Week 10 finally saw all the forces of nature converge and hand the Eagles their first loss – at home to the Commanders, no less. The Bills lost their second in a row and now are tied for No. 2 in the AFC East. The Chiefs, for the moment, look like the newest “team to beat” in the AFC while the Vikings are on a seven-game winning streak and tied for the No. 1 spot in the NFC with the Eagles – who beat them back in Week 2.
While teams are tinkering with lineups much less overall, we’re entering the phase of the season that will see the bottom feeders switching around starters if only to show management that they are still trying to win and do not need to be fired during the season. One or two probably still will.
The Browns-Bills game is moved to Detroit at 1 p.m. Sunday because this new crop of players cannot handle six feet of snow like we all used to walk through to school. While it would decrease almost all fantasy points from the game, how great would that have been to watch? Maybe not fans in the stands, but at home it would have been a must-watch. Maybe tie those bicycle poles with the little flags at top onto each player.
As we hurdle towards the fantasy playoffs, remember that Week 14 has six teams on bye (ATL, CHI, GB, IND, NO, WAS). Those contain enough fantasy must-starts to matter in a very important week. There is only one other week more important and that is the perpetual “this week.”
Six items to watch for this weekend:
1.) The Broncos – At 3-6, their season is already over but the offense that was supposed to take the next step forward this year tumbled backward. The backfield is a mess between Melvin Gordon, Latavius Murray, and now Chase Edmonds. Last week versus the Titans, all three played, but the Broncos never had time to get into a rhythm and shared just 18 carries. Against the Raiders, there should be more work to split up, so it will be worth tracking as to what the sharing is and if a dominant receiver emerges.
The Broncos are likely without Jerry Jeudy and KJ Hamler, both of whom missed practices Wednesday and Thursday. Last Sunday, Kendall Hinton caught four passes for 62 yards while Jalen Virgil scored on a 66-yard catch as his first NFL reception. Virgil was the only undrafted free agent to make the 53-man roster and Week 10 was his debut. He replaced Hamler in the lineup. Hinton did not practice on Thursday and could miss this week.
Also notable is the growing sentiment that new HC Nathaniel Hackett may not make it to the end of the season. If that were to happen, it could change the backfield rotation and possibly see more use of players like Virgil.
2.) The Rams receivers – There’s a two-fold situation in Los Angeles in the wake of Cooper Kupp’s injury and the realization that the 3-6 Rams’ post-Super Bowl record is the worst since the 2006 Steelers. They need to replace Kupp and since the season is over, try out some of the younger talents that hasn’t been afforded much work while Kupp sponged up most of the pass targets.
The disappointing Allen Robinson and unproductive Ben Skowronek are the starters, but Van Jefferson played last week and caught a score on three receptions for 27 yards. He’s not met expectations and his snap share has declined. TuTu Atwell hasn’t played since Week 6 but was a second-round pick in 2021. Lance McCutcheon was an undrafted free agent that made the team and led the receivers in the preseason with 15 catches for 259 yards and a healthy 17.3-yard-average.
It may not matter unless Matt Stafford plays, but the Rams are already forced to start new receivers and Stafford is trending towards returning.
3.) RB Eno Benjamin, HOU – The Cardinals surprisingly released Benjamin and he was snapped up by the Texans ahead of three other teams that put in claims for him. He was a contributor both as a rusher and a receiver for the Cardinals, and the details as to why he was released has not been disclosed. He averaged 4.3 yards per carry and caught around three passes weekly. The question now is why did the Texans acquire him?
He could be an upgrade to 32-year-old Rex Burkhead who has served as the third-down back for the Texans, and that would make sense. But he’s also a good runner and every Dameon Pierce owner probably doesn’t feel that he needs any resting. But Pierce’s 165 carries ranks No. 3 behind only Saquon Barkley and Derrick Henry. And since Peirce is one of the few positives that came out of 2022, would they want to not overwork him in a season that already is over?
4.) Clyde Edwards-Helaire – The first-round pick in 2020 hasn’t performed to expectations and sank to a new low in Week 10 when he had no carries, failed to catch his two targets, and only had five snaps. Isiah Pacheco commanded 16 runs for 82 yards, and Jerick McKinnon caught six passes for 56 yards despite enter the game as questionable with three injuries. Just to make it all even less certain, the Chiefs tried to pick up Eno Benjamin.
HC Andy Reid said they didn’t have any plan to limit Edwards-Helaire, but that it just worked out that way. The pass-heavy Chiefs may never give a back 20 carries and as of last week, the rushing went to Pacheco, and the receiving belonged to McKinnon. There’s no denying that Edwards-Helaire’s role was dialed back in the rotation, but this week answers if he will end up with more work and limit Pacheco or if he’s just old news on a team that’s moved on from him.
Had the claim for Eno Benjamin been successful, it suggests that Ronald Jones may have been released so he could land elsewhere and might see the field again.
5.) Colts offense – HC Frank Reich was fired along with OC Marcus Brady the previous week, so the offense of Week 10 was under all new direction. It’s not unusual for a team to win the game following a firing, though the Colts had deconstructed by trading away Nyheim Hines and benching Matt Ryan for the rest of the season. But – after confirming that they were going to stick with Same Ehlinger, the Colts opted to start Ryan last week and won their game over the 2-7 Raiders.
Jonathan Taylor suddenly looked great again, and Michael Pittman (7-53) and Parris Campbell (7-76, TD) came to life. These next two games will indicate if the passing offense is productive again and if Taylor is back to form. The Colts host the Eagles and the Steelers. Taylor, in particular, has been a bust as the first pick in almost every fantasy draft, but ran for 147 yards and a score in Las Vegas.
6.) RB Najee Harris (PIT) – Along with Jonathan Taylor, the first-round fantasy draft pick Najee Harris disappointed this season after logging more touches (381) than any other running back last year. Here’s the interesting part to that painful reality – he went against one of the worst rushing schedules (No. 31) over the first half of the season. Statistically, only the Ravens had a slightly worst schedule for running backs.
Harris has run so poorly that Jaylen Warren made inroads to a split backfield. Last week, Harris ran for 99 yards on 20 carries against the Saints. Warren gained 37 yards on nine carries and caught three passes for 40 yards. The Steelers have the No. 6 schedule for running backs in the remaining games. This week versus the Bengals is the only time they face a top defense against runners. It’s no guarantee that he will return to 2021 form, but at least the schedule won’t be working against him every week. His performance and the backfield split this week will be worth tracking before his schedule clears up.