Two straight weeks of six teams on bye have allowed for for a lot of lesser-known players to step up and have big weeks. This week, only four teams, the Cleveland Browns, Kansas City Chiefs, New England Patriots and New York Jets, are on bye. This means that less sleepers will emerge than in the past few weeks, so we only have four guys to keep an eye on this week. Check them out below.
Eli Manning, QB, New York Giants
It’s no secret that Manning has struggled with consistency all season long. The good news here is that he’s improved somewhat over the past two weeks, raising his Passing Net Expected points by about a point and not throwing any interceptions. The Oakland Raiders’ 23rd-ranked defense has struggled all season against the pass, allowing 2,253 yards and 17 touchdowns to opposing quarterbacks - while picking off just five passes. Remember last week against Nick Foles? Exactly. I’m as wary of starting Manning as they come, but if he was ever going to have a big week, this is definitely it.
Shonn Greene, RB, Tennessee Titans
The Jacksonville Jaguars’ 29th-ranked defense when adjusted for strength of schedule is one of the worst in the league against the run, having allowed 1,039 rushing yards and 10 total touchdowns to opposing running backs this season, which ranks them second in both respective categories. There’s no question that Chris Johnson should have a huge day, but there’s a very strong possibility for Greene to as well. Tennessee’s coaching staff has expressed a strong desire to get Greene involved in the running game all season, and we saw a glimpse of that last week now that he’s healthy. Greene had 38 rushing yards and a touchdown on just nine carries. He’ll more than likely see 10-15 touches this week, especially in the red zone, which always means a potential for a lot of fantasy points. There’s also a good chance that the Titans will build a good lead and look to slow things down and/or run out the clock in garbage time, which will mean extra points for Greene.
Garrett Graham, TE, Houston Texans
As we get further into the Case Keenum era in Houston, we will continue to see the Texans expand the playbook and involve more weapons. This week, Graham is in a great situation to succeed. Arizona Cardinals’ cornerback Patrick Peterson is one of the best in the game and will do a good job of at least slowing down Andre Johnson, which will force Keenum to look elsewhere. This will directly benefit Graham and rookie receiver DeAndre Hopkins the most. Graham is averaging 5.5 targets and 12.1 yards-per-reception per game this season, and has an extremely favorable matchup against a Cardinals’ defense that has given up a league-high 740 receiving yards and eight touchdowns to opposing tight ends this season on just 55 receptions. Graham could crack TE1 territory for the first time this week.
Tim Wright, TE, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Wright has quietly been picking up steam for a while now, having averaged 4.6 receptions in each of his last five games. Things really got going for Wright when the Buccaneers number two wide receiver, Mike Williams, was lost for the season. In the last two weeks since the injury, Wright has compiled 106 receiving yards and two touchdowns on nine receptions. The Dolphins’ 17th power-ranked defense has done well against receivers, allowing only one touchdown all season. But they’ve struggled against opposing tight ends, giving up 490 receiving yards and six touchdowns (the third most) on 38 receptions. Look for Mike Glennon to target Wright a lot and exploit this mismatch, making Wright a nice tight end option in deeper leagues.