Fantasy Cheat Sheet: The 10 tips that will help you win in Week 10
Eli Manning and the Giants have struggled, but should do well against the Bengals
Charles Tillman's decision to play Sunday is bad news for Andre Johnson owners
Plus: game-time decisions to avoid, injury replacements to target and much more
A quarterback with a dead arm is like a running back with a sore knee, a wide receiver with a tender hamstring or a Thanksgiving dinner without a turkey. It sounds like the kiss of death, but it can be smoke and mirrors.
This week, one struggling quarterback will rise from the dead. That revival headlines the top 10 pieces of last-minute advice in SI.com's Week 10 Fantasy Football Cheat Sheet.
BURKE: Week 10 Actives/Inactives
1. Eli Manning will bounce back -- and so will his receivers.
With Eli Manning struggling in recent weeks, reports of arm weakness surfaced. Given the Giants' recent opponents, that seems like mere speculation. The 49ers, Steelers and Cowboys, three of Manning's past four opponents, boast three of the NFL's top four pass defenses. They're also the top three fantasy defenses against quarterbacks.
This week Manning draws a Bengals defense that is better than its middle-of-the-pack standing in fantasy suggests and that has talent in the secondary with Nate Clements, Terence Newman, Leon Hall and Adam Jones. Sill, that group won't do well with the physical press coverage that has thrown off Victor Cruz and a banged-up Hakeem Nicks in recent weeks.
Expect a revival for Manning, Cruz and Nicks. Keep them active in all leagues. And with Andy Dalton taking aim at a suspect New York secondary, this game will feature a much quicker pace than the recent defensive battles the Giants have faced.
2. It's finally time to trust the Bills.
Ryan Fitzpatrick is largely off the fantasy radar after his modest-to-bad days against Houston, Arizona and San Francisco, but he is a viable sleeper against the Patriots, who figure to score a ton of points and open up some garbage-time opportunities for the Bills. Of course, the Pats' secondary has been garbage at times and is third-worst behind the Redskins and Saints against opposing quarterbacks.
Those who don't trust Fitzpatrick to replicate the 350-yard, four-touchdown day he delivered in Week 4 should at least consider some of the Bills' receivers. Stevie Johnson is dealing with a thigh issue, but he is starting and should be kept active in fantasy given the favorable matchup. But, with Johnson less than 100 percent and ample garbage-time targets going around, consider Donald Jones.
Jones, a third-year receiver, is a breakout candidate for the second half of the season. He already has three touchdowns and could add a couple more as the Bills try to keep pace with Tom Brady and the Pats. Jones, who is owned in just 12 percent of CBS leagues and seven percent of Yahoo! leagues, is one of the best bargains of the week off waivers.
3. Ignore the Patriots' injury report hijinks.
Bill Belichick isn't fooling anyone by listing 14 players as "questionable" on the injury report. The only thing questionable coming off the Pats' bye week is Belichick's gamesmanship.
Wes Welker (ankle), Brandon Lloyd (knee) and Rob Gronkowski (hip) are all going to play and should be active in all fantasy leagues. After all, the Bills are fourth-worst in fantasy against quarterbacks, making all of Brady's weapons smart starts. Aaron Hernandez (ankle) is inactive again, so you should like Gronkowski and Lloyd even more than usual.
4. Who's your daddy? Charles Tillman, not Andre Johnson.
Houston defensive coordinator Wade Phillips said he is going to double Brandon Marshall all night in Chicago's matchup with Houston Sunday night. He should. Still, he probably wishes he could do what the Bears are going to do to Andre Johnson: defend him with Charles "Peanut" Tillman.
Tillman made headlines this week when he said he might miss the game because of the birth of his child. He squashed the drama, saying he will play Sunday night because the baby is coming Monday.
That's bad news for Johnson and his fantasy owners. Johnson might be healthier this season, but he is just as mediocre as last year. Facing the Bears and Tillman might make Johnson a man to bench for those with top 25 alternatives. Those without the kind of roster depth to bench Johnson should lower their expectations and expect a defensive battle.
5. Michael Turner is headed for his best week.
The Falcons learned early this season to limit Michael Turner's carries, because he is 30 and they want to keep him fresh for the important games down the stretch and in the postseason.
Well, Week 10 at New Orleans qualifies as one of those important games. The Falcons can deal a huge blow to a leading rival's chances and further distance themselves in the quest for NFC home-field advantage.
Turner has reached the 20-carry barrier each of the past two weeks since the bye and is heading into a matchup against the Saints, the second-worst team in fantasy against running backs. The best way to keep Drew Brees on the sidelines is to run the ball, which means Turner could be in line for a monster 30-carry, 150-yard, two-touchdown game. Keep him active in all leagues.
6. Chargers-Bucs will be very fantasy friendly.
You might have been too busy watching Doug "Don't Call Me Muscle Hamster" Martin to notice, but Tampa Bay's secondary has been disastrous. That means it's a great time to expect San Diego's Philip Rivers and Antonio Gates to rediscover their 2009 form.
The Bucs are behind just the Saints, Redskins, Pats and Bills as the fifth-worst team in fantasy against quarterbacks. They're also third-worst in fantasy against receivers and in the bottom half against tight ends.
Since only Malcom Floyd has been a consistent receiving presence for Rivers this season -- Robert Meachem has been a huge disappointment and is currently banged up -- it stands to reason that this will be a big week for Gates. Start Gates in all leagues, and consider Rivers if you want a quarterback with a potentially high ceiling.
7. Start your Steelers ... if you have the right ones.
One week it's Rashard Mendenhall. Then it's Jonathan Dwyer with a pair of 100-plus-yard games. Then it's Isaac Redman rushing for 147 yards and a touchdown against a solid Giants run defense.
It makes it hard to know which Pittsburgh back to trust in fantasy play.
The Steelers contend Mendenhall is their man when healthy. Well, he's not healthy yet and will likely be out of Monday night's game against the woeful Chiefs. Dwyer is healthy enough to return, but Redman will get the start and the bulk of the carries against a Chiefs defense that is seventh-worst in fantasy against running backs.
Redman is the guy to start. Dwyer is an option as a desperation fill-in for those with bad alternatives. Redman will likely get 20 carries for 100 yards and a score, while Dwyer could get eight or 10 carries for 60 yards.
8. Jamaal Charles is still a Chief concern.
Charles (neck) practiced this week, and while we don't fully understand why he hasn't gotten touches since his 31-carry performance against the Ravens in Week 5, owners have to keep him active even against the rugged Steelers. Despite what the play-calling might suggest, Charles is still the best weapon the Cheifs have.
Charles has to avoid his history of fumbling woes, though. Head coach Romeo Crennel has threatened to bench anyone who turns the ball over going forward. Charles has three fumbles in eight games, but Crennel suggested he might get special treatment.
"If he fumbles, and he stands over there with me for a little bit, then I put him back in, because he's the guy who runs for a touchdown," Crennel told The Kansas City Star.
That is laughably simple thinking. If only the Chiefs could stop being a joke and give the man the darn ball.
9. Game-time decisions to watch:
Giants' RB Ahmad Bradshaw (foot): He is officially active, but he hasn't gotten all of the goal-line carries and the Bengals have a decent run defense. Start Bradshaw only if you lack top 25 alternatives.
Texans' TE Owen Daniels (back): He has performed like a top-five fantasy tight end, but there are reasons to be wary of him this week. He's in the Sunday night game, which makes him a big risk. And even if he plays it'll be against that tough Bears defense. Consider a safer starter like Jermaine Gresham, Kyle Rudolph, Brandon Myers, Martellus Bennett or Scott Chandler this week.
Lions' WR Calvin Johnson (knee): He played well last week, so expect him to be targeted frequently in this pivotal divisional game in Minnesota. He should be kept active in all leagues.
Vikings' WR Percy Harvin (ankle): After limping around the team's facility this week, Harvin was ruled out. You should like Kyle Rudolph and Jerome Simpson more as Christian Ponder's targets now. Rudolph will get more targets in the short-to-medium range. Simpson will be the guy down the field. He's a sleeper for a long score this week for those with receiving slots to fill.
Lions' WR Titus Young (knee): He clearly isn't consistent enough to trust through some injury woes, especially since Megatron is active and starting. Find a replacement, even with Young officially active Sunday.
Rams' WR Danny Amendola (shoulder): He should return, and he should see garbage time against the 49ers, but he's still an extremely risky play. If you're looking for six catches and 60 years, go with a safer bet like the aforementioned Donald Jones.
10. Injury replacements to like:
Steelers' WR Emmanuel Sanders: Antonio Brown will miss a few games with a high-ankle sprain, and Ben Roethlisberger has publicly called Sanders a starter on 30 other teams. Sanders is a nice play, especially for owners who enjoy having some Monday night hope in their lineup. He should catch five balls for 80 yards and perhaps even a touchdown.
Raiders' RBs Marcel Reece and Taiwan Jones: With Darren McFadden (ankle) ruled out, the fullback Reece and tailback Jones will split time against the Ravens. Reece will be more of a factor as a pass receiver and PPR flex option, while Jones might be even less intriguing against a Ravens defense that is still geared to force opponents out of the running game. The Raiders are playing like a team that doesn't need to be talked out of the running game anyway.
Vikings' WR Jerome Simpson: With Harvin likely inactive, Rudolph will get more targets in the short-to-medium range. Simpson will be the guy down the field. He's a sleeper for a long score this week for those with receiving slots to fill.
Cowboys' RB Felix Jones: It's hard to say this, but you might get some value out of Jones against the Eagles. He's posted some of the biggest games of his career against Philly, and Tony Romo's struggles might lead the Cowboys to play a bit more conservatively this week. Even so, Jones is only an option for the desperate.
Eric Mack writes fantasy for SI.com. Track his weekly starts and sits every Thursday, his last-minute Cheat Sheet on Sunday mornings and his Fantasy Fast Forward on Sunday nights. You find also him on Twitter, where you can mock him, rip him and (doubtful) praise him before asking him for fantasy advice or challenging him to a head-to-head fantasy game @EricMackFantasy. He reads all the messages there (guaranteed) and takes them very, very personally (not really).
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