The second of consecutive brutal bye weeks is upon us, with another six teams off this week. Three things generally win these weeks: savvy additions on the waiver wire, a deep bench and consistent studs that can win matchups all on their own.
Last week, players like Calvin Johnson and Drew Brees probably led quite a few teams to victory. Who will be the fantasy heroes this week? And which players will sneak into the top 10 of the fantasy rankings at their position due to tasty matchups?
Let's find out.
Notes: All point totals for standard-scoring leagues. Points against stats via ESPN. The Denver Broncos, Detroit Lions, New York Giants, Arizona Cardinals, San Francisco 49ers and Jacksonville Jaguars are all on a bye.
|Week 9 Quarterback Rankings|
|1||Tony Romo||Dallas Cowboys||Minnesota Vikings||27|
|2||Philip Rivers||San Diego Chargers||Washington||25|
|3||Drew Brees||New Orleans Saints||New York Jets||24|
|4||Cam Newton||Carolina Panthers||Atlanta Falcons||23|
|5||Aaron Rodgers||Green Bay Packers||Chicago Bears||22|
|6||Andy Dalton||Cincinnati Bengals||Miami Dolphins||20|
|7||Russell Wilson||Seattle Seahawks||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||19|
|8||Robert Griffin III||Washington||San Diego Chargers||19|
|9||Andrew Luck||Indianapolis Colts||Houston Texans||17|
|10||Jake Locker||Tennessee Titans||St. Louis Rams||16|
The Minnesota Vikings have allowed less than 15 fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks just once this season, and that was against a pretty hapless New York Giants offense a week ago. Tony Romo will scorch this defense, especially because Dez Bryant might kill a man if he isn't targeted at least 25 times.
That's sarcasm. Or is it?
Let's not call the matchup between the San Diego Chargers and Washington Redskins a shootout in the making, because we'll probably just jinx it if we do. Nonetheless, with the 26th- (San Diego) and 27th-ranked (Washington) pass defenses in this contest, Philip Rivers and Robert Griffin III should each post big numbers.
Don't fret Aaron Rodgers taking on the Chicago Bears. Chicago is tied with Washington at 27th in pass defense (274 passing yards allowed per game) and gave up 25 fantasy points to RG3 in Week 7. The emergence of Eddie Lacy and the running game has been a big factor in Aaron Rodgers thriving despite losing Randall Cobb, James Jones and Jermichael Finley to injuries in the past few weeks.
Teams have to respect the run, and Rodgers has responded with 525 passing yards, five touchdowns and no interceptions in the past two weeks.
Finally, Jake Locker sneaks into QB1 status this week with Peyton Manning, Matt Stafford and Colin Kaepernick on bye. The Rams are 20th in passing yards allowed per game (247) and 18th in passing touchdowns allowed (12) before factoring in Monday night's game against the Seattle Seahawks.
In his last three starts, Locker has registered 66 fantasy points. He's a sneaky but high-ceiling play this week.
|Week 9 Running Back Rankings|
|1||Jamaal Charles||Kansas City Chiefs||Buffalo Bills||24|
|2||Adrian Peterson||Minnesota Vikings||Dallas Cowboys||22|
|3||Marshawn Lynch||Seattle Seahawks||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||21|
|4||Matt Forte||Chicago Bears||Green Bay Packers||20|
|5||Eddie Lacy||Green Bay Packers||Chicago Bears||18|
|6||Darren McFadden||Oakland Raiders||Philadelphia Eagles||17|
|7||Stevan Ridley||New England Patriots||Pittsburgh Steelers||15|
|8||Chris Johnson||Tennessee Titans||St. Louis Rams||15|
|9||LeSean McCoy||Philadelphia Eagles||Oakland Raiders||14|
|10||Ray Rice||Baltimore Ravens||Cleveland Browns||13|
Running Back Notes
Here's an interesting stat: In the four games that Michael Vick has started and finished, LeSean McCoy has 608 yards from scrimmage and 70 fantasy points. In the four games that Vick hasn't played in or couldn't finish, McCoy has 409 yards from scrimmage and 40 fantasy points.
And now, Chip Kelly has said he doesn't think Vick will be able to play in Week 9, per Zach Berman of the Philadelphia Inquirer:
McCoy is still a solid fantasy starter, but he went from being one of the elite options at the position to a borderline RB1 with Vick out to injury.
With Arian Foster and DeMarco Murray battling back from injuries, they're held out of the top 10 for now. Foster would have a pretty tough matchup against the Colts anyhow, though if he plays he remains a solid RB2. Ditto for Murray. Meanwhile, the tough Kansas City defense eliminates Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller (if he's healthy) from RB1 status.
Other than that, start your studs. In a week with players like Knowshon Moreno, Reggie Bush, Frank Gore and Maurice Jones-Drew on bye, what other choice do you have?
|Week 9 Wide Receiver Rankings|
|1||Dez Bryant||Dallas Cowboys||Minnesota Vikings||24|
|2||A.J. Green||Cincinnati Bengals||Miami Dolphins||23|
|3||Jordy Nelson||Green Bay Packers||Chicago Bears||22|
|4||Josh Gordon||Cleveland Browns||Baltimore Ravens||20|
|5||Brandon Marshall||Chicago Bears||Green Bay Packers||15|
|6||DeSean Jackson||Philadelphia Eagles||Oakland Raiders||15|
|7||Andre Johnson||Houston Texans||Indianapolis Colts||14|
|8||Denarius Moore||Oakland Raiders||Philadelphia Eagles||14|
|9||Pierre Garcon||Washington||San Diego Chargers||13|
|10||Torrey Smith||Baltimore Ravens||Cleveland Browns||12|
Wide Receiver Notes
Here are the wide receivers that fantasy owners will be without due to byes: Calvin Johnson, Demaryius Thomas, Wes Welker, Eric Decker, Victor Cruz, Hakeem Nicks, Rueben Randle, Larry Fitzgerald, Anquan Boldin, Justin Blackmon and Cecil Shorts.
Ouch. Factor in injuries and a brutal matchup for Vincent Jackson against the Seattle Seahawks, and you've got yourself a tough week for wide receivers.
There aren't any surprises in the top four, as Dez Bryant, A.J. Green, Jordy Nelson and Josh Gordon appear to be as safe as it comes at the position this week. Brandon Marshall takes a slight bump due to Jay Cutler's injury, but getting him the ball will still be a priority for Josh McCown.
Torrey Smith has a tough matchup against Joe Haden, but he registered seven catches for 85 yards against the Cleveland Browns in Week 2, so he remains a safe starter for fantasy owners this week.
|Week 9 Tight End Rankings|
|1||Jimmy Graham||New Orleans Saints||New York Jets||17|
|2||Rob Gronkowski||New England Patriots||Pittsburgh Steelers||15|
|3||Antonio Gates||San Diego Chargers||Washington||14|
|4||Jordan Cameron||Cleveland Browns||Baltimore Ravens||14|
|5||Jordan Reed||Washington||San Diego Chargers||13|
|6||Jason Witten||Dallas Cowboys||Minnesota Vikings||12|
|7||Greg Olsen||Carolina Panthers||Atlanta Falcons||11|
|8||Charles Clay||Miami Dolphins||Cincinnati Bengals||11|
|9||Martellus Bennett||Chicago Bears||Green Bay Packers||10|
|10||Tony Gonzalez||Atlanta Falcons||Carolina Panthers||9|
Tight End Notes
Here's a fun stat for you: In two games without Julio Jones or Roddy White in the lineup, Tony Gonzalez has five receptions for 56 yards and no touchdowns. Without the pair to worry about, defenses are simply double-teaming Gonzo in the red zone and pressing him so he barely can get into his route.
If White is back this week, Gonzo's ranking will get bumped up, but for now, his ceiling is pretty low. He's basically a TE1 this week due to a dearth of other promising options at the position.
Folks, if Jimmy Graham is on the field, you have to play him, partially torn plantar fascia or not. Despite playing just 18 snaps and finishing with three catches, Graham had two touchdowns and finished with 15 fantasy points against the Buffalo Bills.
It's remarkable how good he is.
Beyond that, roll with the guys who have produced thus far this season (or in the past, like Rob Gronkowski). One player that will continue to produce is Jordan Reed, who has come on really strong in the past three weeks (21 catches for 182 yards and a touchdown).
RG3 doesn't have great receiving options, so he should continue to lean on Reed.
|Week 9 Defense/Special Teams Rankings|
|1||Kansas City Chiefs||Buffalo Bills||20|
|2||Tennessee Titans||St. Louis Rams||18|
|3||Seattle Seahawks||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||17|
|4||Carolina Panthers||Atlanta Falcons||16|
|5||Cincinnati Bengals||Miami Dolphins||15|
|6||New England Patriots||Pittsburgh Steelers||14|
|7||Dallas Cowboys||Minnesota Vikings||12|
|8||New Orleans Saints||New York Jets||11|
|9||Indianapolis Colts||Houston Texans||10|
|10||Baltimore Ravens||Cleveland Browns||10|
Defense/Special Team Notes
Fantasy's top defenses all have really nice matchups this week. If you have one of the top-six defenses in these rankings, you should be quite pleased this week.
The New Orleans Saints are a great play this week. Geno Smith has thrown 13 interceptions in his rookie campaign, and three of them have been returned for a touchdown in the past two weeks. Add in the fact that the New York Jets don't have many compelling skill-position players, and the Saints are a nice addition this week.
|Week 9 Kicker Rankings|
|1||Steven Hauschka||Seattle Seahawks||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||16|
|2||Stephen Gostkowski||New England Patriots||Pittsburgh Steelers||15|
|3||Mason Crosby||Green Bay Packers||Chicago Bears||15|
|4||Nick Novak||San Diego Chargers||Washington||14|
|5||Justin Tucker||Baltimore Ravens||Cleveland Browns||13|
|6||Robbie Gould||Chicago Bears||Green Bay Packers||13|
|7||Garrett Hartley||New Orleans Saints||New York Jets||13|
|8||Adam Vinatieri||Indianapolis Colts||Houston Texans||12|
|9||Dan Bailey||Dallas Cowboys||Minnesota Vikings||12|
|10||Ryan Succop||Kansas City Chiefs||Buffalo Bills||11|
In the first seven weeks, an average of 11.8 kickers per week finished with double-digit points. If you don't have one of them—or a consistent performer who normally is near the top of the rankings—you better not complain when you lose a close matchup with a kicker that only scored four or five points for your team.
Hit me up on Twitter—I'll answer your fantasy lineup questions, commiserate with you over underachieving players and muse over how terrible it must be to get stuck in line next to an impatient Dez Bryant at the DMV.