Jon Gruden should love it. Each of these moribund offenses last season has proved to be fantasy-relevant over the past few weeks, and among the players fantasy owners are likely underrating are both quarterbacks and running backs plus a pair of wide receivers I gave considerable rankings love to this week.
Bucs quarterback Josh Freeman enters the week 10th at his position in fantasy scoring, making a top-12 rank perfectly justifiable, and he is among the top 5 since Week 6, with 23, 29 and 22 standard fantasy points during that span.
Raiders quarterback Carson Palmer hasn't reached 20 fantasy points in any game this season, but some fantasy owners appreciate his consistency. Palmer has hit 14 or more points in all but one week. For the season, he has scored one fewer fantasy point than Michael Vick and four fewer than Cam Newton. But if you own those "exciting" running passers, have you considered Palmer's value? The other guys bring more downside. I ranked Palmer and Freeman 11th and 12th, respectively, for this week, expecting scoring in at least the high-teens from each.
Vick and Newton should also enjoy favorable matchups this week, against the New Orleans Saints and Washington Redskins, respectively, but the point is neither Freeman nor Palmer is owned in close to 100 percent of leagues. That seems odd, especially this week, as the Buccaneers and Raiders have not proved adept at stopping the pass this season. The Bucs are the third easiest for opposing fantasy wide receivers to accumulate points against while the Raiders are top 10 for quarterbacks, but even that is a bit misleading. In the past two weeks, the Raiders have faced Blaine Gabbert and Matt Cassel, not exactly Brees and Brady. The locked-in Freeman should have a wonderful game.
I highlighted the Raiders' Denarius Moore in Tuesday's end-of-season rankings, noting his proficiency for touchdowns over the past month-plus, and he breaks into my top 10 this week. Recent trends certainly favor the Tennessee product over some of the more popular names, such as Larry Fitzgerald, Hakeem Nicks or even the struggling Philly options, DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin, despite their matchup. The Palmer-Moore connection is thriving. Similarly, Tampa's Vincent Jackson always gets a good rank, but Mike Williams has reached double digits in fantasy scoring in four of seven games, and when it comes to targets, while the season total is not impressive, he has 19 over the past two weeks. Jackson has 20.
Finally, there's the running back position. Are there still concerns about veteran Darren McFadden or rookie Doug Martin? If so, each player should have alleviated them in Week 8. McFadden registered a season-high 114 rushing yards Sunday, and there remains no sign of injury (jinx!). Martin is tied with San Francisco 49ers veteran Frank Gore for the eighth-most points among running backs, and he is coming off a monster outing with a Week 8-best 32 fantasy points in Minnesota. These are top-10 running backs this week and perhaps the rest of the way.
Quarterback: My top 10 mirrors the staff, with some variation of order. I liked Peyton Manning and Ben Roethlisberger a bit more than the others -- Big Ben is cruising and faces the Giants -- while the same can't be said of Vick and Newton. Honestly, those guys scare me. They have great matchups, but each has underachieved in similar situations already. What, the Saints aren't capable of forcing turnovers? Sure they are! You can see we've all distanced ourselves from the struggling Philip Rivers, as he is barely in the top 20.
Running back: I flip-flopped a few times on Jamaal Charles. On one hand, the embarrassing reaction coach Romeo Crennel had to his star's lack of usage in Week 8 should result in considerably more attention, but what if the Chiefs again fall behind early? There is risk here, and thus a clear top-10 player in terms of ability misses my top 10. ... When it comes to Trent Richardson, who is running well and playing through injury, I have to assume the Baltimore Ravens, coming off a bye week, have taken steps to improve their awful run defense. Still, Richardson at No. 11 shows I trust him. ... I thought my Jonathan Stewart rank of No. 25 was more than fair based on his play, as he has returned to flex consideration. I wouldn't laugh if you used Stewart over Chris Johnson, who faces the Chicago Bears this week. ... Unless we hear otherwise, I wouldn't count on DeMarco Murray or Rashard Mendenhall, though it's worth noting that I didn't rank their replacements, Felix Jones and Jonathan Dwyer, as well as others did.
Wide receiver: Calvin Johnson (at Jaguars) and Andre Johnson (versus Bills) have favorable matchups, but has either player really earned your trust of late? They're WR2 options. Another factor: Calvin Johnson is practicing sporadically due to his knee woes. ... Both Atlanta Falcons are in the WR2 range, but it's more because so many others have superior matchups. I can justify Marques Colston and Steve Smith as safe top-10 choices because they're playing well. ... I like Cecil Shorts more than the group -- check his trends -- as well as Torrey Smith, Dwayne Bowe and Lance Moore.
Happy Halloween to all!