MATCHUPS TO AVOID
Dolphins (at Panthers)
Miami couldn’t take advantage of Jay Cutler’s best outing as a Dolphin— 311 yards and three TDs —vs. the Raiders’ sieve secondary. Now a Panthers ‘D’ that’s done everything except consistently take the football away welcomes a sloppy offense trying to avoid a third consecutive primetime embarrassment. After keeping the Bears and Bucs offenses scoreless, Carolina held Atlanta to 53 rushing yards and 17 points. It also notched its third interception in two weeks, tripling the Panthers’ total in the first seven games. DeVante Parker, Miami’s big-play threat, will draw ascending James Bradberry following an encouraging return from his three-game absence. A Jay Ajayi-less run game, which debuted promisingly save for Kenyan Drake’s fumble, encores vs. the second-ranked run ‘D,’ whose four TDs surrendered are the NFL’s second fewest.
Solid play: Jarvis Landry
Worth a look: DeVante Parker, Kenyan Drake
Last resort: Jay Cutler, Kenny Stills, Damien Williams
Bengals (at Titans)
Andy Dalton tossed six touchdowns without a pick in his first two road games. He’s averaged just 138 passing yards, 1 TD and 1 INT in his past two, including Sunday in Jacksonville, where the Bengals’ frustrations boiled over with usually reserved A.J. Green going WWF on Jalen Ramsey (and somehow avoiding a suspension). Joe Mixon can’t get out of neutral on the ground. Cincinnati can’t consistently incorporate a No. 2 receiver (No. 9 overall pick John Ross was a healthy scratch for the first time Sunday). And Marvin Lewis can’t blame it on fired coordinator Ken Zampese, whose offense at least eclipsed 200 yards in all 18 games (replacement Bill Lazor’s has 148 and 179, respectively, in its past two losses).
Must start: A.J. Green
Solid play: Joe Mixon
Worth a look: Tyler Kroft, Gio Bernard, Andy Dalton, Brandon LaFell
Chargers (at Jaguars)
The Chargers are a better team than Cincinnati, but their shortcomings — inconsistent protection and a disappointing run game — are similar. They also have an immobile quarterback who’ll make some questionable throws in Philip Rivers. This game screams Melvin Gordon breakout, but last week suggested the same for Mixon. Before their bye, the Bolts were held to a season-low 13 points in New England, and they’ve averaged 17 in five losses. It’s unlikely fellow rookie Los Angeleno coach Anthony Lynn will enjoy the success Sean McVay did in Jacksonville two weeks ago — fueled by defense and special teams, areas the Bolts are average — and Lynn’s team travels cross-country as four-point ‘dogs.
Must start: Melvin Gordon
Solid play: Keenan Allen, Hunter Henry
Worth a look: Philip Rivers
Cardinals (vs. Seahawks)
Adrian Peterson just carried the ball a career-high 37 times against the NFL’s worst fantasy run ‘D’ in his second top-8 RB1 finish in three Cardinals appearances. On a short week ahead of hosting a Seattle ‘D’ no one will mistake for the rebuilding Niners or a Bucs team whose dysfunction threatens to blow its rebuild up, don’t expect a repeat. The Seahawks are fantasy’s fifth-stingiest run ‘D’ but more importantly have zero reasons not to sell out in stopping Peterson with Drew Stanton at the helm. In two pinch-hitting appearances for an injured Carson Palmer vs. Seattle, Stanton has zero TDs, three INTs and a 5.3-yard attempt average.
Must start: Adrian Peterson
Solid play: Larry Fitzgerald