There are only two teams on bye this week (ATL, MIA), and it's good that Atlanta is one since fantasy football owners probably need at least a week to digest the Julio Jones news. But even though there are 15 games, one matchup seems to be dominating attention -- and not in a good way.
Jacksonville at Denver is expected to be one of the most lopsided games in NFL history. Will it be as bad as some are predicting? Probably not. But either way, fantasy owners have all kinds of theories about it.
Some want to start Jaguars QB Chad Henne because they think Jacksonville will be throwing all game in “catchup” mode; others want to start both Ronnie Hillman and Montee Ball because they think Denver will be running out the clock for the entire second half. Ultimately, Denver will almost certainly play its starters for three quarters, and as long as they're on the field, we should expect success for Peyton Manning, Wes Welker, Demaryius Thomas, Eric Decker, Julius Thomas and Knowshon Moreno. Ball probably has a little more value than usual because of the likelihood of garbage-time carries in the fourth quarter, but it's tough to bank on him in fantasy lineups.
On the flip side, Jacksonville probably will throw a lot, which is good for Cecil Shorts and Justin Blackmon, but there's no guarantee they'll be successful. Also, the Jags might be losing by so much in the fourth quarter they just run out the clock -- with a backup running back, hurting Maurice Jones-Drew's value (if he has any).
Again, anything can happen, so the key is not to overthink it. Save that for the other games.
And that's why we're here to help with some key numbers to know about every contest, plus a stud, sleeper, stumbler or injury concern to watch for with a brief explanation why. Note that the “studs” are guys who are either better than most owners realize or established stars who owners might be foolishly thinking about benching.
Rams at Texans
Stat to know: Matt Schaub has thrown a pick-six in each of the past four games. Obviously, that streak will end at some point, but with Schaub basically “on tilt” (to borrow a poker term), this isn't a bad time to start the Rams' D/ST and hope they can pressure him into another big mistake.
Stumbler: WR DeAndre Hopkins (Favorable matchup, but he has just seven targets the past two weeks.)
Packers at Ravens
Stat to know: Jermichael Finley disappointed last week, but he caught all six of his targets. It should also be noted that the Ravens are allowing 10.4 fantasy points per game (FPPG) to tight ends (13th). Finley is a decent play this week.
Sleeper: WR Marlon Brown (Should be active; Packers allowing sixth-most FPPG to WRs.)
Bengals at Bills
Stat to know: The matchup seems good for Cincinnati's BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Giovani Bernard, but Buffalo has allowed just one rushing TD and 20 receiving yards per game to RBs. One might have a good game, but it's a coin flip as to which it will be.
Stumblers: WRs Stevie Johnson and Robert Woods (Johnson might not play because of a back injury; Thad Lewis at QB for Buffalo.)
Lions at Browns
Stat to know: Calvin Johnson (knee) practiced on Thursday and is hoping to play, but this is a tough matchup for Matthew Stafford even if Johnson suits up. The Browns are allowing just 13 FPPG to QBs, second fewest.
Sleeper: RB Willis McGahee (Lions have allowed a rushing TD or 99 rushing yards to a back in every game this year.)
Panthers at Vikings
Stat to Know: Greg Olsen returned to practice on Thursday after dealing with a foot problem earlier in the week. If he plays, he's a great option against a Minnesota defense allowing 14.8 FPPG to TEs (tied for most). Cam Newton and Steve Smith are also must-starts against Minnesota's 30th-ranked pass defense.
Sleeper: Vikings D/ST (Better at home; Panthers allowing 8.8 FPPG to D/STs, eighth most.)
Raiders at Chiefs
Stat to know: Both Darren McFadden (hamstring) and Rashad Jennings (hamstring) have practiced on a limited basis this week. It's tough to know what will happen in Oakland's backfield, so it's best to just avoid it against a Kansas City defense allowing 13.7 FPPG to RBs (tied for 25th).
Sleeper: WR Donnie Avery (Oakland has allowed ninth-most yards after catch and 12th-most FPPG to WRs.)
Eagles at Buccaneers
Stat to know: The Eagles are giving up the most FPPG to WRs (38.5), so even though rookie QB Mike Glennon had a shaky debut two weeks ago, you can still trust Mike Williams and Vincent Jackson. Williams caught a TD in his last game, and Jackson, who's over his rib injury, had 11 targets despite only getting just 27 yards on two catches. Play both.
Sleeper: TE Brent Celek (3 catches for 47 yards and a TD from Nick Foles last week; Bucs allowing 11.2 FPPG to TEs.)
Steelers at Jets
Stat to know: The Jets (No. 2) and Steelers (10) both have top-10 defenses in terms of total yards allowed, but both rank 25th or worse in fantasy points. Don't worry about either even though this looks like a good matchup for both.
Injury: WR Santonio Holmes, hamstring (Not expected to play; Jeremy Kerley will see more targets again.)
Jaguars at Broncos
Stat to know: The safest play in this game is obviously Peyton Manning, but after that, it might be Justin Blackmon. The Broncos are giving up the third-most FPPG to WRs (31), and Cecil Shorts is dealing with a sore groin that will probably make him questionable.
Stud: Broncos D/ST (Jaguars allowing third-most FPPG to D/STs.)
Titans at Seahawks
Stat to know: Chris Johnson is the only Titans player you might consider using in this game, but the numbers aren't good for him. He's averaged just 3.1 yards per carry with no rushing TDs, and his eight receptions are also subpar. The Seahawks are giving up just 14.9 FPPG to RBs (22nd), so even Johnson is risky.
Stud: QB Russell Wilson (22:4 career TD-to-INT ratio at home.)
Saints at Patriots
Stat to know: Rob Gronkowski (back, forearm) is finally expected to make his season debut this week, and there's no need to play it safe with him even though the Saints are 25th in FPPG allowed to TEs (6.0). Aside from Arian Foster, no player scored more touchdowns from '10-'12 than Gronkowski (39).
Sleeper: RB Brandon Bolden (Saints giving up ninth-most receiving yards per game to RBs; Bolden caught 6-of-8 targets last week.)
Cardinals at 49ers
Stat to know: It could be another rough week for Larry Fitzgerald. The 49ers are allowing just 15.8 FPPG To WRs (second fewest). Even if you start Fitzgerald because of his talent, leave everyone else in the Cardinals' passing game on your bench.
Stud: 49ers D/ST (Cardinals have thrown nine INTs, tied for second most.)
Redskins at Cowboys
Stat to know: The Cowboys have allowed at least 26.6 fantasy points to QBs in all but one game. Expect a rested Robert Griffin III to have a good week.
Injury: WR Miles Austin, hamstring (Expected to play; Terrance Williams will be a sleeper if Austin is out.)
Colts at Chargers
Stat to know: The Colts are allowing just 19.6 receiving yards per game to RBs (second fewest). If Ryan Mathews (concussion) plays, Danny Woodhead is a risky starting option.
Stumbler: TE Coby Fleener (Chargers middle-of-the-road against TEs; Fleener's targets inconsistent.)