Breathing a sigh of relief, fantasy owners can take solace in the fact that the brutal bye weeks are now less prevalent. While there are still four teams that will not play this week, having two fewer teams on off weeks makes a tremendous difference for fantasy players that would otherwise be unavailable. For any fantasy owners that are in contentious playoff races, it’s paramount that every decision when it comes to starting or sitting players be made very carefully as everyone within your league attempts to discover a slight edge that will give them a crucial victory. For the dedicated fantasy owners that are still in the playoff hunt, it’s about to get real.
Josh McCown, QB, New York Jets (vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers)
Incredibly, Josh McCown has been one of the more efficient stating quarterbacks this season as he has scored below 10 fantasy points only once this season. With eight “money throws” on the season ( a metric that looks at the number of clutch throws or passes requiring exceptional skills, ranks 10th amongst quarterbacks), McCown has looked surgical at times when throwing the ball downfield. Considering the Jets receivers average 1.63 yards of separation per target (9th in the NFL), McCown should have an immense amount of opportunities to gash a Buccaneers secondary that is allowing 272 passing yards per game (30th in NFL).
Orleans Darkwa, RB, New York Giants (vs. San Francisco 49ers)
Yes, the running back situation in New York has not been ideal fantasy wise, to say the least. However, one rusher has emerged as a possible asset and Orleans Darkwa could be that player. Averaging 15 rushing attempts per game and 4.95 yards per carry in his last three games, Darkwa clearly has the athletic ability and trust of the Giants to be their go-to playmaker coming out of the backfield. With a favorable matchup against the 49ers this week, Darkwa should be highly valuable in PPR leagues, particularly this Sunday.
Ju-Ju Smith-Schuster, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers (vs. Indianapolis Colts)
With wideout Martavis Bryant warming the bench, Smith-Schuster is the clear number two receiver for the Steelers and has stepped up mightily as a big play target for Ben Roethlisberger. Averaging 11.8 yards per target (3rd amongst receivers), Smith-Schuster provides another deep target for Roethlisberger to utilize consistently when Antonio Brown is being blanketed by opposing defenses. With 2.51 fantasy points per target (4th amongst receivers), Smith-Schuster is a must-start against a Colts secondary that is allowing the fifth most fantasy points to wide receivers.
Cameron Brate, TE, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (vs. New York Jets)
While the quarterback situation in Tampa Bay is not ideal, this does not necessarily detract from the starting value of Cameron Brate. With 28.1% red zone target share (6th amongst tight ends), Brate is the ideal fantasy tight end that is usually placed in the best situations to score the most points. Scoring 12.2 fantasy points per game (6th amongst tight ends), Brate has an impressive scoring floor that is assisted by his strong hands and fearlessness when it comes to fighting for contested balls (57.1% contested catch rate, 3rd amongst tight ends). While Brate had a dreadful game against New Orleans last week (one catch for nine yards), I fully expect the sure-handed tight end to bounce back in a big way against a Jets defense that is fifth worst at defending tight ends.