1) Drew Brees, NO (@ATL)
2) Aaron Rodgers, GB (Min)
3) Tony Romo, DAL (PHI)
4) Robert Griffin III, WSH (NYG)
5) Tom Brady, NE (@MIA)
6) Matthew Stafford, DET (IND)
7) Matt Ryan, ATL (NO)
8) Peyton Manning, DEN (TB)
9) Eli Manning, NYG (@WSH)
10) Colin Kaepernick, SF (@STL)
-I see a pissed off Drew Brees coming off a rough game in San Francisco. The fight to make the playoffs and play spoiler to their bitter rivals will have the Saints’ offense operating at peak efficiency. Throw in a healthier Darren Sproles and a banged up Atlanta secondary and you get big day for Drew Brees.
-Aaron Rodgers will be looking for a rebound game after the debacle against the Giants and the Vikings will deal with his wrath. Antoine Winfield can’t cover everyone and if Rodgers can get enough protection to look down field eh could be in line for a huge game. With the possible return of Greg Jennings, this offense only gets scarier with Jennings and Nelson stretching the field and the dynamic Randall Cobb wreaking havoc underneath.
-The Eagles secondary is bad, bad to a whole new level. Since Todd Bowles took over as defensive coordinator, the defense has given up over 75% completion percentage to opposing quarterbacks while giving up 13 passing touchdowns and 0 interceptions. The defense is in free fall and just cut arguably their best pass rusher in Jason Babin. Expect Romo to have all day to find the wide open receivers (seriously, see the video of Brandon LaFell scoring from this week).
-Brady’s value falls a bit with injury to Gronk. However, Julian Edelman has stepped up big and has proven to be dangerous after the catch. Welker, Hernandez, Edelman and Lloyd are still more than enough firepower to score at will on the Dolphins.
-Corey Webster has been terrible in coverage and got roasted by Jordy Nelson for a 61-yard touchdown. The Washington has been playing pretty well and should give RGIII enough time to find some big plays down the field. Couple that with the threat of rushing yards and a touchdown and RGIII is a very good play for this week.
-The emergence of Ryan Broyles in place of the troubled Tidus Young gives Stafford a very dynamic slot player who is capable of turning a short pass into a big game. Stafford is coming off a huge performance against the once dominant Houston Texans defense. He also has Calvin Johnson to throw to and that alone can make for a big fantasy day. I expect this game to be a shootout and look for Stafford to make some big plays.
-The New Orleans defense finally held someone under 400 yards of offense. However, this is only due to the 14 points the Niners got off of Drew Brees allowing them to take their foot of the pedal. Between Julio Jones, Roddy White, Tony Gonzalez and Jacquizz Rodgers underneath, Matt Ryan should be poised for a big day.
-Peyton Manning had his standard 285 yard day with 2 touchdowns (I know, not the normal 3) last week against the Chiefs. The Bucs gave up some big plays down the field to Matt Ryan last week, but were stouter on the shorter routes. Manning still does not appear to have the arm strength to throw those bombs down the field so expect him to stick to the shorter stuff. I would expect similar results to last week with a possible turnover or two to a Bucs team in big need of a win.
-Hakeem Nicks finally looked back up to speed last week which gives Manning’s value a boost. Combine that with the loss of goal-line touchdown vulture, Andre Brown and Manning should see an increased number of red zone throws, a place where Nicks is targeted often. Manning’s arm seemed to be rejuvenated and couple that with a weak Redskin’s secondary and a potentially high scoring game and Manning should put up some points.
-Colin Kaepernick has looked deadly accurate the past two weeks and shredded the Bears defense, arguably the toughest in fantasy. Expect him to hook up early and often with his receivers and using his feet to pick up some extra yardage. The only downside is the 49ers could be up big early and tone back on the offense later in the game.
Well that takes care of WR and RB, at least my first wave of them. Next comes one of a couple sleeper QBs that I have. My first sleeper QB is….
Matthew Stafford, QB, Detroit Lions
Photo courtesy of Andy Benoit
I know, I know….he’s on the Lions. The Lions suck and they are a complete disaster, at least that is the common perception. The defense is bad, not quite as bad as its been but still pretty bad however the offense is not in the same ball park. Believe it or not, the Lions are a team poised to have a very solid offense, that might not turn into wins for the team but it helps out for fantasy players. There are a few reasons why I like Stafford.
1) He has a cannon of an arm. Stafford has shown some inconsistencies, but he is a young QB just learning the NFL and his short accuracy, awareness and receiver progressions were improving as last season went on and are bound to improve this season. The guy has the arm to get the ball down the field with accuracy and makes throws that gives his receivers chances to make plays after the catch.
2) His receivers. Everyone knows about Megatron. The 4th year player from Georgia Tech is a force. Quick enough to get down the field and burn guys after the catch on short routes. He is a crisp route runner with insane height and vertical leap and hands that seem perpetually coated in super glue. Granted his 67 reception, 984 yard, 5 td performance last year was disappointing but consider that a fluke. He missed some games due to injury and also had to deal with Daunte Culpepper chucking the rock for some games (essentially fantasy equivalence of lost games). Now Megatron is back and ready to go and alongside newly acquired Nate Burleson, Stafford has 1 astounding and 1 solid option at WR. Burleson should help take some of the attention of Megatron. Lets not forget about TE Brandon Pettigrew. Pettigrew seemed to be developing quite the connection with Pettigrew when he went down with a gruesome knee injury. Pettigrew spent all offseason rehabbing the knee and seems to be almost fully healthy and will be ready to go for the regular season. He has some great blocking skills that should serve to buy Stafford extra time in the pocket.
3) Improved running game. Kevin Smith was having a solid season last year until he went down with injuries. After that Maurice Morris took over and the wheels completely fell off the offense. They became one dimensional and predictable. The rushing attack was basically a non-threat and defenses focused entirely on stopping the passing attack and were effective in limiting Detroit’s offense. Kevin Smith is back this year and the addition of Jahvid Best greatly enhances the run game. Smith, when healthy, has proven to be an effective rusher and also a backfield receiving threat. Best was electric at Cal, making plays both on the ground and through the air. He has dazzling speed, gets to the outside effectively and can make defenders miss. I highly suggest watching some college clips as some of his moves are just mind-blowing (I know I killed a good hour watching and the Lions aren’t even my team). Stafford should benefit from the improved rushing attack as defenses can no longer focus solely on him. Best and Smith also provide extra check down options and are fully capable of turning short screens into long gains which further bolster Stafford’s potential.
4) The Lions sucky defense. Means they should be playing down a lot which means lots of throwing and more opportunities for Stafford to put up monster numbers.
Stafford is certainly a risky pick. He should be available in later rounds and will most likely be a steal at wherever he is drafted. He, like all sophomore quarterbacks, will make mistakes due to inexperience and he will throw costly, untimely picks. However, he has the talent and the tools surrounding him to post some big numbers and make the Lions’ offense fearsome.
Fearless Forecast: 4000 yards, 30 tds, 17 ints