Start and Sit: Week 10
Week 10's total of six teams on bye is a new high for the season. That leaves fewer fantasy-relevant players at every position and makes matchup considerations more important than ever. Add to that a low number of dome games and four games with sub-50-degree Fahrenheit temperatures and moderate to heavy forecasted winds, and you will see some unusually bigger matchup gains and losses for players this week.
The following tables feature the players with the best and worst matchups of the week. Each listed player shows a true-talent (TT) ranking that represents how I would rank him with a perfectly neutral game context. Then, that ranking is adjusted by adding the context of the venue (Ven) -- home and road and dome and outside -- the forecasted weather (Wea), and the defensive tendencies of the opponent (Def). The line beneath those rankings shows how much those contextual factors move projected PPR fantasy points. That total (Tot) number gives you a comprehensive estimate of how many fantasy points the player will score this week more or less than his typical total.
Drew Brees could not have timed his returned from a thumb injury any better for his fantasy production. With Ben Roethlisberger out for the season, Brees has the most prominent home/road splits at the position. He drew the passer-friendly Cardinals at home before the Saints' Week 9 bye, and now he draws the passer-friendly Falcons at home in Week 10.
The Falcons have the No. 31 DVOA pass defense. They increase passing yards and touchdowns per attempt by 17% and 63% -- the most in football -- and they cut interceptions by 71% per attempt. Matt Ryan's expected return should only help Brees' fantasy line as a competitive Falcons offense will make it less likely the Saints build a multi-score lead that would shift them to a run-focused offense in the second half to kill clock. Meanwhile, the schedule with six bye teams turned this matchup into one of just three games for the week in a dome, increasing the boost Brees should see from that relative to the rest of options in DFS. His $6,700 DraftKings salary reflects the plus matchup, but as my No. 3 fantasy quarterback for the week, he justifies the price.
Jameis Winston is actually $100 more expensive than Brees in DraftKings, but that isn't altogether surprising considering his own track record of extreme home/road splits and an attractive defensive opponent in the Cardinals. They are No. 28 in DVOA against the pass, and they increase passing yards per attempt by 9% and touchdowns per attempt by 44%, fourth-most in football. And unlike the Falcons and most bad pass defenses, the Cardinals actually boost their opponents' pass plays by 2%.
With the rare road game among the top quarterback matchups, Philip Rivers may not mind being away from a home stadium in L.A. that tends to fill up with opposing fans. He has scored a modest 1.7 more fantasy points at home than on the road since the L.A. move in 2017. His Raiders opponent tonight should more than counterbalance the short trek upstate. The Raiders defense is much stronger against the run (No. 11 DVOA) than the pass (No. 29), and they increase passing yards and touchdowns by 19% and 57% -- second-most in football -- while being neutral for pass plays.
Aaron Rodgers' unexpected 161-yard and one-touchdown performance against the previously favorable Chargers defense last week may have had something to with the venue. Rodgers had never shown extreme home/road splits before, but this season with a new head coach and playcaller, he has thrown for nearly 100 more yards and more than one extra touchdown at home versus on the road this year.
I don't know whether I should fully buy in on that small-sample trend, especially since there are factors this week that are less than ideal for his fantasy production. His Panthers opponents have been much stronger this season against the pass (No. 3 DVOA) than the run (No. 32), and a 34-degree kickoff temperature with heavy winds of around 17 mph could tempt Matt LaFleur into a run-oriented game plan. That said, Rodgers has been immune to the weather splits most quarterbacks show in his career, and the Panthers do increase pass plays, if not efficiency. As such, he's my No. 1 quarterback option this week, but I might prefer to use him in a tournament setting.
Mitchell Trubisky sneaks into my top 10 at the position with a plus home matchup against the Lions. They are the No. 22 DVOA pass defense; they increase passing yards and touchdowns per attempt by 6% and 8%, and decrease interceptions per attempt by 56%, second-most in football. They also increase pass plays by 11%, second-most in football. I am sure that is not enough to entice you to put Trubisky in your fantasy lineups, especially with mediocre forecasted weather in Chicago on Sunday. But perhaps Trubisky can turn in a productive fantasy day and stave off the boo birds and his possible benching for another week.
Russell Wilson just reasserted his MVP front-runner status with a 378-yard, five-touchdown performance against the Buccaneers last week. But remember the Bucs are a plus passing matchup that increased passing touchdowns per attempt by 36% even before Wilson lit them up. This Monday night, he will have a much sterner test in San Francisco. The 49ers decrease passing yards and touchdowns per attempt by 13% and 30%, and they decrease pass plays by 24%, the most in football. They are the No. 1 DVOA pass defense and stronger against the pass than the run (No. 20). On a team that has shown an unusual commitment to the run in recent seasons despite Wilson's excellence, Wilson may not have enough opportunities to pass to even try to buck the 49ers' scary passer trends. He drops from a true talent tie with Rodgers in the top spot at the position to just 14th for me this week.
Coming off a bye week to help him recover from a sprained ankle, Matt Ryan should return this week to face the Saints. Unfortunately for Ryan, he will do that on the road against a No. 12 DVOA Saints pass defense that decreases passing touchdowns by 46% per attempt, third-most in football.
Matthew Stafford doesn't have it much better. He draws a Bears defense in Chicago that, while not historically special like last year's unit, is still No. 7 in DVOA against the pass and cuts passing touchdowns by 43% per attempt, third-most in football. By DVOA, the Cowboys pass defense (No. 17) isn't as scary, but they limit passing touchdowns nearly as much, by 41%. That will likely make it tough on Kirk Cousins, who is not expected to have his favorite target in wide receiver Adam Thielen. And finally, Jared Goff draws the Steelers and their No. 6 DVOA pass defense. They induce declines in their opponents of 9% in both yards and touchdowns per attempt, but Goff may suffer more than most of their opponents given his extreme historical home/road splits.
I may not be sure Rodgers deserves to be the No. 1 quarterback this week, but I am sure that his running back, Aaron Jones, should be top-five at his position. The Panthers are much stronger against the pass (No. 3 DVOA) than the run (No. 32), and they increase rushing yards per attempt by 18% and rushing touchdowns per attempt by 180%. That latter rate is by far the most in football, and it isn't just the result of Tevin Coleman's massive day in the 49ers' Week 8 blowout win. Ten different opposing running backs have scored at least 10 PPR points against the Panthers this season. That's pretty good considering the team has played just eight games.
LaFleur no doubt planned to rely heavily on Jones and Jamaal Williams to take advantage of that Panthers weakness, but forecasted cold temperatures and heavy winds will make that game plan even more of a given. Start Jones in every format, including DFS, where his $7,400 DraftKings salary is in the third tier of pricing at the position.
Assuming Alvin Kamara makes it back for Sunday's game against the Falcons -- and substitute everything I'm about to say for Latavius Murray if he doesn't -- you'll want to throw him back into your lineups. Kamara's pass-catching ability makes him mostly a matchups-proof top-five fantasy option, but it's still nice to see him draw a plus matchup. That is mostly about the home game, but it's also a little bit about the Falcons. Even though they are stronger against the run (No. 10 DVOA) than the pass (No. 31), the Falcons increase run plays by 18%.
The Raiders show a similar split to the Falcons with the No. 29 DVOA pass defense and No. 11 DVOA run defense, but Austin Ekeler and Melvin Gordon don't have a home dome to boost their production this week. Instead, they have to travel to Oakland on a short week. That actually makes Gordon one of my worst matchups at the position, but Ekeler remains a good option. Receiving backs in general perform better on the road than at home, and Ekeler may take that to another extreme against a Raiders defense that is No. 28 in DVOA against receiving backs.
Christian McCaffrey has ranked either first or second at the position for me every week this season, so there is really no need to play the matchups with him. Still, he should have a relatively strong one this week in Green Bay. The Packers are stronger against the pass (No. 13 DVOA) than the run (No. 26). They increase run plays by 5%, rushing yards per attempt by 12%, and rushing touchdowns per attempt by 26%. Meanwhile, the same weather conditions that will likely boost Aaron Jones' value work in McCaffrey's favor, too. And he doesn't have Aaron Rodgers throwing him passes.
Mark Ingram overcame a difficult Patriots matchup on Sunday night to the tune of 144 combined yards. He won't be at home this week, but he'll have a much easier opponent in store in the Bengals, a bottom-five DVOA pass and run defense. They increase run plays by 29%, the most in football. They also increase rushing yards and touchdowns per attempt by 18% and 16%. And this game in Cincinnati is forecasted to have some moderate winds, although not as extreme as in Green Bay. Those factors all conspire to make Ingram a back-end RB1 this week.
David Montgomery lands one spot behind Ingram in my rankings. He has the same potential for a wind boost to his carry volume, and he faces a Lions team that increases run plays by 15% and rushing touchdowns by 18%.
Chris Carson fumbled twice last week, his fourth and fifth total fumbles for the season. That has me nervous for his fantasy floor, and a Monday night game against the stout 49ers defense does little to placate me. The 49ers are much stronger against the pass (No. 1 DVOA) than the run (No. 20), but their overall excellence as a defense and team have them cut run plays by 7% and rushing touchdowns per attempt by 48%, the fourth-most in football. The 49ers are definitely a worse fantasy matchup than actual matchup for opposing running backs.
James Conner returned to a limited practice on Wednesday and could play in Week 10. If that happens, early-down replacement Trey Edmunds would lose all of his fantasy value. But even in Conner can't play, Edmunds loses a lot of his luster this week against a No. 4 DVOA Rams run defense that cuts rushing yards per attempt by 25% (third-most in football) and rushing touchdowns per attempt by 50% (second-most). Jaylen Samuels is the better Steelers choice, especially in PPR formats. Across the field, Todd Gurley could have a challenging day as well. Not only are both Malcolm Brown and Darrell Henderson healthy behind him, but Gurley has to deal a Steelers defense that cuts rushing yards and touchdowns per attempt by 15% and 49%.
Devonta Freeman will likely catch passes to limit his downside in a bad Saints matchup, but the No. 6 DVOA Saints run defense does cut rushing yards per attempt by 22% and run plays by 27%, the most in football. Kalen Ballage has just 13 receptions to his name in 20 career NFL games, and the Colts and their No. 1 DVOA defense against receiving backs may make it hard for him to increase that volume in what looks like his first start since Week 2. The Colts also cut run plays by 5% and rushing touchdowns per attempt by 39%, and while their No. 27 DVOA run defense looks bad on paper, they have improved sharply since star linebacker Darius Leonard returned to the lineup. He led the unit to a No. 4 DVOA finish in 2018.
Michael Thomas leads all receivers in receptions and target share this season, and will no doubt enjoy the bulk of the boost that Drew Brees' pass-catchers should see at home against the Falcons defense. More pointed than their generally bad numbers, the Falcons are the No. 31 DVOA pass defense against No. 1 receivers (subscription required).
Mike Evans and Chris Godwin are the rare WR1 teammates, and while their general target shares justify weekly starts for both of them, they should be poised to enjoy even better weeks than usual. The Cardinals increase passing touchdowns by 44% -- the fourth-most in football -- but don't decrease pass plays. Meanwhile, they are the No. 29 DVOA defense against No. 1 receivers and No. 24 against No. 2s. Both Evans and Godwin are in the top five this week.
Christian Kirk will face those Buccaneers in Tampa Bay on Sunday, and the Bucs allow similar success to outside receivers that the Cardinals do. The Bucs have the No. 23 and No. 29 defense against No. 1 and No. 2 receivers. In contrast, they are top-10 against "other" wide receivers, so slot receiver Larry Fitzgerald may not have quite the same success as his much younger teammate.
Finally, Mike Williams draws a Raiders defense that may be the worst of all of them against wide receivers. They are No. 30 in DVOA against No. 1 and No. 28 in DVOA against No. 2 wide receivers. Keenan Allen is a no-brainer start, but Williams vaults to 12th for me at the position for the week.
Seahawks teammates Tyler Lockett and DK Metcalf will likely shoulder the brunt of their team's passing struggles from a difficult 49ers matchup on Monday night. The 49ers have the No. 1 DVOA pass defense and are top-12 against every pass-catching position. Lockett has an elite target volume and so remains in my top 10, but Metcalf falls from a matchup-boosted 12th at the position last week all the way to 43rd this week. And I barely docked Metcalf's projected target volume for the impending arrival of Josh Gordon, who could play on Monday.
Despite an uneven fantasy season, Odell Beckham falls closer into Lockett's camp than Metcalf's. A difficult Bills matchup drops him from 10th in true talent to 15th for the week. But Beckham will no doubt draw the full force of the Bills' No. 5 DVOA pass defense. Tre'Davious White is tied for seventh among qualified cornerbacks in coverage success rate (subscription required) and is the major reason why the Bills are the No. 4 DVOA defense against No. 1 receivers.
Tyreek Hill doesn't have a Bills-level scary matchup against the Titans this week. The Titans are actually stronger against the run (No. 3 DVOA) than the pass (No. 20). But unfavorable venue, weather, and defensive matchups together combine to make Hill a worse start than normal this week, although that is just 11th at the position. And Stefon Diggs remains fifth at the position with teammate Thielen likely out. His trip to Dallas will pit him against a Cowboys defense that, while just average with a No. 17 DVOA against the pass, decreases passing touchdowns by 41%, fifth-most in football.
Jared Cook is another Saints player you can throw in a DFS stack -- he was back in practice and is expected to play against the Falcons on Sunday. The Falcons aren't particularly bad against the position, just bad against the pass in general. O.J. Howard draws a much better tight end-specific matchup against the Cardinals. They have the No. 32 DVOA defense against the position and are allowing 91 yards per game to them. I ranked a healthy Howard 12th because of it, but his lack of target volume has me concerned. If he can't produce in what is likely the best matchup he'll see this season, then he becomes droppable in even shallow formats, if he wasn't already.
Hunter Henry has quickly climbed into my No. 2 spot in tight end true talent rankings, and he jumps to No. 1 for me this week against the Raiders. They are No. 22 in DVOA against the position, allowing 71 yards per game. Eric Ebron's Dolphins opponent is even worse with the No. 26 DVOA defense against tight ends. I have him 11th this week, expecting a moderate boost in his target share with T.Y. Hilton, Parris Campbell, and Devin Funchess all out injured for the Colts. And I have Chris Herndon one spot higher at 10th. He did not play despite being active a week ago, but he is practicing and should hopefully make his season debut against a bad Giants pass defense. He may be worth a pickup if a frustrated owner dropped him in your league.
Travis Kelce is the tight end that Henry jumped for me this week, but even in a subpar Titans matchup, he's second for me at the position. You should never bench him. The Seahawks' Jacob Hollister is more likely someone you should sit. He saw a major bump in his snap share and caught a pair of touchdowns last week, but faces the 49ers defense on Monday that is No. 1 in DVOA against the position. Tight ends have managed just 22 yards per game against them this season.
The Bengals defense is not nearly as scary as the 49ers. They are just 28th in DVOA against tight ends. But their even bigger weakness against running backs, and they have limited opposing tight ends to 46 yards per game this year. So Mark Andrews doesn't crack my top five at the position. I expect a ton of Ravens rushing attempts.
Austin Hooper just does breach the top five, but he draws a Saints defense in New Orleans that is 19th in DVOA against tight ends and allows just 50 yards per game. And finally, NFC South rival Greg Olsen draws a similarly tough Packers matchup in Green Bay. The Packers are 14th in DVOA against the position and allow 56 yards per game. More relevant to his No. 17 weekly ranking, Olsen is averaging just 4.5 targets per game with Kyle Allen at quarterback, half the 9.0 average he saw in Weeks 1 and 2 with Cam Newton under center.