As we enter week 10, you should have a pretty good idea of where your fantasy team stands. Are you a shoe-in for the playoffs? Are you fighting for one of the final spots? Or are you already looking toward next year?
I only play in one dynasty/keeper league, but I encourage the format for everyone, because even when you're out of it this year, you can start building your team for next year. For example, I'm 7-2 in that league, but have done so with smoke-and-mirrors at my RB2. I was able to trade a handful of young prospects to another owner for the next year (and future years) to nab a significant upgrade at running back. Think of it as what a Major League Baseball or National Hockey League team might do at the trade deadline.
You can't do that in a one-season re-draft league. In fact, I find in most of those leagues -- especially public leagues -- other owners just throw stuff out there hoping you'll click on a lopsided deal. Otherwise, you end up trading value for value, just at different positions. And if you're a team that's out of it, it's hard to stay interested after you've lost 5 or 6 in a row.
But, since those make up a majority of the leagues, I still suggest trying to identify weak spots in your team and those of the rest of the teams in your league and make a move. My suggestion is finding an owner right on the outside of the playoffs looking in, and see if they'll make a desperation move.
Here's a few guys to target: QB Matt Ryan, RB LeSean McCoy, RB Fred Jackson, WR Kelvin Benjamin, TE Julius Thomas.
Otherwise, if you're digging on the waiver wire, I'd start looking at some high-end running back handcuffs who might be out there: LeGarrette Blount, Alfred Blue, Jonas Gray and Joseph Randle all come to mind. Some of the rookie wide receivers like Martavis Bryant, Davante Adams, Jarvis Landy and Donte Moncrief are nice adds who are already seeing signficant targets or could be in line for an increased workload down the road.
And, of course, if Josh Gordon is still out there on your waiver wire, you need to get him as soon as possible. He's going to win a lot of people's fantasy leagues down the stretch.
Andrew Luck. Tom Brady. Philip Rivers. All three are on bye this week. All three are among the top six in fantasy football scoring. But unlike most positions in fantasy football, quarterback is a pretty deep position.
Mark Sanchez probably wasn't owned in 99 percent of leagues last week, and this week, he might be a top 10 option on Monday Night Football vs. Carolina.
Matt Ryan, for all of his road woes, is actually a strong start this week, playing an atrocious Tampa Bay defense. I expect at least 250 and a couple of touchdowns.
Ravens QB Joe Flacco isn't a bad bet this week either at home against the Titans. The Ravens offense has feasted on lesser opponents this year at M&T Bank Stadium.
Two guys who I don't have a lot of confidence in this week are Cam Newton and Matthew Stafford. Newton might save those who start him with his legs, but they Philly defense forces a lot of turnovers. So do the red-hot Dolphins, who could give Stafford fits, even with Calvin Johnson returning to the lineup this week.
One last thought on QBs: Tony Romo looks like he's going to play, but the much-maligned Jaguars actually have a decent pass rush. I might regret it, but if I have another option, I'd probably avoid Romo. He's going to do a lot of handing off to the NFL's leading rusher, DeMarco Murray, and one bad hit and he could be heading back to the bench. With that said, I don't blame to Cowboys for not trusting Brandon Weeden, even against the lowly Jags. He was certifiably awful last week.
Only happy when it's Rainey
Last week, I told you not to believe in all the Charles Sims hype and roll with Tampa Bay Bucs Bobby Rainey against the Cleveland Browns. If you did, you were rewarded with 121 total yards. I would've liked to have seen him splash paydirt, he still got you more points than must-starts Murray and Le'Veon Bell.
This week, Rainey will be the lead dog again versus Atlanta's league-worst rush defense. If Tampa is going to be competitive in this game, it'll be because they have success on the ground. Sims is actually active this week, and could see some third-down work as the Bucs ease him into the lineup, but Rainey showed plenty of reason to keep in lineups -- the Bucs and yours -- last week. He's a top 12 option again.
Mark Ingram was playing well early this season before he was hurt and then had a monster game last week against Carolina in his second game back. The 49ers have been pretty stout against the run, but I wouldn't hesitate to play Ingram again this week with Khiry Robinson and Pierre Thomas still out. He's getting a ton of work. While I probably wouldn't trade him, Ingram is a guy you could possibly trade while he's red hot for a top WR, because once those other guys do come back, his workload will dip a little. He'll still be a low-end RB1 or high-end RB2 week to week though.
Brees at your back
Sticking with the Saints, the team's road woes are well documented, but New Orleans host the first of three consecutive home games today against team with defenses poised to take precipitous falls. Drew Brees and company looked healthy and strong against Carolina, and I'm betting on fireworks against a struggling San Francisco defense this week, and continued explosive performances against the Bengals and Ravens the next few weeks. With that said, Brees is going to spread the ball around to Brandin Cooks, Marques Colston and Kenny Stills, so while none is a stone cold lock, all three are good WR3 options.
Between the byes and some very favorable match-ups for strong offenses, you shouldn't really have a lot of difficult lineup decisions this week. If you own a Denver Broncos starter, they are full steam ahead against Oakland, no questions asked.
Same with the Pittsburgh Steelers, who are humming on offense right now. The Jets are tough against the run, but not that tough, and Le'Veon Bell does enough in the passing game.
Ditto that for Green Bay Packers skill position players. This ain't your granddad's Chicago Bears defense. They are porous and should give up plenty of yardage on the ground and through the air.
On the flip side, I'm being cautious with Bears skill players not named Matt Forte. As a rule, I avoid Jay Cutler at all costs, although I understand if you want to play him. Just know you're going to get as many INTs as TDs most weeks. No matter how many weapons he has I never trust him to not implode. And he's been awful as a Bear in Green Bay.
Unfortunately, that means he might be dragging down usually reliable WRs Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffrey, and TE Martellus Bennett, although I'd probably start all three of them anyway, just in case good Jay shows up.
Two games on the slate I don't have a good feel for either way are Miami at Detroit and Kansas City at Buffalo.
The 'Fins and the Lions are two of the best defenses in real life and fantasy football, getting after the quarterback and creating turnovers. I'd be reluctant to sit either this week. But the Dolphins offense seems to be clicking and the Lions are getting Calvin Johnson back, so I could see a lot of points put up in this one too.
As long as Lamar Miller plays, I think I'd still use him as an RB2, especially in a PPR. He does enough work in the passing game that even though the Lions don't give up much on the ground, he could still be useful. The Lions running game is one of the worst in the league meanwhile, and is a full-blown committee with Reggie Bush back. Joique Bell has been a disappointment and Theo Riddick looks like a better version of Bush, but who knows what his usage will be like with the real thing back.
Megatron owners are obviously rolling with him this week. If you've sat on him this long or traded for him, you did so because he's an athletic freak who can singled-handedly take over a game. Golden Tate owners might want to roll back expectations a bit though. He's benefitted from Johnson being sidelined, but will likely see a drop in targets with Megatron back.
Moving east on the rust belt to Buffalo, again you have two strong defenses both playing against offenses that seem to be improving in recent weeks. The Bills defense at home should get plenty of pass rush, but the Chiefs offense is pretty efficient and doesn't turn the ball over, limiting Buffalo's upside.
The Chiefs defense, on the other hand, doesn't force a ton of turnovers and the Bills has been protecting the ball pretty well with Kyle Orton at quarterback. So, while this one might be a low-scoring game, don't expect either defense to score a lot of fantasy points because of the lack of turnovers.
Offensively, Jamaal Charles and Travis Kelce are the only players in this game I feel strongly about starting if Bills rookie sensation Sammy Watkins is sidelined with injury. The Bills JV backfield of Boobie Dixon and Bryce Brown is going to be tricky to figure out.
More plays I like this week
The Arizona Cardinals just rewarded QB Carson Palmer with a contract extension and he should reward your fantasy team this week with another 250-yard 2-TD performance or better against the Rams.
"Shoelace" Denard Robinson has three straight fantasy outings of double-digits. There's no reason to think the Jags best fantasy player can't keep doing that against Dallas.
Ravens rookie RB Lorenzo Taliafero had a costly fumble last week, but should still get some goalline work and vulture a score or two from Justin Forsett, who hasn't hit paydirt since Week 5.
No one wants to be in a position to start Darren McFadden or Steven Jackson regularly in 2014, but neither has been horrible. McFadden has had double-digit fantasy points in a PPR every game since week 2. S-Jax has been pretty unreliable, but has a good chance at splashing in the endzone this week.
Titans WR Justin Hunter was a hot sleeper during draft season, but has been maddeningly inconsistent. With the Ravens injuries in the secondary, though, he could rack up a few big plays this week. He's a better chance to boom than bust.
I'm not getting off the Larry Donnell bandwagon. The Seahawks have given up the second-most TE scores in the league to only the Jets (play Heath Miller this week too), and Eli Manning is still targeting him quite a bit.