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NFC North Fantasy Preview: The ‘Free Aaron Jones’ movement rolls on

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Three NFC North battles, one battle of Hall of Fame quarterbacks, and control of the NFC North on the line. What a week.

NFL: Green Bay Packers at Los Angeles Rams Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

We’re back in action this week with all four teams playing in three games across the NFC North. The Lions and Vikings are meeting for the first time this season in Minnesota. We also get the Chicago Bears playing the Bills and the matchup we’re all waiting for: Rodgers vs. Brady.

This is the first time since 2014 that the Packers and Patriots have played against one another as the teams play each other only once every four years.

That Sunday night tilt will provide us with plenty of fantasy action to look forward to, but first, let’s look at the two noon games.

Lions @ Vikings

Start: Marvin Jones Jr., WR

With Golden Tate being shipped out to Philadelphia, there’s a healthy amount of passing targets being left on the table. Tate was actually leading the team in targets with 69, while Jones Jr. and Kenny Golladay sit at 47 and 44 targets, respectively. Golladay has clearly emerged as the top wide receiver in Detroit given his ability to be more than a deep threat, which is what Jones is. Due to injuries with their defensive backs, Minnesota has been struggling with covering WR2s—which is where I would qualify Jones at this point.

The Vikings rank 26th in passing DVOA against the number two wide receiver. Jones will look to build off a strong week 8 in which he torched Seattle to the tune of 117 yards and two touchdowns.

Sit: Theo Riddick, RB

Minnesota is dead last in passing DVOA against running backs so it’s tempting to start the traditional passing down option. It would behoove the Lions to keep getting Kerryon Johnson as many touches as possible, though. Last week, Johnson had six catches for 69 yards against a defense that is significantly better at defending RBs in the passing game. They could default to Riddick, but I’m looking elsewhere to fill the flex spot.

Bears @ Bills

Start: Jordan Howard

Is the Howard train back on the tracks? To quote the great Dollar Bill Stern: “I’m not uncertain.” So, yes, I’m buying stock in Howard having another solid day—if not great day. Howard hasn’t been putting up the yardage totals he has in the past, due to Chicago’s pass heavy approach and getting Tarik Cohen involved, but Howard has found the end zone in each of the past two games.

Buffalo is more stingy against the pass than the run, but if Nathan Peterman gets the call to start, that means plenty of offense for the Bears. With Khalil Mack and those boys bearing down (pun intended) on Peterman all Sunday afternoon, there are bound to be turnovers and three-and-outs. If the Bears get up early, they’ll likely grind out some yardage with Howard.

Sit: Allen Robinson II, WR

While there are plenty of reasons to start all possible Bears, I’m shaky on starting Robinson. He’s still coming off a groin injury that forced him to miss Week 8. Tre’Davious White has been really good this season so couple that with an injury and Robinson might not get that many looks. That’s if he plays. Monitor his status closely, but also he’s not higher than a flex player.

Packers @ Patriots

Start: Aaron Jones!

Look, I’ve been singing his praises all season long and screaming into the void about his usage. But now that Ty Montgomery was traded to Baltimore at the trade deadline, that makes this a two-back committee and not a revolving door of running backs. Mike McCarthy might have been saved from himself with that trade.

Jones only carried the ball 12 times against the Rams, but he showed enough to be trusted not just running the ball, but on passing downs as well. Hopefully, the Packers will be able to do enough to keep the game close and run the ball effectively.

Sit: Packers Defense

It’s tough to play any defense against Tom Brady, but I’m more curious to see how this defense operates without Ha Ha Clinton-Dix at safety. They traded away the always-available Packer to Washington and expect to see Tramon Williams spend time at safety. Williams played there a little when DC Mike Pettine was the head coach in Cleveland. It’s still a risky play. If Jaire Alexander continues to show out and Josh Jackson gets more reps, we’ll talk about this defense next week.