Start Em Sit Em Week 10: Smart Matchup Plays, Sleepers and More
Starting and sitting the right players is becoming even more important as we roll into Week 10 of the fantasy football season.
Finding the right matchups, sleepers, studs and duds can really be the difference between going to the postseason in a few weeks or starting in the consolation bracket.
As always in this space, we'll take a look at the NFL schedule and how each fantasy defense fares against certain players to find the best matchups for you.
In looking at both the stats and trends, we can paint a more clear picture of this unpredictable game of fantasy football.
Favorable Matchup: Stevan Ridley, New England Patriots
A tidal wave of fantasy points resulted the last time Ridley and the Patriots rushing offense met the Buffalo Bills.
Ridley rushed for 106 yards and two scores back in Week 4—his best fantasy point production of the season (22)—as New England's running backs totaled 243 rushing yards, three touchdowns and 50 fantasy points.
Buffalo hasn't significantly improved stopping the run since, allowing more than 100 total fantasy points to the running back position over the last four weeks. Both San Francisco and Tennessee received 200 or more yards from the position during that stretch, too.
If Ridley gets the majority of touches, expect him to do serious damage again in Week 10.
Favorable Matchup: QB Matthew Stafford, Detroit Lions
The combination of a heating-up quarterback, struggling pass defense and recent statistical trends inside the matchup make Matthew Stafford one of the more enticing plays of the week.
Let's take the combo one-by-one.
Stafford, who failed to crack 20 fantasy points in any of his first four games, has now done so in two of the last four weeks. His average during that four-game stretch is 19 fantasy points, a respectable number but still capable of rising significantly.
The Vikings defense, once a solid pick against opposing quarterbacks, has allowed 20 or more fantasy points in three of the last four weeks. Teams have thrown for eight touchdown passes during that stretch as the Minnesota defense continues to fade.
Finally, Stafford chewed up the Vikings through the air last season. In two games, both Lions wins, Stafford threw for 605 yards, four touchdowns and zero interceptions. His passer rating in both games was above 100.0.
If the combination all comes together Sunday, Stafford could end up as fantasy football's top quarterback.
Sleeper: QB Ryan Tannehill, Miami Dolphins
Tannehill gets the pleasure of facing one of fantasy football's worst defenses against opposing quarterbacks in Week 10.
The only unit that has allowed two or more touchdown passes in at least seven games this season, Tennessee is currently the third-worst defense against the position in 2012. Overall, opposing quarterbacks are averaging more than 19 points a game.
Tannehill is also coming off one of his better fantasy outputs in Week 9, where he threw for 290 yards and a score in Indianapolis. He should keep rolling against the Titans struggling pass defense this Sunday.
Sleeper: RB Vick Ballard, Indianapolis Colts
Ballard may not get all the touches from the Colts backfield, but he's quietly made himself into a viable fantasy option over the last three weeks. Facing a poor Jaguars defense against opposing running backs should help continue that trend in Week 10.
Since taking over a more prominent role in Week 7, Ballard has averaged 10 fantasy points a game (30 points, three games). He's done it both as a runner (199 yards) and receiver (73 yards, touchdown).
Jacksonville offers an opportunity for Ballard to improve on those numbers, especially considering the Jags are coming off a Week 9 performance that saw the Detroit Lions run for 151 yards and four scores. Jacksonville has also allowed nearly 400 receiving yards and two scores to running backs out of the backfield.
Stud: RB Ray Rice, Baltimore Ravens
Buccaneers running back Doug Martin, who has been favorably compared to Rice since his days at Boise State, tore through the Raiders for 251 yards and four touchdowns in Week 9.
Rice now gets his crack at the Oakland run defense in Week 10.
While he may not replicate the ridiculous numbers of the "Muscle Hamster," Rice should have a golden opportunity to have his first blow-up game of the 2012 season.
At least 100 yards rushing, 50 yards receiving and a score or two should be the expectation for Rice at home against the Raiders (28th against running backs) Sunday.
Stud: Falcons WRs Roddy White and Julio Jones
Facing a defense that still ranks as the worst in fantasy football, Matt Ryan and his two talented receivers should be bombs away in Week 10.
The Saints, despite an inspired effort against the Eagles Monday night, are still allowing an NFL-high 30 points a game to opposing receivers. No defense has allowed more touchdowns to receivers (14) than New Orleans.
Expect Julio Jones and Roddy White to take full advantage of the matchup.
The two are coming off a duo 100-yard performance against the Dallas Cowboys, a team with a much better defense and much better tandem of cornerbacks. Jabari Greer and Patrick Robinson—two cornerbacks among the bottom 15 of cornerbacks in terms of yardage allowed this season—will have their hands full with these two in Week 10.
Dud: WR Sidney Rice, Seattle Seahawks
After a slow start, Rice has burst back onto the fantasy scene, catching touchdowns in three of the past four games. He may struggle to make it four of five, however.
Opposite Rice Sunday will be Jets cornerback Antonio Cromartie, who has willingly taken on Darrelle Revis' role as the shutdown cornerback in New York.
The results have been Revis-esque.
The Jets haven't allowed a touchdown pass to a receiver since Week 2, and the position is averaging less than 10 fantasy points against New York during the last five weeks. Cromartie shouldn't have a problem keeping Rice in check, especially with the Jets coming off a bye.
Dud: RB Steven Jackson, St. Louis Rams
Jackson is still owned in 99 percent of ESPN leagues, and until the Rams' bye, was being started in more than 65 percent of the same leagues.
It's time to jump off the Jackson train, especially in Week 10.
Jackson and the Rams head west to San Francisco, where fantasy football's top defense against running backs awaits. In fact, the 49ers are the only run defense to hold four or more teams to less than four fantasy points this season.
Jackson may be coming off his best three-game stretch of 2012 (24 total fantasy points), but starting him this week and expecting more than four or five total points is a stretch.