Should I worry about LeSean McCoy against the Broncos' run defense?
People have been assuming the Bronco run defense is so good because teams have no choice but to throw it to play catch-up with them. That's not necessarily true. Denver is holding opposing running backs to a ridiculous 1.73 yards per carry this year, and the defense is fast. That being said, running backs are also putting up 6.3/45.7/1.0 per game as receivers, and as such, the Broncos are giving up 27.5 fantasy points per game (fourth most in the NFL) in a PPR to the running back position, even with the NFL-leading rushing defense. The point here is that McCoy is just way too good to sit down, and the Eagles will keep going with what's working.
DeSean against DRC - Who's got the advantage?
Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie has thrived since landing in Denver and being allowed to play a lot of man coverage. One of the best athletes at his position in the NFL, the matchup with DeSean Jackson is one of the most intriguing in the NFL this week. If there's something DeSean can struggle with, it's getting off an aggressive press, and I'd expect DRC to attempt to be physical with him. But the thing I love about DeSean in this offense is that he's legitimately one play away from having a huge fantasy day at all times. Think about it: if he burns DRC once for a 50-yard TD, that's already a solid fantasy day. Last week, DRC surrendered a 73-yard TD to Raiders receiver Denarius Moore, so it's not uncommon.
Is the Eagles offensive line a major concern going forward?
I don't know about major, because it's too talented. But the frequency with which Jason Peters and Lane Johnson got beat last week was concerning. We expect it from Johnson, a rookie, but Peters was a surprise, and his finger injury looks like it may have affected him. Against a Denver team that lacks an elite individual rusher, I'd expect a bounce-back week in pass pro. And for what it's worth, I feel the Eagles have the best run-blocking unit in the NFL.
AROUND THE LEAGUE
With Gronk returning soon, what's the outlook for the Patriots' offense?
Well, it's certainly more positive than it's been so far this season. Rob Gronkowski may not be back this week, but I have advocated Brady as someone to go out and trade for, because it's a perfect buy-low opportunity. Consider this: Brady didn't play well himself last week, as he admitted in his post-game press conference after the win over the Bucs, but he still managed to complete 25-of-36 passes for 225 yards and two touchdowns. He should have had three touchdowns, but he missed an easy throw to Aaron Dobson and was later picked off on the same series. However, the performance was acceptable for fantasy, and Brady's only going to get better as he gets more time with his young receivers. And then, Gronkowski and Danny Amendola will be back in time, as well.
This is also a good time to discuss the Pats' running game. The Patriots haven't been able to consistently sustain a ground performance with any one back since Shane Vereen went down in Week 1, but their backs had a strong showing against the Bucs' great run defense last week, gaining 151 rushing yards on 28 carries, with 6/57 receiving. It was a very interesting distribution of snaps for the backs – Stevan Ridley played 26, Brandon Bolden played 25 and LeGarrette Blount played 23. While Bolden had the big day in the "Vereen role" and Blount was the "closer" with a big lead late, we're still encouraged enough for Ridley. The Boston Globe noted that Ridley was phenomenal in pass pro last week, and the guess is that coach Bill Belichick was content with running Blount against his former team late because the game was out of reach. As disappointing as Ridley has been, we still love the way he plays and think he'll ultimately be fine. He and Bolden have a lot more fantasy upside than Blount.
What's the fantasy impact of Josh Freeman's benching?
In terms of the Bucs' passing game, it may not affect much. I can't really argue with the move, because Freeman has been so awful, and Mike Glennon's a great fit for what offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan wants to do. However, Glennon's raw, and I don't know what his tendencies will be. Will he chuck it downfield no matter what? Or will he overreact to pressure and dump it off quite a bit? This move is potentially good news for the entire Buc offense, but we do want to see Glennon in action first. But here's the positive for Vincent Jackson and Mike Williams (once they get healthy, of course): Freeman has completed 45.7 percent of his 94 pass attempts so far this year. It's hard for Glennon to not be better than that … right? It's also potential good news for Doug Martin's PPR value, as Glennon did look a little skittish under pressure when in college at North Carolina State. Martin, who already figures to get a ton of carries, could get some cheap receiving yardage, to boot. Right now, he's second to LeSean McCoy in rushing in the NFL, and there's no reason to think his carry-heavy workload will change. Expect to see a lot of boxes stacked against Martin, but it's not like he wasn't seeing those already.
Is it time to stop panicking about the San Francisco offense?
I didn't think it was ever time to start, but Thursday night's blowout of the Rams is a good indicator that selling away Colin Kaepernick and company after two bad weeks was not the way to go. The 49ers returned to their kind of game and ran the ball down the Rams' throats, and Frank Gore is back to being the high-end No. 2 RB that he was being drafted as. The offensive line has cleaned up some of its early-season errors. And Kaepernick, despite a lack of weapons outside of Anquan Boldin (as Vernon Davis isn't yet totally healthy), has now put up very good fantasy numbers in two of his four games. Do we think the Niners need more weapons on the perimeter? Sure. But the upside is and was way too good to give up on.
Who are some players who have surprised you with their consistency?
Jay Cutler, Bears: Cutler hasn't been a slam-dunk fantasy starter, but I've never seen him play this controlled and effectively on a consistent basis. He's still going to throw his share of picks, but he has great weapons in Chicago and the offense of Marc Trestman has kept him in a great spot to succeed.
Bilal Powell, Jets: Powell might be the definition of "Just a Guy" physically, but the Jets have needed him. He's put up double-digit fantasy points in a PPR in every week so far this year, and he had a breakout game with 149 rushing yards against the Bills last week. With Chris Ivory hurt (again), Powell will be the Jets' lead back until further notice.
Stevie Johnson, Bills: It's hard to trust a rookie QB, and EJ Manuel's play has been inconsistent, but he still has managed to find a way to get Stevie the ball. Johnson's had at least 12.9 fantasy points in PPR scoring in every week this season, and that's great production for a guy who was typically being drafted as a low-end No. 3 wide receiver.
Antonio Gates, Chargers: You could probably throw Philip Rivers into this section as well. But after Gates looked like a shell of himself for at least two seasons as he's battled painful foot injuries, he's consistently made plays and exploited mismatches this season, the way he used to five years ago, when his successes helped open the door for the likes of Jimmy Graham to dominate in the NFL.
When do I give up on my first-round pick if he's struggling?
This is a really relative question. Typically, I like to wait at least a month before making any rash judgments on a player who is disappointing. You have to evaluate the reasons the player is struggling, and if they're correctable or fluky. Some reasons I wouldn't be concerned about include bad matchups, minor injuries or surprising game flow. Some reasons I would be concerned about would be nagging/aggravated injuries, struggling in a great matchup and low snap count/uncertain role. And even still, it's only worth "giving up" on a player you invested so much in if you have a clear plan to replace him. Did you get a good trade offer? Or do you have someone like Giovani Bernard sitting on the bench as you wait for your guy to finally break out? Otherwise, you may have to stick with it until an opportunity presents itself.
INJURIES TO WATCH
Miles Austin, Cowboys – Austin's chronic hamstring issues have crept up yet again and he was ruled out on Friday.
Rob Gronkowski, Patriots – Gronk's availability (back, forearm) for Sunday night is uncertain. Because it's a night game, it's almost certainly the right play to use your backup tight end if his game is earlier in the day.
Ahmad Bradshaw, Colts – Bradshaw (neck) missed practice all week and was ruled out, perhaps opening the door for the Trent Richardson show.
Andre Johnson, Texans – Johnson (shin) expects to play, but the Texans are calling him a game-time decision.
T.Y. Hilton, Colts – Hilton (foot), surprisingly, watched practice from the sidelines on Friday in a walking boot. He wasn't on the injury report, so this has to be monitored.
Vincent Jackson and Mike Williams, Buccaneers – Jackson (ribs) and Williams (hamstring) missed practice on Wednesday and Thursday, but returned Friday. It may be prudent to sit them with a rookie QB going, anyway.
Terrelle Pryor, Raiders – Pryor (concussion) doesn't look like he's going to play this week. He's performed better than most have expected thus far, and has been a half-decent fantasy option as well. Matt Flynn should get the start.
Christian Ponder, Vikings – Ponder (ribs) will not start, giving way to Matt Cassel. If Cassel performs well, it could be for good.
QB: Robert Griffin III, Redskins – His numbers didn't exactly show it, but RGIII looked the most comfortable he's been all year last week. The Oakland defense is a good matchup for him.
RB: Danny Woodhead, Chargers – Woodhead has been consistently leading this backfield in snaps and had seven catches last week. This week, he goes up against a Cowboys defense giving up seven receptions per game to the RB position.
WR: Mohamed Sanu, Bengals – If you need a deeper play because of injuries or byes this week, consider Sanu, who has caught at least four passes in every game this year and could benefit from A.J. Green's matchup with Joe Haden.
TE: Charles Clay, Dolphins – A guy who might still be on your waiver wire, Clay has caught at least four passes in every game this year and seems like a key player for Ryan Tannehill.
QB: Eli Manning, Giants – I'm sick of it. The Giants are awful right now, and if Eli can't pick apart a decimated Panthers secondary, I don't like his chances going into Arrowhead.
RB: Chris Johnson, Titans – Johnson's a dangerous guy to sit, because he can change a game with one play. He can also ruin your week if he doesn't get that play. He hasn't had that play yet this year. Against the Jets' really good run defense, I'm betting against Johnson for another week.
WR: Dwayne Bowe, Chiefs – I know the Giants secondary is awful, but Bowe looks even worse. This isn't just Alex Smith limiting him, because he isn't moving well.
TE: Owen Daniels, Texans – It's another good week overall for tight ends (Jordan Cameron seriously burned me here last week), so bench the guy going against the NFL's best defense, Seattle, if you have an upside option on the bench.
Joe Dolan is the managing editor of FantasyGuru.com and a host for SiriusXM Radio. A former writer for PhiladelphiaEagles.com, Joe still contributes to the site with on-camera segments and written columns. He can be heard hosting "SiriusXM Fantasy Football Gameday" every NFL Sunday from 1-7 PM on Sirius 210, XM 87.