By Grant Playter | Staff Writer
For anyone looking to decide who to play and who to bench for this week in fantasy, you need to look no further. We’ll take ten players who could go either way and offer whether you should play or bench them. Let the writers here at the Capital Sports Report make the tough decisions for you. And hey, if it doesn’t work out, you know who to wave the pitchforks at.
I love talking about players competing for the limelight on the same roster, and Alex Collins and Danny Woodhead will likely be eating into each other’s fantasy value this week. The question is, for owners who picked up the Woodhead handcuff for Collins, will he outperform him this week?
Woodhead looked to be “the guy” for the Ravens in his first game of the season, catching 3 receptions for 33 yards before his untimely exit from the game. Woodhead has a lot of value, particularly in PPR leagues, as a pass-catching running back, boosting his prospects tremendously. If Woodhead goes off and you’re in a PPR league, you’re going to be kicking yourself for keeping him on the bench.
Alex Collins, conversely, is the best running back the Ravens have on the ground. He lit it up a couple of weeks ago, taking over lead back duties from Buck Allen, but struggled the next week to produce fantasy value. The talent is definitely there, but he needs to be given volume, opportunity, and proper schemes to deliver on it. Whether the Ravens are prepared to do that when they’re starter is returning is definitely worth consideration.
From my vantage point, I actually think will be utilized well depending on the week. I think Collins will be the plug-and-chug guy, running against the defense, again and again, hoping to break them down. Danny Woodhead will be more of a third-down or change of pace guy, there to catch passes and provide another pair of hands for Joe Flacco. The one who I think is hurt most by Woodhead’s return is Buck Allen, who may be relegated to occasional change of pace duties so long as Woodhead delivers.
For the most part, it will all depend on the week if a running back on the ground or in the air is the better match-up. This week I think Alex Collins is the stronger START and Danny Woodhead is the stronger BENCH. Woodhead is coming off an injury and may be more limited than we are to believe. If he wasn’t fresh off an injury I’d be more bullish on starting him against a strong rushing defense from the Green Bay Packers, but as it stands it’s too risky for this particular week.
This is the first week Dede Westbrook is going to be activated since preseason, where he had lit up the games to the tune of 288 yards. With Blake Bortles shifting to a more pass offensive approach and Leonard Fournette possibly not playing, there’s a good chance that Jacksonville will once again lean on it’s WR core. If you’re in a pinch for a WR3 or flex spot, Dede Westbrook could be very tempting.
Having said that, I think banking on an injured player to deliver the week they come back is at best a risk and at worst reckless. Charles Clay, for example, is an excellent tight end, but he underperformed from a fantasy perspective last week when he returned to action for anyone who chose to start him. Picking up Westbrook isn’t a bad move, God knows I did it, but starting him too reckless at this point. BENCH Dede Westbrook and wait to see how he looks on the field.
Last week the Saints offense focused on the ground game, at one point running 24 consecutive run plays in favor of throwing the ball. Michael Thomas managed to escape the game with solid passer value, but the rest of the Saints wide receiving corps was left out to dry. This included Ginn, who had been delivering solid flex or even WR3 value up until this point. With the Saints switching to a run-oriented offense, starting a wide receiver is definitely a risk that I’ve worried about in previous weeks.
However, for this week, in particular, I think the Saints will have more of a passing attack. Their ground game is likely to be schemed against after their dominating performance last week, and Drew Brees will turn to his wide receivers to close out the game. And not only will this be good for Drew Brees’ value, it will mean that the team’s second go-to WR2 and leader in passing touchdowns will have a bounce-back week. For that reason, START Ted Ginn Jr.
Jared Cook impressed in the week before his bye, grabbing over 120 yards in the air and proving pivotal in sustaining one of their early drives. On top of that, he gets to play against the New England Patriots this week, who in spite of pulling it back together is not a defense to be worried about in the slightest. I think all the pass-catchers on the Raiders are going to get a nice bump this week, and relative to the value they have on the market this is going to help Jared Cook the most.
There’s always the chance Amari Cooper or Michael Crabtree pick up enough targets that Cook only gets a few plays to make his magic happen, but I do think he’ll be used as a key cog in their drives. For that reason, he is my START this week for the tight end position.
I had Cameron Brate in the starting spot last week, but I won’t be making the same mistake twice in a row. The lack of Jameis Winston under center is hurting Brate significantly, he just doesn’t have the rapport built with Ryan Fitzpatrick for me to trust him to consistently perform like he had under Winston. He had a prime opportunity with Mike Evans suspended last week, but just wasn’t incorporated into their offense.
Maybe he’ll do well against the Miami Dolphins defense, maybe he won’t, but the lack of chemistry with his quarterback means I’m BENCHING Cameron Brate this week. And it’s a shame, because I think he’s a very good tight end, but the situation is just too murky right now. The risk of a two-point game is not worth the upside, let’s wait until Winston gets back.
- Arizona Cardinals D/ST
The Cardinals defense put up a serviceable showing last week against the Seattle Seahawks, and are by and large a middle-of-the-road defense. However, this week, if they’re available they’re an absolute must-start. They will be playing the Houston Texans, which means they’ll be playing Tom Savage. Interceptions and sacks should be easy to come by, the Los Angeles Rams defense feasted last week and I’d imagine a similar output for the Cardinals. START the Arizona Cardinals D/ST.
- Los Angeles Rams D/ST
Speaking of which, the Rams defense, much like it’s offense, has been a pleasant surprise this season. It currently sits as the second-best defense, only behind the elite Jacksonville Jaguars. Having said that, stating them this week is walking into a trap. The Rams have racked up points in big games against poor offenses, struggling to put many points up against stronger teams. The Minnesota Vikings have been a strong offense so I think that barring a dramatic change from precedent, the Rams defense will likely struggle to put up points. BENCH the Los Angeles Rams D/ST.
Finding a quarterback match-up this week that had both no clear winner and reasonable ability to acquire the quarterbacks involved was…tricky, to say the least. But I think the Dolphins-Buccaneers game will be very interesting, with one of the lowest performing starting quarterbacks and one of the better back-ups competing to see who can come out on top.
Jay Cutler has been very hot and cold lately. He looked electric in the loss to the Raiders, then was systematically picked apart against the Carolina Panthers. Kenyan Drake has shown himself to be a valuable asset to the team, but he’s much less of a pass-catching running back than Damien Williams, the starter who has looked questionable at best. Having a good ground quarterback, should Drake start, doesn’t directly add to a quarterback’s fantasy value, but it does increase the potential for successful play-action passes.
Cutler has had some issues with interceptions this year, so that can only help.him in completing the plays to his receivers. The Dolphins have an absolutely stacked wide receiving core, Jarvis Landry, DeVante Parker, and even Kenny Stills have been consistently good and provide a well-rounded base for Cutler to work with. The only question is if he’s going to be allowed to do it, but with a weak Buccaneer defense, it’s certainly possible.
The Buccaneers actually won their last game with Fitzpatrick under center and Mike Evans out, which should only be aided with the return of their star wide receiver. I actually like Ryan Fitzpatrick a lot, I think he’s a quarterback who isn’t afraid to make deep passes, risking the interception for field presence or more points on the board. While that may not be precisely ideal for fantasy value, it helps his real-world ability to win games tremendously.
The conventional wisdom this week has been to pick up Ryan Fitzpatrick as a spot start, but I’m gonna go against that. I say that you should START Jay Cutler and BENCH Ryan Fitzpatrick, and here’s why. I trust the passing weapons more for Cutler, even if he’s a weaker quarterback than Fitzpatrick. Mike Evans has had a very hot-and-cold season and Cameron Brate has struggled to build a rapport with Fitzpatrick, leaving DeSean Jackson as the only major pass catcher Fitzpatrick can rely on. I just don’t think the depth is there, and those who spot start Fitzpatrick are going to be left disappointed. I’m likely wrong, as I frequently am, but that’s my advice for this week.
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