FOX Sports' Joel Beall tells you what you need to know for this weekend's games.
The Fantasy Basement is a weekly piece that provides fantasy advice on lineup calls, sleepers, waiver-wire moves and rookie spotlights, along with the occasional ramble or two. Why “Fantasy Basement” you ask? There is a common misconception that sports writers dwell in their childhood cellars, that the institution promotes arrested development. Um…how does that have negative connotation? After all, who wouldn’t enjoy coming home to fresh-baked cookies and having their laundry done?…Anyway, enjoy!
QB: Case Keenum, Texans
I love the bewilderment from NFL scouting personnel anytime a quarterback under 6’5” has success. “How’s that little fella see over the line? He’s some sort of magician! Clearly he has one thing we couldn’t measure: HEART!” Not that I’m ranking Keenum with diminutive field generals like Drew Brees, Fran Tarkenton, Sonny Jurgensen, but clearly this kid’s cannon negates any perceived detriments from his lack of height. Keenum doesn’t face the easiest of foes in the Arizona defense, with the Cards slotted right in the middle of the pack for fantasy points surrendered to quarterbacks this season. However, matchups against top-10 air resistances in Kansas City and Indianapolis didn’t impede Keenum’s production (621 yards, four touchdowns, zero picks). Moreover, as Arian Foster is dealing with back and hamstring woes, look for the Texans to have an elevated rate of sky forays, correlating to a bountiful day for Keenum owners.
Other starts: Jake Locker, Eli Manning
RB: Mike James, Buccaneers
This comes with a caveat thanks to the mid-week news that Doug Martin might dress on Monday night. Lord knows why Tampa would risk re-injuring their franchise star in a lost season, especially since, at this point, losing should be their primary object. Oh, that’s right. Greg Schiano. My bad. I try like hell to avoid endorsing a guy who went nuts the previous week. Like to think readers expect a higher facility and analysis than, “Hey, go pick up Nick Foles!” Cautious of this malpractice, I really like Mike James, he of 158 rushing yards in Week 9, on Monday night against a Dolphins defense conceding the third-most points to running backs in 2013. Available in 70 percent of FOXSports.com fantasy football leagues, James is unlikely to see 30 overall touches again, as the Buccaneers’ tendency to fall behind often leads to abandonment of the run. Conversely, the Miami offense is not one to host a fireworks display, meaning James will see enough action to warrant starting status.
Other starts: Eddie Lacy, Danny Woodhead
WR: Keenan Allen, Chargers
The rookie out of Cal is averaging 99.4 yards per outing in his last five games, and has found the end zone in three of the past four weeks. Just as promising has been Philip Rivers’ dependence on Allen, looking his way 38 times in the past four contests. The Chargers take on a Denver D giving up 319.3 receiving yards per game in Week 10. Moreover, though Danny Woodhead has been a sound receiving complement, the Lightning Bolts are not doing much on the ground, keeping the relevancy of Rivers and the passing scheme intact. View Allen as a top-10 wideout this weekend.
Other starts: Golden Tate, Cecil Shorts
TE: Joseph Fauria, Lions
Is it because I like Fauria’s chances against a weakened and vulnerable Bears defense that is yielding the sixth-highest harvest to tight ends? Or is it because I’m hoping Fauria hits pay dirt and brings out members of Chicago’s celebrated Second City to perform a five-minute end-zone sketch? Yes.
Other starts: Charles Clay, Tim Wright
DEF: Tennessee Titans
The Jags were already last in the NFL in scoring before their best player was suspended for the season. Name a Jacksonville receiver other than Cecil Shorts, win a prize.
Other starts: Houston Texans, Indianapolis Colts
QB: Andrew Luck, Colts
Luck was phenomenal in last Sunday’s comeback win over the rival Texans, showcasing the moxie, proficiency and command that his position demands. This may sound hyperbolic, but forget projecting his future; I think Luck is one of the five best quarterbacks right now, behind Peyton Manning, Aaron Rodgers, Brees and Tom Brady. Unfortunately, here’s where I have to rain on the parade: without Reggie Wayne, I don’t see the Colts QB as a top-flight fantasy player at his position for the rest of the season. Luck only hit 45 percent of his intended marks against Houston, and his rapport with ancillary receivers like Griff Whalen and Darrius Heyward-Bey is in serious need of progression. Worse, he’s getting zero help from his backfield. (It’s at this point I should mention this week’s meeting of Infuriated and Despondent Trent Richardson Owners will convene on Wednesday at 7:30. Free cookies and punch!) And while Coby Fleener is making strides as a complementary target, the tight end’s primary usage will be in the blocking game and red zone. The Rams enter Week 10 with a 3-6 record, yet their secondary ranks in the top third of pass defenses in the league. Luck’s not necessarily a terrible play this weekend, but he’s far from a strong candidate, either. Understand that some owners will still roll with Luck due to byes and injuries. If that’s the case, expectations need to be lowered.
Other sits: Cam Newton, Matt Ryan
RB: Ray Rice, Ravens
Considering half the Bengals defense is in the infirmary, including All-Pro tackle Geno Atkins, a date with Cincinnati seems like the prime pulpit for Rice to rectify his, until now, lost campaign. Not to be Debbie Downer for two segments in a row, but I’m not sure such a reversal is occurring. Rice has crossed the 45-yard barrier only once this season. That’s what we in the business call “not good.” Worse, both Rice and backup Bernard Pierce own a 2.7 yards-per-carry average, indicating the entire Baltimore ground game is fragmented. With Bryant McKinnie and his party bus exiled to Miami, this problem is exacerbated. (In a related note, how do we not have a reality crew following McKinnie and his off-the-field exploits around South Beach? That would be a show I’d almost watch. Almost.) If his proprietors are looking for a silver lining, Rice is as healthy as he’s been all season, and Pierce is not a threat to siphon a bigger allotment of work. Nevertheless, unless the Ravens protection improves, Rice is no more than a Flex option in most standard leagues.
Other sits: Steven Jackson, Rashard Mendenhall
WR: Packers receivers
You could argue that the void by Rodgers’ injury is alleviated by a Philly defense relinquishing the most points per game to wideouts. I would counter that you clearly didn’t watch Seneca Wallace on Monday night. By the way, what are the chances Bleacher Report has a “The Packers should sign Brett Favre!” piece? (Searching…) Yes! And they say the Internet is destroying journalism. (Just kidding, BR.)
Other sits: Michael Floyd, Stevie Johnson
TE: Greg Olsen, Panthers
Olsen has quietly put together a fine first half of the season, ranking 10th at the position in fantasy points. While the tight end leads the Panthers in receiving yards, he could be in for tough sledding against a Niners unit that is suffocating the position to a meager 39.8 yards per game. In Olsen’s defense, he has been one of the more steady contributors at tight end this season. Alas, he also possesses limited upside, bestowing a dire forecast.
Other sits: Heath Miller, Andrew Quarless
DEF: New Orleans Saints
If karma does exist, this Saints-Cowboys game ends with a Tony Romo pick as the New Orleans defense showers Rob Ryan with hugs while the big man gives a Texas salute to Jerry Jones. Though this may ultimately transpire (specifically the Romo game-ending turnover), the Dallas offense is too explosive to insert the Saints into your starting lineup this week. I still like the Big Easy resistance as a top-10 group for the rest of the season, but the juice is not worth the squeeze against a pass-happy Cowboys attack.
Other sits: Carolina Panthers, Chicago Bears
Waiver Wire Watch: Eli Manning, Giants
As a rule, I try to avoid trumpeting the league leader in interceptions as a start. Call me old school in that thought. Yes, Eli’s play has been fickle, but with byes, injuries and a handful of top-12 arms confronting stalwart defenses, suddenly the Giants QB works his way into the starting conversation for Week 10. Manning is averaging 270.9 yards per game and takes on a Raiders team that ranks 25th in pass defense. And I suppose there’s that little matter of the Silver and Black getting torched for seven touchdowns last week, if you’re into such trivial things as “stats.” I’m not necessarily buying into Manning’s outlook for the final two months of the season, and his connection with his receiving corps is curiously off given the familiarity within the offense. On the other hand, available in over 35 percent of FOXSports.com fantasy football leagues, Manning is a pie worth putting in the oven. (Sorry, tried to formulate a new idiom and failed miserably. To be fair, I’m still seeing red after this was somehow called intentional grounding in the end zone against my beloved Ohio Bobcats. Where’s Mike Pereira when you need him?
Email of the Week
This week’s winner…well, let’s just say someone has been drinking the Seahawks Kool-Aid. From St. R. Wayne in Vancouver:
Let me put on the white wig and grab a gavel….ARE YOU OUT OF YOUR MIND?!?!?! Baldwin had a decent day in Week 9. Not good, but decent (six receptions, 75 yards, one touchdown). It was only the third time in nine tries this season that Baldwin surpassed 51 yards, and he’s found the Promised Land just twice. Moreover, with Percy Harvin close to coming back, don’t think Baldwin holds the mantle of top dog in the Emerald City. Oh, and Marshall is doing just fine without Cutler (seven grabs, 107 yards, touchdown in Week 9), although somewhat of a moot point given the Chicago starter will be back under center this Sunday. And to finish this rant, anytime you have to try to make a case that something is rational, it probably isn’t.
Fantasy Flyer: EJ Manuel, Bills
The Florida State product has been cleared to resume practicing, and could suit up this Sunday for Buffalo. (R.I.P. Tuel Time. Vegas mourns your passing.) Across the line will be a Pittsburgh defense that allowed 432 passing yards and 56 points to a dormant Patriots offense in Week 9. Manuel didn’t post the most fantasy-friendly of stats in his first five games of his NFL career and will likely show some rust after a month-long absence. Nonetheless, the Bills don’t have a daunting schedule in the second half, and owned in just 3.5 percent of FOXSports.com fantasy football leagues, Manuel has a relatively high ceiling for a backup roto quarterback. If you have an extra spot on your bench, Manuel is worth the spot.
This Week in BRENT CELEK
There we go, C-Note! Celek started the pyrotechnics in Oakland last week with a two-yard score in the first quarter, opening up the flood gates for Philly’s 49 points. In Celek’s defense, he was probably amped that his biographical film is hitting theaters this week.
2013 stats: 17 receptions, 241 yards, three touchdowns
Linebacker Body Count: Eight
Personal Foul on: Mike Shanahan, Washington
Three touchdowns for Darrel Young?!?! (Head shake) Damn you, Shanahan. Damn you!
Gatorade Shower Goes to: Nick Foles, Eagles
I mean, you’re not not going to get this honor after racking up seven touchdowns.
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