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Week 9 was a tough week for favorites, for overdogs, for brand-name teams and high-flying offenses.
In Week 10, some of those franchises got their revenge. And let’s start with the Dallas Cowboys and Buffalo Bills.
To be fair, the schedule played nicely for the Pokes and the Bills. Dallas hosted the Falcons on Sunday, the second-worst defense in the league. Buffalo traveled to the Jets, facing the worst defense in football. This is what you mean when you say “get right spot.”
We’ll give Dak Prescott and his mates the first lead, as Dallas blasted the Falcons, 43-3. Prescott was letter-perfect in the win, throwing for 296 yards and two scores and adding a third touchdown on the ground. He completed 24-of-31 attempts, made 9.5 yards per pass.
CeeDee Lamb asserted himself as the alpha receiver, securing 6-of-7 targets for 94 yards and two scores. The Cowboys were proactive getting him the ball quickly and in space, and Lamb also made plays in the intermediate quadrants of the field. He could be the No. 1 wideout in fantasy someday; he can run away from defenders, and also win when he’s essentially covered. For now, we’ll happily enjoy Lamb as an automatic starter.
Field-stretching wideout Michael Gallup returned to the lineup and although his 3-42-0 game (five targets) didn’t swing any fantasy matchups, he makes Dallas more difficult to defend. We have to view him as a player much better in real life than in our stat-chasing pursuit. Amari Cooper also was fairly quiet, catching all four of his targets (4-51-0).
When Dallas’s full offensive personnel is healthy, you wonder how anyone can stop them.
The Falcons actually checked the Dallas running game fairly well, but so what? This is 2021, run defense scarcely matters. Ezekiel Elliott (14-41) bailed out his day with a couple of short touchdown plunges; he also lost a fumble. Tony Pollard picked up more work than usual — this game was a blowout before halftime — and made the most of it, parlaying 17 touches into 98 yards. No team has a better one-two punch in the backfield.
Falcons never get going
The Falcons used their starters for about three quarters before turning to the backups. The less we say about Atlanta, the better. Kyle Pitts did manage 60 yards on his seven targets. Cordarrelle Patterson only saw five touches (4-25 rushing, 1-14 receiving). Matt Ryan never got comfortable against the aggressive Dallas defense; he finished with 117 passing yards, with two interceptions ands two sacks.
Diggs finally busts out
Things were nearly as lopsided in New Jersey, where the Bills put a 45-17 beating on the Jets. Josh Allen and Stefon Diggs had their first smooth start of the year; Diggs busted out for a glorious 8-162-1 afternoon, including the prettiest timing touchdown you ever did see. Allen chucked for 366 yards and two scores, rolling up 13.1 per attempt. New York’s defense can cure what ails you.
The Bills also had success running the ball, for once (something they couldn’t do against Jacksonville last week). Devin Singletary, Matt Breida, Zack Moss, and wideout Isaiah McKenzie all had rushing touchdowns, and Breida added a second one through the air. It’s a glorious day when everything you call is working. Buffalo finished with 26 first downs and 489 yards of offense.
Buffalo will get a sterner test next week, against an Indianapolis defense that grades better than average. But Dallas will probably head to the arcade again, ready to play pinball against the struggling Chiefs defense.
Game on for A.J. Dillon
At first glance, there wasn’t much of a story in Green Bay’s 17-0 whitewash of Seattle. The teams combined for just three first-half points, the lowest-scoring first half of the NFL season. Russell Wilson probably came back a week or two early; he never shook off the rust. D.K. Metcalf did little (3-26-0, eight targets), then got himself ejected in the final minute.
But fantasy leagues might swing from a piece of Green Bay news. Aaron Jones suffered a knee injury — it’s feared to be an MCL sprain — and that sets up A.J. Dillon to take over the pilot’s chair in the Packers backfield.
Dillon’s Sunday line was mostly about volume and opportunity. His 21 carries only went for 66 yards, though he punched in two short touchdowns. Dillon also had a pair of catches, one a 50-yard jaunt. His game will never be mistaken for Christian McCaffrey, but Dillon isn’t a zero in the passing game, either, despite seeing little of that work at Boston College. And his powerful inside running meshes well with the rest of the Packers offense.
The Green Bay schedule is competitive going forward, but Dillon is going to be at least a Top 10 fantasy back while Jones is out. The Packers visit Minnesota next week, then host the Rams. Green Bay takes its bye in Week 13.
• I wanted to see a show-me game from Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs and sure, Sunday night qualifies. Though I’d trust this team a lot more if I saw a dynamic third option in the passing game. Byron Pringle and Mecole Hardman is not enough.
• Running quarterbacks will always be a fantasy cheat code, but they didn’t have their best showing in Week 10. Only Jalen Hurts made it past 40 rushing yards, and only four of them scored rushing touchdowns (and surely no one made use of the Mason Rudolph touchdown).
Say this for Hurts, he’s at least protecting the ball — just five turnovers on the year. And he’s shown snappy chemistry with DeVonta Smith in recent weeks (though Smith still feels notably underutilized). Given how weak the 2022 quarterback class is, pick-rich Philadelphia might be looking to give Hurts another year to prove himself, assuming a veteran trade doesn’t work out.
• Tennessee’s recent winning ugly is finding a way to grab a real-life victory that has no fantasy value attached to it. Ryan Tannehill snuck a goal-line touchdown for the second straight week, and his 19 completions went to 11 different targets. D’Onta Foreman and Adrian Peterson look interchangeable, but neither looks explosive. Jeremy McNichols had eight yards on five touches.
Tennessee is a good team, don’t misunderstand me. And things would have a different shape if A.J. Brown and Derrick Henry were healthy. Nonetheless, you’re a magician, Mike Vrabel.
• The Josh Jacobs fantasy matrix is surprisingly easy to solve, so long as you can get the win/loss projected properly. Jacobs has 21 touchdowns in 16 victories in the NFL. In the 19 defeats, he’s scored just three times. Either way, he remains a non-factor in the passing game. Next week’s game against Cincinnati looks like a toss-up.
• There were four active quarterbacks in the Cleveland-New England game and Baker Mayfield ranked the worst of the four. This is not going to end well for the Browns. It’s not a slam dunk that Mayfield gets a second contract here.
• Maybe Bill Belichick hates the Browns almost as much as he hates the Jets. New England didn’t let up in the blowout and had a ball with imaginative play-calling. Belichick never discloses this stuff, but it sure felt like a grudge match.
• The waiver wire was the running back star of Week 10, as Rhamondre Stevenson, Darrell Williams, D’Ernest Johnson, and Mark Ingram were unrostered in most leagues about a month ago. I doubt anyone short of a gigantic league came up with Matt Breida, but Michael Carter was another FAAB find in recent weeks. Everyone mentioned in this graph was RB13 or better through the first 13 games.
• It says a lot about Leonard Fournette that in a bad game for Tampa, he still collected 92 yards and eight receptions. He’s so far inside the circle of trust, you can’t even tell it’s a circle.
• Now that Jakobi Meyers finally has his touchdown (Brian Hoyer, miracle worker), maybe we can focus on Dan Arnold. He’s collected 50 looks this year and turned them into a playable 34-399-0 line, but still doesn’t have a touchdown. (Compare this line to Hunter Henry, who never goes off with yardage, but seems to score every week. He's 100 percent touchdown deodorant.)
• The Vikings finally skimmed 11 targets to Justin Jefferson, which should be standard operating procedure. he had just nine, total, in the losses to Dallas and Baltimore. The upcoming schedule is challenging, but there's no good way to defend this guy.
• I get that Dan Campbell was coaching for the win, but at some point you have to accept that a tie is your best reasonable outcome. Campbell did all he could to save time for Pittsburgh at the end of overtime, but the Steelers couldn't finish the job. Shake it all together and neither team winning feels like the just result. No team lets inferior opponents hang around like the Pittsburgh Steelers.