Way-too-early 2016 AFC playoff predictions

All ready for the 2016 NFL Season? We are too! Check out staff writer Derek Gonzales’ predictions for the 2016 AFC playoffs!

By Derek Gonzales

Staff Writer

We just got done with Super Bowl 50 and I’m all ready for Super Bowl 51.  Will the Broncos pull a Seattle Seahawks and wind up playing in next year’s big game? You might think so, but with key players Von Miller—who led an all-time great defense and finished off his 2016 postseason with two and a half sacks and two forced fumbles on Panthers’ quarterback Cam Newton alone—and Malik Jackson heading into free agency, as well as the uncertainty at the quarterback position, the likelihood of the Broncos making it to Super Bowl 51 is doubtful.

So who is likelier to make it? Let’s investigate.

AFC North

Cincinnati won the division a year ago, and Pittsburgh got into the playoffs as a wild card. Pittsburgh was hobbled with injuries all season, and with the returns of Pro Bowl guard David DeCastro and center Mike Pouncey from injury, the offensive line should be among the NFL’s best. Ben Roethlisberger will come back at full strength and will have 1,800-yard receiver Antonio Brown to throw the ball to. Cincinnati lost offensive coordinator Hue Jackson, who became head coach in Cleveland, and are also dealing with Andy Dalton’s surgically repaired thumb. Baltimore and Cleveland, who are reluctant to bring in new players, look like they won’t be able to make any significant leaps forward.

Division winner: Pittsburgh

Wild card: Cincinnati

AFC East

New England will be primed to capture its eighth consecutive AFC East crown. Tom Brady will be 39, but is showing no signs of slowing down. The Jets missed the playoffs, losing the season finale to Rex Ryan’s Bills.  But if Ryan Fitzpatrick has the season he had the year before, expect the Jets to be in the postseason. Fitzpatrick’s problem, however, is that he’s just good enough to keep his team in the game, but rarely does something that will win one. Look for Ryan Tannehill to make improvements under new coach Adam Gase in Miami, but look for New England to once again be the top dog of the East.

Division Winner: New England

AFC South

Indianapolis will bounce back after a disappointing 7-9 campaign a season, where quarterback Andrew Luck was injured for the majority of it and Coach Chuck Pagano was on the verge of getting the pink slip. Instead, the Colts’ management looked at the amount of injuries at key positions, including Andrew Luck’s nine games gone from under center due to his lacerated spleen, and agreed it wasn’t Pagano’s fault, and gave him their vote of faith by awarding him a four-year extension. Look for Indianapolis to surround Luck with more weapons other than T.Y. Hilton, especially at the running back position, where Frank Gore only averaged 3.7 yards per carry, and this team will return to form and win the AFC South.

Division Winner: Indianapolis

AFC West

Denver has dominated the AFC West since Peyton Manning arrived to town in 2012, but many around the league believe “the Sheriff” will ride into retirement after his second Super Bowl win. That leaves the Broncos with question marks at quarterback, as Brock Osweiler enters free agency, and will have to make a decision as to who will be their guy going forward.

Whoever they chose, chances are he won’t have the upside and skill of Oakland’s Derek Carr. His 2016 season saw him start all 16 games, throwing for 32 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. Amari Cooper was the top rookie wide receiver and made the Pro-Bowl at 21 year old, and running back Latavius Murray finished second in the league in rushing yards. Don’t forget this team beat the Broncos in Denver.  It’s time to end that 14-year playoff drought for Raider fans.

Division Winner: Oakland

Wild Card: Denver

Next week, we’ll look at who will represent each division in the NFC. Will Famous Jameis take a huge step in his development under new Coach Dirk Koetter and challenge the Panthers for the NFC South crown? How will the Cowboys bounce back from their disappointing 4-12 season, and will they look to bring another quarterback into town via the draft or though trade/free agency? Read next week in the Way-Too-Early 2016 NFC Playoff Predictions.

Derek Gonzales may be reached at gordooo5@nmsu.edu

Make sure to follow the official Twitter of the Round Up Sports. @RoundUp_Sports

Opinion: Stop hating on Cam Newton

Staff writer Julian Martinez explains why people should stop ridiculing Panthers’ quarterback Cam Newton.

 

By Julian Martinez

Staff Writer

came
Newton engaging with the audience.  Photo from New York Post.com.

Super Bowl 50 didn’t go as expected by many. The Panthers came into the game as the favorite and left Santa Clara in disappointment following their 24-10 defeat at the hands of the Denver Broncos.

Yet the big headline coming out of the Super Bowl wasn’t the game but rather what happened after. The NFL’s Most Valuable Player Cam Newton, after perhaps playing his worst game of the season, was not ready to deal with the post-game press conference.

Newton was asked question after question and it was easy to see in his body language that he would rather be anywhere else but at that podium. At one point he even snapped at a reporter, saying “They just played better than us. I don’t know what you want me to say. They made more plays than us, and that’s what it comes down to.”

The day after, even that night, social media criticized Newton’s integrity as a player, a man, and as the league’s MVP.

It begs the question: why?

Newton had undoubtedly his best season as a pro and one of the best seasons in NFL history coming into the game. Between the regular and postseason, Newton accounted for 50 touchdowns using his arm (38 passing touchdowns) and legs (12 rushing touchdowns).

He led his team to a franchise record 14-0 start with scraps at wide receivers such as Ted Ginn and Corey Brown. Newton’s best wide receiver, Kelvin Benjamin, who caught nine touchdowns and more than 1,000 yards in his rookie season, was out all year following an ACL tear in the preseason.

So why doubt this man’s MVP status? Take a look at the man. Newton is no stranger to controversy. Back in his Auburn Tiger days, Newton had to tangle with rumors of NCAA rule violations, thanks in large part due to his father, Cecil. As a pro, though, Newton has done nothing to warrant the ridicule he so often receives.

Does he celebrate? Yes, he does, but it’s so easy as fans to forget that these guys are getting to live out their dream. This isn’t just some mundane nine-to-five job for them, this is something that they grew up as children wishing they could do. If many of us had the opportunity to score on the biggest stage of them all, would we not be thrilled?

I would argue that Newton’s theatrics are the best thing to happen to the game in years. Whether it’s the dab or the Superman, it adds a certain spice that has been missing from what is starting to become a stale product following recent rule changes that interfere with the game many fans fell in love with.

Newton has made so many young fans’ day this year simply by giving them a football, acknowledging that he appreciates them watching and many of those fans leave Panthers game as lifelong fans. Many years later they will say, “I remember when I got to see Cam Newton play.”

Critics of Newton are the same ones who are praising Peyton Manning for being man of good character. However, it was merely six years ago, following a 31-17 Super Bowl loss to the Saints, that Manning, in an equally poor display of sportsmanship, failed to shake a single hand of a Saints player or coach.

Newton, when addressing the press conference, said “Show me a good loser and I’ll show you a loser.”

You can’t argue with the man’s logic. Cam has done too much good for the league to be judged on what probably was the worst day of his life. The bright side for Newton is that he is merely 26 years old. Following Super Bowl 50, his best wide receiver should be back and ready to go next year, and the Panthers’ defense is set to be just as strong a unit. Vegas has the Panthers as a 10:1 favorite to make another run at next year’s crown.

I have a feeling we haven’t seen the last of Cam Newton on football’s biggest stage.

Julian Martinez may be reached at Jmartinc@NMSU.edu

Make Sure to follow the official Twitter for The Round Up Sports. @RoundUp_Sports

Fantasy Football: Week 11

By Julian Martinez

Staff Writer

Fantasy Football wk11
Photo from NFL Memez.

Quarterback: The all-time passing leader will ride the bench for the second straight week

Brock Osweiler in his first career start looked actually quite impressive. Against the Bears, Osweiler threw for 250 yards and two touchdowns. This performance was good enough to give him the starting nod over Manning against the Patriots heading into week 12. There is no telling whether Osweiler will retain the starting gig all the way to the end, but he should be Fantasy relevant, especially since Emmanuel Sanders is expected to return this week, which would give him a full complement of weapons heading into the primetime match-up.

The injury plague in the NFL continues as Ravens starter Joe Flacco suffered a season-ending injury against the Rams this past Sunday. Flacco fell victim to an ACL and MCL tear late in the fourth quarter. The early timetables have Flacco probably ready for week one next year. In his place, Baltimore will start Matt Schaub, who unfortunately doesn’t provide much upside for the wide receivers in Baltimore.

Running back: A couple pickups that can define your playoff push

One of the surprising late scratches this past Sunday was Marshawn Lynch with an abdomen injury and if you were one of the avid Twitter users who saw this and jumped on Thomas Rawls, then you probably won your match-up. The undrafted rookie ran for 209 yards on 30 carries and found the end zone twice against San Francisco. Rawls has looked impressive any time that Lynch has been out this season and there is some talk that Lynch may have played his last game as a Seahawk if this abdomen injury proves to be season ending. Rawls ownership is at 36 percent. Grab him because he’ll be an undoubted RB1 as long as Lynch is out.

The second pickup that can get you to the playoffs or even push you further is Baltimore running back Javorius “Buck” Allen.

To add to Baltimore’s woes, their starting running back Justin Forsett also had his season ended against the Rams with a broken arm. Allen will be the next man in line for carries for the stretch run. Allen ran 22 times for 67 yards and had 48 receiving yards on five receptions. The Flacco injury will force Baltimore to put stronger focus on their run game, which will give Allen serious RB1 consideration. His ownership sits at a meek 14 percent.

The last name I bring up probably won’t be as impactful as the previous two, but there is some value in Bilal Powell. Chris Ivory has not looked good the last few weeks, in fact he just looks worn down. Enter Powell who only needed nine touches to compile 89 yards against Houston this last week and looks explosive. If you are desperate, Powell can have serious FLEX consideration in 12-team leagues. Powell is only owned in four percent of leagues.

Wide Receivers: DeSean Jackson’s back, I like that!

Not a lot went right for the Redskins against Carolina but the reemergence of DeSean Jackson definitely was great to see. Jackson has really had to work his way back from a hamstring injury earlier this year and this looked like the first week that he was truly over it. The best example is when he beat the defense to score on a long 56-yard touchdown. Jackson at minimum is a WR2 with a WR1 ceiling, his availability in your league is at least worth investigating in case a frustrated owner dropped him earlier in the season.

Speaking of the Washington-Carolina game, another wide receiver showed some signs of turning the corner. Devin Funchess has struggled this year to really break out as he should have been the number one option for Cam Newton coming out of the draft and following the Kelvin Benjamin injury, but now his upside is starting to emerge. Two of his last three games, Funchess has surpassed 70 yards and he is starting to receive praise from his teammates for the type of catches he’s making. I’m not ready to name Funchess worthy of starting every week, but he definitely deserves to be picked up.

Tight End: Desperate time options

Last few weeks it’s been hard not to mention the possibility of Austin Seferian-Jenkins returning from injury or Vernon Davis potentially breaking out in Denver. For the sake of giving you something different, I will veer away from these two. Quick note though: Seferian-Jenkins should be back this week and Davis looked solid this past week.

I am going to point out San Francisco tight ends as an emerging Fantasy option. Since taking over for Colin Kaepernick a couple weeks ago, Blaine Gabbert has showed favoritism toward his tight ends in the passing game. The trick is waiting for one of them to break out. In his first start against Atlanta, Gabbert threw two touchdowns to Garrett Celek and against Seattle he found Vance McDonald in the end zone. I like McDonald a little more than Celek, but in a deeper league these might be names to highlight.

DST and Kicker: A Few Notes

A defense that should be good this week is Kansas City. In a four-game winning streak, the Kansas City defense has really stepped up, especially this past week against a rolling Chargers offense. I like them this week against a Buffalo team that might be without Tyrod Taylor. Definitely the best streaming option at the DST position this week.

Fantasy Football: Week 9

By Julian Martinez

Staff Writer

FILE- In this Sunday, Nov. 9, 2015, file photo, New England Patriots running back Dion Lewis lands on the turf during a play when he was injured during the second half of an NFL football game against the Washington Redskins in Foxborough, Mass. Lewis left in the third quarter with a knee injury. (AP Photo/Steven Senne, File)
New England Patriots running back Dion Lewis suffered an ACL injury. Photo by Steven Senne.

Quarterback: Big Ben hurt feels like déjà vu

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before, but Ben Roethlisberger is hurt. In Pittsburgh’s game against the Raiders, Big Ben fell victim to a mid-foot sprain. Thankfully, that is all it is but once again owners will have to piece together their quarterback situation to make up for Roethlisberger’s absence.

One option can be Marcus Mariota. Mariota in his first game back from an MCL injury put on a show against the Saints, throwing for 371 yards and four touchdowns in his return. The only problem with Mariota is his next scheduled game will be against the undefeated Carolina Panthers and their imposing defense. I do like his following three games, however, as he will face Jacksonville twice and Oakland. Mariota’s ownership is at 38 percent.

We are also on the verge of seeing the much-awaited return of Tony Romo, who has been sidelined since week two with a broken collarbone, but the hope is Romo will be ready when the Cowboys travel to Miami. This is a good match-up for Romo if he suits up and his number one receiver, Dez Bryant, appears fully recovered from his own injury as he had a terrific performance against Philadelphia, despite Matt Cassel being the man under center. Romo is owned in less than half of Fantasy leagues, but expect that number to rise with the news of Romo finally practicing again.

Running back: Dion Lewis, we hardly knew thee

It appears the downward spiral of Eddie Lacy is ongoing. This past week Lacy was benched following a costly fumble. This is coupled with the fact he only ran for 10 yards beforehand. That leads me to name James Starks worthy of the number one waiver priority this coming week.

Starks only managed 39 rushing yards but saw six receptions for 83 yards and saw the endzone one time against the Panthers. Starks’ ability in the passing game and Lacy’s inability to get out of his own way makes this weekend’s match-up against Detroit enticing. Starks is only owned in 40 percent of leagues.

Karlos Williams is also back in this column because of his terrific performance in his return to action. Williams against Miami ran for 110 yards and scored twice. Even more positive news in regard to Williams’ value is the fact LeSean McCoy injured his shoulder in the contest against Miami and even if McCoy is healthy, it seems the Bills can give both running backs enough touches to be productive. Williams’ ownership is roughly around 40 percent and, even with limited touches, I view him as a low-end RB2.

Another situation to monitor now is the New England backfield. Dion Lewis was a sensation for the first nine weeks of the NFL season, but Lewis’ season appears to be over after suffering an injury to his ACL. Lewis was so good this season that he made me break tradition and actually put faith in a New England running back for Fantasy purposes, but now I don’t see anyone I’m willing to really trust.

LeGarrette Blount will get his touches on early down work, but I don’t see any particular running back stepping up to make up for the loss of Lewis’ production. James White is the first name to be brought up for passing down work, but until I see consistent play from him in the next couple weeks, then I can’t trust him or risk using a waiver priority on him. In fact it wouldn’t surprise me if Brandon Bolden has a good game here or there, or is at least enough of a vulture to kill any value White has. Not putting my faith in this backfield until I see something that makes me have to reconsider.

Wide Receiver: Time for a rookie not named Amari Cooper to step up

You remember how bad Antonio Brown was when Roethlisberger missed games early this year? That’s now a thing again. It’s a shame too because Brown is coming off an historic afternoon where he caught 17 passes for 284 yards and even ran for 22 yards. If you are a Brown owner, you desperately want the Steelers to start Landry Jones at quarterback over Mike Vick. Either way, until Big Ben returns, Brown should be viewed as more boom-or-bust as opposed to the consistent elite tier receiver we all know and love.

So a week after being considered by the Fantasy community as a worthy investment, Malcolm Floyd tore his labrum. Though it hasn’t officially ended his season, it can pretty much be assumed. Now Stevie Johnson, whom I noted has the potential to be the go-to receiver in this offense if healthy, is in the driver’s seat for targets. He led the team in catches against the Bears on Monday Night and should be able to continue this with a bye week to work on things with Philip Rivers.

With the recent change in regime in Tennessee, it looks like Dorial Green-Beckham is becoming Fantasy relevant. Green-Beckham had double-digit targets against the Saints and that can be a sign of better things to come as he has every bit the ability to be the number one receiver in this offense. Green-Beckham is owned in only nine percent of leagues and, like Mariota, is closing in on a favorable stretch of schedule.

Tight End: Expect game two to go a lot better for Davis

 Vernon Davis was active last week and only played about a handful of plays, but this is not indicative of what he will be moving forward. The game in Indianapolis was a chance for Davis to get his feet wet in the offense. Davis is a smart player, so I don’t see it taking him too much longer to learn the Kubiak offense and I could see him participating in at least half the teams snaps this week against Kansas City and maybe even a full workload by the time Denver travels to Chicago.

It looks like officially Austin Seferian-Jenkins may be ready to go against Dallas this weekend. Seferian-Jenkins was close this past week when Tampa faced the Giants but was a late scratch. Given that fact, it would be hard to see him sitting after being given another full week to let his injured shoulder rest. If Seferian-Jenkins suits up, then I consider him a TE1 given his size and connection with Jameis Winston.

DST and Kicker: A Few Notes

If you weren’t aware, Nick Folk was placed on the injured reserve with a quad injury. Randy Bullock, previously of Houston Texan fame, will be kicking for the Jets moving forward.

Bye Week Teams:

Atlanta Falcons

Indianapolis Colts

San Francisco 49ers

San Diego Chargers

Fantasy Football: Week 8

Fantasy Football: Week 8

Fantasy Football wk8

By Julian Martinez

Staff Writer

Week eight was not an easy week of football to cover. It involved a trade, a benching, and many injuries that will be talked about in the sections to come. So let’s dissect the madness that was the eighth week of the National Football League and what it means for your Fantasy team.

Quarterback: Changing of the guard in the Bay Area

A couple weeks ago, I gave up on Colin Kaepernick, and now it appears so have the 49ers. Barring injury, it looks like Blaine Gabbert, the former first-round pick by the Jacksonville Jaguars in the 2011 draft, is going to be the starting quarterback in San Francisco for the rest of the 2015-2016 season. There is no real value in Gabbert, but this is just a message that if you were one of the few still holding onto Kaepernick, it is official that you can drop him.

I’d like to apologize for my endorsement of Ryan Fitzpatrick in week eight, but injuries are the one thing that you are unable to predict. Fitzpatrick fell victim to a torn ligament in the thumb of his non-throwing hand. Geno Smith came in to back up Fitzpatrick, but aside from his generally bad play, Smith suffered an injury of his own.

At this point in New York, it is looking like it will fall on rookie Bryce Petty, a fourth-round draft pick out of Baylor. Petty is not worth picking up unless you’re truly desperate, but one has to wonder how it will impact the value of Brandon Marshall and Erik Decker in what would have normally been a great match up for the two receivers.

On the bright side, Tyrod Taylor should be back on the field following the Buffalo Bills’ bye week. He will be going head-to-head with a Miami Dolphin team that allowed 277 passing yards and three touchdowns to him in week three. He did not have any restrictions on him in Monday’s practice and should be able to be a QB1-type player like he was to begin the year. And, by the way, his ownership dropped back down to below 50 percent.

It is kind of amazing to look at how criminally under-owned Derek Carr is. Carr’s ownership is at 35 percent and yet he has thrown for 622 yards, seven touchdowns, and no interceptions since coming off his bye. The Raiders are a contender this year and Carr’s managing of the offense is a big reason behind it. Pittsburgh won’t be an easy match up for Carr, but given that he made the vaunted Jets defense look bad this past week, I’m ready to bump him up to lower end QB1 range.

Running Back: Covering injuries to star running backs is starting to become a Forte

So this is a year where we’ve already seen Arian Foster suffer an Achilles tear, Jamaal Charles tear his ACL, and Eddie Lacy/ C.J. Anderson struggle with general ineffectiveness. Now we get to talk about the unfortunate loss of Le’Veon Bell.

Bell, since coming off his early two-game suspension, was everything that owners could have wished, from running for 431 yards and three rushing touchdowns heading into his match up with Cincinnati, to his great work in the passing game. Against the Bengals, Bell fell victim to an MCL tear, which will end his season.

That is why the undoubted number one waiver priority this week will be DeAngelo Williams. Williams was really good when tasked with the starter role in Bell’s absence because of the suspension and now he will be the first one in line for carries again. After Bell left the game, Williams was able to run for 71 yards on just nine carries and even caught four balls for 39 yards. Williams’ ownership is right around 29 percent, which makes him very obtainable on waivers this week.

Another big injury that happened was to Bears’ running back Matt Forte, who also suffered a tear to his MCL, but fortunately it was not of the same severity as Bell’s. In fact, there is a chance that Forte still can suit up for week nine, but in the event he doesn’t the next name on the list and probably my number two waiver pickup of the week is Jeremy Langford.

Langford was a fourth-round pick from Michigan State this year and had 12 carries for 46 yards after Forte left the game against Minnesota. The thing that makes Langford a valuable pickup this week is that his match up against San Diego should be a cake walk as the Chargers have allowed five yards per rush attempts this season. If you miss on Williams, then you should still end up with Langford because at this point he’s probably only owned in dynasty leagues or extremely deep league formats.

The last injuries I’ll talk about in regard to the running back position are the ones out in San Francisco. I’ll preface this by saying I don’t like anyone in this backfield right now with Carlos Hyde being injured, but it deserved to be brought up that they have signed both Pierre Thomas and Shaun Draugh this week.

Thomas will probably fill the role of passing down back now that Reggie Bush was placed on injured reserve due to an ACL tear, suffered when slipping on the concrete in St. Louis. Draugh will get a chance at early down work because of the stress fracture in Hyde’s foot and a broken hand suffered by rookie Mike Davis. Draugh has had two attempts on the year for 10 yards before being waived by the Cleveland Browns.

Wide Receivers: You thought that was it for injuries, didn’t you, readers?

Last week, when Foster tore his Achilles, it was brought up by me that that might have been his last game in the NFL. The same can be said this week about Baltimore Ravens receiver Steve Smith Sr. Smith also suffered an Achilles tear and although we expected this to be his last year in the NFL anyway, due to an announcement by him earlier in the year, we did not expect it to come to such an abrupt end.

Smith was far and away the best target in the passing game for Joe Flacco, so he won’t be easy to replace, especially since the Ravens first-round draft pick Breshad Perriman has been sidelined the whole year with a knee injury. The first person out of the gate I see benefiting from Smith’s absence is Kamar Aiken.

Aiken has had his good games this year and has the athletic ability to get open down field, something that is always important when your quarterback has the arm strength of Flacco. Aiken is owned in about a fifth of leagues.

Sadly, another star’s season came to an end. Keenan Allen, after a rough sophomore year in the league, has really bounced back strong. Allen was second in the NFL in receptions (67), behind only Julio Jones (70), and has been the biggest beneficiary of a high volume throwing offense in San Diego. What happened was quite unfortunate, as Allen’s injury was a lacerated kidney. On the bright side, Allen is expected to make a full recovery but now it’s time to look for alternatives.

The big name to grab right now out of San Diego is Malcolm Floyd, who caught two touchdowns this past week against the Ravens and all those targets have to go somewhere now, why not to the 34-year-old? Luckily for Floyd, he will also get a match up with some promise as the Chargers will go against the Bears this coming weekend.

I could see Stevie Johnson also becoming a bigger point of interest in the offense, but the thing with Johnson has been staying healthy this year. If Johnson is on the field, then give him a start in your flex because he was a pre-season darling prior to missing games with a hamstring injury.

Tight End: Big move changes outlook in Denver 

It’s not often that we see big trades around the trade deadline in the NFL, but that’s exactly what we got this season. The San Francisco 49ers and Denver Broncos agreed to exchange sixth- and seventh-round draft picks in 2016, and a sixth rounder in 2017 for Vernon Davis to move on over to the Mile High City.

Davis has had a bad string of luck the last couple of years, between injury and just the inability of Kaepernick to get him the ball. Davis is an outstanding athlete, measuring in at six-feet three-inches, and with a 4.38 40-yard dash time, he is not your average tight end. I don’t foresee big weeks early on from Davis as I expect him to have to use these first couple of weeks to adjust to the Gary Kubiak offense and develop a chemistry with Peyton Manning, but once he does this Bronco offense can take off.

I even see Davis as a better athlete than Julius Thomas, whom Manning found in the endzone twelve times last season. Use a high waiver claim on Davis, but don’t break the bank. Consider the pickups I noted early on in this column, unless there is an immediate need for you at the tight end position.

Kicker and DST: A Few Notes

I like the idea of picking up the Jacksonville defense this week. They had a good game against Buffalo prior to their bye, a game where they scored two defensive touchdowns. The reason I like them is that they are about to face a Jets team that might be on their third string quarterback and, even if they aren’t, they’ll be starting the turnover-prone Geno Smith. They are worth the chance, in my books.

Cincinnati should also be a good defense to play this week. The Bengals will play the Browns on Thursday night and given that they will either play an injured Josh McCown or Johnny Manziel, this should be a must-start defense.

Bye Week Teams: Brace yourself, there’s a lot

Arizona Cardinals

Baltimore Ravens

Detroit Lions

Houston Texans

Kansas City Chiefs

Seattle Seahawks

Fantasy Football: Week 7

By Julian Martinez

Fantasy Football wk7
Photo from Bleacher Report.net.

Staff Writer

Quarterback: There’s some FitzMagic in the air

A quarterback I really like this week is Ryan Fitzpatrick. Fitzpatrick has looked solid throughout the season and has been able to take advantage of the great weapons around him, such as Brandon Marshall, who continues to be a Top-10 receiver, and Eric Decker, who slotted back into a role he’s more comfortable in with the addition of Marshall. This week the Jets will be going to Oakland and even though the Raiders’ defense has looked better as of late, I like this match-up. Fitzpatrick is only owned in 25 percent of Fantasy leagues.

Another quarterback who will be worth starting this week is Matthew Stafford. Although Landry Jones didn’t take advantage of the Chiefs’ defense this past week quite like I imagined, I believe they are still a weak defense against the pass and Stafford should be able to take advantage. Stafford is now more of a quarterback you trust if the match-up is right, but I foresee a big afternoon between him and Megatron to come.

Running back: Foster’s injury has got me feeling Blue 

It is unfortunate that one of the most dynamic athletes in the NFL is done for the year, but that is the case for Houston running back Arian Foster. Foster already missed a couple games this year due to a groin injury, but this past weekend, in a blowout game against Miami, Foster suffered an Achilles tear. This may unfortunately be Foster’s last game in the NFL, as Foster has a long list of injuries throughout his career and this is a contract year for him with the Texans.

So now what? Out of the gate in Houston, I am planning on investing in Alfred Blue. Blue in my mind has never really seized the opportunity when Foster has been hurt before, but he’s going to be given the first opportunity to take the bulk of the carries and there is value in that. Blue should be one of those handcuffs owned in every league, but his ownership has fallen below 20 percent in recent weeks so he is my number one waiver priority this week.

I will say Chris Polk also is a name that interests me in Houston, because if Blue once again fails to take advantage of a Foster injury, then I can very easily see Polk taking advantage. Polk showed productivity in his time last year in Philadelphia and he has actually out-touched Blue in recent weeks. Polk’s ownership is at little more than one percent.

The last name I am going to bring up in regards to the Texans’ run game is Pierre Thomas. Thomas is not currently on the Texans’ roster, but it should be noted he was in contact with Houston earlier this year when Foster was expected to miss up to eight games due to the groin injury. Talks fell through and Thomas remained a free agent, but now that Foster has been placed on the injured reserve, we could see Thomas’ name pick up steam again.

Wide Receiver: Can’t stop talking about Houston this week

Another noteworthy name out of Houston this week is Nate Washington, who saw nine receptions for 127 yards and two scores. An absolutely dominating performance albeit mostly in garbage time. The Foster injury has a two-pronged effect in my mind: sure, it makes it important to pickup the starting running back for the offense, whomever it ends up being, but it makes the urgency to move the ball in other ways that much more important in Houston.

The need to throw the ball may have gone up and as thrilled as DeAndre Hopkins owners would be to see Hopkins get 20 targets a game, he can’t do it himself. Washington has been a good receiver in the NFL and can be a good second option for Brian Hoyer and company. Washington is owned in about five percent of leagues.

A receiver you might have a chance to grab, surprisingly, is Davante Adams from the Green Bay Packers. Adams was dropped recently in a few leagues thanks to an ankle injury, dropping his ownership to roughly about 50 percent. Some might view Adams as Aaron Rogers’ third receiver, but his athletic ability is superior to that of James Jones and should make him the clear second-best receiver in Green Bay’s offense. Jone’ targets rank outside the Top-50 in the NFL and I fully expect his touchdowns to be scaled back with Adams returning. If your fellow owners made the mistake of dropping Adams, then make them pay by scooping him up.

Tight End: Don’t worry there is nothing to talk about in Houston here

Jordan Reed inserted his name into the growing list of valuable tight ends to own this year. Reed coming off a concussion exploded against Tampa Bay this past weekend. His double-digit receptions went along with 72 yards and two scores. It is hard for me trust Reed given his injury history, but if he is on the field he is in Top-5 of the position. Reed is owned in less than half of leagues, so it is definitely possible to still snag him up in a majority of leagues.

Kicker and DST: A Few Notes

A defense that has been quietly productive has been the Minnesota Vikings. Jay Cutler has been known to turn the ball over in the past and I could see this week being one where Cutler finds players in the wrong uniform a couple times. I’m willing to stream them this week.

If you dropped Brandon McManus, this is your reminder to go pick him up again. McManus is battling it out with Stephen Gostkowski this year for the top kicker spot and is one of the few difference makers at the position.

Bye Week Teams:

Buffalo Bills

Washington Redskins

Jacksonville Jaguars

Philadelphia Eagles

Fantasy Football: Week 6

By Julian Martinez

Staff Writer

Fantasy Football wk7
Landry Jones as an Artesia Bulldog. Photo from OSU Sports Extra.
Fantasy Football wk7 (2)
Jones as Steelers’ third-string quarterback. Photo from Still Curtain.com

Quarterback: A New Mexico product who might be worth the pickup this week

The first quarterback I would like to encourage picking up is Blake Bortles. It is easy to ignore a player who is having success in Jacksonville, but Bortles has turned into a solid Fantasy contributor. He has the weapons around him, such as, Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns, who allow him to make big plays down the field. It also helps Bortles that he has Julius Thomas back and the two were able to connect on a touchdown in this past weekend’s match-up against Houston. Bortles is a Top 10-ranked quarterback and yet there is a high probability that he is still unclaimed in your league.

Now let’s talk about that product from New Mexico.

Landry Jones, the former Artesia Bulldog and Oklahoma Sooner, came off the bench this past weekend to relieve Mike Vick of quarterback duties in Pittsburgh’s victory over the Cardinals. Against the Cards’ imposing defense, Jones threw for 168 yards and found Martavis Bryant, who was playing his first game of the season, in the endzone twice.

It has been talked about that Ben Roethlisberger could return to action soon, but returning this week is a bit optimistic. This leaves Jones as the likely starting quarterback against a Chiefs defense that has not been able to stop their opponents’ passing attack all year. I would strongly consider streaming Jones for this savory match-up.

Running Back: Lacy or Anderson, who the bigger bust?

It feels a little redundant to bring up C.J. Anderson’s name at this point in my articles. The only reason I do it now is that, in past weeks, I advocated you simply move him to your bench but now it’s time to move him off your roster. Anderson struggles are well documented, but this past week he couldn’t muster anything against a putrid Browns run defense and, to make matters worse, Ronnie Hillman appears to be the preferred back after going over 100 yards for the second time in Denver’s last three games. Trade him, drop him, just make sure Anderson is not on your roster by the end of the week.

In my mind, though, he is not the biggest bust of the Fantasy football season to this point. Right now, it has to be Eddie Lacy. Lacy is fully healthy right now and that’s why it so bewildering to see him lose touches to James Starks.

Starks is trending in the right direction, but Lacy can’t seem to get things going. Lacy got off to a slow start last year too, but this time it doesn’t appear the Packers are waiting around for him. I recommend keeping him around, unless you get an offer that blows you away, but keep in mind that when the Packers return from their bye week they’ll face an unfavorable match-up against the Denver Broncos, which probably will warrant benching Lacy.

A couple names to look into coming off this weekend’s set of games are Danny Woodhead and Theo Riddick.

Woodhead is the beneficiary of his teammate Melvin Gordon’s inability to hold onto the ball. Following Gordon’s second fumble of the day against Green Bay, it was a firm mixture of Woodhead and Branden Oliver in the Chargers’ backfield. Gordon will undoubtedly work his way back onto the field, but Woodhead, who has the trust of the Charger coaching staff, should be at minimum a FLEX option in standard leagues and a RB2 in PPR.

As far as Riddick goes, this may be a good time to snag him. Joique Bell is done and Ameer Abdullah has not been able to live up to the hype. In fact, Abdullah’s own struggles not to turn the ball over appear to have given Riddick the opportunity to become a viable option out of the Lion backfield. Riddick is already a good play in PPR leagues, but at this pace his playability in standard leagues may be going up. Riddick is only owned in 25 percent of leagues.

Wide Receivers: A couple sleepers I Dig(gs)

The Cincinnati offense has been really good all year, in particular quarterback Andy Dalton, who is currently ranked number one at his position, has been outstanding. Naturally, with good production in the passing game comes a few viable options at the wide receiver position. This is the case for Marvin Jones.

Jones, who missed all of the 2014 season has come back in 2015 and has looked good, if you exclude his performances in weeks one and four. This past week against Buffalo, which is ranked one of the elite defenses in the league, Jones was able to reel in nine catches for 95 yards and a score. Jones is owned in less than 30 percent of leagues, but is listed in the Top 30 of the position.

So now let’s address the pun to introduce the wide receiver section this week.

As an individual who invested draft picks in several leagues on Charles Johnson, the Minnesota passing attack has been somewhat frustrating to pinpoint. Yet, Stefon Diggs is a name that perks up my ears a bit. Diggs racked up 129 yards on nine targets against the Chiefs and reports run rampant of the chemistry him and Teddy Bridgewater have formed since Johnson went down with a rib injury. Diggs is at least worth the stash heading into this week waivers, as his league ownership is not even at five percent.

Does the prospect of landing a starting wide receiver from the New England Patriots interest you? If it does, then this might be your last week to jump on Brandon LaFell. LaFell has been on the PUP list with a foot injury all of this season, but he faces the possibility of returning this week. LaFell was one of Tom Brady’s favorite targets last season, as he caught 74 receptions for 953 yards and seven touchdowns. Having chemistry like that bodes well for LaFell upon his return, especially on the Brady Revenge Tour 2015. LaFell’s ownership sits around 20 percent.

Tight End: Can we finally name a Jimmy Graham-replacement in New Orleans?

Benjamin Watson has been in the league a long time. I remember when he was playing for the New England Patriots back in 2005, but here in 2015 he is still a relevant name playing for the New Orleans Saints. Watson has 10 receptions, 127 yards, and touchdown on Thursday night against the then-unbeaten Atlanta Falcons. This next match-up against Indianapolis may prove a little tougher, but Watson is still a name to consider. Worst case, you pick him up and he gives you boom-or-bust value, but if this big week six against the Falcons was an indicator of bigger things to come, then you made a steal at the position heading into week seven.

A name I will throw out to people this week is Austin Seferian-Jenkins. Seferian-Jenkins had a big week one against Tennessee, but fell victim to a shoulder injury in week two that caused him to miss the last three Tampa Bay games. Tampa will be coming off the bye week, though, and Seferian-Jenkins would be right on schedule to return from injury based off the initial timetable this injury was given. He’s a big target that Jameis Winston should view as a catch-up advantage week-to-week. Luckily for you, there was probably a lot of owners who dropped him due to the injury, so take advantage.

Kicker and DST: A Few Notes

If you own the St. Louis defense, then you will probably be happy to know that their schedule will be favorable moving forward. Coming off the bye, the Rams defense will face Cleveland, San Francisco, and Minnesota. All three of these match-ups should be cake for this defense that remained consistent despite having to face some of the leagues best offenses prior to their bye.

There is a new kicker for New Orleans. Following two missed field goals, the Saints decided that Zach Hocker was not the kicker they desired. So naturally New Orleans signed Kai Forbath, the former Washington Redskins kicker. Forbath should benefit from the dome settings that New Orleans plays under and showed decent field goal range at points in his Redskin career.

Bye Week Teams:

Denver Broncos

Green Bay Packers

Cincinnati Bengals

Chicago Bears

Fantasy Football: Week 5

By Julian Martinez

Staff Writer

Fantasy Football wk5
Jamaal Charles being taken off the field. Picture by 4for4.com.

Quarterback: McCown be clowning

This might surprise you, but picking up a Cleveland quarterback might not be a bad idea, and I’m not talking about Manziel. Josh McCown was very disappointing for the Bucs last year and he was on the verge of losing his job to Manziel in the season’s early going, but now this guy is a little-known Fantasy stud.

Stud isn’t a stretch at all when you consider McCown put up over 30 points this past week and 20 in consecutive weeks before that. He in fact is only owned in four percent of leagues, and if you just lost Tyrod, which is a separate issue I’ll cover, McCown can help you.

Now speaking of Tyrod Taylor. Taylor unforunately is the latest victim of an injury-riddled season for quarterbacks. A sprained MCL could keep Taylor on the shelf for at least a couple weeks, which is disappointing, considering he was developing into one of Fantasy’s most exciting passers. His backup E.J. Manuel is not worth the pickup.

Speaking of people who saw the bench recently, but for a separate reason other than injury, what about Matthew Stafford? It made sense for the Lions to bench Stafford against the Cardinals, given the game was well out of hand when they pulled the trigger, but you have to worry about the guy’s long-term confidence.

Stafford has been trending downward ever since his 5,000-yard-passing season in 2011. The fact the Lions would even consider benching Stafford for Dan Orlovsky, a quarterback famous for running out the back of his own end zone, is worrisome to say the least. If Stafford is your lead quarterback, then you may have a problem.

Runningback: Jamaal Charles NOOOOO!!!

Jamaal Charles has been the best running back in the NFL this season, but unfortunately he played his last snap of 2015 against Chicago on Sunday. Charles joins a long list of star players to be out of action this year, and even more troubling is to think this is Charles’ second ACL tear in his professional career. We wish you a speedy recovery, Jamaal.

Now the question is how do you replace such a dynamic back. The hope for many this week is that someone takes over in the Chiefs’ backfield. That should be a Fantasy goldmine, given Andy Reid’s tendency to develop solid Fantasy contributors at the position.

The guy I am targeting is Charcandrick West. West took over the majority of the touches following Charles’ departure to the locker room on Sunday, but he does have Kniles Davis to compete with. Davis was the Charles-handcuff coming into the year and is the incumbent to the job, but West can do so much more with the ball, which is something Reid appreciates. If not this week, then a couple weeks from now I can see West taking over the majority of touches in the Kansas City backfield.

A name you should look into, especially in deep leagues, is Antonio Andrews. Andrews is similar to Carolina back Mike Tolbert, as it appears he is the preferred goal line back for the Titans. He’ll be inconsistent week-to-week, given he’ll be very touchdown-dependent, but on weeks he scores that can be a difference maker.

Wide Receivers: Big Ben isn’t just missed at the quarterback position

If you are an Antonio Brown owner, then Mike Vick hurts to watch behind center for the Pittsburgh Steelers. Brown has put up two meager performances with Vick throwing him the ball. Vick is as bad as putting Josh Norman on Brown weekly. You can’t bench Brown, but the best you can do is hope he has boom-or-bust type value in the weeks before Roethlisberger comes back.

I will make a bold claim this week in regards to the Miami Dolphin offense. DeVante Parker will emerge from his deep sleeper status. The Dolphins are coming off a bye week, their offense will be looking to make a statement after the season’s slow start, and Tennessee’s pass defense isn’t imposing.

Parker, who was a first round pick this year for Miami, has been quiet all year, as he’s recovered from a foot surgery and has battled veterans in the passing game for touches, but I could see him getting enough snaps coming off the bye to make him a bigger part of the Miami offense moving forward.

Willie Snead looked great last week and I am willing to endorse him for the rest of the year. Eleven targets jumps off the stat sheet and developing chemistry with an elite quarterback like Drew Brees does wonders for wide receivers. Pick him up now because everyone will jump on him this week coming off the big game.

Tight Ends: Open the Gates to Victory

It came off as a surprise to many when Antonio Gates was suspended for the first four games of the NFL season, but now he’s back. In his first game, Gates saw 11 targets from Philip Rivers and turned it into 92 yards and two scores. His production might fade off, given Stevie Johnson should return from injury soon, but Gates should jump right back into elite tier of the position.

Another player I am going to give an endorsement to this week is Julius Thomas. Thomas missed the early goings of the year due to a hand injury and he has been known to have a well-documented injury history, but Jacksonville didn’t spend a lot of money on him to not give him opportunity to succeed. I envision Thomas finding the end zone this week against the Houston Texans.

Kicker and DST: A Few Notes

Start the Cincinnati defense. Against E.J. Manuel I could see the Bengal defense having a field day. They are currently only owned in 33% of leagues.

Bye Week Teams:

Dallas Cowboys

Oakland Raiders

Tampa Bay Bucs

St. Louis Rams

Fantasy Football: Week 4

By Julian Martinez

Staff Writer

Fantasy Football wk4
Photo by NFL Memes.

Quarterback: Kaepernick owners, it’s time to bail

Colin Kaepernick has some dynamic athletic ability, but unfortunately he is at the forefront of a very unproductive offense. A week after throwing four interceptions, Kaepernick was hoping to rebound against a Green Bay Packers team he has largely dominated throughout his career.

He would, however, get abused physically and verbally by the opposing Packers’ defense, which picked him off twice. Clay Matthews screamed at the quarterback, “You’re not Russell Wilson, bro,” following a negative run from Kaepernick.

Right now Kaepernick is not even the same player the 49er organization once knew and loved. It will be surprising if talks of benching Kaepernick don’t at least arise in the next week.

If you are looking for a couple names to pick up, consider two quarterbacks that will be playing against each other this weekend.

Jay Cutler looked good in his first game coming back from a hamstring injury against the Raiders. Cutler was able to target Martellus Bennett throughout the contest, and this week he should get even more help when Alshon Jeffrey returns from his own hamstring injury. Cutler is owned in only about 13 percent of leagues.

His opponent in week five will be the Kansas City Chiefs and their quarterback, Alex Smith. Smith this past week was able to put up 386 passing yards against the Cincinnati defense, even though it was largely a garbage time.

The Bears are not a great defense, but if Cutler and company is able to take advantage of the Chiefs’ equally bad defense, then this game can turn into a bit of a shootout.

Running back: A couple of injury comebacks that impact Fantasy

The Rams could have been considered a risky investment when they took a running back coming off an ACL tear with their first overall pick. In their game against the Cardinals, however, they were reminded why it was worth it.

Todd Gurley technically made his debut last week, but in this match-up he was given more opportunity in what is generally considered an unfavorable match-up for opposing running backs. Gurley ripped the Cardinals for 146 yards and carried the ball 19 times. A 52-yard burst personified the type of explosiveness and playmaking ability that propelled Gurley into the Top-10 picks this year. Gurley will be a fantasy must start week-in and week-out for the rest of the season.

Another running back who had to recover from injury is Houston’s Arian Foster. Foster did not have the greatest coming out party, as he fumbled the ball and managed a mediocre 10 yards in the game. Regardless, it is advisable to start Foster on Thursday night against the Colts.

Foster is the lifeblood of the Texans’ offense and the Colts have a known reputation for being a soft run defense, so expect a bounce back.

A pickup who may be advisable now more than he was three weeks ago is Christine Michael. Michael was active for his first game against the Saints, and even though he went backward on his only carry of the game, he should start seeing more work, given that Lance Dunbar, who was really developing into a   pivotal part of the offense, unfortunately might not see the field again this season due to an ACL tear.

Joseph Randle saw the ball taken out of his hands following an untimely fumble in the fourth quarter, and everyone knows about Darren McFadden’s tendency not to stay on the field. Michael should at least be a bench stash and perhaps he can be more in a mere couple weeks.

Wide Receiver: Two new birds take flight

The Ravens don’t have a ton of options in the passing game outside of veteran Steve Smith. Smith fell victim to the injury bug, though, this past weekend and now it is time for quarterback Joe Flacco to find a new favorite target.

The receiver to keep an eye on is Kamar Aiken. Aiken had a big week four against rival Steelers, as he was able to secure five catches for 77 yards and a score. Aiken should have an opportunity to develop a good rapport with Flacco moving forward, as the Ravens’ first-round pick, Breshad Perriman, doesn’t appear to be coming back onto the field in the immediate future and injuries at Smith’s age tend to be more nagging.

Last week, I noted the demise of Roddy White. Well, now it is time to note the guy who is taking over White’s role in the offense. Leonard Hankerson crossed the century mark for the first time this season and found the end zone in the Falcons’ week four blowout against the Houston Texans.

Hankerson is Matt Ryan’s clear second choice behind Julio Jones, and the undefeated Falcons appear to be rolling on offense with the emergence of Devonta Freeman in the run game as well. Hankerson could very well be a solid FLEX consideration against a Redskin defense that does not defense receivers well.

Even though it is his bye week, take a chance on Ted Ginn, Jr., moving forward. Ever since Kelvin Benjamin went down, the question has been, “Who does Cam Newton throw to?” Many thought it would be rookie Devin Funchess, but injuries prevented Funchess from developing a real chemistry with Newton, which has allowed Ginn to become the top target among Carolina wide receivers.

Ginn has an occasional tendency to develop stone hands, but he has enough speed to get open and with three touchdowns this year, it is clear that Newton will look his way. Ginn is worth the own.

If you’re desperate, then take a chance on Willie Snead of the New Orleans Saints. Snead saw six targets against the Cowboys on Sunday night, and Brees coming off the shoulder injury showed signs of his former greatness. Snead will be matching up against Philadelphia and could be a boom-or-bust type play.

Tight End: Another developing tight end to monitor?

Boo on me last week for doubting the name Gary Barnidge. Barnidge followed his solid performance against the Raiders with another outstanding performance in San Diego. Barnidge had 105 yards on six receptions and found the end zone for the second week in a row.

Josh McCown seems to like him in the passing game, and that should keep him Fantasy-relevant for the rest of the year. It will be interesting to see if, moving forward, his value is dependent on finding the end zone, but chances are he’s available in your league if you’d like to take a chance.

A name to note particularly for this week is Owen Daniels. This season it is hard to endorse the Denver Broncos’ inconsistent offense, but the Raiders cannot stop tight ends. Martellus Bennett was just the latest name to torch the Raiders, but throughout the first four weeks they have allowed more than 20 points to Tyler Eifert, Crockett Gillmore, Barnidge, and Bennett, respectively.

Kicker and DST: A Few Notes

A defense that I would recommend streaming this week is the New York Giants. I don’t consider the Giants an elite defense, but considering they will be playing perhaps one of the most meager offense in the NFL this week, they are worth picking up and starting.

If you are uninformed, they will be playing the San Francisco 49ers, the same offense that has only managed 48 points for the entire season and has seen their quarterback throw six interceptions in the past two games.

This was a rough week for kickers, as 12 field goals were missed in the NFL from Thursday through Monday. People expected the extra point to be more of a problem coming into the year, but it would appear that kickers are struggling to make even basic kicks. Some replacements to expect this coming week are Pittsburgh and Jacksonville.

Pittsburgh has already signed Chris Boswell to replace Josh Scobee. In Tampa Bay, Kyle Brindza was mercifully let go after he missed six field goals and two extra points in just four weeks of play.

Bye-week teams:

Minnesota Vikings

New York Jets

Carolina Panthers

Miami Dolphins

Fantasy Football: Week 3

By Julian Martinez

Staff Writer

Fantasy Football wk3
Photo by NFL Memes.

Quarterback: Big Ben down, Tyrod rising

A decent amount of fantasy owners assumed the worst on Sunday afternoon when they saw Ben Roethlisberger’s leg bend in a way legs should never bend. Luckily, they got the news on Monday Roethlisberger should return in four to six weeks. It definitely is going to be a blow to most owners, as Big Ben was looking to be in the elite tier of the position but this injury could have been a lot worse.

Tyrod Taylor is still owned in less than half of fantasy leagues and that is crazy. It is crazy because after three weeks it is apparent that everyone needs to be taking this emerging QB1 more seriously.  Buffalo drummed the Dolphins on Sunday 41-14 and leading the assault the whole way was Taylor.

Many saw Taylor as a pure running quarterback, but he now has seven passing touchdowns against three interceptions on the young year. Taylor is a must-add in all formats and if any of the major quarterback injuries over the last couple weeks have hurt your team, he is a legitimate answer.

The Raiders’ Derek Carr is also available in many leagues and should be on your radar. After exiting early in week one with a hand injury, Carr has led the Raider offense quite impressively. Carr has utilized his weapons and has had back-to-back 300-yard passing days.

Amari Cooper has looked the part of a first-round wide receiver and Michael Crabtree has been given new life with Carr. This coming weekend should be a cake match-up for Carr, as he will face the lowly Bears.

Running back: Freeman exciting, Anderson not so much

Atlanta running back Devonta Freeman made many owners very happy this weekend, unless you were playing against him, that is. In a thrilling game against the now Romo-less Dallas Cowboys, Freeman carried the ball and his team to victory to the tune of three touchdowns and 141 yards on the ground.

Early on Freeman was mired in question marks, particular when it came to his timeshare with rookie Tevin Coleman, but it would be hard for the Falcons to bench him after his outing in Dallas. It is at least worth monitoring the situation going forward, as Coleman was performing admirably before his injury.

It’s time to say it: C.J. Anderson isn’t who we thought he was. It’s hard to bail on, for many, your first-round pick, but at this point Anderson is in a serious limbo. Sure, he missed time to deal with a concussion in this past game, but what was even more troubling is that, when he was on the field, he only compiled 18 yards, far from what his projections were coming into the year.

You can’t cut Anderson, but you can’t have him in your starting lineup either until he produces, and it is understandable if this is tough narrative to swallow, given how much stock you probably placed in the Denver running back.

Rex Ryan came into the year with the intention of having a strong running game shoulder on the back of the recently acquired LeSean McCoy. But it looks as though that plan might be changing a bit, as a new back has emerged in Buffalo. Karlos Williams appears to be commanding more playing time, as he has been a solid producer with the touches he’s been given.

He has had a touchdown in each of his first three games and McCoy is battling a hamstring injury, which will force the Bills to give Williams more opportunity. Williams can be considered a low-end RB2 if McCoy misses time and even a solid flex play with a healthy McCoy.

Matt Jones may have not lived up to his previous week statistics Thursday night against the Giants, but there is still some value to be had with him. If he can prove to the coaching staff that he can hold onto the ball, and if Alfred Morris continues to fall from favor, then Jones can be a solid RB2 by mid-season.

Wide Receiver: Two veterans who may have fallen from grace

James Jones may not be the most exciting name on the field, but there is no denying his rapport with Aaron Rogers. Rogers found Jones in the end zone for the fourth time this season against Kansas City, and with Devante Adams appearing to be dealing with an injury, Jones’ targets are only going to go up. He is now a firm WR2.

The two veterans who are trending downward are Roddy White and Andre Johnson.

White caught over 80 receptions last year, but when stories of him getting his knee drained this off-season arose many fantasy owners had to grimace. Yet in the draft, it was hard not to take White, who has been a staple in the Atlanta offense for many years and has been Matt Ryan’s favorite target not named Julio Jones.

But it now looks like White needs to be on everyone’s bench for the foreseeable future, as he has not caught a pass in two straight games and Leonard Hankerson, who has seen more targets than White in the last two games, is the better receiver at this point.

Meanwhile Andre Johnson, who was an exciting free agent pickup by what was envisioned to be a prolific offense in Indianapolis, has not lived up to the hype. Johnson is now the third or maybe fourth option for quarterback Andrew Luck. He is miles behind T.Y. Hilton and Donte Moncrief is turning into a rising star. Phillip Dorsett even was targeted in the end zone this week and could see increased playing time, which makes Johnson a WR4 or WR5 for many fantasy owners.

A name that needs to be owned is Rishard Matthews. Matthews has been consistent in the Miami passing game and he is criminally under-owned at this point. Against the Bills, Matthews scored two touchdowns on top of 113 yards. He may be behind Jarvis Landry when it comes to who Ryan Tannehill prefers to target, but so far Miami is proving there is more than enough to go around as Matthews is a solid flex play week-in and week-out.

Tight End: Good news if you’re streaming tight ends

Tyler Eifert lit up the Raiders in week one, in week two it was the Ravens’ Gillmore, and in week three it was Gary Barnidge. Barnidge is not a fantasy must-own by any means, and this is likely the last time he will be mentioned by me or any fantasy columnist this season, but he found the end zone and achieved the century mark in yards against what is turning into the most favorable match-up for tight ends in football.

One name that hasn’t been mentioned that much this year has been star tight end Jimmy Graham. Among all the breakout sensations at the position, Graham’s name has been lost in the shuffle, partly due to the variety of good tight ends developing, but also because Graham, much like everyone expected, saw his targets go down as he moved from New Orleans to the Pacific Northwest in Seattle.

This week Graham saw eight targets, which he turned into seven receptions for 83 yards and a touchdown. It can be conceivable that Graham’s uptick in usage can be attributed to Marshawn Lynch’s absence for the majority of this game, but at least he’s trending in the right way.

Charles Clay is a name to consider looking at. This may be the third Bill mentioned but for good reason. With Sammy Watkins a possible scratch in week four, Taylor will look for other options in the passing game and Clay can be that guy. The Bills invested in Clay this off-season and despite the slow start he had in preseason, his production continues to rise as the season has gone on. In week three against his former teammates, Clay scored a touchdown and this week he could be a low-end TE1

Kicker and DST: A few notes

After a few terrible weeks, I recant my endorsement of the new-looking San Francisco defense. They were toyed with by Carson Palmer and company merely a week after getting dominated in Pittsburgh. They are safe to drop at this point.

Kicker Cody Parkey of the Philadelphia Eagles was recently placed on the IR. Caleb Sturgis will be taking over the kicking duties in Philadelphia. Sturgis has some value if the Eagle offense can find some of that Chip Kelly-magic again and start putting points on the board, but beyond that he isn’t above average at the position.

Don’t forget that bye weeks start this week, so take extra care in monitoring your lineup.