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Starts and Fades: Week 10

No season in NFL history has seen as much offense as this season. The league as a whole is currently on pace to beat both the previous yardage and scoring records, and by decent margins on both fronts. This surge is being spearheaded by a wave of young offensive minds taking over as head coaches. These coaches are not afraid to borrow the high-flying concepts colleges have been using to put up video game scores, and in the copycat NFL these concepts have spread like wildfire.

Of course, this has made for one heck of a year for fantasy football. An astounding 17 QBs – just over half the starters in the league – are on track for 30 passing touchdowns this season. Oh, and that list includes Ryan Fitzpatrick and Carson Wentz, both of whom are on track to hit 30 touchdowns despite missing games (Fitzpatrick has 5 starts, Wentz has 6). This offensive boom has been a boon for fantasy teams everywhere…if you’re picking the right players to start. That’s where we come in. However, before we get to this week’s starts and fades, let’s look at how we did last week.

Last Week’s Starts: Vance McDonald, D. J. Moore, Adrian Peterson, Brandin Cooks, Marquez Valdes-Scantling

Despite seeing 6 targets, McDonald was only able to corral 3 for 25 yards. At least we weren’t entirely off-base though as fellow Pittsburgh TE Jesse James caught 2 for 53 yards of his own. That’s a combined mark of 5/78/0, which would be a pretty solid line…if it weren’t split across two players. Moore did manage to post another 32 yards on the ground, but was not involved much in the passing game (1/16/0) as the Panthers held a comfortable lead for most of the day. I’m not even sure what happened to Peterson. After torching the Panthers, Cowboys, and Giants, Peterson was held to a mere 17 yards on the ground by the same Falcons team that gave up 82 yards to Peyton Barber at a clip of 6.3 YPC. At least Cooks (6/114/1) and MVS (3/101/0) hit home with solid weeks.

Last Week’s Fades: James Conner, Kerryon Johnson, Phillip Lindsay

Conner had an up-and-down season before this week. He was able to take advantage of some easy matchups (Cleveland x2, Atlanta, Cincinnati) but struggled otherwise, including a forgettable performance against a very weak Chiefs run defense. The first time he met the Ravens this year, he was only able to post 44 total yards on 12 touches. Consider his 107 yards rushing and 7/56/1 receiving line against the Ravens this week to be his official ascension to the elite ranks of fantasy backs as he was able to stick it to a tough run D on the road. Johnson and Lindsay were not so productive, as predicted. Johnson ran into problems against a stiff Vikings defense, and Lindsay was limited to his lowest efficiency of the year.

Overall, we were a bit hit-or-miss last week. Let’s see if we can drop the miss part this week.

Starts

Vance McDonald

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Part of me feels like a sucker for continuously putting McDonald in here, but it’s really hard not to. The guy has immense talent, and the Steelers have fed him just often enough to keep us coming back for more (even if it’s less often than we fantasy players would like to see). As a result, whenever the Steelers face a defense that’s weak to TEs I can’t stop myself from listing McDonald here. And boy, does he have a good matchup this week. Over the last 4 weeks, the Panthers have let up 35 catches for 400 yards and 5 touchdowns to opposing TEs. That’s an average of 9/100/1 per week. It doesn’t get much better than this. Cue Jesse James breakout game in 3, 2…

Mark Ingram

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Ingram’s certainly had a rough first half of the 2018 season. After being suspended for the first four games, he comes back only to underwhelm for the next four. If not for his two-touchdown effort in week 5 we’d be talking about how he’s waiver wire fodder by now. Before we get too carried away though, let’s look at his opponents in those four weeks; Washington, Baltimore, Minnesota, and the L. A. Rams. All except L. A. are well within the top half of the league in YPC allowed, and Baltimore and Minnesota are well within the top 10. While the Rams may not have the stout run D the others have, they do have a prolific offense that forced the Saints to go pedal to the metal, a game script that favors Alvin Kamara over Ingram. What I’m trying to say is that Ingram hasn’t exactly been facing cupcake teams. Cue a Bengals team allowing the third highest YPC in the league, missing their top offensive weapon in A. J. Green, and likely will be struggling to run the ball against the Saints’ league-leading run D. Given that it’s looking like a positive game script against a weak run D, Ingram should finally have his breakout game this year.

Duke Johnson

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I fully admit that this may just be a knee-jerk reaction to Duke’s stellar game against the Chiefs, but it’s hard not to like this matchup nonetheless. New leadership takes over and Johnson’s role immediately explodes against a team with a high-flying offense that is susceptible to pass-catching backs. The next team up? Also boasts a high-flying offense that is susceptible to pass-catching backs. If new OC Freddie Kitchens calls a similar game, Johnson should be in for another good week.

Aaron Jones

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With the Green Bay backfield down to just two, Jones looked poised to deliver as the definite lead back against a weak New England run D. While he was efficient, Green Bay trailed the entire game which reduced Jones’s workload. Miami doesn’t boast nearly as capable an offense, and is similarly susceptible to the run. If Aaron Rodgers can get the Packers out to an early lead against the dink-and-dunk Brock Lobster, Jones should have the true breakout game we’ve been waiting for all season.

Fades

Joe Mixon

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Mixon has been a revelation this year, easily propelling himself into back-end RB1 territory on a weekly basis. However, this may not be the week to start him if you have the option. The Saints boast the toughest run defense in the league, allowing a scant 3.4 YPC. To make matters worse, the Saints offense is an absolute machine, forcing opponents to ditch the run game in an effort to keep up. The final nail in the coffin? A. J. Green is out. Without the premier playmaker on the outside, the Saints don’t have much to fear in the passing game. Mixon is likely to find himself staring down the toughest run D in the league while running with a negative game script with minimal help from the passing game to take the heat off. That does not bode well for the young back’s prospects this week.

James White

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White has been one of the biggest surprises of the season. Thrust into a premier role after the Patriots backfield was decimated by injuries, he actually added some decent rushing production to go with an overload of catches. Add in the slew of high-powered offenses the Patriots have had to contend with over the last several weeks (Indianapolis, Kansas City, Chicago, Green Bay) that forced the Pats to pass even more than usual and we have White currently sitting as a mid-range RB1. That’s unlikely to continue this week. The Titans offense is far from being a juggernaut, and backfield mate Sony Michel is on track to return to his lead back duties. With less field time and fewer passes, White’s role should be significantly diminished this week.

Brandin Cooks

NFL: Los Angeles Chargers at Los Angeles Rams

We correctly predicted Cooks’s strong game last week, but his stat line may not look so rosy this week. Seattle’s defense has slowly grown into its own over the course of the season and is pretty solid at stopping the deep ball that Cooks specializes in. The easier way to attack the Seahawks is underneath, which Cooper Kupp and Robert Woods are better poised to do. Cooks will undoubtedly get something – the Rams offense is still a juggernaut regardless of the defense they face – but don’t expect another 100+ yard effort boosted by a touchdown.

Ezekiel Elliott

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Ever since thrashing the Lions in week 4, Zeke has struggled to find his groove; he’s fallen under 3 YPC twice and has only broken 100 yards rushing once in the four games since then. His path doesn’t get any easier this week as the Eagles are allowing the second fewest rushing yards per game in the NFL. It’s possible Amari Cooper opens up the offense a bit to give Zeke more room to run, but I just don’t see him getting enough space against the Eagles’ stout front seven. Making his job even harder is that the Cowboys will likely be playing in catchup mode all day as the Philadelphia offense continues to settle in.

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