As usual, plenty of fantasy storylines emerged in Week 10, but the biggest came from the Rams demolition of the Colts.
What made it so interesting -- and frustrating – for fantasy owners is that St. Louis' two biggest contributors were preseason sleepers who hadn't quite lived up to the hype: Receiver
But when you have playmakers, anything is possible. It's tough to anoint this as a full-fledged fantasy breakout for Austin, as he only had three targets, but he's obviously back on the fantasy radar and is worth a pickup. The D/ST has cemented itself as an every-week play and should continue to be solid against virtually anyone.
But, again, the Rams' explosion serves a reminder than anything can happen when it comes to fantasy football, and a player's stock can rise or fall at a moment's notice. Let's look at more risers and fallers at each offensive position after Week 10.
Also, don't forget to send your questions in for the Fantasy Football mailbag. Every Friday during the season, we'll tackle the best fantasy questions of the week and help you with roster, trade and strategy decisions. You can submit your questions by 5:00 p.m. CT every Thursday. Please specify players with common last names (e.g. Davis, Jackson, etc.) and include the relevant scoring parameters of your league (e.g. PPR, passing TDs worth 4 points, etc.).
Jay Cutler was the No. 6 fantasy quarterback before suffering a groin injury two weeks ago, but his return to the field against Detroit didn't go well. Cutler was noticeably gimpy throughout the game, and he eventually left in the fourth quarter because of an ankle injury. He's already been ruled out for Week 11. Cutler's ineffectiveness was masked early on by Chicago's big, sure-handed receivers, but it will be tough to trust him when he comes back, at least until we see him closer to 100 percent. Josh McCown looked good during his one drive in relief of Cutler, so it wouldn't be a shock for the Bears to not rush Cutler back again.
Jake Locker also struggled before going to the locker room in the first half due to a foot injury, and he'll be out the rest of the year. Ryan Fitzpatrick came in and put up some big fantasy points the rest of the way, but keep in mind it was mostly in garbage time against the Jaguars. Neither McCown nor Fitzpatrick will be reliable fantasy plays for as long as both are starting, and Denver's Brock Osweiler wouldn't be either if Peyton Manning (ankle) has to miss time. Fortunately, Manning is expected to be fine for Week 11.
Notable Riser: Nick Foles did it again, and if fantasy owners weren't taking him seriously, it's time to start. Foles, who's put up at least 28.9 fantasy points in three of four starts this year, didn't play particularly well last week, as two of his under-thrown deep passes wound up in the hands of Eagles' receivers for touchdowns. But in Chip Kelly's system, he'll continue to take downfield shots. Foles has been announced as Philadelphia's starter the rest of the season, and the Eagles are stocked with playmakers who can help Foles turn something into nothing.
Notable Faller: The wheat is being separated from the chaff at quarterback right now. Andy Dalton struggled again despite a 50-yard Hail Mary TD, and both Eli Manning and Matt Ryan once again disappointed. Ryan gets a bit of a pass because he was facing the Seahawks, but Manning is droppable after laying an egg against a Raiders' defense that allowed seven passing TDs the week before. Meanwhile, Peyton Manning, Drew Brees, Matthew Stafford, Robert Griffin III and Russell Wilson all were top-eight fantasy QBs. Don't get too cute trying to play matchups the rest of the way.
The Giants announced earlier last week that Andre Brown, playing for the first time since breaking a leg in the preseason, would be “eased” back into the offense. Then on Sunday morning it was announced that Peyton Hillis would be starting at running back. Apparently, those announcements meant nothing because Brown ran 30 times for 115 yards and a touchdown.
Brown has suffered two broken legs in the past year, and the Giants have been a poor/inconsistent offense all season, so it's premature to say Brown will be an every-week fantasy starter. But it looks like he'll continue to be the focal point in New York's rushing attack, and he's an adept receiver out of the backfield. He definitely has value. New England's Shane Vereen, who's expected to return this week from a wrist injury, could be the next back to have a similar impact, so he's worth a pickup if he's available.
Notable Riser: Several borderline starting backs had solid weeks, but it was primarily due to heavy usage. Maurice Jones-Drew, Le'Veon Bell and Gio Bernard didn't run particularly well (Bernard had the highest yards per carry at 4.1), but all had at least 22 touches and scored. Bernard was a surprise standout given his tough matchup and injured ribs, but he outcarried BenJarvus Green-Ellis by five and caught all eight of his targets. It's good to see that these players' teams trust them so much, but it's always tough for fantasy owners to trust backs whose values depend heavily on touchdowns. Jones-Drew and Bell are their teams' “only” RBs, so they're definitely fantasy starters through the byes, but Bernard will continue to be a week-by-week decision.
Notable Faller: Ray Rice, Trent Richardson, C.J. Spiller -- all first-rounders, all hated by fantasy owners this year. And that hate probably boiled over last week, when none put up more than 5.6 fantasy points. Much like Jones-Drew and Bell, their respective values depend largely on touchdowns, but Richardson and Spiller don't even get all of their teams' carries. It sounds like the same will be true for Rice, who reportedly is still dealing with a hip issue and could split time evenly with Bernard Pierce going forward. Arian Foster (back) and Doug Martin (shoulder) are also first-round busts, but both actually made life easier on fantasy owners by suffering season-ending injuries. Houston's Ben Tate will be an RB2 for the foreseeable future, but with Tampa's Mike James hurting his ankle on Monday, it looks like Bobby Rainey and Brian Leonard will split time and be low-upside flexes.
Last week, we were worried about Green Bay's receivers after Aaron Rodgers got hurt. Now, we're even more worried about them with Seneca Wallace going down. Third-stringer Scott Tolzien didn't completely trip over himself, but he threw costly interceptions and generally didn't look good. If the Packers weren't playing Philadelphia's porous pass defense, it could have been really ugly.
The good news is that Tolzien threw to Jordy Nelson often, and he also seemed locked in early on Jarrett Boykin, whom many fantasy owners cut after James Jones' return. We don't know how things will go next week – or even if Tolzien will be starting – but all of these injuries devalue Green Bay's receivers. Nelson is still a solid starter, but Jones and Boykin are complete rolls of the dice.
On the flip side, Tennessee lost its starting QB, Jake Locker, for the second time this year, but their only fantasy-relevant receiver is Kendall Wright, and he's done just as well with Ryan Fitzpatrick under center. Likewise the Bears' receivers have performed well with Josh McCown at QB, so they shouldn't lose a ton of value while Cutler is out.
Notable Riser: Golden Tate didn't lead the Seahawks in targets last week, but few would question whether he's Seattle's No. 1 receiver. With his 106 yards and a touchdown against the Falcons, he showed that his dud two weeks ago was more a product of Darrelle Revis covering him than anything else. Just like the Colts' T.Y. Hilton, Tate is taking advantage of injuries to climb up the WR ranks, and both look like WR2s with WR1 upside in any given week.
Notable Faller: It's tough to know what to make of Roddy White's quiet day against Seattle (1 catch, 4 targets, 20 yards). He seemed to be moving as well as he has all season, but the Seahawks' defense was completely shutting down Atlanta all day. Fantasy owners shouldn't assume White is still a poor play, but it's admittedly tough to start him until he shows something on the field. However, just look at Marques Colston's performance on Sunday night after missing the week before because of a knee injury. Colston, who had been having a similarly disappointing year as White, came up big against the Cowboys, catching seven of eight targets for 107 yards and a score. Unfortunately, his return seemed to hurt the fantasy value of Lance Moore, who had just two targets. There's always fallout -- and potential reward -- when a No. 1 receiver returns from injury.
Eleven tight ends scored last week, but only six had double-digit fantasy points. As usual, it was all about the touchdowns at this position, with only Jimmy Graham and Julius Thomas being every-week plays regardless of matchups. Vernon Davis is close to being in their company, but after suffering a concussion last week, he might miss time. Tony Gonzalez, Jason Witten and Antonio Gates are tough to sit because they always have high upsides (though Gonzalez is now dealing with a toe injury), but you can't qualify them as “must-starts” anymore after all the duds they've put up.
Notable Riser: Jordan Reed continues to impress as a key cog in the Redskins' offense, and with 37 targets in his past four games, that's unlikely to change anytime soon. He's athletic and fast -- and unlike a lot of tight ends who share those attributes, he can actually catch. He's probably closer to being a “must-start” right now than Gonzalez, Witten or Gates.
Notable Faller: It was a bad week for sleeper TEs like Miami's Charles Clay, Tampa's Tim Wright, Houston's Garrett Graham and Cincinnati's Tyler Eifert. Eifert couldn't take advantage of Jermaine Gresham's groin injury and nearly an extra quarter of football, and Graham couldn't take advantage of the second-most fantasy-friendly defense to TEs (Arizona). Both of these guys could have their moments over the final seven weeks, but neither are necessarily worth keeping if you need the roster spots.
Colts at Titans
Stat to know: The Titans allow the seventh-most fantasy points per game to RBs (21), but the Rams entered last week's game similarly poor against backs and neither Trent Richardson nor Donald Brown could take advantage. Both are low-percentage flex plays, at best.
Sleeper: Colts D/ST (Titans allowing 10th-most fantasy points per game to D/STs.)