Play your Players. That's the lesson to take from Week 10. Bench Curtis Martin against Baltimore? Only if you view 119 yards and two touchdowns as a nuisance. Would Buffalo's pass defense be too much for Tom Brady to handle? Two touchdowns and 233 yards say no. Tampa Bay has Michael Vick's number, right? Wrong. Let numbers break ties when choosing between players. Don't let them force your hand. When you do you bench Rudi Johnson because Washington allows only 84 yards and 0.5 rushing TD's per game. That's 102 yards and a touchdown you'll wish you had. Here's what else we learned in Week 10:
WEEKEND UPDATE: Need-to-know info from the past few days
- The man who has compared himself to Daunte Culpepper, Donovan McNabb and Michael Vick proved Sunday that he also has a little Byron Leftwich in him. Making just his second career start, third-year pro David Garrard led Jacksonville to the type of thrilling victory Leftwich had made his calling card in the season's first eight weeks. He completed four of seven passes in overtime for 75 yards, including a game-winning 36-yard strike to Jimmy Smith. Garrard threw two touchdowns on the day, something Leftwich didn't do until Week 6.
This is the type of quarterback fantasy owners love. On any given play he can break a game open with his arm or his legs. Remember, this is the same guy who rushed for two touchdowns in his second NFL game. Sunday he carried the ball seven times for 42 yards to complement 198 yards through the air. Leftwich has hinted that he may return on Nov. 21, but Garrard's performance gives the Jaguars little reason to hurry their star back. He's a must-sign at this point as insurance for Leftwich owners and, as we'll discuss later, is a strong play in Week 11.
- A trio of quarterbacks played their way to the bench Sunday. For Washington's Mark Brunell, the trip may be a permanent one. He completed just one of eight passes against Cincinnati, finishing with fewer than 10 completions and 100 yards for the third time in his past four starts. He simply can't play anymore. Turnover machine Patrick Ramsey replaced him and threw for 183 yards in the second half. Ramsey's favorite receiver was Laveranues Coles, who he targeted 17 times during a furious comeback attempt. With a live arm in the pocket, each of Washington's receivers gets a slight upgrade. Joe Gibbs will likely stick with Ramsey in Week 11 at Philadelphia.
Jeff Garcia turned the ball over twice and was sacked four times by Pittsburgh before giving way to Kelly Holcomb. Cleveland's backup would lead them on its only scoring drive of the game, but coach Butch Davis made it clear after the game that Garcia is still his guy. Also pulled was Drew Bledsoe, who was picked off three times by New England. His departure afforded fantasy owners a first look at J.P. Losman. Judging from his play, it may be quite a while before we see the rookie again. Losman, Buffalo's highly regarded first-round draft pick in 2004, fumbled on his first series and threw an interception directly at a New England defender to close out his NFL debut. Bledsoe will get the controls back in Week 11.
- Duce Staley and Ben Roethlisberger are the newcomers grabbing the most headlines for the 8-1 Pittsburgh Steelers. One could argue, however, that the new arrival having the most impact in fantasy leagues is a 66-year-old man who wears a headset on game days. Pittsburgh's defense was so bad last year that in 2004, fantasy owners selected 15 team defenses ahead of the Steel Curtain on draft day. That's backup territory, folks. Even Indianapolis, currently allowing roughly 400 yards per game, was more sought after. Enter Dick LeBeau, hired as defensive coordinator by Bill Cowher and tasked with restoring the unit to its former greatness.
Mission accomplished. Through 10 weeks of the season they trail only Baltimore in fantasy points scored. In each of the last three weeks, they have ranked in the top five in defensive fantasy points and that includes matchups against New England and Philadelphia. Give a lot of credit to the Pittsburgh offense. The improved running game has kept the defense off the field and fewer turnovers means less time defending a short field. With matchups against Washington, Buffalo and Baltimore on the horizon, the Steelers have a chance to emerge as the top fantasy defense of 2004.
BARGAIN BIN: Top players available in 50 percent of Yahoo! leagues
- David Garrard, QB, JAX
Garrard's performance Sunday earned him a spot in the bargain bin for the second straight week. Next week he'll face a Tennessee team that has struggled to stop opposing quarterbacks on the road. In four games away from home the Titans have yielded eight TD passes. Garrard showed remarkable composure in overtime Sunday and resisted the temptation to tuck and run on every play. Leftwich could still throw a wrench into the works by hurrying back, but if he stays on schedule for a Nov. 28 return, you can start Garrard with confidence.
- T.J. Duckett, RB, ATL
A lot of fantasy owners have given up on Duckett and you can't blame them. Like Dan Reeves before him, head coach Jim Mora doesn't give much consideration to fantasy owners when distributing carries. Sunday the split was 17/12 in favor of Warrick Dunn, but it was Duckett who held a 5-2 edge in red zone touches. He scored twice, giving him three touchdowns in his last two games. It'll continue to be feast or famine with Duckett, but five touchdowns in the season's final seven weeks is a reasonable expectation.
- T.J. Houshmandzadeh, WR, CIN
Houshmandzadeh has become a central figure in the Cincinnati passing attack since Peter Warrick was placed on the IR. Sunday he was thrown to 11 times and had a team-high seven receptions for 59 yards. In Week 8 he had 81 receiving yards and he already has a 100-yard game to his credit. He's a third-year guy, so a breakthrough is no surprise. He got one red zone look Sunday but is still looking for his first touchdown of the season. Right now he's worth a look as an injury fill-in only, but watch out if Carson Palmer starts feeling more comfortable in the second half.
MARKET MOVERS: Charting player values
Clarence Moore, WR, BAL – Moore was quarterback Kyle Boller's favorite target Sunday. The 6-foot 6 rookie from Northern Arizona caught two touchdowns and was targeted a team-high nine times against the Jets. He also had 80-plus yards in Week 8.
Ken Dilger, TE, TB – Dilger continues to pile up points without garnering much fantasy attention. Sunday he caught five passes for the second consecutive week and scored for the third time in four games. He was targeted six times, second most on the team.
Cincinnati Defense – In their last three games, the Bengals have quietly piled up eight sacks and seven interceptions. Largely unnoticed in fantasy leagues, Cincy has been a top 10 fantasy defense for five straight weeks in leagues that count special teams TD's.
Jake Delhomme, QB, CAR – No running game? No problem. A fantasy bust through Week 7, Delhomme is now a must-start. His three touchdowns Sunday give him eight in Carolina's last three games.
Kevin Jones, RB, DET – No touchdowns, but Jones recorded a season-high 19 carries for 81 yards Sunday against a tough Jacksonville run defense. He didn't share carries for the first time this season, a sign that Detroit feels his ankle is strong enough to carry the load.
Drew Bennett, WR, TEN – Largely ignored by Billy Volek in Weeks 7 and 8, Bennett was rediscovered Sunday to the tune of six receptions for 148 yards and a touchdown. He was targeted 11 times against the Bears after Tennessee looked his way only twice its last time out.
Steven Jackson, RB, STL – Had four red zone carries (1 TD) and reached double-digit touches for the third time this season Sunday. Looked like a more powerful version of Marshall Faulk when executing a Barry Sanders-like spin move following a short reception.
Ricky Proehl, WR, CAR – Proehl had 13 catches through Week 8. In Carolina's last two games he has 11 catches for 160 yards. He was targeted a team-high 13 times Sunday.
Eddie Kennison, WR, KC – Kennison topped 100 yards for the second straight week and hauled in five or more passes for the third consecutive game. Even better: his touchdown Sunday was his first of the season.
Fred Taylor, RB, JAX – Battled through leg cramps to record a season-high 144 rushing yards. Also topped his season high in carries, a trend that should continue as long as Byron Leftwich is sidelined.
Matt Hasselbeck, QB, SEA – Continues to be a risky fantasy start on the road. Through six games away from home, he has completed less than half his passes for six touchdowns and nine interceptions. Victimized by two more drops in the end zone Sunday.
Daniel Graham, TE, NE – The tight end was back in the New England playbook Sunday, but it was Christian Fauria who benefited with a touchdown. After catching five TD passes through Week 5, Graham has just seven receptions and no scores in his last five games.
Quincy Carter, QB, NYJ – Stock had dropped even before he and coach Herman Edwards teamed to butcher the final 50 seconds of regulation. Carter completed only five of 14 passes for 44 yards after halftime.
Lee Suggs, RB, CLE – Running unopposed for the first time this season, Suggs gained only 38 yards on 18 carries and lost a fumble that led to a Pittsburgh field goal. William Green, meanwhile, secured some locker room cred in a pre-game brawl with Steelers linebacker Joey Porter.
Donte' Stallworth, WR, NO – Stallworth was back in the starting lineup Sunday, but Aaron Brooks would throw his way only five times and he was held to three receptions for 11 yards.
Ben Roethlisberger, QB, PIT – The system continues to keep Big Ben's value down. The Steelers threw the ball just five times after halftime Sunday, marking the second straight game Roethlisberger has attempted less than a half-dozen passes after intermission.
Joey Harrington, QB, DET – Under constant blitz pressure, Harrington was 11-for-33 Sunday with one interception and only 121 yards passing.
David Carr, QB, HOU – What was supposed to be a load-up game turned into a disaster for fantasy owners.
Kevan Barlow, RB, SF – Barlow scored two touchdowns Sunday, but was benched after a costly unsportsmanlike conduct penalty early in the third quarter. Maurice Hicks took over primary ball carrying duties down the stretch.
STAT OF THE WEEK: Eyebrow-raising numbers
16 Number of touchdown passes allowed by the Houston Texans in five road games this season. Peyton Manning (5), Jake Plummer (4), Joey Harrington (3) and Trent Green (3) have all enjoyed huge fantasy outings at their expense.