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NFL Skinny: Week 10 preview

Brandon Funston
Roto Arcade

We interupt your coverage of the 2012 presidential election to bring you this regularly-scheduled Skinny. Now that you've put your ballots to bed, it's time to start figuring out which boxes to check in your Week 10 fantasy football lineup. Here's the early take on the coming weekend, Skinny-style:

Total Week 10 green-light plays by position: 7 QB; 11 RB; 11 WR; 10 TE; 7 DST

Note: Numbers in parentheses next to a player's name indicate where he ranks at his position in per game fantasy scoring

QUARTERBACKS

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Most FPPG allowed (QB): NO; BUF; WAS; TEN; NE

Least FPPG allowed (QB): CHI; SF; PIT; DAL; BAL

In his past five meetings, Tom Brady has treated Buffalo like a piñata, beating on them for sweet, sweet returns — 3-plus TD passes in each meeting and an average of 291 passing yards. The Bills have allowed the 2nd-most FAN PPG to QBs this season. There's no reason to think Brady won't, once again, go nuts against Buffalo this weekend.

Philip Rivers ranks just 25th in FAN PPG among QBs with at least six games played. This despite playing what, on paper, has been the easiest fantasy schedule for a QB to this point. I warned against overrating Rivers a few weeks back. And, with a generous Tampa Bay pass defense on the docket in Week 10, it's worth another reminder: Rivers has become an expert at underdelivering in even the most advantageous situations.

Like Rivers, Joe Flacco has a seemingly attractive matchup against an Oakland defense allowing the 10th-most FAN PPG to QBs. But the Ravens have gone conservative with their passing attack, with Flacco throwing 26 passes or less in three of the past four games. And Flacco has a 3:3 TD-to-INT ratio in that span despite facing a couple other softies (KC, Cleveland).

I have Jake Locker listed as the first red light on my QB list (right). He's questionable this week with a shoulder injury. But he's been cleared for practice and will split reps with Matt Hasselbeck. Assuming Locker is named the starter later in the week, bump him up into the early yellow light range. Miami has allowed the 11th-most FAN PPG to QBs, that despite facing just one QB (Andrew Luck) currently ranked inside the top 12 among QBs in FAN PPG. Before hurting his shoulder in Week 4, Locker was coming off a 378-yard, 2 TD pass effort against Detroit in Week 3.

Rookies Ryan Tannehill and Russell Wilson aren't the worst waiver wire plug-n-plays if you are an Aaron Rodgers or RGIII owner. Tannehill is coming off a solid 290-yard, 1 TD-pass performance against Indy, and he'll face the 4th-most generous fantasy pass defense in Tennessee. As for Wilson, there's no place like home, where he owns a 120.2 QB Rating and a 9:0 TD-to-INT ratio in four games. The Jets present a tough matchup, but traveling all the way across the country is never easy, and the Jets could bring less than their best to the table on Sunday.

Quick hitters: As if the modest ratings for Jay Cutler and Matt Schaub need to be explained, Chicago allows the lowest QB Rating in the league (62.9), while Houston ranks as the 3rd-lowest in that department (75.4) … Carson Palmer's high ranking has a bit to do with the likelihood that Oakland will sell out to the pass because of the injuries to RBs Darren McFadden and Mike Goodson. But Baltimore allows the 4th-most red zone scoring attempts per game and the most plays allowed per game. Those are certainly feathers in Palmer's cap this week, as well. … New England has allowed the most pass plays of 20-plus yards (42). And Ryan Fitzpatrick has topped 300 passing yards in each of his past three meetings with the Pats.

RUNNING BACKS

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Most FPPG allowed (RB): BUF; NO; TEN; JAX; OAK

Least FPPG allowed (RB): SF; CHI; HOU; DET; NE

Chris Johnson has rushed for 141 yards against the likes of Houston and Chicago in the past six games. Those are top-3 fantasy run defenses. He also had a 114-total yard effort against Pittsburgh (6th-fewest FAN PPG to RBs) mixed in there over that span. So, while a meeting with a Miami defense that allows just 3.6 ypc is less than ideal, he's mastered tougher matchups in recent weeks. And that's why he lands the last of the green lights at RB this week.

Name brand appeal keeps Ryan Mathews and Jamal Charles high in the industry rankings. But there are serious issues for both running backs. San Diego has become enamored with Ronnie Brown in the passing game and hurry-up situations and likes Jackie Battle for short yardage and times of heightened ball security needs. That's a legit concern for Mathews' workload going forward. And Mathews faces a Tampa Bay defense this week allowing the fewest ypc in the NFL (3.4). It's probably a bit generous of me to even have him inside the top 20 at RB this week. As for Charles, he added a minor neck injury to an insulting 12-carry effort in Week 9. Between the maddening rotation of Chiefs RBs — Charles is averaging less than 10 carries per game over his past three contests — and his current state of health, he's a highly problematic start this week at Pittsburgh on Monday night. The Steelers have held BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Alfred Morris and Ahmad Bradshaw to less than 70 yards from scrimmage in the past three weeks.

Reggie Bush gets Tennessee in Week 10. The Titans allow the 3rd-most FAN PPG to RBs. But Bush is far from a slam dunk play. He netted only 66 yfs against an almost equally generous Indy defense in Week 9, and only salvaged his fantasy day by scoring a TD. In his past six games, he's scored just 2 TDs and has finished with 72 yfs or less in each of those contests. In the past two games, Daniel Thomas has just three fewer touches combined than Bush. At this point, you can't consider Bush an RB1 no matter who he's playing.

Mikel Leshoure's hat trick was a beautiful thing for those that started him in Week 9 (which wasn't very many), but don't let it obscure a couple important takeaways. The first is that all of his scores came from within the 10-yard line against a very weak Jacksonville run defense. And he finished with 70 rushing yards or less for the fifth consecutive game. But, perhaps, most disconcerting was that backup RB Joique Bell received an equal number of touches as Leshoure (16), and produced a much better ypc clip than Leshoure (5.6 to 4.4). Bell's presence is capping Leshoure value at no higher than a low-end RB2 this week at Minnesota.

C.J. Spiller has topped 100 yfs in the past eight games in which he's touched the pigskin at least 16 times. Last week, he accomplished that feat (102 yfs) on only 11 touches against the 3rd-toughest defense against opposing RBs in fantasy (Houston). Coming out of the game, both head coach Chan Gailey and QB Ryan Fitzpatrick were talking about the need for the team to find more touches for Spiller. Don't be surprised if you see a significant shift in favor of Spiller over Fred Jackson this week at New England. Give Spiller a great shot at topping 100 yfs once again.

In the socialistic environment of the New Orleans backfield, 10 carries, which is what Chris Ivory netted against Philly on Monday night, is a major workload. Ivory picked up 48 yards on those 10 carries, which prompted some complimentary words from head coach Joe Vitt after the game. Said Vitt: "He's one of those unique backs that can make the first guy miss or he can run over him. He's more secure in the offense. Obviously, we trust him as a back. We like Chris. It was exciting to see him run well." There's a good chance Ivory will see another 10-15 touches this week against Atlanta, which makes him a solid sleeper candidate considering the Falcons allow 4.9 ypc.

The Giants allow 4.6 ypc and have yielded 120-plus rushing yards to RBs Alfred Morris and Isaac Redman in the past three weeks. If BenJarvus Green-Ellis gets his usual 20 touches on Sunday, it's easy to envision his returning solid RB2 type numbers, if not more.

Marcel Reece is leading the buzz as the Raiders RB to grab in a post-Darren McFadden/Mike Goodson backfield — both are dealing with high-ankle sprains. But Reece is a converted wide receiver, a position he played at the University of Washington. He's ill-suited in a traditional lead back role. It's possible the Raiders will go all Andy Reid this week and use the dump pass to Reece as a substitute for the traditional handoff. But odds are that Taiwan Jones will be forced into action as a more classic tailback even if Oakland doesn't completely trust him. And with Jones' freakish speed, you never know what might happen. I love Reece in PPR leagues this week but, as a bye week flex dice roll, Jones also offers plenty of intrigue.

WIDE RECEIVERS


Most FPPG allowed (WR): NO; WAS; TB; MIA; CLE

Least FPPG allowed (WR): NYJ; SF; CAR; PIT; SEA

The 129 yards last week were nice for Calvin Johnson, but he's still stuck on 1 TD. And now he faces Minnesota's Antoine Winfield, who rates as the league's top corner according to ProFootballFocus.com's advanced metrics. MegaTron was held to just a 5/54/0 line in Week 4 against the Vikings. Temper expectations for Johnson once again.

Jeremy Maclin is the Mathews/Charles (see RB section above) equivalent at receiver. He tends to find his way into the WR2 neighborhood in the weekly industry consensus rankings despite the fact that his '12 production doesn't come close to supporting that notion. Maclin has broken through the 40-yard barrier just once in the past six games, and he was targeted just four times on Monday night against the most generous pass defense in the league (New Orleans). Given the state of the Philly offense right now, and the corresponding lack of production from Maclin, you can't consider him as anything higher than a WR3 this week against a stingy Dallas secondary.

I'm playing a hunch that Kenny Britt steps up with a big game at Miami on Sunday. The Dolphins have allowed the 4th-most pass plays of 20-plus yards (35), and Britt has put his health issues behind him. If Jake Locker returns, his big arm could lead to big things for Britt, who is a borderline WR2 this week, in my book.

I'm keeping the faith with Hakeem Nicks. He keeps saying his health continues to improve and that he's nearing 100 percent. And the matchup with Cincy this week is ripe for a slump-busting performance for the entire Giants passing game. The Bengals have allowed the 5th-highest QB Rating (99.0) and the 8th-highest yards per pass attempt (7.9). If Nicks lays yet another egg this week, then I'll start to be legitimately be concerned.

As you can see, I'm very high on Reggie Wayne this week. The history card at Jacksonville is glowing — in his past six trips to central Florida, he's averaged 9 catches and 125 receiving yards. And Wayne is the only receiver with at least 70 receiving yards in every game this season. I'm also high on whichever receiver starts opposite Wayne on Thursday night. Wayne was actually the team's third-leading receiver last week as Donnie Avery and T.Y. Hilton both topped 100 yards against Miami. Avery came out of the game with a sore hip, but he practiced in full on Monday, so he looks like he'll be good to go as the starter against Jacksonville. Once that is official, bump Avery up into upper yellow light territory. The Jags allow 168 receiving yards per game to WRs, so it's certainly possible that all three Colts wideouts return at least serviceable fantasy numbers for a second straight week.

Emmanuel Sanders is likely to start against Kansas City in Week 9, in place of Antonio Brown (high-ankle sprain). Excellent Chiefs corner Brandon Flowers is likely to lock horns with Pittsburgh's Mike Wallace, which should lead Ben Roethlisberger to look Sanders' way a fair amount. Sanders caught just two passes for 20 yards last week, but he found pay dirt. And as a starter this week on Monday night, he has a good chance to get double-digit fantasy points for the first time this season.

TIGHT ENDS

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Most FPPG allowed (TE): WAS; TEN; DEN; NE; NYJ

Least FPPG allowed (TE): IND; JAX; CLE; NO; ARI

Brandon Myers entered Week 9 having the 3rd-most receiving yards among those without a TD (behind Steve Smith and Davone Bess). Myers no longer has to worry about that distinction as he caught two TD passes against Tampa Bay, and that lifted his FAN PPG into the top 8 among TEs for the season. As I stated last week, the TDs were bound to come given his size and hands. Against a mediocre Baltimore defense, you absolutely have to consider Myers a TE1 asset.

I finally resisted the urge to push Greg Olsen into TE1 territory on my ranks this week. Despite what I have perceived to be some good setups for Olsen the past two weeks, Olsen finished with less than 5.0 fantasy points in both contests, and he ranks just 31st among TEs in FAN PPG since Week 5. I'm at a point of zero confidence with Olsen this week, and a matchup against the 3rd-most generous fantasy defense to opposing TEs isn't going to bait me into making the same mistake as recent weeks.

Scott Chandler produced a 4/62/2 line against New England back in Week 4, and he turned in a solid 51 yards against Houston last week. The Pats allow the 4th-most FAN PPG to TEs. Unlike Olsen, this is a matchup you can believe in this week.

Detroit's Brandon Pettigrew has averaged 79 receiving yards in his past three games against Minnesota, including a 7/67 effort against the Vikings in Week 4. Expect Pettigrew to bounce back strong this week after a 1/11 line last week against a Jags defense that has allowed the 2nd-fewest FAN PPG to TEs.

Jared Cook's two biggest yardage efforts of the season came in the first three weeks with Jake Locker at QB. There's been a lot of lip service about getting Cook more involved with the offense in recent weeks, this as a response to Cook's complaining about being an afterthought in the offense in recent weeks. Only the Redskins allow more yards per game to the TE position than Tennessee's Week 10 opponent, Miami. If Locker starts at QB, I'd bump Cook up to the top of the yellow light neighborhood.

DEFENSE/SPECIAL TEAMS

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Most FPPG allowed (DST): KC; PHI; DET; CIN; TEN

Least FPPG allowed (DST): NE; NYG; TB; WAS; HOU

WEEK 10 GAME PREDICTIONS

Indianapolis 24, Jacksonville 21
Miami 23, Tennessee 18
New England 37, Buffalo 24
NY Giants 27, Cincinnati 23
Tampa Bay 24, San Diego 23
Denver 28, Carolina 17
Baltimore 27, Oakland 24
Minnesota 23, Detroit 20
New Orleans 31, Atlanta 27
San Francisco 24, St. Louis 13
Seattle 23, NY Jets 16
Dallas 26, Philadelphia 23
Houston 20, Chicago 17
Pittsburgh 27, Kansas City 10

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