Some people are terrified of change. Not us. We call Change up, ask it out for dinner, make it pick up the tab, and then never call back. Then we move on to Change’s ultra-sophisticated best friend Alteration the next night with the same routine. All we really want is free food, not a romance.
We’ve made some changes to our weekly fantasy preview that will remain in place for the rest of the season, unless of course we decide to make more changes next week. Instead of ranking the top 10 fantasy players for all positions, we expanded to rank 15 quarterbacks and tight ends, and 20 running backs and wide receivers.
There are still just 10 players listed for kickers and defenses, because they’re like the Kris Humphries of fantasy. We care about them only because we have to for a short period of time, and because we can make money off of them.
1. Eli Manning vs. NE — If we disregard a Week 5 blowup against Seattle that’s very much looking like an aberration now, Manning’s thrown just two picks and 15 touchdowns.
2. Aaron Rodgers @ SD — It’s dangerous ranking Rodgers anywhere but No. 1, but three of Green Bay’s seven opponents are currently ranked 23rd or worse against the pass. That’s not intended as a comment taking anything away from Rodgers’ statistically stupid season so far. Instead it’s a word of caution. Whereas typically you’d expect superhuman numbers from the Packers QB, maybe this week Mega Man numbers will have to suffice.
3. Tom Brady vs. NYG — Brady is ridiculous, but his ridiculousness over New England’s first three games (1,327 passing yards) was significantly more ridiculous than the last four (1,034 passing yards). We could put part of the blame for Brady’s very slight regression back to earth on the pass rushes he’s facing, with the Pats allowing 11 of their 14 sacks over their past four games. The Giants lead the league with 25 sacks.
4. Tony Romo vs. SEA — This is a compelling and rich opponent that should allow Romo to have an elite fantasy week, unless of course DeMarco Murray dominates the Seahawks’ run defense and he’s not needed much. Whatever you do, don’t start Romo as your fantasy placeholder against Seattle.
5. Michael Vick vs. CHI –Sure, no quarterback comes close to matching Vick’s mobility and elusiveness. But the Bears have held Josh Freeman and Cam Newton to a combined 35 rushing yards, although Newton did score two touchdowns.
6. Drew Brees vs. TB — If Mark Ingram remains out the Saints will continue to be a one-dimensional team, and the Rams provided a blueprint for how to marginalize that single dimension last week, holding Brees to only his second game with less than 350 passing yards.
7. Philip Rivers vs. GB — Rivers is on pace for the most career interceptions by a Charger quarterback since 1972, and he’s now facing a secondary that has 13 picks (2nd).
8. Matt Ryan @ IND — Ryan will likely get a large, physical receiver back while facing a secondary that’s given up the most passing touchdowns in the league.
9. Ben Roethlisberger vs. BAL — The Ravens have made Big Ben look small over the last three meetings between the two rivals, picking Roethlisberger off four times and holding him to an average of 253 yards per game.
10. Matt Schaub vs. CLE — This is a matchup that will clearly be influenced by Andre Johnson’s status throughout the week, and he’s still day-to-day. Led by Joe Haden, the pass defense is one of the few consistent reasons for hope in Cleveland, with the Browns one of only three teams allowing less than 180 yards per game.
11. Ryan Fitzpatrick vs. NYJ — Darelle Revis will smother Stevie Johnson, leading to an output for Fitzpatrick similar to the three quarterbacks who have combined for just 37 fantasy points against the Jets over New York’s past three games, a group that includes Rivers and Brady.
12. Matt Cassel vs. MIA — Cassel’s leading a resurgent team, but remains a fantasy liability after logging four games with less than 200 passing yards.
13. Mark Sanchez @ BUF — Rex Ryan’s inconsistent quarterback has had two four-sack games, and he now faces a pass rush that brought John Beck down nine times last week.
14. Josh Freeman @ NO — Three weeks ago we witnessed what we thought was the beginning of Freeman’s climb from the fantasy abyss when he had 303 passing yards, two touchdowns, and a QB rating of 95.9 against New Orleans. Then the great London regression of 2011 happened.
15. Alex Smith @ WAS — If you’re desperate, in a deep league, and are a Matthew Stafford or Cam Newton owner, this is your glass case (of emotion). Smith is a safe option who certainly won’t win any matchup, but he won’t hurt you either. He has the fewest interceptions among quarterbacks who have started every game.
1. Matt Forte @ PHI — Philly overpowered the Cowboys last week, but it was the star-studded secondary doing the heavy lifting defensively. Even though Dallas was down 24-0 by halftime and DeMarco Murray received only eight carries, he still finished with 78 yards.
2. Ray Rice @ PIT — Under normal circumstances I’d place Rice much lower. Prior to his Week 1 rumbling over Pittsburgh this rivalry game was a place where no running back roamed, and Rice and Rashard Mendenhall combined for just 188 yards in the two games last year. But after shattering that trend with 107 rushing yards, 42 receiving yards, and two touchdowns (one rushing, one receiving) in early September, Rice now faces a defense playing without James Harrison, and likely LaMarr Woodley too.
3. LeSean McCoy vs. CHI — Usually even with a stud RB there would be cause for caution against an aggressive run defense. But after McCoy trampled the Cowboys’ 4th ranked run defense (185 rushing yards and two touchdowns), it’s pretty hard to justify that bump down.
4. Michael Turner @ IND — A hot RB who has 258 rushing yards over his last two outings after having only 146 in his previous three shouldn’t have a problem against a woefully inept defense on the ground.
5. Frank Gore @ WAS — Nothing slows down speed rushers like a punch to the gut up the middle, and Gore should excel against a front seven that’s allowed 300 rushing yards over the past two weeks.
6. Beanie Wells vs. STL — Ill-advised and blind aggression will make many a fantasy pundit think more highly of Wells this week since he’s running against a Rams defense that still sucks despite shocking New Orleans last week. But John Skelton will likely replace an injured Kevin Kolb, and he completed only 47.6 percent of his passes last year.
7. Arian Foster @ CLE — This could be nearly a carbon copy of Houston’s win over Jacksonville last week. That’s when Foster’s yards per carry (3.4) were pretty dismal, but he was given enough carries (33) because Houston was killing the clock during a 10-point win that it didn’t matter.
8. DeMarco Murray vs. SEA — Seattle has faced teams playing without their usual starting running back in each of the last two weeks, which has made life a little easier. But prior to that Ahmad Bradshaw only had 53 yards, and Turner was held to just 2.7 yards per carry.
9. Fred Jackson vs. NYJ — I’m not fully confident in the Jets’ ability to resurrect their run defense yet, but I’m leery enough to knock Jackson down far lower than what he should be, especially for a player who’s only 77 yards shy of leading the league in rushing.
10. Shonn Greene @ BUF — Greene makes his first and likely only appearance in the top 10 with Buffalo two weeks removed from letting Bradshaw score three times.
11. Ahmad Bradshaw @NE — In their seven games the Patriots haven’t allowed a 100-yard rusher yet this year, and their opponents have had running backs named Darren McFadden, Fred Jackson, and Rashard Mendenhall.
UPDATE: Yeah, you probably shouldn’t start Bradshaw now.
12. Steven Jackson @ ARI — There’s a chance that Bradford returns this week and eases the burden on a 28-year-old running back who had his heaviest workload of the season last year (25 carries). That’s good in reality, and bad for you.
13. Michael Bush vs. DEN — It’s hard to play football while wearing a protective boot, which should mean McFadden is out Sunday, and his backup Bush gets his first start of the year. I’m admittedly being ultra conservative and cautious ranking Bush this low against a poor run defense. In his three starts last year Bush had 288 rushing yards.
14. Legarrette Blount @ NO — Blount should be healthy and ready for his first game action since Week 5, but his potential for a breakout day is minimized by the fear of rust, and the fact that in three of his five healthy games he was averaging less than 3.4 yards per carry.
15. BenJarvus Green-Ellis vs. NYG — Severe and crippling inconsistency has left the law firm with few clients, but if there’s a week to ride Green-Ellis due to a bye week mess (Maurice Jones-Drew and Adrian Peterson are out) it’s this week against a defense allowing 130.1 rushing yards per game.
16. Jackie Battle vs. MIA — I don’t know why, but I still have a hard time taking a running back named Jackie seriously. It feels like he should be suing the heir to the Oh Henry candy bar fortune.
17. Darren Sproles vs. TB — Last week a reader raised some valid points while questioning my exclusion of Sproles. He was left out because of a belief that the three-headed system never dies in New Orleans, but the impact of Mark Ingram’s absence on the Saints’ rushing offense was underestimated.
18. Chris Johnson vs. CIN — I hate this man, and so does anyone else who drafted him in the first round. A Sunday against a defense allowing only 3.3 yards per carry will lead to the mass production of Johnson voodoo dolls.
19. Cedric Benson @ TEN — Against a similarly terrible Indy run defense Benson only had 57 yards two weeks ago.
20. Reggie Bush @ KC — Bump Bush up much higher and make him your primary bye or injury option if Daniel Thomas remains out.
1. Greg Jennings @ SD — Chargers corner Quentin Jammer left Monday’s game with some leg cramping, but returned in overtime. A hobbled or injured Jammer is significant for Jennings since his replacement Antonie Cason was recently benched for rookie Marcus Gilchrist.
2. Wes Welker vs. NYG — The pressure set to be in Brady’s grill is still concerning, but that won’t hurt Welker’s numbers. When Brady is searching for a quick outlet, his slot receiver leads his progressions.
3. Roddy White @ IND — This is a Colts secondary that allowed Bengals receiver Jerome Simpson to roam free for 101 yards two weeks ago, and Simpson had just 72 yards over Cincy’s three games prior to that fruitful afternoon.
4. Hakeem Nicks @ NE — Even though he didn’t practice Wednesday, Nicks is optimistic that he’ll play this week, so we are too. However, if Nicks is downgraded later in the week Mario Manningham becomes the sexy play against a horrific secondary.
5.Marques Colston vs. TB — Colston has 248 yards in his last three games against Tampa.
6. Dwayne Bowe vs. MIA — Vontae Davis’ hamstring isn’t responding to treatment, and last week Manningham was able to pick apart Jimmy Wilson, his rookie replacement at cornerback for the Dolphins.
7. Miles Austin vs. SEA –The Cowboys have been on both ends of a blowout over the past two weeks, which has rendered Austin useless. A return to fantasy relevance could be difficult against a secondary that’s allowed only 18 catches of 20 yards or more.
8. Mike Wallace vs. BAL — As daunting as this matchup seems, Wallace still had 107 yards back in Week 1 despite Pittsburgh’s blowout loss.
9. DeSean Jackson vs. CHI — Jackson and most of the Eagles receivers simply weren’t needed when Sunday night’s win over the Cowboys was out of hand early. This game should be closer, and it should be the week that Philly’s home run threat finally busts out, which is nearly the exact same line I wrote last week.
10. Vincent Jackson vs. GB — Jackson is still hobbled, so there’s risk here. But the last time he faced a secondary that’s on the same level of terribleness as Green Bay he had 172 yards and two touchdowns against New England.
11. Larry Fitzgerald vs. STL — Fitz averaged 81.8 yards per game during John Skelton’s five starts last year, including two 125-yard games.
12. Jeremy Maclin vs. CHI – Jackson ranks higher because of my continued and likely stubborn belief in the home run threat finally connecting. Maclin doesn’t bring that same threat, and now Brent Celek and Jason Avant are vulturing his touches over the middle.
13. Dez Bryant vs. Sea –The reasoning here is similar to the logic behind the divide between Jackson and Maclin.
14. Julio Jones @ IND – Jones was limited Wednesday in practice, but he should be fine to return this week after missing Atlanta’s last two games.
15. A.J. Green @ TEN — Green received more looks last week with Jermaine Gresham a surprise inactive, and the second-year tight end will likely be out again.
16. Santonio Holmes @ BUF — Maybe it’s the presence of Plaxico Burress, or just the overall putrid play of Mark Sanchez. But Holmes has had only two games with more than three receptions.
17. Mario Manningham @ NE — See Nicks, Hakeem.
18. Jonathan Baldwin vs. MIA — In just two regular-season games Baldwin has quickly pushed aside Steve Breaston on Kansas City’s depth chart.
19. Brandon Lloyd @ OAK — Some wideouts are so good that they can remarkably post quality, or at least serviceable WR3 numbers no matter who’s throwing them the ball. After hauling in 127 yards from A.J. Feeley during his first two games in St. Louis, Lloyd clearly meets that description.
20. Brandon Marshall @ KC — Marshall fits that category too, but Chiefs cornerback Brandon Flowers is quickly emerging. He shut down Vincent Jackson last week, and had two picks against Oakland.
1. Jimmy Graham vs. TB — Yardage-wise Graham’s taken a significant dive over the past two weeks (93), although that can mostly be attributed to the Saints’ destruction of Indy, a game in which Graham still scored two touchdowns.
2. Vernon Davis vs. WAS — Bills rookie tight end Steve Chandler had two touchdowns against Washington last week.
3. Antonio Gates vs. GB — Despite all the hobbling injuries and the concern for his every step, Gates can still stretch the field. He averaged 18.3 yards per catch Monday night.
4. Jermichael Finley @ SD — Fantasy football has been littered with underused elite TEs over the past several weeks for various reasons. Add Finley to that list, the Packers safety valve who has just 33 yards in Green Bay’s last two games.
5. Rob Gronkowski vs. NYG — Reading too deeply into touch distributions during one game is always risky, but big Rob had seven catches for 94 yards last week to Aaron Hernandez’s two receptions for nine yards.
6. Jason Witten vs. SEA — Witten’s another tight end struggling yardage-wise lately, and similar to Dallas’ wide receivers that’s a product of the team being on both ends of a blowout recently. But he still has three touchdowns in his last four games.
7. Tony Gonzalez @ IND — Five games with at least 55 receiving yards isn’t too bad for a guy pegged as solely a red zone threat this year. Gonzo’s on pace for over 800 yards, easily sprinting past his 2010 total.
8. Owen Daniels vs. CLE — The only dip in Daniels’ production since Andre Johnson went down a month ago was during a Week 6 loss to Baltimore. Cast aside that game and he has 220 yards since the injury.
9. Aaron Hernandez vs. NYG — Hernanadez has at least five receptions in four of the five games he’s played, and he’s had only one game without a touchdown.
10. Jake Ballard @ NE — The Pats are handing out receiving and passing yards to everyone, and especially tight ends lately, with the position gaining 133 yards since Week 6.
11. Brent Celek vs. CHI — It’s as if suddenly the Eagles discovered that the tight end position exists, and they have one that’s rather talented. In Philly’s first five games Celek had just 73 receiving yards, and in their last two he has 136.
12. Dustin Keller @ BUF — Keller had two touchdowns in his last game against Buffalo.
13. Fred Davis vs. SF — I’d have him higher if it wasn’t for that damn walking boot.
14. Kellen Winslow Jr. @ NO — Winslow is your classic TE2 in an inconsistent offense, and is an ideal fill-in for those with Brandon Pettigrew, Jeremy Shockey, or Greg Olsen sitting out.
15. Jared Cook vs. CIN – On paper you’d think Cook would have had some tough luck after facing top 10 defenses in three of Tennessee’s last four games. Then you see that in those games he’s had 174 yards and three touchdowns. Don’t be scared by Cincy.
1. Sebastian Janikowski vs. DEN
2. Dan Bailey vs. SEA
3. Stephen Gostkowski vs. NYG
4. Lawrence Tynes @ NE
5. Mason Crosby @ SD
6. Nick Novak vs. GB
7. David Akers@ WAS
8. Alex Henery vs. CHI
9. John Kasay vs. TB
10. Matt Bryant @ IND
1. Atlanta @ IND
2. Dallas vs. SEA
3. Kansas City vs. MIA
4. San Francisco @ WAS
5. Cincinnati @ TEN
6. New York Giants @ NE
7. Green Bay @ SD
8. Houston vs. CLE
9. New York Jets @ BUF
10. New Orleans vs. TB