Patience is a virtue, but in Fantasy Football, it can be mighty difficult to practice.
It’s easy to dump a sleeper or late-round draft pick who does not deliver in the first few weeks of the season. But if you can stomach the ups and downs of the early going, those players can change the course of your season.
The hype surrounding Detroit Lions wide receiver Titus Young coming into the year made complete sense. He was playing opposite the league’s top receiver who was guaranteed to draw double coverage in a pass-happy offense led by a quarterback who threw for 5,000 yards last season. He was also heading into the magic third year in which many a wideout has blossomed.
Many an owner took the plunge on Young in the middle rounds of a draft, and through five games, all they had to show for it was 123 yards and one measly touchdown. But over the last two weeks, with Nate Burleson done for the season, Young has more than doubled that production. He’s coming off a nine-catch, 100-yard, two-touchdown game against Seattle and rewarding the owners who held onto him.
Denver’s Eric Decker and Green Bay’s Randall Cobb are doing the same.
All right, enough about virtues. Let’s get to this week’s picks — which conveniently include all three of the receivers mentioned above.
Thursday night game
Chiefs at Chargers: Chargers RB Ryan Mathews
Even during Sunday’s dreadful offensive showing against the Browns, the Chargers were able to lean on Mathews for 95 rushing yards, and this week he faces a defense ranked 23rd vs. the run (126.4 ypg).
- Deep threat: Chiefs WR Dexter McCluster – McCluster led KC in both catches (6) and targets (8) for the second straight week. The Chargers – who rank second in the NFL against the run – will load up to stop Jamaal Charles, so the targets should continue for the versatile third-year player.
The 1 p.m. games
Bears at Titans: Bears WR Brandon Marshall
QB Jay Cutler’s favorite target has an especially favorable matchup against a defense giving up the fourth most passing yards per game (282) and second most passing touchdowns (17).
- Deep threat: Titans WR Nate Washington – The Bears are rock-solid against the run, but they can be beaten through the air, where Washington seems to have a strong connection with Matt Hasselbeck. Washington makes a reasonable flex option here.
Bills at Texans: Texans defense
The Bills have averaged 11 points in their last two road games, and the Texans, ranked fourth overall in total defense, have allowed more than 14 points in just one of four home games.
- Deep threat: Bills QB Ryan Fitzpatrick – This game is poised to get ugly fast, meaning Buffalo will be playing catch-up and throwing a lot. If you can stomach the inevitable 2-3 interceptions, Fitzpatrick could get you a couple touchdowns and decent yardage. If you’re a Tom Brady owner and you’re desperate, you could do worse.
Broncos at Bengals: Broncos WR Eric Decker
Decker has five touchdowns over his past four games for the league’s fourth-ranked passing offense and leads the Broncos with 58 targets, including a team-high 15 in the last two games.
- Deep threat: Bengals Andrew Hawkins – The short, speedy receiver is fully healed from his back injury and while he may not get a ton of targets, he’s always a threat to break a big play. Consider him a high-risk, low-end flex option.
Cardinals at Packers: Packers WR Randall Cobb
Cobb has had a touchdown in three of four games and three touchdowns in his last two as he’s become one of QB Aaron Rodgers’ go-to wide receivers with Greg Jennings and Jordy Nelson hurt.
- Deep threat: Cardinals RB LaRod Stephens-Howling – Arizona’s quarterback situation is an utter disaster and with the Packers bringing the pressure against a struggling offensive line, Stephens-Howling will get a few dump-offs that he could turn into big plays. He should be the only Cardinal other than Larry Fitzgerald you’re even considering starting.
Dolphins at Colts: Colts QB Andrew Luck
The No. 1 overall pick in this year’s draft has one passing touchdown in his last three games but is in line to get back on track against the NFL’s 27th-ranked pass defense that is allowing 281 yards per game.
- Deep threat: Dolphins RB Daniel Thomas – The second-year back actually had more carries than Reggie Bush in Miami’s blowout of the Jets, despite averaging only 2.8 yards per tote. Indy’s run defense is still terrible, making both backs start-worthy in deeper leagues.
Lions at Jaguars: Lions WR Titus Young
The Lions’ offense appears on the upswing, and Young is rounding into form coming off his two most productive games, including 100 yards and two touchdowns last week against the Seahawks.
- Deep threat: Jaguars WR Cecil Shorts – With each lopsided loss, it gets more and more difficult to select a Jag you’d ever consider starting. That said, Shorts is coming off an eight-catch, 116-yard game against Green Bay and has 22 targets in his last two games. You could do worse as a deep-league flex.
Panthers at Redskins: Panthers QB Cam Newton
Disappointed Newton owners can start him with confidence this week against the NFL’s worst pass defense that has allowed a league-high 19 passing touchdowns and the second most fantasy points (25.6) to quarterbacks.
- Deep threat: Redskins WR Santana Moss – Despite his bout with butterfingers last week, Moss has emerged as Robert Griffin III’s top target with Fred Davis out. He now has four touchdowns in four weeks and he could add to that total Sunday.
Ravens at Browns: Browns RB Trent Richardson
Even with sore ribs, Richardson shredded the NFL’s second-ranked run defense last week. This week he draws the league’s 30th-ranked rush defense that is giving up nearly 143 yards per game.
- Deep threat: Ravens QB Joe Flacco – Cleveland’s defense has come around the last two weeks, but the Browns have still allowed the fourth-most touchdown passes in the league (15). Look for Flacco to get his legs back under him after an abysmal trip to Houston.
The 4 p.m. games
Buccaneers at Raiders: Raiders QB Carson Palmer
Palmer is a serviceable bye-week replacement at home against the league’s second-worst pass defense surrendering nearly 310 yards per game and 23 fantasy points (eighth most) to quarterbacks.
- Deep threat: Buccaneers QB Josh Freeman – This was the Freeman many were expecting to see last season, but he never materialized. Now, coming off three straight three-TD performances, the Bucs’ signal-caller is suddenly a top-10 fantasy quarterback.
Vikings at Seahawks: Seahawks defense
Seattle is an especially tough defense at home, where it has allowed more than 12 points once in three games. The Seahawks’ fifth-ranked unit is giving up 16.8 points per game overall, the third fewest in the league.
- Deep threat: Vikings TE Kyle Rudolph – He went from hot pick-up to a near no-show in a matter of weeks, but with both New England tight ends and Vernon Davis on the bye, you could be looking for a fill-in. Rudolph, as they say, is due.
Steelers at Giants: Giants RB Ahmad Bradshaw
Don’t expect a monster game from Bradshaw, but he gives the Giants their best chance against the league’s top-ranked pass defense that is permitting the fourth fewest fantasy points to quarterbacks.
- Deep threat: Steelers RB Jonathan Dwyer – Fresh off back-to-back 100-yard games, Dwyer said Thursday that Rashard Mendenhall remains “the guy” in the Pittsburgh backfield. But “the guy” hasn’t played since Week 4 and Dwyer is tearing it up. If Mendenhall and Isaac Redman are out again, Dwyer is a must-start. If the others can go, he’s still a flex option.
Sunday night game
Cowboys at Falcons: Falcons WR Roddy White
White and WR Julio Jones have alternated huge games, and this week it’s White’s turn even against the NFL’s third-best pass defense. White’s two most productive games this season also have come at home.
- Deep threat: Cowboys WR Dez Bryant – The much-maligned receiver has double-digit targets and at least 95 yards in three of his last four games. You know the Cowboys will have to air it out to keep pace with Atlanta, which should mean plenty of balls thrown in Bryant’s direction.
Monday night game
Eagles at Saints: WR Marques Colston
This is a horrible position for the Eagles, who face a proud team on national television coming off an embarrassing loss a week earlier. Expect plenty of offensive fireworks from the Saints, with Colston heavily involved.
- Deep threat: Eagles QB Michael Vick – This is likely Vick’s last chance to keep the starting job this season. If he can’t turn in a good performance against the NFL’s third-worst passing defense, he probably deserves a spot on the bench. But if you drafted Vick, it was as your starter, so why not roll the dice on the best matchup he’s had all season.
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