Last week was arguably my best Sleepers bunch of the season, minus Nate Washington. Quite a few of my guys found pay dirt. And that’s what we’re looking for, aren’t we? It’s hard to believe that it’s already Week 10 of the NFL season. Fantasy playoffs are creeping up on us. We’ve made it through the heavy bye weeks, but four teams – the Browns, Patriots, Chiefs, and Jets – with some major fantasy assets are getting the week off. You guys and gals know the drill. Below are a dozen players I feel have plus matchups this week and could be decent fill-ins.
Cardinals QB Carson Palmer vs. Texans: Palmer is coming off one of his best games of the season against a soft Atlanta pass defense. He only threw for 172 yards but tossed two touchdowns and looked efficient doing so. Palmer’s day would have been bigger had the Cardinals not been nursing a 16-point halftime lead. He now gets the Texans for another comfy home game. Houston is a top-five defense when it comes to limiting opposing quarterbacks, but they’ve fallen off a bit. Andrew Luck threw for three touchdowns against them last week, Alex Smith tossed for 240 yards (that’s a lot for him) the previous game, and Sam Bradford threw three scores in Week 6. Palmer has a 100 percent healthy Larry Fitzgerald, while Andre Ellington is taking pressure off the passing game by beasting as a runner. Palmer is on the QB2 map this week.
Giants QB Eli Manning vs. Raiders: Eli has been terribly disappointing when he’s had plus matchups this season. Another one is on the schedule. We saw what Nick Foles did to the Raiders last week. Now, Oakland is traveling cross-country to take on a Giants team that is feeling good coming off back-to-back wins and its bye week. Victor Cruz (neck) is fine and will play Sunday. The Raiders are surrendering the third-most fantasy points per game to opposing quarterbacks. The G-Men are getting healthier at running back – Andre Brown (leg) will make his season debut – but this is still a pass-first team. Manning is averaging over 38 pass attempts per game. He’s a high-end QB2.
Raiders QB Terrelle Pryor vs. Giants: Pryor was forced from last week’s blowout loss to the Eagles with nine minutes left in the game due to a knee issue. He described the early exit as precautionary. Pryor practiced in full this week and is reportedly showing no signs of injury. He’s struggled passing the ball a bit the last few weeks, but Pryor is still averaging over 18 fantasy points per game his last four outings. The dual-threat quarterback has yet another inviting matchup against a defense that has been picked apart at times this season. Keep trotting Pryor out there as a high-end QB2.
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Colts RB Donald Brown vs. Rams: Trent Richardson has been sitting out practices this week due to an ankle injury. He’s expected to be ready to roll for Sunday against one of the league’s worst run defenses. However, the ankle could be an excuse for the Colts to get Brown even more involved as the change-of-pace back. Both Chris Johnson and Shonn Greene had respectable days on the ground in Week 9 against the Rams. Brown has been showing some juice in his legs the past month or so and is averaging 7.6 touches per game the past five weeks. He’s the Colts’ preferred passing-down back. Brown is a legit RB3/flex option for Week 10. The Rams have allowed the most fantasy points to opposing running backs this season.
Panthers RB Jonathan Stewart vs. 49ers: The 49ers boast the league’s 11th-ranked run defense in terms of yards allowed. Fantasy-wise they’re surrendering the tenth-most points per week. Something’s gotta give. Making his season debut last week against the Falcons, Stewart looked really fresh as he piled up 65 yards on a dozen touches. He notched two fewer touches than DeAngelo Williams but gained 11 more yards. Williams looks like he may be running out of steam a bit. Look for Stewart to become a huge part of the Panthers’ three-man committee in the backfield shortly. He may even take over lead-back duties. Stewart is on the flex radar this week.
Bucs RB Brian Leonard vs. Dolphins: In two games since Doug Martin went down with a shoulder injury, Leonard has taken over passing-down duties in the Tampa backfield. Mike James is handling the earl-down work. Leonard has touched the ball 16 times the past two weeks, racking up ten catches for 80 yards. The Dolphins have been the single-worst defense when it comes to limiting opposing running backs. They’ve surrendered 11 touchdowns and 51 receptions out of the backfield, good for fourth-most in football. Leonard has some flex appeal in deeper PPR formats.
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Jaguars WR Mike Brown vs. Titans: Now, the Titans have been the top defense when it comes to limiting receivers for weeks now. Cornerbacks Jason McCourty and Alterraun Verner have been playing extremely well on the outside. But these Jaguars receivers are matchup-proof since Jacksonville will undoubtedly fall behind on the scoreboard and be forced to pass the ball a ton in the second half. Brown is taking over No. 2 receiver duties after Justin Blackmon drank himself into an indefinite suspension. Working as the No. 3 receiver, Brown has caught 12 passes for 212 yards and one touchdown over his past three games. He’s now going to play every snap as is on the WR4 map.
Rams WR Chris Givens vs. Colts: Givens has been nothing short of disappointing this season after he scorched defenses for big gain after big gain as a rookie. Givens has yet to score in 2013 and will likely see a lot of Vontae Davis on Sunday. Davis has flashed true No. 1 corner abilities at times this season but was torched for two touchdowns last week. In Kellen Clemens’ two starts in place of Sam Bradford (torn ACL), Givens has registered eight catches for 114 yards. Clemens doesn’t have a big arm in the least but he peppers Givens on slants and short post routes. Playing on turf again this week, Givens could get open deep for a long score against a Colts defense that is allowing the tenth-most fantasy points to wide receivers. Givens is a low-end WR4 with some upside.
Titans WR Nate Washington vs. Jaguars: I had Washington in this section last week. He promptly went out and posted a goose egg on one target against the Rams. I’m throwing Washington out there again this week. The Jaguars have allowed the second-fewest receptions this season, but one out of every eight completions they surrender ends up a touchdown. That’s one of the worst rates in the league. Expect the Titans to run all over the Jaguars with Chris Johnson and Shonn Greene. Jake Locker is still going to take his shots deep. Washington is Locker’s go-to guy in those situations. Confidently plug Washington in as a WR4 this Sunday.
Bucs TE Tim Wright vs. Dolphins: If you’ve been reading Rotoworld at all the past month or so, then you’ve seen us talking up Wright. He’s averaging 4.6 catches per game the past five weeks and has scored touchdowns in back-to-back games. With Mike Williams (hamstring) done for the season, Wright has become a go-to guy in the red zone for rookie Mike Glennon. Keep in mind, Glennon and Wright practiced and played with each other a ton this summer as second-teamers. Glennon is comfortable with Wright. Now, the two get to work on a Miami defense that allows the third-most fantasy points per week to tight ends. In a year where tight ends haven’t been producing, Wright is a TE1 this week.
Packers TE Andrew Quarless vs. Eagles: We wouldn’t take Quarless’ five-catch Monday night as a sign of things to come, but he clearly caught the eye of backup quarterback Seneca Wallace. Wallace has a weak arm, and Quarless runs his routes close to the line of scrimmage. That’s evidenced by the 34 yards he mustered on those five Week 9 catches. As mentioned above in the Tim Wright hit, it’s hard to find productive tight ends in 2013. We’re just throwing darts. Quarless is a back-end TE2 this week.
Lions TE Brandon Pettigrew vs. Bears: Pettigrew had his best game of the season against these Bears in Week 4, reeling in seven passes for 54 yards. He caught every ball that came his way in that one. The Chicago defense has struggled mightily against tight ends, giving up 53 catches for 616 yards after eight games. Pettigrew has only hauled in six passes for 38 yards and one touchdown the past two games, but he should be able to find space over the middle of the field this week. Pettigrew wouldn’t be a bad option for Rob Gronkowski and Jordan Cameron owners who are seeking a bye-week fill-in.