Rarely is the waiver wire as important for survival as it is right now. A week ago, we detailed how the NFL’s identity as a passing league essentially means your fantasy football team will be left behind if you don’t have a quarterback capable of erupting at any time. And this week, Andrew Luck, Tom Brady and Philip Rivers are all on bye, taking a combined 68 TDs and 7,828 passing yards out of the mix. To be fair, Teddy Bridgewater, Robert Griffin and whichever guy named Ryan is currently under center for the Texans are off as well, but we’ll focus on those first three for the purposes of fantasy relevance.
That leaves owners in a tough spot. Swinging a quick deal to land a strong QB in a pinch is about as unlikely as Oakland beating Denver this weekend, so your best bet is to hit the open market. And there are actually some intriguing options out there. Mark Sanchez (no seriously, we’re really discussing Mark Sanchez. Keep reading, it only gets weirder) is now the Eagles’ starting QB. Is he good? Umm no, at least not based on his previous body of work. But that previous body of work came while he was a member of the quarterback quagmire known as the New York Jets, so who knows what to believe anymore? With the weapons he has around him in Philly, he doesn’t need to be great to put up numbers — he just needs to be slightly above average. And if the bar is only set at “slightly above average”, well, there’s a good chance Sanchez might actually be able to deliver for you.
Ryan Tannehill is another interesting name available in most leagues. The Dolphins just thrashed the Chargers and have quietly won four of their last five — with that one loss coming in the closing seconds against the Packers. Miami is suddenly a contender in the AFC, and Tannehill is the main reason why. Not only has he tossed six scores and just one interception over his last three games, he’s run for 227 yards over his last five. That sort of production on the ground makes him someone to keep an eye on going forward, even if you get scared off by the fact that he’s facing the Lions and their top-ranked pass defense this week.
Regardless of how you get there, picking up wins at this point in the season is absolutely vital. With that in mind, here are the Money Matchups for Week 10…
*Quick note: there are a few blatant must-starts this week — elite players with absolutely ridiculous matchups. Peyton Manning against the Raiders, for example. Or Aaron Rodgers against the Bears — a team he practically has partial ownership of at this point. And then there’s DeMarco Murray, coming off his first subpar performance of the year and looking to bounce back in a big way against…the Jaguars. We left these three out of Money Matchups because they’re so obvious, it’s almost painful. If you own one of them and aren’t starting them for some reason, you may want to consider taking up fantasy badminton instead.
QB: Ben Roethlisberger, PIT (@ NYJ). All he’s done over the last two weeks is throw for 862 yards and 12 touchdowns. No really, 12 touchdowns. He had a total of ten TDs over the first seven weeks, and it’s not as if he was playing bad then. Even more mystifying than the absurd numbers themselves is the fact that this outburst has come against the Colts and Ravens — two pretty solid defenses. And now he gets the Jets. It almost doesn’t seem fair.
Honorable Mention: Matt Ryan, ATL (@ TB). Not much has gone right for Ryan and the Falcons this season, other than a monster outing against the Buccaneers back in Week 4. But hey, look who’s back this week — it’s Tampa Bay again! If you’re ever going to be able to confidently start Ryan this season, it’s when he’s playing the Bucs. And with Luck, Brady and Rivers all on bye, this matchup could be coming at just the right time.
RB: LeSean McCoy, PHI (v CAR). Yeah I get it — he hasn’t delivered value for where you drafted him. It’s time to get over that. McCoy has averaged 108 rushing yards per game over the last four weeks, will likely be an even bigger part of the offense with Sanchez under center and is set to face a Panthers defense that gives up the sixth-most fantasy points to opposing running backs. He’s still a top end talent.
Honorable Mention: Jeremy Hill, CIN (v CLE). Hill looked great in Week 9, bouncing back from an injury early in the game to run for 154 yards and two scores. In fact, the rookie out of LSU already has five touchdowns this season, and figures to be in line for another big night when the Browns — who allow 139.6 rushing yards per game — come to town. Hill’s value obviously takes a huge hit if Giovani Bernard suits up but, with such a short week before the Thursday night kickoff, that seems unlikely.
WR/TE : Jordy Nelson, GB (v CHI). In two matchups with the Bears last year, Nelson hauled in 14 catches for 228 yards. And in the first meeting this season, he erupted for ten catches, 108 yards and two scores. If anything, Chicago’s defense is getting worse, not better.
Honorable Mention: Julio Jones, ATL (@ TB). True, Jones hasn’t reached expectations so far this season. No one on Atlanta has. But leaning on him this week plays into the whole start-anyone-who-is-lining-up-against-Tampa-Bay philosophy that has been proven to win fantasy leagues time and time again. He’s due, the Buccaneers can’t cover him and — even in a “down” year — he’s still on pace for 1,468 yards and six scores. That’s basically two Michael Crabtrees.
D/ST: Arizona Cardinals (v STL). The Cardinals continue to stymie opposing running backs, emphatically slamming the door on red-hot DeMarco Murray in Week 9. Do you really see Tre Mason breaking through? Me either. Plus, the Rams’ best offensive weapon this season has been Brian Quick, who is likely done for the season. Now it’s all on the shoulders of Austin Davis…
Honorable Mention: Baltimore Ravens (v TEN). The Ravens actually have a pretty strong defense. They just got embarrassed by their rivals from Pittsburgh though, and now they’ll be angry and looking to make amends. That’s where Zach Mettenberger, his frightening facial hair and the Titans’ offense come in. In other words, Baltimore should be a nice plug-in this week.
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