Matthew Berry’s Love/Hate for Week 10

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Andrew “Andy” Mousalimas died last year at the age of 95. I never got the honor of meeting the man, but I wish I had. I would have just shook his hand — probably for way too long, candidly — and just said “thank you.”

Thank you for fighting for my freedom.

Thank you for your incredible bravery, fighting Nazis behind enemy lines.

Oh, and thank you for fantasy football.

I’ve been writing this column since 1999. Sometimes I’ve written about the brave men and women who have served our country. Sometimes I’ve written about fantasy football legends.

But today, Veterans Day 2021, I get to write about both.

Born to Greek immigrants on Dec. 6, 1924, Andy Mousalimas was a 17-year-old senior in high school when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor just one day after his birthday. One year later, at 18, Andy volunteered for the Army.

Andy soon found himself a member of the Office of Strategic Services (OSS). It’s basically what is known as the CIA these days, but during World War II, the OSS was designed to coordinate espionage behind enemy lines for all branches of our Armed Forces. As part of that mission, the Army was looking to form elite commandos of soldiers fluent in Italian, Greek, French and German, among others. Soldiers in these Operational Groups, as they were called, would be highly trained in special operations. They would possess the ability to train and coordinate guerrilla operations, conduct acts of direct sabotage, rescue downed pilots and collect intelligence, all on the ground, behind enemy lines.

It was incredibly dangerous. Mousalimas was quoted in the San Francisco Chronicle as saying “The recruiting officer said 97% of you will probably not return.” But Andy spoke fluent Greek. And so, barely 18 years old, he volunteered for it.

Andy’s Operational Group secretly parachuted behind enemy lines in Nazi-occupied Greece (and later Yugoslavia). Their mission? Blend in with the Greek resistance and blow up the Nazis’ transportation network. The group ran ambushes, blew up rail lines and, in one particular mission, demolished a bridge used by Nazi troop trains in the mountains of Macedonia.

The Operational Group that Mousalimas belonged to performed some of the bravest acts of the war, according to OSS Commander General William Donovan. “They comprised only 5% of the OSS but 20% of casualties.”

I spoke with Andy’s son, James Mousalimas, who told me Andy and his fellow soldiers each carried a cyanide pill with them at all times in case they were captured. Hitler had personally ordered that if anyone on these commando units was captured, they were to be questioned without mercy and then executed.

The U.S. Army Special Forces honored Andy Mousalimas in 2009, adding to many awards he’d already received for his heroism; the Purple Heart and the Congressional Gold Medal among them. There isn’t much Democrats and Republicans agree on these days, but they can agree that Andy Mousalimas is a hero. Both Nancy Pelosi and Mitch McConnell spoke at the ceremony. The citation that went with the Congressional Gold Medal awarded to the OSS says, in part, that Mousalimas and his fellow soldiers’ work “resulted in some of the bravest acts of war and forever changed the course of history.”

And yet, no one ever talked about it. That was partly because Andy never wanted to talk about it. The activities of the OSS were not declassified until 45 years after their last mission and Mousalimas, a man of intense principle, never spoke of it until that happened. Even his own family didn’t know until the declassification happened. But even when he was legally allowed to talk about, it was many more years before he would talk about it at any length.

When asked about war years later, he would reluctantly talk but with one rule. “Don’t glamorize it.” He didn’t want tales of wartime heroics to sound like a cool action movie. “War isn’t glamorous.”

James Mousalimas told me his father, “Was very proud of his service but he didn’t want to glorify war. He’s experienced it firsthand. He has great respect for all his fellow veterans because he knows what they’ve been through.”

The other reason it didn’t get talked about is because, as James told me, “What he did in the war was incredible, but when people find out about his role in fantasy football, that’s all they want to talk about. It’s pretty funny.”

Much has been written about the invention of fantasy football and, in fact, I did an episode of Peyton’s Places where Peyton and I went to the hotel in New York City where it was invented. I recommend you watch the episode (ESPN+) when you get a chance, but the short version is that fantasy football was invented in the winter of 1962 by Wilfred “Bill” Winkenbach, “Wink” to his friends. Wink was a part-owner of the Oakland Raiders, then in the AFL, and he was in New York for a game against the New York Titans (now the Jets). The Raiders were 0-7 at the time and Wink wondered if there was a way to collect his own players to root for when his actual team was out of it. Along with Scotty Stirling (yes, that Scotty Stirling), the Raiders beat writer from the Oakland Tribune, and George Ross, a Tribune sports editor, they hammered out the rules.

They invited some friends, including a young Ron Wolf (yes, that Ron Wolf), and in August 1963, the very first fantasy football draft ever was held. It was called the GOPPPL — the Greater Oakland Professional Pigskin Prognosticators League — and the draft was held at Wink’s house.

And with the very first pick in the history of fantasy football was a good friend of Scotty Stirling’s, a WWII vet named Andrew Mousalimas, owner of a popular local bar and restaurant called the Lamp Post.

There were no cheat sheets and no rankings. The game had never been played before, so everyone just drafted off memory or whatever little NFL research they could cull together.

So with the first pick ever, Mousalimas made history twice.

He was the first person to draft a player for fantasy football, selecting Houston Oilers QB George Blanda.

He was also the first fantasy football manager to immediately regret his draft pick, as Cleveland Browns RB Jim Brown went next. Brown would go on to post 2,131 total yards and 15 touchdowns in 14 games that year, just a monster season.

But while those are noteworthy moments, the reason Mousalimas is so important in the history of our game is that without him, we might never have heard of it.

For whatever reason, the GOPPPL didn’t want anyone to know about the league. It was played in secret for many years. But in 1971, Mousalimas had opened a new restaurant called King’s X. And, showing the sharp thinking that had helped him serve our country, Mousalimas brought fantasy football to the public. He started the 10-team “King’s League,” among his regulars.

There was so much demand that the next year, he had to open a second league, the “X League.” It was 10 teams but with multiple managers, sometimes up to seven per team.

Ultimately there were six leagues of 10 teams each. Starting the Monday night before the NFL season opened, there would be at least one draft each night at King’s X leading up to Sunday when the season started. There were no Thursday night games back then. There was also no internet, no personal computers; everything had to be done by hand. So they kept it simple.

James tells me the King’s X rules were rosters of two quarterbacks, four running backs, six wide receivers, two kickers, two defenses and two special teams (kicks and punt returns). You would start 1 QB / 2 RB / 3 WR, a kicker, defense and return team. Points were awarded for touchdowns, but among the rule changes from the original GOPPPL were yardage bonuses for passing, rushing and receiving touchdowns (the longer the touchdown, the more points).

The GOPPPL had been a draft-and-hold league, but Mousalimas invented what he called “The Mid-Season Draft” where, halfway through the season, the league would have a four-round draft to replace injured or underperforming players, with the last-place team getting the first pick. Yeah, that’s right. Mousalimas also invented the waiver wire.

Teams would have to come into the bar in person every Friday night (no phoning in!) and write their starting lineup on a chalkboard in the bar so everyone could see it.

It would be about 3 a.m. Monday by the time Mousalimas would get out of the bar. He would then go DeLaurer’s, a local newsstand. The first edition of the Oakland Tribune would be delivered at 4:30 a.m. The one with all the box scores from Sunday’s NFL action. Mousalimas would buy a copy and then stay up until 9 a.m. or so, calculating all the scores for all the players on all 60 teams in the 6 Kings X leagues. A standing room-only crowd would pack into Kings X for lunch on Monday as Mousalimas would reveal the results and standings.

King’s X would also host huge trivia tournaments, and teams from other bars and parts of town would come to compete. And they would hear about fantasy football. And then start their own leagues. People would call Andy for the rules and sheets he had created and he would send them to whoever asked.

The game grew and grew, spreading across the country. He even got a call once from a bar in Hawaii. And in 1981, Mousalimas introduced “The Queen’s League,” the first all-female fantasy football league.

Andy won multiple championships over the years of playing, but it was the laughter, fun and relationships that drove him. “I remember when you could barely hear the picks because everyone was raggin’ on each other” he said with a smile to Tim Keown, who featured Mousalimas’ 50th fantasy draft for ESPN in 2012. In another interview with the Oakland Tribune, he remarked “We had that comradeship. That’s what they don’t have today with the internet.”

The King’s X leagues kept going, four decades later, with at least one very important rule still intact: no computers.

One day a year is not nearly enough to thank all the servicemen, servicewomen and their families who have previously and are currently serving our country. But thank you.

Especially to Andrew Mousalimas and his family, who mean a great deal to me. Because beyond his incredible military record, who knows if anyone ever hears of fantasy football if not for him?

Fantasy football has provided me with a living for the last 20 years and endless hours of joy for much longer than that. Fantasy football brought me to ESPN, where I met my wife and we now have a large family. None of that happens without fantasy. In fact, almost everything good in my life is because of fantasy football, and in many ways, I have Andy Mousalimas to thank for that.

A devoted family man, Mousalimas married Mary in 1948 and they had four kids (Sotiros, Eugenia, Paula and James) plus seven grandkids and four great-grandkids. In later years, he would draft with his kids, grandsons and sons-in-law. Mousalimas played fantasy football every year from 1963 until he was 90, in 2015. Fifty-two years. Drafting with friends and family. We should all be so lucky.

A true American hero in every sense of the word, Mousalimas was reflecting on his life just shortly before his death. And he was asked, after all the incredible things he had done and been through, if he had any regrets.

“Only one,” he said. “I should have drafted Jim Brown.”

I want to thank James Mousalimas for all his time talking to me and the background information he sent along about his father, the OSS and the King’s X fantasy league. I also used reporting from articles in the San Francisco Chronicle (one by Carl Nolte, another by Sam Whitling), the East Bay Times (Martin Snapp), South Florida Sun-Sentinel (Mike Berardino) and RecordNet.com (Justin Frommer) in researching this article. Thanks as always to Damian Dabrowski for his help with at various points in this column as well.

Words are inadequate, the gratitude and feeling behind them are genuine. Thank you, veterans. And thank you, Andy Mousalimas. Rest in peace.

Let’s get to it.

Quarterbacks I love in Week 10

Tom Brady, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (at Washington)

Fortune favors the bold, they say, while they also mention no guts, no glory. Bruce Arians himself tells you no risk it, no biscuit. So, with all that in mind, I am pushing my chips into the middle and recommending a young QB with promise, Thomas Brady. Yeah, yeah, I get it. Really, Berry? You’re recommending Brady? While you’re at it, I have this big barrel. Would you like to shoot some fish in it? But here’s why I chose Brady. First, are we sure a fantasy superstar QB is that easy to spot? Over the past month, Patrick Mahomes is QB22. Aaron Rodgers tested positive for COVID-19, missed last week’s game and is uncertain for this week as of this writing. And someone told me the No. 1 QB in fantasy — a healthy Josh Allen with his full complement of pass-catchers — somehow scored single-digit fantasy points against Jacksonville.

Meanwhile, Brady won’t have Antonio Brown on Sunday and, as of this writing, there are legit questions on the availability of Chris Godwin and Rob Gronkowski as well. But even given all that, I have Brady as my No. 1 QB this week. He’s coming off a bye with two weeks to prepare for Washington’s “defense” that allows the most passing yards per game. No big deal, but Brady also leads the NFL in both pass attempts per game and passing yards per game. The best quarterback vs. the worst pass defense seems like a nice matchup, no? And Washington doesn’t just allow the most passing yards per game, it also gives up a league-high 24.8 PPG to opposing quarterbacks, three points per game more than any other team. It’s going to be another brutal week for my Washington Football Team, but a great week for Brady managers.

Justin Herbert, Los Angeles Chargers (vs. Vikings)

There are dozens of gods and goddesses in Norse mythology, ranging from Thor (god of thunder) to Loki (god of mischief) to Idunn (goddess of spring and eternal youth). Yet in all of them, there’s somehow not a single god of pass defense. Because the Vikings — modern day Norsemen — are in desperate need of divine intervention in their secondary. Over the past four weeks, the Vikings are allowing the fifth-most fantasy PPG to quarterbacks and, on the season, they allow the fifth-most air yards per pass attempt. Vikings-Chargers also has the second-highest over/under in Week 10. All of which is a (very unnecessarily long) way to say that Herbert, despite bearing some resemblance to Thor, is going to have a very big day against the Vikings. And if Marvel ever decides to make Idunn a character, I would like to volunteer to be the “before” character she hands an apple to.

Carson Wentz, Indianapolis Colts (vs. Jaguars)

It’s really amazing what you can do when you finally have healthy ankles. You’ll win some bar bets with this: Over his past six games, Wentz is QB11 in points per game. In fact, he’s put up six consecutive games with at least 17 fantasy points and multiple touchdown passes. Not too shabby. Speaking of shabby, he said by way of terrible segue, this week Wentz gets a Jaguars defense allowing the second-highest completion percentage to opposing quarterbacks. I have Wentz as a top-10 play this week. And, yeah, I know, the Jaguars D looked formidable last week against the Bills. But playing on the road, following a huge upset, I think it’s more likely than not that the “regular Jaguars” show up. Well, unless Jaguars defensive lineman Josh Allen legally changes his name to Carson Wentz. If that happens, put everything you have on Jacksonville.

Others receiving votes: Falcons-Cowboys is going to be quite a game. The Super Bowl of teams who go out of their way to disappoint their fans every season. But I don’t think Matt Ryan will disappoint his fantasy managers this week. The Cowboys allow the eighth-most passing yards per game (270.5) and Ryan has been on a roll, quietly putting up 20.5 PPG since Week 4. Ryan has at least 300 yards and two touchdowns in all but one road game this season (the game is in Dallas) and this matchup has the highest over/under on the Week 10 slate. Expect plenty of fantasy points on both sides. … Over the past four weeks, the Eagles are allowing the second-most passing yards per game. They’ve also allowed 19.6 PPG to opposing quarterbacks during that stretch. Enter Teddy Bridgewater, who’s averaging 35 pass attempts per game over his past five and is coming off his biggest fantasy output of the season in Dallas. … Ryan Tannehill and the Titans are playing their best football of the season, and this week they get a Saints defense playing its worst pass defense of the season. Over the past four weeks, the Saints are allowing the third-most PPG to quarterbacks and a league-high 9.5 yards per pass attempt. Gimme Ryan Tanne-THRILL as a top-15 play this week.

Quarterbacks I hate in Week 10

Jalen Hurts, Philadelphia Eagles (at Broncos)

Look, even the greatest of love affairs go through rough patches. And so Hurts, a player I have championed as a fantasy superstar since Day 1 of the offseason, a guy who was a staple of my preseason content and one of the poster players for my preseason Love/Hate, the QB that has been on more Love lists than anyone else this year … makes his Hate list debut. And there are several reasons why. First, this should be a low-scoring game. The over/under is tied for the second lowest in Week 10. Two, the Eagles are throwing the ball less recently. Hurts has just 31 combined pass attempts over the past two weeks and multiple touchdown passes in just one of his past five games. Yes, his running keeps his floor high, but his ceiling is reliant on rushing touchdowns and some passing volume. But the past two weeks, Philly has six rushing touchdowns and none from Hurts. The Eagles have been more reliant on Jordan Howard. And Boston Scott. And Kenneth Gainwell. I wish I was making those names up. As for the passing, not only is the volume down, but Denver’s defense is very successful in shutting down quarterbacks who like to throw outside the pocket. Broncos opponents have thrown 32 passes outside the pocket, totaling 76 yards and zero touchdowns. Listen, Hurts and I aren’t splitting up. We’re just on a break. In Week 10, I’m going to see other quarterbacks.

Kirk Cousins, Minnesota Vikings (at Chargers)

The Chargers are third in pass defense, last in run defense. That means the Chargers are a run-funnel defense. And that means Cousins’ fantasy production is likely to leak out the bottom of the funnel this week and get all over your brand new suede shoes that you, for some reason, wore while changing your fantasy team’s oil. I lost the analogy somewhere in there. Anyway … my point is Cousins has a poor matchup this week. Here’s another stat to prove it: The Chargers rank sixth in blitz rate and lead the league in designed blitzes since Week 4, while Cousins is just 25th among quarterbacks in fantasy points per attempt when pressured. Cousins has finished outside the top 15 fantasy quarterbacks in three of his past five games. I say that becomes four of six in Week 10.

Running backs I love in Week 10

Cordarrelle Patterson, Atlanta Falcons (at Cowboys)

Last week was absolutely bizarre in fantasy. Jets emergency quarterback Josh Johnson scored more fantasy points than Josh Allen and Patrick Mahomes combined. Jaguars defensive lineman Josh Allen outscored Bills quarterback Josh Allen. Elijah Moore led all wide receivers in fantasy points. And Patterson, a running back, led the league in receiving yards. But really, that last one shouldn’t be lumped in with the rest because Patterson being an unstoppable fantasy force shouldn’t surprise us anymore. Once a journeyman, he’s RB7 through the midway point of the season and had 16-plus fantasy points in six of his past seven games. And in each of those six games, he had at least five-plus receptions. Now Patterson gets a Cowboys defense allowing the third-highest catch rate to running backs this season … which isn’t to say there won’t be plenty of opportunities for fantasy points on the ground for Patterson, too. Over the past four weeks, Dallas is allowing the second-most rushing yards per game to running backs. Probably the weirdest thing about this is Patterson is a top-10 running back for me this week and it doesn’t even feel weird to write.

James Conner, Arizona Cardinals (vs. Panthers)

In my preseason Love/Hate, I wrote this about Conner: “He can still produce with opportunity, and he will be running behind a better line in Arizona than the one Pittsburgh had in 2020. Considering the Cardinals had the fourth-highest red zone rush rate last season, Conner will get plenty of touchdown chances.” And man has he ever. Conner leads the NFL in touchdowns through nine weeks, and it’s because of heavy usage in the red zone and in goal-to-go situations. Conner is top eight in carries in both areas. He played his way out of Pittsburgh by essentially not playing. He was hurt all the time. But since arriving in Arizona, not only has he not been hurt — that’s been Chase Edmonds – but he now spends all his time in the end zone, not the trainer’s room. I’m not guaranteeing Conner will crack the end zone three times again this week, but he will have plenty of opportunities against a Panthers defense that, over the past four weeks, is allowing 120 rushing yards per game to running backs, sixth highest in the league. Add in some potential pass-game usage (he had five receptions last week after having only five the entire season previously) and I have Conner as a top-eight play in Week 10.

Darrel Williams, Kansas City Chiefs (at Raiders)

I know, I know. Putting a member of the Kansas City offense on the Love list? Maybe the worst offense ever in the history of the world (according to some tweets I’ve seen, at least)?! Have I lost my mind? But while the rest of the Chiefs’ offense has sputtered, Williams has produced while Clyde Edwards-Helaire has been out. In the four CEH-less games, Williams is averaging 14.9 PPG. He also has at least 19 touches in three of those four games and at least three receptions in all four. Meanwhile, over the past four weeks, the Raiders are allowing the sixth-most yards per carry (4.8) to opposing running backs. So yes, while we are living in a bizarro world in which the Kansas City offense is putrid, you still should have Darrel Williams in your lineup this week.

D’Ernest Johnson, Cleveland Browns (at Patriots)

In a game in which Nick Chubb, Kareem Hunt, Demetric Felton, John Kelly, Earnest Byner, Reuben Droughns, Peyton Hillis and Leroy Hoard could all be out (Jim Brown is currently listed as questionable), Johnson will most definitely be in for the Browns. He should also be in fantasy lineups. Remember, Johnson proved he could produce as Cleveland’s lead back a few weeks ago, looking every bit the part of a star back, running for 146 yards and a touchdown against the Broncos on a Thursday night, putting up 24.8 fantasy points in the process. The strength of the Browns is playing good defense and running the ball, especially in close, as they lead the NFL in red zone rush rate. (Second in overall rush rate). A matchup against the Patriots defense isn’t as daunting as you might think. Over the past four weeks, New England is allowing 4.6 yards per carry to running backs, eighth most in the league. If you didn’t drop Johnson after Chubb came back, congratulations, you’ve got a top-15 running back ready to go in Week 10.

Others receiving votes: The Buccaneers allow the highest catch rate to running backs this season and the third-most receptions per game to backs. I tell you that because it allows me to actually say something positive about my Washington Football Team, and that is: J.D. McKissic, who has at least 17 fantasy points and eight receptions in two of his past three games, is a solid flex option this week. … If we don’t learn from history, we are doomed to repeat it. So understand I recommended Boston Scott in the space last week. Yeesh. That caveat aside, to the eye test, Jordan Howard looked… good? Yeah, actually. I’m as surprised at you. But he now has at least 12 carries, 50 rushing yards and a touchdown in both of his games with the Eagles this season, averaging 15.4 PPG. He also has 12 red zone carries and six goal-to-go carries over that stretch. And his Week 10 opponents, the Denver Broncos, have surrendered 4.9 YPC to running backs over the past four weeks. So while ESPN has yet to greenlight my 10-part documentary titled “The Last Dance 2,” chronicling Jordan’s final run as a viable fantasy back in Philadelphia, I still think he deserves serious flex consideration this week. … The Jets allow the most fantasy points per game to running backs this season – a whopping 5.0 PPG more than any other team, in fact — which is good news for Devin Singletary managers, especially if Zack Moss is out for this game (Moss is currently in the NFL’s concussion protocol). Singletary, by the way, had a season-high seven receptions last week. … As of this writing, Damien Harris and Rhamondre Stevenson are in the concussion protocol. If Harris plays, he’s an obvious start. But if Harris is out on Sunday and Stevenson is cleared, I really like him. Stevenson led the Patriots in rushing and receiving last week, earning a season-high 12 touches, and he has 40 touches over his past four games.

Running backs I hate in Week 10

Elijah Mitchell, San Francisco 49ers (vs. Rams)

Over the past four weeks, the Rams are allowing just 3.7 YPC to running backs and, on the season, allow the ninth-fewest rushing yards per game to backs. They also have the seventh-best red zone defense. I’d feel better about Mitchell this week if I felt he was a bigger part of San Francisco’s passing game, but before last week, he had just four total targets in five games. I felt like his passing-game usage last week (five catches) was due to negative game script and the other players Kyle Shanahan had available at the time, so it’s not something I’m counting on going forward. I have to start Mitchell this week because I have no other options in a few leagues. You might be in the same boat. Which means, I get it, start Mitchell this week, but don’t expect much.

Antonio Gibson, Washington Football Team (vs. Buccaneers)

Gibson has not finished as a top-30 running back in fantasy since Week 5. Top 30! I mean, come on. The way I pictured this Washington season playing out in my imagination, Gibson would be top three most every week, his only “bad” performances coming when he was pulled from games in the first quarter with Washington leading 75-0, and I would already have my flights to Ohio booked for his early induction into the Hall of Fame. But here we are. Gibson still doesn’t seem 100% healthy, and in the last game Jaret Patterson got a decent amount of work. (Gibson, McKissic and Patterson all had 11 touches in that game). So you’ve got playing time issues, health and now Gibson faces a Bucs defense that is top five in rushing yards per game, yards per carry and touchdown rate to running backs. And with Washington a heavy underdog in this game — of course! — the passing-game work will go to McKissic, not Gibson. McKissic has 12 more catches this season than Gibson has targets, and holds an 83-15 edge over Gibson in third-down snaps. If anyone wants a plane ticket to Canton, let me know. I won’t need it. Sigh.

Adrian Peterson, Tennessee Titans (vs. Saints)

Last week we turned back the clocks, but not so far back that Peterson became a fantasy star again. Peterson struggled to get much going in his Titans debut, and he faces another tough matchup this week against the Saints. New Orleans holds running backs to a league-low 2.8 yards per carry and 53.1 rushing yards per game. Since Peterson got only one target in his debut, his fantasy production will likely be contingent on how well he does against that Saints run D and whether he can somehow manage to fall into the end zone. #NotIdeal

Pass-catchers I love in Week 10

Diontae Johnson, Pittsburgh Steelers (vs. Lions)

While the box score production last week wasn’t what we hoped, there are a lot of factors in Johnson’s favor this week. First, it’s a great matchup, as the Lions give up a league-high 15.3 yards per reception to wide receivers. It took me a while to find, but I have video evidence that proves Ben Roethlisberger can still throw the ball that far. Second, a banged-up Chase Claypool means Ben should look for Johnson even more. (Even with last week’s underwhelming game, Johnson still averages 10 targets per game). Wide receivers who have seen seven-plus targets versus the Lions average 20.1 PPG this season. Finally, what are the odds the refs totally bail out the Steelers two weeks in a row? No, Pittsburgh is going to have to earn this one on its own. That means a lot of Johnson, who is inside the top five at WR for me this week.

Marquise Brown, Baltimore Ravens (at Dolphins)

The Ravens drafted Marquise Brown in hopes he’d be the next Tyreek Hill. That hasn’t happened. Because over the past five weeks, Brown is actually better than Hill. From a fantasy standpoint, at least. Since Week 5, Brown is scoring 20.1 PPG to Hill’s 16.9. He’s actually been terrific for much of the season, with at least 19 points in six of eight games this season. Thursday night games are always weird and I tend not to like to write up players in those games, but I can’t help but love Hollywood against a Dolphins defense that allows the third-most fantasy points per game to wide receivers, including 12 touchdowns to the position, tied for second most. I have Brown as a top-12 receiver in Week 10.

Mike Williams, Los Angeles Chargers (vs. Vikings)

Last week, I put DeVonta Smith on the Hate list. And then after the column published we learned that the majority of L.A.’s secondary was banged up and Smith’s matchup became a lot easier. Jalen Hurts really looked for Smith for the first time in a long time, and he had a huge game. Sigh. However, I also put Mike Williams on the Hate list last week and that worked out as a good call. But it almost didn’t, as Williams got three red zone targets after inexplicably having zero in his previous four games. So I think there’s a slump-busting chance Williams goes back to early-season Big Mike Williams, especially if he can get that kind of usage again this Sunday. The Vikings are also banged up in the secondary and over the past four weeks, Minnesota allows a league-high 221 yards per game to the wide receiver position and the second-most fantasy points per game to wide receivers. I have Williams inside my top 15 this week.

Mike Gesicki, Miami Dolphins (vs. Ravens)

Gesicki has at least seven targets in four of his past five games, and tight ends who see seven-plus targets versus the Ravens this season average 17.8 PPG. Baltimore also allows the most yards per game to tight ends, and the six touchdowns it has surrendered to the position is tied for the second most overall. So it’s very clear: If other AFC North teams want to knock the Ravens out of first place, they just need to field a team of nothing but tight ends. It’s so obvious. How do I not have an NFL head-coaching job yet?

Others receiving votes: In the three games that Jerry Jeudy has played this season, his target share (22.4%) dwarfs those of Courtland Sutton (10.6%) and Tim Patrick (14.1%). That’s called foreshadowing for later in this column. It also means that usage should bode well for Jeudy against the Eagles, who have allowed the fourth-highest catch rate to wide receivers over the past four weeks. … Hunter Renfrow looks like an accountant, but his fantasy managers have been a-counting a lot of fantasy points lately. (Renfrow also looks like a dad, so that dad joke was for him.) Anyway, since Week 3 Renfrow is WR25 in PPG (14.0) and has 17 targets over the past two weeks, including five in the red zone. … The Colts have allowed a league-high 15 touchdowns to wide receivers this season, three more than any other team. And since Marvin Jones Jr. has six end zone targets this season — compared to five total for all other Jaguars receivers — he’s the Jacksonville receiver you want this week. … The Saints surrender the most yards per game to wide receivers this season and with Marshon Lattimore expected to shadow A.J. Brown, a finally healthy Julio Jones should actually see the bulk of those yards this week. … Dawson Knox is on track to return Sunday and he was producing like a top-five tight end before he got hurt. His Week 10 opponent, the New York Jets, rank bottom 10 in receptions, yards and fantasy points allowed to tight ends. … Dan Arnold of the Jaguars is the best streaming option at tight end this week. He has at least 10 fantasy points in three of his past four games and 31 targets over that stretch.

Pass-catchers I hate in Week 10

DJ Moore, Carolina Panthers (at Cardinals)

I don’t hate DJ Moore, I just hate what has happened to his production since Sam Darnold started regressing back into “Sam Darnold, a quarterback drafted by the New York Jets.” Since Week 5, Moore is just WR49 on average (10.1 PPG). A big reason for that is because over that same stretch, Darnold is averaging 5 yards per pass attempt. Not only is that the lowest rate in the league, it’s nearly 10% below the next-worst quarterback. I know Darnold is now out and P.J. Walker is in, but until I see some evidence that Walker is significantly better than Darnold, I can’t rank Moore any higher than a risky flex play. Not against a Cardinals defense allowing the third-fewest yards per target to wide receivers this season. And especially so, considering that Moore’s targets have decreased in four straight games.

Adam Thielen, Minnesota Vikings (at Chargers)

Twice. Thielen has finished as a top-20 wide receiver only twice since Week 1. I’m going to pencil him in as failing to finish as a top-20 receiver again this week, facing a Chargers defense allowing the second-fewest yards per game to wide receivers on the season and the fourth-lowest touchdown rate to the position. That lack of touchdowns allowed is super important here. Remember, since 2019 a whopping 45% of Thielen’s fantasy points have come from touchdown receptions. He’s outside my top-20 this week.

Courtland Sutton, Denver Broncos (vs. Eagles)

Sutton managers may want to consider filing a restraining order against Jerry Jeudy. In the three games Jeudy has played this season, Sutton has yet to finish as a top-60 fantasy receiver even once. Sutton’s totals in those three games are four catches, 63 yards and zero touchdowns. Not great! As I mentioned above, when Jeudy plays, his target share (22.4%) is significantly higher than Sutton’s in those same games (10.6%). And not only is Jeudy slated to play this week, Darius Slay is, too — and he’ll shadow Sutton. To be fair, I have been bad this year at predicting good Sutton weeks vs. bad Sutton weeks. He always has a chance to score and I do like Teddy Bridgewater this week. But I feel like this is a big Jeudy and Broncos tight end week. As a result, Sutton is just a borderline top-30 play for me in Week 10.

Zach Ertz, Arizona Cardinals (vs. Panthers)

Small sample size, of course, but since joining the Cardinals, Ertz has yet to see an end zone target. In fact, 39% of the fantasy points he has since joining the Cardinals came on a single reception. With the caveat that any tight end with a pulse is playable these days, I’m less bullish on Ertz this week against a Panthers defense allowing the third-fewest yards per target to tight ends.

Source: ESPN


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