A rough week shouldn’t kill the process—that’s our motto in this series, where we aim to learn from evolving matchup storylines and eyeball the moving narratives of fantasy football to help set our lineups and go 1-0 every week. Welcome back to my Fantasy Football Weekly Loves & Hates.
In this series, we identify the best and worst value plays at each skill position for fantasy football purposes. We take into account matchups, game scripts, advanced statistics, and any other relevant news. This won’t be your spot for trying to rank the top players at each position or suggesting deep waiver wire digs every week. Rather, whether you are playing DFS or season-long formats, your start/bench/cut decisions can be informed based on the players that stand out the most at each position—the ones that could go off (loves) and the ones that could disappoint and lose you a matchup (hates).
We will review the previous week’s picks and grade our performance before giving out picks for the upcoming week. I firmly believe that the most important part of the process of winning is to evaluate your winning and losing decisions. We’ll do exactly that in our evaluations of the previous week’s picks.
Week 9 Review
My Week 9 loves and hates can be viewed here. Here are self-evaluations of those picks, with grades for me in parentheses.
At the quarterback position, I was immediately all in on Joe Burrow. Coming off a loss to the Jets, I was looking for a statement game where he takes advantage of a Cleveland pass defense that was allowing explosive pass plays in bunches and fantasy points to quarterbacks in excess. Instead, what we got is a statement from the Browns themselves, in their first game of the season without Odell Beckham Jr. on the roster.
#Browns 100-yard games this season ⬇️
Odell Beckham Jr. — 0 😳
Denzel Ward — 1 🏠pic.twitter.com/3YhA7PxCoV
— Ahaan Rungta (@AhaanRungta) November 7, 2021
Burrow was bullied by the Browns’ secondary and defensive line, being sacked five times and picked off twice. He threw for 282 yards but all for an irrelevant fantasy performance since he accounted for 0 touchdowns—in fact, it was his first game of the season with fewer than 2 passing touchdowns. Burrow should still be a solid streamer to consider or a lower-end QB1 to roster going forward after the Bengals’ Week 10 bye. But the Week 9 love pick was clearly a crappy time to buy in on the Burrow bandwagon.
As for my quarterback hate pick, Dak Prescott, the way his ballgame played out was conducive to the narrative we called. I was expecting some regression from the Dallas offense and indeed, they were pantsed by the Broncos at home and were down several possessions early. The issue? Cowboys head coach Mick McCarthy had no qualms leaving Prescott in to run the offense. As suspect as that may be for a franchise quarterback with recent injuries, it salvaged the fantasy day for Prescott as he finished the day with 232 passing yards, 2 touchdowns, and 1 interception. He still finished outside the top-10 fantasy quarterbacks of Week 9.
Running Back (C)
In Boston Scott‘s first spotlight-start of the 2021 season with Miles Sanders sidelined with injury, he showed up big in Week 8. Scott led the Eagles backfield in snapshare, and rushed for a pair of touchdowns. I was looking for a simple performance when I picked him as my running back love of the week. Instead, he joined Kenneth Gainwell in the fantasy “back seat” as both watched Jordan Howard take the majority of the credit for the Eagles’ involvement in the run game. Here is how the confusing Eagles backfield fared against arguably the worst run defense in the NFL in the Chargers.
|Boston Scott||44%||10 carries, 40 yards, 0 TD||0 catches (0 target), 0 yards, 0 TD|
|Kenneth Gainwell||19%||2 carries, 3 yards, 1 TD||0 catches (0 targets), 0 yards, 0 TD|
|Jordan Howard||40%||17 carries, 71 yards, 1 TD||0 catches (0 targets), 0 yards, 0 TD|
Table. Philadelphia Eagles running back splits, Week 9 vs. Los Angeles Chargers
The Eagles offense is officially one of the most frustrating narratives in fantasy football right now; outside of Jalen Hurts being one of the safest floors at the quarterback position, it’s going to be tough to make calls about usage splits and red zone production at the moment.
On the other hand, my hate pick of the week Damien Harris was also a victim to some misfortune, specifically relating to health. After receiving only 39% of the Patriots’ offensive snap share, he left the game with an injury that has labeled him with a concussion.
While he was in the game, he was inefficient, rushing for only 30 yards on 15 carries. However, a rushing touchdown salvaged his fantasy day. However, even if he had played for the full game, there wasn’t much fantasy upside to starting Harris and expecting anything more than a medium-RB2 tier performance given the score of the game.
Wide Receiver (C)
For my wide receiver love of the week, I was looking for upside and volume with Jarvis Landry, in his first game of the season with Odell Beckham Jr. completely off the roster. Instead, the Browns were able to dominate the game on the backs of their defense and wide receiver Donovan Peoples-Jones leading the pass-catching attack. In the process, Landry took 67% of the offensive snaps and put up season-lows in fantasy production among games where he did not deal with injury. He put up 3 receptions on 5 targets for 11 yards and no scores.
It is noteworthy that Landry is currently still dealing with a knee injury that has bothered him all season; given his disappointment in a perfect situation in Week 9, he is no longer an easy start at the wide receiver position in any league. The Browns face the Patriots next with D’Ernest Johnson leading the backfield.
— Ahaan Rungta (@AhaanRungta) November 9, 2021
As for my wide receiver hate of the week, I viewed Marquez Callaway as a boom/bust player, with potential to disappear against a tough matchup with Falcons cornerback AJ Terrell. While Callaway was not a reception machine by any standards, he ended up being a decent FLEX play. He hauled in 3 receptions on 6 targets for only 25 yards but found the end zone, which was the first given up by Terrell on the season. It is noteworthy that Terrell still had himself a solid day in total, allowing only 2 receptions on 5 targets for 19 yards. Unfortunately for him, one of those receptions allowed a clean look to Callaway in the end zone.
Tight End (B+)
In what is generally the trickiest position to find middle-of-the-pack value in fantasy football, our tight end streak on the love/hate series has been one for the ages as we’ve been found studs and faded duds nearly every week this season. Our streak of A-or-better grades at tight end will come to an end for now but Jared Cook, our love pick of the week, was a solid start any way you slice it.
Despite being present for only 42% of the Chargers’ offensive snaps (season-low), he hauled in 4 receptions on 4 targets for an efficient 48 yards. He was the PPR TE11 of Week 9 and lived up to the matchup hype against the Eagles. It is of note, however, that he was outperformed in fantasy scoring by young tight end teammate Donald Parham Jr. since Parham caught a touchdown for the third time this season. The offensive volume share between the two very different tight ends on the Chargers is a tricky situation to monitor, making matchup-hunting even more tough for those scrambling at tight end and considering either Cook or Parham.
On the other hand, the hate pick of Tyler Higbee was a dip into recent trends. With Higbee’s unreliable volume and lack of red zone presence, I viewed him as a risky start in a game that I thought would be dominated by wide receivers. However, the Rams played from behind and got every pass-catcher some noteworthy volume—even Higbee. The tight end was present for 97% of the Rams’ offensive snap share and made 5 receptions (tied for a season-high) on an eye-popping 10 targets (season-high). He did not record a touchdown but was still good for the PPR TE12 in Week 9 because of the 51 yards produced on his catches.
Going forward, labeling Higbee as touchdown-dependent is still accurate if you need a tight end that can get you at least 10 fantasy points. The narrative of the Rams having to pass the ball in bulk and acquire yards chasing the opponent’s score should not be an every-week affair and Higbee’s production should normalize again through the rest of the season. Additionally, Higbee might no longer even be a top 4 option on the Rams on any given day for the rest of the season as the Hollywood Super Bowl contenders have just acquired Odell Beckham Jr. to beef up the already-elite offense.
Added another Pro Bowl talent to the mix. 😏
— Los Angeles Rams (@RamsNFL) November 11, 2021
Week 10 Loves & Hates
My Week 9 performance was nothing to be proud of and some unfortunate narratives made the plays and fades even worse. There were lessons learned on reading games better and translating that into fantasy value. Let’s utilize that this week and bounce back with some A-grade plays.
Love: Taylor Heinicke (WSH)
The story of Taylor Heinicke has been a roller-coaster. The Washington Football Team has a ton of issues, some of which to do with the inconsistent play they have had to deal with on the offensive end of the ball. However, Heinicke has still entered fantasy relevance multiple times this season, sometimes on the back of his rushing and passing dual ability, and sometimes simply racking up touchdowns and being pass-heavy looking to come from behind.
A meeting against the Buccaneers with both teams coming off a bye could feature all the signs of upside for Heinicke. The Buccaneers have been banged up in their secondary for a while and this season, they rank #21 in fantasy defense against quarterbacks and only six teams have given up more pass completions than Tampa Bay. Remember Heinicke magic in the 2020-21 NFL playoffs where he put up 352 total yards in a surprise start? Expect some of that recent experience against Tampa Bay’s system to convert this week into fantasy production and a steal off the streamer market in Week 10 for the quarterback position.
Hate: Carson Wentz (IND)
Carson Wentz is absolutely rolling for fantasy purposes. He has at least 2 passing touchdowns in each of his last six games and is now a top 10 fantasy quarterback on the season. There’s no reason that streak has to continue this week. The first place Colts will face an awful Jaguars team that somehow beat the Super Bowl contender Buffalo Bills in Week 9. Reality should strike for Urban Meyer’s squad as they should still not be able to produce much of a fighting punch for Indianapolis and Wentz’s team should get out to an early lead. Granted, Wentz will have a chance to flash his ability in the air early. But with Jonathan Taylor tackling red zone matters in the backfield, the Colts should turn this into a laughing matter soon enough for Wentz to stop racking up fantasy points in bulk.
This season, no running back has more carries inside the red zone, the 10-yard line, or the 5-yard line than Jonathan Taylor and behind an offensive line that ranks in the upper echelon of the league in run block win rate, despite some vital injuries in that area. Now, they are trending upwards in that area and Wentz himself is dealing with injuries. Fade Wentz and look for high-upside streamers like Heinicke instead in Week 10.
Love: Devin Singletary (BUF)
The Buffalo Bills are coming off a stunning loss to the Jaguars in Week 9 where they were held to just two field goals. There is absolutely no chance they don’t visit the red zone and find some end zone paint in Week 10 against the New York Jets—the wakeup call is out of the way. So who is cashing in with a fantasy boom game via the Bills’ bounceback offense? The narrative suggests Devin Singletary. Although Singeltary has been an unreliable play this season thanks to the emergence of Zack Moss, things could be different in Week 10 since Moss is dealing with concussion concerns. If Moss doesn’t play, Singeltary will be getting the lion’s share of carries out of the backfield—auto-start as a fantasy RB2.
Even if Moss plays, the Bills could get this game out of hand quickly against the Jets, who rank #30 in the NFL in pass DVOA and #31 in the NFL in rush DVOA as a defense this season. This season, Singletary has carried the ball 8 times in the red zone. Of those, 6 have come with the Buffalo Bills leading by multiple possessions. Even if Moss plays, Singeltary will get looks and possibly extended snap exposure, making him a valuable start anyway in Week 10.
Hate: Adrian Peterson (TEN)
This season, the Saints rank #1 in the NFL in rush DVOA as a defense. Only six teams have allowed fewer rushing touchdowns to running backs than the Saints and only four teams have allowed fewer fantasy points per game to running backs than the Saints. Entering Week 9, we didn’t have a clue how the Titans were going to respond to losing Derrick Henry—how would the usage between 25-year-old Jeremy McNichols and 36-year-old Adrian Peterson be split and how would it look specifically in the red zone?
Here’s how they fared in an upset game in Week 9 on Sunday Night Football.
|Adrian Peterson||33%||10 carries, 21 yards, 1 TD||1 catch (1 target), 5 yards, 0 TD|
|Jeremy McNichols||45%||7 carries, 24 yards, 0 TD||3 catches (3 targets), 11 yards, 0 TD|
Table. Philadelphia Eagles running back splits, Week 9 vs. Los Angeles Rams
It is noteworthy that Peterson having a slightly better fantasy day was simply a product of being the one to find the end zone, not a product of efficiency or volume. McNichols was given the ball multiple times with goal-to-go but after not converting, Peterson ate the rushing touchdown. While we still can’t be sure about whether Peterson or McNichols will continue this type of a split, we do know that Peterson is very unlikely to have any significant pass-catching involvement, making him a touchdown-dependent rushing-heaving back.
If the matchup is so unfavorable and the usage in the red zone is such a wild card, why are you starting Peterson in Week 10?
Love: Donovan Peoples-Jones (CLE)
The Patriots rank #6 in the NFL in pass DVOA as a defense and in Week 9, they wreaked havoc on the Panthers with multiple turnovers. However, Kevin Stefanski‘s offense in Cleveland isn’t nearly as turnover-prone as an offense run by Sam Darnold and the biggest beneficiary of the Browns’ latest changes in pass-catching personnel has been Donovan Peoples-Jones. What makes this a potential boom game for him is how he makes a living—the big play. His 17.9 yard average depth of target ranks #2 overall in the NFL among all players with at least 3 starts this season. The Patriots have been around middle-of-the-pack this season in allowing explosive pass plays. In what should be a competitive game, Baker Mayfield should be forced to pass against Bill Belichick’s game plan and with Landry declining, Peoples-Jones is trending up—just in time for you to play him in Week 10.
Hate: Amari Cooper (DAL)
I’m not going to get carried away by one mistake in the end zone by A.J. Terrell. He was still back to being stellar for most of the game and continues to be one of the biggest lockdown cornerbacks in the NFL this season. That touchdown to Callaway was only his first allowed of the season and he has allowed just a 45.7% completion rate, 64.1 quarterback rating, and 17.3 yards per game against opposing pass-catchers. Regardless of how tough and elite Amari Cooper can be, he is coming into Week 10 with a hamstring injury that kept him limited in practice on Thursday. With so many other mouths to feed on the Cowboys offense, Cooper doesn’t have to be a target monster against Terrell’s elite play and could possibly be a bench candidate if you have some depth at wide receiver.
Love: Dan Arnold (JAX)
💎 55 snaps (39 at WR!)
💎 43 routes (#1 among TE)
💎 10 targets (#2 on team)
— Ahaan Rungta (@AhaanRungta) November 2, 2021
Since Dan Arnold’s acquisition, the Jacksonville Jaguars have had no shame in using their new tight end. Over his last four games, Arnold has been targeted 30 times. Taking snaps at wide receiver and tight end, he has ranked top 10 at the tight end position in targets for the week in each of his last two games. That’s why Darnold has been a regular solid fantasy starter multiple weeks in a row and will continue to be a volume monster in Week 10, even if he still doesn’t get much red zone work.
Only seven teams have given up more receiving yards to tight ends than the Colts. Only one team has given up more receiving touchdowns to tight ends than the Colts. Only six teams have given up more fantasy points per game to tight ends than the Colts. The Jaguars, like I’ve already expressed, will regress and play from behind against the Colts and Arnold will take advantage of the action in the air from Trevor Lawrence.
Hate: Hunter Henry (NE)
The Cleveland Browns might be getting their groove together after the complete beatdown of the Cincinnati Bengals. It starts with the defense trending up. While the secondary of the Browns has been middle-of-the-pack by most metrics this season, the Browns have been restricting tight ends and are among the NFL’s top 12 defenses against tight ends in yards and fantasy points per game. That doesn’t bode well for the head honcho of the Patriots tight end room, Hunter Henry.
While Henry currently ranks as a top 10 fantasy tight end in PPR formats this season, much of that production has come via his ability to find the end zone. He has scored a touchdown in five of his last six games but that stretch is simply unsustainable for an offense that ranks #24 in the NFL in pass play rate this season. In what sportsbooks are currently projecting to be one of the lowest-scoring games of Week 10, Henry is far from a strong play in fantasy football.
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