Week 10 Med Check: Hillis, Best, Charles look good, more analysis
By now, most owners know whether they've had a successful fantasy draft
Peyton Hillis and Jahvid Best appear to be solid upgrades for Week 10
We should know well before kickoff if the Vikings' Sidney Rice will play
It's Week 10, the glide path into the fantasy playoffs and, at this stage, you know your team. You're either positioning yourself for the playoffs or grumbling about what went wrong. The byes are about to go bye-bye and seeding is going to come down to what talent you can put on the fantasy field. Injuries are paramount, with many players who were drafted as keys back in August sitting on the sidelines or worse -- done for the season. In non-keeper leagues (which make up the vast majority of the fantasy football universe), losing a player to injury can be devastating, the rough equivalent of losing a draft pick. I did a quick look back at the expert ADP charts and tried to figure out just how significant those injuries would be. The concept of a fantasy "snake draft" is to balance the available talent through the first two rounds. We know there's more value in the No. 1 slot than No. 2 and so on, but the second round reversal should balance things out and reward those who do their homework. Six of the top 24 players on the board -- one quarter of the first two rounds -- have lost significant time to injuries. Of those, it's hard to say any of them were predictable. What's more intriguing is it appears consistency and durability might have a higher value to the experts than they normally indicate. The top six have been healthy all year. Sure, no one could know that Ryan Grant was going to blow out his knee any more than Randy Moss would be a Titan here in Week 10, but I can tell you if you're one of those players that's coasting in Week 10, you drafted consistency.
I'll be doing another video chat Sunday morning from 11 to noon, over on Facebook. You can send in questions and get them answered, plus watch as the inactives come in. I'm not sure how I'll juggle all the updates I get, trace the inactives, and answer your questions, but if you've ever wondered what it looked like, now you get the chance to watch.
Let's take a look at this week's games:
UPGRADE: Jahvid Best
The Lions have a long Official Injury Report (OIR) list, but a closer look shows it shouldn't be that big a deal come Game Day. Sure, Matthew Stafford is there and is headed to see Dr. James Andrews -- drawing more Sam Bradford '09 comparisons -- and so is Shaun Hill, but Hill is going to get the start. His broken arm was plated and will be protected in some way, though the real key for him is the O-line keeping the hits off him. There's some depth issues on defense, but the key names like Kyle Vanden Bosch and Corey Williams are expected to play. Jahvid Best is questionable, but he's had no setback with the toe and should be a solid play against the Bills' weak defense. The only significant injury for the Bills is to Lee Evans. Evans practiced fully and should play, perhaps even picking up some extra targets with the loss of Roscoe Parrish.
Sunday update: Percy Harvin and Bernard Berrian both active. Expect the normal game plan, esp after Favre's success last week.
UPGRADE: Visanthe Shiancoe, Johnny Knox
DOWNGRADE: Brett Favre
Sidney Rice is a GTD, but we should have a big tip well before then. Rice has to be activated by Saturday from the PUP list if he's going to play Sunday and with contract talks looming, signs are pointing to him coming off and playing on a limited basis. Rice isn't the only problematic WR. Both Percy Harvin (migraines, ankle) and Bernard Berrian (groin) are going to be GTDs. There are also some issues in the defensive backfield, giving Jay Cutler some weaknesses to exploit. One injury I'll be watching closely is to Phil Loadholt, the giant OT who is likely to play, but I want to see how he's moving in the pre-game workout. Chicago's only significant injury is to C Olin Kreutz, but he's expected to play.
UPGRADE: Peyton Hillis
DOWNGRADE: LaDanian Tomlinson
The Jets have an odd OIR this week, sitting out some key personnel during practices. The players we should really worry about seem to all be probable. Darrelle Revis seems past the hamstring issue, but Damien Woody is dealing with a knee problem that could affect the running game against a tough rush D. The Browns are pretty healthy, aside from the scary incident with Marcus Benard earlier this week and the ankle issues at QB. Colt McCoy is in again there, plus there's no Peyton Hillis on the OIR after a bruising big week for him. That's a very good sign.
Sunday update: With Gary Brackett out, look for the Bengals run game to have a bit more room. They'll run at the DEs early to try and buy a little extra time. Gresham could be a bit more open, but they also might have to hold him end if they can't slow up the rush.
Early reports from Indy are that Carson Palmer and Chad Ochocinco are both ready to start against the Colts.
DOWNGRADE: Carson Palmer
It's interesting to contrast these teams. Both have been beset by injuries, but while just two games separate them in the standings, most seem to think the Bengals are headed down while things can only get better for Peyton Manning's Colts. The Bengals still have their defensive depth issues, especially in the backfield, but have now lost Andre Smith for the season, which won't help Carson Palmer. Palmer is already banged up, missing some practice this week, though he is expected to play. For the Colts, they'll be without a couple WRs, their starting RB, and half the defense, but No. 18 is still upright. Austin Collie and Blair White are out this week. Collie is making progress, but the Colts smartly said he was out for this week early and is letting him focus on healing and keeping teammate pressure off him. Joseph Addai is out again, with the shoulder making little progress. Gary Brackett, the defensive signal caller, is a GTD, but Friday's practice indicates that it could be a patchwork linebacking corps in front of a patchwork defensive backfield. Jacob Tamme is also a GTD with a sore back, but should play, trying to build on last week's breakout game. The mass of injuries really showed they were working against the Colts last week. This week could be worse.
UPGRADE: Matt Schaub
DOWNGRADE: Jaguars DST
This divisional shootout could decide both team's fate this season. The Texans will come in with a long injury list, but the focus is on one big name. Andre Johnson has had several setbacks in trying to play through his ankle issue and is listed as questionable. Gary Kubiak has indicated Johnson will play, making the listing a bit confusing. Johnson's been effective enough, but certainly not the guy who many projected to be the best WR in the league. Owen Daniels is also out again this week, but with Daniels and Johnson hurting, the targets haven't been spread out. Instead, the Texans have just run more, mostly with Arian Foster. The big injury for the Jags is losing Aaron Kampmann, who was pushed to the IR on Saturday. His loss on the rush might give Matt Schaub more time, something that could make the difference in a tight matchup.
Sunday update: Vince Young unable to go - Kerry Collins gets the start. This downgrades Randy Moss just a bit.
With Kenny Britt out -- possibly for the season -- Randy Moss is in. It looks very likely that it will be Vince Young throwing to him, but he's ended his last couple games on the sideline, so don't get too tied up in Young if you're trying to project Moss. The bigger worry for both the Dolphins and for the Titans game plan is Chris Johnson, who is dealing with a mild quad strain. Moss is, in theory, going to stretch the field and open up space for Johnson, but let's watch for that, not plan for it in fantasy scoring. Miami's only significant issue is with Jake Long, though he's expected to play at near full strength. That's even more key for Chad Pennington than it would be for Chad Henne. There's some depth issues in the defensive backfield, but most are expected to play.
DOWNGRADE: Richard Goodson
The Panthers have lost their RB tandem and their (mostly) starting QB, which means John Fox can pretty much begin packing up the office, right? It looks that way, unless Jim Claussen suddenly finds a form he hasn't shown. He'd be smart to find Steve Smith, something neither he nor Matt Moore has been able to do much this season. With DeAngelo Williams (foot) and Jonathan Stewart (concussion) out this week, Richard Goodson will be asked to give some running game to the team, but he didn't show much last week in his chance. With the O-Line issues, Goodson is only a play for the desperate. The Bucs are more or less healthy at the key points, though injuries on the offensive line might cause some issues in both the running and passing game. Kellen Winslow will play despite establishing residency on the OIR.
UPGRADE: Tony Moeaki, Jamaal Charles
DOWNGRADE: Denver DST
The Broncos are pretty healthy, though DJ Williams off-field issues might give someone like Tony Moeaki a bit more room, depending on how long the coaching staff keeps Williams on the sidelines. The Chiefs don't look to get Dexter McCluster back this week as he continues to let his ankle heal. The Chiefs have spread his touches around and figure to do the same thing this week. The Chiefs have some depth issues in the defensive backfield, but most of those will be GTDs.
UPGRADE: Tim Hightower
DOWNGRADE: Cardinals DST
The Seahawks have Matt Hasselbeck under center again, but who will he be throwing to? They'll again be without Golden Tate, but will have Mike Williams, though his finger is not 100% and will get a look before the game. Marshawn Lynch is also a bit slowed by the quad strain, but he'll play and get in the running mix. The one injury I am watching is Earl Thomas. He left last week's game with a foot/ankle injury and missed some practice late in the week. While the team listed that absence as "not injury related", I always watch to see whether or not there's something more going on. The big issue for the Cards is the availability of Chris Wells. His knee remains a real problem for him and he was very tentative at Friday's practice. Tim Hightower is going to get more carries, but how many remains to be seen. There's a strong chance Wells could be inactive, a situation made tougher for fantasy owners since it's a late game. Don't wait and see on this. Wells is not going to be a good play, while Hightower becomes slightly better with some upside. Getting less notice is a series of injuries on the defensive side. It's wearing down the Cards DST and they're not a great play despite the matchup.
UPGRADE: Mario Manningham
DOWNGRADE: Roy Williams
The Giants head to Dallas in what many thought would be a key divisional game. Instead, it's a trap game for the Giants against a team that might react to the coaching change. I wouldn't count on that. Eli Manning has been brilliant and seeing what lesser QBs have done against Dallas' pass defense makes him an absolute must start. Steve Smith is out not only this week but also up to a month after tearing his pectoral muscle in practice. That means more targets for Mario Manningham and Ramses Barden, though I think that we'll see an end-game box score that looks like the Giants ran more. I think the first half will be a passing clinic, running up a lead, and then letting Brandon Jacobs run more to speed up the clock.
The Cowboys, aside from Tony Romo, are relatively healthy. Yes, that means their record is based on talent, not bad luck. Sure, Romo might make them a slightly better team, but not having a better backup than Jon Kitna is on the team's management. Kitna has been flat out bad, but he's been predictable, looking at short routes and open WRs, which hasn't hurt Miles Austin too much. The running game remains a mess, which again is shifting touches to targets.
The Rams have a lot of probables this week. Assuming that most, if not all of them, play, the team will be at near full strength. They're still short at WR and Steven Jackson isn't going to take a full load (think 75-80%, but not enough to make Kenneth Darby valuable), but it's really as close as the Rams are going to get. The Niners are healthy aside from Alex Smith's absence, but that's a known. This game should be decided on the field between two teams seemingly moving in opposite directions.
The Sunday night game might feature backup kickers. Steven Gostkowski was placed on IR while Jeff Reed missed practice with an illness. Reed is expected to play, but if you're worried about the possible zero, grab another option. Monday night's game has some questions at RB. The Redskins have Ryan Torain still dealing with his hamstring strain but expected to start, while Clinton Portis is a GTD who could get as much as a full split of carries. I'd avoid either based on the Shanahan Uncertainty Principle.