Are you all still with me? Is everyone accounted for? Have you escaped any and all fantasy-life altering damage from the week 9 storm otherwise known as a six team bye week? We’re one week through a three week long monsoon of byes and I’d be lying if I said that the forecast is any better this week. There’s 100% chance of chaos with another SIX teams on byes. Owners of Andrew Luck, T.Y. Hilton, Reggie Wayne, Dwayne Allen, Ahmad Bradshaw, Tom Brady, Rob Gronkowski, Julian Edelman, Brandon LaFell, Shane Vereen, Phillip Rivers, Keenan Allen, Antonio Gates, Branden Oliver, DeSean Jackson, Pierre Garcon, Alfred Morris, Jordan Reed, Arian Foster, DeAndre Hopkins, Andre Johnson and Jerick McKinnon are going to be looting the waiver wire during these trying times. If you only have one critical player on a bye this week, you’re probably better off than anyone else in your league. And then you have a team like mine, a first place team, who has five regular starters on byes and now needs to start Jonathan Stewart, Jermaine Gresham, Miles Austin, and my own QB against my starting defense (Kaepernick and Saints). To be clear, I do not recommend any of these players as starts. It’s just that desperate. The eye of the storm is directly on me and many others out there in the fantasy world this week.
Last week if you listened to me, I kept you safe, warm and dry. I’ll do my best to once again be your umbrella and shelter from the storm with this week’s edition of Sleepers and Busts.
Without further ado, your week 10 Sleepers and Busts:
DISCLAIMER: A sleeper is not a must start and a bust is not a must bench, they are merely indications that a player will have a better or worse game this week than they normally do. It all really depends on your alternatives. I will give an example of a few players for whom I personally would start the sleeper over or bench the bust for. These players are simply there as an indication of how good or bad I think the sleepers/busts will perform so you have a comparison in mind when applying it to your actual lineup. For example if I am comparing a QB to a stud like Andrew Luck, I am not necessarily saying you need to start him over Luck (even if I would) but it will imply that I feel really good about him.
· Michael Vick vs. Pittsburgh. Last week in Kansas City, Vick made his first start for the Jets in a difficult matchup in Kansas City. I expected to see a turnover prone, shaky Vick, but despite the Jets being blown out, Vick was actually quite impressive. Specifically, I was impressed that the Jets made it a point to get Percy Harvin very involved (11 rec. 129 yds) in the offense and we saw a Vick to Decker redzone TD. Vick made smart decisions throughout the game and did not turn the ball over. This week the Jets are back home for Pittsburgh, the hottest offensive team in football and defensively the 20th ranked team against the pass. The Steelers come into week 10 significantly banged up on defense. Safety, Troy Polumalu, and first round pick, LB Ryan Shazier, are out this week, while key starters Ike Taylor and Jarvis Jones have been out for several weeks. The Steelers, due to their injuries, could be susceptible to both the run and pass this week. Combine that with the Steelers being the hottest team on offense and we have the potential for a shootout. If Michael Vick is going to continue to play smart football, the upside his legs and rushing stats bring to the table make Vick a borderline QB1 with upside this week. Owners of Luck, Brady and Rivers, should not sleep on Vick’s potential this week.
I’d Start Michael Vick over: Ryan Tannehill, Joe Flacco, Eli Manning
· Tony Romo vs. Jacksonville in London. Tony Romo is playing football with broken bones in his back. The Cowboys are desperate to stay afloat in the NFC East so they’re sending their QB to London before their bye week. The Cowboys should be able to win this game fairly easily, manhandling Jacksonville on offense in the run game, and forcing Blake Bortles into a few mistakes on defense. The Cowboys game plan will be one that makes things easy on Romo unless for some reason the game is close in the second half. Jacksonville, a much maligned defense has actually been quite good against QBs the last 5 weeks holding Big Ben, Charlie Whitehurst, Brian Hoyer, Ryan Tannehill and Andy Dalton to 4 combined TDs during that span. This is not a great matchup for Romo even at 100% and with broken bones in his back, the Cowboys will look to win ugly and do what they can to avoid aggravating Romo’s injury before their week 11 bye.
I’d Start the following players over Tony Romo: Matt Ryan, Matthew Stafford, Jay Cutler, Colin Kaepernick
· Montee Ball at Oakland. Montee Ball owners have been waiting all season to reap the benefits of the first or second round pick they
wasted spent. This week Ball will be back on the field for the first time since injuring his groin in week 6. The Broncos should literally be able to do whatever they want against an Oakland Raiders team who ranks 27th in rushing yards against. Ronnie Hillman has done an incredible job and will be the starter for now, but Ball will certainly get his share of carries in this blowout. Furthermore, if there are goal line carries, they could be his. Denver will want to get Ball some confidence heading into the stretch run to create a dynamic 1-2 punch at the RB position. I recommend Ball as a low end RB2/Flex in a difficult bye week.
I’d start Montee Ball over: Steven Jackson, Chris Johnson, Tre Mason, Jonathan Stewart
· Steven Jackson at Tampa Bay. Steven Jackson is coming off his best rushing performance of the season, 60 yards and a TD. While most would sign up for those stats from an RB2 this week, this seems to be Steven Jackson’s ceiling. On the season, he’s only playing 40% of snaps while sharing the backfield with Jacquizz Rodgers, Antone Smith and Devonta Freeman. His name and history in this league has led other sites to rank him in the top 20 RBs for this week. I am not even close to that optimistic. Tampa Bay is an atrocious defense, but they’re only really bad against the pass. Other than a RB assault by the Saints in week 5, this defense has held its own against RBs. Gerald McCoy and LaVonte David are two pro bowlers and very effective run stoppers. Jackson did have 54 yards rushing and a TD in the week 3 matchup between these teams, but that was when Gerald McCoy was sidelined with an injury. Atlanta will attack the Bucs through the air and will use their scat backs (Rodgers/Smith/Freeman) on the outside more than they’ll try to bulldoze Gerald McCoy up the middle with Jackson.
I’d start the following players over Steven Jackson: Bobby Rainey, Joique Bell, Montee Ball, Chris Ivory
· Kendall Wright at Baltimore. Kendall Wright owners rejoice! Zach Mettenberger could be just what the doctor ordered for the Tennessee Titans wide receiving core. He’s coming off a 299 yard 2 TDs performance against a quality Houston defense. He’s had two weeks to prepare for a Ravens secondary that is in turmoil. The Ravens have been so disgusted about what they’ve seen in the secondary the last two weeks that they’ve made drastic mid-season changes. Lockdown corner Jimmy Smith was pronounced out for the season and still they cut two CBs (Dominique Franks and Cheykie Brown), one of which was a starter. They picked up CB Danny Gorrer who was released by the Lions on Monday. The Ravens one mainstay is Lardarius Webb and he’s been struggling in his new role as the top CB. Look for the Titans WRs led by Kendall Wright to take advantage of a struggling unit who has never played together.
I’d Start Kendall Wright over: Mike Wallace, Marques Colston, Allen Robinson, Reuben Randle
· Michael Crabtree at New Orleans. I’m still seeing Michael Crabtree listed as a WR2/3 this week so I just can’t help myself. I’m going back to back weeks with Crabtree listed here and I might just keep him here permanently until the “experts” figure out that he’s just not good at football right now. Crabtree is 68th in the NFL in receiving yards below the likes of Jericho Cotchery, Markus Wheaton, and Kenny Stills. He’s now gone 5 straight games of under 50 yards and he’s on pace for 724 yards this season. Anquan Boldin, another SF receiver who is on pace for 90 catches and 1080 yards, is a better player and is more consistent, yet he is constantly ranked below Crabtree every week. I’m not sure if it really matters but this week he’ll be on the road in New Orleans and he’ll draw a quality CB in Keenan Lewis for much of the game. Crabtree for me equals too much hype, too many drops, too many poor routes and too few fantasy points to have in lineups in any format.
· I’d start the following players over Michael Crabtree: Vincent Jackson, Kendall Wright, Justin Hunter, John Brown
· Jared Cook at Arizona. Jared Cook is ice cold, but out of the streaming TEs I think he has the most upside this week. Arizona is historically bad against TEs and this year is no different as they rank 23rd against them in .5 PPR leagues. In addition, Cook has a history worth mentioning against Arizona. In week 1 of 2013, Jared Cook caught 7 passes for 141 yards and 2 TD against these very Cardinals. If I recall he had a 3rd TD robbed from him at the 1 yard-line when a defender poked the ball out of his hands and through the endzone for a touchback. This performance led many to believe he’d finally break out the way he was rumored to for years. Well he did not become one of the great TEs, but he’s shown that given the right matchup, he can have games of 60+ yards. That’s all you can ask for with a bye week fill-in at TE. In his other game against Arizona last year he had 49 yards, which is not great but not a disaster. Maybe Cook gets sentimental and breakout out once again against Arizona. He’s worth a shot in this matchup if you’re thinking about other guys who are ranked TE2 this week.
I’d start Jared Cook over: Zach Ertz, Vernon Davis, Charles Clay, Delanie Walker, Scott Chandler
· Greg Olsen at Philadelphia. I have Olsen as my 9th ranked TE so in many cases you are still starting him, however I do think he is in for a down week. The Eagles are the NFL’s #1 ranked team against TEs. They haven’t allowed double digit fantasy points to a TE since week 3 in .5 PPR leagues, and the high point total against them is only 11.5 points. Olsen is in a mini 2 game slump having caught only 4 balls for 46 yards in the last two weeks. Seattle and New Orleans keyed on him and made Cam Newton beat them in other ways. Other teams may see Carolina struggling and follow suit. My ranking of him suggests that I do think he can have a decent week, something like 6 catches for 70 yards. However, if you have two standout TEs on your roster you may want to opt for the other guy this week since the matchup against the Eagles limits Olsen’s upside.
I’d start the following players over Greg Olsen: Martellus Bennett, Larry Donnell, Travis Kelce, Mychal Rivera
That’ll do it for week 10. Stay warm, stay dry. After this week we’ll see a break in the clouds.