It seems crazy, but 30 out of 32 teams are already to the quarter-point of their season. Some are starting to establish themselves as forces to be reckoned with (Broncos, Vikings) and others are off to surprisingly hot starts (Eagles, Falcons, Raiders, Rams), while a few teams are struggling to stay on top (Cardinals, Panthers, Jets) and a select few can probably start planning for next season (Browns, 49ers, Saints).
We have 13 more games left this week (Arizona defeated San Francisco on Thursday night), and they include some intriguing storylines. Tom Brady makes his return to the Patriots in Cleveland, the Vikings and Texans (4-0 and 3-1 respectively) look to continue their red hot pace against each other, and the 1-3 Panthers look to right the ship on Monday night against the Buccaneers, but they may be without Cam Newton, who is in the concussion protocol.
It’s a heavy fantasy article this week, as Jeff Greco will take a look at which free agents you should pick up in your leagues, and I will pinpoint which players you should buy low on and which you should sell high, and then as always I will also tell you which players to start or sit this week. First off, my new Top-10 teams.
1 – Denver Broncos
They have the same dominant defense that led them to a Super Bowl last season, but they’ll face their toughest test this week against the Atlanta Falcons, who have the #1 offense in the league so far this season. And they could be without starting quarterback Trevor Siemian.
2 – Minnesota Vikings
Speaking of defenses that can lead a team to a Super Bowl, that’s exactly what the Minnesota Vikings have. They have shut down Aaron Rodgers, Cam Newton and Eli Manning this season already. On top of that, their offense has done a great job controlling each game, and that’s all they need. This week they get Brock Osweiler and the Texans.
3 – New England Patriots
The loss to the Bills last week was a little embarrassing, yes, but no need to fret Pats fans, Tom Terrific is back! With Brady at the helm, this team will be fine, and they get the Browns this week, the perfect team for Brady to ease his way back against.
4 – Pittsburgh Steelers
The Steelers played like a team possessed Sunday night against the Chiefs. With Le’Veon Bell and his versatility back in the fold, Pittsburgh is definitely a team to be reckoned with. I believe their offense is tops in the league, and will lead them to a division crown.
5 – Seattle Seahawks
Remember when the Seahawks lost 9-3 to the Rams and everyone was starting to wonder if this team was finished? Here we are two weeks later, and the Seahawks are just fine. Russell Wilson is playing lights out, and the defense is like a brick wall. They get a bye this week, and that’s perfect for Wilson to rest his ailing ankle.
6 – Green Bay Packers
The Packers have the top run defense in the NFL, giving up under two yards per rush! That is a figure that can’t possibly remain that low, but it tells us that it’s hard to run against them. On the flipside, they are struggling to run the ball on offense, but Eddie Lacy is a talented player and the offense as a whole is starting to come around.
7 – Philadelphia Eagles
It’s Week 5, and the Eagles are one of three undefeated teams remaining, with rookie Carson Wentz at quarterback. If you predicted this, you’re a liar. Wentz has been spectacular, but it’s the defense that has this team sitting at 3-0. Road games against Detroit and Washington are up next, and if they can win both, they’ll be 5-0 heading into a home matchup with the red hot Vikings.
8 – Atlanta Falcons
A road win over the Raiders was impressive, and dominating the Saints in New Orleans was also. But their absolute demolition of the Panthers this past week was their best win of the season, and it has people wondering just how good this team could be this year. They’ll have their biggest test this week as the travel to Denver to take on the defending Super Bowl champs.
9 – Oakland Raiders
This team doesn’t win pretty, and they don’t make any games easy, but they win, and that’s what matters in the end. 3-1 with all three wins coming on the road, the Raiders are playing with supreme confidence, led by their star quarterback Derek Carr. He has led six game winning drives since the beginning of last year, most in the league in that timeframe. They return home this week for a battle with the banged up Chargers.
10 – Houston Texans
Losing J.J. Watt is a huge blow to this team, and Brock Osweiler is struggling to protect the football, but the Texans still have all the pieces to make a playoff run. They have their hands full this week though with the Vikings, but I think they can give Minnesota a good test.
Next 5 Up – Dallas Cowboys, Kansas City Chiefs, Los Angeles Rams, Baltimore Ravens, Buffalo Bills
Jeff’s Waiver Wire Targets
Bye weeks started in Week 4 with the Eagles and the Packers, and we’ll now have teams on byes each and every week up to Week 11 (no byes Week 12, Browns and Titans are off Week 13). One of the keys to winning a fantasy championship is dominating your waiver wire. These are the players that you should look to grab if they are available in your leagues.
*All players are owned in 50% or less of ESPN leagues as of 10/3*
Brock Osweiler – HOU (19%)
Osweiler has been struggling thus far, but has a favorable schedule for the remainder of the season. Pick him up before his bye, Week 9, because he may not be available afterwards.
Ryan Fitzpatrick – NYJ (27.6%)
Fitzpatrick has struggled so far, throwing ten interceptions in four games. However, he doesn’t have to play the Chiefs or the Seahawks again this year. His next five games include four favorable matchups.
Kenneth Dixon – BAL (20.8%)
Baltimore is going in a more youthful direction with their running game. I’d like to think that Dixon is their running back of the future, and worth a priority pickup for a weak running game.
Wendell Smallwood – PHI (9.9%)
Smallwood received 17 carries in Week 3, and could see the majority of touches in the future of the backfield. It remains to be seen if he will be saddled in a committee.
Bilal Powell – NYJ (36.2%)
Powell continues to get more looks in the passing game with the absence of Eric Decker. With bye weeks looming, Powell can be a PPR flex option for some teams in the coming weeks.
Sleeper: Dion Lewis – NE (17%)
Lewis is eligible to return in Week 7 and if he plays up to his potential, could be a RB1 in PPR leagues.
Robert Woods – BUF (10.3%)
With Watkins on IR for the next eight weeks (at least) Robert Woods figures to see the most targets in the Bills offense and is worthy of a flex start on an almost weekly basis.
Cole Beasley – DAL (42.8%)
Bryant has a hairline fracture in his knee, and may not play for a few weeks. Beasley is already a favorite target of Dak Prescott. Without Bryant on the field, he should certainly see plenty of targets.
Eddie Royal – CHI (9%)
With Alshon Jeffery dealing with multiple injuries Eddie Royal saw seven targets in Week 4. That sort of production should continue as long as Kevin White and Alshon Jeffery are ineffective.
Cameron Brate – TB (9%)
Brate is third on the team in receptions (16) and continues to emerge as a valuable weapon for Tampa Bay. He should continue his climb in the following weeks.
Jesse James – PIT (16.9%)
James continues to be the starting TE for the Steelers. With their potent offense, James could be an emergency starter in bye weeks.
Jay’s Buy Low/Sell High
This is the point in the fantasy season when players should look to identify which struggling players are going to turn it around and which players off to scorching starts are bound to slow down as the season wears on. I’m here to try and help you with that.
Buy Low – Marcus Mariota, Tennessee Titans
Mariota was drafted in most leagues this year, and the early results have not been good. Through four games, Mariota has turned the ball over EIGHT times (5 interceptions, 3 fumbles). That is compared to just four touchdowns (all passing). That being said, his best game came against the lowly Lions’ defense, and the Titans upcoming schedule is very favorable. Here’s who they have coming up (pass yards allowed per game ranking in parenthesis): Miami (22nd), Cleveland (16th), Indianapolis (24th), Jacksonville (5th), San Diego (27th), Green Bay (29th). If you have an inconsistent starter at QB, or one with a tough upcoming schedule, try to grab Mariota to pair with him. I expect his turnaround to begin this week.
Sell High – Matt Ryan, Atlanta Falcons
I know he just threw for over 500 yards against the Panthers and that at this point in the season, he’d be most people’s pick for league MVP, but you have to look the teams he’s faced. Carolina is a bit of an outlier, as his other three games were against Oakland (32nd in total defense), New Orleans (31st) and Tampa Bay (15th). For the most part, he has feasted on poor defenses, and the schedule definitely gets tougher from here. His next two games are against Denver and Seattle, two of the top secondaries in the league. He also faces the Eagles, Cardinals and Chiefs consecutively during the fantasy playoff push. His value will never be higher than it is right now, and you should definitely look to move him for a QB that will help you more down the stretch.
Buy Low – Todd Gurley, Los Angeles Rams
I sympathize with Gurley owners. I have him in two leagues, one where he was my 1st round pick this year (6th overall). It’s frustrating, because it seems like he literally has nowhere to run when they give him the ball. He’s averaging just 2.6 yards per carry and just over 50 yards a game, but I am in the camp that believes that is going to get better. Jeff Fisher knows his team needs to establish the run to give Case Keenum a chance to have success, and they have some favorable matchups on the schedule. During the fantasy regular season, Gurley has games against the Lions, Giants, Dolphins, Saints and Falcons where he should definitely put up big numbers. He also had five catches last week against Arizona, and word out of LA is that they want to continue targeting Gurley in the passing game. If you can find a Gurley owner who is frustrated to the point of giving up on him, pounce. You can thank me later.
Sell High – Melvin Gordon, San Diego Chargers
If you were one of those who took another chance on Gordon this year, or one who kept him in a keeper league because you took him so high last season, kudos to you! You are reaping the benefits, as he leads all running backs in touchdowns with six, one year removed from failing to score a rushing touchdown as a rookie. He’s probably helped you win a matchup or two already this season, but I am here to tell you that you should sell sell sell! He cannot possibly keep up that touchdown rate, and he has just one fumble so far after coughing it up seven times last year. More fumbles are coming, and with the injuries San Diego is suffering on defense, they’re going to be playing a lot of catch up, and that means Philip Rivers launching the ball down the field. You’re going to be chasing touchdowns with Gordon the rest of the season, and I think now is a good time to move on from him.
Buy Low – Amari Cooper, Oakland Raiders
Amari Cooper was drafted as a Top-15 wide receiver this season coming off of a rookie year with 72 catches for 1,070 yards and six scores. He was Derek Carr’s #1 target, and with the continued development of the Oakland offense, fantasy players were excited for Coop’s potential this season. To this point, he has disappointed most, but I think that’s only because the bar was set so high. He has yet to find the end zone this season, but the scores will come. The Raiders have a high-powered offense, and they love to air it out. Cooper is on pace for over 1,300 yards this season, and he is 6th among wideouts in yards after the catch, which means he is a great playmaker. All Carr has to do is get the ball in Amari’s hands, and he’ll make things happen. As Michael Crabtree continues to torch defenses, he’ll garner more attention, and that will only open up more space for Cooper to work.
Sell High – Alshon Jeffery, Chicago Bears
There is a combination of factors that explain why I believe that you should sell Alshon Jeffery. He’s not a sell high candidate because of the numbers he’s put up this year, but more because he’s the “number one” option on a bad team with a pretty favorable fantasy schedule the rest of the way. Jeffery, like Cooper, has yet to find the end zone this year, and I don’t think that’s a fluke as with Cooper. John Fox wants to run the football, and even when down in games, establishing the run will be important for him, especially with Brian Hoyer under center. Jeffery had just 46 yards receiving against the Lions, and that’s probably the best matchup he’ll have the rest of the season. Eddie Royal and Zach Miller have shown a good connection with Hoyer, and Jordan Howard is going to seize a lot of touches in the backfield. As crazy as it sounds, the odd man out might be Jeffery, if he can even stay healthy. Alshon has a tendency to get hurt, and he is currently a little banged up. It’s hard to rely on him, and I’d try to move him for a similarly ranked wide receiver that you can trust more. Julian Edelman and Brandon Marshall are two guys that come to mind.
Not only does the Raiders’ defense struggle to stop anyone, but they also should be leading this game, forcing Philip Rivers to throw the ball more. And we all know Rivers needs no excuse to air it out. The Chargers are banged up, but they can still put up points. This is a fantastic matchup for Rivers, and you should start him if you have him.
A dream matchup for the red hot Carson Wentz. The Lions just allowed Brian Hoyer to throw for 302 yards and two touchdowns. The only worry here would be the Eagles going up big early and then putting it into cruise control, but I think Wentz ends up the reason they go up big early.
The Ravens did give up four touchdown passes last week, but Kirk Cousins isn’t Derek Carr. Plus, Carr only threw for 199 yards to go with those touchdowns. Coming off a home loss, the Ravens will be motivated to win this game, and this will be the best defense Cousins has faced this year.
Taylor has started to turn a corner, and the offense as a whole has looked much more in sync the last two weeks, but this week will be tough for the Bills. The Rams have a very good defense, and I think the lack of depth at WR for Buffalo will work against them for the first time this week. Traveling all the way to Los Angeles won’t help matters either.
The Bears drafted a really talented running back, and all it took was injuries to Jeremy Langford and KaDeem Carey for him to show what he can do. Howard ran for 111 yards against Detroit last week, and this week he gets a terrible Colts’ defense who is returning from London. All systems go on Howard this week.
Believe it or not, the Broncos are giving up over 110 rushing yards a game. Their strength is against the pass, so look for the Falcons to run the ball more than usual. On top of that, Tevin Coleman has a sickle cell trait that could affect him in the high altitude in Denver, so I expect Freeman to get the bulk of the work on Sunday.
I bet Forte owners are missing the first two weeks. His torrid pace has almost completely evaporated over the last two weeks, and he is dealing with knee and rib injuries. Imagine that, Matt Forte is hurt. Bilal Powell has played well the last two weeks as well, and could continue to eat into Forte’s share of the touches.
Those of you who decided to start Williams last week despite Le’Veon Bell’s return got extremely lucky. A garbage time touchdown bailed you out. You can’t expect that every week. This isn’t a timeshare. Bell is the bell cow (pun intended) and Williams will see some touches, but not enough to make him worth starting in fantasy.
Tom Brady is back. Do you need to hear anything else? You shouldn’t. The carousel at the QB position is now done in New England, and Edelman will benefit the most. The rapport he has had with Tom Brady the last few years is fantastic, and if anybody is happier than Brady owners now that he’s back, it’s Edelman owners.
Eric Decker is again unlikely to play with the rotator cuff injury, and I expect the Steelers to be up big in this game. Ryan Fitzpatrick will have to throw the ball, and they can’t all go to Brandon Marshall. Enunwa has had a great start to the season, and I think that will continue this week. Pick him up if he’s still available in your league.
You saw how the Vikings shut down Odell Beckham Jr. last week, right? And you realize that Kelvin Benjamin had zero catches against them the previous week, right? I know it will be hard to sit DeAndre Hopkins, but trust me, I wouldn’t even have him in my lineup this week. The Vikings’ defense is that good.
Staying in the same game, Diggs’s numbers have gone down each game, and he has a tough one-on-one matchup this week against Johnathan Joseph. Diggs will be okay for the long run, but this is a week to keep him on your bench. That will be a low scoring game.
The Eagles are expecting Ertz to return this week, and he gets a sweet matchup against the Lions. Wentz targeted Ertz seven times in week one, and he could see a similar number of targets, if not more, this week against Detroit. Ertz is a must-start if he plays.
I’m going with a pair of Zach’s this week. Brian Hoyer has hit Miller 11 times over the last two weeks (12 targets), and three of those 11 were touchdowns. The Colts’ defense is not good at all, and I think Zach Miller could have a field day against them.
Barnidge has been targeted 13 times over the last two weeks, but those games were against two mediocre defenses (Miami and Washington). The Patriots are a much better defense, and they have linebackers that can give Barnidge fits in coverage. There are better options out there this week.
His targets have gone way down over the last couple weeks, and now he has to face the Broncos. It’s probably best to stay away this week and wait for a better matchup before you start Tamme again.