Start Em Sit Em Week 9: Smart Matchup Plays, Sleepers & More
Fantasy football and November are a perfect combination, because it's the most crucial month.
Now past the midway regular season point in most leagues, winning here requires more emphasis in the hopes of making the playoffs. That being said, knowing who to start or sit will ultimately determine your team's fate in the coming weeks.
Ahead, we take a look at a guy like Andrew Luck. Sure, he's a rookie quarterback, but the Indianapolis Colts are 4-3 and in the NFL postseason hunt. Hosting the Miami Dolphins in Week 9, Luck must play well versus a tough defense for Indy to remain playoff contenders.
And for you to remain in the fantasy football postseason mix, let's move on and see who joins Luck for sleepers, studs, duds and matchups galore.
Favorable Matchup: Green Bay Packers Defense vs. Arizona Cardinals
Depending on the size of your league, the Green Bay Packers are likely a backup defense.
As a unit that gives up an average of only 21.3 points per game, the Packers have recorded 26 sacks and nine interceptions this season. This week, Green Bay lays down the welcome mat for the 4-4 Arizona Cardinals, who enter on a four-game losing streak.
And based on the Cardinals' atrocious lack of production on Monday night, it's difficult to imagine Arizona's confidence will climb against Green Bay. No, the Pack aren't on the San Francisco 49ers' level.
Still, this defense can get pressure and stuff the run. Plus, it's not like Arizona presents any reliable pass protection or ground game to help its receiving corps. In short, the cheese wins and the defense simply dominates.
Favorable Matchup: Willis McGahee, RB (Broncos) at Bengals
Willis McGahee straight up steamrolled the New Orleans Saints on Sunday night.
Thing is, the Saints field the NFL's worst defense and are fortunate to hold any opponent to less than 30 points. Nonetheless, McGahee's 155 total-yard performance bodes well for the Denver Broncos in Week 9.
Taking to the road against the Cincinnati Bengals, this defense may be vulnerable to the run, but it gets after the quarterback. With 23 sacks on the year, Denver must find success between the tackles to keep pressure off of Peyton Manning.
And the best recipe for success in that facet is the rushing attack. Considering that Cincy allows an average of 4.4 yards per rush, the Broncos will be balanced and the presence of Manning will prevent the Bengals from stacking the box.
Favorable Matchup: Owen Daniels, TE (Texans) vs. Bills
The Buffalo Bills rank No. 22 against the pass and allow an average of 424 total yards per game.
Going against the AFC front-runner Houston Texans in Week 9, tight end Owen Daniels faces one favorable opponent. Not only is Buffalo suspect against the pass, but the Texans' rushing attack will force an extra defender into the box.
In turn, Daniels works well off delayed releases and when going underneath, he'll see plenty of yards after the catch. Also, the Bills are still underachieving when it comes to their pass rush. That simply adds a bit more time for Matt Schaub in the pocket and Daniels to develop his patterns.
With Andre Johnson drawing double coverage out wide, Daniels will get man coverage all day long, which is to Houston's advantage.
Sleeper: Andrew Luck, QB (Colts) vs. Dolphins
The Miami Dolphins are definitely a tough matchup for the Indianapolis Colts in Week 9.
Miami is physically dominant against the run and can apply a lot of quarterback pressure on any given series. There is, however, one flaw on the Dolphins defense, which comes in the form of coverage.
The 'Fins give up 281 passing yards per game, which ranks No. 27 in the league. So despite the immense amount of consistent quarterback pressure, Andrew Luck is capable of thwarting downfield. Indy provides Luck with reliable targets, and that group will keep Miami from constantly blitzing.
Factor in the Colts presenting a sound two-back tandem to keep the Dolphins honest and Luck will move the chains. The key here, though, is that Indy not abandon the ground game because play-action is vital against an aggressive front.
Sleeper: Greg Little, WR (Browns) vs. Ravens
Don't look now, but the Cleveland Browns are feeling confident and have a well-balanced offense working.
Rookie quarterback Brandon Weeden ranks No. 12 in passing yards and when he last saw the Baltimore Ravens, Cleveland's new gunslinger rocked for 320 yards. The Ravens are also uncharacteristically weak in both facets of defense, and that was even before getting banged up.
To that end, because of the Browns will need to run the ball with Trent Richardson, it's reasonable to expect Baltimore to load the box. Add in the recent contributions of Josh Gordon and Greg Little as going under-the-radar.
Gordon has more yards, average yards per catch, touchdowns and first downs than Little: Therefore, the Ravens will likely gear coverage toward Gordon and man up elsewhere. That leaves Little in a favorable situation against a defense that allows 257 passing yards per game.
Sleeper: Leonard Hankerson, WR (Redskins) vs. Panthers
The Washington Redskins right now need another receiving target to step up for Robert Griffin III.
Too many passes were dropped on Sunday against the Pittsburgh Steelers, and Leonard Hankerson was part of that frustration. Fortunately, Hankerson and Washington host the Carolina Panthers in Week 9.
Carolina allows 344 total yards per game and opposing quarterbacks have a 68.4 completion percentage on the year. Although the Cats have recorded 20 sacks, RG3's mobility and accuracy will minimize any pass rush and sound coverage.
Hankerson isn't going to get doubled-up. With the Panthers only making six picks on the season, Griffin's decision-making won't get affected. Needing a response win as well, the Redskins get back on track at home on Sunday.
Dud: Chris Johnson, RB (Titans) vs. Bears
Chris Johnson has gained 395 rushing yards in his past three contests.
He is obviously back to being the focal point of the Tennessee Titans offense, and it's no surprise that Matt Hasselbeck has seen his career get somewhat revived.
Well, don't anticipate an extreme amount of production from Johnson this week. The Titans are hosting the 6-1 Chicago Bears, who rank No. 1 in rush defense and hold opponents to just 78 yards on the ground per game.
In addition, the Bears allow only 3.8 yards per carry and are well-versed at causing fumbles. By no means should Johnson get benched, but it's important to be aware of Chicago's capabilities as the Bears will control the line of scrimmage.
Dud: Philadelphia Eagles Defense at New Orleans Saints
Unsurprisingly, the Philadelphia Eagles are disappointing once again.
Only this time the defense is failing to match expectations along with Michael Vick's ineptitude. The Eagles allow nearly 340 total yards per game and have gotten a measly nine sacks through seven games.
For as deep and talented as Philly's defensive front is, the lack of quarterback pressure simply adds to the rough start. On Monday in Week 9, don't expect a whole lot from the Eagles either.
Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints need a bounce-back victory, plus the Big Easy doesn't allow many sacks (13). Brees possesses that quick and accurate release when carving up a defense and the Eagles have yet to really lock down in coverage as well.
Here, Brees slices and dices per usual and Philadelphia fails to slow down this high-powered attack: Just like Week 8 against the Atlanta Falcons.
Dud: Adrian Peterson, RB (Vikings) at Seahawks
Much like Chris Johnson, benching Adrian Peterson is not an option but don't expect a ridiculous performance in Week 9.
The Minnesota Vikings are playing at the Seattle Seahawks, who not only have yet to lose at home in 2012 but are among the best against the run. Seattle ranks No. 5 in rush defense and allows only 3.7 yards per carry.
Include Seattle's solid coverage players such as Richard Sherman and Brandon Browner, and Christian Ponder won't produce much through the air. With seven picks in the last four games, Minnesota has become one dimensional, which led to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' impressive road win.
The Seahawks simply play disciplined defense across the board. With their pass rush, this unit has the potential to goose-egg the Vikings.
Stud: Matt Ryan, QB (Falcons) vs. Cowboys
The Dallas Cowboys may be one of the NFL's better pass defenses; however, they are no match for Matt Ryan and the Atlanta Falcons.
One major reason comes from the Cowboys' pass rush. The defense has 13 sacks in 2012 but 7.5 are from DeMarcus Ware. And for the Falcons to keep Ryan protected, gearing the blocking schemes toward Ware basically slows down half of Dallas' pressure.
When tossing the ball, though, Ryan spreads the field as good as anyone around. Six different players have 10-plus receptions and as expected, Julio Jones, Roddy White and Tony Gonzalez are Ryan's three most reliable playmakers.
Dallas won't be able to double-coverage any one of these three receiving targets, because doing so just leaves everything else more open. Factor in Tony Romo's increased turnover margin from 2011, and the Falcons are bound to get a few additional possessions as well.
Stud: LeSean McCoy, RB (Eagles) at Saints
The Eagles defense may get diced up by Drew Brees, but LeSean McCoy will roll on the ground for Philadelphia.
New Orleans fields a horrendous defense and it allows 170 rushing yards per game. Not to mention, the Saints also allow five yards per carry and McCoy gets four yards per rush. The only concern here is Andy Reid not giving Shady enough carries.
Every time he has been fed 20-plus times, the Eagles won. But every time McCoy was given less than 20, Philly lost. Well, to help assist the defense, feeding McCoy early and often is key for the Eagles to win.
Running the ball will control the clock and reduce Brees' number of possessions. With the Saints failing miserably against the run anyway, McCoy racks up yards and puts up some inflated numbers.
Stud: Calvin Johnson, WR (Lions) at Jaguars
In no way has Calvin Johnson been performing up to his previous seasonal standards in 2012.
And whatever curses may or may not exist, Johnson's down year by comparison comes largely from the Detroit Lions lack of a consistent running game. No defense is going to respect the Lions up front, which allows for additional players in coverage to isolate Johnson.
It's not complex, it's just a simple adjustment when needing to minimize the damage from an elite player. The good news is the Lions play the Jacksonville Jaguars this week. Jacksonville is near the bottom defensively against the run and pass, and has recorded only seven sacks.
Therefore, Matthew Stafford will have time to survey the field and Detroit's ground game will find some success. Play-action then becomes relevant and Megatron dominates as expected.
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