Last week was our first with byes and featured a game in London. This week there are two more teams on bye, plus a game on Sunday night that starts at 10:35 pm CT (SD at OAK). There's always something to make life a little more difficult for fantasy football owners.
Fortunately, none of the four bye-week teams (MIN, PIT, TB, WAS) have star fantasy QBs (no, I'm not counting Robert Griffin III as a “star” fantasy QB right now), starting D/STs (my, how the mighty Steelers have fallen), starting TEs (sorry Kyle Rudolph) or any WR1's (can't give that designation to Vincent Jackson right now). Fantasy owners are down several big-name RBs, but there are some decent fill-ins out there – the key isn't necessarily knowing who to sub in, but rather who to avoid.
We'll highlight some of those backs while we dish out some key numbers to know about every game, 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.
Jaguars at Rams
Stat to know: Justin Blackmon's return to the Jaguars' lineup and the Rams' change in starting running back shouldn't overshadow the fact that this is a great matchup for Rams' receivers. Jacksonville has allowed nine passing TDs (tied for fourth most), including three to TEs, so you can take a chance on TE
Stud: RB Maurice Jones-Drew (Rams allowing the most fantasy points per game to RBs.)
Chiefs at Titans
Stat to know: Chris Johnson has been a disappointment this year, and the Chiefs rank 31st in fantasy points per game (FPPG) allowed to RBs (12). But they also rank 31st in yards per carry allowed (5.4). That number was inflated by QB Michael Vick, but they generally haven't been as sharp against RBs the past two weeks. You can still use Johnson as an RB2 or flex.
Stumbler: Titans D/ST (Chiefs allowing just 4.8 FPPG to D/STs, T-fourth fewest.)
Eagles at Giants
Stat to know: The Eagles rank 31st in pass defense and have allowed nine passing TDs; the Giants are tied for the league lead with 10 passing TDs allowed. Start both QBs and all key WRs.
Sleeper: RB David Wilson (Eagles allowing 153.8 total yards per game to RBs; Giants just released third-down/receiving back Da'Rel Scott.)
Saints at Bears
Stat to know: Alshon Jeffery had a breakout game last week, but this isn't a good matchup for him. The Saints are allowing just 16.2 FPPG to WRs (third fewest). Even at home, Jeffery is risky.
Stumbler: RB Darren Sproles (Saints not as good outdoors; Bears allowing just 28.3 receiving yards per game to RBs.)
Ravens at Dolphins
Stat to Know: Most of Marlon Brown's production this year has been tied to touchdowns, but the Dolphins haven't allowed a receiving TD by a WR all season. Torrey Smith is still worth starting, but Brown is much riskier.
Sleeper: TE Dallas Clark (Averaging 7.3 targets per game; Dolphins allowing the most FPPG to TEs.)
Seahawks at Colts
Stat to know: Cam Newton and Colin Kaepernick combined for 125 rushing yards against Seattle in Weeks 1 and 2. This is still an intimidating defense, but Andrew Luck, who's had at least 24 rushing yards in every game this year, could still have a decent day thanks to his legs.
Stumbler: QB Russell Wilson (Struggles on road; Colts allowing just 11.2 FPPG to QBs.)
Lions at Packers
Stat to know: Eddie Lacy (concussion) is expected back this week, and he should get a lot of touches with James Starks (knee) out. The Lions are allowing 5.0 yards per carry and the fourth-most FPPG to RBs (22.7). Start Lacy.
Stumbler: TE Jermichael Finley (Lions allowing just 6.3 FPPG to TEs, 10th fewest.)
Patriots at Bengals
Stat to know: The Patriots have the No. 14 run defense (105 yards per game) and have allowed just one rushing touchdown, but they'll be without chief run-stopper Vince Wilfork (Achilles'). It's also worth noting that they've allowed 44 receiving yards per game to RBs. Giovani Bernard is still a solid play.
Injury: TE Rob Gronkowski, back/forearm (Not expected to play but will likely be a game-time decision.)
Panthers at Cardinals
Stat to know: The Cardinals are allowing just 3.2 yards per carry and are still yet to allow a rushing TD to a running back. It's tough to bench DeAngelo Williams given his high workload, but he should be downgraded to a flex.
Stumbler: RB Rashard Mendenhall (Panthers allowing just 93 rushing yards per game and 3.7 yards per carry.)
Broncos at Cowboys
Stat to know: The Broncos are allowing just 2.7 yards per carry to RBs and often force teams to pass more in the second half, but DeMarco Murray is still a safe play. He's averaged six targets per game, catching 21 of 24. He'll produce one way or another.
Stud: RB Knowshon Moreno (Still Denver's lead back; Cowboys have allowed 3 receiving TDs to RBs.)
Texans at 49ers
Stat to know: Arian Foster received 33 touches last week, posting a season-high 171 total yards. The 49ers have actually allowed 20.9 FPPG to RBs (eighth most), so there's no reason to be nervous about Foster.
Stud: 49ers D/ST (Texans allowing fifth-most FPPG to D/STs.)
Chargers at Raiders
Stat to know: Danny Woodhead had a breakout game last week, but most of his production comes through the air. The Raiders are allowing just 20 receiving yards per game to RBs, making Woodhead a risky play in standard leagues.
Sleeper: WR Denarius Moore (Chargers are tied for third with 12 pass plays of 20-plus yards allowed.)
Jets at Falcons
Stat to know: The Falcons D/ST hasn't done much this year, but they have a home, primetime matchup against a rookie quarterback this week. With the Jets giving up 11 FPPG to D/STs (fourth most), this is a good time to spot-start Atlanta.
Sleeper: WR Jeremy Kerley (Both Santonio Holmes and Stephen Hill are expected to be out; Falcons allowing fourth-most FPPG to WRs.)