Because of some bye-week casualties, I was forced to start Ladell Betts in one league this past week and he stuck me with a minus-two in fantasy points – I don't know if I've ever been pinned with negative points from a player before. Thankfully, these backed-into-a-corner roster decisions should be fewer and further between now that we've navigated the seven-week bye season. From now on, your biggest concern is not going to be who can get you through the week while a couple of your studs sit, but rather if your studs can stay healthy the rest of the way. We've been reminded repeatedly (from Ronnie Brown to Adrian Peterson) that anyone and everyone is at risk. All fantasy owners can do now is insure their top players as best they can and, of course, start offering sacrifices to the fantasy gods. With that in mind, let's take a look at what the lay of the land looks like after Week 10:
The Good: Ben Roethlisberger. I've been in the unfortunate situation of having both Carson Palmer and Big Ben on one of my fantasy squads. I really should have traded Roethlisberger a couple weeks ago because I've been using Palmer almost exclusively. That strategy has worked out terribly, as Roethlisberger has outscored Palmer in fantasy six of the eight weeks that both quarterbacks played. On Sunday, Roethlisberger threw for two touchdowns and ran for another – he was nearly 20 fantasy points better than the TD-less Palmer. Big Ben now has 13 TD passes in his past four games and faces a ridiculously easy schedule over the next three weeks (NYJ, MIA, CIN). I've finally given up on the idea that Palmer is going to kick it into this extra gear reserved for superstars. I'll be riding Big Ben's right arm the next three weeks.
The Bad: The Detroit ground game. I thought it was bad that Ladell Betts stuck me with a minus-two in one of my fantasy leagues in Week 10, but that's nothing compared to the reality that was the Lions' minus-18 rushing yards at Arizona on Sunday – an NFL record for rushing futility. How bad was it? Backup running back Aveion Cason carried once for the Lions, gaining one yard – he wound up being the team's leading rusher. Kevin Jones carried four times for minus-4 yards. But Jones did manage to find the end zone, scoring on a four-yard run in the first quarter. With only a 10-point deficit heading into the third quarter, Detroit completely abandoned the run against the Cardinals, rushing just three times after halftime. Oddly enough, Arizona had allowed a 100-yard rusher in three of its previous four games. Detroit has established itself as the Jekyll and Hyde offense of the NFL, alternating randomly between being run-centric and pass-happy. The Lions truly are a box of chocolates.
The Ugly: Adrian Peterson. Forget about a dreamy 2,000-yard rookie rushing campaign for Peterson aka, "Purple Jesus," "All-Day Adrian," or "All Planet." The Vikings' star freshman took a hit at the end of a screen-pass play in the third quarter, suffering a torn lateral collateral ligament. The reports of how long he'll be out have been all over the place. I've heard that the Vikings are optimistic that AP can return to practice after Week 11. But conservative estimates put Peterson on the sideline for at least 2-4 weeks. I'm betting he misses at least the next two games, with a questionable return in Week 13 versus Detroit. But, of course, I'm just guessing. What I do know is that the less-than-30 percent owned Chester Taylor suddenly looks very attractive. Minnesota is scheduled to face run-pushovers Oakland and Detroit in two of the next three weeks. It's very conceivable that Taylor could start each of the next three games. He's obviously this week's no-brainer "must" pickup. But my question is, why is Taylor so available? Every Peterson owner out there should have already owned Taylor. And if they didn't, the only possible reason for that should have been because another owner nabbed him first. He definitely shouldn't have been doing a backstroke in the waiver pool.
It's time to think about injury contingencies where they can make the biggest difference. Najeh Davenport (backing up Willie Parker), Michael Turner (behind LaDainian Tomlinson), and Kenton Keith (Joseph Addai), to name a few, could be major forces down the stretch if any of the incumbents were to fall victim to injury. I've stockpiled Davenport in particular. A Willie Parker injury doesn't seem that far fetched, and Pittsburgh has an excellent schedule in the coming weeks. This kind of reasoning led me to a flyer pickup of Taylor prior to Week 10 in one of my leagues. That team is looking much better at the moment.
MARKET MOVERS: Charting player values
Marc Bulger, StL, QB – Bulger completed more than 80 percent of his passes and threw for 302 yards and two touchdowns in leading the Rams to their first victory of the season on Sunday. For Bulger, it was his second consecutive 300-yard performance.
Matt Hasselbeck, Sea, QB – With a ground game running on empty, Seattle head coach Mike Holmgren has promised a more aerial-centric attack. On Sunday, Hasselbeck took to the air 40 times, completing 27 passes for 278 yards and two scores. It was Hasselbeck's fourth consecutive outing with two touchdown passes, and he's thrown at least 40 times in three of his past four games.
Ryan Grant, GB, RB – For the second time in three weeks, Grant handled 20-plus carries and topped 100 rushing yards. Sunday's 119-yard rushing performance, including a 30-yard touchdown run, was his most impressive of the season as it came against Minnesota's top ranked run defense. Grant is clearly running lead in Green Bay's backfield, and he has a very favorable schedule going forward with run softies with Detroit, Oakland, St. Louis and Chicago on the docket in the next six weeks.
Warrick Dunn, Atl, RB – Dunn must have discovered a fountain of youth because he's suddenly excelling at a time when most fantasy pundits were predicting his end. Dunn compiled 140 total yards and a touchdown at Carolina on Sunday. He now has a combined 189 rushing yards and two touchdowns in his past two games.
Steven Jackson, StL, RB – Jackson has carried 30 times in his two games since returning from a groin injury. Those totes have amounted to a combined 117 rushing yards and two touchdowns, including his 22-carry, 76-yard, touchdown effort on Sunday.
Clinton Portis, Was, RB – Portis produced his second consecutive 100-yard rushing effort (137 yards) on Sunday. In his past two games, he's gained a combined 333 rushing yards.
Jesse Chatman, Mia, RB – On Sunday, Chatman recorded his second-career 100-yard rushing day (127). As Miami's new featured back, Chatman has a combined 331 total yards in his past three contests, averaging 5.6 yards per touch.
D.J. Hackett, Sea, WR – The sure-handed Hackett had eight catches for 101 yards and a score on Monday night, the second straight week he has found the end zone. In the two games he's played since returning from a high ankle sprain, Hackett has averaged 7 catches, 79.5 receiving yards and 1.0 touchdowns.
Heath Miller, Pit, TE – QB Ben Roethlisberger has thrown 13 touchdown passes in his past four games, four of which have landed in the hands of Miller. With five catches, 71 yards and a touchdown on Sunday, Miller is tied for the lead among tight ends with six touchdowns and is among the TE top five in fantasy points.
Carson Palmer, Cin, QB – For the first time this season, Palmer failed to find the end zone on Sunday. Thanks to a big effort from Chris Henry, in his first game back from suspension, Palmer managed a respectable 271 passing yards. But over the past five weeks, Palmer rates a pedestrian 13th among QBs in fantasy points per game as he's averaging 258.6 passing yards and 1.2 TD passes in that span.
Jay Cutler, Den, QB – Cutler managed to play in Week 10 after suffering a bruised left fibula a week earlier, but the Broncos QB could manage just 192 yards passing and a TD toss in Denver's victory at Kansas City on Sunday. Cutler has now thrown one touchdown pass or less in eight of nine games, and he's topped 248 passing yards just once in the past seven games. Oh, and going forward, he has arguably the toughest schedule for a quarterback in fantasy.
Calvin Johnson, Det, WR – You have to wonder how much Johnson's back is still bothering him because he's capable of so much more than what he's provided fantasy owners over the past month. In his past four games, Johnson has been under 50 receiving yards in each outing, without a touchdown to help things out.
Philip Rivers, SD, QB – Despite the addition of Chris Chambers, Rivers continues to be a colossal disappointment for fantasy owners. He failed to throw a touchdown pass on Sunday, which now gives him more games sans a scoring toss (5) than games with a touchdown pass (4). In his past four games, Rivers has thrown a TD toss in a game just once and hasn't crossed the 200-yard passing mark.
Edgerrin James, Ari, RB – Edge has Thomas Jones disease, where he can't properly take advantage of sub-par run defenses. Against the Lions on Sunday, James rushed 18 times for 60 yards and failed to score. It was the sixth consecutive game in which James has averaged 3.7 yards per carry or less. At least three of those games were against opponents ranked among the 10 most generous to running backs in fantasy.
EARLY BIG BOARD RETURNS
• Players in consideration for falling off the Board: Rudi Johnson, Brandon Marshall, Marvin Harrison (knee)
• Players in consideration to make the Board: Matt Hasselbeck, Hines Ward, Greg Jennings, Heath Miller
• Expected top Board climbers: Steven Jackson, Ben Roethlisberger, Reggie Wayne
• Expected top Board fallers: Adrian Peterson, Edgerrin James, Frank Gore