By Mike Cannici
NY Jets @ Buffalo Bills
The Jets enter this game at 2-1, 2-0 in the division, after beating the Dolphins Sunday night. Mark Sanchez looked very good the past two weeks throwing six TDs to zero interceptions. This is a very good matchup for the Jets who should come out with a clean sweep first time around against the division. LaDainian Tomlinson looks like the featured back now going forward, but Shonn Greene still has a ton of value going forward especially if LT were to get hurt. LT is a solid RB2 this week, while Greene is an average flex play. Dustin Keller looks to continue his phenomenal play and is a solid starting TE. Braylon Edwards is also a good start this week, but with Santonio Holmes returning next week, this could be Braylon’s last hurrah as the #1. Jericho Cotchery has yet to do much of anything and should not be in starting lineups.
The Bills actually had a pulse last week in New England behind new starting QB Ryan Fitzpatrick. He got all his receivers involved and gave Lee Evans owners some hope going forward. Evans is a decent flex play this week. Roscoe Parrish should crack some starting lineups as well, especially in return yardage leagues. Fitzpatrick undoubtedly makes this offense more exciting and with Darrelle Revis out again, he could be in for a big day. Marshawn Lynch will continue to get the majority of the carries, at least until he gets traded, but is only a flex play against the stout Jets run defense.
Cincinnati Bengals @ Cleveland Browns
The battle of Ohio starts off in Cleveland this year where the 0-3 Browns take on the 2-1 Bengals. Carson Palmer has struggled thus far but should get it going against a weak Browns secondary and is in store for his best day since week 1. Cedric Benson seems recovered from his injury and will start. He is a solid RB2 this week and should have a field day against the 21st ranked Browns run defense. Chad Ochocinco and Terrell Owens also look to have big games with Ocho being a low end WR2 and T.O. a solid WR3. TE Jermaine Gresham has been solid thus far, with an average of seven targets per game. Consider him a borderline starter.
For the Browns, it’s not yet known if Jake Delhomme (ankle) or Seneca Wallace will start. Neither player is startable in fantasy leagues but Wallace gives the offense more potential because of his mobility. RB Peyton Hillis had a huge game last week against the suspect Ravens run defense, finishing with 144 yards and a TD to go along with 7 catches for 36 yards. He is a solid RB2 this week. Mohammed Massaquoi and Josh Cribbs shouldn’t be in any lineups this week unless you’re in a return yardage league in which case Cribbs is a good option. Massaquoi’s production has dropped as he continues to draw double teams, posting only 3 receptions in 3 games. TE Ben Watson has been Wallace’s favorite target this season posting 9 catches for 109 yards and a TD. He’s a solid start in two TE leagues or as a bye-week filler.
Denver Broncos @ Tennessee Titans
Kyle Orton continues to impress as he ranks first in the league in passing yards (1078) and has basically solidified himself as an every week starter. Orton’s passing yards per game have increased each week, making him a great start against the Titans who are a week removed from allowing 386 yards to Eli Manning. RB Knowshon Moreno will miss his second straight game (hamstring) and Laurence Maroney will have to shoulder the load. We’ve seen some flashes of Maroney’s potential over the years but against the Titans this week he is a very weak start. With Orton spreading the ball around, all Broncos receivers make for a pretty good start as a WR3. Currently, I would rank them: Eddie Royal, Jabar Gaffney, Brandon Lloyd and DeMaryius Thomas. Thomas is the most talented of the group, but he is a rookie and will go through some growing pains. They all should be owned and started however.
The Titans took it to the Giants last week, but it was mostly Giant mistakes rather than the Titans play that lead them to victory. Chris Johnson is in store for another great game this week at home and is obviously a great RB1. Vince Young has struggled at times this year but has played good enough that he is a decent start in 2QB leagues and against the Denver secondary could be a borderline matchup play. In the receiving corp, Kenny Britt will continue to have success as he seems to be getting stronger mentally and is ready to take on the #1 receiver role. Nate Washington and Justin Gage are borderline flex plays this week but hopefully you have much better options. TE Bo Scaife is solid bye week filler at this point but nothing more than that.
Carolina Panthers @ New Orleans Saints
The Panthers have just been abysmal in 2010, failing to get much fluidity in their ground game and next to nothing through the air. Jimmy Clausen will make his second straight start and is definitely not worthy of a roster spot in anything but dynasty leagues at this point. DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart have been average at best so far and are borderline flex plays this week. My main concern for them Sunday is that the Saints may jump out on them and they’ll have to rely on the pass, which obviously hurts the RBs values. Steve Smith is a solid WR2 this week if Clausen can find some time and make accurate throws down the field. Rookie Brandon LaFell is not yet ownable in leagues, but as the season goes on, he and Clausen will hopefully get on the same page. LaFell does however have 14 targets in the two games he has appeared in, so the potential is there for value at some point this season.
The Saints are coming off a frustrating home loss to division rival Atlanta after Garrett Hartley missed a chip shot of a field goal in OT. Pierre Thomas was injured on what looked initially like a season-ender, although it appears as if he will play this week. If Thomas starts, he is a high end RB2; if he can’t go, Ladell Betts will get the call and is a decent flex play. Drew Brees is an every week starter—end of story. Lance Moore broke out last week with a 6 catch, 149 yard, and 2TD performance and has very good value as a WR3 this week. He could even provide WR1 numbers once again. Marques Colston holds very good WR2 value this week while Robert Meachem has all but vanished. Devery Henderson will probably be good for a big play, but really shouldn’t be started as he is too unreliable on a week to week basis. TE Jeremy Shockey makes for a decent start as his targets and receptions have gone up each of the past three weeks.
Detroit Lions @ Green Bay Packers
Both teams are coming off tough losses against division opponents, with Detroit losing against the Vikings and the Packers losing to the Bears. James Jones had a costly fumble in the closing minutes of the game which allowed the Bears to go down the field and kick a game winning field goal. QB Aaron Rodgers is in store for quite possibly his biggest game of the season against the Lions who rank 26th against the pass. RBs Brandon Jackson and John Kuhn are expected to share the load but neither is a very good play this week (Just trade for Marshawn Lynch already). James Jones should bounce back and put up a productive week and is a borderline flex play. Greg Jennings and Donald Driver also should have big games: Jennings is a solid WR2 while Driver makes a great WR3. Jermichael Finley posted his best stat line of the year last week, with 9 catches for 115 yards. He is an obvious must start week in and week out as he’s just too big for a safety to cover and too fast for linebackers.
The good news for Detroit fans is that Matthew Stafford is expected back in the next 1-2 weeks. Shaun Hill will remain the starter until then and hasn’t been quite as bad as the defense has. Hill isn’t worth a start this week—there are at least 20 better options—so unless you’re in a 2QB league, don’t worry about Hill. Jahvid Best says his toe is feeling much better and expects to play Sunday. Best is a borderline flex play in standard scoring leagues and an average RB2 in point per reception leagues. RB Kevin Smith is also scheduled to return and could get a good chunk of carries if Best isn’t 100%. Smith is worth a stash at this point but is not starter-worthy yet. At receiver it looks like Nate Burleson will be out once again, leaving Calvin Johnson to put up huge numbers if they fall behind early. Tony Scheffler and Brandon Pettigrew should see more targets with Burleson out but they seem to rotate production week to week, so neither is a great start.
Seattle Seahawks @ St. Louis Rams
Sam Bradford won his first career game last week, and should make for a great QB in this league, however, don’t get your hopes up just yet for his 2010 fantasy season. He is still a rookie who will have some ups and downs, making him just an average matchup play this week at home. Steven Jackson appears as if he won’t play and even if he does, he could reaggravate his groin injury at any moment, so if you have other options, explore them. Kenneth Darby would carry the load if Jackson can’t play and is a solid flex play against the weak Seattle defense. Mark Clayton is far and away Bradford’s favorite weapon; he’s averaging seven targets per game and has been very productive thus far. Danny Amendola, who had been relegated mostly to special teams his first few years, is now getting a chance to start and is making the most of it. Amendola is a sneaky flex play this week, especially in PPR leagues.
The Seahawks gave the Chargers their second loss of the season last week and are looking pretty good at home. On the road however is another story and they’re probably going to struggle there once again. Matt Hasselbeck is an average option at QB this week if you are starved at the position. Justin Forsett is a good flex play especially in PPR leagues and could be in store for a solid day. Leon Washington doesn’t carry much value other than return yardage leagues. While most leagues do award points for special teams TDs, Washington won’t be retuning a kick every game for a TD going forward. Mike Williams (shoulder) is back practicing and is going to be a game time decision. Golden Tate is the most intriguing receiver in this game and although he’s not startable just yet, go out and grab him. He should be Seattle’s most valuable receiver by season’s end. The rest of the receivers are just too hit or miss to have anywhere near your starting lineups. TE John Carlson is a very good play, as he has now gotten 19 targets the last two weeks, making good on ten of them. He is a great start once again this week and may finally be Hasselbeck’s go to guy, especially in the red zone.
San Francisco 49ers @ Atlanta Falcons
The Falcons are coming off a spectacular overtime win over the Saints last week and look to continue their winning ways at home against the winless 49ers. Matt Ryan was terrific last week throwing for 228 yards and 2 TD to go along with 26 yards rushing. Ryan has a career passer rating at home of 94.5 opposed to 78.1 on the road. He has always played better at home, but arguably had the biggest road win of his career last week. Ryan has a great matchup this week against the Niners and is a quality matchup play. Michael Turner should also be in for a big game as the Niners are giving up an average of 111.3 ypg which ranks 15th in the league. Turner is a high end RB2 this week. Roddy White is an elite option as a WR1 this week and has 15 catches and 3 TD in his last two home games dating back to last year. Harry Douglas doesn’t have much value this week, but he is someone to keep an eye on going forward especially in PPR leagues. TE Tony Gonzalez bounced back nicely last week with 8 catches for 110 yards and a TD after two lackluster performances to start the season and is a must start in all leagues this week.
The 49ers just got trounced last Sunday in Kansas City and have just looked atrocious during their two road games so far. This week they fired Offensive Coordinator Jimmy Raye and promoted QBs coach Mike Johnson to fill that role. Alex Smith isn’t a guy who can be relied on right now in any fantasy leagues until he can string together two or three quality starts in a row. Frank Gore is the safest play in this offense as he has been the majority of the offense so far. He makes for a great RB1 this week. Michael Crabtree and Josh Morgan didn’t do much either last week but Crabtree did have 8 targets and caught three of them while Morgan had just one catch but it went for a 12 yard TD. Crabtree is a borderline flex or WR3 at this point until the offense gets going and looks his direction more. TE Vernon Davis is a must start this week as well even though his numbers have steadily declined since week 1. Expect him to bounce back this week though with some good, not great, numbers as they get him more involved once again.
Baltimore Ravens @ Pittsburgh Steelers
This is quite possibly going to end up the game of the week. Two teams that are known for their defense in a battle of AFC north rivals. The Ravens were lit up on the ground last week by Peyton Hillis and will have no easy task this week trying to control Rashard Mendenhall. This is the Steelers last game before their bye week, with Big Ben returning for week 6. Not many expected the Steelers to have a chance at being 4-0 without Roethlisberger but they have done it with their defense. Charlie Batch played very well last week in Tampa but he is not a starting fantasy option. How he plays will affect the players you are considering starting. Mike Wallace is borderline flex play; I just don’t see him beating the Ravens defense deep like he did last week in Tampa so Hines Ward makes the better fantasy play at receiver this week. TE Heath Miller has been pretty quiet without Big Ben under center but is a decent play this week as the Ravens will come after Batch and Miller could be the recipient of some check down passes. RB Rashard Mendenhall should wind up with the best fantasy stats Sunday of all the offensive weapons the Steelers have and possibly the biggest fantasy producer of all players on the field period. He’s a very good RB1 option this week.
On the Ravens side, Joe Flacco had his best game of the season last week throwing for 262 yards and 3 TDs with zero interceptions. A far cry from the four picks he threw against the Bengals. Flacco is a shaky start this week however as he goes up against that vicious Steeler pass rush so if you have a safer option, I’d keep Flacco benched this week. RB Ray Rice is saying that he is fine, it’s just a bruise on his knee and he will play Sunday and frankly, I believe him. How he will fair against the Steelers 3rd (59.7ypg) ranked run defense is another story. Rice is the only player in 38 games to run for 100 yards against them so he could have a decent day as long as the knee and his o-line hold up. Rice makes for a good RB2 this week and low end RB1 in PPR leagues. Anquan Boldin is the only must start WR. Derrick Mason has just seven receptions through the first three games and T.J. Houshmandzadeh has yet to see significant playing time or develop a relationship with Joe Flacco. TE Todd Heap has 14 catches for 153 yards on this young season and as long as he stays healthy he could finish in the top 12 at his position. Heap is a decent matchup this week for the same reason that Heath Miller is because of the pressure Flacco should see from the defense. The Steelers have held Tony Gonzalez, Bo Scaife and Kellen Winslow to a combined 8 catches for 79 yards so far.