Count me among those torn in my feelings about the arrival of Thursday night games.
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Fantasy owners had to put their thinking hats on earlier than normal for Week 10. The advent of Thursday games forced owners’ hands in lineup decisions and pushed them to commit to waiver selections quicker than they’d liked.
On the other hand, how do you argue against an extra day of football?
Line them up. It’s time to get between the lines and find gems and spot plays for the secondary roster positions.
Exclude: Jimmy Graham, Jason Witten, Antonio Gates, Rob Gronkowski, Jermichael Finley, Tony Gonzalez
Week 10 Tight End Heroes
Jake Ballard, NYG at SF: Ballard made one of the finest catches you’ll see this year in last week’s comeback win over New England. He’s a borderline “Exclusion” candidate based on his recent successes. Ballard ascends to that level following another big game this week against the 49ers.
San Francisco has been dominating opponents against the run, but opponents have found success downfield. The 49ers ranks 24th in pass defense at 273 yards and 1.4 touchdowns allowed per game, and this is a step up in class for this San Francisco defense.
Greg Olsen, CAR vs. TEN: Olsen got back to his scoring ways in Week 8 against the Vikings, his fourth touchdown reception of the year (four receptions for 73 yards). Olsen has been the No. 2 receiver for Cam Newton this season, producing 30 receptions on 52 targets.
The Tennessee pass defense has been susceptible down the middle during Chris Hope’s absence. Cam Newton’s scrambling ability wreaks havoc against the Titans at home.
Fred Davis, WAS at MIA: Davis wasn’t his explosive self against the 49ers because of a lingering ankle injury, but he still amassed four receptions for 42 yards. John Beck hasn’t been taking shots downfield, and I don’t anticipate that his play changes this week against Miami. Take the high target count.
Brandon Pettigrew, DET at CHI: Pettigrew represents a challenging roster option this week. He’s had several dominant games where he and Matthew Stafford have tormented opposing defenses. Pettigrew has also been affected by an elbow injury and finished five games with 42 or fewer receiving yards.
Still, it’s hard to look past this opportunity against the Bears. I don’t anticipate a Finley-esque three-touchdown game against Chicago, but opposing tight ends have fared well this season. Jimmy Graham, Tony Gonzalez, Brent Celek (see below) and Greg Olsen have all posted strong games against the Bears. Kellen Winslow scored his first touchdown of the season against Chicago in London.
Roll Pettigrew up for another big game, particularly if you’re in a PPR league.
Brent Celek, PHI vs. ARI: Celek was a lost figure through the first five weeks of the season. In the past three weeks, he’s become a reliable go-to target for Michael Vick, racking up 17 receptions for 196 yards. He remains a strong option this weekend against the porous Arizona pass defense.
Week 10 Tight End Ninja Alerts
Visanthe Shiancoe, MIN at GB: He’s not an overwhelming option, but Shiancoe’s role has increased in recent weeks. Shiancoe has caught three or more passes in four of the Vikings’ past five games, finishing three of those games with 45 or more receiving yards. I liked what I saw of Christian Ponder ahead of the Week 9 Bye, so I’m curious to watch him in the rematch with Green Bay. Shiancoe caught four passes for 45 yards with a touchdown against the Packers in Week 7.
Jacob Tamme, IND vs. JAC: Tamme steps into the spotlight once again with Dallas Clark sidelined indefinitely. He dominated in place of Clark last season with Peyton Manning under center. I can’t dismiss him altogether despite Curtis Painter’s issues under center. Clark had assumed a larger role in recent weeks before sustaining a leg injury in Week 9.
Week 10 Tight End Flop Alerts
Vernon Davis, SF vs. NYG: Davis posted a strong three-game run early in the season, but has been quieted in his other five starts. He’s only finished one game with more than 47 receiving yards. Davis is a supreme physical talent, without question. Unfortunately for fantasy owners, his role has been minimized in the passing game. Davis is dominating as a blocker instead of blowing up defensive backs downfield.
Owen Daniels, HOU at TB: Daniels remains a solid, albeit unspectacular, option in PPR leagues, but his stock in standard leagues has slumped markedly. He’s finished three of his past four games with 60 receiving yards or fewer. There is an opportunity here against the Tampa Bay secondary as the No. 1 option for Matt Schaub if the Texans decide to stretch the field. Given the success of the Houston running game and the heretofore terrible returns from the Tampa Bay run defense, I don’t know that they’ll need to bother.
Kickers Plug-In Plays
Ryan Succop, KC vs. DEN: The Chiefs failed miserably in defending the home field against the visiting Dolphins last weekend. I anticipate a more consistent effort from the passing game and Matt Cassel against the Denver secondary this week. The Broncos rank 31st in total defense at 28 points allowed per game.
Matt Prater, DEN at KC: Break out the “Super Jock” efforts for the road tilt in Kansas City. Prater has converted at least one field goal and one PAT in seven of eight games.
Tim Tebow and Willis McGahee will find success on the ground against the Chiefs, thereby putting Prater in position for multiple tries. Kansas City surrenders 25.1 points per game.
Dan Carpenter, MIA vs. WAS: Carpenter converted six PATs in the past two weeks. Prior to Week 8, he’d converted multiple PATs once (Week 1). He’s a consistent field goal performer with five multi-field goal games. Make it six this week.
Reggie Bush is running more consistently than we’ve seen in recent memory. Matt Moore passed more like he did in spots for the Panthers in the past than his recent Miami efforts. Those factors bode well for Carpenter’s value in Week 10.
Josh Brown, STL at CLE: The Rams are never going to pile on points this season, but there are some positives to be gleaned from the past several weeks. Steven Jackson is back to barreling over would-be tacklers as we’ve seen for years. Brandon Lloyd gives Sam Bradford an impact downfield receiver.
It’s clearly a bit of a longshot given the Rams’ overall inability to pile up points, but I do trust that St. Louis will be able to run the ball and put Brown in position for multiple long-distance drives.
Kickers on the Pine
Mike Nugent, CIN vs. PIT: The Bengals square off with the Steelers in one of the marquee matchups for Week 10. It’s a step up in competition for the youthful Cincinnati offense against a Pittsburgh defense still reeling from Sunday’s loss to Baltimore.
Steven Gostkowski, NE at NYJ: I know that the Patriots put up 30 points on the Jets in the first matchup this season. The Jets are playing more consistent football on both sides of the ball of late, and the pass defense should be able to keep Tom Brady reasonably in check (321 yards with one touchdown and one interception in the first tilt).
He’s converted at least one field goal and one PAT in every game this season. Gostkowski remains a solid back-end K1 option, but the parade of easy points slows again this week. The Patriots have scored 20 points or fewer in three straight games.
Defenses Plug-In Plays
Miami vs. WAS: John Beck appeared on the fantasy radar for a brief moment, but his inability to throw the ball downfield has ground the Washington offense to a halt. The Dolphins traveled to Kansas City and silenced a streaking Chiefs squad in Week 9. It’s not a world-beating unit, but this smacks of the classic “Play the matchup” scenario. The Washington offense has produced just 17.3 points per game.
St. Louis at CLE: The Browns have been an absolute disaster for Pat Shurmur. Colt McCoy has regressed under center, and I could spend a day recapping the long road taken by Peyton Hillis since he electrified the fantasy world in 2010. I look for the St. Louis pass rush to create more problems for Colt McCoy, who has little support from the running game and Chris Ogbannaya.
Defenses on the Pine
Cincinnati vs. PIT: The Bengals have performed well through the first half of the season for Marvin Lewis. Bruce Arians’ offense presents a new set of challenges for the Bengals and, though Cincinnati has fared well against Ben Roethlisberger historically, this matchup feels different coming off of the Steelers’ Sunday loss to Baltimore.
San Francisco vs. NYG: The 49ers are rock-solid against the run and have yet to cede a rushing touchdown. San Francisco ranks first in total defense at 14.8 points allowed per game. However, the 49ers have been beaten downfield in the passing game (255 yards and 1.4 touchdowns allowed per game). That speaks to the strength of the New York offense that may have Hakeem Nicks available in some capacity.
I’m curious to see how these teams respond to this huge test.