Atlanta Falcons @ New Orleans Saints
The Saints came off their bye with a healthier Drew Brees and the week’s highest implied team total by a comfortable margin yet laid an egg, failing to score a touchdown at home against a Falcons defense that came in ranked 30th in DVOA. In fact, Atlanta was in the bottom-five in fantasy points allowed to both quarterbacks and wide receivers this season, yet Brees managed just 6.4 YPA and helped the Falcons nearly double their previous league-low sack total with six. Brees’ struggles didn’t matter to Michael Thomas, who secured 13-of-14 targets for 152 yards and is in the middle of an epic season. Despite a modest four touchdowns on the year, Thomas has separated himself as the clear No. 1 wide receiver in fantasy football (his season-high 14 targets came despite Jared Cook, Alvin Kamara and Tre’Quan Smith all returning to health, and his 86 catches are the most ever through nine games).
Although it came at a tough time for fantasy players who had high expectations in this smash spot, this should be viewed as nothing more than a small blip for the Saints offense, which figures to bounce back in a highly favorable spot in Tampa Bay next week (and then gets another shot at these Falcons a couple of weeks afterward) … An unexpected game script hurt Kamara and Latavius Murray, while Cook should be treated as an easy TE1 down the stretch.
Julio Jones hasn’t scored a touchdown in six straight games after recording four over his first three, and a hobbled Matt Ryan didn’t have to throw as much as expected while playing mostly with the lead. Devonta Freeman left with a foot injury, and Brian Hill took over and recorded 20 carries (and a TD catch). With Ito Smith on IR and Freeman’s status unclear, Hill will be the top waiver priority this week and should be bid on aggressively. He’s capable of being a three-down back on an offense that still possesses some nice skill position weapons, so Hill could be a real fantasy difference-maker down the stretch in a featured role. He gets a prime matchup next against a Carolina defense that entered this week ranked No. 3 against the pass and last versus the run. This was the first time a 1-7 team beat a 7-1 team since 2003.
Kansas City Chiefs @ Tennessee Titans
Ryan Tannehill has now gotten 8.5 YPA or better in four of five starts (he had a 3:0 TD:INT ratio in the other), while Patrick Mahomes looked plenty healthy in a terrific performance during his return, and I’d like to see Mecole Hardman race Tyreek Hill. Mahomes didn’t have a carry but attempted 50 passes and can once again be treated as the No. 1 fantasy QB each week … Derrick Henry predictably had a big game against a Chiefs defense that entered ranked 28th in run defense DVOA, and while Damien Williams lost a fumble (that was returned for a TD), LeSean McCoy was a healthy scratch, and Damien out-touched Darrell Williams, 24-3. Treat Damien as an RB2 moving forward … Hill saw a whopping 19 targets and at times looked unguardable, while I didn’t expect Kalif Raymond to have more receiving yards (on one target) than A.J. Brown and Adam Humphries combined with Corey Davis sidelined … Coach Mike Vrabel somehow remains undefeated when leading at halftime.
Buffalo Bills @ Cleveland Browns
Baker Mayfield played better, and the Browns won despite comically inept red-zone execution that at one point saw them fail to score on eight straight plays inside the five. Nick Chubb remained Cleveland’s workhorse, and it’s crazy he was able to get 5.8 YPC while being stuffed at the goal line so many times. Kareem Hunt looked plenty good himself, drawing nine targets and leading all backs in WOPR during his first action of the year, so he’s already a viable flex option in PPR leagues … Devin Singletary got 5.3 YPC, led Buffalo in carries and even saw eight targets, but that resulted in just 50 YFS with Josh Allen recording both rushing scores (Frank Gore stole another GL carry as well). Singletary managers can expect a bounce back against Miami next week … John Brown has recorded between 4-7 catches and 51-77 yards in all eight, remarkably consistent games since Week 1.
Arizona Cardinals @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Kyler Murray tossed three TDs and led Arizona in rushing, while Jameis Winston once again had a better fantasy game than he did a real one for the Bucs … O.J. Howard saw a season-high seven targets and scored against the Cards’ TE-friendly defense, while Ronald Jones had a big PPR game, securing all eight targets while scoring on the ground. Unfortunately, he split carries evenly with Peyton Barber, even ceding a late goal-line score, but Jones has the fantasy upside to make a major impact down the stretch … Christian Kirk was a monster, taking advantage of a plus matchup to score the first three touchdowns of his career (only Tyreek Hill had more air yards this week) … David Johnson had a tough matchup, but he’s clearly not right and his lost fumble was somehow the first of the season for the Cardinals … There was blatant pass interference during the game’s final play that would’ve put Arizona in field goal range, and the league didn’t even bother to review it for reasons that remain unclear (aside from none being overturned anyway).
New York Giants @ New York Jets
Quarterbacks outshined the big-name running backs in the battle of New York. Sam Darnold played well in the Jets win, but Daniel Jones was fantastic, throwing four touchdowns (no picks) without Evan Engram and Sterling Shepard (and three O-line starters) and with Saquon Barkley rushing for one yard. Danny Dimes is going to have plenty of growing pains, but it’s insane that pretty much everyone who covers the NFL draft thought it was objectively dumb he was taken ahead of Dwayne Haskins, when now the opposite is true. Dave Gettleman deserves a ton of credit for making such a controversial decision, as I’m certain I thought he was foolish at the time myself … What a play by Jamal Adams … Barkley and Le’Veon Bell didn’t look healthy (they had a long run of four(!) yards on a combined 31 carries), while Darius Slayton continues to look like a budding star. He pulled down two more scores on 14 targets, ranks top-10 in air yards over the last five weeks and should continue to be heavily targeted with Engram and Shepard out indefinitely and Barkley hobbled. Slayton looks like another great pick by Gettleman (and an absolute steal in the late fifth round) and a must-add in all fantasy leagues (available in 90% on Yahoo).
Baltimore Ravens @ Cincinnati Bengals
Lamar Jackson attempted 17 passes Sunday and produced 13.1 YPA and three TD strikes, adding another 65 yards and a score on the ground while continuing to play at an MVP level and having the Ravens look as dangerous as any team in the AFC. Kevin Harlan with the call ... With all of Baltimore’s success, Mark Ingram’s season has to be a little disappointing considering he’s stayed healthy, although he did run in his eighth TD of the year … Ryan Finley played about as well as could be expected, while Joe Mixon reached 100 rushing yards for the first game this season (still no rushing scores) … Mark Andrews, who’d been struggling with drops recently, made a few nice grabs during his two-TD day.
Detroit Lions @ Chicago Bears
The Lions were plenty competitive despite starting Jeff Driskel at QB, who improbably kept Kenny Golladay and Marvin Jones’ values afloat … Mitchell Trubisky’s rough first half contributed to an unexpected game script for David Montgomery’s fantasy managers, who suffered from it as a result. It’s hard to get excited about Montgomery in all but the most favorable matchups right now, although Trubisky’s second half was at least a little encouraging.
Miami Dolphins @ Indianapolis Colts
Brian Hoyer proved even the Colts’ offensive system has its limits, throwing three picks and getting just 5.2 YPA at home in a dome against a Miami pass defense that entered ranked last in DVOA. Hoyer doubled the Dolphins’ season interception output and most importantly, ended my Survivor year (Dolphins fans can’t be too happy either after watching the Tua/Burrow sweepstakes over the weekend)… Marlon Mack, Zach Pascal, DeVante Parker and Mike Gesicki all disappointed, but Kalen Ballage will be an RB2 option at home against the Bills in Week 11 despite some horrific efficiency Sunday ... Every Colts game this season has been decided by seven points or fewer (second-longest start in NFL history), and they remain winless when T.Y. Hilton doesn’t play throughout his eight-year career. It’s not a stretch to say Adam Vinatieri has cost the Colts three games this season, and this time the laces were out.
Carolina Panthers @ Green Bay Packers
Christian McCaffrey was ruled just short of the goal line on the final play of an entertaining game highlighted by Troy Aikman’s inability to understand why Carolina would go for two down eight (a generally smart move even before factoring in the weather conditions). The Panthers also wisely committed PI on purpose at the end of the first half (the Packers were then stuffed while bypassing a FG attempt as a bonus result). It’s a testament to CMC’s season when this performance feels like a letdown, as he’s running away with the crown as the league’s best back right now … Davante Adams looked healthier, while D.J. Moore was Josh Hermsmeyer’s No. 1 buy-low target in his Air Yards model for the last two weeks even before he saw another 11 looks Sunday, so he’s very much “due” to score soon … What an odd season for Aaron Jones, who somehow hadn’t run for a touchdown in five games before Sunday, yet he’s now up to an NFL-leading 14 TDs on the season. His 11 rushing touchdowns on 135 attempts is obviously unsustainable, but it’s also true Jones has been close to a handful of other scores this year. He’s on pace to finish with the best fantasy season ever for a back without 20 carries in a game.
Los Angeles Rams @ Pittsburgh Steelers
Jared Goff committed three turnovers and has gotten 6.7 YPA with a 6:6 TD:INT ratio on the road this season, while Cooper Kupp was somehow held catch-less despite entering with the most 100-yard receiving games in the league and against a Pittsburgh defense that had been gashed for the most fantasy points to the slot this year … Jaylen Samuels was held in check, while Gerald Everett saw a game-high 12 targets and remains a viable TE1 moving forward … The Rams started this season 3-0 and the Steelers 0-3, yet these teams share the same record thanks in no small part to LA’s offensive line play, which looks absolutely nothing like last year’s dominant version … Minkah Fitzpatrick has recorded five takeaways and scored two touchdowns over the last three games.
Minnesota Vikings @ Dallas Cowboys
Kirk Cousins got the Vikings a win, but Dak Prescott had a much bigger fantasy game. Amari Cooper looked plenty healthy after an MRI scare, while Michael Gallup and Randall Cobb also ate against a Minnesota secondary that’s increasingly more inviting, although Minnesota’s defense did hold Ezekiel Elliott to his fewest ever rushing yards in a home game … Stefon Diggs saw a modest five targets with no Adam Thielen, although Byron Scott had plenty to do with it, as Kyle Rudolph was the primary beneficiary with two scores and a two-point conversion … Dalvin Cook had another monstrous performance, although he ruined a 100-yard rushing game (and potential scoring bonus for some) during a four-yard loss on his final carry. Cook is on pace for 2,264 scrimmage yards and 16 touchdowns this season.