It’s been a rough fantasy season. Big names have been lost to injury at every position, and their replacements just aren’t offering numbers like they have in the past. Wide receiver in particular has been rough, as I illustrated here:
Check out the chart below, which shows the change in standard fantasy scoring from the top 10 players at each position through nine weeks of the last two seasons:
Yes, it’s weird that tight ends are scoring at the exact same rate, but man, is that percent change at receiver awful. With Odell Beckham Jr. injured, Mike Evans suspended this week, DeAndre Hopkins doomed to an eternity with awful quarterbacks, and other messes, if you don’t have Antonio Brown, you have receiver questions. And unfortunately, there aren’t really answers right now.
That brings us to Week 10, and our regular look at some of the best and worst fantasy situations, based on opponents and PFF data.
Eli Manning, New York Giants: The past three games — played without Beckham and Brandon Marshall and mostly without Sterling Shepard — Manning has 482 yards (not great), but four touchdowns against one interception. And he’s done that against three excellent defenses in the Broncos, Seahawks and Rams. He has multiple touchdown passes in four of his past six games; the quarterbacks who have had better stretches this year read like an MVP ballot (Dak Prescott, Deshaun Watson, Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Carson Wentz, Russell Wilson). This week, Manning gets a 49ers defense that has allowed multiple touchdown passes in four straight games. Maybe it’s Shepard, or Evan Engram, or one of the anonymous receivers, but Manning should fare well Sunday.
Lamar Miller, Houston Texans: The Rams’ run defense has improved. The team allowed 560 rushing yards and six rushing touchdowns to RBs the first four games, but only 305 and one score in the four games since. Still, this is a team that is better defending the pass than the run (12th in pass-coverage grades per PFF, eighth in pass-rush grades, only 24th in run-defense grades). On the Houston side of the ball, Tom Savage is the quarterback now … unless the team bails on him for (checks notes) oh, Matt McGloin or T.J. Yates. Yeah, a passing offense that was formidable as recently as a week ago now looks like one that needs to lean on the run whenever possible, because the Houston quarterbacks are no longer NFL-caliber.
Matt Forte, New York Jets: It was supposed to be Bilal Powell. We all wrote it up in the preseason, and we all believed it. And as recently as a few weeks ago, it was. But in Week 9, it was Forte who led the Jets’ running game, getting more carries than Powell (14 to 9), more targets (4 to 0), and more yards (96 to 74), and notched his first two scores of the year. Sunday, Forte and the Jets play a Buccaneers defense that has allowed huge games to Alvin Kamara, LeSean McCoy and Adrian Peterson in recent weeks.
Paul Richardson, Seattle Seahawks: The first thing to ask for any game against Arizona is “who will be matched up against Patrick Peterson?” The Cardinals cornerback is just about the shutdown-iest corner we’ve seen in years, and he tends to shadow. So for now, this is a guess, albeit an educated one, that Peterson, whose default spot is usually at left corner, will shadow Tyler Lockett and not Richardson. That leaves Tyrann Mathieu on Doug Baldwin, and Richardson free to succeed against the rest of the Cardinals’ defense. Check out reports; if it sounds like Peterson will shadow Richardson, reverse the recommendation. But for now, this looks like the way it will go.
Dontrelle Inman, Chicago Bears: The Bears can’t hide Mitch Trubisky all year. (Or at least, I hope they can’t.) At some point, it’s worth seeing if the rookie has anything at all. Week 10 — against a Green Bay pass defense that just finished making Marvin Jones and Golden Tate look like vintage Julio Jones/Roddy White, and with a newly acquired wide receiver in Inman who is already probably the most talented receiver on the roster — should be that time. The Packers rank in the bottom-four in PFF pass-coverage grades. Inman should have a big Bears debut.
Eric Ebron, Detroit Lions: The Browns are a get-right defense for every tight end. No. 1 tight ends facing Cleveland through eight games this year have put up 0.34 fantasy points per opportunity; those same guys have seen their production cut basically in half in their other games (0.19 PPO). Ebron had his biggest-yardage day of the season in Week 8 before sliding back a bit in Week 9 (which we saw coming). You probably haven’t been sitting on the disappointing tight end all year, but if you need a streamer, or for DFS purposes, this is a good week for him to rebound.
Philip Rivers, Los Angeles Chargers: This is in part to caution against using Rivers in Week 10 — he’s facing Jacksonville, home of the best pass defense in the league (by passing yards per game), one of the best in years — but also in part to say that, despite needing to sit him this week, Rivers absolutely needs to remain on fantasy rosters. You want absolutely no part of Rivers this week; the Jaguars have allowed only two quarterbacks (Marcus Mariota and Jacoby Brissett) to reach even double-digit fantasy points, and no one to top 13. But after this (and Buffalo in Week 11 if you want to be conservative), Rivers faces Dallas, Cleveland, Washington, Kansas City, the Jets and Oakland the rest of the year. He could lose you your Week 10, but he could win you your entire league in the fantasy playoffs.
Rob Kelley, Washington: Kelley, owner of the best last name in sports, has some buzz right now after three scores in his past two games, including the game-winner in Week 9, but the rest of his stats are underwhelming. He has only 184 rushing yards for the season in six games, good for 3.2 yards per carry on 58 carries. He’s not contributing in the passing game with Chris Thompson around (Kelley has two receptions for 14 yards), and only has one game with more than 30 yards from scrimmage. In Week 10, he faces a Vikings team that hasn’t allowed 100 rushing yards to any team’s running back group all year, and has only allowed two rushing scores to RBs all year.
Kelvin Benjamin, Buffalo Bills: It’s very tempting to throw Benjamin to the wolves in his first game with Buffalo, after a deadline trade and an inactive Week 9. After all, the Bills wouldn’t have traded for him without some plans to use him, right? And later, when the Bills face the Chiefs, Patriots, Colts, Dolphins, Patriots and Dolphins in six straight weeks to end the year, go for it. But this year, Benjamin and the Bills face a suddenly rejuvenated New Orleans pass defense that has allowed only 18 receptions to wide receivers over its past three games. Marshon Lattimore, Ken Crawley and Kenny Vaccaro are as formidable a trio as the Saints have ever had. Pass over Benjamin in his first Bills week.
Julius Thomas, Miami Dolphins: Thomas is miles from his Broncos days, but he is coming off his biggest game as a Dolphin, with season-highs in receptions (6), targets (8), yards (84), and touchdowns (1) in Week 9. Before that, though, he had only topped 30 yards once with Miami, hadn’t scored and hadn’t topped three catches in a game. The Panthers got torched for multiple touchdowns by Darren Fells and Zach Ertz in back-to-back games in Weeks 5-6, but otherwise haven’t allowed a TE touchdown, and kept both of those guys under 30 yards. Thomas is still a quasi-big name, but the production is miles away from that.
Daniel Kelley is the Fantasy Editor for Pro Football Focus.
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