Week 10 could mark the return of three of the league’s top signal-callers. Russell Wilson has already been cleared to start against the Green Bay Packers. His opposite number, Aaron Rodgers, should start as long as he can clear Covid protocols following last week’s absence. And Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray is shaping up as a true game-time decision this week as he recovers from an ankle issue. I would expect all three to be worthy of a start this week. However, keep in mind that their games occur later in the day on Sunday. It may behoove managers counting on Murray (and to a lesser degree Rodgers) to have a backup plan in place. They say a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush, so among my Week 10 starts is a current “bird” and a former one who I would start at quarterback.
There are a bunch of running backs outside of the top-20 or so who I think could exceed value this week. I will limit my official start recommendations to just one below because I would like to save my editor’s sanity. However, I did touch on some more running backs I like on this week’s Fantasy Football POV podcast. In addition to the names I mentioned there and the one here, I would also recommend starting Mark Ingram and Alex Collins this week. I bring them up here because, in my weekly Flex rankings that were published the other day, I ranked them both outside my top-30 at the position. That was before the news that Alvin Kamara and Chris Carson were ruled out. Ingram and Collins should be treated as volume-based RB2s this week.
Week 10 Start and Sit Recommendations
Quarterbacks to Start
Carson Wentz, Indianapolis Colts vs. Jacksonville Jaguars
Carson Wentz has been a top-12 fantasy quarterback on a per-game basis over the past six weeks. He has thrown multiple touchdowns in all six games in that span and has avoided throwing an interception in five of the six. Wentz will face the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday. The Jaguars’ defense showed up in a big way last week as they upset the Buffalo Bills while keeping them out of the end zone. As impressive as that performance was, it is difficult to get behind a Jacksonville defense that had allowed 29 points per game before that outing. The Colts are well-rested after playing on Thursday last week, and they will have wide receiver, T.Y. Hilton, back in the fold. I am starting Carson Wentz in multiple leagues this week and expect another solid performance this week.
Matt Ryan, Atlanta Falcons @ Dallas Cowboys
Matt Ryan has thrown for multiple touchdowns and over 300 yards in three of his last four games. He will look to keep it going against the Dallas Cowboys. The Cowboys failed to show up on either side of the ball in last week’s upset loss to Denver. I expect Dallas to put forth a better showing, but I still wouldn’t shy away from starting Ryan in this matchup. The Cowboys allow the sixth-most fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks and an average of 287.5 passing yards per contest. Perhaps more importantly, this game has the highest implied total on this week’s slate, with Dallas installed as heavy favorites. That should mean plenty of volume for Ryan in the passing game. It may not be Ryan’s most efficient effort, but he should be able to hit value in a game where he could easily attempt 40-plus passes.
Quarterback to Sit
Patrick Mahomes, Kansas City Chiefs vs. Las Vegas Raiders
Let me be completely honest with you, dear reader. I do not have Patrick Mahomes in any of my head-to-head leagues. And if I did, I would probably start him out of sheer FOMO more than anything else. I would hate the thought of benching Mahomes, only to see him put up a vintage performance where he goes out and completes bombs to Tyreek Hill and throws underhanded touchdowns, pop-pass touchdowns, and maybe even a no-look or behind-the-back touchdown for good measure. So if you want to ignore my warning and skip to the next section, I understand. But for the sake of argument, let’s act as if we are not talking about future Hall of Famer Patrick Mahomes. Maybe we can pretend he is just a typical sneakerhead looking for a good rate on his insurance. Either way, here are some numbers.
Over the past three weeks, “Typical Sneakerhead” is 22nd in total fantasy points. Factor in that he has played three games in that span, while plenty of other quarterbacks have not. Taylor Heinicke and Geno Smith (yes, seriously) are two of the quarterbacks who have scored more fantasy points in two games than Sneakerhead has scored in three. If we use points per game as a measuring stick, he drops from 22nd to 34th over the last three weeks. Some of the quarterbacks who have scored more points on a per-game basis include Cooper Rush, Jameis Winston (even though he tore his ACL early in his second game), Trevor Siemian, Josh Johnson (even though he didn’t start in either of the two games he played), Jordan Love (again – yes, seriously), and Case Keenum. Now let’s focus on the Week 10 matchup.
Much has been made about defenses using a Cover 2 shell to help thwart the Chiefs passing attack. This defense was used most notably and effectively by Tampa Bay in last year’s Super Bowl. It is a sound strategy to limit big plays, but it also helps to have the right personnel to execute this scheme. And it seems the Las Vegas Raiders have many of the pieces in place. They have two of the top seven cornerbacks out of 117 qualifiers based on Pro Football Focus’ grading system. They also have a pass rush that is led by Maxx Crosby. Crosby is PFF’s number-two edge defender and leads the NFL with 50 pressures. As a result, Vegas allows just 6.28 yards per pass attempt, which is the second-lowest number in the league. They also have the league’s lowest completion percentage on deep passing attempts, at 19.4 percent.
Though Kansas City’s offensive line is much improved from the overmatched outfit we saw in February,
Mahomes Sneakerhead has been pressured more than any other NFL quarterback this season. And, as should be expected, his numbers drop precipitously under these conditions. His passer rating when he has avoided pressure this season is 108.6. When under duress, that number drops down to 54.1. As I mentioned earlier, I won’t fault anyone who insists on starting Patrick Mahomes this week. Dance with the one who brought you and all that. I get it. Just don’t go into this matchup with blind faith that he will suddenly return to his 2018-2020 form this week. There will be better days ahead for he and the Chiefs’ offense. I am just not expecting them to resume on Sunday night.
Running Back to Start
Kenyan Drake, Las Vegas Raiders vs. Kansas City Chiefs
Kenyan Drake had six catches for 70 yards a week ago. That is not as much of an anomaly as it may seem. Drake has had a consistent role in the Raiders passing game this year. Among qualified running backs, Drake has earned PFF’s fourth-highest receiving grade. He has three games with at least five catches and 40 receiving yards. Allen Robinson has no such games this season. Sorry, couldn’t help but pick at that scab. The Kansas City Chiefs allow an average of six receptions and 55 yards per game to opposing backs. I expect Drake to get several opportunities to catch passes out of the backfield this week.
And he is not exactly a slouch as a pure rusher. In limited work, Drake has averaged over 40 rushing yards per game over his last three contests. His 74.3 rushing grade is 22nd among running backs and higher than Derrick Henry and Nick Chubb, to name two. The Chiefs allow an average of 4.4 yards per rush, so there are multiple ways for Drake to produce solid RB2 numbers in this matchup. Whether or not I am right about the Chiefs’ offense in this game, I believe that Drake will exceed expectations. He will be just fine regardless of how things play out on the scoreboard. I think he finishes the week as a top-20 fantasy back and would recommend starting him in almost every situation. Love the Drake.
Running Back to Sit
Adrian Peterson, Tennessee Titans vs. New Orleans Saints
Newcomer Adrian Peterson scored more fantasy points than Jeremy McNichols last week. I did not see that coming, but I still don’t think I was wrong in my assessment. The following notes are brought to you by “Process Over Results”. McNichols had 10 opportunities last week, while Peterson had 11. Considering that Tennessee led this game by double-digits for the final 42:10, I would be a bit concerned about Peterson’s going forward. He managed to avoid disaster by converting a 1-yard touchdown on a third-and-goal situation late in the ballgame. This opportunity occurred after McNichols was given the first two goal-line carries. If McNichols had converted on either of his two attempts, we would be viewing this backfield much differently. I know… “If ifs and buts were candy and nuts” and all that. But still, I cannot in good faith recommend Peterson based on what I saw last week.
The New Orleans Saints have one of the best rushing defenses in the NFL. Opposing running backs are averaging just 2.81 yards per carry against the Saints this year. If that number seems low, you might not want to look to see what Peterson averaged last week. (It was 2.1.) I do not envision Peterson having much success on the ground in this game. If there is a weakness in the Saints’ defense concerning running backs, it is in the passing game. Opposing running backs have averaged 10.2 yards per reception against New Orleans. That is the second-highest number in the NFL. If any Titans back figure to take advantage of this, it is McNichols, not Peterson. The next few weeks could line up as more productive games for Peterson, but I would sit him this week if possible.
Wide Receiver to Start
Deonte Harris, New Orleans Saints @ Tennessee Titans
Deonte Harris currently ranks outside the top-50 fantasy wide receivers in the 2021 season. He is also outside the top-50 in this week’s consensus rankings. However, I think people are sleeping on him a bit too much. Harris is highly underrated. He currently leads New Orleans in receiving yards on the season. That’s right – he has more receiving yards than Kamara or Marques Callaway, despite playing one fewer game than each. He has also graded out to this point in the season as PFF’s number-two wide receiver, behind only Davante Adams. Granted, Harris hasn’t had nearly as many offensive snaps or run as many routes as most of the qualifiers, but usage has increased in recent weeks. He has led the team in targets in three of his last four games. This leads me into his projected Week 10 role.
The Saints have already ruled out running back Alvin Kamara for this week’s game against Tennessee. Kamara’s absence should leave an opening in the Saints’ passing game, particularly near the line of scrimmage. Harris could help to fill that void as a factor on underneath routes. The Saints may even line Harris up in the backfield on occasion. He usually lines up all over the formation as a wide receiver, and none of Tennessee’s cornerbacks are worrisome from an individual matchup standpoint. So even if he is only used in his normal role, his outlook is advantageous. The Titans have allowed the most fantasy points to opposing wide receivers this season, so there is room for Harris to bust out here. Considering his role may increase this week, Deonte Harris could be a very sneaky Week 10 start.
Wide Receivers to Sit
Jerry Jeudy and Courtland Sutton, Denver Broncos vs. Philadelphia Eagles
Oftentimes, perception is reality. But it seems that the perception is that there is a clear pecking order among Denver Broncos wide receivers. Most would agree that Jerry Jeudy is the team’s top wideout, followed by Courtland Sutton, and then Tim Patrick. However, I do not think that is the reality. Since Jeudy returned to the lineup in Week 8, here are the routes run, targets, and receiving yards for each of Denver’s three wide receivers:
Jeudy – 48 routes run, 12 targets, 108 yards
Sutton – 56 routes run, 6 targets, 49 yards
Patrick – 56 routes run, 8 targets, 149 yards
Based on recent utilization and results, the three seem pretty interchangeable to me. And the argument can easily be made that Sutton is now third in the pecking order. Yet most pundits continue to rank Patrick a distant third behind the other two. Some even rank Sutton ahead of Jeudy. I have done so myself in recent weeks. But I think the time has come to group Denver’s wide receivers a bit more closely together. It does not help matters that this is mostly a conservative offense that has plenty of mouths to feed. Teddy Bridgewater is only averaging 32 passing attempts per game. The team has two very solid running backs in Melvin Gordon and Jevonte Williams who can catch passes out of the backfield. They will also get their starting tight end, Noah Fant, back after he was out due to Covid last week.
All of this makes recommending any of Denver’s wide receivers a little dicey on a week-to-week basis. Surely one of them could have a big day, as Patrick did last week. But this week’s matchup should not inspire a ton of confidence in that regard. The Philadelphia Eagles have allowed the fourth-fewest fantasy points to opposing wide receivers on the year. Offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur will also miss this game due to a positive Covid test, so Mike Shula will be calling plays. Historically, Shula has not been the most aggressive play-caller, so the receivers may take a hit here as well. As things currently stand, I would at the very least temper expectations for Jeudy and Sutton until further notice. I would treat both of them more as Flex plays than top-30 fantasy wide receivers.
Tight End to Start
Dan Arnold, Jacksonville Jaguars @ Indianapolis Colts
What does Dan Arnold have to do to get some love from the consensus? He has finished as a top-15 fantasy tight end in three of his last four games and has done so without scoring a touchdown in any of them. In that span, he has averaged 7.5 targets per game. There are but a handful of tight ends who enjoy this type of volume every week. Targets don’t guarantee anything, of course, (looking at you, Mike Gesicki), but they are a pretty good place to start when looking for a tight end to start. Arnold’s Week 10 matchup is good as well. Only the Philadelphia Eagles have allowed more receptions and touchdowns to opposing tight ends than the Indianapolis Colts have. Arnold has both a safe floor and a high ceiling in this matchup. He could easily finish the week as a top-five play.
Tight Ends to Sit
Tyler Higbee, Los Angeles Rams @ San Francisco 49ers
Tyler Higbee has been a serviceable fantasy football tight end this year. He enters Week 10 as the overall TE15 in half-PPR scoring. But he is closer to a low-end TE2 in 12-team leagues when you consider the Rams have yet to have their bye week. It seems the clock is ticking on Higbee’s would-be breakout campaign. We all know the Rams recently signed Odell Beckham Jr. That gives Matthew Stafford yet another weapon with which to work. The team did not sign Beckham to be a decoy. They will utilize him, and some of that volume figures to come at the expense of Higbee. Higbee has averaged seven targets per game over his last three appearances. But, as has been the case for the year, he is just the overall TE15 overall and TE23 on a per-game basis over that span.
Sean McVay has not definitively stated whether Beckham will play on Monday night, but I suspect that he does, even if on a limited basis. That could further complicate things for Higbee, who already has a difficult matchup against the San Francisco 49ers. San Francisco has allowed the second-fewest receptions and fourth-fewest receiving yards to opposing tight ends this season. This just doesn’t feel like a spot where I would be willing to take the risk with Higbee. With the arrow seemingly pointing down on his rest of season outlook and the Rams having a Week 11 bye, Higbee may even be a drop candidate depending on your roster construction and team needs over the coming weeks.
Jared Cook, Los Angeles Chargers vs. Minnesota Vikings
My love/hate relationship with Jared Cook has been well documented in this space over the past few weeks. The good news is that he had four catches for 48 yards a week ago. The bad news is that the combination of Donald Parham and Stephen Anderson totaled seven grabs for 88 yards and two touchdowns. Both “backups” outscored starter Cook, with each posting top-seven finishes. If Cook were the clear top option in LA’s tight end pecking order, he would be a top-10 option every week. But that is not the case. That is the primary reason why Cook enters the week as just the TE16 on the season. Cook is essentially a matchup play, and this week’s one figures to be less than favorable for him.
Only three teams in the NFL have yet to allow a receiving touchdown to a tight end. The Minnesota Vikings, Cook’s Week 10 opponent, are one of them. Cook did finish as the overall TE12 last week, so he can hit value without recording a score. However, I just do not see the volume being quite the same. Chargers tight ends caught 11 passes last week. That was in part due to an extremely favorable matchup against the Eagles. I expect that number to be much lower this week given their receivers’ matchups against Minnesota’s cornerbacks. Considering that Parham and possibly Anderson could siphon precious targets away from Cook, the veteran tight end is not a recommended option for me this week.
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