We’ve reached the midpoint of this interesting NFL season. While some players have produced fantasy points way beyond expectations (Andrew Luck, Doug Martin, the Bears defense…) others have failed to do so (Philip Rivers, Andre Johnson, Calvin Johnson). Now, crunch time is approaching and as you know, when the going gets tough, the toughs get going. The best NFL players will excel in the second half of the season, getting massive figures for their fantasy owners. Here are the top candidates for Week 10’s action.
Start them: Eli Manning, New York Giants ($4m): Time for Eli to bounce back after four very average weeks in which he has thrown a total of two touchdown passes, facing a Cincinnati defense that has given up 12 receiving touchdowns in the season. Tom Brady, New England Patriots ($4m) always delivers against the Bills. In Week 4, at Buffalo, he torched them, leading the Pats to 52 points, throwing for 340 yards and three scores and adding a TD run to rack up 25 fantasy points. Josh Freeman, Tampa Bay Buccaneers ($2m): is an excellent option this week considering his price. Freeman will play against a San Diego defense that is very good against the run, so he will need to come up with a big aerial production if the Bucs want to win their third in a row.
Blaine Gabbert, Jacksonville Jaguars ($2m) directs the worst offense in the NFL. With RB Maurice Jones-Drew out injured, Gabbert will probably spend more time tonight trying to escape from the ferocious Indianapolis defensive rush than generating fantasy points. Peyton Manning, Denver Broncos ($3m): Yes, I know I am probably making a huge mistake here, when Manning has thrown three touchdown passes in five consecutive weeks, but I think better quarterbacks could be found this week in fantasy terms. Denver will face a stingy Carolina defense that has given up only five offensive touchdowns in the last four weeks. Matt Cassel, Kansas City Chiefs ($3m) is back at the top of the Chiefs depth chart due to Brady Quinn’s injury. Cassel has been questioned almost since the start of the season, and things should not change on Monday Night when he will face Pittsburgh’s excellent aerial defense. Michael Vick, Philadelphia Eagles ($3m): Add to all of Vick’s problems that he will face a Dallas defense that has not allowed a touchdown pass in the last 10 quarters and you come to an easy conclusion: time to bench the Eagles quarterback.
Vick Ballard, Indianapolis Colts ($1m): Jacksonville is having a tough time each week in trying to stop the run, and its rushing defense has dropped into the NFL’s bottom eight. Last week, they surrendered four touchdowns on the ground to Detroit. Things look really well for rookie Ballard, who is improving his game every time he steps on the field. Marcel Reece, Oakland Raiders ($1m): With half of Oakland’s backfield in the injury report, Reece, who is used mainly as a pass catcher, could also share some carries at Baltimore, generating a good amount of fantasy points for the Raiders. Ray Rice, Baltimore Ravens ($4m): Oakland gave up 251 rushing yards and four touchdowns last Sunday to rookie Doug Martin. People tend to say that Martin’s running style is the same as Rice’s, so good week to call the Ravens star’s number. BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Cincinnati Bengals ($2m): The Giants lost to the Steelers last Sunday, because they gave up 147 rushing yards and a score to Isaac Redman. If Cincinnati wants to have a chance on Sunday it needs to get Green-Ellis running free against New York’s defense. Stevan Ridley, New England Patriots ($2m): At Buffalo this season, he rushed for 106 yards and two touchdowns. He will play against the Bills again, being at home and facing a defense that ranks second-last in the NFL stopping the run and last in rushing touchdowns allowed (14). Michael Turner, Atlanta Falcons ($4m): The Saints are last in the NFL against the run, and giving the ball often to Turner at New Orleans would be an excellent way of keeping Drew Bress and his troops off the field, which should be the main strategy for the Falcons to stay undefeated. Chris Ivory, New Orleans Sants ($1m): While all eyes on the Atlanta defense will focus on Drew Brees, the damage could come on the ground: the Falcons weakest point. Ivory showed he is healthy in his first game of the season, scoring on Monday night against Philadelphia while filling in for the injured Darren Sproles. Marshawn Lynch, Seattle Seahawks ($4m): The Jets are just not stopping the run this season, being at the bottom six of the NFL rankings. Lynch is second in the league only 119 yards away from reaching the 1,000-mark. Defense and ball control should be the Seahawks game plan against a troubled New York club on Sunday.
Chris Johnson, Tennessee Titans ($3m): Johnson managed to run for over 100 yards against Chicago, but the game had been long decided before he started pounding up ground yards. He has another very tough matchup ahead, facing a Dolphins defense that ranks third in the NFL against the run and has not allowed an opponent to reach 100 rushing yards this season. Ryan Mathews, San Diego Chargers ($4m) has not picked it up yet this season. Sunday, at Tampa Bay, facing the number 1 NFL defense at stopping the run will not be the best environment to do it. Matt Forte, Chicago Bears ($3m) is probably the most versatile running back in the NFL, but playing against Houston, the only NFL defense that has not given up a rushing touchdown in the season, should lead us to start other back this week.
Start them: Victor Cruz, New York Giants ($4m): The Bengals were able to shut down the Broncos long-passing game last Sunday, but had a lot of problems defending Eric Decker, who caught two of Peyton Manning’s three TD throws. With the other Manning (Eli) airing-it-out, Cruz,coming out from the slot, will have the edge against Cincinnati’s defense this week. Calvin Johnson, Detroit Lions ($4m) had a huge performance last week at Jacksonville with 129 receiving yards. He will bounce back in the second half, starting at Minnesota where he could have more scoring grabs in one game than in the first eight games. Julio Jones, Atlanta Falcons ($3m): Matt Ryan could definitely use the long ball to attack the Saints defense and there is probably no more dangerous weapon in the NFL on the vertical passing game than Jones. Vincent Jackson, Tampa Bay Buccaneers ($3m): Playing against his previous club, Jackson’s performance as Freeman’s top receiver will be the key in the outcome of the Chargers-Buccaneers game.
Demaryius Thomas, Denver Broncos ($3m): Besides allowing only three touchdown passes in the last four weeks, the Carolina defense has not allowed an opposing receiver to reach the 100-mark in this span. Sidney Rice, Seattle Seahawks ($1m): New York’s Antonio Cromartie shuts down the number 1 opposing wide out every week. The Seahawks might dominate the Jets on Sunday, but Rice will definitely face a very tough matchup. Dwayne Bowe, Kansas City Chiefs ($3) is struggling as are all the Chiefs. Things should not get better this week, facing a Steelers defense that ranks first in the NFL at stopping the pass and has not allowed an opposing receiver to reach 100 yards since Week 1.
Brandon Myers, Oakland Raiders ($1m): If you are looking for a cheap and reliable performer at the position, Myers, who caught his first two touchdown passes as an NFL player last week, is a great answer. Rob Gronkowski ($4m): When in doubt at the position, despite his price, start him right away. Gronkowski is back at last year’s form, having caught two touchdown passes in each of his last two games. Vernon Davis ($3m): has not scored a touchdown in his last five games. Things should change this week as he is back home facing a defense that has given up a total of three touchdown receptions to opposing tight ends in the last three games. Heath Miller, Pittsburgh Steelers ($2m) has 39 receptions for 384 yards and six touchdowns on pace for setting career marks in catches and scores. Against a Kansas City team that gave up a touchdown catch to San Diego’s tight end Antonio Gates last Thursday, Miller should have another big performance.
Tony Moeaki, Kansas City Chiefs ($2m): A very promising tight end two years ago, Moeaki has not bounced back from the injury that sidelined him all 2011. He has no touchdown grabs this season, was held to zero catches in Week 9’s contest at San Diego and will be up against the superb Steelers pass defense. Brent Celek, Philadelphia Eagles ($3m): Although he ranks second in the Eagles with 33 catches, Celek’s production has been down in the last weeks with only 12 catches in the last three games. Things will be tough for him against a Dallas defense that has not allowed a touchdown from an opposing tight end since Week 3.
Lawrence Tynes, New York Giants ($1m): While in pace of establishing the NFL mark of field goals in a season, the Scottish kicker should always be our top priority when deciding our fantasy line-up. Justin Tucker, Baltimore Ravens ($1m): The rookie has one of the strongest legs in the NFL. Of kickers with at least 15 field goal attempts in the season, Tucker ranks third with a 93.8 conversion percentage.
Greg Zuerlein, St. Louis Rams ($1m): He is an excellent kicker, but he should not have many opportunities to come out to the field when the Rams face the 49ers number 1 NFL total defense at San Francisco. Rian Lindell, Buffalo Bills ($1m) has attempted 1.5 field goals per game and playing at New England does not look like the best scenario to improve his numbers.
Indianapolis Colts ($1m): Defensive ends Robert Mathis and Dwight Freeney are still aching but they are recovering from injuries that have not allowed them to be at their full potential during 2012. They will inspire tonight a huge rush on Jacksonville’s troubled offense that should translate into sacks, turnovers and fantasy points. Miami Dolphins ($1m): With 8.5 sacks, defensive end Cameron Wake leads a surprising defense that has already 23 sacks in the season. The Dolphins did not generate a turnover last week at Indianapolis, and that makes their “D” more dangerous this week hosting a Titans offense that is having problems putting things together. Tampa Bay Buccaneers ($1m): Philip Rivers has made many mistakes lately, and he will not get away with them at Tampa Bay, where he will face a Bucs defense that is third in the NFL (behind the Bears and the Giants) with 13 interceptions in the year. Seattle Seahawks ($1m): They always take advantage of their noisy stadium, having recorded a total of 14 sacks in four home games at Seattle.
New York Jets ($1m): The Jets defense will have a tough time generating fantasy points at Seattle where the Seahawks have only made two turnovers (two fumbles) in the whole season.