Disclaimer ... Before you start reading, please understand that we are not in the business of stating the obvious and wasting your time (or ours), so you won't be reading here why you need to start Aaron Rodgers, Arian Foster, Calvin Johnson or any other top-tier players. We're here to help you make a decision on players you are on the fence about.
Robert Griffin III, Aaron Rodgers and the Packers receivers headline the list of players on a bye in Week 10, so you may be scrambling for some replacements. With that in mind, here are five players to start and five to avoid as we enter the 10th week of the Fantasy season.
Get 'em active ...
Josh Freeman, QB, Buccaneers (vs. SD)
Current own/start %: 92/42
I'd start him over: Tony Romo (at PHI), Michael Vick (vs. DAL), Philip Rivers (at TB)
Over their last four games, the Buccaneers have scored 144 points and turned Mike Williams, Vincent Jackson and teach me how to Dougie Martin into household names. The trigger man of this offensive juggernaut is the one and only Josh Freeman, who has thrown for 1,257 yards and 11 touchdowns during that span with only one interception. He has produced at least 23 Fantasy points in each of those games and is hotter than Hansel in Zoolander. Freeman is second in the NFL at 8.2 yards per attempt and leads the league with 10 pass plays of 40-plus yards, as Freeman has been able to get the ball down the field to both Jackson and Williams. With Martin having the best two-game total yardage stretch since Walter Payton back in the '70s, defenses have to focus on stopping the run or pay the price like the Raiders did in Week 9. That leaves their defensive backs extremely vulnerable to the deep passing attack of the Bucs. Excluding the Cleveland game in a torrential downpour and the game against the worst team in the NFL -- the Chiefs -- the Chargers have allowed 23 points per game to opposing quarterbacks. Freeman is red hot and the matchup is good, so consider him a must start this week.
Eli Manning, QB, Giants (at CIN)
Current own/start %: 100/71
I'd start him over: Jay Cutler (vs. HOU), Matt Schaub (at CHI), Tony Romo (at PHI)
Eli Manning has been absolutely horrendous of late and was a definite sit in this very column last week. He showed me nothing that makes me want to start him this week in the loss to the Steelers, but I am going with him anyway. Whenever you count out Eli he reminds you why he is a two-time Super Bowl champion. I expect that to be the case this Sunday against the Bengals, who have allowed six passing touchdowns and 20 Fantasy points per game to quarterbacks over the last three weeks. Eli's brother Peyton can hopefully give him some pointers after throwing for 291 yards and three touchdowns against the Bengals just last week. Eli has not gone five straight games without multiple passing touchdowns since 2008. Also, Eli has had back-to-back scoreless games only once since his rookie season and he followed that ugly stretch up with 297 yards and three scores on the road against Houston in 2010. I am betting on Eli Manning to show up in Week 10 and with a matchup against Cincinnati, you should too.
Other QBs with favorable matchups: Matthew Stafford (at MIN), Cam Newton (vs. DEN), Ben Roethlisberger (vs. KC), Andrew Luck (at JAC), Carson Palmer (at BAL), Philip Rivers (at TB), Tony Romo (at PHI); Bye Week Broskis: Joe Flacco (vs. OAK), Ryan Tannehill (vs. TEN), Andy Dalton (vs. NYG)
C.J. Spiller, RB, Bills (at NE)
Current own/start %: 100/64
I'd start him over: Fred Jackson (at NE), Shonn Greene (at SEA), BenJarvus Green-Ellis (vs. NYG)
Chan Gailey needs to free Spiller and make him a 20-touch running back. More importantly, he needs to do that this week if he hopes to have any shot against the Patriots. Spiller leads the NFL with a 7.2 yard-per-carry average and is also picking up nearly 10 yards per catch. He has posted 100 or more total yards in three straight games, despite no 20-touch games and having just 11 total touches last week against the Texans. Teammate Fred Jackson is a solid, workman-like back but he does not have the explosiveness that Spiller has. In Week 11, both Spiller and Jackson had 11 total touches in the game and while Spiller produced 102 total yards, Jackson managed just 35. At some point the talent disparity has to dictate a massive workload for Spiller and you would think that he has earned that given how he has produced whenever Jackson has been out with an injury. In his two games as the main man this year, Spiller produced 364 total yards and three touchdowns! Look for Spiller to dominate in the passing game, because the Patriots are allowing 6.75 running back receptions and 54.25 receiving yards per game, both third most in the NFL. Spiller had over 60 yards receiving last week and I am expecting his fourth straight game of 100 total yards. Look for the Bills to give Spiller the ball at least 15 times this week and that means he will have at least one big play. If that explosive play reaches the end zone, Spiller will be a Top 10 runner this week and if not, he will still be a very solid No. 2 for your teams.
Other RBs with favorable matchups: Stevan Ridley (vs. BUF), Willis McGahee (at CAR), Isaac Redman/Jonathan Dwyer (vs. KC), Rashad Jennings (vs. IND), Michael Turner (at NO), Mikel Leshoure (at MIN), Reggie Bush (vs. TEN), Ahmad Bradshaw (at CIN); Bye Week Broksis: Vick Ballard (at JAC), Andre Brown (at CIN), Daniel Thomas (vs. TEN), Marcel Reece (at BAL), Pierre Thomas (vs. ATL)
Brian Hartline, WR, Dolphins (vs. TEN)
Current own/start %: 92/52
I'd start him over: Dwayne Bowe (at PIT), Hakeem Nicks (at CIN), Danny Amendola (at SF)
If you target him, he will produce. It seems like a silly mantra, but the facts support that if you give Brian Hartline 10 or more targets in a game, you get great production. In the three games this year when Hartline has seen 10 or more targets, he has produced 100 yards every single time. He should get a healthy dose of targets against a Titans team that has proven it can't stop the pass at all this year. For the season, the Titans have surrendered a league-high 20 passing touchdowns and seven of those have gone to the opposing top target, which is third most in the NFL. The opposing No. 1 wide receiver has scored in four of the last five games against the Titans and has not been held below nine Fantasy points in any game. In fact, during that five-game span, opposing No. 1 receivers have averaged 8.2 targets, 6.2 receptions (74 percent catch rate), 97.2 yards (11.6 yards per target), 1.2 touchdowns and 17.4 Fantasy points per game. Hartline is coming off of a 107-yard effort against the Colts and I expect another big day against the lowly Titans in Week 10.
Other WRs and TEs with favorable matchups: Titus Young (at MIN), Mike Wallace (vs. KC), Denarius Moore (at BAL), Torrey Smith (vs. OAK), Malcom Floyd (at TB), Lance Moore (at ATL), Mike Williams (vs. SD), Nate Washington (at MIA), Steve Johnson if healthy (at NE), Brandon Lloyd (vs. BUF), Heath Miller (vs. KC), Greg Olsen (vs. DEN), Owen Daniels (at CHI); Bye Week Broskis: Ryan Broyles (at MIN), Anquan Boldin (vs. OAK), Cecil Shorts (vs. IND), T.Y. Hilton (at JAC), Darrius Heyward-Bey (at BAL), Dustin Keller (at SEA), Brandon Myers (at BAL), Dwayne Allen (at JAC), Anthony Fasano (vs. TEN), Michael Crabtree (vs. STL)
Lions Defense/Special Teams (at MIN)
Current own/start %: 65/46
I'd start them over: Houston (at CHI), Chicago (vs. HOU), N.Y. Giants (at CIN)
Fantasy Football is often about the matchups and in Week 10, one of the best possible defensive matchups you could ask for pits the Lions against the Vikings. Minnesota quarterback Christian Ponder is becoming a turnover machine and the Vikings are really struggling to produce yards on offense. Add in the fact that their only weapon in the passing game -- Percy Harvin -- is "a long shot" to play this week and it could be very ugly for the Vikings. The Vikes have been so bad that opposing defenses have scored at least 13 points against them in four straight games. The Vikes have turned the ball over multiple times in five straight games and have given up an average of three sacks per game in that run. Minnesota has also produced fewer than 300 yards of total offense in two of their last three games, so clearly this is a reeling offense. They get a Detroit defense that is peaking; producing double-digit Fantasy points in three of their last four games and they just held the Jaguars to 215 total yards in Week 9. We have two teams headed in opposite directions here, so jump aboard the Lions bandwagon and start them against the Vikings in Week 10.
Ride the pine ...
Matt Schaub, QB, Texas (at CHI)
Current own/start %: 96/36
I'd rather start: Cam Newton (vs. DEN), Ryan Fitzpatrick (at NE), Joe Flacco (vs. OAK)
Matt Schaub has been very efficient over the last two games with at least 250 yards and two scores in both contests while completing over 66 percent of his passes. He was a Top 12 Fantasy quarterback in both of those games, but that streak will come to a screeching halt in Week 10 against the unbelievable Bears defense. The Bears are allowing a league-low 10.25 Fantasy points per game to the quarterback position and have not allowed a single quarterback to produce 20 Fantasy points against them all season long. They still have produced more negative points for quarterbacks on turnovers (38 from 17 interceptions and two fumbles) then they have allowed on quarterback touchdowns (36 from six passing scores). The lack of points allowed are even more astonishing when you consider that teams are attempting 39.75 passes against them per game, the third-highest total in the NFL. Schaub is excellent in a favorable matchup, but this is not even close to a good matchup, so I would make sure to look elsewhere for a quarterback. If you were rolling with Aaron Rodgers and Schaub for example, I think you need to go to the waiver wire and take a shot on Ryan Fitzpatrick, Joe Flacco, Andy Dalton or even Ryan Tannehill this week.
Shonn Greene, RB, Jets (at SEA)
Current own/start %: 99/28
I'd rather start: Rashad Jennings (vs. IND), Vick Ballard (at JAC), Reggie Bush (vs. TEN)
My man Shonn Greene has produced at least 10 Fantasy points in three straight games, including two games against the stingy run defenses of the Dolphins and the Patriots. He has been rock solid of late, but I am not sure that even two weeks to prepare will help him with the stout run defense of the Seahawks. Now I know that both Frank Gore and Adrian Peterson have run wild on the 'Hawks recently, but while Greene is a solid running back, he does not have the big-play ability of those two. Greene has two runs of 20 or more yards all year, while Gore and Peterson combined for six such runs in their two big games against the Seahawks. Keep in mind that Gore and AP are the only runners to run for more than 55 yards against Seattle all year. Peterson is the only running back to score against the 'Hawks since Week 3, so despite a couple of hiccups along the way, this Seattle run defense has not been one to mess with. In their seven games against the rest of the NFL, Seattle is allowing just 9.1 Fantasy points per game to the running back position. Greene should be able to scratch and claw his way to seven or so Fantasy points, but there are better options for your teams this week.
BenJarvus Green-Ellis, RB, Bengals (vs. NYG)
Current own/start %: 99/49
I'd rather start: Pierre Thomas (vs. ATL), Ahmad Bradshaw (at CIN), Mikel Leshoure (at MIN)
Stop the presses! BenJarvus Green-Ellis had 11 Fantasy points in Week 9 and it was his first trip north of 10 points since Week 2. He got to 11 points thanks to a 2-yard touchdown run against the Broncos, but if you strip that away it was another ugly performance from the Law Firm. He touched the ball 19 times against the Broncos and produced a whopping 52 total yards of offense, which is just 2.7 yards per touch. Since Week 2, BJGE is averaging just 55 yards rushing per game on 2.9 yards per carry, which is hardly impressive. Can you run against the New York Giants? Yes you can, but for whatever reason they are much tougher on the road. In their four road games, only one runner -- LeSean McCoy -- has run for more than 50 yards against this defense or produced 10 Fantasy points. In their other three road games, they have held the running back groups of San Francisco, Dallas and Carolina to a grand total of 135 yards rushing. That's just 45 rushing yards per game in those contests and even if you factor in McCoy's big game, they are allowing just 69.5 yards per game on the road. Clearly I am not a big fan of the Law Firm and this week I think a deeper dive into the numbers was needed to see why I expect another long day, who is staying on my bench.
Dwayne Bowe, WR, Chiefs (at PIT)
Current own/start %: 100/62
I'd rather start: Denarius Moore (at BAL), Lance Moore (vs. ATL), Titus Young (at MIN)
Dwayne Bowe has not produced more than six Fantasy points in four straight games, despite seeing 33 targets during that span. He has not scored during that run and with Brady Quinn possibly returning from a concussion to lead the Chiefs (to be honest it does not even matter if Matt Cassel is under center) against the lockdown pass defense of the Steelers, that drought will continue. The Steelers have the league's top-ranked pass defense at 184 yards per game and they have not allowed a wide receiver group to produce 100 yards receiving in three straight games against them. That's pretty impressive when you consider that the Steelers have faced A.J. Green and the Bengals, the Redskins and the Giants during that span. No receiver has topped eight points against the Steelers in the last three games and only two receivers have produced 10 points against Pittsburgh in their last seven games. Even scarier for Bowe is that outside receivers Green, Hakeem Nicks and Leonard Hankerson combined for three catches for 34 yards against the Steelers in the last three games. Bowe has only found the end zone himself in three of his last 19, which is a big problem when you consider that he has only produced 10 or more Fantasy points in a game without a touchdown catch just five times in his career. The Steelers are shutting down opposing passing games and that's why I am not risking it with Bowe this week.
Steve Smith, WR, Panthers (vs. DEN)
Current own/start %: 100/90
I'd rather start: Malcom Floyd (at TB), Mike Williams (vs. SD), Torrey Smith (vs. OAK)
Champ Bailey has allowed exactly one passing touchdown against him in his last 14 games and that score came last week to A.J. Green. I do not expect history to repeat itself for Steve Smith this week when you consider that Smith himself just scored his first touchdown of the year in Week 9 against the awful pass defense of the Redskins. Smith has just three scores in his last 14 games and that means he will need his yardage to get to 10 Fantasy points. Smith has just one game with 100 yards receiving in his last six games so that could be a tall order. It becomes even more daunting when you consider that no wide receiver has gone for 100 yards against Bailey this year. I am a big Smith fan and in a PPR league, I expect him to be heavily involved, but I don't see any big plays or scores for Smith, so he is a No. 3 wide receiver in my book this week with a tough matchup. It should also be noted that Smith has one game of 10 points at home this year and it was against the Saints. For the year, Smith is averaging 7.5 points per game at home, but has 10 or more in three of four road games and is averaging 9.25 points per game away from Charlotte.
Good luck this week!