Week 10 Fantasy Football Preview: New Storylines Emerge as Bye Weeks Loom

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After taking a sabbatical to cover the Brownsian fall of Hue Jackson, it’s back to fantasy football in Week 10. Last week saw a plethora of fantasy story-lines from Julio Jones’ first touchdown, to the potential emergence of total wildcard Nick Mullens, to the long awaited re-emergence of Duke Johnson. This week I’ll be looking at some of those new storylines while also trying to help you prepare for the dreaded “rest weeks” on the horizon. Let’s get to it . . .

Detroit Lions at Chicago Bears

Key Players: TBD on Detroit, Trey Burton, Jordan Howard

Before their game against the Vikings, the Lions said goodbye to one of their most reliable fantasy players in Golden Tate. While I understand the logic of the trade, it leaves the Lions is a strange place both on the field and in the fantasy realm, as it would for any team who traded a receiver with over 90 receptions in each of the last four seasons. It can’t be easy for Matthew Stafford to lose the security he had in Tate. We’ll have to wait and see where the ball goes in tough situations. The three players to watch are: Marvin Jones Jr., Kenny Golladay, and Theo Riddick.

The Bears didn’t so much beat the Bills in Week 9, they more sat back and watched the Bills beat themselves. So, it’s a little hard to pull fantasy data out of the game. Trey Burton only had two receptions for 28 yards, but he did have a touchdown. Thus far in 2018 he has touchdown receptions in 5 of the Bears 8 games. He’s only had one game with more than four receptions, so don’t expect him to be the next Travis Kelce just yet, but he remains a reliable backup for now. His value will increase in a few weeks when the top teams start resting their best players and the Bears are still clawing for the NFC North crown. At that point, consistent touchdowns out of the tight end spot will outweigh gambling on backup players from the top teams. Speaking of consistent scoring, Jordan Howard had two touchdowns against the Bills, making it three-straight games in which he has scored. While the Bears are slowly turning into the Chiefs and using as many weapons as possible, Howard remains the prominent scoring threat in their offense. Just look at this sequence against the Bills. While the first two plays were interesting designs, Howard was the one who ultimately got the job done. As the temperatures in Chicago plummet, expect to see more of him in the red zone down the stretch.

New Orleans Saints at Cincinnati Bengals

Key Players: Alvin Kamara, Michael Thomas, Joe Mixon, Tyler Boyd

Twice the Saints decided to run the ball inside the red zone against the Rams last week and twice the ball was given to Alvin Kamara instead of Mark Ingram. I cannot express enough what a pivotal decision that was from a fantasy perspective. Most Ingram owners (myself included) carried him during his suspension, confident that when he returned those red zone carries would go to him. Now with Kamara emerging as the No. 1 option in the New Orleans running game, Ingram’s value has taken a massive hit. Conversely, in PPR leagues especially, Kamara’s has taken a huge leap forward, making him a top-5 running back for the rest of 2018. Against the Rams he posted 19 carries for 82 yards and 2 touchdowns, along with 4 receptions for 34 yards and 1 additional touchdown. It’s possible this was a chess move by Sean Payton, playing on the Rams’ assumption that Kamara is a receiver first, runner second. I’m not sure though. When Ingram was out, Kamara showed he could handle to inside carries. It seems to be a wise move to let this continue, as the defense must remain wary of screens any time he is on the field, even in the I-formation. Against the Bengals’ notoriously slow defense in Week 10, we should get a better understanding of Kamara’s (and therefore Ingram’s) role in the coming weeks, as it will be tempting to let Kamara shred them through the air. Additionally, the Saints getting thinner by the moment at receiver, we could see Kamara split out a bit more. Though the Saints receiving corp may be banged up, the passing game will not suffer so long as Michael Thomas remains on the field. Last week he posted a ridiculous stat line with 12 receptions for 211 yards and 1 touchdown. The Bengals have been carved up by elite receivers all season, look for another huge game from Thomas this week. A performance made all the more important by Dez Bryant’s instant injury…

The Bengals return from their bye week with a noticeable hole on offense. A.J. Green was not able to heal, even with the extra time off, so look for Tyler Boyd to try and fill the void. I like Boyd a lot and he’s coming off a big two weeks ago where he had 9 receptions for 138 yards and 1 touchdown, but I don’t buy him as a number one option. Boyd’s value has always been as a slot receiver who takes advantage of the space created by Green. Jarvis Landry’s up and down season in Cleveland perfectly encapsulates what can happen when a slot receiver tries to be the top option. The best hope for Cincinnati is to get Joe Mixon going early on. Two weeks ago, he had 123 yards on 21 carries and 2 touchdowns. Thus far in 2018, the Saints have only given up 100 yards rushing once (in Week 1 at that), making it a tough order for Mixon. Still, the Bengals really don’t have a choice with Green out, they must try to run the ball to keep the New Orleans offense away from their subpar defense. For Mixon owners, be patient. He only needs to break one run to put up a solid stat line.

Atlanta Falcons at Cleveland Browns

Key Players: Tevin Coleman, Julio Jones, Nick Chubb, Duke Johnson

As mentioned above, Julio Jones finally got his first touchdown reception last week. It came along with 7 receptions for 121 yards. Look for more of the same this week against a beaten up Browns defense. When Denzel Ward, E.J. Gaines, and Christian Kirksey left with injuries, the Browns were forced to sit in Cover 2 the rest of the afternoon. Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs torn them apart, providing the perfect blueprints for Atlanta this weekend. Even with Ward back on the field, the Browns remain susceptible in the passing game as Greg Williams continues to bring pressure, leaving too much space underneath. While Jones should excel on the outside, it’s Tevin Coleman who should clean up underneath. Last week he had 13 carries for 88 yards along with 5 receptions for 68 yards and 2 touchdown. When Williams brings the heat, look for Coleman to clean up in the screen game.

Welcome back, Duke Johnson! After Todd Haley refused to acknowledge his existence, new offensive coordinator Freddie Kitchens finally brought Johnson back into the fold. As I sat watching the game against the Chiefs, I kept thinking, “this, this is the offense the Browns should have been running all season”. Nick Chubb posted 22 carries for 85 yards and 1 touchdown, while Johnson had 9 receptions for 78 yards and 2 touchdowns. Outside of Jarvis Landry, the Browns do not have a receiver they can rely upon and while David Njoku had shown progress, he’s still a year away from reaching his full potential. The Browns must ask their running backs to carry the offense, something Kitchens, as the former running backs coach, knows better than anyone. I expect more of the same this week against the Falcons since they’re only shot at a win is to keep the Atlanta offense off the field. If they can stick to their game plan going forward, Chubb and Johnson are ideal late season additions if they are still on the waiver wire. You won’t regret it when Todd Gurley and Kareem Hunt start getting rest in a few weeks.

New England Patriots at Tennessee Titans

Key Players: Dion Lewis, James White, Cordarrelle Patterson, Josh Gordon

Do I dare declare Dion Lewis is back? After two games in a row with solid numbers, I think it might be time. At the start of the season, I was convinced he would be a solid No. 2, possibly a fringe No. 1, running back. For weeks I waited for something to happen before dropping him from one of my teams. Now he’s finally showing the skills that made him a solid fantasy back in New England. The only risk this week is him going up against his former team. If anyone knows what he can do, it’s the Patriots, so, I’m not sure I would start him this week. I would, however, suggest finding him on the waiver wire and adding him for the stretch run. At 4-4, the Titans are still in the AFC South race and they need Lewis if they are going to take a run at Houston.

Remember when the Patriots were 1-2 and the dynasty was over? What a joke. The Patriots are back to being the Patriots and their offense is once more a treasure trove of fantasy players. Josh Gordon’s usage rate is rising every week. Against the Packers, he posted 5 receptions for 130 yards and 1 touchdown. Now that he and Tom Brady are developing chemistry on the back-shoulder passes, the rest of the league needs to look out. I truly mean no offense to Julian Edelman, but Gordon is the most talented receiver Brady has had since Randy Moss. He’ll keep looking Gordon’s way and if they start connecting on the red-zone targets in the video above, then Gordon could easily start scoring 2-3 touchdowns a week. In the running game, the Patriots, as they always do, have weathered losing their top back effortlessly. James White had 12 carries for only 31 yards, but 2 touchdowns, along with 6 receptions for 72 yards against the Packers. He’s always been deadly in the passing game, so adding red-zone carries is almost unfair. The more Gordon excels outside, the more space White will have in the short passing game. Look for a huge game from him this week. Not to be overlooked, Cordarelle Patterson emerged as a sleeper back of all things last week. He finished with 11 carries for 61 yards and 1 touchdown. It’s unlikely this will continue when Sony Michel returns, but for now he’s a great pick up if you’re in a bye week jam at some point over the next few weeks. Like I said, typical Patriots. The top runner is injured? So what, here’s our No. 5 receiver getting it done as a running back. 

Jacksonville Jaguars at Indianapolis Colts

Key Players: No Jaguars, Marlon Mack

Here is my first game where I have very little to say. The Jaguars have been reeling since their huge win over the Patriots in Week 2. Without Leonard Fournette, they seem completely lost as an offense. Blake Bortles has his moments, but moments do not make an offense. Consistency makes an offense and has always been Bortles’ great weakness. For the Colts, there have been positive signs. Jack Doyle is back, but Eric Ebron is still scoring touchdowns. Marlon Mack seems healthy, though that’s never something to bank on. Two weeks ago he posted huge numbers against the hapless Raiders with 25 carries for 132 yards and 2 touchdowns. I would feel more confident if he had posted those numbers against literally any other opponent, so let’s consider both he and the Colts offense on the “wait and see” list for this week.

Arizona Cardinals at Kansas City Chiefs

Key Players: David Johnson, Kareem Hunt, Travis Kelce 

The Chiefs completely dominated the Browns’ defense, masking an interesting development. Last week the Chiefs struggled mightily against the Browns’ running game in what is becoming a troubling trend. With that in mind, perhaps this is a good week to start David Johnson. Something I’m sure Johnson owners have desperately been waiting for. It’s been a rough season watching him post only one game with more than 20 carries and only one with more than 5 receptions. Hopefully this week is different.

While they may be vulnerable on defense, the Chief offense is only getting better. There’s really not much more I can say about them. They can run, throw it short, find the weak spots in zones, and unleash a bomb at any moment. It’s unlikely the Cardinals will be able to contain them, even with Patrick Peterson. The only tough aspect of the Chief offense from a fantasy perspective is their tremendous depth at wide receiver. So, going forward, Kareem Hunt and Travis Kelce are the safest bets as consistent scoring threats, as they feast on the space created by said outside depth.

Buffalo Bills at New York Jets

Key Players: Nope

There’s no reason for me to dump on either team. Let’s just move on . . .

Washington Redskins at Tampa Bay Buccaneers 

Key Players: Maurice Harris, Adrian Peterson, Adam Humphries, O.J. Howard 

When the Redskins fell behind early last week, it was painfully obvious Alex Smith could not pass them back into the game. This was of course not surprising, as this has been the case with Smith going all the way back to San Francisco, but it did confirm those struggles have indeed followed him to Washington. Additionally, it became obvious that when they are down, Washington does not look to Adrian Peterson. This is a huge concern in Week 10 as they head to Tampa to face the potentially explosive Bucs. Peterson owners need to watch this game closely, as his 9 carry dud could be a red flag. It’s not all bad in Washington for fantasy players as a sleeper emerged last week in the passing game. Maurice Harris, who hadn’t posted more than 3 receptions in any game before Week 9, exploded with 10 receptions for 124 yards. Most impressively, these 10 receptions encompassed the entire route tree. It’s not like he cleaned up with long bombs in garbage time, Smith looked for him throughout the game. It’s unclear whether this was an aberration or a break out performance, so we’ll need to watch him closely this week. After all, it’s not like 6-foot-3 slot receivers are a dime a dozen, I expect Washington to look his way in the weeks to come.

What exactly are the 2018 Tampa Bay Buccaneers? Are they good or bad? An explosive offense or a turnover factory? Do they have the Fitzmagic back or will they fizzle again? I honestly have no answers for any of these questions, I’m just going to try and tackle them one week at a time. For this week, I have my eyes on Adam Humphries and O.J. Howard. Last week, Humphries finished with 8 receptions for 82 yards and 2 touchdowns, while Howard had 4 receptions for 53 yards and 2 touchdowns of his own. Howard now has touchdowns in 3 of his last 4 games and Humphries has 27 targets in his last 3 games. No one disputes Mike Evans’ talent, but these two are the receivers to watch in Tampa. Perhaps exactly because everyone, especially opposing defenses, know what Evans can do. He forces the defense to focus their coverage on him and leave the other Tampa receivers with a plethora of space.

Los Angeles Chargers at Oakland Raiders

Key Players: Melvin Gordon, Keenan Allen 

Mevlin Gordon is showing no signs of slowing down, finishing last week with 16 carries for 113 yards and 1 touchdown against the Seahawks in Week 9. The Raiders have not been very good defensively in 2018, to put it mildly, so expect another huge game from him in Week 10. In the passing game, Keenan Allen may not be scoring as many touchdowns as many of us hoped at the start of 2018, but he still remains Philip Rivers’ favorite target. In Week 9 he posted 6 receptions for 124 yards. He’s a risk this week as the Chargers could have this game wrapped up by halftime and will end up running out the clock in the second half.

The Bucs are perplexing. The Raiders? They are beyond any adjective I can conjure. The only plausible explanation is that they are tanking to get someone at the top of the draft board. Even their only win this season was a result of terrible play calling from Todd Haley and a controversial call at the end of regulation. Needless to say, there is little reason to start any Raiders in Week 10 and perhaps the rest of the season. Seriously. Amari Cooper is gone and Marshawn Lynch is injured for the rest of 2018. Unless a sleeper emerges in the coming weeks, there is no reason to watch the Raiders.

Miami Dolphins at Green Bay Pakcers

Key Players: Frank Gore, Aaron Jones, Marquez Valdes-Scantling 

I genuinely don’t know which is harder to believe: Frank Gore is still plugging away or Kenyan Drake is nowhere to be found. Against the Jets in Week 9, Gore only gained 53 yards. Those 53 yards, however, came on 20 carries. This shows he will likely get a majority of the carries down the stretch as Adam Gase appears to have soured on Drake. What he does with those carries is still unclear, but if his career has taught us anything, it’s taught us to never sleep on Frank Gore. Keep an eye on him when the rest weeks come.

Aaron Jones finally saw some more carries. He also had a critical fumble, muddying any clarity that came from those extra carries. Even with Ty Montgomery run out of town, it’s not clear where Jones stands as a fantasy player. He is the best back on the roster, it’s just unlikely Mike McCarthy, already not huge fan of running the football, will rely on him if he fumbles again. Though the passing game is not what we are used to seeing from Green Bay, McCarthy will return to his comfort zone if he starts to doubt Jones. One receiver out of Green Bay who has started to pop up in fantasy coverage is Marquez Valdes-Scantling. Outside of having one of the greatest names I’ve ever heard, he has become a deep threat for the Packers. Against the Patriots in Week 9 he had 3 receptions for 101 yards, including a 51 yard reception. That makes 3 long catches in 3 weeks, so keep an eye on him. The Packers are in the thick of the dogfight for the NFC North crown, so Aaron Rodgers will be passing up to Week 17. If Valdes-Scantling keeps it up, he could play a major role for Green Bay in the coming weeks.

Seattle Seahawks at Los Angeles Rams

Key Players: TBD on Seattle, Brandin Cooks, Cooper Kupp, Robert Woods

Here’s the third game where I have little to say. Once more the Seahawks are too balanced to even take a guess at who might stand out in fantasy football this week. Against the Chargers, 3 backs split 27 carries and 7 receivers split 26 receptions. The Rams are also very balanced. The difference, however, is that they are so prolific, it has the opposite effect on fantasy football. It doesn’t matter if you have Cooks, Kupp, or Woods because they will all see plenty of throws come their way. And when those throws come, they usually have enough space to make the catch. Keep an eye on the desire to rest their players, but outside of that, keep starting any Ram on your team.

Dallas Cowboys at Philidelphia Eagles

Key Players: Amari Cooper, Ezekiel Elliot, Zach Ertz, Alshon Jeffrey, Dallas Goedert, Golden Tate

Amari Cooper scored a touchdown in his first game in Dallas. It didn’t lead to a win and Dak Prescott threw a horrendous interception trying to force it to Cooper later in the game, but, hey, at least a Dallas receiver looked good on one play. That’s progress, isn’t it? In an ideal world, Cooper would take his place at the top of Dallas receiving hierarchy and the other receivers would excel back in their familiar roles. Unfortunately, this is the NFL, the ideal situation rarely comes to fruition. This leaves Ezekiel Elliot as the only reliable fantasy player on the Cowboys until further notice.

Unlike the Cowboys, the Eagles have had plenty of production from a multitude of players. They even went out and made what I would consider to be an even more important trade than the Cooper trade, picking up Golden Tate from the Lions. With Tate in the mix, there should be even more space for Zach Ertz and Alshon Jefferey to operate. Additionally, Tate is so deadly when he goes in motion that the Eagles can add another wrinkle to their RPO attack. This means Dallas Goedert could be an even bigger threat in the red zone, as defenses will have to focus on Ertz, Jeffrey, and Tate. Many people have long forgotten that Tate was once a running back at Notre Dame, so he may even see sometime in the Philly backfield as an RPO option. This makes Week 10 an absolute must watch for fantasy owners with Eagles on their rosters. It’s not clear how the ball will be distributed, but there are a lot of exciting possibilities now that Tate is on the roster.

New York Giants at San Francisco 49ers

Key Players: Saquon Barkley, Nick Mullens

Now to the last game of the preview and, ironically, the last game where I have little to say. Saquon Barkley and Odell Beckham Jr. remain the only Giants worth playing and since Eli isn’t going anywhere, that’s unlikely to change in 2018. As for the 49ers, I have no idea what to make of them. Nick Mullens looked fantastic in his debut and will have 10 days to prepare for this Week 10 matchup. However, it’s hard to get too excited just yet. His great performance came against the Raiders who, as I have pounded on repeatedly in this article, are a mess. Let’s see how Mullens does this week before rushing to find him on the waiver wire. I will say, however, he does seem to have a fantastic feel for Kyle Shanahan’s offense. So long as the running game remains solid, he should have plenty of easy play-action throws to ease into games.

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