Welcome to Pro Football Weekly's Fantasy Buzz, where we'll hit on the most pressing topic for every team, every week to try and help you make the most informed daily and weekly roster decisions.
As a general rule of thumb each week, we'll get you the Thursday Night Football goods, an extra serving beyond what we have for the weekend's slate, in time for your Thursday afternoon commute. We'll then circle back in this same space and round out the weekly action by Friday afternoon. Voila.
If you see a position ranking in parentheses, that's where I have a player slotted for the week. Just don't let that preclude you from checking out our top 100 regardless of position here.
Let's get to it.
WASHINGTON @ BENGALS
Jordan Reed appears set to return Sunday, leaving some owners like myself conflicted. A monster fantasy producer, he also has a troubling concussion history but vows it won't deter him from resuming his career. The last time he did so, again returning after a two-game absence in Week Seven a season ago, Reed shredded the Bucs for 11-72-2.
Josh Norman (concussion) also practiced Friday, setting the stage for his first clash with fellow blue-chipper A.J. Green (WR3). That might position Brandon LaFell (14-164-4 over past three games combined) to continue his hot streak, likely drawing hobbled Bashaud Breeland. The extra attention Green commands also bodes well for Jeremy Hill (RB9) and Gio Bernard (RB15) after Cincinnati's much-needed run game renaissance in Week Seven preceded a date with Washington's weak ground defense.
PATRIOTS @ BILLS
Rex Ryan said this week he doesn't know if Tom Brady (QB2) has ever been better, that coming from a coach Brady has beaten 11 times in 14 tries, with a TD-to-INT ratio of 25:7. Has a Ryan-coached run 'D' ever been worse than last week versus Jay Ajayi? LeGarrette Blount (RB12) is anxious to find out. And Martellus Bennett (and his owners) want Gronk (TE1) to share TDs.
Mike Gillislee (RB20) averaged more than six yards per touch, albeit only getting seven chances, in Buffalo's Week Four road shutout of New England. With LeSean McCoy unlikely to go, Gillislee should be "the guy," but with banged-up Buffalo lacking other difference-makers, Belichick willl likely ensure Gillislee doesn't beat him.
CARDINALS @ PANTHERS
Carson Palmer (QB15) hasn't been as bad as he was in the NFC title game in Carolina, but he's been plenty bad. Perhaps seeing the Carolina defense, which went from dominating to defenseless, will help Palmer, you know, because he gets to play a bad defense, but also as a result of seeing teams don't have to carry over their playoff performances two months into the following season.
Cam is still gonna Cam, as he promised this week, and we believe him. Whether Newton (QB5) can replicate his 382 total yard, 4-TD effort from January vs. Arizona, much improved with Chandler Jones and coming off its best defensive outing, seems unlikely. But Kelvin Benjamin (WR13) has since been added to the mix and might be able to take advantage of Patrick Peterson's bad back.
JETS @ BROWNS
With all due respect, Chan Gailey, just give Matt Forte (RB6) 30 carries and put a check in the win column. Seriously, it's not rocket science. Gang Green is 2-0 when Forte gets 30 totes for 100 yards and 0-5 when he doesn't. Against Forte's old pal, Josh McCown, the Jets' defense may actually help Gailey oblige. If not, Brandon Marshall (WR6) is rallying around Ryan Fitzpatrick (QB16) again. What could possibly go wrong?
On our new podcast, I lament being too impatient early in the fantasy season, when I cut bait on Terrelle Pryor (WR22), among others, too soon. My lamenting could turn to languishing Sunday, as Pryor is healthy again and the Jets secondary is hideous. McCown hooked up twice with Corey Coleman in his lone outing, but with Coleman still out, Pryor is in for a big day (and someone else's lineup other than mine).
LIONS @ TEXANS
Matthew Stafford (QB6) likes Georgia peaches, trucker hats and Jim Bob Cooter. With a 16-game Cooter sample now available, Stafford's numbers: 35 TDs, 8 INTs, 4,310 yards and a 105.4 passer rating. Stafford better also like monster contract extensions, because one is coming his way soon. Also coming (back) Stafford's way Sunday: Theo Riddick (RB22) and perhaps Eric Ebron.
Xavier Rhodes, Vontae Davis, Chris Harris and Aqib Talib... Nevin Lawson and Johnson Bademosi. Yeah, we think DeAndre Hopkins (WR8), who won't see injured Darius Slay, has a "get right" game coming after a stretch of battling terrific lockdown corners. Lamar Miller (RB5) could become the first back to find the end zone against Detroit.
CHIEFS @ COLTS
Travis Kelce (TE5) has been held below 35 receiving yards in four of six games, three of them touchdown-less, this season. That happened just twice last season, both in the final four games, en route to his TE7 finish. Is it time to panic? If he doesn't light up a Colts 'D' that's yielded 21-242-2 combined to top TEs over the past three games, yes.
Since turning it over five times in his first four games combined, Andrew Luck (QB4) has just one giveaway compared to seven total touchdowns in the past three outings. If Luck's propensity for giveaways continues to diminish, we're not sure there's a fantasy QB, Tom Brady notwithstanding, we'd prefer the rest of the way. Oh yeah, Donte Moncrief could return Sunday, a boost not only for Luck but perhaps T.Y. Hilton (WR7) and Jack Doyle (TE6).
SEAHAWKS @ SAINTS
Russell Wilson (QB7) has a pec injury — at least his third separate ailment this season — and we're shocked! How could a line that was bad with J.R. Sweezy and Russell Okung be worse at protecting Wilson now? Jimmy Graham (TE4) is a beast again — and we're not shocked at all. He's Wilson's favorite target since Week Three and probably going to relish things being a little easier against his old team in the Big Easy than they were last week in the desert.
Has Corey Coleman never heard of Michael Thomas (WR34)? The Browns' rookie wideout, when asked about the lack of success for his fellow first-year wideouts this week, failed to acknowledge the obvious exception, Thomas, who only managed 10-130 last week and now paces all rookie pass catchers.
RAIDERS @ BUCCANEERS
I've started a Latavius Murray (RB19) help line for other unfortunate owners who left him on the bench in Week Seven as he returned from a toe-week layoff for a two-TD day in Jacksonville. But to borrow a line from PFW contributor Pat Fitzmaurice, touchdowns are a good cologne, and few backs are wearing more of it than Murray (3.2 YPC since Week Three but 5 total scores) and Melvin Gordon (3.4 YPC, NFL-best 10 TDs). If these guys quit plodding but continue finding pay dirt, look out!
Jameis Winston isn't solely a great DFS play this week — he's my QB9, facing one of the worst defenses in the NFL. Mike Evans (WR2, No. 3 overall) has never been higher in our fantasy rankings, nor has Jacquizz Rodgers (RB8). Just don't forget about Peyton Barber (RB36) the more we struggle to remember Doug Martin.
CHARGERS @ BRONCOS
We've alread mentioned Gordon (RB11), so let's focus on Hunter Henry, who quickly cleared concussion protocol and seems ready to build on his career day in Week Six vs. Denver — 6-83-1. That's right, Henry is such a bad dude, he saves his career days for Wade Phillips' big, bad Broncos. There aren't a lot of other plays we love, but Philip Rivers (QB11) will look the way of Tyrell Williams (WR28) even more than usual if Travis Benjamin (knee) can't go.
Welcome to RB1 status, Devontae Booker (RB10). Your first test is a defense you just produced against two weeks ago, one that was gashed by Atlanta (5.0 ypc) Sunday. Booker is ready, but he's still less than a year removed from meniscus surgery and the new handcuff becomes Kapri Bibbs. Perhaps A.J. Derby could gain fantasy relevance soon, too, as John Elway parted with a fifth-rounder to help satiate Gary Kubiak's TE hunger.
PACKERS @ FALCONS
Aaron Rodgers (QB3) attempted 56 passes last time out because the Packers didn't have any healthy running backs with knowledge of the system. Knile Davis, after the mini-bye and a weekend at Bennie Sirmans (Packers RBs coach), could be ready to change that. Davis (RB29), like Ty Montgomery (WR14) last week, has terrific upside in an offense that, despite last week's results, needs balance. We also envision this as being the week Rodgers stacks strong showings, as Atlanta's defense is nearly as suspect as Chicago's.
Half of Atlanta's lethal split backfield, Tevin Coleman, is on the shelf with a hamstring injury. The other half, Devonta Freeman (RB7), practiced in full Friday for the first time this week after dealing with a hip injury as he prepares for the NFL's top run 'D.' Julio Jones (WR1, No. 1 overall) eviscerated Green Bay's secondary in his previous meeting — and that was a healthy Sam Shields and Tramon Williams. Sans Shields, Damarious Randall and Quinten Rollins, the Packers' plan for containing Jones is going to include former undrafted rookie LaDarius Gunter and former sixth-rounder Demetri Goodson. Jones and Matt Ryan (QB1) will get theirs; will Atlanta get a win if someone else can't chip in?
EAGLES @ COWBOYS
With trade rumors swirling around the Eagles and potential big-name wideouts, Sunday is a great opportunity for Philadelphia's current No. 1 — Jordan Matthews (WR23) — to remind everyone he's averaged 944 yards and eight touchdowns in each of his first two seasons. But Matthews must become more reliable for Carson Wentz, and he gets a Dallas 'D' he toasted twice last year, in addition to a nickel, Orlando Scandrick, returning from a long layoff.
Don't be surprised when Terrance Williams, not Cole Beasley, is the wideout whose fantasy value dips with the return of Dez Bryant (WR11). Beasley and Dak Prescott have the kind of trust built up that Dallas has been unable to develop in Williams since his arrival. Moreover, Bryant's return might help Beasley keep ascending in his breakout campaign; Beasley led the 'Boys in receiving in two of three games in which Bryant has played.