I'm sure you've noticed by now, but troubling times have fallen upon the fantasy football world. Between mounting injuries and six teams taking a week off, we've officially entered the "bye week apocalypse" (trademark pending). Rosters are thinner than ever and the available players on the waiver wire look as appealing as something sold by a shady street merchant under a highway overpass. Nevertheless, the fantasy postseason is drawing near and we must soldier on with lineups that will bring us to victory. That's what this column is for, after all, as I try to shed light on some players who may be able to rise above their situation and provide a spark to your fantasy squads. Together, we can win this bye week battle. Together ... we are cancelling the (bye week) apocalypse!
As always, this is where I go game-by-game and player-by-player for every Week 8 contest. Those looking for quick-hitting start/sit/flex/stream analysis will find that listed for the main players for every team. Below that, I do my best to preview the game with additional insight, stats, and analysis to contextualize my recommendations.
Denver Broncos at Kansas City, 8:30 p.m. ET on ESPN (Monday)
While Trevor Siemian was a massive disappointment last week, I think he's in play as a streamer here. The Chiefs pass defense isn't great, as opposing quarterbacks average 283.9 fantasy points per game against them, and their 5.12 touchdown rate is in the bottom 10 in the league. C.J. Anderson now has 10 or fewer carries in three of his last four games, a concerning development. With so many teams on byes though, it'll be hard to turn away from the "starting" running back here. Jamaal Charles could be in the mix as a flex play because REVENGE! That's right, he's squaring off against his former team, and head coach Vance Joseph did say the team wanted to get him more work. Charles has yet to top 10 touches in a game, though, so tread with caution. Demaryius Thomas is a solid start this week, as he spends 55 percent of his snaps at left wide receiver, which would keep him away from Marcus Peters. The Chiefs have allowed the second-most yards and most touchdowns (six) to the left wide receiver position this year. If Emmanuel Sanders plays, I'd play him, but this is a tough one to wait for. Bennie Fowler could be an insurance add, but I think A.J. Derby might be the savvier play. He's seen target totals of seven, four and six over the last three weeks, and has topped 66 yards in two of those games. Four of the last six tight ends to face the Chiefs have gone over 63 yards as well. The Broncos defense is typically a locked-in fantasy start, but on the road against one of the league's best offenses lands the "No Fly Zone" on the fantasy bench.
The Chiefs are a pretty easy offense to slice up fantasy-wise, as their distribution of touches is pretty concentrated. I know the Denver defense is tough, but we can trust Alex Smith at home to put up solid numbers, especially on a week with so few viable quarterback plays. Kareem Hunt has had double-digit fantasy points in every week, and even though he hasn't found the end zone since Week 3, he's still a must-start. Travis Kelve and Tyreek Hill own a combined 43 percent of Smith's targets and are weekly starts, as well. For more on this particular matchup, the Broncos allow the third-most yards to tight ends per game (69.6) and their 6.3 touchdown rate allowed to the position is 13th-highest. Hill has a tougher draw matchup-wise, but his speed will work to his favor against veterans Chris Harris Jr. and Aqib Talib. Those in a pinch at wide receiver could dial up Demarcus Robinson, who has led the team in wide receiver playing time in each of the last two weeks and caught five of eight targets for 69 yards last week. The Chiefs defense at home against an injured Trevor Siemian who has been sacked three-plus times in five of six games is a match made in fantasy heaven.
Miami Dolphins at Baltimore Ravens, 8:25 p.m. ET on CBS (Thursday)
You know 2017 is a weird football year when plenty of analysts and fans alike have been pining for Matt Moore to start for the Dolphins, yet, here we are. I'd like to be on board with streaming Matt Moore, but the Ravens pass defense is no joke. Only two individual passers have eclipsed 200 yards against this defense, and over the last four games they've allowed three touchdowns and two interceptions to quarterbacks. If there's a chink in the Ravens defensive armor it comes on the ground, where they're allowing 145.3 yards per game. That's great news for Jay Ajayi, who has seen 23-plus carries and three-plus targets in each of the last three games. The production hasn't always been there, but this is a game where he should get right. Jarvis Landry has 10-plus targets in five of six games this year, and has caught a touchdown in three straight contests. He's a reliable floor play even in standard now, and if DeVante Parker returns to action his role is safe. Despite Parker's absence, in the Tennessee and Atlanta games, Stills received just two and four targets, respectively. His target totals took a sharp turn upward once Matt Moore came into the game, as he threw at Stills seven times in the fourth quarter (though two of those were nullified by penalties). The Baltimore secondary is tough, but if Stills is going to get healthy volume he'll be worth a look on this slate depleted by byes. Julius Thomas had a season-high 58 yards last week, but that was the first time he'd even crossed 30 yards and he's yet to find the end zone. I'd stream elsewhere. The Dolphins defense will be a low-end streamer on the road here. Three of the last five defenses to face the Ravens have posted double-digit points, while the Vikings managed just six despite recording five sacks.
Joe Flacco's season-high in yardage is 235 and he has more games without a touchdown (three) than without an interception (two). Javorius Allen is only playable in PPR leagues, as he's had four-plus catches in five of his last six games, but he's only crossed 70 total yards twice in that span. Alex Collins looks like the best pure runner on the squad but isn't seeing enough of the field (just 24 percent of the snaps since Week 2) to be trusted. Speaking of trust, it's impossible to trust any of the Ravens pass-catchers. Jeremy Maclin (shoulder) missed Week 7 while Mike Wallace (concussion) left the game and did not return. Even without injuries, these two weren't producing on anywhere close to a consistent basis. Benjamin Watson led the Ravens in receiving last week ... with 38 yards. He's yet to cross even 45 yards receiving since his eight-catch, 91-yard breakout in Week 2. It's been a season of fantasy peaks and valleys for the Ravens defense. They've had 12-plus points four times, and three or fewer the other three. At home against a backup quarterback, you have to like their chances of this being one of the 12-plus outings. Matt Moore threw a pick and was sacked once on just 32 offensive plays last week.
Minnesota Vikings at Cleveland Browns, 9:30 a.m. ET on NFL Network (LONDON)
Prior to last week, no team in the NFL had allowed passing touchdowns more frequently than the Browns (7.7 percent of pass attempts ended in a score). Even if they regress back to those ways across the pond, Case Keenum will be hard to trust. While he's been a serviceable game manager for the Vikings he's offered nothing fantasy-wise the last two weeks with one touchdown, two picks and 213.5 yards per game. Jerick McKinnon disappointed after consecutive top-six fantasy finishes, but we should have seen this outcome as a possibility given Latavius Murray's consistent workload. Over the last three weeks McKinnon has played 59 percent of the snaps to Murray's 40, and shouldered 59 touches to Murray's 48. McKinnon's athleticism and pass-catching ability make him the better weekly play, but both are solid options this week against a Cleveland team the Vikingsshould be able to beat comfortably. A word of caution though, the Browns are allowing just 72 yards per game on the ground to opposing backs, and held DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry to 72 yards on 31 carries last week. Stefon Diggs returned to practice this week and traveled with the team to London, but his status will likely be up in the air until game time. If he's healthy, it's hard to sit him, though, as he's a game-changing player. Adam Thielen owns 36.2 percent of the team targets the last two weeks, and will remain a volume hog if Diggs is out, but still hasn't found the end zone. The Browns have allowed a receiving touchdown to a wide receiver once every 14 targets so far this year. Kyle Rudolph has five-plus catches and 43-plus yards in each of the last three games, and will be on the streaming radar again versus a Browns defense that has been absolutely gashed by tight ends (69 yards per game, five touchdowns allowed). The Vikings defense have scored six-plus points in five straight games, and have allowed just 14.4 points per game in that span. They're a top-end start against a flailing Browns offense across the pond.
The Browns offense isn't completely devoid of talented players, but my god is it a frustrating outfit from a fantasy perspective. First-round rookie tight end David Njoku has shown a penchant for making plays, yet was only on the field for 39 percent of the offensive plays in Week 6. Duke Johnson provides a spark nearly every time he touches the football, but is averaging a mere 10.8 touches per game over the past four weeks. He's a flex option, especially in PPR, but his upside is capped unless he starts seeing the ball more. Other than that, yeah, this offense is playing one of the top defenses in the league across the pond and shouldn't be trusted in fantasy.
Atlanta Falcons at New York Jets, 1 p.m. ET on FOX
The reigning NFL MVP is off to a rough start in 2017. Matt Ryan has just two QB1 outings in six games, and they were QB10 (Week 1) and QB11 (Week 7). The Jets offer a nice matchup, though, allowing the second-highest touchdown rate to opposing passers in the league (6.1). Consider Ryan a low-end QB1 play with six teams on byes. While Devonta Freeman hasn't scored in two straight games, he at least offers one of the safest floors in fantasy with a season-low output of 7.9 standard fantasy points. The Jets could be a nice bounce-back opponent for Freeman, as they're allowing over 100 rushing yards per game to opposing backs and 56.6 receiving yards. Tevin Coleman has seen 10-plus touches in just three of six games, with a season-high of 13, and has scored twice. The former every-week flex play under Kyle Shanahan is looking more like bench fodder these days. JULIO JONES WAS TARGETED IN THE RED ZONE AND CAUGHT A TOUCHDOWN STOP THE PRESSES!!! OK, that was a bit much, but Julio Jones should be in starting lineups as usual. He saw four red-zone targets in Week 7 after seeing just one in the five games prior. Hopefully, that trend continues. Mohamed Sanu has six-plus targets in each of his four healthy games this year, and will be a solid bye-week fill-in against a Jets secondary that just allowed three wide receiver touchdowns between Jarvis Landry and Kenny Stills last week. Hooper saw 16 targets in Weeks 4-6 (when Sanu was injured), but has seen SEVEN total targets in the four games in which Sanu has been healthy. He's back off the streaming radar. Josh McCown has been sacked three-plus times in each of his last four games and has tossed at least one interception in all of those games, as well. With two-plus sacks in five of six games this year, the Falcons are a solid streaming option even though they're on the road.
Josh McCown has finished no worse than QB14 over the last three weeks, but he's played three very susceptible secondaries (CLE, NE, MIA). Only the truly elite passers to face Atlanta this year (Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers) have finished as a QB10 or better. The rest have coincidentally all finished as the QB18 in their given week. Atlanta has a solid pass rush and a strong secondary, which could limit McCown's upside. Atlanta allows just 233.7 passing yards and 1.5 passing touchdowns per game through six weeks. With 13 receptions (on 13 targets) for 100 yards the past two weeks, Matt Forte is showing a reliable PPR floor in his return from a toe injury. Bilal Powell mixed in on 33 percent of the offensive plays to Forte's 54 percent and led the way with nine carries to Forte's seven. I'd feel better about flexing Forte is forced to choose from this committee. It's great to see the Jets get surprising production from the island of misfit wide receivers they've assembled, but this group is splitting up too few targets to be relied upon in fantasy. Austin Seferian-Jenkins is tied for the team lead in targets (34) since his return in Week 3, and has scored a touchdown in three straight games. He's an every-week tight end play. Even though the Falcons offense is struggling, I'd stay away from starting the Jets in fantasy.
Carolina Panthers at Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 1 p.m. ET on FOX
Fortunately for Newton and the Panthers, the Bucs defense is a bit of a cure-all right now. On the year they're allowing 294.8 passing yards per game, and Tyrod Taylor just ran for 53 yards against them, as well. Despite his struggles, start Newton. This backfield is a must-avoid right now in standard formats, even with a tremendous matchup on the slate. The Bucs just provided back-to-back resurrection games to Adrian Peterson (134 yards, 2 TDs) and LeSean McCoy (91 yards, 2 TDs, 31 receiving yards), but we still cannot trust Jonathan Stewart or Christian McCaffrey running behind a patchwork line that was helping them average just 2.8 yards per carry. McCaffrey is only usable in PPR, as he's had four-plus catches in every game. Despite almost missing the game with a knee injury, Kelvin Benjamin was used on the most offensive plays (59) of any Panthers wideout, and caught three of six targets for 65 yards (team-high). He and Devin Funchess (four catches, eight targets, 41 yards) should both bounce back against a Buccaneers secondary allowing the most yards per game to wide receivers (210.2) and the highest catch rate (68.1 percent) in the league. Ed Dickson is a low-end streamer with so many teams on byes, simply because the Buccaneers defense has been one to pick on. His target totals have been relatively consistent the last month (four, five, eight, five) but his production has been all over the place (3-62, 5-175, 4-36, 3-18). The Panthers defense on the road against a potent offense feels risky. I'd look elsewhere if possible.
Jameis Winston proved me (and other doubters) wrong last week, playing through his shoulder injury against a tough defense to the tune of 384 yards, three touchdowns and one pick. I'd give him another go this week at home against his division rival. It's disconcerting that Doug Martin's yards per carry have dipped in three straight games (5.7, 3.8, 2.5) but he has faced two stout fronts in back-to-back games. The Panthers front seven is no joke either, allowing just 3.6 yards per carry and 65.9 rushing yards per game to opposing backs. Even with the tough matchup, I'd trust Martin to at least put up reasonable totals given his volume. Mike Evans beat a tough matchup and caught his fourth receiving touchdown of the year against the Bills. With eight-plus targets in every game Evans is a locked-in weekly starter. DeSean Jackson has 73 yards or a touchdown in four of his last five games, and offers nice upside if this game turns into more of a shootout. Don't get caught chasing O.J. Howard's two-touchdown game. The Bucs clearly want to use the talented rookie in spots, but predicting those will be very difficult. Even with Howard catching two touchdown passes, Cameron Brate still had six catches for 60 yards and is the tight end to trust here in fantasy. The Bucs defense is routinely gashed in all phases and cannot be started in fantasy.
San Francisco 49ers at Philadelphia Eagles, 1 p.m. ET on FOX
The Eagles have allowed six consecutive top-12 fantasy performances to opposing quarterbacks, and C.J. Beathard will be doing his best to make it seven. The Eagles currently allow 291 passing yards per game, and their 12 passing touchdowns conceded are tied for the fourth-most in the league. Beathard only has two total touchdowns in his two games thus far (one passing, one rushing), but those desperate for a quarterback could give the rookie a look. In the two games since the now infamous "hot hand" game where Matt Breida led the way in the 49ers backfield, Carlos Hyde has received 74 percent of the backfield targets and 77 percent of the backfield carries. He's a strong RB2 play this week, despite the difficult matchup. The Eagles allow just 42 yards per game on the ground to opposing backs, but have conceded six total touchdowns to opposing rushers. Pierre Garcon has five-plus catches in each of his last three games, preserving a nice PPR floor, but he's yet to find the end zone and has crossed the 60-yard mark just three times in seven games. Marquise Goodwin has 80-plus yards in two of his last three games, and this might be a chance for him to produce again. The Eagles allow the most yards in the league to the left wide receiver position (637, per Next Gen Stats), and Goodwin has racked up 77 percent of his yards this season from that position. The Iowa-connection between Beathard and George Kittle let us down last week, but as Matt Franciscovich notes in his streaming column Kittle didn't play a snap in the fourth quarter as the 49ers were so far behind. The Eagles can be tough on tight ends, but just gave up over 160 yards and two scores to the Washington tight end group, so there's reason for optimism with Kittle this week. There's a less than zero percent chance I'd start the 49ers against Carson Wentz and the Eagles.
Carson Wentz is building a case for both fantasy and NFL MVP this season, and will look to improve his odds at both in a great matchup this week. The 49ers allow 271.1 passing yards per game and have conceded 15 total touchdowns to quarterbacks (tied for second most). The Washington run defense is one of the better units in the league, which contributed to LeGarrette Blount's disappointing outing. He should bounce back against a 49ers defense giving up over 114 yards per game on the ground to opposing backs, especially since the Eagles figure to be in a positive game script here. Wendell Smallwood was used on just three fewer offensive plays than Blount and saw 10 touches, but managed just 39 total yards. I'd sit him if possible, but with so many byes he could be a desperation flex. The volume remains spotty for the Philly wide receivers, with Alshon Jeffery and Nelson Agholor seeing six and five targets, respectively. Agholor is tied for the team lead with five receiving touchdowns and trails only Zach Ertz in red-zone looks this year. Both are flex-worthy against a 49ers secondary allowing the eighth-most yards per game to receivers, but I'd feel better about Agholor, personally. Zach Ertz is the TE1 on the season, owns 25 percent of Wentz's targets and leads the Eagles in receptions (39) and receiving yards (494). He should only be benched on his bye. The Eagles defense could be available in plenty of leagues (I've added them this week already) and get a great matchup at home against a rookie quarterback who has been sacked seven times in two games already.
Chicago Bears at New Orleans Saints, 1 p.m. ET on FOX
Mitchell Trubisky has attempted 23 passes the last two weeks (completed 12). That's no bueno for fantasy. Jordan Howard is really, truly the only usable fantasy asset in this offense. He's shouldered 18-plus carries in each of his last five games. Only Le'Veon Bell has more carries in that span. The Saints were just gashed by rookie Aaron Jones last week (131 yards, TD) with Brett Hundley throwing for just 87 yards, so there's a positive outlook for Howard this week even if Trubisky can't move the ball through the air. If Benny Cunningham is out again, Tarik Cohen could be flexed. The Bears will have a harder time running their ball-control offense against the Saints in the Superdome, and if they're playing catch up Cohen could see a handful of targets. Other than that, I'm pretty sure we're done here as we can't trust the pass-catchers in an offense attempting 23 passes over two weeks.
Drew Brees at home is a must-start in fantasy. He's been a top-10 fantasy quarterback in 12 of his last 18 home games, and has only finished outside the top 20 in three of those games. With Adrian Peterson out of the picture, Mark Ingram has been able to step back into a true featured workload. While Alvin Kamara gets called the "pass-catching back" a lot, he and Ingram are tied for targets with 10 over the last two weeks. The difference in workload is Ingram's 47 carries to Kamara's 19, and the veteran's three rushing scores. Both are playable, though Ingram is the safer option with the higher ceiling. The Bears allow just the 12th-fewest receiving yards per game to opposing wideouts, but we should be able to trust Michael Thomas. He's had eight-plus targets in five of six games, and has had 80-plus yards in four of his last five games. With six teams on bye, Ted Ginn is worth a look. As mentioned, the Bears boast a talented defense, but Ginn has been emerging in this offense, catching all 11 of his targets in the two games since the bye for 207 yards and a touchdown. Coby Fleener has played fewer than 30 percent of the team snaps in back-to-back weeks and has just four targets in that span. He can't be trusted. The Saints defense back at home is a great play against rookie quarterback Mitchell Trubisky, who has been sacked eight times the last two weeks despite attempting a mere 23 passes.
Los Angeles Chargers at New England Patriots, 1 p.m. ET on CBS
Philip Rivers has two-plus touchdowns in three of his last four games, and only has one turnover in that span. He's battled some good defenses, too, so the Patriots should be a welcome sign. They're allowing 310.3 passing yards and over two touchdowns per game. In five career games against New England, Rivers averages roughly 277 yards and two touchdowns per game as well. Melvin Gordon disappointed last week, especially when you realize he failed to convert a score from the 1-yard-line FOUR TIMES IN A ROW. That was then, and this is now, and Gordon should get back on track here. He still owns elite volume (roughly 21 touches a game) and is facing a Pats defense allowing 159 total yards to backs. Through seven games Keenan Allen has failed to lead the team in targets only once (Week 6, he was second). This is encouraging consider the Chargers run play percentage has increased over the last three weeks (while they've been winning). With volume locked in, we should trust Allen this week, especially in what figures to be a pass-heavy, high-scoring affair. Rookie Mike Williams is reportedly going to get more work this week, which further crowds and clouds the pecking order behind Allen. If you're starting any of Travis Benjamin, Tyrell Williams or Mike Williams, know that while the ceiling is high, the floor is all but non-existent. With target totals of seven, five and eight over the last three weeks, Hunter Henry has emerged as a true No. 1 tight end. Antonio Gates' playing time and targets have shrunk in recent weeks, rendering the veteran unusable in fantasy. The Chargers rewarded streamers last week with a top-flight performance, but I'd sit them on the road against a Patriots offense that ranks among the league's best.
Did you know Tom Brady is good at football? Shocking, I know, but the 40-year old currently ranks first in passing yards per game (315.4), second in yards per attempt (8.4), and second in TD-INT ratio (15-2). Yeah, start him with confidence. Have the Patriots found a feature back? It's starting (keyword "starting") to look that way with Dion Lewis. He leads all Patriots backs with 39 percent of the snaps over the last two weeks, during which time he's averaging 5.3 yards per carry on 24 totes (one touchdown) compared to Mike Gillislee's 4.2 ypc on 18 rushes (no touchdowns). He and James White are the only backs to consider here, as White is a PPR maven with four-plus catches in four of his last five games. He also leads all running backs in receiving touchdowns since 2015 with 10. Once a boom-or-bust fantasy player, Brandin Cooks has settled into a more consistent role in New England. He's had 65-plus yards and/or a touchdown in five of seven games. His targets have been relatively stable, with a season-low of four, a season-high of nine, and four games with seven-plus. After disappointing last week (one catch, 19 yards), Chris Hogan bounced right back with 4-71-0 on six targets. He's had 60-plus yards in five of his last six games, with five touchdowns in that span as well. He leads the team in red-zone targets with 10. We don't sit Rob Gronkowski in fantasy. Color me skeptical on the "turnaround" for the Patriots defense. They had a touchdown taken off the board against the Jets, and faced a Falcons offense that has looked nothing like the dominant unit in 2017. If they slow down Philip Rivers and company, THEN they'll have my attention.
Oakland Raiders at Buffalo Bills, 1 p.m. ET on CBS
Derek Carr got right in a big way last week, so there's hope he carries that momentum into a tough cross-country matchup with the Bills. Through six games only one quarterback has thrown for multiple touchdowns and only two have thrown for 300-plus yards, but those 300-yard passers were the last two to face the Bills (Andy Dalton, Jameis Winston). Carr's a low-end QB1. The Bills are a tough defense to run against, allowing just 74.3 yards per game and 3.5 yards per carry to opposing backs. Still, with Marshawn Lynch out DeAndre Washington and Jalen Richard are set to have pretty decent workloads and will merit flex consideration in this high-powered offense. Welcome back, Amari Cooper! The Bills pose a tough matchup for his rebound tour, though the last two No. 1 wideouts to face the Bills have had at least 88 yards and a touchdown. He and Michael Crabtree are worth starting as so much of the passing offense funnels through them when both are healthy and playing well. Jared Cook is coming off a six-catch, 107-yard performance and is set to face a defense that was completely spun around last week trying to cover O.J. Howard and Cameron Brate. The Bills had been very tough on tight ends prior to that game, but Cook will be a fine streamer this week in the hopes that his momentum continues. The Raiders defense isn't an elite unit and is traveling to face a strong, ball-control offense. It's a bad spot for fantasy.
Tyrod Taylor averages 18.87 fantasy points per game at home this year, so he'd already be on the streaming radar even if he didn't have a great matchup, which he does. The Raiders allow roughly 260 passing yards per game with 10 touchdowns on the year. When you add that to Tyrod's rushing ability his fantasy ceiling becomes evident. LeSean McCoy finally found the end zone last week, but we knew that was coming eventually. With rock-solid volume (nearly 24 touches per game) he's a weekly must-start. Deonte Thompson surprised last week, catching all four of his targets for 107 after signing with the team that week, but I wouldn't start him or Jordan Matthews as the target split is too unpredictable in Buffalo. Nick O'Leary could be worth a dart throw as a streaming tight end, but I feel there are still some better options available in most leagues. The Bills defense has three takeaways in three consecutive games and is a decent start at home, even against a strong Oakland offense. There's a chance the Raiders come out flat on the cross-country journey, especially since it's a 1:00 p.m. game.
Indianapolis Colts at Cincinnati Bengals, 1 p.m. ET on FOX
Prior to Le'Veon Bell's 134-yard performance last week, the most rushing yards the Bengals had allowed to a running back in the month prior were 63. Frank Gore is tough to sit with so many teams on byes, but if the Colts fall behind quickly (again) they might turn to Marlon Mack, who led the team in playing time last week. He at least has big-play upside in the flex position, but both could face tough sledding against a Bengals front allowing 3.6 yards per carry to backs. The Bengals are pretty good at slowing down wide receivers, allowing 116.2 yards per game, sixth-fewest in the league. Where they have been vulnerable is in the red-zone, though, as their 6.1 touchdown rate ranks as the seventh-highest. T.Y. Hilton's production has dropped in recent weeks, as he's averaging fewer targets and catches than through the first five games: 7.4 vs. 6, and 4.8 vs. 1.5. He's a risky start against this tough defense. Donte Moncrief and Kamar Aiken are splitting up the leftover targets and neither should be started. Jack Doyle has caught 13 of his 18 targets over the last two weeks, with 44-plus yards in each game and one touchdown. He's a solid streamer.
Andy Dalton is one of the best starts of the week at the quarterback position, and he should have been available in plenty of leagues coming off his bye. The Colts defense allows 310.9 passing yards per game with 10 touchdowns on the year, and they just lost their start rookie safety Malik Hooker for the season. Dalton is at home and is facing an "uncommon opponent," which per Joe Goodberry's research at BengalsWire, typically nets Dalton about 23 more passing yards and a touchdown more per game. As Matt Harmon noted on the latest NFL Fantasy LIVE podcast, Joe Mixon leads the league in "this is the week" weeks, meaning people keep expecting him to break out only to be met with disappointment. Well, perhaps this IS the week. The Colts allow over 100 yards per game on the ground to opposing backs and have conceded nine total touchdowns to the position. A.J. Green is a monster and must be started every week, though you shouldn't have needed me to tell you that. Tyler Kroft is an interesting streamer, as he's played 93 percent of the snaps since Week 3 and has three touchdowns in his last three games. The Bengals defense is a top-level play this week, as they're facing Jacoby Brissett and the Colts, who have allowed the most sacks in the league this year, and it's not just from the 10-sack game against Jacksonville last week. Brissett's been sacked three-plus times in five of his six starts and has just three touchdown passes to three interceptions.
Houston Texans at Seattle Seahawks, 4:05 p.m. ET on CBS
Despite already having his bye, Deshaun Watson is still tied for second in the NFL with 15 touchdown passes. The Seahawks are a formidable opponent, but it's honestly impossible to sit Watson with the run he's been on. His rushing ability also offers him at worst a safe floor, and we know his fantasy ceiling is sky high. Lamar Miller is losing some work to D'Onta Foreman, but he's doing the most with his opportunities and is averaging 91 total yards per game over his last four with two touchdowns. I'm worried about Foreman's potential workload coming out of the bye in what could be a high-scoring affair. Players in deep leagues could maybe flex him, but otherwise, I'd look elsewhere. DeAndre Hopkins and Will Fuller are simply too hot to quit right now, even though they're in Seattle facing the "Legion of Boom." Richard Sherman and Kam Chancellor have combined to allow the lowest passer rating by any cornerback-safety tandem this season (min. 20 targets each) at 44.6. Still, even if Seattle gets a lead, that could put Watson in a pass-heavy script where he and his pass-catchers can rack up points (like we saw in Kansas City earlier this year). Ryan Griffin has four-plus targets in each of his last four games, and is a decent streaming option. Tight end has historically been a tough position for Seattle to cover, but they've been middle-of-the-road this year (60.5 yards per game, two touchdowns). The Seattle offense is hitting its stride, and the last thing fantasy players want to do is stream the banged-up Texans defense on the road against them.
Russell Wilson has scored three or more total touchdowns in three of his last four games, and is an absolute must-start versus the Texans banged up defense. Two of the last four quarterbacks to face the Texans have finished in the top four in weekly quarterback scoring, and the two who didn't were Marcus Mariota (who got injured in the game) and ... the Browns QBs. I'm staying as far away from this backfield as I can in fantasy until we gain some semblance of clarity. Last week Thomas Rawls and Eddie Lacy split things right down the middle, each taking their 11 carries for 30-ish yards. Keep an eye on what happens here, though, as C.J. Prosise could also seize a bigger workload and run away with this job. With the running game stalled, all of the passing options are on the table here. Doug Baldwin has healed up from his groin injury and has seen eight-plus targets in three of his last four games, with two touchdowns in that span. Paul Richardson and Tyler Lockett are both solid upside-flex plays, but Lockett's recent volume (16 targets over the last three games to Richardson's 10) is a bit more attractive as it could ensure him a safer floor. Jimmy Graham was the TE6 last week but "disappointed" plenty of fantasy managers as he left points on the field (dropped a sure touchdown and another HUGE gain with potential to score). The Texans currently give up the eighth-most yards per game to tight ends (62.2), so Graham should once again be a strong start. The Seahawks defense isn't the unit we've grown accustomed to, but they are at home and facing a rookie quarterback. You could do worse this week.
Dallas Cowboys at Washington Redskins, 4:25 p.m. ET on CBS
Dak Prescott is on absolute fire in fantasy, with 22-plus points in four straight games. Josh Norman (ribs) could return for Washington, but that shouldn't scare anyone off of Prescott. He's playing extremely well and offers rushing upside as well (24-plus rushing yards in five of six games). The Washington defense is very stout against the run (65.7 yards per game allowed to backs, third-lowest), but Ezekiel Elliott is damn near matchup-proof. Dez Bryant has seen eight-plus targets in every game save one, and has a touchdown in four of his last five. Even if Norman is back, we're not sitting Bryant in season-long formats. No team allows more receiving yards per game to tight ends than Washington, which puts old man Jason Witten into the mix as a great start this week. He's caught 12 of his 14 targets for 115 yards and a touchdown over his last two games. The Cowboys are one of just eight teams this year with 20-plus sacks, and the Redskins are on a short week after suffering numerous injuries to the offensive line. It's a risky play, but for daily fantasy perhaps the Cowboys could be a big value.
Like his divisional rival, Kirk Cousins has been lights out for fantasy the last several weeks. He's tossed multiple touchdowns in four straight games, with 300-plus yards in three of those, as well. The Dallas secondary has allowed four top-14 quarterback finishes in their last five games, with rookie C.J. Beathard being the lone exception. Rob Kelley returned to action last week, but managed just 17 yards on six carries, as the Redskins were playing catch up for much of the game. That's also why Chris Thompson led the way with 60 percent of the plays to Kelley's 40, as well as touches (12 total). He's a better flex play than Kelley this week, but don't completely ignore Fat Rob either. Dallas allows 93 yards per game on the ground, and the Redskins may try to run more to slow down the Dallas pass rush and protect Cousins behind a banged up o-line. As for the Washington wide receivers, man, what a mess (for fantasy). Josh Doctson jumped Terrelle Pryor in the playing time pecking order last week, but all that got him was five targets. He'd be the only one I'd even flex, as Jamison Crowder, Ryan Grant and Pryor all steal too much work from one another. Jordan Reed found the end zone for the first two times all year last week, and will be a solid start against the Cowboys. Washington's defense may be at home, but the Cowboys are a brutal offense on fantasy defenses with how well they run the ball and how little they turn it over.
Pittsburgh Steelers at Detroit Lions, 8:30 p.m. ET on NBC
Ben Roethlisberger has yet to score more than 18 fantasy points in a game and shouldn't be started here, especially on the road. Le'Veon Bell is averaging around 35 touches a game over the last month, so yeah, you're starting him. Same goes for Antonio Brown, who is the highest-scoring fantasy wide receiver by around 20 points in standard formats. While JuJu Smith-Schuster may have won Twitter this week, he hasn't won enough targets in the Steelers offense to get me to start him in fantasy. The Lions have been beaten by tight ends in the past, but even with Vance McDonald out I'd avoid Jesse James as he lacks the volume necessary for a reliable fantasy start. He hasn't had a target in two straight games. The Steelers defense is a really good unit, and worth a play on the road. Matthew Stafford has been sacked five-plus times in three straight games.
Matthew Stafford hasn't been playing well of late and still might be a bit banged up after his bye week. Even though he's at home, I'd stream a quarterback over starting Stafford. Just two quarterbacks to face the Steelers have finished in the top 10 in weekly scoring -- DeShone Kizer (Week 1) and Alex Smith (Week 6). We keep wanting Ameer Abdullah to be a thing in fantasy, but he keeps losing work to the rest of the backs. I'd sit him against the Steelers, as they will control the clock with Le'Veon Bell and likely force the Lions to throw to score. Golden Tate is unsure if he'll play this week, so be sure to track his status on Sunday. It's sounding like Tate will play, which is good news, though Kenny Golladay suffered a setback this week with his hamstring injury and seems like a longshot to play. I still think it's worth checking for him on waivers, though, just in case he gets healthy and catches fire down the stretch. Marvin Jones could see a ton of volume whether or not Tate plays, as Stafford may pepper his veteran receiver. What he does with that could be minimal, though, as the Steelers currently allow the fewest yards per game to opposing receivers in the league, 88.4. Darren Fells and Eric Ebron are splitting work at tight end, gross. The Lions defense has been opportunistic this year but they won't have many opportunities to strike with Bell carrying the ball 30-plus times and eating up the clock.