On Thursday, the NFL begins its annual takeover of another night of your life. Forget about your usual viewing routines. The matchup between Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech, a pair of top-25 programs, will slide to the background of our sporting consciousness as the Raiders and Chargers takes the field in San Diego.
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Fantasy owners are eager to see if Philip Rivers’ four-touchdown performance against Green Bay was but a blip on the radar or the start of a second-half surge.
Raider fans are clamoring for fewer turnovers.
Buckle yourself in for a wild ride in the AFC West. The second half is set to get underway with a shootout.
Exclude: Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees, Michael Vick, Matthew Stafford, Tony Romo, Eli Manning (he made it), Philip Rivers (he returns), Cam Newton
Tim Tebow, DEN at KC: That’s right. Once you pull out the “Exclusions,” Tebow rises to the top of the “Heroes” list. He’s completed just 46.4% of his pass attempts, but continues to plow through would-be tacklers on the ground. Tebow has rushed for at least 59 yards in each of his three starts while generating five total touchdowns and two turnovers.
Eventually, teams will catch up to the Broncos’ scheme with Tebow and things will slow. I’m willing to parlay my Week 9 bet this week after watching Tebow and Willis McGahee run over the Raiders. The Chiefs have allowed 120.3 rushing yards and one rushing touchdown per game, not to mention 15 passing touchdowns. I have no reason to believe that we see a slowdown from Tebow in Week 10.
Carson Palmer, OAK at SD: Start Palmer with confidence this week. Sure, he’s still misfiring on occasion (another three interceptions in the loss to Denver) and timing is still being established with his downfield threats. I’m not anticipating that he improves significantly on his 54% completion rate from last week, but he’ll work against a less than stellar secondary (15 touchdowns allowed) with multiple speed options at the ready.
Matt Ryan, ATL vs. NO: Ryan logged his third straight multi-touchdown game of the season in Week 9 (two came by way of rushing touchdowns). In Week 9, Ryan welcomed back big-play specialist Julio Jones to the fold and laid it out perfectly for the rookie wide receiver.
Ryan faces a familiar foe in Week 10 when the Saints come to call. Gregg Williams will bring his usual heat to attempt to disrupt Ryan, but Jones’ ability to work across the field and Michael Turner’s efforts on the ground will help to neutralize those efforts. New Orleans allowed 228 passing yards and 1.6 touchdowns through its first eight games. Ryan averaged 245.6 yards and 1.4 touchdowns in his first five matchups against the Saints.
Ben Roethlisberger, PIT at CIN: Roethlisberger earned his third consecutive 300-yard game in Sunday’s loss to Baltimore. He’s done well to limit turnovers and has been spreading the ball around more effectively of late (12 touchdowns and three interceptions in his past five games).
The Bengals rank eighth in pass defense at 216.8 passing yards and one touchdown allowed per game. However, this game against Bruce Arians’ offense represents a decided step up in class. The Bengals performed well against Cleveland, Jacksonville, Indianapolis and Seattle en route to the 6-2 record, but Roethlisberger’s ability to stand tall and move the pocket will present problems. Start him as a back-end QB1 option.
Jay Cutler, CHI vs. DET: Cutler produced a fantastic game against the Eagles on Monday night. He threw two touchdown passes and passed for 208 yards without a turnover or a sack. The Chicago offensive line is playing with more confidence, and Cutler’s security blanket, Earl Bennett, returned to action to assume the No. 1 role in Week 9.
The Bears seek to rebound from a disappointing road loss to Detroit in Week 5. Mike Tice’s line will be under the microscope against Ndamukong Suh and the Detroit defense that dominated the first meeting.
Matt Cassel, KC vs. DEN: The matchup is mighty tasty on paper for Cassel. Denver has allowed 258 passing yards and 2.1 passing touchdowns per game. The Denver secondary has struggled markedly this season because of an inconsistent pass rush, and I don’t suspect that anything changes here.
Cassel has produced a single touchdown against four interceptions in three games since the Patriots’ Week 6 Bye. Still, I can’t look away from the matchup, particularly with rookie Jonathan Baldwin stepping forward as a third option to complement Dwayne Bowe and Steve Breaston.
Mark Sanchez, NYJ vs. NE: He took the heat when the Jets struggled early this season, but Sanchez produced well for fantasy owners. He has generated multiple touchdowns in six of his eight games this season. Sanchez’s yardage count won’t overwhelm you, but frequent targets downfield to Santonio Holmes and Plaxico Burress deliver strong fantasy numbers.
The Patriots continue to shuffle the secondary and made another big move this week by severing ties with Albert Haynesworth. New England ranks dead-last against the pass, surrendering 314 yards and 1.75 touchdowns per game.
Joe Flacco, BAL at SEA: We’ll ask this question for the remainder of the season.
Will we see Flacco take shots downfield and try to involve potential stud rookie Torrey Smith early? Or, will Flacco revert to some of the horrid decision-making and worse ball security in games prior to last week’s win over Pittsburgh?
The Seahawks possess a middling pass defense (242.4 yards and 1.25 touchdowns allowed per game) that produces inconsistent pressure off of the edge. Flacco will see opportunities downfield with Smith and Anquan Boldin. Perhaps he’ll have a surge of confidence following a huge comeback win over Pittsburgh and Boldin will channel some of that second-half effort against Arizona.
Week 10 Quarterback Ninja Alerts
Christian Ponder, MIN at GB: Ponder had that “pretty” 13-for-32 day (219 yards with two touchdowns) against the Packers in Week 7. With another game under his belt and a Bye week to prepare, Ponder’s a sneaky plug-in starter against a gambling Green Bay secondary that has been susceptible to the big play.
Matt Hasselbeck, TEN at CAR: Hasselbeck has yet to be shut out this season, effectively spreading the ball around to Nate Washington, Jared Cook and youngsters Lavelle Hawkins and Damian Williams. He’s a solid, albeit unspectacular, option against the Panthers this week (10 touchdowns allowed). I don’t anticipate a huge game, but there’s opportunity here should Chris Johnson and Javon Ringer provide support on the ground.
Matt Moore, MIA vs. WAS: Moore posted a tremendous Week 9 effort in the Dolphins’ blowout win over Kansas City. He completed 17-of-23 attempts for 244 yards with three touchdowns, including two connections with tight end Anthony Fasano. Moore slides onto the radar this week against the injury-riddled Washington defense. He has a go-to receiver in Brandon Marshall, and Reggie Bush is now performing like a player worthy of being dealt for a loaded pizza.
Week 10 Quarterback Flop Alerts
Tom Brady, NE at NYJ: Brady passed for 321 yards with one touchdown, one interception and four sacks in the Patriots’ Week 5 home win. The New York defense has regained a bit of its swagger and routinely shuts down opposing quarterback. The Jets ranks seventh against the pass, surrendering just 196 yards and .63 touchdowns per game.
He’s still a QB1 option this week, but he’s a few notches lower than his usual lofty perch.
Matt Schaub, HOU at TB: This isn’t so much a fear of Schaub’s inability to produce numbers against the Buccaneers (28th against the pass at 265.3 yards allowed per game). Rather, it’s a question of how much Schaub’s arm will be needed against a Tampa Bay run defense that has been gashed and outright run over to the tune of 4.9 yards per attempt (132.4 yards per game). Gary Kubiak’s usage of Arian Foster and Ben Tate has been masterful, and I don’t see the Tampa Bay defensive line (now without Gerald McCoy for the duration of the season) putting up much of a battle. We’ll get back onboard the Schaub bandwagon after the Week 11 Bye and Andre Johnson’s return.
Schaub has thrown multiple touchdown passes in two of the past six weeks.
Andy Dalton, CIN vs. PIT: The Bengals have been rolling, and it’s good to see Dalton starting to get some press for his impressive start. However, he steps up in class this week against a Pittsburgh defense eager to put last week’s failure against the Ravens in the rearview mirror.
Pittsburgh’s pass defense ranks third in the NFL, having allowed 184.7 yards and 1.2 touchdowns per game. I don’t anticipate a complete shutdown of the Dalton-Green combo, particularly with Jermaine Gresham returning to action, but this is a tall task. Save his “Ninja” status for another week.
Josh Freeman, TB vs. HOU: Freeman posted two-touchdown games against the Saints and Bears in Weeks 6 and 7. Those are but blips on the radar in an otherwise dismal season in which Freeman has logged just eight touchdown passes.
The Texans’ strong pass rush and excellent play in the secondary (even with Danieal Manning injured) will wreak havoc on Freeman here. To date, Houston has limited opposing quarterbacks to a league-best 51.7% completion percentage while surrendering 182.6 yards and 1.1 touchdowns allowed per game. Top option Mike Williams has struggled markedly in his sophomore campaign and appeared on the mid-week injury report.