In Week 10, Andy Dalton is without A.J. Green, Dion Lewis is up against a stingy Patriots run defense and Tom Brady has a tough matchup against the Titans. Do you start em or sit em?
For more start-sit advice, send a tweet to Paul at @pauliep97.
Start ‘em: Quarterbacks
Philip Rivers, Chargers
With 19 TDs and just 3 INTs this season, Philip Rivers is playing at a near-MVP level, but he ranks just 13th in fantasy points at the position. The primary concern about his fantasy value moving forward has to be volume — Rivers ranks 30th in attempts per game — however, he’s also 4th in yards per attempt, so he can rack up yardage with tremendous efficiency. This week, he has a great matchup against the Raiders, who have allowed at least 3 TD passes in three straight games (including against first-time starter Nick Mullens last Thursday night). Start him with confidence.
Andy Dalton, Bengals
Andy Dalton is no superstar, but he has been stream-worthy at times this season due to the high passing volume of Cincinnati’s offense. Dalton is poised for another fine game in Week 10 against the Saints, who rank 31st against QBs. Unfortunately, Dalton will be without A.J. Green, but Tyler Boyd, John Ross, C.J. Uzomah, and Joe Mixon should be a sufficient supporting cast for Dalton in what will undoubtedly be a high-scoring, pass-heavy matchup.
Marcus Mariota, Titans
Outside of a few bright spots, Marcus Mariota has been awful this season, and I’ve been highly critical of him; however, coming off a strong game in Dallas, the Titans’ offense seems to be on the rise. Mariota has seen an uptick in efficiency the past two weeks — 72+% completion — which has, in turn, resulted in more passing yards. Furthermore, Dion Lewis is back to doing Dion Lewis things, and the Patriots have been a top-10 matchup for QBs, allowing the 2nd-most passing TDs to this point. I’m expecting the Titans to be behind in this game, which will force Mariota to throw more than usual. If you need a streamer this week, you could do worse.
Other starters: Mitchell Trubisky vs. Lions; Baker Mayfield vs. Falcons
Sit ‘em: Quarterbacks
Derek Carr, Raiders
I have no idea who is responsible for Derek Carr’s struggles this season. Is it Carr? Gruden’s play-calling? The offensive line? The pass-catchers? Maybe all of the above. Either way, Carr has been brutal this season. Outside of two top-5 performances, he’s been 18th or worse in every game so far. I’m projecting another dud for Carr this week against a Chargers defense that has been rounding into form recently. Carr is averaging a putrid 3.5 YPA, and this broken Raiders offense appears incapable of driving the field, so I’m not expecting many TD opportunities. Even when his team has been down big, Gruden insists on running the ball, so, even in a blowout, I wouldn’t count on Carr being bailed out by volume. Bench him.
Alex Smith, Redskins
Like a plane without an engine, Alex Smith has plummeted violently back down to earth this season. Meanwhile, first-year starter Patrick Mahomes leads the league in TDs. Is it fair to wonder if Kansas City’s system and talented roster had anything to do with Smith’s tremendous 2017? He certainly hasn’t been able to keep the good feeling going in Washington, where he has had precisely zero top-12 finishes. Washington’s 10th-ranked run percentage has killed Smith’s volume and limited him to just one game with over 300 passing yards. He’s also tied with Eli Manning in TD passes at nine apiece. I’m sitting Smith this week, even in a juicy matchup against the Buccaneers.
Tom Brady, Patriots
Okay, hear me out. Tom Brady’s presence on this list does not mean that you MUST sit him; however, after two straight disappointing outings, and an underwhelming season overall, it’s fair to reevaluate Brady’s value. He’s 8th in the league in touchdown passes despite being one of the few QBs who has not had his bye yet, and he’s 11th in PYPG. The offense is still great — their average of 30.0 PPG is 4th-best — but the success of the rushing attack, especially near the goal-line, is hurting Brady’s fantasy production. When you take into account a tough matchup with the Titans, who boast the NFL’s best scoring defense, benching Brady begins to make some sense. Don’t play anybody over the GOAT, but if you have a backup like Brees, Rivers, or Goff, you should consider starting them in Week 10.
Other players to sit: Nick Mullens vs. Giants; Matthew Stafford vs. Bears
Start ‘em: Running Backs
Dion Lewis, Titans
The Titans offense is trending up, and so is Dion Lewis. Though he began the season in a frustrating committee with Derrick Henry, Lewis has clearly become the top-dog. He has out-snapped Henry 104 to 38 over the past two games, and, despite Lewis’s reputation as being primarily a “pass-catching” back, he has carried the ball 32 times compared to just 18 attempts for Henry in that same span. The gap between the two should only grow larger as Lewis continues to impress, and, in that scenario, he will deserve consideration each and every week. He’s especially enticing here against the Patriots, who have been stingy to opposing runners on the ground, but a little vulnerable to pass-catchers.
Duke Johnson, Browns
It’s bizarre to think that Duke Johnson was a top-15 fantasy running back last year (PPR) because he has been totally invisible this season. At least, that was the case until last Sunday when he caught 9 of 9 targets for 78 yards and 2 TDs. Why the sudden breakout? Well, the Cleveland Browns recently fired offensive coordinator Todd Haley and replaced him with Freddie Kitchens. Clearly Kitchens felt that Johnson was being utilized incorrectly — a sentiment fantasy owners certainly agree with — and he made an effort to rectify that misuse in his very first game. I don’t see any reason why the game plan would change against the Atlanta Falcons, who have allowed the most running back receptions this season. Johnson should stay busy as the Browns try to keep pace with Matt Ryan and company and deliver decent flex value.
Aaron Jones, Packers
Aaron Jones has to be one of the most frustrating storylines of this fantasy season. First, there was the suspension. Then the committee with Montgomery and Williams. Then Montgomery gets traded, opening up opportunity for Jones against the Patriots, and Jones fumbles the game away. However, I am still optimistic for Jones, who has become the clear starter in Green Bay. Although Jamaal Williams is still a nuisance, Jones is out-snapping him, out-carrying him, and running more pass routes. Furthermore, Jones is averaging an outrageous 6.0 YPC — best in the league — and he saw a season-high 14 carries against the Pats despite being benched after his fumble early in the 4th quarter. This week, Jones will face the Dolphins, who are 26th against RBs. My prediction here is that the Packers get up big and Jones finally gets the 20 touches he deserves.
Other starters: Nick Chubb vs. Falcons; Jalen Richard vs. Chargers; Tevin Coleman vs. Browns
Sit ‘em: Running Backs
Kerryon Johnson, Lions
The talent of Kerryon Johnson is undeniable, but, similarly to Aaron Jones, he just can’t seem to convince the coaching staff to hand him the reins. With Theo Riddick sidelined in Weeks 6 and 7, Johnson had weekly finishes of 9th and 20th, respectively. In Week 9, however, Riddick returned to the lineup, and the result was an even share of snaps — 39 for both players. Riddick also caught 7 passes for 36 yards while Johnson caught just 3 for 7 and finished as RB33 on the week. For Kerryon it boils down to this: as long as Blount is stealing goal-line work, and Riddick is demanding the bulk of the RB targets, he will be somewhat matchup-dependent. Bench him against the Bears, who field the top-ranked RB defense this season.
Kenyan Drake, Dolphins
With weekly finishes as high as 6th and as low as 60th, Kenyan Drake has been something of a fantasy yo-yo this season, which is not what you want from a highly-drafted running back. The problem for Drake is not talent, but the lack of touches. He has topped 10 carries just twice in the past seven games, while his teammate Frank Gore has reached that number in six straight contests, including a season-high 20 carries in Week 9. Drake might make a few more big plays this season, but, without consistent volume, the floor is very low. I’d avoid him against an average Packers’ rush defense.
Adrian Peterson, Redskins
After a top-5 performance in Week 8, we saw Adrian Peterson game-scripted out against the red-hot Falcons. He had only 9 carries in the game while Alex Smith attempted 46 passes. This week, the Redskins will face another high-powered offense in the Buccaneers, and the script should be similar. The Redskins will also be missing three starters along their offensive line, which means Peterson might have trouble finding any room to run on what should already be a limited workload. Look elsewhere this week.
Other players to sit: Peyton Barber vs. Redskins, Doug Martin vs. Chargers
Start ‘em: Wide Receivers
Marvin Jones, Lions
Detroit’s first game without Golden Tate was ugly, abysmal, disgusting. An absolute dumpster fire. Pick whichever adjectives you like, but it wasn’t good. Marvin Jones, however, had a quietly solid game. His 6 catches for 62 yards don’t look particularly impressive, but when you consider that he was covered primarily by Xavier Rhodes, and that his quarterback was running for his life the majority of the game, the numbers suddenly don’t look too bad either. He did get 8 targets, after all, and he should see similar volume in the post-Tate era. Next up is a matchup with Chicago, who have actually been a top-12 matchup for wide receivers. The Bears lack a shutdown corner, which means Jones will have a chance to truly breakout this week.
Amari Cooper, Cowboys
In his Cowboys debut, Amari Cooper was solid if unspectacular. He came in as the WR13 on the week with 5 catches for 58 yards and a TD. Even better news is that Cooper finished the game with 8 targets, including 4 in the red zone. Dak looked for Cooper early and often, which bodes well for his value moving forward. He should be a solid play against the Eagles this week, who have been a top-5 matchup for wideouts this season. Here’s a fun fact: Amari Cooper beat Eagles’ corner Jalen Mills on a double-move for a 63-yard TD on Christmas Day last season, and he should see plenty of Mills this week, as well.
Josh Gordon, Patriots
If you were patient with Josh Gordon through the injuries, trades, and off-field issues, you were rewarded with a top-5 performance in Week 9. Gordon has played on at least 80% of the snaps in four straight games, and, with a team-high 10 targets last week, he seems to be developing a rapport with Tom Brady. Now he’ll have the added benefit of facing off against former Patriot, current Titan Malcolm Butler. In his first year with the Titans, Butler has already been toasted by Kenny Stills, Alshon Jeffery, and Deandre Hopkins among others.
Other starters: Tyler Boyd vs. Saints; Marquez Valdes-Scantling vs. Dolphins
Sit ‘em: Wide Receivers
T.Y. Hilton, Colts
Coming off a disappointing 1-catch performance against the lowly Raiders’ secondary, T.Y. Hilton is set to face the Jaguars and, more specifically, Jalen Ramsey. Hilton has not performed particularly well against Ramsey in their previous four meetings, and I don’t expect him to get the upper hand this time around either. Andrew Luck isn’t afraid to utilize Jack Doyle, Eric Ebron, Chester Rogers, or even Marlon Mack and Nyheim Hines out of the backfield, so he’s unlikely to force the ball to Hilton if he’s not open. Better days are ahead for T.Y., but he belongs on the bench this week.
Larry Fitzgerald, Cardinals
Larry Fitzgerald exploded with 10 receptions on 12 targets for 102 yards in Week 8 — all season highs — before the Cardinals’ bye in Week 9. Now his team is back and poised to take on the Chiefs, who have been susceptible to wideouts this season — 19th-best to be exact — but I’m still not comfortable starting Fitz. For one thing, he’ll draw Kendall Fuller in coverage, who, although he’s no all-pro, has been KC’s best corner this season. The Chiefs’ defense has also been a bit stingier at home, while the Cardinals’ offense has gone from bad to worse in road matchups this year. Avoid Fitz this week.
Dez Bryant, Saints
Dez Bryant is now a Saint, and the hype-machine is firing on all cylinders, as it always does when a big-name player is suddenly playing for a future hall-of-fame QB. However, as we saw with Josh Gordon, these acquisitions don’t always pay immediate dividends. Dez might carve out a role with his new team at some point, but it won’t happen overnight. Remember, he’s competing with Michael Thomas, Alvin Kamara, Tre’Quan Smith, and Ben Watson for targets, all of whom have an established rapport with Brees. Pick up Dez, sure, but don’t throw him hastily into your lineup.
Other players to sit: Jordy Nelson vs. Chargers; Tyler Lockett vs. Rams; Nelson Agholor vs. Cowboys
Start ‘em: Tight Ends
Jordan Reed, Redskins
Though he’s been a shell of his former self this season, I am willing to roll the dice with Jordan Reed one last time. Statistically, his upcoming bout with the Buccaneers is the 3nd-most favorable matchup a tight end can have this season. With the offensive line banged up, Alex Smith shouldn’t be able to rely so heavily on the run game, and Reed has typically been his safety valve this season. The high yardage totals might not be there, but Reed could catch 8 passes and the touchdown-upside is high.
Benjamin Watson, Saints
So, Jordan Reed has the 3rd-best matchup this week? Big deal. Saints tight end Benjamin Watson will have an even better matchup when the Bengals host his Saints this Sunday. Drew Brees is playing at an MVP level, which benefits all New Orleans pass-catchers, Watson included. The Bengals have already allowed five tight-end touchdowns this season, and Watson has a great chance to make in six in Week 10.
Other starters: Austin Hooper vs. Browns; David Njoku vs. Falcons
Sit ‘em: Tight Ends
Evan Engram, Giants
I know Evan Engram was fantastic last year, and I know you had to spend a high-ish draft pick to acquire him, and I know you waited all that time for him to return from his MCL injury, but he just doesn’t carry as much value has he did last season. The truth is, Engram is the 4th option on one of the worst offenses in the league. Furthermore, he plays a position that is incredibly touchdown-dependent, and the Giants’ offense has thrown only 9 TDs all season — tied for 4th-lowest. In Week 10, he’ll face a 49ers defense that has shut down every tight end not named Travis Kelce or Jimmy Graham. No, thank you.
Eric Ebron, Colts
Eric Ebron was fun while he lasted, but it’s the Jack Doyle show once again in Indy. Back in Week 8, Doyle’s first game back from injury, Doyle played on 73% of the snaps, while Ebron’s snap-share dropped to just 21%. Doyle saw 7 targets compared to 3 for Ebron. Maybe Ebron can score a few more touchdowns this season in his limited role, which would keep him relevant, but I wouldn’t bet on it this week against a Jaguars defense that ranks 8th against tight ends.
Other players to sit: Chris Herndon vs. Bills; Ed Dickson vs. Rams