By Jack Thomason-
(CBS) Another week with six teams missing is upon us. We will be without the big names from New England, Indianapolis, Houston, Minnesota, San Diego and Washington here in Week 10. As the season winds down, there are four more teams on a bye next week and then the last two in Week 12. With the playoffs to start a few short weeks away, many of us need high-upside fill-ins to keep our postseason hopes alive.
Let’s see who may be worth starting this week. Enjoy as always, and good luck.
Derek Carr (Oakland Raiders, available in 89% of CBS leagues) — This may sound crazy, starting a rookie quarterback against a mad Denver defense that got shellacked by the Patriots last week, but there’s solid reasoning here. Carr has actually been decent playing for the Raiders. He’s averaged 214 yards per game, 1.4 touchdowns and 0.88 interceptions. Over his last four games, he’s increased those numbers to 244 yards per game, 1.75 touchdowns and slightly decreased his interceptions to 0.75 per game. This includes a gutsy performance in Seattle last week, throwing for just shy of 200 yards and adding two scores and two interceptions. I expect Oakland to trail big, which will give Carr plenty of passing attempts. Couple that with Denver giving up the second-most fantasy points to quarterbacks, and we have a sleeper.
Mark Sanchez (Philadelphia Eagles, 58%) — He makes this list because of his availability, and to be honest, Nick Foles wasn’t killing it from a fantasy perspective. So if Sanchez is still on waivers and you’re in need, go pick him up and start him against a weak Carolina defense that’s allowing the seventh-most fake football points to quarterbacks. Sanchez threw for 202 yards and two scores in three quarters last week. This is still Chip Kelly’s offense, and I expect Sanchez to pick up where Foles left off. He’s also more mobile than Foles, which could be of benefit, potentially picking up yards on the ground. There’s extra attraction here as Foles is out for the regular season. So if Sanchez performs better than expected, you may have a QB1 to ride if you’ve been dealing with a struggling quarterback like Matt Ryan or Cam Newton.
Charles Sims (Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 61%) — Let’s try this again. Last week, Sims was activated but ended up a healthy scratch. This week, Sims is expected to make his debut and share time with Bobby Rainey. I’ve spoken about his ability in the passing game; I’ve also mentioned his Matt Forte comparisons, as well as the love he receives from the Bucs coaching staff. Now, it’s time to see if he’s the future of this backfield. You couldn’t ask for a better matchup to start with. The Falcons are one of the NFL’s worst run defenses, allowing 13 touchdowns on the season and 128 yards per game. They’ve also allowed the most fantasy points to running backs this season. Rainey will get work, but Sims is a high-upside start in a tough bye week pinch.
Terrance West (Cleveland Browns, 35%) — Ben Tate has been the lead ball-carrier for the Browns since returning from injury. Problem is, he has amassed just 65 yards on 41 carries since center Alex Mack went down. Last week, he totaled 10 carries for three yards, and here’s where West enters the picture. He out-touched (16-14) and out-produced Tate in Sunday’s game. He tallied 16 touches for 50 yards and a touchdown. Browns coach Mike Pettine stated after the game that West “earned those touches.” One would believe that after Sunday’s game and the coach’s comments, West should be in line for a significant portion of the workload in tonight’s game against Cincinnati. Nothing would surprise me at this point though, given the mess the backfield has been all season, but we need to bank on the positives here when looking for a sleeper. The Bengals rank 30th in the NFL in run defense, allowing 139.6 rush yards per game, and are third-worst in giving up nine touchdowns on the season. That equates to the sixth-most fantasy points allowed to running backs. Now let’s hope West gets a big portion of the pie Thursday night to scores us some points.
Davante Adams (Green Bay Packers, 65%) — Adams came on during the four-game stretch before Green Bay’s bye. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers had spoken about watching film and noticing the separation Adams was gaining. That could only mean good things were to come, and they did. Over the last four games, Adams racked up 22 targets overall and put up at least 75 yards or a touchdown in each contest. There’s no reason to think he can’t do more of the same against a leaky Bears secondary that’s given up 262 yards per game and 17 passing touchdowns (third-worst in NFL) on the season. Rodgers torched the Bears for 302 yards and four scores last time, and that was in Chicago. Look for Adams to get in on the action this Sunday night.
Kenny Stills (New Orleans Saints, 69%) — Over the last three weeks, Stills has converted 17 targets into 14 receptions, 232 yards and a touchdown. He has the game-breaking ability to take any reception to the house. With the Saints run game clicking on all cylinders, look for Drew Brees to incorporate plenty of play action and take shots downfield. At home, where the Saints play the 49ers this week, Brees has averaged 41.3 attempts, 325 yards and 2.3 touchdown passes per game. During a rough bye week like this, I want a receiver who’s paired with an elite quarterback and who can create magic on any touch. Stills fits the bill.
Mychal Rivera (Oakland Raiders, 67%) — The Raiders consider Rivera to be a “key” part of the offense, and normally a solid tight end is a young quarterback’s best friend. That relationship seems to be blossoming here for Carr and Rivera. The last two weeks has led to 20 targets, 15 receptions, 121 yards and two scores for Rivera. With Denver expected to lead big in this one, Rivera should continue to see a lot of targets. The Broncos are also giving up the fifth-most points to tight ends.
Owen Daniels (Baltimore Ravens, 40%) — Over his last five games, Daniels has been a favorite target for Joe Flacco, averaging 6.8 targets, 4.6 receptions and 51.6 yards per game. He’s worth a look as a streaming option while guys like Rob Gronkowski, Jordan Reed, Dwayne Allen and Antonio Gates are on a bye. Tennessee is middle-of-the-pack when it comes to points allowed for tight ends, but Flacco has looked Daniels’ way in the red zone six times in the last four games he’s played. If he can pop in a touchdown, you need not ask for more from a spot-start tight end. Plus, his weekly averages still give you a decent bet for some points.
Other considerations: Michael Vick (76%), Kyle Orton (69%), James Starks (73%), LeGarrette Blount (65%), Markus Wheaton (76%), Justin Hunter (60%), Clay Harbor (82%) and Jared Cook (64%).
Jack Thomason is the winner of the 2014 Bud Light Fantasy Expert Contest, co-host of Fantasy Streamers and co-host of the Nerd Herd. You can listen to Fantasy Streamers every Sunday from 8-9 a.m. CT at 670thescore.com/listen. The Nerd Herd is on every Friday, starting at 11 p.m. and lasting until 1 a.m. on 670 The Score and online here. Follow him on Twitter @jthomason77 and feel free to ask fantasy questions.