Another week, another prime time game for the Houston Texans. Last week a few of their players stepped up and turned in big games to help their fantasy owners while others seemed to disappear in the spotlight. Before you set your lineup, check out this week six edition of start 'em/sit 'em.
Arian Foster - He's a must start virtually every week based on his talent alone regardless of the matchup, but I think Foster could have another monster game on Sunday like he did last week against the Jets. The Packers rank 17th in rushing yards allowed, not a terrible number, but their Pro-Bowl nose tackle B.J. Raji is questionable for the game leaving a potentially gaping hole on their defensive line. Ignore the report that Foster is questionable for now after missing practice on Wednesday. It's a short week, he's been given a ton of carries, I believe they're just being careful with him. Unless he misses practice on Friday, don't worry about his injury status. Foster is as consistent as it gets at the running back position having scored at least one touchdown in all five games this season and in 15 of his last 16 going back to last season.
Owen Daniels - Through five games this year Daniels has been Schaub's favorite receiver leading the team with 33 targets. Daniels has also scored a touchdown in three straight games and averaged five catches for 75 yards over the last two games. Daniels is hot, Schaub looks for him often, keep him active.
Texans Defense - Losing Brian Cushing hurts, but I still think the Texans defense can turn in a good fantasy game this week. The Texans will face the best quarterback they've seen this season in Aaron Rodgers, but I think the Texans can handle their passing attack. Truth be told, the Texans defense has been more vulnerable against the run this season than the pass so the loss of Cedric Benson for the Packers is a big one. The Texans rank fourth in the league this season in passing yards allowed; a number even more impressive when you consider that most of their opponents have fallen behind early and been forced to become pass happy. The Texans have scored over 10 fantasy points in four of their five games this season and I expect them to be in double digits again this week. They're not the top option this week at defense and likely not even top five, but they're still a solid starter inside the top 10 of fantasy defenses for this week.
Shayne Graham - The veteran kicker has been pretty consistent averaging 9.4 fantasy points per game this season with a low of seven points against the Broncos. Graham has been accurate (made 10 of 11 field goal attempts), and has had plenty of chances with a team that moves the ball well; keep him active this week in what could be a shootout against Green Bay.
Matt Schaub - Projecting Schaub from week to week in terms of fantasy production has been difficult this season. He followed up a seven point performance in week two by scoring 33 points in week three in my standard scoring league. Not that this is a huge surprise, but it seems the Texans prefer to win the game on the ground over airing it out when given the option. I believe the Texans will have success with the running game this week which will hurt Schaub's fantasy value by taking away pass attempts. Unless your other quarterback is on a bye, I'd bench Schaub. He won't kill you this week with a terrible game, but he won't carry your team with a huge game either.
Andre Johnson - Like Schaub, the Texans star receiver has had an up and down season. Johnson has topped 10 fantasy points only twice this year. He totaled 191 receiving yards and two touchdowns in weeks one and three, while totaling only 92 yards receiving and zero touchdowns in his other three games. I believe the Texans will lean heavily on the run game this week and when they pass, likely look short for Owen Daniels. I'd keep Johnson on your bench until he proves he's back to his old level of play.
Ben Tate - Even if he plays this week, I doubt he'll get more than eight carries making him a non-factor in fantasy. Outside of a good game against Jacksonville, Tate has averaged just 14 rushing yards in his other three games this season. Keep him benched.
Kevin Walter/Keshawn Martin - Neither player is targeted enough to even own in fantasy much less start at this point. Walter has picked it up a little recently, but I still wouldn't play them.
The NFL MVP is an award given to the best player in the NFL that season, typically from a team that makes the playoffs. That award is also typically given to quarterbacks with running backs winning it occasionally. In fact the last time a non quarterback or running back won the award was 1986 when linebacker Lawrence Taylor of the New York Giants was named the league MVP. Over the last twenty years 16 quarterbacks and 6 running backs have won the award (the award was a tie in 1997 and 2003). Since the 1966 season (Super Bowl era) only three non quarterbacks or running backs have won the MVP award (Lawrence Taylor, Mark Moseley, Alan Page). Having a 3-4 defensive end like J.J. Watt in the discussion for MVP at this point is very surprising; they typically aren't put in a position to put up the stats needed to catch the eye of the media and win the MVP award. Greg Rosenthal of NFL.com has Watt ranked not just in his top 10, but number one overall.
"We asked last week if Watt possibly could keep up his pace. And then he dominated yet another game against the pass and run on "Monday Night Football" against the New York Jets. Defensive players never get considered for MVP awards, but they should. Watt has put up the most singular season in the NFL thus far."
Even if you agree that J.J. Watt is the leader for the MVP award at this point, there is still a lot of season left to play. If the vote was held today, I don't think Watt would win. He'd receive votes, but my guess is the award would go to either Matt Ryan or Tom Brady. Not saying they're more deserving than Watt, but that's just the reality of how most people vote; they give it to a quarterback putting up big numbers on a good team.
What does Watt have to do to win this award? He has to dominate in every national broadcast/prime time game (they have four more left this season) and finish the season with amazing stats that give voters no choice but to vote for him. I believe J.J. Watt will have to break the NFL record for sacks to win the award for league MVP this year. Last season Jared Allen racked up 22 sacks (NFL record is 22.5) and he didn't receive a single vote for the MVP award. Hurting Allen's chances last year of course was the Vikings 3-13 record, but still, he was just a half of a sack short of the record and didn't receive even a sniff at the award. Watt currently has 7.5 sacks which ranks second in the NFL behind Clay Matthews (had a sack from the Dolphins game taken away) and is on pace for 24 sacks. If he stays on pace, breaks the record, and the Texans finish with 12 wins or more and a bye in the playoffs; he has a decent chance to win the award. Anything less than that and he probably won't receive a single vote.
Even if his pace falls off and he finishes with around 15 sacks that's still an amazing season from a 3-4 defensive end. I don't think he'll win the award but either way Texans fans have to enjoy what they're watching right now. We're all getting to witness the early stages of a potentially great career; he's extremely fun to watch right now.