By Mike Cannici
Ben Roethlisberger vs. CLE – Big Ben makes his season debut Sunday at home against the Browns. He’ll want to remind the league of what the Steelers do best—make big plays. His return will open up the run even more for RB Rashard Mendenhall and make WRs Hines Ward and especially Mike Wallace more valuable. If you’re in need of a receiver try and make a deal for Wallace ASAP because his value will skyrocket with Roethlisberger’s return. TE Heath Miller also stands to gain a lot of value. Cleveland ranks 18th against the pass so Big Ben should be in for a big day.
Eli Manning vs. DET – Eli has committed his fair share of turnovers this season, with an 8:8 TD:INT ratio, but that should start to slow down this week. The Lions currently rank 24th against the pass, meaning Manning is in for a big day, along with WRs Steve Smith and his new favorite target Hakeem Nicks.
Vince Young @ JAC – Young has not put up huge fantasy numbers this year, or even hit the 200 yard passing mark. However, if there’s a game for him to do it, it’s this Monday night against the Jags. The Jags rank 29th against the pass and WR Kenny Britt seems to be slowly developing as Young’s favorite target, specifically in the red zone. Look for Young to throw for 220 yards, 2TD and chip in with about 30 yards on the ground and maybe even a rushing score. He’s a fine matchup play this week and a must start in 2QB leagues.
Matt Cassel @ HOU – Matt Cassel has been less than spectacular this season, but draws his most favorable matchup of the 2010 season as the Chiefs travel to Houston to face the league’s worst pass defense. Cassel should finally put up some big numbers and is a decent matchup play if your guy is on a bye or injured.
Ryan Mathews/Mike Tolbert @ STL – The Rams are coming off a terrible defeat at the hands of the Lions last Sunday and haven’t been too solid against the run. The Chargers just lost for the first time in the last 14 meetings to the Raiders and are going to want to ram it down St. Louis’ throats this week. Mathews is slowly being worked back into the starting role, but is at least one week away from fully regaining the job. Mike Tolbert has been solid as well and I expect the two to share carries once again. They both make for fine flex starters this week.
Marshawn Lynch @ CHI – Lynch was finally traded away from Buffalo to Seattle and Coach Pete Carroll stated that Lynch will take on a significant role Sunday. The Bears currently rank 3rd against the run, but I have a feeling Lynch will show flashes of what many thought he would be a few years back. He’s a very good flex play this week with RB2 upside.
Ryan Torain vs. IND – Torain is now the guy in Washington after the Clinton Portis injury, and if he can stay healthy, he’s in for a very productive season. He has a great matchup Sunday night against the 29th ranked run defense and is a must start in all leagues. The Colts are giving up an average of 142 yards per game on the ground and Torain could very easily top 100 yards with a TD or two.
Johnny Knox vs. SEA – Knox has been nonexistent the last two weeks, albeit in tough matchups. Two weeks ago the Giants were instantly on top of Jay Cutler and last week he had journeyman Todd Collins throwing him the ball. The Seahawks rank second to last in the NFL against the pass and Jay Cutler is going to want to make a statement this week. Knox is in for a big day.
Kenny Britt @ JAC – As I mentioned in the Vince Young blurb, Britt is becoming Young’s go to guy in the red zone and that should continue as the season goes on. The Jags are terrible against the pass and Britt is a superior athlete who finally seems to have his head on straight. Britt will only get better as the season goes on and is a solid WR3 this week, with tremendous upside going forward.
Dwayne Bowe @ HOU – Bowe has been held in check so far this season for two reasons: one, he’s had Matt Cassel as his QB and two, he has dropped his fair share of balls including what would have been a TD pass last week in Indianapolis. He has been targeted 23 times through four weeks though so the balls are coming his way. He gets the worst pass defense in the NFL this week and could be in for his biggest day of the year. He’s a great flex play with WR3 upside this week.
Pierre Garcon @ WAS – Garcon finally returned last week after missing the previous three with a hamstring injury. In Week 5, he had 6 catches for 57 yards on 14 targets, meaning Manning was looking for him right away in his first game back. This week he draws the Redskins 30th ranked pass defense and should see the same amount of targets. Add in a TD reception and maybe a few more catches with another week of practice for him and Peyton to get back on the same page. Garcon is a good flex play going forward with huge upside.
Shaun Hill @ NYG –Yes Hill has been great recently against subpar defenses, but this Sunday he gets the Giant’s number one ranked pass defense at the New Meadowlands Stadium. I’m not saying Hill will have a total stinker, but there are better options out there in a tough road matchup for him and the Lions. Calvin Johnson may not be able to go with a shoulder injury, making Hill a starter in 2QB leagues at best this week.
David Garrard vs. TEN – Those of you who bought into the hype after the last two weeks, are going to see Garrard come crashing back down to earth at home against the Titans. He’s another QB, like Hill, who won’t have a total meltdown but you should have better options this week. If for some reason he is your best option then take the plunge, but I don’t see him surpassing more than 10-12 fantasy points.
Peyton Hillis @ PIT –Hillis has arguably been the fantasy MVP thus far in 2010 but he draws the leagues number one rush defense this week, allowing a miniscule 62 yards per game rushing. With rookie Colt McCoy making his first career start, Hillis is safe only in PPR leagues because of the probability of check-down catches. It doesn’t help that he still seems to be suffering from a thigh injury that may be slowing him down. Hillis does have a very easy run schedule going forward. He only faces two more defenses ranked in the top 10 against the run: the Jets in week 9 and the Steelers again in week 17, when your fantasy playoffs will most likely be decided.
Knowshon Moreno/Laurence Maroney/Correll Buckhalter vs. NYJ– Moreno is still nursing that hamstring injury and his status for Sunday against the Jets is still unknown. Maroney and Buckhalter have basically been non-factors as QB Kyle Orton has been airing it out play after play. These two might get some more chances to run if they could ever get positive yards on their carries. Combined the last two weeks against Tennessee and Baltimore they have 28 carries for 48 yards, or less than 2 yards per carry.
BenJarvus Green-Ellis vs. BAL – B-G, as I like to call him, has been solid in his last two games, but has a tough matchup at home vs. the 10th ranked run defense in the Baltimore Ravens. The last two weeks the Ravens seem to have tightened up their run defense, allowing only 123 yards on the ground combined. B-G is no stud back, so if you have another option this week, keep him on your bench.
Mario Manningham vs. DET – By no means does this have anything to do with the Lions defense, but more about the inability of Eli Manning to target Manningham lately. After being targeted 19 times with 14 receptions the first three weeks, he’s only been targeted 3 times and held without a catch in the previous two. He was a guy I liked a lot coming into the season, but until he shows a little more consistency he can’t be trusted on a week to week basis. I wouldn’t drop him just yet but he needs to be on benches until further notice.
Mike Sims-Walker vs. TEN – The Titans early in the season were ranked number one against the pass and are now ranked in the bottom third in the league. However, if you look closely at the stats, Sims-Walker has been completely nonexistent at home. In three homes games this year against fairly mediocre pass defenses, he has been shut out twice and the other game had 2 catches for 34 yards. He is one of the most talented receivers in the league, but is also one of the least consistent and his QB certainly doesn’t help. In good road matchups, he’s a solid start, but until he shows more consistency, leave him on your bench if your receiver depth allows for it.
Nate Burleson @NYG- Burleson is a guy I mentioned in this week’s waiver wire adds, but he’s not a good play this week unless Calvin Johnson sits. The Giants rank first in the league against the pass and if Megatron plays there’s only going to be room for one guy. Burleson is a good receiver but without Johnson, the Giants will just double team Burleson all day and he’s not the type of player to beat double coverage. If Johnson sits, then Nate becomes an average flex play this week.