Somebody’s gonna get a hurtin’ real bad this week, and it’ll likely be your wide receiver corps. Your hair will turn several shades of white and/or gray while dealing with byes for Mike Wallace and Marques Colston, and injuries that could keep A.J. Green, Jeremy Maclin, and Stevie Johnson off the field, in addition to the continued absence of Miles Austin.
It doesn’t get much better at quarterback either. This is the first week we’re dealing with the reality that Matt Cassel and Matt Schaub are done for the year, and Michael Vick will likely sit too.
Thankfully, it’s the final week of byes. And thankfully, Keith Hernandez has a solution for that hair problem.
1. Aaron Rodgers vs. TB — Long ago we reached the point where it has to be either an exceptionally bad matchup for Rodgers, or an exceptionally great matchup elsewhere to knock the Green Bay super stud out of this spot.
2. Tom Brady vs. KC — In his two prime time games this year Brady has 846 passing yards, seven touchdowns, and one interception.
3.Tony Romo vs. WAS — Week No. 2 without Miles Austin will be more difficult against a defense that’s allowed the second fewest passing touchdowns in the league (8).
4. Philip Rivers @ CHI – The Bears’ average passing yardage allowed per game is pretty inviting (269.7), but what’s concerning is that they’ve picked off the opposing quarterback four times twice in their last three games, and Rivers leads the league in interceptions.
5. Eli Manning vs. PHI — The Eagles’ pass rush should be neutralized by an offensive line that’s allowing less than two sacks per game.
6. Carson Palmer @ MIN — This is crazy, right? No, not when we consider that Palmer just had 23 fantasy points against the league’s sixth-ranked pass defense, and he’ll now face a secondary that’s several weight classes lower (Minnesota is ranked 30th) and is playing without Antonie Winfield for the rest of the season.
7. Matthew Stafford vs. CAR — The Carolina pass rush is nearly non-existent, and last week Carolina let Matt Hasselbeck throw for 8.1 yards per pass attempt.
8. Cam Newton @ DET — The Panthers-Lions game is appealing for both quarterbacks. Even when Detroit thumped Denver 45-10 in Week 8, that Tebow guy still had 63 rushing yards.
9. Tim Tebow vs. NYJ — It pains me to do this because I detest Tebowmania about as much as I hate being woken up by a rat while sleeping on the subway. Teams will figure out how to squash Tebow’s option offense and force him to pass soon enough, but it’ll still take some time. Despite completing just two passes last week, Tebow still had 19.5 fantasy points.
10. Jay Cutler vs. SD — Rodgers and Palmer have combined for a passer rating of 135.0 over the past two weeks against San Diego.
11. Matt Ryan vs. TEN — Don’t worry about Julio Jones being slowed by a nagging hamstring injury or possible sitting out entirely, and Roddy White not looking like Roddy White. Ryan still has 626 passing yards and five touchdowns over his last two games.
12. Mark Sanchez @ DEN — Suddenly Sanchez has regained his connection with Santonio Holmes, and if you don’t count the Colts as an actual NFL team (which we don’t), the Broncos have allowed the most passing touchdowns.
13. Ryan Fitzpatrick @ MIA — The last time Miami faced a respectable passing offense Eli Manning threw for 349 yards and two touchdowns. But it’s still difficult to trust Fitzpatrick much given his recent play, and his 21 fantasy points over the last two weeks.
14. Joe Flacco vs. CIN — The Bengals’ first game without Leon hall could be an adventure.
15. Alex Smith vs. ARI — With Drew Brees and Ben Roethlisberger sitting out with their byes, and Michael Vick, Matt Cassel, and Matt Schaub either out or likely out with injuries (Schaub would have a bye anyway), the safe and dependable Smith is once again the ideal bye or injury fill-in.
1. Maurice Jones-Drew @ CLE — Last week against the league’s 31st-ranked run defense MJD had 114 rushing yards, a rushing touchdown, and 23 receiving yards. Now he faces the league’s 30th-ranked run defense, so the fun will continue.
2. Matt Forte vs. SD — The Chargers have given up 335 rushing yards over the past two weeks.
3. Adrian Peterson vs. OAK — Every week we sift through both harmful and hurtful averages. Here’s one that’s quite delightful for Peterson owners: the Raiders’ defense is tied for the most yards allowed per carry (5.2).
4. LeSean McCoy vs. PHI — McCoy had 128 rushing yards back in Week 3 against the Giants, and he’s averaged 6.5 yards per carry over the last three times the NFC East rivals have met.
5. DeMarco Murray @ WAS — Felix Jones practiced Wednesday and will likely return, but don’t worry about him this week. Jones may eventually get 10-to-12 carries after he’s eased in, but even then Murray has still averaged a ridiculous 9.7 yards per carry in his four starts.
6. Fred Jackson @ MIA — Dating back to last year Jackson had gone 246 carries without losing a fumble prior to Week 9. Now he’s lost two in just his last 31 carries.
7. Michael Turner vs. TEN — The Titans are ranked 22nd against the run, and against teams ranked 20th or lower Turner is averaging 80.4 yards this year.
8. Michael Bush @ MIN — Bush could have difficulty repeating his 157-yard performance against a front seven allowing only 3.7 yards per carry.
9. Marshawn Lynch @ STL — Take the gamble, plunge, leap of faith, or jump into the abyss. After having only 263 yards in his first six games, Lynch now has 244 in just his last two, and the league’s worst run defense is teed up.
10. Steven Jackson vs. SEA — Putting a running back who’s exploded and averaged 139 yards over the last three weeks behind Bush and Lynch is difficult and risky, but Murray’s 139 yards in Week 9 has been the only dent in Seattle’s run defense. Seattle’s held Ray Rice, Rashard Mendenhall, Frank Gore, Michael Turner, and Ahmad Bradshaw to a combined 280 yards.
11. Ray Rice vs. CIN — Rice narrowly misses the top 10. He’s averaged an efficient but far from spectacular 101.6 all-purpose yards in his six career games against Cincy, and 64.6 rushing yards.
12. Brandon Jacobs vs. PHI — Jacobs’ yardage may not be overwhelming, but he’ll get an opportunity for a score or two against a Philly run defense that’s still feeble.
13. Frank Gore vs. ARI — Normally Gore would be slotted in much higher with a favorable matchup. But normally he’s not hobbled–or at least not normally this year–and his coach isn’t hinting at a decreased workload.
14. Shonn Greene @ DEN — He hasn’t been scoring much (just two TDs), but that should change against a weak run defense, and with Ladainian Tomlinson out.
15. Chris Johnson @ ATL — Thanks for finally waking up, Chris, but it’ll taking a lot more than just one week to convince me, especially when the league’s third-best run defense is on tap.
16 Ryan Mathews vs. CHI — The teasing Mathews displayed great burst on a few early runs last week, but then he aggravated his groin again. He’s only in his second year, but he’s given us little reason to trust his ability to stay healthy.
17. Reggie Bush vs. BUF — Daniel Thomas is back, and so is the RB platoon in Miami. But Bush is still dynamic, and he has 314 all-purpose yards and three touchdowns since Week 8.
18. LeGarrette Blount @ GB — The Packers’ run defense is on the same level as Houston’s, a unit that held Blount to just 34 yards on 10 carries last week.
19. Jackie Battle @ NE — The focus will be on Battle with Tyler Palko making his first career NFL start. There are worse plays for Mendenhall or Arian Foster owners scrambling during a bye week with the fantasy playoffs looming. You’ll see one of those plays below.
20. Willis McGahee vs. NYJ — McGahee would be higher if we could be assured that he’ll play tonight. He’ll likely be a game-time decision since he’s nursing a hamstring injury on short rest.
1. Calvin Johnson vs. CAR — The Panthers have only five interceptions this year, so Stafford shouldn’t be afraid to air it out and take some risks.
2. Wes Welker vs. KC — Welker isn’t posting the same other-worldly numbers that had us all thinking superhuman thoughts in September. He has 50 or fewer yards in three of his last four games.
3. Greg Jennings vs. — Sure, it’s wonderful for Packers fans that their team is spreading the ball around, and had 10 different receivers with a catch two weeks ago, and seven last week. For Jennings owners, though, it’s horrible, and even though the Packers have scored 90 points over the last two weeks he only has 78 yards. That’s easily Jennings’ worst two-game output of the season.
4. Steve Smith @ DET — As explosive as Smith’s been, I typically wouldn’t rank a receiver who’s up against a secondary allowing less than 200 passing yards per game in the top three. But as mentioned in the introduction, it’s an especially depleted week for receivers with byes and injuries.
5. Vincent Jackson @ CHI — We’ll pretend last week didn’t happen, and remember that two weeks ago against an equally terrible Packers secondary Jackson had seven catches for 141 yards and three touchdowns.
6. Anquan Boldin vs. CIN — Boldin will be another beneficiary of a secondary adjusting to life without Leon Hall.
7. Larry Fitzgerald @ SF — Fitz caught 11 balls for 125 yards and a touchdown in Week 17 against the 49ers last year.
8. Brandon Marshall vs. BUF — Leodis McKelvin has been torched frequently of late, and was out-leaped by Dez Bryant last week. The taller Marshall will have no problem out-running and out-jumping McKelvin too.
9. Dez Bryant vs. WAS — Bryant was shut down by DeAngelo Hall for much of the game the last time the Cowboys and Redskins met in Week 3, but he still salvaged a productive day with a 30-yard catch that sealed a Dallas win.
10. Santonio Holmes @ DEN — Holmes used his renewed connection with Sanchez last week to tie his season-high in receptions (6), and haul in 93 yards. He had just 116 receiving yards over the Jets’ previous three games.
11. Hakeem Nicks vs. PHI — The Nnamdi Asomugha factor isn’t quite as scary as the Darrelle Revis factor. But it’s still rather terrifying.
12. Roddy White vs. TEN — White’s been a mess, but he should still be a fine WR2 play against an average secondary, especially if Julio Jones is out.
13. Victor Cruz vs. PHI — Cruz’s targets could decrease with Nicks getting healthier, and the secondary is one of the few places the Eagles aren’t crumbling. But even if he takes a hit because of those factors it’s hard not to love a guy who’s only had two games with less than 80 receiving yards.
14. DeSean Jackson @ NYG — This feels low, but it’s likely a little high and optimistic for Jackson since he’ll probably be receiving passes from Vince Young. Jeremy Maclin’s status is uncertain, though, which could make Jackson Philly’s only deep threat.
15. Earl Bennett vs. SD — Bennett loves Cutler, and Cutler loves Bennett. Together they’ve played catch over the past two weeks, with Cutler throwing to Bennett 11 times for 176 yards.
16. Denarius Moore @ MIN — Somehow a healthy Darrius Heyward-Bey had 96.3 receiving yards between weeks 4 and 7, and now he’s been targeted just once over Oakland’s last two games. Moore has learly leapfrogged Heyward-Bey on the Raiders’ depth chart with his 123 yards and two touchdowns last week , and he’s now Palmer’s No. 1 option after Jacoby Ford’s injury.
17. Laurent Robinson @ WAS — Even when both Austin and Bryant were healthy, Robinson was still producing. He had two touchdowns last week and has four scores over Dallas’ last three games, and in Week 8 when the Cowboys were routed by Philly 34-7 Robinson still had 107 receiving yards.
18. Damian Williams @ ATL — Suddenly Williams is doing his best Kenny Britt impression, and he has a touchdown in two straight games. After finishing with a career-high 107 receiving yards last week against Carolina he gets another weak secondary.
19. Brandon Lloyd vs. SEA — With the red cross taking care of most of the top wide receivers this week, Lloyd is another consistent WR2 or WR3 play averaging a respectable 63.8 receiving yards per game since he was traded to St. Louis.
20. Dwayne Bowe @ NE — Normally Bowe would easily be a top five play against the league’s worst secondary that’s now playing without Devin McCourty. But with Matt Cassel gone for the year Tyler Palko becomes the great unknown, and it’s sounding like he could be a fantasy wide receiver killer on Curtis Painter’s level.
1. Rob Gronkowski vs. KC — Gronk’s 16 catches for 214 yards and three touchdowns over New England’s last two games are easily earn him the top TE spot with Jimmy Graham on his bye.
2. Jermichael Finley vs. TB — The Bucs have given up 109 receiving yards to tight ends over the past two weeks.
3. Antonio Gates @ CHI — One of the few consistent sources of production in San Diego’s offense hasn’t dipped below 50 receiving yards in a game yet this season when healthy.
4. Jason Witten @ WAS — Assuming that Witten would get more looks last week with Austin out was pretty reasonable. Thanks for killing that dream, Laurent Robinson.
5. Tony Gonzalez vs. TEN — Despite getting trampled 30-3, Carolina tight ends Jeremy Shockey and Greg Olsen still combined for 64 receiving yards last week against Tennessee.
6. Vernon Davis vs. ARI — Remarkably and unbelievably Davis has only one game with over 50 receiving yards this year, even though the 49ers have lost just one game. This is a run-oriented team under Jim Harbaugh, even if Frank Gore isn’t fully healthy.
7. Aaron Hernandez vs. KC — You know what you’re getting by now with New England’s tight end split. Gronk is typically targeted on deeper routes and will get far more yardage, but Hernandez is still a consistent red-zone target. He’s scored five times despite playing in only seven games.
8. Brandon Pettigrew vs. CAR — This feels like the week and the matchup for the forgotten man in Detroit’s offense to finally resurface.
9. Jake Ballard vs. PHI — The quickly emerging Ballard has shown an ability to stretch the field. He has a reception of 20 yards or more in four of his last five games.
10. Greg Olsen @ DET — Olsen has 10.5 fantasy points over Carolina’s last two games to Jeremy Shockey’s 9.5 over the last three, so I’ll still narrowly favor Olsen over Shockey.
11. Fred Davis vs. DAL — With Santana Moss still out Davis is the only player in Washington that should be a consistent starter. Now all the Redskins need is a remotely consistent quarterback.
12. Brent Celek @ NYG — Maybe this is a little high, but if Young starts Celek will be leaned on heavily as a safety value. And if Maclin sits then Celek’s looks will increase even further, with the tight end assuming the role of Philly’s only reliable target up the middle.
13. Dustin Keller @ DEN — The yardage is still there, but Keller hasn’t scored since Week 2, and now Sanchez has eyes for Holmes.
14. Jermaine Gresham @ BAL — Gresham scored in his return from injury last week, and he could get more looks if Green sits out.
15. Ed Dickson vs. CIN — Flacco could ride Dickson’s hot hand early after he had season-high 10 receptions for 79 yards and two touchdowns last week.
1. Robbie Gould vs. SD
2. David Akers vs. ARI
3. Mason Crosby vs. TB
4. Jason Hanson vs. CAR
5. Nick Folk @ DEN
6. Sebastian Janikowski @ MIN
7. Stephen Gostkowski vs. KC
8. Lawrence Tynes vs. PHI
9. Alex Henery @ NYG
10. Matt Bryant vs. TEN
1. Baltimore Ravens vs. CIN
2. New York Jets @ DEN
3. Green Bay Packers vs. TB
4. Dallas Cowboys @ WAS
5. San Francisco 49ers vs. ARI
6. Atlanta Falcons vs. TEN
7. Chicago Bears vs. SD
8. New York Giants vs. PHI
9. Philadelphia Eagles @ NYG
10. Detroit Lions vs. CAR