At least a couple times each season, we have weeks that shake up the entire fantasy football landscape. Week 10 was one of them. Injuries to Cooper Kupp and Zach Ertz grabbed the biggest headlines of the week, but there were more things that should move the needle for fantasy enthusiasts.
There were wide receiver breakouts with Christian Watson and Kadarius Toney. Jonathan Taylor and Dalvin Cook rumbled back to life. Matt Ryan got his job back. Clyde Edwards-Helaire lost his. That, and plenty of other moves, meant that we need to get back in the lab and figure out what moves come next. That means finding potential off-the-beaten-path sources of scoring. Welcome back to the sleepers column. Let's get some names.
Last week, I wasn’t a big fan of Jones’ matchup against the Houston Texans. Despite being a bad team, the Texans are getting gashed on the ground, not through the air. Yardage-wise, that fear had merit. Jones had fewer than 200 passing yards and ran for just 24. But a pair of touchdown passes meant he ended up with a decent fantasy day. Trust the process, though, right?
This week, the process says Jones is a solid start against a continually bad Lions defense. They continue to be fodder for opposing quarterbacks. Detroit is allowing the most fantasy points per game to the position. The biggest culprit has been the Lions' inability to stop running quarterbacks. Justin Fields and Jalen Hurts combining for 237 yards is one thing. Geno Smith going for 49 yards (more than 20 percent of his rushing total for the season) is another. Jones enters the week among the top five quarterbacks in rushing yards -- look for him to add to that total this week.
You don’t need me to tell you how much of a struggle this season has been for Wilson. The Broncos’ offense ranks last in total points scored and points per game. Only twice have they scored more than 20 points in a game. In short, it’s been all bad for Russ and his Mile High posse this year. But there’s a silver lining. Better yet, a silver-and-black lining in the form of the Las Vegas Raiders.
Denver’s Week 4 loss was Russ’ best fantasy game all season. It was the only game in which he threw multiple touchdowns. He also notched his only rushing score of the year. After surrendering nearly 23 fantasy points to Matt Ryan last week, there’s no indication that the Raiders defense has made any significant improvement. If there’s ever a chance for Russ to get right, it’s this week.
For as good as the Bills offense is, it’s been hard to peg any consistent starters beyond Josh Allen and Stefon Diggs. Buffalo’s backfield has especially been a headache. Singletary remains the lead back, even if his production gives off heavy RB3 vibes. But in the right situation, he can be a nice fit for your lineup.
This week looks like one of those situations. The Browns have been a salve for plenty of wounded running games this season. Don’t believe me? In Week 10, the Dolphins had three top-15 fantasy running backs in their win over Cleveland. Yes, Alec Ingold finished as the RB15 last week. Allen has been bitten by the turnover bug recently, so it wouldn’t be a surprise to see the Bills take a little bit off their quarterback’s plate and give it to the running back who scored two touchdowns in Week 10.
I understand if you’ve decided you want nothing to do with the Chiefs backfield for the remainder of the season. It’s more muddled than a mojito with neither of the three backs putting up suitable numbers. But while the more intrepid among us are gravitating toward Isiah Pacheco, I tend to favor the veteran. Why? Receptions. Pacheco had the lion’s share of snaps and carries in last week’s win, he didn’t see a single target – and has just three targets all season. Meanwhile, McKinnon caught six of his eight targets. That alone allowed him to nearly match Pacheco’s fantasy point total in Week 10.
It’s also important in an offense that’s as pass-heavy as any in the NFL. Not only do the Chiefs trust him to catch the ball, they feel comfortable with his pass-protection skills. This week’s matchup against the Chargers does offer some upside for Pacheco since Los Angeles continues to be a rest haven for running backs. But with the value of a target being so much greater than the value of a rushing attempt, McKinnon could be the better play for fantasy managers.
Last year, I was a proponent of Slayton as a fantasy sleeper. I was very wrong. Slayton had his worst professional season and finished with fewer than 350 receiving yards. I didn’t bother to re-up that subscription in 2022. While I’m not enamored with the Giants passing game, it would be foolish not to recognize that Slayton has come to life recently. In Big Blue’s last three games, he leads in targets and had a whopping 38.6% of the air yards.
He’s getting hot at the right time. The Lions are up next on the schedule. Have we mentioned that Detroit’s defense is bad? Because it is. In the past two weeks, the Lions have allowed the second-most fantasy points per game to receivers. One of those games was against a Bears offense that only threw the ball 20 times and didn’t have a wide receiver reach 60 yards. Look for the Giants to air it out a little more and Slayton to be a heavy recipient of those throws.
I know this feels like chasing the points. I’m also aware that I tweeted out a warning about Watson last Sunday. Let’s keep things positive and hope that what we saw in Week 10 was the beginning of something special. Watson's role as a deep threat was always going to make him volatile. It got even worse when the Packers’ passing game turned out to be unproductive. But with Romeo Doubs still out and the Green Bay receiving corps shorthanded, Watson should see more attention.
That brings us to Week 11 and the Tennessee Titans. They’ve been an easy mark for anyone looking for fantasy receiver production. Seven different pass catchers have had at least 80 receiving yards against the Titans. Four different receivers have posted a top-12 weekly finish. Expecting another three-touchdown performance from Watson is ambitious, but there’s a path to him having another solid week.
We’ve gotten excited about the Bears offense in a way few thought possible after the first few weeks of the season. Justin Fields is blossoming as a quarterback prospect and Cole Kmet has caught fire. But let’s not overlook hat Mooney has quietly put up consistent numbers. After bottoming out in Weeks 2 and 3, Mooney’s floor has been around seven points the ceiling hitting around 17. Not bad for a guy considered a low-end WR2 in most leagues before the year. Fields’ progression has only increased our optimism.
Now the Bears face an Atlanta secondary that has been shredded for much of the year. Chicago’s passing volume might still be low, but the increased efficiency means Mooney can still produce without as many targets -- especially when he’s gobbling up more than 1/3 of the team’s air yards. Both teams will lean on the run in this contest but when the Bears throw, look for Mooney to see plenty of targets in what has become a narrowly-funneled passing game.
The Packers passing game has been a bit more widely spread than we’re used to seeing. But trust remains a big part of who’s seeing targets from Aaron Rodgers. It appears that Christian Watson has been added to the Trust Tree after his big Week 10. Tonyan has nested in that tree for a couple of seasons now. As Rodgers has cycled through Watson, Allen Lazard, Romeo Doubs, and others, Tonyan has been a consistent presence in the lineup and is second on the team in receiving yards.
I wrote earlier about the Titans' struggles against wide receivers this year. They haven’t been much better against tight ends. Tennessee has allowed the sixth-most catches and the fourth-most yards to the position. They’ve also been attacked by tight ends in the red zone, facing 12 tight end targets from the 20-yard line and in. If Green Bay really is turning a corner offensively, Tonyan is in position to excel this week.
Yes, I swung and missed on Dulcich last week. Also, yes, he was playing the same Titans defense against which I’m promoting Robert Tonyan this week. Dulcich’s failure wasn’t for lack of opportunity. He had four targets. The issue was that he only caught one of them for 11 yards. Nevertheless, he’s still on the field a ton and running plenty of routes. Chalk up last week to the vagaries of streaming tight ends in fantasy football.
Alas, we persist. Dulcich and the Broncos have a nice matchup against the woebegone Raiders defense. Tight ends have found the end zone six times against the Silver and Black this season. Only three teams have allowed more receiving scores to the position. With Jerry Jeudy nursing an ankle injury, that means more opportunity could be coming Dulcich’s way.
If we had told you before the season that the best way to stream defenses would be to pick on the defending Super Bowl champion Rams, you would have blocked us on Twitter. And I wouldn’t have blamed you. It seemed like an impossible notion that Los Angeles’ offense could fall so far, so fast. But here we are. Sean McVay’s offensive line has been a disaster, they can’t run the ball and the quarterback is constantly under pressure.
To make matters worse, the Rams are now going to be without star receiver Cooper Kupp for an extended period -- possibly the remainder of the season. That removes the one thing opposing defenses truly had to scheme for. The Saints defense has been a shadow of itself this season, but this is an opportunity to put up a good fantasy number.
Marcas Grant is a fantasy analyst for NFL.com and a man who is being strong-armed into putting up Christmas decorations before Thanksgiving. Send him your holiday pet peevesor fantasy football questions on Twitter @MarcasG or TikTok at marcasgrant.