Fantasy Football: Arian Foster Headlines Early Guide to Week 9 Success
The following countdown serves as a roundabout primer for NFL Week 9, a time when fantasy leagues are starting to show real separation between title-contending clubs and the also-rans.
This piece should be yet another supplement to the countless positional rankings and strategy-oriented posts that run daily on The Fantasy Blog.
Enjoy the show!
Stars Primed for Week 9 Greatness
1. QB Drew Brees, Saints
Skinny: Since 2010, Drew Brees has only posted back-to-back games of under 300 yards passing and two touchdowns or less three times.
In other words, it's highly unlikely that Brees will struggle against an Eagles defense that has just two sacks since Week 4 and has surrendered 28 points per game in the last two outings.
One more note: In his last six home games (including the playoffs), Brees touts per-outing averages of 352 yards passing and 3.7 touchdowns.
2. RB Arian Foster, Texans
Skinny: The fantasy deck is absolutely stacked for Arian Foster this week:
a. Foster hasn't dropped from his preseason status as fantasy's No. 1 rusher.
b. The Texans star (736 total yards) is the current tailback leader in rushes (168), rushing touchdowns (nine) and total TDs (10).
c. The Bills have allowed a minimum of 150 combined rushing yards in all seven games this season. And none of those preceding outings involved Arian Foster or Ray Rice on the schedule.
d. Foster had a bye week to rest up for Sunday's impending shakedown on Buffalo—in the neighborhood of 145 total yards and maybe two touchdowns.
3. WR Reggie Wayne, Colts
Skinny: Through seven games, Colts rookie QB Andrew Luck has registered 20-plus fantasy points six times.
This first-year success can be attributed to Luck's immense physical gifts and high football IQ. It also helps that Reggie Wayne (54 catches, 757 yards, two TD) is one of the most bankable assets in points-per-reception leagues.
In his last five home games, Wayne (the NFL leader in receiving targets) boasts per-outing averages of 8.2 catches, 110 yards and 0.6 touchdowns.
Prominent Waiver-Wire Pickups
1. WR Cecil Shorts, Jaguars
Skinny: Cecil Shorts (20 catches, 400 yards, three TD) has collected double-digit targets in his last two games. It's a telltale sign the second-year receiver is ready to start in 12-team PPR leagues.
But to start an emerging talent like Shorts, you'll need to grab him off waivers first—by any reasonable means necessary.
2. QB Carson Palmer, Raiders
Skinny: It's impossible to understand how Carson Palmer (1,941 yards passing, 10 TD) could only be roster-worthy in less than 50 percent of fantasy leagues around the world.
Through seven games, Palmer has racked up either 297 yards passing or multiple touchdowns six times. And last I checked, his fleet of playmakers (Darren McFadden, Denarius Moore, Darrius Heyward-Bey, Brandon Myers, Mike Goodson) are all healthy at this point.
3. RB Daniel Thomas, Dolphins
Skinny: Daniel Thomas has found his niche in the Dolphins offense behind Reggie Bush, scoring a touchdown in three of his last four games.
Bottom line: There's no excuse for Thomas being a free agent in 12-team leagues that allow for six backs per club.
1. RB DeMarco Murray, Cowboys
Skinny: Minus DeMarco Murray last week (sore foot), the Cowboys rushed for only 1.1 yards per carry against the Giants. (To be fair, Dallas was forced to abandon the run after falling behind 23-0 in the second quarter.)
With Murray (448 total yards, one TD) likely on board this week, the Cowboys are a reasonable lock for rock-solid numbers against the Falcons—a defense that has allowed 100 combined rushing yards in six of seven games this season.
2. QB Ryan Tannehill, Dolphins
Skinny: The Miami rookie is dealing with knee and quad bruises right now, putting his Week 9 status in jeopardy.
But even if Tannehill is a no-go against the Colts, deeper-league fantasy owners should feel emboldened to start backup Dolphins QB Matt Moore (131 yards passing, one TD last week) in Tannehill's stead.
Two things in Moore's favor: He won't have to worry about any nasty Midwest weather (playing indoors), and Indy's defense currently ranks last in fumble recoveries and interceptions.
3. QB Jake Locker, Titans
Skinny: Jake Locker (shoulder) likely won't play against the Bears this Sunday, but that shouldn't stop savvy fantasy owners from adding him this week for minimal cost.
If you can spare the one-week hit, the early acquisition will be a good investment when Locker likely returns in Week 10 (against the Dolphins).
Surefire Fringe Starters for Week 9
1. QB Ben Roethlisberger, Steelers
Skinny: It's weird to view Ben Roethlisberger, the No. 10 quarterback in standard-scoring leagues, as a "fringe" starter for Sunday.
But given the lack of injuries to elite quarterbacks (knock on wood for that trend continuing) and dearth of high-end QBs on Week 9 byes (excluding Tom Brady, of course), Big Ben (1,987 yards passing, 14 TD) is not a lock to start in the vast majority of 12-team leagues.
Here's something to consider, though: In his last three road tilts, Roethlisberger boasts per-game averages of 342 yards passing and two touchdowns.
It also helps that the Giants surrendered 400-plus passing yards to Tony Romo last week.
2. RB Ben Tate, Texans
Skinny: Sure, Ben Tate has the incomparable Arian Foster ahead of him on the Texans' depth chart. But that may not matter against the Bills, a defense that has surrendered an astounding 234 rushing yards per game since Week 4.
In other words, Foster may have the most attractive matchup of any NFL playmaker, but he won't be responsible for every carry or reception against Buffalo.
Enter Tate (226 total yards, two TD), who's a healthy lock for 85 yards and one touchdown with 15-plus touches.
3. WR Darrius Hewyard-Bey, Raiders
Skinny: Slowly but surely, Darrius Heyward-Bey is regaining the momentum of last year's superb finishing kick (two 100-yard outings, three TDs, 60 targets in his last six games).
And that process could be accelerated this week, with Heyward-Bey (concussion in Week 3) taking on the Bucs, the NFL's second-worst pass defense.
Stealth Starts in Points-Per-Reception Leagues
1. WR Andre Roberts, Cardinals
Skinny: It's easy to be overlooked in fantasy and real-world circles when lining up opposite Larry Fitzgerald, but Andre Roberts (36 catches, 454 yards, five TD) is certainly worthy of his top-20 ranking in standard-scoring leagues.
That appeal translates to the PPR realm, as well, with Roberts collecting six-plus targets seven times this season—including a season-high 11 against the 49ers—and his back-to-back outings of seven catches (Weeks 8/9).
One more juicy stat: Since Week 4, the Packers have been the NFL's 31st-ranked pass defense, surrendering 306 yards per game.
2. WR Randall Cobb, Packers
Skinny: Here's the beauty of high-risk, high-reward talents like Randall Cobb:
With Greg Jennings and Jordy Nelson not in the lineup for Green Bay last week, the stars were seemingly aligned for Cobb (and teammate James Jones) to crush Jacksonville for triple-digit yards and/or multiple touchdowns.
But a funny thing happened on the way to the coronation. Cobb finished with a pedestrian five catches, 28 yards and one touchdown.
My take: It's hard to make the transition from "supporting player" to "featured performer with absurd expectations" on the first try.
Cobb's second attempt at glory, against the Cardinals at Lambeau, should bear more fantasy fruit.
3. WR Ryan Broyles, Lions
Skinny: Ryan Broyles, a second-round pick in April, has tallied encouraging numbers in the last two weeks—six catches, nine targets, 88 yards and two touchdowns.
Perhaps Broyles will take another step forward this week against Jacksonville, as Detroit tries to fill the injury-related void of Nate Burleson with Broyles and Titus Young (100 yards, two TD against Seattle).