Thumbs Up of the Week: Philip Rivers (@ OAK)
Philip Rivers has somewhat quietly been one of the league’s best quarterbacks in 2018, as he’s thrown for multiple touchdowns passes in every game this season and is on pace for a 38:6 touchdown-interception ratio with eight weeks to go. The Raiders have allowed three touchdowns passes in each of the past three games, and their defensive showing in Week 9 was as bad as I’ve seen. Unless Melvin Gordon runs absolutely wild—which is a real possibility—Rivers should be in line to put up some big numbers after already beating Oakland for an efficient 339 yards and two touchdowns in Week 5.
Thumbs Up: Andy Dalton (v NO)
I feel like I should forewarn fantasy owners every time I put Andy Dalton here, as similar to Jameis Winston (but to a lesser extent since he’s not in danger of being benched), he could come out and disappoint in any given week regardless of matchup. That said, there might not be a better spot to use Dalton as a streamer than at home this Sunday against the Saints, who have allowed the second-most fantasy points per game to opposing quarterbacks, including huge performances by Ryan Fitzpatrick (41 points), Matt Ryan (39 points), Jared Goff (28 points), and Joe Flacco (25 points).
Thumbs Up: Russell Wilson (@ LAR)
He got off to a slow start this season, but the “second quarter” was great for Russell Wilson with 19+ fantasy points in each of the past four games. The first of those came against the Rams in Week 5, as Wilson completed just 13 passes but threw for 198 yards and three scores in a 33-31 defeat. That was the only game of the season where the 29-year-old didn’t record a carry, so look for him to do more damage with his legs in what will likely have to be another shootout if Seattle wants to keep some hope alive in the NFC West. For what it’s worth, Wilson is coming off the most pass attempts (39) and rushing yards (41) of the season in last week’s close loss to the Chargers.
Thumbs Up: Baker Mayfield (v ATL)
The first game under a new offensive coordinator Freddie Kitchens was a step back in the right direction for Baker Mayfield, as he looked more decisive and will hopefully continue to gain comfort as the season progresses with a new play-caller. He did leave some throws on the field in Week 9, but Mayfield will stay home to face an Atlanta defense that is bottom-five in the league when it comes to opposing completion percentage (69.8%), touchdown passes allowed (18), and passing yards per game allowed (304.3). I think the underneath stuff that Dan Quinn’s system gives up will play to Baker’s strengths as an accurate, quick-release quarterback. He’s the top streaming option of the week.
Others: Matt Ryan (@ CLE), Ben Roethlisberger (v CAR)
Thumbs Down of the Week: Drew Brees (@ CIN)
It might seem crazy to have Drew Brees as the “Thumbs Down of the Week” against Cincinnati’s league-worst pass defense in terms of yards per game allowed (319.4), but I have a couple reasons for the label. First of all, the future Hall of Famer has been significantly better at home (26.0 fantasy points per game) than on the road (17.3 fantasy points per game), and the latter number includes a 39-point performance in Atlanta’s Mercedes-Benz Stadium dome. Also, as has been the case all season, quarterback is absolutely loaded, so I simply have others higher than Brees, who is still a low-end QB1 for me—I just don’t view him as a consensus top-five option like almost everyone else does for Week 10.
Thumbs Down: Andrew Luck (v JAX)
Of course, we didn’t get to see Andrew Luck face the lockdown Jacksonville defense in 2017, but for all their struggles this year, the unit is still allowing the fourth-fewest fantasy points per game to opposing quarterbacks, and I would be surprised if they didn’t come out of the bye with some things figured out. Luck has undeniably been as hot as any quarterback in the league from a fantasy perspective with 18 touchdowns over the past five games and 22+ fantasy points in every game since the final week of September, but I’m looking elsewhere if possible due to the matchup against the desperate Jags, who might be better attacked on the ground with Marlon Mack.
Thumbs Down: Dak Prescott (@ PHI)
Dak Prescott has faced the Eagles four times since entering the league, but each of the past two seasons basically had one meaningful game between the NFC East rivals; last year, Philadelphia played the reserves in Week 17 with the No. 1 seed locked up, and two years ago, Prescott only threw eight passes in Week 17 before Tony Romo took a drive and Mark Sanchez finished the game. In the two matchups that mattered, Dak has completed 37-of-70 passes (52.9%) for 216 yards per game and a 2:4 touchdown-interception ratio, but last season really got ugly in a 37-9 loss where Prescott threw for 145 scoreless yards and turned it over four times at home. I don’t have Dallas’ signal-caller as a top-20 play this weekend.
Thumbs Down: Nick Mullens (v NYG)
I don’t want to take anything away from Nick Mullens by any means, but he couldn’t have picked a better spot to make his NFL debut against a quitting Oakland team that looked lost all night last Thursday. Even in another favorable matchup, we should probably pump the brakes on Mullens from a fantasy perspective, especially since the Giants have actually improved over the past couple games on defense by containing Atlanta and Washington in one-score losses.
Others: Mitchell Trubisky (v DET), Matthew Stafford (@ CHI)
Thumbs Up of the Week: David Johnson (@ KC)
This should be obvious, but while he’s slowly creeping up back towards RB1 status in the rankings as the week progresses, David Johnson is somehow ranked outside of the top 12 by many “experts” on other sites. Sunday looks like a blow-up spot for the superstar running back, who is due for a score after failing to find the end zone in each of the past two outings, as Kansas City has allowed a whopping 24.6 fantasy points per game to the position in standard leagues, including six-of-nine games with 25+ fantasy points allowed to opposing backs. Now is the time to buy low on Johnson.
Thumbs Up: Tevin Coleman (@ CLE)
The RB12 through nine weeks, Tevin Coleman has taken clear control of Atlanta’s backfield (as expected) with Devonta Freeman on IR, going for 14.2 points and 27.6 points over the past two games while encouragingly ripping off a touchdown of 30+ yards in both contests. I think the former third-round pick might have been playing at less than 100% prior to the bye, but he looked as fast as ever following a week to rest up, and he needs to be in all lineups as a high-upside RB1/RB2 against the Browns, who have been absolutely shredded by Melvin Gordon (20 touches for 150 yards and three touchdowns), James Conner (29 touches for 212 yards and two touchdowns), and Kareem Hunt (18 touches for 141 yards and three touchdowns) in recent weeks.
Thumbs Up: Dion Lewis (v NE)
I don’t agree with it, but Tennessee has decided to make Dion Lewis (23 touches in Week 9) their featured back while limiting Derrick Henry (eight touches) to a short-yardage role. There’s a chance the split was a one-week thing against a strong Dallas front, but at worst, Lewis is now a low-end RB2 and the preferred play in all formats. New England has been vulnerable through the air against running backs over the past month with Nyheim Hines (7/45), Kareem Hunt (5/105/1), Tarik Cohen (8/69/1), and LeSean McCoy (6/82) all doing damage, so Lewis should be able to have a productive day against his former team.
Thumbs Up: Sony Michel (@ TEN)
It’s understandable to be hesitant about immediately inserting a guy coming off an injury into fantasy lineups, but would the 7-2 Patriots really risk playing their first-round rookie if they aren’t comfortable with his health? The Titans have played stout run defense, but Sony Michel has 100-yard, multi-score upside in any given week for a team that will move the ball up and down the field. I think if he’s active, Michel should have close to a full workload and needs to be in lineups as a midrange RB2 that should quickly climb back towards the RB1 ranks.
Others: Doug Martin (v LAC), Elijah McGuire (v BUF)
Thumbs Down of the Week: Adrian Peterson (@ TB)
Adrian Peterson isn’t going to suddenly going to fade away during a season in which he’s on pace for over 1,200 rushing yards, but there’s definite reason to be concerned about him after Washington’s offensive line lost starting guards Brandon Scherff and Shawn Lauvao for the season in Week 9. Plus, All-Pro left tackle Trent Williams (thumbs) remains out, and Tampa Bay got healthier up front with the return of Gerald McCoy last Sunday. It’s tough to bench AD, but he needs to be viewed as a low-end, low-floor RB2 against a defense that’s better attacked through the air.
Thumbs Down: LeSean McCoy (@ NYJ)
Since coming alive with 85 yards and 73 yards on the ground in back-to-back games to start October, LeSean McCoy has literally averaged one yard per carry over the past three weeks, rushing 24 times for 24 yards, and he’s yet to find the end zone in 2018. Josh Allen (elbow) returning would be a boost to his Week 10 outlook and rest-of-season potential, but McCoy has a bottomless floor against the Jets, who held him to 12 carries for 25 yards last year at MetLife Stadium.
Thumbs Down: Isaiah Crowell (v BUF)
Excluding his two big performances in Week 1 and Week 5 in which he averaged more than 10.0 yards per carry (which obviously count, but are clear outliers), Isaiah Crowell has combined to rush 82 times for 212 yards (2.6 YPC) in seven games. Hopefully fantasy owners were able to sell after the 200-yard game last month—which you would have known to do if given counsel from Fantasy Consigliere—but this looks like it will be Elijah McGuire’s backfield sooner rather than later. Even in a good matchup, Crowell is just a volatile FLEX that you don’t want to rely on in a push for the fantasy playoffs.
Thumbs Down: Eagles RBs (v DAL)
I originally had Corey Clement as a “Thumbs Up” for this week, but now that it sounds like Darren Sproles will return, the Philly backfield should turn into a full-fledged, four-man committee. Plus, it’s anyone’s guess as to who will end up leading it off they bye, because while I like Clement’s all-around game, the Eagles may decide Josh Adams (nine carries for 61 yards in Week 8) gives them the best chance to create a balanced offense. Fantasy owners should probably take a wait-and-see approach here, but I have them ranked Clement > Adams > Wendell Smallwood > Sproles.
Others: Carlos Hyde (@ IND), Tarik Cohen (v DET)
Thumbs Up of the Week: JuJu Smith-Schuster (v CAR)
Fantasy owners and football fans should expect nothing less than a shootout on Thursday night, and JuJu Smith-Schuster has loved to play in front of a national audience to start his young career with 89.6 receiving yards per game in primetime. As far as the matchup goes, the Panthers were torched by Tampa Bay slot receiver Adam Humphries (8/82/2) last week, so Smith-Schuster should be able to take advantage of Captain Munnerlyn both over the middle and downfield. I know some people are losing faith in JuJu with a combined 11.1 fantasy points over the past two weeks, but he’s my No. 8 wideout for Week 10.
Thumbs Up: Larry Fitzgerald (@ KC)
A change in offensive coordinator allowed Larry Fitzgerald to have his best performance across the board this year with eight receptions, 102 yards, and a touchdown to close out October, and I expect the legendary receiver to be featured down the stretch for what could be his final season. Fitz would rather be competing for a playoff spot, but playing throwback football over the next eight weeks will be fun to see if it happens. As for this weekend, I don’t think Kansas City has the size at cornerback to stop Larry Legend if his quarterback can deliver the ball accurately and on time. Fitzgerald is back on the FLEX radar in all formats.
Thumbs Up: Calvin Ridley (@ CLE)
Julio Jones is my top play of the week because he should be able to dominate No. 4 overall pick Denzel Ward if the rookie shadows him, but Atlanta’s offense is clicking again, so I wouldn’t hesitate to stack their weapons with the hope that Baker Mayfield and the Browns are able to keep up. Calvin Ridley will have a great opportunity to beat up on the No. 2 and No. 3 corners in Cleveland, and he showed last week that one touch is enough to take it the distance and be worth a start for fantasy owners. Consider the Alabama product a high-upside WR2.
Thumbs Up: Devin Funchess (@ PIT)
A score in three-of-four games had Devin Funchess headed in the right direction, but he’s been held to a combined seven receptions for 71 yards over the past two games. However, he was close to finding the end zone last week, and perimeter receivers Sammy Watkins (6/100), Mike Evans (6/137/1), John Brown (3/116/1), A.J. Green (7/85), and to a lesser extent Julio Jones (5/62) in a throwaway game have all had success against Pittsburgh this season. I think Funchess will be able to use his size advantage against sub-six-footers Joe Haden and Coty Sensabaugh on the outside to kick off Week 10.
Others: Bengals WRs (v NO)
Thumbs Down of the Week: Doug Baldwin (@ LAR)
The Rams have given Doug Baldwin more trouble than anyone over the past couple years, as since Wade Phillips took over as defensive coordinator, Los Angeles has limited Russell Wilson’s No. 1 receiver to lines of 4/37, 1/6, and 1/1 (which happened in Week 5 of this season)—or less than 1.5 fantasy points per game in standard leagues. Baldwin’s chemistry with Wilson is probably too good not to end those struggles eventually, but I wouldn’t count on it in an important week for fantasy owners. Look elsewhere at a deep position.
Thumbs Down: Alshon Jeffery (v DAL)
Alshon Jeffery had a solid showing in last season’s Sunday Night Football victory over the Cowboys with four receptions for 67 yards and a score, but I’m less optimistic about him in the matchup this year thanks to Byron Jones’ switch from safety to cornerback for Dallas. The former first-round pick has been one of the league’s best cover guys on the outside in 2018, and he has the size, length, and athleticism to give Jeffery fits to the point that Carson Wentz might stop looking his direction with two security blankets now in the fold with Golden Tate joining Zach Ertz. He remains a low-end WR2/FLEX option, but Alshon doesn’t carry his usual upside after already being contained by Xavier Rhodes (2/39) and Jalen Ramsey (4/35) this season.
Thumbs Down: T.Y. Hilton (v JAX)
Scoring four touchdowns in six games has been encouraging, but T.Y. Hilton has only cleared 50 yards twice so far this season, and if there’s someone that Jacksonville will want to take away in the passing game on Sunday, it’s Andrew Luck’s favorite target. Hilton is bound to catch a 50-yard touchdown at some point over the next eight weeks, but I think fantasy owners should wait for a better matchup and get someone else in lineups if possible.
Thumbs Down: DeSean Jackson (v WAS)
Like Hilton, DeSean Jackson can be worth a start if he gets behind the defense just once, but Jay Gruden and Greg Manusky will be stressing the importance of keeping the veteran deep threat in front of them after he caught his fair share of deep balls with the Redskins from 2014 to 2016. Just as worrisome for those relying on Jackson, he’s turned into the clear No. 4 receiver behind Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, and Adam Humphries over the past two weeks, so he’s the prototypical boom-or-bust option in Tampa Bay.
Others: Taylor Gabriel (v DET), Robby Anderson (v BUF)
Thumbs Up of the Week: Austin Hooper (@ CLE)
The Browns started off the season playing better defense against opposing tight ends than expected, but things are starting to even out as projected with lines of 12/111, 5/56, and 7/99/2 allowed since Week 7. While I’m already all-in on Tevin Coleman and Calvin Ridley against Cleveland, there should be enough targets to go around for Austin Hooper to make an impact as the top streaming option of the week.
Thumbs Up: Chris Herndon (v BUF)
It will be interesting to see how Josh McCown replacing Sam Darnold (foot) this weekend will impact Chris Herndon and the other pass-catchers for New York, but at a shaky position, fantasy owners might as well roll with the rookie. Over the past four games, Herndon has averaged 8.9 fantasy points per game in standard leagues, so he remains a TE2 at home.
Thumbs Up: C.J. Uzomah (v NO)
Fantasy owners that went with C.J. Uzomah in Week 8 were burnt with zero receptions, but coming off the bye, the 25-year-old should be set up for a more stable role now that A.J. Green (toe) is week-to-week. The Saints have generally been tough against opposing tight ends, but in a game with shootout potential, Uzomah is worth considering as a streamer.
Thumbs Down of the Week: Jordan Reed (@ TB)
I was optimistic about Jordan Reed heading into 2018, but despite finally being healthy, the 28-year-old looks to be almost indifferent at times for the Redskins. Last week, he basically split playing time with Vernon Davis, and Reed hasn’t gone for 45+ yards since Week 3 or found the end zone since the opener. Tampa Bay presents a great matchup, but I don’t trust Reed enough to put him in the top 12 this week.
Thumbs Down: Eric Ebron (v JAX)
Eric Ebron is in the midst of easily his best season as a pro with seven touchdowns in eight games, but Jack Doyle returned in Week 8 to immediately operate as Indy’s No. 1 tight end, which puts a big dent in the fantasy stock of the former North Carolina star. Ebron is still a weekly scoring threat, but he needs to be downgraded to weekly TE2 status, including this Sunday against the Jaguars.
Thumbs Down: Evan Engram (@ SF)
Held to 25 or fewer yards in four-of-five appearances, Evan Engram can no longer be viewed as even a low-end TE1 option barring some significant changes down the stretch. Right now, the Giants simply aren’t good enough to have reliable fantasy options besides Saquon Barkley and Odell Beckham Jr., so Engram should be considered a TE2 that needs big plays to be worth a start. On Monday night, the Niners should have the speed at linebacker to contain the Ole Miss product.