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Working the Wire: Stopa's Picks for Week 10

Mark Stopa

Mark Stopa

Mark Stopa has been sharing his fantasy insights for Rotowire since 2007. Mark is the 2010 and 2012 Staff Picks champion (eat your heart out, Chris Liss) and won Rotowire's 14-team Staff League II in consecutive seasons. He roots for the Bills and has season tickets on the second row, press level to the Rays.

The streak is over. Through eight weeks, I watched every stand-alone game from start to finish. That's eight Monday night games, eight Sunday night games, seven Thursday night games, a Wednesday night game, and as much as my brain could process on Sundays from 1pm until the 4pm games ended. Thursday night, though, the streak ended. Yes, I fell asleep on the couch in the second half of Chiefs/Chargers. Congratulations, Romeo Crennel and Norv Turner - you literally put this crazed NFL fan to sleep.

I wasn't sleeping on Sunday, though - Doug Martin ensured that. For me, the most under-reported part of Martin's day was how Greg Schiano rested him in favor of LeGarrett Blount when the Raiders pulled within 35-24, ultimately giving the Raiders a chance to win the game (they had the ball down 35-32) despite Martin's historic rushing performance. It was totally nuts - like a baseball manager pinch-hitting for a slugger who has already belted three home runs in the game. Yes, Martin had scored from distance on his two prior carries, but it's not like he was tired - he had just 18 carries at that point in the fourth quarter, and the Raiders had just completed a seven-play drive. Schiano is lucky Carson Palmer let him off the hook with a predictable but soul-crushing pick, as otherwise resting Martin might have been characterized as the worst coaching move of 2012.

If you lost to Martin in Week 9, feel free to complain about it in the comments. I doubt you had it worse than Yahoo! analyst Andy Behrens, though, who had the league's second highest point total of the season and still lost in Week 9 (while another owner won with 71 - 71! - fewer points). Such is life in head-to-head fantasy football.

A few weeks ago, I noted how Peyton and Eli had the exact same YPA and passing yards per game. This week, Peyton has the same number of passing yards as his replacement in Indy, Andrew Luck. Are the karma gods just toying with us? Seriously, how can two one-in-a-million statistical coincidences happen like that within a few weeks? Is the script written for Peyton vs. Luck in the playoffs and Peyton vs. Eli in the Super Bowl? Or is someone trying to prepare us for an announcement that the presidential election will end in a tie? I can see it now - "Florida has 8,354,592 votes for Obama and 8,354,592 votes for Romney." Anyway, I'd obviously rather have Peyton for the rest of this season, but it's a testament to Luck that Manning can be playing this well and nobody in Indy is upset he's gone.

As the rumors swirl about Sean Payton heading to Dallas, I can't help but wonder - would Drew Brees have signed a long-term extension in New Orleans if he knew Payton wasn't under contract? Couldn't you have seen Brees agreeing to the one-year, franchise tender for 2012, enabling he and Payton to pair up in 2013 as the greatest player and coach free agent tandem in sports history? You think Peyton Manning had leverage last offseason? What franchise wouldn't have broken the bank to make a Payton/Brees combo happen? Jerry Jones' head might have exploded at the mere possibility.

Chris Johnson is the greatest running back in NFL history when his team is trailing 51-12.

There are a billion ways to describe the dominance that is the Bears D/ST, but how about this one... at one point on Sunday, Chicago had 54 yards of offense and led 28-2. Despite the lopsided score, Jay Cutler and Brandon Marshall still hooked up for three touchdowns - not that anyone noticed. Oh, and how's this for a scary thought... Devin Hester, perhaps the greatest kick returner in NFL history, doesn't have a single return TD so far this year. Yet.

For all the hoopla about the other rookie quarterbacks, Russell Wilson quietly has as many touchdown passes as Robert Griffin III and Robert Tannehill combined and a better passer rating and more touchdowns than Andrew Luck.

Ironman Darren McFadden was injured Sunday, shocking all fantasy owners and analysts alike. An injury from DMC - who could have seen this coming? Fellow durability king Ryan Mathews has stayed healthy since his broken collarbone but has zero 100 yard games, just one touchdown, and can't beat out 30-year old Ronnie Brown for the third down job. Can the fantasy industry collaborate and agree not to get hypnotized by the "potential" of these guys next preseason? I'd say electric shock therapy is in order - administer a jolt to anyone who takes these guys before Round 3.

Do you remember a few weeks ago how I challenged Vincent Jackson to a footrace (as Jackson was caught from behind on his 95-yard touchdown reception)? I won't be making the same challenge to Mike Wallace.

The Texans were so worried about the Bills running game, and so unafraid of the pass, that they refused to change out of their base defense even when Buffalo played three receivers. Basically, they dared Buffalo to pass, keeping their normal allotment of linebackers even when the Bills went receiver-heavy. So how did Chan Gailey respond? He took the bait, allowing Ryan Fitzpatrick to throw 38 times in a game that was close throughout even though Fitz completed barely half his passes for just 6.3 YPA. C.J. Spiller, meanwhile, got just 11 touches - the same as Fred Jackson - even though Spiller racked up 102 yards to just 35 for Jackson. I've ranted about Spiller's usage, or lack thereof, since preseason, but after that debacle, the problem has peaked. What will it take for Gailey to get it? Now that the NBA has started, I wish Gailey would watch Rajon Rondo. Does Rondo jack up three-pointers because that's what the defense gives him? No. He knows that's not his forte, so he executes the Celtics offense the way he wants to run it. Rondo doesn't take what the defense gives him - he takes what he wants, doing what he's best at. Hopefully Gailey is fired soon and learns this lesson for his new job.

Christian Ponder has looked terrible the past few weeks, but his coaches aren't helping. Remember that touchdown run he had against the 49ers? That dude can run. Yet unlike, say, RGIII in Washington, the Vikings aren't calling any plays to take advantage of Ponder's legs. Give the guy some rollouts, bootlegs, and read options - take advantage of his speed and give him some confidence.

I was looking at the remaining schedules of the Colts and Dolphins and, man, are they bizarre. We're entering Week 10 - more than half way through the season - and the Dolphins still have both games left with the Bills and the Patriots. The Colts, meanwhile, have yet to play the Texans, and they won't do so until Week 15, only to turn around and do so again in Week 17. Scheduling like this is nearly as bad as putting the Chiefs on national television two straight weeks.

The Chiefs are -20 in turnover differential, nine worse than anyone else. The two teams closest to them are interesting - the Cowboys at -11, and the Colts at -10. It's crazy that Indy is 5-3 with that turnover differential and when their defense is allowing a 101.5 QB rating. As for Dallas, with a soft schedule from here on out, I still think the Cowboys have Super Bowl upside if they can fix the turnover problem.

Here are my waiver suggestions as we enter Week 10:

Ryan Tannehill, QB, Dolphins: The Titans have allowed an NFL-worst 20 passing touchdowns. Tannehill faces the Titans this week. If you're missing Aaron Rodgers this week due to his bye, the matchups don't get much better than this.

Isaac Redman, Jonathan Dwyer, and Rashard Mendenhall, RB, Steelers: Quick, who's the Steelers starting running back? Is it Redman, who just ran over the Giants for 147 yards and a touchdown? Is it Dwyer, who posted 100(+) yards in Weeks 7 and 8 and has 5.2 YPC on the year? Or is it Mendenhall, who has been the Steelers starter since 2009? The situation is clear as mud right now. On a good Steelers offense, though, and with a head coach that tends to avoid timeshares at running back, I'd say all three of these guys should be owned in most leagues. Stick one or more on your bench and see what happens.

Mark Ingram and Chris Ivory, RB, Saints: We all like Pierre Thomas on a per-play basis. However, even with Darren Sproles injured, Thomas didn't see any more touches than usual, as the workload was divided between Thomas, Ivory, and Ingram. There's not a lot of upside here given how the Saints split carries, but with two more bye weeks left, Ivory and Ingram may be bye-week plug-ins, depending on your format. The Saints get the Falcons this week, who are 30th in the NFL with 4.9 YPC.

Marcel Reece and Taiwan Jones, RB, Raiders: Darren McFadden and Mike Goodson both have high ankle sprains, so the door is open for someone else to emerge. Jones has upside given his speed, but he's small and unproven. Reece is a fullback who almost never runs the ball - he has one carry all season - but he's worth noting for deeper, PPR formats.

Running backs with upside: DMC's injury is another reminder that it's a good idea to stash backup running backs with upside, guys who would be fantasy gems in the event of an injury. I'm talking about guys like Kendall Hunter, Ronnie Hillman, Daniel Thomas, Robert Turbin, Michael Bush, Evan Royster (Alfred Morris has never played a full season, and Royster is the clear backup), and Bernard Pierce (the clear handcuff for Ray Rice).

Danny Amendola, WR, Rams: Amendola is expected to return this week. The matchup against the 49ers isn't ideal, but Amendola is likely a WR3 in most formats going forward. If he was useful to you before his injury, this is likely your last chance to get him again.

T.Y. Hilton, WR, Colts: Hilton broke out in Week 9, to the tune of 102 yards and a TD. With Reggie Wayne and Donnie Avery in the fold, there are too many mouths to feed in Indy, as Andrew Luck obviously won't throw as often or as well as he did in breaking the all-time rookie passing record last week. That said, Coby Fleener's injury may have helped Hilton get a few more targets than usual.

Emmanuel Sanders, WR, Steelers: Antonio Brown has a high ankle sprain, and Sanders is the next man up in the Steelers pecking order. For deeper leagues, Sanders is relevant, especially if you just lost Brown and particularly this week, against a bad Chiefs defense (8.9 YPA, 17 passing TDs).

Josh Morgan, WR, Redskins: Color me skeptical that Pierre Garcon returns this year. Presuming that's true, somebody will be relevant at receiver for Robert Griffin's Redskins. My money is on Morgan. Though he has yet to find the end zone in 2012, Morgan has 20 targets the past two weeks. If that continues, the production will follow. I'm not sure Morgan is good enough to justify holding through the Redskins bye, but, at worst, start thinking about him for next week.
Dwayne Allen, TE, Colts: Coby Fleener's injury may help Hilton a little, but it clearly helps Allen, who racked up 75 yards on six catches last week. With Fleener expected to miss another game, maybe more, Allen is a sneaky-good start this week. I'd rather play Allen this week than Dennis Pitta and Kyle Rudolph.

Brandon Myers, TE, Raiders: If you've been stubbornly hoping for a turnaround from Jermichael Finley, and Myers is sitting on waivers in your league, check out what Myers has been doing - 39 catches and 442 yards through 8 games. If you're math-challenged, that's a 78-884 pace. Finley can only dream of these numbers, and he's now heading into his bye. It's time to make that switch.

Stephen Gostkowski, K, Patriots, and David Akers, K, 49ers: I don't typically lump together players from different teams, nor do I like discussing kickers. Gostkowski and Akers are the exception this week since they're both top-five kickers and both are coming off their bye. Check and see if a fellow owner tried to slide one through waivers in your league.

Cowboys D/ST: The Eagles offensive line is awful - on par with the Cardinals - and Michael Vick has zero pocket awareness. Dallas faces Philly this week, so the Cowboys are a great option if you're streaming defenses.

Steelers D/ST: I buried the Steelers a few weeks ago, but after solid performances in successive weeks, Pittsburgh is back from the dead. The defense isn't making the big plays you'd like to see for fantasy purposes, but that could easily change at home against the Chiefs this week.

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