As was the case last week, we've changed up this column a little bit ... instead of 15 stats, we're doing five sections. Partly because it takes a billion hours to write and partly because it takes a million hours to edit. I'm guessing it also takes thousands of hours to read, so here's what we're doing now: I'm going to give you my top several projections at each position (QB, RB, WR, TE, K, DEF), then I'll add in three more stats that go deeper and polish it off with a few if/then's based on injuries. Sound good to you? Me too.
Note: These projections are based on my stat-line projection for each player translated into standard fantasy scoring. The median values are represented in the (parantheses).
Tip: Use the order and points as a way to compare ... e.g. if a running back is projected to earn 1.5 points more than the guy behind him, but only 0.15 points less than the guy in front of him, take the magnitude into consideration. Also, asterisks (*) mean watch out for injury report changes, but always do that anyway, even if there doesn't happen to be an asterisk.
Aaron Rodgers, Packers (20.2)
Drew Brees, Saints (19.5)
Dak Prescott, Cowboys (18.0)
Philip Rivers, Chargers (17.1)
Cam Newton, Panthers (16.6)
Andrew Luck, Colts (16.5)
*Ben Roethlisberger, Steelers (15.5)
Marcus Mariota, Titans (15.3)
Russell Wilson, Seahawks (15.1)
Colin Kaepernick, 49ers (15.1)
Ezekiel Elliott, Cowboys (19.1)
Le'Veon Bell, Steelers (16.3)
Melvin Gordon, Chargers (14.2)
*DeMarco Murray, Titans (14.0)
Devontae Booker, Broncos (13.4)
Matt Forte, Jets (13.0)
*Carlos Hyde, 49ers (11.5)
Mark Ingram, Saints (11.2)
Christine Michael, Seahawks (10.9)
Terrance West, Ravens (10.8)
T.Y. Hilton, Colts (14.0)
Antonio Brown, Steelers (13.8)
Odell Beckham Jr., Giants (12.0)
Ty Montgomery, Packers (11.7)
Dez Bryant, Cowboys (11.1)
Jordy Nelson, Packers (11.0)
Amari Cooper, Raiders (10.8)
Brandin Cooks, Saints (10.5)
Emmanuel Sanders, Broncos (10.5)
Demaryius Thomas, Broncos (10.5)
The Broncos defense has recorded the most QB hits (75) and is tied for the most sacks (26) and takeaways (16) so far this season. They have also not allowed a QB to pass for 300 yards in a game since Ben Roethlisberger … last year. In fact, Matt Ryan accumulated the most yards against them so far this season, and that total was 267. It follows that the No Fly Zone hasn't allowed a 100-yard receiving game to any wide receiver so far this season (Tevin Coleman, a running back, had 132 receiving yards against them). Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree, together, lead all wide receiver duos in targets (155), receptions (99) and receiving yards (1,356). The Raiders average the sixth-most points per game (26.9) and the fifth-most total yards per game (401.6). The Broncos give up the sixth-fewest points per game (17) and allow the third-fewest yards per game (301.3). This is important too: Oakland's defense is ranked 22nd in points against (25.4 ppg) and allows the second-most yards per game (410.4). Denver has the 13th-ranked scoring offense (24.3 ppg) off of the sixth-fewest yards per game (326.4).
Fantasy Impact: It looks as though Aqib Talib will not play again this week, and the Broncos could be down one more cornerback as Kayvon Webster also appeared on the latest injury report. On the other side of the ball, Amari Cooper looks like he will play despite his appearance on the injury report earlier this week.
Let's look at points per game earned and given up by each team to create an approximation of a final score just to frame the possible game stats that would generate that score. Take the Raiders' 26.9 points scored per game average. Here are the teams they hung up more points than their average against: NO, ATL, BAL, SD, JAX, TB. The teams who brought down their scoring average: TEN and KC. The Raiders only scored 17 and 10 points respectively against them. The Broncos' 17 points per game allowed average breaks down with CAR, IND, ATL, SD (twice) all coming in over the average, with CIN, TB, and HOU under the average. Then do the same thing for the DEN offense at 24.3 points. Games that were over: IND, CIN, TB, HOU, SD (the first time) and under: CAR, ATL, SD (the second time). Finally, let's measure Oakland's defense using the measuring stick of 25.4 points allowed. Teams that surpassed that mark include NO, ATL, BAL, SD, KC, while those that fell short were TEN, JAX, TB.
There is a lot more that goes into my model, but does that framework help at all? Fast-forward through the simulations and I have Oakland in a home win and 24 points over Denver's projected 21 points. To me, Carr and his healthy receivers project to have average to below average fantasy days. I have Carr with 15.7 projected points putting him outside the top 10 quarterbacks. Cooper has 10.8 projected points and Crabtree with 9.1. They all have lower than their normal floors
This is a really great game to think about, as it is potentially the highest-scoring affair of the weekend. To level set, the Green Bay offense ranks 11th in scoring, 19th rushing, and 22nd passing, while the Indianapolis defense ranks 28th in scoring, 21st versus the rush, and 31st against the pass. On the flip side, the Colts' offense sits at ninth in scoring, 22nd in rushing and 12th in passing going against a Packers defense that ranks 15th in scoring, second against the rush and 16th versus the pass.
Fantasy Impact: Both quarterbacks, T.Y. Hilton, Ty Montgomery and Jordy Nelson are above-average starts based on my projections. Donte Moncrief is just below that list with 9 projected points. Watch Randall Cobb's injury status closely. P.S. James Starks has already been ruled out. Lastly, I know Frank Gore seems like a "sit" against this defense, but I like him to score more than 10 fantasy points. Why? He's averaged 66.5 yards per game on the ground and almost three receptions per game for 14.8 yards through the air. He's also played slightly better on the road this year.
4) Double-whammy! I had more stats than space to write them up, so here's a two-for-one package:
No. 4.1: We all know Ben Roethlisberger is set to return. Ben's stats upon return from injury (seven starts) are about 210 passing yards per game (he typically averages around 280) and a nine-to-10 TD-to-INT ratio. Something that may have flown under some radars with his injury return is the potential for tight end Ladarius Green to also suit up. Green used to back up Antonio Gates in San Diego. He's a natural pass-catcher, stands at 6-foot-6 and weighs 240 pounds. It's not the safest fantasy play because the Ravens are right at the top of the league against TEs, but keep an eye on this one, especially for future weeks.
No. 4.2:With Barry Church and Mo Claiborne not playing for the Cowboys this week it's hard to make sense of what's going to happen with Terrelle Pryor now that Corey Coleman is back and Cody Kessler is the starting quarterback. Kessler's first 133 passes have yielded a 66.9 completion percentage (89 caught) for an average of 7.12 yards (20th in the league). Per my math, the change that happened when Josh McCown was switched to Kessler more so capped the upside of players rather than increasing the downside. I have Pryor projected at four-to-five receptions for about 60 yards, while Coleman is between three-to-four receptions for just under 40 yards.
5) Three If/Thens: Injuries
Carlos Hyde's AC joint injury makes it seem like he's a true game-time decision. The committee of Mike Davis, DuJuan Harris, and Shaun Draughn would likely fill this big void. To me, this is risky, despite a good matchup with the Saints. Sometimes risk is good, like in Perfect Challenge, but I might make a contingency plan for this one as it's the 4:05 ET game so plan ahead.
Jeremy Maclin has been listed as questionable and has been limited in practice all week. Spencer Ware has already been ruled out as well. With Nick Foles under center against the Jags, it's logical that Charcandrick West and Tyreek Hill become value super stars on your team. If Maclin is ruled out Hill gets a bump. West is already a top-notch pick.
Steve Smith Sr. is listed as questionable for this week's meeting with the Steelers defense who has given up the seventh-most passing yards per game this season. It appears Kamar Aiken would fill his role. This would be a risky fantasy pick as his production this year hasn't matched what he was able to do last year.