five games this season, Maclin is on pace to finish the year with 73.6 catches for 937.6 yards and 3.2 touchdowns which come out to around 102 fantasy points on the year in standard scoring leagues. The largest difference between this season and last has been the touchdowns, which are always tough to replicate. I fear the early season woes for Maclin owners will continue due to Alex Smith being more of a game manager than anything and the Chiefs being a run first football team. Smith only has five touchdowns on the season and has only thrown for 300 yards one time this year. If there’s a time for Maclin and his quarterback to connect it’s going to be over the next few weeks. The Chiefs will play the Saints, Colts, and Jaguars over the next three games, so fingers crossed we’ll see Maclin take advantage of some weaker matchups.
Julian Edelman – New England Patriots
Matchup – Pittsburgh Steelers
After racking up 14 receptions and 142 yards over the first two games, Edelman’s production took a nose dive as injuries accumulated at the quarterback position in Tom Brady’s absence. His owners rejoiced as Brady made his first start of the season only to watch as the shifty receiver caught 5 passes for 35 yards in a game where Brady threw for over 400 yards. In fact, Edelman has only 65 yards in the last two games combined. While he has dominated the targets, as expected, the yardage hasn’t been there for him to this point this season. He’s turned 44 targets into 28 receptions for 261 yards through six games. In fact, Edelman isn’t even the most productive receiver in this offense so far. That honor currently belongs to Chris Hogan who has more yards and a touchdown on the season. I don’t know that it’s quite time to panic if you’re an Edelman owner, however, it’s important to note that there are a lot of mouths to feed in the New England passing game. The addition of Martellus Bennett, Chris Hogan, and Malcolm Mitchell has given Tom Brady more weapons at his disposal, so Edelman isn’t guaranteed to see a ton of attention each week like he has in the past. Hopefully, he can get going this Sunday against a Steelers defense that was just dominated by Miami last week.
Antonio Gates – San Diego Chargers
Matchup – Atlanta Falcons
Whelp, it was nice while it lasted. A lingering hamstring injury has opened the door for rookie Hunter Henry to become one of Philip Rivers’ favorite targets over the last few weeks of the season. It’s obvious that Gates is less than 100% in the limited action he’s seen this year, and Henry has been impressive in his absence. I think at this point you’re scouring the waiver wire in your league for replacements at tight end if you’re a Gates owner. He’s too much of a risk to rely on considering the injury and emergence of Hunter Henry. A few tight ends you could possibly snag in your league would be Jack Doyle, CJ Fiedorowicz, or even Hunter Henry. Don’t put too much faith in Gates making a triumphant return to relevance anytime soon.
Julius Thomas – Jacksonville Jaguars
Matchup – Oakland Raiders
The Jaguars have to be one of the most frustrating teams in the league when it comes to fantasy football. We have an offense that has brought back the same starters at each skill position, but the team looks lost on the field. It all starts with the unimpressive play of Blake Bortles. Through five games this season he has only accumulated more than 20 fantasy points once in standard scoring leagues and has a horrid 8/5 touchdown to interception ratio. The shaky quarterback play along with an elbow injury has led to Julius Thomas only catching 4 passes for 41 yards over the last three games. The game script for the Jags has been similar to last year in that the defense is still prone to giving up a lot of points to opposing offenses. The big difference is that Jacksonville’s offense has not been able to make very many big plays when playing from behind. The hope is that Bortles can start to turn things around this week against an Oakland defense that is vulnerable to the passing game. Either way, I’m still wary about starting Thomas until the injury improves and this offense starts clicking.
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!