1) Five of each position
We're changing up this column a little bit ... instead of 15 stats we're doing five sections. Partly because it takes a billion hours to write and partly because it takes a million hours to edit. I'm guessing it also takes thousands of hours to read, so here's my proposal: I'm going to give you my top several projections at each position (QB, RB, WR, TE, K, DEF), then I'll add in three more stats that go deeper and polish it off with a few if/thens based on injuries. Sound good to you? Me too.
Note: These projections are based on my stat-line projection for each player translated into standard fantasy scoring. These are the median values. Tip: use the order and points as a way to compare ... e.g. if a running back is projected to earn 1.5 points more than the guy behind him, but only 0.15 points less than the guy in front of him, take the magnitude into consideration. Also, asterisks (*) mean watch out for injury report changes, but always do that anyway, even if there doesn't happen to be an asterisk.
David Johnson, Cardinals (15.7)
Ezekiel Elliott, Cowboys (14.2)
Devonta Freeman, Falcons (14.15)
Matt Forte, Jets (13.39)
Lamar Miller*, Texans (13.3)
Devontae Booker, Broncos (13.2)
Christine Michael, Seahawks (12.3)
Spencer Ware, Chiefs (12.1)
Jacquizz Rodgers, Buccaneers (11.9)
Melvin Gordon, Chargers (11.7)
Mack started the season with zero sacks in three games, but over the past four games he seems to be looking more like the guy who finished second in the league last year with 15 sacks. Right now, the Raiders have a 3.5 percent sack rate (30th in the league) but that could improve this week against the Bucs who are around the league average (15th) in sacks allowed. The Raiders defense has the sixth-highest interception rate (2.72 percent) and Jameis Winston has already thrown nine picks in 2016. There's a lot to note about the Oakland defense ... 430.4 total yards per game (ypg) allowed (last), 302.1 passing ypg allowed (also last), 128.3 rushing ypg (29th) ... all of which lines up nicely for Mike Evans and Jacquizz Rodgers. Factor in an interception when analyzing Jameis Winston, but he's a solid play. For sneaky upside, consider Adam Humphries.
Fantasy Impact: It's hard to use Humphries' current stats to make this case given that over the past three games he's seen four, two and three targets. The bright spot in the numbers came against the Rams when he was targeted 12 times and caught nine passes for 100 yards. When you turn to the film, and specifically the Raiders' corners, you see opportunities for Jameis Winston to complete some passes. The Raiders start David Amerson on the left, Sean Smith on the right and rotate in D.J. Hayden (he's played between 41 and 72 percent of defensive snaps in each game). As a group, they have allowed about 63 percent of passes to be completed against them when they were the targeted defender. Hayden's 71 percent is the highest in that group and he is who Humphries would likely match up against. I have Humphries projected for three receptions, 38 yards and better than average odds to see the end zone.
3) The Texans allow an average of just 49.3 more yards per game in the air than on the ground -- 135.4 rushing ypg (29th) versus 184.7 passing ypg (second).
The Lions average 89.4 ypg on the ground (24th) and 259.1 ypg through the air (12th). So what gives? My projection system likes Matthew Stafford to end up as the fifth-highest scoring quarterback this week, which you already know from above, but also, if you're OK with the risk inherent in playing a running back (expected to be) coming back from an ankle injury, consider Theo Riddick.
Fantasy Impact: If the season ended today, Stafford's 68.1 completion percentage (fourth) would be the highest of his career. Part of his increased efficiency is driven by a shorter average depth of target. The blend of Riddick's ability to produce on the ground and in short passing situations could be a valuable tool for the Lions. The Lions have scored a touchdown on 28.1 percent of their drives (fourth) and the Texans defense has allowed 20-plus points in all four of the games they've played without J.J. Watt. I have Riddick slated for about 70 scrimmage yards and good odds to reach the end zone.
4) The Lions are allowing opponents to complete 74.2 percent of passes this season (32nd) for a 117.3 passer rating against (also 32nd), while allowing opponents to convert 51.2 percent of third downs (you guessed it ... again 32nd). If the season ended today ... these would each be the worst metrics since the 1970 merger. Un-roar.
Making matters worse for Detroit, it doesn't look like cornerback Darius Slay will be able to return to the field this weekend. One more thing to throw in there, Houston's red-zone touchdown percentage is 37.5 (32nd), but Detroit allows touchdowns in the red zone 78.3 percent (32nd) of the time. DeAndre Hopkins and Lamar Miller* are in the lists above but if you're in need of a tight end this week, look to C.J. Fiedorowicz.
Fantasy Impact:Brock Osweiler currently has a 58.2 completion percentage (29th) and averages 5.72 yards per attempt (32nd). The Lions allow touchdowns to tight ends -- lots of them. Fiedorowicz has seen 13 targets and caught eight passes for 109 yards and one score over the past two games. If Lamar Miller is unable to go, Fiedorowicz is in an especially great spot to produce.
5) Three If/Thens: Injuries