Fantasy Football Week 10: Fact or Fiction?

By James Reagan

After two consecutive weeks with six teams on byes, Week 10 saw just four teams take the week off. Still, fantasy owners with players on the Baltimore Ravens, Kansas City Chiefs, Oakland Raiders and the Philadelphia Eagles had to scramble for bye week replacements, and as in previous bye weeks this season, some of those replacements soared while other ones did barely anything.

The good news for fantasy owners sick of bye-week roster reconfigurations is that next week is the final bye week of the season. Even if your team has clinched a losing season or is on the verge of elimination from the fantasy playoffs, your rosters should be at full strength come Week 12 (barring injuries), and even if that full-strength roster doesn’t look too good, Week 10 showed there should still be plenty of talent left on the waiver wire.

Note: Points in this article are based on ESPN standard scoring.

 

Surprise of the Week: Robert Woods, LAR WR.

Robert Woods is the perfect example of a bye-week replacement that delivered for fantasy owners who chose to roll the dice with him as a starter. Even amidst the constant offensive explosions, the Los Angeles Rams have been really hit or miss with their wide receivers. Entering Week 10, fantasy experts agreed that the trio of Woods, Cooper Kupp and Sammy Watkins had a tantalizing matchup against an injury-ravaged Houston Texans defense. But even so, based on the inconsistence of their receiving game, it was unclear which receiver was the best play for this week.

We may now have some clarity about how the Rams’ receiving game is going to look going forward. Woods had one of the best games of his career with eight catches for 171 yards and two touchdowns, good for 29 fantasy points. Woods led the team in targets with 10, though Todd Gurley and Kupp weren’t too far behind, with each player receiving seven. The former is still the driving force behind the Rams’ explosive offense, though the last two weeks have clearly shown that there is actually a large amount of talent in the Rams’ passing game.

Woods, meanwhile, has four touchdowns in his last two games and over 100 receiving yards in each. Even before these two games, Woods had put up three consecutive performances with at least five receptions and 59 receiving yards. What separates him from the other Rams’ receivers is that Woods is able to provide a vertical element and big-play ability. Both him and Watkins were known for speed and explosiveness as Buffalo Bills, yet for whatever reason, Woods has found it easier to build a rapport with Jared Goff and has thus become his most depended-upon target.

Pessimistic fantasy owners do have potential storm clouds to point to. Woods gets the stingy Minnesota Vikings defense in Week 11 and then the shockingly improved New Orleans Saints in Week 12. Obviously, it would not be surprising to see his numbers drop slightly for those two games. But there’s no good reason for him to be on any fantasy waiver wires moving forward. As a key player on arguably the most explosive offense in football, Woods is now a starting wide receiver regardless of matchup.

Verdict: Fact.

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Studs

Austin Ekeler, LAC RB.

Yes, I know this one hurts big time for fantasy owners of Melvin Gordon, who had a miserable day with only three points. Austin Ekeler had made some waves in the fantasy community in recent weeks by virtue of being the Chargers’ top pass-catching running back. This time out, Ekeler capitalized in both the receiving game and the running game with 10 carries for 42 yards and five catches for 77 yards and two touchdowns, good for 21 fantasy points.

Ekeler was the only Charger to score a touchdown in the game, which ended as a narrow 20-17 loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars in overtime. He had one of his better rushing performances this season with 10 attempts for 42 yards. Gordon had six more attempts, but ended the day with just 27 yards. In the passing game, Ekeler was by far the team leader in both receiving yards and catches, with no other Charger getting more than 49 receiving yards.

Interestingly, both Gordon and Keenan Allen ended up with more targets than Ekeler. Gordon actually led the team with eight targets, though they were almost all dump-offs, as he had just 15 receiving yards on his five catches. It’s really head-scratching to see Gordon and Ekeler get the same amount of receptions and also to see both players have an almost completely even workload as rushers, given just how dominant Gordon was at the beginning of the season.

The dreaded question for Gordon owners is what if this means the Chargers are trying to start a running back committee? I don’t think that’s the direction the Chargers will be going in. Gordon is still a really dependable RB1, with double-digit figures in six of his nine games this season. Ekeler is a valuable handcuff to Gordon and if you’re going to spring for him off the waiver wire this week, understand that’s still what he is.

The Jaguars pass defense is clearly one of the best in the league this season, and so the Chargers had to game-plan around that by getting both running backs heavily involved in the offense. Ekeler was surprisingly more explosive than Gordon, but the former still made some rookie mistakes, including a dreadful fumble that opened up the door for the Jags to tie and then ultimately win the game in overtime. It’s going to take more monster performances like this one for me to think that Ekeler is a worthy fantasy starter in his own right. Nevertheless, his enormous potential was on full display in Week 10 and he has to rank as one of the more intriguing waiver wire options this week.

Verdict: Fiction.

Case Keenum, MIN QB.

The Minnesota Vikings won their fifth consecutive game on Sunday and Case Keenum was a big part of the win. Keenum went 21-of-29 for 304 yards and two touchdowns. This puts him at 24 points, tying another surprising player in C.J. Beathard for third place among quarterbacks this week. The performance was all the more impressive considering that the Washington Redskins’ defense had previously done a good job stifling quarterbacks like Derek Carr and Russell Wilson.

It was not a flawless performance as Keenum also threw two interceptions, both of which occurred late and gave the Washington Redskins hope for pulling off a comeback. Still, it was overall really impressive, especially when considering what’s going on with the Vikings off the field. Would-be franchise quarterback Teddy Bridgewater was on the Vikings’ active roster yesterday for the first time since their Wild Card loss in January 2016. He has amazingly recovered from a horrific knee injury that looked like it could end his career and could be soon be ready to take back his starting job.

It’s a rough position for Keenum to be in and for the Vikings as a whole. First, Sam Bradford was starting and playing really well for Vikings, until he hurt his knee and landed on IR. Now, Keenum is starting and playing some of the best football of his career with a very underrated Vikings pass offense. And even though he’s playing well enough to be a starter in his own right, Keenum could soon be backing up Bridgewater.

The only sure thing from this situation is that Vikings QB is a good person to start in fantasy. Ever since Dalvin Cook was lost for the season, the Vikings have become more and more dependent upon the passing game. Keenum is therefore a solid starting option as long as he’s in there. I just don’t think it’ll be that much longer Bridgewater is ready, so it may behoove Keenum fantasy owners to pick up Bridgewater and to be sure they’re covered regardless which Viking QB is starting.

Verdict: Fiction.

Kirk Cousins, WAS QB.

Even in a tough matchup, Kirk Cousins was able to come through for fantasy owners with a huge day. The Vikings may have won 35-27, heading into tonight’s Monday night game, Cousins is the highest scoring quarterback of the week with 27 points. He went 26-of-45 for 327 yards, a touchdown and an interception – numbers that are actually respectable given how dominant the Vikings defense has looked this season.

More surprisingly, Cousins actually ran the ball effectively with four carries for five yards and two touchdowns. That’s obviously not a major part of his skillset and those goal line runs were in all likelihood forced by necessity, with short yardage back Rob Kelley having to leave the game early.

In the passing game, Cousins continues to put up uneven performances. A lot of that has to do with receivers being either hot or cold and also key players like Jordan Reed being sidelined by injury. The offensive line injuries of the Redskins have also contributed mightily to Cousins’ struggles in his two consecutive duds before yesterday’s game, both of which saw him score 10 or fewer points.

On the horizon, there is some reason for hope. Seemingly out of nowhere, the Saints have become one of those defenses that fantasy owners don’t want to start players against. The Redskins draw the Saints next week and then play two successive Thursdays against the divisional rival New York Giants and the Dallas Cowboys, both teams that have struggled some on defense. It’s a stretch that should make or break their season, which currently sees them as a slightly disappointing 4-5 team that is barely hanging on to playoff contention.

If he’s your starting QB right now, you’re probably keeping Cousins in regardless of the matchup. Even with the appealing divisional matchups on deck, it’s really hard to know what to expect since it seems everyone except Cousins is dinged up on offense. I prefer to take the optimistic route and assume that Cousins is going to be rewarding fantasy owners during the playoffs, especially since it’s his final audition before the 2018 free agency period where he is supposed to cash in big time.

Verdict: Fact.

Duds

Tarik Cohen, CHI RB.

Just two months after the Chicago Bears started out the season with what looked like the league’s best running back tandem, things have changed drastically. Jordan Howard, last year’s second place finisher in rushing yards, is still getting a ton of carries and has five double digit fantasy points this season. His rookie counterpart Tarik Cohen on the other hand, is becoming an after thought that has almost no impact whatsoever on an already terrible Bears offense.

Ever since his Week 1 explosion against the Atlanta Falcons, Cohen has had zero games with double digit fantasy points in standard leagues. He’s still had four decent games of six or more points, where either lots of short receptions or a touchdown salvaged his otherwise unremarkable day. But overall, it’s clear that the arrow is trending downward and at a rapid pace.

In Week 10, Cohen managed one fantasy point. He had one catch for 10 yards and one rush for one yard. More disconcertingly, Benny Cunningham came in on passing downs and ended the day with three catches for 32 yards. Even though Cunningham lost a fumble, this seems like a backfield shift that is not at all in Cohen’s favor.

Now, instead of being the pass-catching back, Cohen looks like a change of pace back who only comes in when either Howard or Cunningham need to be spelled. In the last three games, Cohen has 17 total touches. This is as bad as it looks. Unless something changes drastically or you are in a very deep PPR league, Cohen does not need to be rostered at this point.

Verdict: Fact.

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Leonard Fournette, JAC RB.

After missing one game due to injury and another due to missing a team function, Leonard Fournette owners were likely anxious to see if he could get back on the field and produce like he had been during the first month of the season. The good news for Week 10 is that Fournette stayed healthy and received 17 carries. The bad news is that those carries went for just 33 yards and adding in two receptions for 13 yards leaves Fournette with a miserable four-point day.

To pile on that misery, Blake Bortles had a better rushing day than Fournette. Bortles out performed Fournette by just one yard, on a day where the Jags were able to find a way to grind out a win, despite not doing much on offense. Largely due to Fournette’s struggles and because they were trailing the Chargers for a long period of time, Bortles threw 51 passes, and not surprisingly, two of those were interceptions, including one late in the fourth quarter that almost cost the Jags the game.

But they did win and with Bortles reverting back to throwing interceptions for the first time in two games, it’s a reminder that he can’t be expected to throw the team to victory. Jacksonville is 6-3 and tied for first in the AFC South mostly because of its defense, which despite having a bad day, remains one of the top fantasy options at the position. They also need a stingy running game and even with TJ Yeldon doing all right in Fournette’s absence, the rookie is still by far the best running back that the Jaguars have.

Fournette should be able to bounce back, maybe as soon as next week when they take on the winless Cleveland Browns, a matchup that should have multiple Jaguars listed as good starts for Week 11. The Browns and Jaguars have played their fair share of toilet bowls in recent years, but with serious playoff possibilities on the line in Jacksonville, it has the potential to be a bounce back game for Fournette and potentially even a blowout win for the Jaguars.

Verdict: Fiction.

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