QB- Joe Flacco (Ravens): Baltimore’s second year QB ranks just 14th at his position for fantasy purposes and he is coming off his worst game of the season in which he threw for just 195 yards and had his first game without a TD pass. But there is hope for Flacco owners as Baltimore travels to Cleveland this week to take on the Browns and they’re 22nd ranked pass defense. If that weren’t reason enough to start the former Delaware Blue Hen, there is the recent history to look at, as Flacco threw for 342 yards with a TD in his earlier meeting with the Browns this season. *SNIFF* *SNIFF* I smell a bounce back week.
RB- Thomas Jones (Jets): Very quietly Jones has rushed for the eighth most yards in the NFL and he hasn’t gotten the respect he deserves. He has put up double digit fantasy points in six of his eight games this year and he has reached that mark in each of his past five games. Look for Jones to keep his hot streak going this week against the Jaguars and their 22nd ranked run defense.
RB- Pierre Thomas (Saints): After losing touches and some goal line carries a few weeks ago, Thomas has rebounded and apparently regained the confidence of his coaches as he has been getting solid red zone work and has posted three total touchdowns in his past two games. New Orleans will face one of the league’s worst as they travel to St. Louis and the game should be well in hand for the Saints pretty early on. That should mean a steady diet of the running game and with the Rams 27th ranked run defense trying to slow Thomas down, I like Thomas’ chances of having a big day.
WR- DeSean Jackson (Eagles): The explosive second year WR out of Cali was silenced by a great performance by the Dallas Cowboys secondary in Week 9 as he was held to just two catches for 29 yards. However don’t let this flop scare you away from starting Action Jackson, as the speedy wideout still has six 50+ yard TDs this season (four receiving, one rushing, one punt return) and he is simply a big play waiting to happen. The Chargers defense is very stout against the pass (fifth in the league) but on any touch Jackson could go the distance and the Giants WR Steve Smith did just fine against them last week.
WR- Percy Harvin (Vikings): Much like the above Jackson, the Minnesota rookie WR has been a huge big play threat. Harvin has five total TDs this season (three receiving, two kick return) and it appears that he and fellow wideout Sidney Rice have surpassed dinged up veteran WR Bernard Berrian in their rapport with QB Brett Favre. Harvin has a tasty matchup this week with Detroit coming to town and they certainly know how to give up a big play. The youngster out of Florida has a great chance to post huge numbers in this one.
TE- Kellen Winslow (Buccaneers): I don’t think I’ve flip-flipped on any player this year more than Winslow. The ultra-talented TE out of Miami has all he skills to be an elite player at his position, but shoddy quarterback play and a weak offense in general limits his potential for success. But if a dog is man’s best friend then a TE is certainly a young QB’s best friend. With Rookie QB Josh Freeman now at the helm I think Winslow is worth playing again as he will be the primary check-down receiver for the young signal-caller. Look for Winslow to get a lot of looks in the coming weeks.
K- David Akers (Eagles): The Philadelphia kicker has been incredibly consistent in his past four games, posting at least nine fantasy points in each game. This week his offense will face a San Diego defense that is solid, but certainly can have the ball moved on them. The Chargers D should be solid enough to stop the Eagles on at least a couple of occasions in field goal range, which means more points for Akers.
DEF- Minnesota Vikings: I think many people would be surprised to learn that the Vikings defense is tied for just eighth in fantasy points for a defensive unit. But one couldn’t ask for a better matchup then the one they have this week. Not only do they face the one-win Lions, but Detroit is very banged up as their star WR, RB, and young QB are all battling various injuries. It appears that Sunday will be a very fruitful day for the Minnesota defense.
QB- Phillip Rivers (Chargers): This is a great week for fantasy QBs as it seems that no one really has a scary matchup. The exception would probably be San Diego’s star QB as the Chargers will face an Eagles defense that ranks a solid 11th against the pass. However the big reason to fear the Philly D is the pressure that they put on opposing QBs as they are second in the league with 27 sacks and are also second in interceptions with 15. Rivers isn’t a terrible play if you decide to go his way, but there are 10-12 guys who are better start material.
RB- Ryan Grant (Packers): Grant has been another one of those quietly good players this season as he has rushed for the ninth most yards in the NFL (621) and he also has been more of a threat in the passing game (124 receiving yards). But with Dallas visiting Lambeau field this week, Grant is due to disappoint. The Cowboys defense has held highly heralded rushers to minimal performances this season; DeAngelo Williams to 64 yards, Michael Turner just 50 rushing yards, and Brandon Jacobs to just 58 yards on the ground. The Dallas defense has also been playing at a very high level in recent weeks, which means it is even less likely that Grant will be able to produce. The Green Bay back won’t grant you any juicy fantasy numbers in Week 10, so look for other RB options (and yes that corny pun was intended).
RB- Rashard Mendenhall (Steelers): I know that Mendenhall has been fantastic since his promotion to the starting gig, but who has he really produced against? His best game was by far in Week 4 against San Diego (26th ranked run defense) and he followed that up with very good performances against Detroit (17th against the run) and St. Louis (27th verse the run). He was great last week against the eighth ranked run defense of Denver, but the Bengals defense Mendenhall faces this week ranks second in the NFL in stuffing the run as they allow under 84 rushing yards per game and have only allowed four rushing TDs all season. The Cincinnati defense is much more vulnerable through the air (25th against the pass) so look for the Steelers and QB Ben Roethlisberger to attack them more that way.
WR- Calvin Johnson (Lions): It may seem sacrilege to bench the one they call “Megatron,” but the numbers suggest that it’s the right thing to do. After a fantastic season last year, Johnson has just 352 receiving yards and a lone TD so far this season. This week the Lions travel to Minnesota and while the Vikings pass defense isn’t scary, their pass rush led by DE Jared Allen certainly is and they should wreak havoc on Detroit all game long. Things look bleaker when you add that Johnson is playing despite a knee injury that has him less then 100 percent and that his starting QB Matt Stafford is also still recovering from injury. It appears that “Megatron” will be pedestrian once again this week and with most teams in action as the bye weeks wrap up, you can find a better option at WR.
WR- Chad Ochocinco (Bengals): The artist formerly known as Johnson has had a terrific year thus far, already surpassing last year’s totals in receiving yards and TDs, and has reclaimed a spot as one of the NFL’s top receivers. However this week will be a tough one for Ochocinco against the Steelers. I know that Broncos WR Brandon Marshall just went for 11 catches and 112 yards on the Pittsburgh D last week, but it was only the second 100 yard performance from a WR against that defense this year and Ochocinco only had 54 yards receiving the first time these two hooked up. So while Cincinnati is playing well and Ochocinco is back to having fun, you will be disappointed if he’s in your Week 10 lineup.
WR- Mike Sims-Walker (Jaguars): The relative unknown Jacksonville WR has been great in five of six games he has played in this season, but this week he is set up for failure. The Jags will travel to the Big Apple to take on the Jets, who are coming fresh off their bye week and thus will have had two full weeks to prepare for Sims-Walker and the Jacksonville offense. If that weren’t bad enough, Sims-Walker will have to maneuver his way around the field while being shadowed by one of the leagues best shutdown corners in Darrelle Revis. This just doesn’t seem like it’s going to end well for Sims-Walker or the fantasy owners who decide to start him.
TE- Dustin Keller (Jets): The young tight end has a favorable matchup against a bad Jacksonville secondary that has given up over 242 passing yards a game. However the Jets have struggled recently in the passing game and the poor play of QB Mark Sanchez has hurt Keller’s value. Now Keller did have a great game in his last contest (8 catches, 76 yards, 1 TD against Miami), but coming off a bye week and due to the team’s lackluster performance of late, look for Jets to pound the ball on the ground and keep Keller in more to help protect their young QB.
K- Matt Prater (Broncos): The Denver offense has really sputtered in their past two games, scoring a combined 17 points in those two contests. This week they will face a formidable Washington Redskins defense, so things don’t look to improve offensively just yet. A fantasy kicker is only as good as his team’s offense since they are the one’s that give him chances to score, and that means that Prater is due for another quiet game this week.
DEF- San Diego Chargers: I know that they played pretty well against the Giants this past week in New York, but New York’s offense has been far from stellar of late. I just don’t trust this San Diego secondary to contain the Eagles big playmakers, and they have a lot of them (WR DeSean Jackson, WR Jeremy Maclin, RB Brian Westbrook, RB LeSean McCoy), so wait and see how this Chargers D does this week before inserting them back into your weekly lineup.
QB- Alex Smith (49ers): The former No. 1 pick of San Francisco has been given a second chance as head coach Mike Singletary has gone back with Smith as the starter. Smith hasn’t been fantastic this year, but he has thrown six touchdowns in two and a half games and he faces a Bears defense that is coming fresh off a game in which they gave up 5 passing TDs. If you need a spot start, Smith is your man.
RB- Darren McFadden (Raiders): There were big expectations placed upon McFadden before the season began, but many gave up on the second year back out of Arkansas after he injured his knee against the Texans in Week 4. But McFadden is slated to return this week against the Chiefs and while his role is not yet determined, he is clearly the most talented Rb the Raiders have and his tremendous upside makes him worth a roster spot.
RB- Ladell Betts (Redskins): With Washington’s star RB Clinton Portis doubtful for Sunday’s game as he deals with the effects of a concussion he suffered this past Sunday, the door has opened for Betts. After coming in for Portis last week, Betts rushed for 70 yards with a TD and also added 23 yards receiving. He doesn’t have a great matchup this week with a solid Broncos defense opposing him, but he’s still worth an add since it is unclear how much time Portis will miss.
WR- Devery Henderson (Saints): Henderson is on pace for over 900 receiving yards and he has been a big part of New Orleans explosive offense. With WR Lance Moore’s availability in question for Sunday’s game against the Rams, Henderson could see an even bigger role against that dreadful defense. The former second round pick out of LSU is known as a deep threat and St. Louis has allowed 25 passing plays of 20+ yards this season. Look for Henderson to hook up on a long TD in this one.
WR- Earl Bennett (Bears): The second year receiver out of Vanderbilt has had a nice year and has really started to produce in his past four games (17 catches for 227 yards). The problem so far for Bennett is that he has yet to find pay dirt, but that could change this week when Chicago takes on San Francisco and their 24th ranked pass defense. The 49ers are also very stout against the run (fourth in the NFL) which means that the Bears and QB Jay Cutler should have to pass it quite a bit in order to move the ball. More passes means more chances for Bennett and I think this is the week that he finds the end zone.
K- Steven Hauschka (Ravens): The Baltimore kicker missed what would have been a game winning FG back in Week 6 against the Vikings and he missed another FG in the 4th quarter of the Ravens game this past Sunday against the Bengals that would have made it a one score game. Fortunately for those of us in the fantasy football world, those collapses in the clutch don’t matter all that much and they certainly don’t diminish the great matchup the Ravens offense has this week against a beleaguered Browns defense. Hauschka should get plenty of scoring chances in this one.
DEF- Miami Dolphins: Tampa Bay put up 38 points last week, but don’t let that trick you into thinking that their offense was dominant. The Buccaneers had a blocked punt returned for a TD and an interception returned for a TD, their defense got an interception to give their offense the ball 1st and goal at the Green Bay eight yard line (led to a TD), and Tampa Bay had an 86 yard kickoff return to start their offense in the red zone once again at the Green Bay 17 (also led to a TD). That means 14 of those 38 points weren’t scored by the offense and another 14 were totaled on two drives of a combined 25 yards. Something tells me that we aren’t going to see a performance like that again this week and I have faith in Miami shutting down the Tampa Bay offense.
Last Week’s Results: 8-8-1
The unfortunate thing about this column is that I have to have it completed by Thursday night at the latest, and at that time Eagles RB Brian Westbrook was reported by numerous sources as a lock to play in the team’s Sunday night game against the Cowboys. However Westbrook sat out and since he didn’t compete, so we’re just going to call that one a push.
Overall Record: 70-65-1
NFL Games of the Week:
Cincinnati Bengals (6-2) vs. Pittsburgh Steelers (6-2) (Sunday at 1 p.m. on CBS)
Philadelphia Eagles (5-3) vs. San Diego Chargers (5-3) (Sunday at 4:15 p.m. on FOX)
New England Patriots (6-2) vs. Indianapolis Colts (8-0) (Sunday at 8:30 p.m. on NBC)