Fire and Ice: Week 8

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.

Fire:

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Quarterbacks:

Andy Dalton – Cincinnati Bengals
Matchup – Washington Redskins

I don’t know if I’d exactly say Dalton is on fire, but I feel like he’s being overlooked this season with all the rookie QB and Matt Ryan craze. The Red Rocket (yes that’s what I call him) has been extremely consistent this season and deserves to have a little recognition thrown his way. While Dalton hasn’t had that one explosive game this year, he came into Sunday ranked as the 9th fantasy quarterback in standard scoring leagues and picked apart the Browns for 308 yards and two touchdowns. He only has had one game where he threw for less than 250 yards with no touchdowns, and that came against a pretty decent defense you may know called the Denver Broncos. That game was the worst fantasy output for Dalton this season, and he has scored 20 or more fantasy points over the last three weeks. In other words, Dalton is a solid quarterback option you should be considering each week. Dalton and the Bengals will face a Redskins defense this week that allowed 20 or more points in the first four games this season. While Washington has been better defensively recently, I still like the Red Rifle’s chances to have another statistically solid performance.

Drew Brees – New Orleans Saints
Matchup – Seattle Seahawks

Hey, guess what? This guy still has it. The future Hall of Fame quarterback will turn 38 this year, and he’s still putting on a show week in and week out. I was a little down on Brees this week due to an odd disease he suffers from that makes him a mediocre player when he plays football outside of the city of New Orleans. I was proved wrong as he threw for 367 yards and 3 touchdowns against a formidable Chiefs defense. Unfortunately for many fantasy players out there that drafted Mark Ingram as an RB1, this is without a doubt Brees’ offense to operate as he sees fit. Luckily for Brees owners, he loves throwing the football, and the Saints only use the run game to keep defenses honest. There has only been one game where he has not thrown multiple touchdowns so far this year, and his performance last week on the road against the Chiefs will guarantee his spot as a top 3 fantasy quarterback to this point in the season. Unfortunately, Brees will have to face the Seahawks this week. The good news is the Saints are at home in the Dome where Brees shines. There are definitely worse options at quarterback to roll out there.

Andrew Luck – Indianapolis Colts
Matchup – Kansas City Chiefs

Over the last few weeks, Luck finally seems to be performing at the level we all expected. He threw for 353 yards and three touchdowns against the Titans on Sunday day and looked very much like the quarterback the Colts saw fit to give a massive contract to in the offseason. Luck hit a rough patch in weeks two through four earlier this season and only accumulated 39 fantasy points over that span in standard scoring leagues. However the offense has been clicking much better, and the former Stanford star has scored 71 fantasy points over the last three weeks. This has to come as a huge relief for fantasy owners as panic was setting in during Luck’s shaky start. Next on the slate is a matchup against a Chiefs offense on the road that was just shredded by Drew Brees for 367 yards and three touchdowns. While Kansas City’s defense is solid on paper, there have been some games where they’ve given up a good chunk of points. It’s not the most opportune matchup, but I think Luck will continue his upward trend this weekend.

Running Backs:

LaGarrette Blount – New England Patriots
Matchup – Buffalo Bills

There was a time in the NFL where the workhorse running back was a staple in many successful offenses. Over the last few years, however, we’ve seen teams transition to deploying the running back by committee approach, which can a nightmare for fantasy football owners. The New England Patriots are what every team with a two running back system aspires to be, and LaGarrette Blount is a huge reason for their success. It was my belief that he would take a hit once Brady returned, which has happened to some extent. However, he still holds value in games where the Patriots are winning big and want to run the ball to lock up the win. Blount is a bruiser, and he racked up 127 yards and two touchdowns on 24 carries against the Steelers on Sunday. You have to like the matchup this week against a Bills defense that was just dominated by Jay Ajayi this past weekend. Has long as Tom Brady’s Revenge Tour is still going strong, Blount should still be able to produce big games if the matchup is right.

Spencer Ware – Kansas City Chiefs
Matchup – Indianapolis Colts

For all intents and purposes, the training wheels are still very much on Jamaal Charles. Just a week after making what I would consider his real season debut, Charles was still very much limited this past week against the Saints and only had one carry for no yards. This set the stage for Spencer Ware to continue to stake his claim on the starting running back job in Kansas City as he racked up 131 total yards and a touchdown. That’s the second consecutive week with over 130 yards for Ware, which will undoubtedly cause the coaching staff to continue to be cautious with Charles. Ware could be an interesting sell high candidate as Charles should inevitably make his was back into the offensive game plan. For those planning on keeping him, however, Ware has another juicy matchup this week against a soft Colts defense that has yet to hold an opposing offense to under 22 points this season.

Melvin Gordon – San Diego Chargers
Matchup – Denver Broncos

I wrote a few weeks ago about how I thought you should trade Gordon while you could due to his paltry yards per carry average and touchdown-dependent fantasy production. I still stand by that statement, but this guy just continues to find the end zone. After scoring three times against the Falcons on Sunday, Gordon now leads all running backs in touchdowns with ten through seven games. That’s not something I can continue to brush aside. The 121-yard performance last Sunday was a season high, and the Chargers continue to feed him touches and involve him in the passing game. His yards per carry average is concerning, and I still think he there’s a chance he falters down the stretch. Gordon will have a tough test against the Broncos on the road this week, but he should see enough carries to at least make him a serviceable option.

Wide Receivers:

Ty Montgomery – Green Bay Packers
Matchup – Atlanta Falcons

In this day and age of the NFL where the running back position is so volatile it seems crazy that a team would only roster only two backs on their team, right? Well, that’s exactly the situation the Packers have found themselves in. Disaster struck the Green Bay backfield last week, and the team was left without a running back as both Eddie Lacy and James Starks were knocked out with injuries. That led the team to turn to Ty Montgomery to lead their rushing attack. In case you missed it, he’s a receiver. After trading for Knile Davis and promoting Don Jackson (who was later injured), Montgomery still led the Packers backfield with 9 carries and 60 yards. He also added another 66 yards on 10 receptions, many of which came while he was coming out of the backfield. While Knile Davis was figured to get more work moving forward as he learns the playbook, Montgomery could be a sneaky play for the near future. Particularly against a Falcons defense that allowed Melvin Gordon to rack 121 total yards and 3 touchdowns last Sunday.

Cordarrelle Patterson – Minnesota Vikings
Matchup – Chicago Bears

The Vikings had high hopes for Patterson when they selected him 29th overall in the draft a few years back. While he’s a gifted athlete, his poor route running has kept him from seeing much playing time on offense. Patterson has slowly been earning more playing time this season due to injuries at the wide receiver position, and he was targeted more than any other receiver on Sunday. He hauled in 7 passes for a team-high 67 yards and a touchdown against the Eagles and seems to be earning more attention from Sam Bradford each week. He now has 19 targets over the last three games and is worth keeping an eye on or possibly even a preemptive pickup. With Stefon Diggs struggling and the Vikings lacking any consistency in the passing game outside of Kyle Rudolph, Patterson very well could be on his way to fantasy relevance. He’s got another chance to prove himself this week against a struggling Bears defense.

TY Hilton – Indianapolis Colts
Matchup – Kansas City Chiefs

Let’s do a little name association: Antonio Brown, Odell Beckham Jr, TY Hilton, and AJ Green. One of these names doesn’t quite fit, right? Wrong. Through the first six games of the season, TY Hilton is the 5th highest scoring wide receiver in standard scoring fantasy leagues, and that was before he caught 7 passes for 133 yards and a touchdown against the Tennessee Titans on Sunday. Always a potential breakout candidate, Hilton has never really lived up to the expectations fantasy owners had for him. This appears to be the year we’ve been waiting for. If he can stay healthy I think Hilton has a real shot to finish as a top 5-10 fantasy wide receiver. Luck is finally healthy after struggling to stay on the field last year, and the defense all but guarantees the Colts will be forced to play from behind and air the ball out often. Indianapolis will face a Kansas City defense this week that was just shredded by Drew Brees. Don’t be surprised if Luck and Hilton hook up big again this weekend.

Tight Ends:

Jack Doyle – Indianapolis Colts
Matchup – Kansas City Chiefs

The guys here at No Huddle have a particular fondness for Jack Doyle. His name alone brings visions of corn fields and farmland. Considering he played his college ball at Western Kentucky, that thought may not be too far off. Either way, Doyle showed up big for fantasy owners savvy enough to play him on Sunday as he racked up 9 catches on 10 targets for 78 yards and a touchdown against the Titans. He’s sitting as the third highest scoring tight end heading into Monday night and was clearly Andrew Luck’s second favorite target behind TY Hilton. With Dwayne Allen banged up and listed as week to week, Doyle has a shot to further entrench himself as a top receiving threat in the Colts offense. Indianapolis faces a tough opponent in Kansas City this week, but I expect Luck to continue to air the ball out early and often. Doyle should still get plenty of looks as long as Dwayne Allen remains sidelined.

Vernon Davis – Washington Redskins
Matchup – Cincinnati Bengals

You read that right. Vernon Davis. After being one of the most sought after fantasy tight ends for many years in his San Francisco days, Davis has been an afterthought for the last few seasons. Jordan Reed getting knocked out with a concussion opened the door for Davis to return to fantasy relevance, albeit if only for a few games. However, Reed is extremely injury prone which makes Davis a plug and play option for those games where the starting Washington tight end is sidelined. The nearly 32-year-old veteran caught all 6 of his targets Sunday for 79 yards and scored a touchdown last week. While Davis may not hold much value when Reed comes back, he’s certainly a player to keep an eye on if and when the starter goes down again.

Ice:

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Quarterbacks:

Carson Palmer – Arizona Cardinals
Matchup – Carolina Panthers

What in the world has been going on with Carson Palmer this season? This man finished 2015 as the 5th highest producing fantasy quarterback in standard scoring leagues. Entering week 7 this season he’s ranked 25th behind Brian Hoyer (who only started a few games), Case Keenum (yup), and Brock Osweiler (oh dear lord). To be perfectly blunt, he’s been terrible for fantasy purposes outside of two solid performances to start the season. Palmer’s low point of the season was back in week 3 when he had a Ryan Fitzpatrick-esque 4 interception game, and he hasn’t accrued more than 13 fantasy points in a game since week 2. He’s thrown for over 300 yards just twice this year and only has two passing touchdowns to his credit in the last five weeks. If you’re a Carson Palmer owner hopefully you’ve already evaluated other options at quarterback. If not, you need to be looking for a suitable replacement immediately. If you’re sticking with the veteran he has an advantageous matchup this week against a Carolina defense that cannot stop offenses through the air this season. After what we’ve seen over the last few weeks, I’m losing faith in Palmer fast. Roll with him at your own risk.

Derek Carr – Oakland Raiders
Matchup – Tampa Bay Buccaneers

The Oakland Raiders seem to be the real deal this season. They lead their division with a 5-2 record, and Derek Carr has been a big reason for that success. After stringing together four 20 point fantasy performances in five games, Carr has struggled a bit over the last two weeks and has failed to top 12 points in each of those games. Don’t get me wrong, he’s not been bad from a football standpoint. He threw for 200 yards and a touchdown against in a game against Jacksonville that was never really in question. The Raiders controlled the ball on the ground late in the game, which limited Carr’s opportunity. Oakland will face a Tampa Bay defense that has allowed 24 points or more in four out of the six games they played, so the former Fresno State star will have a shot to have a big day. His schedule gets much tougher down the stretch, so make sure you have a viable backup option for when he plays against the Denver Broncos twice in the second half of the season.

Carson Wentz – Philadelphia Eagles
Matchup – Dallas Cowboys

Carson Wentz as certainly cooled off over the last two games after he was declared the second coming of Peyton Manning to start the season. As it turns out, this kid is mortal after all. Wentz had his best game of the season in week three before the Eagles early bye and followed that up with another 20 point fantasy performance against the Lions in week 5. Unfortunately, Wentz has only accounted for a total 14 fantasy points over the last two games. To be fair he had to face off against the Vikings last week, but he was held to only 138 passing yards and accounted for a touchdown with two interceptions and a fumble. While Wentz (and Dak Prescott for that matter) have had impressive rookie campaigns so far, it’s important to remember that both of these young men are only rookies. They’ll have their ups and downs, especially when facing arguably the best defense in the league as Wentz did last week. Up next is the rookie out of North Dakota State is a matchup against the NFL’s other heralded rookie quarterback, Dak Prescott. The Cowboys have been much better on defense this year and have allowed more than 17 points only twice. I wouldn’t plan on counting on Wentz this week on the road.

Running Backs:

Jordan Howard – Chicago Bears
Matchup – Minnesota Vikings

I could simply say Howard + Vikings = NOPE and be done here, but I’ll give you a little more insight than that. Fantasy owners were flying high after the emergence of Howard in weeks 4 and 5, and they thought they found this year’s Devonta Freeman. I’m here to tell you that’s not the case. Ka’Deem Carey out-carried and out-rushed Howard last week, and Jeremy Langford is due back in the next few weeks. I have a feeling this backfield is going get very messy moving forward. To make matters worse, Brian Hoyer broke his arm against the Packers. This paves the way for Chicago to announce that Jay Cutler has conveniently recovered from his injury and is expected to play this week against the Vikings. This whole situation is just not something I want to be a part of. I’m not saying Howard will lose all value moving forward. I just don’t think the 100-yard rushing performances are something we’re going to see much of moving forward. Bench the rookie this week and find other options at running back.

Matt Jones – Washington Redskins
Matchup – Cincinnati Bengals

Every other week syndrome. It’s become a problem in the NFL, and it’s about time we addressed the hardship it’s causing to the innocent bystanders of fantasy football. In four games this season, Jones has accounted for 12 fantasy points combined. The other three? 50 total fantasy points. I would argue this guy is more infuriating to own than Jeremy Hill, and that’s saying something. To make matters worse, apparently, the Washington coaching staff is fed up with Jones’ knack for fumbling the ball. He was benched for basically two-thirds of the game after fumbling twice in the first quarter and may take a back seat to Chris Thompson or Rob Kelley as punishment against the Bengals. If the pattern holds true, Jones should be in for a big game this week. Unfortunately, I just don’t see him getting out of the doghouse in time. Hopefully, you have another running back option this week.

TJ Yeldon – Jacksonville Jaguars
Matchup – Tennessee Titans

I think I’m officially done with the Jags this season. Nothing has changed with this offense since last year. They have the same players. They supposedly have a better defense, but we haven’t seen that on the field. It’s the same quarterback, receivers, and tight end. The main addition on offense was Chris Ivory in the backfield, which I normally would use to defend Yeldon’s production. However, this just simply looks like a bad football team. Yeldon has had back to back weeks with 6 rushes for less than 25 yards. In fact, he’s only rushed for more than 70 yards once this season and has one rushing touchdown. Bench the guy or bundle him in a trade while you still can. The Titans are much better on defense this season, and I have little to no faith that Yeldon will carry much value moving forward.

Wide Receivers:

Allen Robinson – Jacksonville Jaguars
Matchup – Tennessee Titans

It’s shocking how far Allen Robinson has fallen. If you drafted him it was likely as your WR1, but that clearly hasn’t been the case through the first seven games of the season. Robinson’s low point came last week after catching only two passes for nine yards against a Raiders secondary that has given up a lot of fantasy points this year. Much of the blame can be placed on Blake Bortles as he simply has not played very well this season. Robinson is currently the 47th ranked wide receiver in standard scoring leagues, which puts him behind Tavon Austin, Kenny Stills, and Anquan Boldin. At this point in the season, I think it’s time to panic if you own this guy. He broke out in a big way last season, but the Jags seem to have taken a big step backward after starting the season as a dark horse to make the playoffs. Unless you had some good fortune on the waiver wire, you’re likely stuck playing Robinson this week against a surprisingly stingy Titans defense. I think at this point you have to be praying for one big game out of him so you can trace him. We’re passed the point where his name alone will hold much value.

Stefon Diggs – Minnesota Vikings
Matchup – Chicago Bears

After two big games to start the season, Diggs has been mostly a blip on the fantasy radar over the last five weeks. He had a combined 34 fantasy points against the Titans and Packers in the first two weeks but has only accumulated nine points since then. To be fair he sat out against Houston before the team’s bye week, but we saw very little impact from him in both games prior. His two catches for 18 yards against the Eagles last week was definitely the low point of this season. The Eagles handed the Vikings their first loss of the season and two fumbles and an interception out of Sam Bradford. The matchup this week against the Bears should offer up more opportunity for Diggs to find space to operate downfield. The recent emergence of Cordarrelle Patterson has to have Diggs owners a little worried as well. He’s certainly not the must-start player some thought he might be after his hot start to the season, but I think he still holds value as the Vikings number one receiver. Just be sure to keep an eye on the Patterson situation.

Jordan Matthews – Philadelphia Eagles
Matchup – Dallas Cowboys

The honeymoon may not be over, but the marriage between Carson Wentz and the city of Philadelphia has definitely had some rough patches over the last few weeks. After getting off to a hot start the rookie quarterback has struggled over the last two weeks, and the offense has been limited as a result. Jordan Matthews is without a doubt the one suffering most from Wentz’s struggles, and the star receiver finished the game against the Vikings on Sunday with only 3 catches for 10 yards. This marks the 4th straight game where Matthews has caught less than five passes, and he hasn’t accounted for more than 75 yards receiving since week one. Don’t get me wrong, I still think Wentz has done an admirable job as a rookie, but it’s important to remember he’s still playing in his first season as an NFL starter. There will be games where he falters. Matthews will have another tough matchup this week against a Dallas Cowboys defense that hasn’t allowed more than 17 points since the second game of the season. I would temper my fantasy expectations in this one.

Tight Ends:

Zach Miller – Chicago Bears
Matchup – Minnesota Vikings

It’s a good thing the Chicago Cubs made it to the World Series this year. Otherwise, Chicago sports fans would only have the Bears to watch, and nobody needs that. This is quite simply a bad football team. There was some hope that Brian Hoyer would potentially be an upgrade from Cutler, but he left the game last week with a broken arm. Cutler will make his return this week against the Vikings, but I don’t think it will matter much. Unfortunately for Zach Miller owners, I think the return of Jay Cutler actually hurts his upside a bit. He only scored a total of 11 fantasy points the first two weeks and went on the very next game for 27 points with Hoyer under center. Either way, you’re hopefully not playing any Bears this weekend against arguably the best defense in the NFL. You’re definitely going to want to be scouring your waiver wire for a replacement tight end this week.

Dennis Pitta – Baltimore Ravens
Bye Week

Pitta has been mostly quiet ever since his welcome home party back in week two and has yet to score a touchdown this season. The veteran tight end is the second highest targeted player in the Baltimore offense, so his last two games of a combined 10 catches for 76 yards is a little disappointing. What’s more frustrating is the fact that Joe Flacco has attempted 40 or more passes over the last five games, and Pitta hasn’t been able to come even close to his 9 catch 102-yard game that put him back on the fantasy map in week two against the Browns. While there are definitely worse options at the tight end position, I don’t see Pitta being much more than a bye week fill in unless he starts seeing targets in the red zone.

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