Football fans nationwide suffered an emotional gut punch when Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson tore his ACL during practice in a non-contact drill. Fantasy owners felt a similar pain trying to survive consecutive weeks of six teams on bye. No one is in the clear as the Baltimore Ravens, Kansas City Chiefs, Oakland Raiders, and Philadelphia Eagles are scheduled to take a breather. Unless your team is lucky and has never faced adversity, unheralded players will be needed from here on out.
Ben Roethlisberger, QB, Pittsburgh (at Indianapolis)
Starting Roethlisberger on the road is frowned upon unless an opponent is one of the league’s worst defenses. Heck, starting him at all thus far would be foolish considering he’s thrown 10 touchdown passes and nine interceptions with just two 300-yard games. Try to let the past stay there because Week 10 looks promising. Indianapolis allows the second-highest total yards (393.6), passing yards (279.7) and most points (28.9) per game. All signs point to wide receivers Antonio Brown and JuJu Smith-Schuster torching the Colts, as well as Le’Veon Bell out of the backfield. After throwing five interceptions against Jacksonville in Week 5, the Steelers have won three games in a row in which Roethlisberger averaged 264.3 yards passing, 1.7 touchdowns and 0.7 interceptions against Detroit, Cincinnati and Kansas City. Those three teams have better defenses than the 3-6 Colts. Quarterback Andrew Luck is shut down for the season. Aside from pride, Indianapolis doesn’t have much to play for while Roethlisberger pursues the AFC’s No. 1 playoff seed.
Tevin Coleman, RB, Atlanta (vs. Dallas)
Atlanta Offensive Coordinator Steve Sarkisian has turned 2016’s best offense into a unit that, despite averaging 372.0 yards, only scores 21.2 points per game. One of Sarkisian’s problems is under-utilizing Coleman. A third-year pro who backups Devonta Freeman, Coleman is normally electric when he touches the ball, averaging 5.0 yards on 63 attempts and 12.4 yards on 16 receptions with two touchdowns. His averages are similar to last year but he was used more frequently by former offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan. Coleman also scored 11 touchdowns in 13 games. Look, if Coleman’s role isn’t expanded against Dallas, then I don’t know what else to say. He is the perfect secondary option behind Freeman. Dallas’ rushing defense is ranked No. 12 at 101.2 yards per game but average 4.4 yards per attempt. Dallas is also No. 16 at 223.4 yards passing. The Cowboys have an average defense. Coleman and the Atlanta offense can be elite if Sarkisian figures out how to use his weapons — and if Julio Jones doesn’t drop wide open touchdown passes.
LeSean McCoy, RB, Buffalo (vs. Saints)
This may seem obvious but it’s not considering McCoy, who gained 25 yards on 12 carries Thursday against the New York Jets, was around the RB8 range midway through the season. Plus, New Orleans’ defense continues to improve, ranked No. 19 in rushing defense at 116.1 yards per game. But the Saints also allow 4.7 yards per carry, so don’t think they’re good, because if teams ran the ball more than 24.6 times a game the unit would be farther down the rankings. McCoy’s current career-low 3.7 yards per carry and two touchdowns is underwhelming. Before last week, he was also averaging 5.7 receptions the prior three games, which is a plus. McCoy is Buffalo’s best player. The Saints normally don’t perform well on the road. In fact, not only does McCoy have a good matchup this week, look to acquire him before your trade deadline. He will play the Los Angeles Chargers, Kansas City, New England (twice), Indianapolis and Miami (twice). Besides the Dolphins, each opponent has a rushing defense ranked outside the top 17.
Paul Richardson, WR, Seattle (at Arizona)
Quarterback Russell Wilson has a better pocket to throw in and is taking more deep shots downfield, but that isn’t saying much considering how poor the offensive line is, especially the right side. The ground game is still struggling but the addition of left tackle Duane Brown helps, which makes Wilson’s play action more effective. Richardson has become one of Wilson’s favorite targets for explosive plays of 20-plus yards. After two receptions for 61 yards and a touchdown against the New York Giants, Richardson caught six receptions for 105 yards and two touchdowns against Houston, his long being 48 yards when he used his athleticism to outjump a defender. He had three receptions for 41 yards in Sunday’s inexcusable loss to the Washington Redskins. The Seahawks are looking to bounce back, and Richardson should play a role. Arizona has the ninth-worst passing defense at 249.2 yards per game along with 14 touchdowns, tied for No. 19 with four other teams. If the Arizona pass rush gives Wilson fits, however, pumping up Richardson might be all for naught.
Larry Fitzgerald, WR, Arizona (vs. Seattle)
Logic may say to bench Fitzgerald. Makes sense because without quarterback Carson Palmer, backup Drew Stanton has been horrible such as passing for 66 yards and 35.7 completion percentage against the Los Angeles Rams and, on Sunday, 201 yards, two touchdowns, one interception and 50.0 completion percentage. Stanton is not like Watson who used his arm and mobility to pass for 402 yards and four touchdowns at Seattle in Week 8. Watson also threw three interceptions, which is more on par with Stanton’s skill set. Amid his signal-caller’s presumed struggle, Fitzgerald’s in line for quick receptions that could amount to a lot of yardage, especially if the Cardinals are trailing in garbage time. Fitzgerald caught five receptions for 70 yards at San Francisco. Not bad but the 49ers passing defense stinks, allowing the 10th-most yards (244.8) and third-most touchdowns (1.8) per game. Seattle’s passing defense ranks No. 13 at 213.1 yards per game. If safety Earl Thomas (hamstring) misses another game Thursday, Fitzgerald will have a better chance to produce.
Other Players to Like
Matthew Stafford, QB, Detroit (vs. Cleveland)
Josh McCown, QB, New York Jets (at Tampa Bay)
Aaron Jones, RB, Green Bay (at Chicago)
Mark Ingram, RB, New Orleans (at Buffalo)
Robby Anderson, WR, New York Jets (at Tampa Bay)
Tyler Lockett, WR, Seattle (at Arizona)
Jack Doyle, TE, Indianapolis (vs. Pittsburgh)
Evan Engram, TE, New York Giants (at San Francisco)