If you thought the scores in your fantasy league — especially if it’s PPR — were unusually high this week, it’s not just you. The pass catchers of the NFL had themselves quite the Sunday in Week 10. All throughout the day, footballs were snatched out of the air from all angles, and for a great deal of yardage. Even Michael Pittman Jr. managed to catch eight passes in that Indianapolis Colts, New England Patriots Germany games finale that was as ugly as a wet European afternoon.
More wide receivers totaled 150-plus yards receiving — five — than in any single week this season, and 13 pass catchers had at least 100 yards. It was done in different ways. Of George Kittle’s 116 yards receiving, 66 of those came from a single touchdown catch early in the third quarter.
T.J. Hockenson was the opposite of Chick fil-A. He was open all day on Sunday, and gave Joshua Dobbs a big lift catching 11 passes for 134 yards and a touchdown, as the Minnesota Vikings improved to 6-4 on the season.
Scoring has been down for much of this season, as well as the previous one. Quarterback injuries have certainly contributed to dwindling point totals. Last season, 68 different players started at quarterback, a record for a non-strike year. There is a good chance that number could be exceeded this season, considering 10 rookies have started a quarterback in 2023 — another non-strike record. Certainly, the New York Giants and Las Vegas Raiders had not planned to start Tommy DeVito and Aidan O’Connell, respectively.
Another factor in NFL offenses plateauing in recent years is soft coverage. Two-deep coverage is more commonplace, which makes it more difficult for wide receivers to make big plays, even with stringent rules against contact against quarterback and pass catchers. Despite that, big plays arrived at a fast and furious pace in Week 10, and some of those plays broke games open.
Keenan Allen played like the best wide receiver in the NFL in Week 10
The Los Angeles Chargers are the most compelling average football team possibly in the history of the NFL. Their 41-38 Week 10 loss to the Detroit Lions was the 100th one-score result for the Chargers in the last 10 years.
They exist as an NFL franchise to ensure that the late-window of Sunday games always has at least one interesting matchup. A game in which nine of the final 12 drives ended with a touchdown — of the drives that didn’t make it to the end zone the Lions ran out the clock to end the first half in one, and in another, they kicked a game-winning field goal as time expired — is not football the way that George Halas and Vince Lombardi envisioned it.
Regardless of the opinions of late NFL royalty, that barn burner definitely juiced a weak afternoon window and Allen played a massive part in that. He caught eight passes for 113 yards and a touchdown in the first half. He also left the game prior to halftime due to injury, a familiar ending to his games for Chargers fans.
Allen, however, did not finish the game in the locker room, or in street clothes. He caught three more passes in the second half, including one that tied the game at 38 with a little more than three and a half minutes remaining in the game. Brandon Staley going for it on fourth down paid off in a major way with Allen taking a pass 38 yards to the house. He was the leading pass catcher of the day in the NFL.
Unfortunately for Allen, it was Amon-Ra St. Brown who made the final big play of the day
St. Brown has been a model of consistency since he was drafted by the Lions in 2021. He has been their top performing pass catcher for three seasons. His speciality is not going 60 yards to the house like Tyreek Hill. Instead, he breaks defenses by steadily moving the chains, as a player that Jared Goff can count on every week.
His dependable presence has helped the Lions’ offense become one of the best in the NFL. They continued to dominate on that side of the ball and much of it was due to St. Brown’s success. For his career, he averages just under 11 yards per reception. On Sunday, he was an uncharacteristic deep threat, catching eight passes for 156 yards and a touchdown.
The Chargers’ pass defense is far from one of the best units in the NFL. With Khalil Mack forced to battle the stout Lions’ offensive line, the Lions were going to be able to counter whatever the Chargers were able to accomplish with the ball in their hands.
For as well as St. Brown played in Week 10, his best play was not one of his long receptions that buoyed his 19 yards per catch average for the day. When the Lions got the ball back after Allen’s score, they found themselves in a hole after a big first-down play.
Khalif Raymond got the Lions within range for a long field-goal on the first play of the drive. They went on to lose yards on the subsequent first and second downs. The Lions ran their 3rd-and-14 play from the Chargers’ 38-yard-line. The Chargers still had one timeout and a kick from that distance is far from a sure thing. Even if the Lions made it, there would be a lot of time left for the Chargers’ offense that had punted twice all game
St. Brown caught a pass and gained 12 yards, putting the Lions in a 4th and 2. Dan Campbell will get credit for the gutsy call to run an offensive play, and convert the 4th down which allowed the Lions to bleed the clock. However, without St. Brown’s catch Campbell does not have that option.
Shout out to you, Noah Brown
A criticism of the Dallas Cowboys for some time has been their lack of wide receiver depth. CeeDee Lamb has been as good as advertised since he was a first-round draft pick in 2020, but the other Cowboys wideouts have not commanded attention from opposing defenses. One of those players was Brown.
In five seasons with the Cowboys, his best was 2022 with 43 catches for 555 yards and three touchdowns. During this past offseason, the Houston Texans signed the veteran to a one-year contract that guaranteed him $2.25 million. Going into Week 9, Brown had only been targeted 14 times, and caught eight passes for 114 yards.
He had a breakout game during the Texans’ Week 9 win against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, with six catches for 153 yards, including a 75-yard touchdown. For that game to come six years into his NFL career, it could be viewed as an aberration. The Texans’ top wide receiver, Nico Collins, didn’t even play in that game so there were extra balls up for grabs.
On the final drive of the game, he caught a huge second-down pass that gave the Texans a first-down and put them in Bucs’ territory. On Sunday, against the red-hot Cincinnati Bengals, he caught 8 passes for 172 yards with Collins out, and made the catch of the game, which was also the final catch of the game and it went for 22 yards.
That reception put the Texans well into field-goal range and they would go on to win.