Matty Ice has been the fantasy Most Valuable Player through the first half of the season.
Week 10 of the NFL season is upon us and, if you are in the same situation as my teams are, every game becomes a must win. Bragging rights are on the line as the fantasy season concludes, but in fantasy football there is only one thing that is certain—anything can happen.
Take one of my teams, for example. This team consists of Matt Ryan, Julio Jones, Roddy White, Ray Rice and Reggie Bush (just to name the more notable players). This team started off 5-0, and it looked like I was going to cruise into the playoffs. I'm 5-4 now and am fighting for a playoff spot.
How fast things can change....
There are no guarantees in the fantasy football world, but I will give you three guys at each position who I feel are the safest bets to start this week, along with three guys who I would keep on the bench.
Three to start
1. Matt Ryan @ New Orleans (projected 26 points in ESPN Standard Leagues)
This is kind of an obvious choice, but if you have Matt Ryan this week there is no reason to leave him on your bench. New Orleans has been playing slightly better, but they still rank 27th in the league in passing yards allowed per game and have given up 16 touchdowns through the air. Other than an eight point performance against Oakland in Week 6, Ryan has recorded at least 13 points in each game this season. Julio Jones and Roddy White will be open all day and Ryan will connect with them and rack up the fantasy points.
2. Tom Brady vs Buffalo (projected 24 points)
Brady has been Brady this season. He's been rock solid and hasn't recorded a performance worse than 14 points all year. Brady recorded a season-high 31 points against Buffalo in Week 3 and should have another stellar game against them. The Bills have given up just under 1,900 passing yards and gives up an average of 7.8 yards per pass. Brady will find holes in their coverage and is a must start in any situation.
3. Ryan Tannehill vs Tennessee (projected 18 points)
Tannehill in most situations is not a great fantasy play, but this week he is a big exception. Tannehill has shown great things this season and has a great matchup against the Titans at home. Tennessee has given up the third most passing yards in the league and has given up 20 touchdown passes, which is tied for the most allowed in the NFL. Even more importantly, Tennessee has only forced six interceptions. Tannehill has great upside in this matchup and is a good person to start if you need a quarterback.
Three to sit
Stay away. Vick hasn't been a bad fantasy quarterback this season, but he is too turnover prone to trust. Philadelphia's offensive line is depleted and Dallas will be in Vick's face all night. Dallas's secondary is fourth best in the league in passing yards allowed and has given up only seven touchdowns. Dallas does not force a lot of turnovers, but that could change against Vick. I see him turning the ball over at least twice and costing Philadelphia a crucial game. Don't let Vick cost you the fantasy season.
Cutler is coming off his season high 20 points against Tennessee, and that isn't too impressive against such a poor secondary. Cutler is not the most reliable fantasy quarterback and has struggled to show consistency this season. Houston has given up 1,630 yards through the air, which is the third best total in the league. What frightens me more about Cutler is that J.J. Watt will likely be going up against J'Marcus Webb. Cutler will be running for his life and will be forced into some turnovers.
3. Tony Romo @ Philadelphia (projected 15 points)
This is a tough one to call, but I do not see Romo having much success against Philadelphia. The Eagles are 13th in the league against the pass, but have been giving up a lot of yards on the ground recently. Dallas should give their running backs a heavy dosage of carries which could limit Romo's fantasy statistics. This is a must-win game for both teams and, although I think Dallas will come away with a victory, I don't think Romo will produce more than 13 points.
Three to Start
1. Ray Rice vs Oakland (projected 24 points)
I think 24 points could be an understatement for Rice. Rice is having a great season and will continue to play great against Oakland. The Raiders are 18th in rushing yardage allowed, but have given up 10 touchdowns to opposing running backs. Rice will surely add to that list as long as he is given enough carries. Rice could also catch some passes out of the backfield and could have several big plays. Oakland has one of the worst defenses in the league and Rice owners should feel confident in giving him the start.
2. Stevan Ridley vs Buffalo (projected 17 points)
Ridley ran all over the Bills in their Week 3 matchup and racked up 22 fantasy points. Ridley has been surprisingly very productive for a Patriots running back and he has another great matchup against Buffalo. The Bills have given up the second most yards on the ground and a league-high 14 rushing scores. The only doubt I have is whether Ridley will get enough chances in the red zone. The Patriots will surely be there, it is just a matter of how many opportunities he gets. Ridley is a great start and shouldn't disappoint.
3. Vick Ballard @ Jacksonville (projected 15 points)
Ballard could be a very underrated play this week against a Jaguars defense that has given up almost 1,100 yards on the ground. Ballard has played well for the injured Donald Brown and Brown is questionable again this week with a hip injury. Even if Brown plays, Ballard could still see the majority of the carries. Jacksonville has given up the second most touchdowns on the ground and Ballard could be sniffing the goal line early and often. Ballard is a solid flex play and even could start at running back.
Three to sit
1. BenJarvus Green-Ellis vs New York Giants (projected 13 points)
The law firm has not been dishing out justice lately. He broke his four game touchdown drought last week against Denver, but hasn't ran for more than 69 yards the past four weeks. Green-Ellis also hasn't had a 100 yard performance yet this season. His matchup isn't completely unfavorable, but the Giants have only allowed six rushing touchdowns this season. New York also has not let up a run longer than 48 yards this season. Green-Ellis isn't a terrible play, but try to find better options.
2. Ryan Mathews @ Tampa Bay (projected 8 points)
I struggle to figure out Ryan Mathews. I didn't think he would ever be elite, but always thought he had potential to be a good fantasy running back. Mathews missed the first two weeks of the season with a broken collarbone, but has only had one double-digit fantasy performance (19 points against New Orleans). This week, Mathews faces a brutal matchup against Tampa Bay who has allowed just 618 yards on the ground. Mathews will struggle to find yardage. The only upside is that he might find a touchdown, but don't count on it. Mathews only has one touchdown this entire season.
3. Rashad Jennings vs Indianapolis (projected 14 points)
Jennings became one of the most popular waiver additions after Maurice Jones-Drew went down, but Jennings has done nothing but disappoint. In three games as the starter, Jennings' production has decreased each week and he hasn't ran for more than 59 yards in either of those games. Jennings has one touchdown and it came three weeks ago against Oakland. He has a good matchup against the Colts, but I don't think he will take advantage of it. Indianapolis allows an average of 130 yards per game on the ground, but only gave up 84 yards to Miami last week. The Colts are starting to figure it out on both sides of the ball and the lack of any weapons in the passing game will allow Indy to focus on Jennings. I don't think Jennings is even worth a flex play despite the matchup.
Three to start
1. Roddy White @ New Orleans (projected 17 points)
It seems like each week, either Roddy White or Julio Jones goes off while the other kind of takes a back seat. Not this week. I think both will do very well, but White will have the better game. ESPN.com says that in five games in the Superdome, White has 38 catches, 578 yards and three touchdowns. This Saints defense is worse than any Saints team he's played against in his career. There isn't a much better matchup out there and White should start in any situation.
2. Julio Jones @ New Orleans (projected 16 points)
Just because I think Roddy White will have the better day for Atlanta, does not mean that his teammate Julio Jones isn't a bad option. Jones has had a very nice fantasy season and has put up double digits in three of his last four games. Did I mention that the Saints have given up almost 2,500 yards to receivers and 16 touchdowns? The Saints also give up an average of 13.5 yards per reception. The numbers aren't even needed to explain that Jones and White are both excellent plays this week.
3. A.J. Green vs New York GIants (projected 16 points)
Another juicy matchup. Green is the top fantasy receiver at this point in the season and he should remain in the top spot after this weekend. The Giants' secondary is ugly. They have given up 2,563 yards to receivers and 13 touchdowns. Green will benefit greatly from the Giants' poor coverage. He will get open all day and as long as Andy Dalton keeps throwing him the ball, Green could have a freakish day. Unlike Roddy White, Green does not have a receiver nearly as good as Julio Jones lining up on the opposite side of the field, so Green should have an outstanding day.
Three to sit
1. Dez Bryant @ Philadelphia (projected 5 points)
In Week 6, Bryant caught 13 passes for 95 yards and two touchdowns (21 fantasy points). In his three games since then, he has caught eight balls for 139 yards and no touchdowns. Dez has been bothered by a hip injury, but only caught one pass last Sunday night against Atlanta. This week, he faces an Eagles secondary that has only allowed 239 yards per game. Dez has been extremely inconsistent all year, and I do not think he is worth the risk of a play, especially if his hip continues to limit him.
2. Dwayne Bowe @ Pittsburgh (projected 11 points)
I'm not even putting Bowe up here because of his play, I'm putting him here primarily because of the guy throwing him the ball. Whether it is Matt Cassel or Brady Quinn does not matter. Bowe is one of the most wasted talents in the NFL. Bowe has recorded only two double-digit performances and will struggle against Pittsburgh, who has given up the least amount of yards through the air.
3. Demaryius Thomas @ Carolina (projected 14 points)
Peyton Manning's presence has transformed Thomas into a breakout talent. Thomas is having a great year and has recorded six games with at least 75 receiving yards. The matchup with Carolina, however, is a bit concerning. The Panthers' secondary gives up under 250 yards per game and has allowed only nine touchdowns. Eric Decker might also eat into Thomas' carries. Thomas could have a disappointing performance this week.
Three to start
1. Rob Gronkowski vs Buffalo (projected 13 points)
Gronk started the year slowly, but in his last two games before the bye week recorded 19 and 26 point outings. Gronk has been bothered by a hip injury all season, but it seems like he is finally getting close to 100 percent. In Week 3 against Buffalo, Gronkowski had five catches for 104 yards and a touchdown. Brady will fling the ball to numerous targets, but Gronk has been hot and I expect similar results to his Week 3 performance. Gronkowski is a must start for any team.
2. Tony Gonzalez @ New Orleans (projected 12 points)
I love this matchup for Gonzo. I think 12 points is more on the conservative side. The Falcons have the best passing game in the league and Gonzalez will get plenty of targets as the Saints try to focus on Roddy White and Julio Jones. The Saints have allowed the fifth fewest points to opposing tight ends, but I think Gonzalez will be an exception. Gonzalez has only scored nine points in his last three games, but I think the slump ends in the Big Easy. I think Gonzalez could have a 15 point day.
3. Kyle Rudolph vs Detroit (projected 10 points)
Rudolph has been in an awful slump the past three weeks. Rudolph has caught only two passes in his last three games for 17 yards. This is mostly due to the brutal play of Christian Ponder, but I really think Rudolph could have a nice day against Detroit. The Lions are ranked 24th in points allowed to opposing tight ends, and the absence of Percy Harvin means even more targets for Rudolph. It's a risky pick, but I think Rudolph could deliver as long as Ponder plays well enough.
Three to sit
1. Brent Celek vs Dallas (projected 4 points)
Celek faded awfully fast after an eight catch, 157-yard performance against Baltimore in Week 2. Since, Celek has recorded just one touchdown and hasn't scored more than six fantasy points. Not much will change in this game. Dallas is the eighth best team against opposing tight ends and Celek will not be much of a factor in this game. Michael Vick will choose Jeremy Maclin or DeSean Jackson over Celek often, and Celek will struggle to even get a ball thrown his way.
2. Owen Daniels @ Chicago (projected 6 points)
Daniels has been having a very good season for Houston. He has scored a touchdown in five of his last six games and has managed to stay consistent throughout the season. The reason I have Daniels as a player to sit is because of his health and matchup. Daniels hurt his hip and hamstring against Buffalo last week and is still questionable to even play. The Bears defense is also very good against tight ends and he will probably be covered by Brian Urlacher and Lance Briggs for a good amount of the game. Daniels could have his worst game of the season this week in Chicago, I'd stay away.
3. Brandon Pettigrew @ Minnesota (projected 4 points)
Pettigrew has not been a big part of the Lions' passing game since Week 3. He only caught one pass last week against Jacksonville, and although Minnesota comes in ranked 21st in points allowed to tight ends, they have allowed just 13 catches in their last four games. Pettigrew likely won't be factored into the Lions passing game for another week. Save yourself the frustration and sit him.