Week 10 of the fantasy football season in the NFL is often considered the beginning of the home-stretch for owners. Whether you’re fighting for a playoff place, battling it out for seeding or holding off challengers just to be involved in the postseason, notching another win this week is vital.
Here are four tips to consider before setting your lineup this week.
This season has been a season of consistency and mediocrity for Sanders as the Pittsburgh Steelers third wide receiver. However this week he gets an opportunity to start in place of the injured Antonio Brown. Because the Steelers feature three receiver sets heavily in Todd Haley’s offense, Sanders actually only has eight less snaps on the field this year than Brown. However, Brown has run 50 more routes as Sanders has been used to pass block 46 more times and Brown has four rushing attempts.
In a starting role, Sanders should receive more opportunities to catch the football. He is currently averaging one target per 6.4 routes run, while Brown has averaged one target per every 4.5 routes run. With a reception per every 1.4 targets, Sanders’ opportunities should multiply in Brown’s role. Whether he can take those opportunities or not is the real question.
Against the Kansas City Chiefs, who recently cut second starting cornerback Stanford Routt, that should be no issue. Presuming that Brandon Flowers covers Mike Wallace, Sanders will have a serious matchup advantage against Javier Arenas. Sanders was actually ahead of Brown in the pecking order of the offense when the duo were rookies, but injuries and a family bereavement limited him last season. This opportunity should be one he is determined to take, while he has all the talent to have a huge game against the Chiefs’ porous defense.
SIT—Doug Martin, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Even prior to his historic showing last week, the majority of fantasy football owners were already starting Martin every week. Martin’s massive day against the Oakland Raiders would make you think that he must be started in every single league this week, but for those owners with multiple more running backs than they need to start, Martin is an unlikely, but logical candidate to hit the bench this week.
The Raiders’ defense ranks 26th in the league in yards allowed per attempt entering this week, while the San Diego Chargers, this week’s opponent, rank fifth. More importantly, the Raiders defense has given up 10 runs of 20+ yards while the Chargers have given up just four of 20+ and zero of 40+, compared to the Raiders’ four of at least 40.
When you take away Martin’s three long runs from last week’s game, he came out with 22 carries for 69 yards. Those numbers figure to fall even further against the Chargers, but furthermore the Buccaneers’ offense should focus around Josh Freeman and the passing game. The Chargers’ cornerbacks are clearly the weakness of their defense, while the Buccaneers have shown a willingness in recent times to put the ball in Freeman’s hands. Freeman has 108 attempts in the past three games, while Vincent Jackson and Mike Williams continue to prove excellent receivers.
Martin would be doing well to break off big gains against the Chargers, while he also won’t be a focal point of the offense. He could replicate his season low of eight carries in a game.
Start—Jerome Simpson, Minnesota Vikings
Percy Harvin is listed as doubtful for the Vikings game against the Detroit Lions, and even if he plays he is unlikely to be 100 percent after spraining his left ankle last week. That will come as a big blow for Harvin owners, but the wide receiver position in Minnesota should still see plenty of targets regardless of the loss of the home side’s star receiver. Michael Jenkins and Jerome Simpson are set to carry the load in Harvin’s absence. Both have potential for big plays at any moment, so it is simply a matter of determining who is most likely of the two.
Jenkins has been less consistent than Simpson on the whole this year, while Simpson has also been adjusting after missing the start of the season through suspension. At this point he should have found his comfort level however and be the better option over Jenkins. Losing Harvin hurts the duo, because one of them will now see the Lions’ starting cornerback, but the Lions’ secondary is so bad that that isn’t a real issue. The Vikings should change their approach to this game and focus completely on establishing Adrian Peterson without Harvin.
Presuming that Peterson can have a huge game against a poor rush defense, both Jenkins and Simpson should have big-play opportunities off of play-action. Simpson has proven to be a better starter than Jenkins in the past and has more explosion at this point in their respective careers. His chances of hitting a big home-run or two are relatively high. In deeper leagues, Simpson must start, while in other leagues he comes under consideration as a WR3.
SIT—Alex Smith, San Francisco 49ers
Although he is coming out of a bye week, Smith’s last performance must still linger in the minds of his fantasy owners. Three touchdowns and 232 yards is an impressive feat and generous contribution from the quarterback, but that shouldn’t be repeated against the seemingly lowly St. Louis Rams. The Rams will likely lose to the 49ers convincingly, but that won’t be based on an explosive offense.
The Rams’ defense is a very underrated unit. They have the pass rushers who could disrupt Smith and the playmakers behind the front seven to create some turnovers. Keeping that in mind, the 49ers offense should lean heavily on a fresh Frank Gore. Even in Smith’s last game, when he threw over 230 yards and three touchdowns, he only had 19 attempts on the day. Prior to that game he had thrown for just 340 yards, one touchdown to four interceptions in two games. Smith’s only other notable fantasy performance this season, outside of his last outing, came against the Buffalo Bills‘ defense.
The difference in quality between that defense and the Rams’ unit is overwhelming. Even though they will likely win the game with ease, that probability is based on the 49ers’ defense being dominant against the Rams’ offense, not on Smith’s arm.
Cian Fahey can be found on twitter @Cianaf. He also writes for the Guardian, Irishcentral and Balls.ie.