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1. Drew Brees 29.0 FPs (NO vs. ATL) – With Aaron Rodgers on a bye this week, Drew Brees takes over as the top fantasy play of the week in one of two teams where the combined point total is projected to exceed 48 – and it tops 57 in our projections. Rest of Season Fantasy Rank: #1 Overall/#1 QB
2. Tom Brady 27.5 FPs (NE vs. BUF) – The other high scoring shootout from Sunday (52 projected points) is a one-sided matchup featuring Brady’s Patriots, who scored 52 points on their own against Buffalo in Buffalo earlier in the season. ROS Fantasy Rank: #6 Overall/#6 QB
3. Matt Ryan 26.3 FPs (ATL @ NO) – Matt Ryan has been tremendous this season and will be taking on a historically bad defense in New Orleans (and indoors, on turf where the Falcons are best). ROS Fantasy Ranking: #2 QB
Breakout Candidate: Joe Flacco 20.5 FPs (BAL vs. OAK) – Flacco has not topped 250 yards passing since September 27, but he is still on pace to throw for about 4,000 yards and is a great bet for 250+ this week against the Raiders #29 ranked defense. ROS Fantasy Rank: #19 QB
Must Avoid: Jay Cutler 15.8 FPS (CHI vs. HOU) – The Houston Texans have a tremendous pass rush to go with a top three pass defense. Without Alshon Jeffery likely in the game Sunday night, expect Brandon Marshall to be double teamed on just about every play and for Cutler to struggle finding other receivers under pressure. ROS Fantasy Rank: #24 QB
1. Adrian Peterson 18.6 FPs (MIN vs. DET) – It may not be in a winning effort, but Peterson should lead the league in rushing for a team that will likely be without Percy Harvin this week and lacks a consistent passing game. Peterson has topped 100 total yards in seven consecutive games and is coming off of a 193 yards effort in a ten point loss at Seattle. ROS Fantasy Rank: #8 RB
2. Ray Rice 18.1 FPs (BAL vs. OAK) – Rice is playing against the same porous Raiders’ defense referenced above and accounts for 68% of his team’s rushing effort and 16% of its receiving numbers. ROS Fantasy Rank: #2 RB
3. Arian Foster 17.3 FPs (HOU vs. CHI) – Foster may not be as active in the passing game this season as in previous years, but his 24 carries-per-game average still gives him incredible value – especially with backup Ben Tate likely out again this week. ROS Fantasy Rank: #6 RB
Breakout Candidate: Marcel Reece 9.6 FPs (OAK @ BAL) – Reece, the normal starting fullback in the Raiders’ offense is the most likely running back to lead the team in touches this week in the wake of high ankle sprain injuries to Darren McFadden and Mike Goodson. He literally has just one carry on the season, but Reece has 234 yards rushing on 47 career carries (5.0 yards-per-carry) and has already been targeted 34 times for 26 catches and 272 receiving yards on the season. Taiwan Jones will likely start at tailback, but is little more than a home run threat with fumbling issues. Rest of Season: #20 RB (assuming McFadden and Goodson each miss the next four weeks).
Must Avoid: Mikel Leshoure 9.6 FPs (DET @ MIN) – With the same projected points as Reece, Leshoure is not technically a “must” avoid, but, at #24 in our RB rankings, he is not a must start. Last week’s three rushing TDs were certainly nice, yet not to be expected again – especially with Joique Bell receiving the same number of touches (20) as Leshoure and putting up more yards in the process. Bell is as good of an option to put on the roster. ROS Fantasy Rank: #24 RB
1. Mike Wallace 14.4 FPs (PIT vs. KC) – Going up against the Kansas City Chiefs on Monday night, the Steelers have the #4 QB, #4 and #38 RB, the #1 and #24 WR, the #3 TE and the #1 Defense this week. Start your Steelers. ROS Fantasy Rank: #16 WR
2. Marques Colston 14.1 FPs (NO vs. ATL) – Colston broke a streak of four straight games with double digit targets on Monday night, yet still had 14.6 PPR fantasy points and figures to remain a critical part of the Saints’ passing attack with Darren Sproles sidelined. ROS Fantasy Rank: #2 WR
3. Brandon Marshall 14.0 FPs (CHI vs. HOU) – As good as the defense is that he is facing and as much of a focus as he will draw from that defense, it would be impossible to bench a player receiving 37% of his team’s targets (6% higher than any other player and it is over 40% with Jeffery injured). ROS Fantasy Rank: #8 WR
Breakout Candidate: Jerome Simpson 8.5 FPs (MIN vs. DET) – Simpson has just four catches in the last three games (and eight on the season), yet figures to step up in a big way in place of Percy Harvin and against a battered secondary for Detroit. At #28 for the week, Simpson is not a slam dunk to start, but is a high ceiling player for the week who can be found on most waiver wires. ROS: #64 Overall/#14 WR.
Must Avoid: Stevie Johnson 7.3 FPs (BUF @ HOU) – Buffalo has become one of the first run-focused offenses in the league – which is probably best for the Bills this week going up against Houston’s top rated pass defense. ROS Fantasy Rank: #65 WR
1. Rob Gronkowski 13.7 FPs (NE vs. BUR) ROS Fantasy Rank: # 2TE
2. Jimmy Graham 13.2 FPs (NO vs. ATL) ROS Fantasy Rank: #1 TE
3. Heath Miller 12.1 FPs (PIT vs. KC) ROS Fantasy Rank: #6 TE
Breakout Candidate: Anthony Fasano 6.9 FPs (MIA vs. TEN) ROS Fantasy Rank: #13 TE
Must Avoid: Brandon Pettigrew 5.6 FPs (DET @ MIN) ROS Fantasy Rank: #19 TE
1. Matt Bryant 10.7 FPs (ATL @ NO) ROS Fantasy Rank: #1 K
2. Stephen Gostkowski 10.3 FPs (NE vs. BUF) ROS Fantasy Rank: #5 K
3. Shuan Suisham 9.7 FPs (PIT vs. KC) ROS Fantasy Rank: #6 K
Breakout Candidate: Dan Bailey 8.9 FPs (DAL @ PHI) ROS Fantasy Rank: #2 K
Must Avoid: Robbie Gould 6.0 FPs (CHI vs. HOU) ROS Fantasy Rank: #27 K
1. Pittsburgh Steelers 15.0 FPs (PIT vs. KC) ROS Fantasy Rank: #4 DEF
2. San Francisco 49ers 15.0 FPs (SF vs. STL) ROS Fantasy Rank: #3 DEF
3. Seattle Seahawks 12.8 FPs (SEA vs. NYJ) ROS Fantasy Rank: #6 DEF
Breakout Candidate: Dallas Cowboys 8.3 FPS (DET @ JAC) ROS Fantasy Rank: #15 DEF
Must Avoid: San Diego Chargers 3.4 FPs (SD @ TB) ROS Fantasy Rank: #8 DEF
Injuries to Watch
1. Darren Sproles Unlike this time last week, we know that Darren Sproles will be missing some significant time with a broken hand. The curious part is what the Saints do with the running back position. On Monday night against the Eagles, New Orleans distributed running back touches in this way: Chris Ivory 11 (for 50 yards and one TD), Mark Ingram 9 (for 67 yards) and Pierre Thomas 8 (for 70 yards). Thomas is more of a focal point in the passing game and I think would have seen any more touches if the team had been playing from behind (as we expect to happen this week in a shootout with Atlanta). We currently have Thomas as a top 20 RB play regardless of the format, with Ingram and Ivory in the 30-40 range for the week. I would be comfortable starting Thomas and only playing one of the others in a desperate situation or in a league heavily weighted towards TDs.
2. Percy Harvin Doubtful with an ankle injury, Harvin does not look like he is going to play against Detroit on Sunday. If he does not, Adrian Peterson, Jerome Simpson, Michael Jenkins and Kyle Rudolph each get a boost (as seen in our projections), with all of them being startable. If he does suit up, he is enough of a focal point of the offense to trust in your lineup. Furthermore, the only player I just referenced besides Harvin that would be startable with Percy in the lineup is Adrian Peterson (who is a top five RB either way).
3. Darren McFadden/Mike Goodson As referenced above, Marcel Reece, a Pro Bowl caliber full back, should assume responsibilities as the Raiders’ top running back with Goodson and McFadden sidelined with ankle injuries. Still, as the Raiders may throw the ball 70%+ of the time now, neither Reece or Taiwan Jones should be considered a must start over the next few weeks. They will be matchup plays (and Reece has a decent matchup this week at Baltimore). More importantly, expect even more from Denarius Moore and Brandon Myers (assuming the TE is ultimately healthy enough to play this week) who should strengthen their values as safety valves and high target players in McFadden’s absence.
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