Week 8 is complete and we are approaching the halfway point of the season. In most fantasy leagues there's only four or five more weeks left before the playoffs begin. Is your team ready for the postseason run? Here's a few thoughts on key players from each position who could make a difference in your weekly lineup come crunch time.
Matt Ryan - The Falcons their bye Week 10 and then have a nice stretch of pass-friendly opponents the rest of the way, with the exception of Carolina in weeks 14 and 16. Ryan can definitely get you to the playoffs, but the question is - can he get you the trophy? Consider moving Ryan for the right quarterback or play him and choose a different quarterback for the playoffs - perhaps Ryan Tannehill who hosts the Giants and Colts weeks 14 and 16 with a game at San Diego in between.
Matthew Stafford - The Lions are going to be passing an awful lot in the coming weeks and they boast one of the best passing heat maps based on schedule and offensive averages. I'm not out to proclaim Stafford is a must start going forward, especially with Calvin Johnson (ankle) hobbling an among trade talks, but the numbers suggest he will produce.
Drew Brees - The needle is defintely pointing up for Drew Brees after his 7-touchdown day against the Giants. Prior to that game the Saints had more rushing touchdowns than passing. Perhaps the tide is turning in New Orleans for a more pass-friendly approach. Their schedule of TEN, at WAS, Bye, at HOU in the next four games looks promising. They have @TB, DET, JAC for weeks 14, 15 and 16. Brees looks to be a quarterback you want on your side for the Championship run.
Blake Bortles - The Jags are coming off their Week 8 bye with a difficult match up at the Jets, but if you take a glance at their Weeks 14-16 stretch run, it looks favorable. Home for IND, ATL and at NO. Bortles has 9 touchdown passes in his last three games and he has two capable wide receivers in Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns who will flirt with Top 15 rankings.
Andrew Luck - The Colts have one tough passing match-up left on their schedule and that's this week vs. DEN. Indianapolis has recently promoted Rob Chudzinski to Offensive Coordinator which should give the offense some much-needed life. I'm not counting out Andrew Luck, in fact he's the fourth ranked quarterback in fantasy points since Week 6. Their bye is week 10 and my gut says the Colts (and Luck) will show up for Week 11 at ATL and put up strong numbers the rest of the way. Luck may not have given you big fantasy numbers so far, but the second half of the season looks promising.
This year has been rough for running back injuries, but when one man goes down another has the opportunity to fill the void. Looking at the running back landscape it's hard to ignore what Todd Gurley has done over the last few weeks. He is quickly rising up the rankings and may wind up being the number one overall fantasy pick in 2016. For me, it's Gurley and Devonta Freeman in their own tier followed by a bunch of others who are capable of big numbers any given week, but aren't consistent enough to be categorized as elite.
Here's how I see the Top 10 going forward (PPR format)
1. Todd Gurley - The next Adrian Peterson has arrived
2. Devonta Freeman - Perhaps we see a small decline, but he's involved in every facet of the offense and the Falcons have a favorable schedule.
3. DeAngelo Williams - Yes, I'm putting Williams third. We saw what he was capable of without LeVeon Bell. My gut says we'll see more of the same in the coming weeks. PIT will lean on him with confidence.
4. Dion Lewis - Lewis has skills as a runner and receiver and the Patriots offense is one of the best in the league.
5. Marshawn Lynch - The 5-10 ranks are anyone's guess and possibly easily interchangable depending on who you ask. To me, Lynch puts on his Beast Mode game face for the stretch run. He's due to have a big game especially with three consecutive home games starting Week 10 after their bye.
6. Mark Ingram - The Saints could be moving to more of a pass-friendly approach, but Ingram remains a big piece to the offense, especially with the loss of Khiry Robinson.
7. Doug Martin - I like the Bucs schedule coming up and Martin has shown the ability to be a key contributor on offense. He could easily leap ahead Ingram and Lynch with a good stretch of games, but I like the Seahawks and Saints offenses more than the Bucs.
8. Danny Woodhead - The Chargers have been a pass-heavy offense in the first half of the season, which doesn't look to be changing anytime soon, even with the loss of Keenan Allen (kidney). Woodhead is going to be featured often going forward as other players fill the void. It's entirely possible that Melvin Gordon could have a few strong games which would hurt Woodhead's value but if his current production path stays the same, he deserves to be in the Top 10.
9. Adrian Peterson - Peterson is one of nine backs with 200+ yards rushing in the last two weeks, however that was against the Lions and Bears. He is capable of having a good or great game every week and he's a consistent threat on a team that has a surprising 5-2 record. He deserves to be in the Top 10 based on name recognition alone. He's not someone to take lightly. A few good games in a row will cement him as a Top 10 back the rest of the way.
10. Charcandrick West - The Chiefs love to use a single-back approach and right now that back is West. Like Jamaal Charles, West is seeing a good number of both carries and targets in the offense that is dependent on a back who occupies this role. West has answered the bell the last two weeks and now looks to be somoene we can count on for fantasy production on a weekly basis.
Just missing the cut is Lamar Miller. Miller could easily be in the Top 10, but I need to see him be more of a consistent threat as a rusher and receiver to warrant a spot in the Top 10.
The biggest news this week is the loss of Keenan Allen to a lacerated kidney. He was recently placed on IR thus ending his season. The Chargers passing game doesn't look like it will let up without Allen, so that begs the question - who will fill the void? Steve Johnson automatically comes to mind as the receiver who will see the biggest impact. Antonio Gates and Malcom Floyd also figure to see increased production. Johnson has been banged up with a hamstring and shoulder injury, so his presence may not be felt immediately. Malcom Floyd and Dontrelle Inman could be the first men to benefit if Johnson isn't healthy enough to play a big role.
Top 10 Wide Receivers going forward (PPR format)
1. Julio Jones - It's difficult to put the Top 10 receivers into a ranking, but for me Jones headlines the list. He looks to be over his hamstring woes and is the clear offensive down field threat for Matt Ryan. I don't love his playoff schedule, but he's definitely someone to rely on in your lineup.
2. Antonio Brown - Don't for a second think Brown can't overtake Julio Jones as the top receiver. He's more than capable of doing so. Julio and Brown are 1a and 1b and DeAndre Hopkins could easily be 1c
3. DeAndre Hopkins - Hopkins is in the Top 3 tier. He's a must start every week, but he might not have Top 3 production every week. He can be good or he can be great. He's mostly great but the good games drop him to the bottom of the first tier.
4. Odell Beckham - Beckham is the Giants main weapon and Eli Manning knows this. Expect to see him involved more and more as the year goes on. He could easily join the first tier with a few consecutive strong games.
5. Julian Edelman - Edelman is Tom Brady's favorite target and the Patriots offense is one of the best in the league. He has six touchdowns so far, which has been area that has limited him in years prior. 90 receptions and 10 touchdowns is definitely within reach.
6. Demaryius Thomas - Like the running backs, the 6-10 ranks are nearly interchangable. Demaryius Thomas is a heavy target for Peyton Manning and the Broncos offense might be showing signs of life. Thomas is capable of big numbers any given week, but the touchdowns have been far less due to Manning's deficiencies. If Manning turns it up another notch, Thomas will surely benefit.
7. A.J. Green - We haven't seen really good A.J. Green yet this year and I have to think it's coming at some point. The Bengals offense is doing work and Andy Dalton is among the better quarterbacks in the league. Green's time is coming.
8. Larry Fitzgerald - Fitzgerald started the year off with a bang, but he has recently taken a step back, mostly in part due to Michael Floyd's emergence. Fitzgerald is still Carson Palmer's most trusted target, so his value should stay afloat in the Top 10, but he won't be as dominant as he was earlier in the year.
9. Allen Robinson - The Jaguars passing game has taken flight this year and Robinson is benefiting. Allen Hurns is keeping pace, but Robinson is the big name player who has a tad bit more in his tool box that keeps him Bortle's favorite target. I expect the Jaguars strong passing game to continue throughout the season.
10. Dez Bryant - I don't see Bryant being a big receiving threat until Tony Romo returns, simply because Matt Cassel and Brandon Weeden are not strong down field passers. Romo will get the ball to Bryant all over the field. The other guys - not so much. Bryant's production should climb enough to get him into the Top 10. He's at least worth a weekly start once Romo returns and possibly before.
There's Gronk and then everyone else. Rob Gronkowski leads the way as the top tight end and he's already has his bye week. Gronkowski has his own tier and the others are chasing him.
Top 10 Tight Ends going forward (PPR format)
1. Rob Gronkowski - The best tight end on the the best offense. Yes, New England has the best offense in my opinion.
2. Greg Olsen - The Panthers keep leaning on Olsen as their primary receiving threat and he keeps producing. He already had has his bye week and he's the fourth ranked tight end. By the end of the year I only see Gronkowski ahead of him for fantasy points.
3. Tyler Eifert - The Bengals are rolling and Eifert is a big contributor on offense. He already has six touchdowns this year with ten easily in sight.
4. Travis Kelce - The Chiefs need to lean on him like Carolina does Greg Olsen. Until that happens, he's a Top 5 tight end, but he's not among the best in the league. Lack of scoring and consistency is keeping him from that tier.
5. Gary Barnidge - Barnidge has to regress, right? Right? I can't see him keeping up this pace all season long. He has to fall back to earth at some point. Case in point, Larry Donnell last year.
6. Jordan Reed - I can see Reed jumping up to a Top 5 rank or even higher, but his injury history and the return of DeSean Jackson are concerns for me regarding his production.
7. Ben Watson - Watson and the Saints offense are coming to life at the same time. Josh Hill is out of the picture as the main receiving tight end threat, leaving Watson as the biggest beneficiary.
8. Jason Witten - This ranking is based on Tony Romo's return. Witten could jump ahead of Watson or even Reed with a strong second half, but it is predicated on Romo's return and his ability to move the offense. I would be buying Witten low right now with the hopes of a big resurgence from Week 11 on.
9. Antonio Gates - Gates may not be the same athletic player that he once was, but he's in a perfect spot for increased production. The Chargers passing game is flying high and the loss of Keenan Allen will open the door for someone else to fill the void. If Gates can stay healthy and be a key contributor, he could leap ahead of the next two or three on this list. The question is, can he stay healthy?
10. Martellus Bennett - It's difficult not to include Bennett in the Top 10, especially if Matt Forte is going to be out for multiple games. Bennett is also a candidate to jump higher in the rankings if the Bears offense continues to pick up, even with the absence of Forte.
Just missing the cut - Eric Ebron. Don't be surprised to see Ebron join the Top 10 in the second half of the season. The Lions could be without Calvin Johnson for a stretch or they will at least deal with a less than 100% Johnson. We've seen Detroit use Johnson as a decoy while others benefit. Ebron has taken a big step forward this year. If the Lions passing offense continues to thrive, Ebron will be a big beneficiary.
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