Fantasy Football Week 9: Confident Calls on Toughest Lineup Decisions

Kristopher Knox@@kris_knoxFeatured ColumnistNovember 2, 2018

Fantasy Football Week 9: Confident Calls on Toughest Lineup Decisions

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    Jeffrey T. Barnes/Associated Press

    We've reached the midpoint in the 2018 NFL season, we've passed the trade deadline and we're entering a critical time in fantasy land. Depending on the size and format of your fantasy league, you may be looking at the postseason in a matter of weeks.

    Now is the time to either solidify your position as a playoff team or push yourself back into the running.

    It's never been more important to make the right decisions on the tough matchups—and there's a good chance you'll be facing some with the Arizona Cardinals, Cincinnati Bengals, Indianapolis Colts, Jacksonville Jaguars, New York Giants and Philadelphia Eagles all on a bye.

    We're here to help sort through some of the toughest matchups of the week by analyzing factors like opponent, early-season performance and player health. We'll be making our choices based on point-per-reception (PPR) scoring formats.


    All rankings and fantasy statistics are courtesy of FantasyPros.

QB Case Keenum vs. Houston Texans

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    Peter G. Aiken/Getty Images

    Mitchell Trubisky appears to be a safe bye-week option for those looking to replace Andy Dalton or Andrew Luck. Denver Broncos quarterback Case Keenum, on the other hand, does not.

    Keenum hasn't been as productive as Trubisky over the last month (280.5 yards per game), has no rushing component to his game (35 rushing yards all season) and is more of a turnover liability. He has 10 interceptions, six fumbles and one lost fumble to go with just 10 touchdowns in eight games.

    Like Trubisky, though, Keenum faces a quality defense, one the quarterback recently called "salty," according to John McClain of the Houston Chronicle.

    The Houston Texans, Keenum's former team, are allowing just 239.8 yards passing per game (12th in the NFL) and have allowed the sixth-fewest fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks.

    Verdict: Sit

    Projection: 245 yards passing, 1 TD, 2 INT

RB Kerryon Johnson at Minnesota Vikings

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    The Minnesota Vikings have one of the league's better run defenses—it's allowing an average of just 91.8 yards per game—while Detroit Lions running back Kerryon Johnson is coming off a game in which he rushed for just 22 yards.

    Johnson is undoubtedly facing a tough matchup, but we don't think his numbers last week should scare you away from starting him.

    Yes, Johnson had just 22 yards but only on eight carries. He also had six receptions for 69 additional yards, though, which makes for a solid, if unspectacular outing in PPR formats.

    Let's not forget that New Orleans Saints back Alvin Kamara had just 13 carries for 45 yards against the Vikings last week, but he also added seven receptions for 31 yards and scored twice.

    Johnson is emerging as a central piece of the Lions offense, and he should be a safe start, even against a stout Vikings defense.

    Verdict: Start

    Projection: 52 yards rushing, 5 receptions, 36 yards receiving, 1 TD

RB Alex Collins vs. Pittsburgh Steelers

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    Baltimore Ravens running back Alex Collins has had an up-and-down season, averaging 3.7 yards per carry and catching just 14 passes. He's only found the end zone five times, but three have come in the last three games.

    The Pittsburgh Steelers defense has also been up-and-down this season, but it's been stout against the run, allowing just 94.4 yards per game (sixth in the NFL).

    Between these two sides, we're going to go with the Steelers defense. It has allowed the fourth-fewest fantasy points to opposing running backs, and Collins isn't in an ideal situation.

    Baltimore recently added to its backfield by trading for Ty Montgomery from the Green Bay Packers. While he may not see much work against Pittsburgh, Collins was limited in practice this week and may not be at 100 percent, either.

    Verdict: Sit

    Projection: 42 yards rushing, 2 receptions, 15 yards receiving

RB Duke Johnson vs. Kansas City Chiefs

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    When the Cleveland Browns traded running back Carlos Hyde to the Jacksonville Jaguars, it was assumed that fellow backs Duke Johnson and Nick Chubb would see an increase in fantasy value. Chubb has gotten more work, but Johnson has had just three carries and six receptions over the last two weeks.

    The lack of work for Johnson makes him a tough call.

    It's purely an issue of touches for Johnson, though. He's averaging a strong 4.9 yards per carry and 10.2 yards per reception. Now that head coach Hue Jackson and offensive coordinator Todd Haley are out, perhaps his role will change.

    It's not like the Browns don't believe in Johnson. They gave him a three-year, $16 million extension during the offseason.

    It's a good week for fantasy owners to gamble on Johnson's role expanding, too. He'll be going against a Kansas City Chiefs team that has allowed the second-most fantasy points to opposing running backs.

    Verdict: Start

    Projection: 28 yards rushing, 6 receptions, 68 yards receiving

RB LeSean McCoy vs. Chicago Bears

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    Dylan Buell/Getty Images

    The Bills offense, which is averaging a paltry 10.9 points per game, seems almost beyond repair. It has had spurts, but too often it barely resembles a functional unit—as was the case in the six-point outing against the New England Patriots last week.

    "We put a lot of work and effort into your craft, your job, but the results and the outcomes are the same, so it's frustrating," running back LeSean McCoy explained, per Sal Maiorana  of the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle.

    McCoy is the most accomplished and talented player on Buffalo, but even his production has suffered. He has just 257 yards rushing and 167 yards receiving this season.

    McCoy had a decent outing against the Patriots, catching six passes for 82 yards (he only rushed for 13). Don't expect him to be even that productive against the Bears. Chicago has allowed the third-fewest fantasy points to running backs this season.

    Verdict: Sit

    Projection: 34 yards rushing, 3 receptions, 23 yards receiving

WR Kenny Golladay at Minnesota Vikings

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    We mentioned that Minnesota presents a tough defensive matchup for the Lions this week. The Vikings have allowed the 10th-fewest yards per game, 336.4, this season and are allowing the fourth-fewest fantasy points to opposing wideouts.

    In addition, Lions wide receiver Kenny Golladay has been a fantasy non-factor the last couple of weeks. Golladay had four catches for 98 yards and a touchdown in Week 5. In his two games since, though, he has just three receptions and 49 yards combined.

    It's a risky matchup, but the trade that sent Golden Tate to the Philadelphia Eagles should open up opportunities for Golladay and help him return to fantasy relevance.

    During Golladay's drought, Tate was responsible for 11 receptions, though he only produced 86 yards with them.

    At worst, Golladay will now be Matthew Stafford's No. 2 target, and that should help him achieve a strong outing in Week 9.

    Verdict: Start

    Projection: 4 receptions, 82 yards receiving, 1 TD

WR Corey Davis at Dallas Cowboys

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    Second-year Tennessee Titans wide receiver Corey Davis finally had his breakout game in Week 4 this season. He racked up 161 yards and a touchdown on nine receptions against the Philadelphia Eagles that week. Naturally, that generated some fantasy buzz.

    Davis hasn't been much of a fantasy star since then, though. He hasn't hit the 50-yard mark or reached the end zone in any of his three games since. That Week 4 touchdown remains his only of the season.

    Don't expect Davis to get back on track this week against the Dallas Cowboys. Dallas has been pretty stingy against the pass this season. The Cowboys defense is allowing just 217.4 yards passing per game (third in the NFL) and surrendering the third-fewest fantasy points to opposing wide receivers this season.

    Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota has regained feeling in his throwing hand, and that's great for the Titans. It won't be enough to make Davis a fantasy star in Week 9, though. 

    Verdict: Sit

    Projection: 3 receptions, 42 yards receiving

TE Jimmy Graham at New England Patriots

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    Remember when Jimmy Graham was a fantasy must-start? It seems like a lifetime ago because since arriving with the Green Bay Packers, he's been tough to figure out.

    Graham has one 100-yard game this season, and he has two more of over 75 yards. However, he also has four games with fewer than 50 yards, and he only has one touchdown on the season. That came against the Bills in Week 4.

    You can't feel confident about starting Graham every week, but against the Patriots, we believe you can.

    New England is allowing an average of 277.2 yards passing per game, sixth-most in the NFL. The Patriots are also giving up the seventh-most fantasy points to opposing tight ends.

    This could end up being a high-scoring game as Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers trade punches. Expect Graham to get plenty of looks Sunday night and to take full advantage of them.

    Verdict: Start

    Projection: 5 receptions, 61 yards receiving, 1 TD

Los Angeles Rams D/ST vs. New Orleans Saints

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    The Los Angeles Rams defense and special teams have been one of the better units in the NFL this season. The Rams have allowed the sixth-fewest points per game (19.4). They've also logged 22 sacks, seven interceptions and seven forced fumbles.

    We're leaning away from the Rams defense/special teams this week, though, for one big reason. It's going up against Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints.

    New Orleans is averaging 33.4 points per game. While Saints players have combined to lose six fumbles, Brees has thrown just a single interception this season. Opposing defenses are averaging just 2.3 fantasy points per week against the Saints.

    L.A. may be able to force the Saints into some mistakes, but we're not going to bet on it.

    Verdict: Sit

    Projection: 33 points allowed, 3 sacks, 1 forced fumble