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.
Derek Carr – Oakland Raiders
Matchup – Denver Broncos
You had to know this guy would make the list. Although I had him listed at the other end of the spectrum last week, Carr’s performance against the Buccaneers deserves to be recognized. He completed 40 of 59 passes for 513 yards and 4 touchdowns in the overtime win against Tampa Bay on Sunday, which set a new franchise record. He targeted nine different players, and both Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree passed the century mark in receiving yards. While Oakland was able to rush for 114 yards, they simply don’t have a playmaker in the backfield. It’s a three-headed monster that is a nightmare for owners, so any reliable production out of this team from a fantasy perspective will likely come from the passing game. Unfortunately, Carr has a pretty steep hill to climb over the next few weeks. He’ll face a Denver Broncos defense this week that has held opponents to under 21 points in all but two games this season. You may want to evaluate your alternatives before his week ten bye.
Aaron Rodgers – Green Bay Packers
Matchup – Indianapolis Colts
I hope you all are reading this column each week. It seems that players have a tendency to turn things around within a few weeks of being mentioned. Moving forward go ahead and start any player highlighted in the Ice section with confidence two or three games after being mentioned. Either way, Rodgers has turned this around over the last couple of weeks. In my opinion, his recent surge is a direct result of the Packers having virtually no running game with both Lacy and Starks out. Green Bay running backs only accounted 13 carries and 48 yards against the Falcons on Sunday, which placed all of the responsibility on Rodgers’ shoulders. That is something I believe we’ll continue to see for three foreseeable future. Rodgers has a prime matchup at home this week against the Colts and should have a big game.
Josh McCown – Cleveland Browns
Matchup – Dallas Cowboys
Cleveland is a bad car wreck you can’t take your eyes away from. You can’t but have thoughts like: whose fault was it? Is everyone ok? Should I stop and help? This is simply a bad football team that I keep paying attention to in an effort to decipher any fantasy relevance. All that being said, Josh McCown has played well in his VERY limited playing time this season. In just two games he has thrown for 601 yards and 4 touchdowns. That’s two games out of eight, mind you, but still a pretty decent sample size nonetheless. While I wouldn’t necessarily categorize him as “on fire”, he’s still worth a look in spot starts as long as he’s healthy. He knows who his top receivers are and makes the effort to put the ball into his playmaker’s hands. McCown is the only hope for the 0-8 Browns to get a win this season. He should get rookie Corey Coleman back in the next few weeks, so there should be some additional firepower for him to work with moving forward. I’m not endorsing him as a weekly starter by any means, but McCown is definitely someone to watch moving forward.
Matt Forte – New York Jets
Matchup – Miami Dolphins
Fun fact: Matt Forte was a monster in the first two weeks of the season. He racked up 196 yards on 52 carries and 3 touchdowns to start the year. The four-game stretch afterward he had 50 carries and 164 yards combined. Flash forward to the last two weeks: 55 carries, 182 yards, and 3 touchdowns. In case this doesn’t make sense, the Jets need to feed the veteran running back. In the four games where Forte has seen 22 carries or more, he’s averaging over 23 fantasy points per game in half point PPR leagues. In the other four games, he’s averaging less than 5. I get the thought process by the Jets here. Forte is an aging running back that they want to have around for a full season. Unfortunately, the Jets are a mediocre football team and will need to have their best players involved in order to win games. Which includes giving your best running back the football. Forte will face a Miami defense that has allowed less than 22 points to opposing offenses only twice this season. I like his chances to keep up the hot streak on the road this week.
Jonathan Stewart – Carolina Panthers
Matchup – LA Rams
Arizona has now allowed only six touchdowns to opposing running backs through eight games this season. Jonathan Stewart scored two of those on Sunday. If Stewart could just stay healthy I’m willing to bet he could be a top ten fantasy running back. In the three full games, he’s played this season Stewart has 59 carries for 244 yards and 4 touchdowns. That’s an average of 19 carries and 81 yards per game, which are more than serviceable numbers if he could only stay on the field. With Cam Newton struggling at times this season, it appears the Panthers will want to feed their running back early and often. Stewart is without a doubt the workhouse in this backfield with only a few carries going to the likes of Mike Tolbert and Fozzy Whitaker. Considering his performance against a stout Cardinals defense last week, you have to like Stewart’s matchup against a Rams team that has given up 28 or more points in four out of seven games this season.
Darren Sproles – Philadelphia Eagles
Matchup – New York Giants
I would rank the Eagles backfield up there with the Bengals in terms of frustration when trying to predict which one is going to be “the guy”. If Sunday night’s game against the Cowboys was any indication, Darren Sproles could be the running back to own in Philly moving forward. Typically designated as the third down back, Sproles saw a season-high 15 carries against Dallas in a close game that has typically leaned Ryan Mathews way in terms of touches. Mathews only saw four carries that he turned into ten yards and a touchdown. While Sproles’ numbers weren’t eye-popping, he did manage to rack up 85 yards on the ground while adding another 17 yards receiving on 5 catches. As the only running back on the team to account for more than 100 yards of offense this season, the Philadelphia coaching staff may feel like Sproles is the guy that gives them the best chance to win. Only time will tell if that is the direction the Eagles are heading, but it’s undoubtedly a situation to keep an eye on.
Jamison Crowder – Washington Redskins
I’ve been telling people since the second week of the season to go grab Jamison Crowder. If you listened, then you’re likely happy with the results. The second year receiver out of Duke had some solid games last season, and his rapport with Kirk Cousins has continued to grow this year. There have only been two games in 2016 where Crowder has not either surpassed 100 receiving yards or scored a touchdown, which makes him a fairly consistent source of fantasy production. He leads all Washington wide receivers by over 20 fantasy points in half point PPR scoring and should be owned in all leagues. At only 44% owned on the ESPN site, there is a good chance he’s still available. The Redskins will face the Vikings in week 10 after their bye, so you’ll want to temper expectations a bit if you snag him. He has a much better matchup the week after against the Packers.
JJ Nelson – Arizona Cardinals
If you listen to our podcast you’ll know I liked Nelson coming into this week. Granted I floundered on his name and ended up having to refer to him as Arizona’s “little fast guy”, but you all got the gist. Nelson was targeted a team-high 12 times and hauled in 8 catches for 79 yards and 2 touchdowns against the Panthers on Sunday and was the Cardinals leading wide receiver. With John Brown battling injuries and Michael Floyd being virtually a non-factor, JJ Nelson may very well be on his way to moving up the pecking order in Arizona. Bruce Arians even went as far to call him the team’s number two wide receiver. The Cardinals are on a bye this week, which should allow Brown to get healthy and reclaim his position within the offense. However, Nelson is certainly a guy to keep your eye on and is worth a waiver add if you have the bench space.
Tyreek Hill – Kansas City Chiefs
Matchup – Jacksonville Jaguars
We discussed Tyreek Hill on our podcast a few weeks ago, and the rookie out of Alabama is slowly but surely becoming more involved in the Chief’s offensive game plan. Hill hauled in 5 passes on 6 targets for 98 yards and a touchdown against the Colts on Sunday and now sits just two fantasy points behind Jeremy Maclin as the second highest scoring wide receiver in standard leagues. Considering Hill’s limited snap count each week that is hard to fathom, and I’m not sure if it speaks more to Hill’s talent or Maclin’s underwhelming performances. To be fair, the Chiefs are a team that wants to run the football. However, someone on the team has to catch passes. This isn’t a proclamation of how the rookie receiver is taking over the WR1 spot in Kansas City or anything like that. I do recommend, however, keep an eye on Tyreek Hill and possibly making a speculative addition if you’ve got the bench space. While his performance Sunday was a season best it wasn’t a flash in the pan. The Chiefs matchup against the Jaguars this week should provide another opportunity for Hill to continue his upward trend.
Tyler Eifert – Cincinnati Bengals
Whelp, Eifert is back and in a big way. Last year’s break out tight end made his season debut in week 7 but only caught one pass for nine yards in a game where he was limited by the coaching staff. His performance against the Redskins last Sunday was much more along the lines of what we were all looking for. Eifert was targeted 12 times and caught 9 passes for 102 yards and a touchdown against Washington in London. These are the types of games fantasy owners were expecting when they drafted him, even though it took him six weeks to see the field after recovering from an ankle injury. Eifert was a touchdown machine last season and finished as the 6th highest scoring tight end in the league last season. The Bengals will have a bye this week before Eifert will have another shot against the Giants in week 10.
CJ Fiedorowicz – Houston Texans
A lot of people gave me grief after Fiedorowicz appeared in the column going into week 6 earlier in the season. The folks that picked up what I was putting down are seeing why I’ve been talking about him. Outside of the Texans game against Denver, Fiedorowicz has either scored a touchdown or racked up at least 60 yards in the last five games. With all the struggles Houston has had on offense any consistency is more than appreciated. Hopkins simply can’t get on the same page with Osweiler despite being targeted 34 times in the last 3 games. Will Fuller is a talented prospect but has issues with dropping passes. If Brock Osweiler can get some sort of consistent production out of his tight end, then I think he’s going look his way early and often for the remainder of the season. Houston faces a suspect Jaguars defense in week 10 after their bye, so expect to see Fiedorowicz continue to grow his rapport with his quarterback.
Eric Ebron – Detroit Lions
Matchup – Minnesota Vikings
You have to feel for this guy. I’m willing to bet he could be a top ten fantasy tight end if he could just stay healthy. After sitting out the last three games, Ebron still ranks in the close vicinity of players like Jason Witten, Dennis Pitta, and Charles Clay in terms of fantasy production. In his first game back against Houston Ebron was targeted ten times and caught seven passes for 79 yards. The receiving yards were a season high for Ebron, and Matt Stafford clearly favors his tight end when he’s available. If there is one aspect of the Lions offense I’m confident in, it’s the fact they’re going to have to pass the ball to win football games. A lot. Without any real resemblance of a conventional running game, the team will rely on Stafford to move the ball through the air. If Ebron can stay healthy I think games, like we saw last week, will be fairly common. You’ll want to wait a couple weeks to play him since Detroit plays the Vikings next week before they’re bye. However, they’ll have a soft Jacksonville defense when they take the field again in week 11.
Russell Wilson – Seattle Seahawks
Matchup – Buffalo Bills
Ok, I get it. Whenever anyone brings up Russell Wilson all I seem to hear is the “but look at what he did in the second half of the season” argument. While that is a valid point, this isn’t last season and Wilson is playing far worse than he did over the beginning stretch last year. If we’re looking at last season, Wilson only had three games where he scored 13 points or less through the first eight games. This season he has six in only seven games due to the team’s early bye. There’s no doubt this guy is much more banged up than he or the Seahawks will want to admit. While Wilson is a serviceable passer, what makes him most valuable in fantasy football is his ability to extend plays with his legs and pick up yards on the ground. We’ve simply not seen that this season, which is almost entirely attributed to Wilson playing with a bum ankle and strained MCL. Unfortunately, I simply don’t see Wilson turning things around with the team having an early bye this season. I may very well be proven wrong, but a mobile quarterback who is limited in the mobility category is a huge concern for me. You have to hope he gets on track this week against a Bills defense that was just absolutely torn apart by Tom Brady last week. If it’s me, then I’m actively trying to find a QB either via trade or the waiver wire.
Carson Wentz – Philadelphia Eagles
Matchup – New York Giants
I honestly think Carson Wentz has a bright future in the NFL. He’s got a high football IQ (as John Gruden loves to say), he doesn’t make bad throws, and he is smart enough to not focus on one receiver. All that being said, I don’t think Wentz is a viable fantasy starter this season. While the Cowboys have a ready-made offense that enables a rookie quarterback to succeed, the Eagles are still a work in progress. Wentz has Jordan Matthews. Dak Prescott has Dez Bryant, Cole Beasley, and Jason Witten. Dak has Zeke. Wentz has Ryan Mathews, Darren Sproles, and two other guys that get carries behind him that aren’t worth mentioning from a fantasy perspective. In order for a rookie quarterback to have success in the NFL, they need to be surrounded by talent and complimentary players. Neither of those two attributes is prevalent in Philadelphia, unfortunately. Outside of keeper and dynasty formats, I don’t believe Wentz is a roster-able fantasy quarterback this year. He doesn’t have a particularly advantageous matchup next week against the Giants on the road either.
Cam Newton – Carolina Panthers
Matchup – LA Rams
Cam Newton has gone from an NFL poster child to one of the more mocked quarterbacks in the league. I understand the criticism. We’re not too far removed from his infamous post-Super Bowl interview where he acted like a child and walked out on the repeaters. Well, guess what? He basically did that same exact thing recently. My only criticism of Cam is this: you can’t have your cake and eat it too. If you’re a star and want to draw attention to yourself, then, by all means, go for it. However, don’t act like a child when it blows up in your face. The attention from the media is great when things are going well, but it only intensifies when things are going poorly. To put things into perspective, Cam Newton has only thrown for over 300 yards twice this season. He has failed to throw more than one touchdown in every other game. He’ll have a shot to bounce back this week against the Rams on the road, but his recent struggles have me concerned if he’s in my lineup.
Mark Ingram – New Orleans Saints
Matchup – San Francisco 49ers
I feel like there are quite a few players that have been featured previously in this column, and I would like to say I’m not doing it on purpose. Mark Ingram, like a few others, once again makes his presence felt in a negative way. The former Alabama standout was benched last week against Seattle after losing yet another fumble, and Tim Hightower went on to rack up over 100 yards rushing. Unfortunately, that is a feat that Ingram has failed to accomplish all season. To be fair, the New Orleans Saints are going to be a passing football team for as long as Drew Brees is the quarterback. However, the future Hall of Fame QB still needs a reliable running back to keep defenses honest. If the first part of the season is any indication, Mark Ingram is not that guy. New Orleans seems destined to enter a running back by committee approach, and I want no part of it. If anything I’m probably scooping up Tim Hightower this week. The Saints are facing a 49ers defense that has allowed quite a few points to running backs this season, but I’m still wary of playing any running back in this offense.
James White – New England Patriots
I swear I’m not actively pursuing bye week players. That’s just how this week has played out. James White’s fantasy relevance relies on two things: Tom Brady and Dion Lewis’ health. In the four games since Brady’s return, the pass catching specialist has posted double-digit fantasy performances in all but one week. His underwhelming outing against the Bills most recently is entirely due to the tone of the game. New England got up big early and never looked back. which limited the need for White. Unfortunately for James White owners, I think his time as a viable fantasy starter has come to an end. Dion Lewis began practicing last week and very well could suit up against Seattle after the Patriots week 9 bye. Lewis thrived in his role last season before getting injured, and I think he is a more talented player than White. We’ll see how things shake out over the next couple of week, but I’m not confident James White keeps his job if Lewis comes back at full strength.
Christine Michael – Seattle Seahawks
Matchup – Buffalo Bills
The resurgence of Christine Michael this season is one of the best success stories of the year. He’s been passed around the league over the years, and this is the first time he’s truly gotten an opportunity to be the go-to guy in his team’s backfield. He’s played well from a fantasy perspective and has only had double-digit fantasy games in all but two weeks this season. Which is why it makes no sense that he would only see 10 carries against one of the worst run defenses in the National Football league. Michael ran the ball ten times in a losing effort to the Saints on Sunday for 40 yards and a touchdown. Unfortunately for those who have invested in Christine Michael, I think this backfield is going to get a lot more frustrating to navigate in the near future. CJ Prosise played well enough to likely earn more playing time mocking forward. While he only ran four times, the rookie out of Notre Dame hauled in four passes for 80 yards as well. To make matters worse, Thomas Rawls has a chance to make his way back on to the field in the next couple of weeks. Reports I’ve seen are saying he could be back as soon as the game against New England the week after next. If I’m a Christine Michael owner I’m probably testing the waters in my league to determine his trade value. I have a feeling his dominance of the carries in Seattle will soon come to an end.
Brandon Marshall – New York Jets
Matchup – Miami Dolphins
The New York Jets are a dumpster fire this season. Most of the offensive struggles can be placed squarely on the shoulders of Ryan Fitzpatrick, who has not played well enough to warrant the hold out that went down before the season. He tied a Jets record with 9 interceptions thrown in consecutive games. Nobody has taken more of a hit on this team in terms of fantasy production as a result of Fitzpatrick’s poor play than Brandon Marshall. The veteran receiver finished last season as the 3rd ranked fantasy scorer at the position in standard leagues and only had less than ten fantasy points in three games. Through eight games this season he has only put up more than ten fantasy points three times and is currently tied with Tyrell Williams in terms of points scored. Considering he was drafted as a WR1, those numbers are far from ideal. Unless Ryan Fitzpatrick can turn things around in a hurry I don’t see Brandon Marshall finishing inside the top 20 this season. The Jets face off against a Miami defense that has allowed 22 points or more in all but two games this season, so the hope is that Marshall can get going this week on the road.
Marvin Jones – Detroit Lions
Matchup – Minnesota Vikings
After beginning the season looking like Megatron 2.0, Marvin Jones has steadily dropped back down to earth and hit a season low against the Texans last Sunday. He was only able to catch three passes for 33 yards in the contest and surrendered targets Theo Riddick and Eric Ebron in their first games back from injury. Stafford’ attempt to refocus on Golden Tate has also taken away much of Jones’ upside as the go-to receiver in this offense. I don’t think it’s quite time to hit the panic button here, however the consistent production we saw out of former Bengals receiver over the first few weeks of the season may only come in spurts now. To make matters worse, the Lions face the Vikings twice over the next three games. While Jones does have an advantageous matchup against the Jaguars in week 11, it might be wise to temper expectations on his fantasy production for the foreseeable future.
Doug Baldwin – Seattle Seahawks
Matchup – Buffalo Bills
If you’re keeping a tally this is the third Seattle Seahawk on the naughty list this week, which is as surprising to me as it is to many of you. On paper Seattle should be an offensive juggernaut, as they returned most of their playmakers at the skill positions. Unfortunately for Doug Baldwin owners, Russell Wilson’s shaky play this season is having a huge negative impact on his star wide receiver’s production so far this season. Baldwin had two big games in weeks one and three to start the season where he racked up a total of 37 fantasy points in standard leagues. However, he has only accounted for 21 points in the other five games combined. Those are alarming numbers considering Baldwin was drafted as a low-end WR1. The Seahawks are still a very talented football team, but Russell Wilson has to get healthy in order for the big name players to thrive. The scary part is Seattle has already had their bye this season, and they’ll face the Bills, Patriots, and Eagles over the next three weeks. That doesn’t leave much room for recovery in the near future.
Gary Barnidge – Cleveland Browns
Matchup – Dallas Cowboys
Last season Gary Barnidge was everyone’s favorite breakout tight end. He was a waiver wire gem for those lucky enough to have him, and he had a career year at the ripe old age of 30 (that’s around 60 years old in the NFL). Flash forward to this season, the script is entirely different. Cleveland wouldn’t have been a very good team this season, to begin with, but to add in all the injuries they have sustained at quarterback is essentially an impossible situation to recover from. The Barnidge hopeful was giddy last week at the thought of Josh McCown returning, who was the one that targeted the tight end so often last season. I’m sad to say no triumphant return to fantasy relevance was found for Barnidge as he only accounted for three catches and 42 yards. I think I can say with a decent amount of confidence that we won’t be seeing a sequel to Barnidge’s success from last season. If you own him you need to go add a replacement as soon as possible.
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!