The Math Behind the Matchups: Week 10 (Fantasy Football)

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In this series, we dive deep into the NFL matchups for the coming week and – of course – the implications for fantasy football. Every manager knows that, outside of the stud players that drive your roster’s performance, matchups play a massive role in deciding who is fantasy relevant in a given week and who is best left on the bench. This is especially true in a week with multiple teams on Bye like Week 10!

One thing to note: we will often be considering performance above expectation, especially when looking at statistics of an entire offense or defense. This is crucial, because we don’t want to punish a good defense for giving up yards to great offenses like the Bucs, Cardinals etc. Similarly, we don’t want to put a bad defense on a pedestal just because they played well against the Texans or Dolphins. The idea, then, will be to look at how many yards the defense allowed minus the average yards the opposing offense usually gains (and vice versa for offenses above expectation).

I will point out some matchups that I think look ‘juicy’ (targets) or situations that you might want to stay away from (fades). These will by no means create an exhaustive list: there is a lot of information in the charts below, so feel free to study the matchups on your own and identify players that you might want to target or sit for the week.  All data, unless otherwise noted, is from nflfastR. Let’s get into it.

Passing Attacks

  • J.D. McKissic returns from bye this week, which means he might be sitting on your waiver wire if a manager had to make roster space in Week 9. JD is a great option this week: he has racked up a ton of checkdown yardage, the one spot where the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are below average against the pass. Start ‘Smooches’ with confidence.
  • DeVonta Smith had his best game of the season last week, and he often ‘makes his bread’ on mid-range passes. The Broncos, his Week 10 opponent, are extremely stingy against the deep ball but below average on guarding mid-range stuff. Feel free to ‘stay in the flames’ with DeVonta this week.
  • Mac Jones continues to play a clinical style of football in New England, landing amongst the top passers in terms of checkdowns. He draws the Browns at home this week, the second-worst defense against dump-offs in this span. Mac is an interesting QB2 option in Super-flex leagues, and Brandon Bolden a deep FLEX shot if Damien Harris and Rhamondre Stevenson can’t go.
  • Don’t be scared by the Jags defensive numbers: they are souped up because of the whacky 9-6 victory over the high-powered Bills last week. While we have to give Jacksonville some credit, it’s hard to expect this stinginess for the rest of the season, and Carson Wentz and Michael Pittman Jr. – currently making sweet music on deep passes – should be just fine.
  • Just a fun one to watch: Alvin Kamara and A.J. Brown are leading the league in ‘short’ receiving yards, and both the Titans and Saints are giving up a ton to short passes. Not only that, they play each other this week! Of course, you’re starting both, but look for receptions galore for these two studs.
  • Jimmy Garoppolo has been surprisingly good these past few weeks, but I don’t expect it to continue against the Rams. Jimmy G has been racking up yards on ‘mid-depth’ throws, an area that Los Angeles is solid against; plus, the Rams are sending out Von Miller, who will be focused on making a statement in his first game with the new team.
  • Michael Carter, Jamison Crowder and even Ty Johnson have fared well amidst the nice little run the Jets of had; New York has doubled Kansas City’s total fantasy point output each of the past two weeks, which has only happened one other time in the Mahomes era. Still, all good things must come to an end, and I don’t expect the trend to continue against the Bills. Buffalo is quite good against checkdowns and the best against short passes, both areas of the field that the Jets have been feasting.
  • You’re probably not starting many Dolphins anymore, but you can continue to sit the pass-catching options out of the backfield – most notably Myles Gaskin – against a Baltimore defense that has been extremely tough against checkdowns.
Rushing Attacks

Let’s now turn to rushing yards gained and allowed vs. expectation, depending on the location (left, middle, right) of the run:

  • The Jets have really not been good against the run this year, and they draw the Bills this week; we should expect to see Josh Allen‘s team (the Quarterback Josh Allen) in control for most of the game. Devin Singletary is an interesting RB2 or FLEX option if Zack Moss can’t go.
  • The 49ers excel at running left, which is exactly where the Rams are weakest. It’s always a carousel in the San Francisco backfield, but you can probably continue to start Elijah Mitchell with confidence.
  • Starting fantasy options against the Texans is generally a good idea, and it’s no different for RBs: Houston is below average across the board against the run. Unfortunately, they are also on Bye this week, but they draw the Texans when they come back. It should give you confidence to continue rostering Adrian Peterson and Jeremy McNichols, who have a bit of rough sledding this week with the Saints but should be hot commodities next week against the Texans.
Streaming D/ST and TE

Finally, let’s take a look at the fantasy points scored and allowed by the major positions; this can help to identity D/ST units and tight ends that could be wise to stream this week:

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  • Wow, the Jets defense is bad. Start every Bill that you can get your hands on: Josh Allen, Stefon Diggs, of course, but also Emmanuel Sanders, Devin Singletary and Dawson Knox.
  • They are probably not on your waiver wire, but the Indianapolis Colts D/ST has been solid and is facing a putrid Jacksonville Jaguars offense. They’re likely the top streamer at the position this week, and for good reason. The Steelers D/ST are in the same boat (playing the Lions) although they are almost certainly not available in your league.
  • The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have been very strong against passing attacks, which is how the Washington Football Team likes to play. Fortunately, Washington is below average in terms of fantasy points scored across the board, and the Bucs may have been dropped on their bye week.
  • This is a deeper option – it’s not always fun to go against Christian McCaffrey – but the Panthers have been weak offensively, are starting a backup QB and are facing a Cardinals D/ST that’s playing well. Again, it’s not a top option, but you can start the Cards and hope for some big (defensive) plays.


Curious about any more matchups? Message me on Twitter.

Chart styling from Sam.

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