By Joe Sparacio
Week 10 is here, which means that many fantasy players face significant matchup questions while missing stars. Although it's not as bad as last week, these teams are off this week:
- Baltimore Ravens
- Kansas City Chiefs
- Oakland Raiders
- Philadelphia Eagles
Stars like Kareem Hunt and Carson Wentz will be out of lineups, but so too will be Ezekiel Elliott, as news broke on Thursday that his most recent injunction was denied in court. What this means is that you'll likely need just a little bit of extra help figuring out which underutilized players might stand in and provide value amid some high-profile absences.
Last week, players like Jacoby Brissett and Devin Funchess paid dividends for astute owners. Who might take their places now? Here are the starts and sits for Week 10:
5 players to start
Christian McCaffrey, RB, Panthers (MIA @ CAR)
The biggest fantasy winner of the trade of Kelvin Benjamin to Buffalo might be McCaffrey. With Devin Funchess left as the only viable WR on the Panthers, the pass-catching rookie running back will undoubtedly be featured prominently throughout the rest of the season as one of Cam Newton's best weapons. McCaffrey played 53 of 65 snaps in Week 9 and has scored TDs in two straight games. Fire him up against a mediocre Dolphins defense.
Matthew Stafford, QB, Lions (CLE @ DET)
Stafford has a number very good games mixed in with a few bad games, which is why he has yet to earn the "elite" moniker (coupled with the fact that he can't seem to win a playoff game). This week, expect the QB to light up Cleveland's subpar pass defense en route to a blowout win in Detroit. The Browns were burned by quarterback like Case Keenum and Jacoby Brissett. Offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter and Stafford are going to have a field day in this game.
Orleans Darkwa, RB, Giants (NYG @ SF)
The Giants have struggled all season. A team that has been worse? You guessed it: The 49ers have given up the most yards on the ground of any team in the NFL to date. Darkwa isn't a star, but he has some burst and the Giants will establish the run early. Darkwa led the Giants' backfield in touches (18) and snaps last week. He should be a top-20 play this week.
A.J. Green, WR, Bengals (CIN @ TEN)
Well, as we all know, Green got a little frustrated last week. His owners in fantasy got more than a little frustrated as well thanks to his ejection. I expect Green to take his frustrations out on a Tennessee defense that has been one of the worst in the league against the pass. There's something to be said for a veteran star wanting to show that he's still got it after getting humiliated, and I think Andy Dalton will force targets his way all game. Everyone who owns Green will be starting him, and the Bengals' star wideout could finish as the top overall fantasy player in Week 10.
Sterling Shepard, WR, Giants (NYG @ SF)
I guess you can call this part of a Giants "stack?" Or, with a possibly more accurate description, an anti-49ers stack. Shepard returned to the field for New York last week and showed a bit of rust, including a few drops. That being said, he should continue to look better in his second game back from injury against the 49ers, who have given up the sixth-most yards through the air. Everyone is mentioning that Evan Engram is a good play this week (and he is, as San Francisco is particularly hapless against tight ends), but Shepard isn't getting the credit he deserves in Week 10 rankings.
5 players to sit
Kelvin Benjamin, WR, Bills (NO @ BUF)
The Bills should be excited that they have a legitimate wide receiver now, but I don't think that he will pay fantasy dividends in Week 10 for a variety of reasons. To start, it takes some time to develop chemistry and learn a new playbook, and Benjamin will have to do just that playing in his first game with Buffalo. Charles Clay is also likely to return this week, giving QB Tyrod Taylor another target in the red zone. Add to that the fact that Benjamin will likely be shadowed by rookie phenom Marshon Lattimore all day, and you have the recipe for a disappointing Week 10 output.
Philip Rivers, QB, Chargers (LAC @ JAX)
Philip Rivers has won 6 of the last 7 against the Jaguars, but it's a new year and a different team. pic.twitter.com/itEj6AdXXR- #Sacksonville (@Jaguars) November 10, 2017
Rivers has had up-and-down results throughout the year at the helm of a Chargers team that still lacks an identity, but if Los Angeles has success in Week 10, it will be on the ground, not through the air. The Jaguars are a shy-away matchup every single week for any QB not named Tom Brady or Aaron Rodgers, as Jalen Ramsey and A.J. Bouye showed us last week. You should avoid playing Keenan Allen if possible, and don't think about touching Rivers in DFS. On the road against the league's best passing defense, I wouldn't be surprised if they gave the rock to Melvin Gordon more than 30 times on Sunday.
C.J. Anderson, Jamaal Charles and Devontae Booker, RB Broncos, (NE @ DEN)
C.J. Anderson on coming home after 3-game roadtrip: "It'll be good if the fans still believe. We get a lot of things on social media whether they believe or not. We need them out there, 76-77,000 strong, yelling, being loud, disrupting Brady and his calls.'' #9sports- Mike Klis (@MikeKlis) November 8, 2017
It's possible that one of these running backs ends up having a good game, but when there's no discernible way to determine which could have a breakout game, it's best to avoid them altogether. The timeshare between the trio is near-even, and they all have different strengths, from pass-catching to running between the tackles. New England struggles to defend the run, but we don't know who is going to get the ball on any given play. This is one of those instances in which the game script is right and the talent exists, but the consistency of the role is lacking for all of them on Sunday night.
Jack Doyle, TE Colts (PIT @ IND)
Doyle has been one of the most consistent producers at the tight end position, and he's on one of the most volatile offenses in the NFL. That should be commended. This all being said, Doyle may struggle this week against a Steelers team that is quite effective at limiting tight ends. Yes, his floor will still be high, as Jacoby Brissett uses him as a safety valve and keeps the targets consistent. I think it'll be tougher to get open for big plays vs. the Steelers, though, and this game may very likely turn into a blowout. Don't expect top-five tight end production.
Jermaine Kearse, WR, Jets (NYJ @ TB)
The Jets' receiving corps shouldn't be scared of a leaky Tampa Bay defense, but Kearse will probably end up on the short end of the stick. This is a blowup spot for Robbie Anderson, who should hog targets, and even Austin-Seferian Jenkins has a good matchup. Bilal Powell will catch passes out of the backfield, especially if Matt Forte sits, and that leaves very few targets for Kearse. Also, it's worth mentioning that Kearse has topped 40 yards in just one of his past six games. I'd take a shot on any other Jets offensive player but Kearse this week with Jeremy Kerley out.
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Joe Sparacio is an associate producer for Sports on Earth. Follow him on Twitter @joetsparacio.