This NFC clash features a pair of stingy defenses.
Two classic franchises will battle on Monday Night Football when the Dallas Cowboys host the Chicago Bears at 8:20 pm EST on ESPN. Both teams enter the contest at 2-1, and the victor at Cowboys Stadium will secure a positive start towards the goal of making the postseason. The Cowboys and Bears have top ten defenses, so a fairly low-scoring affair is expected tonight in Texas.
Be wary of these ground-gainers making it through a full season
Injuries are certainly a part of football, and fantasy football, for that matter, but when it comes to the latter that doesn't mean you can't or shouldn't be prepared.
Here are the top injury concerns when it comes to running back. These ground-gainers are the eptiome of risk-reward when it comes to weighing potential opportunity versus their respective injury histories.
What can the Dallas Cowboys do for you this fantasy season? Check out Athlon Sports' team report as we break down the rookies, veteran players to watch and avoid, fantasy playoff schedule and more to help you get ready for the 2012 season.
The Cowboys' running back is a 50-50 option to play in week 16
Felix Jones has had an up and down fantasy football season in 2011. And the Cowboys running back is back on a down trend in week 16 against the Eagles.
With Felix Jones' hamstring injury calling him a game-time decision, the Cowboys staff is saying that he won't even play a snap if the Giants win their 1pm game against the New York Jets.
Due to playoff implications, if the Giants win, the Cowboys' game against the Eagles is meaningless, so they'd rather not test him. And as a fantasy owner, you just can't wait to roll the dice on Felix getting on the field.
It is Week 8, the fourth week of bye weeks, and some big names go on vacation this weekend, so run to the waiver wire for some much needed help. You need someone to step in and hold down the fort for a week, or maybe more in some cases.
WEEK 8 BYES: Atlanta, Chicago, Green Bay, New York Jets, Oakland, Tampa Bay
It is Week 7, the third week of bye weeks, and some big names go on vacation this weekend. You need someone to step in off the waiver wire and hold down the fort for a week, or maybe more in some cases.
WEEK 7 BYES: Buffalo, Cincinnati, New England, New York Giants, Philadelphia, San Francisco
Some of the players listed in Athlon Sports' NFL Fantasy Football Waiver Wire Week 3 may be one-week adds, some may be season-long adds and some are listed just for you to keep an eye on to stash on your roster if you have the space.
Scoring is based on Athlon Sports default scoring which is 6 points for all TDs, .5 points per reception and 1 point PER 25 yards passing, 10 yards rushing/receiving and 40 return yards.
The Chiefs followed up losing their best defensive playmaker, DB Eric Berry, to an ACL injury last week, by losing their best offensive player, RB Jamaal Charles, to the same injury on Sunday. It is the third ACL injury to a Chiefs starter this summer — TE Tony Moeaki tore his in preseason Game No. 4.
Kansas City has to be scrambling to find any player that will be productive on offense after scoring 10 points combined in the first two weeks. On the defensive end, it has allowed 89 combined points, and will probably perform the same for the rest of the season.
In steps McCluster. He can be a pass catcher out of the backfield, a traditional running back — although one that can't carry a heavy workload — and can give those in return yardage leagues a boost as well.
If there's a back to add from the Jamaal Charles fallout, it needs to be McCluster. Thomas Jones and Le'Ron McLain may score the occasional goal line touchdown, but I think McCluster has the best chance to touch the ball the most, and the upside to do something with it each time.
Andy Dalton, Cincinnati
The Bengals are built to run but don't do it very well. Still, opposing defenses will respect that and that means opportunities for the rookie QB to get the ball to fellow rookie target A.J. Green, one of this week's key pick ups Jerome Simpson and inconsistent but always dangerous TE Jermaine Gresham. Dalton threw for 332 and two scores against a banged up Bronco defense. So maybe Week 2 was an outlier, but he gets back-to-back home games against terrible pass Ds in San Francisco and Buffalo, travels to equally terrible Jacksonville and then gets Indianapolis at home. If you're struggling at QB, you could do worse than Dalton.
Ryan Fitzpatrick, Buffalo
If he wasn't stashed on your roster already, he should be. He's the fifth-best scoring QB in Athlon's scoring format (61.48) through two weeks. He has thrown for 472 yards, seven scores and just one turnover. He has a group of no-names at receiver, but it works for the Bills. Buffalo plays New England next week, a team that he can throw against whether the Bills are winning or losing, then it's Cincinnati, Philadelphia and the Giants before the Week 7 bye. He has proven reliable even with low-yardage numbers thanks to the seven TDs. If you're still holding onto Peyton Manning or Matt Cassel or Alex Smith, Donovan McNabb and maybe even Josh Freeman, Fitzpatrick is a better option.
Blaine Gabbert, Jacksonville
The rookie is probably a stash and hope play, but he could get the nod this week against a struggling Carolina defense. Could he debut like his Carolina counterpart Cam Newton did? That is highly unlikely. However, he has a solid offensive line, a great running back and a great possession receiver at his disposal. If TE Marcedes Lewis can return from a calf injury that sidelined him in Week 2, Gabbert could turn into an OK bye week QB. Keep in mind, the Jaguars will probably be trailing by the time they step off the bus each week, giving Gabbert more opportunities — which also means more turnover opportunities, but take the bad with the potential good.
Matt Hasselebeck, Tennessee
If the running game is going to continue to struggle, then Hasselbeck will keep airing it out. Teams still have to respect the run with Chris Johnson back there despite his struggles, so the passing game will always have potential. Hasselbeck has one of the game's best young receivers in Kenny Britt (14-271-3 TDs in the first two weeks), a sneaky receiver in Nate Washington (13-166 in the first two weeks) and an inconsistent but still threatening TE in Jared Cook (3-44 in the first two weeks).
Colt McCoy, Cleveland
He may not throw for a lot of yard (averages 212 ypg), but he has big targets to work with. TEs Evan Moore (4-51-2 scores) and Benjamin Watson (5-61-2 scores) are two of his favorites in the red zone so far. He also has rookie Greg Little (5-50) at receiver and RB Peyton Hillis (10-53) is a solid pass-catching threat. All four have size and potential around the end zone that can pay off for McCoy owners. Miami, Tennessee, Oakland, Seattle and San Francisco are all appetizing pass defenses he will face over the next six weeks.
Mike Kafka, Philadelphia
Mike Kafka stepped in for Michael Vick, completed 7-of-9 passes for 72 yards and had the Eagles in position to score late in the game against the Falcons (a Jeremy Maclin drop ended the drive). He knows the offense well, doesn't have the greatest of arms, but has a helluva trio of playmakers around him. RB LeSean McCoy, WRs DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin can make anyone look good, and then there are WRs Jason Avant, Steve Smith, TE Brent Celek and backup RB Ronnie Brown. The weapons are there for Kafka to have success if Vick were to miss any time due to his "slight" concussion.
Roy Helu, Washington
This is probably a pick up you need to make to get ahead of the rest of your league. Helu got 13 touches in Sunday's win over Arizona — 10-for-74 rushing and 3-for-38 receiving. This is an increase from the one the rookie saw in Week 1, and it was because starter Tim Hightower "got a little bit tired," according to coach Mike Shanahan. A little bit tired? Hightower has carried the ball 45 times this season for an average of 3.7 yards per carry and just one score, while Helu averages 6.9 on 11 carries and 8.2 on his 14 touches altogether. Shanahan has never been afraid to run with the hot hand and stick with him once that change is made. Helu has the goods as a big-play back, both as a rusher and receiver. Dallas, St. Louis, Philadelphia, Carolina and Buffalo are on the schedule next, and Helu could make some noise in each game.
Willis McGahee, Denver
He should already be on a roster on your team, preferably yours. McGahee was expected to chip away at Knowshon Moreno's production this season, if not get the majority of it all along. The Moreno injures his hamstring, opening the door for McGahee. The 2003 first-round pick responded with 101 yards, a touchdown and one catch for five yards Sunday against Cincinnati. Regardless of whether Moreno comes back next week against Tennessee or not, McGahee is a reliable flex option, if not starter. The Broncos have rough run-game opponents on the horizon (Tennessee, Green Bay and San Diego), but Kyle Orton and Co. should have enough juice in the passing game to keep team's honest and enable McGahee to get his.
DeMarco Murray, Dallas
Felix Jones played nearly the entire San Francisco game with a shoulder injury, an injury that has his status up in the air for Week 3's Monday night game against Washington. Also injured are Miles Austin (hamstring), Dez Bryant (quads), Jason Witten (ribs) and Tony Romo (ribs). The Dallas secondary is a mess as well thanks to injuries. You would love to think the team could lean on its backfield to lengthen offensive possessions, but it is 31st in the league currently at 54.5 rushing yards per game. Murray would be the add in my eyes if you had to pick either the rookie or Tashard Choice. The team obviously drafted Murray because its faith in Choice has wavered — if there ever was any. He adds the pass-catching dimension along with being the bigger back at 6-0, 227. The upside lies with Murray.
Ben Tate, Houston
He has to be on a roster in your league at this point, right? If not, go get him. Arian Foster sat out the second half Sunday because his hamstring tightened up. Coach Gary Kubiak followed on Monday by saying Tate will carry the load right now. Here's where the problem lies for the Texans' run game: They get New Orleans, Pittsburgh, Oakland, Baltimore and Tennessee over the next five weeks. All five have the potential to shut down the run, but the Houston passing game may be able to open up some breathing room for its running backs. Either way, Tate needs to be either a flex play right now or the best handcuff in the game.
Daniel Thomas, Miami
Oh, the other rookie running back. Remember when the debate was whether Daniel Thomas or Mark Ingram would have the better rookie season? Well, maybe it wasn't a debate many were having, but I picked Thomas in the summer. He finally made his debut with 18 carries for 107 yards and one catch for 10 yards in a 10-point loss to Houston. Meanwhile, Reggie Bush carried six times for 18 yards and caught one ball for three yards. Was this a wake-up call by the Dolphins that Bush isn't an inside runner? It certainly wasn't a case of seeing what the rookie had because Miami was out of the game — it was a three-point Dolphin lead until 10 minutes remained. Miami needs to get win No. 1 of the season this week, and it travels this week to Cleveland, 24th against the run at 124 yards per game. Thomas should get the nod as the bell cow once again, and any player that can get a consistent 18-20 touches, and is not in Seattle, needs to be on fantasy rosters.
Nate Burleson, Detroit
He's the No. 2 passing option for a team that LOVES to pass. Lions QB Matthew Stafford has already attempted 72 passes for 599 yards (an average of 12.7 yards per completion). Burleson has caught 12 of them for 153 yards. He will continue to get looks opposite Calvin Johnson, and should be on your roster now.
Eric Decker, Denver
He performed well last year when he finally hit the field after a Lisfranc injury, a ligament tear where the first two toes are held in place. Decker averaged 17.7 yards on six catches with a score; he has picked up right where he left off. On Sunday, Decker caught five balls for 113 yards and two scores. He now has eight catches for 166 yards and two TDs this season. He also has opportunity. Brandon Lloyd (hamstring) did not play on Sunday as a late scratch and Eddie Royal (groin) was injured during the game. Decker had no problem sliding in and making the most of his chances. He is big receiver at 6-3, 218, and his only knock would be that he has fumbling issues — four fumbles, two lost in nine career games played so far.
A.J. Green, Cincinnati
OK, the Broncos were banged up on the defensive side, particularly no Champ Bailey. But 10 catches for 124 yards and a score? C'mon. The debate between which rookie WR would have the better season — Julio Jones in Atlanta or Green — is in full effect after Sunday's performance. And it was quite a bounce back for Green after just having one catch in his debut — even though it went for 41 yards. He was targeted 14 times (FOURTEEN!) on Sunday. If he was somehow not drafted in your league, please, go get him now.
Johnny Knox, Chicago
Roy Williams was out with a groin injury. Earl Bennett left with a bruised chest. Devin Hester led the Bears receivers with nine targets but pulled in just one catch. So Knox, last year's leading receiver for the Bears, may actually have relevance again for the team. He had six targets in the loss to New Orleans, catching two of them for 45 yards. Expect his role to increase if the injuries and lack of production from the position continues to mount.
Chad Ochocinco, New England
He may not know the offense yet. He may not have had many opportunities. But that can change starting this week with the news that Aaron Hernandez (MCL) will miss one-two weeks. Tom Brady has plenty of targets to choose from and you never know who will get the call, but after 940 yards of passing the first two weeks, anyone that has pulse for the Patriots and is supposed to catch the ball is worth a flier.
Kevin Ogletree or Jesse Holley, Dallas
Miles Austin has the hamstring injury and could miss time. Dez Bryant is battling a quad injury and did miss Sunday's game. The hero of the 49ers game was reality show winner Jesse Holley. And then there's Kevin Ogletree, who started in place of Bryant. Holley got three targets, catching all three for 96 yards, including a 77-yard pass in overtime to setup the game-winning field goal. Ogletree had four targets, catching two passes for 50 yards, including a 33-yard reception. Neither will be too hot off the waiver wire, and you should be able to afford waiting on news of Austin or Bryant before deciding which replacement receiver to pick. If Ogletree got the start, I would lean toward him.
Jerome Simpson, Cincinnati
After a ridiculously quiet preseason, Simpson, who was a stud late, late last season, has emerged. He caught four of nine targets for 44 yards in the opener, and then caught four of nine targets for 136 yards on Sunday against Denver. How often will Andy Dalton attempt 41 passes? Who knows. But he did on Sunday and Simpson was the second-leading target behind A.J. Green's 14. Plus, with Jordan Shipley now on IR, the Bengals' passing options become clearer. Simpson could be overlooked as every one rushes to the wire to add Decker, Burleson, a QB and a replacement for Jamaal Charles.
Nate Washington, Tennessee
He was targeted 11 times in Tennessee's win over Baltimore Sunday. That followed seven targets in Week 1. Washington has turned that into 13 catches for 166 yards. He has become option 2 for a Titans team that is not used to this whole passing thing, but will certainly continue to do it if defenses let them and the run game continues to struggle.
Fred Davis, Washington
He can move around all over the field and has been a good option for Rex Grossman. Davis followed up his five-catch, 101-yard, one-touchdown in the opener with six catches for 86 yards and a score in Week 2.
Tony Gonzalez, Atlanta
He is still the safety valve for Matt Ryan, and if that safety valve is in the red zone that means good news for fantasy owners. Gonzo is relevant again with nine targets, seven catches for 83 yards and two scores Sunday night. That follows a 5-for-72 Week 1 performance.