2020 NFL Power Rankings: Week 10

Just when we started to feel like we had a good handle on what to expect in the NFL, the league threw us a massive curveball. Pittsburgh was taken the distance by Garrett Gilbert and the hapless Cowboys. Carolina pushed Kansas City to the limit. New Orleans battered Tampa Bay in a shocking 38-3 win. Josh Allen blasted the high-flying Seahawks.

Those were the top four teams in my power rankings last week. They all either won ugly or took tough losses. As a result, the rankings underwent a massive shakeup.

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1. Pittsburgh Steelers: 8-0 (Last Week: 1)
Won 24-19 at Dallas
It was ugly, but the Steelers stayed perfect. Once again, the defense came up with a pass breakup in the end zone on the final play of the game to seal the victory. Facing the Ravens, that was an acceptable outcoming. Against the Cowboys, who were starting their fourth quarterback of the season, this is a much more concerning outcome. Ben Roethlisberger seems like he is barely hanging on. He spent much of the game limping around, but magicked up three touchdowns, including two in the fourth quarter. The run game all but disappeared and the defense was not as sharp as recent weeks. Call it a trap game, the Steelers need to bounce back despite the win.

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2. Kansas City Chiefs: 8-1 (Last Week: 2)
Won 33-31 vs. Carolina
Patrick Mahomes is looking unstoppable again. 25 touchdowns and just one interception this year is unbelievable. He needed to be at his best against Carolina. The Panthers pushed the Chiefs to the brink. Kansas City’s usually stout defense had no answer for Teddy Bridgewater on Sunday. The running game also disappeared, as the team finished with just 30 yards on 12 carries. Mahomes is the best quarterback in the NFL, but counting on him to go off like this every week does not feel sustainable. However, winning while not at your best is still important. KC gets the week off next to recharge.

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3. Baltimore Ravens: 6-2 (Last Week: 5)
Won 24-10 at Indianapolis
It might not be MVP-mode Lamar Jackson, but he was efficient in a solid win. The defense deserves way more of the credit in the defensive struggle. Chuck Clark returned a fumble for a touchdown as the Ravens continue to lead the league in scoring defense. Baltimore contained Philip Rivers and the passing game, holding them to just 5.2 yards per play. Weirdly enough, the Colts actually had more success per play running the ball. It is clear this team is talented, but it feels like Baltimore is not clicking yet. That could be a good thing if Jackson and the offense can recapture its 2019 form.

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4. Green Bay Packers: 6-2 (Last Week: 7)
Won 34-17 at San Francisco
No one ever wants to face Aaron Rodgers, but you really never want to face him coming off a loss. He went off for 305 yards and four touchdowns to lead the Packers to their sixth victory of the year. In a game where the running game was not at full strength due to injuries and COVID-19, Rodgers stepped up and dominated with Davante Adams. He got plenty of help from the defense too. Green Bay led 34-3 before San Francisco punched in two garbage-time touchdowns. The 49ers are the most banged up team in the league, but this was still a great win to get back on track.

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5. New Orleans Saints: 6-2 (Last Week: 8)
Won 38-3 at Tampa Bay
Mic drop. People have loved to compare Drew Brees and Tom Brady this year as the two trade the NFL’s all-time touchdown title back and forth. Brees gave himself some breathing room with four scores. The defense made sure he held that lead too, keeping Brady out of the end zone. New Orleans rolled out the perfect plan to shut him down, generating pressure without having to blitz. Brady looked uncomfortable all night long. Maybe the Saints just have the Buccaneers’ number right now, but this was a huge win to show they still deserve to be considered Super Bowl contenders.

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6. Buffalo Bills: 7-2 (Last Week: 9)
Won 44-34 vs. Seattle
After two lackluster weeks, Josh Allen and the offense woke up. The former Wyoming star aired it out for 415 yards and scored four total touchdowns. Buffalo’s defense came to play as well with five sacks and four forced turnovers from Russell Wilson. More than halfway through the season now, the Bills seem to be well on their way to a playoff appearance and potentially a division title. Miami is keeping things interest, but Buffalo has to feel really good about the football it is playing right now.

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7. Seattle Seahawks: 6-2 (Last Week: 4)
Lost 44-34 at Buffalo
Someone get the Seahawks a defense. Seattle was always likely to give up more points with the team letting Russell Wilson air it out, but this unit might be the worst in the NFL. Surrendering the third most points and most yards per game this season is cause for major concern. The offense had been able to make up for most of that this year, but even Wilson could not cover up the deficiencies against Buffalo. Wilson tossed a pair of interceptions and took five sacks in the game. His counterpart, Josh Allen, threw for 415 yards and three touchdowns. He also added one of the ground. For as good as this Seahawks offense has played this year, Seattle has no chance of wining the Super Bowl with its current defense.

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8. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: 6-3 (Last Week: 3)
Lost 38-3 vs. New Orleans
What in the world was that? This was touted as the clear game of the week. Tampa Bay didn’t get the memo. Tom Brady played one of the worst games of his career. He finished with three interceptions, no touchdowns and just 5.5 yards per attempt. The Buccaneers made no effort to establish the run, finishing eight yards on five attempts. One of those was a kneel down by Blaine Gabbert as well. Four called running plays is not going to cut it. Defensively, the Bucs disappointed again. Drew Brees carved them up for four touchdowns. Tampa got away with one against New York the week before. It clearly did not make the necessary adjustments. For as good as they have looked at times, going 0-2 vs. the Saints is a bad sign.

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9. Tennessee Titans: 6-2 (Last Week: 10)
Won 24-17 vs. Chicago
This defense finally showed up. It got a bit of a boost in the form of facing the Bears offense, but it was still an impressive performance. Tennessee held Chicago to just 2.8 yards per carry and forced two fumbles. One of those was returned for a touchdown as well. It turns out that it was the defense’s turn to carry the load. The Titans’ offense struggled with less than 250 yards. Ryan Tannehill only completed 10 passes the whole game. Tennessee still doesn’t seem like it is truly back on track, but this was an important win to pick up with the Colts coming to town on Thursday.

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10. Miami Dolphins: 5-3 (Last Week: 12)
Won 34-31 at Arizona
Tua Tagovailoa is undefeated as an NFL starter. Now, the sample size is just two games, but the former Alabama quarterback settled in nicely after a rocky debut. He led his team to a shootout victory over a talented Cardinals offense. Miami’s defense did just enough to hang on for the win. It is a huge swing for the Dolphins, who go from being happy to be above .500 to holding a playoff position. There is still room for improvement, but without their top two running backs, this a great sign for things to come.

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11. Arizona Cardinals: 5-3 (Last Week: 6)
Lost 34-31 vs. Miami
Kyler Murray is solidly in the MVP conversation after another stellar outing. He should have a shot at winning as well if this is the kind of help he is going to get from his defense. It is hard to argue any one player is more valuable to their team right now than Murray, who scored four touchdowns, completed 21-of-26 passes for 283 yards and racked 106 yards rushing. He did lose one fumble and that really was the difference in the game. Zane Gonzalez’s game-tying field goal fell short at the end of the game as Arizona suffered a biter defeat. There is no doubt this team is heading in the right direction, but the defense still has a lot of growing up to do.

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12. Las Vegas Raiders: 5-3 (Last Week: 13)
Won 31-26 at Los Angeles
Las Vegas was lucky to win this one. Los Angeles nearly hauled in the game-winning touchdown on the final play of the game, but it was overturned on a review. Derek Carr had a ho-hum kind of afternoon, finishing with just 165 yards passing but adding two touchdowns. The run game was reliable and effective as the Raiders rumbled for 160 yards on the ground. It wasn’t perfect and the win does not count for any less because it was close. However, Vegas looked like the worse team for much of this game. Jon Gruden has work to do with two more pivotal divisional games coming up.

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13. Indianapolis Colts: 5-3 (Last Week: 11)
Lost 24-10 vs. Baltimore
Another failed test for the Philip Rivers-led offense. Baltimore’s defense is one of the best in the league, but 10 points is not good enough for a team with playoff aspirations. There might have been some controversy regarding the late-game interception Rivers threw, but that was not the real issue of the game. Indy cannot lean into the run enough right now to compensate for it’s lackluster passing game. Frank Reich might need to change the approach for the unit heading into an important divisional game.

14. Los Angeles Rams: 5-3 (Last Week: 14)
Bye Week
The identity of the Rams has drastically changed over the past two years. Los Angeles shifted from the high-flying, offensive-minded team that reached the Super Bowl in 2018 to this gritty, lockdown defensive group we have seen in 2020. The defense is allowing the second fewest points per game this year. However, the offense has been hit or miss. Los Angeles has followed just about every impressive showing with a troubling performance. If Sean McVay can find any consistency in the second half, the Rams should be in good shape.

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15. Cleveland Browns: 5-3 (Last Week: 17)
Bye Week
Who are the 2020 Cleveland Browns? No, this isn’t an Alex Trebek tribute, although he will be sorely missed, it is a genuine question. Cleveland has a winning record at the midway point and is solidly in the playoff hunt. However, the Browns offense has been anything but reliable and the defense is struggling to contend with injuries. Cleveland has won some close games, but the losses have all been lopsided, especially in terms of offensive performance. It is hard to know exactly what to make of this group at this stage, but they will be one of the most interesting teams to watch in the second half of the year.

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16. Chicago Bears: 5-4 (Last Week 15)
Lost 24-17 at Tennessee
Remember when the Bears were 5-1? That feels like a lifetime ago after three straight losses. Each one has shared a similar theme as well. Chicago’s defense does just enough keep things close but the offense cannot pull it out. Nick Foles actually put up some solid numbers. However, he threw the ball 52 times. That is a not a winning recipe for the Bears. Foles needs more than 2.8 yards per carry from his running game and Matt Nagy needs to think about handing the playcalling duties to someone else.

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17. Atlanta Falcons: 3-6 (Last Week: 20)
Won 34-27 vs. Denver
Atlanta let Denver climb back into their game on Sunday just enough that you though another collapse was on the horizon, but the Falcons closed it out for their third win in four games. Matt Ryan looked sharp with 284 yards and three touchdown passes. Defensively, the Falcons held the Broncos out of the end zone for the first three quarters of play. Perhaps this truly was just a matter of them taking their foot off the gas. Atlanta is far from one of the league’s elite clubs at this point, but it is proving to be a tough out under Raheem Morris.

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18. Philadelphia Eagles: 3-4-1 (Last Week: 21)
Bye Week
Philly took a week off an watched as the rest of the NFC East crumbled around them. Every other team in the division has at least six losses at this point, giving the Eagles a very solid cushion. What’s more is that this team should finally be getting healthy. Alshon Jeffery, Miles Sanders and Lane Johnson are all expected to practice this week with a chance to play against the Giants. If Darius Slay can get back to full strength on the defensive side of the ball, the Eagles will be a much tougher team to deal with than the one we have seen in recent weeks.

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19. Carolina Panthers: 3-6 (Last Week: 18)
Lost 33-31 at Kansas City
Close isn’t going to cut it a whole longer in Carolina as the losing streak now hits four. However, taking the defending champs to the wire is an impressive feat. Christian McCaffrey was flying around in his return to action, although he could be back on the sideline with a shoulder injury. Teddy Bridgewater played great, posting three total touchdowns. Unfortunately, this young defense could not slow down Patrick Mahomes. It is easy to feel a lot better about the Panthers this year than last year. This are simply growing pains in the rebuild process.

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20. Minnesota Vikings: 3-5 (Last Week: 24)
Won 34-20 vs. Detroit
It is amazing what fresh legs will do for you. Dalvin Cook sat out Week 6 before enjoying his bye week. In his past two games, he has racked up 479 yards from scrimmage and six touchdowns. He is now drawing MVP attention and carrying the Vikings back into playoff contention. Minnesota still has a long way to go before it can seriously think about the postseason, but there is no question this team’s outlook feels very different than it did three weeks ago.

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21. San Francisco 49ers: 4-5 (Last Week: 16)
Lost 34-17 vs. Green Bay
Injuries caught up with the 49ers again. With Jimmy Garoppolo and George Kittle both out against the Packers on a short week, the offense laid an egg. San Francisco managed just three points through the first three quarters. Defensively, the 49ers had no answer for Devante Adams, who finished 173 yards and a touchdown. This has been one of the few times this year that this banged up squad has been noncompetitive. That’s a credit to Kyle Shanahan, but it is hard to see how San Francisco turns things around with so many injuries at key positions.

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22. Denver Broncos: 3-5 (Last Week: 19)
Lost 34-27 at Atlanta
It was another slow start and this time the Broncos could not overcome it. Denver trailed by three touchdowns in the fourth quarter before finally starting to make things competitive. In fact, Drew Lock actually led three touchdown drives in the final quarter, but Atlanta did just enough to hold on. Denver has shown it has a talented offense and a defense capable of making big plays, but it needs to solve the issues surrounding these massive first-half deficits.

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23. New England Patriots: 3-5 (Last Week: 22)
Won 30-27 at New York
That was the opposite of convincing. The Patriots snapped a four-game losing streak but needed a last-second field goal to outlast the winless Jets. Cam Newton struggled to stretch the field all night, missing a few passes downfield. Joe Flacco pulled apart the defense without Stephon Gilmore. Once again, the running game showed up though as Damien Harris and Rex Burkhead each carried the load. It was an important victory for New England to keep its playoff hopes alive, but not one that made you feel better about the direction this team is headed.

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24. Cincinnati Bengals: 2-5-1 (Last Week: 25)
Bye Week
Hopefully, Joe Burrow is just spending his bye week in an ice bath. Only Carson Wentz has been sacked more than Burrow has this season. His offensive line has struggled in pass protection all year. However, the offense seems to hitting its stride. A win over the Titans was a showing of the potential this team holds under the former Heisman winner. With Joe Mixon given an extra week to get healthy and his receiving corp looking deep, Burrow should be in a position to put up some big numbers in the second half.

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25. Detroit Lions: 3-5 (Last Week: 23)
Lost 34-20 at Minnesota
As you read this, Dalvin Cook is still running past helpless Lions defenders. After quietly climbing back to .500, Detroit has suffered back-to-back losses where it was clear it was outmatched. The absence of Kenny Golladay clearly impacted the offense as Matthew Stafford faltered against a young Vikings secondary before exiting with a concussion. The odds that Matt Patricia is coaching this team next year continue to shrink as Detroit seems headed for another season of mediocrity.

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26. Houston Texans: 2-6 (Last Week: 27)
Won 27-25 at Jacksonville
Houston has proven it is capable of beating Jacksonville this year and not much else. To be fair, that’s something the Colts cannot claim at this point, but being 0-6 against the rest of the league is not a great look for the Texans. Deshaun Watson put together another strong performance. It was almost blown by a defense facing a rookie quarterback making his first NFL start. Had the Jaguars converted their two-point conversion, we would have been looking at a tie game with a minute and thirty seconds left to play. All in all, it is hard to feel super confident in the Texans right now.

27. Los Angeles Chargers: 2-6 (Last Week: 26)
Lost 31-26 vs. Las Vegas
Another week, another narrow Chargers loss. Justin Herbert is trying his best to drag this team to a win, but the defense has not cooperated in recent weeks. Los Angeles was gashed on Sunday for 6.2 yards per carry by Las Vegas. The Chargers may have slowed down Derek Carr, but it came at the expense of defending the run. It looked like the streak was final over with a late-game touchdown, but that was overturned. Los Angeles is showing a good amount of fight this season despite long odds, but it would be good to see them win a close game at some point.

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28. New York Giants: 2-7 (Last Week: 29)
Won 23-20 at Washington
Don’t look now, but the Giants trail the Eagles by just one game in the win column. A win over Philadelphia in Week 10 would actually breathe life into chances of a potential playoff appearance. New York was a bit lucky to hang on for this one though. Daniel Jones was hounded all day long, taking sacks and fumbling twice, although both were recovered by the Giants. It was another impressive outing for the revamped New York defense. It forced five turnovers on Sunday to seal the victory. The Giants feel much closer to a top-five draft selection than a playoff run, but they are squarely in the mix at this stage.

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29. Washington: 2-6 (Last Week: 28)
Lost 23-20 vs. New York
It was a tough loss for Washington. Kyle Allen seems set to miss a large chunk of games, thrusting Alex Smith into the starting role. While he is the feel-good story of the NFL season regardless of how he plays, his takeover in the game went anything but smoothly. Three interceptions marred an otherwise impressive performance. If Smith can return to his reliable ways, at least in his decision making, Washington should still be at least competitive in the second half of the year.

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30. Dallas Cowboys: 2-7 (Last Week: 30)
Lost 24-19 vs. Pittsburgh
Garrett Gilbert almost sparked a magical win for the Cowboys. Ezekiel Elliott was hampered by a hamstring injury, leaving the offense squarely in the hands of Gilbert. He handled the task about as well as you would want for a recent practice squad member. Dallas is already thinking about the future. This team has been ravaged by injuries this season and it is time to focus on 2021.

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31. Jacksonville Jaguars: 1-7 (Last Week: 31)
Lost 27-25 vs. Houston
Jake Luton’s NFL debut actually went surprisingly well, even if Jacksonville was unable to finish the job. 300-plus passing yards a touchdown and an interception are pretty solid numbers to open his career. He also added a touchdown on the ground. The Jaguars are lacking in talent, but at least they are competitive at this point. There is a good chance this team will start fresh in the offseason, but these games are still important to figure out which player are worth keeping around.

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32. New York Jets: 0-9 (Last Week: 32)
Lost 30-27 vs. New England
Just when you thought the Jets could not find a way to disappoint anyone, they found a way to do it. Joe Flacco turned back the clocks to sometime in 2012 with three touchdowns against an undermanned Patriots’ secondary. New York led by 10 points heading into the fourth quarter, but ran all of four offensive plays as New England staged a massive comeback. The two drives the Jets had in the fourth quarter resulted in an interception and a three-and-out. The misery just continues for this franchise.

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Fantasy Football 2020 Waiver Wire Pickups: Allen Lazard and Jordan Reed among top options

We are entering the home stretch of the fantasy football regular season. Injuries once again rule the fantasy world with stars such as Christian McCaffrey and Michael Thomas set to return. On the other side, Kenny Golladay and George Kittle could miss some time. While the return of McCaffrey and Thomas crushes the fantasy value of players like Mike Davis and Tre’Quan Smith, Jordan Reed and Marvin Jones Jr. should see a nice boost in fantasy value with Kittle and Golladay out.

With so many moving part, let’s dive in to this long list of potential additions for your fantasy roster this week.

Lock is coming off a three-touchdown performance against the Chargers. (Wikimedia Commons)

Drew Lock, QB, DEN
It is not a great week to need quarterback help, but if you are truly desperate, I am high on Drew Lock for this week. He faces a Falcons defense that has struggled a lot this year. Atlanta is still allowing the second most points to opposing quarterbacks, but this defense has not been quite as porous since Dan Quinn got fired. Lock is coming off his best game of the season and finally seems to be healthy. He also has Jerry Jeudy, DaeSean Hamilton, Noah Fant and KJ Hamler to throw to, plus a good running back tandem. I don’t love playing Lock this week, but if you are dealing with bye weeks or injuries, he is my favorite widely-available option for Week 9.

Damien Harris, RB, NE
Harris has appeared on this list a few times. He seems to be settling in as the top option in this Patriots backfield. Now, there is a risk that comes with every New England running back that he will suddenly disappear from the gameplan. It has been that way for years. He is a better option in standard leagues with just two catches this season. Coming off his best game yet, he finished with 100-plus yards and a touchdown, he is worth adding to your bench as a potential flex play going forward.

Tyler Ervin/Dexter Williams, RBs, GB
Jamal Williams and A.J. Dillon are on the reserve/COVID-19 list. Aaron Jones is a long shot to play on Thursday with a calf injury. Someone has to carry the ball for the Packers, right? Special teams star Tyler Ervin and practice squad rookie Dexter Williams are the only two running backs left for Green Bay. Neither is a proven commodity. Ervin has 10 total touches this season. Williams has never even registered a carry. Based on sheer volume alone, they both could be flex options if you are dealing with bye weeks or struggling to find a replacement for Mike Davis. They definitely would not be my first choice against a talented 49ers front seven, but beggars can’t be choosers.

Zack Moss, RB, BUF
Moss has ramped up each of the past two weeks since returning from injury. Week 8 was his best game yet with 81 yards and two touchdowns on 14 carries. He is still splitting snaps with Devin Singletary, but Buffalo has seemed determined to establish the run in recent weeks. If that trend continues and Moss can resume his role as a pass catcher, he should have some value. Depth is hard to come by at running back, so it is never a bad idea to add more.

Matt Breida/Jordan Howard, RBs, MIA
It was a bit of a surprise, but Myles Gaskin will be out for three weeks with a knee injury. That opens the door for Breida and Howard to see extended action against the Cardinals. Neither one has been overly productive this season. Howard is purely a goal line back and Breida has been ineffective. Still, with Gaskin out and a rookie quarterback making his second start, Miami will likely given them opportunities. I’m not super high on either, but the potential volume makes them intriguing.

Allen Lazard, WR, GB
Welcome back from the IR Allen Lazard. Green Bay is on a short week, so he might not be heavily involved in Week 9, but Lazard is definitely a player worth stashing. He put up 50 fantasy points over his first three games. Just for some context, his 17.3 points per game average is better than Tyler Boyd’s and just trails Stefon Diggs and Keenan Allen. That is the type of player we are talking about here. Perhaps you aren’t ready to start against the 49ers, but you better believe you will be when he plays the Jaguars in Week 10.

Mike Williams, WR, LAC
If you are playing Mike Williams roulette, you likely aren’t doing very well. After a huge performance against the Saints in Week 5, he was a popular add. Many excitedly started him against the Jaguars following the bye week only for him to post a woeful one-catch, four-yard stat line. With people moving on from him after looking like a flash in the pan, Williams naturally put five catches for 99 yards and a touchdown in Week 8. He is a tricky player to navigate right now, but his upside in any given week makes him worth having on your roster.

Darnell Mooney, WR, CHI
The rookie from Tulane has carved out a role for himself in this Bears offense. Since Week 3, Mooney has earned at least five targets in every game. His production has been a bit more hit-and-miss, but he draws a favorable matchup with the Titans secondary this week. Coming off his best game of the season, I think you could consider making Mooney a flex play in Week 9. There is definitely some risk here given Nick Foles’ inconsistent play, but I like Mooney’s upside.

Danny Amendola/Marvin Jones Jr./Marvin Hall, WRs, DET
Kenny Golladay will be out for Week 9’s matchup with the Vikings. Minnesota is allowing the third most points to opposing receivers in fantasy. That opens the door for Marvin Jones Jr. and Danny Amendola to have meaningful roles in the offense against a favorable matchup. If you are in a standard league, grab Jones, who is a red zone threat that can score a lot of touchdowns. Amendola is probably a better fit in PPR settings given his style of play. The wildcard here is Marvin Hall, who emerged as Detroit’s big-play threat after Golladay exited. He had four catches for 113 yards against the Colts. If you are looking for a boom-or-bust option, I would target Hall.

Bourne racked up eight catches for 81 yards in Week 8. (Wikimedia Commons)

Kendrick Bourne, WR, SF
I might actually give 49ers receivers a boost with Jimmy Garoppolo out. Nick Mullens looked comfortable in relief and Bourne benefited. With George Kittle out as well, Bourne figures to star again. He racked up 59 yards in garbage time, which is significant because that is when Mullens took over at quarterback. He and Brandon Aiyuk are the clear top two options in this passing game heading into Thursday’s matchup with the Packers. (Editor’s note: Bourne has tested positive for COVID-19 and will miss Thursday’s game against Green Bay. Trent Taylor and James Richie seem set to start at receiver.)

Jordan Reed/Ross Dwelley, TEs, SF
George Kittle is out for the next eight weeks, so these two are more than just one-week fill ins. Reed had a huge two-touchdown game when Kittle was out in Week 2. Unfortunately, he got hurt the following week. He is expected return from IR in time to face the Packers, but he may be a bit rusty. Dwelley is not much of a pass catcher, but if Reed is unable to go for any reason, he should see enough volume to warrant consideration. I would prioritize Reed over Dwelley, but both could be valuable in deeper leagues.

Trey Burton, TE, IND
It is dangerous to chase touchdowns in fantasy football. Rarely is a reliable metric to predict player’s performances. However, Burton has scored in back-to-back games and is seeing a lot of attention in the red zone. He actually has a rushing touchdown in each of his past two games. Burton is part of a fairly crowded tight end room with Mo Alie-Cox and Jack Doyle both healthy now. Burton is still the clear leader though and could be an interesting depth option or starter in deeper leagues.

Fantasy Football 2020 Waiver Wire Pickups: Carlos Hyde and Richard Rodgers take over starting roles

Let’s take a quick look back at how some of the top drafted players have done versus some of the top free agent pick ups this season.

Christian McCaffrey was the consensus first pick. He has not played since Week 2. James Robinson was an early season free agent add who has become a top-10, borderline top-five player at the position.

Lamar Jackson was probably one of the first two quarterbacks drafted and went in the first three rounds of your fantasy draft. He ranks 12th among quarterbacks in points per game. Justin Herbert started the season on the bench, but he took over the starting role in Week 2 and is now fourth in points per game, narrowly edging Patrick Mahomes.

If you drafted Michael Thomas, it was likely in the first round. So far this season, he ranks 160th among wide receivers in PPR scoring. Before the season started, almost no one knew who Travis Fulgam was. Now he is the eighth-best wide reciever in fantasy on a points per game basis.

The point of this is to illustrate the importance of the waiver wire. Obviously, you should not have drafted Justin Herbert over Lamar Jackson, or dropped Christian McCaffrey for James Robinson. The bottom line is just because you drafted well, you are not guaranteed a good season.

By now, we have hit the midway point of pretty much every fantasy league’s regular season. This would be a good time to check if your league has a trade deadline and starting making moves for the playoff push. Even if you think you are going to pull off a great trade, you should check out these players on the waiver wire.

Garoppolo has struggled this season, but Seattle is allowing 7.7 more points per game than the league average to opposing quarterbacks. (Wikimedia Commons)

Jimmy Garoppolo, QB, SF
The Jimmy G experience has been a bumpy one so far this season. Two weeks ago, he pulled apart the Rams defense for three touchdowns. This past week, he failed to find the end zone and registered a dud against New England. While he might be hard to trust in the long haul, this is the week to start him. Garoppolo faces a Seahawks defense allowing more fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks than any other team in the league. Kyler Murray racked up 36 points on Sunday night. Garoppolo likely won’t hit those highs, but you should feel comfortable starting him as a bye-week fill-in.

Teddy Bridgewater, QB, CAR
Few quarterbacks have impressed me more than Teddy Bridgewater has this season. He is consistently running for this life, but he is still able to make plays and put up points. He has feasted on weaker defenses this year, putting up at least 19 points in three of his past four games. Atlanta comes to town in Week 8. I view Bridgewater as a low-risk, high-reward option on Thursday, regardless of Christian McCaffrey’s status. He would get a boost though if McCaffrey returns.

Baker Mayfield, QB, CLE
How is the guy that just lost his star receiver on this list? Well, Baker Mayfield has weirdly been better this year when targeting pretty much anyone other than Odell Beckham Jr. He has been far from prolific this season, but Mayfield is coming off a huge 29-point outing and now faces a Raiders secondary that just got carved up by Tom Brady. If you are desperate for quarterback help this week, you could do much worse than Mayfield.

Carlos Hyde, RB, SEA
Under normal circumstances, Hyde would be locked in as a top-20 option at running back with Chris Carson expected to be out. Unfortunately, Hyde faces a stout 49ers defense that is allowing the fewest points to opposing fantasy running backs this season. That doesn’t make him unplayable, but you may want to temper your expectations for this week. Still, Hyde figures to be very valuable for each week that Carson is out. He should he your top running back add this week, unless Chase Edmonds is still available.

Jamycal Hastings, RB, SF
He might be in a timeshare with Jerrick McKinnon, but on a team that runs as much as the 49ers do, Hastings still has a ton of fantasy value. He looked good in mop up duty against the Patriots after Jeff Wilson Jr. got hurt, picking up 57 yards on nine carries. In an expanded role against a middle of the road Seahawks run defense, Hastings should be in starting lineups this week and stay there as long as he and McKinnon are the only two healthy backs.

Damien Harris, RB, NE
Yes, counting on Patriots running backs is risky. I just really like what I have seen from Harris so far. He has averaged better than five yards per carry in two of this three games. Unfortunately, the offense just has not run through him enough with New England getting down early and abandoning the run. I would recommend stashing him on your roster now. Even if you don’t start him this week against the Bills, you will want to in Week 9 when he plays the Jets.

Shepard missed four straight games due to injury before returning in Week 7. (Wikimedia Commons)

Sterling Shepard, WR, NYG
Shepard finally got back on the football field after missing four weeks of action. He looked good in his return, hauling in six catches for 59 yards on eight targets and adding a touchdown. He is a must-have in PPR formats. I don’t know if I would recommend starting him quite yet with a visit trip to Tampa Bay up next, but he carries a lot of fantasy value going forward.

Cole Beasley, WR, BUF
I still don’t understand how, but Cole Beasley is a fantasy relevant wide receiver. He ranks 19th in PPR scoring, just ahead of Robert Woods. He has scored at least nine points in every game this season and just turned in his best performance yet with 22 points against the Jets. He is far from touchdown dependent either, only scoring two this season. If he starts finding the end zone, he could be locked into WR2 territory. He faces New England this week, but then gets Seattle and Arizona after that.

Corey Davis, WR, TEN
I have been touting Corey Davis as a fantasy relevant option all season. If you are in a PPR league, he is worth consideration. He is still struggling to put up a bunch of yards (just 35 against the Steelers), but he had six catches and a touchdown on ten targets. It is clear Ryan Tannehill trust Davis enough to look for him often. If he can start catching a few more balls downfield, he will work his way into starting lineups.

Richard Rodgers, TE, PHI
With Zach Ertz out and Dallas Goedert still on the mend, Richard Rodgers stepped into the starting role with six catches for 85 yards on eight targets. Carson Wentz loves throwing to his tight ends. With Miles Sanders potentially out again and the Eagles still are banged up at wide receiver, Rodgers figures to be involved again in Week 8. With a matchup against a reeling Cowboys team, Rodgers is a fringe starter this week.

Irv Smith Jr., TE, MIN
This is reaching deep into the tight end pool, but I really like Irv Smith Jr. Heading into Minnesota’s bye this past week, he racked up eight catches for 119 yards over his past two games. He seems to be emerging as the top option at the position, finally surpassing Kyle Rudolph. He has a bit of a tough matchup against the Packers in Week 8, so I wouldn’t recommend starting him, but if you are looking for a sleeper tight end or play in deeper fantasy leagues, he should be on your radar.

Gold Cup 2019: USMNT vs. Panama

On Wednesday night, the USMNT won Group D at the Gold Cup by defeating Panama 1-0. The US started a 2nd string group after they guaranteed qualification into the quarterfinal with their win over Trinidad & Tobago. Panama also rotated their lineup, resting many starters for the quarterfinals. Despite making their World Cup debut last year, Panama still aren’t CONCACAF powerhouses, so all the same “we’re playing against lesser competition” caveats apply. Here are my thoughts on the night:

  • Miazga looked fantastic defensively, and okay with the ball at his feet. Zimmerman has him beat when it comes to passing out of the back, which is likely why Zimmerman was favored in the previous two games.
  • O. Gonzalez was shaky defensively at times, similar to Tim Ream. Outside of those 2-3 scares, he was fine. Better teams are going to capitalize on those opportunities much more easily.
  • Lovitz was solid defensively, but relatively ineffective going forward. He played the LB role differently than Ream, who usually stays at home. Lovitz ventured forward more often, but to little avail.
  • Cannon held his own but also didn’t push for the starting spot. He showed that he can hold his own against CONCACAF competition, and we will need players like that in the future. However, I do not expect Cannon to be the first choice RB anytime soon.
  • Johnson had little to do on the night, and did not make any mistakes. I doubt he will start again over Steffen, but he showed that he was not overwhelmed playing in a competitive match. Again, we will need guys who are comfortable against CONCACAF teams.
  • Roldan and Mihailovic both played okay, but did not have the “creativity”, for lack of a better word, in connecting passes together in the final third. Both are obviously downgrades from Pulisic and McKennie.
  • Trapp didn’t look awful or overwhelmed, like he did in the friendlies leading up to this competition. Panama is probably a worse team than Jamaica and definitely worse than Venezuela, but it was encouraging to see Trapp put in a few physical tackles
  • Lewis and Morris had as good of showings as they could with poor service. As mentioned above, Mihailovic and Roldan are not Pulisic and McKennie. So Lewis and Morris were not getting the same kind of passed played their way. Suddenly it feels like winger is a strength of this team when it felt like a weakness 2 weeks ago.
  • Altidore still looked rusty, but he got the job done scoring the only goal of the night. I was surprised he played 80 mins in this one after only getting 15 against T&T. I would expect him to play limited minuted against Curaçao but I am not sure whether it’d be smarter to start him and take him off or to bring him on off the bench.
  • Pulisic came in as a winger and, like Lewis who he replaced, struggled to get service. Previously, I thought he might play better as a winger since he usually plays their for his club, however, I see now that if we do not have enough passing ability in central midfield than we’re practically handicapping our own best player. Might change if we have McKennie, Holmes, Lletget, and/or Adams in the middle, but I won’t make that assumption just yet.
  • Boyd and Zardes both cameo-d for 10-15 mins but barely made an impression on the game.

Two larger notes:

  • Head Coach Berhalter’s system was still evident when the second string was playing. Altidore missed on two good opportunities which were setup by Berhalt-ian passing sequences with which we are becoming familiar. Not to mention, we still did not concede any goals (Last team in this tournament who can still say that).
  • While the collective performance wasn’t anything to write home about, I feel more confident in each of these players filling in for a starter than I did before the game. Right? Like if Boyd and/or Arriola gets injured, I think Lewis and/or Morris could do just fine in the same spot(s). If Lima gets injured, Cannon is a downgrade, but he won’t be a liability. The only two players that might feel like liabilities are Trapp and Gonzalez. Fingers crossed that’s not a problem in this tournament.

Next up is Curaçao on Sunday night. I would expect the starting XI out there which is mostly likely this:

Altidore

Arriola – Pulisic – McKennie – Boyd

Bradley

Ream – Long – Zimmerman – Lima

Steffen

We always knew Altidore was an upgrade over Zardes, he simply wasn’t healthy. I think Miazga deserves to be in the lineup over Ream but I am unsure how well he would play on the left side. Long usually plays on the left side for the New York Red Bulls, but I think Berhalter wants to keep him in the center so they can use his speed as the team’s sweeper. Other than that, I don’t believe anyone made a compelling case to push for the starting XI.

Come back for more Gold Cup action next week!

Gold Cup 2019: USMNT vs Trinidad & Tobago

Saturday night the USMNT overcame their demons, crushing T&T 6-0 in Cleveland. The US men are leading the tournament in goal differential with +10, barely beating Mexico’s +9. Similarly to Guyana, this win has to be taken with a grain of salt; T&T consists of mostly USL Championship and USL League 1 players (read: lower leagues in the USA). Despite both teams being eliminated, I would not be shocked if Guyana beat T&T in the last group stage game. But that’s neither here nor there, on to the USMNT performance:

  • In the second half, Pulisic finally played like he was the best player on the field. He got a nice assist in the first half off of a cross into the box that Aaron Long headed in. Then Pulisic ripped up T&T in the second half for another assist and a goal. As he should. This guy is head and shoulders above everyone on T&T. Guyana was his first game since the Bundesliga season ended. Perhaps he is rounding into form.
  • Gyassi Zardes heard the haters after the Guyana team, so he silenced them in this one. Two goals and he really should have had a third. He’s still second choice behind Jozy but he has earned his keep. Also worth noting that he’s tied for the lead for goals in this tournament (3) …
  • Aaron Long didn’t just score once, he scored TWICE! The defender had himself a game on both sides of the ball.  He’s the sweeper of the backline and he’s a threat on set pieces. What more could you ask for?
  • Steffen made a few saves look easy despite their level of difficulty. The USMNT has often been blessed with stellar goalkeeping. Steffen will likely continue that trend as he moves to the Bundesliga next season.
  • Bradley quietly had a very solid night. His passing was on point as usual, and I don’t believe he had a single defensive mistake. As the defensive midfielder in a 6-0 win, not may people are going to point out his performance, in spite of how noteworthy it was.
  • McKennie had a similar game to his Guyana game, some incredible passing sequences, made his presence known physically, but struggled with his positioning at times. I had him higher on this list against Guyana, but that is because so many other players played worse against Guyana. Loved when he got in T&T’s face after one of them fouled Gyassi. I’ve said it before: he brings the intensity this team needs.
  • Lima had himself another strong outing. He got an assist on Gyassi’s first goal, and sporadically caused problems for T&T on the right hand side.
  • Boyd and Arriola both got themselves into dangerous positions, but mostly failed to find the back of the net. I think it is easy to say that both of them are locks as the starting wingers. Berhalter’s system is designed to get them into dangerous positions, and they’re following his instructions well. Just slightly improved finishing and these two will be the biggest story line of the tournament.
  • Zimmerman had another good performance at the back defensively, and continued to make line-splitting passes out of the back. I won’t have much more on Zimmerman until he gets tested by stronger competition.
  • Jordan Morris came on and changed this game with two assists. After the game against Guyana, I was afraid that we didn’t have many game-changers off of the bench. Morris, alleviated that fear a little tonight.
  • Jozy really didn’t do much in his 15 minute appearance. He’s still coming back from injury, so I don’t have huge expectations. I bet we see him off the bench again vs. Panama. No need to rush things.
  • Reggie Cannon filled in for Lima for the last few minutes of the game. A cameo where he provided one dangerous move, and did not make any defensive mistakes.
  • Ream was shaky again. I think he’s having fewer and fewer shaky moments, but it still feels like there’s a looming threat that he could cause a defensive collapse at any moment.

Last but not least,

  • Gregg Berhalter is getting the best out of his players. This is perhaps the most important note from this game. Players who played less-than-their-best against Guyana (most notably Zardes, and Pulisic) proved their worth against T&T. With every passing game, this team looks more and more like it is Berhalter’s team. This tournament is allowing Berhalter to get a lot of exposure with these players and it is allowing these players to immerse themselves in what Berhalter wants out of them.

The game against Guyana felt more like growing pains, tonight’s game against T&T felt more like a coming of age. Let’s hope that the next game against Panama feels like a coming out party.