The word of the week for fantasy owners: helpless.
Sunday started off with the biggest fantasy games provider, Yahoo!, crashing about 30 minutes before kickoff. Even owners who had already set their lineups were undoubtedly bothered by this, and owners who had procrastinated were beside themselves. Ultimately, there was nothing anyone could do, aside from America's new favorite pastime -- sending out angry tweets.
That helpless feeling carried over to the late-afternoon and prime-time games, when four starting quarterbacks -- Alex Smith (concussion), Michael Vick (concussion), Jay Cutler (concussion) and Ben Roethlisberger (shoulder) -- were knocked out of their games and missed at least two quarters worth of action. If there's a silver lining, it's that none of those quarterbacks have been fantasy stars this season, but even so, that's still two potential fantasy starters (Vick and Roethlisberger). Even more important, there were at least nine potential starting fantasy wide receivers and tight ends that were affected when their starting quarterbacks got hurt.
Jeremy Maclin was the only one who managed a touchdown catch with one of the backups and Brandon Marshall had over 80 receiving yards, but overall, it seems likely that the 49ers', Eagles', Bears' and Steelers' offenses will suffer as long as their respective starters are out.
It's unclear how many games Smith, Vick, Cutler and Roethlisberger will miss. The only backup that might have fantasy value is San Francisco's Colin Kaepernick, but there's more because of his running ability. Unfortunately, there isn't much fantasy owners can do if they own one these teams' receivers. Guys like Marshall and Mike Wallace remain must-starts, but Michael Crabtree, DeSean Jackson and Heath Miller are more questionable. Owners will have a tough time knowing what to do with them, as most of the QBs could be game-time decisions. Let's just hope we're able to make last-minute lineup changes this week.
Let's look at more players who improved or hurt their stock at each offensive position in Week 10.
Fifteen quarterbacks had at least 20 fantasy points last week -- the most since Week 4 when there were also 15. Joe Flacco led all QBs with 35.74 points, which is more than he scored in his previous four games combined (35.3). Obviously, Flacco has big-time upside, but consistency will always be an issue. The same is true for Christian Ponder, whose 20.8 points was just under his total in his previous three games (22.5).
Perhaps the most surprising 20-point scorer was Jake Locker (20.48), who hadn't played since Week 4 because off a shoulder injury. Because of his running ability, Locker has more upside than both Flacco and Ponder, but it's important to note that he didn't exactly play well last week (9-of-21 passing). Accuracy is an issue for Locker, which might affect his receivers' fantasy values more than his. Like Flacco and Ponder, he'll be a risky start from week-to-week.
Notable Riser: Philip Rivers, Chargers. Rivers has one of his best games last week (28 fantasy points), but things still ended on a sour note with two fourth-quarter INTs. Still, with two straight decent efforts, fantasy owners might be ready to trust Rivers again. The talent is there, but Rivers has a tough remaining fantasy schedule (@DEN, vs. BAL, vs. CIN, @PIT, vs. CAR, @NYJ). Now's the time to try to sell high, if possible.
Notable Faller: Eli Manning, Giants. Manning lands in this spot for the second straight week after turning in his third straight performance with fewer than 6.1 fantasy points. There are rumors that he's playing through injury; regardless, he's killing fantasy teams right now. Manning has three very favorable matchups after the Giants' Week 10 bye (vs. GB, vs. WAS, vs. NO), so even though he's been terrible lately, he looks like a good buy-low candidate.
Fred Jackson had his best game of the season last week (21.5 fantasy points), but unfortunately, his day ended on the Bills' final drive after he suffered a concussion. Jackson has already been ruled out for Thursday's game, which makes C.J. Spiller a must-start in all formats. It's unclear how long Jackson will be out, but the Bills' backs have been consistently excellent lately, averaging 26.5 combined fantasy points per game over their past four contests.
New Orleans' RBs have been hot lately, too, led by Christopher Ivory, who's scored in each of the past two games. Even though Ivory has looked like a Marshawn Lynch clone since Darren Sproles' hand injury, Mark Ingram (23) has led the team in carries. Pierre Thomas seems to be the odd man out right now (six touches last week), and there's no real reason for that to change with Ivory and Ingram playing well.
Notable Faller: Reggie Bush, Dolphins. Bush was benched after a first-quarter fumble last week, and considering that he was already losing playing time to Daniel Thomas, it seems unlikely that he'll serve as a “feature back” going forward. That doesn't mean he's devoid of fantasy value, but Bush is more of a flex-back than an RB2 going forward. The Giants' Ahmad Bradshaw, who turned in his third straight sub-5.9 fantasy-point performance last week and reportedly suffered a neck injury, is following a similar path. Andre Brown took over in garbage time and scored his fourth touchdown in as many games. Bradshaw is still a better bet for touches, but it looks like Brown has taken over as New York's goal-line back.
The Seahawks featured two top-five receivers last week, in part because Golden Tate (No. 4, 18.02 fantasy points) threw a touchdown to Sidney Rice (No. 5, 17.40 fantasy points). Still, both players have benefited from QB Russell Wilson's increased efficiency lately, averaging a combined 27 FPPG over their past three contests. While it's unlikely that both will continue to be consistent, every-week plays, each makes for solid WR3 options most weeks. Rice has a little more value because of his slight edge in targets.
Similarly, the Raiders have two steady fantasy starters in Denarius Moore and Darrius Heyward-Bey, who are averaging a combined 22.5 FPPG over the past three weeks. Moore has more upside, but Heyward-Bey has been just as consistent despite scoring fewer overall points.
Notable Riser: Demaryius Thomas, Broncos. Calvin Johnson and A.J. Green might be the two best receivers in the NFL, but from a fantasy standpoint, Thomas isn't far behind. Like Johnson, Thomas is one of the few receivers who can have a big game even without getting in the end zone. Last week's 135-yard performance marked the second time he's topped 13 fantasy points without scoring. Thomas has received 28 targets over his past three games, and over the entire season, he's tied for sixth among WRs with a catch percentage of 71.1. He doesn't figure to slow down any time soon.
Twelve different TEs scored touchdowns last week, with Jimmy Graham, Tony Gonzalez and Greg Olsen scoring twice. Gonzalez and Olsen joined Scott Chandler, Dennis Pitta, Brandon Pettigrew, Jared Cook and Kyle Rudolph as notable TEs who snapped scoreless streaks of at least three games. Gonzalez and Olsen will continue to be TE1's most weeks. For the rest of that group, Pettigrew stands out because of his high amount of targets, and Rudolph stands out for his ability around the goal line. He would be an especially good play if Percy Harvin (ankle) has to miss more time.
Notable Riser: Jason Witten, Cowboys. Witten wasn't one of the 12 tight ends who scored last week -- and he didn't even have 50 receiving yards -- but he was still one of just three TEs with at least 10 targets. Witten leads all TEs with 89 targets this year, and he's had at least seven targets in each of the past six games. He remains as good of a bet as any TE to produce on a weekly basis.
Notable Faller: Brent Celek, Eagles. After Celek's 3.1-point performance last week, he's now scored fewer than 3.4 points in four straight games. The switch at QB from Vick to Nick Foles doesn't figure to help either. It's possible that Celek will serve as Foles' security blanket, but the downgrade in talent at the quarterback position will likely limit Celek's overall potential. It's tough to justify keeping him on a roster at this point.
Dolphins at Bills
Stat to know: The Dolphins (25.2) and Bills (24.8) rank Nos. 8 and 9, respectively, in FPPG allowed to WRs. Unfortunately, neither team features more than one receiver you can trust. Buffalo's Stevie Johnson and Miami's Brian Hartline should be started in this matchup, but any other WR would be a risk.
Sleeper: RB Daniel Thomas (Buffalo allowing the most FPPG to RBs).
Matt Lutovsky is a fantasy football writer for Sporting News' Fantasy Source. You can read more of his work on the Fantasy Source football homepage.