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 games 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.
DOLPHINS @ JETS
Jay Ajayi and the Jets' run defense — and Miami and New York overall, for that matter — have gone in opposite directions since their Week Seven meeting, a 27-23 Dolphins victory. Since going for 24-111-1 — his third consecutive 100-plus yard outing — Ajayi has topped out at 84 scrimmage yards. New York's next four opponents averaged 150 rushing yards — including a monstrous 273 a week ago by Carlos Hyde and Co. — after only one surpassed 86 in the first eight games. With Matt Moore making his first start in more than five years, Ajayi will have every opportunity to extend the Jets' struggles while ending his own mini slump.
Whether you've dropped Brandon Marshall or added Robby Anderson — both moves we understand — Bilal Powell (RB11) is the one Jet we feel safe recommending. All Powell did following Matt Forte's knee injury Sunday was put forth a workhorse effort that'd make Forte proud (34 carries, 179 scrimmage yards and two touchdowns) and lead fantasy backs in an ordinary week (Le'Veon Bell: extraordinary). Reminder: Powell was a top-11 fantasy back in last year's postseason; this isn't unchartered waters.
EAGLES @ RAVENS
Rotoworld's Evan Silva had a neat stat on the success of stud wideouts including Odell Beckham, Dez Bryant and, Sunday, Chris Hogan vs. Baltimore in the absence of Jimmy Smith. One problem: the closest thing the Eagles have to a stud wideout is Jordan Matthews, who's banged up and plays the slot, where LaDarius Webb could be with Jerraud Powers dinged.
Credit Kenneth Dixon (RB24) for compartmentalizing Monday night and overcoming a disastrous first half (safety, drive-killing false start) to collect 50 total yards and his first career touchdown after intermission. Dixon finally took the decided lead in the backfield, out-snapping Terrance West 42-14 and out-touching him 19-6. About those touches, though: Marty Morninwheg attempted
BROWNS @ BILLS
Terrelle Pryor (WR34) has a chance to become the first trash can in NFL history with a 1,000-yard receiving season, but Isaiah Crowell (RB16) hasn't given up in his pursuit of the 1k rushing milestone, either. Granted, it'll take averaging 94 yards over the final three games for Crowell, who averaged just 55 over the first 13. It's more believable than a garbage can playing NFL receiver at least, especially with Crowell coming off his best game since Week Four, and the Bills getting their bells rung worse than any time in the Rex Ryan era.
Sammy Watkins (WR12) played a season-high 94 percent of the snaps Sunday vs. the Steelers while securing his first touchdown. He and LeSean McCoy (RB2) went to bat for embattled Rex Ryan this week, too, though key defenders seemingly remained noticeably quiet. But Watkins and McCoy should make plenty more noise against Cleveland, which is trying to set two impressive futility marks: 0-16 and ranking 31st in fantasy points allowed vs. QBs, RBs, TEs and defenses. A huge game from Watkins could elevate Cleveland from the ninth-worst defense against wideouts, so that's something to shoot for.
PACKERS @ BEARS
Since smoking the Bears for 13-132-2 in Week Seven, Davante Adams (WR17) has a touchdown and/or 74 receiving yards in five of his past seven games. He's become Green Bay's leading big-play source and gets a maligned Bears' safety group worse than the Seahawks' and Eagles' he destroyed in his past two 100-yard days. If the weather is as bad as they say, Adams showed in Week Seven he's more than capable of thriving on the short stuff, too.
Speaking of short stuff and weather, Dowell Loggains' hands were tied by Mother Nature in Week 13 — and it was the best thing to happen to Jordan Howard (RB9) and the Bears offense, as he had 32 carries for 117 yards and three touchdowns. The convergence of wind, freezing temperatures and Alshon Jeffery (WR10) returning sets Howard up for another successful afternoon.
STEELERS @ BENGALS
We weren't kidding a week ago about Le'Veon Bell's ridiculous recent workload, which shot up to 42 touches during a historic Week 14 domination of Buffalo. Anyone who thinks our top-rated player in Week 15 didn't save enough for Vontaze Burfict, who of course ended Bell's 2015 season, then classlessly celebrated while Bell lay on the field clutching his destroyed knee, is kidding themselves. A better question is whether Ben Roethlisberger (QB10) rebounds from an awful game Sunday. He has five touchdowns, six interceptions and zero 300-yard days over his past four meetings with Cincinnati.
We can come up with more reasons why the Bengals should sit A.J. Green Sunday than his fantasy owners. UPDATE: Green listed as doubtful for Sunday. Green, who made it through a week of practice for the first time since suffering his hamstring injury in Week 11, has been mostly spectacular throughout his career vs. Pittsburgh, albeit including a quiet 2-38 in the first meeting. Green likely will be a game-time decision, so this one being flexed out of prime time and into the noon window is a blessing in disguise for his owners.
The Browns were an obvious blessing for previously sputtering Jeremy Hill (RB14) a week ago, and Pittsburgh has its own issues vs. backs, who despite Ryan Shazier's presence surprisingly do work, particularly as receivers, on the Steelers.
JAGUARS @ TEXANS
If David Caldwell survives Jacksonville's nightmare season, Marqise Lee helped his plight. Lee, not Allen Robinson (WR24), has been the Jaguars' most efficient and explosive pass catcher, and he's coming off a career-high 113 yards — the first wideout to reach 100 vs. Minnesota this season (h/t PFW fantasy guru J.C. Talon). Remember, Lee was drafted before Robinson and Allen Hurns, so the pedigree has always been there. He's played well in tough matchups this year, but that doesn't mean playing him, or any Jaguar with your season at stake, is advisable.
Just when it appeared Lamar Miller (RB7) might be running out of gas, he dug deep to lift the Texans past Indianapolis for the franchise's first season sweep of the Colts. Any time DeAndre Hopkins wants to follow suit would be warmly welcomed, but meantime Houston looks set to ride Miller, whose six 20-plus carry games are four more than his first four seasons combined. We'd be surprised if Miller saw less than 20 carries in any of his final three games, starting against a Jacksonville 'D' that allowed its second worst rushing day of the year in the first meeting.
TITANS @ CHIEFS
The only defense that's yielded more yards to the receiving position than Kansas City is Tennessee. Does that position Marcus Mariota (QB15) to rebound from the worst game of his career and, subsequently, Delanie Walker (TE4) and Rishard Matthews responding to their worst 2016 outings? We have our doubts, though it's also worth noting the Chiefs' 274 rushing yards permitted to QBs is 31st in the NFL.
Two key fantasy figures in particular should benefit from extra rest this week: Jeremy Maclin (WR21) and Washington TE Jordan Reed. Maclin, in his return last Thursday from a five-game layoff with a groin injury, parlayed 42 snaps into just one grab for 16 yards. We suspect the "mini-bye," not to mention meteoric rises of Travis Kelce (TE1) and Tyreek Hill (WR13) mean the true return of the Mac happens Sunday against a revolving Titans CB door that has given up a ton of big plays. Let's see if Andy Reid and Alex Smith can sustain an aggressive game plan, with which they flourished for two quarters vs. Oakland, for 60 minutes.
COLTS @ VIKINGS
An embarrassing home defeat to the Texans as Indianapolis was coming off one of its better wins of the Chuck Pagano era may seem like rock bottom, but don't be so sure. Andrew Luck (QB9) has no Donte Moncrief and no RT Joe Reitz Sunday, when he'll see another ultra aggressive defense and dangerous pass-rush stable. Owners likely have no choice but to play Luck, T.Y. Hilton (WR8) and Frank Gore (RB20), but we can't find too many reasons to be confident in the decisions.
Only Washington and Cincinnati have allowed more tight end receiving yards than the Colts (882). Kyle Rudolph (TE8) has already established his career high (573) and has 60 yards and/or a touchdown in eight games, helping him to No. 7 in TE scoring. Indeed, choosing between Stefon Diggs (WR18) and Adam Thielen (WR35) has been a bit of a crapshoot in recent weeks, and both are at least reasonable plays against the Colts, but Rudolph is a simple choice.
LIONS @ GIANTS
Janoris Jenkins is playing the best football of his career, but it's still worth noting some of the worst has come against Golden Tate (WR31), who over his past four games against Jenkins-led secondaries has totaled 25-387-5 with most of the damage done opposite the Jackrabbit. Nonetheless, with Matthew Stafford's injured middle finger raised at all of us for semi-finals week, plus the Giants now a defense for average fantasy offenses to avoid, there isn't much to like here from a Lions perspective.
The Lions defense is typically a generous source for QB fantasy production, but Eli Manning is almost as kind to fantasy defenses. New York won in spite of Manning and his three turnovers Sunday night, and he was brutal in his only previous meeting vs. a Teryl Austin-coordinated defense (163 yards, 1 TD, 2 INTs in Week One of 2014). With a point total of just 41 expected in this one, we'd suggest staying away from anyone not named Odell Beckham Jr. (WR1).
SAINTS @ CARDINALS
Drew Brees (QB7) is struggling to say the least with 0 TDs and 6 INTs over New Orleans' past two losses. Would you dare sit him in the semi-finals ahead of a game featuring the week's second-highest point total (50 1/2)? Though he was out there for Brees' home clunker vs. Detroit, Michael Thomas' (WR22) return should help get Brees right. With Brandin Cooks (WR20) drawing Patrick Peterson, expect Thomas, who could oppose the undersized Tyrann Mathieu, and Willie Snead (WR38) to be busy.
In Michael Floyd's absence, J.J. Nelson's role in the short- and long-term figures to increase. Even if it doesn't, consider he's turned his three combined touches over the past two games into scores from 42, 8 and 56 yards out. Efficient! Much like with David Johnson (RB3) on the ground, it might behoove Bruce Arians to try and get the ball to Nelson a bit more. He's received more than six targets twice this season, resulting in a combined 11-163-2.
49ERS @ FALCONS
Has there been a quieter 200-scrimage yard, 1-TD day than Carlos Hyde's in Week 14? People went out of their way to avoid NYJ-SF — and who could blame them? — but Hyde (RB10) is up to RB13 on the season and is just 121 yards shy of his first 1,000-yard campaign. He's also averaged 6.3 yards per carry, with a pair of receiving touchdowns since Week 11, while Atlanta has allowed more than 5 yards per carry along with six combined rushing TDs.
Colleague John Sahly boldly predicted Devonta Freeman (RB5) and Tevin Coleman (RB17) both finish in the top 10 in rushing against the lowly Niners, though he wouldn't go as far as to say they'd finish 1,2, like they did in New Orleans in Week Three. Speaking of New Orleans, Mark Ingram and Tim Hightower, like Freeman and Coleman, have logged top-10 finishes in the same week twice. Can Atlanta become the only backfield to three-peat? They won't find a better time than Sunday.
PATRIOTS @ BRONCOS
Tom Brady is just 2-7 in Denver, where he admits the crowd noise and a pretty decent pass rusher named Von Miller have given him trouble. Not much has troubled Brady lately, though, and after basically toying with the NFL's then-No. 1 'D' Monday night, he'll try and avenge last season's AFC title game loss against a Broncos 'D' ranked No. 1 vs. the pass and second in sacks. What the Patriots do significantly better now than they did in January is protect and supplement Brady with an improved O-line and a diverse backfield led by LeGarrette Blount (RB8). Denver has been overpowered by the likes of Latavius Murray, DeMarco Murray and their excellent O-lines over the past month. Still without Brandon Marshall, they're likely to cede another big day, this time to Blount, who was held to 9-27 by Denver last November.
Gary Kubiak and John Elway hoped their title defense would rely namely on the strength of their defense and run game. Wade Phillips' bunch has held up its end of the bargain, but overcoming the loss of C.J. Anderson has proven too difficult with Devontae Booker and, last week, Justin Forsett leading a back-breaking backfield that totaled 18 yards — the fewest in a decade by a Gary Kubiak-coached club. Which means Denver's chances of keeping its playoff hopes alive depend on the right arm of Trevor Siemian, opposing perhaps the greatest of all time. Get ready, Demaryius Thomas (WR11) and Emmanuel Sanders (WR16), because the rest of your pass-catching peers shriveled in a similarly big spot a week ago.
RAIDERS @ CHARGERS
We got it right for a change when we predicted this past week Derek Carr's immense struggles vs. the Chiefs would continue. This week we envision a major get-well game for Carr (QB8) and Co., as they'll not only return to California to play a team they've topped once, but can Carr possibly play worse? Missing Latavius Murray (RB10), Oakland leaned on Amari Cooper (WR6) and Michael Crabtree (WR15) against a Jason Verrett-less 'D' which has since lost Brandon Flowers.
Table's ready, Kenneth Farrow (RB12), and seated across from you in your first NFL start is fantasy's eighth-most generous run 'D.' The undrafted Farrow tallied 78 scrimmage yards on 22 touches in Week 14 following Melvin Gordon's early exit. He doesn't have a ton of receiving experience, which is where Ronnie Hillman could be a factor, but Farrow held his own on passing downs vs. Carolina. There always seems to be a backup pressed into duty around fantasy playoff time (think: Powell, Hightower, Knile Davis in recent years), and although Farrow can't afford to look ahead, you should and you'll see a prime matchup with Cleveland for championship week.