With the Bills, Lions, Colts, and Raiders on a bye this week, fantasy owners are once again faced with hitting the waiver wire for replacements. The problem with that is there just isn't much left worth owning, unless you want to grab guys like Kapri Bibbs (who I think is fool's gold) or J.J. Nelson (worth owning).
Bibbs is a career practice squad player who has been cut and resigned multiple times since he went undrafted in 2014. Devontae Booker has been less than impressive in his role as the Broncos No. 1 RB, averaging just 38.0 rushing yards and 2.62 YPC. Last week Bibbs caught a pass that he took 69 yards for a touchdown. That has caused him to be the #1 waiver wire target for most leagues this week. The reality is the kid had one good play, which drastically overinflated his fantasy numbers. If C.J. Anderson hadn't gotten hurt, Bibbs would still be on the Broncos practice squad today. Let him prove he has value before you stick him into your lineup.
Nelson, on the other hand, earned his new role as the Cardinals No. 3 WR by outproducing Michael Floyd. Larry Fitzgerald is still producing like the Hall of Fame WR he is, John Brown is absolutely hit-or-miss, Floyd has been demoted, and I couldn't name a Cardinals TE without looking at the depth chart. That means Nelson is in a prime spot to step right in to the No. 2 role if he plays his cards right (no pun intended). Nelson is worth owning in all formats.
If your waiver wire is as barren as most of mine, then trading is the only real option you have to make a final run at the fantasy playoffs. I've been flooded with questions about trading T.Y. Montgomery from the Packers. Yahoo followed ESPN's lead and gave him RB/WR eligibility, boosting his value. People seem to be worried about James Stark's impending return, but why? Starks has been with the Packers for 7 years now, and has never reached 150 carries in a single season. If he was going to steal someone's job, he would have done it by now!
I do think Starks eats into some of Montgomery's carries, but not enough to where I'd put him on the trading block. And if someone in your league is selling him, I'd float out a few offers to see if you can get him for a reasonable price.
Marcus Mariota – Titans: The Titans are a running team, with DeMarco Murray turning back the clock to his days with the Cowboys. Because of Murray, and rookie Derrick Henry, the Titans haven't asked Mariota to do too much with his limited receiving weapons. Through the first 7 games of the year, Mariota threw for more than 250 yards just twice, but had 12 touchdowns to his credit. The talent is there, but the offensive scheme and WRs have limited his progress… until Week 8 anyway.
The last two games Mariota has been on fire, throwing for 583 yards, 5 TDs, and 2 INTs. This week he gets a Packers defense that has given up 275-plus yards in 6 of 8 games this season. What's more, they've given up 14 TDs and have snagged just 5 INTs on the year. If the Titans are smart, they will let Mariota throw in the hopes that it will soften the Packers' #1-ranked run defense.
I'm way out on a limb here, but I think Mariota finishes with QB1 stats this week, and is a strong DFS play.
Jay Cutler – Bears: Cutler lost his job to Brian Hoyer, which caused the Bears receiving corps to take a hit given the fact that Hoyer is a game manager, whereas Cutler is a gunslinger. That changed when Hoyer broke his forearm and Cutler was thrust back into the starting role. In his first game back from a sprained thumb, and subsequent benching, Cutler managed to pick apart the Vikings defense for 252 yards, 1 touchdown, and no interceptions. All-in-all, the day went about as well as it could have gone for Cutler.
Cutler and the Bears are coming off a bye to face the Bucs and their 4th-worst fantasy QB defense. The Bucs gave up 513 yards and 4 TDs to the Raiders in Week 8, then followed that effort by letting Matt Ryan throw for 344 yards and another 4 TDs. Cutler doesn't have the same weapons the Raiders and Falcons do, but I'm expecting a 300-yard game with a few TDs from him this weekend.
Terrance West – Ravens: Week 9 was about as bad as it could get for West, netting just 27 total yards and splitting time with Kenneth Dixon. West is averaging a respectable 4.0 YPC this year, while Dixon is gaining just 1.5 YPC on his limited chances. The Ravens are tied with the Steelers (4-4) for the lead in the AFC North, so there is no reason to turn to Dixon over West.
West will be a great bounce-back candidate against the Browns and their 3rd-worst run defense. The Browns are giving up 25.4 PPG to fantasy RBs this season, and are just one of two teams in the NFL that have given up over 1,000 rushing yards (1,182) to RBs this year (49ers are the other). And, to make it even sweeter, their 12 rushing TDs allowed to RBs is tied for the most in the NFL with the 49ers. Don't be surprised if West is a RB1 when the week is over.
Jordan Howard – Bears: The Bears starting job at RB is Howard's to lose, and he gets a sweet matchup this week against a Bucs defense that is as bad against the run (6th-most fantasy points to RBs allowed) as they are against the pass. Jeremy Langford isn't a threat to Howard either, regardless of what you may read on those big-box websites.
Howard had himself 202 total yards against the Vikings back in Week 8, then got a week off (bye) to rest up for the Bucs. With fresh legs and a terrible run defense, Howard is a must-start player for me.
Tyrell Williams – Chargers: Williams has certainly been worth owning in all fantasy formats this year, racking up 59 targets, 39 receptions, 514 yards, and 3 TDs on the year. He leads the team in receptions, and is in 2nd, or tied for 2nd, in targets, yards, TDs, and thrown-to percentage (18 percent). The problem with Williams hasn't been production, it's been consistency.
While he is averaging 68.1 YPG this year, he has had games where he put up receiving yardages of 40, 28, and 4. Mixed in there he has had 117- and 140-yard games. This week could be another one of those 100-yard efforts as he takes on the Dolphins and their 6th-worst WR defense (26.1 PPG allowed). He's a sneaky WR2 play for me this week.
Steve Smith Sr. – Ravens: Smith is a target hog when healthy, drawing 7 targets in his first game back from an ankle injury. Prior to the injury, Smith had games with 9, 6, and 11 targets. Further evidence that he is healthy, the Ravens removed him completely from the injury report on Monday.
Smith has more PPR than standard value, but is still worth owning in both formats. I'd consider him a WR2/3 in a game where he could blow up and finish with WR1 numbers given the state of the Browns defense.
Dennis Pitta – Ravens: Fantasy owners had high hopes for Pitta after he put up 9 catches and 102 yards against the Browns in Week 2. Those hopes faded when he managed just 3 catches and 17 yards in Week 4 against a Raiders defense that is soft against TEs (9.0 PPG allowed, 8th-most). To sour owners even further, Pitta hasn't caught a single touchdown in 8 games this season.
This week could change all that, as the Browns are dead last in the NFL against fantasy TEs, giving up a healthy 13.4 PPG. Their 8 TDs allowed are the 2nd-most, with only the Lions (9) worse. Pitta hasn't caught a touchdown pass since Week 14 of the 2013 season, and you know he is itching to bring that drought to an end. The Browns have the makings of a team looking to run the table in reverse, and the Ravens are a team trying to win every game they can.
New York Jets defense: The Jets are not the defensive force they once were, with Darrelle Revis showing every day of his 31 years of age, and the Jets defense as a whole giving up the 2nd-most fantasy points (11.3 PPG) this year. So why would I recommend them this weekend? Because I'm betting the Rams offense is going to get Jeff Fisher fired from his job after the season.
Case Keenum is throwing for a respectable 250.5 YPG, but he has 11 INTs and just 9 TDs to his credit. Todd Gurley is on pace for just 902 yards, a number that could very easily go down once the Rams turn to Jared Goff once they are officially eliminated from the playoffs. Then you have their WRs and TEs, a group of guys that would not even be in the starting lineup for most teams in the league.
I like the Jets defense this weekend because their run defense is 4th in the NFL (81.0 YPG allowed), and the Rams offense is centered around Gurley and the run. I would go as far as to say the Jets could end up being a top-5 fantasy defense for Week 10.
Blake Bortles – Jaguars: Something I was taught in the Army is integrity is key, so I can't ignore the matchup and go with someone else just because I do work for the Jaguars. I honestly do like Bortles as a franchise QB, and think his future is bright. And when it comes to fantasy football, Bortles is a top-15 QB. He has now had back-to-back QB1 games, with 589 passing yards, 5 TDs, and just 1 INT. People will say that his numbers come in "garbage time," so they are meaningless. I say stats are stats, and a TD thrown in the 1st quarter counts for just as many fantasy points as one thrown in the 4th quarter.
With all that said, the Texans only give up 15.7 PPG to fantasy QBs this season, the 2nd-fewest in the NFL. In that effort, they've allowed just 6 passing TDs, which is tied with the Broncos for the fewest this season. Allen Hurns is still in the concussion protocol, further creating problems for the offense. I'm a buyer of Bortles as we head into the trade deadline in fantasy leagues, but I'd sit him this weekend.
Colin Kaepernick – 49ers: As much as I liked Kaepernick last week, I would avoid him like the plague this week. The 49ers hit the road this week to take on a Cardinals team coming off their bye. So not only is Kaepernick playing on the road against the 3rd-best team at limiting fantasy QBs this season (16.0 PPG allowed), but that defense had a full two weeks to prepare for him.
It's not hard for even an average QB to look good against the Saints Swiss cheese defense, so you kind of have to take last week's 398/2/1 line with a grain of salt. Kaepernick is not a QB you want to own; rather, he is a QB you want to stream in the right matchup. This week isn't one of those matchups.
Todd Gurley – Rams: Gurley is at the top of the list when you think of 2016 fantasy busts. Had Adrian Peterson not torn his knee up back in Week 2, Gurley would be at the top of that list. The 2nd-year RB has a season high of 85 yards rushing in a single game, and hasn't reached 75 yards rushing outside of that game. For a guy who was drafted with the 5th overall pick (on average) to see 75-plus yards just once by Week 10, that is a hard pill to swallow.
The Jets are a very average defense against RBs, ironically ranking 18th in the NFL with 18.0 PPG allowed to them. Even with the Jets being average, the Rams offense is well below average. The biggest problem with Gurley is you can't even trade him before your trade deadline because he has no real upside this season. Gurley is a flex player at best, that you took with your 1st overall pick.
DeMarco Murray – Titans: Murray is someone that is impossible to bench, but he's also someone I don't have a good feeling about this week. The Packers give up the 3rd-fewest fantasy points to RBs this season at 13.6 PPG, and are giving up just 75.8 YPG on the ground (1st). In complete contrast to the stellar run defense, the Packers give up 250.0 YPG passing (16th-most), and have 14 passing TDs against them (13th).
I know Murray isn't going to be a total bust (barring injury), but the Titans would be smart to throw more than run in this one. I could see RB2 numbers from Murray this weekend, which is going to make him more of a disappointment than a true sit 'em candidate.
Dez Bryant – Cowboys: For me, Dez Bryant is one of the most overrated fantasy WRs in the NFL. If you compare Bryant to Julio Jones, Antonio Brown, and Odell Beckham Jr., Bryant is last in receptions per game (4.8) and receiving YPG (68.6). Bryant is pretty much a TD-or-bust type of WR1 in fantasy football.
This week he gets a Steelers secondary that is giving up the 4th-fewest fantasy points to WRs this year at 19.3 PPG. What's more, their 4 TDs allowed to WRs ranks them 2nd in the NFL. Cole Beasley really fits more into Dak Prescott's style than Bryant, with the stats as evidence:
Beasley: 52 targets, 43 receptions, 499 receiving yards, 4 TDs
Bryant: 41 targets, 16 receptions, 282 receiving yards, 2 TDs
Bryant's catch efficiency (39 percent) is atrocious, but he was drafted as your WR1. As such, you keep playing him even though the numbers suggest different. For me, Bryant is someone I would trade before the deadline because his name still carries a lot of weight.
Julian Edelman – Patriots: Edelman is having an unproductive fantasy season, ranking as the #44 WR in PPR formats. Although he has the most targets (62) and receptions (41) on the Patriots this season, his 358 receiving yards is 4th on the team, and his 1 touchdown is dead last for WRs and TEs.
The Patriots/Seahawks game is one that I think could end up being a running battle, limiting the upside for pass-catching fantasy players. Add to that the lack of yards and touchdowns from Edelman this season, and you have someone I would bench if I had the players to do so.
Greg Olsen – Panthers: Olsen is currently the #1 fantasy TE in PPR formats, but only because Rob Gronkowski essentially missed the first 4 games of the season. He's been Cam Newton's go-to guy all year, racking up the 19th-most targets in the NFL with 70. That's impressive when you consider that is 19th for TEs, WRs, and RBs.
The problem I have with him this week is the Chiefs give up just 4.8 PPG to fantasy TEs this year, the 6th-fewest in the NFL. Despite that, Yahoo is still projecting him to score 10-plus points this weekend, a number that would blow previous TEs out of the water. Too many owners base their start/sit decision on projected points by Yahoo, ESPN, and NFL.com, making Olsen someone that I could see hurting more teams than he helps in Week 10.
Denver Broncos defense: As if taking on Drew Brees isn't hard enough, imagine doing it without a CB like Aqib Talib. That is exactly what the Broncos will be facing this week with Talib sidelined due to a back injury. Chris Harris can shadow Brandin Cooks, and maybe Bradley Roby can halfway cover Willie Snead or Michael Thomas, but who covers the other? And as if that wasn't enough to worry about, LE Derek Wolfe will miss at least 2 weeks with an elbow injury. That means less pressure up front, and iffy coverage in the secondary.
The Broncos still have playmakers on the defensive side of the football, but not enough for me to trust their fantasy defense in Week 10 of the season. I'd bench them and give teams like the Ravens, Jets, and Redskins a look instead.