QB Derek Carr, Oakland Raiders
After a rocky start under new HC Jon Gruden, Derek Carr hit his stride with great numbers (35-of-58 passing, 437 yards, 4 TDs, 2 INT) in a win over the Browns Sunday. We could have another shootout in sunny California this Sunday with the Raiders visiting a Chargers team that ranks 26th in DVOA pass defense this season and is badly missing DE Joey Bosa (foot) while struggling to generate a pass rush. The Chargers are also missing top CB Jason Verrett (Achilles) in the secondary, and just gave up 298 passing yards to 49ers backup QB C.J. Beathard. Carr has a host of weapons at his disposal including matchup nightmares in Amari Cooper and TE Jared Cook, so he should continue to push the issue down the field.
RB Nyheim Hines, Indianapolis Colts
The Colts are banged up with T.Y. Hilton (hamstring) and Jack Doyle (hip) both doubtful to suit up on a short week. They’ll likely be playing from behind on the road against the Patriots, so a pass-catching back in Nyheim Hines could see more work out of the backfield than early-down runner Jordan Wilkins. Hines tied for the team lead with 11 targets during Sunday’s 37-34 overtime loss in Houston, and he caught nine balls for 63 yards and 2 touchdowns. The Patriots rank 25th in DVOA pass defense against opposing RBs and have implemented a conservative defensive style in past years that cedes short catches to backs and tight ends.
RB Mike Davis, Seattle Seahawks
Chris Carson (hip) was a surprise scratch last Sunday, allowing Mike Davis to impress with 101 rushing yards and 2 TDs on 21 carries. Seattle HC Pete Carroll said Davis “earned a spot in the rotation” going forward, which is not the terminology fantasy owners want to hear of course. Davis may have to share time with Carson, but rookie Rashaad Penny has been rather ineffective and could fall out of that rotation entirely. The Seahawks will look to run the ball early and often in Sunday’s home game, as they look to keep the Rams high-powered offense off the field. That means another steady diet of Davis, who should lead this backfield in carries until Carson proves he’s healthy.
WR Chester Rogers, Indianapolis Colts
The same logic that makes Nyheim Hines worth a look this Thursday transfers to Chester Rogers, who tied the back with 11 targets in a shootout loss at Houston. Rogers’ playing time seems to be the most directly related to Hilton’s status, while Ryan Grant saw roughly the same amount of snaps and Zach Pascal only played on 49.5% of offensive snaps last Sunday. Rogers played on 80.2% of offensive snaps in Week 4 and will remain one of Andrew Luck’s favorite targets this Thursday if Hilton can’t suit up.
WR Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Green Bay Packers
This is a deep sleeper play unless both Randall Cobb (hamstring) and Geronimo Allison (concussion) are unable to play this Sunday. Cobb reportedly “was not close” to playing last Sunday after suffering a hamstring setback late last week, while Allison is week-to-week with a concussion. So it’s likely that Aaron Rodgers is developing his rapport with Valdes-Scantling with no other options to throw to other than Davante Adams and Jimmy Graham. Adams could draw coverage from shutdown CB Darius Slay, while the 6-foot-4 Valdes-Scantling will the opportunity to body the Lions smaller interior cornerbacks.
TE Vance McDonald, Pittsburgh Steelers
Even after he lost a fumble on his first reception of the game, the Steelers coaching staff stuck by Vance McDonald and played him on 62.9% of offensive snaps. He finished with five catches for 62 yards to post his second strong outing in a row and enters a likely shootout this Sunday in a contest with the highest Over/Under (57 points) of the season thus far. The Falcons lost two starting safeties (Ricardo Allen and Keanu Neal) as well as starting LB Deion Jones (foot) for the season and have predictably struggled against opposing TEs as a result. They gave up 71 yards to slow veteran Ben Watson and allowed Tyler Eifert to go for 48 yards and a TD before he suffered a season-ending injury last week. McDonald should be next in line for a productive day against that injury-riddled unit.