Week 10 has opened with a flurry of points as almost all the usual suspects in last night’s Vikings/ Redskins game did what they were supposed to do for their owners. We even caught a glimpse of who should be the hottest waiver pick up come Tuesday morning as Vikings tight end John Carlson put on a little show that few people (maybe even no one really) saw coming. So with this week’s games underway it’s time to start making those last-minute tweaks to your roster. And what better way than to dig into the numbers for each match-up and see who’s worth a look and who might do best for you on the bench? Again, I’m not going to fluff the piece up by telling you to start your Saints receivers against the Cowboys or that Calvin Johnson is going to have a big game. We’d like to help you out with more than just the no-brainers. So here’s a look at who’s got the numbers on their side and who doesn’t.
Philip Rivers, SD – Not only is Rivers enjoying a big bounce-back year, but he now gets his first crack at one of the league’s worst pass defenses as the Chargers host the Broncos for their first match-up of the season. This one has shootout written all over it as the San Diego pass defense is extremely vulnerable and Peyton Manning will attack them early and often through the air. That will probably put the Chargers into the same mode as everyone else who plays against Denver – catch-up mode. That will suit Rivers just fine as he, Keenan Allen and Antonio Gates carve up a defense that has given up an average of 299 passing yards per game with 15 touchdowns allowed through the air.
Ben Roethlisberger, PIT – Big Ben looked strong last week while trying to get the Steelers back into the game against New England and while he ultimately lost the battle, fantasy owners won the way with 400 passing yards and four touchdowns. This week he faces a Bills defense that may only give up an average of 247 passing yards per game, but has given up a whopping 20 passing touchdowns. Only the now 2-7 Vikings have given up more. Roethlisberger should have no trouble finding his targets this week and should post another strong fantasy day for you.
Eli Manning, NYG – I just heard the collective groans as you all read his name, but Eli is primed for a big game here as the Giants make their annual second half push. The Oakland defense was annihilated by the Eagles last week and the Giants, coming off the bye, are ready to do the same. With the return of Andre Brown, Eli now has a legitimate ground game to support him and as they establish the run early, the passing game is going to open wider than a hooker’s legs on dollar day. Eli’s ready to air it out and his receivers are eager to make the big plays happen. Get him into your lineup now while you can.
Colin Kaepernick, SF – After two strong performances, some much need rest during the bye week, and a boost to the passing attack with the return of Mario Manningham, normally Kaepernick would be a must-start. However, with a match-up against the Carolina Panthers, it just might be best to seek out an alternative. Carolina has not only given up the fewest rushing yards in the league, but they have also limited the opposition to an average of 221 passing yards and have allowed just seven touchdowns through the air this season. Kaepernick hasn’t been the strongest passer to begin with so if the Panthers are limiting better quarterbacks to a 77.1 passer rating, what are they going to do to him?
Matt Ryan, ATL – There’s good news and bad news here, so let’s just start with the bad. Ryan’s match-up with Seattle totally stinks and we are probably looking at a third straight crappy week. What can you do? Blame the schedule-makers for this run, that’s what. The Seahawks are holding the opposition to just 180 passing yards per game and they’ve given up just nine touchdowns through the air this season. On top of that, they have 13 interceptions on the season and their pass rush has produced 29 sacks for a total loss of 210 yards. Ugly just won’t do it justice, what Seattle could do to Ryan here. The good news is that fantasy owners can take their hands off the panic button for now as the schedule eases up a bit for the next two weeks and then becomes a veritable honey pot with match-ups against Buffalo, Green Bay and Washington for Weeks 13-15, right in the middle of the fantasy playoffs. You just have to make it through Tampa Bay and a shootout with the Saints to get there.
EJ Manuel, BUF – I’m actually a pretty big fan of Manuel and like his long-term prospects in the NFL. This week, however, maybe not so much. There’s liable to be some rust on the rookie this week as he makes his first start since he got hurt in Week 5, and to make matters worse, he’s facing a pretty strong Steelers pass defense. Granted, the numbers are pretty low because the run D is weak (we’ll touch more on that later) and fewer pass attempts are made against them, but Manuel and the Bills are likely to be playing from behind and will need to establish a strong passing attack. Expect some mistakes if you do have to start him, but in all actuality, you have to have someone else ready to go, don’t you?
Chris Johnson, TEN – You’ve really got to love these soft spots in the schedule as CJ2K comes off a 150-yard, two-touchdown performance against the hapless Rams to face an even more dismal Jaguars run defense this week. The Jags are giving up an average of 161.8 rushing yards per game, nearly 40 yards more than the next worse defense, and they’ve allowed a league-worst 13 rushing touchdowns this season. Sure, Shonn Greene is going to poach a few carries here and there, but it should be Johnson lighting up the stat sheet once again.
Fred Jackson, BUF – As mentioned earlier, the Pittsburgh run defense is like a sieve these days and they’re allowing an average of 131.3 yards per game with 12 touchdowns on the ground. That means the Bills won’t have to throw rookie quarterback EJ Manuel right into the fire for his first game back. Jackson should lead the charge and see the most touches out of the backfield as C.J. Spiller fulfills his usual role as the third-down/pass-catching back. Jackson will plow through the Steeler’s un-Steel-like Curtain this week and should rumble to 85ish yards with a touchdown or two.
Zac Stacy, STL – While the Rams run defense is a total bust, their running game is no joke. Stacy has been a force since being given the job back in Week 5. He debuted with a solid yet unspectacular day, followed it up with a similar performance and then showed some gumption by rumbling to 53 rushing yards and a receiving touchdown against the Panthers. After that it’s been back-to-back 100-plus yard performance with a multi-touchdown game last week. The Bears are allowing 127.5 rushing yards per game and have given up 10 touchdowns via the run this year. Stacy’s ankle/foot are just fine so feel confident in starting him this week.
BenJarvus Green-Ellis, CIN – The Law Firm has done a solid job holding onto his job this season and he continues to get the featured back’s share of the carries with Giovani Bernard filling in his usual complementary role. He’s had a rough go of it over these last few weeks and it doesn’t look like it’s getting much better with a Ravens defense that is allowing just 100.4 yards per game with just one touchdown on the ground this season.
Frank Gore, SF – After five straight weeks of fantasy deliciousness, things get real tough for Gore following the bye week. We talked about it above, so there’s not much more detail for you to investigate. The Panthers run D is vicious, allowing just 79.1 rushing yards per game and have given up just two rushing touchdowns this year. Yes, Gore is well-rested, but the match-up smells like trouble.
Arian Foster/Ben Tate, HOU – Broken down, battered, worn out and beaten up, these two backs are just a mess right now. Sure, Tate looked ok against a mediocre Colts defense last week, but the Cardinals are going to make him wish he took the week off to let those ribs heal some more. As for Foster, he still hasn’t returned to practice and is seeing a fleet of doctors trying to get his back into better shape. But it doesn’t look like he’ll be playing and if he does, you can’t trust him again here after he bowed out last week before getting even one carry. The Cardinals are holding their opponents to an average of just 88.3 rushing yards per game and have given up just three rushing touchdowns all year, so even if either running back were healthy, we probably wouldn’t recommend them then either.
Victor Cruz, NYG – Again, not much to say here as we covered the Oakland pass defense up above when I told you to start Eli. But if you want a little added data to help make the case…even though Cruz is more or less a must-start each week…then know that the Raiders pass defense ranks 31st in the league against No. 1 wideouts and is giving up an average of 89.7 yards per game to the position.
Golden Tate, SEA – While last week, Tate was blanketed by Darrelle Revis and fell way short of any expectations, his match-up this week is so much better. With Percy Harvin still not expected back, Tate remains the team’s top option and should fare extremely well against an uber-soft Falcons pass defense that has given up 17 touchdowns through the air this year. To make it even more enticing, let’s just add in the fact that they rank just 26th in the league against opposing No. 1’s and are allowing an average of 82 yards to them each week.
Antonio Brown, PIT – Though usually more of a possession receiver, Brown has stepped up his game from last year to this year with the absence of Mike Wallace. He’s averaged 10 targets per game over his last four and has a well above-average 74.4-percent catch rate. Now match him up against a Bills defense that has allowed 20 passing touchdowns this year, ranks 24th in the league against opposing No. 1 receivers and allows an average of 96.2 yards per game to the position and you’ve got big fantasy points coming your way.
Cecil Shorts, JAC – Normally I’d be all over Shorts (wait, that came out wrong...) with Justin Blackmon out, but the heir-apparent to mad targets is going to face some tough coverage from the Titans pass defense this week. Tennessee ranks first in the league against opposing No. 1 receivers and is giving up just 36 yards per game to them. Shorts still may see a bunch of targets, but it’s going to be tough for him to come down with most of them.
Alshon Jeffery, CHI – He’s been such a fantastic pick-up for fantasy owners this season and is supposed to be getting Jay Cutler back under center this week. But the match-up with the Lions, which is always a tough divisional game to begin with, is even worse for him as the Lions rank eighth in the league against opposing No. 2 receivers and are holding them to just 57.3 yards per game this season. He may find his way into the endzone, but that’s the only way he’s going to put up points for you as the yardage gained could be scarce.
Nate Washington, TEN – As if last week’s zero-catch, zero-yard, zero-points performance wasn’t enough to keep you from using Nate the No-So-Great, his supposed cushy match-up with Jacksonville isn’t so cushy after all. The Jags actually rank 10th in the league against opposing No. 2 receivers and are allowing an average of just 43.9 yards per game to them. Don’t be fooled by what everyone says about Jacksonville as they do have a few strengths in their sea of weaknesses.
Timothy Wright, TB – He’s been the new waiver darling these last few weeks as he’s averaged 53 yards per game with a touchdown in each of his last two games. With Mike Glennon feeling a little more comfortable under center and utilizing more than just Vincent Jackson, Wright has been looking like a better option these days. Miami’s pass defense is actually underrated as they are quietly keeping opposing quarterbacks to a 76.6 passer rating, but they do rank 23rd in the league against the tight end and are giving up an average of 61.1 yards per game to them.
Garrett Graham, HOU – He’s been relatively quiet since taking over the top tight end duties from the injured Owen Daniels, but this could be the week Graham really breaks out. While the Cardinals pass rush is strong and their pass defense is equally good, they seem to be quite vulnerable to the tight end this season. Not only do they rank 18th in the league against the position, but they also give up a whopping 88.6 yards per game to the position.
Brandon Pettigrew, DET – He’s been flying well under the radar this season and hasn’t been a consistently strong play for some time now but if you’re in need of a tight end for just the week, this could be the time to use him. The Bears rank a dismal 30th in the league against the position and have given up an average of 77.1 yards per game to the position. Again, we’re not looking long-term here. We’re just trying to get you through the week.
Tony Gonzalez, ATL – I know, I know. You can’t sit Tony G. I totally get that. But you’re simply going to have to keep your expectations in check and hope that the rest of your team picks up the slack this week. Seattle’s defense is one of the best in the league and they rank second overall against the tight end position, giving up an average of 54.3 yards per game to them. Similarly to what I said about Alshon Jeffery up above, Gonzalez could find his way into the endzone, but he’s not racking up big yards.
Heath Miller, PIT – He’s been steadily making his way back into form since returning from the knee injury, but this is probably a week to sit him, even though the match-up with Buffalo looks like it could be a favorable one. However, the Bills rank third in the league against the position, and tight ends are averaging just 36.6 yards per game against them. None of that sounds promising, does it?
Coby Fleener, IND – He’s been a little more active over the Colts’ last two games, finding the endzone in one and catching the two-point conversion in the other. But the buck stops here with a match-up against the Rams who, surprisingly, rank sixth in the league against the tight end position and are giving up an average of just 39.2 yards per game to them. Andrew Luck will be throwing deep to his receivers anyway as he carves up the Rams’ soft corners, so the short-game to the tight end suffers in this one.
Howard Bender has been covering fantasy sports for over a decade on a variety of web sites. You can find his personal musings on RotobuzzGuy.com and for questions, thoughts or comments, you can follow him on Twitter at @rotobuzzguy or email him at email@example.com.
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@Villafane83 Super close but I'd go Wallace
@RotoWireAndrew Well yeah. That's a no-brainer. Just makes more long for baseball even more.
@Rauchman23 Um, yeah. That's exactly why. Thank you for showing me the error of my ways. I will go get some cubes.