As the fantasy football universe begins the home stretch, some teams are mortal locks for postseason glory while others require lots of attention.
Here’s your guide for Week 10.
Quarterbacks – Studs
Quarterbacks – Sit
Cam Newton, CAR: Newton has been a beast thus far in the season even without running nearly as much as he had in seasons past. He has four rushing touchdowns in eight games, just half of what most owners expected from him.
This week, he faces the San Francisco 49ers, a team with one of the league’s best defenses even with a dropoff in expectations. Coming off of a bye week and the return of Aldon Smith, the 49ers look like too tough a task for Newton.
Colin Kaepernick, SF: Just like Newton, Kaepernick hasn’t run the ball quite like people expected. And though Carolina has faced some of the league’s worst teams, they’ve spent countless draft picks upgrading their front seven.
Carolina presents Kaepernick with a challenge that coach Jim Harbaugh may decide to win with his strong defense, calling a more conservative offense than he has over the past few weeks.
Matt Ryan, ATL: As with Newton and Kaepernick, Ryan also faces a very tough defense versus Seattle, though he will finally have Roddy White back to throw to.
Ryan was still tough to put on this list as the Seahawks haven’t played the same type of defense on the road as they have at home. Considering the injury-riddled receiving corps that the dirty-birds possess, there are better options than Ryan.
Quarterbacks – Start
Jay Cutler, CHI* – Questionable: This is a game-time call here. Cutler is not a lock to play, but faces a Detroit secondary that has given up plenty through the air.
The Lions also have the tendency to score — a lot — so coach Mark Trestman will want to go aerial early and often. Even if Cutler doesn’t play, Josh McCown showed enough against Green Bay that warrants consideration in the case that Cutler doesn’t play.
Phillip Rivers, SD: Rivers will be at home against the Denver Broncos, which just shouts “start, start, start.” Denver’s defense is not bad, but the way they run up scores nearly eliminates the ground game and forces teams to throw. This is a no-brainer, but some as purely brainless.
Jake Locker, TEN: Contrary to common belief, Locker is not a bad quarterback. He’s just without much help. He was able to put up 40 fantasy points in standard scoring leagues and has a knack to play to his defensive competition. While Jacksonville may not have a good defense at all, Locker is a cheap add that should pay reasonable dividends.
Running Backs – Studs
Running Backs – Start
Chris Johnson, TEN: He’s going up against Jacksonville and should see the ball often. The Tennessee defense should have no issue keeping the Jag’s score low and bye the second half, CJ1K should see plenty of looks. Following a breakout performance in week 9 against St. Louis, he might still have some fantasy relevance remaining.
Trent Richardson, IND: While Richardson has left much to be desired as a first-round pick, there’s no way the Colts gave up a first-round pick for 10 carries a game.
The Rams (see above) allow points in masses to the Titans and rank 29th against the run with standard scoring. Coach Chuck Pagano also called for the ball to get to Richardson through the air twice last week, signaling some added potential for touchdowns moving forward. The loss of Reggie Wayne also opens the door for the former Heisman candidate.
Fred Jackson/CJ Spiller, BUF: Fantasy owners had been hoping that Spiller would finally justify his top-five draft position — and he delivered. The only issue is that both Jackson and Spiller are good.
Spiller is the one with the most explosiveness and is the top prospect in the scenario. Going against a Steelers defense that just allowed New England running backs nearly 200 rushing yards, both are must-starts regardless of the backfield complications.
Running backs – Sit
Giovanni Bernard, CIN: Bernard has boatloads of talent. No question about that. But is he good enough to put up start-worthy numbers against the best red zone defense in the NFL? Probably not.
Bernard has the potential, but the not the experience. If he does, he’s a sure-fire stud. But the odds are against him this early in his career.
Andre Ellington, ARI: Ellington lit up the scoreboard against Atlanta in Week 8, but who hasn’t.
Sure, he’s talented. He’s also got Rashard Mendenhall and Stefan Taylor to compete with. He’s also going against a team with a knack for killing the run early. Houston may be ranked right in the middle of fantasy run defenses, but make no mistake: This is a team that excels in the run game on both sides of the ball.
Eddie Lacy, GB: There are a few names here to be considered: Aaron Rodgers, Nick Foles and Chip Kelly. With no Aaron Rodgers, Chip Kelly will almost certainly have either Nick Foles or Michael Vick run the score just like they did against the Raiders last Sunday. It’s hard to imagine Lacy being relevant this week — or for the rest of the fantasy football regular season.
Wide Receivers – Studs
Note: You read the list above correctly. There are now two WR’s on the studs list from Chicago. Alshon Jeffery has scored almost as many points as Dez Bryant since week 4 began. No joke.
Wide Receivers – Start
Keenan Allen, SD: Allen isn’t far off from being the best wide receiver in football after Calvin Johnson — and he’s only a rookie.
Allen began his fantasy relevance in Week 4 against Dallas, catching five passes for 80 yards. Phillip Rivers has developed a deep trust in Allen and is not afraid to give him a look whether he is covered up or not.
In his last four games, Allen has three with more than 100 yards receiving and three touchdowns. The arrow is up for Allen and is almost a weekly must-start.
Torrey Smith, BAL: The loss of Geno Atkins, Leon Hall, Taylor Mays and others has killed the Bengals defense. While Smith has put up pedestrian numbers thus far, he should have a good time shaking off the rust this week.
He’s on pace for a career season in receptions, targets and yardage and has performed admirably without Anquan Boldin helping steer defenders away.
Terrance Williams, DAL: The Saints will come marching into the Superdome this week and the Cowboys will travel to meet them there. This is another game where the Saints will score often, forcing Dallas to throw.
Surely Sean Peyton is more focused on stopping Dez Bryant, leaving much defensive attention free of Williams. He shouldn’t have too much trouble eclipsing 80 yards and a score this Sunday night.
Wide Receivers – Sit
Marvin Jones, CIN: This has equally as much to do with the Ravens’ ability to rush the passer as it does with the trust between Andy Dalton and AJ Green.
It’s a fair assumption that Dalton will be under duress for the majority of the matchup and Jones doesn’t have quite the chemistry that Green has with him. Chances are that Jones sees a few passes, but in the short to intermediary game rather than the long bombs we’ve recently become accustomed to seeing.
Wes Welker, DEN: While Welker is a terrific slot player, he’ll be matched up against a Chargers linebacker, notably Manti Te’o.
In the past few weeks, teams have clamped down on the Broncos’ intermediary game. In turn, the Broncos have only completed 64 percent of their third down passing attempts.
Manning is only 56 percent on third and between three and seven yards, which makes the point even clearer. It’s not Welker or Manning as much as it is the defensive adjustments to the two players.