4:25PM ET Games
Houston @ Arizona
The Cardinals have stated publicly Rashard Mendenhall will remain involved in their backfield, and that I don't doubt. What I do tend to doubt is that Mendenhall would be reinserted as the lead back after Bruce Arians' staff had a Week 9 bye to digest film, per-play efficiency stats, Mendenhall's continued turf toe woes, and Andre Ellington's dynamic 162-yard all-purpose effort as Arizona's top back just before the open date. The Cards beat the Falcons 27-13. The timing of Ellington's blowup game couldn't have been better. Although I don't expect Ellington to "start" or play even 80% of the snaps, I do expect him to be a safe bet for no fewer than 14 touches in every game going forward. Essentially Gio Bernard West, I'd treat Ellington as an exciting RB2/flex option versus Houston's Brian Cushing-less No. 18 run defense. ... A hobbled misfit behind his offensive line with a likely declining role, Mendenhall would be a poor flex bet against the Texans. Wholly ineffective, Mendenhall has managed 156 yards on his last 62 carries (2.52 YPC), and still couldn't practice fully this week coming off the bye. ... The Cardinals are more likely to have ground than aerial success in this one. J.J. Watt is capable of single-handedly destroying Arizona's passing game in a mismatch with one of the league's weakest lines. Carson Palmer is a two-quarterback-league option only this week. The Texans rank No. 1 in the NFL in pass defense.
Palmer's target distribution since Rob Housler returned from injury in Week 3: Larry Fitzgerald 47, Michael Floyd 44, Ellington 29, Andre Roberts 21, Housler 20, Mendenhall 8, Jim Dray 7. ... In the back end, Houston's defensive strength is perimeter cornerback play, where Kareem Jackson and Johnathan Joseph flip sides often and are capable of checking most receivers. Floyd strictly plays outside and has the more difficult Week 10 matchup among Arizona's wideouts. ... Fitzgerald has a better shot than Floyd at a big day. Not only is Fitz fully recovered from his recurring first-half hamstring woes, he'll match up Sunday with weekly slot whipping boy Brice McCain inside the numbers. 5-foot-9, 180-pound McCain got shredded by T.Y. Hilton last week, and will now take on a far more physical wideout with even better route-running chops. Lock in Fitzgerald as a fantasy WR2. ... Housler was a late addition to this week's injury report after suffering an apparent groin pull during Thursday's practice. Scratch him off Week 10 sleeper lists. ... Roberts hasn't been a fantasy factor since the season opener, though he's a player for deep leaguers to monitor. The Cardinals had scaled back their three-receiver set usage before the off week. Perhaps they'll dial it back up following the bye. Either way, Roberts is far from a standard-league fantasy option.
Case Keenum has started fast before fading in each of his first two starts. It's hard to say if that's indicative of things to come, but his gunslinger mentality and athleticism have both impressed to this point. Keenum is getting the ball to his playmakers, and letting Andre Johnson win contested catches. He's drawing Tony Romo comparisons. Keenum's aggressive playing style is good news for Houston's surrounding skill players. ... Keenum is worth starting in two-quarterback leagues, although I wouldn't underestimate this sneaky-difficult road test. The Cards match up well with the Texans' offense. Arizona stops the run and will likely attach Patrick Peterson to Johnson, forcing Keenum to work to his non-primary reads. ... It's why I think DeAndre Hopkins is an interesting dice-roll WR3 and cheap FanDuel option. Hopkins is having a mostly quiet rookie year, but has 50-plus yards in each of Keenum's starts, and will square off in this one with burnable LCB Jerraud Powers. Powers is 94th of 107 in Pro Football Focus' cornerback coverage ratings. ... Johnson's stat lines in Keenum's starts: 4-89, 9-229-3. Don't be scared off by Peterson; Johnson torched Colts RCB Vontae Davis last week, and Davis is having a better year than Arizona's top corner.
Keenum's target distribution on the season: Johnson 19; Garrett Graham 14; Hopkins 10; DeVier Posey 6; Ben Tate 5; Lestar Jean 2; Arian Foster 1. ... A disappointment so far as Owen Daniels' replacement, these are Graham's stat lines since Daniels went down: 3-15-0; 2-25-0; 3-38-0; 4-46-0. TE1 desperados can try chasing Graham's matchup instead of his production in Week 10. Arizona has allowed the most touchdowns and receiving yards in the league to tight ends. ... The Cardinals' run defense is legit. Ranked No. 4 in the league, Arizona is permitting just 3.48 YPC with three rushing scores allowed through eight games. And the Cards are now coming off a bye. Still trying to gut it out through four cracked ribs, Tate was a shell of himself in last week's loss to Indy, going to great and noticeable lengths to avoid contact. I fully expect him to struggle in this game. He's just a flex option. ... With Foster (hamstring, back) sidelined indefinitely and Tate nowhere near 100%, UDFA Dennis Johnson is now the second man in the rotation. Johnson only played 13 snaps against the Colts, but could see more action in Week 10 after gaining 36 yards on eight carries. For now, Johnson is just a change-up back worth rostering in 14- and 16-team leagues.
Friday Update: The Houston Chronicle reported Friday Arian Foster may need year-ending back surgery, which the Texans won't go out of their way to avoid with a 2-6 record. Dennis Johnson should be owned in all 12- and 14-team fantasy leagues with some potential to see feature back carries down the stretch. Playing through four broken ribs, Ben Tate is no lock to last for the duration of the season.
Score Prediction: Cardinals 23, Texans 20
Denver @ San Diego
Broncos-Chargers has the highest over-under of Week 10 at 58 points. You'll want to start pretty much everyone going in this game. ... Taking on Denver's No. 30 pass defense, Philip Rivers is a top-five fantasy quarterback this week. Peyton Manning won't struggle to rip apart San Diego's secondary, creating a likely shootout scenario with major garbage-time potential. Rivers is the No. 5 fantasy quarterback in points per game. ... Rivers' target distribution over his last five games: Antonio Gates and Keenan Allen 44, Danny Woodhead 37, Vincent Brown 29, Eddie Royal 22, Ladarius Green 6; Ryan Mathews 5. ... No. 1 receiver Allen already looks like one of the NFL's premier route runners. On an absolute tear, the emerging star is averaging 105 yards over his last four games and pushing for legit WR1 status in PPR leagues. Fire up Allen versus Denver, which will be without CB Champ Bailey (foot) again this week. ... The Broncos have allowed the fourth most receptions and second most yards in the league to tight ends. Gates is a mid-range to high-end TE1 in this game. ... Now the Nos. 4 and 5 options in San Diego's passing attack, Brown and Royal are shaky WR3s even in this mouth-watering matchup. Royal continues to battle a toe injury that's preventing him from practicing, and his two-week touchdown streak isn't to be reliably chased on the heels of a four-game end-zone drought.
Brown is strictly a possession receiver, averaging 10.4 yards per catch on the season with zero touchdowns since Week 1. He simply hasn't demonstrated playmaking ability. Brown is now getting lapped weekly by third-round rookie Allen. ... If the Bolts do fall behind on the scoreboard, Woodhead will end up playing more than Mathews because he's San Diego's go-to passing-down back. Woodhead is an every-week flex play in standard leagues with RB1/2 value in PPR. ... The risk Mathews owners run is pass-happy comeback mode, and it doesn't help that Denver ranks No. 3 in the NFL versus the run, holding opponents to 3.39 yards per carry. Only the Jets have been stingier than the Broncos. I'd call Mathews an RB2 if the Chargers had more faith in him as a goal-line back. Instead, playcaller Mike McCoy passed up several opportunities to give Mathews short-yardage scoring chances in last week's O.T. loss to Washington. Mathews is a risky flex.
The fact that San Diego can score points gives McCoy's team a puncher's chance in this game, but defensively there may not be a club in football that matches up more poorly with Denver than the Chargers. Bolts starting cornerbacks Shareece Wright and Derek Cox both rank in the bottom ten of Pro Football Focus' CB ratings. Cox was benched last week. San Diego has lost each of its starting outside linebackers (Melvin Ingram -- ACL, Dwight Freeney -- quadriceps tear) to major injuries. The Chargers rank 27th in pass defense and tied for 22nd in sacks. Manning is going to pick them apart from a clean pocket. ... Demaryius Thomas (WR1), Wes Welker (WR1), and Eric Decker (WR1/2) are all locked-in, every-week fantasy starters. There is no worry about any of the Denver receiving matchups. ... The Chargers have been stingier in tight end coverage -- they're 24th in fantasy points allowed to the position -- but Julius Thomas is always a strong bet for red-zone touchdowns. He's on pace for 16 scores this year. Orange Julius is a top-five TE1 this week.
I've noticed recent concern in fantasy land about Knowshon Moreno perhaps "losing touches" to Montee Ball and C.J. Anderson. The Broncos do want to keep Moreno as fresh as possible ahead of a hopefully-deep postseason run. Moreno is still an RB1. He's a three-down back in a Manning-quarterbacked offense and utilized heavily as a receiver. With at least 18 touches in four straight games, there is very little reason to worry. ... Ball did handle the majority of scoring-position work in Denver's Week 8 win over Washington, before the Week 9 bye. The rookie's fantasy value is similar to Shonn Greene's. Because he doesn't get volume or play much in the passing game, Ball will be a touchdown-dependent flex option. If you start Ball in a given week and he doesn't execute on a goal-line carry, he will burn a hole in your fantasy lineup. He should be rostered in leagues of all sizes, but I don't think Ball is worth using in 10- and 12-team fantasy settings. ... It was just a four-carry sample, but Anderson exhibited lighter feet and more first-step burst than Ball in the Redskins game, gaining 22 yards on four runs. Although Anderson is currently not close to a fantasy starter, I bet he'd form a near-even rotation with Ball were Moreno to go down.
Score Prediction: Broncos 33, Chargers 27
Sunday Night Football
Dallas @ New Orleans
The Cowboys' defense has been a sinking ship ever since a flukish -- and brief -- hot start to the season. Now 31st in both total yards allowed and pass defense, Dallas is going to get dismantled by Drew Brees. With a 15:3 TD-to-INT ratio over his last five games and 287 per-week passing-yard average on the year, red-hot Brees is the No. 2 fantasy quarterback play in Week 10, behind only Peyton Manning. ... Brees' target distribution since New Orleans' Week 7 bye: Jimmy Graham 15; Lance Moore 14; Pierre Thomas 13; Kenny Stills 9; Robert Meachem 8; Marques Colston 6; Darren Sproles 5; Nick Toon and Ben Watson 4. ... Becoming more comfortable playing through the pain caused by his partially torn plantar fascia, Graham played 60-of-78 (77%) of the Saints' Week 9 offensive snaps. That is his normal role. With Rob Gronkowski on a bye, Graham is this week's shoo-in top tight end start. Dallas has allowed the second most fantasy points to tight ends. ... The Saints' skill-position corps is deeper than it's ever been in the Sean Payton era, creating a spread-the-wealth situation that leads to headaches for certain players, and deceptive "breakout" weeks for others. I still view Sproles as the second best fantasy option in New Orleans behind only Graham. Sproles is a high-ceiling flex play in this projected shootout.
Colston is a dicier bet. The knee injury that led to Colston's inactivity in last week's loss to the Jets seemingly came out of nowhere, which makes you wonder if it's at the root of Colston's sudden and sharp decline both in production and snap percentage. He's only been a 65.5% player over his last four games. Treat Colston as a boom-or-bust WR3 versus Dallas, which has allowed just one enemy "No. 1" receiver to find pay dirt since Week 2. (It was Calvin Johnson.) ... Thomas' recent statistical surge has been largely the product of injury situations. First it was Mark Ingram's toe injury. Then, Sproles' Week 9 concussion. With both Ingram and Sproles now healthy, Thomas resumes shaky flex-play value. ... The Saints are playing musical chairs at No. 2 receiver, with Moore back at the head of the pack, Stills nipping at his heels, and Meachem lurking as a streak-route specialist. Toon only saw extensive Week 9 action because he's Colston's direct backup, and Colston didn't play. In fact, Stills played more snaps (44) against the Jets than Moore (35), and Meachem (30) wasn't far behind them. If forced to decide from that trio, I'd take a shot on Stills' big-play ability over Moore's possession-type game. Like Colston, both Moore and Stills remain boom-or-bust WR3 gambles.
The Cowboys nearly lost their Week 9 game to Minnesota after abandoning the run early. OC Bill Callahan is an ex-offensive line coach and wants to run the football, on both a voluminous and efficient basis. Look for Callahan to reemphasize the ground game against the Saints. New Orleans ranks 25th versus the run and surrenders 4.95 yards per carry, the second highest average in the league. Fire up a healthy DeMarco Murray as a borderline RB1 this week. Callahan is going to make up for lost time. ... That, of course, isn't to diminish Tony Romo's top-five QB1 appeal as Dallas works to keep pace on the scoreboard with Brees & Co. Leading the NFL in pass attempts, Romo is on pace to match his career high in touchdown passes (36). Say what you want about Romo; he is playing lights out this year. ... Romo's target distribution since third-round pick Terrance Williams became a factor six games ago: Dez Bryant 51; Jason Witten 33; Williams 30; Cole Beasley 28; Murray and Joseph Randle 10; Miles Austin 7; Dwayne Harris 6.
Bryant remains the No. 2 fantasy receiver play behind only Calvin Johnson, but Williams, Beasley, and Witten should take note of the fact that Saints DC Rob Ryan is quite familiar with Dallas' top receiver after coordinating the Cowboys' 2012 defense. It's entirely possible Ryan will attempt to eliminate Dez with brackets and double teams, which would open up the field for others. The Saints are 29th in fantasy points allowed to tight ends, but Witten is an every-week TE1. He's coming off an 8-102-1 game against the Vikings. ... Williams had his slowest game (2-33) in six weeks versus Minnesota, but is a strong candidate to rebound in a projected high-scoring affair. He's the No. 11 fantasy wide receiver over the past five weeks. Austin (hamstring) is going to miss another game. ... Slot receiver Beasley has at least six targets in three of Dallas' last four games. Because Beasley isn't a big-play or red-zone threat, he's only worth consideration in PPR leagues. … Word broke Thursday afternoon that the Cowboys fear Dez is dealing with a herniated or bulging disc in his back. Bryant was allowed to practice this week, however, and all signs still point to him starting against the Saints. Keep Dez in your fantasy lineup while monitoring the situation into Sunday.
Friday Update: Continue to monitor Dez's situation into Sunday, but he practiced again Friday and looks to be all systems go. The Cowboys listed Bryant as probable. Perhaps the back problem is something doctors could wait until after the season to fix. Marker in Dez as an elite WR1 in this likely high-scoring affair.
Score Prediction: Saints 34, Cowboys 30
Monday Night Football
Miami @ Tampa Bay
Finally realizing their early-season passing-based offense put far too much of a burden on their expansion-level pass protection, the Dolphins re-prioritized balance following an embarrassing Week 7 home loss to Buffalo. (Had OC Mike Sherman made this run-game commitment before the season, his franchise quarterback probably wouldn't be on pace to take 70 sacks.) In two games since, Miami has 61 runs compared to 70 passes, which essentially qualifies as run-first offense by today's NFL standards. Lamar Miller has reemerged as the Fins' clear lead back, with 41 touches over that span to Daniel Thomas' 23. Miller will enter Monday night coming off consecutive 110-plus total-yard efforts with a 5.51 yards-per-carry average since the Week 6 bye. Collapsing in run defense, Tampa has served up 327 yards and three rushing touchdowns on 62 carries (5.27 YPC) to its last two opponents. Miller is an attractive RB2/flex. ... As the plodding lesser half of Miami's committee, Thomas will only pay Week 10 dividends on the off chance he finds the end zone against the Bucs. He's done so in 3-of-8 games so far. Thomas' single-game high for total yards is 58. ... Ryan Tannehill's target distribution since the Week 6 open date: Mike Wallace 28, Brian Hartline 22, Charles Clay 14, Rishard Matthews 11, Miller 10, Thomas 4.
Wallace has been a boom-or-bust WR3 this season, and will remain so on Monday night. The Bucs have begun using Darrelle Revis in more man coverage. Revis played a big role in holding Golden Tate under 30 yards on three catches last week. ... Hartline will have more opportunities if Revis shadows Wallace, although there are no guarantees. Hartline's lack of big-play ability still limits his ceiling. He's failed to clear 70 yards in seven straight games and is scoreless since Week 3. I do think Hartline would be a better PPR bet than Wallace in Tampa Bay. ... Tannehill isn't a recommended QB1 streamer, but he's worth firing up in two-quarterback leagues. Over their last four games, the Bucs have been shredded by Nick Foles, receiver-depleted Matt Ryan, Cam Newton, and Russell Wilson for a combined 84-of-115 passing (73%) for 1,007 yards (8.76 YPA) and a 10:2 TD-to-INT ratio, with three more scores on scrambles. Tannehill is dangerous in a clean pocket. Tampa Bay is tied for 27th in the NFL in sacks. ... The Buccaneers have allowed the 15th most fantasy points to tight ends, giving Clay a middling matchup. Although Clay is a highly effective and versatile H-back, his passing-game usage has been fairly inconsistent week to week. He's a low-upside TE1. ... Matthews has replaced Brandon Gibson as the Dolphins' third receiver and lacks fantasy value beyond deep Dynasty leagues. He has ten catches on the season.
The Bucs enter Week 10 having dropped 13 of their last 14 games under Greg Schiano, who is lucky to still have his job following a Week 9 meltdown loss to the Seattle, where Tampa Bay grabbed a 21-0 first-quarter lead. It’s like Bucs ownership isn’t even paying attention. The lone shining light on Tampa's end was rookie tailback Mike James. The sixth-round pick consistently reached the second level against a surprisingly soft Seahawks run defense, setting career highs in total yards (166) and single-game YPC average (5.6). James is a mediocre talent, but volume and effective run blocking can buoy him into low-end RB2/flex territory. Dolphins DC Kevin Coyle's disappointing run defense ranks 21st in the NFL with nine rushing touchdowns allowed through eight games. Miami's front seven is getting moved off the ball far more often than it was the past two seasons. Despite an abundance of defensive line talent, the Dolphins have been gashed by Patriots and Bengals tailbacks for 298 yards and four TDs on 63 carries (4.73 YPC) over the last two games. ... Mike Glennon is playing smart football, showing a willingness to make throwaways rather than accepting sacks and posting a 5:0 TD-to-INT ratio over his last three games. He'll have his work cut out against a Fins pass defense that can generate consistent up-front pressure and has held enemy quarterbacks to nine passing touchdowns compared to 11 interceptions on the year. Glennon is a low-end QB2 in Week 10.
Glennon's target distribution on the season: Vincent Jackson 64; Tim Wright 28; Brian Leonard 17; Tiquan Underwood 13; James 11; injured Doug Martin 10; Chris Owusu 7; Tom Crabtree 5. ... Fantasy owners should've anticipated all along some ups and downs for V-Jax. His quarterback is a third-round rookie. Still, these are Jackson's stat lines in Glennon's five starts: 2-27; 9-114-2; 10-138-2; 5-79; 2-11. Jackson is a boom-or-bust WR2, but I'd still play him every week. The Fins use LCB Brent Grimes as a stationary corner, and V-Jax plays enough on the opposite side of the formation and in the slot that he will avoid Grimes' coverage on the majority of Monday's snaps. ... Look for Underwood to see more of Grimes in this game. Replacing Mike Williams at "Z" receiver, Underwood was targeted three times by Glennon in Week 9. ... Wright is a logical Week 10 TE1 streamer. An athletic "flex" player in OC Mike Sullivan's offense, Wright will take on a Dolphins defense allowing the third most fantasy points to tight ends. Undrafted rookie Wright has strung together consecutive box-score lines of 7-91, 2-15, 5-48-1, and 4-58-1 over his last four games.
Score Prediction: Buccaneers 20, Dolphins 17