By Stephen Johnson–
(CBS) “Sit ‘Em, Start ‘Em” is a breakdown of some of the best and worst fantasy football matchups to help you navigate setting your lineups for the week.
There are three guarantees in life: death, taxes and the New York Giants giving up a touchdown to a tight end every week. While the Giants defense is a constant, Week 10 provided a mixed bag of performances with many unexpected showings. Among the top 15 at each skill position, a whopping 73 percent performed under projections, the largest number of the year by a wide margin. Despite the usual suspects failing to meet expectations, strong performances from the Saints, Rams and Vikings have Alvin Kamara, Robert Woods and Adam Thielen, respective, entering the top tier of their respective positions. No one would have expected those names to enter the territory they are currently in, but as Week 10 showed us, you need to expect the unexpected in fantasy football.
Bye weeks: Carolina, Indianapolis, New York Jets and San Francisco.
START – Derek Carr, Raiders (vs. Patriots) Carr is finally getting back into fantasy relevancy by passing for 300, 313 and 417 yards over his last three games, the only three he’s passed for more than 300 all year. The Patriots have shown signs of life on defense as of late, holding Matt Ryan, Philip Rivers and Brock Osweiler to an average of 222 yards. Carr should pose more of a challenge than Osweiler, and chances are there won’t be enough fog to make the Oakland Coliseum look like the inside of a cloud. Despite their recent play, New England still allows the most passing yards per game by a wide margin at 299. Regression to the mean should occur Sunday afternoon.
SIT – Jared Goff, Rams (at Vikings) Goff and the Rams have been one of the biggest surprises this year, tearing opposing defenses apart with coach Sean McVay’s newly installed offense, but the schedule has helped. Six of the Rams’ nine opponents to this point were ranked 20th or worse in points allowed to opposing quarterbacks. Goff has gone up against two teams, the Seahawks and Jaguars, ranked among the top 10 this season and has posted an average of 206 yards while completing 48.5 percent of his passes in those games. The Vikings head into this game having allowed fewer than 190 yards passing in four of their last five games, and haven’t allowed multiple passing touchdowns in eight weeks. Minnesota’s rank against opposing quarterbacks? Ninth.
START – Chris Thompson, Redskins (at Saints) Rob Kelley being placed on injured reserve should have Thompson owners salivating over the opportunities that are about to open for him. In the two games Kelley has been inactive, Thompson has averaged 163 yards from scrimmage while increasing his carries share from 27 percent to 40 percent. This game leans more toward Thompson’s style, as the Saints allow the fifth-most receiving yards and second-most receptions to running backs per game. The Redskins will have to keep pace with the Saints in what could be a shootout, and they should look to Thompson to keep the ball moving.
SIT – Joe Mixon, Bengals (at Broncos) Fantasy owners are still waiting for production to catch up to the hype train that is Mixon’s rookie season. It has been five games since Mixon has compiled more than 50 yards rushing and in that span, he’s averaging just 3.3 yards per carry. The Broncos’ rush defense has been reeling in recent weeks, getting torn apart by the Eagles and Patriots in allowing a combined and 289 yards and four touchdowns. Despite the rough patch, the Broncos still maintain the third-lowest yards per carry allowed at 3.4 per game, a stat that doesn’t bode well for a Bengals offense producing the second-fewest rushing yards before contact.
START – Sterling Shepard, Giants (vs. Chiefs) Think Shepard is enjoying his time at the Giants’ WR1? If the stats are any indication, he’s making the most of the opportunity with 22 targets, 16 receptions and 212 yards in the two appearances without Odell Beckham Jr. and Brandon Marshall. Thanks to the ineptitude of the Giants’ defense lately, the offense has found themselves playing from behind often, something that shouldn’t change against the Chiefs. Kansas City is allowing the most fantasy points per game to wide receivers and a whopping 15 touchdowns, which also leads the league.
SIT – Dez Bryant, Cowboys (vs. Eagles) The time to start getting concerned about Bryant as a reliable option is now. Currently, the Cowboys’ WR1 is sitting at WR29 in standard league scoring. It gets no easier this week against the steamrolling Eagles defense that’s allowing the third-fewest points per game to wide receivers over the past four weeks. Not only does the matchup pose a challenge, but Bryant continues to nurse knee and ankle injuries that will keep him limited leading up to last Sunday night’s game. Adding insult to injury in this matchup, the Eagles will more than likely have cornerback Ronald Darby returning to the field for the first time since Week 1.
START – Tyler Kroft, Bengals (at Broncos) It’s too easy to exploit the silver platter being handed to Travis Kelce this week against the Giants, so let’s focus on the second-worst defense against tight ends in the Broncos. Not only is the team from the Mile High City surrendering the second-most TE1 tier games this season with seven, but Denver allows a passing touchdown on 6.7 percent of the throws this season, the highest rate in the league. In two starts against bottom-10 teams against the tight ends, Kroft has averaged 18.2 points per game. Denver has done a respectable job locking down outside threats this season, so Cincinnati should look to the middle of the field for Kroft often.
SIT – Delanie Walker, Titans (at Steelers) The dreaded Thursday game doesn’t set up well for the veteran Walker, who will match up against a Steelers defense allowing only one tight end to eclipse 45 yards receiving this year. That stingy approach has Pittsburgh ranked No. 1 in Football Outsiders’ DOVA (Defense-adjusted Value Over Average) to the position. Soreness from Sunday’s tilt against Cincinnati may also hinder Walker on the short week, as he suffered a wrist injury that has limited him leading up to this week’s game.
Stephen Johnson is 670 The Score’s 2017 Fantasy Football Expert winner. He’s a weekly guest on “Chicago’s Fantasy Football Today,” every Sunday morning during football season from 8.a.m.-9 a.m. CT on WSCR-670 and 670thescore.com/listen. Follow him on Twitter @Stephen_Roto.