Aces & Deuces: Week 11 Aces

Rams wide receiver Danny Amendola has broken into must-start territory as the team’s most versatile weapon.

As we enter the home stretch of the fantasy season, let’s take a look at the list of injured players needing to be accounted for in this week’s lineups:

  • Ben Roethlisberger
  • Antonio Brown
  • Darren McFadden
  • Maurice Jones-Drew
  • Julio Jones (possibly)

Now, add to that the list of top performers finally getting to their bye weeks:

  • Victor Cruz
  • Adrian Peterson
  • Percy Harvin (could go on both lists)
  • Marshawn Lynch
  • Chris Johnson

With 10 fake football heroes needing replacement this week, you’re going to need to find a rabbit in your hat in order to win. Or, at the very least, an Ace up your sleeve.

Aces – Week 11

QB Andrew Luck, Indianapolis Colts (@ New England Patriots) When I do my Aces digging each week, I continue to be floored at the fact that Luck is being started in fewer than 50% of Yahoo! leagues (44% at the time of this publication, to be exact). The rookie signal caller is the 7th-ranked QB in standard scoring – right behind the man he replaced in Indy – and has one rushing touchdown fewer than Robert Griffin III. With a deft mix of speedy targets (T.Y. Hilton, Donnie Avery) and a savvy veteran (a resurgent Reggie Wayne), Luck has plenty of options at his disposal against a New England secondary that has taken more abuse than the inside of Charlie Sheen’s nostrils. He’s in for another huge week. Prediction: 315 yards passing + 22 yards rushing + 2 TDs passing =  22.8 fantasy points

QB Andy Dalton, Cincinnati Bengals (@ Kansas City Chiefs) Hot off of being named the AFC Offensive Player of the Week, the Red Rifle is poised for another strong performance at Arrowhead this weekend. KC’s defense may be ranked 9th in the league in terms of yardage allowed, but looking closer at the numbers reveals a trend of generosity (102.1 opposing passer rating, 18 TDs allowed, 29 plays of 20 yards or more) that will benefit Dalton. He may not throw four touchdowns this weekend, but you never expect that out of a fantasy sub, anyway. Prediction: 255 yards passing + 3 TDs + 1 INT = 20.2 fantasy points

WR Danny Amendola, St. Louis Rams (vs. New York Jets) Without question, Amendola is a stud. Putting up more than 100 yards, while still playing with pain from a broken collarbone, against San Francisco defense automatically vaults you to must-start status. Amendola was targeted a whopping 12 times against the Niners, and there is no reason to believe that number will be any smaller against New York’s mediocre circus. Let Steven Jackson pound the ball on first and second down, then let Amendola move the sticks all day. Another 100-plus yard game is in the offing. Prediction: 117 yards receiving + 1 TD = 17.7 fantasy points

WR Brian Hartline, Miami Dolphins (@ Buffalo Bills) Hartline has quieted down in recent weeks, but is still the 10th receiver in the league in total yards and leads the Dolphins in targets. The touchdowns don’t come in bulk with Miami, but against a Buffalo defense that yields 31.7 points per game, there will be opportunities for Hartline to replicate his Week 4 explosion against Arizona. Prediction: 120 yards receiving = 12 fantasy points

The Sunday forecast in Oakland calls for plenty of Marcel Reece against a weak Saints defense.

RB Marcel Reece, Oakland Raiders (vs. New Orleans Saints) The Saints and their bend-but-don’t-break defense came up big to knock of Atlanta last week, but still allowed 457 total yards in the process. And while they did shut down Michael Turner, the Saints allowed enough yardage to Jacquizz Rodgers in the receiving game to show opponents that they can easily employ their running backs in the passing game. This spells good news for owners of Reece, who is the fifth-most targeted running back in the league. Likely playing from behind against New Orleans’ potent offense, expect the Raiders to take to the air and try to work Reece underneath and in the red zone, similar to how Atlanta used Tony Gonzalez in last week’s game. Prediction: 57 yards rushing + 52 yards receiving + 1 TD = 16.9 fantasy points

RB Daniel Thomas, Miami Dolphins (@ Buffalo Bills) Reggie Bush was benched last week after he fumbled, and Thomas has been receiving more red zone looks of late. While this might be a bit of a dart throw for the week, Buffalo is the league’s worst rushing defense and has allowed 16 touchdowns on the ground. He is owned in only a third of all Yahoo! leagues, but he is most certainly worth a start this week in what will likely be a high-scoring affair. Prediction: 45 yards rushing + 1 TD = 10.5 fantasy points

TE Brandon Myers, Oakland Raiders (vs. New Orleans Saints) See the aforementioned Gonzalez performance against New Orleans, then subtract a couple points for talent and scheming. Myers has been under the radar all year, but is a near-lock to splash six this weekend in the Black Hole. Prediction: 47 yards receiving + 1 TD = 10.7 fantasy points

Aces & Deuces: Week 9 Deuces

Bengals wide receiver faces a difficult test from a disruptive Denver defense.

I wish I could say I was brimming with confidence coming into this week’s round of Deuces, but that’s just not the case. Yes, Calvin Johnson (4.6 fantasy points) and Larry Fitzgerald (5.2) both failed to deliver big points. But, with Jason Witten getting 22 targets as Dallas fought from a deficit, and Matt Ryan and Julio Jones putting on yet another clinic, I failed to push my percentage over .500 for the week.

This week’s matchups don’t provide much in the way of real stinkers, either. Sure, Arizona has a tough defense, but they have been getting hammered a bit of late by lower tier quarterbacks, so I don’t expect Aaron Rodgers to suffer. On the surface, Trent Richardson’s tilt against Baltimore looks scary, but with Haloti Ngata hobbled, there will be some holes for the rookie to punch through.

So, here’s my shot at players to dump this week. They may not all be losers, but hopefully a couple will.

Deuces – Week 9

WR A.J. Green, Cincinnati Bengals (vs. Denver Broncos) If there is one word I can use to describe Denver’s defense, it would be this: disruptive. When a team can keep an all-world quarterback like Drew Brees to under 20 fantasy points, you know a lesser signal caller like Andy Dalton will have fits, too. This translates to trouble for Green, who is Cincy’s only receiving threat and will receive increased attention. And while the second year receiver has been able to beat double coverage many times this season, Denver’s secondary is letting opposing quarterbacks complete fewer than 60 percent of their passes and is giving up fewer than six yards per attempt. Prediction: 57 yards receiving + 1 TD = 11.7 fantasy points

RB Marshawn Lynch, Seattle Seahawks (vs. Minnesota Vikings) Minnesota is coming off an absolutely abhorrent defensive showing against Tampa Bay, which is probably leaving Lynch owners ready to shower their flatscreens with fun-size Skittles left over from Halloween. A deeper look at the numbers, though, shows a rush defense that has given up a mere five plays of more than 20 yards and fewer than one touchdown per game. Lynch is certainly capable of gashing defenses for yards, but Seattle will be wise to look elsewhere in the red zone, and I expect Minnesota to bounce back after their mini bye. Prediction: 106 yards rushing = 10.6 fantasy points

New York Giants running back Ahmad Bradshaw might not fumble, but he may hobble against Pittsburgh.

RB Ahmad Bradshaw, New York Giants (vs. Pittsburgh Steelers) Bradshaw has been running with authority of late, providing the punch on the ground needed to open up holes in New York’s intergalactic passing game. But, after popping up on the injury report and missing Friday’s practice, don’t be surprised to see him yield a few more carries to Andre Brown (who vultured a touchdown from him last week). Plus, Pittsburgh’s defense is particularly stingy to runners – the Steel Curtain has given up the fifth least points to backs in the league, according to Yahoo! – meaning Bradshaw is in for a downturn. Prediction: 78 yards rushing + 17 yards receiving = 9.5 fantasy points

WR Randall Cobb, Green Bay Packers (vs. Arizona Cardinals) Cobb has been a breakout receiver this season and an absolute matchup nightmare for defenses. He lines up all over the field, has tremendous rapport with Aaron Rodgers, and averages 11 yards per catch. However, the last time Arizona faced a dynamic threat that also lined up in multiple formations – Vernon Davis – the Cards held him to 3.4 points. Cobb is quicker than Davis and will have better success, but not to the tune of 11 yards per catch. Prediction: 76 yards receiving = 7.6 fantasy points

TE Jimmy Graham, New Orleans Saints (vs. Philadelphia Eagles) Graham’s 12.3-point Week 8 performance, while nifty for fantasy owners, was a bit deceptive. He was held in check for most of the game and collected a garbage time touchdown, but certainly did not flash the dominance to which fake footballers have become accustomed. He is practicing fully after an ankle injury and will see action against a floundering Philadelphia defense, but with Marques Colston racking up catches over the middle and Lance Moore proving to be a versatile weapon in Graham’s brief absence, Jimmy will be a limited factor this Monday night. Prediction: 37 yards receiving + 1 TD = 9

.7 fantasy points

Aces & Deuces: Week 9 Aces

Quarterback Joe Flacco and the Baltimore Ravens should be in for a big week against division rival Cleveland.

Much like Mark Sanchez and Eva Longoria, the Aces & Deuces have split up.

Also like Sanchez, yours truly has also put together a string of lackluster performances, with Week 8 being perhaps the season’s worst.

Despite Andrew Luck’s handsome matchup against Tennessee and Santana Moss being the only functional “receiver” the Redskins have, I still managed to go for 0-for-5 in the Aces department last week, which means this week has to get better as we meet the halfway point of the season.

Wait, I have half a season’s worth left of predicting to do? Better get this train back on track.

Aces – Week 9

QB Joe Flacco & WR Torrey Smith, Baltimore Ravens (@ Cleveland Browns) Well-rested after a bye week and facing a divisional rival that has shown some energy lately, this should be a monster week for Flacco and all his receivers. True, Cleveland is coming off a defensive performance in which they held San Diego to a mere six points, but anyone who has watched San Diego this season knows that, sadly, the Browns’ performance was hardly impressive. With an offense that is ripe with weapons for spreading the ball around the field, Baltimore will be able to exploit Cleveland’s 26th-ranked defense from all angles. I like Smith, especially, in this game due to Anquan Boldin’s recent re-emergence. With safety Joe Haden likely devoting most of his attention to the veteran, we could see plenty of targets headed Smith’s way. Predictions: Flacco – 295 yards passing + 2 TDs = 19.8 fantasy points; Smith – 74 yards receiving + 1 TD = 13.4 fantasy points

QB Tony Romo, Dallas Cowboys (@ Atlanta Falcons) Romo is the ultimate garbage time hero. Whether the garbage time is of his own making or the oppositions matters not, as ultimately Dallas digs so big a hole that the team has to take to the air for three quarters of the game. With a banged up corps of running backs, a quick-strike Atlanta offense, and a ball-hawking Falcons secondary, it’s a perfect storm of passing opportunities for Romo. Even if he throws three picks, he’ll still get the ball back in time to throw three TDs and a few hundred yards to offset them. Prediction: 310 yards passing + 3 TDs + 2 INTs =  20.4 fantasy points

WR Mike Williams, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (@ Oakland Raiders) The distraction method seems to be working for Williams. While opponents are busy keying on big man Vincent Jackson, Williams is making the most of his looks, with only a marginally smaller yards per target average than VJax (9.27 vs. 9.94). Tampa Bay’s offense has been firing on all cylinders since playing the New Orleans Slump Busters, and against an Oakland secondary that is lacking for playmakers, Williams is a great WR3 play this week. Prediction: 66 yards receiving + 1 TD = 12.6 fantasy points

New Orleans Saints running back Pierre Thomas won’t stop fighting for your fantasy team.

RB Pierre Thomas, New Orleans Saints (vs. Philadelphia Eagles) With the news today that Saints jack-of-all-trades man Darren Sproles is out with a broken hand, Thomas’ value has skyrocketed. Normally a victim of New Orleans’ spread the love offense, Thomas routinely racks up yards after contact and truly shines when given a larger volume of touches (see his Week 2 effort against Carolina, in which he touched the ball 13 times for a total of 143 yards). I just hope the team lets him enjoy the spoils of the end zone, instead of letting PT carry it to the two, only to have Mark Ingram take three downs to push it past the pylons. Prediction: 72 yards rushing + 43 yards receiving + 1 TD = 17.5 fantasy points

RB Mikel LeShoure, Detroit Lions (@ Jacksonville Jaguars) I have been down on the Detroit running game all season, but this week presents a positive matchup for the team. Calvin Johnson has been hobbled and out of practice all week, which is going to make offensive balance an absolute necessity. The Jags give up more than 130 yards and a touchdown on the ground per game, and LeShoure just had a baby this week that he has to impress (even if he will be lacking for sleep). He’ll still get pulled on third downs in favor of Joique Bell, but he is a solid flex option or bye week starter for owners of the Stevens (Jackson and Ridley). Prediction: 59 yards rushing + 1 TD = 11.9 fantasy points

On the season, Celek has amassed 169 yards after the catch. Saints defenders couldn’t tackle Lieutenant Dan if they tried, so the formula here seems pretty simple to me. Look for Celek to exploit Corey White’s slot coverage and for Malcolm Jenkins and Roman Harper to miss a few easy stops, as per usual. Prediction: 70 yards receiving + 1 TD = 13 fantasy points

Rent-a-Player: Week 9 Pickups

Do you have the guts to add Philadelphia Eagles backup (for now) quarterback Nick Foles to your roster?

With five or six weeks left in the fantasy season before playoffs begin – depending on the format of your league – we are approaching the make-or-break stretch of the year. Crucial adds at this point can set you up for a blazing march to playoff glory, while calamitous drops can leave you scratching your head and wondering what went wrong. High waiver priority is a gift not to be squandered, and tough decisions must be made by shrewd fake football owners who want to earn bragging rights.

Lucky for you, the bye week blues should not compound matters too much this week, as only the Patriots and 49ers offer any real fantasy options you might miss this weekend.

However, there have been a couple of breakout candidates still floating around for your consumption, so now is the time to weight your options carefully and decide if you should pounce on the next big name or join the wait-and-see tribe.

On Bye: QB Tom Brady, New England Patriots

Rent-a-Player: QB Nick Foles, Philadelphia Eagles (@New Orleans Saints) – 1% owned Foles has not yet been given the keys to the convertible in the land of cheesesteaks, but if I am Andy Reid and I am contemplating a switch, I do it now. What better way to build a rookie’s confidence than to put him up against a historically atrocious Saints defense who couldn’t tackle three-legged weiner dog? If Foles does go under center this coming Monday night, he could be in for a record-breaking performance, and if you have a low waiver priority he is worth the risk.

On Bye: WR Brandon Lloyd, New England Patriots

Rent-a-Player: WR Cecil Shorts, Jacksonville Jaguars (vs. Detroit Lions) – 9% owner I am a believer in Cecil. Boasting the best name in the NFL outside Colt McCoy, Shorts carried one of my teams as a Sunday morning hail mary waiver pickup last week to the tune of 116 yards. He leads an anemic Jags receiving squad, to be sure, but has flashed big play ability numerous times this year and has earned Blaine Gabbert’s trust. With an upcoming schedule of games against weaker secondaries like Indy, Tennessee, and New England, Shorts will play taller than his name.

On Bye: RB Stevan Ridley, New England Patriots

Rent-a-Player: RB Jonathan Dwyer, Pittsburgh Steelers (@ New York Giants) – 46% owned After posting consecutive 100-yard games, Dwyer is no longer flying under the radar, as evidence by his ownership rate. If you are lucky enough to be in a league where he is available, this is a situation where you can feel confident using your high waiver priority. All indications are that Dwyer has earned a much larger role when the injured Rashard Mendenhall returns, and with his volume and consistency he is looking like one of a few late season adds that can be used to fuel a playoff run.

On Bye: RB Frank Gore, San Francisco 49ers

Rent-a-Player: RB Joique Bell, Detroit Lions (@ Jacksonville Jaguars) – 10% owned Bell has emerged as a useful passing down running back in an offense that, well, passes. A lot. With lead back Mikel Leshoure being banged up this weekend, Bell saw more of a workload and displayed power. However, with Leshoure’s status up in the air and no guarantee that Bell’s role will expand, this is a high-risk pickup unless Detroit is playing from behind in the game.

On Bye: TE Rob Gronkowski, New England Patriots

Rent-a-Player: TE Brandon Myers, Oakland Raiders (vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers) – 21% owned This is not the first time I have advised adding Myers, and he is still available in most leagues due to being shutout in the touchdown department. However, the Oakland passing game has begun to click lately, and Tampa Bay is lacking in the secondary. Call me crazy, but I think he puts a TD and about 65 yards on the board this weekend.

Jermichael’s Drop Zone

Of course, in order to acquire some of the players mentioned above, you’ll have to drop one of your underachievers. Through half of the season, here are some solid drops to make room on your roster, brought to you this week by Jermichael Finley:

  • WR Pierre Garcon, Washington Redskins (injured)
  • RB DeAngelo Williams, Carolina Panthers
  • RB Daryl Richardson, St. Louis Rams
  • WR Devery Henderson, New Orleans Saints
  • RB Jacquizz Rodgers, Atlanta Falcons
  • WR Davone Bess, Miami Dolphins
  • Any extra kickers or defenses if your starters have had their bye weeks

Aces & Deuces: Week 8

Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck is in store for a huge game against a poor Tennessee Titans defense.

Better late than Sunday afternoon, right?

This week’s slate of Aces & Deuces are a little behind schedule, but still in with enough time to make any lineup tweaks before the games begin tomorrow. After last week’s 4-6 showing, though, I feel like I got cheated a little. I mean, who would have expected San Francisco and Seattle would both yield 100-yard games on the ground? That effectively ruined my shot at a good Deuces showing, but I will say this: I knocked my Dustin Keller swing-for-the-fences out of the park.

Now that I’ve puffed my chest out a little, let’s check out this week’s picks.

Aces

QB Andrew Luck, Indianapolis Colts (@ Tennessee Titans) A look at the Titans’ defensive statistics is enough to make Luck’s owners salivate. Tennessee has given up 16 touchdowns (tied for most in the league), the highest opposing passer rating (108.2), and a whopping 103 first downs via the pass. With a running game that still isn’t clicking, and a major bromance developing with Reggie Wayne, look for Luck to have a big day on the road. Prediction: 315 yards passing + 25 yards rushing + 3 TDs passing = 27.1 fantasy points

TE Joel Dreessen, Denver Broncos (vs. New Orleans Saints) While Dreessen is owned in fewer leagues than teammate Jacob Tamme and also trails the latter in targets, the former Texan standouts out in the most important category when predicting Aces: fantasy points. Dreessen has three touchdowns on the year to Tamme’s one, and more yardage on fewer looks. In a likely shootout against a Saints defense that couldn’t stop a scarecrow, targets will be aplenty, and Dreesen’s size will prove to be a huge advantage in the red zone. Plug him in if you were burned by Aaron Hernandez’s fear of bangers and mash. Prediciton: 45 yards receiving + 1 TD = 10.5 fantasy points

RB Michael Bush, Chicago Bears (@ Carolina Panthers) I like Bush this week simply due to Jay Cutler’s rib injury last week. Since he will be limited in his mobility, I look for the Bears to lean more heavily on the running game against a subpar Carolina defense. Matt Forte will get the bulk of the work, but Bush has performed well as a deep flex starter (242 yards, 3 TDs), and this will be a good week to use him in that role. Prediction: 64 yards rushing + 1 TD = 12.4 fantasy points

Washington Redskins wide receiver Santana Moss has become RGIII’s go-to guy.

WR Santana Moss, Washington Redskins (@ Pittsburgh Steelers) Pierre Garcon has a torn tendon in his foot. Fred Davis blew out his Achilles. Josh Morgan has been a free agent bust. Leonard Hankerson is Leonard Hankerson. Someone has to catch RGIII’s bombs, and that someone has emerged in the form of the veteran Moss. With 226 yards and three touchdowns in his last four games, he is poised for more action against a seemingly always hobbles Pittsburgh defense. And while the Steelers are holding opponents to under 200 yards per game passing, they have yet to deal with the play-extending machine that is Bob Griff, and Moss will use his experience to get open when refined plays break down into sandlot game breakers. Prediction: 96 yards receiving + 1 TD = 15.6 fantasy points

WR Jeremy Kerley, New York Jets (vs. Miami Dolphins) Even though Miami averages an interception per game, the secondary is the team’s biggest defensive liability. Kerley is Mark Sanchez’s go-to guy in New York, and with a 17.4 yards per catch average, he has a knack for the big play. With a game plan that will see the Jets put more trust in Sanchez’s hands in order to play to the Dolphins’ weakness, Kerley’s role should be expansive. Prediction: 115 yards receiving + 1 TD = 17.5 fantasy points

Deuces

Matt Ryan is in for a tough week against a physical Philly defense.

QB Matt Ryan and WR Julio Jones, Atlanta Falcons (@ Philadelphia Eagles) Picking against the leaders of an undefeated offense doesn’t seem like the smart way to make money, does it? I guess that’s why I’m not getting paid for this gig. Despite firing their defensive coordinator during the bye week, Philly still boasts a strong secondary. Even though they are the league’s 15th-ranked pass defense based on yardage, opposing signal callers are completing only 52.7% of their attempts against the Eagles, and Gang Green has given up only one touchdown per game via the pass. Atlanta is certainly riding high, but the Falcons have also been the benefactors of some soft secondaries in the final two minutes of the game, and I don’t think they will experience the same fortune this weekend. Predictions: Ryan – 260 yards passing + 2 TDs + 1 INT = 16.4 fantasy points; Jones – 72 yards receiving = 7.2 fantasy points

WR Larry Fitzgerald, Arizona Cardinals (vs. San Francisco 49ers) The Niners have held Calvin Johnson, Jordy Nelson, and Percy Harvin to less than ten fantasy points in their respective matchups this season. Even Victor Cruz, who has been his usual salsa-dancing self for most of the year, only managed 11.8 against San Francisco, which tells me Fitzgerald will have his work cut out for him. With no other viable receiving threats to take away attention, and a patchwork offensive line that continues to play matador for its poor quarterbacks, Larry will be lucky to score as many points as the number on his jersey. Prediction: 89 yards receiving = 8.9 fantasy points

TE Jason Witten, Dallas Cowboys (vs. New York Giants) Witten managed a paltry 44 yards against a poor Carolina defense last week, and he takes on a Giants team that is stifling opposing tight ends. The overall inconsistency of Dallas’ offensive play, combined with Witten only scoring one touchdown on the year thus far, is cause for concern in a big divisional matchup that should prove New York is the cream of the NFC East crop. Prediction: 62 yards receiving = 6.2 fantasy points

WR Calvin Johnson, Detroit Lions (vs. Seattle Seahawks) I am posting Megatron on this list for one reason alone this week: Richard Sherman. The second year cornerback out of Stanford is by no means a household name, or even dominant, but anyone having the audacity to change his Twitter handle for the week to Optimus Prime gets the nod in my book. I like the confidence this Seattle defense displays. Prediction: 104 yards receiving = 10.4 fantasy points

Thursday Thoughts: Vincent Jackson due for a drop off

Tampa Bay wide receiver Vincent Jackson had a field day against New Orleans in Week 7 but will come back down to earth tonight against Minnesota.

This week’s Aces & Deuces will be delivered fresh to your retinas tomorrow, but I wanted to take a second and pass along some thoughts about tonight’s game between the Minnesota Vikings and Tampa Bay Buccaneers. In particular, I want to focus on Tampa Bay receiver Vincent Jackson.

Coming off a 7-216-1 line in a last second loss to New Orleans, Jackson’s owners surely have visions of more 20-plus point performances dancing in their heads. The 6’5″ playmaker is certainly capable, as he literally towers over the competition and can come down with most balls thrown in his vicinity. But against a much tougher opponent – and on a less-than-generous Thursday night stage – I think owners need to temper their expectations for another barrage from Jackson. Here’s why:

Defensive Disparity. Any defense that can make Bucs quarterback Josh Freeman look like Drew Brees is going to make Jackson look like Jerry Rice. New Orleans’ 30th-ranked pass defense absolutely pales in comparison to a Minnesota unit that yields 219.6 yards and just over one touchdown per game.

Sack Attack. Freeman had all day to scan the field for an open Jackson last week, as the New Orleans “pass rush” more closely resembles a group of senior citizens approaching the nearest early-bird special (walkers optional). Yes, Tampa’s offensive line is beefy, but the Vikings average 3.14 sacks per game. Freeman will be running for his life.

Game Flow. Last week’s shootout meant Tampa Bay was taking to the Florida skies early and often to keep up with the Saints’ high-powered aerial assaults. Minnesota is far more balanced and will likely not take this game to the kind of back-and-forth that affords mass amounts of receiving yardage. Look for more of running back Doug Martin as Tampa tries to wear down the Vikings’ defensive front, with Jackson getting opportunities when the time is right. This will result in fewer targets than last week.

Road Weariers. The road teams in Thursday night games this season are putting up 15.67 points per game and are 1-5 in the win-loss column. The travel, combined with fewer days of rest, seems to put the brakes on offensive output, save the elite units like the New York Giants. “Tampa Bay” and “elite” haven’t been used in the same sentence, though, since the Gruden days.

Outlier Theory. Jackson’s 27.6 point performance against the Saints accounted for 31.1% of his fantasy output so far this season. Throw out last week, and he averages a far more pedestrian 12.2 points per game. As I have said many times this season, the New Orleans defense is the ultimate slump buster.

As a result, if I am a Jackson owner, I am feeling more hesitant than confident heading into tonight’s game. Sure, you have to start him (unless you are in an eight-team league or in a league that starts fewer than three receivers and have a deep bench stash), but don’t expect another Herculean effort that can carry your lineup. Instead, expect the same Jackson we have seen for the past few years now: loads of potential and flashes of brilliance, but ultimately just another over-hyped name leading you to a letdown.

Don’t say you weren’t warned.

Rent-a-Player: Week 8 Pickups

Fantasy owners looking for a bye week pick-me-up after a rash of running back injuries can look to Cleveland Browns RB Montario Hardesty.

After last week’s bye bonanza, Week 8’s slate of players taking a break seems like mere child’s play.

I’ll take it.

With Baltimore, Buffalo, Cincinnati, and Houston all keeping quiet this Sunday, no truly elite fantasy quarterbacks are needing replacement. In fact, only five legitimate starters need to be accounted for, which makes this a week that you can sit on your waiver priority and stash it for when you are really in need.

Owners who are suffering a rash of running back injuries, though, may need to take this opportunity to fill in the gaps left by the loss of Maurice Jones-Drew, DeMarco Murray, and (likely) Trent Richardson. With fewer bye week players needing to be subbed, that should mean your league mates will be working the wires a little more lightly than usual. Take advantage.

On Bye: RB Arian Foster, Houston Texans

Rent-a-Player: RB Montario Hardesty, Cleveland Browns (vs. San Diego Chargers) – 10% owned Trent Richardson is battling a rib injury that he claims is more serious than people realize. Regardless of how he characterizes it, he ran scared last week against Indy and was benched in favor of Hardesty. While Montario (who I like to think of as a mix between Montel Williams and Super Mario – you’re welcome for the visual) didn’t impress against the Colts, volume is the key in this add. With talk of shelving Richardson until after the team’s Week 10 bye currently circulating, Hardesty would vault to the top of the depth chart in an offense that is finding its rhythm more and more each week.

On Bye: RB Ray Rice, Baltimore Ravens

Rent-a-Player: Rashad Jennings, Jacksonville Jaguars (@ Green Bay Packers) – 30% owned Maurice Jones-Drew is out at least for Week 8 – and possibly the rest of the season – but few owners were patient enough to hold on to Jennings for this long. If you can, snatch him up. He is a three-down back who proved his worth while MJD held out earlier this season, and his next few games (at Green Bay, vs. Detroit, vs. Indianapolis) don’t pose much of a threat for him being shutout. Besides, with the quarterback play in Jacksonville ranging from mediocre to repulsive depending on if Blaine Gabbert or Chad Henne suit up this week, the offense is going through Jennings.

On Bye: RB Fred Jackson, Buffalo Bills

Rent-a-Player: RB Kendall Hunter, San Francisco 49ers (@ Arizona Cardinals) – 26% owned Frank Gore’s understudy is ready for the spotlight. I have spilled some characters on Hunter here before, but after Gore absolutely brutalized Seattle last week, Hunter had to finish the game for the ailing veteran back. If San Francisco wants to make a deep playoff run again this season, they are going to need to keep Gore fresh, and that starts with increasing the dosage of Hunter against Arizona. In what is always a knock out-drag out NFC West battle, Hunter is going to be a valuable cog in the 49ers’s ground-and-pound machine.

On Bye: WR A.J. Green, Cincinnati Bengals

Rent-a-Player: Jeremy Kerley, New York Jets (vs. Miami Dolphins) – 45% owned As much as a I hate recommending anyone pick up a New York Jet, simply due to the inconsistency of the circus they call an offense, Kerley has 435 yards receiving and two touchdowns on the season. With the amount of looks he sees – his 40 targets lead the team – it makes him an intriguing prospect against a Miami defense that will bottle up the run, leading the Mark Sanchez (gulp) taking to the skies.

On Bye: WR Andre Johnson, Houston Texans

Rent-a-Player: Santana Moss, Washington Redskins (@ Pittsburgh Steelers) – 46% owned Despite a costly fumble during Washington’s last-minute comeback attempt against the Giants last week, Moss is quickly becoming Robert Griffin III’s favorite receiver. With four touchdowns and just under 300 yards receiving – and, more importantly, Pierre Garcon seemingly to return at half past never and Fred Davis done for the season – Moss becomes the unequaled number one in a high-powered offense. A Steelers defense that is struggling to stay healthy poses a generous matchup.