Kirk Cousins (vs New Orleans) - This one is low-hanging fruit and a streamer’s delight. Cousins actually played much better than his stat line against the tough Patriots defense, as he was victimized by drops, including on his interception. The Saints have given up 15 pass touchdowns in the last four games, including ten in the last two. Marcus Mariota had much less to work with in the passing game and he threw four scores, including one that should have been an interception, but two Saints collided going for the ball. This was not the first time this year that the Saints have given up an easy touchdown because two of their defenders ran into each other. Cousins has his full set of targets including DeSean Jackson with the rust knocked off after his return last week.
Joe Flacco (vs Jacksonville) - The Jaguars are a creampuff matchup for quarterbacks of all quality levels. The only time since Week 1 that they gave up fewer than 272 passing yards was when Jameis Winston only threw the ball 19 times. The only other quarterback since Week 1 to throw less than one score against them was 40-year-old Matt Hasselbeck. The Ravens poor pass defense tends to get them in high-scoring games, and even without Steve Smith, the offense had last week’s bye to regroup and plan an attack with lesser targets. If EJ Manuel can have a good fantasy day against the Jaguars, Flacco, who has accounted for multiple touchdowns in three of the last four games, should be just fine.
Matt Cassel (at Tampa Bay) - Cassel is starting to find his groove as a passer just as Tony Romo is poised to return next week. He can still help fantasy owners in a bind at quarterback this week. Quarterbacks have accounted for 12 touchdowns in the last four games against them, with none accounting for fewer than two. Dez Bryant is regaining his form, Cassel has found a favorite target last week in slot receiver Cole Beasley, and the offensive line is gelling. He has even had 60 rushing yards in the last two games.
Brian Hoyer (at Cincinnati) - Hoyer has thrown multiple pass touchdowns in each of the last five games, and he should have ample opportunity to do that again vs. Cincinnati Monday night. The Bengals offense is humming and shouldn’t have a problem putting up points in quick fashion in front of the home crowd against a very poor Texans pass defense. Hoyer is set up for another garbage time special, and Cecil Shorts getting back into the lineup out of the bye will only help.
Matt Jones (vs New Orleans) - If last week is any indication, Jones should lead the Washington backfield in touches from here on out. That’s great news this week against a Saints defense that let Antonio Andrews pile up 111 total yards last week with a hard-charging style similar to Jones. Washington has also given up at least 40 receiving yards (collectively) to opposing running backs in each of the last five games. Jones should have one of his best chances this year to get goal line touches and pile up yards against a defense stressed to spot a deep passing attack.
Isaiah Crowell (at Pittsburgh) - Crowell looked as good as he has all year last week at Cincinnati even though the game script didn’t really give him a chance to get rolling. This week, the Browns are likely to face Landry Jones and they might also get Josh McCown back, two development that would greatly increase Crowell’s chances to get 15+ carries in a running game that is trying to get jumpstarted against a Steelers defense that allowed Charcandrick West and Justin Forsett to get going behind offensive lines that were having trouble opening holes in the running game going in. Robert Turbin was released this week, removing yet another obstacle to Crowell getting all the touches he can.
Joique Bell (at Green Bay) - Lost in the debacle of the Lions meltdown in London was Joique Bell looking like, well, Joique Bell. He ran hard through the Chiefs defense for 56 yards on seven carries, and were the Lions able to stay in the game, he would have had more opportunity. The team had the bye week to reset the running game and Bell had another week to recoup what he lost in the offseason recovering from two surgeries. The Lions could get blown out at Green Bay, but Bell should still get goal line looks in any event and could pile up some catches in garbage time if the game gets out of hand.
C.J. Anderson (vs Kansas City) - The door is open for Anderson to resume starting for the Broncos and he should be able to run through it. Ronnie Hillman isn’t 100% and Anderson has outperformed him in each of the last two games. It’s clear that Anderson is over the toe injury that limited him before the bye, and he’s also the passing down back no matter who starts. The Broncos offense and Peyton Manning’s form is greatly improved from the first matchup between these teams this year, when Anderson had 27 yards on 12 carries. The Broncos are at home and their stifling defense should have a better time of it than they did when they had to face Jamaal Charles.
James Starks (vs Detroit) - Starks was named the #1 running back by head coach Mike McCarthy, although it will still be close to a 50/50 split. Still, Starks has had two outstanding games in the last three without being the #1 back coming into the game, with only the forgettable team-wide dud against the Broncos marring his recent game log. The last time we saw Detroit, the defense was waving the white flag against the Chiefs in London, allowing 97 yards and a score to Charcandrick West. Detroit hasn’t won in Green Bay since 1991, so the chances of Starks having a lead to nurse in the second half are pretty good.
Ryan Mathews (vs Miami) - It’s always a plus when a team’s preferred mode of attack matches an exposed weakness in their upcoming opponents defense. The Dolphins run defense has poor this year, allowing a career high to Chris Ivory and two separate 110-yard games to Karlos Williams despite him not getting more than 12 carries in either game. LeSean McCoy also gashed them for 112 yards last week and the Eagles fast-paced offense should tire out the Dolphins flimsy run defense and exacerbate the issue. Mathews is second fiddle to Demarco Murray, but he has still managed to score in three of the last four games.
Robert Woods (at New York Jets - Thursday) - There’s a decent chance Tyrod Taylor will only throw a handful of passes again this week, but with Darrelle Revis on Sammy Watkins, most of them could go to Woods instead. Woods is in a good position this week because other than Revis, most of the starting secondary for the Jets is hurt. Number two receivers Allen Hurns, Michael Crabtree, and Donte Moncrief have all gone over 100 yards with a score against the Jets, and both Taylor and Woods have the wherewithal to put up that kind of connection if the Bills don’t lean heavily on the run.
DeSean Jackson (vs New Orleans) - The Saints seem to be good for a major lapse or two a week, and Jackson is the best situated to turn a defensive error into a long touchdown and great week for anyone that puts him in their lineup. Odell Beckham, TY Hilton, and Josh Huff have broken through for long scores this year, and Jackson also has help in the form of Jordan Reed, Pierre Garcon, and Jamison Crowder to keep the Saints from committing a lot of help over the top to contain him. Jackson got hurt on a play when Cousins found him open deep and the duo should be eager to give that connection a try early and often this week.
Jarvis Landry (at Philadelphia) - Cole Beasley had the best game of his career out of the slot against the Eagles last week, and safety/sometimes slot corner Malcolm Jenkins is recovering from a concussion, so the “start the slot receiver vs. Philadelphia” data point could become a trend this week. The Eagles fast tempo tends to lengthen games and add more plays, which helps a high volume receiver like Landry. Jeremy Kerley had six catches and a score and Jamison Crowder had seven catches from the slot against the Eagles, and Landry is a superior talent to both. He’s a must play in PPR this week.
Kamar Aiken, Chris Givens (vs Jacksonville) - For three weeks running now, the Jaguars have given up two scores to opposing wide receivers. They’ve also allowed six receivers to go over 50 yards in that span. Even without Steve Smith, the Ravens pass offense should remain high volume, with Aiken getting more targets, but Givens given the opportunity to use his jets to run under Joe Flacco deep balls. Both are good sleepers this week, with Aiken preferred in PPR leagues and Givens in big play bonus and non-PPR leagues.
Tyler Lockett (vs Arizona) - The Seahawks had a bye week to rest and reset priorities, and one of those should be getting their rookie receiver more involved in the pass offense. Lockett led Seahawks receivers in yards each of the last two weeks heading into the bye, and he could be more prominently featured this week in what could be a high-scoring game against the Arizona secondary that let Tavon Austin get free deep and Martavis Bryant to weave through their whole defense for long scores. If you get points for return touchdowns, Lockett becomes an even better play.
Harry Douglas (vs Carolina) - You can count on a lot of passes being thrown against the Panthers, who have faced the second most pass attempts of any team in the league. Don’t expect a lot of scores or yards, as the Panthers defense is still in the top 12 in both of those categories, but in PPR leagues, the number of attempts sets up at least one Titans receiver for a big day. Douglas is sometimes working out of the slot, so that gives him a fighting chance to avoid Josh Norman often enough to rack up 6-8 receptions (at least), and he could be a big beneficiary of garbage time targets if the Titans defense can’t corral Cam Newton and company or their offense makes mistakes to put them behind the eight ball.
Kyle Rudolph (at Oakland) - Heath Miller didn’t go off against the Raiders last week, but rookie Jesse James still made it seven out of eight weeks that a tight end has scored against the Raiders this year. Rudolph is a red zone specialist, and the news that Teddy Bridgewater was back at a limited practice on Wednesday bodes well for his prospects. This could be a high-scoring game if the Vikings defense can’t slow down Derek Carr and Rudolph is the most likely Vikings passcatcher to finish drives against a Raiders defense that has also allowed over 80 yards to a tight end four times, including two two-touchdown games.
Richard Rodgers (vs Detroit) - Rodgers isn’t a very exciting sleeper. He doesn’t add much value to his targets and is likely to average a single digit yards per catch number. He did still have two scores last week, and he’s one of the more likely tight ends to score this week. The Lions have given up scores to tight ends in six out of eight games this year, and the woeful defense isn’t likely to be more than a speed bump for Aaron Rodgers this week.
Zach Ertz (vs Miami) - Ertz is due for a score, and he has a terrific matchup for a big game either way this week. His snap count and target count are at their highest level all season, with at least six targets in each of the last four games, and at least four catches in each game over that span. The Dolphins performance against tight ends appears to be up and down, but the downs are against teams like Houston, the Jets, and a Julius Thomas-less Jaguars team that barely used their tight ends anyway. Better tight ends like Rob Gronkowski, Delanie Walker, and Jordan Reed all had big games against Miami, and Charles Clay did when Tyrod Taylor actually threw to him.
Crockett Gillmore (vs Jacksonville) - Gillmore has been battling injuries on and off all year, so at least the bye week will get him as healthy as he’ll be for the rest of the year heading into a matchup against a generous Jaguars defense. Since a surprising shutdown of Greg Olsen in Week 1, the Jaguars haven’t faced very many good tight ends, but Jordan Cameron was having a great day before he got hurt (and backup Jake Stoneburner got a touchdown later), and Coby Fleener also had his best game of the season against the Jaguars.