Week 10 Stealing Signals Thursday Night Football recap, Friday news and notes: Jaylen Samuels a must start?

Welcome to Stealing Signals, your look at snaps, touches, game flow, efficiency and everything in between. Stealing Signals is a game-by-game breakdown of everything you saw in your Fantasy box score, identifying what is signal and what is noise to help you make decisions for future weeks.     

Week 10
Raiders 26 - Chargers 24

Snap Notes: Jalen Richard: 38% (+10% vs. season average), Melvin Gordon: 62% (-1% vs. Week 9 season high), Austin Ekeler: 45% (+11% vs. Week 9 season low), Andre Patton: 81% (third straight game over 80%)

Key Stat: Chargers — 68 rushes, 59 passes in two games since offensive coordinator change

Thursday Night Football ended like so many Chargers games, with Philip Rivers trying to mount a late comeback in a two-point game. He seemed a bit more aggressive than necessary with a minute left and three timeouts, sending several passes into double coverage downfield rather than trying to piece together a drive to get into field goal range, and the Chargers came up short, gaining no yards on eight straight incompletions, one of which was nullified by a defensive holding that gave Los Angeles a second set of downs. 

Prior to that futile late-game attempt, there weren't a ton of signals to steal in this one. Game script was fairly neutral throughout, allowing Oakland to feature Josh Jacobs, whose 16-71-1 line could have been a bit higher had the Chargers not won time of possession and run 11 more plays than the Raiders. Jacobs was also targeted five times, a season high, and matched his season high with three catches. 

But Derek Carr threw to all three backs a solid amount. Jalen Richard was in for the hurry-up late, and caught all four targets he saw, while DeAndre Washington also chipped in two catches. That duo had mostly split backup reps down the middle early, but Richard has been the main No. 2 in recent weeks, and he ran 17 routes to Jacobs' 10, with Washington also running five. That's not a great route share for Jacobs in terms of maintaining the target boost, which appeared to be more related to the matchup and Carr's willingness to check down to the backs 11 times overall. 

Last week we talked about Tyrell Williams and Darren Waller and their share of the targets, noting "Williams and Waller clearly have more to compete with than they did in the early part of the year." Each caught three of five targets while Hunter Renfrow also caught four of five targets. Those three and Jacobs saw a four-way tie for the target lead, while Richard had his four and Zay Jones was targeted three times in what was a balanced passing attack. I expect slightly more from Waller and Williams going forward, but that trend appears to be sticking relative to the early part of the season. 

Los Angeles was able to control possession early through Melvin Gordon, at least after Rivers looked shaky on the first few drives. Rivers wound up with three interceptions, one of which came on the final drive, but had two more called back in a first half that also featured picks on the team's first two drives, the latter returned for a score. After that start, the Chargers went run-heavy, following the trend they set last week after Ken Whisenhunt's firing as offensive coordinator. 

Gordon rushed 22 times for 108 yards and a 3-yard score, while the Chargers worked in Austin Ekeler more than last week without sacrificing Gordon snaps. Both backs started, and Ekeler caught a 23-yard pass on the game's first play, so there appeared to be a conscious choice from the Chargers to incorporate him more. Ekeler ran 20 routes after a season-low 10 last week, and while his overall touch ceiling is clearly limited relative to the earlier part of the season, he still has his pass-game potential and the Chargers will utilize both backs in the green zone, as evidenced by Ekeler's late 6-yard touchdown reception. He also had a green zone carry just before that touchdown reception and remains a reasonable RB2 in PPR leagues behind Gordon. 

Keenan Allen (11-8-68) and Hunter Henry (7-4-30-1) dominated the receiving volume in a game where Rivers threw for just 207 yards, his second-lowest passing yardage output of the season. Andre Patton continued his playing time stranglehold over the No. 3 wide receiver position, and finally saw some volume to go along with that as he was targeted four times for 82 air yards. 

Patton didn't catch any and hasn't been effective overall, but those looks help explain Mike Williams' lack of volume, as Williams has been a consistent downfield option. Williams saw just three targets and while his 81 air yards were solid and his 55 receiving yards on two catches isn't nothing, he's been hit hardest since the returns of Henry and Gordon. Henry has directly impacted his target share, while Gordon has helped shift the focus of the offense.

Signal: Raiders — far more balanced passing game than in September; Mike Williams — biggest loser from increased run focus and Henry's return

Noise: Josh Jacobs — season-high five targets (ran just 10 routes, Richard and Washington combined for 22 routes and six targets)

Friday news and notes

  • James Conner is not expected to play in Week 10, while both Benny Snell and Trey Edmunds missed Thursday's practice. Edmunds led the Steelers in rush attempts in Week 9, though he played just 17 snaps and Jaylen Samuels amassed 21 touches. There seems to be some concern about Samuels' role given he rushed just eight times, but I'd argue the inverse should be true — his 16 high-value touches last week were the highest single-game mark in the NFL this season, and his upside playing the lion's share of the backfield snaps with a touch mix that trends toward the passing game reminds of Austin Ekeler's September Fantasy production. If Conner misses, Samuels is a must-start for me, especially in PPR. Tony Brooks-James could see some early-down carries as the No. 2 if both Snell and Edmunds miss. 
  • Le'Veon Bell and Chris Herndon are both expected to be limited at Friday's practice, but coach Adam Gase expects both to be ready for Sunday. This is a situation that bears monitoring because a matchup with the Giants would be a positive one for both. If Bell plays, he needs to be in lineups, while Herndon is a bit tougher to trust because he could be limited in his first game back from a hamstring injury. 
  • Alvin Kamara was upgraded to full in Thursday's practice and should be ready for Week 10. It sounds as though the workload could be split a bit more than before Kamara's injury, particularly as Latavius Murray has played well in his absence. Sean Payton said "we'll be smart" regarding Kamara's return, while Kamara noted "I think we'll get a good balance going." Expect a bit more of Murray than we saw prior to Kamara's injury. 
  • George Kittle looks like a game-time decision for Monday night. That puts Fantasy managers in a tough spot. One possible avenue is to add Jacob Hollister of the Seahawks because Seattle plays San Francisco. Hollister isn't a great option with Luke Willson likely to be back and Josh Gordon also expected to make his Seahawks debut, but he scored twice last week and isn't without some upside. Hollister would allow managers to make a decision on tight end Monday. Kittle's backup, Ross Dwelley, would be another option. But if you have a strong secondary tight end option, it may be worth starting that player Sunday.
  • Patrick Mahomes is practicing in full and should make his return in Week 10. It's an obvious upgrade to everyone on the Chiefs offense. 
  • O.J. Howard is practicing in full and should also make his return in Week 10. Howard has been a major disappointment this season, but there are worse tight end options with the Buccaneers drawing the Cardinals. 
  • David Johnson is practicing in full and will also suit up for Week 10. Chase Edmonds will likely miss again, leaving Johnson and Kenyan Drake as the two Cardinals backs. How the backfield splits is anyone's guess after Drake was effective on a short week in Week 9. The best bet is Johnson leading with Drake mixing in, playing a role similar to what Edmonds has played most of the season. 
  • A.J. Green suffered a setback with his ankle and is now out indefinitely. Green was looking likely to make his long-awaited return in Week 10, but is now a candidate to miss the rest of the year in a lost season for the Bengals. Tyler Boyd will continue being the team's No. 1 while Auden Tate and Alex Erickson should also see work with rookie Ryan Finley taking over the offense. 
  • Matt Ryan has been limited but will play in a Week 10 matchup with New Orleans. The NFC South game should have plenty of shootout potential in the Superdome. 
  • Both Evan Engram and Sterling Shepard will miss Week 10 for the Giants. Golden Tate should be in line for plenty of targets versus a Jets secondary that struggles against the pass. Saquon Barkley should also be expected to see an increase in passing game usage, along with Darius Slayton and Rhett Ellison.

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