Donovan McNabb, Jason Campbell, and Dwayne Bowe are making me consider starting a new trend for the TMQ next week. That trend will be to take e-mail requests from frustrated fantasy owners calling out their struggling players, and then deem them as not worth starting for the upcoming week. That way they can have great games from your bench, regain all necessary confidence and rapport within their offenses, and play a motivated and dominating final 7 weeks of the season… I will be taking requests effective immediately! All jokes aside, week ten showed us that there is life without the Patriots (for at least one week) and many of the top names in fantasy had spectacular performances in their stead. Coverage of these outings and all of the other NFL games played last weekend will be covered in the following, so sit back and make all the right reads because it’s time to start the Tuesday Morning Quarterback!
• Bills 13, Dolphins 10
This turned out to be the battle of offensive ineptitude that we all expected. JP Losman took two steps back against an inferior defense, but we all knew that plugging him in after one and a half decent games was not a good idea, right? He still got Lee Evans 4 catches for 65 yards and proved that the Bills wide receiver is worth a start as your number two on a weekly basis. Marshawn Lynch is keeping his owners on the edges of their seats by waiting to score all of his points in the last ten minutes of games. This might well be his only chance of piling any points up against the Patriots next Sunday; I would consider him a number two or flex option at best. This team should be 7-3, but their current record should help to lower your expectations against the Patriots to a more reasonable level.
This looks like the Miami team that we all know and love, or something like that. Jesse Chatman posted 149 total yards in what was easily his best game of the season and remains the only playable Dolphin in fantasy land (you loyal Dolphin fans really have to quit starting Ronnie Brown now, he has got to be killing you!). The Dolphins have been improving on the defensive side of the ball, allowing just one 100 yard rusher since their debacle against the Raiders in week four. The defense is bound to play even a notch better if they can get Zach Thomas in the lineup on a consistent basis. Do not go assuming your running backs are going to gain 150 yards on this defense anymore. I hope you all listened to my advice and did not jump onto the Ted Ginn Jr. bandwagon. He turned his 2 whopping touches into 12 yards.
• Rams 37, Saints 29
Offensive ineptitude was certainly not the problem in this game of indoor-friendly units! The Rams offensive line woes look to be fading as they helped Marc Bulger to his second straight 300 yard game. He also posted multiple touchdown passes for the first time all season and was able to get the ball to Torry Holt early and often. Holt has had a much more consistent season than most would assume – he is on pace for 96 catches, 1244 yards, and 8 touchdowns this year. He has at least 70 yards and/or a touchdown in 7 of 9 games and should be a fixture in your wide receiving corps going forward. Steven Jackson did not make the most of his 22 carries but still managed to top 100 total yards and got the rock into the end zone on two occasions, one by pass and one by rush. Drew Bennett should continue to be a sneaky number three or four wide receiver from here on out.
The Saints defense allowed a whopping 34 unanswered points after jumping out to the lead in this game and it is becoming glaringly obvious that this defensive secondary can not stop explosive passing attacks. Falling so far behind destroyed the value of Reggie Bush, who was only able to muster 44 yards of total offense. He did add a touchdown and a 2-point conversion to ease the pain of his fantasy owners, but that was all. Drew Brees was not able to air it out as effectively as some would think against a Rams unit that is underrated against the pass. He finished with some decent numbers and kept his multiple-touchdown streak going, but it is hard to succeed when playing catchup from such a large deficit. Marques Colston is an obvious must-start moving forward, but I would keep David Patten on my bench.
• Steelers 31, Browns 28
The Browns were the team that could not hold onto a 21-6 first half lead this week as the Steelers stayed patient and stuck to their game plan. Ben Roethlisberger topped 275 passing yards and Willie Parker added 105 more on the ground. Hines Ward and Heath Miller continue to be Roethlisberger’s favorite targets when they are in the lineup. Both found the end zone again and will remain the only must-start pass catchers from Pittsburgh. The Browns had only two sustained scoring drives in this game. This is further testament to a ferocious Steeler defense that will continue to be a weekly play as your D/ST.
Derek Anderson was able to add three more scoring tosses but was not able to get the field goal unit quite close enough for any late game heroics by Phil Dawson. Kellen Winslow had a great opening drive, catching 4 balls for 35 yards and a score. After that he could muster only one 11 yard catch late in the game. He is a top three tight end going forward but will have one more tough week against the Ravens before things get easier. Jamal Lewis showed us why we shouldn’t get too excited about his fluky performance against the Seahawks. What do you get when you remove 4 touchdowns from a 27 point performance? 19 touches, 43 yards, and 3 points just doesn’t have the same ring. Things will be looking up for this unit after week eleven though. It is not possible to overstate how beautiful the Browns schedule looks come fantasy playoff time. P.S. Don’t worry about Braylon Edwards. He has the same playoff schedule!
• Eagles 33, Redskins 25
Brian Westbrook did his best Marshawn Lynch impersonation by waiting to score the majority of his points until the fourth quarter. The dynamic Eagle tailback racked up 78 total yards and two backbreaking touchdowns to help the Redskins snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. Westbrook’s 36 point effort moved him up to the number two back in all of fantasy and we should expect this trend to continue as long as he is healthy. This is truly a breakout year for him and it is going largely unnoticed by many people. Donovan McNabb broke out of his fantasy slumber, topping 250 yards and 4 touchdowns through the air. He is looking to make Reggie Brown and LJ Smith weekly plays.
Jason Campbell looked much better in this game with a 215 yard, 3 touchdown performance. He showed me enough to recommend starting him in deep leagues and in leagues who start multiple quarterbacks from here on out. However, his 5 completions for 85 yards and 2 touchdowns to the 400 year-old James Thrash further cements my point that none of his receivers are to be trusted. I am tempted to lump Chris Cooley in this category based on what I have seen recently but I will give him a couple more weeks. Clinton Portis topped 135 yards on a defense when everyone but me recommended benching him and should continue to run effectively against a decently tough final schedule.
• Falcons 20, Panthers 13
Just when you Jerrious Norwood owners thought that you were that close to getting him more carries, Warrick Dunn has topped 100 total yards and a score twice in a row. Atlanta’s passing game is garbage, but their running game is not what it used to be either. With 6 of 7 remaining games against run defenses in the top half of the league against the rush, don’t think of Dunn as anything more than a weekly flex play. Roddy White remains the only Falcon wide receiver worth starting, but someone dressed in an Alge Crumpler costume might make fantasy owners think twice about leaving him on the wire. The masked man hauled in a 30-yard touchdown and could be a good target for Joey Harrington down the stretch. If you are in need of tight end help, this could be a short-term solution for you.
Do not get me wrong because it is not his fault, but Steve Smith is nothing more than a number 3/4 fantasy wide receiver with a risky upside. His quarterback situation is more confusing than Tony Kornheiser’s commentary on Monday Night Football and he has had ONE good game in his last 7 outings since Jake Delhomme was injured. Are you willing to risk the 3 catches for 31 yards that he is averaging in those 6 games for one good performance? To top these things off, he (and all of the other Panthers) have a terrible remaining schedule other than a week 12 matchup with the Saints. This is the only other time I would start Smith this season, desperation or not.
• Packers 34, Vikings 0
I don’t know anyone who had the guts to start Ryan Grant against the vaunted Vikings run defense but those of you who did so were rewarded. The impressive looking Packers rookie cemented his starting role with 139 total yards and a touchdown against a defense that hadn’t allowed 100+ yards to the likes of LaDainian Tomlinson, Larry Johnson, or Brian Westbrook. Brett Favre continued to prove his superhuman abilities by throwing for 351 yards and 3 touchdowns in a balanced Packers offensive attack. Favre has multiple touchdowns in six of nine games this year and his team boasts a fantasy playoff schedule second only to the Browns in terms of difficulty.
Adrian Peterson will miss time with a torn Lateral Collateral Ligament in his right knee. This significantly shortens an already short piece about the Vikings. Peterson owners should grab Chester Taylor as a handcuff if they did not have him already. He should be relatively effective in Peterson’s stead but remember that the lack of passing game for Minnesota will make running lanes tighter and harder to find for the aging Taylor. EJ Henderson is the only must-start for this team. He is an IDP beast with double digit tackles in five of his last six games.
• Jaguars 28, Titans 13
Revenge is a dish best served to a divisional foe with a better record than you, or something like that. The Jaguar running attack was effective and Maurice Jones-Drew finally got a majority of carries over Fred Taylor. Jones-Drew ran for 101 yards and a touchdown and was the team’s leading receiver as well. Quinn Gray did just enough to get the Jaguars a win by completing 13 passes for 101 yards and a score. David Garrard’s return is eminent and should help the Jaguar passing game. Just don’t count on any of these receivers stepping up because it is not going to happen. The Jaguars defense bottled up Tennessee’s running game and is looking darned good.
Vince Young had one of his better games of the season with 257 passing yards, 52 rushing yards, and a touchdown. This is not saying much, but it could be a step in the right direction. Now if he could only figure out that you need to score more than you turn the ball over, instead of vice versa, he could at least be a more consistent option than Steve McNair. The Titans have a slight edge on the Jaguars when it comes to talent at the wide receiver position, but the inefficiency of their quarterback and the lack of a go-to target makes them all high-risk starts. LenDale White should bounce back in weeks to come with Denver, Cincinnati, and Houston on the schedule.
• Broncos 27, Chiefs 11
Should there be a running back controversy in Denver? Absolutely not. Travis Henry should be an afterthought in this offense whether or not he is suspended on November 16th. Selvin Young turned in his second solid game as Denver’s starting running back and looks to get the lion’s (speaking of Lions, don’t think he would not have posted numbers in this game if he was starting either) share of the carries going forward. In his two starts, Young is averaging 125 total yards and has added 9 catches and rushing score as well. On top of all of this he has looked spectacular in pass protection, which should quickly endear him to this team. Brandon Marshall is one of the most consistent receivers of this season and is a lock to start in your number two or three receiver slot every week.
Not a lot went right for the Chiefs in this game, but they were finally able to install their quarterback of the future and they got their top receiver back on track. After pulling a David Boston-like disappearing act for the last couple of weeks, Dwayne Bowe hauled in 9 catches for 105 yards against the talented corners of the Broncos. Quarterback Brodie Croyle looked his way repeatedly and will continue to do so down the stretch. I wouldn’t fall over myself to pick up Croyle unless the league started multiple quarterbacks, but he already looks like a better option than Damon Huard. Priest Holmes ran the ball quite effectively in this game, and you shouldn’t be fooled by his 20 carry, 65 yard stat line. He lost 14 yards on a goal line carry on a blown play that he tried to turn into a touchdown, or he would have been right at 4 yards per carry. He got more looks than Herm Edwards indicated and will be the feature back on this team until Larry Johnson can return.
• Bengals 21, Ravens 7
The Bengals’ offensive ineptitude in this game was disgusting but they got the job done on account of seven field goals from Shayne Graham. All Bengals not named Chris Henry and Chad Johnson disappointed owners by posting some putrid numbers against a hard-nosed but aging Ravens defense. Whichever Bengal running back that is starting down the stretch still has some considerable value due to their easy schedule, so both Rudi Johnson and Kenny Watson are worth owning, even after their hideous performances. Henry looked impressive in his debut from a 10 game suspension, hauling in 4 balls for 99 yards. Chad Johnson topped 70 yards for the seventh time and is an obvious must start.
The point that is becoming glaringly obvious about this Ravens team is that even their vaunted defensive unit is not worth starting in fantasy right now. With 4, 5, and even 6 turnovers in every game, this defense is being put in terrible positions to give up points in bunches. Couple this with the fact that their top two corners are still injured and you have a defense that can’t bring enough pressure to make up for the position that their offense continually gives to opposing teams. They are worth a bench spot as some key moves can still shore things up, but do not start them until things look better. Willis McGahee did enough to get by in a losing effort to further cement his must-start status, and fantasy owners should definitely keep an eye on Mark Clayton coming off his 107 yard performance.
• Cowboys 31, Giants 20
The Cowboys continue to prove that they have too many offensive weapons to be contained by even the most solid of NFC opponents (with the possible exception of the Packers, but I digress). Tony Romo is easily the second best quarterback in all of fantasy as he has posted multiple touchdowns in 8 of 9 games this season. He is able to make all of the necessary throws (even that disgusting underhanded toss to Tony Curtis for a touchdown). He and Terrell Owens are really developing a solid rapport which is grounds for elation for TO owners. Jason Witten owners are probably not nearly as happy about this as his numbers have taken a dive in 3 of the last 4 games. There are so many big plays in this offense and the passing game is going to well for either running back to truly excel, but Marion Barber is still a must-start as your number two back because of his touchdown scoring abilities.
The Giants are definitely a playoff team in the NFC and did not look bad in this game until they let Owens go crazy on them after their game tying touchdown was revoked. With Plaxico Burress ailing and well covered, Eli Manning was able to find Jeremy Shockey 12 times for 129 yards and a touchdown. Eli is just too inconsistent in his scoring to warrant a start in 10 team leagues right now, but you could do worse if you need an injury backup or a second quarterback to start. Brandon Jacobs continues to impress as he topped 85 yards for the fifth straight game. Reuben Droughns vultured another touchdown from Jacobs after he was used extensively to get the ball into the red zone, but don’t forget that Jacobs would have topped 100 yards and scored if not for the cheap holding call that negated his touchdown. He is a top-10 back from here on out, mark my words.
• Cardinals 31, Lions 21
This was probably the most surprising game of the afternoon as Kurt Warner was able to neutralize the improved defense of the Lions to the tune of 260 yards and 3 scoring tosses. Larry Fitzgerald proved that he is the Cardinals receiver worth a start every week with his 74 yards and 2 touchdowns, though Anquan Boldin will normally outperform the numbers that he put up on Sunday (3 catches, 25 yards). On the off-chance that your league uses team quarterbacks, you are loving Tim Rattay this year… otherwise you passionately hate him! Karlos Dansby continues to play very well at linebacker when he is healthy. He is still available in many IDP leagues.
John Kitna was able to muddy a 294 yard, 2 touchdown performance with a whopping four turnovers that ultimately cost the upstart Lions a chance at their seventh win of the season. He continued to spread the ball around to his deep wide receiving corps and gave the red zone love to Roy Williams, who caught a pair of 7 yard touchdown passes (oh yeah, and he had a third TD called back on a silly penalty too). Williams is the only Lions receiver I recommend starting with any confidence, though the others have value, especially in points-per-reception leagues. I have no comment for 8 rushes for negative 18 yards against this Cardinal defense. OK I have one – utterly horrendous.
• Bears 17, Raiders 6
The return of Sexy Rexy Grossman came faster than most people had assumed, and since it was a safe bet to never happen in a Bears uniform, that is saying something! Grossman hit Bernard Berrian for a 59 yard touchdown and Cedric Benson added a meaningless touchdown run at the end of this game to put the terrible Raiders away, but don’t be fooled by Grossman and Benson for one second. If Grossman is the starter, Berrian and his defense-stretching abilities are worth a start, but that is it. Greg Olsen and Muhsin Muhammad continue to prove that they are risky starts and cannot be trusted as more than flex options.
I cannot shower enough accolades on Kirk Morrison as the best fantasy player on this team. And if you are not in an IDP league you don’t have the “pleasure” of starting any Raiders this season. Isn’t that a shame? Justin Fargas did the best that he could with his 28 touches and was just able to top 100 total yards. He is a decent, though very risky flex option if the match-up is right, but you can’t tell me you don’t have a better option in all but the deepest of leagues. There is too much inconsistency at quarterback for this team to recommend Zach Miller at tight end. Unless you are absolutely desperate, it is not worth starting a Raiders offensive player!
• Chargers 23, Colts 21
What a wacky game this was! The Chargers got not one, but two special teams touchdowns from Darren Sproles and add a rushing score by LaDainian Tomlinson to go up by 23 points early in the second quarter. After that they did nothing but watch as their defense and their quarterback give back 21 points of the lead with 14 minutes left. Aside from the obvious must-start status of Tomlinson and Antonio Gates, I am just not seeing anyone on this offense that is even worth considering. Chris Chambers and Vincent Jackson are disappearing in the cloud of stench consuming Phillip Rivers, and are not even worth a start as your number three receivers until further notice. Adam Vinatieri handed the Chargers a win on a golden platter but I don’t know if it will be enough to save this talented group of underachievers.
If you are somehow able to look past the hideous interception total for Peyton Manning (6 picks), you would have seen a valiant effort much like that of Tony Romo in the Bills/Cowboys Monday night game last month. He did play terribly but did just enough to help his team win the game, only to be let down by their hall of fame kicker. Joseph Addai was the true fantasy flop of this game as he was only able to total 72 yards on his 25 touches and was unable to score. The big deficit certainly played a part in his worst outing of the year, but give credit to San Diego’s defense for bottling him up. Both Manning and Addai should be back to their old selves by next week, but it is clear that the Colts tailback is the more valuable of the two in fantasy this year. Reggie Wayne will continue to dominate with his constant, solid production.
• Seahawks 24, 49ers 0
The Seahawks are clearly the class of the NFC West, but that is not really saying that much at this point. Regardless, they are 5-4 with the knowledge that they let two easy wins escape them earlier in the season. Their passing game is rolling and it will only get better. Matt Hasselbeck has thrown for 2 touchdowns in 4 straight games, and 13 in his last 7 overall. DJ Hackett looked really good in his second game back from injury but I wouldn’t expect to see 100+ yards and a touchdown every week when Deion Branch is able to come back. Bobby Engram and Nate Burleson will take obvious hits to their value when the former Super Bowl MVP returns. At that point I think Hackett and Branch will be the only must-starts alongside Hasselbeck. Maurice Morris ran the ball effectively and with passion, which is more than you can say for Shaun Alexander’s performance so far this year. Morris is a better receiver and sports a pretty soft playoff schedule, so he is definitely worth a look if you need a number two back or flex option. Seattle’s D/ST is a nice option for the rest of the year too. They face lots of opponents with incredibly inert offenses.
Frank Gore remains the one bright spot on this team but you are simply not going to get the returns from him that you had hoped for. At his first round price of a top-5 pick, his owners are now left hoping that he can produce decent number two or three running back numbers. Alex Smith is completely tanking a pathetic passing game and I do not agree that Vernon Davis is the only start-able 49er. His one catch for 4 yards should speak for itself. The Niners have an easy schedule and if Smith can work his mechanics to the point of completing 55 percent of his passes, then maybe Gore will have a 100 yard game or two, but in an offense that has been outscored by Randy Moss and Sammy Morris alone, I wouldn’t expect more than three scores down the stretch. Start Gore, sit the rest. That will not change for the rest of the year.
Well that wraps up my coverage of the action from week 10. Its time to ice down that throwing arm and hit the research until next weekend. Hopefully this information will help you lead your team to a playoff birth and beyond. I hope to see you all next week and look forward to your feedback and suggestions. Feel free to email or PM me at any time.
Michael Stephens is an avid fantasy sports enthusiast who writes for the Cafe. He hails from the Pacific Northwest and is a die-hard Seahawk fan to the core! You can find Michael in the Cafe's forums where he actively posts under the name of WaCougMBS.
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