Last week was brutal for many fantasy football managers.

How brutal? Here’s how the top-five scoring offenses performed last week:

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who own the No. 1 scoring offense, were on bye, meaning managers were without Tom Brady, Leonard Fournette, Chris Godwin and Mike Evans. The Arizona Cardinals were without Kyler Murray and DeAndre Hopkins, and Chase Edmonds got hurt on his first touch.

The Dallas Cowboys didn’t score a touchdown through three quarters and the two TDs it scored in garbage time went to Malik Turner, who didn’t have a catch all season before Week 9. The Buffalo Bills couldn’t score a touchdown, only managing two field goals. Against the Jacksonville Jaguars. And the Los Angeles Rams only managed one touchdown, and it was Sony Michel who got into the end zone.

In fact, only 23 players scored at least 20 PPR points in Week 9 – the fewest such performances in a single week this season. Beyond that, only five players registered 100 receiving yards on the week – also the fewest such instances in a week.

And who led the NFL in receiving yards in Week 9? How about one of the most pleasant surprises in fantasy football through the first half of the season.

Receiving yards Week 9

Cordarrelle Patterson was drafted by the Minnesota Vikings in the first round of 2013 NFL draft as a wide receiver. Now in Year 9 and featured as a running back for the Atlanta Falcons, Patterson has been a revelation. He’s already got a career high in rushing attempts and yards.

But even his rushing success doesn’t fully explain why Patterson has soared all the way to RB7 through the first half of the season. Patterson’s true value comes from his work through the air. He is only 10 yards away from his career high in receiving yards (469) – a number he posted in his rookie season.

Entering this year, Patterson only had four games with five catches and 50 receiving yards. He already has five such games. And, on the back of his 126-yard outing in the Falcons’ upset win over the New Orleans Saints, Patterson leads all running backs in receiving yards and in fantasy points accumulated through the air.

Patterson, with just his prowess through the air and removing his rushing statistics, would be WR27, directly ahead of Courtland Sutton and AJ Brown.

He has at least 14 PPR points in every week since Week 2. In the four games he’s played and has not recorded a touchdown, Patterson is averaging 15.7 PPR points.

In the four games that Derrick Henry played before his injury in which he did not score a touchdown, he averaged 13.3 fantasy points. In the three games that Jonathan Taylor has not recorded a touchdown, Taylor has averaged 10.7 points.

In other words, Patterson has been nothing short of elite. And most critically, he hasn’t been touchdown dependent. He is a must-start every week.

As always, let’s jump around and evaluate Week 10 using some of the top data-driven projections available powered by our AI models. We’ll get into some yays and nays before highlighting a few DFS value plays.

Fantasy Yays

Note: The ranking to which we compare ours in this piece is the expert consensus ranking (ECR) from Fantasy Pros. These rankings update throughout the week. (We pulled these numbers from Friday.) Once again, we are using PPR unless noted otherwise.

UPDATE: Rams receiver Robert Woods had been in this section after coming on strong of late, but news came out Saturday that he had suffered a torn ACL in practice. ESPN is reporting that Odell Beckham Jr, who the Rams signed earlier this week, will make his debut with the team against the San Francisco 49ers on Monday Night Football. Woods’ injury leaves fantasy star Cooper Kupp, Beckham and Van Jefferson as Los Angeles’ primary wideouts.

Dak Prescott, QB (DAL) vs. ATL (ECR: 4, Our Rank: 1): As we alluded to above, it was a brutal week for Dak and the Cowboys offense. But he managed to salvage his day with those two fourth-quarter touchdowns, ending the week as QB9.

Facing a much weaker Falcons defense than what they saw last week against the Denver Broncos, the Cowboys should have no problems moving the ball. The Falcons are last in the NFL in sacks (11) and allow the second-highest rate of third-down conversions (47.9%). In seven games played this season, Prescott has five 20-point performances. Not coincidentally, he has at least three touchdown passes in all five of those games.

Jalen Hurts, Tom Brady, Taylor Heinicke, Tua Tagovailoa. That’s the list of quarterbacks who have thrown for three touchdowns against Atlanta this season. Dak has our highest projected passing touchdowns and because of it, he’s also our top QB play of the week.

Tony Pollard, RB (DAL) vs. ATL (ECR: 32, Our Rank: 23): Not only does our modeling suspect Prescott is in for a good week, but we’re also projecting a good week for the… Cowboys backup running back?

Throwing out last week’s debacle against Denver, Pollard has received an average of 12.6 touches per game with Dak under center. And he knows how to turn those touches into production. Pollard’s 5.60 yards per carry is fourth among running backs, and his 8.7 yards per catch is a career high.

top five running backs yards per carry

Our modeling is only projecting Pollard for 11 touches in this game. But with an ECR that indicates he’s a low-end RB3, his chances of outperforming an RB3 finish are high. Pollard is a solid RB2 this week.

Chris Godwin (ECR: 17, Our Rank: 3) and Mike Evans (ECR: 6, Our Rank: 5), WRs (TB) vs WSH: This one is pretty simple. How can a team have two wide receivers as top-five plays? Tampa Bay has the league’s most prolific passing attack. The Washington Football Team has the league’s worst passing defense.

Godwin and Evans are WR9 and WR10 on the season. In their two previous performances before Tampa Bay’s bye week, Godwin accounted for 53.1 PPR points and Evans scored 44.4.

In his three games this season with eight receptions, Godwin has also accounted for 100 receiving yards and a touchdown. Godwin is a game-time decision, but he’s a top-three play if active.

Evans is playing as well as he ever has. He’s tied for second in the NFL with eight receiving touchdowns. He’s fourth among wide receivers in projected receiving touchdowns this week. With or without Godwin, he’s a legit WR1.

Fantasy Nays

Justin Herbert, QB (LAC) vs. MIN (ECR: 7, Our Rank: 10): Herbert has been the QB equivalent of his WR teammate, Mike Williams, this season. Herbert has four games with fewer than 15 points, but he also has three games with greater than 30.

Even though Lamar Jackson roasted the Vikings last week, it was the only top-10 finish the Vikings have allowed to a quarterback since Week 1. Meanwhile, unlike Prescott’s favorable matchup against the weak third-down defense of the Falcons, Herbert faces a Minnesota team that is able to get off the field at the fifth-best rate in the NFL.

opponent third-down conversions

Herbert is still a top-10 play this week, but he carries more risk than some of the quarterbacks higher than him in our projections.

James Conner, RB (ARI) vs. CAR (ECR: 10, Our Rank: 18): There’s a tendency to overreact in the fantasy world to jaw-dropping performances. That’s what Conner had last week in almost single-handedly demolishing the 49ers to the tune of 173 scrimmage yards and three touchdowns.

Zoom out, however, and realize that Conner remains a touchdown-dependent running back. Week 9 was Conner’s first performance with more than 21 fantasy points, and it was also the first week he would have produced at least 10 PPR points without a touchdown.

The defense Conner faces this week, the Carolina Panthers, have only allowed four rushing touchdowns by a running back all season. At the same time, Conner’s 10 rushing touchdowns are tied with Derrick Henry for the most in the league and there’s a solid chance he gets into the end zone again.

But even with his likely increase in volume because of Chase Edmonds’ injury, Conner is more of an RB2 than a low-end RB1 because of his dependency on scoring touchdowns.

Michael Pittman Jr, WR (IND) vs. JAX (ECR: 10, Our Rank: 20): Pittman has shot up the WR rankings the last few weeks, reaching a season-high WR7 ranking entering Week 10. With at least 17 points in four of his last five games, Pittman has been the No. 1 option for Carson Wentz.

However, Pittman may have trouble continuing his elite play. He has only surpassed six targets once since Week 5, making him highly reliant on touchdowns and big plays. Facing a Jacksonville team that just shut down the high-powered Bills offense, Pittman may struggle to replicate WR1 production without an increase in targets and receptions.

If Pittman can receive the volume of targets he was the recipient of in the first five weeks (8.6 targets per game) and combine that with his production from the last five weeks, he’d become a consistent low-end WR1. Until that happens, he remains in the WR2 discussion.

DeVonta Smith, WR (PHI) vs. DEN (ECR: 28, Our Rank: 44): Just like with James Conner, this is another instance of a player receiving a boost after a phenomenal week. Smith finished the week as WR2, a fantastic performance for the rookie out of Alabama.

However, that was his best weekly finish since Week 5 when he finished as WR28. Smith has as many games with 14 or more fantasy points (four) as he does games with less than six PPR points. Now facing a Denver defense that just finished suffocating a significantly more explosive Cowboys offense, Smith and the Philadelphia Eagles are unlikely to have as much success as they’ve had the last two weeks.

Smith is the No. 1 receiving option on a team that has thrown the ball a combined 31 times the last two games. His ECR suggests he’s a solid Flex option. But with less opportunity than most other top options, he’s a risky flex play for this week.

Best DFS Value Plays

Mark Ingram, RB (NO) vs. TEN (DK Price: 4,500): With Alvin Kamara sidelined, Ingram immediately inserts himself into legit RB1 contention. Ingram received 14 touches last week against the Falcons and he may double that without Kamara. Ingram is our top value of the week.

Tyler Lockett, WR (SEA) vs. GB (DK Price: 6,500): Not only is Lockett one of our top DFS value plays of the week, he’s also projected to be our fourth-highest scorer at the receiver spot. With Russell Wilson back and Lockett coming off a scintillating Week 8 performance, look for him to continue his momentum with another great outing. The Seattle Seahawks need to start winning to make a playoff push. It starts with Russ finding his most beloved targets and that makes Lockett a must-start.

Cameron Brate, TE (TB) vs. WSH (DK Price: 2,700): Oh yea. Another Buccaneer. Brate has received four targets in each of his last three games. If you choose to create a lineup involving a cheap tight end, Brate is a solid option. The Bucs are likely to score through the air on Sunday and if Brate gets one of them, he will significantly outperform his price.

Graphic design by Briggs Clinard.

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