Who starts Week 10: Carson Palmer or Dak Prescott?

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Each week of the regular season in "Fantasy Audibles" I'll use the SAP Player Comparison Tool to help you make the right decisions when it comes to difficult lineup dilemmas. The tool uses several factors to help make an educated suggestion, including past performance, matchup, consistency, upside and intangibles. It finally appears as if the tool is fully operational (though not 100 percent reliable), so I'll use a combination of the tool and old-fashioned fantasy methods to help make a determination on four difficult Week 10 matchup decisions below. Let's take a look at the start/sit questions haunting some of our fantasy readers and try to help them set a winning lineup.

Who should I start at QB: Carson Palmer or Dak Prescott?



Palmer is coming off his bye, which was preceded by his second-best fantasy outing of the year when he posted 363 yards and three touchdowns against Carolina. However, prior to that Palmer had given fantasy owners four sub-15 point performances and one absence in Week 5 (concussion). Fortunately for Palmer (and his owners) he gets a prime bounce-back matchup against the 49ers in Week 10. The 49ers run defense is getting plenty of attention, but the passing defense isn't fairing much better. They've allowed 18-plus fantasy points to every quarterback they've faced not named Case Keenum or Drew Stanton. With J.J. Nelson usurping the No. 3 wide receiver role from Michael Floyd, Palmer now has another reliable option and dangerous deep threat at his disposal more often. While David Johnson could break records against the rushing defense of the 49ers, Palmer looks to have a favorable fantasy ceiling for the first time in weeks.

Dak Prescott has been a model of fantasy consistency in his rookie season, scoring 18-plus fantasy points in every game except two (10.28 in Week 1 and 17.48 in Week 5). And he's not just relying on his legs, either, as he's thrown multiple touchdown passes in four of his last five games. Up next for the talented youngster is a date with a Pittsburgh Steelers pass defense that ranks 24th in the league in yards allowed, and 30th in sacks. Prescott has only been sacked 11 times on the year, tied for the lowest mark in the league among starting quarterbacks. Pittsburgh struggles to cover wide receivers and tight ends from the slot, and Prescott loves targeting both Cole Beasley and Jason Witten in the short and intermediate areas. The combination of Prescott's ability to avoid sacks and the plus matchups in the secondary (oh, and that Dez Bryant guy) set up Prescott for another solid outing.

Verdict: While this is closer than I expected in my eyes, I have to lean Prescott here as the Player Comparison Tool indicates. The rookie is more consistent and has been operating one of the league's best offenses. Palmer still worries me, and if David Johnson heats up early and scores a few times, the hopes of Palmer achieving his ceiling fly out the window. Prescott and the Cowboys will be in a more competitive, potentially high-scoring game with the Steelers, giving him both a safer floor and higher ceiling.

Who should I start at RB: Jonathan Stewart or Devontae Booker?



Stewart came back from the team's bye in Week 8 with a bang (95 yards, two touchdowns), but ran into a buzzsaw last week against the Rams. Los Angeles' stout run defense (3.83 yards per carry allowed) swallowed up Stewart for just 40 yards on 15 attempts (2.8 ypc). Next up for JStew is a date with a Chiefs defense that allows 4.83 yards per carry to opposing backs, but could be welcoming back star outside linebacker Justin Houston (activated from the PUP this week). We don't know if Houston will play in Week 10 or not, but last season the Chiefs allowed just 3.84 yards per carry with Houston on the field versus 4.54 ypc when he was out. Working in Stewart's favor is his increased usage in the red zone since the team's bye, as he's seen 50 percent of all Carolina red-zone opportunities in that span. That helps boost his ceiling, but the Chiefs have allowed just 6.75 red-zone plays per game over the last month, contributing to the meager 14.75 points per game allowed in that span as well (lowest in the league). As the only real back in Carolina (when healthy) we know what to expect with Stewart. He's a touchdown-dependent RB2/flex, with a painful floor if the game script turns pass-heavy.

Just a few weeks ago, Devontae Booker had the look of a league-winning waiver-wire acquisition once C.J. Anderson was placed on injured reserve. Now? Booker could be out-snapped by Kapri Bibbs in Week 10. As we often say in the Fantasy Stronghold, life comes at you fast. The silver lining for Booker and his owners is that he's in a prime spot this week traveling to New Orleans to face the Saints. So far in 2016, the Saints have allowed six top-seven fantasy finishes to opposing running backs, thanks in part to 14 total touchdowns allowed (tied for the most in the league). They allow over 4.5 yards per carry and have conceded the third-most receiving yards to the position as well. Even if Booker loses work to Kapri Bibbs, he'll have ample opportunities to produce in fantasy against the Saints.

Verdict: Stewart's floor is frightening, but his usage in the red zone tips the scales in his favor in this one for me. Meanwhile, Booker has averaged 2.26 yards per carry over the last two weeks, potentially leading to Bibbs' increased role. Denver will need to grind on the ground to slow the high-powered Saints offense, but Stewart feels like the safer, smarter play here.

Who should I start at WR: Cole Beasley or Jamison Crowder?



In an unexpected turn this year, Beasley has been one of the league's best slot receivers. He even earned mid-season All-Pro honors from our own Chris Wesseling. Beasley is currently the WR19 in PPR formats, and the WR21 in standard leagues, and his fantasy value hasn't changed with Dez Bryant back in the lineup. In fact, Beasley averages 7.6 targets per game with Bryant in the lineup, but just 4.7 targets per game when Bryant misses time. Bryant's presence commands more defensive attention, which sets up Beasley for an even better day against the Steelers in Week 10. Per Next Gen Stats, Pittsburgh allows the fifth-most receptions to wide receivers from the slot, where Beasley plays 85 percent of his snaps and has seen 77 percent of his targets. Beasley's ability to get open (seventh-highest separation on targets among wide receivers at 3.5 yards, also per Next Gen Stats) should allow him to feast as Dak Prescott's go-to chain-mover in what could be a high-scoring game.

Not far behind Beasley in both standard and PPR scoring is Crowder, who has grown into one of Kirk Cousins' favorite targets. While he owns around 18 percent of the team targets on the season, over the last two weeks he's seen over 23 percent of Cousins' passes thrown his way. Both of those games were 100-yard performances for Crowder, too. Unfortunately for the second-year slot receiver, he draws a dreadful matchup against the Minnesota Vikings in Week 10, who allow the fewest catches and fewest yards to wide receivers from the slot, per Next Gen Stats. Washington will also be without star left tackle Trent Williams, who was suspended four games for violating the league's substance abuse policy. While that could be a negative for the passing game, it also might mean Cousins needs to get rid of the ball quicker. Crowder averages 8.82 air yards per target, the lowest among the three Washington wideouts, but a higher figure than both Jordan Reed (7.43) and Vernon Davis (8.39). Crowder will be in a tough spot to produce a third straight 100-yard performance, but cracks in the Vikings once stonewall-esque defense have been appearing of late.

Verdict: While Crowder's recent usage is encouraging (and more than any two-game span of Beasley's season to date), I think it's better to trust the matchup here. Beasley and the Cowboys could find themselves in a shootout with the Steelers, and as one of Prescott's must trusted targets, that sets him up for both a safe floor and high ceiling. Crowder's floor is more frightening, especially facing a still strong Vikings defense.


-- Follow Alex on Twitter @AlexGelhar

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