Arizona Cardinals: The Cardinals running game is going to be a guessing game each and every week. Larod Stephens-Howling was the hot hand versus Minnesota last week, so he carried the rock more than William Powell, but that doesn’t mean LRS is the favorite this week to lead the team in carries, just that he may get first crack at the job…..You heard Minnesota state after the game that there plan was to stop WR Larry Fitzgerald and see if the Cardinals could create enough offense with a subpar running game and QB John Skelton throwing short passes. It worked, and you have to wonder if upcoming teams on the Cards schedule are going to follow that exact same game plan.
Atlanta Falcons: Looking forward to the game this week between Atlanta and Philadelphia. Both teams are coming off a bye, both could be seen as favorites in the NFC. Very curious to see how the Falcons will go about challenging the Eagles defense…..Do you think CB Asante Samuel (former Eagle) has this game circled on his calendar? Samuel is a very aggressive cornerback but has been known to bite on the double move, look for Philadelphia to try this a time or two with Jeremy Maclin and/or DeSean Jackson.
Baltimore Ravens: The Ravens were absolutely hammered by the Texans last week. This seems to be a team that doesn’t play all that well on the road. Sure, there defense is banged up. That’s not going to change, in fact, will probably get worse as the season rolls along. Ravens should still be considered the favorite in the AFC North but have some issues to work through. Not to quarterback Joe Flacco: If you want to be considered elite, you need to play just as well on the road as you do at home.
Buffalo Bills: Defensive end Mario Williams underwent a procedure Wednesday on his ailing wrist. How long he will be out for is still in question. Some believe he could be back at practice as soon as next week. This team wasn’t playing good defense with Williams, scary to think what might happen without him…..The team is in a bit of disarray, with some players now calling out other players for not giving their all. This is not going to end well.
Carolina Panthers: You just knew that someone was going to take the fall after QB Cam Newton stated his frustration with the game plan after another close loss Sunday. General Manager Marty Hurney was that person as he was fired. Was it his fault? Some of it, yes, but Newton has regressed this season and the team has failed to make the adjustment of teams taking WR Steve Smith out of the game. The running game is still non-existent. It still makes no sense that they signed RB Mike Tolbert in free agency when they already had Jonathan Stewart and DeAngelo Williams in fold, and don’t seem to know how to use any of them right now.
Chicago Bears: We all talk about the 49ers, Seahawks, Texans, and Cardinals, but the best defense in the NFL may once again belong to the monster of the midway. That unit is playing fantastic football right now and should only get better as LB Brian Urhlacher get closer to 100% as the season rolls along…..Quarterback Jay Cutler came out of the game for a play Monday night after getting sacked and landing on the football, he is expected to play this week but I would be worried that he could be hindered during the game. He didn’t look good in the second half of the game and his throws certainly did not have his normal zip.
Cincinnati Bengals: Before anyone takes the Bengals as serious contender in the AFC North, they are going to have to defeat the Ravens and Steelers, something they have not yet been able to do the past two seasons…..Teams are starting to game plan around WR AJ Green, they are going to force QB Andy Dalton to find a different way to beat them. Now receivers Andrew Hawkins and Armon Binns are nice player, but they aren’t game breakers. A running game would help also, but no one is really afraid of Benjarvus Green-Ellis, he’s more of a bruiser than someone who is going to break a long run, and he may himself break down as the season rolls along.
Cleveland Browns: Really believe the Browns did the right thing with RB Trent Richardson last week. I know he was upset at only getting a handful of carries, but he didn’t do anything with those carries and I’m sure the coaching staff was thinking that he wasn’t quite recovered from his flank injury and that resulted in poor play. Better to be safe than sorry with your franchise back, it’s not like they’re going to the Super Bowl or even the playoffs this season.
Dallas Cowboys: The Cowboys probably saved their season with a victory over Carolina last week. Now it wasn’t a pretty win, but an ugly win is better than a pretty loss. Not thrilled with head coach Jason Garrett’s play calling once again. Playing for a field goal rather than a game clinching touchdown is gutsy with a defense that has come up small in the past, but hey, it worked. That being said he is going to have to open up the offense for the next few weeks as Dallas plays the Giants at home, before going on the road to Philly and Atlanta. Lose all three and it’s over, win two of three and you’re set for a big finish to the season with five of your last eight games at home, lose two of three and you’re behind the eight ball with little room for error.
Denver Broncos: The Broncos had a very uneventful bye week, which is a good thing. They are in the driver’s seat in the AFC West, schedule isn’t that hard, and their division isn’t either…..This week should be fun however as New Orleans comes to town for a Sunday night affair. Anyone want to guess how many points are going to be scored in this game? Should be a blast to watch.
Detroit Lions: What is wrong the Lions offense? They played well enough on defense Monday night (shocking I know) to beat the Bears, but turnovers in the red zone cost them the ball game. QB Matthew Stafford looks uncomfortable in the pocket. Reminds me of someone who doesn’t want to get hit anymore. Once again teams are taking Megatron out of the game, there is always a safety over the top. They lose WR Nate Burleson for the season with a broken leg, Titus Young and Ryan Browles have to step up now or it’s going to get late early for Detroit.
Green Bay Packers: Remember all those who were worried about QB Aaron Rodgers and the Packers offense a couple of weeks ago? Yeah, neither do I…..There is reason to be worried about WR Greg Jennings however. He saw a specialist today to find out why his injured groin is taking so long to heal. Not a good sign…..Receivers James Jones and Randall Cobb are reaping the benefit however of Jennings being out of the lineup. Have to wonder if the Packers would try and trade Jennings or Jones had Greg been healthy…..Someone who is not healthy is CB Charles Woodson who will miss at least a month with a broken collarbone.
Houston Texans: Have to love the way the Texans rebounded after getting smoked by Green Bay. They took it out on Baltimore and have to be considered the favorites in the AFC to reach the Super Bowl at this point in time…..Tight end Owen Daniels is having a good season after having been forgotten about due to some injuries. His success however and the great running game haven’t helped WR Andre Johnson put up big numbers yet. Perhaps he isn’t the same player he used to be.
Indianapolis Colts: You have to love that what has to be considered a design flaw at Lucas Oil Stadium (bright sunlight shining onto the field) probably helped the Colts beat the Browns last week. Browns WR Josh Gordon had what looked like an easy touchdown pass within his grasp but ran into the sun part of the field (end zone) just as the ball came into his hands and dropped it. Now he still should’ve caught it, but divine intervention may have been on the Colts side in this one.
Jacksonville Jaguars: Had been wondering if the Jaguars should consider trading RB Maurice Jones-Drew before the deadline Tuesday due to the team not being in contention for the next couple of seasons. Well that is all for naught now as MJD suffered a foot injury that will cost him to miss multiple games, eliminating his trade value. Rashard Jennings is a must pick up in most fantasy leagues, especially if you had Jones-Drew on your roster…..The good news, I think, is that QB Blaine Gabbert will start this Sunday despite a torn labrum in his non-throwing shoulder. Things might be different if QB Chad Henne had shown anything in relief.
Kansas City Chiefs: Like the Jags, the Chiefs are another team that is a complete mess. Brady Quinn is actually going to start at QB over Matt Cassel. You know you’re not getting the job done when Quinn is starting over you…..RB Peyton Hillis is practicing however this week and could possibly play Sunday, yippee.
Miami Dolphins: After their bye week, the Dolphins are pretty much a completely healthy team. They will need any and all the weapons they have if they want to stay competitive for the remainder of the season…..If there is one team that I think could make a big splash by the trade deadline, Miami would be it.
Minnesota Vikings: The Vikings announced this week that RB Adrian Peterson will have no more restrictions for the rest of the season. Could it be because he is the third leading the rusher in the NFL and looks like the player he once was. Scary to think he might only get better as the weeks go by…..Christian Ponder had a terrible game behind center last week and some could say the Vikings won despite him. Have to wonder if the Vikings will rely more on their running game from here on out.
New England Patriots: The Patriots don’t seem to be the great team we thought they may be. Quarterback Tom Brady seems to be a bit out of sync a little bit, making decisions he normally would’ve been. The question is why? The running game has played much better than expected, but could this be hindering Brady because he doesn’t throw enough? Brandon Lloyd hasn’t been the big play threat at WR that the Pats were hoping for. Wes Welker seemed to be in coach Bill Belichick’s doghouse to start the season, and tight ends Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez have been banged up. Perhaps things will get better this Sunday in jolly old England.
New Orleans Saints: So much for the return of LB Jonathan Vilma helping the Saints defense. This defense has more holes than any one player can fill. It’s going to be up to the offense to outscore the opponents on most occasions, but that can be a daunting task. They will need all of their weapons to be healthy and that starts with tight end Jimmy Graham. Supposedly he is practicing this week and should be able to play Sunday night, but we thought that last week as well.
New York Giants: The Giants are quickly emerging as one of the better if not best team in the NFC. That being said, losing division games earlier this season to Dallas and Philadelphia means they can’t afford any slip ups. A loss to the Cowboys this Sunday would mean they lose all tiebreakers with Dallas, not a good spot to find yourself in…..Victor Cruz has been a godsend to the Giants. Where would they be without him? It almost seemed against Washington Sunday that Cruz and QB Eli Manning just said enough of this, Cruz you go deep, I’ll find you, and we will put this game away.
New York Jets: Mark Sanchez is a very hard QB to figure out. He looks terrible one minute, great the next. Must drive the Jets crazy. Hard to take him out of the game though as you just don’t know when his next hot streak is going to hit. Still though, I’m surprised the Jets haven’t used QB Tim Tebow more, especially down by the goal line…..Now that tight end Dustin Keller is back fantasy owners should keep him in mind if they’re in a pinch during bye weeks.
Oakland Raiders: The Raiders may have beaten the Jaguars, but RB Darren McFadden still hasn’t hit his stride only rushing for 50+ yards. Could teams be taking him away? Yes, but the passing game is performing well enough that he should have holes to run through, he’s just not hitting them.
Philadelphia Eagles: We all know the stat by now, the Eagles are 13-0 coming off a bye week under head coach Andy Reid. Have to expect their defense to play better, perhaps even perhaps as good as we thought they might coming into the season, they certainly should be more aggressive in getting to the quarterback. Question is will the bye week help QB Michael Vick stop his little problem turning the ball over. That is probably more the key to their season than the defense. Might be nice to use RB LeSean McCoy near the goal line as well.
Pittsburgh Steelers: Jonathan Dwyer had a real good performance in place of Rashard Mendenhall and Isaac Redman, rushing for over 120 yards in a win over Cincinnati, they may need him again this week as the Steelers backfield is still a bit banged up…..The Steelers/Redskins game this week has shootout written all over it. The Skins defense is far from good and the Steelers D is living off of reputation…..WR Mike Wallace had a game to forget Sunday with no less than four dropped passes. With a big contract in his future he better start to become a more reliable target for big Ben.
San Diego Chargers: Looking forward to seeing how QB Phillip Rivers plays this Sunday after his horrible performance in the second half against Denver in their last game before the bye. Still wonder if he is dealing with an injury or if his throwing mechanics, throws the ball like a shot put, have added to much wear and tear over the years…..The Chargers placed K Nate Kaeding on IR ending his season and more than likely his career in San Diego. Nick Novak will take over the kicking role from here on out.
San Francisco 49ers: Even though the 49ers won last week, tight end Vernon Davis was none to happy about being held without a reception. It seems defenses are taking away his favorite routes and he would like to remedy that situation…..Critics are also starting to wonder if the continued insertion of QB Colin Kaepernick into the wildcat formation is hurting QB Alex Smith’s play. Seems Smith has committed a couple of turnovers recently right after coming in for Kaepernick. I can see why you would blame this on the wildcat, lack of flow and all, but then wouldn’t Smith also have a tendency to throw interceptions on the first pass attempt after his offense gets the ball back?
Seattle Seahawks: Still think the Seahawks are going to be better in the long run with Matt Flynn at quarterback, he can just make throws that Wilson can’t…..Have to think wide receiver will be a number one priority next off-season for Seattle.
St. Louis Rams: Mentioned earlier about Jacksonville possibly wanting to trade Jones-Drew before the trade deadline, couldn’t the Rams do the same thing with RB Steven Jackson? Daryl Richardson looks good, and Jackson seems more than likely to test the free agent waters in the off-season…..Fantasy owners may want to take a look at QB Sam Bradford this week. If the Jets Mark Sanchez and the Seahawks Russell Wilson can light up the Pats secondary, why not Bradford?
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Have heard quite a few complaints about the ruling that cost WR Mike Williams the tying touchdown last week. For those that don’t know, Williams was pushed out of bounds by a Saints corner and since he was the first player to touch the ball, the TD was nullified. It wasn’t a hard push by the CB, just enough to get Williams out of bounds. Seems to me Williams or any other receiver for that matter should just be more aware of their surroundings.
Tennessee Titans: Okay, RB Chris Johnson looked great last week, some might even believe he is back to being CJ2K, but keep this in mind, the Buffalo defense has been pathetic against the run all season, and although Johnson has another tasty matchup against the Colts this Sunday, he will then go up against Chicago, Miami, and Houston in three of their next four games…..QB Matt Hasselbeck will get at least one more start this week. Can the Titans really go back to Jake Locker should Hasselbeck win again? Fans certainly won’t be happy.
Washington Redskins: Some people are actually saying that QB Robert Griffin III should be the MVP this season. Back up folks, he’s only played seven games. Everyone was ready to crown QB Cam Newton last year also. Look how the sky has fallen once defenses figured him out. RGIII is really good and fun to watch, but I’ll take QBs Aaron Rodgers or Drew Brees any day of the week and twice on Sunday.
George Kurtz is a member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association, and is the co-host of “Going 9 Fantasy Baseball” on SiriusXM’s Fantasy Sports Radio (Sirius 210 / XM 87). His published work can also be found at RotoWire.com and Seamheads.com.
You can follow him on Twitter @georgekurtz