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You know that "Star Tours" ride at Disneyland? You're slowly gliding along, taking in the sights and sounds of space and then, bam! Suddenly you're traveling in a freaky, far-away galaxy at lightning speed, holding on for dear life. Welcome to Week 10 of the NFL and fantasy football, which are just like "Star Tours" -- except with no lines.
Not only are we suddenly just a few weeks away from the start of the playoffs in most leagues, but Thursday Night Football is invading our lives. This means you have to make smart waiver moves and lineup decisions, quick.
Never fear, I'm here to help.
With the notable exceptions of Miles Austin and Dallas Clark, there were not a lot of injuries in Week 9. Nor were there any breakout stars. But there is a lot of roster cleanup to be done, and some (not-so) early start/sit advice to dispense, so get out your fantasy Swiffers and let's get to work!
Add 'em before someone else does
Let's start with the major injury of the week. Austin left Sunday's game in the second quarter after reinjuring his hamstring. Early reports say he will be out two to four weeks. Austin owners should check in with Stephania Bell for more, but hamstring injuries tend to linger more often than they miraculously heal. The obvious guy to pick up here is Laurent Robinson, who has a touchdown in each of the last two games. While Robinson only had 32 yards Sunday, he is quickly becoming a favorite target of Tony Romo's, especially where it counts. With upcoming games against Buffalo, Washington and Miami, none of which have good secondaries, Robinson is a nice add.
I cannot believe I'm about to say this, but so is Chad Ochocinco. While part of me thinks I should hit the delete button right about now, it was impossible not to notice Ochocinco's increased role Sunday. Sure, his five targets -- about four more than usual -- resulted in zero catches, but for once it wasn't his fault. Tom Brady uncharacteristically missed him almost every time, all while Ochocinco actually created space. Brady, the ultimate competitor, has already listed getting the ball successfully to Ochocinco at the top of his to-do list.
I love Andy Dalton. This kid has flown under the quarterback radar because Cam Newton is flashy, Aaron Rodgers is superhuman, and Tim Tebow is well, Tim Tebow. But he has quietly led the Bengals to a tie for first place in the super tough ACF North. From a fantasy perspective, Dalton has grown into a decent player. He's consistently throwing in the 200-225 yard range, and more important, has thrown for multiple touchdowns in three of his last four outings. Aaron Rodgers he is not, but if you are looking to upgrade at quarterback, Dalton is not a bad option.
More decent additions
Jake Ballard, New York Giants, TE: Ballard has formed a great rapport with Eli Manning, as evidenced by his 67-yard, one touchdown game Sunday. He has had at least 55 yards in each of the last four games, above average production from the position.
Jacoby Ford, Oakland, WR: Ford seems to be the lead receiver in the early Carson Palmer Era. Five targets. Five receptions. 105 yards and a touchdown. Palmer will continue to air it out, sometimes successfully. What's not to like here?
Jacksonville defense: One of my top three rules for this fantasy season has become: Play the defense that plays the Colts, if it is available. The Suck for Luckers don't score points anymore and are often good for multiple turnovers.
Earl Bennett, Chicago, WR: Bennett was a force in his return from a chest injury, with five catches for 95 yards and a score. Jay Cutler has great chemistry with him, dating back to their days as teammates at Vanderbilt. Bennett is a decent add and should continue to see plenty of targets. But beware that Matt Forte is the primary workhorse for the Bears offense, meaning while Bennett could have some nice games like Monday night, he likely won't have many with high-end yardage and multiple touchdowns.
Drop 'em while they're not hot (or at least sit 'em)
Peyton Hillis' days in Cleveland are likely coming to an end, and so too are his fantasy prospects for 2011. He hasn't suited up since Week 6, and after re-injuring his hamstring last week, has already been ruled out for Week 10. Fellow running back Chris Ogbonnaya had a horrendous day in his first start, but was facing a tough Texans line. I would give him one more shot against the Rams this week before declaring him dead weight. As for Hillis, maybe he gets healthy, maybe he plays, maybe he makes an impact. That's a lot of maybes if you need some roster help soon.
Chris Johnson came to life and had his second best game of the season. Unfortunately, he only rushed for 64 yards and added 46 yards receiving. Not bad if you're Ogbonnaya, but all told another disappointing effort out of the man very formerly known as "CJ2K." Last week I stuck my neck out and suggested sitting Johnson, and possibly even dropping him. If you are disgusted with him then, by all means, sit him this week. However, if you start Johnson versus Carolina, one of the league's worst run defenses, and he still tanks, then you should really take the extra step and drop him.
Fantasy owners have been going crazy for years trying to anticipate Mike Shanahan's next move. But he seems to have found his man in running back Roy Helu. Helu rushed for 41 yards, which isn't abnormal against San Francisco, but he went for more than 100 yards in the air. If Helu's available, grab him. His emergence means Ryan Torain has little value and should probably be dropped.
It's not their fault, but sit 'em (or at least consider it)
Vernon Davis, a leader among the new area of athletic tight ends, simply isn't getting much production these days. In fact, he has only has 76 yards and no touchdowns in his last three games. The 49ers generally play conservatively on offense, only opening the passing game as needed. They also host the Giants this week, one of the stingiest defenses against tight ends.
If you are still starting Reggie Wayne, I'm sorry. After eight weeks with no touchdowns and no game with more than 77 yards, it's time to stash him away and let him prepare for his 2012 quarterback, Andrew Luck.
Return of the crippled?
There was some hope Jahvid Best would return to the field this week after being out with his second concussion. However, the Lions signed Kevin Smith today, presumably to help fill the continuing Best void. If you must start a Lion this week, Maurice Morris is your best bet, as he'll likely see the bulk of carries. But with the Smith signing and a tough opponent in the Bears, I would look for other options, if possible.
Tom Coughlin says there are "encouraging signs" with Hakeem Nicks and his injured hamstring, but we may not know his status for Sunday until later in the week. Even if Nicks is back, Mario Manningham and Victor Cruz are still attractive starts against San Francisco. We should see a lot of three wide receiver sets in that game.
Andre Johnson was supposedly on the brink of returning to the lineup last week when he suffered a setback on his sore hamstring. He is listed again as day-to-day and should be monitored closely. If Johnson does not start against Tampa Bay, Kevin Walter and Jacoby Jones make for decent starts against one of the poorer pass defenses.
Darren McFadden's return this Thursday night against San Diego appears doubtful, as he has yet to begin running on the strained foot. His capable replacement, Michael Bush, is a great start.
Ryan Mathews is set to return for the Thursday game after missing Sunday with a groin injury. Mike Tolbert was highly productive in his absence. While Mathews will probably get the start, both are good options against a terrible Raiders run defense.
As always, please ask any fantasy questions not addressed here. Good luck and enjoy the shortened week.