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, and Sunday noon contests 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.
BILLS @ BENGALS
Like Tyrod Taylor (QB14) since Sammy Watkins' injury, you might have to put your faith in Robert Woods (WR23) by default. Between Alshon Jeffery's suspension and Julio Jones, Demaryius Thomas, Emmanuel Sanders, Brandon Marshall and Tyrell Williams all resting this week, Woods will be a popular pinch hitter. And after watching his cinch conquest of Seattle before the bye, feel good about this technician's matchup vs. an unglued Bengals defense.
If you needed any more reasons to skip the weekly dart throw in the Bengals' backfield altogether, this week provides a compelling one in Buffalo's strong run 'D.' Jay Ajayi Jeremy Hill isn't, and while he's a better play than Gio Bernard because of his touchdown propensity, we're not recommending either. Instead, plug in the big-play threats — A.J. Green (WR2) and Tyler Eifert (TE6) — against a secondary that hasn't prevented many lately and call it a day, like both of these playoff hopefuls have already called it a season.
STEELERS @ BROWNS
A dude in one of my leagues lost last week because of Antonio Brown's 55 garbage yards in the final nine seconds after Ezekiel Elliot finished laying his vengeance upon Pittsburgh. What a way to lose, like the brilliance of Big Ben (QB2) and Brown (WR1), after channeling Marino's fake spike and touchdown to Mark Ingram, being squandered. This week all the Steelers must do to snap their four-game tumble is make their flight for Cleveland. Yet for good measure, I'll suggest adding Eli Rogers (WR36) — wait, I already did that — to your lineups.
Sashi Brown conceded this week 2016 isn't about wins and losses for the Browns, in case that was still unclear. Crystal clear: until that changes, seek fantasy help elsewhere.
RAVENS @ COWBOYS
If I were playing in a DFS tournament this week, Kenneth Dixon (RB28) would pique my interest. I explained why here but if you want the cliffs notes version, he's good at football and showed for the first time last week the juice he can add to Baltimore's thirsty rushing attack. The Cowboys' 'D' will be exploited long before they're thirsting for RB help, perhaps Sunday, after another week of playing over its head.
Jason Garrett says he doesn't want Dak Prescott (QB14) looking over his shoulder, but if he does this week he'll see the Cowboys' all-time passing leader, Tony Romo, holding a clipboard as the backup. Prescott has been unflappable, but Sunday marks a new kind of pressure he's yet to face — officially replacing a legend, not evading Terrell Suggs, No. 6 on the active sacks list with 112.5. Aside from Elliott (RB3) and Dez Bryant (WR7), the Cowboys should be avoided in their best test to date.
JAGUARS @ LIONS
The perfect storm, Detroit backing into first place during its bye week notwithstanding, is a reeling Blake Bortles (QB13) getting a Detroit 'D' permitting a league-high in completion percentage (74.1) and passer rating (112.4), and less opportunistic than every stop unit besides his own. In other words, it's closing time and Bortles and Gus Bradley are the only two guys left at the bar. After this one ends, will they being calling Uber or the Lions to say thank you for saving their skins for another week?
The Marvin Jones (WR22) thing: fun while it lasted, or the Lions need the difference-making size-speed threat we saw in September back making a difference with his size and speed outside ASAP for their fun to last much longer? We tend to subscribe to the latter theory, though Detroit could be jonesing for that guy at least one more week, as Jalen Ramsey continues to blossom. In fact, the Jaguars defense is pretty good (there's at least one reason Gus Bradley is still employed), but Golden Tate (WR18) should again be the guy for Matthew Stafford (QB9).
TITANS @ COLTS
Delanie Walker (TE1) has the third-most receiving yards of any tight end, while the Colts have ceded the third-most receiving yards to opposing tight ends. Is your mind blown? If not, go back and watch what Marcus Mariota (QB4) has done since Week Four: 19 TDs, 5 TOs and a 4-2 mark. Still not impressed? Check out who he's doing it with aside from Walker: Rishard Matthews (WR31), Tajae Sharpe and Kendall Wright. Who are these guys, and what might Mariota do when he has guys who aren't just guys?
Dick LeBeau has a strong front seven but a secondary with holes. The Colts' defense, meanwhile, has mostly holes, making the week's highest point total — 53 — seem achievable. Coming off the bye, Andrew Luck (QB7) and his arsenal — T.Y. Hilton (WR4), Donte Moncrief (WR14) and Jack Doyle (TE11), among others — should be as healthy as they've been all season. Doyle and Hilton each had monster days in Week Seven, a 34-26 Colts victory over Tennessee.
BUCCANEERS @ CHIEFS
The wait for Doug Martin owners was slightly longer than the Glazer family's wait for Brent Grimes' wife to go nuclear again on Twitter. Doug freshened up a rather rotten return with a garbage time score. More encouragingly, he handled 17 touches on his 31 snaps, both team highs, so the Bucs remain committed to the back they committed $15 million guaranteed to this offseason. The Chiefs' run 'D' has been curiously worse at Arrowhead than away from the only NFL stadium wherein I've seen a topless woman on the jumbotron — in a preseason game, no less.
Is it a cop-out that I'm talking about the Chiefs' defense again in this space? I mean, it's not my fault Bob Sutton's group is my favorite fantasy topic to discuss regarding Kansas City besides Arthur Bryant's ribs. Another big day is coming for Marcus Peters and the gang against Jameis Winston, I suspect. But if you need a Chiefs pass catcher to play, first, my apologies. Second, Tyreek Hill is worth a flier against fantasy's 31st-ranked 'D' vs. wideouts if Jeremy Maclin (groin) misses another game.
CARDINALS @ VIKINGS
Michael Floyd (WR26), as I mentioned in this week's '9 route,' can make, or lose, a lot of money in the final seven games. Arizona is selling him as a new man coming out of the bye, and he came through in the clutch vs. the Niners with his first 100-yard outing. I know what you're saying — the Vikings aren't exactly the Niners, Arthur. Well, kinda hard to argue that point, much like it's hard to build a strong case for Floyd. I just have a hunch. And Minnesota has a banged-up WR corps, while Arizona has a banged-up Hall of Fame WR, Larry Fitzgerald (WR12).
My buddy and colleague John Sahly, also the host of our Pro Football Weekly Fantasy Podcast, is all in on Stefon Diggs this week. I don't know whether it's the result of his sleep deprivation with a newborn at home, or a handy dandy stat from Rotoworld's Rich Hribar about Patrick Peterson's mortality in the slot, where he'll see plenty of Diggs, vs. outside. I'm not as high on Diggs (WR17) as they are but I salute Pat Shurmur for unlocking a player I have in several leagues the past couple weeks.
BEARS @ GIANTS
Jordan Howard (RB13) made it through his second practice without being on the injury report — unless you ask the Giants media, who was told by John Fox on Wednesday that Howard was limited a few days after Fox chalked up Howard's inexcusable second-half invisibility to a mysterious ankle/Achilles injury. No matter who you ask, the Giants' run 'D' is stellar, especially up the middle where Howard does his most damage. Nonetheless, he's the best shot Chicago's got this week and torched a previously formidable Vikings 'D' in a similar spot a few weeks ago.
All those investments in the middle of the defense and the Bears still have huge issues, as evidenced by the Cameron Brate show last week. Sunday, it'll be Sterling Shepard (WR35) looking to take advantage of the voids left by Chicago's inexperienced 'D.' Odell Beckham Jr. (WR3) draws a relatively tough assignment in Tracy Porter, but expect Porter to have the tough day here. Bears vocal leader Pernell McPhee has promised to smack Eli Manning (QB16), so there's that, too.
DOLPHINS @ RAMS
During their four-game surge, the 'Phins' defense has three top-nine fantasy scoring finishes, including the past two weeks, vs. Philip Rivers' Chargers and the Jets team formerly belonging to Ryan Fitzpatrick, at No. 2 overall. Poor Jared Goff. Of Miami's 22 total sacks and 9 interceptions this season, 12 and 8, respectively, have come over this span. Interesting time for the Rams to debut their biggest asset. Cameron Wake and Ndamukong Suh will show mercy, we're sure.
Todd Gurley has registered 100 total yards — from scrimmage, not on the ground — once this season, ironically in a Week Five loss to Buffalo. Now that we've sung the praises of Miami's recent defensive revival, let's mention three of the past five backs it has faced have surpassed the 100 scrimmage yard threshold, and Matt Forte missed the mark by three yards. In fact, the Dolphins are just 30th defending the run but 19th in fantasy, as they've yielded just three rushing touchdowns — fewer than all but Minnesota and Detroit.
EAGLES @ SEAHAWKS
The Seahawks' run defense, No. 24 in yards per game allowed, ain't what it used to be. Yet, sadly, Philadelphia's backfield ain't what Doug Pederson said it would be, at least not for several weeks now. Just when we think it's Darren Sproles' job, here again come Ryan Mathews (RB26) and Wendell Smallwood. Mathews' numbers — 4.2 yards per carry, eight total touchdowns and a season-high 139 scrimmage yards a week ago — seemingly signal he'll get another chance to be the guy.
Fantasy owners would love it if Pederson would follow the lead of Pete Carroll, who made it abundantly clear how he feels about C.J. Prosise (RB20) of late, punctuated by stunningly waiving Christine Michael this week with Thomas Rawls (RB29) back. Prosise, the hot hand in a suddenly hot Seattle offense, gets a touch matchup but is worth starting. Doug Baldwin (WR19) is probably the best Seattle skill play, though, as we'll need to see Philly replicate its excellent performance against Matt Ryan before thinking the secondary issues are solved.
PATRIOTS @ 49ERS
Bill Belichick isn't into metric sites, apparently. He is, however, keen on stockpiling Pro Bowl tight ends, and Martellus Bennett (TE4) is quite the fall-back option with Gronk out. Earlier in the season when Gronk was out or a decoy for four games, and Tom Brady was in DeflateGate timeout, Bennett posted two 100-yard games against bad defenses and two duds against good ones. The Niners fall squarely in the latter category. LeGarrette Blount (RB5) falls forward in virtually all instances, several of which should be into the end zone on Sunday, where the Niners have let backs enter on the ground an NFL-high 13 times.
The Patriots could've used Jamie Collins last week, huh? They're likely to miss him again Sunday, as Colin Kaepernick (QB12) is coming on strong and no Patriots defender can chase him sideline to sideline like Collins could. Many of you laughed when I suggested to go pluck Kap off waivers last month. He's been a top-10 fantasy QB since, showing improvement as a passer the past two games while closing in on Cam Newton for the rushing lead among quarterbacks despite having half the carries.
PACKERS @ WASHINGTON
Just as Knile Davis wasn't helping the Packers the week he arrived, Michael isn't coming to rescue the NFL's 19th-ranked ground game, either, at least not in Week 11. But James Starks (RB15) might. He looked fresh and physical in his return, and his improvement in the passing game aligns perfectly with Green Bay's new horizontal attack.
Jordan Reed (TE3) saw a career-high 17 targets in Washington's wild-card defeat to Green Bay in January, parlaying the frequent looks into a solid 9-120-1 effort. He's found the end zone in both of his career games vs. Washington. But you already knew to play Reed. Before the Packers got Delanied in Nashville, they were already struggling to cover tight ends. Vernon Davis has averaged 10 points over the past four games, including the past two with Reed back in the mix. Davis, aka Packer Smacker (thank you, Twitter), in seven games Dom(inating) Capers' group has 25-530-7, aka a banner season for a Packers tight end since Jermichael Finley left.
TEXANS @ RAIDERS
The most confounding part of DeAndre Hopkins (WR15) and his 2016 disappearing act is the fact he's thrived with bad quarterbacking and worse complementary pieces before. Perhaps a trip south of the border to battle Oakland's susceptible pass 'D' will help his season's southern trajectory reverse course? I'm just reaching, grasping here because we haven't seen enough of Hopkins doing the same and coming down with the unbelievable grabs we're accustomed to.
The Raiders reached the bye on the heels of their biggest 2016 win and best career performance by Latavius Murray (RB11), an awesome 20-114-3 outing. Houston's problem defensively this season has clearly been stopping the run — someone had to be the defense to let the Colts have a 100-yard rusher for the first time in more than three years, so why not their biggest division rival!? Few teams love slinging it more than the Raiders, but this should be a Mexican Murray Mariachi.