1. Cam Newton vs. TB – 9.75
Cam Newton picked a bad week to crap the bed. In fantasy championships last Sunday, he posted his worst game since Week 1. Fortunately, he should rebound with a strong effort against a wobbly Tampa secondary. Tampa has allowed multiple touchdowns in 10 games, and Newton was one of them, in their earlier meeting. In the two games in which Newton posted a one-touchdown game, he came back with three and five touchdowns the next week. He has similar explosive upside in this matchup.
2. Tom Brady @ Mia – 9.5
If Tom Brady were facing almost any other opponent, I’d be talking about the catastrophic level of injury the Patriots have endured. But, with Miami’s horrific defense on the docket, it doesn’t much matter who lines up with Brady. Sure, last Sunday Miami contained Matt Hasselbeck and Charlie Whitehurst. Considering that Hasselbeck called the pre-game coin flip from a gurney, it doesn’t matter. Prior to that, the Dolphins were getting rocked. From Week 7 forward, they had allowed average games of 295 yards and 2.6 touchdowns. That sounds about right for Tom Brady, particularly if Julian Edelman and/or Danny Amendola can play.
3. Carson Palmer vs. Sea – 9.25
Before you get too panicked by Carson Palmer’s matchup with Seattle, remember, he crushed this team in Seattle in Week 10, throwing for 363 yards and scoring three times. Palmer has been incredibly consistent, scoring in every game, and scoring multiple touchdowns 11 times. Obviously, Seattle is a very good secondary, but let’s look at how Palmer’s peers have performed against them. Andy Dalton, Cam Newton, Aaron Rodgers, Ben Roethlisberger and Palmer himself have averaged: 334 yards and 1.8 touchdowns. That’s very solid game, and it’s what I expect in a statement game for Palmer.
4. Blake Bortles @ Hou – 9.25
Blake Bortles has been a fantasy monster since Week 5, averaging 290 yards and 2.6 touchdowns per game. What’s more, he’s both consistent and explosive. He’s scored in every game, and he’s scored multiple touchdowns in 10 of his last 11 games. He’s posted four or five touchdowns in three of his past four weeks. I don’t care that it’s a lot of fourth quarter garbage time stats. They all count. The catch, this week, though, is that Houston is a really good secondary. In recent weeks, they’ve stymied three very good quarterbacks. Andy Dalton, Drew Brees, and Tom Brady averaged 217 yards and 0.6 touchdowns. There’s a wide spectrum of potential outcomes for Bortles in this matchup.
5. Matt Ryan vs. NO – 9.25
By now you’re well aware that the Saints secondary is historically bad, allowing 43 passing touchdowns. In the second half of the season alone, they’ve given up four or more touchdowns five times. The average game since Week 8 is a whopping 298 yards and 3.6 touchdowns. That’s nuts. Speaking of nuts, that’s where Matt Ryan will be kicking his owners when he pops off for his best game of the season in a meaningless (for most) Week 17 matchup.
6. Matthew Stafford @ Chi – 9.25
Matthew Stafford is a strong play this week. He’s on a terrific run, with multiple touchdowns in five straight games, and he’s completed 82% of his passes over the last two weeks. Meanwhile, the Bears secondary has failed of late, allowing multiple touchdowns in four straight quarterbacks. And last time Stafford faced the Bears, in Week 6, he threw for 405 yards and four touchdowns.
7. Ben Roethlisberger @ Cle – 9.25
As evidenced by last week’s goose egg, the home-road issue for Ben Roethlisberger is very real. Since the start of last year, he’s averaging 0.8 touchdowns in his 13 road game. By contrast, he averages 2.8 touchdowns per road game. In every other aspect, this is a very positive matchup. He hammered Cleveland at home earlier this year, and the Browns secondary has allowed multiple touchdowns in seven straight non-Gabbert games. You may be asking, how did Roethlisberger do against the Browns in Cleveland last year? The answer is a depressing 228 yards and one touchdown. My hunch is that Roethlisberger bucks the trends, and finishes with a strong road game, but there are zero guarantees here.
8. Drew Brees @ Atl – 9.0
If you had the stones to stick with Drew Brees last week, despite his foot injury, you were paid handsomely. He doesn’t have nearly the same upside this week, though. The Falcons secondary has been solid all year, and they were terrific last week, holding Cam Newton to zero passing touchdowns. Brees’ track record against the Falcons is eerily similar, game-to-game. Here are his last three yardage totals: 312, 313, and 333. Here are his last three touchdown totals: 1, 1, 1. The Falcons don’t give up explosive passing games, and I see Brees settling into a box score that looks a lot like his previous three.
9. Eli Manning vs. Phi – 9.0
Eli Manning gets Odell Beckham back, and that’s a huge difference maker for Eli. In OBJ’s last two games against Philly, he’s put up 246 yards and scores in both games. And, the Eagles secondary has struggled all year, allowing the fifth-most yards to receivers, and the third-most touchdowns to receivers. So, if only for Beckham’s impact, I like Manning to bounce back nicely here.
10. Brian Hoyer vs. Jac – 9.0
I’m optimistic that Brian Hoyer will play this week. He practiced last week, and for a while it looked like he was going to be available for Sunday’s game. He’s been sneaky good this year, with multiple touchdowns in 7 of 9 full games. And the Jaguars secondary is bad. Over their past seven games, they’ve allowed three or more touchdowns four times. And Hoyer threw for 293 yards and three touchdowns.
11. Ryan Fitzpatrick @ Buf – 8.75
I won’t lie. I take no small amount of satisfaction at #StewBeard powering teams to a fantasy championship. He was my much-advocated preseason sleeper, and he’s made good on my prediction by scoring multiple touchdowns in 12 of 14 games, and he’s saved the best for last, with three 3+ touchdown games in the last five weeks. Now he faces a Buffalo defense that’s in shambles with injuries throughout their secondary. Because of those injuries, I expect Fitzpatrick to easily top the 193 yards and two scores he posted in the first meeting.
12. Russell Wilson @ Ari – 8.75
It wasn’t pretty last week, but Russell Wilson extended his multiple touchdown streak to six games. During those six games, his average game is 285 yards and a whopping 3.7 touchdowns. What happened seven games ago, you may ask? Seven games ago he faced the Cardinals, the same team he’ll play on Sunday. The Cardinals held him to 240 yards and one touchdown. Even though the Cardinals are a very good pass defense, Wilson should perform better this week because his best receiver, Doug Baldwin won’t have to draw Tyrann Mathieu. Baldwin works almost exclusively out of the slot, and Mathieu had been the Cardinals designated slot receiver before landing on injured reserve. Last week, lousy corner Jerraud Powers played in the slot a lot, and that’s a great matchup for Baldwin and Wilson.
13. Derek Carr @ KC – 8.75
I’m pretty lukewarm on Derek Carr’s performances over the past month, but he always seems to cobble together a solid fantasy day. He’s hit multiple touchdowns in 11 games. He faced this week’s opponent, Kansas City, four games ago, and was just okay. He threw three interceptions, but thanks to 48 passes, he managed to claw his way to 283 yards and two scores. The Chiefs defense isn’t quite right without Justin Houston, and you’ll want to watch Tamba Hali’s status too. With those guys missing, Carr has a solid chance of outplaying his Week 13 performance against this same team.
14. Aaron Rodgers vs. Min – 8.5
History says that this game is a lock for Aaron Rodgers. He’s won 10 of the last 11 meetings, and he’s thrown multiple touchdowns in 11 of the last 13 meetings. He’s thrown at least one touchdown against Minnesota in every game since November 9, 2008. But, as you know, Rodgers has been under siege all year, behind a leaky offensive line. He’s getting little help from his pedestrian wide receivers, and unreliable running game. Were it not for his absurd Hail Mary against the Lions, he’d have thrown just one touchdown in four of the past five games. After a brutal injury-filled December, the Vikings are finally healthy, and field a pass defense that was excellent in September through November. In those months, the Vikings allowed passing averages of 239 yards and 1.2 touchdowns. That’s right in line with what Rodgers has been putting up of late.
15. Sam Bradford @ NYG – 8.25
16. Brock Osweiler vs. SD – 8.25
Immediately after the Monday night game, Gary Kubiak anointed Brock Osweiler as the team’s starter for the regular season finale against the Chargers. That’s a sign of Kubiak’s confidence, and I agree with the decision. Osweiler isn’t posting explosive fantasy numbers. But he has played well, and he’s not making the critical mistakes Peyton Manning was making. Meanwhile, the Chargers secondary is in shambles. Eric Weddle, Brandon Flowers, and Darrell Stuckey are all on injured reserve. Jason Verrett can only do so much. Osweiler was held to just 166 yards and one touchdown in the Week 13 meeting. With all those injuries to the Chargers, he should improve on both numbers in the rematch.
17. Kirk Cousins @ Dal – 8.0
This is a tricky matchup because the Redskins have little to gain in this game, since they’re locked into the No. 4 seed in the NFC. But, it’s not like the Redskins are so good that they can rest their starters, confident in the knowledge that they’ll automatically perform the following week. I think we’ll see Kirk Cousins for most (if not all) of this game. Last week I talked about how well Cousins is playing, but noted that he hadn’t performed at a high level on the road. After whipping the Eagles in Philadelphia, we can now check that box, which gives me some confidence in Cousins despite a tough road matchup. Dallas ranks 5th in passing yards allowed and 2nd in passing touchdowns allowed. They held Cousins to a meager 219 yards and one score in the earlier meeting, just one month ago. But Cousins is on fire, and the Cowboys could be looking ahead to the offseason.
18. Philip Rivers @ Dal – 8.0
19. Teddy Bridgewater @ GB – 8.0
You can make a pretty strong case that Teddy Bridgewater’s best three games are the three games leading up to this week’s matchup. He’s thrown two interceptions in his last seven games, and his accuracy has been excellent. But Teddy rarely posts gaudy fantasy numbers. He’s only been fantasy relevant in two games all year, and he put up decent numbers in the Week 11 matchup (296, 1) If the Packers are without Sam Shields and BJ Raji again, that’ll help, but overall, it’s not easy to project gaudy fantasy stats from Teddy, even if he plays at a high level.
20. Jay Cutler vs. Det – 8.0 (if Alshon Jeffery plays)
21. Johnny Manziel vs. Pit – 8.0
22. Jameis Winston @ Car – 7.75
23. Alex Smith vs. Oak – 7.5
24. Tyrod Taylor vs. NYJ – 7.5
25. Kellen Moore vs. Was – 7.5
26. Ryan Tannehill vs. NE – 7.5