Le’Veon Bell, Matt Forte, Steve Smith Sr., Keenan Allen
and Brandon Marshall were among a handful of the many valuable
players that saw their week or season cut short in Week 8. Almost
without fail, every NFL season produces a relative (yet figurative)
bloodbath around the middle of the season, which probably makes
this point of the year the most difficult for fantasy owners every
season because of the large number of teams about to enjoy their
bye week (six this week and four more each of the next two weeks).
Consider yourself very lucky if your team(s) was/were unaffected.
If there is one positive that comes out of all these injury-related
departures for fantasy owners every year, it is that typically
new and exciting talent gets a chance to emerge. Because I will
be projecting the next quarter’s worth of statistics for
all 32 teams this week, I will mostly let my projections for each
team do the talking in regards to what players I expect to step
Here’s a quick refresher of what each of the colors mean
in each team’s projection chart below:
Red – A very difficult matchup.
For lower-level players, a red matchup means they should not be
used in fantasy that week. For a second- or third-tier player,
drop your expectations for them at least one grade that week (i.e.
from WR2 to WR3). For elite players, expect them to perform one
level lower than their usual status (i.e. RB1 performs like a
Yellow – Keep expectations
fairly low in this matchup. For lower-level players, a yellow
matchup is a borderline start at best. For a second- or third-tier
player, they can probably overcome the matchup if things fall
right. For the elite players, expect slightly better than average
White – Basically, this is
a neutral matchup. In some cases, I just don’t feel like
I have a good feel yet for the defense. Generally speaking, these
matchups are winnable matchups for all levels of players.
Green – It doesn’t
get much better than this. For non-elite players, the stage is
basically set for said player to exploit the matchup. For the
elite player, this matchup should produce special numbers.
One final note: The gray highlight in each team’s
schedule reflects a road game and the numbers above them correspond
to the weeks of the season. The age you see by each player will
be that player’s age as of September 1, 2015.
Key to the table below:
PPR - Total points scored in PPR Non - Total points scored in non-PPR.
What to watch for: Buffalo comes off
its Week 8 bye to find a challenging schedule in regards to the
running game. Given the Bills’ defensive struggles prior to
the bye, about the only thing owners can take for granted is that
McCoy will remain involved in the offense. Getting Taylor and Watkins
back from injury would be a huge lift for this offense as well.
Watkins could easily go on a tear if he is fully healthy, which
would obviously boost Taylor’s passing game numbers and perhaps
push him into a different stratosphere than he was in prior to his
Week 5 knee injury. Clay has generally been useful in fantasy anytime
Watkins has been sidelined, so owners need to keep that in mind
What to watch for: Interim HC Dan Campbell’s emphasis on the
running game has obviously been a breath of fresh air for Miller’s
owners, but the brutal part of the schedule that I spoke of for
Miller in the preseason is about to restart. Even though I have
him down for one huge game over the next four weeks, there is no
guarantee that will happen as Dallas has held up fairly well on
defense, especially since getting DE Greg Hardy off suspension.
Tannehill should be able to carry the offense at times if Miller
cannot, so Landry and Mathews figure to remain every-week fantasy
starters for the time being. Parker played only four snaps before
injuring his foot in Week 8 and does not appear to be anywhere close
to threatening for serious playing time.
What to watch for: With a multitude of matchup nightmares (Lewis,
Edelman, Gronkowski) in the passing game, there’s no reason
for the Patriots to stop passing anytime soon. (I’m likely
being conservative with my three-touchdown predictions for Brady
over the next two weeks.) Owners may get a bit of a window to sell
high on Blount, who should get a chance to find the end zone in
each of the next two weeks against struggling run defenses. Otherwise,
owners of Gronkowski, Edelman and Lewis should sit back and enjoy
the ride; there isn’t a lot of resistance on the remaining
schedule outside of Denver in Week 12.
What to watch for: In case owners were curious as to why Fitzpatrick
has been able to post such lofty passing numbers, here’s part
of that answer: the Jets have utilized four-receiver formations
on 47 percent of their pass plays the season – more than double
of second-place Arizona and nearly 12 times the league average.
Assuming Fitzpatrick can play through his left hand injury and Marshall
is good to go as well, both should fuel many fantasy owners to deep
playoff runs. Ivory also has his own durability issues, but is getting
more involved in the passing game as the season has moved along
(Powell’s own injury woes have helped in that regard). Perhaps
OC Chan Gailey will favor a more balanced offense approach if Fitzpatrick’s
hand becomes too much of an issue, but he’s apparently in
good enough shape to start Week 9.
What to watch for: It’s been well-established that Dallas
isn’t going anywhere without Romo, who still must sit out
two more weeks. Until then, expect a still less-than-100 percent
Bryant to be a WR3 at best. Witten has maintained his value for
the most part through the quarterback changes and has an easy enough
slate ahead of him where owners should feel good about keeping him
in their lineups. McFadden is no DeMarco Murray, but the Cowboys
are probably going to keep feeding him like last year’s rushing
champion, meaning he’s an every-week starter going forward
until he suffers another inevitable hamstring injury.
What to watch for: With the running game in utter chaos (low production
combined with the four runners chipping in), owners should hope
the Giants realize what they have in front of them (most notably,
three unremarkable pass defenses) and ride the aerial attack. Manning
and Beckham should be top-end QB1 and WR1 plays, respectively, in
two of the next three games and utilized in a ton of DFS contests.
Randle has already used up his good will with most of his (hopefully
former) owners and probably cannot be trusted in any format despite
some pretty soft matchups, but Harris could see his ownership increase
in the coming weeks because he has proven to be much more reliable
(at least until Victor Cruz returns, which is looking less and less
likely by the week).
What to watch for: It’s probably now or never for the Eagles’
passing game, which has an enviable slate ahead after visiting Dallas
this weekend. With that said, owners have to hope that Matthews’
issues with drops were addressed/corrected during the team’s
bye week, because Bradford cannot be expected to consistently succeed
with Austin as his most consistent receiver. It’ll be interesting
to see if HC Chip Kelly used the bye week to acknowledge that Mathews
is the best back for his offense at the moment and willing to have
him split carries consistently with Murray. Philadelphia’s
defense has been playing well for the most part since a slow start,
which may afford the Murray-Mathews duo enough time and touches
to allow both to be fantasy relevant for the rest of the season.
What to watch for: Reed figures to have a slow week by his standards
as Patriots HC Bill Belichick/DC Matt Patricia do their thing and
take away the opponent’s top weapon, but he’s a player
to target moving forward. He has emerged as Cousins’ go-to
guy and only figures to benefit from the return of Jackson. As long
as he stays healthy, Reed should be a fixture in weekly and daily
lineups. The biggest loser of this transition period figures to
be Garçon (and Crowder, to a lesser extent since less was
invested in him to begin with), who was strangely hit-or-miss when
he was the clear top option in the passing game during Jackson and
Reed’s absences. I wouldn’t expect any clarity from
the running game either since HC Jay Gruden continues to insist
that Morris is the starter. Washington could be trailing often in
each of its next four games, meaning Thompson could see plenty of
work in garbage time.
Doug Orth has written for FF
Today since 2006 and been featured in USA Today’s Fantasy
Football Preview magazine since 2010. He hosted USA Today’s
hour-long, pre-kickoff fantasy football internet chat every Sunday
in 2012-13 and appears as a guest analyst on a number of national
sports radio shows, including Sirius XM’s “Fantasy Drive”.
Doug is also a member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association.