With nearly half the NFL season in the books, crunch time is nearing for fantasy football owners across the globe with hopes of making a run through the playoffs.
While some are comfortable and others are out of it, most fantasy owners are likely caught somewhere in between. That means wins are paramount in the coming weeks, and it also means that a single lineup decision can make all the difference in the world.
The league has been extremely volatile this season in terms of team performance, and the same can be said for individual players as well. Because of that, fantasy owners may often feel like flipping a coin is the best way to make a choice.
There are always statistics and matchups that increase the probability of success, though. With that in mind, here is a closer look at some difficult lineup decisions you should make in order to ensure success in Week 9.
Quarterback: Start Andy Dalton Over Ben Roethlisberger
Success in fantasy football often requires some gutsy decisions to be made. Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is a fantasy darling after his performance in Week 8, but he has an extremely difficult matchup on tap in comparison to division rival Andy Dalton of the Cincinnati Bengals.
Big Ben had one of the all-time great fantasy performances by a signal-caller last week, and he set some team records in the process against the Indianapolis Colts, according to ESPN Stats & Info:
Nobody expects Roethlisberger to replicate that performance, but even a passable fantasy showing will be tough to come by against the Baltimore Ravens this week. Big Ben threw for 217 yards and no touchdowns in Baltimore earlier this season. He also averaged just 209 passing yards per contest in two games against the Ravens last year.
Simply put, Steelers vs. Ravens games tend to be tight defensive affairs that aren't conducive to major fantasy production.
On the flip side, Dalton will go up against a Jacksonville Jaguars defense that surrenders 267 passing yards per game and has allowed 13 touchdowns through the air as well. Perhaps even more importantly, though, The Red Rifle should have his top weapon back in the fold.
"I'll practice this week and see how it goes, but I think I'll be fine," Green said. "I was at 40 percent last week and I feel about 80 percent today. I haven't had any soreness after I've worked out."
Fellow wideout Mohamed Sanu has developed into quite a threat in Green's absence as well, which means the Jags will have to pick their poison. The Bengals should be energized after a big divisional win last week, and it will result in Dalton's best fantasy showing of the year.
Running Back: Start Frank Gore Over Chris Ivory
With so few guarantees at the running back position this season, most fantasy owners have tough choices to make on a daily basis. Frank Gore of the San Francisco 49ers and Chris Ivory of the New York Jets are typically on the same level from a fantasy perspective, but there is no doubt that the former is a better play in Week 9.
The Niners are coming off a bye and will host the reeling St. Louis Rams. The Rams are among the worst teams in the league against the run, as they allow over 144 yards per game on the ground. Gore only has 58 rushing yards total over his past two games, but he had consecutive 100-yard showings before that, and he should be a focal point, especially after St. Louis gave up 140 rushing yards last week.
Ivory has been one of the lone bright spots for Gang Green this year, as he is averaging close to five yards per carry, but the sledding will be tough in Week 9. The Jets are facing a Kansas City Chiefs team that has yet to allow a rushing touchdown.
In addition to that, Ivory is coming off a subpar performance against the similarly skilled Buffalo Bills defense, according to Howard Simon of WGR 550:
Ivory did rush for a pair of touchdowns in that game, but that is such a volatile stat from week to week. From a yardage perspective, there simply isn't a very high ceiling for Ivory against the Chiefs.
It is also worth noting that while Ivory continues to be New York's lead back, the Jets seem overly concerned with getting new acquisition Percy Harvin involved on offense, per ESPN.com's Rich Cimini:
That is bound to come at the expense of the traditional running game at times, which will only hurt Ivory's production and rhythm.
Wide Receiver: Start DeAndre Hopkins Over Vincent Jackson
After a strong rookie season, Houston Texans wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins is quickly developing into one of the most consistent fantasy commodities in football. With a Week 9 date against the Philadelphia Eagles on tap, that isn't likely to change.
Hopkins is well on his way to the first 1,000-yard season of his career with 569 yards through eight games. As pointed out by Adam Ronis of SiriusXM Fantasy Sports Radio, he has reached that point with solid production on a weekly basis:
Many are starting to take notice of Hopkins' progress, including Eagles head coach Chip Kelly, according to ESPN.com's Tania Ganguli.
"Obviously you've got a Hall of Fame receiver in (Andre) Johnson," Kelly said. "DeAndre Hopkins in his second year is somebody that I think is really a star in the making, a guy that you have to be aware of every formation of what they do."
Even though Kelly clearly wants his defense to be cognizant of Hopkins' presence, that doesn't mean that the Eagles will be able to stop him. Philly is allowing 267 passing yards per game and has given up 15 passing touchdowns as well, which means Hopkins could have a field day.
Conversely, Tampa Bay Buccaneers wideout Vincent Jackson has a big challenge in front of him. He will go up against a solid Cleveland Browns secondary on the road, and one can only assume that he will be shadowed by Pro Bowl cornerback Joe Haden.
Aside from a 144-yard outburst against the New Orleans Saints, V-Jax hasn't topped 66 receiving yards in a game this season. He is nowhere near a lock to start in fantasy leagues on a weekly basis and certainly isn't worth a start against Cleveland.
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