Week 10 marks the unofficial start to the second half of the NFL regular season. Eight games remain until the NFL’s postseason, but it’s fewer than that when you take into consideration the start of your fantasy league’s playoffs. Week 10 also means that fantasy owners begin their stretch run without the services of Aaron Rodgers, Robert Griffin III, Trent Richardson, Alfred Morris, Larry Fitzgerald, Randall Cobb, the Arizona and Green Bay DSTs, among others.
Have no fear, Athlon Sports is here to help you make all of those important lineup decisions for your Yahoo!, NFL.com or ESPN fantasy football league with our weekly Start and Sit suggestions. Keep in mind these are merely our suggestions as the ultimate decision comes down to you, the owner.
Bye week teams: Arizona, Cleveland, Green Bay, Washington
Sneaky Start of the Week
Mike Williams, WR, Tampa Bay vs. San Diego
Vincent Jackson is Tampa Bay’s No. 1 wide receiver and No. 8 at his position in fantasy scoring, but don’t discount the Buccaneers’ “other” starting wideout, Williams. While Jackson has a huge advantage on Williams when it comes to receiving yards (710 to 504), Williams has just two fewer receptions (29 to 31) and one less touchdown (5 to 6) than his well-paid teammate.
To put it another way, Williams is No. 22 among receivers in fantasy scoring, ahead of the likes of Andre Johnson, Steve Smith, DaSean Jackson and Torrey Smith, to name a few. Williams has scored 13.4 or more fantasy points five times, while managing 5.6 or fewer only twice.
With as well as Josh Freeman has been throwing the ball lately (11 TDs, 1 INT in his last four games), there should be enough passes for both Jackson and Williams to be viable starting options. On top of that, the Buccaneers host San Diego this Sunday. The Chargers are allowing the 11th-most fantasy points to wide receivers, including 11 touchdown receptions.
This matchup also finds Jackson facing off against his former team. While Jackson will probably have a little extra juice headed into this game, it wouldn’t surprise me to see the Chargers a little more fired up than usual either, as the defense attempts to limit the amount of damage done by their former teammate. The extra attention paid to Jackson, may present more opportunities for Williams, who is averaging 17.4 yards per reception.
Surprise Sit of the Week
Hakeem Nicks, WR, New York Giants at Cincinnati
Just when you thought Nicks may finally be over the hump with the issues related to his ankle/foot, word comes out that he experienced more swelling in his knee this week. The good news is that he was able to return to practice on Thursday, albeit in a limited fashion, and, for what it's worth, he has said he will play Sunday.
Injuries have consistently been an issue for Nicks, who broke his right foot back in May. He started in Week 1, but missed three games after experiencing soreness with his foot/ankle while also dealing with the knee issue. He’s played in the last four games, and while it appears he will continue that streak Sunday in Cincinnati, his owners have no doubt gotten a little tired of the will-he-or-won’t-he guessing game about his playing status.
If the injury bug and his constant “Questionable” or "Game-Time" designation haven’t been enough of a headache, there’s also the matter of Nicks’ lack of production. In Week 2 against Tampa Bay, he caught 10 passes for 199 yards and a touchdown. In the other five games he’s played, he’s had a total of 17 receptions for 191 yards and no scores.
It also doesn't help that Eli Manning has been struggling lately too. He has only two touchdown passes compared to four interceptions in his last four games. I don’t really worry about this week’s matchup against Cincinnati as it applies to Manning’s outlook, but I do think this would be a good week to give Nicks a break and not worry about the will-he-or-won’t-he decision. Just put him on your bench and check back with him in two weeks (Giants are on bye in Week 11).
Ryan Fitzpatrick (BUF) at New England
Fitzpatrick had his best game of the season back in Week 4. Despite throwing four interceptions, he also piled up 350 yards passing and four touchdowns. Who was that game against? You guessed it, New England, who the Bills are playing in Foxboro this Sunday. As good as the Patriots’ defense has been against the run, the unit is 28th against the pass and is allowing the fifth-most fantasy points to quarterbacks. If this game looks anything like the 52-28 affair it was in Week 4, don’t be surprised if Fitzpatrick puts up similar, if not slightly better, numbers.
Alex Smith (SF) vs. St. Louis
Smith played arguably his best game of the season in Week 8 on “Monday Night Football” in Arizona. He only missed one of his 19 pass attempts for 232 yards and three touchdowns. Now coming off of the bye, Smith and the 49ers host NFC West division rival St. Louis. The Rams’ defense has held up pretty well, but gave up 304 yards passing to Tom Brady and 45 points to the Patriots in London in Week 8. Even though the Rams are also coming off of a bye and no one will ever mistake Smith for Brady, I see no reason why he can’t repeat his Week 8 numbers against the Rams. Especially considering I think the 49ers’ defense at home will do its part to give the offense plenty of chances to put points on the board.
Ryan Tannehill (MIA) vs. Tennessee
Tannehill didn’t let a bruised quad/knee keep him off of the field last week against Indianapolis. Not only that, he put up his second-highest yardage total of the season, as he had 290 passing yards and a touchdown in the 23-20 loss to the Colts. Another week away from sustaining the injury, Tannehill should be back to near 100 percent health this Sunday against Tennessee. And what better opponent to get “healthy” against than the Titans, who have allowed 20 touchdown passes and the third-most fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks. Tannehill may be a rookie, but keep in mind that the fewest fantasy points the Titans have surrendered to a starting quarterback thus far is 18.3 to Matthew Stafford in Week 3. Don’t’ forget, when it comes a start/sit designation here, 16 points is considered start-worthy for quarterbacks, running backs and wide receivers.
Andy Dalton (CIN) vs. New York Giants
Dalton is just outside of the top 10 for fantasy scoring at his position, and he’s posted four games of 26 or more points. My concern with him is that he has a tendency to produce based on his opponent. By that I mean he has done a good job of feasting on teams with weak defenses, as his top performances have been against Washington, Cleveland (twice) and Jacksonville. On the other hand, he hasn’t fared as well against defenses that can bring consistent pressure, like Baltimore, Miami and Pittsburgh. The Giants (25 sacks) certainly fall into the latter category, and even though they are the road team, I like the defense this week (see below) to play with a chip on its shoulder, following last week’s disappointing home loss to the Steelers. Dalton can thank the schedule-maker for being cast in the role of prey this Sunday.
Matt Schaub (HOU) at Chicago
The Bears may be just 16th in the league in pass defense, but anyone who has watched the Monsters of the Midway play this season knows that this is merely a number. They are tied for the league lead in interceptions with 17 and have returned seven of them for touchdowns. The defense has scored more touchdowns on interception returns than it has allowed (six) to quarterbacks. The Texans run the ball more than they throw it anyway, which already makes Schaub more of a matchup guy than every-week starter. To that end, can you think of a worse matchup for him than this?
Jay Cutler (CHI) vs. Houston
While Cutler’s defense may be getting all the attention and blowing away the competition when it comes to fantasy scoring, Houston’s D, which he will face on Sunday, is certainly no slouch. The Texans are third overall in total defense (Bears are 6th), second against the rush and fourth versus the pass and in scoring defense. Statistically speaking, the Bears are only better than the Texans in scoring defense and takeaways. Cutler may be coming off of a three-touchdown game against Tennessee, but the only similarities between the Titans and the Texans is that they both play in the AFC South, have ties to Texas and their team names start with the letter T. When it comes to their respective defenses, there are no similarities just as there is no good reason, other than if you have no other option, to start Cutler this week against the Texans.
Stevan Ridley (NE) vs. Buffalo
Ridley has gotten 15 or more carries in every game but one this season. While his best game came in Week 5 against Denver when he had a season-high 28 attempts (151 yards), he also has shown he can do some damage with fewer chances. In his last game, Ridley ran for 127 yards against St. Louis on just 15 carries. Trying to figure out Bill Belichick’s running back rotation is a exercise in futility, but considering the Bills are yielding an average of 5.7 yards per carry, this seems like as good a week as any for Ridley to do some damage even if he doesn’t get the lion’s share of attempts. Don’t forget he went for 106 yards and two touchdowns on 22 carries in Week 4 against these same Bills.
Chris Johnson (TEN) vs. Miami
Despite my best guess, Johnson was the lone bright spot in the Titans’ 51-20 shellacking at the hands of the Bears last week. Johnson went for 141 yards rushing, including an 80-yard touchdown, which is by far the most damage the Bears have allowed to a running back this season. Yes the game was well decided by the time Johnson broke off his 80-yarder, but it still counts all the same and he has now posted 91 or more yards on the ground in five of his last six contests. As well as the Dolphins have done against the run, they have yielded at least 91 yards rushing to running backs in each of their past three games. As hot as Johnson has been of late, I would have no hesitation plugging in him this week if he was on my roster.
Mikel Leshoure (DET) at Minnesota
A first glance at Leshoure’s stats last week show 70 yards rushing, which isn’t that great. But scan two more columns over and you see 3 under the TD heading. Even though Joique Bell out-gained (73 to 70) Leshoure on the ground and through the air (36 yards receiving to 0), Leshoure made the most of his opportunities, scoring three rushing touchdowns from eight yards and in, all in the second quarter. Bell will get his touches, but Leshoure also will certrainly get his fair share of carries and gets to face a Vikings’ defense that has allowed an average of 121 yards rushing to the last three No. 1 running backs they have faced – LaRod Stephens-Howling, Doug Martin and Marshawn Lynch.
Jamaal Charles (KC) at Pittsburgh (Monday)
Charles ran for 140 yards against Baltimore in Week 5. In the three games since, he’s gained a total of 83 yards on the ground. It doesn’t help that he’s only had a combined 29 carries in those games, compared to the 31 he received against the Ravens, but the Chiefs constantly having to play from behind has contributed to the decline in production as well. There’s no reason to expect that the Chiefs won’t be playing from behind Monday night against the Steelers, who are tied for seventh in rush defense. The Steelers have allowed no more than 74 yards rushing to a team’s backfield over its last three games. Unless Charles can do some damage early, I think it will be another quiet outing for the guy who racked up 233 yards on the ground back in Week 3.
Ryan Mathews (SD) at Tampa Bay
Mathews has yet to top the 100-yard mark since his return in Week 4 from a broken collarbone. He also has scored a total of one touchdown. Tampa Bay is tops in the league in rushing defense, and given the Chargers’ offensive struggles throughout the season, there’s no reason to think they will solve them all, especially having to make the cross-country trip to play the Bucs on Sunday. If Mathews has a big game on Sunday, chances are it will be due to his production in the passing game. While that may end up happening, the Bucs’ track record says otherwise when it comes to his outlook as a rusher this week.
Ahmad Bradshaw (NYG) at Cincinnati
Bradshaw has already shown what he can do when he gets a bunch of carries. Try 200 yards on 30 attempts against Cleveland and 116 the following week on 27 totes on the road against San Francisco. However, he’s also been a constant on the Giants’ injury report, as he can’t seem to get over issues related to his troublesome feet. While he’s only missed one game, he’s been a game-time decision on more than one occasion, which is the last thing an owner wants to worry about when it comes to finalizing their lineup. The team also seems to have grown somewhat weary with his injury issues, as his carries have declined since the 49ers game. Andre Brown is back and completely healthy, and he has been cutting into Bradshaw’s workload more and more each passing week it seems. Bradshaw’s been limited again in practice this week, and while there appears to be no real danger of him not playing against Cincinnati, it may be best to treat him along the lines of his teammate Hakeem Nicks (see above). That is, put him away for two weeks and then check back to see if it’s time to dust him off and give him another chance.
Kenny Britt (TEN) at Miami
If not for a fumble, Britt would have posted his best fantasy outing of the season after catching five passes for 67 yards against Chicago. Now while a possible maximum of 9.2 fantasy points may not seem like something to get that excited about, at least it’s a step in the right direction for Britt, who has 25 receptions and just one touchdown on the season. Two other things going for Britt his week are the matchup with Miami and the likely return of Jake Locker under center. The Dolphins are allowing the fourth-most fantasy points to wide receivers, including the second-most receptions (126), more than 1,600 yards and nine touchdown catches. Also, I think Locker suits Britt’s deep-threat ability more as he has a stronger arm than Hasselbeck. Health doesn’t appear to be an issue for Britt at this point, so hopefully some more production on the field is forthcoming.
Emmanuel Sanders (PIT) vs. Kansas City (Monday)
Antonio Brown is not expected to play after sustaining a high ankle sprain last week, which means Sanders will replace him as the starter alongside Mike Wallace. While Wallace is the dangerous vertical threat, Brown is leading the Steelers in receptions and yards, and there’s no reason why Sanders can’t assume that role against Kansas City. Opportunity is clearly knocking, and I think Sanders will answer the call this week.
Davone Bess (MIA) vs. Tennessee
The only thing missing from Bess’ stat sheet this season is a touchdown. He’s averaging nine targets over his last three games and has five games with four or more receptions. Touchdowns are the easiest way to rack up the points in fantasy, and the Titans have allowed 20 of them to wide receivers already. I think is the week when Bess finally puts together a complete stat line.
Percy Harvin (MIN) vs. Detroit
Earlier in the week, Harvin, who sprained his ankle last week against Seattle after re-aggravating a nagging hamstring injury earlier in the contest, pronounced himself “a long shot” to play this Sunday. I would go so far as to label him as a “no shot” for this week, especially considering the Vikings are on bye next week. As hard as it may be to sit Harvin, there’s no reason to take your chances and start him this week. He relies too much on his speed and big-play ability, as evidenced by his league-leading 517 yards after the catch, two skills that are greatly impacted by the health of one’s ankle and hamstring.
Andre Johnson (HOU) at Chicago
I’ve already opined how I feel about Matt Schaub’s chances on Sunday against Chicago, which not surprisingly, ties into Johnson’s outlook. Not only has the Bears defense picked off 17 passes and allowed just five touchdown catches to wide receivers, the secondary has done a pretty good job of shutting down top-flight receivers. Reggie Wayne, Steve Smith and Dez Bryant all have posted 100-yard games against the Bears, but the score in the game had a lot to do with their production. Charles Tillman, Tim Jennings and company have also held the likes of Calvin Johnson (3 rec., 34 yds.), Jordy Nelson (6, 84), and Danny Amendola (5, 66) relatively in check. Considering I think this will be more of a defensive battle, I think Andre Johnson will put up numbers more along the lines of Calvin Johnson, Nelson and Amendola rather than Wayne, Smith and Bryant.
Dez Bryant (DAL) at Philadelphia
Bryant came fingertips away from helping the Cowboys beat the Giants and not only did his leaping catch in the end zone not count because his hand landed out of bounds, he took a hard hit on his hip when he landed as well. While the team and Bryant both acknowledged the blow to the hip, it didn’t prevent him from playing last week against the Falcons. Still, after catching just one pass for 15 yards, you have to wonder if his hip was more of an issue than he was letting on. Either way, his lack of production last week and Tony Romo’s struggles throwing the ball are enough reasons for me to recommend looking elsewhere for a starting wide receiver this week. The Eagles have had their issues on defense, but they have given up the third-fewest receptions and just eight touchdowns to opposing wide receivers.
Jason Witten (DAL) at Philadelphia
Remember when Witten was catching just two passes a game? Yeah, those days are long past as Tony Romo has really locked onto his favorite target recently. Witten had 18 catches two weeks ago against the Giants and the last time he had fewer than six receptions was back in Week 3. The Eagles have only allowed two touchdown receptions to tight ends, but in Witten’s case, he has shown he can be productive without getting into the end zone.
Jermaine Gresham (CIN) vs. New York Giants
Gresham has scored 7.2 or more fantasy points in five of his past six games, including three double-digit performances. He has had at least five receptions four times during this same span, and in one of the other two games he had a touchdown catch. Although the Giants have surrendered just one touchdown catch to a tight end, they have allowed the second-most grabs (57) to the position. A.J. Green is Andy Dalton’s top target, and although I don’t think the quarterback will have a huge game this Sunday (see above), I still like Gresham’s chances of putting together a start-worthy (which is 10 points for tight ends) effort.
Brent Celek (PHI) vs. Dallas
Celek has caught a decent number of passes (33), but he still has just one touchdown so far. He’s only had one double-digit scoring game this season and I wouldn’t count on one this Sunday. Dallas is giving up an average of 6.0 fantasy points per game to tight ends, which ranks them 27th in points allowed to the position.
Jared Cook (TEN) at Miami
Cook’s scoring has dropped in each of the past five weeks, starting at 12.2 in Week 5 to a total of 0.6 (2 rec., 6 yds., fumble) last week. Now while I am fairly certain he will do better than 0.6 this week, the Dolphins have yet to allow a touchdown catch by a tight end. Even though I am looking for Kenny Britt to benefit from the return of Jake Locker (see above), I don’t have the same opinion when it comes to Cook. He’s simply been too inconsistent and too much of a disappointment (dare I say bust?) to trust right now.
Pittsburgh vs. Kansas City (Monday)
The Steelers are following a similar script from last season, a statistically dominant defense on the field, but not very productive when it comes to fantasy scoring. The Steel Curtain is ranked No. 1 in the league in total and pass defense, but are tied for 25th in fantasy scoring as a DST. That will probably change this week, however, with Kansas City coming to town. Not only do the Chiefs have a league-worst 29 turnovers, they are also allowing the most fantasy points to opposing DSTs. The Steelers’ DST has scored double-digit fantasy points just twice so far. I feel fairly confident this number will be three after this game.
New York Giants at Cincinnati
The Giants gave up 158 yards rushing to Pittsburgh last week in a 24-20 home loss that had their home coach using the dreaded four-letter word to describe their effort. No defense wants to be called “soft,” let alone that of the defending Super Bowl champs. True to their championship pedigree, I expect this defense, which is second only to Chicago in fantasy scoring among DSTs, to play with a little extra fire in its belly this week in Cincinnati. Pity Andy Dalton (see above) and the rest of the Bengals, who are in the Giants’ cross-hairs, and have allowed the third-most fantasy points to DSTs.
New England Patriots vs. Buffalo
While the Patriots came out on the winning end against the Bills in Week 4, the defense still gave up 28 points and 438 yards of offense. Six turnovers fueled the majority of the Patriots DST’s 15 fantasy points that week, and there’s no guarantee the unit will be able to generate that many this time around. I’m expecting another fairly high-scoring affair, especially due to the Patriots’ issue stopping the pass (see Ryan Fitzpatrick, above), and think this type of game is too risky to count on significant production from their DST.
Baltimore Ravens vs. Oakland Raiders
A Ravens defense that’s already missing two key pieces in linebacker Ray Lewis and cornerback Lardarius Webb, could be down a few more as defensive linemen Haloti Ngata and Pernell McPhee and safety Ed Reed all missed practice on Wednesday. That’s not to say any or all won’t suit up on Sunday, but it’s not the type of news this defense needs either. The Ravens’ DST, who for years was one of the top scorers in fantasy, hasn’t reached double digits in three games. Not saying Carson Palmer will throw for another 414 yards against the Ravens on Sunday, but I do believe the Ravens are anything but a safe option at DST this week.
Shaun Suisham (PIT) vs. Kansas City (Monday)
Kansas City is giving up 30 points per game. The Steelers are scoring around 24 points per game. I expect both of these averages will go up after the conclusion of Monday night’s game. I’m not sure how cold it will be in Pittsburgh on Monday night, but I don’t think Suisham will have to worry about keeping his leg warm. The number of times he will have to use it on the field will do the job.
Dan Carpenter (MIA) vs. Tennessee
The Titans are allowing more than 34 points per game and the most fantasy points to kickers. Six of the nine kickers the Titans have faced have scored 10 or more fantasy points. That’s the magic number that kickers need to score to be considered start-worthy. I fully expect Carpenter to join the double-digit kicker club this Sunday.
Stephen Gostkowski (NE) vs. Buffalo
Gostkowski got 10 fantasy points last time against the Bills in Week 4, but it came thanks to seven PATs and a 30-yard field goal. I expect the Patriots to score a fair amount of points, but not quite as many as they did in Round 1. And as long as the Patriots put six on the board, it means Gostkowski’s kicks count for just one point and not three.
Connor Barth (TB) vs. San Diego
The Chargers have given up a total of seven field goal attempts thus far, and while the Buccaneers have scored 28 or more points in four straight games, Barth hasn’t played a big role in this production. He’s scored more than eight fantasy points in only one of these games and also has missed four of his last eight field goal attempts. I expect more of the same, if not less, as the Chargers’ defense is ranked ninth overall and giving up less than 20 points per game.
— By Mark Ross, published on Nov. 9, 2012