Welcome back to our weekly article, where we highlight fifteen players/units that you should definitely make a move on, or in some cases, avoid like the plague. Due to the overwhelming volume of injuries thus far, there is no doubt that your roster may be in chaos. But hey, fret not my friends, for The Oracle has got you covered with the MOST COMPREHENSIVE ANALYSIS IN THE BUSINESS!!!
- START ‘EM: Tom Brady, New England Patriots @ New York Giants (Last Week, 26/39, 299 yards, 2 TD 1 INT v. Redskins) – Tom wasn’t so terrific last week, coming just a yard short of reaching the 300-yard threshold. And if that wasn’t bad enough, he even threw an interception. What the hell is wrong with Tom Brady?!?!?! Surely, I jest, folks, for No. 12 has been damn near perfect this season, completing 68.6% of his passes for 338.6 yards per game, a league-leading twenty-two touchdowns and a mere two interceptions. This week’s opponent, the Giants also hold a very special place in his heart; New York toppled the Patriots twice in the Super Bowl (2007, 2011) and snapped New England’s streak of perfection once before. However, these Giants are ailing on defense, with a number of impact players on the mend with an assortment of injuries, and it’s definitely reflected in the numbers; Big Blue ranks next-to-last in pass defense (308.0 yards), while also allowing seventeen passing scores (24th Overall), and 7.4 net yards per pass (28th Overall), while mustering a league-low nine sacks. Pressuring Brady is how they beat him before, though they’ve done nothing this season to inspire confidence that they’ll be able to do so on Sunday. The only other time he threw an interception, the two-time MVP dismantled another defense from the Big Apple, completing 34-of-54 against the Jets for 355 yards and a pair of touchdowns, while even adding a rushing touchdown to boot.
- SIT ‘EM: Carson Palmer, Arizona Cardinals @ Seattle Seahawks (Last Week, Bye) – Palmer has been a Fantasy Beast this season, throwing 20 touchdowns to just six interceptions all the while averaging a robust 298.3 yards per game, but I doubt he shreds the Seahawks’ vaunted Legion of Boom like he has so many other hapless Secondaries in 2015. And to be completely honest, the former Heisman and No. One Overall Pick has feasted upon some really bad pass defenses; against the Saints, Bears, and Niners he averaged 267.7 yards through the air with nine touchdowns and two interceptions, while also hanging another seven touchdowns on the Lions and Browns respectively. Seattle’s problems are on offense, not their defense, for they still rank second in points allowed (17.5), passing yards allowed (186.4), passing touchdowns allowed (6), and net yards per pass allowed (5.7). Furthermore, since arriving in the desert back in 2013, Palmer has not fared well against the Seahawks, averaging just 218.0 yards with two touchdowns and six interceptions in two meetings. Four of those picks came in his last trip to CenturyLink Field, a game the Cardinals won despite their Quarterback completing just 13-of-25 passes for a very modest 178 yards.
- SLEEPER: Kirk Cousins, Washington Redskins v. New Orleans Saints (Last Week, 22/40, 217 yards, 1 TD 1 INT @ Patriots) – Now I know what you’re thinking, “Kirk Cousins? Give us a break!”. Hear us out though. Without having to look over his shoulder for the first time in his career, Cousins has responded with a fairly decent season thus far, completing 66.9% of his passes for an average of 244.3 yards per game, with ten touchdowns and nine interceptions. Granted the interceptions are troublesome, but the fourth-year Quarterback has been prolific in another area: pass attempts. Cousins has attempted at least forty passes in five out of his last six outings, and against the Saints’ porous pass defense this week, there is a very good possibility that all those attempts translate into yards and touchdowns. No team in the league has yielded more passing touchdowns than New Orleans (24) and more net yards per pass play (7.7). Not to mention, Washington just welcomed back the presence of one DeSean Jackson to their Receiving Corps, who could get a lot of looks against the Saints’ beleaguered Secondary, which was just torched for 371 yards by Titans’ rookie Marcus Mariota.
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- START ‘EM: DeAngelo Williams, Pittsburgh Steelers v. Cleveland Browns (Last Week, 27 carries, 170 yards 2 TD, 2 catches 55 yards v. Raiders) – Plenty of people probably already have Williams on their roster given his stint filling in for Le’Veon Bell to begin the season, but since the Steelers’ leading rusher is now out for the season with a torn MCL, Williams’ value has skyrocketed. With Ben Roethlisberger expected to miss Sunday’s tilt against the Browns as well, it looks more and more as if the vested 32-year old will now be the focal point of the offense. And against Cleveland, why would he be? For the second consecutive campaign, the Browns own the league’s worst rush defense, which is good news if you own No. 34; Cleveland has been gashed for a staggering 147.6 yards per game on a very generous 4.7 yards per carry (29th Overall) thus far. In turn, Williams has racked up a very healthy 5.3 yards per attempt, and just hung 170 yards on the Raiders, who coming into last Sunday ranked eighth overall against the run.
- SIT ‘EM: LeSean McCoy, Buffalo Bills @ New York Jets (last Week, 16 carries, 112 yards, 1 TD v. Dolphins) – The player commonly referred to as Shady McCoy is coming off the most impressive performance in a season that has been marred by an assortment of ailments. A nagging hamstring kept him sidelined for a pair of games, and No. 25 left the contest against Miami with a bum shoulder. However, Bills’ Head Coach Rex Ryan proclaimed in his press conference that the injury wasn’t serious, and that he full expected McCoy to line up in the backfield Thursday Night. So why am I down on this guy? As has been the case this season, he has split carries with Karlos Williams, who despite forty-three less carries has accumulated has done far more with less, netting an impressive 6.6 yards per rush. If McCoy is showing any signs of injury, Ryan won’t hesitate to give his fellow Tailback the ball. It also doesn’t help his case that the Jets own statistically the nastiest run defenses in the league, allowing a scant 80.6 yards per game on just 3.8 yards per carry (7th Overall). In fact, Gang Green has permitted only two rushing touchdowns all year. Now we’re not saying that the Bills won’t find success in the running game Thursday, but it’s not likely a banged up McCoy will.
- SLEEPER: DeMarco Murray, Philadelphia Eagles v. Miami Dolphins (Last Week, 18 carries, 83 yards, 1 TD, 6 catches, 78 yards @ Cowboys) – Granted, there were plenty of people who probably spent an early First Round Pick on this guy, and most of them probably dumped him in some fashion after the first few weeks of underachievement. Well, it’s funny how the universe works, for now it appears that DeMarco Murray is may be in the good graces of the Fantasy Gods again, for I believe that he is an excellent sleeper pick for this week. First, his opponent, the Dolphins are reeling after consecutive losses, and their defense has been absolutely gutted by the opposition, particularly against the run. Miami’s rush defense checks in at next-to-last in the NFL (142.1 yards), yielding 4.5 yards per carry (26th Overall), and was trampled by the Bills last week to the tune of 266 yards. No team has seen their opponents run the ball against them more than the ‘Fins, which is favorable for the Eagles, who always strive to run as many plays as humanly possible. Second, don’t look now, folks, but Murray is back on the come-up; after a dreadfully underwhelming start to the campaign, the reigning rushing champion has rushed for no less than eighty-three yards in three out of his last four outings, averaging a solid 4.5 yards per carry in the process, which was much more in line with his 2014 performance. And to no surprise, those yards came on the strength of more carries, for he has carried the ball at least eighteen times in each of those contests. If he gets the touches, he’ll get the yards, making him a perfect waiver wire pickup this week.
- START ‘EM: Antonio Brown, Pittsburgh Steelers v. Cleveland Browns (Last Week, 17 catches, 284 yards v. Raiders) – Look, it’s a certainty that if you are fortunate enough to have Antonio Brown in you lineup, that you’re going to start him every single week. And after last week’s record-setting performance against the Raiders’ beleaguered Secondary, why wouldn’t you? All Brown did last Sunday was set a franchise record for receptions and receiving yards in a single game, and actually posted more receiving yards than eight other teams in Week 9. So needless to say, if you started him last week, then it’s highly likely that he won the week by himself. With the Browns coming to Heinz Field this weekend, there is no reason to believe that he won’t continue to post huge numbers again, even without Ben Roethlisberger throwing him the ball. No. 84 is averaging a staggering 111.3 yards on 7.7 catches per game, even if he’s only found the End Zone three times. Odds are he’ll still produce with Landry Jones under Center; three weeks ago against Kansas City, Brown hauled in six balls for 124 yards. And then there is the matter of Cleveland’s porous pass defense; though we touched on their terrible run defense earlier, they’ve been almost as bad against the pass, allowing an average of 254.0 yards (21st Overall) on 7.2 net yards per attempt (26th Overall), along with eighteen passing touchdowns (25th Overall). The Browns have also sustained heavy losses in the Secondary, with top Cornerback Joe Haden doubtful with lingering effects from a concussion, chief among them.
- SIT ‘EM: Alshon Jeffery, Chicago Bears @ St. Louis Rams (Last Week, 10 catches, 151 yards @ Chargers) – Now if you know anything about me, then you know that I’m a major advocate of the Law of Averages. Every run of outstanding performances is eventually due to swing the other way, and that is what I believe is going to happen to one Alshon Jeffery, who has been tearing up the league since returning from injury three weeks ago. Jeffery has hauled in twenty-eight balls for 414 yards (14.8) and a pair of touchdowns, with 151 yards on ten receptions this past Monday Night at San Diego. He and his Quarterback Jay Cutler have rekindled their outstanding chemistry and proven to be a difficult tandem to deal with for any team. However, this weekend at St. Louis, they will face a Rams’ defense that has proven particularly staunch against the pass. Jeff Fisher’s charges have allowed just 219.8 passing yards (4th Overall) on 5.7 net yards per pass (4th Overall), along with a league-low four touchdowns via the pass. Janoris Jenkins is one of the top Cornerbacks in the NFL, and their pass rush is a force to be reckoned with (27.0 sacks), particularly with Defensive Ends Chris Long and Robert Quinn due to return from injury. Chicago’s Offensive Line has had their issues at time this year, and that could spell real trouble for Cutler, which in turn means that Jeffery’s opportunities could be few.
- SLEEPER: Pierre Garcon, Washington Redskins v. New Orleans Saints (Last Week, 4 catches, 70 yards @ Patriots) – Earlier in this column we detailed how Redskins’ Quarterback Kirk Cousins is indeed an excellent choice to start against a dreadful Saints’ defense that has been giving up points and passing yards wholesale. Well, it’s only natural that I would look to his Receiving Corps for a sleeper at that position. Yes, former Pro Bowler DeSean Jackson returned from a seven-week hiatus last week, yet was largely invisible at Foxboro. His teammate Pierre Garcon however, was not, reeling in a quartet of passes for seventy yards. The burner out of Mount Union averaged 17.5 yards per reception last Sunday, and should find plenty of room to work in the Big Easy, where the Saints have been simply hapless against opposing receivers. New Orleans has allowed the second-most passing yards in the league, and more passing touchdowns than any of the thirty-two teams, mostly because they have been one of the most heavily penalized outfits in the NFL. Their defense has been flagged sixty-five times (26th Overall), with a staggering thirty-five of that number resulting in First Downs (32nd Overall). Cornerback Brandon Browner has been the posterboy for penalties, with a ridiculous eighteen of them credited to the maligned veteran. Speed has given him fits this season, making the odds of getting burned or flagged covering Garcon a high likelihood. In two career meetings with Saints, he has averaged 20.0 yards per reception.
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- START ‘EM: Rob Gronkowski, New England Patriots @ New York Giants (Last Week, 4 catches, 47 yards v. Redskins) – If I believe that Tom Brady is going to have a big game against the Giants, than that almost certainly assures the Fantasy World that his Tight End Rob Gronkowski will follow suit. After all, Gronkowski is coming off a fairly pedestrian performance by his standards, posting four receptions for forty-seven yards against the Redskins last Sunday. That of course was off the heels of a 113-yard outburst the previous week against the Dolphins, so if I continue to prescribe to the Law of Averages, the Artist known as Gronk is due to rebound, and the fact that he’s facing the Giants’ woeful Secondary only adds fuel to the fire. New York has been decimated at both Safety and Linebacker, with Uani Unga and J.T Thomas both listed as Questionable at the latter position. That means the middle of the field should be wide open, which is where the All-Pro Tight End does the bulk of his business. And with the revelation that versatile pass-catching Tailback Deion Lewis is out for the season with a torn ACL, there can only be more passes thrown his way.
- SIT ‘EM: Greg Olsen, Carolina Panthers @ Tennessee Titans (Last Week, 4 catches, 66 yards, 1 TD v. Packers) – Now this one may seem a little questionable to most, given the Panthers’ lofty standing in the pecking order of the NFC, but here me out. Carolina’s passing game is far from prolific (227.5), and though Olsen is by far their most potent threat, he is probably due for a drop-off against the Titans this weekend. Waitaminute, Tennessee?!?!?!?! Yes, the Titans are only 2-6 and fresh off relieving their Head Coach of his duties, but their pass defense has been pretty darn good, something that isn’t uncommon for bad teams. You see, the Titans have allowed a solid 217.5 yards through the air (3rd Overall) mostly because their opponents have attempted the fewest passes against them (29.6), instead choosing to pound them with the run. Opponents have averaged 27.5 rushes against them thus far (21st Overall), and with the Panthers leading the league in rushing offense (14.3), it only makes sense that they would attack that weakness. The more they run, the fewer opportunities that Olsen will get, which hurts his Fantasy Value.
- SLEEPER: Kyle Rudolph, Minnesota Vikings @ Oakland Raiders (Last Week, 2 catches, 30 yards v. Rams) – Earlier in the season, the Raiders were giving up yards and catches to opposing Tight Ends wholesale. Everyone from Tyler Eifert to Crockett Gilmore was burning their Linebackers, a trend that they seemingly remedied up until last week’s onslaught in Pittsburgh; Oakland relinquished a staggering 597 total yards (402 versus the pass) at Heinz Field. When Antonio Brown wasn’t hogging all the glory, Tight Ends Heath Miller and Jesse James accounted for five catches, forty-five yards and a touchdown. This week against the Vikings, Kyle Rudolph becomes the next candidate to make their defense sweat. Now, admittedly this guy hasn’t been great, posting just twenty-two catches for 175 yards and three touchdowns, but neither has the Vikings’ passing game in general. You’ll have to see how his Quarterback Teddy Bridgewater looks after suffering a nasty hit against St. Louis last weekend, which knocked him out of action with a concussion, but if he’s OK, then Rudolph becomes a true Red Zone Threat.
- START ‘EM: Cincinnati Bengals v. Houston Texans (last Week, 10 points, 213 yards allowed, 3 sacks v. Browns) – Andy Dalton and the high-powered Bengals Offense have earned the majority of the accolades in their unbeaten 8-0 start, but Marvin Lewis has himself a one of the better defenses in the league, which only makes sense given his pedigree on that side of the ball. Cincinnati checks in at fourth in points allowed (17.4), and is coming off a performance against the Browns in which they relegated their hapless rivals to just ten points on 213 total yards. Coming to town this Monday Night are the Texans, who while posting the ninth-most yards in the NFL (381.8), are dealing with a wealth of injuries, chief among them the loss of Pro Bowl Tailback Arian Foster (Achilles). As a result, they’re rushing offense has flat-lined (87.9), turning them into a one-dimensional unit that has had to throw more than they would like. This definitely plays into Cincinnati’s hands; the Bengals have yielded just 5.9 net yards per pass attempt (8th Overall), while registering an impressive twenty-three sacks (5th Overall).
- SIT ‘EM: New England Patriots @ New York Giants (Last Week, 10 points, 250 yards, 1 sack, 2 TO v. Redskins) – Another team in the midst of a perfect start courtesy of their explosive offense, harboring a seriously underrated defense. Seriously, it took him a bit but Bill Belichick has crafted another great defense in New England, allowing 17.9 points (5th Overall) on 333.9 total yards (8th Overall), including 244.9 against the pass (16th Overall) on 5.8 net yards per attempt (5th Overall), and another 89.0 yards versus the rush (3rd Overall) on 4.1 yards per carry (17th Overall). Furthermore, their twenty-seven sacks ranks second in the league. So why don’t I like them this weekend in the Big Apple, you ask? For all their faults, the Giants have had the Patriots’ number in the past, not to mention a prolific offense that could give New England some issues in a number of areas. Their pass offense has been surprisingly turnover-free (nine all season?!?!?!), and has only been held below twenty-six points twice. And need I remind you that they scored forty-nine points two weeks ago? Tom Coughlin and Eli Manning typically have some kind of voodoo in store for the Pats, and quite frankly, I’m not messing with that, and neither should you.
- SLEEPER: Minnesota Vikings @ Oakland Raiders (Last Week, 18 points, 320 yards, 1 sack v. Rams) – People need to start wising up to the Minnesota Vikings this season. With their win over the Rams Sunday, they advanced to 6-2, which moved them to the top of the NFC North. That’s right folks, they leapfrogged the vaunted Packers, and they have their defense to thank for it. In his second year on the job, Mike Zimmer has built a young defense, oozing with talent and nastiness, that has slowly climbed the ladder of the league’s elite. But wait just a minute, isn’t the Raiders’ Derek Carr on a tear of late? Yes, he is (eleven touchdowns in last three games). However, remember that Law of Averages that I’ve been rambling about throughout this column? The Vikings have been particularly stingy against the pass, allowing 220.6 yards through the air (6th Overall) on 6.0 net yards per pass attempt (9th Overall), along with just nine touchdowns via the pass. If the Raiders’ LaTavius Murray can’t play due to a concussion, then Oakland will be very one-dimensional Sunday, which could play right into Minnesota’s hands.