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Ten games in and chances are if you're reading this, you're still alive in your league (or thought you clicked on a Lester Wiltfong article). In standard leagues, we have just 4 short weeks to make your move. If you have already accumulated 9 or 10 wins, you should be looking at your playoff schedule and trying to line everything up. For us mere mortals, we go once more into the breach in what feels like must win territory from here on out. We will be without the Browns, Saints, Steelers, and Giants this week as they take the last of the byes.
Game of the week: Buffalo Bills vs. New England Patriots - The Monday Night game this week features Rex Ryan's squad coming off a huge victory against his former team last Thursday night in a game my retinas are still recovering from. Ryan famously said he wasn't in New York to kiss Belichick's rings. I think Rex Ryan is good for football and I'm happy to see him have a little success in his first year in Buffalo. Going into New England is never easy and the Patriots survived a scare against the Giants last weekend so they could be emotional drained (or fired up...who knows?).
For Buffalo, Tyrod Taylor is back and healthy. This is good for fans of Tyrod Taylor and those of you counting on him for stats, but more importantly, this is good for Sammy Watkins. Watkins has battled the injury demons all year but he appears to be healthy and has a QB that can get him the ball under center. Watkins is a dynamic playmaker and we're entering a stretch where Watkins can absolutely be a difference maker on your squad. The Patriots may opt to put Super Bowl hero Malcolm Butler on Watkins as Butler is coming off a nice game against All-World playmaker Odell Beckham Jr. The 1-2 combination of LeSean McCoy and Karlos Williams appears to be up to full speed right now as they both produced usable lines last week against the Jets. We're talking about 4 potentially usable assets for the Bills offense, which is saying a lot after the wasteland of previous years.
On New England's side of the fence, we shall see how the Patriots adapt again without Julian Edelman. I don't think you can reasonably expect Danny Amendola to do more that 75% of what Edelman can, but if you have to start Amendola, I'd try to hold off a week and see what he does against a great Bills secondary. One would think that Tom Brady will need to pepper more targets into All-Galaxy playmaker Rob Gronkowski and hope we can get something out of Brandon LaFell and Amendola. Teams know that Brady wants to go to Gronk - the problem is there aren't a lot of people that can cover him effectively. Don't be surprised if Brady takes a step back from the incredible pace he was on because of this Edelman injury. Much like Aaron Rodgers and Jordy Nelson, Edelman could change the entire offense. The difference is that I have more confidence in Bill Belichick than I do in Mike McCarthy.
Tony Romo vs. Miami Dolphins - Do you remember that the Dallas Cowboys were thought of as an elite NFC team to start the year? Did you realize they are 2-7? How about the fact that they aren't out of the playoff conversation because the NFC East is a dumpster fire? So, Romo comes back into our lives and he gets to go to South Beach to play the Miami Dolphins who are playing out the rest of this year under interim coach Dan Campbell, who finally notched a 3rd win against the Eagles in dramatic fashion last Sunday. I don't think the Dolphins are very good so this is an excellent chance for Romo to reintegrate back into the offense. If you have Romo and have to use him, fine, but just temper expectations as a guy coming back from a long layoff usually has a lot of rust to shake off.
Emmanuel Sanders & Demaryius Thomas vs. Chicago Bears - I don't really care about Brock Osweiler other than how he might impact Sanders and Thomas. Say what you will about Manning but at least he was showering those two guys with a lot of targets. It will be interesting to see what the young QB can do with two elite weapons. Do the Broncos try to run the ball more? Does Osweiler work his Tight Ends more in the short passing game? These questions will be important to see what kind of value we have for these two stud receivers.
Detroit Lions Backfield vs. Oakland Raiders - Let's just say that the Raiders are an improving team but they have a long way to go on defense. This week the Lions, pumped after an ugly win over the Packers, have an opportunity to get something going in the run game. The problem is, I have no idea who, if any, of the Lions running backs are worth playing. Joique Bell got 14 carries against the Pack but only mustered 17 yards - that's Trent Richardson-esque. Theo Riddick doesn't get a lot of carries but retains value in the passing game. Ameer Abdullah is more of a tease than anything. I don't recommend any of these guys outright, but watch close and see if someone establishes value.
4 Defenses to Use - I love Seattle's defense this week against the 49ers and you have to roll with that Eagles defense against the Bucs. If you don't have one of the higher owned defenses, I'd want in on that Tennessee / Jacksonville game. I don't really even care which side of it because both offenses make a lot of mistakes. If I had to choose, I'd probably take Tennessee. Bad teams can lead to sloppy play can lead to defensive TDs.
4 Defenses to Abuse - We should just call this the Rob Ryan piñata section but no Saints to use here anyway as they're on bye. Make sure you use your full complement of Raiders and Lions in that game - there's going to be a lot of points and not a lot of defense. I would also dial up my Falcons against the Colts and this is a good week to take a shot on some of your Seahawks, playing against the 49ers.
Shotgun Longshot - Mark Sanchez! - Okay, to be fair, I don't like any of the low-owned options this week. You could sub in an Alex Smith and hope for a 15 point game or, you could roll the dice on the Sanchize! What sounds more fun? Alex Smith or Mark Sanchez? That's what I thought. Sure, he'll throw a couple picks and fumble a few times, but maybe he connects with his receivers and has a big game. I mean, he's playing the Lovie Smith Buccaneers! Ask yourself - how awesome would it be to beat your buddy because you used Mark Sanchez off the waiver wire? That would be epic. Or, just play Tyrod Taylor. Or any other QB not named Blaine.
Toss Sweep Sleeper - Theo Riddick - I realize I just told you I'm not recommending any of the Lions runners outright but that doesn't really count for sleepers. If I'm picking from the Lions backs for a desperation fill in for someone like DeAngelo Williams or Mark Ingram, I'll take the TD potential that Riddick has.
Fly Route Flier - Robert Woods - This flier comes with the assumption of game flow. If you believe the game will be low scoring, stay away from this choice. However, if you believe in the Brady-led offense over that stingy defense, dial up Robert Woods in a desperation play. The 13% owned Woods is a solid WR2 against a mediocre pass defense in our game of the week.
What are you looking forward to the most this weekend?