Thumbs Up of the Week: Jalen Hurts (@ DEN)
Some might be feeling less confident about Hurts following back-to-back quiet games, but he’s still the overall QB2 on the season, and the rushing production hasn’t fallen off at all with 17 carries for 133 yards over the past two weeks. The touchdowns will pick back up soon, and when Hurts throws, he won’t have to worry about former college teammate Patrick Surtain II (knee) at cornerback this week. I still have him as a midrange QB1, and Hurts has tremendous upside.
Thumbs Up: Derek Carr (v KC)
Carr had three costly turnovers last week in a road loss to the Giants, but it was another drama-filled week for the Raiders due to the Henry Ruggs III situation, and the signing of DeSean Jackson should help fill the void to elevate the entire offense. Kansas City’s struggles might make a full-blown shootout less likely, but Carr tossed three scores against them in both matchups last year, and being at home provides a boost on Sunday Night Football. Carr is arguably a top-ten play at quarterback.
Thumbs Up: Matt Ryan (@ DAL)
The Cowboys have improved compared to 2020 with Dan Quinn as defensive coordinator, but they still aren’t a shutdown unit, and Ryan put up 273 yards and four scores in Dallas last year—so he should have a great chance of staying hot after a big win over New Orleans. Even without Calvin Ridley (personal), Matty Ice has a strong collection of weapons with Cordarrelle Patterson and Kyle Pitts as the top guys along with others like Russell Gage, Olamide Zaccheaus, and Hayden Hurst making plays.
Thumbs Up: Teddy Bridgewater (v PHI)
Philadelphia’s defense—allowing a league-high in completion percentage (75.5%)—is tailor-made for Bridgewater to have success against, so he needs to be viewed as a high-end QB2 play for Week 10. There is a chance Eagles-Broncos turns out to be a slugfest, but I like Bridgewater to carry over last week’s performance into Sunday by stringing completions together early and often. Plus, Denver getting Noah Fant (COVID-19 list) back in the lineup will make it difficult for Philly to defend all their weapons.
Thumbs Down of the Week: Kyler Murray (v CAR)
Arizona playing in the late-afternoon slate again puts fantasy owners in a difficult position, but assuming Murray (ankle) plays, he should be downgraded anyway against a Carolina defense that trails only the Bills in terms of passing yards per game allowed (181.4). The aggressiveness of the Panthers might even be reason for the Cardinals to rest Murray another week, and I wouldn’t expect to him live up to usual QB1 expectations for this matchup at less than 100%.
Thumbs Down: Kirk Cousins (@ LAC)
The Chargers are right behind Buffalo and Carolina in pass defense through nine weeks, and they are also tied for second in the league in touchdown passes allowed (10). Cousins has put up numbers in tough matchups before—including 373 yards and three touchdowns against the Panthers—but Los Angeles is much better attacked on the ground than through the air, and Minnesota’s quarterback has been limited to 185.5 passing yards per game over the past two weeks. I have him outside the top 15 at the position.
Thumbs Down: P.J. Walker (@ ARI)
Walker’s mobility is something fantasy owners might want to take advantage of, and I’m high on the former Temple and XFL star in general. That said, the Cardinals are going to be flying around defensively, and Walker isn’t much of a runner despite his creativity behind the line of scrimmage. With the way Carolina’s offense has operated recently, it’s difficult to trust Walker to even be ranked as a low-end QB2 in place of Sam Darnold (shoulder).
Thumbs Down: Matthew Stafford (@ SF)
Stafford has been a streaky quarterback throughout his career, and I’ll be interested to see how he performs on Monday coming following a disastrous primetime showing in Week 9. While still a low-end QB1 play, I have a difficult time getting on board with the consensus ranking Stafford as a top-five option this week, and San Francisco notably had a 4-0 record versus Sean McVay over the past two seasons. If the Niners can get pressure like Tennessee did, Stafford might have another sub-par game.
Thumbs Up of the Week: Chris Carson (@ GB)
Just before starting this write-up, it was announced that Carson (neck) has been designated to return from injured reserve, so he should be back for Seattle this weekend if everything goes well at practice. Green Bay wanting to limit the big plays against D.K. Metcalf and Tyler Lockett will likely lead to some nice rushing lanes for Carson with Russell Wilson forcing opponents into lighter boxes, and assuming he’s cleared, the veteran runner can immediately be back in lineups as an RB2 play. If not, you can pivot to Alex Collins as a low-end RB2 play.
Thumbs Up: Jordan Howard (@ DEN)
The Eagles signing Howard to the 53-man roster rights the mistake of not having him there to begin the season, and Nick Sirianni should continue leaning on the power back against a Denver defense that remains questionable up the middle despite better play over the past two games. In two appearances this season, Howard has rushed 29 times for 128 yards and three scores; he’s a low-end RB2/FLEX option until Miles Sanders (ankle) returns.
Thumbs Up: Devin Singletary (@ NYJ)
Singletary quietly caught seven passes last week, and if opponents continue playing consistent two-deep coverage against Buffalo, it will lead to underneath targets and light boxes for the running backs. Zach Moss (concussion) can hopefully be cleared by Sunday, but I still like Singletary’s style versus a New York defense that allowed a bunch of production on perimeter runs last week against the Colts. Available in a decent amount of leagues, Singletary can be a quality RB2 for Week 10.
Thumbs Up: Darrel Williams (@ LV)
People might look at the yards-per-carry average (3.7) against the Packers and fade Williams this week, but he ran much better than the numbers indicate, so you should keep rolling with him if Clyde Edwards-Helaire (knee) remains out. You can’t ask for much more than 20+ touches in an offense that might explode at some point, and the Raiders are allowing the fifth-most rushing yards per game in the league (133.5).
Thumbs Down of the Week: Antonio Gibson (v TB)
Tampa Bay was exposed a little bit against the run prior to the bye, but I’d be surprised if they didn’t get things figured out, and the unit remains arguably the primary matchup to avoid for opposing running backs. Gibson was in a three-man committee with J.D. McKissic and Jaret Patterson for Washington’s last game, and it’d probably take the offense finally using him more as a pass-catcher to return at least RB2 value this week.
Thumbs Down: Adrian Peterson (v NO)
Peterson is trending straight up with 11 touches and a touchdown in his Tennessee debut, but if the Buccaneers aren’t the most difficult matchup for a running back, it’s probably the Saints—who are currently allowing the fewest yards per carry (3.2) and rushing yards per game (73.8) in the NFL. It might take another trip to the end zone for AD to be a strong play, and the Titans notably played from ahead on Sunday night thanks to early mistakes from Matthew Stafford.
Thumbs Down: Boston Scott (@ DEN)
Although he’s started back-to-back games for the Eagles, Scott has taken the backseat to Jordan Howard, and a surprisingly limited role in the passing game—with zero receptions over the past two weeks—limits his upside. Overall, Howard taking a chunk of the early-down work and Kenneth Gainwell taking most of the receiving work is a drain on Scott’s outlook as a FLEX value.
Thumbs Down: Jeff Wilson (v LAR)
Wilson should be held as a talented runner in Kyle Shanahan’s offense based on what he’s done when given an opportunity—including ten total touchdowns in 12 games last season—but expectations clearly need to be contained until if/when Elijah Mitchell isn’t the overwhelming feature back. Last week, Wilson didn’t play a snap or record a touch in his first game of 2021.
Thumbs Up of the Week: Mike Williams (v MIN)
The targets have dropped for Williams since he injured his knee last month, but last week was encouraging in that he connected on a 49-yard reception, and the big-bodied wideout had a couple of valuable targets from the two-yard line (one in the end zone and one on a screen outside the end zone). Justin Herbert has been slightly off targeting him, though, so hopefully that changes this Sunday for a great matchup against a Minnesota defense that has struggled to defend the pass without Patrick Peterson (hamstring).
Thumbs Up: Tyler Lockett (@ GB)
Green Bay did a very good job containing Tyreek Hill last week, and their coverage might be able to limit Lockett this weekend. However, the return of Russell Wilson is a significant boost to Lockett as a high-upside WR2 (if you can deal with the volatility), and the Packers will also have to worry about D.K. Metcalf beating them. Regular season matchups haven’t led to big numbers for Lockett against Green Bay, but the most recent meeting came in the 2019 playoffs when he caught nine-of-ten targets for 136 yards and a touchdown.
Thumbs Up: Jakobi Meyers (v CLE)
Meyers has the most receiving yards in NFL history without scoring a touchdown (1,522) and is coming off a season-worst performance (one reception for eight yards), but I have a feeling he ends his drought with a score against Cleveland. Including last week, Meyers has averaged a healthy 8.0 targets per game, and he’s played 88% of the team’s offensive snaps on the year. I like him as a FLEX option.
Thumbs Up: Mecole Hardman (@ LV)
The Chiefs signed Josh Gordon earlier this year and are now connected to Odell Beckham Jr., but Hardman has quietly been the steady No. 2 wideout with at least five targets in each of the past five games, so hopefully a breakout game can occur if the Chiefs finally look closer to the offense we’ve seen over the past three years. I’d like Hardman to get more downfield opportunities, but he’s nevertheless an upside FLEX.
Others: T.Y. Hilton (v JAX), Tim Patrick (v PHI)
Thumbs Down of the Week: DeAndre Hopkins (v CAR)
Like his quarterback, Hopkins (hamstring) could miss another week with Arizona setting their sights on January, but if he does play, I’m worried about the matchup against Stephon Gilmore. And even with Gilmore residing in New England last year, the Panthers limited Hopkins to seven receptions for 41 scoreless yards. The matchup and health puts the All-Pro wideout in low-end WR2 range if he plays on Sunday.
Thumbs Down: D.J. Moore (@ ARI)
Moore is also in the same range with the red-hot start to the season completely cooled off, as Week 9 was a season-low in targets (seven), receptions (three), and receiving yards (32) while having the touchdown drought extended to five games. Perhaps P.J. Walker will provide a spark to Moore and the entire offense (the No. 1 target had seven receptions for 127 yards in Walker’s lone 2020 start), but I wouldn’t count on it against the top current seed in the NFC.
Thumbs Down: Jarvis Landry (@ NE)
Although Landry has put up very good numbers against the Patriots throughout his career (70.4 receiving yards per game), Bill Belichick will be able to focus on taking him away with Odell Beckham Jr. gone and Nick Chubb (COVID-19) potentially out—and the ceiling hasn’t exactly been hit this year with 193 scoreless receiving yards in five games. Landry is a low-ceiling FLEX with a lowered floor for Week 10.
Thumbs Down: Jets WRs (v BUF)
Corey Davis (hip) is set to return this week, and Elijah Moore broke out with a two-touchdown game last Thursday night, but the Bills are going to make things very difficult on Mike White. While the long-term outlook for the Jets is encouraging with a bunch of plus matchups on the schedule down the stretch, I’d avoid their passing attack this week.
Others: Marvin Jones (@ IND), Hunter Renfrow (v KC)
Thumbs Up of the Week: Pat Freiermuth (v DET)
The absence of Eric Ebron (hamstring) has been a factor, but Freiermuth doesn’t seem likely to have his role scaled back with lines of 7/58, 4/44/1, and 5/43/2 over the past three weeks, and the rookie is a TE1 option because of his touchdown upside—especially if Chase Claypool (toe) is out on Sunday. Freiermuth has seen his playing time jump over 70% without Ebron in the lineup.
Thumbs Up: O.J. Howard (@ WAS)
Tampa Bay signing Darren Fells would seem to indicate Rob Gronkowski (back) isn’t going to suit up coming off the bye week, so Howard is worth a look in a high-powered offense versus a Washington defense that has recently allowed big games to Travis Kelce (8/99) and Robert Tonyan (4/63/1). Cameron Brate can also be considered in deeper leagues, but Howard might have a little more upside.
Thumbs Up: Logan Thomas (v TB)
Thomas started the season with two touchdowns in three games before going down in Week 4, so he needs to be picked up and started wherever available. In addition to the touchdown potential, Thomas caught five passes for 74 yards from Taylor Heinicke in the playoff battle versus Tampa Bay back in January, so Washington will be hoping for a boost from him in Week 10.
Thumbs Down of the Week: Tyler Higbee (@ SF)
He’s certainly not alone, but Higbee has struggled in matchups against the 49ers for the most part—averaging 23.8 yards per game with one touchdown in ten meetings (and that’s including a 100-yard performance pulling the numbers up). San Francisco knows that Monday night is maybe their last chance to make a move into playoff contention, so stingy defense could lead to a long night for Higbee.
Thumbs Down: Jonnu Smith (v CLE)
Smith has now seen just two targets in four of the past five games, and he’s firmly into the low-end TE2 ranks with Hunter Henry emerging as the preferred option for Mac Jones and the offense. The Browns getting Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah (ankle) back makes this a potentially difficult matchup, so Smith will need a chunk play and/or short score to be worth a start.
Thumbs Down: Zach Ertz (v CAR)
Being on a first-place team could change his fortunes, but Ertz caught one-of-six targets for seven scoreless yards earlier this year versus Carolina, and I wouldn’t have a ton of confidence in him because of the matchup. Over the past two weeks, the Panthers have limited Kyle Pitts, Hunter Henry, and Jonnu Smith to a combined 36 receiving yards.