As always, please remember that the players listed are mostly meant to be borderline guys, who need reasons for you to play or bench them. You won’t see recommendations to start Aaron Rodgers and Marshawn Lynch, because you should always start Aaron Rodgers and Marshawn Lynch. Even if Lynch might end up with eight carries, like he inexplicably did on Monday against the Rams.
Note: The fantasy points per game (FPPG) referenced below are from FOXSports.com standard leagues, and always refer to the position being discussed.
Stay away: Tom Brady, Patriots (vs. Steelers)
Yes, it’s time, especially against the Steelers’ fourth-ranked fantasy defense (13.8 FPPG allowed to opposing QBs). I don’t know if Brady is hurt or struggling with the changes to his receiving corps or just getting older, but for this week, look to bench him. Next week … we’ll see.
– Andrew Luck has a date with the Texans, who have the NFL’s top-ranked pass defense (145.6 ypg) and the 10th-ranked fantasy defense (17 FPPG to opposing QBs).
Also, we’re not yet sure how the loss of Reggie Wayne will affect the Colts’ offense, which has become noticeably more run-heavy this season. You probably have a better option than Luck this week – I’m starting Jake Locker over him in one league.
Play, play, play: Jake Locker, Titans (@ Rams)
Speaking of Locker, he’s in St. Louis to visit the Rams’ 16th-ranked fantasy defense (19.4 FPPG to opposing QBs), a unit that also ranks second-worst by allowing 8.4 yards per pass attempt. Locker is an inconsistent passer, but he has upside here, and can get you some points on the ground.
– Will Terrelle Pryor run for another 93-yard touchdown? Well, maybe … he’s really fast. Even if he doesn’t, this week’s matchup with the Eagles’ 25th-ranked fantasy defense (22.3 FPPG allowed to opposing QBs) is a friendly one.
– Game manager extraordinaire Alex Smith takes the undefeated Chiefs into Buffalo to battle the Bills’ 30th-ranked fantasy defense (24.4 FPPG allowed to opposing QBs). He’s a low-end fantasy QB1 due to the matchup.
Stay away: Pierre Thomas, Saints (@ Jets)
The Bengals may have destroyed the Jets last week, but runners Gio Bernard and BenJarvus Green-Ellis combined for just 51 yards on 16 carries. This week, Thomas and the Saints visit Rex Ryan’s fourth-ranked fantasy defense (13.1 FPPG allowed to opposing RBs), which has given up a league-low 77.9 rushing yards per game. It’s tough to call a runner like Thomas a “must bench” in a week with this many byes, but look to avoid him if you’ve got options.
– The Seahawks and their seventh-ranked fantasy defense (13.5 FPPG allowed to opposing RBs) host the Mike James and the Bucs in what should be a blowout. James had 14 touches against the Panthers in Week 8, but also ceded six receptions to teammate Brian Leonard. James isn’t a bad back, but he’s just outside the top 24 this week.
Play, play, play: Ryan Mathews and Danny Woodhead, Chargers (@ Redskins)
If I had told you two months ago that both Woodhead (17th) and Mathews (23rd) would rank among fantasy’s top 25 backs at midseason, you’d have called me crazy. But here we are, and these guys have a date with the Redskins’ bottom-ranked fantasy defense (24.2 FPPG allowed to opposing RBs). Super Chargers!
– Gio Bernard is the more solid start, but BenJarvus Green-Ellis is also a play tonight against the Dolphins’ 29th-ranked fantasy defense (21.2 FPPG allowed to opposing RBs). The Law Firm needs to score to have real value, but the ‘Fins have given up an average of one rushing TD per game.
Stay away: Danny Amendola, Patriots (vs. Steelers)
Could Amendola bounce back with a nine-catch game? Sure, but it’s hard to trust him right now, since he’s caught just nine passes for 70 yards since Week 1, and has a matchup with the Steelers’ third-ranked fantasy defense (15.1 FPPG allowed to opposing WRs). Besides, he’ll probably get hurt again before halftime, anyway.
– Titans’ shutdown CB Alterraun Verner can’t cover everyone, but he leads a unit that ranks second against opposing fantasy wideouts (14.4 FPPG). You probably don’t need a lot of reasons to bench your Rams’ pass catchers, but this matchup is another one.
Play, play, play: Dwayne Bowe, Chiefs (@ Bills)
My disdain for Fantasy Dwayne Bowe is strong, but we may need to give him a little love this week, as he’ll face the Bills’ league-worst fantasy defense (33.7 FPPG allowed to opposing WRs). If there’s ever a week when Bowe and Alex Smith will look like the poor man’s version of Jerry Rice and Joe Montana, it’s this one.
– Raiders Denarius Moore and Rod Streater have a home date with the Eagles’ 31st-ranked fantasy defense (33.5 FPPG allowed to opposing WRs). You probably planned to start Moore already, but Streater is a sneaky flex option. Streater is owned in 1.3 percent of FOXSports.com leagues.
– Terrance Williams has scored in four straight games for the Cowboys, catching 14 passed for 308 yards over that span, and possibly Wally Pipp-ing Miles Austin. Those of you who didn’t already have Williams locked into a lineup spot should know that the Vikings are giving up 287.9 passing yards per game, and rank 25th against opposing fantasy WRs (26.7 FPPG allowed).
– Need to dig deep? Carolina’s Brandon LaFell is owned in just 10.3 percent of FOXSports.com leagues, and faces a Falcons’ defense that ranks 30th against opposing fantasy wide receivers (28.5 FPPG). For those keeping score, I’ve got LaFell ranked one slot ahead of Streater this week.
Stay away: Brent Celek, Eagles (@ Raiders)
Most of this week’s undesirable tight ends are often undesirable, but Celek has a tough matchup with a Raiders’ ninth-ranked fantasy defense (6.3 FPPG to opposing TEs) that has allowed just 3.9 receptions per game to players at the position.
Play, play, play: Martellus Bennett, Bears (@ Packers)
Bennett had a bye in Week 8, but don’t forget to get Bennett back in there versus the Packers’ 30th-ranked fantasy defense (11.1 FPPG allowed to opposing TEs). Backup quarterbacks like Josh McCown need checkdown options, right? Matt Forte can’t catch all the short passes … or at least I think he can’t.
– Kyle Rudolph may have been a bit overrated during draft season, but he’s on pace to catch about 65 passes, and that’s pretty good. His matchup this week against the Cowboys’ 28th-ranked fantasy defense (10.5 FPPG to opposing TEs) is a good one, whether he’s hauling in balls from from Christian Ponder or Josh Freeman.
– Even as part of a timeshare with Kyle Eifert, Jermaine Gresham looks like a decent bye-week desperation option tonight against the Dolphins’ 31st-ranked fantasy defense (11.5 FPPG to opposing TEs).