The beginning of bye weeks can be either horrific or glorious, and usually nothing in between. Back in late August on draft day bye weeks are planned for and managed, but at some point you just have to draft good players and deal with a one week lull in production if that’s what the schedule dictates.
This week one of my teams has Anquan Boldin, Santana Moss, and Ray Rice watching from their comfortable couch grooves Sunday afternoon. Bye weeks suck.
Luckily most of the marquee players are still a few weeks away from their one-week sabbatical, so many familiar names continue to dominate the rankings as we head into the second quarter of the NFL season.
1. Aaron Rodgers @ ATL — Sometimes this job is really, really easy, like when a player has had 81 fantasy points over the last two weeks.
2. Tom Brady vs. NYJ — Brady has 636 passing yards and five touchdowns in his last two games at home against the Jets.
3. Drew Brees @ CAR –The blueprint for beating the Panthers is obvious now since they’ve given up 352 rushing yards over the past two weeks. Brees will still get his numbers, but he isn’t much of a running back.
4. Micheal Vick @ BUF — Let’s do the good news first, because I’m such a kind, giving soul, and it’s very good news. A Buffalo secondary that’s consistently been in the top three in passing yards allowed over the past three seasons while giving up less than 200 yards per game has seen that number rise to 275.5 through a quarter of the season. The bad news? Vick still often forces the ball when he’s on the run, and the Bills are tied for the league lead in interceptions with eight.
5. Matthew Stafford vs. CHI – This actually gave me a bit of a headache. With the chemistry Stafford has demonstrated with Calvin Johnson I don’t think a secondary with Superman, Aqua Man, Wolverine, and the Six Million Dollar Man could stop them, and I hear Aqua Man runs the 40-yard dash in less than two seconds. But the Lions’ offensive line hasn’t won me over quite yet even after a successful week against DeMarcus Ware et al, and now Julius Peppers is ready to tee off.
6. Matt Schaub @ OAK — There’s an equation that could lead to a sub par fantasy day for Schaub, and we began to see it take shape when Andre Johnson went down in the second quarter last week against Pittsburgh. It goes something like this: No Johnson+Arian Foster rolling+Ben Tate likely back+the league’s 29th ranked run defense= an early lead, and a day chillin’ and handing off for Schaub.
7. Philip Rivers @ DEN — While we’re throwing out complicated math equations, here’s another one that’s similar: an absent or limited Vincent Jackson+no Antonio Gates+Champ Bailey= equals more Ryan Mathews.
8. Cam Newton vs. NO — Apply the simple hot-hand theory against a mediocre pass defense with a quarterback who has shown his expected versatility with six touchdowns in three games split evenly between passing and rushing.
9. Matt Ryan vs. GB — The Clay Matthews-led pass rush remains lethal, but the early weakness in the champs’ armor is glaring. Ryan is currently 10th in passing yards, and two of Green Bay’s first four games have come against other QBs in the top ten (Brees and Cam Newton). In those games the Packers surrendered a combined 851 passing yards.
10. Eli Manning vs. SEA — The younger Manning still often feels like a very un-sexy fantasy start, yet he’s averaging a reliable if not spectacular 266.5 yards per game, and has only two picks. At this point last year Manning had already established his vicious pick pace and had seven.
Notable omission(s): In reality it’s heart-warming and inspiring to know that Ben Roethlisberger often still performs well when he’s slowed by an injury. But in fantasy unless you’re in a deep league there should be a better option on your bench to replace a quarterback who will likely be restricted.
Antonie Winfield will likely be a game-time decision for Minnesota, which boosts the value of every key player in the Cardinals’ passing offense, and led to Kevin Kolb just barely missing the cut. There are better options elsewhere, and in Week 1 against the Panthers Kolb was sacked four times. This week Jared Allen will take his crazy man act to the Cardinals’ backfield, and Allen is second in the league with 6.5 sacks.
1.Fred Jackson vs. PHI — Could this be a touch too high? Perhaps, but I’ve probably done far worse, and at this point is there a reasonable argument against expecting rampant rumbling from an RB facing the Eagles? I’m going to do this entire section in a serious of questions, OK?
2. Arian Foster vs. OAK — Did you read what I wrote about Matt Schaub? And did you know that the Raiders are still giving up nearly six yards per carry?
3. Darren McFadden @ HOU — Do you think the Texans’ 4.9 yards per carry is much better than Oakland’s average? It is. It’s a full yard better. But it still sucks.
4. LeSean McCoy @ BUF — With these RB rankings so far am I saying that you may as well count the loss if you don’t have a running back playing in either BUF/PHI, or OAK/HOU? No, because even though the Bills are another yards per carry time bomb (also 4.9), they held McFadden to a very reasonable 72 rushing yards two weeks ago. However, in that same game Run DMC had seven receptions for 71 yards and a touchdown, and that’s area where McCoy has thrived in the past. He has only 83 receiving yards this year, so this could be the week Philly finally finds McCoy some room in the flats.
5. Adrian Peterson vs. ARI — Should we give the Cardinals credit for stuffing Ahmad Bradshaw last week? Yes. But their 109.5 yards per game through four games is still skewed by two weak rushing offenses (Seattle and Carolina).
6. Chris Johnson @ PITT — Will I regret this? Probably, because the Steelers only gave up an average of 66.6 yards per game on the ground last year, fueling those who believe we’re witnessing an early season aberration. However, I am not one of those people, and an aberration that lasts four games is not an aberration at all. Now a defense that’s giving up nearly 40 yards per game more than it did 2010 is playing without James Harrison, who’s tied for the team lead with 18 solo tackles.
7. Ryan Mathews @ DEN — Will Norv Turner stick to his word and give Mathews something in the 25-carry range? We can only hope, because this is a prime matchup for an RB who’s averaged over five yards per carry in two of his last three games.
8. Matt Forte @ DET — Speaking of trust, should we have faith in Mike Martz? Or was that just a one-week fling with the running game, and he’ll now leave Forte crying into a menu at a swanky restaurant and never call him again.
9. Ahmad Bradshaw vs. SEA — Are this week’s RB matchups enjoyable? No, at least not on the back end. The Seahawks aren’t catering to the home run play at all this year, and the longest run they’ve surrendered was 21 yards.
10. Maurice Jones-Drew vs. CIN — Did MJD win the last spot by default because the other possibilities (Michael Turner, Legarrette Blount) had equally crappy but not quite as crappy matchups? Yes. Do I regret the decision to lead each item in this list with a question? Absolutely.
Notable omission(s): Blount is looking like the bulky beast we saw last year again after running for 127 yards and a touchdown Monday night against Indy. But the San Francisco run defense has been unforgiving, and is one of the few units to surrender less than 100 yards per game in each of the past two seasons.
1. Larry Fitzgerald @ MIN — The same injury news that nearly landed Kolb in the QB top ten easily gets Fitz in the top spot here. The possibility of facing a secondary without Winfield means some serious downfield fun on Sunday.
2. Calvin Johnson vs. CHI — Even if Aqua Man and Wolverine double-teamed Megatron he’d still catch a fade to the corner.
3. Greg Jennings vs. ATL –Jennings wasn’t contained by Brent Grimes last January during the playoffs, and he had eight receptions for 101 yards.
4. Wes Welker vs. NYJ — Putting a receiver who’s on pace to break several records outside of the top 3 feels morally wrong. But the Darrelle Revis experience can have harsh, limiting results, and only two wide receivers have had more than 40 yards this year against the Jets’ secondary (both in Week 1 with Dez Bryant and Miles Austin).
4. Hakeem Nicks vs. SEA — Nicks has defined the boom or bust play early this season, with 284 of his 347 receiving yards coming between two games against the Cardinals and Redskins.
5. Roddy White vs. GB — White’s five drops put him in a tie for the league lead after he had just three on 174 targets in 2010.
6. Santonio Holmes vs. NE — It’s hard to be excited about starting Holmes, or starting any member of the Jets’ offense. Sure, they had a brutal matchup against Baltimore last week, but unless you’re opponent is a large brick wall there’s no excuse for completing only 31.4 percent of your passes as Mark Sanchez did Sunday night. That has to change quickly this week against a Patriots defense that’s already given up an absurd 30 passes for 20 yards or more, and is allowing nearly 370 yards per game.
7. Mike Wallace vs. PITT — There’s some hesitancy here due to Roethlisberger’s injury, but he’s still been routinely resilient, and the temptation to lean more heavily on the running game could be restricted due to Rashard Mendenhall’s likely absence.
8. Steve Smith vs. NO — We rely a lot on per game averages when gauging potential performance, and there’s no clearer indication of a receiver’s chemistry with his quarterback than Smith’s 132.5 yards per game.
9. Jeremy Maclin @ BUF — Of the two primary Philly receivers Maclin makes the cut because of Buffalo’s speed on the outside with Leodis McKelvin matching up against DeSean Jackson.
10. Brandon Lloyd vs. SD — Lloyd led the league in receiving yards last year, but his yardage totals against the Chargers were more modest, averaging 75.5 yards over two games.
Notable omission(s): Vincent Jackson has been durable and has often battled through injuries, so he was nearly included despite nagging abdomen and hamstring issues. He may still give it a go and be cleared during warm-ups Sunday, but when your stud wide receiver is held out of practice on a Thursday it’s time to start developing a contingency plan.
Also, Bills wide receiver Stevie Johnson has built off of his breakout third-year as expected, but Philly’s weakness lies in its linebackers, not the secondary. The Nnamdi Asomugha treatment is just as bad as the Revis experience.
1. Jermichael Finley @ ATL — He’s too strong and agile to be an afterthought two weeks in a row.
2. Jimmy Graham @ CAR — He’ll be trying to become the first tight end in franchise history to record three consecutive 100-yard receiving games.
3. Vernon Davis vs. TB — Roll with him as usual, just always be prepared for the reality that Davis’ numbers fluctuate along with the fickle San Francisco passing game. He broke out two weeks ago with 114 yards, but has only a combined 110 yards in the 49ers’ other three games.
4. Dustin Keller @ NE — Raiders tight end Kevin Boss had 78 yards on four receptions against New England last week.
5. Owen Daniels vs. OAK – Johnson missed three games last year, and during two of those games Daniels had 135 of his 471 yards in 2010 (28.6 percent).
6. Rob Gronkowski vs. NYJ — The return of Aaron Hernandez brings back a sense of normalcy to the tight end position in New England. Still, similar to Finley it’s difficult to imagine Gronk being basically held off the board for two straight weeks.
7. Tony Gonzalez vs. GB — Count me among those who instinctively wrote Gonzo off. His yardage totals are unreliable, and he had just 18 receiving yards two weeks ago. But you need touchdowns from the tight end position, and Gonzalez has four scores already.
8. Brandon Pettigrew vs. CHI — I fear a lot of things, like the dark, spiders, and used Kleenexes. These are irrational fears which require therapy. But my fear of Pettigrew gradually becoming an afterthought in Detroit’s offense is very legitimate. Pettigrew stays relatively high for another week because he’s still freakish, and he’s still only one game removed from having 11 catches for 112 yards.
9. Jermaine Gresham @ JAC — Gresham is rapidly building chemistry with Andy Dalton, and is another key offensive player building momentum over the last two weeks after racking up 121 of his 187 receiving yards.
10. Greg Olsen vs. NO — There’s some dice-rolling involved in picking a Carolina tight end, but we’ll put our chips with Olsen since he’s scored in two straight games, while Jeremy Shockey still hasn’t seen the end zone.
Notable omission(s): Just four weeks into the season we’ve already reached the point where Dallas Clark and Marcedes Lewis can’t be touched due to key offensive injuries and inexperience, and this makes us sad. Combined they had 1,047 receiving yards last year even though Clark played in only six games.
1. Jason Hanson vs. CHI
2. Nick Novak @ DEN
3. Lawrence Tynes vs. SEA
4. Rian Lindell vs. PHI
5. Neil Rackers vs. OAK
6. Stephen Gostkowski vs. NYJ
7. Sebastian Janikowski @ HOU
8. Alex Henery @ BUF
9. Rob Bironas @ PITT
10. Olindo Mare vs. NO
1. New York Giants vs. SEA
2. Detroit Lions vs. CHI
3. Tennessee Titans @ PITT
4. Chicago Bears @ DET
5. San Diego Chargers @ DEN
6. Houston Texans vs. OAK
7. Cincinnati Bengals @ JAC
8. Philadelphia Eagles @ BUF
9. Indianapolis Colts vs. KC
10. New Orleans Saints @ CAR