Fantasy football is the greatest. It can also be the worst. Driving Friday night on the back roads of Buffalo, I hit a deer. Really, the deer ran into my car on a road that no one went past me five minutes after it happened. I'm a big animal lover, so it was pretty equal as far as what happened to the animal and the extensive damage to my car. I went to get the damage assessed Monday, and the number came in just less than $5,000 at a minimum. I'm guessing the deer had an 0-8 fantasy team in the "Forrest Animals League" and took the easy way out. That should have been a sign of what was to come for me this weekend.
I took Carolina in Survivor in my league with 23 teams, down to four. I was giddy when I saw that the other three teams went with the Cowboys. The Carolina game was over well before the Dallas-Minnesota game. We know how that turned out with Leslie Frasier too scared to go for it on the Dallas 35 with under four minutes left. My Buffalo Bills? They're ready to go up 14 when Jeff Tuel throws a pick-six returned the length of the football field, and they go on to lose despite not giving up an offensive touchdown.
Finally, in the Mark Stopa Law Firm League, I had Riley Cooper, Andre Johnson and Aaron Dobson in my starting lineup. Of course, I lost to my good friend and colleague, Dalton Del Don. I know, whaa Kevin, whaa. I still love fantasy sports even with the tough weekend.
Again, I'm not going to talk about players we discussed the last week or two (Mike Brown, Case Keenum, Aaron Dobson, Tiquan Underwood, etc.) Let's stay ahead of the curve.
Nick Foles, PHI - I think it's pretty much set that no matter how healthy Michael Vick gets, Foles should hang onto the starting job the rest of the season. He has his name written in the record books with Peyton Manning and Y.A. Tittle with seven passing touchdowns and appears to have full grasp of the Chip Kelly offense. There were reports that his bad game against the Cowboys was in part due to a minor groin injury, and that game appears to be the outlier of the 3.5 games he's played. He could be in your starting lineup or at least makes for a better option than who you have on your bench. FAAB: $12-16
Jay Cutler, CHI - Cutler plans to play this week, which would be on the quicker end of his initial timetable to return. Before the game he was injured in, he had three consecutive games of two touchdown passes, and two of those three games were 300-yard passing games. Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery are one of the best wide-receiver tandems in the league, and Martellus Bennett provides a huge target over the middle. I slightly prefer Foles over Cutler just due to the chance that Cutler returns too soon and re-injures himself. FAAB: $12-16
EJ Manuel, BUF - All signs point to Manuel being back under center for the Bills soon, perhaps even this week. He was cleared to start practicing Monday and the release of Matt Flynn suggests he's ready to go. The Bills have some interesting pieces in the passing game beyond Steve Johnson. Marquise Goodwin is one of the faster players in the league, Robert Woods had a good rapport with Manuel before the injury and Scott Chandler serves as a dependable option over the middle. FAAB: $6-10
Matt McGloin, OAK - Starter Terrelle Pryor left Sunday's game with a knee sprain and is day-to-day. McGloin had some deep sleeper buzz in the preseason before Pryor impressed the Raiders coaching staff. I was at the game when Joe Paterno won his now vacated 400th victory and McGloin passed the eye test there, albeit against a weak Northwestern team. He'll have relevance in two-quarterback leagues if Pryor misses time. FAAB: $1 or FCFS
Doug Martin, TB - This is a note for those in 10- or 12-team leagues with a short bench, as Martin is only available in about 20 percent of fantasy leagues. I really thought Martin was done for the year, and it's a little surprising the Buccaneers are bringing him back with the season being a lost cause. The only reason I can think they're bringing him back this soon is the coaching staff will be on the chopping block at season's end. Here is a spot where you use your No. 1 waiver priority or blow whatever FAAB budget you have remaining. Martin still has top-5 upside for the position, and the offensive line looked great against the Seahawks. FAAB: $60-70
Rashad Jennings, OAK - Jennings looked fantastic Sunday in relief of Darren McFadden, who not surprisingly left the game with a hamstring injury. Jennings finished the day with 176 yards from scrimmage, including a rushing touchdown. It should be noted that the production did come against an Eagles' defense that played softer with a huge lead. It's unclear if McFadden will miss time and exactly how much, but considering his history he'll likely miss the next game at minimum. Jennings would be in line for about 20 touches if McFadden is out. FAAB: $25-30
Ben Tate, HOU - If I'm going to mention Doug Martin, I have to do the same with Ben Tate. I'm not sure how on earth he's playing with four broken ribs, and there's serious worry here that at some point he misses time or gets shut down. That said, Arian Foster is working through his own set of injuries, so Tate will be the man for now in the Houston backfield. He's going to play through this injury, though I'm not thrilled about his matchup against a rested Cardinals defense this week. FAAB: $16-20
Shane Vereen, NE - Vereen has been back to practice and should be active Week 11 after the Patriots' Week 10 bye. This is a case where if you want him, you have to go get him this week, not next week. While it seems like a long time ago, Vereen had 159 yards from scrimmage Week 1 and likely will be used more than Stevan Ridley as a receiver. The New England offense finally appears healthy, and the Patriots looked like the team we've come to know over the years against the Steelers. FAAB: $15-20
Shonn Greene, TEN - I'm not exactly sure why the Titans refuse to use Chris Johnson as their goal-line back, but Greene clearly has the job. Greene, who dealt with a knee injury earlier this season, finished Sunday with 10 touches and a five-yard touchdown run. Coach Mike Munchak said earlier in the week the plan was to get him 15 carries, so expecting double-digit touches each week is reasonable. Greene doesn't have a ton of upside but will have value if he can convert at the goal line. FAAB: $6-$10
Dennis Johnson, HOU - I'm breaking my rule of discussing players from the past weeks, but I'm going to make an exception for Johnson. I'll admit, I was wrong; I got on the Ray Graham bandwagon between the three-headed monster of Graham, Johnson and Deji Karim. It was Johnson who backed up Ben Tate after Arian Foster left with a back injury, and it should stay the same case after he rushed for 36 yards on eight carries. Tate isn't the healthiest player, either, and there's a good possibility that Johnson is the top running back for the Texans if they officially fall out of the playoff race. FAAB: $5-$10
Darrel Young, WAS - Young was the running-back version of Joseph Fauria Sunday. He got three touchdowns, all on fullback blasts, as the Chargers defense couldn't stop the Redskins running game. This is really a recommendation for touchdown-only leagues as it's tough to see much value here. FAAB: $1 or FCFS
Nate Burleson, DET - The pizza man appears ready for this week's game and was already running routes and catching passes from Matthew Stafford over the last week. Detroit didn't have anyone step up in his absence, and Ryan Broyles, who everyone placed faith in, is out for the season once again. While he did not score, Burleson had at least six catches in each of the three games he's played and averaged nearly 80 receiving yards per game. FAAB: $12-16
Riley Cooper, PHI - Cooper had a monster game against the Raiders, and it's become crystal clear that Nick Foles loves to throw in his direction. Over Foles' three starts, Cooper totaled 347 receiving yards and four touchdowns. The schedule is favorable, and as mentioned, Foles should remain the starter the rest of the season. Cooper has deceptive speed and usually draws softer coverage with opposing defenses keyed in on DeSean Jackson. FAAB: $12-16
Doug Baldwin, SEA - With the Sidney Rice injury coupled with a tough matchup for Golden Tate against Darrell Revis, Baldwin looked like a great play as last week went on. Baldwin responded with six catches for 75 yards and a score against Tampa Bay. Tate will continue to be the first passing option, but Baldwin, who had 10 targets, will be relevant in the Seattle passing attack as well. FAAB: $10-14
Greg Little, CLE - I've long been a supporter of Little since he came out of North Carolina, but it was a bad habit I quit last season. However, he may be turning a corner with Jason Campbell, who targeted him nine times. Little did leave the game with a shoulder injury but should be back at practice Tuesday. Like Cooper, Little will see softer coverage with most of the defensive attention geared toward Josh Gordon and Jordan Cameron. FAAB: $6-$10
Mario Manningham, SF - Manningham was activated off the PUP list Monday and will likely settle in as the No. 2 wide receiver for the 49ers and the third passing option after Anquan Boldin and Vernon Davis. Manningham is only 27 and is three seasons off a 944-yard and nine-touchdown campaign. He's in this category because it's tough to see a lot of consistency, but if you're looking for a bye-week filler, he's an option. FAAB: $1-2
Griff Whalen, IND - Apparently if you play for Stanford, there's a good chance the Colts will draft you (looking at you, Tyler Gaffney). I discussed Darrius Heyward-Bey in this column when Reggie Wayne went down and right on cue DHB might have suffered a concussion, leaving Whalen in a bigger role. He played almost two-thirds of the downs Sunday and got nine targets from Andrew Luck. Watch for updates on DHB, but even if he's fine it appears Whalen has the third wide-receiver role at a minimum. FAAB: FCFS
John Carlson, MIN - If you ever get into the discussion about the worst contracts in any sport, Carlson's name needs to be brought up. Carlson signed a five-year, $25-million deal in 2012 (with $11 million guaranteed) despite the team having fellow Notre Damer Kyle Rudolph (on a four-year, $3.91 million contract) on the roster. Carlson will have his chance to earn his money over the next month with Rudolph on the shelf with a broken foot. The quarterback play has been erratic, but the good news is that between both tight ends they received eight, six, 11 and 13 targets over the Vikings' last four games. FAAB: $2-$4