Well, it's time again for Dolphin football to return. Fan confusion not only mounts for fans who wonder if they should cheer for Miami to defeat their biggest rival, but whether it's alright to look forward to a Monday because Miami will be playing. I say it is fine to go cheer for Miami and to look forward to Monday. Let's get to who we should look forward to watching on Sunday.
Tony Romo: He is going against the worst pass defense in the league. To make matters worse, the Patriots have been absolutely terrible when teams line up in 3 WR sets, which I expect to see quite a bit from Dallas. The Patriots have a good chance of putting points up on the board as well, turning this game into a shootout.
Andy Dalton: The Bengals will host the Colts this week. The Colts may rank 14th in the NFL in pass defense, but that is only because they're rush defense is awful. Cassel was able to throw for 4 TDs last week against the weak Indianapolis defense. The Colts have allowed 8 TDs through the air and have only 3 INTs. Opposing QBs have a 102.5 QB Rating against the Colts and average 254 passing YPG.
Cam Newton: It's much easier to beat Atlanta's defense through the air than it is on the ground. Just in case, Newton has some wheels on him too. Newton has passed for at least 1 TD in each game and has passed for at least 200 yards in 4 of 5 games, in which two of those 4 games he has exceeded 400 yards passing. Newton has done well up until this point and there is nothing about Atlanta's defense that suggests Newton's numbers will decline this week.
Sam Bradford: Many places think he has a favorable matchup this week because he's going against the 30th ranked defense, but I just don't agree with the majority. Green Bay's defense started slow last year before they turned the corner. Last week, Matt Ryan looked bad against the Packers as he finished with only 167 yards with 1 TD and 2 INTs. Kyle Orton fared better the week prior with 273 yards and 3 TDs, but he also threw 3 INTs and the 3rd TD came in garbage time. Each week, the Packers are getting a little better defensively. I think this is where the Packers defense starts to turn the corner again as I expect them to shut down the Rams and Vikings in the next two weeks. If that isn't enough of a reason, the Rams have been terrible offensively and Brandon Gibson is the only WR catching at least 50% of the passes targeted for him.
Donovan McNabb: Like Bradford, he's going against a defense in which you think would be a favorable matchup. After all, the Bears are surrendering 24.4 PPG on defense and their last four opponents have all exceeded 20 points. However, if you have watched McNabb play this year, you can tell he's not the same QB he used to be in Philadelphia. He doesn't even look like the same QB he was in Washington and that is saying something. Christian Ponder should be getting his first start sometime in the next few weeks.
Josh Freeman: Both he and the Tampa Bay offense has been struggling this season. They were completely embarrassed in a 48-3 blowout loss to San Francisco last week in which Freeman threw for 187 yards and 2 INTs. Freeman only has 3 TDs for the season and has failed to reach 250 yards passing in 3 of 5 games. If you want to look at Freeman's history against New Orleans to make you feel better, he was held to 219 yards and 1 TD in his first matchup against New Orleans last year. He did better in their rematch in the final week of the season, finishing with 255 yards and 2 TDs. What should be considered though is New Orleans was locked in as the fifth seed during that rematch and pulled starters in the middle of the game.
Cedric Benson: Yes, you can start the entire Bengal offense this week if you'd like. Benson hasn't exactly been tearing it up this year, running for 401 yards and 1 TD, but the Indianapolis defense has surrendered 6 rushing TDs and allows RBs to rush for a 4.1 YPC. On top of that, they have surrendered 5 carries of 20+ yards, meaning their defense is giving up big plays on the ground and they can't stop an offense from methodically moving down the field. I expect Benson to get his second and maybe his third rushing TD in this game.
Ryan Torain: Even if Tim Hightower is back in action this week, he's not at 100% and is only averaging 3.5 YPC for the season. Ryan Torrain came in last week and tore it up, running 19 times for 135 yards and a TD. He may split carries with Hightower and Roy Helu, but Torrain looks like Washington's best runner and I expect him to get the bulk of the carries. The Eagles have surrendered 5 rushing TDs and 7 carries have gone for 20+ yards against them. Opposing RBs are averaging 5.0 YPC and 140.2 YPG against Philadelphia. Even if Torrain splits carries, there are plenty of yards and scores to be shared between them.
Ahmad Bradshaw: This is purely on gut feeling alone, especially since Pro Bowl guard Chris Snee is trying to come back from a concussion. Bradshaw has only averaged above 4.0 YPC once this season, in week 3 against Philadelphia in which he averaged 5.7 YPC, but there are some hidden flaws behind Buffalo's Cindarella story. Opposing RBs are averaging 5.5 YPC and 138 YPG on the ground against the Bills. Buffalo has surrendered 5 rushing TDs and have allowed 8 rushes of 20+ yards. Buffalo's run defense has been even worse than Philadelphia's, which makes you wonder why the Eagles and Bills combined for 67 pass attempts last week.
DeAngelo Williams/Jonathan Stewart: First, they'll share carries nearly 50-50, which I'm never a fan of when looking for RBs in Fantasy Football. On top of that, the Falcons do have a stout run defense. They've only allowed opposing RBs to run for 3.5 YPC and 4 TDs for the season. To make it worse, opposing RBs have only run for 3.0 YPC and 1 TD in the past 3 weeks. The Falcons don't tend to give up many big runs either, allowing only 3 carries for over 20 yards, so the prospect of either Williams or Stewart breaking a long run for big points are not high.
Rashard Mendenhall: He's averaging only 3.0 YPC for the season and is being outperformed by Isaac Redman and Jonathan Dwyer. As a result, his carries will probably decrease. His 2 TDs for the season and only a single carry of 20+ yards from a player who should be a Home Run threat does not bode well either. Jacksonville also ranks 10th against the run and has held some good RBs such as Chris Johnson, DeAngelo Williams, and Jonathan Stewart to some low numbers. Jacksonville has only allowed 3 rushing TDs on the year and has held opponents to 3.7 YPC.
Miles Austin: Again, Dallas is facing the worst pass defense in the NFL. He has a big matchup by name with Devin McCourty, but the young CB has not played as well this year as he did as a rookie in 2010. Miles Austin could come up with a few big plays in this game. His home run potential makes him a big threat this week to have a single catch go for 30+ yards.
Steve Smith (Car): He's been held to less than 75 yards only once this season and is the biggest beneficiary of Cam Newton and a weak Atlanta pass defense. Smith is averaging just under 10 targets per game and 13 of his 27 receptions have gone for 20+ yards. Expect another huge night from him as the turf in Atlanta's dome will make his speed an even more dangerous weapon.
Anquan Boldin: His one catch, 28 yard performance in his last game on October 2nd was more of Darrelle Revis playing than Boldin disappearing. He's still targeted twice as much as any other WR on the team and is going against a defense that has surrendered an average of 89.8 YPG to the team's #1 WR in the past 5 games. On top of that, only one of those WRs (Mike Wallace) failed to score a TD.
Pierre Garcon: Both he and Curtis Painter have been improving in recent weeks and the West Palm Beach player has hauled in 7 receptions for 271 and 4 TDs in the last two games. Before that, he still caught 6 passes for 82 yards against a respectable Pittsburgh defense.
Calvin Johnson: Because it's obvious. Sorry, had to throw this one in here just so people can't blame me for "not telling them to start him!"
Brandon Marshall: Darrelle Revis and Matt Moore. Those two names should be able to explain it enough. Marshall had success last year against the Jets, but I don't expect a repeat performance. His 10 catch, 166 yard game with a TD came when the Jets were missing Revis and during the second matchup, he finished with only 2 receptions and 16 yards despite his TD.
Darrius Heyward-Bey: Don't let the last two weeks, in which DHB has finished with 115 and 99 receiving yards with 1 TD, fool you. DHB was facing terrible secondaries with New England and Houston. He has only 5 receptions and 49 yards in his two other games. Expect DHB's stock to come back down as he will have a tough matchup with Joe Haden this week.
Dustin Keller: Because he's going against the Dolphins. I hate saying that, but I'll stop when Miami forces me to. Keller is New York's best threat in the middle of the field and is as reliable as any other TE. The only fault with Keller seems to be caused from the Jets for some reason or other forget to include him in their game plan. It'd be a dumb mistake for the Jets to not target him this week.
Jimmy Graham: He's playing at a ridiculous level for a TE. His 48 targets are the most on the Saints and 10 of his 32 receptions have gone for 20+ yards, an absurd number for a TE. With nearly 500 receiving yards and 3 TDs in 5 games, why would you not play him?
Jermaine Gresham: He is going against the Colts, which is a nice benefit. He has scored a TD in 3 of his 5 games, which is also a nice benefit. Between him and AJ Green, they are both solid options if you need a quality player to stand in if you're normal starter is injured or has a bye week.
Jeremy Shockey: His targets are decreasing as Greg Olsen gets more opportunities. He has 0 TDs for the year and has not eclipsed 50 yards receiving since week two. As week as Atlanta is in pass defense, they're actually rated second in coverage against TEs. They're weak pass defense does not benefit the TE in this instance.
Dallas Clark: Curtis Painter is improving, but his passes are going elsewhere. Clark's receiving numbers are way down and he has only caught 50% of the passes targeted for him, largely because he is struggling with dropped passes. Despite going against a weak KC defense last week, he hauled in only one catch for seven yards. He has not had a single game yet this year in which he eclipsed 50 receiving yards.
The Dolphin Sleeper of the Week:
Daniel Thomas: It's hard to expect much from Marshall with his matchup with Revis or Moore while making his first start in Miami. Thomas could have a solid game though. He looks to be healthy again and has been Miami's best weapon when he's healthy. The Dolphins' OL actually has been better run blocking than in pass protection and the Jets rank 26th in run defense. If Miami wins, it will be from a strong defense and a strong running game. Expect Thomas, not Reggie Bush, to carry the bulk of the carries on Monday night.
Honorable Mention: I'd name Brian Hartline as a potential breakout player because Antonio Cromartie has been Jeckyl & Hyde for New York this year, but he tends to hold or commit pass interference when he's beaten on long passes instead of allowing the completion. Hartline may end up having a good game based on play, but Cromartie's tendencies to commit a foul instead of allowing the catch may hurt him. Hartline should see plenty of targets though with Marshall expected to be locked up with best CB in the NFL.