- Eric Karabell, ESPN.com Senior Writer
As soon as you see the matchup it has to get into your head. I mean, Week 9 was relatively boring in terms of great matchups and now we look at Week 10 and it's the New England Patriots and Indianapolis Colts! From a fantasy football perspective, I find people are more likely to activate players in the bigger matchups, possibly because they know they'll be watching the game, or maybe because they simply ignore the stats. One of the key stats of this week, I believe and thought about in my rankings, is that Tom Brady might not be in for such a great day.
The stats say the Colts are stingy against opposing quarterbacks for fantasy points, fifth-best in the NFL. I say the Colts haven't played anyone like Tom Brady. Our projections have Brady well outside the top 10 at his position, outside the top 15 even, after the likes of Alex Smith and Mark Sanchez. That seems a bit odd to me. You guys, the dear readers, deserve answers, so I took the time to look up these quarterbacks the Colts have played: OK, so I see Kurt Warner and Matt Schaub ... then I see David Garrard, Chad Pennington, Seneca Wallace, Kerry Collins, Marc Bulger and the aforementioned Alex Smith. Are you kidding me? Who wouldn't stop the pass?
Brady and Peyton Manning each made it into my top three at quarterback, so let's just say I'm not particularly worried. It's not only that these heavyweights should make for a great game, but when I was making my rankings for the week I guess I made it clear this should be a high-scoring game overall. Joseph Addai is a safe RB2, and Laurence Maroney just missed, probably the best ranking I've given him in a while, though it should be pointed out this in no way means he's a particularly good player, though he's been decent in fantasy of late. Three wide receivers in this game made my top six. It should be a fun night.
What else was on my mind while compiling my rankings this week? Glad you asked ...
Almost goodbye to byes: It's nice to have a little depth to work with in the rankings, as we drop from six teams to only two taking the weekend off. Plus, it's kind of nice to not have to deal with the messy Houston Texans running game for a bit, isn't it? I'll worry about Ryan Moats and Steve Slaton next week. I really saw the depth at wide receiver, as opposed to the other key positions, as there were probably 25 or 26 options I wanted to find room for in the top 20. Conversely, at running back, I was looking for players to push out some of my top-20 guys, like Matt Forte, LaDainian Tomlinson and Ricky Williams, whom I don't really view as strong RB2 choices, but I just couldn't find better options. As a result, this might be an interesting week in the flex rankings, which publish Thursday, as wide receivers will be in more demand and ranked better after the top 10 or so.
That other big game: Don't laugh, but Steelers-Bengals -- or is it really Bengals-Steelers? -- is a rather large matchup, as is Patriots-Colts, and I took a bit more time ranking some of the players here. As I noted Monday, Rashard Mendenhall has graduated to safe RB2, and I placed him confidently at No. 15, but I felt bad about Cedric Benson -- the league's No. 2 rusher! -- at only 10. You have to take seriously how the Pittsburgh Steelers shut down the Denver Broncos' running game on Monday, but was that more Steelers dominance or Broncos failure? I had a similar dilemma at quarterback, really. Like Benson, who has earned our confidence as the No. 7 running back in fantasy points this season, hasn't Roethlisberger graduated to clear-cut starter? He's sixth for quarterbacks in fantasy points this season. Well, unlike Patriots-Colts, I see the defenses playing a significant role in this game, I suppose. Roethlisberger ended up my No. 10 quarterback, and Carson Palmer was 12th.
Who's comin' back?: I expect Brian Westbrook and Anquan Boldin to be in action, and without much to go on, I decided each was a worthy play. It turned out Westbrook had more than a concussion holding him back, with a sore ankle to boot, and his status is a bit hazy for the Chargers game. The way I judge players of his ilk is to rank them as if they are playing, but with the caveat they'd be removed if they don't play. I did that with Calvin Johnson last week. Boldin's got to play, after throwing a mini tantrum over missing Sunday's game. He's going to have a nice game against the Seattle Seahawks, but with so much wide receiver depth this week the best rank I could give him was 17.
Eric Karabell analyzes some of the big decisions with the Week 10 rankings