I’m typing quickly this morning, ladies and gentlemen. Last night as I was getting ready for bed, I realized that today is a special field-trip day at my job (I teach P.E.) and that I’d have to leave my apartment especially early to get there on time. As a result, you’re probably reading this at 2:00 pm as opposed to our normal Fantasy Thursday publish time of 8:00 or 9:00 am. With all that being said we just want to apologize for any inconvenience this may cause you. We are deeply invested in the well-being of your fantasy football team and would hate to jeopardize your success in any way. If you aren’t inconvenienced at all by this whole shake-up then don’t worry because I certainly was. Forward!
I find myself with an interesting dilemma this week. Tom Brady is on an early bye week because the NFL is trying to sabotage the Patriots, meaning I’ll have to go with my QB2 this week. No big deal, I’ll just slide Big Ben right in – wait! Ben Roeslithberger’s hurt, WHAT DO I DO?! If that struck a chord with you then stay tuned to find out the best options for Roeslithberger replacements. As for now let’s just get to those lists, shall we?
Five Guys You Have to Start This Week
- Antonio Brown, Steelers. I know you’re afraid. You’re looking at Michael Vick in that starting spot and wondering if he’s going to lay a big fat Thursday Night egg that’s going to ruin your playoff chances. Listen to me: if Antonio Brown scores 30 points on your bench you will never forgive yourself. Don’t regret this forever.
- Amari Cooper, Raiders. The Carr-to-Cooper connection grows stronger and stronger while Chicago’s pass rush grows weaker and weaker.
- Keenan Allen, Chargers. Philip Rivers and the Chargers offense had their fair share of struggles in September, but Allen still managed to reel in 29 receptions for 315 yards and 2 touchdowns. This duo should be able to find success against the Browns’ secondary.
- Carson Palmer, Cardinals. Carson Palmer has come out of the gate on a mission to prove that Arizona’s hot start last year was no fluke. Unless you’ve got a guy named Tom or Aaron in your QB stable, I’d start Palmer every week.
- Randall Cobb, Packers. Judging by his 91 yard, 3 touchdown performance against the Chiefs on Monday, Cobb is back in a big way. Owners who have been frustrated by James Jones suddenly returning as Rodgers’ favorite target can rest easy this week as the Packers offense take on a 49ers defense that gave up 195 yards and a touchdown to Antonio Brown in Week 2.
- Golden Tate, Lions. I know, I know, I’m ruining the whole Brady’s Quest for 5™ theme here, but just give me a second to explain. Professional athletes have this weird thing where they motivate themselves with the slights, real or perceived, of others. I’d put money on Tate going off against his former Seahawk teammates just for the fact that he was traded and didn’t appreciate it.
Five Guys That I Wouldn’t Start This Week Because Eh…
- J. Spiller, Saints. Spiller hasn’t done much of anything since arriving in New Orleans and if you’re thinking that this might be his week to breakout, I’d encourage you to hold your horses. Dallas’ defense has been stout against the run with a healthy Sean Lee back in the fold and they’ll have plenty of guys near the line of scrimmage should Drew Brees be unable to play again.
- Matt Stafford, Lions. Stafford has spent the past two weeks under constant pressure being hit from all sides by linebackers and defensive linemen galore. His performance has progressively regressed because of it and this week should be no different as he faces Seattle’s defense at home on a Monday night. By all means take the chance if your backup is atrocious, but employ a solid second option if you can.
- Peyton Manning, Broncos. Peyton can usually pile up some yards and garbage-time touchdowns for your team, but after watching the Vikings pass rush for a few weeks I’m not convinced it’ll be the same story this weekend. If the Vikings can terrorize quarterbacks who aren’t motionless statues in the pocket then this Sunday just might be the worst day of Peyton’s life. Remember the 2009 NFC Championship when the Saints defense just unloaded on Brett Favre and there were at least three plays where you thought he might really be dead? Yeah, it’s not looking good for Peyton.
- Dolphins Offensive Players, Dolphins. Miami has been in decline since week 1, losing a close game to the Jaguars and then suffering a blowout from divisional rival the Bills. The Dolphins’ offense won’t have it any easier this week against Darelle Leave-us and the Jets defense.
- Julian Edelman, Patriots. The Bye Week defense has never allowed any receiving yards and something tells me that streak won’t be interrupted any time soon. What? You’re not amused? I’m already late and it’s been a long day, okay? Just stop judging me so we can move on.
Get to the Waiver Wire Now (In the Key of Arnold)
- Travis Benjamin, Browns. Because nobody who doesn’t now or hasn’t at some point lived in Ohio gives a crap about the Browns, you might not have heard of this receiver. However, it might be time to give up on some struggling star and embrace Benjamin’s big yardage scoring trend.
- Marvin Jones, Bengals. Jones may be a great flex option this week as the Chiefs will most likely commit to bracketing A.J. Green all day. Jones has scored a touchdown in his past two starts.
- Ted Ginn Jr, Panthers. Ginn is a risky flex option facing a soft Tampa Bay pass defense. I wouldn’t pick him up as a first option, but when Cam Newton is throwing touchdowns to Jerrico Cotchery it’s gotta be worth a shot.
- Charles Clay, Bills. Clay is getting the second-most targets on the team through three weeks and is up against a Giants defense that has allowed the second-most yards to tight ends in the league. Take advantage of Clay as long as Sammy Watkins is on the sidelines.
- Andy Dalton, Bengals. This week I’ve noticed that Dalton is available in most of my leagues, meaning he’s probably surfing the waiver wire in most of yours too. I know Dalton has been a fantasy no-no in past years, but he’s had a strong start to the season, throwing at least two touchdowns every week with three in each of his past two games.
Boom or Bust
This week we are very excited to present our very first installment of Boom or Bust, where we analyze a player who is called up because of injury, earns a starting role midseason, or appears as a fantasy option out of the blue for any reason and tell you whether or not to believe the hype. This week’s subject: Michael Vick, a man who has had plenty of twists and turns in his football career. He currently finds himself stepping in for an injured (again) Ben Roeslithberger on a Steelers team that has been on a roll since losing to the Patriots in Week 1. Now, with a chance to drop the rivaled Ravens to 0-4 and most likely close the door early on their playoff dreams, we’ve only got a few hours to decide if he’ll…BOOM or BUST!
The first thing we’ll have to do is look at what Vick was able to do in his last starting season, which came in 2014 with the Jets. In three games started Vick completed 64 of 121 passes for 1,215 yards and 5 touchdowns against 3 interceptions. In that three game span Vick was sacked 19 times which is very telling of his diminished mobility. At this point in his career, at age 34, whether or not the pieces around Vick can alleviate the pressure from the pass rush will be paramount to his success. Let’s have a look at how Big Ben was doing before Vick was called up to replace him.
Through three games this season, the perfect sample size to compare to Vick’s 2014 campaign, Roeslithberger has completed 67 of 89 passes for 912 yards and 4 touchdowns against 2 interceptions. He’s also been sacked 5 times, 14 less than times than Vick was brought down in the same time span last season. Roeslithberger’s also thrown considerably less passes, a testament to Pittsburgh’s commitment to leaning on their ground game even before Le’Veon Bell’s return.
Based on what the Steelers emphasize on offense and Big Ben’s propensity to return from injury quickly, we’ll most likely see Vick handing the football to Le’Veon Bell and DeAngelo Williams, throwing screen passes to Antonio Brown, and taking the occasional deep shot during his time on the field. It’s likely that Vick will guide Pittsburgh to a win over Baltimore tonight, but I have a feeling that it won’t happen by way of flooding the stat sheet in vintage Michael Vick style. When it comes to replacing one of the most consistent fantasy quarterbacks in the league, I’m going to have to label this one: BUST
This Week’s Tough Calls
This installment of Tough Calls™ is brought to you by Coronado Island, which is where I took a group of students this morning instead of writing this column like I usually would. Although, when you put it in perspective, Coronado Island is not really a place anyone can complain about going to, obligated or otherwise. We’ve got great questions from my guy Jay all the way out in Grand Rapids, Michigan and a bunch of guys named Mitch. It’s weird that different guys named Mitch would all submit questions on the same week, but I guess that’s just how it shakes out. Let it begin!
I have the Broncos Defense and Adrian Peterson, who do I play? – Jay, Grand Rapids
After a rough Monday Night in San Francisco, A.P. has returned to his old ways, logging 134 and 126 yards in his last two games, even adding 2 touchdowns last week against the Chargers. Denver’s defense has been stout so far this season, but just like Jamaal Charles who they faced in Week 2; Peterson is a guy you just can’t sit.
Tyrod Taylor or Derek Carr? – Mitch, San Diego
I myself picked up Tyrod Taylor to start this week for the MasterDebaters who were in a quarterback quagmire with Brady on a bye and Roeslithberger on the trainer’s table. I think either of these quarterbacks is a good option facing the Bears and Giants, respectively, but Carr is the better play on account of being the more talented passer and having more emerging weapons at his disposal.
Tyler Eifert of Travis Kelce? – Mitch, San Diego
Over the past two weeks, Kansas City’s defense has allowed only 9 receptions for 90 yards to four different tight ends. This comes with the caveat that none of those tight ends were necessarily guys you might feature on the side of your stadium, but excellent safety play from Eric Berry should keep tight ends who face the Chiefs in check all season. Your best bet here is Kelce; he’ll see an increase in targets if and when the Bengals focus on taking away Jeremy Maclin in the passing game.
Fantasy Victory of the Week
Okay folks, its 3:30 and I’ve got to leave the building I’m in at 4:00 so let’s freakin’ do this. Forgive me if I don’t regale you with an amazing story this week as my brain is a little scattered and I’m trying to monitor about 15 high school kids while I write this. This week all of my teams except the poor Dough Babies (1-2) came away with a victory, and I would’ve gotten away with the sweep if it weren’t for that meddling A.J. Green and his 44 points, too!
We made it! It wasn’t pretty, but we made it. Man, I feel like Jack Bauer right now! Get it, because I was trying to beat a clock and he’s always trying to beat a clock and…you know what? Nevermind. It’s been a long enough day. Remember that you can always submit questions for Fantasy Thursday by email: firstname.lastname@example.org or get real-time advice on Twitter @4thandGyas. Don’t forget to check your lineups for any Ravens or Steelers on your roster and catch the latest chapter in their historic rivalry tonight at 5:30 pm (Pacific Time) on NFL Network and CBS. Until next time!