Saturday November 8th, 2014

No one doubts that Aaron Rodgers will have a big game against the Bears on Sunday night. He always seems to, and already has once this year. Back in Week 4 at Soldier Field, Rodgers threw for 302 yards and four touchdowns in a 38-17 Packers victory. Fantasy owners are expecting similar numbers this week. They may not be expecting the same from Jay Cutler. That would be a big mistake.

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Halloween may have been last week, but Cutler walks into his own personal haunted house in Green Bay on Sunday. It’s no secret that Cutler has struggled in Lambeau Field and against the Packers in general. In 10 games as a starting quarterback vs. the Packers, Cutler is 1-9 with 2,184 yards, 6.93 yards per attempt, 13 touchdowns and 19 interceptions.

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Historical stats really don’t mean a whole lot, especially since what Cutler did against the Packers when guys like Nick Barnett and Charles Woodson were out there has zero bearing on the way he will play Sunday, but it has been enough to give some fantasy owners pause. So, too, has the way the Chicago offense sputtered in its last two games before going on bye. That is a bit more defensible, but still not enough to push Cutler to the fantasy bench this week.

Let’s start the building of Cutler’s fantasy case with the weapons. Matt Forte is the best pass-catching back in the league, if not the best running back, period. Forte is on pace to record 116 receptions, which would set the single-season mark for catches by a running back. He’s going to catch four or five passes on Sunday, helping pad Cutler’s stats.

The numbers may not show it, but you’re a fool if you think that Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery are not still one of the best wide receiver pairings in the league. Go ahead and check out the 31 other rosters. I bet you have a hard time finding two receivers on the same team that bring the combination of big-play ability, red-zone deadliness and field-stretching skills as Marshall and Jeffery.

Fantasy football Week 10 stat projections

While the receivers have struggled a bit this year, Martellus Bennett just put a bow on the best half-season of his career. In eight games, the tight end caught 47 passes for 517 yards and five touchdowns. Rodgers has two great receivers, but doesn’t have an impactful tight end. Peyton Manning has the receivers and tight end, but doesn’t get much from his running backs in the passing game. No other quarterback can boast of the arsenal at Cutler’s disposal.

No person associated with this disappointing Chicago team has had a worse year than head coach Marc Trestman. The Bears have struggled repeatedly in the second half, and have routinely gotten away from Forte, their best player. Still, Trestman knows how to coach an offense, and the fact that he has had two weeks to prepare for this game should encourage fantasy owners. I’m willing to bet that Trestman and Cutler have something special in store for fantasy owners this weekend.

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Speaking of betting, if you want to lay some money down on the over in this game, you’ll need the two teams to combine for 54 points to win. Vegas expects this to be a high-scoring affair, and Rodgers isn’t going to be able to put up the 50-plus points on his own. Chances are the winning team will have to get into the 30s on Sunday night. Both teams are capable of doing it against what will undoubtedly be overmatched defenses. Of course all Rodgers’ owners are starting him. Cutler’s owners should do the same.

Let’s get to the rest of the last-minute news you need to know for Week 10 in the Cheat Sheet.

It’s fun to catch up with old friends

Especially when those old friends can lead you to a fantasy victory. The long lost pal in question is Mark Sanchez, who stepped into the breach and led the Eagles to a 31-21 win over the Texans last week after Nick Foles suffered a broken clavicle. Now he can do the same for fantasy owners in Week 10.

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The Eagles are not going to scale back the playbook at all with Sanchez at the helm. If you need any evidence of that, you can go back to their first play from scrimmage after Foles’ injury. Many teams would opt for a safe run one play after watching their starting quarterback go down with what proved to be a serious injury. Not so for a team coached by Chip Kelly. Sanchez took the snap, made a play fake to LeSean McCoy then hooked up with Jeremy Maclin on a 52-yard bomb. Sanchez ended up throwing for 202 yards, 9.18 yards per attempt and two touchdowns. He did throw two picks, but still managed to score 14.58 fantasy points in standard-scoring leagues, despite playing just about three quarters.

Forget about the guy who was the butt of all jokes, most of which were butt jokes, while he was in New York. Sanchez never had anything like the skill players he now has around him during his Jets tenure. The best receiver he played with in his previous NFL life was Braylon Edwards. No offense to the Michigan man, but, in that context, “best” is used by default. Sanchez now gets to enjoy playing with Maclin, McCoy, Darren Sproles and Zach Ertz. With Evan Mathis returning from a knee injury this week, he also has what should be one of the best offensive lines in the league in front of him. What’s more, he gets a great matchup in his first start since 2012.

The Panthers have allowed the seventh-most fantasy points per game to quarterbacks this year. Joe Flacco, Jay Cutler, Andy Dalton, Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees all scored at least 21 fantasy points going up against the once-vaunted Carolina defense. The environment of the Philadelphia offense is about as good as it gets for a quarterback for fantasy purposes. Kelly is going to put the ball in Sanchez’s hands just as frequently as he did Foles’, and that, combined with the weapons he has and the matchup with the Panthers, makes Sanchez an easy start for fantasy owners in Week 10.

Waiting on Watkins, lamenting the possible loss of Lamar

The Vikings and Jets were unable to slow down Sammy Watkins in the last two weeks, as the rookie torched those defenses for a combined 12 catches, 279 yards and three touchdowns. Unfortunately, a routine practice may have been his worst enemy. Watkins injured his groin during practice earlier this week. Initially, the injury wasn’t expected to be serious. That took a turn when he surprisingly did not participate on Friday, calling into question his status for Sunday’s game with the Chiefs before the Bills ultimately declared him active.

Watkins is a slam-dunk starter for fantasy owners. He has looked like a new man with Kyle Orton under center, racking up 11.23 yards per target and 2.71 yards per route run. The Chiefs have been relatively tough on receivers, but they haven’t shut down the position by any means. They’ve allowed six receivers to score double-digit fantasy points, including both Eric Decker and Percy Harvin last week. This is a matchup he can exploit, even if his groin is less than 100 percent.

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Luckily for fantasy owners, the Bills and Chiefs are part of Sunday’s early slate. With the go-ahead from the training staff, you should have all the confidence in the world in Watkins for fantasy purposes.

Another AFC East team, meanwhile, could be without one of its best skill players, too. Lamar Miller suffered a shoulder injury in last week’s win over the Chargers and was limited in practice all week. Miller has been a revelation for the Dolphins and fantasy owners this year, scoring the ninth-most fantasy points among running backs to date. He has hit paydirt five times in his last five games, but is in real danger of letting his fantasy owners down this week.

Even if Miller is able to play, he has a tough matchup ahead of him. The Lions have surrendered just 3.16 yards per carry and four rushing touchdowns in eight games this year. Where Miller could hurt them is through the air, as they’ve allowed 49 receptions and 420 receiving yards to running backs. This, too, is an early kickoff, so you won’t have to guess at Miller’s availability. If he starts for the Dolphins, he’s a lower-end RB2 for fantasy owners.

Flexed In

Kendall Wright and Justin Hunter — I know, I know, it has been a roller coaster ride with both of these guys this season. Or, more accurately, it has been a lazy river ride with these two. Basically, you’ve floated along and nothing has happened. That’s all about to change this week. The Ravens have allowed the second-most fantasy points per game to receivers this season and are now without Jimmy Smith; they currently have just three healthy cornerbacks on the roster. Zach Mettenberger and the Titans have had two weeks to prepare for this game, and Mettenberger played much better in the second half of his first start against the Texans two weeks ago. With six teams out on bye, Wright and Hunter can be worthy flex plays in Week 10.

Darren Sproles — The Panthers have allowed the third-most fantasy points per game to running backs this year. They’ve struggled particularly against strong pass-catching backs, as they’ve allowed 52 receptions to running backs, the fifth-highest total in the league. Sproles has been a bit player in the Philadelphia offense this year, but his one big game came against a team that has had the same problems with pass-catching backs. He had seven receptions for 152 yards against the Colts back in Week 2, and no team in the league has allowed more receiving yards to running backs than Indianapolis. Expect Sproles to be more involved in the offense than usual on Monday night vs. Carolina.

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Flexed Out

Andre Williams — Williams is in line for his fourth start of the season with Rashad Jennings’ return from a knee injury still dragging along, but that doesn’t mean he should be near your fantasy lineup. In his previous three starts, he has combined for 132 yards and a touchdown on 47 carries. That's less than three yards per carry if you’re scoring at home. The Seahawks have allowed the seventh-fewest fantasy points per game to running backs and just 3.53 yards per carry.

Doug Baldwin — I get it. Six teams — including Indianapolis, New England, San Diego, Washington and Houston — are on bye this week. You, like many fantasy owners, are struggling at the wide receiver and flex positions this week. That doesn’t mean you need to shoehorn Baldwin into your offense. The Seattle passing game has been terrible recently, as Russell Wilson has thrown for fewer than 200 yards in three of his last four games. He has had 203 or more passing yards just two times this season. There just isn’t a lot of value in this passing attack and fantasy owners shouldn’t invest in it unless absolutely necessary. Look elsewhere this, and most all, weeks.

Injury Report

Early games

Tennessee Titans at Baltimore Ravens

• Baltimore guard Marshal Yanda is probable with a knee injury. Center Jeremy Zuttah is also probable with an ankle injury. That’s good news for all involved.

Kansas City Chiefs at Buffalo Bills

• The Bills will have both Watkins and Jackson at their disposal today, as both are active for their game with the Chiefs. Fantasy owners should trust Watkins but would be wise to wait another week on Jackson. There's no telling what his role will be, and the Chiefs have been very tough on running backs this year.

Miami Dolphins at Detroit Lions

• Other than Miller, who we discussed earlier, Charles Clay (knee) was limited in practice but is expected to play on Sunday.

• Reggie Bush and Calvin Johnson are both good to go after missing time with ankle injuries. Eric Ebron (hamstring) is doubtful, while Brandon Pettigrew (foot) and Joseph Fauria (ankle) are questionable. None is a fantasy option.

Dallas Cowboys at Jacksonville Jaguars

• Tony Romo is probable after missing last week’s game with a back injury. He’ll be out there on the pitch at Wembley Stadium, but is not an advisable play for fantasy owners.

• Cecil Shorts (hamstring) didn’t participate in practice, but is listed as probable. For fantasy purposes, he’s behind both Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns.

San Francisco 49ers at New Orleans Saints

• Frank Gore was limited in practice because of a hip injury, but he is listed as probable. Consider him an RB2 this week. Patrick Willis (toe) did not participate in Friday’s practice and is questionable.

• Mark Ingram (shoulder) was a limited participant in practice Friday, but is expected to play. Pierre Thomas is out with a shoulder injury, and Khiry Robinson is expected to sit with a forearm injury. Tackle Zach Strief (back) didn’t participate Friday, while Kenny Stills (thigh) was limited.

Pittsburgh Steelers at New York Jets

• Percy Harvin was a full participant in practice after hurting his heel earlier in the week. He is listed as probable. Chris Johnson (ankle) is also probable.

Atlanta Falcons at Tampa Bay Buccaneers

• Harry Douglas (foot) was limited on Friday and is questionable.

• Doug Martin (ankle) is doubtful, opening the door for a timeshare between Bobby Rainey and rookie Charles Sims. Vincent Jackson and Charles Sims are active for the Buccaneers. Jackson is an easy play, and Sims is a low-end flex with six teams on bye. He could take over as the feature back eventually, but expect Bobby Rainey to be in that role in Week 10.​

Late games

Denver Broncos at Oakland Raiders

• Montee Ball was limited in practice all week and is officially questionable after being out with a groin injury. Even if he did play, he would have a minor role. Wes Welker (back) is probable, but has fallen off the fantasy radar.

St. Louis Rams at Arizona Cardinals

• Janoris Jenkins (knee) didn’t participate in Friday’s practice and is questionable. If he can’t go, Carson Palmer would stand to reap the benefits.

New York Giants at Seattle Seahawks

• Rashad Jennings (knee) is officially listed as questionable. Andre Williams should put up mediocre-at-best results for the fourth consecutive game.

• Marshawn Lynch has missed practice all week because of a calf injury. It isn’t expected to force him out this week, but this is complicated since it is a late game. We should have more information on this by Sunday morning, but make sure you monitor this closely if you’re a Lynch owner.

Sunday Night Football

Chicago Bears at Green Bay Packers

• It’s time to R-E-L-A-X again. Aaron Rodgers is starting despite a minor hamstring injury. He’s my No. 1 quarterback this week.

Monday Night Football

Carolina Panthers at Philadelphia Eagles

• The official injury report is not yet available, but there are not expected to be any fantasy-relevant injuries for this game.

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