The midpoint of the NFL season, depending on when or how you define such things, has come and gone. But for fantasy owners, this is the calm before the postseason storm -- some leagues get their playoffs on in less than a month.
So that's why an injury like the one that happened to Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers can derail a team so dramatically (and yes, we mean your fantasy team, not the Packers).
With that in mind, here's a look at some of the off-the-radar moves you should consider, like, now.
• Add Case Keenum
In two starts, Case Keenum followed up two great first halves with two rather ordinary (bad?) second halves. Still have your doubts? Get rid of them. First off, that happened against two of the AFC's best defenses -- the Chiefs and Colts. Second of all, first-half fantasy points count the same!
Keenum will keep getting the ball because he's getting results, and if you're a Rodgers owner, you might need someone for the next month. Don't count on those overly optimistic three-week-return projections. Keenum's next four opponents include the Cardinals, Raiders, Jaguars (twice) and Patriots, with three of those coming at home. Keenum is the guy they are hoping to ride back to respectability.
• Avoid Terrell Pryor
Although Pryor has been a big fantasy scorer this season and there's a chance he's available in your league, there are better options out there. The injuries are starting to pile up for Pryor, who has suffered a concussion and currently is battling a knee injury, because of his style and a leaky offensive line.
Pryor has been more prone to turnovers on the road (five interceptions in three games) than at home (four in four), and four of his next five games are away from O.Co Stadium. Plus, Pryor's completion percentage has been creeping down of late, with three straight games at sub-54 percent.
Although he remains a viable running threat, Pryor's one touchdown pass in his past three games shows you he's still limited as a thrower. Plus, with the injury factor, you're taking on added risk.
• A sneaky good start: Kendall Wright
It's highbrow science: Start guys playing the Jaguars. True, other defenses have allowed (far) more yards against wide receivers than they have this season. But we're into the double-digit NFL weeks now, and the opportunities for a "W" are starting to dry up for the Jaguars. What does this have to do with fantasy football? Well, for one, they'll play with more abandon, more desperation. This also could mean more mistakes. This is a young defense in Jacksonville, and blitzing without safety help could mean some really open receivers.
Wright has been held out of the end zone the past six games, but his yardage totals have been a Derrick Mason-esque model of consistency following Week 1. He has been no higher than 98 yards but no lower than 54, and the result the past seven games has been a beefy 70.1-yard average over that time.
• Sit Cecil Shorts
As a perfect counterpoint to Wright, Shorts is a good receiver on a bad team facing a defense that snuffs out good receivers. Got it? Good. Shorts' numbers match up quite favorably this season to Wright's, but their situations here don't compare.
With the news that Justin Blackmon is out indefinitely, it means the Titans can release their All Pro-caliber corner, Alterraun Verner, on Shorts. Just three games removed from a goose egg in catches against the Broncos, Shorts could be in line for another humbling game.
• Start Fred Jackson ... and/or C.J. Spiller
Remember when starting a fantasy running back against the Steelers was tantamount to a death sentence? Yeah, that's gone. The Patriots proved that last week by steamrolling through the once-vaunted defense for 34 rushes for 198 yards and three touchdowns by their three-RB committee. You could have started Stevan Ridley or LaGarrette Blount and received worthy fantasy points. Heck, even Brandon Bolden made the most of his three carries with 36 yards.
That's two weeks running that the Steelers have allowed multiple runners to smash them for huge tracts of ground. The Bills come in confident they can run the ball, having carved up the Chiefs (who are now what the Steelers used to be defensively) for 241 yards on the ground -- a combined 193 by Spiller and Jackson. Had the Bills executed smarter in the red zone, where they were 0-for-3, one of them would have had a score, too.
Plus, with the return of QB E.J. Manuel to the lineup, those running backs will be harder to defend, and not wanting to burden the rookie quarterback, they'll be called on often. Both Jackson and Spiller earn "start" ratings this week.
• Move on from DeAngelo Williams
Tough call here. The Panthers clearly are rolling, and have figured their way into the NFC playoff picture, a shocking one game behind the Saints in the NFC South. And no one can argue with their offensive results of late, as -- no stunner -- Cam Newton is playing his most consistent ball to date.
But it's hard not to notice the dropoff from Williams during the team's swell. After 22- and 23-carry games in Weeks 2 and 3, Williams' workload has fallen off since: 12, 17, 15, 8 and 13 carries, with 11 catches for 122 yards over that stretch.
Now, with the return of Jonathan Stewart, Williams' role will be marginalized a bit more. Stewart looked good in his first action and more fits the style of runner this team needs to operate at its highest level. Historically, Williams has done some second-half damage -- when healthy. The injury risk is high for him, adding another layer of concern for his stock.
Williams' isn't worthless, but his value now is just cosmetically high enough where he might have some trade value. Do it: Make a deal and get what you can from Williams now.
• Need a one-week tight-end rental? Try Garrett Graham
Sometimes you just need a one-week flier. Most often it involves defenses, or kickers, but occasionally it applies to tight ends, too. In a week in which Rob Gronkowski and Jordan Cameron are on bye, there will be owners in every league looking for a one-week fill-in.
Consider Graham. Case Keenum has been looking his way more often, and don't forget that Graham started the year solidly with three scores in his first four games. Now that he's been reintroduced to the offense, this might be a spot to exploit him.
The Cardinals have been perhaps the worst team in the NFL at defending receiving tight ends, and with Arian Foster an injury question and Andre Johnson likely to be the primary area of defensive focus, it could open the middle for a few seam throws to Graham. It's a risk, but a worthy one in a pinch.
• Sit the Bears' defense this week
Everyone knows there is real-life defense and fantasy defense. The Bears might not have a great real-life defense, but their fantasy production -- namely coming in the form of sacks and turnovers -- makes them a starting-caliber fantasy option.
But just not this week. The Lions are murder on fantasy defenses, and with a short week to prepare for Calvin Johnson, Reggie Bush, Matthew Stafford and Co., the Bears will be hard-pressed to match their Monday night performance against the Packers (which, duh, also happened to come against a backup quarterback for 95 percent of the game). The Lions' playmakers and strong pass protection should keep the Bears' turnover machine in check this week.
Week 9 results:
Miglio -- 193
Edholm -- 134
|Week 10||Team Edholm||Team Miglio|
|QB||Andrew Luck||Russell Wilson|
|RB||Lamar Miller||Ben Tate|
|RB||Ray Rice||Matt Forte|
|WR||Golden Tate||Mike Brown|
|WR||Emmanuel Sanders||Terrance Williams|
|WR||Marvin Jones||Brandon Marshall|
|TE||Charles Clay||Coby Fleener|
|Flex||Trent Richardson||Demaryius Thomas|
|K||Steven Hauschka||Rob Bironas|
Can I take some points away from last week and apply them at a later date?
Team Miglio hit the jackpot at wide receiver, snagging three of the top scorers for Week 9, including those explosions from T.Y. Hilton and Andre Johnson. Combined with Keenan Allen, they helped make up for the abominable goose egg I got from Nate Washington, whom I was sure was going to have a nice game in St. Louis.
I'm not used to easy victories here. What do I do? Bake some cookies for myself? Stock up on Icy Hot after patting myself on the back so hard?
Taking Han Solo's advice here, I won't get cocky. After all, what is one victory when I am still 3-6 against Eric? Onward I march, on the backs of Russell Wilson, Matt Forte, Brandon Marshall and Demaryius Thomas.
At this stage in the survivor game, it's imperative we squeeze out as much value we can out of our lineups while not completely relying on fliers. Mike Brown, Ben Tate and Coby Fleener are potentially nice values this week—Tate in particular, if Arian Foster can't play—but they are just as liable to get me 10 total points. I had to cover that up with some studs.
I feel that I will have a distinct advantage at running back going forward, having conserved at the position for most of the season while Eric has spent like a teenager at the mall with her dad's credit card. If I can make it out of this week with another victory, Team Miglio might just mount an epic comeback on the year.
Alex, gentle soul and man of letters as he is, pointed out to me the unvarnished truth of the matter for my squad going forward: I might be in serious trouble at running back. Short of sending him dangerous computer viruses, what can I do? I just have to crank up the creative-o-machine and "manage" the position as best I can.
At least this week I got, um, players I wanted. Preparation has its virtues. The only player he took that I strongly considered was Mike Brown — yes, a living, breathing Jaguars skill-position player.
Everyone else was on my secret list, and I think Ray Rice and Trent Richardson might be in slump buster mode this week with favorable matchups and half the fantasy world sending them hate tweets. I call them opportunists.
That said, I think my lineup is just a bit ... twee. There isn't a home-run hitter in the group, save for Andrew Luck. Wow, now that I think of it, this has the earmarks of an epic collapse by yours truly. Check back next week to see if my Thorazine has properly time-released itself.
Catch up with Eric Edholm and Alessandro Miglio on Twitter.