As anyone who has played fantasy football knows, it’s good to know which way the wind blows. The ocean of fantasy assets stretches out before us and expands from horizon to horizon, making any thought of mapping it all out a daunting task. The AFC (or AF-Sea?) holds plenty of dark corners and treacherous pitfalls. It takes a true fantasy explorer to know how to navigate.

Abandon all hope, ye who enter here! Only the strong can survive, and dead men tell no tales.

Each week, we brave souls enter the depths of the North, the East, the South, and the West, and send word as to what we find there. Is it treasure? Is it traps? Could it be glory and victory?

We break it all down for you right now.

AFC North Preview

Andrew Mendoza (@DFF_LeGrand)

What to Watch For:

Steelers continue to struggle, but is there an end in sight to the drama?

The Steelers have had a rough go of things to start off the 2018 season, highlighted by off the field issues, turmoil in the locker room, and a declining defense that has resulted in some tough losses for Pittsburgh (including one tie). Although reports have circulated that the Steelers are still entertaining trade offers for disgruntled RB Le’Veon Bell, reports also state that Bell is preparing to return to team facilities following the week 7 bye. In what will certainly be a high scoring affair, the Steelers will seek to steady themselves on a path to the playoffs this week at home vs. Atlanta.

Fantasy Impact Players:

JuJu Smith-Schuster, WR, PIT

Through the first 3 weeks of the 2018 season, JuJu racked up impressive numbers opposite of consensus No.1 wideout Antonio Brown. Despite his high production, the Steelers WR hit a wall against a high performing Ravens defense in week 4, with only 4 receptions for 60 yards. Per ESPN, JuJu is averaging 12.3 targets a game, and against a banged up Falcons defense, Smith-Schuster should be able to find room to function and thrive while AB receives plenty of attention on the opposite side of the field. Proj. 8/90/1

Joe Mixon, RB, CIN

As of now, Mixon is not a sure-fire starter for the Bengals week 5 matchup against the Dolphins. Originally given a 2-4 week timetable for recovery following knee surgery, Mixon was able to participate in pregame workouts before last Sunday’s game against the Falcons. While Gio Bernard’s production may give the Bengals the option to ease Mixon into the fold, an undisclosed injury sustained by Bernard against Atlanta might give Marvin Lewis just cause to incorporate Mixon back into the game plan sooner than expected. Proj. 14/65, 5 catches, 23 yards, TD

Jarvis Landry, WR, CLE

One of the bigger surprises in terms of productivity from free agent signings this year has been WR Jarvis Landry. Racking up 47 targets on the year thus far, Landry has proven that he can function as a no.1 WR in an offense with a growing identity, especially now that Baker Mayfield has taken the reins. With 312 yards and 1 TD through 4 weeks of play, expect Landry to maintain consistency in weeks to come as Mayfield continues to gel as the Browns starter. Proj. 8/64/1 TD

John Brown, WR, BAL

Producing to the same tune as the aforementioned Landry, Ravens WR John Brown has been a big surprise through the start of the 2018 season. Brown has quickly solidified himself as the Ravens no.1 WR and the most productive at that, racking up an impressive 338 yards on 15 catches and 3 TDs. This week the Ravens will travel to Cleveland to face a much improved Browns defense, but Brown should maintain his role as a high ceiling, high producing wideout in a productive Ravens offense. Proj. 6/102

Sleeper Alert:

Vance McDonald, TE, PIT

Fresh off of another solid performance in week 4, TE Vance McDonald is making a name for himself in fantasy realms, and not only for his ferocious stiff-arms. The veteran pass catcher churned out another serviceable performance last week against the Ravens with 5 catches for 62 yards. Given the sad state of the position in fantasy and McDonald’s evident rapport with Big Ben, we can expect another respectable outing this week as the Steelers are at home against Atlanta. Proj. 5/52/1 TD

Game Predictions:

Falcons – 31 @ Steelers – 24

Ravens – 28 @ Browns – 21

Dolphins – 31 @ Bengals – 34


AFC South Preview

Mitch Lawson (@DFF_MitchLawson)

What to Watch For:

Can Mariota and Luck Continue to Overcome Nagging Injuries?

Last week, Marcus Mariota and Andrew Luck were popular “Sit” recommendations thanks to Luck’s perceived diminished arm strength and Mariota’s elbow injury and hand numbness. I have to be honest here; both guys humbled me last week.

Mariota and Luck both looked healthy and more than competent at their position. To prove that their fantasy value is indeed solid, they’ll have to bring the thunder this week. Luck gets the Patriots on the road for Thursday Night Football, and Mariota gets a juicy date with the Buffalo Bills.

All eyes should be on these guys as they look to regain their fantasy owners’ trusts.

Fantasy Impact Players:

Ryan Grant, WR, IND – Grant will need to step up with T.Y. Hilton looking unlikely to play in Week 5 on a short week. Grant has had WR1 performances before, and he’s in a prime position to be a sleeper contributor. Proj. 6/88/1

Corey Davis, WR, TEN – Davis has been ramping up his output with every step back towards health for Mariota. He’ll be dynamite this week against the Bills. Proj. 11/135/1

TJ Yeldon, RB, JAX – Fournette is out again, so Yeldon will be the guy against KC on Sunday. He’ll likely be a solid RB2 in Fournette’s absence. Proj. 21/95/1

DeShaun Watson, QB, HOU – Watson will likely be without Fuller, so he’ll lean on Hopkins as well as rookie Keke Coutee. In a tricky matchup with Dallas, I expect him to perform well enough to remain a fantasy starter. Proj. 26-43 / 325 / 3 TD / 1 INT

Sleeper Alert:

Chester Rogers, WR, IND – Rogers performed extremely well last week, hauling in 8 of his 11 targets. He and Ryan Grant could end up splitting the targets against New England in a game where they are likely to be trailing by a score for most of the game. He has some streamer appeal this week. Proj. 6/81/1

Game Predictions:

Colts – 29 @ Patriots – 37

Titans – 42 @ Bills – 24

Jags – 24 @ Chiefs – 41

Texans – 27 vs. Cowboys – 13


AFC East Preview

Chris Smith (@Chrisheatcanes)

What to Watch For:

LeSean McCoy and Kenyan Drake are looking like busts this year. If you drafted these guys, and now you can’t move them, it’s like a brick in the middle of your bench reminding you of how poorly you drafted. Luckily I didn’t invest such a high draft pick in either because the writing was on the wall. Both running backs lost their center in the offseason, which never bodes well for your running back. You might want to stay away from starting these guys moving forward until they prove they can make a consistent splash in the fantasy ranks. Sony Michel looked great this week and should be a great flex start moving forward. He could help you win your league if he is the third back on your depth chart.

Fantasy Impact Players:

[Profiler]Tom Brady[/profiler] is a must-start this week. I’m normally not a fan of starting a quarterback on Thursdays, but it seems as if the NFL has learned how to adapt. Top ten performances have come on Thursday, and I don’t see that changing this week. Josh Gordon is an interesting play this week, with Rob Gronkowski hurt and possibly out because of the short week. Julian Edelman is back, and what can he do? I’m not sure, but I do know that Tom might force-feed him the ball since the Colts will be operating without one of their starting corners this week.

Isaiah Crowell and Bilal Powell should have big roles this week since the Broncos run defense struggled this past week against the Chiefs. Quincy Enunwa should have a big game this week as the number one target for Sam Darnold. With all the screens they run from the slot position, I’m sure they will find a way to get him the ball.

Miami plays the Bengals this week, which would normally make me a happy fellow. But Vontaze Burfict is back for the Bengals, which will stabilize a defense that has been up-and-down for the past month. Kenny Stills should have a decent game, but the fantasy players on this team are a grey area at best.

The Buffalo Bills are my team. So this hurts, but don’t pick anyone on this team to start–they are far too inconsistent, and the offensive line destroys any idea of this team being fantasy relevant. 

Sleeper Alert:

You can take a chance on Albert Wilson, the only grey area wide receiver worth a look. The Bengals are still having some trouble on the back end checking wide receivers, so it’s a risk, but mavericks could be rewarded.

Game Predictions:

New England 28 – Colts 17

Bengals 31 – Miami 24

Denver 24 – Jets 20

Titans 31 – Bills 10


AFC West Preview

Anthony Zaragoza (@ZaragozaAnthony)

What to Watch For:

Is this the week Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs fall back to reality?

Through the first four weeks of the season, “Showtime” Mahomes has been on fire. Patrick Mahomes has thrown for 1,200 yards, 14 touchdowns, and no interceptions during his teams 4-0 start. Pass catchers Travis Kelce  (23 rec, 307 yards, 3 TD’s) and Tyreek Hill (23, 374, 3) have been the biggest beneficiaries to Mahomes record-breaking month. But this week, Andy Reid and company will have their biggest test to date. A showdown with Super Bowl favorite and defensive juggernaut, the Jacksonville Jaguars. The Jaguars defense, led by shutdown corner Jalen Ramsey, have allowed the fewest passing yards and passing touchdowns so far this season.

Even though the Chiefs offense has been rolling in 2018. Look for the Jaguars to slow down this explosive offense and force Mahomes to make some tough throws to win this game. If you expect the same results so far this season from Mahomes and the rest of the skill position players this weekend, you will truly be disappointed.

Fantasy Impact Players:

Derek Carr, QB, OAK – The Oakland Raiders travel to Los Angeles for a division showdown against the Chargers. So far this season, Chargers Defensive Coordinator Gus Bradley has not been able to slow down the passing attacks from opposing teams (21st in yards, 27th in TD’s). Derek Carr, who just passed for 437 yards and 4 TD’s in the team’s overtime victory against Cleveland last weekend, can take advantage of this struggling secondary. More importantly, this game looks like it will be an AFC West shootout. This bodes well for Carr on Sunday.

Royce Freeman, RB, DEN – Take away the Jets stellar defensive performance week 1 against the Lions, and you have a rush defense that is giving up 131 yards on the ground the last three weeks. Royce Freeman, who has a rushing touchdown in the last three games, gets his chance to wreak havoc on this defense Sunday. The former Oregon star is averaging five yards a carry and looks to cement his status as the number one back on this team. This has the recipe to be a breakout game for Freeman.

Melvin Gordon, RB, LAC – Melvin Gordon has been a beast so far this season. Gordon has 475 yards of total offense, 5 TD’s and is tied with Keenan Allen  for the team lead in receptions (24). He is a must-start regardless of opponent, but with the Raiders coming into town with their bottom five rush defense, the floodgates will be open for Gordon. I wouldn’t be surprised if he has over 150 yards of offense, a couple of touchdowns and at least five receptions in this game.

Sleeper Alert:

Jordy Nelson, WR, OAK – The Raiders are going to throw the ball a lot versus the Chargers this weekend. And for whatever reason, Amari Cooper likes to go into the witness protection program after monster games in his career. Therefore, I wouldn’t be surprised if Jordy Nelson is the focal point on Sunday. Nelson has built a nice connection with Carr recently (221 yards the last two weeks) and looks to continue that momentum into week 5. If you have Desean Jackson or Allen Robinson on bye this week, Nelson could fill in nicely this weekend.

Game Predictions:

Los Angeles Chargers 31, Oakland Raiders 28

Denver Broncos 24, New York Jets 21

Jacksonville Jaguars 23, Kansas City Chiefs 20


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