Starting Points for Week 10

No bye week broskis this week as all 32 NFL teams will be in action in Week 10. We also get the debut of Thursday night football with the Oakland Raiders taking on the San Diego Chargers, so you need to get ready a little quicker this week. With that in mind, here are six to shine and four to ride the pine.


Get 'em active ...

Philip Rivers (vs. Oakland) -- I know Rivers has been a big disappointment thus far in 2011, but he is showing signs of life and I am expecting his second straight big game against the Oakland Raiders on Thursday night. Oakland has a short week to prepare for Rivers after spending two weeks game planning for Tim Tebow, so look for Rivers to have a little advantage on the "strategery" front. He is also expected to get running back Ryan Mathews back, and while he won't have Malcom Floyd, I think Rivers will have no problem with the suspect Oakland Raiders pass defense. The Raiders just made Tim Tebow look like a real quarterback as he tossed two touchdowns against them in Week 9 and they are giving up 21 points per game to opposing quarterbacks, sixth most. Even better for Rivers is that six of the last seven quarterbacks to face the Raiders have been able to throw multiple touchdown passes against them. We have seen Rivers top 360 yards in back-to-back weeks and while he has thrown five interceptions during that span, he is coming off a four touchdown performance against the Green Bay Packers. Look for another game of 300-plus yards from Rivers and he will also throw for at least two scores, making him a must-start in all formats for Week 10. Consider him an early week Thursday night delight for your Fantasy teams. (Projection Snapshot: 310 yards passing and two TDs)

Others to start: Mark Sanchez (vs. New England), Matt Ryan (vs. New Orleans), Eli Manning (at San Francisco)

Ride the pine ...

Andy Dalton (vs. Pittsburgh) -- Dalton has had a remarkable rookie season and has been a huge Fantasy surprise with solid totals week in and week out. He is coming off of a career high three touchdown game against the Tennessee Titans and it certainly appears that his future in the league is very bright. He needs those touchdowns for his Fantasy points, however, Dalton has topped 300 yards just once this year and has been held under 200 yards passing in half of his starts. He also has been below 220 yards passing in three of his last four games, so the scores truly are the key to his Fantasy totals. This week against Pittsburgh, however, you do not want to count on the Red Rifle for your Fantasy teams because passing scores are tough to come by against this defense. The Steelers have only allowed two quarterbacks to throw for multiple touchdowns against them in their last eight games and they have held five quarterbacks to less than 200 yards on the year. I like Dalton a lot and am very impressed with him, but with the rookie wall looming and a tough upcoming schedule, I would stay away from him this week. (Projection Snapshot: 201 yards passing and one TD with one INT)

Running Backs

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Chris Johnson (at Carolina) -- For the first time all year I saw some of the old Chris Johnson in Week 9. He averaged 4.6 yards per carry on his 14 runs and even had a run of 20-plus yards against the second-ranked run defense of the Cincinnati Bengals, who entered the game giving up just 3.3 yards per carry. Johnson also turned four catches into 46 yards (well up from his 5.9 yards per catch average) to finish with 110 yards and a season best 6.1 yards per touch. He had a run and a reception of 20-plus yards in the same game for the first time all year and I think we see his best overall game come in Week 10 against the Carolina Panthers. Also, when CJ plays well you do not need to worry about Javon Ringer, who saw only five touches against the Bengals last week. Tennessee wants Chris Johnson to be the man and earn his money, just like Fantasy owners. I know, we were right here two weeks ago against the Indianapolis Colts, but the Colts just held Michael Turner to 71 yards on 19 carries in a blowout loss. Yes, Turner did score, but he was held to less than four yards per carry against the Colts, which was certainly a surprise. Now Johnson has a little momentum and is facing a Carolina team that gives up a league high 25 points per game to opposing running backs. Four of the last five teams that have faced the Panthers have produced 30 or more Fantasy points at the running back position and three of them were at 36 points or higher. The Panthers have allowed eight running back scores during that span and are giving up 172 total yards and 1.5 touchdowns per game on five yards per carry and eight yards per catch. This is the week Chris Johnson … this is the week. As I said on the Fantasy Football Today Postgame show on Sunday, if Johnson can become a steady 80-plus total yardage guy and sprinkle in some touchdowns (like he should this week) I will be very happy with him the rest of the way. He surprised us in a good way for the first time last week and hopefully he delivers when we expect it in Week 10 with his best game of the year against Carolina. I am starting him for sure. (Projection Snapshot: 73 yards rushing, 31 yards receiving and one TD)

Roy Helu (at Miami) -- I have been waiting all year for Roy Helu to get his shot to be the starter for Mike Shanahan and it finally came in Week 9. He was someone I advised to hold onto as a lottery ticket and if last week was any indication, it is time to cash it in. Helu ran 10 times for 41 yards against the stingiest run defense in the NFL, the San Francisco 49ers, but he showed that great dual threat ability that makes certain running backs great starts no matter the situation. You see, Helu set a Washington Redskins franchise record with 14 catches for 105 yards in that game and finished with an excellent 146 total yards in his first start. Shanahan compared Helu to a young Clinton Portis before the season, which is extremely high praise, and while he may not be the runner Portis was, he is clearly a better pass catcher. On the season, Helu is averaging a solid 4.6 yards per carry and 7.6 yards per catch so the kid can get it done with regular touches. Ryan Torain saw only two touches last week, so this is Helu's job going forward and all he has to do to keep it is produce and not put the ball on the ground again (he did lose a fumble against the Niners). The Miami Dolphins have been playing great run defense of late and have not allowed a single rushing score in their last four games. They are the fifth toughest defense against running backs, allowing just 13.25 points per game, but I think Helu has a great shot to top 100 total yards against them this week. The Fins have allowed six-plus running back catches in three of their last five games and are giving up nearly 40 receiving yards to rushers per game. With Helu likely to touch the ball another 20 times this week, he is a great flex option in all formats and is a must start in point-per-reception leagues, where he could easily catch another six-plus passes this week to go with excellent total yardage production. If he scores he will have a monster day, but even if he does not, I am expecting double digit points from Helu in standard scoring leagues. (Projection Snapshot: 71 yards rushing and 51 yards receiving)

Others to start: Ryan Mathews and Mike Tolbert (vs. Oakland), Reggie Bush (vs. Washington as a flex), DeMarco Murray (vs. Buffalo)

Ride the pine ...

New York Giants running backs (at San Francisco) -- The streak is now at 30 games for the 49ers, who are approaching nearly two full seasons worth of games without a 100-yard rusher allowed. The Niners are also the only team in the league who have not allowed a single rushing touchdown all season, so you can expect a brutal game for the New York Giants rushers in Week 10. I don't care if it is Brandon Jacobs, who is fresh off of 100 total yards and a touchdown, by himself in the backfield or if Ahmad Bradshaw is back because the 49ers do not allow Fantasy points to opposing running backs. I know Roy Helu just put up double-digit points on San Francisco in Week 9, but that was due to his 14 receptions and 105 receiving yards. That will not happen for the Giants running backs no matter who is back there. San Francisco is giving up a league low 9.25 points per game to runners this year. Three backs have reached double-digit Fantasy points against San Francisco and no back has topped 12 points in a game against them. The crazy thing about those three runners -- LeSean McCoy, Jahvid Best and Roy Helu -- is that at least seven of their points came as pass catchers. Other than the Philadelphia game where both Bradshaw and Jacobs each caught a touchdown pass, they have not even sniffed the kind of receiving production you need to have a decent Fantasy day against the 49ers, who have not let a single back rush for 65 yards this year and have allowed only one rusher above 45 yards. Wow. Stay away from this situation, which would be even messier if Bradshaw is back. (Projection snapshot: Jacobs solo: 44 yards rushing, 22 yards receiving; If Bradshaw is active: Bradshaw: 38 yards rushing, 19 yards receiving, Jacobs: 27 yards rushing, 12 yards receiving)

Marshawn Lynch (vs. Baltimore) -- Marshawn Lynch is in full beast mode with a touchdown in four straight games and he is coming off of a season-best 135 yards and a score against what had been a very good Dallas Cowboys run defense. However, the streak stops here for Lynch and I think he struggles against a Baltimore team that will be fired up coming off of a big win on Sunday night against rival Pittsburgh Steelers. I know he is hot, but we need to take a look at what Lynch did in his last home game, which also happened to be against a tough run defense from the AFC North in the Cincinnati Bengals, before getting too carried away. In that Week 8 contest, Lynch ran the ball 16 times for only 24 yards and a score. In fact, during this four-game streak, Lynch has been held to 24 yards twice, which frankly is not all that impressive because if you take away the scores he totally busts out those weeks. He could easily see 24 yards again this week against the Ravens' third-ranked run defense, which is giving up just 86.4 yards per game and 3.4 yards per carry (second lowest in the NFL). I know the Ravens have allowed back-to-back rushers to find the end zone and reach double-digit Fantasy points (they are two of the three runners to accomplish that feat against Baltimore all year), but this is the week the two streaks end. Lynch will not score and the Ravens will not allow double-digit points to an opposing runner, which is why I am not touching Lynch, even as a flex option. My advice is to steal Lynch from someone this week who does not want him against the Ravens and get him into your lineups in Week 11 against the St. Louis Rams. (Projection Snapshot: 39 yards rushing and 5 yards receiving)

Wide Receivers

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Antonio Brown (at Cincinnati) -- Brown is on fire with 100 yards or a touchdown in three straight games and he should make it four in a row against the Bengals in Week 10. Believe it or not, Brown leads the Pittsburgh Steelers with 73 targets and his 8.1 targets per game is tied for 18th overall among all receivers. During his excellent three-game run, which saw him post only the third 100-yard receiving game against the Ravens and the first since Week 2, Brown has arguably been as good as anyone in the NFL. He leads all receivers with 21 catches and 278 yards during that span and is second with 34 targets (trailing only Brandon Lloyd's 38). With the Steelers becoming a decidedly pass-first team (Ben has topped 300 yards in three straight and Rashard Mendenhall has seen only 13 carries in each of those games), Brown has really benefitted as the clear second option behind Mike Wallace. With all of the defensive attention paid to Wallace, Brown has been able to beat single coverage and has clearly earned the trust of his quarterback. With both Emmanuel Sanders and Hines Ward banged up, Brown is going to stay very involved for the Steelers and is a great start this week against the Bengals. After all, the Bengals have allowed four passing touchdowns to opposing second receivers, which is pretty remarkable considering they have only given up eight passing scores all year long. Even better for Brown is that opposing second receivers have scored or topped 100 yards in three of the last four games against the Bengals, who have given up 23-plus points to receivers in three of their last four overall themselves. Brown is on fire and the matchup is much better than it appears at first glance, so I am sticking with Antonio Brown and I am expecting him to go downtown for your squads in Week 10. (Projection Snapshot; 82 yards receiving, six catches and one TD)

Santonio Holmes (at New England) -- Other than the Antonio in their first names, Holmes has had little in common with the aforementioned Mr. Brown of late. Antonio Brown sees 8.1 targets per game, while Holmes has seen eight-plus targets only twice all year and not since September. In fact, Brown has more catches in his last three games (21) than Holmes has targets in his last four (19). The one thing Holmes has going for him is that he has scored in three of his last four games (and on both red zone targets this year -- throw him the ball Sanchize), so the fact that Holmes has been held to less than 35 yards receiving in four of his last six games is a little more palatable (but not much). The good news is he should reach 60 yards this week and score for you against the New England Patriots. In his last game against the Pats, Holmes set his season high with 12 Fantasy points (sad but true) as he caught four passes (his highest total since Week 1) for 60 yards and a score. The Patriots are giving up 26.75 points per game to opposing receivers, second most in the NFL and at least two receivers have produced seven points in the same game against the Pats in six straight games. Opposing top receivers have topped 100 yards or scored in six of eight games against the Patriots this year and no opposing No. 1 has been below seven points (or 70 yards without a touchdown) against them all year long. For the year, opposing top receivers are averaging 13.13 points per game against the Patriots, so hopefully we can see another season-best game from Holmes, who is a solid third receiver for your teams in Week 10 (Projection Snapshot; 71 yards receiving, one TD)

Others to start: Victor Cruz (at San Francisco), Julio Jones (vs. New Orleans), Pierre Garcon (vs. Jacksonville)

Ride the pine ...

Larry Fitzgerald (at Philadelphia) -- Nnamdi Asomugha has been murder on opposing top receivers and his quarterbacks have been murder on Larry Fitzgerald's Fantasy production again this year, so when the two meet on Sunday you'd be wise to keep your star receiver on the bench. Miles Austin, Hakeem Nicks, Roddy White, Steve Johnson and Santana Moss have all been held to less than 40 yards against Asomugha and The Hot Rod was the only one to find the end zone. No opposing No. 1 receiver has even reached nine Fantasy points against the Eagles, who have absolutely crushed receivers of late. In their last four games, only two receivers, Laurent Robinson and Earl Bennett (both third receivers) have even topped six points against this team. With either a banged up Kevin Kolb or a below average John Skelton (who completed just four of his 12 passes to Fitzgerald last week) at quarterback this week, it will likely be another long one for Fitz, who has just one score in his last five games (and has not scored in four straight with Kolb). With all 32 teams playing, you should be able to find three other receivers on your team with more upside than Fitz, who has not caught more than four passes or topped 100 yards in a game since Week 4. (Projection Snapshot: 42 yards receiving)

Tight Ends

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Greg Olsen (vs. Tennessee) -- Olsen has been a great weapon for rookie sensation Cam Newton in Carolina and other than a little hiccup when he was battling a toe injury, he has been a great weapon for Fantasy owners as well. Olsen is currently tied for sixth among all tight ends with a 63 percent consistency rate as he has produced 60-plus yards or a touchdown in five of his eight games. He is coming off of a season best 73 yards and a touchdown and should be ready to attack the soft Tennessee Titans pass defense in Week 10. You see, the Titans are allowing 9.75 points per game to opposing tight ends, third most in the NFL and they have been especially generous of late. In their last five games, opposing tight ends have topped double-digit points four times and are averaging nearly 13 points per game. They have given up five tight end touchdowns during that span and have been roasted by every opposing starter they have faced. In some cases two tight ends have topped seven points in a game against the Titans during this five-game streak, so don't be surprised if Jeremy Shockey has a good game as well. Olsen has scored in four of his last six games and should make it five out of the last seven against a team that is really having a hard time containing pass-catching tight ends. (Projection Snapshot: 64 yards receiving, one TD)

Others to start: Jake Ballard (at San Francisco), Heath Miller (at Cincinnati), Brandon Pettigrew (at Chicago)

Good luck this week!

Target Conversion Rate or Catch Rate (TCR): The percentage of a player's targets (passes thrown to them) that are converted into receptions. Over 60 percent is excellent, 66 percent is elite and under 52.5 percent is worrisome.
Yards per Target (YPT): A player's receiving yards divided by his targets. In other words, the numbers of yards a team gains on average every time they attempt a pass to a certain player. Over 10 is exceptional, over 8 is solid and 6 or lower is horrendous.
Red Zone Opportunities: A player's total number of pass+rush+targets inside the opponent's 20 yard line
Red Zone TD Rate: The percentage of a player's Red Zone opportunities that result in a TD
Goal Line Opportunities: A player's total number of pass+rush+targets inside the opponent's 5 yard line
Goal Line TD Rate: The percentage of a player's Goal Line opportunities that result in a TD
Consistency Rate: The percentage of quality starts a player gives you out of 16 games. For QBs that is a game with 300+ yards passing OR multiple TDs. For RBs/WRs: A game with 100+ yards rush/rec or a game with a TD. For TEs: A game with 60+ yards receiving or a TD. For a Kicker: A game with multiple FGs.
Big Game Rate: The percentage of dominant starts a player gives you out of 16 games (games missed with injury count as a bad game since they do not help your Fantasy teams). For a QB that is a game with 300+ yards and 2+ TDs or 200+ yards and 3+ TDs. For a RB/WR that is a game with 100+ combined rush/rec yards and a TD or a game with multiple TDs. For a TE that is a game of 60+ yards and a TD, 100+ yards or a game with multiple TDs.

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