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Dealing with bye weeks is exhausting. We are so close to the top of the mountain that we know the end is coming, but I'm so tired, I just want to lay down and take a nap. Two more weeks of dealing with the byes - this week it's the Falcons, Colts, Chargers, and 49ers taking it easy - and we'll be back up to full speed. I have so many Falcons, Chargers, and Frank Gore shares on my teams that this is another deadly week for me. I took it on the chin last week so I'm ready for this madness to end. Add in all the injuries, both season ending and short term, and it's been a challenging year of management. In one week, I was able to add DeAngelo Williams and lost Keenan Allen off the same squad. I probably broke even there, while others haven't been so lucky. Let's continue that climb up to the top of the mountain and take a look at what Week 10 will bring.
Game of the week: Arizona Cardinals vs. Seattle Seahawks - The Sunday Night Football game again delivers the goods as Carson Palmer's Cardinals try to stake their claim to the division by knocking down the Seahawks in Seattle in primetime. The Cardinals will be on full display as they run back to Arizona next week to play host to the Bengals on SNF again. Winning this game would put them in a great position to win the division and with a game against Green Bay hanging out there in Week 16, they absolutely control their own fate to get a playoff bye. Very intriguing game, plenty of fantasy implications as well.
Carson Palmer comes into this one as a solid QB1, virtually tied with Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers, Cam Newton, and Andy Dalton through the half way point. Palmer undoubtedly has returned a profit for you at the draft table unless you're Jordan Palmer and drafted your brother in the first round...on second thought, there's no way you'd draft your much more talented and successful brother on your fantasy team. In the past, this would be a matchup where you'd sit Palmer, but he's been so solid it'll be tough to do so this week. It will be interesting to see how he's able to move the ball against the Seahawks defense and how his weapons of John Brown, Larry Fitzgerald, and that third WR who shall remain nameless, are covered by Richard Sherman and company. John Brown, as always, has the highest ceiling, while Fitzgerald has the highest floor. What might be even more interesting will be if this resurgent running game, led by Chris Johnson, can continue what is one of the most unlikely stories of the fantasy season. My guess is the Seahawks run defense makes it a tough day for Johnson and he struggles, but with the RB catastrophe this season, you've got to roll with him.
On the other side of the fence, Russell Wilson has not returned draft table profit this year as he's had to do Russell Wilson type things on virtually every drop back just to stay alive. Watching the Seahawks offensive line is like watching subway turnstiles at rush hour - they offer a slight resistance to your hurried pace, but you know you're getting through. I would feel bad for Wilson if not for just how great he is at avoiding that rush. As good as the Cardinals defense has been this year, it's not because they're getting to the QB, so Wilson might actually have time to get off his throws. Unfortunately, there have been no consistent fantasy assets in this passing game. The only guy in this offense you can feel good about is Marshawn Lynch and with his balky back and hard running style, he's a tough guy to rely on. This might be the most interesting matchup all night with the Cardinals defense tough against the run and Lynch tough against anyone silly enough to stand in his way.
Marcus Mariota vs. Carolina Panthers - I'm rolling with Mariota in a two QB league this week with Rivers on bye. Coming off his huge week last week, the rookie draws a much tougher challenge against the Panthers. Mariota's first big game was due in part to a reliance on package plays and playing that friendly Tampa Bay defense. With Ken Whizenhunt unable to adapt and evolve those plays, they quickly became stale and Whizenhunt lost his job because of it. Last week's resurgence was against that terrible Saints defense. I think there's a better than average chance that Mariota gets destroyed, but sometimes, you've just got to have fun with it and I don't really want to start Joe Flacco.
Justin Forsett vs. Jacksonville - Forsett should be well rested and gets to face the porous Jaguars run defense. What will be interesting to see is just how much the Ravens change their offensive attack now that they're without their only legitimate receiving threat in Steve Smith Sr. Counter to that will be just how many 8 man boxes Forsett will have to run against as no one will respect this passing game until a threat emerges. If nothing else, Forsett projects as a high volume play but it will be interesting to see if he can elevate his game as the top playmaker for this offense.
Randall Cobb vs. Detroit Lions - Cobb finally got going a bit last week against the Panthers, including a nice TD on a 53 yard catch and run. Maybe you forgot, but Cobb was a high draft choice this summer and has been a big disappointment after his 3 TD game against the Chiefs. Nothing gets you right quite like the Lions secondary (okay, the Saints secondary), so let's see if Cobb can start paying off that high investment.
4 Defenses to Use - There's a lot to like with Carolina taking on Mariota's Titans as they looked great for 3 quarters against Rodgers. You'd have to think they'll be able to finish against Mariota. I'd feel good about playing the Cardinals and the Steelers defenses this week as the former gets the Seahawks' terrible offensive line, and the later gets to play Cleveland. The only dart throw defense I could endorse this week would be Kansas City. They've played better recently and it's a divisional game against the ghost of Peyton Manning.
4 Defenses to Abuse - Start all your Packers (vs. Detroit), Bengals (vs. Houston), Panthers (@ Tennessee), and Cowboys (@ Tampa Bay). This is the safest week to roll with any of your Packers. I still can't believe how the Texans have become a terrible defense when they used to be feared, but fire up all the Bengals. I'm endorsing the Cam Newton train until further notice and I'm even good with the Cowboys skill position players like Dez Bryant and Darren McFadden against Lovie's defense. There's one more defense to take advantage of, but we'll highlight that below...
Shotgun Longshot - Kirk Cousins- Really, the smartest play here is Cousins just totally based on the matchup with the Saints. They're likely to get into a shootout as Brees is back to videogame form, and Cousins is going to have to throw something. The 27% owned Cousins is the best Matt Ryan medicine you can buy.
Toss Sweep Sleeper - Matt Jones - This isn't a huge stretch but Jones is sitting at 41% ownership and gets to play the Saints defense (can we really even call them a defense at this point? more of a Saints hospitality crew...). He's the most talented back in the crowded backfield and there's a decent shot he gets loose for a big one.
Fly Route Flier - Kamar Aiken - Counter to my spotlight on Forsett, I'm rolling with Aiken this week as he steps into the WR1 role for Steve Smith Sr. The 46% owned Aiken has a good matchup here and I'm confidently rolling with him where I'm hurting for Julio Jones help.
What are you looking forward to the most this weekend?