Which running back should I start with Chris Johnson: Matt Forte or Fred Jackson? Forte has better numbers overall, but Jackson has a better matchup this week. Also, I need to choose two wide receivers from Wes Welker, Mike Sims-Walker, Johnny Knox and Santana Moss. Please, help me! -- K. Costa, Brazil
Michael Fabiano: Forte might be the most maddeningly inconsistent running back in fantasy football. He either puts up enormous numbers ... or does a Houdini act. Last week in Toronto, he scored a meager 8.10 fantasy points on NFL.com despite facing an awful Bills run defense. Forte also lost goal-line work to Chester Taylor, which is a major cause for concern. As a result, I'd go with Jackson if this is a standard league. He hasn't recorded great numbers, but the matchup against the Lions is favorable. Their defense has allowed the second-most fantasy points to runners this season. At wide receiver, I would start Knox and Sims-Walker. It's a close call between the Jaguars wideout and Moss this week, but the former has a much more attractive matchup. Sims-Walker, who has scored a touchdown in two consecutive games, faces a Texans defense that has allowed the third-most fantasy points to opposing wide receivers in 2010. What's more, Moss was held without a single reception in his last game against the Eagles (Week 4).
M.F.: Manning is without question the best option at the quarterback position. He's put up 20 or more fantasy points in three of his last four games, and this week's game against the Cowboys couldn't be more favorable. Their pass defense has turned to swiss cheese in recent weeks, and Manning has a history putting up some nice totals against the Boys from Big D. Owens and Johnson are no brainers in all leagues, and the decision to start Tomlinson or Marshall depends on the scoring system. L.T. is clearly the best option in a standard format, but it's a little closer a call if you are rewarded points for catches. Overall, I think Tomlinson makes the most sense.
I have Jamaal Charles, Rashard Mendenhall, Ahmad Bradshaw and Jahvid Best on my roster, and I'm never sure who to start. Last week I decided to start Charles after his huge game against the Bills, so I benched Mendenhall. Of course, Charles' numbers weren't great even against a bad Raiders run defense. So here's my question: Is Charles only a matchup-based starter? Also, which two running backs should I start this week? -- B. Muir, England
M.F.: Based on fantasy points, Charles is the third-best running back on your team behind Mendenhall and Bradshaw. Honestly, I'd look to trade Best or Charles in an effort to improve a weaker part of your roster. Not only would a deal make your starting lineup more formidable, but it would also alleviate the headaches you're having with that backfield. In Week 10, I would start Mendenhall and Bradshaw. The Steelers running back has been one of the better fantasy players at his position, and Bradshaw is a nice option against an awful Cowboys defense. Charles and Best also have fantastic matchups, but they've been the least consistent of the four running backs to this point.
Hey Michael, love your work! I have a strong stable of running backs with Adrian Peterson, Peyton Hillis, Cedric Benson and Ryan Torain, but I'm weak at wideout with Mike Williams (TB), Mike William (SEA), Donald Driver, Deion Branch and Austin Collie. My tight ends are Jacob Tamme and Tony Moeaki. I was thinking of packaging a running back and Moeaki for a wideout. Which back should I trade and which receiver should I target? -- S. Irani, New Zealand
M.F.: Thanks for the kind words. If you can deal Torain, I'd do it in a heartbeat. I think his value has peaked. If you can't make a move that involves Torain, I'd then package Benson in a trade. Peterson and Hillis would be the two backs I'd prefer not to deal -- in fact, there's no chance I'd deal Peterson outside of a "Godfather" trade (one you can't refuse). I would target a wideout like Greg Jennings, Anquan Boldin (buy low) or Marshall (buy low).
Thanks for the advice on Matthew Stafford and Tamme. I added them both and have won the last two games! Unfortunately, now it looks like Stafford is done for the season so I'm in a bind at the quarterback position. Can you offer me some potential sleepers for this week? Thanks! -- W. Holling, Monrovia, Calif.
M.F.: Glad to help. Unfortunately, Stafford does look like he's done for the season with yet another shoulder ailment. He was showing some serious flashes of fantasy brilliance as well, tossing six touchdown passes in his last two games. In his absence, I would look to add David Garrard off the waiver wire for Week 10. He has an amazing matchup against the Houston Texans and is still a free agent in over 80 percent of NFL.com leagues. Other potential quarterback options off the waiver wire include Josh Freeman and Ryan Fitzpatrick.
Which two running backs would you start this week out of Michael Turner, Mendenhall, Hillis and Tomlinson? Tough call, I know! -- J. Hart, Denver, Colo.
M.F.: Hillis has been an absolute beast this season, and I'd argue that he's still worth starting in Week 10 even against the Jets. However, you are in a position where Hillis can be benched based on the matchups because you have major backfield depth. As a result, I would start Turner and Mendenhall. While the Burner is up against a stout Ravens defense, he dominates most opponents at the Georgia Dome. In 17 regular-season games at home as a member of the Falcons, Turner has averaged 105 rushing yards and scored 22 touchdowns. Mendenhall, who ranks seventh in fantasy points among running backs on NFL.com, faces a Patriots defense that has allowed the eighth-most points to backs.
M.F.: Dare I say it, but Johnson is a must-start player at this point. Don't believe me? Well, he's seventh in fantasy points among wide receivers on NFL.com after nine weeks. He has more points than Andre Johnson, Miles Austin, Larry Fitzgerald, Randy Moss ... I think you get the picture! I would also start Harvin, who put up a very gutsy performance last week despite playing on a balky ankle. At tight end, I would side with Tamme ahead of Witten this week. Tamme has been the hottest tight end in the NFL over the past two weeks, averaging close to 15 fantasy points on NFL.com. He also has Peyton Manning under center, while Witten sports the very inconsistent Jon Kitna.
M.F.: I know that Schaub has been an enormous disappointment this season, but I would still start him against the Jaguars. Their defense has allowed the second-most fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks this season. He also found success against them last season, posting a combined 507 passing yards and four touchdowns. To answer your second question, I would hold onto Thomas unless you absolutely must drop him to add Brown for this week. The Saints running back could return after the Week 10 bye, at which point he'd be a solid fantasy option once again. If you have another, more expendable player to release for Brown, I would advise going in that direction.
M.F.: Johnson's problem last week was simple -- he faced Jets CB Darrelle Revis. While the loss of Stafford is unfortunate, Johnson did have success while Hill was under center earlier in the season. He's also talented enough to put up nice numbers even with a mediocre quarterback at the helm. In his best season to date, Johnson thrived with the likes of Kitna, Daunte Culpepper and Dan Orlovsky at quarterback. Consider Week 9 a bump in the road and continue to start Megatron.
What is going on with the Redskins backfield? Is Torain expected to play in Week 10, or is Clinton Portis coming back? Would you start Torain ahead of Best, who has been a serious bust over the last six weeks? Thanks! -- M. Darin, Davie, Fla.
M.F.: The Washington Post is reporting that Torain (hamstring) was a full participant in Monday's practice. While that doesn't guarantee that he'll play in Week 10, it is a good sign. Portis was also able to practice and looks like he's getting close to a return, though he could be rested an additional week if Torain is active. In the event that both Torain and Portis are held out against the Eagles, Keiland Williams would get the start and be a viable flex option in fantasy leagues. Regardless, I would start Best over all of the Redskins runners. While you're right about his recent poor numbers, Best does have a great matchup on the road against the Bills.