Fantasy Football Week 9: Early Advice for Your Roster
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As we hurtle along toward Week 9 of the NFL and fantasy football season, we have to look forward toward the playoffs while also making sure this second huge bye week in a row doesn't kill us.
I had one team last week with seven players on bye at the same time—which is either genius or horrible planning. I won the matchup, so I guess that makes it genius, but win or lose, it was brutal to manage.
Still, we only have four more bye weeks to worry about, and this one is the worst we have left. So if we can just get through this together, we should all be OK.
Of course we're still talking matchups to get you over the hump—players you should let go and others you should be scrambling to acquire.
We're rounding the turn and heading toward the last stretch before the fantasy playoffs. Getting wins now will make those last few weeks less stressful and give you room to make some last-minute moves to shore up the lineup instead of scrambling for one more win.
***All statistics via NFL.com unless otherwise noted
It would have been really hard for Week 8 to top Week 7 in terms of destructive injuries to fantasy players.
Thank goodness it didn't, though it certainly wiped out a few players anyway—though not every injury was a serious one.
St. Louis Rams rookie running back Zac Stacy had quite the coming-out party Monday night, carrying the ball 26 times for 134 yards.
Stacy didn't just finish the game with all those yards—he ended up with an ankle injury and was undergoing tests. Fox Sports 1 reporter Mike Garafolo reported on Tuesday that it was a low-ankle sprain, so that's a positive sign. He practiced Wednesday, according to Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, and while it was considered "very limited," it's a good sign for Sunday.
Unfortunately, Stacy continues to score no touchdowns on the ground, as the Rams seem to collapse in the red zone.
On the last play of the game, the team had him in but didn't run the ball. It split Stacy out wide and put the game in the super-reliable hands of Kellen Clemens.
We know how that worked out.
So if you think about it, his ankle may hamper him less than his offensive coordinator, Brian Schottenheimer.
The one truly bad injury in terms of skill players happened in the same game, as Seattle Seahawks wide receiver Sidney Rice tore his ACL.
Rice had been battling knee issues this season and has had injury issues throughout his career.
Another season-ending injury came when Miami Dolphins wide receiver Brandon Gibson tore his left patellar tendon in the first half of the game against the New England Patriots. Gibson wasn't much more than a flex player, but in point-per-reception leagues, he was actually more productive than the No. 1 wide receiver Mike Wallace.
Prior to Sunday's game, Gibson had more catches and more touchdowns, so depending on scoring, you might miss him more than you would have Wallace, though the latter should see a bump up in both categories.
An injury which, on the surface, doesn't seem to impact your fantasy lineup is the broken leg sustained by New England Patriots right tackle Sebastian Vollmer.
If you were watching the game, you could not only hear Vollmer's screams of agony, but also the crack of the leg during the play.
The problem is that the Patriots have struggled along the offensive line, allowing 23 sacks and 40 quarterback hits, per NFL.com.
While losing a right tackle is not as bad as losing a left tackle in the New England scheme, how the line adjusts is worth watching for owners of any skill players on the team.
If you want a little more insight into the loss of Vollmer and its impact on the line, check out Bleacher Report's own AFC East lead writer, Erik Frenz, over at Boston.com.
Finally, Michael Vick has already been ruled out with a hamstring injury for Week 9, but after Sunday's performance, you probably should have given up on him anyway. It seems as if whatever magic Vick had over the last few years has disappeared in 2013, and his upside—while tempting—is obliterated by his massive downside.
This Week's Bye-Week Bench
Welcome to the second straight week that makes you think maybe the NFL scheduling folks really do hate fantasy football.
Well, probably not, but a second straight week of losing six teams of fantasy players isn't much fun.
Especially this week, with critical fantasy players on nearly every team.
Let's check out the damage.
RB: Knowshon Moreno, Reggie Bush, Joique Bell, Peyton Hillis, Andre Ellington, Frank Gore, Maurice Jones-Drew
TE: Julius Thomas, Brandon Pettigrew, Kris Durham, Brandon Myers, Rob Housler, Vernon Davis, Clay Harbor
|Week 4||Green Bay , Carolina|
|Week 5||Minnesota, Pittsburgh, Tampa Bay, Washington|
|Week 6||Atlanta, Miami|
|Week 7||Oakland, New Orleans|
|Week 8||Chicago, Tennessee, Indianapolis, San Diego, Baltimore, Houston|
|Week 9||Denver, Detroit, New York Giants, Arizona, San Francisco, Jacksonville|
|Week 10||Cleveland, Kansas City, New England, New York Jets|
|Week 11||Dallas, St. Louis|
|Week 12||Buffalo, Cincinnati, Philadelphia, Seattle|
Bye-Week Quarterback Matchups to Like
Andy Dalton at Miami
While the Cincinnati Bengals' Andy Dalton is unlikely to repeat his 325-yard, five-touchdown day, he could absolutely keep his three-game trend of 300-yard-plus games going against the Miami Dolphins.
Now, Miami has only allowed two 300-yard passers this season—Andrew Luck and Drew Brees—but the Bengals have a potent offense closer to that of the Indianapolis Colts and New Orleans Saints than the Baltimore Ravens, Buffalo Bills or most of the other teams the Dolphins have faced. The Bengals offensive line just shut down one of the best defensive lines in the NFL—it'll give Dalton plenty of time to find A.J. Green and Marvin Jones.
Alex Smith at Buffalo
While Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith has been a solid NFL quarterback this year, he hasn't been a fantasy performer most weeks. He has, however, been a good matchup play on several occasions—and here's another one of those. The Bills have allowed four quarterbacks to throw for over 300 yards and have allowed 20 touchdowns this season—more than any other team in the NFL according to NFL.com. There aren't a ton of weeks when you'll feel good about starting a guy like Smith, so take advantage when you see one.
Philip Rivers at Washington
San Diego Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers is having his best season in a long time. While the last two games have seen him with fewer than 300 yards passing, they've come on the heels of two 400-plus-yard games. Rivers is capable of some great football. As long as he gets protection up front, he should be fine.
This season, the San Diego offensive line has allowed just 11 sacks and a stunning 18 quarterback hits according to NFL.com. Washington has a stout pass rush—its 20 sacks put it right in the middle of the pack—but has allowed 15 touchdowns this season, tied for fifth most in the NFL. Rivers should have plenty of time to find rookie Keenan Allen and tight end Antonio Gates for some touchdowns and a lot of yards.
Bye-Week Running Back Matchups to Like
Zac Stacy (if healthy), Daryl Richardson (if Stacy is out) vs. Tennessee
Hopefully you got a hold of St. Louis Rams running back Zac Stacy before he broke out on Monday night. After he became the single redeeming thing about the Rams offense on Monday, he was likely picked up in most leagues. As we mentioned in the *M*A*S*H* slide, he's injured but practiced on Wednesday, though Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported via Twitter that he was limited. Still, if he's practicing today, he's likely to play Sunday against Tennessee.
If not, consider Daryl Richardson as his less-productive replacement. The Titans have allowed eight rushing touchdowns to date (tied for sixth most) and allow a yards-per-carry average of 4.2. It's a good matchup. The Rams can't seem to score on the ground this year, but their backs accumulate yards. You can play either back as a flex running back, and if he's healthy, I would be tempted to run Stacy as a low-end No. 2 fantasy running back.
Giovani Bernard/Benjarvus Green-Ellis at Miami
The backfield for the Cincinnati Bengals continues to be some version of running back by committee. Last week aside, Giovani Bernard has looked like the more dynamic and dangerous back, but BenJarvus Green-Ellis keeps getting carries. Frustrating though that might be, it's actually good business. It gives you two players to choose from.
Bernard is going to get more targets, and if you're in a point-per-reception league, he's the more valuable back there. However, both backs will probably get a similar number of carries and opportunities on the ground. Miami is a middle-of-the-road run defense that will probably be far more worried about getting destroyed by the passing game than the ground attack. There should be plenty of room for both players to be flex plays this week.
Le'Veon Bell at New England
The New England Patriots are one of the worst run defenses in the NFL, having allowed over 1,000 yards on the ground already, though they only have allowed four touchdowns so far. Interestingly, they don't allow individual backs to top 100 yards so much as they do teams. In other words, back in Week 1, neither C.J. Spiller nor Fred Jackson had 100 yards individually on the ground, but the entire Bills team—Jackson, Spiller, quarterback EJ Manuel and receiver T.J. Graham—ran for well over 100 yards (with Spiller/Jackson gaining the bulk of them).
Can Pittsburgh Steelers rookie running back Le'Veon Bell reach that desired 100-yard plateau fantasy owners shoot for? Absolutely, as I expect a performance much closer to Week 7's 99-yard total (93 on the ground, six receiving) as the Steelers try to keep Tom Brady off the field.
Bye-Week Wide Receiver Matchups to Like
Keenan Allen at Washington
It's probably become apparent over the last few weeks that I love San Diego Chargers rookie receiver Keenan Allen. I've grabbed him in leagues when I could, traded for him a few times and rejected multiple trades that I felt low-balled his value after a down Week 7. He's definitely a stud in the making, and his ascension matches the resurrection of quarterback Philip Rivers. The lack of ability in the Washington secondary has been well-documented in the quarterback matchup slide, so I won't rehash it, save to say Allen is virtually a lock each week in your lineup.
Terrance Williams vs. Minnesota
As is the case with Allen, Dallas Cowboy rookie receiver Terrance Williams is almost a lock for your lineup these days. He's also coming off a down week, though it wasn't down for fantasy, as he had 64 yards and a touchdown. No, the rebound should come in catching a higher percentage of his targets. He was targeted 10 times but only caught two balls. Now, he'll probably see fewer targets as the team tries to get Dez Bryant more involved, but if that happens, Williams will have less pressure on him and should catch a higher percentage of passes.
The Vikings are skidding right now—they were just blown up by the Green Bay Packers, have allowed three quarterbacks to throw for 300 yards and have allowed a receiver to top 100 yards in six of seven games. While Bryant is the better bet to make it seven receivers in eight games, the combination of quarterbacks piling up yards and a secondary which can't stop receivers means that Williams has a shot to put up significant yards as well.
Jarrett Boykin vs. Chicago
Some of this may come down to how the Chicago Bears choose to defend Jordy Nelson and how the Green Bay Packers choose to use him. Last week, the Packers used Nelson out of the slot a lot and split him out wide only a few times.
Instead, Jarrett Boykin was outside often, where he seemed to get a lot of cushion from the Vikings secondary. While he only got six targets, he caught all but one and totaled 89 yards. It seems as though the Packers might do something like this again to see if they can take advantage of the middle of the Chicago defense, which has struggled and now is without Lance Briggs.
The Bears will be preoccupied with Nelson wherever the Packers line him up, which means Boykin will have a tad more room to move. Consider him a solid flex play with upside.
Bye-Week Tight End Matchups to Like
Antonio Gates at Washington
Once upon a time, this was a no-brainer, but veteran San Diego Chargers tight end Antonio Gates isn't the stud he used to be. Gates has seen the end zone just twice, cracked 100 yards only once and hasn't topped 50 yards in two games.
So why are we high on him this week? Because Washington's secondary is terrible and has allowed a ton of yards through the air. With rookie Keenan Allen getting more attention, Gates will see a little less, and his size and athleticism will allow him to take advantage of some single coverage. He might not score a touchdown, but he should put up enough yards to make owners remember the old Gates.
Heath Miller at New England
Like the rest of the Pittsburgh Steeler offense, tight end Heath Miller has been inconsistent since returning from injury in Week 3. He's only had one touchdown and few targets, but he is starting to look like his old self.
The Patriots are struggling defensively, and Miller's size should allow him to exploit some of the mismatches across the middle. While you can't start him each week and he's a shadow of what he used to be, Miller should be able to fill in for an injured tight end or one on a bye week.
Kyle Rudolph at Dallas
It's not exactly a great selection of quarterbacks for the Minnesota Vikings. On the one hand, you have Josh Freeman, who can overthrow a receiver like nobody's business. On the other hand, you have Christian Ponder, who often can't pull the trigger and will run at the first sign of pressure.
That said, Ponder looked for Kyle Rudolph often Sunday night against the Green Bay Packers, just like he did in 2012. If Ponder gets the start again, he may look for his "safety blanket" quite a lot while Dallas pressures the offensive line.
If Freeman gets the start, consider that Rudolph's height makes him able to reach up for Freeman's high passes. Also, Freeman will still be learning the offense and will want to avoid the issues he had his first time out, so he will probably check down more often than he did, which makes Rudolph a prime target.
He won't be a top tight end, but if you're in a bind, he has upside.
Bye-Week Team Defense Matchups to Like
Dallas vs. Minnesota
The Vikings are either trotting out Christian Ponder or Josh Freeman, and Dallas loves to bring the pressure to try and generate turnovers. This seems like a great opportunity to get a lot of fantasy points out of your defense. If you happen to be in a league which gives points for tackles, Dallas should get a ton in dragging down Adrian Peterson.
San Diego at Washington
While Robert Griffin III has begun to look much more like himself and Washington has been able to put points on the board, it also does turn the ball over. If you're in a league where you get points for kickoff returns, San Diego could see a bunch of those, so it will provide some extra points there as well.
Indianapolis at Houston
Sure, Case Keenum played pretty well against a tough Kansas City defense, but we saw the Colts assault Peyton Manning, and that pressure will make a rookie's head spin—especially one who was an undrafted free agent. Indianapolis will look to force him into bad decisions—so there's a good chance at some turnovers.
Steve Smith, Carolina Panthers
After two years of great production with Cam Newton as his quarterback, Carolina Panthers wide receiver Steve Smith seems to have finally been caught by age. While he has found the end zone three times, he hasn't sniffed 100 yards this season and is only averaging about four or five catches a game.
You probably won't get much (if anything) in a trade unless he goes off this weekend against Atlanta, but with the emergence of Brandon LaFell and Ted Ginn, Smith is quickly becoming an afterthought in this offense. He leads the team in receptions but is behind Ginn for yards and tied with LaFell for touchdowns. It's time to let him go.
Mike Wallace, Miami Dolphins
If you can trade him, do it. In fact, cross your fingers that he goes off Thursday night against Miami and then you can trade him for more than he's worth. He's getting targets but is either dropping passes or is otherwise unable to haul them in. He's scored just once this year and his quarterback is under siege behind a shaky offensive line. Given that he's seen 36 targets in the last three games and caught just 15 of them, getting even more targets because Brandon Gibson is hurt won't help. Get what you can for him as soon as he puts up some points—he and his offense are just too inconsistent.
Darren Sproles, New Orleans Saints
For the life of me, I can't figure out why the New Orleans Saints are using Darren Sproles so sporadically. Save for Week 4, he hasn't been involved enough for him to be starting in most lineups, except as a flex option. Even then, you can't be confident. In years past, he was a good bet to crest 100 yards combined, but this year that's happened twice—the aforementioned Week 4 and Week 1. Sproles isn't seeing the opportunities. You may not get much for him, but if you can trade on the name, it's time.
Just in case you missed it last week—this is probably the last week you'll be able to get Seattle Seahawks wide receiver Percy Harvin or New York Giants running back Andre Brown.
We know the Seahawks are expecting Harvin to give this offense a boost, and the Giants backfield is a mess—Brown will probably step right in to a lead job, and when he's had the chance in the past, he's performed.
So consider this a last warning—find a way to get them.
Here are some guys it might not be too late to get a hold of:
Zac Stacy, St. Louis Rams
You might be able to get Stacy off the waiver wire or cheaply in a trade (if you play up the ankle injury and Daryl Richardson), but this might be your last chance. Stacy certainly showed fantasy owners what he is capable of against a tough Seattle Seahawks defense. As I highlighted in the running back slide, he's got a good matchup against Tennessee, so you can plug him right in if you get him. After this week, assuming he plays, he could rocket out of your price range.
Shane Vereen, New England Patriots
You have a little time, but don't wait too long. Vereen is already practicing, and while he can't play until Week 11 (after the Patriots' bye), he could immediately become the huge producer we expected before he got hurt. Vereen is great in space and catching the ball out of the backfield, and the more weapons for Tom Brady in the passing game, the better. Expect him to see plenty of third-down work from the word "Go" and for his production to ramp up quickly. If an owner dumped him post-injury for bench space, it's time for you to pick him up.
Mike Tolbert, Carolina Panthers
More than likely, Mike Tolbert won't be anything more than a flex with upside, but given that he has four touchdowns in the last three weeks (two on the ground, two through the air), he's clearly getting plenty of work. He's a touchdown vulture in short yardage and the Panthers have been very adept at using him. Most waiver wires are picked pretty clean—but many owners have overlooked Tolbert. You shouldn't.
Andrew Garda is a member of the Pro Football Writers Association. He is also a member of the fantasy football staff at FootballGuys.com and the NFL writer at CheeseheadTV.com. You can follow him at @andrew_garda on Twitter.