This is a good news/bad news week for fantasy football owners. The good: This is the last week for byes; the bad: With injuries starting to pile up, it really doesn't matter.
From now until the end of the fantasy playoffs, expect to be affected by injuries. If one of your players isn't out, then his quarterback or another key member of his offense probably will be. The result is yet another variable to add to your tough lineup decisions.
As we talked about in Tuesday's column, as many as four teams could be without their starting QBs (Chicago, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, San Francisco), and several teams are without their starting RBs, including three teams with RBs who were selected in the first or second round of fantasy drafts this year (Dallas, Jacksonville and Oakland). Key WRs in Pittsburgh (Antonio Brown) and Green Bay (Greg Jennings) remain out, though it's possible that Pierre Garcon (foot) will return this week. Aaron Hernandez (ankle) and Owen Daniels (hip) are also expected to return this week, so there's at least some good new for fantasy owners.
The best we can do at this point is continue to monitor trends (targets, usage patterns, yards/points allowed) and play the highest-percentage players on our roster. And to help you get there this week, here are some key numbers to know about every contest, plus a sleeper, stumbler, stud or injury concern to watch out 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 sitting.
Byes: Giants, Seahawks, Titans, Vikings.
Jets at Rams
Stat to know: The Jets have allowed at least 11 fantasy points to D/STs in five of their past six games, and they've been especially vulnerable along the offensive line, allowing 11 sacks in their past three games. The Rams, who are tied for sixth with 26 sacks, should turn up the heat playing at home.
Jaguars at Texans
Stat to know: When these teams met in Week 2, Maurice Jones-Drew managed 67 total yards and a TD. However, his score was on a fluky pass play. Don't expect much from Rashad Jennings, who's averaging just 3.0 yards per carry, against Houston's third-ranked run defense.
Injury: TE Owen Daniels, hip (Expected to play, though it's a tough matchup against a Jaguars' defense allowing the fewest FPPG to TEs).
Eagles at Redskins
Stat to know: Over their past four games, the Eagles have allowed an average of 23.3 fantasy points to QBs. Robert Griffin III only scored 13.9 points in each of the past two games, but he should get back on track coming off a bye.
Stud: WR Jeremy Maclin (Even with no Michael Vick, Maclin can exploit Washington's 30th-ranked pass defense).
Browns at Cowboys
Stat to know: With DeMarco Murray (foot) once again expected to be out, Felix Jones will have legitimate RB2 value against a Cleveland defense allowing 132.2 rushing yards per game.
Stumbler: WR Josh Gordon (8.4 fantasy points in the past two games; Cowboys have eighth-ranked pass defense).
Buccaneers at Panthers
Stat to know: Josh Freeman has been one of the hottest QBs in the league the past five weeks (13:1 TD-to-INT ratio), and Cam Newton has a nice matchup against a Bucs' defense allowing the eighth-most FPPG to QBs (21.8). You can feel safe starting both QBs and all key receivers.
Sleeper: K Connor Barth (Panthers allowing the second-most FPPG to Ks).
Cardinals at Falcons
Stat to know: Owners are leery of both LaRod Stephens-Howling and Michael Turner this week, but both are facing bottom-nine run defenses. Turner has more potential to score, but Stephens-Howling, who had 54 touches in his past three games, has more potential for yards.
Sleeper: Falcons D/ST (Cardinals allowing third-most FPPG to D/STs).
Bengals at Chiefs
Stat to know: Both the Bengals and Chiefs are in the top 10 in FPPG allowed to RBs, but only the Chiefs are in the top 10 in FPPG allowed to QBs, too. Expect plenty of running, but Andy Dalton is still a decent bye-week fill-in.
Sleeper: Bengals D/STs (Chiefs allowing most FPPG to D/STs).
Packers at Lions
Stat to know: James Starks had six more carries than Alex Green in Green Bay's last game, and he's expected to serve as the feature back this week. That might not mean much, as Detroit is allowing the eighth-fewest FPPG to RBs and Green Bay's passing attack will be closer to full strength with Jordy Nelson expected back. Consider Starks a low-end flex-back.
Sleeper: TE Jermichael Finley (Lions allowing 11th-most FPPG to TEs).
Saints at Raiders
Stat to know: Both teams are in the top five in FPPG allowed to RBs, but both running back situations are cloudy. New Orleans' Darren Sproles, who's expected to return this week, and Oakland's Marcel Reece are the best bets for each team, but Mark Ingram and Christopher Ivory could also function as boom-or-bust flex plays if you're in a bind.
Sleepers: K Sebastian Janikowski and K Garrett Hartley (Raiders allowing the most FPPG to Ks; Saints tied for eighth-most).
Colts at Patriots
Stat to know: Both the Colts and Patriots rank in the top seven in FPPG allowed to WRs. Reggie Wayne, Wes Welker and Brandon Lloyd are must-starts, and Donnie Avery is a solid sleeper.
Sleeper: TE Dwayne Allen (Patriots allowing third-most FPPG to TEs).
Chargers at Broncos
Stat to know: The Broncos have been killed by TEs this year (league-leading 12.5 FPPG allowed), but they rank 29th in FPPG allowed to WRs (18.1). Antonio Gates will get his, but Malcom Floyd and QB Philip Rivers are risky plays. Ditto for Ryan Mathews, who's questionable due to a neck injury.
Stumbler: RB Willis McGahee (five lost fumbles this year; Chargers have second-ranked run defense).
Ravens at Steelers
Stat to know: With no Ben Roethlisberger (shoulder/ribs) or Antonio Brown (ankle), the Steelers will likely lean heavily on their running game. It's tough to know who will get the majority of the carries with Rashard Mendenhall expected back, but both Mendenhall and Jonathan Dwyer look like legitimate flex options.
Stumbler: WR Anquan Boldin (Steelers allowing second-fewest FPPG to WRs).
Bears at 49ers
Stat to know: Both teams are in the bottom six in FPPG allowed to every offensive position -- except TE, where the Bears are allowing the eighth-fewest points. With both starting QBs possibly out because of concussions, it's tough to trust anyone in this matchup. Frank Gore, Matt Forte and Brandon Marshall are the only players who should be started.
Stumbler: Everyone else, except the D/STs.
Matt Lutovsky is a fantasy football writer for Sporting News' Fantasy Source. You can read more of his work on the Fantasy Source football homepage.