The endless BYEWEEK SZN continues. Week 10 is likely the last chance for average and below-average teams to sneak up on an unsuspecting juggernaut team weakened by a star player on bye.
If you’re one of those middling teams, then it’s time to take a few chances in hopes that one of these unknown guys will blow up for a week and keep you in the hunt.
*Don’t know what this column is about? Skip to the end for a brief explainer. Though, if you’re reading this for the first time…it’s too late.*
Josh McCown, New York Jets @ Tamp Bay: McCown’s 2017 season has been a true testament to the power of low expectations. His play has been nothing short of well above average (such praise!) in keeping the Jets competitive in games they should be losing by double digits. On the opposite side of that spectrum are the Bucs, who’ve fallen well short of preseason NFC championship aspirations, partly due to quarterback play, but mostly because of their pass defense shortcomings. That unit must be sitting in on Jameis’s pregame speeches because, from an efficiency standpoint, they are 31st in the league and trending downward. Sure, McCown will be without suspended wideout Jeremy Kerley, but that’s the ugly beauty of this Jets team: nobody is good enough to worry about their availability. It’s a true “next man up” group, and McCown has done nothing but thrive in that environment.
Eli Manning, New York Giants @ San Francisco: Who would have thought that the Giants would be the worst team in New Jersey? With his future in doubt and everyone, rightfully, questioning the team, Manning’s matchup with the 49ers’ woeful secondary sets this up for him to do as he’s always done: rise to the occasion. Just when you think his legacy will be ManningFace, he messes around and wins another Super Bowl. While that’s not in the cards this year, Manning can still exploit a bad secondary and be a respectable fantasy starter, particularly when the bell appears primed to toll on his career.
Orleans Darkwa, New York Giants @ San Francisco: Darkwa has wrested full control as the lead back in New York and has a very enticing matchup with San Francisco’s aforementioned terrible defense on deck. Coming off an 18-touch game in Week 9, expect the Giants to lean on him to keep the overmatched 49ers defense honest. The opportunity for a huge game out of Darkwa is there if the Giants use him in the screen game, where that oft-exposed defense is often caught with its pants down.
Matt Forte, New York Jets @ Tampa Bay: And the East Coast bias continues. What do you expect from a native New Yorker that grew up just five blocks hours from Times Square? Forte was vintage Forte in Week 9 against a previously well-respected Buffalo defense, and now, on 10 days rest, gets a well below average Tampa run unit to attack. He and Bilal Powell are evenly splitting the backfield duties, but it has been Forte who has garnered more touches in the past two games. If his knee swelling knocks him out of the game and you’re a Powell owner, then consider him a Rack, too.
Derrick Henry, Tennessee vs. Cincinnati: Despite being caught in an infuriating timeshare with DeMarco Murray, Henry has been the better Titan back for the better part of a month. The Cincinnati defense is not one to give up huge days on the ground, but the threat of a healthy Mariota will keep the Bengals off-balance and open some run lanes.
Jerick McKinnon, Minnesota @ Washington: Fellow Viking running back Latavius Murray typically gets all of the love here at Flex On ‘Em, but McKinnon has some momentum off a strong Week 9 showing in London versus a better-than-you-think Browns run defense. Sure, it’s hard to trust someone running for something in the Capital City with the top-15 run defense and the lobbyists controlling everything, but McKinnon is the better receiving back in Minnesota, and Washington has been beaten by such threats more than a few times this season.
Giovanni Bernard, Cincinnati @ Tennessee: Bernard is in a similar situation to McKinnon in that he’s the secondary back on his team, but its best chance in the receiving game. He’s capitalizing on the few opportunities he gets and will likely get no better matchup than the league’s 26th-ranked defense against receiving backs. I understand Gio is a darkhorse pick this week, but it’s not like Mixon has buried anyone in Cincinnati with his play in the past month, and the Tennessee defense has been more than serviceable defending a traditional running attack. The Bengals would be smart to exploit one of the few advantages they have in a must-win game.
Devin Funchess, Carolina vs. Miami: Back to back Rack weeks for Funchess. You know about the Benjamin trade by now, but did you know Week 10 opponent Miami is the 30th-ranked team against the pass? While I don’t see him continuing to score an entire point per target, his increase in usage will likely justify him as an every-week starter going forward.
Robby Anderson, New York Jets @ Tampa Bay: As long as McCown continues to sling it with decent efficiency, preseason afterthought Anderson will be on the edge of Rackable status week-in and week-out. He’s scored a touchdown in three straight, and it’s not like the matchup with the Bucs is one where you’d expect the trend to stop. Also, don’t forget Jeremy Kerley is out on suspension; pushing a few more opportunities Anderson’s way.
Cole Beasley, Dallas @ Atlanta: The Cowboys’ offense has been efficient to an elite degree through the first half of the season without much contribution from Beasley. At 5’6” (estimated), OC Scott Linehan is going against the grain by using him nearly exclusively as a redzone threat, which has paid dividends in two of the Cowboys’ bigger wins (over Green Bay and Kansas City). In both games he scored a pair of touchdowns despite racking up fewer than 25 yards receiving. Despite this, and despite him having yet to top 33 yards receiving in a single outing, injuries have struck Dez Bryant and Terrance Williams, and Week 10’s matchup with Atlanta’s 24th-best pass defense is ripe with opportunity.
Sterling Shepard, New York Giants @ San Francisco: Like the other New York receiving Rack, Robby Anderson, Shepard has an opportunity to feast on a terrible defense while catching balls for a team without a viable secondary option.
Cooper Kupp, Los Angeles Rams vs. Houston: No better indication that we’re all living in the Upside Down when Jared Goff is a potential MVP candidate in his 2nd season. The same guy who didn’t know from which direction the sun rises threw for four touchdowns in Week 9 and continues to stay hot. While Robert Woods was the beneficiary of his quarterback’s out-of-body play last week, it’s Kupp who is the NFL’s 2nd-most targeted receiver in the redzone. The Texans’ defense is particularly weak on its right side and over the middle, areas in which Kupp has been efficient in his rookie season. What else is there to say?
Mailbag Questions? Need Rack/Rest advice? Hit me up on Twitter: @DJEN5EN
Philip Rivers, Los Angeles Chargers @ Jacksonville: The Jacksonville secondary makes it too easy to pinpoint a Restable quarterback weekly. Rivers has been a borderline every-week starter this year, but will surely not contribute as such in Week 10. There’s really nothing else to say. Don’t throw on Jacksonville. Talk about the Upside Down.
Tom Savage, Houston @ Los Angeles Rams: Because we need to present some semblance of things going according to plan here, the Rams’ success isn’t solely the product of Jared Goff’s steps forward as a quarterback and his understanding of the Earth’s rotation. A major part of the turnaround has been, like Jacksonville, a strong secondary. While Savage is an unlikely Rack candidate even in a good matchup, some fantasy owners with their QB1 on bye should look elsewhere for help. By the way, if the Kaepernick legal team’s doesn’t bring Tom Savage and Matt McGloin’s game tape as Exhibit 1 (of 1) in his collusion case against the NFL, then he needs a new legal team. It is unconscionable that the Texans would choose to revert back to a terribly ineffective offensive scheme instead of bringing in the one available guy whose game mirrors that of the IR’d Deshaun Watson.
Ameer Abdullah, Detroit vs. Cleveland: Back into the Upside Down we go: the Cleveland Browns are the league’s 1st-ranked run defense through nine weeks. You can try to impress me with all of your fancy moneyball and Pythagorean theorem derivatives in the break room, but I’m just going to drop that doozy and walk away. The winless Browns, who don’t even know how to send an email correctly, shut down the run better than anyone else in the league. Abdullah owners are likely seeing Cleveland on the schedule and expecting him to be their first 100-yard rusher since 2013. The last time someone in a Lions uniform rushed for 100 yards, Paul Walker was alive and Tiger Woods was the PGA Tour’s Player of the Year.
Mike Gillislee, New England @ Denver: Denver’s run defense is a top-5 unit, and I’d be surprised if Gillislee himself knew what his usage was going to be this week. I hate to be the first one to say this, but I don’t trust Bill Belichick.
DeMarco Murray, Tennessee vs. Cincinnati: For the former Oilers, there can only be one back worth starting and, as is evident in the Rack section, I’ve drilled in on Derrick. I’m not expecting to strike it rich, but if there are only 15 or so fantasy points to be had by Titans running backs, I think Murray is the one who comes up dry.
Damien Williams/Kenyan Drake, Miami @ Carolina: Williams lost the carry and yardage battle with Drake, but scored the lone rushing touchdown for the Dolphins. Regardless of which of these guys you own, neither should be in your lineup in a tough matchup with the league’s 3rd-best defense against the run. I don’t see the Dolphins having the option to control game flow with the run either; they’re the far less talented group and will likely be playing from behind.
Keenan Allen, Los Angeles Chargers @ Jacksonville: If you’re sitting Rivers, you also need to sit his WR1 on the road in Jacksonville. Jaguars CB Jalen Ramsey avoided suspension and his matchup with Allen, who has had a weak month, favors him to a near-certain degree. If you’re desperate, then I’d rather have any one of the other Chargers receivers in my lineup.
Deonte Thompson, Buffalo vs. New Orleans: Inexplicably, I’ve been seeing multiple fantasy outlets touting Thompson’s fantasy prospects this week and going forward. Thompson is the 3rd-best (at best) option on a run-first team. Stop the madness.
J.J. Nelson, Arizona vs. Seattle: Carson Palmer is done for the year and so is the fantasy upside of owning Nelson, Jaron Brown, and even Larry Fitzgerald, particularly in a matchup with Seattle’s legendary secondary. Reports out of Seattle have S Earl Thomas likely out for this game, but I don’t see Pete Carroll allowing Nelson and Drew Stanton to take advantage.
Randall Cobb, Green Bay @ Chicago: In the same sinking boat as Arizona’s Nelson. His quarterback is out for the foreseeable future, and the backup doesn’t present enough of a threat for good defenses like Chicago (10th against the pass) to worry about. While HC Mike McCarthy may shift to more of a short pass game with Hundley under center, there just are not enough yards to feed Cobb, Jordy, and Davante Adams. My money is on the other two.
BONUS TIGHT END RACK/REST
Martellus Bennett, Green Bay @ Chicago: I am going to contribute to the oddity of Bennett’s situation by claiming him Flex On ‘Em’s first Rack/Rest. Rest him this week and expect to Rack him the rest of the season. Bennett was unceremoniously cut by the Packers on Wednesday after a tumultuous few weeks expressing his desire to end his football career. Most considered Bennett’s signing with Green Bay to be one of the better FA signings of the offseason, and the premature ending comes as nothing but a shock. I guess in a world of good Rams teams and strong Jacksonville defenses, we should all be numb to such surprising developments. The talent is there, but the situation was growing dire after the Rodgers injury. But here’s how this thing is going to go, though: he’s going to end up on the Patriots and win another Super Bowl on his way to a huge second half of the season. There has to be something to keep the NFL grounded, and a situation like this is as Patriots and NFL as it gets.
(Future) Fantasy Ghost Of The Week
Each week I’ll highlight a typical fantasy star that will likely under-produce. This doesn’t mean they’re automatic “Rests” – but be prepared to be disappointed.
T.Y. Hilton, Indianapolis vs. Pittsburgh: In owner Jim Irsay’s world there is likely no pain that a whiskey shot and a few stray painkillers can’t make go away; so you can understand his frustration that Andrew Luck is unable to throw with a shoulder consisting of scrambled eggs and fatty bacon. Despite Luck’s unavailability, mid-season trade acquisition Jacoby Brissett has been good enough to keep Indianapolis competitive and wideout T.Y. Hilton a top-5 fantasy option. In Week 10, however, Pittsburgh’s great pass defense lurks, and I just can’t see a situation where Hilton does anything but regress toward the mean. He’s an outright Rest this week.
Tweets Of The Week
As always, a pair of tweets to sum up the week that was in the NFL world and out.
what if brock osweilwer is playing a revenge game *against* denver
— Mina Kimes (@minakimes) November 5, 2017
me when i get 5 likes and 3 retweets pic.twitter.com/4GiOfQkwrm
— yanis (@lessprobIem) November 2, 2017
*Pick In BOLD
Last Week (0-2-1)
Arizona +5.5 vs. Seattle
Denver +7.5 vs. New England
Miami +9 @ Carolina
Have a good weekend, everybody.
*ALL DEFENSIVE RANKING REFERENCES PER FOOTBALLOUTSIDERS.COM
**PLAYER STATISTICS VIA PROFOOTBALLREFERENCE.COM
What is Rack/Rest?
As always, the primary function of this column is to help you secure the bottom half of your starting lineup.
Fantasy football is won and lost in WR2/RB2 and FLEX spots. The goal is to avoid being the person tweeting screenshots of a 30-point performance sitting on their bench.
Racks: Players that are in a good position to outperform their typical projections. If they’re on your squad, Rack them into your lineup and don’t look back.
Rests: Players facing tough weeks, whether due to matchup or other circumstances. Rest them for this week.