I have one team that is 2-6, even though I’ve scored the third most points in the league through 8 weeks. Sometimes that happens, but luckily I’m not out of the playoff hunt because the top team in my division is 4-3. So you’re telling me there’s a chance. But I can’t make any missteps the rest of the way, and I’ll need to be more lucky than I’ve been unlucky so far. Then hopefully I can have my team playing the best football come playoff time (and hopefully I can sneak into the playoffs too so it will actually matter).
Not to mention I just lost my most consistent performer — Matt Forte — for a stretch of time when I could ill afford to lose anyone, much less him. So I’m counting on Jeremy Langford to be a mini-Forte and power me through on Monday night. I’m also counting on Mike Evans to be well enough to make a difference, and for Jordan Matthews to make those catches he was dropping before the bye. Yes, it could happen.
Meanwhile, there are decisions to be made across all of my leagues, and there are in your league too. That’s what I’m here for, to help you make those tough decisions when they count the most. It’s time for Setting Your Lineup…
QBs to PLAY
TYROD TAYLOR vs. Miami – The first time around Taylor was spectacular against the Dolphins on the road, and if he’s healthy enough he should be again, this time at home. Luckily for Buffalo the timing was right for the bye, and Taylor has LeSean McCoy and Karlos Williams to lean on as well, both in the passing game, and to help him on the read-option plays when he keeps it. Look for Taylor to score on the ground and through the air.
JAY CUTLER @ San Diego – If you haven’t been watching the Chargers defense all season that’s the only way you’ll be surprised that they give up a ton of yardage through the air, and who’s that guy with the rocket for an arm they’re facing on Monday night? Yeah, get Cutler active for this one.
PHILIP RIVERS vs. Chicago – On the flip side of that coin, did you know that Philip Rivers is throwing the ball more than any other quarterback in the league? Having Danny Woodhead helps. Losing Keenan Allen doesn’t, but he’s been spreading the ball around, he gets a healthy Antonio Gates, and Stevie Johnson will step in and do yeoman’s work right away against a Chicago defense that can be beaten deep.
QB to AVOID
ANDREW LUCK vs. Denver – Did you see what the Broncos defense did to Aaron Rodgers last week? They were just getting started, and now they get to face Luck, who hasn’t looked right except in the fourth quarter the past few weeks, all Indianapolis losses. You probably don’t have a better option on your bench, but I’m starting Taylor, Sam Bradford, and Derek Carr over him this week.
RBs to PLAY
DeANGELO WILLIAMS vs. Oakland – While I know he’s not Le’Veon Bell, I also know what I saw from him in the first two games of the season, and that was Bell-like in its precision and efficiency. He hasn’t had much work since then so I know he’s also fresh for this matchup against the Raiders. That’s all I need to know. Start him with confidence.
LATAVIUS MURRAY @ Pittsburgh – You know how I feel about that Steelers defense (I’m not impressed), and Murray has been an absolute workhorse for the Raiders, going over 100 yards again last week against the Jets, who are supposed to be pretty good on defense. Having Derek Carr exposing defenses through the air, Murray keeps them honest on the ground.
CHRIS THOMPSON @ New England – Thompson is healthy again, and Kirk Cousins has proven he loves to lean on this particular running back as a safety outlet. I like for him to get a lot of yardage through the air on this one, and to produce at least one touchdown against a Patriots defense that doesn’t defend pass-catching running backs very well.
RB to AVOID
FRANK GORE vs. Denver – Again, you saw how the Broncos defense decimated the Packers offense, an offense that was actually playing much better than this Indianapolis offense is coming in. And even though Frank Gore is the timeless one, don’t count on him to have a lot of yardage in a game that should be dominated by that Denver D.
WRs to PLAY
MIKE EVANS vs. NY Giants – Did you see what the Saints did to the Giants last week? Now, Jameis Winston is no Drew Brees, but he’s starting to get Evans involved in the offense more, and this is an excellent matchup to set up a monster outing. With Vincent Jackson most probably out, it makes for more looks Evans’ way as well.
TORREY SMITH vs. Atlanta – I know. I know. How can you possibly trust a receiver who has been wildly inconsistent this year? Simple. Because Blaine Gabbert can actually get him the ball, and he will early and often in this one. The 49ers need a pick-me-up, and this game, against a poor defense, is just what they need.
STEVIE JOHNSON vs. Chicago – I was dead serious about a shootout on Monday night, and Johnson has suddenly become Philip Rivers’ top wide receiver with the injury to Keenan Allen. He’s ready, too, as he’s been stuck with cleanup duty lately. But with Rivers throwing the ball so much Johnson is set for a huge stat line.
WR to AVOID
TERRANCE WILLIAMS vs. Philadelphia – Now that Dez Bryant is back to being the top dog in Dallas, Williams goes back to being an afterthought, the guy who can catch the deep ball but no one’s throwing it. Matt Cassel sure isn’t, especially against a solid Eagles secondary that feasts on underthrown and overthrown balls.
TEs to PLAY
JORDAN REED @ New England – If you haven’t bought into Reed yet, you probably should. Yes, New England schemes to take away the opposing offense’s top weapon, but with DeSean Jackson back Reed becomes the second option, and the most dangerous because of it. Look for Cousins to find him often, particularly in the red zone.
BENJAMIN WATSON vs Tennessee – It’s gotten to the point where I can legitimately tell you to start pretty much anyone against that Titans defense. And Watson isn’t pretty much anyone. He’s as hot as any tight end in the league right now, and Drew Brees loves to find him in the end zone. He should have a monster game on Sunday.
ZACH ERTZ @ Dallas – While Ertz hasn’t been the beast he could have been to this point in the season, he has been getting more looks from Sam Bradford, and against Dallas having the tight end active will be important. Part of the scheme is to spread the ball around, and Chip Kelly will get back to basics here in a contest that means a lot in terms of the NFC East and the playoffs. Look for Ertz to have a big game.
TE to AVOID
VERNON DAVIS @ Indianapolis – You might be tempted to grab Davis and play him here, but the timing of the trade won’t do him any favors. Having to learn a new offense, new schemes, and a new quarterback won’t be easy, and it won’t happen this fast. Look for the Broncos to work him slowly into their offense, so this week isn’t the best week to trust him.
FLEX to PLAY
JEREMY LANGFORD @ San Diego – Remember how much I love Jay Cutler for this game? I feel the same way about his running back, who should be able to slide comfortably into Matt Forte’s shoes, meaning he will be running as well as catching passes from Cutler, helping him be a strong fantasy play this week.
EMMANUEL SANDERS @ Indianapolis – Sanders has been dealing with shoulder issues, which have affected his game totals, but he’s finally healthy this week, and he’s facing a defense that has not been able to cover WR2s, the perfect storm. Watch out this week because Sanders will go off in a big way, especially with Peyton Manning much improved.
ERIC DECKER vs. Jacksonville – With Brandon Marshall ailing, and possibly missing this game, Decker becomes the go-to guy for either Fitzpatrick or Smith, and he’s great when odds are stacked against him. Who else is going to help the Jets go up and down the field besides Chris Ivory? Decker’s the man, and he proves it in this matchup.
FLEX to AVOID
EDDIE LACY @ Carolina – It’s not a good time to be Eddie Lacy. He’s been losing touches to James Starks, and even when he totes the rock he doesn’t have a good average. Besides, he’s facing two of the top defenses in the league in back to back weeks. That’s not a good combination. Let him simmer on your bench.
K to PLAY
JOSH LAMBO vs. Chicago
CHRIS BOSWELL vs. Oakland
DAN BAILEY vs. Philadelphia
K to AVOID
MATT BRYANT @ San Francisco
D/ST to PLAY
VIKINGS vs. St. Louis
RAMS vs. Minnesota
EAGLES @ Dallas
D/ST to AVOID
GIANTS @ Tampa Bay