In general, we’ve had a pretty decent fantasy prognostication season thus far. But nobody’s perfect. Last week we gave you four “exploits” and three “avoids.” Although all the exploit recommendations paid off, we whiffed on two of three on the other side of the ledger. In our defense, we did list several Ravens as “playable,” but we overestimated Bill Belichick’s ability to devise a solution for Lamar Jackson. We had no such reservations, however, about telling you to avoid the Cardinals versus San Fran. Obviously, Kenyan Drake’s performance – after just a few days with the team – surprised us as much as it did the 49ers.
So, as NFL coaches like to say, we have some things to “clean up” this week.
On to Week 10 …
MATCHUPS TO EXPLOIT
Ravens (@ Bengals) Sunday, noon
The Ravens are coming off a huge win against New England, so it would not be surprising if there was a bit of a let down in this game. However, the Bengals are so awful, the worst-case scenario for Baltimore is probably a slow start. If the Ravens do struggle early, Jackson will likely crank off a monster run, or chuck a long one to Hollywood Brown. There is no conceivable way the woeful Bengals can contain the Ravens No. 1 rushing attack. Cincinnati’s defense is ranked dead last in rushing yards and total yards allowed. They are tied with Carolina for the dubious distinction of yielding the most yards (5.1) per carry. The Ravens are 10-point favorites, and that seems ridiculously low.
Must start: Jackson, Mark Ingram, Mark Andrews, Justin Tucker, Ravens D/ST
Solid play: Brown
Worth a look: Gus Edwards, Willie Snead, Nick Boyle, Hayden Hurst
Last resort: Justice Hill
Buccaneers (vs. Cardinals) Sunday, noon
Jameis Winston might not be Tampa’s QB beyond this season, but he has been a viable fantasy option all year. He is tied for 5th (with Kirk Cousins) in passing TDs with 16, and his 2,407 passing yards rank him 7th among all quarterbacks. He has thrown at least one TD in every game this year, and he has thrown for multiple TDs in five games. Winston has surpassed 300 yards passing in five of his last six games. He is a top-five QB option this week. Although the Bucs are a disappointing 19th in rushing yards, they are fourth in scoring at 28.8 points per game. They’ll be facing an Arizona squad that played well last Thursday against San Francisco. The Cards will also benefit from an extra three days of rest. Arizona should compete in this game – and have a solid shot at winning – but they will likely give up a fair amount of points. Their defense is 30th in total yards allowed and 29th in passing yards allowed. The Bucs’ O.J. Howard (hamstring) is expected to play.
Must start: Winston, Mike Evans, Chris Godwin
Solid play: Ronald Jones, Matt Gay
Worth a look: Howard*
Last resort: Peyton Barber, Cameron Brate*, Bucs D/ST
49ers (vs. Seahawks) Monday, 7:15
San Francisco is a six-point favorite on Monday. With the over/under at 49.5, the 49ers are projected to score 27.75, which is under their average of 29.4. Perhaps they will do a little better. The Seahawks are an excellent offensive squad, but have played mediocre (at best) defense. Seattle is 25th in yards allowed and their 25.6 points allowed per game is 22nd in the league. Surfing through a good number of fantasy projections for this week, Jimmy Garoppolo carries an aggregate QB ranking in the 14-16 range. We think he’ll do better – more like No. 10. He’s quickly developing a nice rapport with Emmanuel Sanders – another guy we’re high on this week. Both of them are borderline must starts. Outside of the realm of fantasy football, this should be a terrific game to watch, a rare Monday night gem.
Must start: George Kittle, Sanders
Solid play: Garoppolo, Robbie Gould, Tevin Coleman, 49ers D/ST
Worth a look: Matt Breida
Last resort: Deebo Samuel
MATCHUPS TO AVOID
Lions (@ Bears) Sunday, noon
As the entire free world now knows, the way to attack the Bears defense is by continually pounding the rock between the tackles. Unfortunately for Detroit’s offense, they are ranked 21st in rushing and average just 3.7 yards per carry. Despite a current four-game losing streak, the Bears defense is still ranked 8th in total yards and rushing yards. When teams have exposed Chicago’s defense, it’s been partially due to Mitch Trubisky and the inept offense. With the Bears continually going three-and-out on offense, the defense has worn down late in games. That might not be the case here. The Lions are terrible on defense. Facing the Bears last season, Matthew Stafford threw for 274 yards, two TDs, two picks, and a 74.9 rating in Week 10. At home in Week 12, he mustered just 236 yards, no TDs, two INTs and a 67.4 rating. The over/under in this game is a paltry 41.5 with the Bears favored by 2.5 (a projected 19.5 points for Detroit).
Must start: Kenny Golladay
Solid play: Marvin Jones
Worth a look: Stafford, T.J. Hockenson, Matt Prater
Last resort: Ty Johnson, J.D. McKissic
Stay away: Lions D/ST
Falcons (@ Saints) Sunday, noon
How do you a fix a floundering 1-7 team that features the league’s 24th-ranked defense? That’s simple: Just move your WRs coach to secondary coach, and make your RBs coach your WRs coach. If that’s the best head coach Dan Quinn can come up with, he might want to update his Linkedin profile. Matt Ryan should play, which will help, but the Saints defense is rounding into one of the NFL’s best. The Falcons have nothing to play for – save pride and Quinn’s job – and they’ll be in the hostile environs of Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
Must start: Julio Jones
Solid play: Ryan, Austin Hooper
Worth a look: Devonta Freeman, Calvin Ridley
Last resort: Younghoe Koo
Stay away: Ito Smith*, Falcons D/ST
Bills (@ Browns) Sunday, noon
We were desperate to find a third avoid recommendation. We narrowed it down to this matchup and the Steelers at home against the Rams. We let the betting line break the tie: The Steelers are 3.5-point dogs at home on an over/under of 45; a projected output of 21. The Bills are three-point dogs in Cleveland with an over/under of 40.5 (the lowest of the week). That equates to 18.75 points for Buffalo. We’re not suggesting you sit all your Bills, just don’t expect much from the passing game. The Browns defense is suspect, but not awful. The unit ranks 30th against the run, but is 6th versus the pass. Expect the Bills to try and run the ball with Devin Singletary continuing to get the lion’s share of the touches.
Must start: none
Solid play: Singletary, John Brown, Bills D/ST
Worth a look: Josh Allen, Frank Gore
Last resort: Cole Beasley, Dawson Knox, Stephen Hauschka
Stay away: Tyler Kroft
*Check injury status