In August, Rashard Mendenhall was called "ordinary" by the Pittsburgh media.
He finished September in Mike Tomlin's doghouse, with seven carries for the month. Now it's early November, and he's an every-week fantasy starter.
Mendenhall is a reminder of a few fantasy maxims. 1. Things change fast. It doesn't matter how ugly your starting lineup looks in Week 3 if it's peaking near playoff time. This year's Pierre Thomas, next month's Mendenhall, is still out there.
Second lesson: If you are going to gamble in fantasy drafts, gamble with youth at running back. Mendenhall went in drafts after Larry Johnson, who owners had hopes would bounce back for the third straight year. He went after Willie Parker, who we saw begin to collapse last year.
I ranked LaDainian Tomlinson out of the top-15 this year, which was met by cries that Rotoworld was giving up on the old star too fast.
He was going to be healthy and turn it around! I did a poor job because LT2 wasn't rank him nearly low enough. No matter how much we adjust for a running back's decline once it starts, we almost never adjust enough.
Mendenhall still has a lot to prove as an NFL running back. He doesn't help on passing downs much, and he's prone to losing yards and piling up short gains before breaking a few long ones. He doesn't always fight through traffic.
The profile is remarkably similar to a bigger version of Willie Parker in his prime. That approach isn't perfect for the Steelers, but it will lead to top-10-15 fantasy running back production.
He'll get the vast majority of carries on a team that should play with the lead often and has an outstanding passing game. That's more than enough for all the owners that smartly gambled on youth in August, then had the patience to see it emerge.
1 Drew Brees at STL -
2 Peyton Manning vs. NE -
3 Tom Brady at IND -
4 Aaron Rodgers vs. DAL -
5 Brett Favre vs. DET Probable (hip)
6 Tony Romo at GB -
7 Kurt Warner vs. SEA -
8 Philip Rivers vs. PHI -
9 Jay Cutler at SF -
10 Donovan McNabb at SD -
11 Joe Flacco at CLE -
12 Ben Roethlisberger vs. CIN -
13 Carson Palmer at PIT -
14 Alex Smith vs. CHI -
15 Matt Hasselbeck at ARZ -
16 Matt Ryan at CAR -
17 Chad Henne vs. TB -
18 Vince Young vs. BUF -
19 Kyle Orton at WAS -
20 David Garrard at NYJ -
21 Trent Edwards at TEN Probable (concussion)
22 Matt Cassel at OAK -
23 Marc Bulger vs. NO -
24 Mark Sanchez vs. JAC -
25 Josh Freeman at MIA -
26 Brady Quinn vs. BAL -
27 Matthew Stafford at MIN -
28 Jake Delhomme vs. ATL -
29 Jason Campbell vs. DEN Probable(ankle)
30 JaMarcus Russell vs. KC -
The loss of two Philadelphia cornerbacks should help Philip Rivers this week. So does the fact that San Diego gives up running quickly when they face quality rush defenses.
Ben Roethlisberger and Carson Palmer probably won't put up huge numbers in a game that is likely to be a defensive struggle. But who are you going to bench them for … Alex Smith? Maybe because he faces the Bears, but it gets too shaky after that.
I'm staying away from slumping Matt Ryan against one of the pass defenses in the league. You attack Atlanta on the ground.
I'm intrigued by Josh Freeman, but haven't been able to watch the game yet. The matchup is right and his running ability could give him significant value in 2 QB leagues the rest of the way. … David Garrard just hasn't been competent against quality opponents, so expect an ugly game against a rested Jets defense.
Jay Cutler is going to have to continue throwing like crazy to keep up with Chicago's terrible defense, not to mention running game. He's on his way to a remarkably similar season to the one that we would have expected in Denver.
Kurt Warner owners have to live with the ups and downs. With the schedule he has, there shouldn't be a lot of downs coming up.
Chad Henne isn't a bad play if you need help this week, but how many teams really need help? It's hard not to have a reasonable QB1 on your roster in this pass-crazy season.
Kyle Orton has a very small margin for error most weeks. I think the Broncos will find a way to blow out the Redskins, but Orton's lack of vertical plays makes him a QB2, and not a particularly exciting one.
Joe Flacco threw for 342 yards on 35 attempts last time against Cleveland in a 34-3 win. Cam Cameron will continue to throw the ball even with a lead so the young quarterback gets work. Hard to sit him.
1 Adrian Peterson vs. DET -
2 Chris Johnson vs. BUF -
3 Ray Rice at CLE -
4 Frank Gore vs. CHI Probable (eye)
5 Maurice Jones-Drew at NYJ -
6 Michael Turner at CAR -
7 DeAngelo Williams vs. ATL -
8 Ronnie Brown vs. TB -
9 Cedric Benson at PIT -
10 Pierre Thomas at STL -
11 Steven Jackson vs. NO -
12 Rashard Mendenhall vs. CIN -
13 Matt Forte at SF -
14 Thomas Jones vs. JAC -
15 Marion Barber at GB -
16 Ryan Grant vs. DAL -
17 Brian Westbrook at SD Questionable (ankle)
18 Marshawn Lynch at TEN -
19 Ricky Williams vs. TB -
20 Joseph Addai vs. NE -
21 Tim Hightower vs. SEA -
22 Kevin Smith at MIN -
23 LeSean McCoy at SD -
24 Mike Bell at STL -
25 Darren McFadden vs. KC
26 Laurence Maroney at IND -
27 Knowshon Moreno at WAS -
28 Chris Wells vs. SEA -
29 Ladell Betts vs. DEN Probable (ankle)
30 Jonathan Stewart vs. ATL -
31 Shonn Greene vs. JAC -
32 Julius Jones at ARZ -
33 LaDainian Tomlinson vs. PHI Questionable (hip)
34 Chester Taylor vs. DET -
35 Carnell Williams at MIA -
36 Donald Brown vs. NE -
37 Jamaal Charles at OAK -
38 Reggie Bush at STL -
39 Darren Sproles vs. PHI -
40 Fred Jackson at TEN -
41 Felix Jones at GB -
42 Kolby Smith at OAK -
43 Jamal Lewis vs. BAL -
44 Willis McGahee at CLE -
45 Derrick Ward at MIA -
46 Correll Buckhalter at WAS -
47 LenDale White vs. BUF Probable (knee)
48 Tashard Choice at GB -
49 Kevin Faulk at IND -
50 Justin Fargas vs. KC -
51 Michael Bush vs. KC -
52 Jerome Harrison vs. BAL -
53 Ahman Green vs. DAL -
54 Bernard Scott at PIT -
55 Willie Parker vs. CIN -
56 Maurice Morris at MIN -
57 Rashad Jennings at NYJ -
Who said workhorses are dead? Eight running backs are on pace for 1,400 yards rushing. That's mostly due to excellent efficiency, though, not heavy use. Only four runners are on pace for 300 carries.
Another four–DeAngelo Williams, Maurice Jones-Drew, Ryan Grant, and Thomas Jones–are on pace for 290-300.
In theory, Brett Favre's boffo first half should allow Adrian Peterson to have a few more monster games. All Day does not have many difficult matchups left.
One "risk" this week is that they don't need him much. He only had 15 carries last time against Detroit, but still had a nice fantasy day. This is definitely a week you can use Chester Taylor as a flex.
Taylor isn't the only backup worth a strong look this week because of a mismatch. Mike Bell could clean up late in a potential Saints blowout.
We expect the Dolphins to manhandle Tampa Bay up front, which should lead to nice games from Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams.
Atlanta's rush defense has struggled in recent weeks, so Jonathan Stewart isn't a terrible option. Take those quality backups over some weak starters like LaDainian Tomlinson.
We like Ladell Betts because he can carry the load by himself and is a quality receiver. His matchup isn't friendly, but he could rack up receptions if the Redskins fall behind early, so he's a better option in PPR leagues.
The Patriots know the Colts are vulnerable to the run when they have a lot of small defensive backs on the field, which is inevitable.
As long as Sammy Morris doesn't play, Laurence Maroney has earned a little trust with his last two efforts. Fantasy Nation may not be confident in him, but the Patriots oddly still are.
DeAngelo Williams' schedule gets a lot tougher down the stretch. He's a logical sell-high after a few more strong games, although you need to get a ton of value.
Matt Forte probably won't get a lot done on the ground Thursday night, but look for a high scoring game in which he does plenty of damage in the receiving game. … The Chargers have improved their run defense, but I'd use both Brian Westbrook and LeSean McCoy against them–assuming Westbrook plays. If he doesn't, McCoy is a RB2 instead of a flex. It's hard to get too excited about Jamaal Charles. Kolby Smith is already splitting up the work and could steal touchdowns.
It appears Donald Brown will make his return, which makes Joseph Addai much less exciting.
1 Larry Fitzgerald vs. SEA -
2 Marques Colston at STL -
3 Vincent Jackson vs. PHI -
4 Randy Moss at IND -
5 Reggie Wayne vs. NE -
6 DeSean Jackson at SD -
7 Wes Welker at IND -
8 Roddy White at CAR Probable (knee)
9 Chad Ochocinco at PIT -
10 Brandon Marshall at WAS Probable (back)
11 Miles Austin at GB -
12 Calvin Johnson at MIN -
13 Greg Jennings vs. DAL -
14 Donald Driver vs. DAL -
15 Steve Smith vs. ATL -
16 Devin Hester at SF -
17 Mike Sims-Walker at NYJ -
18 Sidney Rice vs. DET -
19 Nate Burleson at ARZ -
20 Derrick Mason at CLE -
21 Anquan Boldin vs. SEA -
22 Jerricho Cotchery vs. JAC -
23 Santonio Holmes vs. CIN -
24 Hines Ward vs. CIN -
25 Steve Breaston vs. SEA -
26 T.J. Houshmandzadeh at ARZ -
27 Dwayne Bowe at OAK -
28 Percy Harvin vs. DET -
29 Michael Crabtree vs. CHI -
30 Earl Bennett at SF -
31 Lee Evans at TEN -
32 Bernard Berrian vs. DET -
33 Braylon Edwards vs. JAC -
34 Malcom Floyd vs. PHI -
35 Austin Collie vs. NE -
36 Jeremy Maclin at SD -
37 Roy Williams at GB -
38 Terrell Owens at TEN -
39 Antonio Bryant at MIA Sidelined (knee)
40 Pierre Garcon vs. NE -
41 Devery Henderson at STL -
42 Santana Moss vs. DEN -
43 Johnny Knox at SF -
44 Mohamed Massaquoi vs. BAL -
45 Davone Bess vs. TB -
46 Mark Clayton at CLE -
47 Eddie Royal at WAS -
48 Greg Camarillo vs. TB -
49 Donnie Avery vs. NO -
50 Laveranues Coles at PIT -
51 Mike Wallace vs. CIN -
52 Torry Holt at NYJ -
53 James Jones vs. DAL -
54 Justin Gage vs. BUF Questionable (back)
55 Patrick Crayton at GB -
56 Nate Washington vs. BUF -
57 Josh Morgan vs. CHI -
58 Andre Caldwell at PIT -
59 Chris Chambers at OAK Probable(foot)
60 Deion Branch at ARZ -
It doesn't figure to be a standout game for Mike Sims-Walker, who is facing Darrelle Revis and a Jets pass defense that leads the league in yards per attempt allowed by a wide margin.
But sitting the SkyWalker if you don't have another top-20 option smacks of overthinking things. I still go back to FootballOutsiders' study that matchups don't make that big a difference on fantasy production, especially at wide receiver. It's difficult to bench a guy that has produced WR1 numbers.
DeSean Jackson + San Diego's gambling secondary should equal a lot of big plays.
Roddy White has been a little up and down, but I'm shocked by the e-mailers who consider benching him every week. Even against the Panthers, it's not an option unless you have three top ten receivers.
Steve Breaston averages 6.5 targets a game. It doesn't change than much when Anquan Boldin plays, so still use him against the Seahawks this week if Boldin is active.
Now is the time to try to trade for Calvin Johnson. Fantasy championships are won with front-line talent and risk-taking. There will be a few desperate Megatron owners out there ready to give him up for a receiver that has played better lately.
Chris Chambers is still Chris Chambers–an inconsistent player. He had only four targets last week and isn't 100% healthy. Most importantly, he plays on the shaky Chiefs offense. Stay away.
Owners needing a lifeline this week could do a lot worse than Greg Camarillo and Davone Bess against the Bucs.
Upgrade Lee Evans a handful of spots if Terrell Owens' hip injury doesn't improve. … Cincy's starting cornerbacks are playing as well as any duo in the league, so you could consider benching Santonio Holmes or Hines Ward. In the end, they are tough to sit unless you have three top-20 options.
Earl Bennett has earned the right to start most weeks. … Not buying the Roy Williams resurgence, especially against a Packers team that plays good, physical press coverage.
1 Antonio Gates vs. PHI Probable(foot)
2 Vernon Davis vs. CHI Probable(shoulder)
3 Dallas Clark vs. NE -
4 Brent Celek at SD -
5 Jason Witten at GB -
6 Jeremy Shockey at STL -
7 Greg Olsen at SF -
8 Heath Miller vs. CIN -
9 Kellen Winslow at MIA -
10 Tony Gonzalez at CAR -
11 Visanthe Shiancoe vs. DET -
12 Dustin Keller vs. JAC -
13 John Carlson at ARZ -
14 Zach Miller vs. KC -
15 Todd Heap at CLE -
16 Brandon Pettigrew at MIN -
17 Fred Davis vs. DEN -
18 Tony Scheffler at WAS -
19 Marcedes Lewis at NYJ -
20 Donald Lee vs. DAL -
21 Ben Watson at IND -
22 Randy McMichael vs. NO -
23 Bo Scaife vs. BUF -
24 Anthony Fasano vs. TB -
25 Sean Ryan at OAK -
TE Notes: Dallas Clark won't have 14 catches this week. The Patriots will build their defense around shutting down Clark first, and they have the safeties to pull it off. You can't sit him, but expect a quieter week than usual.
Greg Olsen's one-week explosion could extend into Week 10. San Francisco's pass defense has slowly declined all year, and we expect a shootout Thursday night.
As an Antonio Gates owner, I like it when the Chargers face a quality rush defense. They have learned to quickly give up on LaDainian Tomlinson and concentrate on a pass-heavy approach. With Philadelphia short in the secondary, Gates should have a big game.
Vernon Davis should be able to back up his midweek talk because Chicago's secondary is not physical and they don't have a linebacker that can cover him.
Jason Witten has been a disappointment. It's not a bad time to buy low because he still gets a lot of targets. He's never been a burner, but he's finding it more difficult to make plays after the catch than ever. Still, we don't trust Roy Williams and Witten's production should inch up.
Game one of the Josh Freeman era was encouraging for Kellen Winslow owners, but let's see how the kid does when he's not set up in the red zone a few times. This week will be telling, because Miami has struggled to cover tight ends all year. … Dustin Keller is available in a lot of leagues – he shouldn't be.
1 Vikings Def/Spec Team vs. DET -
2 Ravens Def/Spec Team at CLE -
3 Saints Def/Spec Team at STL -
4 Broncos Def/Spec Team at WAS -
5 Steelers Def/Spec Team vs. CIN -
6 Eagles Def/Spec Team at SD -
7 Dolphins Def/Spec Team vs. TB -
8 Bengals Def/Spec Team at PIT -
9 Jets Def/Spec Team vs. JAC -
10 Falcons Def/Spec Team at CAR -
11 Fortyniners Def/Spec Team vs. CHI -
12 Redskins Def/Spec Team vs. DEN -
13 Chiefs Def/Spec Team at OAK -
14 Titans Def/Spec Team vs. BUF -
15 Cowboys Def/Spec Team at GB -
16 Chargers Def/Spec Team vs. PHI -
17 Panthers Def/Spec Team vs. ATL -
18 Cardinals Def/Spec Team vs. SEA -
19 Bears Def/Spec Team at SF -
20 Packers Def/Spec Team vs. DAL -
21 Colts Def/Spec Team vs. NE -
22 Patriots Def/Spec Team at IND -
23 Jaguars Def/Spec Team at NYJ -
24 Bills Def/Spec Team at TEN -
25 Raiders Def/Spec Team vs. KC -
26 Seahawks Def/Spec Team at ARZ -
27 Buccaneers Def/Spec Team at MIA -
28 Browns Def/Spec Team vs. BAL -
29 Lions Def/Spec Team at MIN -
30 Rams Def/Spec Team vs. NO -
1 Ryan Longwell vs. DET -
2 Stephen Gostkowski at IND -
3 John Carney at STL -
4 David Akers at SD -
5 Nate Kaeding vs. PHI -
6 Matt Stover vs. NE -
7 Nick Folk at GB -
8 Mason Crosby vs. DAL -
9 Josh Scobee at NYJ -
10 Rob Bironas vs. BUF -
11 Dan Carpenter vs. TB -
12 Matt Prater at WAS -
13 Robbie Gould at SF -
14 Neil Rackers vs. SEA Probable (right calf)
15 Steven Hauschka at CLE -
16 Shayne Graham at PIT -
17 Jeff Reed vs. CIN -
18 Olindo Mare at ARZ -
19 Shaun Suisham vs. DEN -
20 Joe Nedney vs. CHI -
21 Jason Elam at CAR -
22 Jay Feely vs. JAC -
23 Rian Lindell at TEN -
24 Sebastian Janikowski vs. KC -
25 John Kasay vs. ATL Questionable (groin)
26 Jason Hanson at MIN -
27 Connor Barth at MIA -
28 Phil Dawson vs. BAL -
29 Ryan Succop at OAK -
30 Josh Brown vs. NO -
Girls! Girls! Girls!: Silva Week 10 Picks and Predictions
I will be breaking down every single football game this week. Like on NFL Playbook they break down every single game, that's what I did, and my article is long, so be ready for a show.