The first Thursday night game of the 2011 season is in the books, which means the 10th slate of games has begun and the fantasy football stretch run is underway.
Week 10 also brings a temporary respite from bye weeks, giving fantasy owners everywhere as large a pool of talent to choose from as there's been in some time.
However, injuries and poor performance still leave some owners scrambling to field a competitive lineup, so to aid them in doing so, here are half a dozen players who stand a better-than-average chance at crossing the stripe this week and leaving their fantasy owners smiling.
It may seem a bit odd for me to be recommending Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Matt Cassel given how badly the Chiefs looked in getting shellacked by the Miami Dolphins last week, but there are ample reasons to believe the seventh-year pro will bounce back this week against the Broncos.
No team has allowed more fantasy points per game to opposing quarterbacks this season than the Broncos, and in the Twilight Zone that is the AFC West, it makes perfect sense for Cassel to follow up one of his worst games of the year with one of his best.
Wide receiver Victor Cruz of the New York Giants has enjoyed an outstanding sophomore season in the NFL to this point, reeling in 34 catches for 588 yards and four touchdowns and emerging as the second receiver in the Big Apple.
With Mario Manningham surprisingly joining Hakeem Nicks on the Giants injury report Friday it looks like Cruz will be in line for a ton of targets when New York travels to San Francisco on Sunday, making him a viable fantasy WR2 start and excellent WR3 option.
The proverbial handcuffs were certainly off Houston Texans running back Ben Tate in Week 9, as the second-year pro topped 100 rushing yards, averaged an obscene 9.6 yards a carry, and scored a touchdown as the Texans pummeled the hapless Cleveland Browns.
Starting Tate will always carry with it a pretty sizable risk given the concern as to how many carries he'll get in a given game behind Arian Foster.
But Tate should have a decent shot at a successful fantasy day this week against a Tampa Bay Buccaneers team that has allowed the fifth-most fantasy points per game to opposing running backs.
After enjoying a breakout season of sorts in 2010, Jacksonville Jaguars wide receiver Mike Thomas has regressed statistically this year with rookie quarterback Blaine Gabbert under center, managing only 31 receptions for 333 yards and a score through the season's first eight games.
If ever there was a week for Thomas to get it going, this would seem to be it, as the Jaguars come out of their bye week to meet up with a winless Indianapolis Colts team that is the friendliest fantasy matchup in the National Football League for opposing wide receivers.
After the starting the season strong, a knee injury has limited the effectiveness of Arizona Cardinals running back Chris Wells of late, as the former Ohio State standout scuffled to the tune of only 20 rushing yards on 10 carries in last week's win over the St. Louis Rams.
Wells' knee issues make him something of a gamble as a fantasy starter but one that could pay off quite nicely this week against the Philadelphia Eagles, who have shown vulnerability to the interior run game and have allowed the third most fantasy points per game to opposing running backs.
If you look up feast or famine in the fantasy football dictionary, odds are you're going to find a picture of Buffalo Bills tight end Scott Chandler, as the third-year pro has hauled in only 18 catches for 157 yards this season but has converted six of those catches into touchdowns.
Fantasy owners in a bind at the tight end position would be advised to consider rolling out Chandler this week in the hopes of a feast against the Dallas Cowboys, who have surrendered the second most fantasy points per game to opposing tight ends this year.